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    KEEP CALM & CARRY ON, ISIS EDITION (PT 4)

    When I began this as diary as a "series", I pointed to Mosul as a metaphor for Nov 8, 2016, and true to form, the chaos of the ensuing weeks have thrown me off - but constructively so.

    Sadly and ironically, the progress on the "battlefield", Mosul's ancient tightly wound streets booby-trapped for maximum obstruction, has been replaced by the PR & propaganda battle over what really happened March 17, though largely this battle has been lost already - whatever the allies do now, they will be mostly remembered for civilian casualties, despite all the extraordinary painstaking effort they've taken to avoid them.

    And that should give Democrats great pause as well - the seeming victories over Trump & the Republicans the last few weeks can be ephemeral and imagined, with a PR loss pulled from the clutches of victory. As one person noted, giving Flynn immunity to testify can be a huge trap, and that's just 1 possible trip-up point. But I'm more interested in the idea of "cooperation" vs. "collusion" in how we go forward.

    Last fall Paul Romer, Word Bank's chief economist, pushed out a rather milestone condemnation of the state of modern economics, comparing it to the pitiful plight of String Theory's inability to explain or predict much of anything, and the direness of having your entire career go by in a period of next to 0 progress in your field. But unlike the purveyors of the rather dubious suspension-of-gravity Modern Monetary Theory, Romer disses the idea that he needs to plop out or prop up a new theory just to criticize a non-functioning old one.

    But most striking is Romer's take-down of collusion in the field of economics - "The problem is that competition in science, like competition in the market, is vulnerable to collusion." The problem is, we love collusion when it's filled with confirmation bias - *our* bias - but hate it when it's supporting someone else's. So collusion over manmade global warming, grand; collusion between the NRA and the gun industry despicable. We don't mind so much if science is rigged as long as it's rigged our way - where have we heard that before?

    But various fields become stifled by adherence to a specific unquestioned standard, whether linguistics (Chomsky), physics (String Theory nonsense), economics, et al. Believe in the safety of vaccines or not, the promotion of "vaccines are safe, period" flies in the face of actual warnings of side-effects on packaging itself, as well as an affront to good science, however good for public policy (in the short or medium run). If we admitted we were sacrificing truth on the altar of expediency and the "greater good", perhaps the openness about intentions would do us good. But seldom are we so frank with ourselves or others.

    Andrew Sullivan has a piece out on Brexit today. amd  he notes the blind spot in liberal reasoning and evaluation of the facts as to whether Brexit is justified or desirable. In particular, he notes immigration increasing from roughly 300,000 per year in the 90's (closely matched to similar emigration figures), rising to over 600K per year after 2004. Combine this with a very assertive EU (German/Merkel) policy to welcome as many Syrian immgrants as possible during the latest crisis, with concomitant refugee riots on page 1, and it's not hard to see where Brits may say enough's enough.

    Frequently those on the left take the attitude that immigration is not to be discussed, just accepted as somehow for the greater good, with praises and paeans to "diversity". I've pointed out the absurdity of this "diversity" in the US, where 90%+ Mexican is regarded as "diverse", whereas an immigration mix of various whitish cultures from Greece, Russia, Poland, Norway, Italian and Ireland would be regarded as horridly backwards and Victorian.

    But this point is not debated - it's shouted out as accepted fact. Ted Kennedy pushed a major immigration expansion in 1965, Bush Sr. did another in 1990, and we added chain migration for relatives, such that by 2000, besides rampant illegal immigration (over 700,000/year, mostly Mexican, half of them caught) we were letting in over a million legal immigrants a year, 1/3 of the legals Mexican

    The rather lame liberal response has been that only haters are against this, and the only real problem is needing a path to citizenship. Aside from traditional Southwest states for immigration, major increases have occurred in Georgia, Maryland, Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey, etc.

    It's obvious that if you were asked to share your apartment or house with 1 Syrian and 2 Mexicans, you'd be rather uncomfortable with the idea unless guaranteed for a short period and for a good cause. But it really doesn't matter if they're Ethiopian, Russian, Irish or Chinese - the same applies. But up the figures for our local neighborhoods and townships, and we're still not that adaptable to change, and it's a question whether we should be.

    The Guardian has done a nice series on changes to Chinese cities, and how villages have become annexed into metro areas at a furious pace the last couple of decades, even as Han Chinese continue to overrun Xinjian and Tibetan and other ethnic backwaters with more and more restrictions on the locals. Stuttgart is dealing with increased congestion and pollution, and combined with decades of paying for East Germany's assimilation, taking on the brunt of the 2008 bailouts, and now handling Syria's spillover it's a question how much longer Germans will endure the high costs of an expanded EU liberal democracy before rejecting it for something more insular and xenophobic. We see how little African states accept those from other ethnic groups or countries, similar between Shi'ite and Sunni religion, various long-term skirmishes between not only Hindus and Muslims but stereotyped peaceful Buddhists and others, Burma's frail ethnic peace, Sri Lanka's trouble with Tamil Tigers, etc., etc., etc. America's been fairly lucky with its "melting pot", but our history is full of ethnic and religious atrocities, so we shouldn't exaggerate our capacity for change, acceptance and assimilation. Nowhere is that clearer than the long-term inability to transition from black slavery to black acceptance and full integration.

    But our collusion and barely veiled dogmatism extend to other policy areas. Minimum wage hit the streets this past year as a seemingly admirable goal to reverse wage disparities, but as the Great Society showed so well, good intentions don't always lead to good results. We should have grown in the last 50 years to approach good policy ideas in a thorough but persistent fashion, though willing to adapt and cover flaws in the plan. Instead we go for a scorched earth policy. Yes, we could have taken a faster, more insistent approach to health care, though to Obama's credit, a more rushed approach might have been easier for the GOP to rip apart (both this year and previous Supreme Court rulings) and instead it's proven surprisingly resilient. The difference between health care and many of these other issues is that health care was well-debated and beat to death over several decades, so we acknowledge and worked around the issues. Sure, some of the obstacles were boneheaded obstinate obstruction, but other complaints, even now about costs, were valid and still require tweaks and improvements. In short, we on the left learned to work through differences and objections as adults and thorough policy makers. It would be nice if the complexities and details on other areas could be approached similarly, as a can-do but still-to-be-figured-out multiple-possibility issues, rather than hardened single approach dogmatism.

    As many have noted, the original Hillarycare was enamored with HMOs, popular at the time, and probably would have been a fairly poor long-term approach. Revisiting in 2009 gave us a do-over that we were wise to jump on, even if we couldn't push single payer and total Medicare enrollment as some would prefer.

    Swinging back to Mosul, the alliance has proven very effective despite the improbabilities of holding this multi-ethnic coalition together. We'll see how it does in Raqqa, and what the ultimate post-war cooperation brings, but there's a real possibility that shared goals and experience in practical compromise will open the gates for revamping the long-standing hostilities and divisions into something a bit more tolerant. That will not change the obvious - people prefer being among people like themselves - but it will increase the chance of accepting a *bit* of diversity.

    Another lesson learned from the EU is that people can sublimate their regional yearnings and requirements if there's a more inclusive larger umbrella scope. Both Scotland and Catalonia have largely gotten their druthers, enough independence without requiring independent statehood. Even Brexit can't fairly blame the EU for the immigration issues, as there was plenty of intra-state migration before Syria, and much of the remaining charges against Brussels such as savings for NHS have been overblown. I'd hoped that some kind of EU-like structure to embody the hopes of the Arab Spring would arise, and still retain some mild optimism despite the outcomes the last decade. 

    So can Democrats handle the alley-by-alley street fight to reclaim the old town and the minaret from the backwards leaning Republicans? Can we overcome the entrenched once-good ideas to come up with better ideas that better fit our changing times and mood of the electorate without becoming demagogues? Can the Mosul alliance and Democrats alike win the war and still win the more important follow-on peace, as good in office as in the resistance? Can we figure out how to expand our alliance rather than always conceding the majority and nibbling around the edges? Quite some work to be done.

    AA posted a piece about Navalny, one of Putin's biggest critics and most likely to gather a resistance movment around him if anyone. But immediately the general critique is that Navalny is "more like Trump than Trump", too anti-ethnic, too illiberal. Navalny's response is simply he's a Russian patriot against Russian cooperation, with his warts and all. He's not trying to be a Bobby Kennedy or Martin Luther King. He's simply trying to make Russia normal again and protect Russia's interests. Does that include an expansionist, imperialist attitude towards surrounding provinces? So far it doesn't appear so. Instead his comments seem to reflect the same concerns about immigration, dilution of one's own culture, being lost in the maze of foreign elements and lack of core values. Can we accept that, to have allies that aren't exactly like us, or must we be as intolerant to win?

    Comments

    Too much to be handled by the human mind which , arguably is what I´m equipped with.

    I recall standing  on a  still poorly repaired Giessen side walk in February 53 staring in  shop windows. Giessen- about 30 miles north of Frankfurt- apparently was not participating in Erhard´s  Wirtschaftswunder.. I was told that in 1943  a US bomber was  hit by anti aircraft , the pilots parachuted  and were then pitch forked to death by the local farmers. Thereafter , supposedly, the phrase became popular ¨ Save one for Giessen¨ among US  pilots who did just that. May have been true. Certainly something caused  Giessen to still look like that, then.

    One popular window  had a display in which model trains circled a map of  Europe and stopped at each border except for the model trains indicated as being from the¨Iron and Coal Community¨ aka ¨The Six´ for whom the gates went up automatically. 

    People seemed to like it.

    Another vignette. My mother was the cashier in a resort restaurant whose owner said that if  I got to Denmark I should  visit his brother.

    I did.

    The brother was extraordinarily hospitable and the next evening I and a friend whose ship was docked in  Copenhagen took the train out  to the brother´s . Very nice. Equipped  with a gorgeous blue eyed kitchen maid out of central casting . Whose English ,sadly , was the mirror image of David´s and my Danish. Anyway she looked glad to see us.

    Sitting ¨upstairs¨  the owners wife had the  radio  playing softly. When she paused  changing stations . I said ¨oh that´s nice.¨ Continuing turning the dial , she smiled and said ¨We don´t listen to that. Itś Hamburg¨.  

    Maybe there´s a point somewhere. If you find it, let me know.

     

     


    Maybe there´s a point somewhere. If you find it, let me know.

    Don't need one! Appreciate any reminiscences you are inspired to share. Planted in one of our brains, the connections may be figured out years later.

     


    Maybe it's Hemingway's "the past isn't dead - it's not even the past". Do dig up Lars von Trier's Europa (Zentropa) - post-WWII as told by a crazy Dane, as narrated hypnotically by Max von Sydow.

    And I do like the mention of the blond - reminds me of my father's tale of days as a flyboy in Italy, him no lady's man, sitting with an Italian girl who didn't speak any English,  him no Italian. He always ended there, but where could it go? Did he manage his Cary Grant moment, or just sit there happily besotted? Will never know.


    Faulkner


    Ouch, will have my Southern creds revoked, too much time abroad. Figured it sounded too good and quotable for Hemingway (though I guess "the rich are different than us, they have more money" ain't bad)


    Especially appreciate the Sullivan link.

    Got me wondering what Christopher Hitchens would be saying if he were alive.surprise


    uh oh, they figured it out: Islamic State says U.S. 'being run by an idiot', Reuters, April 4


    It's actually from ISIS' "Home Jeopardy" board game they use to relax when not rigging up attack vehicles or beheading kids on the block. "Shakespeare for $200" states: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." - obviously Trump's Twitter feed.

    PS - I think Faulkner had the same board game.


    lol, let me know if you were taking any stimulants when you wrote this, I'd like to try them.


    Just an eightball & a bit of ecstasy capped off with some dilauded with a twist. Oh yeah, & some Oxycontin sucked through a straw (I'm no needle freak - low-lifes...). But don't try this @home kids - I'm a trained professional. 


    Jane Arraf @ NPR Two-Way trying to decode what's going on:

    April 5, 20177:11 PM ET

     


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