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I'd like to springboard off of this post in another community to discuss a disturbing development in European culture and politics caused by the Syrian refugee crisis. In my view, it really calls into question whether we can really all just get along.

The European project, until recently, has been about the freedom of movement and trade within the European Union, which with time would tear down the cultural rifts separating the different constituent nations and lead, eventually, to the emergence of a modern, cosmopolitan, multicultural but always European culture. It was a utopian vision, to be sure. It was supposed to lead to the establishment of a strong but peaceful geopolitical player that could hold its own on the world stage - and, I'd once hoped, to be a source of inspiration for those, like the American Left, who favor progressive government policies supported by intelligent, educated populations.

But by now it is becoming clear that this vision was perhaps too utopian to be true. What went wrong?

In my view, I would suggest that Europe has expanded too quickly. As it has continued to expand, it has taken under its wing nations - such as Romania and Bulgaria, which were admitted in 2007 - whose populations lack the education or intellectual sophistication required to understand or embrace the European project, whose cultures have had too many differences from the kind of cosmopolitanism that had previously characterized the European consensus.

For example, in the post I've linked above, you can find quite a bit of racism, ignorance, and unsophisticated commentary masquerading as legitimate political discussion, expressed by citizens of recently-admitted members of the EU. The OP I've linked, for instance, parrots a couple of propaganda videos, devoid of context, that are intended to smear Syrian refugees as being uncivilized (despite Syria's having been, in the not too recent past, itself relatively cosmopolitan, educated, and well-off, and without any consideration for the ordeal individual refugees have undergone or are surely continuing to undergo while far from home). The post is akin to the sort of selectively-edited videos we see circulated by right-wing pundits, in the US, every time POC's protest racial injustice, and it's comparably vile. Similarly, one of the comments links to a junk website describing a recent press conference given by John Kerry, with a commentary suggesting that the commenter simply doesn't understand the difference between a barely-literate caricature of something John Kerry probably didn't say and something he in fact said.

These elements pollute the European project. They inject a kind of hateful, racist, uninformed rhetoric that is incompatible with the multicultural discourse that a unified Europe requires. How is the utopian vision of the European Union possible, when its citizens are so easily whipped into xenophobic, racist furor? It seems that the Syrian refugee menace, as some have described it, has brought out what really threatens the European vision - a deeply prejudiced and vehement racism.

In hindsight, perhaps it would have been wise for the European Union to close its borders to these people.

Recession?

I am hoping our mods find this post acceptable. We have an item of liberal interest going on right now over in the_recession. It seems that recession has become quite plausible in 2016, or not. In the spirit of a livejournal global economic poll we did a few years back, taking advantage of the truly global reach of eljay to encourage as wide a range of opinions as possible, and, with recession 2016 topic du jour, we're doing it again. Please join us and share your votes and your thoughts on the prospects for the US and Global economies this year 2016 Recession Poll! Thank you for your interest! - Ciel
Do yourself a favor. Watch a short video.



Once you've done that, watch a not-as-short video. Or not. Your choice.Collapse )

The Powell Memorandum At Work



Behold, a simple political cartoon (this one got to me by agoodcartoon. Ha, ha, we all laugh. Look at the pretty conservatives and the ugly liberals. Ha, and ha again.

But, a serious question: could there be a deeper reason for this beyond the simple tropes trotted out as explanation? Perhaps. Bear with me here. Let's consider the advice given to conservatives—and here I specifically mean business conservative, or political leanings that elevate the needs of private interests above those of folks that believe words like "society" and "community" are spelled with more than four letters. The advice comes from a man who in just a few months after this advice was given was himself elevated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon.

His name is Lewis Powell.Collapse )
I'll be the first to admit that most primary and even secondary educations are inadequate. No, scratch that: they are adequate for most things; for some things, they completely miss the point, because to come to the point they would have to address uncomfortable facts and what school wants to deal with uncomfortable stuff? That's just unnecessary.

So in school I learned almost nothing about Vietnam—how it started, reasons the country was even involved—even though many of my classmates had fathers and uncles still deployed there. We learned of old wars, and of course of the big one, WWII; but teachers shied away from even mentioning 'Nam, lest some student go home and mention the mention, leading to a shitstorm from one side of the kerfuffle or the other.

It turns out one of the biggest taboos of our history went back a bit farther to the Civil War. And these taboos, according to a fascinating article, regard the Dark Period after the Confederate Surrender, specifically how this period leads to, of all things, the Tea Party.To the Dark Age!Collapse )

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Reasons to Revive Actual Liberalism

Ever since the "New Democrats" have installed themselves in the political scene, many of the standard rallying calls of the Progressive Movement have been sidelined into being mere tropes and tall tales. The problem, as I see it, is that these New Dems are, rather than the raging bull liberals of our past, merely steers who mewl rather than snort with rage and charge into the breeches. They have adopted meek standards, weak tea compared with the heady strong stuff of former years, and have in pursuing these standards continued to survive the increasingly competitive political environment forced upon all potential candidates.

What might these weak standards be?Collapse )


An agreement has been reached in Lausanne, Switzerland between Iranian and American officials on Iran's nuclear program.

The officials spoke outside weeklong talks that have been twice extended past the March 31 deadline in an effort to formulate both a general statement of what has been accomplished and documents describing what needs to be done to meet a June 30 deadline for a final accord. A news conference was set for later in the day, when the results of the talks were expected to be announced.

President Obama's talks with Iran are something unique in presidency, in that for most of the time, world events foisted the agenda upon him. According to a great piece in the Washington Post, Iran is a different matter for the President. He chose it from the very first days of his presidency and made it a priority. He has consistently stated U.S. leadership can "bend the arc of human history." Nuclear proliferation has been a foreign policy concern, in fact, President Obama's first foreign speech as President was on that topic.


Obama and senior aides have bemoaned what they see as a tendency in Washington to look first to the military to solve America’s most vexing foreign policy problems. “The debates around the Middle East don’t seem to recognize that the Iraq war took place,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to the president. There continues to be “an instinctive reach for military solutions as the only sign of America’s seriousness,” he said.

Whatever Happened to Henry George?

I very recently finished a pretty darned good book, Henry George's Progress and Poverty from 1879. In it, he asks some serious questions of the class of scholars then known as "political economists," specifically why more people starve where civilization is most developed, and not less.

This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education grapple in vain. . . . So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent. The reaction must come. The tower leans from its foundations, and every new story but hastens the final catastrophe. To educate men who must be condemned to poverty, is but to make them restive; to base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions under which men are theoretically equal, is to stand a pyramid on its apex.

(Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1879, Book I, Chapter I, Paragraph 5.)


NB: Since Mr. George's book is available online in its entirety, I have decided to reference not the page numbers, but the Book, Chapter and Paragraph to make cross-referencing that much easier.

This might be the first any of you have heard of this connection between progress, also known as the development of civilization, and poverty. But throughout his book George points out example after example supporting his initial observation. Where civilization goes, poverty and want follow.

The reason? The fact that property is allowed to be held in private hands. Take this section from Book X, Chapter V, Paragraph 19: "In the very centers of our civilization to-day are want and suffering enough to make sick at heart whoever does not close his eyes and steel his nerves." Is there something we could do? How about a full-blown miracle?

Dare we turn to the Creator and ask Him to relieve it? Supposing the prayer were heard, and at the behest with which the universe sprang into being there should glow in the sun a greater power; new virtue fill the air; fresh vigor the soil; that for every blade of grass that now grows two should spring up, and the seed that now increases fifty-fold should increase a hundred-fold! Would poverty be abated or want relieved?


Any bets out there how a sudden increase in the harvests would be met by us, we mere civilized people? I doubt the answer will surprise.Collapse )

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Germanwings crash



This story is getting weirder and weirder. An aviation expert on the Airbus, said the plane is so technologically advanced, it's almost impossible to make it crash. And once the cockpit door is closed, unless someone inside allows you in, there is no way to get inside (that's a result of the 9/11 aircraft modifications to prevent hijacking). There have previous attempts to get cameras inside airliner cockpits, with either recording on hard drives on the airplane, or uplinked in real time to satellite for remote storage.

More at the New York Times.