EU To Take Legal Action Against Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic

The “migrant crisis” has probably been the most polarizing thing to happen within Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Not only is it polarizing within the individual nations, it’s also polarizing nation-to-nation within the European Union.

The EU as an entity believes that the Union, and thus the individual member states have a moral imperative to take in large numbers of migrants and apparently do something resembling assimilating them into European society.   The national policies of a substantial portion of the EU go along with the guidelines from Brussels and some even seem to go a step further.  There are, however, a few countries that have said “no thank you”.

Apparently now the EU is looking to legally punish these countries (mentioned in the title) for not “pulling their weight” by taking in refugees.

Here’s what gets me….  If it is deemed a good thing, a beneficial thing to take in all of these people, why aren’t the other member states of the EU saying “Fine, sucker, more for me!”.   Let’s say the EU was just giving out money or something else valuable and a handful of countries said no thanks, would the other countries fall all over each other to say “I’ll take their share!”?     Probably.

If that’s not the case where it’s a beneficial thing and it’s something more along the lines of a thankless moral responsibility to take in so many migrants from the Middle East, why won’t they have the discussion from that angle?  No, instead dissent against immigration is largely suppressed.   Can you imagine how it would be if the national discussion was “yeah, we don’t get anything out of this but we feel a sense of responsibility so we’re going to do it…”?   It would be a complete game-changer, politically.  The discussion would very quickly veer into the realm of “who says we have to do this?” and ultimately challenge the authority of the European Union.

Here’s the other angle to this that gets me…. The European Union is basically saying that the hopes and desires of people who aren’t even European supersede those of their fellow Europeans.  That’s grounds for a lot of resentment right there.

Also on that same note, if they want to make this experiment work, are they really willing to ostracize a notable chunk of the EU over non-Europeans?  By this I mean the handful of nations who aren’t interested in migrant resettlement and I also mean the large swaths of citizens of ALL European nations who range from “uncomfortable” with immigration rates to completely opposed to it.   Doesn’t seem worth it to me if they want to give the EU any sort of meaningful viability going forward.

Pulling Out of the Paris Accord

The God Emperor pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord the other day, which caused quite the stir amongst the left.   Reactions ranged from “how regrettable” to assertions of impeding doom and it seems like the latter was more common than the former.

Trump’s base seemed pretty happy with the decision and admittedly he scored a pretty good soundbite with his “I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris” line.

I’m absolutely in favor of pulling out of this treaty, with an asterix.  I view it as little more than an outlet for developed nations to throw some cash at a problem, deflect culpability and even pat themselves (ourselves) on the back for being able to say we bought some solar panels for Burkina Faso or whatever.  However I’d like to see us follow our own path, one of meaningful solutions that are simple but maybe not easy.

Normally I groan when I hear objections to environmentalism in the way of “it’s going to hurt jobs”.   If something needs to be done, it needs to be done.  If there’s a guy getting paid to dump toxic sludge in a river or something, I’d prioritize the health of that waterway over his paycheck any day.   In this case I think there really is an economic argument that the price tag isn’t worth the results that this program promises…and who knows if it’ll actually deliver the modest results they project.

To me it seems like a make-work program for bureaucrats that they’ll know countries will fund because “it’s for the climate” – how could anyone close their wallet to that?   It’s almost like the “think of the children!” slam dunk.   If you don’t fund the program, they can come up with all kinds of doomsday scenarios that will surely ensue…and all they need is a modest couple of trillion dollars to prevent it.

I absolutely believe that this program and others like it are geared towards taking advantage of others’ good intentions for meaningless results.  Fortunately our guy balked at it.
My biggest objection to this brand of environmentalism is the laziness it encourages.  It completely removes individual responsibility from the discussion and whittles societal responsibility down to a matter of signing a check while counting on “science” to come up with something to allow everyone to continue to live the same lifestyle, only more “green”.

Sadly, Trump’s rejection is only going to encourage more of that laziness.  Now any and all environmental crises that should arise are going to be pinned on one man.  The ability to say “thanks, Drumpf!” is going to put a shadow over any uncomfortable inward reflection as a private individual or at a societal level on how you/we got to wherever it is you/we end up.   I really believe that a large segment of the population believes that voting the right way or even simply “caring” is good enough.   I don’t see a huge difference between how one side of the debate lives over the other…just how they “feel”.

Admittedly it is very hard to live a true sustainable lifestyle in the developed world.  This is a problem.  The infrastructure just isn’t there to do so and I’ll be the first to admit that at this point I almost take a “ride the tiger” approach and accept that some day it’ll all come to a heed whether we like it or not.

On that note, the asterix I spoke of is that I would like to see the Trump admin do *something* meaningful in the way of the environment. He would be the right guy for high speed rail that many Americans dream of or revamping many towns and small cities in the Rust Belt/Great Lakes/New England area that are very well suited to real human-scale living with walkable streets, buildings that were built to last, etc.   There are many places in the US that pretty much just need a fresh coat of paint and could be billed as the green villages of the future – because they were built in an era where fossil fuels weren’t readily available.

I suppose subsidizing our “green energy” sector would be good too, as long as we had realistic expectations of what it can do for us, what it can’t and what the cost of it is.  Part of the deal with the Paris accord is to provide clean energy for the developing world.  If it’s all the same in terms of thinking globally on carbon output, what’s the difference if we just do it here for ourselves?

At the end of the day, Trump did remove us from the Paris Accord.   What he didn’t do though was remove you from the Backyard Accord. Or the Household Accord.  Or the Neighborhood Accord, nor the Community Accord.  There’s way too much that can be done at the individual, family or community level to improve the environment to believe that a (flawed) deal like the Paris Accord should make or break anything.

No, Asshole, Santa Claus Isn’t Turkish

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While Christmas often brings out the best in people, it also brings out the less-than-desirable in others.  You can’t through the season without someone pissing and moaning about a “crass display of commercialism”, stating that Jesus really wasn’t born on December 25 and/or bringing up the pagan roots of Christmas in a manner to discredit the holiday as it pertains to practicing Christians.

While all of these points are certainly valid, they almost always come from a position of the person either really, really having an axe to grind with Western civilization and/or a smug attempt at elevating ones’ self over the proles that buy into the holiday.     People love to downplay the kinds of things that other people cherish.

One great way to downplay aspects of Western civilization held sacred is to make them non-Western or at the very least piss on the things viewed as Western achievements.   This is where we hear about historical figures likely being non-white and/or hearing about someone from outside the Western world doing it better or first or the personal shortcomings of the historical figure in question.   So we hear that Euripides was black, Arabs saved Western civilization by being so advanced and Chris Columbus didn’t change the course of history or anything, but he was extremely brutal to the natives of the American landmass.

One way this happens from time to time around Christmas is the idea that Santa Claus has his origins in Turkey and therefore all of us dumb white people are celebrating a guy that wasn’t white and comes from the Islamic world.     Ugh….

It is true that the non-fictional character St. Nicolas really did come from the part of the world we now know as Turkey.  Absolutely.  However, the thing is what we now know as Turkey wasn’t inhabited by Turks, it was inhabited by Greeks.    I know that the idea that things might not have always been the way they are now is difficult for some people to grasp at times, but it’s true.   St. Nick was a Greek that lived in what ultimately became Turkey.   Doesn’t make him anymore Turkish than I can claim to be a Sioux by virtue of living where they once lived.   The Turks, with all due respect, moved into that piece of real estate almost 1000 years after St. Nick occupied it.

…and for what it’s worth, St. Nick was just a part of the mythos that eventually created the Santa Claus that we know today.   For the record, none of that mythos is remotely close to Turkish.   I know some people would like to believe this kind of bullshit because it fits nicely into a narrative they’ve created.

With that said, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or whatever you prefer to hear.   Always be skeptical of “well, actually….” claims and the motives behind them.

Sweden – Liberal Utopia to Liberal Dystopia

It seems like about 15-20 years ago you would hear Sweden brought up all the time as an example of how things *could* be.   Liberals loved to cite their socialized medicine, universal education, social security, top notch schools, rehabilitation-based justice system, environmental measures and their status as a humanitarian superpower…all while having one of the highest standards of living in the world.

Sweden’s success stood in contrast to all the bad things that Republicans/conservatives said would happen if the United States went down the democratic socialism route.   In the eyes of liberals Sweden was pretty much a utopia and the gold standard of how things ought to be in the world.

Today all I hear is bad things coming out of Sweden – examples of neoliberalism gone nuts. The rate of immigration from the third world is such that (combined with a low native Swedish birthrate) Sweden has another generation or so before it’s a majority non-Swedish place.   Moreover, Sweden has one of the highest (if not the highest) sexual assault rates in the developed world and there’s a direct correlation between this and the massive influx of migrants.   The Swedish government and media seems to be working in tandem to bring about Orwellian measures to silence any dissent against the “new Sweden” the elites are working on.

It seems like every week there’s a new story of some kind of insanity coming out of Sweden, like distributing bracelets that say “don’t rape me” as a way to curb sexual assault or someone in a position of power making a statement along the lines that native Swedes need to change and adapt to the migrants instead of the other way around.  There’s been reports of very, very young school children learning about homosexuality and fetishes from a sexual standpoint (I don’t think “hey, these people exist and this is what makes them different” is wrong but learning about *how* they have sex and explaining fetishes probably   crosses a line at that age)

It’s lead to a backlash within Sweden as the right-leaning Swedish Democrats pick up steam in electoral politics and metapolitically we see a lot of alt-right action coming out of Sweden with Red Ice Radio, The Golden One, Northern Brothers and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.    On that note, I should add that dissent from the mainstream narrative isn’t very popular in Sweden due to their natural communal and non-conformist disposition.

Anyways, there’s been an article floating around the internet saying that a UN report deems that Sweden will be a third world country by 2030.    Honestly, the figures are a little misleading but it’s undeniable that Sweden is slipping in national HDI (Human Development Index) and other social and economic markers.

All of this begs the simple question – why????

Why would Swedes willingly sacrifice the ability to pass their high-functioning and prosperous society to the next generation as they knew it?   It blows my mind.   I understand some immigration as pretty much everyone else is doing it too.   I understand that you can make some allowances for sexual liberation in a very high-trust society – but why would you jeopardize all of this especially if your country serves as a beacon of hope for all the ideals you hold dear?    It doesn’t exactly make people want to embrace neoliberalism/social democracy when the result is a police state where your daughter/wife has a good chance of getting raped by migrants.

I don’t really feel I’m wedded to any particular political/economic system, so I won’t write Sweden’s <pending> failure up to socialism.   In fact, I think socialism worked great for Sweden because it was a homogenous high trust society – everyone was pretty much on the same page culturally and the wealth gap wasn’t as inherently large as it is in other places like the US.

I will chalk it up to shortsightedness and a generation’s desire for “good feelings” over a responsibility to their progeny.   There’s maybe a Faustian desire for social justice here that will cause Sweden to ultimately lose all of the things that made Sweden, well, a leader in social justice.

In ten or fifteen years when Sweden’s welfare system begins to implode to any meaningful degree and the level of progressivism drops to accommodate the “new Swedes”, will American liberals still point and say “Well, in Sweden they do it like this….”

I doubt it.

Finally, I should add that I don’t necessarily blame the average Swede for Sweden’s predicament.   Like I said, they have a very communal and conformist culture that leads them into more nurturing roles (i.e. “let’s save the world!”) and less likely to dissent from the “general consensus”.  I think these traits are both admirable to varying extents, but again will probably create a destruction of that high-trust society that is required to keep Sweden Swedish.

Will The Rio Olympics Be A Shit-Show Or What???

Brazil, constantly lauded as “the country of the future” was given a golden opportunity this decade to showcase the country to the world with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.   Both events obviously are probably THE two biggest events in the world.   It’s a big deal to land one, let alone two in such a short period of time.

All I’m hearing about Brazil’s preparations are that they’re sorely lacking and there could be some real hiccups in making the 2016 Olympics a success.   I guess it makes sense.   When Brazil took on these challenges, they really were up and coming.   Everyone was talking about the “BRICs” and Brazil was the “Green Dragon” to China’s Red Dragon that would be the next big thing on the world stage.   Today?  Well, Brazil is probably worse off than they were a few years ago after being rocked by scandals…and low commodity prices.

When the Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008, the opening ceremony was absolutely amazing.   The 2012 opening ceremony in London was, well, pretty fucking weak.   Out of all the things Brittania has to be proud of, doing a presentation about the fucking NHS?   Come on….  At any rate, when contrasted with Beijing four years earlier it made me think that one world was vigorous and up and coming while one was flaccid and running on fumes.   I wondered if by the time 2016 rolled around, where would Brazil be on the world stage?

Scandals and corruption are nothing new in that part of the world, but the Rousseff administration really must’ve crossed the line of what’s acceptable and what’s not down there.  Amiss the dysfunction, it sounds like they haven’t been able to put together what they needed to do for the Olympics.

To be fair, a lot of people down there didn’t want the Olympics.   It’s great for some people and brings in a ton of money, but it’s said that the “regular people” are hurt by being forced to pay for the massive infrastructure updates that lead to a short term burst in wealth for some people….and then these buildings and such the people pay for sit and rot after they’ve served their purpose.   I guess I see the angle of how it can be seen as a vanity project to bring the Olympics over a real boost to the economy.   If you can only handle X amount of people now and you need to bring it up to Y to host the Olympics, how do you sustain the difference between X and Y afterwards?

Last month there was an article about Brazilian police officers holding signs at the airport saying that tourists weren’t safe.   While I’m sure there’s some Latin melodramatic embellishment to their claims and some personal interest in making them seem more valuable (I think they were striking? I’m not sure), crime is a huge problem down there.  I’m sure they’ve been pretty heavy-handed dealing with it leading up to the Olympics, but I have a hard time believing that petty crime won’t be a not-so-petty problem down there.

In addition to buildings and such not being completed or realistically on schedule to be completed, I’ve read that larger infrastructure projects such as mass transit updates, sewers, roads and cell service haven’t been satisfactory updated.    I believe the HMFIC of the Olympics went on record recently saying that this is the worst prepared Olympics he’s ever seen.

Oh, and it sounds like there’s going to be some…um… environmental problems, too.   The section of the coast where they plan on doing the sailing events has problems with extremely high levels of human sewage.  That’s not exactly safe or pleasant.

…And there’s the Zika virus.  You’re going to have people from all over the planet going into this area with the virus and then those people are going back.   While not exactly an end of the world scenario, there could be some very tangible consequences of the Olympics coming home with some unfortunate tourist(s).   There’s been travel warnings hinted towards and I’d imagine if Brazil didn’t have so much at stake there would be a more clear “yeah, don’t go here” message than right now.

I understand that corruption is a way of life down there.   I also understand that the kind of money they thought would be flowing in when they took this on isn’t panning out due to low commodity prices.  Brazil runs on commodities, namely agricultural ones.   There’s also the budding oil industry that has had management problems (Petrobras!) as well as sinking oil prices making it harder to break even.   It hasn’t been smooth sailing for our Brazilian friends, but hopefully they surprise us.

As for me personally, I’m hit or miss with the Olympics.   There’s some events I really dig, others not so much.   Unfortunately it seems like they like to give priority to the ones I don’t care about.  I’m sure I’ll tune in for the opening ceremony at least and catch some of it here and there.

There’s A Feeling of Civil War In The Air

Last night we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant and overhead from a table next to us “Oh man, I hope there’s not a race war”.   Admittedly the guy who said it seemed like a blowhard that demanded to be the center of attention, but there’s been all kinds of whisperings about things like that after the past week, which saw two black men being shot by police and then five police officers killed in Dallas by a Black Lives Matter member/sympathizer, along with several others wounded.

We live in a very divided country in many regards.   I’ve noticed that anytime any issue ever becomes the subject of national dialogue somehow it always turns into the same groups attacking each other, regardless of the issue.    Islamic terrorism?   Well, white people do bad things too and you’re racist!    The recent “issue” of transgender bathrooms turned into “cisgender hetro men molest children in bathrooms!” and such.   Hillary’s emails?   “George Bush did bad things too!”

Being more sympathetic (usually) to the conservative side of things, or at least being more anti-liberal in mindset might influence this opinion, but I see A LOT more foaming-at-the-mouth pathological hatred for “the other side” coming from liberals/the left.   For what it’s worth it also seems like those kinds of views have become more acceptable or at least more dominant in the public realm, to the point where some views people won’t express for fear of basically kicking a hornet’s nest.   There is a viable “tell these people to go fuck themselves” movement awakening in America though, which is probably a good thing as this is getting out of hand.

Anyways, the idea of having a “civil war” sounds a little far-fetched and people will certainly envision the Turner Diaries or maybe the more unimaginative might imagine the South rising up again and fighting the North or some other clearly defined geographical borders.

I just wonder if we’re going to see more ideological fracturing in the US and more terrorism from domestic sources – basically fourth generation warfare.   The shooting of the police officers in Dallas was an example, a big example, of terrorism against the state that was politically/racially motivated.   I wouldn’t be surprised if more events similar to that started springing up around the country, perhaps a shooting here or there on police officers, a racially motivated murder or two here and there (like that doesn’t happen already!), bombs, arson, vandalism, etc.

Just Saturday night in Minneapolis the Black Lives Matters folks shut down I-94 (if you think that as Eddie Murphy told you, “the only brothas in Minnesota are Kirby Puckett and Prince, you’re wrong) and had a huge standoff with the police that ended up in about 50 people getting arrested and somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 officers wounded, mostly from projectiles and such.

The thing about the Minneapolis protest that stands out to me though is that there were apparently Molotov cocktails involved.   Certainly iconic of revolution, but to me to actually employ one of these things is a real escalation from just throwing rocks or whatever is there.   It’s deadly force (yes, I know a rock can be too) and if it hits someone it can cause a lot of damage.  Sure we see them all the time in European / Latin American protests, but that seems to be a line that not many people have been willing to cross in the US of A.    It does give the protests a little more of a….. warlike feeling to them.

We will probably see various acts of “protest” online, such as hacking, comment bombing, etc and certainly a more bold presence from the “combatants” here and their supporters – on both/all sides.   Laugh about how “Facebook doesn’t matter”, but at the end of the day that’s how most Americans communicate and receive news these days.   If you can’t get on YouTube to watch cat videos without being bombarded by messages for this or that cause, that will have a psychological effect on the average American.

Recently there was a series of messages between BLM activists and some level of white house officials that claimed that they were going to try to create a ton of chaos this summer in order to shut down the GOP convention and declare martial law.    Well, it turns out these messages were fake but I think it went around enough and was believable enough that a lot of people will be bracing themselves for chaos and maybe more importantly, inspired to chaos.   Certainly some people who are sympathetic to BLM or whichever lefty groups are involved and doesn’t want the train to leave the station without them after seeing something like that.   So whoever created that IS acting just as irresponsible as the people seen as whipping up BLM into a frenzy in the media.

Hoax or no hoax, I think we’re in for an interesting summer.   When I got off work the other night and heard the radio going crazy about the shootings in Dallas I got a sinking feeling in my gut that nothing good was going to come out of this, a feeling that I haven’t had in the same magnitude for quite some time.   I guess we’ll see…

I Finally Visited Detroit…

Ok, so I only rolled through town for a day and honestly spend most of that day at the zoo with my family and sitting on the Ambassador Bridge waiting to get into Windsor, Ontario just to say I’ve been to Canada.

 

Detroit is a city that has gotten my goat for quite a while now, pretty much ever since I got into various forms of doom & gloom/alternative media.   It’s often been presented as the worst possible outcome for America and almost everything that gets presented about the city sounds like something out of a nightmare except for the occasional “Detroit is on the upswing!” posts about urban farming and/or hipsters moving in to take advantage of low housing costs.  I recall the “Ruins of Detroit” photoessay that made the rounds of the early alt-right sphere.  I’ve watched the political scandals unfold and read the steady stream of articles about basic services dwindling.   I’ve seen the message board posts about what’s going on inside Detroit and almost always pry anecdotes from people I know who lived there.   In fact, I’ve even written quite a bit on this site about Detroit.    Naturally I’m curious to see it.

I went there because Mary’s family is originally from the Detroit area and her 93 year old grandmother still lives about an hour away in the country.   She sprung this idea on me a few days before leaving and I didn’t want to go (traveling sucks with kids and it’s a pain in the ass for my dad to come over and take care of all of my animals) but I think I was persuaded by the possibility of finally seeing Detroit firsthand, as a day trip there was promised.

One thing about Detroit’s story that makes it so….sad is that Detroit apparently used to be a very nice place.   The average person could get a decent job and make a good living.   There was a lot of money from the auto industry and a nice civic/corporate parternship that made possible a lot of amazing public works.   The architecture was ornate and reflected a real sense of pride in place without being gaudy or too extravagant.   I noticed that her family really seemed to wax poetic about their old neighborhoods and their trips into the city in the past, but lament the fact that it’s become, well, a shithole.

I did notice that there was a lot more trash along the side of the highway coming into the city than you would expect in a more functioning city.  Although much of the “landscape” was blocked by berms along the highway, you could still see boarded up houses and lots where the woods have reclaimed abandoned homes.

Generally speaking it seemed a little more vacant than you would expect from a city that size.   There were fewer billboards along the road even than in other cities and traffic was lighter.    Even the downtown area didn’t seem as busy as it should’ve been.

I did get to see some of the famed abandoned factories that ring the city’s core, which was eerie.   They were beyond hope of salvage, covered in spray paint and often collapsing on themselves.   It really did look like something out of a war zone.   Well, a war zone with graffiti artists pulling up the rear.

The thing that went through my mind while seeing these kinds of huge buildings decaying into oblivion is how bad things had to have gotten to get someone to just give up such a big undertaking.   Someone puts a lot of blood, sweat and tears into putting up a big factory like that…or maybe more accurately, someone puts a lot of cash into one of those buildings.        At what point does someone just say “fuck it” and walk away?

I guess it doesn’t help that when you have a structure that holds a factory, there’s really not much else you can do with it besides have a factory.    We have a place in downtown Des Moines that was a Ford factory and an airplane factory but was eventually “repurposed” into a giant school building.   That’s worked out pretty good for this city, but what do you do when there are dozens or hundreds of factories shutting down in one concentrated area?   You can’t just turn them all into industrial-sized schools.

Could you turn them into housing?   Sure, but when the factories close the houses are “closing” too and fewer people are able or willing to buy houses.     I think we’re seeing the same phenomenon right now with shopping malls and big box retailers.   There seems to be  a scramble to unload these kinds of holdings as fast as possible and get some other kind of occupant there before they run out of possibilities.   If physical retail is dwindling, what can you do with a Best Buy building?   Someone can find something, but are there enough “somebodies” to fill up what’s there?  Probably not and unfortunately that’s made Detroit’s transition into a functioning post-industrial city really difficult.   If the blight could just go magically away and leave a blank slate, it would solve *some* of the city’s problems.   Not all, but enough to retool into something coherent.

I thought the downtown area was really nice.   As something of a skyline aficionado, I loved the ornate buildings that dot the downtown area.  Many of them had the art deco thing going on and stood out as individual buildings compared to what we normally see in newer cities.    The view of the skyline against the Detroit river and the Great Lakes on the Ambassador Bridge to Canada was amazing, but after having to sit there for an hour on the bridge (busy travel day!) I admit it ran it’s course to me.   Greek town and the stadiums in the downtown area all looked really nice, I’d love to catch a ballgame sometime there.

The zoo was really nice and reflected that era in Detroit’s history where they had a ton of cash and were ambitious with public projects.   There was a bit of malaise from the employees (and the animals since it was 90 degrees), but it was in good repair.   The neighborhood around it was really nice, which was good considering I was given some bad directions and getting around there – it’s always more pleasant to get lost in a place where you’re more likely to find a vegan cupcake shop than the plasma bank.

I have a feeling that since I now have some family connections to the area that I’ll probably be back in Detroit at some point in my life.   Hopefully next time I can at least spend a little bit of time there without kids and see more of “real Detroit” and most importantly, “Old Detroit”, one of America’s most storied cities.

PS:    Windsor, Ontario was a shithole too.    The small part I saw looked like a beat up American strip mall.   The one person I interacted with, the manager at the Tim Horton’s, was very polite though.