Saturday, August 24, 2019

Reposting: "The scum of creation has been dumped on us,"

I was looking through old posts trying to find one where I suggested a statue and campaign support for the first 10 Republican Senators to pledge to fight Trump.  I'm still looking for that one, but I also found this very relevant post from July 2016.

I hope you don't think I'm being lazy here.  I know that very few people have the time to read even 50% of what I post and this seems particularly relevant today.

It's my thoughts on reading The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, with more relevance today than when I first posted it.  (Well, it was relevant then and had enough people paid attention it might be less relevant today.)  Let's see what's in it:
√  an account of huge forest fires in Montana in the early 1900's
√  a president attacking government employees' valiant attempts to preserve the environment
√ outrageous treatment of and discrimination against immigrants

Here's the old post:
From Timothy Egan's, The Big Burn:
"What passed for law and constitutional protections in Morenci, [company owned mining town in Arizona, 1910] were thugs hired by Phelps Dodge.  They maintained a three tier wage system:  one for trouble-free whites, one for Mexicans, one for Italians.  Such attitudes are typical in a decade when nine million immigrants came to the United States, and one-third of the population was either foreign-born or a child of someone born abroad.  The Italian surge in particular angered those who felt the nation was no longer recognizable, had lost its sense of identity.  And they hated all these strange languages spoken in shops, schools, and churches.  The Immigration Restriction League, founded by Boston blue bloods with family ties to the old Tories of England, campaigned to keep "undesirable classes" from entering the country.  They meant Italians, Greeks, Jews, and people from eastern Europe. 
"The scum of creation has been dumped on us,"  said the native politician Thomas Watson.  "The most dangerous and corrupting hordes of the Old World have invaded us."  It was not just pelicans [auto-correct changed my version of politicians to pelicans] who attacked Mediterranean immigrants as a threat to the American way of life.  Francis A. Walker, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, called Italian and Greek immigrants "beaten men from beaten towns, representing the worst failures in the struggles for existence."  Another educated expert cautioned Americans against "absorbing the equitable blood from Southern Europe." (pp. 131-2)

I'd note that Fredrick Trump, Donald's grandfather arrived in New York on October 19, 1885  (a year before the Statue of Liberty was unveiled) from Germany at age 16.  Twenty-six years prior to the mining and timber rush described in the book in the summer of 1910 (see below), Trump
"moved to the mining town of Monte Cristo, Washington in Snohomish County.[7] Monte Cristo was expected to produce a fortune of gold and silver because evidence of mineral deposits were discovered in 1889. This led to many prospectors moving to the area in hopes of becoming rich, with the financial investment of billionaire John D. Rockefeller in the entire Everett area creating an exaggerated expectation of the area's potential."
He returned to Germany in 1901, found a wife, and returned with her to the US in 1902.  The Trumps, coming from northern Europe, while part of this huge surge of immigrants, came from a more privileged group of immigrants, they weren't Italians or Greeks or Jews.  Though by 1917 the US was at war with their country of origin.

Mike Pence's grandfather didn't get to the US from Ireland until much later - April 11, 1923.

From what I can tell, Hillary Clinton's paternal grandfather immigrated from England and her paternal grandmother was born in the US to Welsh immigrant parents.

I would also note, that when people claim that their ancestors were legal immigrants, as the passage above suggests, the laws were much, much easier back then for European immigrants.  

Actually, immigration is but a small part of the book.  The main focus is the boom towns of Idaho and Montana as the railroads opened access to the forests just after Teddy Roosevelt, with the guidance of Gifford Pinchot, created millions of acres of national forests and parks in the West.  But they had to fight Eastern corporations that were ravaging the new public land with their rapacious taking of minerals and timber.  This included a huge scandal over Alaska coal.  Roosevelt's second term was up and he chose not to run again.  (He'd come in to office from the vice presidency when president McKinley was shot and had only served seven years.)  While he was off on safari in Africa,  Taft, who had promised Roosevelt to protect the forests and the new concept of conservation, had instead appointed pro-development  Richard Ballinger as secretary of the interior.
"The interior secretary, whose duty was to oversee an empire of public land on behalf of the American people, had once backed a syndicate as it tried to take control of coal in a part of Alaska that was later added to the Chugach National Forest. .  ."  
"Beyond the Alaska coal deal, Ballinger was now showing his true colors - as a traitor to the progressives, Pinchot believed.  "You chaps who are in favor of this conservation program are all wrong,"  Ballinger said in a speech.  "You are hindering the development of the West.  In my opinion, the proper course is to divide it up among the big corporations and let the people who know how to make money out of it get the benefits of the circulation of money."  (pp. 94-5)

That's all backdrop to the story of a band of well-trained and highly motivated new rangers  whose job was to oversee huge tracts of land newly designated as national forests and parks. ("Supervisor Koch . . . felt protective about his five million or so acres . . .")  Land that was being exploited by mining and timber companies and hordes of folks taking the new railroad into the tiny boom towns hoping to get rich.

As the title of the book suggests, the book is about fires, as the rangers struggle on meagre salaries to protect the towns and even more, the newly created national forests from the ravages of fire in the bone dry summer of 1910.  There was no rain, but lots of  thunder and lightening, which started thousands of fires that summer.

I'm not through with the book yet, but I thought the sections on immigration give some historical perspective to today's political debates.  And overall, the book shows that the fights between the corporations looking to exploit natural resources and the government fighting to preserve some of the natural space of the continent, wasn't much different then, though time allows us more facts about what was happening back then.

In a book Pinchot wrote at the time - The Fight for Conservation - 
"He predicted that America might one day, within this century, be a nation of two or three hundred million people.  And what would his generation leave them?  Their duty was to the future.  To ensure that people in 2010 would have a country of clean water, healthy forests, and open land would require battle with certain groups, namely 'the alliance between business and politics.'  It was, he said, 'the snake that we must kill.'"(p. 158)
Given that today corporations once again have great influence over Congress - enough to prevent or pervert what they most oppose - and the importance of money in politics is major issue, I'd say his view of things was pretty prescient. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Fact That Trump Is Still In Office Reveals A Huge Flaw In Our System

Andrew Sullivan is a gay conservative.  Some things I agree with, others not.  But I think this assessment of the president is accurate and makes those who still support the president (other than those ready to drink the Kool-Aide on command) deeply problematic.*  Particularly those in the US Senate.

From Andrew Sullivan at NYMagazine:

"President Donald Trump is absurd. His presidency is absurd. His party is absurd. We have known this ever since that absurd journey down an escalator, and the surrealism has only intensified since. Perhaps it takes a sane foreigner, not subject to years of almost hourly Trump abuse, to point out the obvious. We have no Executive branch in any meaningful or serious sense. We have a joke that’s wearing thinner by the day. There is no institution or company in America, small or large, that would allow Donald Trump to run or represent it for more than a few days — because most sane institutions see immediately that a rape-y racist with no knowledge base or capacity to learn is an embarrassment, and a huge liability. If appointed the head of, say, a local library on January 20, 2017, Trump would have been fired by January 21."

Think about the history books twenty years from now.  I hope they list those who had the power to get rid of him, but have kept this president in office this long.  Germany - the US helped you out after WW II, which could be considered a self-inflicted catastrophe, just as Trump is our self-inflicted catastrophe.  Remember us when we're picking up the pieces.

*I'm using this term because I realize there are different reasons different Senators have for not opposing the president.  So I won't brand all of them as despicable or cowardly or __________ (fill in the blank.)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Airport Runway Repairs Update

I'd been meaning to call the airport and find out where they are on the fixing and widening the north-south runway.  After all, we've had almost no rain this summer (none in August, normally a rainy month) and so it seemed they should be ahead.  I got a couple of people who passed me on to Jason Lamoreaux and I left him a message yesterday afternoon.

He called back today.

It should be completed on time.  They have to (sorry my notes are sketchy) do some coordination of flight checks before the runway is back up.

Q:  But since you're a bit ahead now because of no rain, can't we get this done early so we can stop the noisy planes flying over Anchorage?

A:  FAA folks who do the checking come from out of town so hard to coordinate.

He told me I could sign up for the update emails, but I said, since the update video was from early 2018, I wasn't sure waiting for updates was better than just calling the airport.

The rest that needs to be done is some paving and painting and electrical which are weather dependent, so we can't predict finishing early.

So, basically he said it would be done by end of September and by beginning of October planes can use the north-south runway instead of taking off to the east over Anchorage.

I did look around on the website before calling to get as much info from there as I could. I did get to the runway project page. But the "Construction Update Video" appears to be the one they put up at the beginning last year.  It's pretty pictures and PR talk.  No real details at all.  And no updates.

The FAQ link goes to a bad link.

There's two maps - last year and this year, without much detail about the work.

These maps made more sense later, but they still don't show much.  The talk last year was that they were going to widen the runway so bigger planes could use it.  There's still only going to be one runway I guess.

So after looking around the site I finally found a number related to the project that I could call.

Today I took my son-in-law to the airport.  He's got to go back (but my daughter and nieta have more time here, yeah!).  So I decided to go see if I could find out what they were doing and how far they'd gotten.

Across the road and over the fence, past the tractor but in front of the plane, is the north-south runway.  We're looking northward.  (Yes the smoke from the various forest fires north and south of Anchorage totally obscured the mountains.)  So this part is in.

And here's the runway looking north.  It looks like it's paved all the way.  Lamoreaux did say it needed painting and electrical.  But there were parts that had stripes and little things sticking out of the ground that looked like they might hold lights.

And there didn't seem to be many people working.

This tractor was digging something.  This is another track of pavement that I thought, at the time, they still had to finish to the north end.  But when I got home and looked at the maps (above) that didn't seem to be the case.  Just one runway.  This must be a road or taxi way.  This was very close to the exterior fence.  (*You can see it on the map with the green and yellow markings below.  It's on the far left side.)

And here in the middle it was shiny - wet asphalt?  water?  something else?  I don't know.
There was equipment here and there, but I didn't see any movement.

So now I had more questions.  It doesn't look like the noise over Anchorage is much of a priority.  They've got until October and they seem not to be in much of a hurry.  OK, I can't make a judgment like that from one short visit to the airport.

But when I got home I went poking around on the website again and this time I found a little bit more.

I found the document library.  There's another map there and there are three 2019 updates.  One from January, one from March, which doesn't say anything they hadn't said before:
"2019 Construction
In 2019, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will rehabilitate and widen the remaining portion of the North/South Runway. The magnitude of this construction effort will require a full runway closure in summer 2019. Operations and noise levels will return to normal upon completion in October 2019."
And one from August 16, 2019 which says a little bit more.

"The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) North/South Runway Renewal project is progressing well through the final phase of construction. Active work on the runway started in April.  As of today, the construction work effort is about 75% complete.  All paving south of Taxiway T is complete.

Currently, the contractor is grooving the runway.  This will provide traction so that airplanes can come to a stop on the runway when it rains. Grooving the runway takes about 45 days to complete. Next up, the contractor will begin work on painting runway markings.
We recognize that construction has resulted in increased aircraft noise in different parts of Anchorage. The construction team is working hard to keep construction on schedule in order to minimize those impacts and complete the renewal work as quickly as possible.  We anticipate the runway will be open early October 2019, and the airport will return to normal aircraft operations."
Now I have a bunch more questions.  Mostly they have to do with why it takes so long.  How does it take 45 days to put grooves in the runway?  Really?  In China they build ten story buildings in three months.  I'm not sure I want to live in one of those, but putting grooves in the runway seems a lot less complicated than putting up a building.  

Besides, 45 days from August 16 gets us to the end of September.  That would mean it will NOT be the beginning of October.  (I'm hoping this is wrong.  It's not what I heard from Lamoreaux.)

It says (as of August 16 when the memo is dated) they are 75% done.  Counting just this summer, they had used up 75% of their allotted time.  But what about work?  Are they really only 75% done?  

What does completed mean here?  That the green part is all paved?  Because from what I saw today, the yellow part is paved too.  Does it mean the green is paved and grooved?  Surely it can't take 45 days to grove the yellow part.   Does it really need to take 45 more days to paint the lines and put in the electrical?

The website is treating us like children.  It's not giving us much information at all.  Lamoreaux didn't even mention grooving.  He just talked about painting and electrical.  The amount of time has more to do with scheduling.  There's work the FAA needs to do and their contractor will apparently only come as scheduled originally, not early if, because of the good weather, they ready for them ahead of schedule.  And the same is true with the FAA inspectors.

My sense is there's no need to rush - from the airport administration's perspective.  They really don't seem concerned about relieving us from the noise of jets taking off over our houses and whatever jet fuel exhaust is added to our air.  They've set what appears to be a fairly comfortable schedule and they're expecting to be able to say it was done on time and - we'll see, or not- within the budget.

*As I look at the map with the green and yellow, the tractor that was actually working today when I was there, seems to be at the end of the pavement on the left of the green/yellow markings.  So that stretch of pavement doesn't seem like it's going any further.

I expect that asking all these questions, at this point, probably won't make any difference.  They're scheduled to open the north-south runway at the beginning of October and until then we (depending on how close you live to the pathways of the jets) will continue to endure 24 hours a day of jets taking off over us.

But maybe we can find out when the runway needs to be repaired again, so we can start earlier to  get more consideration of noise in their planning process.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

If economists think the economy is doing well, then they are tracking the wrong numbers

When I hear newscasters tell us the economic indicators are up and the economy is doing well, my reaction is, "Whose economy are they talking about?"  The economy may be working well for banks, but for many people it's a disaster and getting worse.

Here are some things I think are missing from what the official economists track:

  • unrecovered negative externalities - pollution, environmental degradation, carbon footprint, etc.
  • income distribution - measures such as
    • gap between highest and lowest paid employees in organizations;  
    • various stats on the amount and percentage of wealth held by people in various points across the scale from lowest to highest wealth;  
    • number of homeless per billionaire; 
  • other miscellaneous numbers (here are some examples of the kinds of things I mean, though once a good list is drawn up, it can be determined which metrics most consistently reflect economic health:
    • number of personal bankruptcies and their causes
    • indicators of mental health of the population (if the economy is working right, then people should be reasonably content and not subject to mental health problems)
    • collective cost of health care/health indicators

You get the idea.  But since this basically my intuitive sense of things (with unconscious influences from various sources).  So I looked to see what others have done on this.  Here are some examples from an untitled document at McGregor Consultants with some alternatives to the GDP:

First, the document looks at what's missing in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).  Then it offers some alternative systems.  Here are a couple of examples.
"A. Fordham Index of Social Health (FISH)
Measures 16 socio-economic indicators: 1. infant mortality
2. child abuse
3. child poverty
4. teen suicide
5. drug abuse
6. high school drop-outs
7. average weekly earnings
8. unemployment
9. health insurance coverage
10. poverty among elderly
11. health insurance for elderly 12. highway deaths due to alcohol 13. homicides
14. food stamp distribution
15. housing
16. income inequality
Since 1973, the FISH index has declined as the GDP increased in the US.
In Canada, the FISH index has stayed constant since 1985 as the GDP increased."

Rather than go through each index (the link above does that) I'll just offer you the list at the bottom  the linked document.  [When I checked out the links they were all squirrelly.  I'm guessing the original document I found on the McGregor site was pretty old and the links are either wrong or out of date.  But you get the general idea.  I've added new links where I could find something that looked worthwhile.)

GROSS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRODUCT GSDP  (this link is all about sustainability measures, but not exactly an index called GSDP) GROSS ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDEX GESDI"

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Thoughts On Hong Kong [Updated]

I'd been to Hong Kong various times for short visits, but in July 1989 I arrived for a year long stay. As a Fulbright Scholar, I would be teaching public administration at Chinese University of Hong Kong.  July 1989 was barely a month after Tiananmen Square crackdown ended the student and worker demonstrations for democracy in Beijing.

The Chinese government has done its best to erase that event from Chinese consciousness.  The median age in China is 37.3 years.  That means half the population today was seven years old or younger, or not yet born.  And of those who were around, never knew much about what actually happened.  And prosperity has meant that many people would rather spend their time pursuing consumer goods than dwelling on Tiananmen.

1989 was eight years before the British lease on Hong Kong was about to end and Tiananmen really shook up the residents of the British colony.  Another disturbing thing that happened around that time was people's discovery that the words "right to abode" were not in their renewed British passports.  That meant that although Hong Kong residents were technically British subjects the right to move to Britain had evaporated.

A giant liberty statue had been created and was featured in demonstrations at that time.

The truth of the matter was that Hong Kong was not really much of a democracy.  My university students knew very little about how the Hong Kong government worked or what their rights were. When I asked them to contact government agencies, you'd have thought I'd asked them to jump from the tenth floor.  There was no democracy, not even the semblance until after Tiananmen.  From a 2010 article called "Hong Kong's Elite Structure, Legislature and the Bleak Future of Democracy under Chinese Sovereignty"  (this will get you to an abstract, you need access through a library to get the article free.)
Since Hong Kong was ruled by Britain's designated governor during the colonial period (1841‐1997), the government has been commonly described as executive-led. This means that the colonial governor had all the power and authority to exercise policies and legislations in the territory. Appointed by the governor, the Executive Council (ExCo) merely gave advice to the governor. Established in 1843 under British rule, the LegCo had contained no democratic seats until 1991 when 18 out of 57 members were directly elected. Before that, the LegCo was, to quote Sing (2003 Sing, Ming. 2003 29), “a place for mild politics and perceived simply as a ‘rubber stamp’.”. 
There were dozens of periodicals on sale whose key purpose was to help people find ways to emigrate from Hong Kong.  Botswana had full page ads in the South China Morning Post enticing people with $250,000 I believe, to get citizenship in Africa.  There were any number of scandals revolving around diplomats from different countries selling citizenships.  Vancouver was known as Hongcouver.

Here to give you a sense of how opaque the bureaucracy was, is a sample of questioning about such emigration hustlers in the Legislative Council about the time I got there in July 1989:
"Oral answers to questions     -   Consumer protection against emigration counsellors
1. MR. PETER WONG asked: Sir, will Government inform this Council what consumer protection measures, if any, are taken to protect Hong Kong people who wish to seek assistance from emigration specialists who hawk their skills and wares for reward in Hong Kong?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, this is an area of consumer affairs where the guiding principle must be Caveat Emptor, that is, buyers beware.
The Hong Kong Government neither encourages nor discourages emigration consultants setting up business in Hong Kong, nor does it encourage or discourage Hong Kong people from using their services. The services available vary from filling forms outside consulates to mapping out an investment strategy to qualify as an investor. The decision on whether to consult, on what to consult, and how much it is reasonable to pay for the services provided, must be one for the individual to make.
    Sir, I can only suggest that the best advice can probably be provided by the
consulate of the country concerned.
Of course, if there is any evidence of a criminal act such as fraud or deception, then a report should be made to the police.
MR. PETER WONG: Sir, the "caveat emptor" answer given by the Secretary suggests that the Government does nothing to protect Hong Kong people in this hour of their need. Does this mean that the Securities and Futures Commission, the Registrar General's Department, amongst others, allow the flood of advertisements in the newspapers to go completely unchecked?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, in the famous words of one of our illustrious former Financial Secretaries, "the Hong Kong Government believes that if something is not broken, do not try to fix it"; and this is an area falling into that classification. From 1 January 1987 to date, the Consumer Council has only received 11 complaints and this shows the size of the problem.
MRS. LAM:  Do consulates in Hong Kong accept responsibility for the actions of
immigration specialists from the countries they represent?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, I have no knowledge of what the consulates do with respect to particular immigration consultants.
MR. DAVID CHEUNG: Sir, many of these immigration specialists are lawyers specializing in the immigration laws of their own countries. What measure of supervision, if any, does the Law Society or the Government of Hong Kong exercise over their activities?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, I believe we are now wading in the area of foreign lawyers. I wonder whether I should not defer to the Attorney General?
After Tiananmen, with less than ten years to go before Hong Kong would officially be given back to China, things got really tense.  Negotiations between England and China to establish an agreement about the handover was a major concern for Hong Kong residents.  The Joint Declaration came out in 1984, but then the Chinese came up with "The Basic Law" in 1990, a pretty touchy time.  Hong Kong might not have had much democracy under the British, but China's legal protections, punctuated by Tiananmen,  augured even worse under the Chinese.  

From a Hong Kong government site in 2008:

"The Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong (The Joint Declaration) was signed between the Chinese and British Governments on 19 December 1984. The Joint Declaration sets out, among other things, the basic policies of the People's Republic of China (PRC) regarding Hong Kong. Under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", the socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and life-style shall remain unchanged for 50 years. The Joint Declaration provides that these basic policies shall be stipulated in a Basic Law of the HKSAR.
The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (The Basic Law) was adopted on 4 April 1990 by the Seventh National People's Congress (NPC) of the PRC. It came into effect on 1 July 1997.

The Document
The Basic Law is the constitutional document for the HKSAR. It enshrines within a legal document the important concepts of "One Country, Two Systems", "a high degree of autonomy" and "Hong Kong People administering Hong Kong". It also prescribes the various systems to be practised in the HKSAR.
The Basic Law consists of the following sections -
a. The full text of the Basic Law which comprises a total of nine chapters with 160 articles;
b. Annex I, which sets out the method for the selection of the Chief Executive of the HKSAR;
c. Annex II, which sets out the method for the formation of the Legislative Council of the HKSAR and its voting procedures; and
d. Annex III, which sets out the national laws to be applied in the HKSAR."

The current demonstrations were sparked by a new law that allows extradition to China for trial for Hong Kong residents.  Just imagine Trump allowing extradition for trial in Russia in the United States.  When the extradition law was withdrawn temporarily, the demonstrators were not satisfied.  The people of Hong Kong have come a long way since my students' shyness.  (But also consider that to get into Chinese University of Hong Kong, my students had had to toe the line and not ever cause any trouble.  They were not representative of their peers in Hong Kong.)

China does, of course, hold most of the cards.  When the British left, the removal of 'the right to abode' from people's passports was an indicator that Britain had no real concern for the people of Hong Kong.  They were principally concerned about British held property, 'real' British citizens, and appearances.  Fighting China over Hong Kong was never an option.  While they won that fight a century earlier with in part by addicting the country to opium, China now had the upper hand.  

And there is no way the US is going to fight to protect the rights of Hong Kong residents.  Even if Clinton were now president, the US simply has no way to got to war against China over 400 square miles in the south of China.  And Trump doesn't seem to even want to use it as a bargaining chip in this trade discussions.  

So I don't see this ending well.    The only danger to China is that its own population might see Hong Kong demonstrations as a model for more freedoms in China.  China appears to be doing a massive propaganda campaign to its own mainland population,  making the demonstrators appear to be criminals and thugs and American backed haters of China.  I suspect they'll succeed.  I know when I was teaching in Beijing in 2004, there were three things that my students believed religiously - Tibet was better off under China, that it's population had been slaves to the monks before China took over;  the Japanese were evil; and Taiwan was part of China.  But that said, they were great students, and once the trusted me not to punish their active participation in class, they had lots to say and were very curious and creative.

I suspect the government is working hard now to make sure their views on Hong Kong are similarly loyal and unmovable. But the size of Hong Kong's demonstrations should give China reason to pause and reconsider how much it changes the Basic Law.  China has blindspots when it comes to challenges to its control.  China's way of handling this in Tibet has been to simply ship enough Han Chinese there that the native Tibetan population becomes a minority.  They could try something similar in Hong Kong.  In fact there already are a lot of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong.  

But with that said, let's remember that the US has serious ideological blinders when it comes to China too.  And that China has 1.4 billion people.  

That means that the smartest 10% is 140 million people.  The same is true for the richest 10%.  And the most athletic 10%.  And while those groups will overlap somewhat, they make up more than 50% of the US population.  Ten percent of the US population is 3 million.  

If China unleashes the potential of its top 10% there's no way anyone else can beat them.  Especially now with Trump destroying the potential of the US through ethnic and cultural war.  

I'm not a China expert.  My serious interest in China is about 25 years old now, and even then it was limited to a very narrow focus.  So consider these musings based on experience and some serious research once upon a time.  

[UPDATED August 21, 2019 - Here's an opinion piece in the LATimes today by a Chinese researcher at Human Rights Watch, using his own experience as a student in the US to  explain why overseas Chinese students are anti-Hong Kong protesters.  It's consistent with what I wrote yesterday, but adds more detail.  It also causes me to see Americans in the same pattern - unable to give up their ingrained beliefs, even in the face of the obvious.  One's identity is caught up in these beliefs.]

Monday, August 19, 2019

Anchorage Birding On Smoky Day

My birder friend Dianne agreed to take my daughter, nieta, and me birding today.  We hit some Anchorage spots, then went onto the military base.  Here are a few highlights - though I increasingly frustrated with my inability to take consistently clear pictures with my camera of distant birds.

A common loon with her big chick

 This is an osprey that flew to the top of the tree with a good sized fish.  It's dangling pointed toward 5 o'clock from the birds talons.

 And salmon were spawning.

By mid day I realized how smoky it was.  The paper this morning had said that we had a big fire (spread by yesterday's strong winds) to the South and another to the north.  By midday it became really obvious.

Best I can tell, this is an F-22.  One of four or five that flew over.

This is a white winged cross beak. The colors are hard to see silhouetted against the smoky sky.

And this is the smoke shrouded sun later in the day.

Nothing heavy today except the smoke.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

More Wind, More Gramping Bike Time

Not much to say today.  Mi nieta* is amazing.  After she showed how comfortable she is on the bike trail yesterday, we tried something a little trickier.  No problem.

Here we encountered a tree branch that fell victim to the wind.

Then into the sanctuary.

This tree trunk has been on the ground a while.

If you click on this photo above, you might be able to see a blur of blue through the grass where the trail turns to the right.  I don't think this violates the no pictures of the nietos rule.

And here she's zoomed along the boardwalk before I could catch her in the distance.  It's so neat to see her go from determined but really careful last summer, to comfortable,  this summer, even on challenging trails.

She loves riding the bike and we have much better biking and closer trails in Anchorage than she has at home.

Tomorrow morning we go birding.

* couldn't link to the google translate page that showed mi nieta means my granddaughter.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

"You haven't got the disqualifications. . ." Plus Carrots Radishes And The Bike Trail

I'm reading Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis for my bookclub.  I don't consider myself Lucky Steve for having to read it.  It's a 1950s British.  It's supposed to be an academic comedy I guess.  The cover says, "No one has been so funny in this vein since Eveyln Waugh was at his best."  It also says, "$1.45."

But I did find a redeeming quote today.  The feckless main character has just given a disastrous lecture to the whole academic and local elite community and lost his job as a professor.  But he gets a phone call offering him a new job.
"I think you'll do the job all right, Dixon.  It's not that you've got the qualifications, for this or any other work, but there are plenty who have.  You haven't got the disqualifications, though, and that's much rarer."
I'm not quite sure what that means, but I suspect that it's the unspoken reason many people do get jobs.  If anyone has some examples, I'd love to hear them.

Meanwhile mi nieta (Spanish does granddaughter so much better than English) is here with her parents.  We went to the Muldoon Saturday market at Chanshtnu Muldoon Park (Muldoon at the end of Debarr.)  This market has a mix of fresh veggies, baked goods, and hadn't  [hand-]made items from knits to lego earrings.

The produce was beautiful  Look at those radishes and carrots!

These are Somali baked goods.  Here's the ingredients of Kac Kac:

Z took this and the next picture.  These are squash.

And this is one of the Nepali farmers.

Just look at these onions.  I guess we're so used to food that's taken a week to get to Anchorage from Outside, that when we get fresh locally grown crops, they look sooo good.

After we got back, we took out the bike that Z learned to ride last summer.  We'd gone to a nearby empty parking lot and she got the hang of it.  Then I told her the second most important thing you need to know is how to use the brakes.  But when she left last summer, she was riding a bike.

Today we got out the bike to see how she was doing a year later as a 6 year old.  The alley near our house was paved this summer and it's perfect - a couple hundred yards, no traffic.  Well two other girls showed up on their bikes.  It's slightly downhill from our end, but she had no trouble, including looping around and coming back.  So later we went to Campbell Creek and rode the bike trail.  After about a mile and a half, I mentioned that however far we go, we have to go back.  She decided it was time to turn around. I didn't know how far she'd last so I didn't push to go further.
But the trail through the woods is beautiful and she was going up and down the small hills like a trooper.  Family pictures are not allowed on here.  Not sure how long she can avoid being captured by the online data vultures, but for now trying to keep her free.

However, I did take a short video of the grasses dancing in the wind on the bike ride.

(The wind apparently was responsible for knocking out the power in the area around our house too today.)

Wonderful day.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Great Hack - Why You Should See It

Netflix was dangling The Great Hack in front of me, but I just didn't want to deal with more bad news.  Let's wait for a better time I said.  Then I heard something somewhere about how good and important it was.  But then Netflix threw The Family and I could justify avoiding Hack with the assumption that Family was also 'educational.'

Well, we bit the bullet Thursday night and watched The Great Hack.    It wasn't nearly as depressing as I expected.  In part because I knew the general outline already, I just didn't know a lot of the details and people involved.  There are some real heroes here:

Carole Cadwalladr is an investigative journalist for the Guardian and focused maniacally on Cambridge Analytica and teased out lots of important information.

David Carroll is a professor of  who sued Cambridge Analytica for his own personal data.

Ravi Naik was David Carroll's solicitor in his data rights case.

Chris Wylie is the guy with the fluorescent red hair and nose ring who worked for Cambridge Analytica who became a whistle blower

Brittany Kaiser also worked for Cambridge Analytica  and also became a whistle blower and is  the major character of this documentary.

There are villains too, particularly Alexander Nix, the head of Cambridge Analytica.  And Mark Zuckerberg doesn't come across too well either.

If Climate Change is the most important issue to focus on for the physical survival of humans on earth, then Data Rights is the most important issue to focus on for the political survival of democracy.  We may all think we're smart enough to resist the bombardment of fake ads, but I had to keep reminding myself, despite all the Lock Her Up chants, that Clinton was a very well qualified candidate.  Much more than the lesser of two evils.

All I can say is WATCH IT if you have Netflix and if you don't, find a friend who does who will invite you to watch it.  (The other day I suggested reading an article by convicted Trump supporter Sam Patten.  The Great Hack is a much easier way to absorb this kind of background information.

Get a better understanding of how Cambridge Analytica got enough Facebook data to be able to personalize ads that would emotionally anger voters into voting for the candidate they were supporting or get opponents' supporters to not vote.  Cambridge Analytica (and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) did this in Trinidad, Malaysia, India, Brazil, Nigeria,

I'd also note that back in 1977 my doctoral dissertation on Privacy was completed and approved.  (At that time there were mainframe computers and the first personal computers became available as kits in 1975.  We didn't get our first computer - a Vic 20 - until 1981.  It was pretty primitive.)

But I argued back then that most people had focused on privacy as a psychological issue - a human need to keep things hidden from others.  But I argued that privacy wasn't so much a psychological need, but rather it was about power.  Who had the power to get others information and who had the power to prevent others from getting their information?  Hiding info wasn't so much about a psychological need as it was about  the consequences of others knowing.  Publicizing sex life and drug use was good for most rock stars, but a career ender for a teacher or a priest.  (At that time for a president too.)  Privacy, I argued, was about power.  And this film essentially meshed people's private information with data being the most valuable commodity on earth now and how the large tech companies have all the power and individuals have no control over their information.    I'd figured that this was a privacy was about power back in the mid 1970s, and it's why I think about why I try to read the privacy notices, despite the fact that the they are way too long and unintelligible.  

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Recruiting Vampires

When I was in college a good friend from high school married a total jerk.  I was studying in Germany that year and I think I restrained myself from sending a card that just said, "Don't."  She was divorced not too long after the wedding.  At our 20th or 25th  high school reunion I asked her if anything could have stopped her.  She said her father was abusing her at home and it was the only way she could see to get out of the house.

So desperate people do desperate things.  They answer recruiting ads from ISIS.  They join the army.  They join Christian cults.  They take drugs.

If your family believes every word in the bible is true and all the people you socialize with believe the same and you go to a Christian school that teaches the earth is 6000 years old, and you are presented material like this 'proof' of the biblical age of the earth, well, it's easy to believe.  It's not any harder to believe than immaculate conception and that Christ arose from the dead.

The dangers of vaccination if packaged right can also cause people to keep their kids from being vaccinated.

Ignorance and desperation together make people susceptible to any propaganda - like the pizza parlor based human trafficking ring,  or that climate change is a hoax, or that world will end when Christ returns to earth, though some Christians debate whether there will be a 'rapture.'

So while I was amused at first to see comments on this blog recruiting people to become vampires, I got got concerned, but also curious.  Most of these comments go to a post called, The Vampire History of Alaska.  I mark them spam as soon as I get them.  They tend to look like this one which came from someone in Accra, Ghana:

"Good Day,
Do You Want To Be A Vampire?
Been A Vampire Will Make You
• Make Stronger.
• Think Faster.
• World Famous
• Will Never Experience Suffering Anymore In Your Life.
• Can Never Be Oppressed By Anyone
• Above All You Will Live Very Long on Earth And Be Protected All Through Your Life.
For More Info About Been A Vampire & If You Interested On Been A Vampire Kindly Contact This Email
Contact Me:" 
Here's the info stat counter offers me for each person who comes to the site.  This is the detailed page for the vampire comment above.

Many of them look more like this:
Gina has left a new comment on your post "Vampire History of Alaska - Why You Should Vote Ye...":
Welcome to ( Gumbala Vampire Kingdom). Do you want to be a vampire,still in human,having talented brain turning to a vampire in a good posture in ten minutes to a human again, with out delaying in a good human posture. A world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk, this is an opportunity to have the human vampire virus to perform in a good posture.if you are interested contact us on . . .vampire. . 

I was tempted to email and ask about how many people respond to these comments, but I have lots of other things to do and I'd rather not get targeted by vampire recruiters.

Fortunately, The Bloggess did contact a vampire recruiter in 2017 and did a great job of engaging the recruiter.  You can read all that here. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

An Unusual Glimpse At World Of Trump's Guilty Crowd - Sam Patten Writes Long Piece For Wired

Who's Sam Patten you ask.  Good question.  Even though I read Seth Abramson's Proof of Collusion, I didn't remember how Patten fit in.

When you read an article like this by someone who has pled guilty in presidential level political activities, you always have to take it with a grain of salt.  Well, maybe a whole salt shaker.  But while you're reading this with your crap detector turned high, you'll still get a sense of the wild world of international political consulting of a certain persuasion.  And there are lots of names  you'll recognize starting with Paul Manafort, Kilimnik, Yushchenko and Yanukovich,  and others whose names you've heard, but couldn't keep straight, and places like Kiev, Bagdad,  Moscow, and organizations such Cambridge Analytica.

The article offers some background context to the players and the games they play.  It begins in a courtroom where Patten is about to plead guilty.

"WHEN JUDGE AMY Berman Jackson emerged into the courtroom through a door cut seamlessly into the wooden veneer of the wall, she commanded my full attention.
I HAVE SERVED powerful women many times before in my life—senators, secretaries of state, opposition leaders—and knew how to bow before them. Today was a variation on the theme: I was here to plead guilty before Jackson to a federal felony.
I was so transfixed by her that I never stopped to think who was notably absent from the courtroom on that last day of August: my business partner Konstantin V. Kilimnik or, as I knew him, Kostya. In two weeks, his long-time boss Paul Manafort would stand in the very spot I did and do the same thing I was about to do.
Kostya was initially referred to in the American press as “Person A” in the government’s case against Manafort, the former chair of the 2016 Trump campaign. When prosecutors moved in February of this year to nullify Manafort’s cooperation agreement with them—because he violated the deal by lying about his contacts with Kostya—a lead prosecutor told Judge Jackson that Manafort’s lies went “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.” In particular, the government asserted, Manafort had shared Trump polling data with Kostya, leaving many to wonder and speculate about why he might have done such a thing."

How many times can a Republican operative have served powerful women - he does mention working for Snow - and why do you have to bow before them?  Sounds, at best, patronizing.  Why is he making such a big deal about the judge being a woman in the first place?   But I don't know him.  Just doesn't sound right to me.

Much later in the article, he returns to Kiev.  In this paragraph he's justifying switching sides.  I can understand this as an earnest belief on his part, but I don't really know enough to do anything other than withhold judgment til I know more.

"This was not the first time I’d embroiled myself in this kind of complexity. In former Soviet Georgia I worked for then-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s party and helped it win a super majority in parliament in 2008, only to return to the country three years later to work for his opponents, who succeeded in ousting him. This was because the situation had changed and Saakashvili had, in my view and in that of a number of others, gone off the rails. My present circumstances might on first glance seem equally contradictory, given that they derive in large part from my involvement with figures close to Donald Trump—even though I voted for his opponent in 2016. Did I abandon my idealism? No. Politics isn’t about making statements, it’s about outcomes."
He's an idealist he says.  He's got a second wife and a son, yet he's traveling all over the world, apparently without them.  The thrill of the intrigue and being close to power seem to be the draw, and if he can justify he's doing it for idealistic reasons, well that makes it all easier, I guess to justify what he's doing.

"Kostya took me to Parus (meaning “sail”), a steel and glass high-rise that had sprung up in central Kyiv since my earlier sojourn, and we shot up to the 19th floor in an elevator that whistled and whined with the wind. A roll-up steel door (not charred, by contrast rather spiffy and high-tech) opened, and Lyovochkin’s security detail waved us into a glistening white conference room hovering like a spaceship high over the capital’s downtown.
Once we were settled in white leather revolving chairs and had been offered tea and chocolates by a secretary, Lyovochkin strode in, wearing a deconstructed blazer that accentuated his athletic frame. I started to introduce myself, but he waved his hand and said, 'No need, I know perfectly well who you are and,' glancing approvingly at Kostya, 'suspect you know why you’re here.'”
He's told us earlier that Lyovochkin was running the opposition bloc in the Ukraine. And what was he good at?
"In preparation, I had scribbled out the basis of a plan that I’d dubbed Operation Claw Back. It outlined a shift in narrative that called out our opponents for being opportunists with little concern for the people. Kostya handed it to him. Smiling, Lyovochkin glanced through it. “Perfect,” he said, “Let’s get to work.”
I immediately started making ads attacking our opponents. All in all I wrote maybe 20 scripts, about half of which were produced."

When we're online, we tend to just hit the surface of stories in the news and then there are six more that vie for our attention.

It's worth shutting down all the other tabs and just going into one area in depth.  Fill in some colors and landscapes and characters and get a sense of the world of intrigue Trump's entourage emerged from to assist him.  And get a sense of all the connections to Russia and Ukraine and other locations.


Yes, it's strange that in the title he uses both the first person (me) and the third person (Sam Patten) to refer to himself.  And he's also making it clear in the title that it's not his fault, Kostya made me do it.  While writers usually don't write their headlines, I suspect he had some say in this one.

I'd note too, that Macmillian offers a different perspective of the intrigues around Trump.  Here's a teaser from chapter 8 of Abramson's next book Proof of Conspiriacy.  This is not a first person account.  Abramson works from published stories in the media.  This excerpt has lots of Jared Kushner's relationship with MBS, the Saudi Prince.  I'm sure these two wealthy 30 something young men have lots in common and feel quite at home with each other.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What's The Difference Between a Memoirs and a Memoir? And an Autobiography? But That's Just The Hook. There's Also Kimani. [Updated]

I follow  Kimani Okearah @theKimansta on Twitter.  He's a photographer for the Sacramento Kings.  Well, that's not exactly right.  He's a photographer for Vox News and he covers the Kings for them.  I follow a number of folks who experience life differently than I do just to keep tabs on worlds I don't know well.  Mostly there's basketball in his Tweets, but also stuff on race, and health, and things I'm not really sure what they are about.  But there's something sweet and decent about him. I've grown to like him.

It turns out one thing we have in common is an interest in film.  He's working on a documentary.  It's called 30 Year Memoirs of a Crack Baby.  He's the crack baby and he has, among other congenital health issues, a seriously problematic large intestine.

But as I read the title I wondered, why is it memoirs instead of memoir?  So I googled.

[UPDATE 8/15/19:  Kathy in KY commented that the boxes for Memoir and Autobiography had the same texts.  (I've corrected that.)  But then that leaves this post without a distinction between memoir and memoirs.  So here's one from the blog Memoir Mind  that seems to make sense:
"Writing about one's whole life is writing one's memoirs, plural. It's more akin to autobiography, in which you tell all about what happened, often with intense detail, the personal version of the kind of research a biographer would do if they were writing a life about you. Memoirs tend to be more informal than autobiography, but still have that life-encompassing feel. Most of the people who write them are well-known - that's how and why others would buy an entire book about their entire life, or multiple books about their entire life.
Memoir, on the other hand, the currently hot trend in writing and the topic of this blog, is focused on a particular time in one's life, or a theme or thread."
And, back to the original post, below is the bigger picture with the corrected illustration.]

The Author Learning Center explains the difference between a memoir, autobiography, and a biography.    And if you look closely in their summary of a memoir, the second bullet offers a brief note on the difference.

Text comes from The Author Learning Center 

Kimani is asking for a lot of money on GoFundMe, but films cost a lot to make.  He's an expert on the topic.  And since it's a memoirs, it will be a "1st person POV" and less "formal and objective" than a memoir. [And since it's a memoirs, it will be about his whole life, not just one time, theme, or thread.]

I'd urge you to go to his GoFundMe page.  Read it.  And if you weren't born to crack addicts and taken from your parents at 6 months and put into foster home and kicked out of that home as soon as you turned 18, you're probably had a lot more 'privileges' than Kimani has had.  So you could share some of your privilege by checking out his site.

And making a donation.  It doesn't have to be a lot.  $5 would do, but if you're going to go to all the trouble, you might consider making a larger contribution.

He hasn't had a contribution for a couple of days.  I think it's because people would rather look away.  But please, overcome that urge, and give him five minutes.  And when the movie is showing (at the Anchorage International Film Festival I hope), you'll know that you helped make it possible.

I'm not putting up his picture.  I want you to imagine what he looks like.  And then go check how well you conjured up his image.  I'm going to check how many people linked from this page to his GoFundMe page.    Yes, I can do that (and so all other websites.)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tomás Is Loose In Kentucky

My Spanish friend Tomás is in his first few days in Kentucky.  He's a wicked artist, particularly when he's doing caricatures.

We met in 2010 when he left a comment on this post about Exit Glacier and we connected before he and his family returned to Spain. Here's a post with pictures of Tómas and his family and his great kids book Salfón:  El limpiodor de tejados.

His wife will be teaching science (I think)  in a Spanish language high school program in Lexington.  And I'm sure Tómas will be drawing.  In fact he sent me his first US drawing.

I did mention that while he is visiting in Kentucky, he would surely be drawing McConnell.  Let's see how his take on the senior Senator from Kentucky evolves over the year.

Meanwhile I picked up a second book on Peron at the library today - Perón and the enigmas of Argentina by Robert D. Crassweller. This one starts out trying to capture who Perón was by looking at the many long term cultural influences.  One of them is "the heritage of Castille" which he traces to 1492 when the Moors left and the Reconquest.

"That long and arduous crusade had deeply marked the Castilian character and personality.  Society was pastoral and had lived by war for centuries, disdaining lesser and demeaning pursuits such as commerce.  A powerful and authoritarian state emerged, energized by effective government.  The parliament of Castile, the Cortes, lacked the power of the purse and soon languished.  Royal power, resolutely exercised, curtailed any political role for the aristocracy, which contented itself with social privilege, and there was no significant challenge from below.
Freedom in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the world was not a product of these tendencies, but that implies neither tyranny nor misrule  All the monarchs of the age were popular and intuitively sensitive to public moods and aspirations.  Thus royal authority was willingly accepted and viewed as consistent with freedom and liberty.  Absolutism, tied to religious values, was not seen as tyranny, since individual rights and dignity were protected." (pp. 24-25)
I'm just quoting, not saying it's accurate.  It's certainly simplistic, as a short synopsis like this must be.  After all, the subjects of the religious persecution - non-Catholics, particularly Jews - didn't have their rights and dignity protected and probably would disagree.

What I found particularly interesting was a description of the Spanish state and church ruled a much different culture than that in northern Europe.

"The State had never known feudalism in the the northern European sense of a system with centers of politics power apart from, and often in opposition to, the royal authority.  There had been no Magna Carta inSpain, no warlike barons jealously and successfully protecting their local powers, no system of courts enforcing laws that did not originate with the king's justice.  The Church was the Church of the Counter-Reformation, necessarily broad and pluralistic in many respects, a palace of many chambers, but nowhere in it had there been any experience in sharing of the power that was tightly consolidated in the successors of St. Peter.
Thus neither Crown nor Church could contribute to the traditions, the techniques, and the psychological attitudes that are essential for adjusting successfully the claims of competing power centers in a society containing many such.  The arts of compromise and conciliation, and the habits of mind necessary for their appreciation, were dormant and underdeveloped."(25-26)
 Again, I can't judge how accurate this is, but it seems appropriate to do a little Spanish history as I welcome Tómas and his wife to the US.  But let me do a little more.  So far he's talking about what the Spanish heritage Perón would eventually inherit didn't do well, but he goes on to talk about what it did well. He does a paragraph about the philosophy and political thought coming from Aquinas, Aristotle, and Renaissance Scholasticism, not from the social contract theory of Rousseau, Locke, and Hobbes.

"Rather, it was  a powerful stimulus to an organic theory of life and of the State, a theory of natural harmony in which every human and every institution had a purpose, a station, ordained and secure.  And it was also a powerful support for the prevailing Mediterranean and Iberian corporatism, defined in the broad sense of a 'sociopolitical organization that is  . . hierarchical, elitist, authoritarian, bureaucratic, Catholic, patrimonialist . . ."
"Castilian society exalted courage and honor and defined them in an exclusive and stringent code as ideals appropriate for the man of rank, the gentleman, the hidalgo.  For such a man and such an ideal ". . . work did not redeem and had no value in itself.  Manual work was servile.  There was little or no interest in science and its fluid experimentation, or in technology and technique in general, or in any kind of economic activity.  The superior man neither worked nor traded:  he made war, he commanded, he legislated.  He also thought, contemplated, loved, wooed, and enjoyed himself.  Leisure was noble." (26)
While it may seem I've taken quite a bit from Crassweller, he would probably say I left out the most important parts.  And this is only one of the cultural heritages he's telling us we need to understand if we are going to get a good sense of Perón.  Another will be the creole heritage.  I like the idea of going back like this to find influences on Perón, but I also realize it's a risky act.  Is he going back and finding things in Spanish culture that manifest themselves in Perón, leaving out much that is not 'Perón"?  I can't judge.  Maybe Tómas will be the best evaluator of this cut and paste Spanish heritage.

[Kathy, for some reason my brain says you're in Louisville, which isn't that far, but not that close either.  Am I right?]

Sunday, August 11, 2019

"Trump is a klutz, a bully and a liar. But he's no white supremacist"

That's the headline on Paul Jenkins' column in the ADN today.   Headlines are written by editors, but he does in fact say that in his column, though not in one sentence that succinctly.

But after calling the president a liar, he excoriates Democrats for 'stretching the truth' about saying Trump is a white supremacist by parsing the president's words and the context of this post Charlottesville comments about there being good people on both sides.

I don't have all that in front of me, but even if he is right about what Trump exactly said and meant, there are still some problems:

1.  All the other actions and words of the president that support the idea that he's a white supremacist.

2.  His praise (that he's not a white supremacist) comes after acknowledging he's a 'klutz, bully, and liar."  And he also acknowledges
"He says things that unnecessarily tarnish the presidency and embarrass this country.  He runs with his filters turned off and he often is insulting, combative, denigrating to women, Muslims, and Hispanics."
The only saving grace, he tells us, is that Trump was better than the other candidate.  If he really means that, then impeachment would allow a replacement that wouldn't be Hillary Clinton.

I feel a little like Alice in Wonderland reading this.  He even quotes Goebbels
"If you tell a lie beg enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it"
But that's about the Democrats' "big lie" about calling Trump a white supremacist.  Not about all the repeated big lies he acknowledges that come from his president.

What is the point of this column?  Some possibilities:

  1. It's Sunday and he owes one to the ADN and he has nothing to say.
  2. It's a secret signal to say that the Republicans are morally bankrupt, without actually saying it.
  3. It's fodder for the MAGA crowd, but if that's the case, why not embrace white supremacy instead of implying it's not a good thing?
  4. It's there to piss off liberals, just because the ADN gives him a weekly column.  

Which raises the question:  Why doesn't the ADN have a policy that excludes personal attacks and requires regular columnists to stick to actual, rational discussions of policy?

If anyone needs to see the whole thing, it's here.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Learning From History - Juan Perón

We've all heard, in one form or another, George Santana's warning "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

But figuring out what the lessons are isn't easy.  People interpret the past differently.  They take in some factors, but not others.  People applied a lesson of post World War II - how Russia took over various countries and made them part of the communist bloc  - to support the US going to war in Vietnam, which was supposed to stop the fall of SE Asian countries, like dominoes, to the communists.  It was the wrong lesson.

After spending a month in Argentina and learning a little about the history of the country, I decided to get some books on Juan Peron to learn more.  I'm just starting the first one - a series of articles about different aspects of Peron and his government.

But which lessons should one take away?  Chapter 2, "Evita and Peronism" begins
"Few political figures in the history of Argentina have aroused as much violent hatred or passionate love as Eva Perón.  To her followers, she was Evita, a selfless woman who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers, destitute women, and needy children .  . .To her enemies, however, she only an ambitious actress, a trollop who rose to the top by using countless men, a hypocrite interested in money, jewels, and luxurious clothes . . ."  
Juan Peron was, in the words of Frederick C. Turner,
"far more than the most important leader of Argentina in the twentieth century.  In many ways, he was a prototypical figure of this century.  His ideals were far grander than his lasting achievements;  he sincerely wanted to improve the welfare of the least privileged members of his society.  Yet, despite distrubitionist policies that made the poor unswervingly loyal to him, his economic initiatives spurred inflation and undercut the economic growth that might have been the surest aid to the lower classes in the long run."
We can argue whether he was a good man or not, or whether he was a good president or not, or whether his policies made Argentina a better country.  But what is clear is that he was a larger than life figure who apparently had the best of intentions, but even his supporters acknowledge that he didn't really succeed in improving the long term outcomes in Argentina.

There are parts that I can relate to immediately because of the trip.  Like this sentence:

"The descamisados (the shirtless ones) would gather in the Plaza de Mayo and Perón, the leader, would address them from a balcony of the Casa Rosada."
We went to the Plaza de Mayo on our second outing in Buenos Aires, when it was raining quite a bit.

Here's the Casa Rosado and the balcony from which he spoke is probably on the picture. The first time was 1945.  There were various factions.  He had been the Minister of Labor, but when one president was replaced he had been arrested.  But not for long (5 days) and the labor unions he had worked for marched to the Plaza de Mayo for his release.  And he got out and addressed them.  It was 17 de Octobre and that's still and important day.  There's even a street with that name.

This is the Pirámide de Mayo in the center of Plaza de Mayo.

It wasn't til almost our last day in Argentina when we went of a tour organized by our original host in Buenos Aires to La Boca, that I learned about descamisados.  We saw the words on this building and she explained it meant "the shirtless" (camisa means shirt) and these were the poor who were Perón's staunchest supporters.

When Turner talks about the bibliography, he mentions that it  omits
"references to one of the ways in which tens of thousands of people are currently obtaining a view of Perón:  through Evita, the malicious, one-sided, anti-Peronist musical that has been playing to packed houses in London and New York.  As theater, it is arresting;  as history, it is false.  The musical cheaply exploits the image of Evita as a harlot and perpetuates such myths as her great participation in bringing Perón to power in 1945.  It alleges the dangerous charisma, the essential opportunism of Perón. Yet, in a perverse manner, even this historical travesty underlines the importance and the continuing attraction of Perón and Evita;  its creators may occasionally touch upon the truth quite by accident rather than through design or understanding. . ."
I'm just starting on my Perón adventure, but it's already a reminder that history has many stories that can help us think about the present.  There's a force that tends to pull me toward comparisons between Perón and Trump.  (Turner looks at similarities and differences between Perón and Hitler and Musolini - only because they were alike as very powerful charismatic leaders of their countries.  There are similarities to Trump
"Without sufficient institutional limitations on his rule, choosing his lieutenants, like his wife, on the basis of their loyalty and submissiveness rather than their brilliance or their academic credentials, Perón did make too many major decisions personally.  Having surrounded himself with admirers, he did not benefit from the critical responses of insiders that might have improved the quality of those decisions and therefore also their public acceptability in the long run."
"Perón's failures were more prosaic than stupidity or cowardice:  unfortunately, like so many of us, he failed to understand economics and relied far too much upon his own judgment. . . Perón understood the warm, human issues of political symbolism and the generation of mass support, not the colder constraints of budgeting and sacrificial strategies for economic growth."

Marysa Navarro's chapter on Evita Perón includes this on personal loyalty to Perón:
"Stating unequivocally her fanaticism toward Perón, she demanded - and obtained - that same commitment from his followers.  In so doing, she was responsible for the creation of a cult of the leader that required absolute loyalty to him, complete trust in him, unconditional allegiance to him and blind obedience to his word."
But also serious differences.  Turner argues that Perón had a heart and cared about human beings.
"Noting that Perón increased the share of national wealth going to the workers from 38 percent in the early 1940s to 46 percent in 1948, Juan Corradi quite rightly points out that the workers' support for Perón came from a rational perception of their interests rather than simply from their admiration of Perón's special gifts of leadership style."

What I've got so far is that there is disagreement about Perón still. This first book was published in 1987, over ten years after Perón's death, but still a long time ago.  So I'm not sure what more recent books say.

I'd note that while General San Martin has squares and streets named after him everywhere we went, I didn't notice the same widespread presence of Perón.  We even had to ask people to find Evita's grave at the Recoleta Cemetery.