Sacramento and London

California’s such a nice place. The sun shines all the time. There are the palm trees. People surf – and we invented skateboarding. We gave the world the Beach Boys. Of course we gave the world Richard Nixon too. Ronald Reagan may not have made up for that, depending on your politics, but who didn’t like the Gidget movies? And Laurel Canyon, just out the back door here, gave us all the mellow rock from the seventies – from Jackson Browne to the Eagles – and then there’s Frank Zappa. His house here just came on the market – a little more than five million dollars and you can live in rock history.

California’s a fine place, but then there was Sacramento this Sunday:

Seven people were stabbed, with some injured critically, during clashes between rallying neo-Nazis and counter-protesters Sunday at the state Capitol, authorities said.

At least five patients were transported to local hospitals with stab wounds, said Chris Harvey, public information officer for the Sacramento Fire Department. Several other people suffered cuts, scrapes and bruises but were not taken to the hospital, Harvey said.

“It was quite a bit of a melee,” Harvey said, adding that several different groups had descended on the Capitol, including counter-protesters.

The Traditionalist Worker Party had a permit to hold a rally at noon, said George Granada, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol’s Capitol Protection Section, which has jurisdiction over Capitol grounds. Hours before the scheduled rally, more than 400 counter-protesters began showing up, surrounding the Capitol, Granada said.

Protesters shattered a window on the Capitol’s south ground level…

And then it was chaos because of these guys:

The Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group, was holding a march Sunday “to protest against globalization and in defense of the right to free expression,” according to the group’s website. The members appeared to be vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters, who held up signs that read “Nazi scum,” according to photos and videos posted on social media.

An organizer of the rally who wasn’t at the Capitol said on a web live-stream that one person from his group had been stabbed and was being transported to the hospital.

“They got one of us but we got six of them,” he said.

The neo-Nazis won this one, six to one, and they were happy with that:

Matthew Heimbach, chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party who did not attend the rally, said his group and the Golden State Skinheads had organized the Sunday rally.

Vice Chairman Matt Parrott, who was not present at the Sacramento rally, said it was a peaceful march and blamed “leftist radicals” for instigating the violence. Heimbach said that in the clash, one of their marchers had been stabbed in the artery and six of the “anti-fascists” had also been stabbed.

“We knew we were outnumbered. We stood our ground. We will be back. This is a victory for us because more of them walked away injured,” Heimbach said.

And they see themselves as the good guys:

On its website, the group describes itself as “America’s first political party created by and for working families. Our mission is defending faith, family, and folk against the politicians and oligarchs who are running America into the ground. We intend to achieve that goal by building a nationwide network of grass-roots local leaders who will lead Americans toward a peaceful and prosperous future free from economic exploitation, federal tyranny, and anti-Christian degeneracy.”

Yeah, yeah, the same old same old, but there was early March:

A former ‘White Patrol’ leader filmed shoving a black woman at a Donald Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky on Tuesday is no stranger to controversy.

In fact, he’s a well-known white supremacist who founded the White Student Union at his alma mater, likens white pride to gay pride and believes segregation is a good idea.

His name is Matthew Heimbach and on Tuesday, dressed in a black shirt and red hat, he joined in an ugly scene that overshadowed an otherwise positive day for the man leading the Republican race.

It’s on tape:

In the footage, Heimbach can be seen shouting at the woman, a University of Louisville student. “Get out, get out,” he screams before others join in.

On Facebook Heimbach calls for “No more refugees” and regularly promotes the Traditionalist Worker Party of which he is a member. …

The woman in the video, identified on social media as Shiya Nwanguma, said she was called a “nigger” and a “cunt”. She said the group at the Trump rally were “disgusting and dangerous” and called her “every name in the book”.

They said they weren’t racist at all – just American. She was with Black Lives Matter. She, and refugees, shouldn’t be here – or at least not at a Donald Trump rally. Now it’s more than Donald Trump rallies. California’s such a nice place. We have neo-Nazis. Matthew Heimbach is going national.

On the other hand, James Fallows spent some time in western Kansas around Dodge City, where many of the urban areas are majority Latino and full of immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, and more recently Somalia and Sudan, and he saw this:

I can’t let this day end without noting the black-versus-white, night-versus-day contrast between the way immigration, especially from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, is discussed in this part of the country where it is actually happening, versus its role in this moment’s national political discussion. …

Every single person we have spoken with – Anglo and Latino and other, old and young, native-born and immigrant, and so on down the list – every one of them has said: We need each other! There is work in this community that we all need to do. We can choose to embrace the world, or we can fade and die. And we choose to embrace it.

Kevin Drum comments on that:

My sense from both the US and Britain is that the most fervent opposition to immigration – legal or otherwise – comes precisely from the regions where it’s had the least impact. Here in the US, for example, immigration from Latin America has been heaviest in the southern Sun Belt states of California, Texas, Arizona, and a few others. And yet Donald Trump’s “build a wall” narrative played well in places like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, all of which have relatively small Latino populations. Similarly, Brexit did best in the small towns and rural areas of England, the places that have the fewest immigrants and that depend the most on EU trade.

That’s not to say that opposition to immigration is absent in places like London or San Diego. It’s not. But these places mostly seem to have adapted to it and figured out that it’s not really all that bad. It’s everywhere else, where immigration is mostly a fear, that anti-immigrant sentiment has the strongest purchase. And that’s why peddling fear is so effective.

It has been effective eight time-zones east of Sacramento:

After Thursday’s referendum on a “Brexit,” a wave of racist incidents have been reported to British police and documented in widely shared social media posts. …

Police in west London were investigating what they called a “racially motivated” attack against the Polish Social and Cultural Association. Poles make up the largest foreign-born population in the United Kingdom. The organization’s building was apparently defaced with graffiti that said, “Go home.”

In Cambridgeshire, leaflets were apparently distributed with “Leave the EU / No more Polish vermin” written in both English and Polish.

This wasn’t supposed to happen:

Those campaigning for a Brexit offered clear assurances that a new immigration system would not affect EU citizens already living in Britain: “There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK,” the campaign noted on its website. But despite the assurances, many immigrants to Britain are unsure of their future.

That’s because everyone could see this coming a mile away:

Racism isn’t exactly an unexpected outcome of the victory for the Brexit camp at the polls, either. Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) and the most hardline proponent of a Brexit, has spoken of the “nigger vote” and told reporters that he would use a racist slang term [Chinky] to refer to Chinese restaurants. But he and other “Brexiteers” have said that their concerns are about increasing immigration flows perceived as coming at the expense of the British-born and have nothing to do with prejudice.

Matthew Heimbach says the same thing, and Britain’s massively popular tabloids haven’t exactly calmed the public’s nerves on immigration – but they sold a lot of copy, for good reason:

The message of most of the attacks that have been reported since Friday seems to be simple: A victory for the Brexit camp should herald the repatriation of all non-white, non-Anglo-Saxons in the U.K. Never mind that the official campaign pushing for a Brexit expressly eschewed that sentiment.

Everyone knew what was going on, and then there were the tweets:

Table next to me says to Polish waitress “How come you’re so cheerful? You’re going home.” Him and the missus started laughing.

Last night a Sikh radiographer colleague of mine was told by a patient “shouldn’t you be on a plane back to Pakistan? We voted you out.”

Men chanting ‘OUT OUT OUT’ @ Muslim women in Brockley. Woman in an Enfield bank shouting “this is England we’re white get out of my country!”

That’s just a few of them. England’s such a nice place – tea and crumpets and rain and history – and their own neo-Nazis – or patriots, depending on your politics.

But someone’s been had:

Freed from the shackles of the European Union, Britain’s economy would prosper and its security would increase. Britain would “take back control” of immigration, reducing the number of arrivals. And it would be able to spend about 350 million pounds, or about $470 million, a week more on health care instead of sending the money to Brussels.

Before Thursday’s referendum on the country’s membership in the 28-nation bloc, campaigners for British withdrawal, known as Brexit, tossed out promises of a better future while dismissing concerns raised by a host of scholars and experts as “Project Fear.”

But that was before they won.

With financial markets in turmoil, a big drop in the pound and the prospect of further chaos, some supporters of Brexit are backpedaling on bold pronouncements they made just a few days earlier. “A lot of things were said in advance of this referendum that we might want to think about again,” Liam Fox, a former cabinet minister, told the BBC, including when and how Article 50 – the formal process for leaving the European Union – should be invoked.

And what would those things be? There’s this:

Perhaps no promise was more audacious – and mendacious, critics say – than the £350-million-a-week claim. Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London who was the front man of the Brexit campaign, toured Britain in a bus emblazoned with the slogan: “We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead,” a reference to the country’s widely revered National Health Service.

Hours after proclaiming “independence day” for Britain, Nigel Farage, the leader of the fiercely anti-European U.K. Independence Party, conceded that the £350 million figure was a “mistake.” Asked by the BBC on Sunday about the spending pledge, Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader who campaigned for Brexit, said the Leave side had merely promised “to spend the lion’s share of that money” on the health service.

Oops. But there are details:

The shift was perhaps unsurprising, since the £350 million “independence dividend” never stood up to scrutiny. It excluded money returned to Britain through rebates and money that Britain spent to subsidize its farmers and poorer regions, according to the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies. The institute put the true figure at about £150 million.

Now those Brexiteers are in trouble:

Supporters of the “Remain” side have angrily attributed the victory for “Leave” to a campaign of misinformation and even deception. In Cornwall, in the southwest corner of England, where a majority voted to leave, the leader of the county council, John Pollard, demanded that the government provide “investment equal to that provided by the EU program.” (The county has gotten about $1.3 billion in European Union assistance over the past 15 years, and was counting on about $550 million more by 2020.)

Cornwall goes bankrupt and shuts down without that EU money. Now what? Not a lot of thought went into this:

A Financial Times chart showing that the Leave vote was strongest in the parts of Britain that are the most economically dependent on the European Union was widely circulated online.

That’s what Kevin Drum was saying about the immigration issue over here – where it really doesn’t matter, it matters to people a lot, for no good reason – but it’s more complex in Britain, because of the deceptions:

Migration was the cornerstone of the Leave campaign, which objected to the European Union’s insistence on the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services. Since 2004, when 10 more countries joined the European Union, large numbers of eastern and southern Europeans have moved to Britain for work.

Mr. Johnson argued that it was impossible for the government to reduce immigration while in the European Union. His ally Michael Gove, the justice secretary, said a leave vote would “bring down the numbers” by 2020. Experts have long said that would be very hard to pull off. The European Union has demanded from nonmember states – Norway, for example – free movement of workers in exchange for access to the bloc’s single market.

On Friday, the day after the referendum, Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament and one of the most knowledgeable advocates of Brexit, stunned some viewers of the BBC by saying: “Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU they are going to be disappointed.”

Now it’s time for the Brexiteers to say that they were misunderstood by people too stupid to listen carefully:

Mr. Hannan wrote on Twitter, “I was for more control, not for minimal immigration.” Facing a backlash, he observed that a lot of Remain voters “are now raging at me because I don’t want to cut immigration sharply,” adding, “There really is no pleasing some people.” He then announced that he would “take a month off Twitter.”

But the Brexiteers set this up:

Mr. Farage took the most hardline position on immigration, unveiling a poster depicting a long stream of refugees under the headline “Breaking Point” and raising the prospect of Turkey’s joining the European Union (even though any of the 28 member states has veto power over accepting new members).

That was nasty, but none of this was supposed to happen, and that’s the problem:

Many Brexit campaigners expected to lose – even Mr. Farage said on the night of the referendum that he did not think his side had won – and for some the fight was as much about internal Conservative Party politics as the future of the country.

Having now ousted Prime Minister David Cameron, they face a political vacuum, with their base demanding that promises be kept. Mr. Johnson, the front-runner to replace Mr. Cameron, has not made any further pronouncements since a subdued statement on Friday that was restricted to generalities. If he does become prime minister, Mr. Johnson will face the task of carrying out a British withdrawal without provoking a backlash from those who believed campaign slogans or sentiments that he certainly appeared to endorse.

Oops – again. But there’s more of that, as Philippe Legrain explains here:

A few weeks before Britons voted on whether to remain part of the European Union, Michael Gove, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, was asked why he should be trusted over the overwhelming number of economists and international authorities who opposed Brexit. “People in this country have had enough of experts,” he replied.

Experts are, of course, known to make mistakes. But in this case, the people who voted for Brexit will pay a big price for ignoring economic expertise. The harmful effects of this vote are both immediate and lasting.

Britons are already worse off. The pound has – so far – plunged by nearly 9 percent against the dollar, slashing the value of British assets, with higher import prices likely to follow. The stock market has also taken a hit. The prices of property, most British people’s main asset, are almost certain to fall, too. While Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has already pledged 250 billion pounds (about $345 billion) to support the financial system and has said he could offer more if necessary, central bankers cannot protect against an enduring economic shock.

Rarely have businesses faced such uncertainty. Britain’s economy had already slowed as they put investment decisions on hold ahead of the referendum. Now, a country renowned for its political and legal stability is descending into chaos.

That’s what the experts said, and it only gets worse:

Faced with such uncertainty, businesses are likely to continue to put investments on hold. Consumers may pull back, too. The resulting downturn will cause the government’s budget deficit, already large, to swell. The pound’s depreciation, which might have been expected to boost exports, is unlikely to do much to cushion the blow. Its huge decline in 2008 failed to boost exports and Brexit will dent them.

This unpredictable situation will not be brief. Once triggered, the formal process of leaving the European Union is supposed to take two years. But extricating the union’s second-biggest economy from 43 years of European Union legislation is a daunting task.

Negotiating a new trade relationship with the European Union is equally tricky. Britain seems certain to lose access to the single market – with which it does nearly half its trade – because this is conditional on accepting the free movement of people and contributing to the European Union’s budget. (These were key issues for pro-Brexit voters.) That will jeopardize the foreign investment and good jobs predicated on single-market membership. Britain-based financial institutions will lose their rights to operate freely across the European Union.

And one thing leads to another:

The young, the higher educated and city dwellers, the most dynamic members of Britain’s economy, voted to Remain. They were outvoted by the old, the less educated and non-urban English, who often rely on taxpayer largess. With economic opportunities stunted, everyone will suffer for Leave voters wrongly blaming hard-working, taxpaying European migrants for everything they dislike about modern Britain…

Michael Gove is Matthew Heimbach with a fruity British accent. London is Sacramento. Making each “white again” brings economic collapse, and E .J. Dionne frames that this way:

Elites are in trouble. High levels of immigration are destabilizing our democracies. Politicians who put their short-term political interests over their countries’ needs reap the whirlwind – for themselves but, more importantly, for their nations.

Citizens who live in the economically ailing peripheries of wealthy nations are in revolt against well-off and cosmopolitan metropolitan areas. Older voters lock in decisions that young voters reject. Traditional political parties on the left and right are being torn asunder.

But one can learn from this, considering British Prime Minister David Cameron:

Last week’s referendum was not the product of broad popular demand. Cameron called it to solve a short-term political problem and get through an election. His Conservative Party was split on Europe and feared hemorrhaging votes to the right-wing, anti-Europe, anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party (UKIP).

Cameron figured that kicking his troubles down the road by promising a future plebiscite on Europe could make them go away. Instead, he turned a normal electoral challenge into a profound crisis that could lead to the breakup of his country while threatening Europe’s future. The devastating complaint of Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament: “A whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party.”

That’s how many Americans felt when John Boehner couldn’t contain his Tea Party caucus and decided to give them what they asked for – and the government shut down, not that anything was getting done anyway. An internal Republican fight held the nation hostage, but things are worse than that across the pond:

For all the Union Jacks hoisted at Leave rallies, the nationalism behind this was English, not British. England voted to get out of the EU, Scotland overwhelmingly to stay. Northern Ireland also favored Remain, while Wales split narrowly for Leave, its more English parts voting like England.

Suddenly, for Scots who want their country to be independent, their nationalism becomes a form of pro-European internationalism. To stay in Europe, they have to escape Britain. After a difficult but successful struggle for peace, Northern Ireland’s status is now also in doubt.

That’s worse than a government shutdown. That’s government dissolution, but the impulse is that same:

The European idea was killed in part by right-wing Tories who think they can turn their island into a free-trade, low-regulation paradise. But it was also battered in traditionally Labour-voting industrial areas far away from a happy and generally prosperous London that voted overwhelmingly to stay. … Emma Lewell-Buck, the Labour parliamentarian who represents South Shields and supported Remain, was right to say that UKIP leader Nigel Farage “whipped everyone up into a frenzy with his hateful language.”

They have Nigel Farage. We have Donald Trump. It’s the latest thing:

Ethno-nationalism is on the rise across Europe, and this vote will only intensify the trend. But in so many nations, including our own, technological change, globalization and financialization force the left-out to stare at prosperity from a great distance. In their justified frustration, they often see immigration as of a piece with the other changes in the world that they deplore. …

Yet if Britain’s vote is understandable, it’s also a cause for sadness. It’s a vote against a more open world and a rejection of the idea that democracies can actually gain power by pooling sovereignty and seeking goals in common.

The Leave campaign used slogans very familiar to Americans, including variations on “Take Our Country Back” and “Britain First.” These resonated with older voters who backed Leave by big margins. Younger Britons, who voted strongly to stay in Europe, will be shackled for many years to a result that their elders imposed on them.

So be it, and Dionne can offer only this:

Friends of open societies have been slapped in the face by citizens who are themselves retaliating for having been knocked around and ignored for too long. Across Europe and in the United States, politicians can either respond to these cries of protest or face something worse than Brexit.

But what’s the proper response? Do we try to understand and sympathize with the neo-Nazis-with-knives in Sacramento? Do we try to understand and sympathize with the folks harassing Polish folks in London? Do we call on experts to point out where all this can lead, when these folks hate experts? Dionne doesn’t say. Perhaps no one can say. Perhaps there’s nothing to say – but California’s still a fine place. We don’t have that many neo-Nazis, really. Surf’s up!

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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