Friday, June 30, 2006

A Bullet Dodged

While most of the attention of the press is focused on the Guantanamo case, the most important words to come out of the Supreme Court of the United States in the flurry of opinions it issued at the close of the current term may be these:

Although the ICJ's interpretation deserves "respectful consideration," Breard, "it does not compel the Court to reconsider Breard's understanding of the Convention. "The judicial Power of the United States" is "vested in one supreme Court . . . and . . . inferior courts." U. S. Const., Art. III, §1. That "power . . . extend[s] to . . . treaties," Art. III, §2, and includes the duty "to say what the law is," Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177. If treaties are to be given effect as federal law, determining their meaning as a matter of federal law "is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department," headed by the "one supreme Court." Ibid. Nothing in the ICJ's structure or purpose suggests that its interpretations were intended to be binding on U. S. courts.

The words are from the five-vote opinion of Justice Roberts, Sanchez-Llamas V. Oregon. They involve a Mexican national who was not informed during police interrogation of his right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which the government of the U.S. is a signatory, to have his country’s diplomatic officials in the U.S. notified of his detention, whereupon they might choose to assist him in navigating the U.S. judicial system. The proximate question was whether his confession during that interrogation should be thrown out. If a U.S. law-enforcement officer had violated his constitutional rights during interrogation, then under the American legal doctrine known as the exclusionary rule the evidence would be inadmissible. The more profound question arises because the International Court of Justice (aka the "World Court"), to which the U.S. government is also a signatory, issued an opinion indicating that despite the fact that a foreign defendant had not raised the issue at the stage at which, under American law, he should have, the failure to notify deprived him of his right and thus his confession should be excluded. Critically, under U.S. law defendants must raise such claims at trial, but the ICJ indicated that this aspect of American law was unacceptable because it violated a state-to-state treaty. And so the defendant should get rights he did not have under any interpretation of U.S. law by a U.S. court.

In his opinion at one point Justice Roberts notes that none of the other parties to the Vienna Convention even have an exclusionary rule. And the ultimate point of his opinion was the long-established U.S. legal procedures were to trump international law in the sense that no ICJ interpretation of U.S. treaty obligations was binding on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Breyer has been the biggest enthusiast of using foreign cases as a valid source for U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence, once citing in an opinion a case from Zimbabwe, a country driven to ruin by a single man (Robert Mugabe) and where the rule of law is a fantasy. In Roper v. Simmons, Justice Kennedy's opinion, which Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined, the majority invoked the revulsion the rest of the world has for capital punishment imposed on a minor (who was 17 at the time he committed murder), even while disingenuously noting (at 25) that "[t]his reality does not become controlling, for the task of interpreting the Eighth Amendment remains our responsibility."

A few years back Mark Steyn noted that Americans are peculiar in that they like to lease government up ever more reluctantly from the local to the national:

In America, power is vested in 'We, the People' and leased upwards, through town, county, state and federal government, in ever more limited doses. By the time you get to the organs of embryo world government like the International Criminal Court, Americans are inclined to feel that's leasing it a little too far. A couple of miles from me, a farmer has spray-painted across his barn in giant letters a motto that speaks for many of his neighbours: 'US out of UN now'. America is the only Western power in which a significant proportion of voters disdain the UN and all its works, and where for many years Congress declined to pay the country's membership dues. Europeans assume this is some sort of primitive, redneck fear of 'multilateralism', but in fact it's an entirely reasonable wariness of diluting the sovereignty of the American people in what is, in large part, a front for anti-democratic forces.

I am not particularly skeptical of foreign cultures or people. A little national/cultural diversity in food, sports, movies and so on makes life more enjoyable. But diversity in political philosophy is taking things a little too far. The United States is unique in its devotion to the notion that individuals are presumably free, and government must have some affirmative justification for encroaching on individual sovereignty. The reliance on international jurisprudence that today serves, in the eyes of its admirers, to restrain American excesses on capital punishment will soon be used to impose U.S. Justices’ preferences on all sorts of matters alien to the broad American disposition. When they were undergoing confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, then-judges Roberts and Alito were both asked about the extent to which international law should be controlling on American constitutional interpretation. In an environment in which evasive answers are the norm, both gave blunt, unambiguous answers that amounted to “not at all.” Given that one of them replaced a Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, who looked favorably on citing international precedent, it is clear that we are in a dangerous moment in our constitutional history. That Justice Roberts was skillful enough to pry Justice Kennedy, author of Roper, away from the dark side to confirm that American law is to be interpreted by Americans is testimony to his skills. Consider Sanchez-Llamas a bullet dodged.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Peak Socialism

Anyone with a car and a pair of eyes has noticed the rise in gasoline prices in the past few years. This of course is not because of oil-company "gouging" (if they can gouge, why don't they gouge all the time?), but something is clearly going on. The most commonly trotted-out suspect is the rise in demand from high-growing India and China. An equally common view of a more long-term nature is the Peak Oil view. This school of thought notes that oil is a finite resource (almost surely true). Hence, at some point its increasing scarcity will cause its price to soar permanently. Perhaps we are there now.

Or perhaps not. One of the most common examples of doomsday pessimism – a school of thought that also includes fears of environmental Armageddon, overpopulation, Marxist predictions of inevitable revolution, and others – is the belief that we are almost out of oil. In 1874 the chief geologist of Pennsylvania, then the Saudi Arabia of its day, fretted that there were only four years of oil left. During the 1970s, a decade of rising prices, the Club of Rome published a notorious doomsday report in which they predicted the world’s oil would be gone by 2000.

Of course eventually it will be gone if nothing changes - not prices in response to tighter supplies, not quantity demanded in response to those new prices, not oil found after searching more energetically in response to higher prices, not new technology developed to use oil more economically, nothing. But of course that is not how the world works. The more property rights are protected and prices are allowed to adjust (to a great extent the same thing), the more easily the conflicting goals of oil owners and oil buyers can be reconciled. (Think of the shortages after Katrina not as a disaster but as a disaster avoided; that oil could return to market so quickly and comprehensively with only a few days’ disruption despite the devastation is an amazing achievement, one that only people in pursuit of profits could pull off.) So based on previous history the increasing desire by Indians and Chinese for oil should be accommodated, provided the market is allowed to work its magic.

But, alas, perhaps it is not. I first learned about this possibility from an article by Ronald Bailey in Reason. He notes as an aside that state control over oil resources appears to have increased in recent years. Governments find it much harder to reconcile the desires of buyers and sellers for things of value (public goods excepted) than markets do. So perhaps the increasing control of and influence over the incentives to produce oil resources by governments is taking a toll. In a brief note, two economists from the Dallas Fed note that many of the biggest oil-producing nations have large degrees of government intervention in the economy, according to a widely used index created by the Heritage Foundation.

But another interesting question is whether this problem is getting worse. The table below shows the nations with the top ten proven reserves (in billions of barrels) in 1996 and 2005 (source: BP), together with the overall Heritage rating for economic freedom (on the assumption that incentives depend more or less on the total extent to which the government is fouling up the economy). The index ranges from 1-5, with a lower score better.

1996 2005
CountryProven ReservesEconomic FreedomCountryProven ReservesEconomic Freedom
Saudi Arabia261.43.00Saudi Arabia264.22.99

Note first that in most countries overall proven reserves rise over the interval. The total rises, in fact, from 861.6 billion to 984.7 billion barrels, despite all the drilling that goes on during the period. But at the same time, economic freedom deteriorates. The average level is 3.49 in 1006 and 3.57 in 2005. (No figure for economic freedom is available for Iraq in 2006.) The difference is not great, but for the entire world economic freedom was increasing; the average Heritage ratings for all countries decreased from 3.20 to 2.98 between 1997 and 2006. And the declines in freedom have been particularly bad in Venezuela and Nigeria. While this is offset by a big improvement in Libya, it is still a very crippled economy at 4.1. In the Venezuelan case this is no surprise to anyone paying attention to what is going on there.

Private firms have their own incentives – overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, to maximize shareholder value. One way oil companies do this is by getting oil to people willing to pay for it. Governments have their own incentives – rewarding their supporters and punishing their opponents, for example. Those incentives interfere with the task of matching oil with those who wish to buy it. We would not be terribly surprised if the ascendancy of government in the oil business coincided with greater difficulty getting it to where it is most desired. The story these admittedly simple data tell – rising reserves yet higher prices – suggest that this is part of the story, maybe a big part. Even if the Indians and Chinese want more oil, the Americans and the Japanese did before them and this was accommodated without difficulty. This is a complex story to be sure and it would be a mistake to oversimplify it, but the increasing entanglement of government with petroleum is part of what we are witnessing these last few years.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Campaign-Finance Quicksand

Campaign-finance jurisprudence continues to quagmirify. On Monday the Supreme Court released its decision in Randall v. Sorrell. There were a total of six opinions, with the outcome being that the very strict Vermont limits on individual donations were rejected, but that the basic premise of modern campaign-finance law in Buckley v. Valeo - that a candidate buying his own speech amplification (through the buying of advertisements, travel, etc.) is protected by the First Amendment, but that helping a candidate amplify his speech is not – is still intact. (Some good analysis of campaign-finance law is consistently found on theSkeptic’s Eye blog.) Below are excerpts from Justice Breyer’s opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and by Justice Alito in part:

Our examination of the record convinces us that, from a constitutional perspective, Act 64’s contribution limits are too restrictive. We reach this conclusion based not merely on the low dollar amounts of the limits themselves, but also on the statute’s effect on political parties and on volunteer activity in Vermont elections. Taken together, Act 64’s substantial restrictions on the ability of candidates to raise the funds necessary to run a competitive election, on the ability of political parties to help their candidates get elected, and on the ability of individual citizens to volunteer their time to campaigns show that the Act is not closely drawn to meet its objectives (at 19).
Third, the Act’s treatment of volunteer services aggravates the problem. Like its federal statutory counterpart, the Act excludes from its definition of “contribution” all “services provided without compensation by individuals volunteering their time on behalf of a candidate.” Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2801(2) (2002). Cf. 2 U. S. C. §431(8)(B)(i) (2000 ed. and Supp. III) (similar exemption in federal campaign finance statute). But the Act does not exclude the expenses those volunteers incur, such as travel expenses, in the course of campaign activities. The Act’s broad definitions would seem to count those expenses against the volunteer’s contribution limit, at least where the spending was facilitated or approved by campaign officials. Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2801(3) (2002)(“[E]xpenditure” includes “anything of value, paid . . . for the purpose of influencing an election”); §§2809(a), (c) (Any “expenditure . . . intentionally facilitated by, solicited by or approved by the candidate” counts as a “contribution”).And, unlike the Federal Government’s treatment of comparable requirements, the State has not (insofar as we are aware) created an exception excluding such expenses. Cf. 2 U. S. C. §§431(8)(B)(iv), (ix) (2000 ed. and Supp. III)(excluding from the definition of “contribution” volunteer travel expenses up to $1,000 and payment by political party for campaign materials used in connection with volunteer activities).

The absence of some such exception may matter in the present context, where contribution limits are very low. That combination, low limits and no exceptions, means that a gubernatorial campaign volunteer who makes four or five round trips driving across the State performing volunteer activities coordinated with the campaign can find that he or she is near, or has surpassed, the contribution limit. So too will a volunteer who offers a campaign the use of her house along with coffee and doughnuts for a few dozen neighbors to meet the candidate, say, two or three times during a campaign. Cf. Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2809(d) (2002) (excluding expenditures for such activities only up to $100). Such supporters will have to keep careful track of all miles driven, postage supplied (500 stamps equals $200), pencils and pads used, and so forth. And any carelessness in this respect can prove costly, perhaps generating a headline, “Campaign laws violated,” that works serious harm to the candidate (at 26).

And on and on it goes like this. Once upon a time, these were the sorts of judgments legislators made. But now, thanks to the Buckley candidate-spending-oui, citizen-spending-non reasoning, the Court is forced to take on more and more legislative functions, to decide which restrictions interfere with free speech too much and which cause too much corruption. If it were to take on this quasi-legislative role, it would perhaps have been better served to adopt a simple organizing principle leading to an unambiguous result that expenditure and contribution limitations are all legal, or they are all not. The principle, for example, that if legislators regulate the conditions under which they can be challenged, elections are likely to be much less competitive. But the Court wanted this power, and now it has it.

It is not all bad. There are apparently four sets of ears – those of Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy – sympathetic to the idea that Buckley itself should be overruled as a violation of the First Amendment. Justices Roberts and Breyer signed an opinion justifying continued adherence to it on precedential grounds, although the opinion (at 9) accepts the possibility that changed circumstances might invite a challenge. But for now Buckley and the drunken-meandering jurisprudence it has spawned is still the law of the land.

It seems hard to believe that this kind of slapdash law could hold together for long. But maybe its continuation is unavoidable. The Founders supposed that each branch of government would try to grab power, and so separating those powers and forcing them to fight over it was a recipe for continued liberty. And so the Supreme Court over time may have attempted to take legislative functions for itself. Casual empiricism (I have been unable to find hard numbers) suggest that the length and complexity of opinions has changed over time. There are now often more opinions, many joined only in part, and of longer length, and this is what we would expect if the Supreme Court is systematically absorbing legislative and executive functions, for example by writing campaign-finance law. Eugene Volokh, whom I respect, interprets these data more favorably to the Court, arguing that the expansion of federal law is responsible for most of it. But given that any Supreme Court seizure of power from the other branches, which is only limited (at least so far) by the difficult process of amending the Constitution, is perhaps the hardest to defend against over time, its takeover of campaign-finance authority by its erecting of ever more abstruse guiding principles is disconcerting.

Monday, June 26, 2006



I recently learned of an article by Richard Sander, a law professor at UCLA (who was actually part of my dissertation committee), documenting the costs of adopting the binary worldview in a continuous world. The article (go here for a pdf version) claims to show using various statistical analysis that the negative effect on quality of law-school affirmative action is gigantic. Further, the unit in the language used below functions poorly, in that we may not be creating many new black lawyers. If you are familiar with statistical arguments and can tolerate the conventions of law-journal writing it is worth a read.

Recently medical students in India engaged in angry public demonstrations over the possibility that affirmative action – “reservations,” as they are known there – for lower castes and tribes would be expanded. Some of their argument was couched in terms of individual unfairness, but much of it indicated that the performance of India’s elite institutions, including its famed technical institutes, would be severely handicapped by substituting such criteria for qualifications in determining admission.

Is affirmative action – the use of hardwired tribal criteria such as "race" or "Hispanic" status, caste, and in some contexts religion or sexual orientation – costly? Few issues are as divisive in contemporary American life, and in international terms we are actually lucky. The use of such preferences is far more pervasive in other countries (e.g., India and Malaysia). And there the criticism is even louder than it is here that the outright reservation of places for or, in the U.S. case, the giving of an edge to designated groups in competition for scarce spaces in business or higher education causes people who “deserve” to be there to be displaced by people who don't.

The way people answer this question is always revealing of the prior beliefs they bring to the table. Note first that both proponents and opponents often talk in terms of how well the unit potentially subject to affirmative action will function – how high-quality the university or business will be in creating the best-educated citizenry or in maximizing profitability, how well the legislature will represent the function and enact valuable laws, etc. (To be sure, opponents sometimes talk in terms of the injustice to individual applicants denied a place because of their unacceptable tribal identity.)

With that in mind, proponents of affirmative action don’t support admitting just anyone. Instead, they argue that as long as people are “qualified,” why not admit historically disadvantaged groups, either as an act of cosmic justice or as a way to “diversify” the body for everyone’s benefit? (People forget now, but Lewis Powell’s controlling opinion in Bakke v. Regents of University of California held that such diversity in the student body was the only justification for race-based admissions to the medical school at UC-Davis.) There are thus two kinds of people in the world – "qualified" and "unqualified" – and if one "qualified" person is merely exchanged for another, the overall unit suffers no harm.

To opponents in contrast, "qualifications" is not a binary variable. Instead, it is continuous – some people are more qualified, some are less. To admit someone on affirmative-action grounds is to risk damaging the overall ability of the unit to do whatever it is supposed to do.

So which is it? Clearly it cannot be literally true that people are merely qualified or not. In principle, with full information, we could rank every applicant from most to least qualified. Of course we do not have full information. Instead all we have are indicators, some noisier than others. An employer does not have knowledge of the employee’s future work behavior. Instead he has only reference letters, some record of previous employment history, college transcripts, etc. Similarly, a university has references, high school grades, extracurricular and public-service activities, and standardized-test scores.

And how good are these instruments? In education, is the available information enough to rank candidates, and hence document that the institution will be damaged by substitution of less for more qualified candidates? (I abstract from the possibility that tribal identity itself is a qualification, i.e. the benefits of diversity.) Critics of standardized testing often argue that it reveals little about how applicants end up doing in college, with the admission of students who do poorly at the expense of those who would do better presumably being a major cost worth avoiding. The pressure group Fairtest is a longstanding critic of all standardized testing. They claim in places such as this that the SAT is a near-useless predictor of college success:

Validity research at individual institutions illustrates the weak predictive ability of the SAT. One study (J. Baron & M. F. Norman in Educational and Psychology Measurement, Vol. 52, 1992) at the University of Pennsylvania looked at the power of high school class rank, SAT I, and SAT II in predicting cumulative college GPAs. Researchers found that the SAT I was by far the weakest predictor, explaining only 4% of the variation in college grades, while SAT II scores accounted for 6.8% of the differences in academic performance. By far the most useful tool proved to be class rank, which predicted 9.3% of the changes in cumulative GPAs. Combining SAT I scores and class rank inched this figure up to 11.3%, leaving almost 90% of the variation in grades unexplained.

Interpreted properly, this suggests that of the variation currently measurable, the combined SATs probably explain somewhere between five and ten percent. It is true that "almost 90% of the variation in grades" is still “unexplained,” but so what? Studies of wages typically use years of experience and of education as predictors, and these studies routinely leave over 80 percent of the variance unexplained, and yet no one would content that education and experience are unrelated to earnings. In both cases the variables - the SAT on the one hand, education/experience on the other - are highly significant predictors, but leave much to be explained. But the unexplained variance is by definition not something that admissions committees can use rigoroulsy, particularly in light of the undoubtedly very flexible way they define such other factors as "life experience." And so the whole argument that SATs aren't close to completely predictive is amiss.

It is also frequently argued that graduation rates and college GPAs are not thoroughly explained by SAT scores. But this does not control for what sorts of majors low-SAT students admitted on, for example, affirmative-action grounds choose, and indeed whether such majors are substantially populated by such students. One study (Elchanan Cohn et al., Determinants of undergraduate GPAs: SAT scores, high-school GPA and high-school rank, Economics of Education Review 23 (6), 2004) attempted to assess the predictive power of SAT scores by using the students in a single course – principles of economics. They find that high-school class rank and GPA basically double-count, and find that if SAT scores were dropped from the university they studied undergraduate GPAs would drop substantially, something not true for the other measures.

And so it does appear to be true that in the educational arena, there is “more” and there is “less” qualified. The available measures for qualifications are far from ideal, but the ones that exist allow a fairly precise ranking of applicants from most to least qualified. And that in turn suggests that the costs to going beyond the tribally neutral set of qualifications (again, ignoring tribal identity as a qualification in itself) comes at a substantial cost. If it is true for universities, where the penalties for failure are for a variety of reasons (including, often extensive state subsidy) relatively modest, it is undoubtedly all the more compelling true in the case of affirmative action in business, where the penalties for hiring less qualified workers are considerably greater (as Southern entrepreneurs knew when they were busy integrating businesses in the interval after the Civil War but before Jim Crow). That legally required (as opposed to purely voluntary) affirmative action is costly seems almost beyond dispute. That so many groups favoring it speak in terms of only the "qualified" and the "unqualified" is linguistic trickery, designed to evade the hard truth that qualifications differ and are measurable. The only remaining justification for affirmative action is then one of preserving social harmony among tribal groups, an objective that raises disturbing questions of its own.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Away for a Time

Grading finals has left me unable to blog in the recent past, traveling overseas will leave me unable to blog in the near future. I will be back roundabout June 27.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

America, Superpower of Rubes

A senior United Nations official named Mark Malloch Brown gave a speech the other day that can charitably be described as intemperate. In it he argues that the U.N. achieves great things, but Americans are ignorant of it because they have been flimflammed by right-wing media. The text of the speech is here. (The Belmont Club's brutal deconstruction of it is here.)

Economists like to use a technique called revealed preference. Whereas economic analysis typically uses preferences to draw conclusions about choices, sometimes it is useful to use choices – for example, the choice of words in a speech – to infer beliefs and preferences. And Mr. Brown’s speech is instructive in that respect. The part of the speech that is resonating most unsonorously is the following charge:

And today, on a very wide number of areas, from Lebanon and Afghanistan to Syria, Iran and the Palestinian issue, the U.S. is constructively engaged with the UN. But that is not well known or understood, in part because much of the public discourse that reaches the U.S. heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. That is what I mean by "stealth" diplomacy: the UN’s role is in effect a secret in Middle America even as it is highlighted in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

First, note that the speech was given to an American group, in New York. One must conclude then either that he doesn’t expect the “U.S. heartland” to hear of his view that they are living in a right-wing bubble of ignorance, or that they can hear but choose not to. Either way the conclusion is the same: U.S. policy on the U.N. is in the grip of ignorant people. All of this suggests a dim view either of the American democratic decision-making process, of Americans themselves, or both. In particular, either these people have too much power, they are not sophisticated enough to sample enough information sources, they are in the grips of a media monopoly, they need to be led by their betters, or some or all of the above.

Second, he makes explicit criticism of a single country, the U.S., in ways that would be unthinkable, because of diplomatic courtesies, for any other country. Indeed, later in the speech he discusses countries in the developing world who are resisting reforms designed to shift responsibility for some issues from the General Assembly, where these countries enjoy representation without taxation, to the Secretary General. He cannot bring himself to use any names, but only refers instead to “a few spoilers.” This suggests that he doesn’t think the U.S. merits such courtesies. Intrinsically this is not as bad as it first appears, because this kind of criticism is part of the price of hegemony. But his criticism of U.S. politicians in particular – who engage in“unchecked U.N.-bashing and stereotyping”– is simply out of bounds by any normal diplomatic criteria. And yet, if the hicks in Iowabraska or South Pennsylhoma or those other big squarish states out there take objection to this, that will presumably be their problem.

Finally, it is striking how much he thinks that the main problem is a failure by U.S. leaders to get the message out to the American public. The possibility that the U.N. physician – a with its large number of fundamentally illiberal regimes who nonetheless are treated as indistinguishable from, say, a country with several hundred years of consensual government, its peacekeepers involved in child molestation scandals, its inadequacy to the task in Darfur, in the case of radical Islam, and elsewhere throughout the decades – might need to heal himself does not seem to have occurred to him. Psychologists call this tendency to selectively edit out the evidence in ways that leave the thinker feeling better about himself self-serving bias, and Mr. Brown seems to have a bad case of it.

This was not his finest hour, nor was Kofi Annan’s defense of him the next day. That Mr. Brown holds these views and yet is second in command at the U.N. is something that the "heartland" should consider in its deliberations.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Prisoners of 1789

I have recently finished reading La Belle France, a very readable history of that remarkable country by the British Francophile historian Alistair Horne. Having finished it I am astonished by how much that medium-sized nation has influenced the modern world. Not in food or arts, for which France's astonishing rate of per capita contributions are well-known stories, but in politics and history. Of the two great revolutions of the late eighteenth century, Americans are naturally prone to emphasize the importance of their own. Not entirely without reason, as it did set the U.S. on the road to being the dominant power that it is today. But in fact it was the revolution of 1789 in France whose legacy has been more profound. Indeed, we are still captive to its outcome at the outset of the 21st century, the era of the microchip, the rise of China, and other things utterly unforeseeable to those who went to the meeting of the Estates General first called by Louis XVI.

The conventional wisdom about the Great Revolution was that it was an uprising of the miserably oppressed poor against an elite class impervious to their suffering. (Mel Brooks memorably summarized this view with six words, “It's good to be the king.”) And there is some truth to this; the huge expense of funding the American Revolution combined with much workaday economic dysfunction had thrown the French economy into chaos, with food shortages everywhere. The peasantry was also crippled by a burden of immense taxation.

But the first shots were fired not against the king or his agents but against a businessman, the very representative of the soon-to-be-despised bourgeois class. A factory belonging to a wallpaper manufacturer named Réveillon¸ ironically known for his generous wages, was stormed in late April, 1789 after a rumor that he planned to lower wages in concert with the government’s lowering of the price of bread. He and his children barely escaped with their lives, and according to this eyewitness account, after soldiers opened fire and killed hundreds of rioters, they turned their rage on any carriages containing members of the Third Estate, which in essence meant other members of the bourgeoisie. And so even though monarchists would in much of the nineteenth century object to the middle classes as the agents of change and hence the bearers of the might that toppled the world before 1789, it was anti-industrialist sentiment that played a big role in setting the stage for the storming of the Bastille.

The rest is quite literally history. On July 14 the Bastille was attacked. (Two elderly priests were very nearly lynched, saved only by the arrival of the police.) On August 26 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was issued. In what must have seemed an astonishing development to a Western Europe unused to seeing its sovereigns fall to the rabble since the Roman Empire, the king and queen were captured on Oct. 5. Following a brief sort of Prague Spring interval that lasted through much of 1790, Edmund Burke famously warned with astonishing prescience in November of that year that what was in the offing was “nothing but the gallows,” a provocation that the American radical Thomas Paine rejected with his question, “Whom has the National Assembly brought to the scaffold? None.” During this time the Revolution also took a marked anti-clerical turn, with the corruption of much of the church hierarchy motivating what we would now call a nationalization and auctioning off of church property, and an insistence (remarkably similar to those that China now demands of bishops in its “patriotic” Catholic Church that Rome does not recognize) that clerics vow obedience to the nation.

One faction, each more radical than the one before it, followed another, and terror by mobs in the streets and the first vengeful and later cannibalistic parade to the guillotine followed. The King was dispatched in January of 1792, the Queen in October. The device was even sent on “patriotic tours” to snuff out any nobles in hiding. As the temporary leaders of the state grew more and more paranoid the Terror increased, and ultimately only a megalomaniacal Bonaparte could restore order.

Even then the conflict was not over, as France went from Napoleon to the Restoration to the abortive uprising that led to a restored monarchy to a brief uprising leading to a constrained monarch, Louis-Philippe to universal suffrage (ere both Britain and the U.S.) and the Second Republic to Napoleon III to a disastrous war with Prussia to the Paris Commune (where the Archbishop of Paris was taken hostage and executed) to a forced, exhasuted stability by the 1870s. The French in their history, as in most things, have little tolerance for dull smallness.

Now that we have had two centuries plus to shake it all out, it is astonishing how much is left as a historical legacy. First, the Jacobins have won completely in purging religion from the public square, in favor of outcomes dictated by reason. During the Revolution proper this sometimes reached absurd proportions, as when the revolutionary government abandoned the months of the Gregorian calendar and invented a “rational” calendar based on the decimal system, the companion of the metric system that of course now dominates world measures. There were 12 months of 30 days each, named after expected weather and botanical conditions rather than ancient gods. Each month had three ten-day weeks (with five holidays at the end, six in a leap year), each day 10 hours, each hour 100 minutes, and each minute 100 seconds. Years were indexed by Roman numerals, starting from what would have otherwise been called 1792. (The Khmer Rouge, chillingly, also called the start of their new society Year Zero.) Robespierre, to take an example, was executed on 8 Thermidor Year II. More seriously, church property was often sacked, with Notre Dame Cathedral itself barely escaping. This legacy is clearly reflected throughout Europe (with the conspicuous exception of Poland), where church attendance has dwindled down to almost nothing and where French militancy about church/state separation is now the norm, even in faraway Turkey.

Closely related is the triumph of reason (as opposed to adherence to tradition) as the arbiter of human affairs. If there is a problem to be solved, public officials should reason out the solution and then apply it. Lost, obviously, in this model is the limits of the human mind to understand something as complex as human society (and certainly to predict its future). Equally lost is the notion of the Scottish/English Enlightenment that people pursue their self-interests, including by forming pressure groups, in all political systems. There is no obvious reason that government decisions should end up enacting some phantom “public will,” itself a concept that Rousseau relied heavily on during his political theorizing before the Revolution. Some of the Enlightenment’s most gifted children, e.g. Condorcet, ended up being swallowed by its revolutionary excesses. The ultimate triumph of this rationalist view of human affairs was Marxist historical inevitability, which went on to give Lenin license he needed to invent totalitarianism to make sure that enough eggs could be broken to make the omelet he desired. The skepticism for the middle class, which we saw earlier was on display right from the start, also found its way into Marx and ultimately the mass campaigns of Stalin and Mao. Much less profoundly, the gradual accretion of power by the elite in the EU despite a lack of a compelling mandate from the public is another manifestation of this legacy.

The power of the mob, even if channeled through elections, which as we saw above was to haunt France repeatedly in the coming years, has also long outlasted the Revolution itself. If there is a public will, then the public must surely discern it, and there is thus nothing to be said for standing in defiance of it in the name of constitutional procedure, ordered liberty, the costs of upsetting the social order, or anything else. One still sees this even now, with the legacy (including in the U.S., as most recently demonstrated in the large protests against the House immigration bill criminalizing violations of the immigration laws) of large public demonstrations and even disorder as a way to pressure the government to adopt a particular measure. “The people, united, will never be defeated” is perhaps 1789's tritest legacy. Totalitarians of both “left” and “right” (and these distinctions themselves are legacies of parliamentary seating arrangements in the Revolutionary era) have always relied on the “masses” to validate their actions. This is why they are often such compelling orators capable of mobilizing giant crowds (Mussolini, Hitler), or otherwise insistent on whipping up mass movements, parades, etc. (Mao, Stalin).

One of the great controversies in history is the question of determinism – is history guided by large, impersonal macro principles or by micro accidents and individual human choices? Mr. Horne himself wonders whether, if Louis XVI had not been so instinctively indecisive, whether it all would have turned out much less bloody. We will never know, but even after stipulating its benefits (the overthrow of a purely hereditary ruling class, the declaration of rights inherent in all people), the legacy of the Great Revolution gives one pause. It has been a macro driver of history like few other events. It is 1789's world in more ways than we know.

Friday, June 02, 2006

European Wilding

“Protesters fought the police and ransacked the offices of foreign organizations across the city. Twelve people were killed, including one policeman, and 138 were wounded as the police and Afghan Army soldiers struggled to contain the violence, police officials said.”

- The New York Times, June 1, 2006.

“About 15 youths attacked the police with rocks and other projectiles in a housing project in Clichy-sous-Bois about 9 p.m. Tuesday. The police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, and arrested a number of the alleged assailants, including Mr. Altun, said a national police spokeswoman, who under police rules cannot be identified. The attackers also burned a number of vehicles and set fire to a police car in which four officers were sitting, the spokeswoman said. The officers escaped unharmed.”

- The New York Times, May 31, 2006.

I first became familiar with the term “wilding” after an incident in New York City in 2000. The papers told of a group of young men who, during and after the Puerto Rican day parade, went on a rampage of sorts, soaking the shirts of women and in at least one case being accused of sexually assaulting one.

Europe too is now coping with young male wilding, which has some similarities and some differences with the long history of youth unrest in the U.S. (As the mischievous comparison above suggests, the European trend now suggests comparisons with other parts of the world.) For some time now I have been collecting stories of these events. Some of them are disturbing in what they portend.

The U.S. suffered an epidemic of such unrest in the 1960s, had a major riot in Los Angeles in 1992 and periodically has smaller disturbances not just in big cities but in smaller ones such as Cincinnati or Tampa. These riots typically target businesses. Often they occur after someone is injured in an encounter with the police. The LA riots were sparked by a related incident, the acquittal in the state criminal trial of the officers who beat Rodney King. And more recently some of the anger has been directed not at whites or at the broader society but against other minority groups – Koreans in LA or Jews in the Crown Heights riots in New York in 1990.

Another difference is that in the European incidents no one dies. Hundreds died in the U.S. rioting of the 1960s, dozens in the LA rioting of 1992. So far only one person has died in the French rioting (which briefly resumed earlier this week after the orgy of November, 2005), and that was the person running from the police whose death from electric shock set the rioting off. But that is mostly a function of the available production technology, particularly guns. If les jeunes rioting in November had had easy access to handguns, it would have been a different story. And if they decide soon that they want handguns, they will get them.

Some of the European incidents are of the American type. In Antwerp in 2002, for example, there were two days of rioting sparked by the police shooting of a local Muslim teacher. It was confined to the Moroccan neighborhood, and targeted cars and businesses. But there is something more disturbing about some of these recent incidents:

- In Lisbon last summer, several hundred youths went on a robbing and assault binge during a holiday at Carcavelos beach. The BBC account linked above talks mostly of “muggings” and of the initial inability of police to restore order until reinforcements arrived. An account in The Decapolis Telling indicates that the mayhem continued on the train, that only four were arrested, and that it was all reminiscent of the sorts of scenes that occur in Rio de Janeiro all the time.

- During the March, 2006 protests over the proposed liberalization of French labor laws, the protesters found that they too could be the victims of the disorder someone else generated. At the fringes of the march some of them were assaulted by people who presumably came in from the banlieues because the pickings were easy. Accounts and pictures of the assaults can be found at Gateway Pundit here and here.

- Again from France, on March 8, 2005 there was a protest march in Paris by high-school students. It was descended on by perhaps 1000 youths from the suburbs who assaulted the marchers, male and female alike, and stole their cell phones (sometimes just for the laughs, as they were then immediately destroyed in front of the victims) and wallets. What was striking about the events, according to contemporary coverage, was how explicitly racial it was – the “little whites” were seen as easy pickings, with lots of money combined with an unwillingness to resist.

- In Antwerp in February, 2006, during the uproar over the Danish cartoons, a protest turned into wilding when youths began running through the streets and damaging cars with the drivers still in them. Thanks to the miracle of decentralized media in the digital age, we no longer live in the old days when, if an Officially Certified Journalist didn't cover it it didn't happen; the video of this event can be seen at the above link.

Not all incidents are so dramatic, but on the flip side they are much more frequent, so normal in fact as to elicit little attention. Assaults on teachers are recorded and the recordings then passed around enthusiatically.

A couple of things about these incidents are suggestive. First, while some of them are clearly opportunistic, a chance to grab some swag as social order temporarily vanishes (similar to the LA riots after the first night), that order decays so easily in some of the larger incidents is disturbing, a sign either of under-policed societies (very possible, because of the extent to which social-welfare spending is crowding out more and more things in many of these societies) or societies too crippled by skepticism of law-and-order rhetoric to take the necessary preventive action. Second, even when the police are there they are oftentimes not much feared. Both in November and this week police stations and cars and, as the quote above notes, even on one occasion police cars with police officers in them were attacked in Paris. One reads of sections there (and Malmö in Sweden) that are almost un-policeable. Undoubtedly there is some exaggeration, perhaps even hysteria, in some of these claims, but four years after his famous article, Theodore Dalrymple looks a lot closer to the mark than his critics. The ongoing belief by the wilders that the police are not a threat to the violence, whatever its motivation, bodes ill.

And so perhaps it is not surprising that these incidents appear to be growing. Once upon a time urban rioting of the American variety was much rarer, and occurred primarily in British cities. It was easy for continental Europe to write that off as a function of the stingier welfare state in the UK, which allowed them to file it with American rioting from a bygone era. But the spread of such events to the societies of the continent, where there is almost no more room for already welfare-thick states to do anything grand, noble and expensive to “fight poverty,” belies that notion. The combination of migrants desperate to get to Europe, a Europe desperately wishing they weren’t there, and an economy incapable of giving its young the means to a dignified life through a career suggests European wilding will get worse before it gets better. At best, the urban social disorder that Americans take for granted (and note that it declined greatly throughout the 1990s) is now entrenched in Europe. And if the analogy is to the American unrest of the 1960s, Europe has reached 1965 round about now; 1967 and 1968 still lie ahead.


I have decided to make this post a repository of these episodes as more of them happen.

On May 22, 2007, Moroccan fans damaged a soccer stadium (destroying seats and advertising boards) and ran onto the field uncontrollably during a match between the Moroccan and Dutch youth teams in Tilburg. No one was injured, but there was extensive damage, and the incident has led to a five-year ban on matches between Dutch and Moroccan teams in Holland. Some Youtube video here.

From the BBC, April 14, 2007, on a smallish riot by Chinese in Milan:

Italian riot police have broken up a violent protest in Milan's Chinatown by scores of Chinese immigrants.

About 10 police officers were injured and a similar number of Chinese people received hospital treatment.

The trouble began when a Chinese woman was fined for illegally transporting goods in a private vehicle.

More than 100 Chinese shopkeepers and members of their families, many waving the national flag, massed in the street claiming racial discrimination.

Baton charge

During the unrest, which lasted until nightfall, a car was overturned and the police carried out a baton charge. The woman was arrested and later admitted to hospital.

The Chinese immigrant community in Italy has grown very rapidly during the past 10 years.

From Islam in Europe, April 2007:

The unrest Sunday morning by the Kurdish community in the Brussels suburb of Sint-Joost-ten-Node broke into riots by the afternoon. After a fire in a Kurdish community center, about 50 Kurds had gathered to loudly protest. In the afternoon young Turks began to gather as well, till there were about 400.

Finally the police had to charge three times with a water cannon to break apart the Turks.

The fire by the community center started at about 2AM. The community center, which is on the ground floor, completely burned down, but the family the lives above the establishment was unhurt. According to the fire brigade there isn't any doubt that the fire had been set on purpose.

Two years ago a Kurdish community center was burned down by arson in the same neighborhood. The protesters Sunday morning demanded that the mayor come to the area and that surveillance cameras be put up.

From Yahoo News, on March, 27, 2007 rioting by young men, presumably mostly black and Arab, at the Paris train station Gare Du Nord:

PARIS - Riot police firing tear gas and brandishing batons clashed Tuesday with bands of youths who shattered windows and looted shops at a major Paris train station, and officials said seven people were arrested.

Officers and police dogs charged at groups of marauding youths, some of them wearing hoods, who mingled with commuters and travelers at the Gare du Nord — one of Paris' most important transport hubs.

Some of the youths threw trash cans and other objects at the officers, who responded by firing tear gas.

One woman was evacuated by paramedics for inhalation of tear gas.

The clashes began in midafternoon, and forced the closure of the station's subway and commuter lines for several hours. The station's long-distance rail hub and Eurostar terminal, which is attached to the subway station, remained open throughout.

They started after a man without a Metro ticket punched two inspectors during a routine ticket check, said officials from Paris' RATP public transport authority. Youths also attacked the inspectors and later turned on police patrolling the station, officials said.

"The inspectors were hit with projectiles, as were the officers who came to assist them," said Luc Poignant, an official for the Force Ouvriere police union.

From Dutch News, March 2007, describing two days of rioting by white youths in the wake of the shooting of a white man by police. There had been tension, according to Expatica, between whites and Turks prior to the incident.

At least 130 people have been arrested after a second night of disturbances in Utrecht, both in the city centre and fringes of the neighbourhood Ondiep. Police said the arrests included a number of football supporters from FC Utrecht, Feyenoord and Amsterdam Ajax who had come to the city looking for trouble.

Police sealed off Ondiep in an effort to avoid further incidents. Two people were arrested in the neighbourhood on Monday night when youths went on the rampage after a 54-year-old man was shot dead by police. A community centre was set on fire and destroyed during the disturbances.

On Tuesday night gangs of youths gathered in various places around Ondiep. In one incident, stones and bottles were thrown at the police, in another fires were set. The situation in Utrecht had normalised by around midnight, NOS tv reported.

October 5, 2007: AFP has the story of young lads who attacked a fire engine with a police escort before setting fire to buildings and cars, in St. Dizier, France:

French police clashed overnight with youths who went on a rampage in a town in eastern France, prompting Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie to travel to the troublespot.

Between 40 and 50 masked youths used metal bars to smash a firefighters' vehicle and a police car dispatched to a shopping mall in Saint-Dizier, said Yves Guillot, the head of the Haute-Marne regional government.

The youths then fanned out across the town of 30,000 inhabitants, setting fire to two buildings, a car rental office and 16 vehicles. Police reinforcements were sent in to quell the violence.

"We are trying to understand what happened. We have had clashes in our town but not on this scale," said Mayor Francois Cornut-Gentille.

The youths are said to be residents of Saint-Dizier's low-income housing project, Vert-bois, which is home to 12,000 people.

January 11 and 18, Spain: consecutive weekends of rioting in Spain over "fascism" and "anti-fascism":

From Typically Spanish:

Teenager killed as rival gangs clash in Madrid metro station

The 16 year old was a member of a left-wing gang on its way to an anti-immigration rally called by Neonazis

Hundreds demonstrated in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol on Sunday evening in protest at the death of a 16 year old boy who was stabbed to death in a clash between two rival gangs in the Legazpi area of the city on Sunday afternoon. Eight others were injured in the clashes – one of them seriously - and one of them could be the suspected attacker, according to a report by the EFE news agency.

The paper said it happened in a confrontation between Neonazi skinheads and the anti-fascist red skin gang, and began inside a metro train at the local station, when the victim was on his way with a group of friends to support immigrants at an anti-immigration protest called by the far right political organisation, Juventudes de Democracia Nacional.

El País newspaper said some of those involved in the confrontation between the two groups used self-defence sprays, and anti riot police were brought in to control any further disturbances, both in Legazpi and at the next station in Usera.

And from Expatica:

Neo-Nazi hate crime sparks "anti-fascist" riot

19 November 2007

Barcelona - Hundreds of people rioted in Barcelona Saturday as police attempted to break up an illegal demonstration called to protest the murder a week earlier of a 16-year-old boy by a neo-Nazi.

The rioters, who described themselves as anti-fascists, assaulted police officers, burnt garbage containers and attacked the headquarters of the regional interior affairs department. Several rioters and 10 police officers were injured in the violence and seven people were arrested.

The riot on Saturday followed a similar outbreak of extremist violence in Madrid the previous weekend following the murder of Carlos Javier P., a 16-year-old anti-fascist stabbed to death by a 24-year-old off-duty soldier, Josué Estébanez de la Hija.

Some video of the latter incident is up at No Pasaran.

Five consecutive nights of "rioting," in the form of setting fire to cars and dumpsters, and vandalizing public buildings (including schools), according to AFP:

Six youths were arrested in Copenhagen for setting cars and dumpsters ablaze and throwing stones at police in a fifth night of riots in a predominantly immigrant area of the Danish capital, police said Friday.

"We've had six arrests so far. They've been charged with throwing stones at police and setting fires to cars and waste containers," Chief Inspector Henrik Olesen of the Copenhagen police told AFP.

At least 11 cars were torched in various neighbourhoods of Copenhagen, and 10 others in the nearby town of Kokkedal.

On Thursday, 17 youths were arrested for rioting the previous night.

"We don't know why they're rioting. I think it's because they're bored. Some people say it's because of the cartoons but that's not my opinion," Olesen said.

He was referring to the reprinting of a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in 17 Danish newspapers on Wednesday.

Let the record show, in case there is future controversy over it, that the disturbances began before the decision by Danish newspapers to reprint the cartoons.

June 14, 2008, Vitry le François, France (from News 24, South Africa):

Lille - Dozens of French youths clashed with police in a town in northeast France overnight, burning cars during a rampage triggered by the killing of a 22-year-old man, an official said on Sunday.

Two police officers, two firefighters and five residents suffered minor injuries during the violence that raged until Sunday morning in Vitry-le-Francois, said Sylvaine Astic from the regional prefect's office.

Armed with baseball bats and firebombs, about 50 youths went on a rampage, torching cars and setting fire to garbage bins in the town of 17 000 people, Astic told AFP.
The violence started around 22:00 (20:00 GMT) after the 22-year-old man was gunned down in Vitry-le-Francois. A suspect was arrested overnight.

This article in Le Monde says that 60 cars were burned, and describes the residents of the area as having fallen into “psychosis” since the rioting, eager to buy arms that are illegal to buy in France.

July 10, 2008: A remarkable shootout on the streets of Lisbon between two gangs:

Gates of Vienna has a summary of what the Portuguese news reporters are saying, along with other commentary.

Times Online (UK), Sept. 8, 2008, on street battles between gypsies and Africans in Roquetas del Mar, Spain:

Riot police were deployed throughout a Spanish seaside town popular with British expatriates today after the second consecutive night of rioting by African immigrants.

The fighting in Roquetas del Mar, 12 miles west of Almería, were caused by a dispute between Spanish Gypsies and African immigrants in which a 28 year old Senegalese man was stabbed to death, the Spanish Interior Ministry said.

Outraged migrant workers set fire to the home of the man they said was responsible, and erected barricades, smashed shop windows and kept firefighters at bay with stones and bottles.

Police responded with baton charges and rubber bullets in scenes that were reminiscent of race riots in the Paris suburbs last year. Four police officers were injured and several fire vehicles were damaged. Eight Africans were arrested.

It was the latest outburst of race-related violence in Spain, which has witnessed a surge of immigration in the past decade. As many as 1,000 Spanish youths fought Latin American immigrants in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcón last year. Many claimed that they were reclaiming the neighbourhood from gangs that had arrived from Central America.

Times Online (UK), Sept. 20, 2008, from Naples:

Race riots exploded in the southern Italian town of Castelvolturno near Naples yesterday after six African immigrants were shot dead at a tailor’s shop in an attack by gangsters from the the Naples Mafia.

Police said that the violence was related to a drugs turf war among the Camorra, the Naples Mafia, in which African immigrants appeared to be involved. But the rioters, who smashed windows and turned over cars, accused the police and mafiosi of racism for assuming that immigrants were drugs dealers. At least six gunmen fired Kalashnikovs and small arms during the attack.

Young men with crowbars forced motorists out of their vehicles while African women screamed. “We want justice. It’s not true that our murdered friends sold drugs or were mobsters,” one protester said. The six dead, all in their late twenties, were from Ghana, Togo and Liberia.

First week of December, Athens. No immigrant or ethnic component this time, just ideological. Greek anarchist/fascist/communist/whatnot young rioting for several days, trashed stores, hotel lobbies and even government buildings in the process, with little if any response from law enforcement, owing to hesitancy rooted in Greece's period of military rule. The New York Times has as good a survey as any.

Dec. 19, 2008: Esther at Islam in Europe, who always does a great job presenting the phenomenon of Muslims in Europe in all its complexity, has a roundup of simultaneous low-level disturbances (riots, if you like) in Malmö (Sweden), France and Greece. The disturbances concern, respectively, the arrest of radicals in a mosque, reaction to education reform, and whatever it is that Greek anarchists riot about.

It's not 1848, but it is a little disconcerting. If I were a betting man I would look to Spain next.

May 7-12, 2009: Portugal, it turns out. From The Portugal News Online:

Around a dozen people were detained and taken for identification by PSP officers following days of unrest in the notorious Bairro da Bela Vista, Setúbal.

Police reinforcements had been on standby since a riot broke out in the vicinity last week. Some 200 people surrounded a police station and threw stones at it after the funeral of a man who was shot by officers following a police chase in the Algarve.

Named as 23-year-old Antonio de Jesus Vieira, who was originally from Setúbal, the deceased was believed to be part of a gang that stole an ATM machine from the Hospital Particular in Alvor. He died from his injuries two days later in a Lisbon hospital.

Since the riot unrest has reigned over the already ill-famed area.

Earlier this week members of the police’s Intervention Core have randomly stopped suspicious-looking vehicles coming in and out of the neighbourhood.

That same night a local fire brigade was called out a couple of times to extinguish fires that had been lit in waste bins.

Rioters set fire to three police vehicles during the early hours of Monday morning, which after police intervention resulted in three detentions.

July 8-9, 2009: Small-scale rioting in France over death in custody of suspect:

LYON, France (Reuters) - Youths in the southeastern French town of Firminy burned cars and destroyed a social centre on Wednesday night as protests over the death in police custody of a young man continued for a second night.

Around 200 riot police were deployed into the early hours on Thursday, with a helicopter circling overhead as groups of young people set fire to rubbish bins before moving on to torch cars and the social centre.

The protests followed the death on Wednesday of Mohamed Benmouna, a local man arrested for attempted extortion, who fell into a coma after what police said was a suicide attempt and died several hours later.

These events are becoming more frequent, so I can only report the more egregious ones, including attacks on civil authority. Attack on a police station, Brussels:

Brussels: Riots after nightly arrest

Nine police agents were injured in riots Thursday evening in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek. One agent was seriously injured. The violence began during the arrest of a 14 year old who had badgered and taunted the police over the previous days. Two minors were meanwhile arrested.

The two minors threw various projectiles at the police yesterday evening and resisted their arrest. They are now being brought to the magistrate. The prosecution wants to arrest them. The minor for whom the riots began needs to show up by a youth court.

For several days the 14 year old had badgered and taunted the police. At about 7pm Thursday evening agents went to his house at the Vanderstichelenstraat to pick him up. This lead to loud protests by the boy's family.

About twenty people gathered around the agents, throwing stones at the police. The police had to use pepper-spray to keep the spectators at bay and took the boy with them to the station at Briefdragerstraat.

The family soon arrived, accompanied by about sixty people, to protest at the police station. They became wild and a number of youth threw stones at the station, smashing the windows of police cars and the station itself.

Johan Berckmans of the police explains that this was a person who harassed the police during police surveillance as part of Ramadan. Police agents were called names and even threatened. On Wednesday the agents couldn't proceed to the arrest of this person, it took place on Thursday with all the consequences that followed.

The police called in for reinforcements from the Brussels Capital/Elsene zone. After the rioters were dispersed, the riots moved to the area around the Ribeaucourtstraat and the Leopold II-laan.

Two water cannon, a police helicopter and 100 agents were needed in order to calm down the situation. Nine agents were injured during the incident, one seriously.

The police union is asking for urgent measures from the government. Philip Van Hamme of the NSPV says that more personnel should be immediately added to the permanent and preventive services. More should be invested in those services, and certainly in the preventive patrols which should be thoroughly expanded.

Source: Islam in Europe, originally from Brussels Nieuws

A soccer match between Egypt and Algeria generated controversy. There was rioting, naturellement, in Marseilles (on November 14, 2009):

La tension entourant la rencontre Egypte-Algérie, comptant pour la qualification au Mondial de foot 2010, a franchi la Méditerranée. Des échauffourées (voir la vidéo de La Provence) ont éclaté dans les rues de Marseille samedi soir dès la fin du match, qui a vu la défaite de l'équipe algérienne 2 à 0. Une centaine de supporters algériens a descendu la Canebière et s'en est pris aux forces de l'ordre rassemblées sur le Vieux port et les quartiers environnants. La foule a jeté des cannettes, des pétards et des fumigènes sur les policiers, qui ont riposté par des tirs de grenades lacrymogènes.

Also, photos and video of violence in Paris after thousands showed up for an asinine money-giveaway publicity stunt. Projectiles thrown, people kicked and beaten. (Text in Flemish.)

Jan. 7-8, 2010: rioting in Rosarno, Italy. White youths attack a group of Africans, Africans rampage in response, says Reuters:

ROSARNO, Italy (Reuters) - Thousands of immigrants protested against racism in a southern Italian town on Friday, after a night of rioting sparked by an attack on African farm workers by a gang of white youths.

In one of Italy's worst episodes of racial unrest in years, dozens of Africans in Rosarno, in the Calabria region, smashed car windows with steel bars and stones and set cars and rubbish bins on fire late into Thursday night.

Police said at least one car was attacked while passengers were inside -- several of whom were injured.

The immigrants, who also blocked a road, clashed with police in riot gear. Police said 7 immigrants were arrested. Thirty-two people, including 18 policemen, were injured.

The incidents took place after white youths in a car fired air rifles at a group of African immigrants returning from work on farms, injuring two of them.

"Those guys were firing at us as if it were a fair ground, they were laughing. I was screaming and there were other cars passing by but nobody stopped, nobody called the police," Kamal, a Moroccan, told La Repubblica newspaper.

On Friday morning some 2,000 immigrants demonstrated in front of the town hall to protest against what they said was racist treatment by many locals. Some shouted "we are not animals" and carried signs reading "Italians here are racist."

Scattered acts of vandalism by immigrants continued on Friday morning as some smashed store windows. Police said that in two separate incidents Rosarno residents had tried to run over immigrants with their cars.

Schools and many shops were closed as tensions remained high. One white resident fired live ammunition in the air from a terrace, local media reported. The situation was calm by early evening, although some feared more violence during the night.

Feb. 13, 2010: South American immigrants kill Egyptian immigrant, N. African immigrants riot in response. In Milan, although it could've been in various places:

MILAN, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Dozens of immigrants from North Africa rioted during the night in a multi-ethnic district of Milan, smashing shop windows and overturning cars to protest at the knifing death of an Egyptian, Italian police said on Sunday.

It was the second episode of violence involving immigrants this year, after clashes in southern Italy in January brought about the worst racial violence in the country since World War Two and reignited a long-running debate on immigration.

The rioting began on Saturday evening after a 19-year-old Egyptian man, indentified by police as Hamed Mamoud El Fayed Adou, was killed, apparently by a group of immigrants from South America.

Police said the North Africans, most of them Egyptians, went on a rampage and some clashed with police in the northeastern neighbourhood where some 70 percent of shops are owned by immigrants.

Feb. 13, 2010: Shades of the 1920s. BBC video of confrontations in Dresden between Nazis memorializing the Allied bombings of Dresden and their antifa opponents.

April 12-13 2010: At least two nights of rioting, , in Brussels, in response to the death of a young man fleeing from police. From Islam in Europe, transcribing other news reports:

Riots Monday

Riots started off in the Brussels suburb of Sint-Gillis Monday night. The incident began at about at around 8pm next to the Bethlehem Square. Several youth set off small fires and threw oil on the square. Calm was restored when the police showed up and occupied the square, but then the incidents began in earnest.

Youth threw stones at the police, turned over cars and set them alight. They also threw Molotov cocktails.

The Brussels-South police department (Anderlecht/Sint-Gillis/Vorst) got reinforcements from nearby departments and the federal police. Calm was restored after midnight.

From DW-World, July 17, 2010, on rioting in Grenoble following a killing by police:

Rioters torched cars, looted shops and shot at police in the French Alpine city of Grenoble Saturday after police shot dead a man who allegedly held up a nearby casino the night before.

The riots began around midnight in the Villeneuve suburb of Grenoble, after a memorial to 27-year-old Karim Boudouda, the alleged robber, who was a Villeneuve resident.

The violence flared when police tried to intervene in the attack of a streetcar held up by brushfire, police spokeswoman Brigette Julien told the AFP news agency. A group of about 30 youths had attacked the tram with baseball bats and iron bars, forcing out passengers.

After police arrived, the youths began burning cars, setting between 50 and 60 vehicles ablaze. Gunfire ensued, with police returning fire four times.

No one was injured in the riots, according to police, who arrested two men aged 18 and 20 for burning cars and three others for attempting to loot shops.