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Guest Post: Hays on From Matamoros to Managua

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

[mark safranski / “zen“]

See the source image

“Jack Hays“. Mr. Hays has considerable experience in a number of political and policy positions inside government and out and shares with the ZP readership our appreciation for history, strategy and other things further afield. Mr. Hays also has extensive time south of the border. He wrote this brief essay elsewhere and gave permission to share it.

From Matamoros to Managua live just under 170 million people. Their societies are coming apart. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily poor — especially in Mexico — though they frequently are. It does mean that for various reasons, be it the stresses of global trends, misgovernance, societal pathologies, historical causes, or beyond, their institutions are failing. It is likely no accident that this comes to pass in the generation after the era of autocratic parties and strong men. The succeeding era of democracy and pluralism is both liberating and rapacious: for many it has exchanged the danger of being killed by the state for the danger of being killed by nearly anyone. What arises in the aftermath is therefore exceptionally violent. It is not unfamiliar in human history: even at the most glorious moment of the Siglo de Oro, everyday Spanish life was also exceptionally violent. But that isn’t the right comparison: what you see in, say, northern Mexico or urban Honduras is less 16th-century Spain than 17th-century Germany — or 21st-century Damascus. It is a terrifying and brutal existence, and people quite rationally flee.

They especially flee when they are trying to protect children they love.

There is nothing — nothing short of murder — that deters flight and migration in those conditions. Therefore, there being still some things we won’t try, the questions arises: what will we try? If we aren’t going to take them in, what do we do?
What are you willing to have America do to stabilize these societies? The probable answer probably includes things like open or preferential trade. It probably includes aggressive engagement with local politics. It probably includes forcible imposition of our own law-enforcement institutions upon theirs. It may even include the use, in some form, of the United States military. None of this is speculative. All of it has happened before. All of it also ended in mostly the same way: there was a desultory clash of arms, the United States demanded certain things of local sovereigns, and events resolved when someone assumed autocratic control of the southern reaches.

None of this is consonant with our postwar models of American behavior. Yes, we are the country that conquered Panama in 1989; we are also the country that was turned away by a mob from Haitian shores in 1994. We are also the country that doggedly tries to inculcate democratic civic norms in places like Afghanistan when a monarch or a warlord would quite suffice. We have an aversion to nation-building and then we do a great deal of it badly.

But nation-building is precisely what is needed from Matamoros to Mexico. It is for their sake, and ours. The task is gigantic, and before the real crisis is upon us — which will involve millions on the move, not mere thousands — we still have time to undertake it. But we think it is about ourselves, we think they can govern themselves, we imagine we have anything more compelling to pressure them with than the things they fled in San Pedro Sula, in Ciudad Mier, in San Salvador, in a thousand over violent corners of an ancient and bloody land. We are wrong on all counts.

We act, or action is forced upon us. So what are you willing to do?

On negative space, private morality in the public square

Monday, May 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — not entirely keen about Judgment, me, but.. ]
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Continuing on from my discussion of negative space in the painting, here’s the MSNBC clip I overheard waas on about:

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The clip, in other words, is about private morality in the public square.

Raw Story picks up there thread in a piece titled ‘Where are the preachers of America?’:

Evangelical leaders slammed for hypocrisy of Trump support:Former New York Times White House correspondent Howell Raines, who rose to executive editor of newspaper, called out the evangelical community during a Friday appearance on MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber.”

“I want to ask you about the negative space in the painting, the thing that’s not happening — that we are always told would happen — because the Christian right and the conservative values organizations and the evangelical right cared deeply about the personal behavior of politicians and especially the president,” Melber observed.

“The president now has squarely admitted to paying this woman in direct connection to the allegations of this extramarital affair,” the host continued. “I ask you for your view of why we’re not hearing any outrage for any of those groups affiliated with Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”

“Where are the preachers of America when morality is legitimately at the center of our national life?” Raines wondered. “I think Director Comey was correct today on CBS when he said this is about values and supporting our institutions and it’s imperative that Americans who believe in the normal political process and the rule of law start speaking out.”

“That’s what’s missing in the picture to me,” he concluded.

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That’s a significant question, to which various answers have been given — from a quick Google search:

  • The Nation, Why Evangelicals—Still!—Support Trump
  • Time, Why Evangelicals Support President Trump, Despite His Immorality
  • Atlantic, A Match Made in Heaven
  • but I’d like to leave — indeed emphasize — it as a question.

    How come the hypocrisy?

    And I think we should ask this, not as a question requiring a political answer, but as a moral question, hanging in the air, for the individual consciences of evangelicals to ponder..

    I have my own hyposcrisies to consider..

    Probability and Risk of a Second Civil War

    Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

    [mark safranski / “zen“]

    See the source image

    Fascinating post by B.J. Campbell, a stormwater hydrologist who crunches numbers for risk probabilities of flooding, who applies his tools to a simple (very simple) historical data set (hat tip Scholar’s Stage ):

    The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper

    ….While we don’t have any good sources of data on how often zombies take over the world, we definitely have good sources of data on when the group of people on the piece of dirt we currently call the USA attempt to overthrow the ruling government. It’s happened twice since colonization. The first one, the American Revolution, succeeded. The second one, the Civil War, failed. But they are both qualifying events. Now we can do math.


    Stepping through this, the average year for colony establishment is 1678, which is 340 years ago. Two qualifying events in 340 years is a 0.5882% annual chance of nationwide violent revolution against the ruling government. Do the same math as we did above with the floodplains, in precisely the same way, and we see a 37% chance that any American of average life expectancy will experience at least one nationwide violent revolution.

    This is a bigger chance than your floodplain-bound home flooding during your mortgage.

    Note, by using the American Revolution and the Civil War, Campbell has adopted an extremely conservative data position. Other events that would meet the threshold would include Bacon’s rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion and John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry. Possibly meriting inclusion would be Aaron Burr’s Conspiracy, Nat Turner’s Revolt and the Nullification Crisis.

    ….In 2010, 8.5 million tourists visited Syria, accounting for 14% of their entire GDP. Eight years later, they have almost half a million dead citizens, and ten million more displaced into Europe. They didn’t see this coming, because if they did, they would have fled sooner. Nobody notices the signs of impending doom unless they’re looking carefully.Further, the elites of a nation rarely take it on the chin. They can hop on a plane. The poor, disenfranchised, and defenseless experience the preponderance of the suffering, violence, and death. They’re the ones that should be worried.
    Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy. Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon. Someone with disproportionate faith in the state is naturally inclined to disregard these sorts of events as a cognitive bias, while someone with little faith in the state might take these signs to mean they should buy a few more boxes of ammunition.

    Americans have been insulated from untoward events such as civil wars, famines, coups, epidemics and insurgencies for so long that they forget that such things are accepted as normal if distant risks by most people on Earth. Whether you wish to dispute Mr. Campbell’s odds or reasoning in his scenario the chances are and remain non-zero.

    From the great Atlantic ocean to the wide Pacific shore – Sunday surprise

    Monday, February 12th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — with an itch to ride the rails ]
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    For your evening entertainment..

    Easst to West, that the Wabash Cannonball, North to South, the City of New Orleans, sung by Johnny Cash and Arlo Guthrie respectively.

    MS-13 Murder or Blood Sacrifice? SWJ on 3rd Generation Gangs

    Friday, January 12th, 2018

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

     

    John Sullivan and Dr. Robert Bunker have some analysis up at Small Wars Journal regarding a grisly, ritualistic, gang murder in Maryland by MS-13 which squares with the underground narco-cult atrocities detailed in Narcos over the Border and Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-state Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities:

    Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 7: Suspect in Brutal Montgomery County, MD Beheading and Dismemberment Arrested—Suspected MS-13 Nexus

    Police in the Washington, DC suburb of Montgomery County, MD have arrested a suspect in the brutal gang murder of a still unidentified man whose body was found in a pre-dug grave in a park in Wheaton.  The victim was stabbed over 100 times, beheaded, and his heart was cut out of his body.  The suspect is an alleged member of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and was arrested during a US Marshals Service raid on MS-13 fugitives in North Carolina and extradited to Maryland where he was charged with first-degree murder. 

    Key Information: Jack Moore, “Suspected MS-13 member charged with murder in grisly decapitation, dismemberment.” WTOP. 22 November 2017,  https://wtop.com/montgomery-county/2017/11/suspect-charged-stabbing-death-wheaton-park/:
    WASHINGTON — Gory details are emerging in the gang killing of a man who was stabbed more than 100 times, decapitated and had his heart cut out of his chest before being dumped in a pre-dug grave in a Montgomery County park.
    Police have still not identified the man whose body was discovered Sept. 5 in a wooded area of Wheaton Regional park. But one of the MS-13 gang members who’s suspected of taking part in the grisly slaying has now been charged with first-degree murder.
    Miguel Lopez-Abrego, 19, appeared in Montgomery County District Court Wednesday and was ordered held without bond.
    Lopez-Abrego, was one of 10 members of the violent street gang involved in the killing, according to a police informant identified in charging documents as a “ranking member” of a local MS-13 clique…

    ….The brutal murder of the unidentified suspect buried in a shallow grave in Wheaton Regional Park by alleged members of a local MS-13 ‘clique’ fits a pattern of recent brutal murders in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area/National Capital Region.  In the attacks detailed above, a victim is lured to a desolate location, brutally beaten, stabbed, and in the case of the Wheaton Park murder, beheaded and dismembered.  These attacks are consistent with MS-13 ‘enforcement’ actions. It is likely the victim in this case crossed the gang in some still to be disclosed manner. The modus operandi employed is similar to other cases where the victim was viewed as a traitor or a ‘snitch’ against the clique in specific and MS-13 in general.  The victim’s dark blue shorts—which represent an MS-13 color—and certain personal characteristics may lead additional credence to such possibilities. 
    Such attacks are essentially symbolic violence, utilized to show what happens to those that rat on the gang or disrespect its leaders. This attack lacks a specific ritual purpose beyond that of control—after all, the MS-13’s motto is ‘Mata, Controla, Viola’ (Kill, Control, Rape).[14]  It is unknown at this time how this murder is linked to the other three murders that occurred in recent months in Maryland, but it is possible an internal power struggle is involved. It is also unknown if this (or these) attack(s) are centrally directed or linked with MS-13 clicas (cliques) elsewhere.

    Read the rest here.

    MS-13 has mutated from a simple street gang thirty years ago to a decentralized transnational criminal organization that in turn will work for or join with the more powerful Mexican drug cartels, amplifying their influence and capabilities. For example, MS-13, which is heavily involved in human trafficking and contract killings for the Sinaloa Cartel, is considered by Texas authorities to be a ‘Tier 1″threat on par with much larger and more sophisticated gangs like the prison based Mexican Mafia, Tango Blast and the Texas Syndicate. MS-13 has also contributed to the renewed destabilization and erosion of democracy of El Salvador, which has unleashed its Army and death squads against the gangs, while the gangs have begun to infiltrate the Army.

    What is also worrisome, which the case described by Sullivan and Bunker indicate, is the degree to which MS-13 has picked up and is internalizing the ISIS-like, narco-cult ritualistic violence of the Mexican Cartels with decapitations, torture murders and sacrificial removal of human organs and is now employing them north of the border, a stone’s throw from our nation’s capitol. If allowed to continue this kind of ultraviolence is likely to be mirrored by other street gangs.

     


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