THE WATCH: months ago, I mentioned how various folks urged me to probe deeply into what is going on in the larger human world, including the politics of DC, and report to anyone interested. That is not my main activity now. In fact, our six week trip June 13 -- July 25 from Barcelona to Hamburg, from Hamburg to Arctic Ocean and back, and form Hamburg to Rome was SUCH a..
blessed break. Virtually no thunderclouds of CNN over my head. No assumption dreams where I looked through the eyes of Donald Trump. There actually was at least one dream where I saw through the eyes of Angela Merkel, and that was so much more sustainable and tranquil... Ale France24, in French...
But the watch is not over, just put on a lower priority, and a few observations still require comment.
Above all, two days ago or so, I did see Muller on CNN, presenting the Administration's new immigration bill. For once I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of what was coming from the White House. There have been so many kinds of insincere bluster, posturing and PR, at best out of touch with reality on many points -- at best a valid primal scream responding to things even worse. (One of the scariest things in the DC watch is people's lack of awareness of those worse things around the corner or under their nose.) But this time, it sounded like a truly sincere and competent guy, presenting a modes but significant proposal which was well thought out and which even passes a couple of higher tests of reasonableness. Could Trump claw his way out of the swamp after all?
Still, the session afterwards was somewhat sobering. I was disappointed that the CNN reporter behaved a bit like some science lobbyists I have seen when confronted with Heresy from an Improper Person. (Real science respects the rights of all People, does not blacklist, and treats different ideas from the same person differently.) His paen to the statue of liberty, misplacing what he was referring to, was a lowering of the level of discussion, and a return to the kind of nondialogue which systematically screws things up here (which Administration people have contributed to of course).
The one statement by Muller which really jarred me was when he replied that the reporter was guilty of being a 'cosmpolitan." That was a very bad moment for me, since I certainly identify with being a cosmopolitan -- a child of the cosmos, not a narrow provincialist. Yes, it seems that Muller nourishes a false stereotype of what it means to be cosmopolitan, just as many people have false stereotype of pater galacticus as a bearded Jewish patriarch who casts scowls and thunderbolts at anyone who is not strictly kosher in a literal sense. (Obviously there are imams and billionnaires in Qatar and Turkey who wallow in even worse stereotypes.) Yes, there exist distorted versions of cosmpolitanism and science, but making war on either one of them is over the line in a very basic way.
Nevertheless, it is also a reasonable test of sanity whether people can take the presentation before that time in a respectful way, on its own merits. The planet earth does not have infinite resources, and selection mechanisms are unavoidable. Canada and Australia are not Nazi states, for God's sake! Even the English language does deserve a certain degree of respect (even though people like me are called to try to learn additional languages, and to keep trying to do it better, as one of many priorities). At some points, I began to wonder: this guy is sounding so sane, could he have been talking to those IEEE-USA folks I know who talk about their regular White House discussions? But IEEE has focused more on abuses in the H1B program, which was not the theme here.
Certainly the EXISTING US system is full of incredible abuses and stochastic stuff, and perhaps even the kind of corruption we haven't thought of before with US federal agencies (though we all know of local police systems sometimes getting bought off by drug dealers). A more objective points-based system could be more fair as well as more sustainable, if done right, and Muller sounded as if he was trying to get it right.
It was also sad for me a few hours later to hear a well-meaning CNN woman expressing a superior attitude here, sounding a lot like a nun I had in the third grade talking about Alexander's "temple to the unknown God," telling us how she knew it all and could have helped that poor ignorant man.
"Doesn't he know how many new businesses are opened by immigrants?" Obviously he knew, he cited literature, and he obviously knew that some immigrants do more of that than others.
The university system in the US, and the old NSF before Lamar Smith bot his hands on things, was one of the fairest, most open and most competitive sectors in the entire world, responsible for much of US economic growth. It is a sad fact of life that they all relied on selection and judgments which were unavoidably imperfect -- but even so, that is much better and more sustainable than just saying all standards and all selection will be thrown out the door. Living without selection mechanisms is a bit like old-style perpetual motion; pious belief in it can be a real problem when people start throwing out something they need just to stay alive. It makes sense to work very hard to make selection mechanisms more open, more fair and more transparent (the exact opposite of what Lamar Smith has enforced) with a larger creative perspective, but the pious belief that we can live without them is dangerous illusion.
Before I move to equations... it was also interesting to see in Europe how upset people were by Congress acting as if the US had no allies, not consulting, putting sanctions on Europe as much as Russia, trying to force them to shift back from electric transportation to oil as a little "unintended consequence." No, they don't worship Trump, but Congress has given many a sense that Trump is not the only person they must become more free of.
I wonder whether Pence has noticed the news from Brazil about what can happen to the guy in place after a legal removal of an elected president? Many of Brazil's hopes are also on hold at best for now...
Back to equations. It is a new semester ....