The Birthplace of Democracy…. Goes thru the Motions

Seriously, why are they even bothering? It has been made very clear o Greece that the results of elections will be put aside if they are not pleasing to the EU (and by EU I mean ‘Germany’ and by ‘Germany’ I mean ‘German private banks’).

The only reason to vote is to vote for the most extreme candidates possible (doesn’t matter in what direction as long as they’re extreme) so that the lack of meaning behind this exercise is as obvious as possible.

Also, I could understand this kind of mistake in a general news site, but there’s no excuse for a site devoted to Greece to refer to it as a ‘bailout’. It was a rescue of private German banks and no money involved ever got anywhere close to Greece and did nothing to relieve the terrible effects of austerity.


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It Takes One to Reach Out to One

I made the mistake a couple of days ago of watching a few minutes of CNN. Before I came to my senses I listened to Fareed Zakaria’s critique of Trumps behavior with the latest Kim demi-god from North Korea. What struck me was just how clueless it was.

He was in favor of diplomacy, he said, but he thought it would be more appropriate to have teams of experienced diplomats working out a program ahead of time… in other words all the stuff that’s failed the last few years.

Trump with his incipient (if not fully formed) Big Man complex instinctively understood that with a petty tinhorn dictator there’s a time for traditional diplomatic channels and the illusion of legitimacy and there’s a time for flattery by a direct appeal to their power.

Probably nothing much will come from Trump’s spontaneous gesture, but I can’t honestly criticize it, it was a gamble worth taking.


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What Condition is Merkel’s Condition In?

And old saw from PR is (roughly) “If people are worried about something, don’t reassure them in a way that’s likely to make them worry about something else…” In other words, if you’re on an airplane and you find yourself sitting next to someone who’s very afraid to fly don’t say “Actually taking off is easy…. it’s the landing that’s dangerous!”

That’s what I think about this little tidbit meant to reassure the German and European public about whatever’s going on with Angela Merkel. No, she wasn’t dehydrated during her second shaking bout… it was all psychological!

The idea that the de facto leader of Europe (leader of the leading country) is in such delicate psychological health that she can’t control her shaking in public…. is not reassuring. Especially since, despite her announced retirement she doesn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry to be moving on…

I read one Polish article where a distinguished neurologist was asked what he thought. After the usual hemming and hawing about the dangers of diagnosing from afar…. he volunteered that visibly her shaking was consistent with extrapyramidal symptoms (more so than Parkinson’s). I don’t know if that’s ultimately more reassuring or not.

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Radio Moscow Calling… from Portland

Back around 1980 or so Cuba started blasting the English service of Radio Moscow toward the US on AM radio and living on the lower Gulf Coast I could pick it up easily and listened to it… a whoooole lot.

My father was concerned that  was listening to much (as was a close friend) and he was a little concerned that we might be susceptible to its message. Actually there was no way for a person with a three digit IQ to listen to Radio Moscow and not realize it was a front for a deeply dysfunctional and often evil regime. But it was a voice I hadn’t heard publicly before and so… I listened.

That was when I first started noticing the particular.. rhetoric that was typical of the Soviet ‘sphere of influence’,  safe trivia might be dealt with in a pseudo-frank manner while smooth transitions covered up mass amounts of suffering.

This was also about the time the Solidarity movement was heating up in Poland and Radio Moscow managed to cover some events in the most boring manner possible and smoothly sailed past riots and detention under the banner that most people in Poland “support socialism”. The implication was that outsiders shouldn’t worry their little heads about this because the leaders of the Solidarity movement were unpopular. (I have no idea how much of this was covered within the USSR or how but I suspect it was mostly ignored).

The physical assault against Andy Ngo has me thinking about Radio Moscow or rather the left progressive reaction to the assault makes me wonder if Vladimir Pozner’s old ghostwriter has come out of retirement. People shouldn’t worry about Ngo being assaulted because he’s not very nice, and not a true journalist in that he’s affiliated with people that the cool kids don’t like and he’s certainly not one of the cool kids and he’s kind of dorky looking and the consensus is that he’ll actually benefit in the form of publicity which is the real injustice. Okay it’s a tad more  infantile than Pozner ever was (a lot more actually) but that’s whose voice I’m hearing when I read the latest leftist unconcern.

The political realignment has been slow to get moving and the pokier it is the more of this kind of violence there will be. I don’t like that and I’m against assaulting people because of their opinions but unless some big event (like a major economic downturn) gets the realignment back in gear then there’s going to be more assaults on all sides. Nothing like a civil war (the US army can’t fight a war anymore let alone civilians) but more physical violence than the 1960s is on the way unless all sides denounce it without regard for the victim’s popularity…

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What I’ve been watching: Pasta punching edition

I feel like being a little less negative now that I’ve entered all the grades that I can enter for the time being (it’s a long and exhausting process due to the piece of crap software the university uses and a bunch of other reasons I won’t bore you with).

Anyway, one of my favorite youtube channels of late is the cooking series “Pasta Grannies“. It is, as the name suggests devoted to elderly Italian women making homemade regional pasta dishes and it is a complete delight.

The women are all old (some extremely so in the 90s) and each video features one (or two) as they say a few words (they’re game and seem to enjoy the attention but a little camera shy at times) about the dish they’re going to make and then we watch them get down in the kitchen.

There’s an English language announcer who walks the viewer through the process but who cares about that, the fun is watching these women whip up amazing looking dishes with the kind of nonchalent expertise that comes from decades of preparing dishes that have been handed down across many generations.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania pasta grannies

Do you want to tell her spaghetti and meatballs aren’t authentic?

Some of the women are “tiny” and they have to climb up on little platforms (do they sell them in Italy?) as they enter into the hand to food combat known as kneading and rolling out the pasta dough. One venerable Sardinian lady kneads the dough for 35(!) minutes before she’s satisfied and then turns the lump into intricate little intertwined loops.

Sometimes family members take part (like the adult grandson who emerges to wipe the sweat from nonna’s brow in mid-knead) and it’s fun to watch the interplay when there’s more than one granny. One has to nudge her friend’s elbow to remind her to introduce herself and when they watch each other work there’s some silent… appraising going on. They’re not going to openly criticize each other’s technique but slightly tilted heads and the occasional raised eyebrow give that game away.

Italy is of course notoriously conservative when it comes to food and proprietary traditional recipes so it’s also fun when the grannies whip up something that might make some Italians mad at food like meatballs in tomato sauce (not just an Italian American thing after all).

Of course it makes me want to start making pasta though I’m pretty sure I’d be terrible at it and just make an infernal mess in the kitchen, so for now I’ll leave it to these ladies.

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Democrats against Dignity

I remember back in 2016 at some point I found Chris Arnade’s twitter feed and that’s one of the things that made me think Trump had a chance of winning the election no matter how sure the media establishment was that he couldn’t.

Just as interesting as Arnade’s verbalization of the disaffection in left-behind America was the progressive reaction to it (and toward the people he was showing and writing about). It seemed like raw hatred, they didn’t want to know these people existed and they resented both the people themselves and Arnade for reminding them that they haven’t all died out yet.

And… that’s pretty much where the democratic mainstream still is. In early debates candidates seem mostly concerned about rehashing identity grievances from decades ago and in competing for who can do the most for illegal aliens. A review of Arnade’s book by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution suggests that alcohol and drugs (not the neoliberal policies he favors) are the real culprit and these feckless losers should start emulating muslim immigrants. Tucker Carlson seems to be about the only media voice suggesting that identity trivia and even more economic dislocation are what the country needs most but he’s not a democrat.

Trump isn’t doing a very good job (not completely awful but is running a solid C- which is nothing to brag about) but that might be enough considering how determined the democrats are to self-destruct.

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Immigration as Religious Conversion

One of the things that distinguishes American nationalism from most othe modern forms is the pseudo-religious nature of it all. The US Constitution is treated like a holy text, and unchanging and unchangeable font of wisdom that must be read carefully to discern and interpret the message of the prophets (aka ‘the founders’). Similarly national symbols obtain a kind of quasi religious status which is why some want to outlaw burning the flag. This is all well known and has been often described, often given the name the American Civil Religion.

Within this context immigration is a process of religious conversion and anyone who’s spent time listening to both immigration stories and stories of religious conversion (including anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in the Bible Belt) can’t help but notice the parallels:

*The immigrant is unhappy or frustrated or maybe even in danger in their homeland.

*Through great effort they emigrate and come to the US.

*Despite difficulties and obstacles they become enthusiastic Americans and achieve a state of grace that would have been impossible in their homeland “Only in America!” and they want to raise their children to be happy and fulfilled Americans too.

Of course the real world is not so tidy and immigration is also full of stories of failure and loneliness but those are stories of backsliding and reversion to an unsaved lack of grace. The cousin who couldn’t make it America and returned home can still be prayed for and maybe pitied, but it’s not a story to publicize or emulate.

This is one reason that many people are hesitant to secure the border – it’s like locking the church when the spiritually lost are looking for salvation. Divine grace is limitless and the more a person has internalized the American Civil Religion the less likely they are to want to cut off the road to salvation to others.

The other reason is that progressives (who have internalized the religion as much as anyone else) are liable to be unhappy with the state of the country (as having lost its moral way or suffering from original sin at its base) and see immigrants, especially undocumented ones as a kind of redeeming force.

There’s more to say about this and I might, but a lot of otherwise irrational and downright dysfunctional public posturing about immigration makes perfect sense if you see it as a story of the saved going out of their way to help potential converts become true believers.

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