The Track to Utopia Rejoined: Can We Predict the Future Based on the Past?

Or, will the 2018 and 2020 Elections return to order and decency? Make your choice

Since November last, the world has been reeling from facing existential issues, buffeted by a series of incidents that threaten the very fiber of rationality and reason, with many of us left retreating into worlds we feel better able to control and limited by boundaries that are sure and comfortable, something close and familiar and exclusive. Within the period of time encompassing that date and today, some have tried to look for any sign of the better angels of our nature surfacing and all of us hope that on the other end there are positive signs in society as our collective authority touches the mystic chords of memory to allow the swelling of good works, of kind words, of a positive and inclusive outlook. It has been a mean time in the meantime.

Yet, in all of this, at shortly before 2 AM this morning, the NYTimes reported later on this early hour’s incident in the Senate and produced one of the most welcome paragraphs its paper has written in some time, on that historians will surely mark as a turning point, I believe: “As the clock ticked toward the final vote, which took place around 1:30 a.m., suspense built on the Senate floor. Mr. McCain was engaged in a lengthy, animated conversation with Vice President Mike Pence, who had come to the Capitol expecting to cast the tiebreaking vote for the bill. A few minutes later, when Mr. McCain ambled over to the Democratic side of the chamber, he was embraced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. A little later Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, put her arm around Mr. McCain.”  This was the sign most of us were waiting for and he delivered. I think we have more such signs to come.

It is not my main focus to be dwelling on this recent past. Though I find this era to be one that has been divisive, derisive and destructive, where those who command in their loud and confused voice often use it so poorly as to evoke feelings of sadness, anger, incredulity or vitriol. Yet, unfathomably, a significant portion of our neighbors claim satisfaction, shout with glee, thumb their noses, desire even more of the same from these leaders or actually say not enough destruction of the Washington animal has yet been accomplished. What started with the advent of Cable News, with the relaxation of the Fairness Act and with the rise of News For Profit anger and accusations is now claiming the field.

The descent of politics in this current swamp is one that was calculated. But, the initial architects of this political circus are not the ones celebrating. The establishment wing in the Republican Party, who are presently either acquiescing and/or enabling the circus to have its audience, do not, at this point, know what to do with the Hydra that has taken over from them. Some, like George Will and David Brooks, have left the party or are speaking more like liberals at this point. Others like Charlie Sykes or Glenn Beck, once so comfortable with the benefits of the absence of the Fairness Act as to have gained great wealth from selling fear and shares in Gold Futures from their pulpits, have taken the Never Trump position and hope that perhaps their views can supplant the “Delighted Deplorables” and regain control of the Congress and White House in a way other than the one they have now. It is probably too late and I doubt they should be forgiven for their failings. Cerberus has full control over the Republican Party and it is not letting anyone of them out of their own personal Hell. Smile Emoji inserted here.

It seems and the next move is on those in the country who recognize the obstructionism, the selfishness and the deviousness of the likes of Mitch McConnell and his inner circle. The likes of John McCain, Lindsay Graham and those who wish to maintain the Classic Republican Conservatism that supports small government, bipartisan decision-making, rule of law, individual rights that also expect community responsibilities and wish to decide issues with equal apportionment of fiscal oversight, ethical jurisprudence and environmental sustainability. Teddy Roosevelt, Ike and Everrett Dirksen would not recognize today’s party and would abhor its decisions, like the rest of us.

Now I think we can sit back and watch John McCain. His storied life has most likely been given its second bookend. He has served this country through the public sphere for most of it. His record and accomplishments have been most severely damaged, demeaned and impugned by #45. He just began, I believe, receiving his just desserts with McCain starting the scooping and probably is going to be the one who puts the cherry on top at the end. I hope history treats him well and looks back at his final months as ones that brought the country back to greatness. I would where a baseball cap that said: “McCain, He Made America Great Again” should that happen.

There have been many serious divisions in history that have rendered politics ineffective in the short term and caused worry among the electorate. We have always recovered and moved into a more prosperous standing, all the while inching towards greater tolerance, more inclusion, acceptance of diversity and thinking of how decisions make in Washington, D.C. could be useful to supporting those who are disadvantaged. Womens’ Rights, Title IX, Gay Marriage, Transgender Acceptance, recognition of the danger to the Environment and talk of sustainable alternatives, and celebrating ethnic qualities while embracing the blending of the same into our improving cultural fiber. Then, the Tea Party grew.

If we look at the path forward from July of 2017, it is a short time to the 2018 midterm elections. Much has to be decided by then. Many issues face us, most paramount and calling for sure hands at the wheel of government recently is the health care reform that is still needed. A fix to the start of Obamacare in that direction is required and last night’s vote may be a harbinger of positive signs that may actually happen.

We have not been witnessing such a circumstance up to this point. It seems the Republican Party is in danger of exploding, much as its leadership wishes it wouldn’t. Up to now, they simply want to maintain the control they enjoy and set up a system that will give them authority to decide for a long time to come. But, they face, I believe, insurmountable headwinds with the six months of disaster establishing a platform for the Democrats to run on. Still, the Dems need to offer more than anti-Trump and come up with a message that defines who they are for the future and what are their major desires for the country. I think that will now need to include moderate Republicans in their desires for governance. The George Wills and David Brooks will be loud and sure voices in support of much of what they want to do. Damn those on the Right who don’t listen now.

The divisions within their party cannot withstand the ineptitude exhibited by the current leadership: Trump and his inside clan, Preibus, McConnell and Ryan (he may lose in 2018). There are no replacements available who can harness the diversity of opinion within their ranks, so they must decide now who they really are. They have little choice if they continue to support the above characters but to watch as they continue their infighting while President Trump chips from the side, tweets his threats, campaigns for self-praise accolades endlessly and garbles along spitting out incoherent speeches about something-going-where-oh-what-about-I’m great.  Then, there’s the Mooch, whose ability to inflame public opinion has quickly been demonstrated by his use of colorful expletives recently made public. This is what passes for presidential today? Or Trump’s disaster of a speech in front of Boy Scouts? By 2021 it seems there will be three or four distinct sections of the party, though without a majority even with all of them sitting in a single caucus in Congress.

Because Trump is who he is there will be a movement to remove him. I believe McCain just started it. His will be the voice that starts the roll call based on one of the following options. Either because of the overwhelming evidence leading to that inevitable conclusion,  or unbearable fatigue from what constitutes leadership in the GOP and the sanity returns from the defectors, led by McCain or because he brings the bar to the point lowest in the measurement of ethical scandal, diminishing support and overwhelming messaging from the public that he must go and it becomes so obvious to nearly all in the Congress that Trump is an impediment to simple governance and needs to be part of history. At present, the hardline base scares the GOP and, even though the majority of the GOP disagree with them, they think they need the Hard Right. It is close to the point when the simple message of hate, ineptitude and bigotry will cost them in the elections regardless. Most know that, too.

There are four scenarios for 2020:

  1. The GOP is now dissolved. Those left pick up the pieces and describe a litmus test of membership that looks that the time when American GOP was at its greatest in the 20th century during Ike’s terms (I know this is an arguable claim on my part and I realize he unleashed the Dulles Brothers on us at that time). The party is only strong in Western and Midwestern states that support environmental issues, limited government, limited foreign policy and strong Constitutional values in their members and Supreme Court Justices. The Tea Partyers now are out in the wilderness, yet have strong voices in all the Southern states and significant power in the Western states. They have some representation in Congress, but they caucus with no one and are still pushing for draining the swamp, exclusion of anyone not them and hoping to return to an era that is gladly dead. Trump, on his cable show, whips them up nightly. He holds campaign rallies in all the hot spots. Those disaffected followers continue to harm the democratic process, thinking it is worthless. Disruption is their method and antagonism of anything not them is spread on the cable program. The Southern Social Conservatives pull the evangelicals from throughout the country to their banner and found a party that meets at the ARK Museum in Kentucky for their convention. The Democrats control the government in Washington, but the states are split evenly among the three parties. The Democrats have won by default, but have divisions between the old and new guards. They risk losing in 2022 and the Congress splitting into a more parliamentary system with four parties vying for control. Moderates in all four actually vote through limited policy changes.
  2. 2018 leaves the GOP with a bare majority in the House and losing the Senate. Obstruction is the game for the next two years. Trump and the House hardliners do what they can, which is very little. Disrupted politics gets worse. Trump has six GOPers go after him in the primaries for 2020. The winner is the most moderate Republican, though he is not expected to win in the general election. The country remains in limbo.
  3. The Democrats figure out they are on the crest of a wave of change. The country wants taxation of the richest, huge infrastructure spending, environmental choices and sustainable policy decisions, a single-payer health system and is open to major shifts in the education system that is inclusive and works to heal the racial divide. There are strong females in positions of leadership. The media attacks shoddy politicking and offers issues up to the public in a clear voice that allows for discerning options based on economic, environmental, ethical and security options laid out.
  4. The country returns to when America was Great: The moderates in the middle run the show. There is only one way to get elected in the Midwest, The Two Coasts and the Mountain States; you need to offer programs that expect debate, consideration of all factors within an issue, discussion that accepts causal relationships and logic and that supports humanism and history and airing divisions in public through the media and through reasoned disagreement that clearly offers choice without rancor. McCain has used his final moments on earth to champion his better angel and leaves us all with a hopeful future.

Amen

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It’s about Time we talk, we talk about Horology now

prague clock“Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.” Woody Allen 

The concept of time is a most intriguing one. We speculate as to whether it is more important than money, whether there really is a before and after or is it really some big container in which all experiences occur and the possibility exists that all are accessible at any point depending on the perspective. As humans, with five senses, life and death the constants and also accompanied by reason, we have imagined myriad stories about creation, speculated that entities other than ourselves possess the power to manipulate time and culturally construct narratives that elaborately describe sequencing that assumes order, causal connections and linear arrangements for the growth or development of ideas, organisms and all existence. Of course, we speculate as to whether there is more that could also be outside our understanding.

While browsing through my bookmarks recently, I came upon an article about time. The article was from The Atlantic which covered the past two and a bit centuries of the eras altered by technology that impacted our concepts of time. We as humans have always understood some concept of time and it is our species that describes life possessing a past and future, hoping to control the latter as much as possible. I recently had a blog about money, which is really a human commitment to the future, as money has no value without a collective appreciation and hope for a known future in which it will be used (and hopefully in which the money has the same value; risk builds in a differing value). The Atlantic article deals with the changes in capitalism in this time period that have continually affected and sometimes changed our appreciation of time. This blog will deal with that, but also delve into the very concept of time Man has pondered over the Millennia.

Within the article were referenced several books where authors constructed their narratives and characters around time, or where time was the protagonist itself. Dave Sobel’s Longitude, written in 2007, looks at the importance of knowing time in relation to one spot on earth in order to extrapolate exactly where one is when combined with other, celestial notations. This was critical to cultures who rely on travel across the oceans for obvious reasons. Time was also expounded upon in the very recent offering, Time Travel, by James Gleich, whose earlier works bent our minds through explorations of “Chaos”, “Genius” and “Information” prior to this work. Also noted for their influence on culture and historical relevance for their timely themes where Jules Verne’s 1864 Journey to the Center of the Earth  and H.G. Wells’ 1895 Time Machine. Then, ever since Albert Einstein changed our physics in the 20th century, man has used his thinking to construct multiverses and altered the appreciation and use of the time. The arts have also reflected these new views through the works of such individuals as Twain, Picasso, Dali, Joyce, Woody Allen, Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and more. There are dozens of The Best 25 Films about Time Travel on Google.

Some thoughts to provoke:

  1. technology changes our world paradigm and today there are many different paradigms concurrently assuming unique dominion over those who believe the message in any one paradigm.
  2. values and economics are inextricably linked to the concept of time.
  3. does our understanding of time evolve as each of us ages
  4. what are the advantages of viewing time from the perspective of an unfamiliar culture and what are the advantages and disadvantages for engaging in such a exercise

We could even look back in time to writers like Orwell, Atwood or Bradbury to glean guidance from their wisdom and try to make sense of our present. That very thing was done during Trump’s candidacy when the Daily Kos equated the character of Deutscher in the 1952 story, A Sound of Thunder. A time-traveling character in the story trampled on a butterfly while on his sojourn and when he returns to a recent election’s results, one  that he had previously witnessed just prior to his time journey, finds his world altered……Horrified, the man with the butterfly plastered to his boot faces the new reality. The Daily Kos felt he had predicted Donald Trump.

  His face was cold. His mouth trembled, asking: “Who – who won the presidential election yesterday?”

  The man behind the desk laughed. “You joking? You know very well. Deutscher, of course! Who else? Not that fool weakling Keith. We got an iron man now, a man with guts!” The official stopped. “What’s wrong?”

Bradbury was working and living through Joe McCarthy. One can also say the more things change the more they stay the same.

Historically civilizations used the sun for telling time, with the seasons therefore taking a far more prominent role in daily life and yearly rituals than is allowed in today’s world. Many tried to augment their ability to localize the measurement of time through various mechanical or gravitational tools. All had their issues with accuracy and dependability. Most civilizations were founded on land and agriculture, though in the past four or five centuries, empire, products and industrialization have changed the structure of society’s need for better control of time.

The British needed a clock that could tell east and west accurately because of the importance of travel by sea upon which this island nation relied so heavily, but this is difficult on a spinning earth obviates the utilization of celestial measurement save for the time of noon each day. Only be measuring time against an artificial point on the earth could a navigator measure where he was east to west on the earth based on time at that point contrasted to his present time. If, say, it was 2 PM in London and noon where he was (he would have to have an extremely accurate chronometer that kept London’s exact time as he traveled the seas and noon is always easy by simply noting when the sun’s shadow is the shortest), one could tell how many degrees difference in Longitude he was from London. Until then, the earth had not yet been divided into segments of 1 out of 24~dividing those segments into a physical portion of the 360 degrees of circle allows each hour of our 24-hour day to be divided by 15 degrees of longitude to measure that hour’s portion of the earth’s surface with each degree divided further by minutes and seconds of that circle. An international timeline would also eventually be necessary as soon as you determined that zero point.

A clock oblivious to the motion of water will require a lifetime of work by one of the citizens of England who will accomplish this feat and give the British the fateful advantage on the high seas large enough to secure their claim to have the preeminent Zero marker. Until then there were dozens of claims for such a spot on the earth; you can see one in Paris and another in Florence, for instance. Today we all use Greenwich and airlines in particular measure all of their flights from this spot in England, using Zulu Time in order to prevent confusion in flying through differing time zones and their independent claim on hours of the day. All pilots use the 24 hour clock with Greenwich as their reference point.

When train travel allowed us to consistently move at speeds unheard of before and east/westerly travel by this means destroyed the concept of local noontimes tied to a chronometer, that era’s occupants had to develop a new timetable, a new way of organizing the world’s structure of time. As most people moved around on foot and rarely went long distances within a day, we did not know what time it was 50 or more miles away. There were literally hundreds of local time zones in the States based on where the sun was relative to that spot. With faster travel, or later with the ability to talk to someone in another time zone, pressure to measure and divide time was apparent.

It was then that we needed time zones. We found we could also change them at will and have Daylight Savings Time and that inconvenient topographic features could be accommodated to prevent inconveniences for local residents living along a time boundary. Having a personal time piece became useful/necessary. As the industrialization and specialization of work increased and factories perfected unique skills and owners could use workers with very little skills, paying them by the hour became an issue. Under threat now was the skill set, the concept of an apprenticeship, though the idea of gender and age preference were still acceptable norms. Males earned more, women less and children least. To pay them piece meal was preferable, but what was fair became a political issue. Time usage entered the political arena: Marxism, Utopian Socialism, Darwinism, Nietzscheism and other ideologies surfaced to deal with the relationship of time, to work, to money to society’s responsibility to manage them.

We all accept the concept of a weekend (though the French were very late to delineate this segment of time and even used the English word to describe it). Happy Hour is another. Starting time, Rush Hour, holiday time, retirement, pay be seniority and length of service is acceptable, jet lag, a 12-hour, 10-hour or 8-hour work day, minimum wage per hour, programming of media for a long time was coordinated to conform to a daily or weekly repetition. Length of songs, films and such were determined by segments of time and still are.

Could you shift your thinking if the world went on to a single time structure, with Zero time starting at Greenwich and everything 15 Degrees east or west adding an hour and keeping that time relation to Greenwich for all time. Noon and 12 o’clock PM would only occur along the Greenwich Meridian while noon (when the sun is directly overhead) would be 1 PM in Paris, and 7 AM in Manhattan everyday. There are immense problems with shifting this thinking if you go into it in any depth, but it is only an artificial paradigm agreed to by the masses, which is what today’s system is. For persons in Jane Austen’s day, one only had to look up to see what time it was and also know what month of the year it was. At night they would enlist cryers in the cities, but country folk were not concerned, they had nothing to decide during the dark.

As usual, we must appreciate that the Greeks were way ahead of us. Aristotle and Plato, as usual, disagreed. Plato contemplated and opined about where the concept of time came from and later Christianity appreciated this view:

WHEN the father creator saw the creature which he had made moving and living, the created image of the eternal gods, he rejoiced, and in his joy determined to make the copy still more like the original; and as this was eternal, he sought to make the universe eternal, so far as might be. Now the nature of the ideal being was everlasting, but to bestow this attribute in its fulness upon a creature was impossible. Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in unity; and this image we call time. For there were no days and nights and months and years before the heaven was created, but when he constructed the heaven he created them also. They are all parts of time, and the past and future are created species of time, which we unconsciously but wrongly transfer to the eternal essence;

For Plato, time was a container, timeless in itself, though all objects took up residence in a differing section of the container. We have not escaped these thoughts.

As we are now all in the year 2017 and at differing stages of life, let’s ask the importance about the concept of time in our present lives. As a history teacher I attempted to impart an appreciation for how man had manipulated and assumed he had gained control of the three dimensions associated with the worldly sciences or with human biology. He used his five senses and enhanced tools of measurement and manipulation to alter and control anything he could “see” within his realm. Man has controlled rivers, perfected machines utilizing power from coal, wind, wood, water, gravity, electricity, petroleum, radio and television waves, X-rays, atomic energy and such, all the while shifting our understanding of time either as a necessity associated with the object of the machines made, or because a bi-product is a completely new value for how we use and need time.

My lessons always noted that we cannot do anything to change the hours in the day and that managing what we do within them should be savored. Within those hours, the failures we experience can make us more appreciative of our successes as well as the efforts needed to achieve that success. We may also note that any amount of effort does not always guarantee the desired result. Within those human constructs of the entity time, with its past lessons and experiences informing our present decisions and planning for the future, we may be living not as we were intended. Yet, I find observing and studying what others have created in their own time periods marvelous and rewarding. Isn’t it astounding noting what can be accomplished by repetition, trial and error, causal logic and engineering, engaging in contemplation and applying all this gained knowledge to some project. The final product can be an artistic rendering to be appreciated by sight or hearing, or a medical accomplishment, new means of travel, use of robotics, and even the development of Artificial Intelligence to take over the labor of a job that can be reduced to digital repetition and recognition. We have truly created and accomplished fabulous things when focusing on goals that benefit us. If we lived as other animals did, living for survival, reacting only to that which presented itself to us, suspicious of that which would do us harm, looking for the transactional, zero-sum advantage, our miserly perspective on time would surely make us less happy, less comfortable and secure, and lead to more discord.

As we trundle along, chalking up seconds, minutes and hours, is each of us measuring them differently. Do some of us lament the loss of what has already transpired, do others measure success by factors that ignore time, within the time you are awake each day are you in the present or wishing for a better future or aching for what was lost in the past? I am always telling new acquaintances we’ve met since finally returning to Camden that I am trying to get back to the 19th century. In many ways I am. When I imagine figures in an English town told to me, perhaps by the author Austen or Hardy, I long to walk with them, hear the sounds they heard absent the modern intrusions, smell the scents that permeated their day as they sidled from the bath, to the kitchen, to the barn, to the stream, to the forest, to the pub. How distinct and segmented their days were, divided by geography and acquaintances and not by divisions on the clock. I would like to relearn the appreciation for a seasonal meal, a quiet time when the measurement of time resulted from my following the arc of the sun or the length of a shadow and that during that time I might only have my own consul or that of Mary sitting next to me on a bench in the shade, smelling all those wafting scents or watching all those other ambling souls or birds or insects or snowflakes passing our mutual existence. Have a great day.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/12/a-brief-economic-history-of-time/510566/

Speculation on how looking at the 4th Dimension might occur  http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/see-the-fourth-dimension.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/19/time-travel-a-history-james-gleick-review-our-fascination

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time/

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-timaeus/

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/opinion/sunday/time-to-dump-time-zones.html

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/fourth.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-get-to-the-fourth-dimension/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG6aIVGquOg

Movie Review and a bit of history.. Dunkirk OR Dunkerque : où est passée l’Histoire ?

Operation Dynamo - men wait in an orderly fashion for their turn to be rescued.Did you know about this important battle in World War Two where the British, Canadians, Belgians, Poles and French lost, but the battle became the stuff of legend? These five countries were entering very different futures for the next five years, with the British, fresh from dumping MacMillan and choosing Churchill to lead them, making the decision to enlist their civilian boat owners’ assistance in evacuating nearly 400,000 soldiers from the beach at Dunkirk/Dunkerque (do you say fillit or feelay for filet?). Today every British citizen knows of the “Dunkirk Spirit”. There have been excellent films in the past, Atonement among them, that featured Dunkirk. Though in Atonement it was for cinematographic reasons as much as historical context for the story.

With yesterday’s release of Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolandunkirk-poster with music by Hans Zimmer, you are treated to a masterpiece of storytelling, cinematography, appreciation for history (both of the military and cinema kinds) and a unique weaving of several stories at once, all on different timelines, that arrive at the film’s climax in such a stunning way as to leave you exhausted with the experience. This is being touted as Oscar-worthy, though it is also placed in the summer blockbuster line to compete for those dollars and may be sacrificing the later timing closer to Oscar voting. It is also being described as one of the best war films ever, though Mary and I liken it to The Thin Red Line and its approach, like Malik, is to look at war through individual struggle or survival and contained scenes, not sweeping, epic narratives. The characters in this film have no backstory, they don’t even all have names, but you pull for them throughout. Nolan is brilliant in weaving his tale. David Edelstein, whose reviews we normally love, didn’t love this or Nolan’s ‘tricks’. For fairness to his detractors, this one is a well-written splat.

Nolan, who has earned his chops and awards (and some derisive comments) from films like Memento, Inception, Interstellar, Man of Steel, and a gazillion Batman films, has now written the script for and directed Dunkirk. His IMDB bio describes him as “known for his cerebral, often nonlinear storytelling”. These attributes were put on full display in this film, with reviews mentioning Hitchcockian and artful as adjectives in the bylines. If you are going to see this film, note at its beginning Nolan will tell you about the chronological context he will be presenting and that there are three such notations then. He opens up with quiet and the calm before the storm….brilliant choices, as usual. The music will layer over the visuals slowly, but once it hooks into the story, the score becomes symbiotically enmeshed in what you are experiencing. Hans Zimmer actually went to the beach to get the proper feel of the location. Zimmer also has a personal connection to World War Two, discussed in this article. You finally get onto the beach, where Nolan molenolanshows you “The Mole” and gives you his first timeline. Note this. Soon, he will introduce you to a trio of RAF pilots ascending in their Spitfires and give you another timeline. Note this. It took me halfway into the film to figure out what was going on as part of the film is at night, part in the daytime, all the while Nolan is cutting back and forth between his three stories. I’m slow that way. The third timeline will be introduced in a harbor in England and takes place over a day, probably the 31st of May. Though Nolan filmed with some historical discrepancies, he was faithful much of the time to history.

From here on in this blog there are spoiler alerts. Of course, you probably know these facts: the Allies lost, Hitler took the beach finally, some English civilians saved the day and Churchill was in charge. What transpires from here on out is to help inform your viewing, though you will lose some of the surprise and wonder of Nolan’s storytelling by proceeding, as the use of reviews and stories related to the filming and analysis of its scenes will delve into the storyline and expose the middle and ending before you would get to them in real time sitting in the theater. Be forewarned. You may want to watch the film and return to this later to answer some questions you raise during the viewing. This may even be preferable…your choice.

The Mole is a breakwater in the city of Dunkerque, a commune in northern France about 10 kilometers from the Belgian border. The city has a little less than 100,000 inhabitants today, but it was largely depopulated in 1940. Google places it well if you are interested, showing you today’s pincered east and west breakwaters that are and were the Mole. Nolan, as he did his research for the film, knew he had to make “The Mole” central to his story. The French name is Jette de Malo, hence fillet or feelay references. The 1940 version is today not as it was then. The wooden section at the end was lost in a storm in the 1970s. A replica of the Mole with the wooden section at the end was rebuilt on the beach of Dunkirk article-1265061-09063763000005DC-977_306x423by Nolan and the actors fully appreciated the filming of the movie on the very sand where the incident occurred. See their interviews in links at the end. Also important in filming for Nolan was the authenticity he accomplished by filming in 65 mm IMAX film, even using vintage Spitfires for the Dog Fight scenes and laboriously setting up the IMAX cameras insight the cockpits in order to give the viewer a pilot’s eye view of the action. It works. Additionally, in casting relative unknown young actors of the appropriate age, especially Harry Styles of the One Direction group, he accomplished letting the everyman character of the soldiers’ stories gain greater traction.

 

 

 

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The context of the operation, known in military terms as Operation Dynamo, was renamed after the event as “The Miracle of Dunkirk”. It was planned, not by Winston Churchill, who was always willing to take credit whenever possible (he wrote a multi-volume history of England during his lifetime to make sure his own story within history was told in the most positive light), but by the military as it became apparent that they were in the predicament of losing their entire army. The real planning took place at Dover Castle in an underground bunker you may still visit today. The military figure in charge was Bertram Home Ramsay, ramseyperhaps one of the most unsung figures of the Second World War. To quote an article about him, “He was old- school, wasn’t he? Just did his job, never expected any fanfare.” I recommend the article for more detail about planning and numbers. Original hopes were to evacuate perhaps 43,000 troops. As the week unfolded, the need to enlist civilian help became paramount. Their smaller boats with minimum draft would allow them to get close to the beach in order to ferry troops out to the larger naval ships

 

 

 

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At the time of the battle, the French, Belgians, Canadians and British soldiers were being pushed back to the sea in northern France. The rest of the Belgian Army surrendered unconditionally to Hitler on May 28th and was in their own country as they lay down their arms. Some were still with the Allies on the beach, though, and some of these would be evacuated. The French will not surrender and sign an armistice until June 22nd, and this is part of the context of Nolan’s film. The French are very apparent in the film on the sands of Dunkirk, but the British are not too willing to assist in the evacuation from the film’s perspective. This is important to the narrative. (Be aware this film has no Americans, few women, and you don’t really see the face of a German pilot or soldier even though their presence is powerfully felt throughout). It is the three timelines that Nolan focuses on by telling them through very few persons’ perspectives, with thousands of extras as backdrop.

 

 

 

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The French, therefore, are not a major factor in this film save for one surprising character who will remain nameless until you see the film. At the time of Dunkirk, Churchill (and a relatively unknown general, DeGaulle) wanted to keep the French in the war to make Hitler’s chances of domination of Europe less viable. There are some interesting  historians’ views about the French and what they did at this time, but that is another story. Vichy France and the division of French citizens into differing camps will occur from this time on until today’s politics in France. There are also some interesting perspectives on why Hitler gave his Stop Order to halt his tanks, what part the Luftwaffe and Goehring had to do with Dunkirk and such. I have placed a few links about these at the end, too, if you are interested.

For eleven days the evacuation actually occurs. The breakwater allowed the larger naval vessels to get into port, though this became impossible after May 28th when the German air force destroyed crucial sections of the Mole. What is not explained in the film well (to better emphasize the little boats) is that the breakwater allowed for larger ships to evacuate most of the soldiers by this method and that most actually got onto the naval ships by this method. Some actually waded out to ships at low tide, as well.

The film looks at the importance of The Mole, but also has a second timeline story told through the character played by Mark Rylance, a civilian captain of a pleasure boat, one of nearly 700 boats making up a flotilla called, “The Little Boats” in history, a flotilla that did most of its duty on May 31st when nearly 70,000 troops were evacuated. After ferrying troops, they filled their boats as well and headed for home, either to Dover, but mainly to Ramsgate.

 

 

 

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The third timeline, taking place within an hour’s timeline of its own within the film, is the battle in the air over Dunkirk. Nolan brilliantly weaves this story within the parallel one-week story of the Mole, overlapping it with the one day story of the Little Boats, cutting back and forth and eventually tying them together in its thrilling climax.

If you have not linked on the Little Boats link by now, please go back. It is a blog called, A Year of Living Englishly where the writer of the blog tells the story of the little boats through pictures and personal connections to the story. His great uncle was one of the last persons off the beach at Dunkirk. At the end of this blog are other links describing various aspects of Dunkirk, either in history or related to Nolan’s film. Note that historians disagree as to the number of civilians, whether many boats were taken without the owners’ knowledge and permission and manned by naval personnel or whether they were built up in numbers for propaganda purposes that have now become the stuff of history.

 

 

 

 

Poetry about Dunkirk..  LINK

Description of the Mole in USA Today   https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2017/07/20/meet-nightmare-christopher-nolans-dunkirk-mole/490854001/

J.B. Priestly on the Little Ships  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYNv4ozHJDw

Youtube clip giving background outside of Dunkirk   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcX8NvJPOFc

Critic’s take with which I agree…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T91YvMBm3E8

Review  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbcKcG0a_sY

Article in the Telegraph about the 75th Anniversary  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/france/nord-pas-de-calais/articles/Dunkirk-remembered-Britains-great-escape-75-years-on/

Interviews with the main actors

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddvisux4sr8   Tom Hardy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BkS7_ft5LY  Kenneth Branagh

Cillian Murphy  interview

Mark Rylance and Barry Keoghan  Interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS_9lvbT-ec  Mark Rylance

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE-qS1COcPw  Harry Styles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdLUsD73KvU  Tom Hardy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD5-dLeO8UY  several actors

 

Student exam paper on Dunkirk

RAF website on the film and its pilots

Good background on why Hitler stopped his tanks on May 24th

Churchill’s famous speech on June 4th at the end of the Dunkirk evacuation. He notes at the beginning of the speech to not undersell the nature of this catastrophe, but he ends on this high note for which he is now famous… It is used at the end of the film , too..      “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Philosophical discussions/arguments about how humans “experience” reality are in two camps similar to one’s navel: Are you an outey or an inney?

hobbesAs we enter the upward swing of the Twenty-First Century, where our experiences are being digitized and when Artificial Intelligence is in existential competition with our own, philosophers are still dealing with life’s two major unresolved issues: What humans still ponder are the nature of consciousness and the creation of all things. In trying to pin down in a logical way what the nature of these two issues are, one could lean towards statements that take us towards a Kurt Gödel-like statement like, “This statement is unprovable”.

These two timeless questions/issues are now explored through the science available in our new age of machines that can get into the subatomic levels. In attempting to define the consciousness that all of us have experienced and one that artists, scientists, philosophers, poets and others of the human species have attempted to either represent or define in some mode since perhaps the time of the caveman, let’s leave that cosmological theory of creation for another blog and deal with the consciousness issue first.

Internalists and Externalists: In the field of consciousness discussions, there are these two primary groups, each of which has many distinctive defenders of differing stripes. Those who ponder consciousness at a scientific or philosophical level wonder whether our minds create our world from inside the mind’s workings where the very structure of the mind creates its own order to fit in with the order it perceives and brings into the electrochemical workers there, or must the mind have an outside source to “perceive” and then render into its consciousness to deal with the immediate, ponder the past and attempt to predict the future. Must consciousness have ‘meaning’ and therefore some kind of narrative? Or can consciousness be a random accident, selected by evolution, the ‘foam on the waves’ of brain activity. But consciousness seems so radically vital to all our lives to allow each of us to explore “meaning” on our own terms.

Here is a definition from an “Inney” proponents: Consciousness is what we can know best and explain least. It is the inner subjective experience of what it feels like to see red or smell garlic or hear Beethoven. https://www.closertotruth.com/series/what-consciousness-part-1

The “Outey” defenders are perhaps best described through the words of Riccardo Manzotti. His recent book on the subject expects that everything we “experience” in a known outside world informs our consciousness. I will leave it to his article to expand on his arguments as you also get some better understanding of the Inney group’s thoughts through the interview responses. Though Manzotti is firmly convinced of his theory’s veracity, there are still those two schools and much disagreement as to meaning and perception and thought. To tempt you in the direction of the article, take a look at the red square below and then perhaps click on this link..http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/07/20/a-test-for-consciousness/ to the article for more illumination. He offers this as an defense of why consciousness comes from outside.

To explain his approach to the two squares below….We experience color in the brain, but only because it comes from an outside source. It is not possible to argue as to whether my cyan is the same perception as your cyan, but we label each of our experiences in seeing it as such and have agreed on the name cyan. But neuroscientists know we have the ability to distinguish through our receptors in the brain and that the absence of all or only some colors or the full immersion of all colors gives us the spectrum we experience inside our brains and store in our mind. The union of light and chemistry and something else is at hand in this “consciousness” and for Manzotti it is something that can be measured.

Manzotti asks you to stare at the red square for about twenty seconds then shift to the white square. Some say you will see green, but for purposes of the neuroscientists and our understanding of color, Manzotti argues you must agree it is specifically cyan because of a simple fact associated with color, each one’s complement and color fatigue. What do you think? See his article for further understanding of his meaning.parks-manzotti-slide1

I find it intriguing in light of the argument that perhaps we, as humans, have evolved and perhaps our consciousness is different now than it was three thousand years ago.self-consciousness-langmaidpractice-com Is this because of culture, man’s purpose, authority, evolution….????  Of course, there are many other issues involved in that thought and that takes us to art, culture, language and the nature of the individual and how he ‘thinks’ of himself in any time period and place and his relationship to both.

Is there something special about consciousness? dogggCan our inner subjective experience—the sight of purple, smell of cheese, sound of Bach—ever be explained in purely physical terms? Even in principle? Most scientists see consciousness as a science problem to solve. Some philosophers claim that consciousness can never be explained in terms of current science.

Historically, humans have probably always dealt with this problem. But, as humans, whose brains have evolved over hundreds and thousands of years (or in another view of consciousness or conscienceness that was put forward through some religious authority, man was created fully formed as we are today…this is another discussion), we have consistently wondered about our place in the universe. What anthropologists and later historians have opined or at least speculated about is whether earlier humans ‘thought’ differently about their own consciousness as it applied to their world. omPrior to the Greeks, did all men accept their lot as being part of a huge plan that was out of their control, or was everyone a libertarian/Nietzchean/lout out only for survival ? Did he/she think of ‘self’ in a way that was the same as we in the 21st century. The consensus is no. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/#HisIss

From the time in the West when Christian man took on the humanism of the Renaissance, we started on a different path, though it is intriguing how much that man of the 14th, 15th or 16th centuries owed to the Greek thinkers from two thousand years prior to their eras and whether they were experiencing, thinking and articulating their place in their contemporary worlds the same. Are we in the 21st century reading into what the Greeks meant with their thoughts and surviving writings? Would we understand and appreciate them as we do any other group today? Does that beg the question as to whether we have residual, less-modern groups still in existence today who are “less” evolved that our modern thoughts are and that they cling to outmoded consciousness?descartes_comic_strip_by_rgunx-d4nsm67.pngCertainly by the time we get to Hamlet, we are in the Modern Age. This will lead us to free will questions,to purpose, to us and them and to the science of psychology eventually. Neuroscience and the ability of current humans to “see” inside our brains has led us further into the discussion. We continue this evolution of thought it seems….

 

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With the extended use of Artificial Intelligence, much of it taking over more than physical jobs but now also expanding into anything that can be digitized and given over to the logic of an algorithm, we are really challenging the whole nature of existence and consciousness. I, though, for one, am most intrigued by the solutions offered to the question, “How can another person look at my world and present me with a metaphor that explains it in poetry, literature, a photo, a painting, a song, a instrumentation, a formula, a model or any of the myriad ways that we communicate our consciousness and place those thoughts in context of time and place (and whatever other planes that our five senses do not readily appreciate to give a nod to those transcendentalists)?    calvin

ibm

Philosophy of Consciousness

Another Brick in Trump’s Wall…The Beat Goes On and Pink Floyd is a possible lode star: Capitalism, Mercantilism and Libertarianism in Today’s Economies

pinkfloydphoto    We all are aware of #45’s love of walls. I love the concept of a wall for a metaphor, too. Trump has been trying to erect several walls: the one on the Mexican border and one to stop any further investigation into his Russia dealings. The latter, with GOP collusion, is an attempt to prevent the rest of us from learning what he knows and did during the campaign that involved the Russians; recent revelations seem to indicate there is a fire behind all this smoke. We shall see if the ten or so current individuals involved within the Trump wall becomes a larger congregation of followers. Too, we can see if the other members of the Trump church still believe at the end of it all.

Robert Frost loved walls as a metaphor, too. His complex poem on same allows for much speculation, with perhaps this excerpt useful in exploration….Before I build a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense. If you are interested in a diversion related to Frost, the Soviets, Berlin and the complexities found within the lines of his wall poem, this is a great article. Sarah Palin used his poem, many others have, too, not always with an appreciation for the deeper understandings one needs in delving into poetry. Of course, Ms. Palin is not too well equipped with deeper understanding on many levels, so I just mentioned her to offer context. Yet, Frost’s meaning is purposely ambiguous and any interpretation begs further analysis, discussion and argument. Too, who is the audience/reader is worth inserting into any analysis. Frost himself was specific in his insistence that he would not give its meaning away himself. saying, “The secret of what it means I keep.”

In this blog, though, let’s look at the term wall as it applies to economics. When man settled into domestic life some eight to ten millennia ago, producing more goods than he could himself consume, he invented a means of exchange with specie 1200px-MauryanCoinutilized and honored by the rest of his group in order to suspend payment and allow the currency they established to be used later. The value of that specie is the subject of this blog. In the past couple of centuries the world’s most powerful economies have accepted differing single specie for measuring the world’s exchange of trade goods, though in reality we are only talking about the Western World from the Renaissance forward. Gold and silver once were the revered currencies. When trade increased in the 15th century, first the Italians, then the Spanish, later the French, followed by the British and now the US currency became the world’s currency, and letters of credit and bank notes became acceptable by everyone as legitimate and to have a universally known value. Paper money as an exchange instrument is only really viable over the past three or four hundred years.

As I started this blog, sometime around the beginning of the month, I have set it aside to think a bit more, to return to it for amendments and to just pause in my posting to avoid reader fatigue…though I suspect I may be pushing that envelope. In the meantime, Paul Krugman came into view as an economist and hit this blog’s theme perfectly in one of his own blog postings on July 10th titled, Formerly True Theories (Wonkish and Self-Indulgent). He speaks to the very nature of specie and currency over history that is very pertinent here. I only found it on the 14th and I posted this on today’s date, so you can tell how long I have been incubating this blog. In this opinion piece he parallels much of the message of this blog in discussing the historical nature of economies with money, where those economies have either specie for exchange or, in more recent centuries, currency that was backed up by specie. For Fair and Balanced thinking I invite you to a Forbes article critiquing Krugman, too. Krugman brings out some wonderful ideas and mentions some of the giants in economic theory like Malthus, Ricardo, Hume and Smith, all of whom are still alive in GOP thinking. What does not get covered in his blog is the bonkers nature of humans, the possible Nietzschean, Freudian, Darwinian or Machiavellian views, all of whom took a few lessons from the Greek philosophy of Thrasymachus. Mr. Trump is only the latest iteration idiot.

As we watched the recent Hamburg G-20 talks unfold and attempt to calculate the impact of decisions made there, economists around the world are obviously front and center in their interest in the proceedings. There were also detractors of many kinds who protested their perceived destructive force of the economic models championed by the leaders of the G-20 nations. In due time, perhaps in another ten years but certainly within the next fifty years, the present administration’s economic policy will be discussed in historical context. Right now, we are still trying to figure out what it really is and what it will do to the US and world economies. To the extent that anyone in the administration knows anything about the history of economics, their attempts to “Make American Great Again” is central to their policy making.

From here on out I think the answers to this administration’s economic philosophy will come fast and furious, humptytrumptyas #45’s economic, military and foreign policy decisions are not easy to discern or to predict and some very important members of the Republican elite are starting to show signs of unease as to what has been happening and may have reached their limits of tolerance. The value of the dollar and the stability of that world trade are at risk to the decisions coming out of the White House, let alone the very nature of American democracy and the integrity the office of president has traditionally held in the eyes of the world. Just today there was a piece about tariffs and Bourbon, which brings home to those Kentuckians who voted for Trump how close to home and one’s wallet the folly of that decision now is. Another article on the administration, now at this very late date, allowing visas for foreign workers to fill the many vacancies in skilled and unskilled labor in this summer’s seasonal needs points to the problems #45 has created for those very voters who supported him. Shrimp, worth millions, is being left in the Gulf of Mexico for unmanned nets, dockside offloading, peelers and such.

The Republican Party and Democratic Party have relied on globalism, trade agreements, open markets, as much free trade as possible with only limited tariffs for the past 70 years. The major factor one must keep in mind in order to understand the issue of trade is the interesting fact that is causing such problems between these political entities, the idea of a wall. A wall is something that separates, whether it is psychological, physical or an imaginary line on the globe that is established and “protected” by some political entity.

In the US, a unique country in that states rights and federal rights are incorporated into our Constitution, these imaginary lines are drawn to delineate cities, states, congressional districts, and the country’s borders and all of these different boundaries have caused tremendous problems and create issues in politics, economics, health care, elections, etc. The economic purpose of any economic wall within the US is to have the respective government authority in charge of its wall to collect taxes, regulate what happens to the citizens  and provide services to them and infrastructure for them from the funds collected. Also, each of the political entities that make up the regions of the USA also want to know for various reasons what happens when goods sell within their boundaries/wall. For instance, as we sell our products in Maine, but also ship them outside of Maine, we have to keep track of anything that happens, either within our store walls or shipped within the state of Maine, in order to pay the state its 5.5%. If it goes to Portsmouth, a quarter mile over that imaginary line, we don’t tack on the 5.5%. Amazon loves this as does UPS.

How those goods are valued is the “simple” issue that economists are interested in exploring. It is a science, of sorts, as it looks for empirical evidence to establish and support claims made about theories. Yet, as it is measuring humans, it is bonkers, or should I rephrase that as unreliable, and the economic measurement of trade must also take into account the psychological wall. And, for the US, the economic discussion is a really strange one that is tied to political history and the country’s thoughts about the ‘isms’ that surfaced over the past two centuries related to politics and economics. I listed three in the title for this blog’s perspective, with the caveat that there are many ‘isms’ that cause us fear and therefore affect the value of goods being traded within these fearful market conditions. We have been discussing the very nature of human morality since we have been humans, and economic philosophy and political theory must include morality in their foundations, something still apparent in the current discussions of Left and Right. With new companies created to utilize capitalistic principles like Uber and Amazon and Ebay, discussions about ethics do not go away in the public forum, do they. As Krugman says at the end of the July 10th blog after using it to educate, inform and influence, “I now return you to our regularly scheduled Trump coverage.”  For me, I now return you to this blog.

Within the US, we have allowed four walls to effect every one of us: Inside of those different kinds of walls economically, there is an exchange of goods between all the inhabitants, some of whom, by living in a city, have the distinction of living inside all four boundaries. The inhabitant of a city lives under the economic obligations of taxation and regulation that abides within the city or county boundaries and sometimes pays an additional tax to go along with the additional regulations and laws, but he is also obligated to a state, the US IRS and its laws and he also has the possibility to purchase goods that originated anywhere in the world and can be purchased through snail mail or online to be delivered to his/her door.

So, again, four walls to consider: the global one, the US one, the state one and the local one that may sometimes act outside of any control by the other three because it is here that services and goods that cannot be outsourced to an area inside one of the other three walls’ jurisdiction takes place, sometimes with limited or no governmental control. Think of what a barber or anyone who functions in a business that cannot be outsourced and can be done on a cash basis. It is then that he could be independent of any outside control. 02-eel-trafficking.adapt.1190.1The extreme of this is the black market or drug market that functions outside of any legal wall’s control. For instance, here in Ellsworth, Maine, a recent illegal black market has arisen out of baby glass eels. There is a reason for any black/illegal market. Libertarians often have sympathy for these types of markets as they are pure capitalism, ones with no moral compass, only pricing based on market conditions. Think of baby eels at $2000 a pound, for instance.

That first wall, the really ephemeral global wall of very porous economies that rely on instantaneous digital money movement, use of labor forces outside of First World Countries, growth of deficit accounts, etc., is the one that the G20 is trying to manage. The dollar is the currency of choice in that game, though the local currencies are important. None of them is in a position to supplant the dollar as the world’s value tool, which has given us a very big advantage in the game since Bretton Woods, which pegged all currencies to a Gold Standard. Our misuse or taking advantage of this fact (Gold was valued in dollars from then on), led to the US to remove itself from the Gold Standard in Nixon’s presidency in 1971.  Gold is still measured in dollars and is also floating in value based on the global factors, not how much each country holds in its vaults. This is called the Fiat System.

Globalism is under the control to a limited extent of the Fed, the Congress, the President, the Walmarts and Apples and other monster companies, and the individual purchaser of goods in South Dakota’s Dollar Store or in your local super market or at your local bricks and mortar store or at the farmers’ market. Plus, nearly all of the other 200 or so odd countries in the world contribute to the value of the world’s economy, their own and each one has its own limited effect on all the other countries’ economic stability of instability. Each country, with its own ephemeral wall, is trying to gain as much as it can from the global market game. We have all, everywhere hooked up to the global spigot. As each currency is tacitly an agent of stored value, where anyone who possesses it can save them up for future use on anything he/she wishes to use them for, stability is paramount and limited inflation is desired. Bretton Woods understood this fully.

The United States decided to design this strange country in the late 1780s, by making two distinct types of walls within the country; thirteen state walls and one national wall. We have had problems with that since that decision and much of what we do is very messy because of it. This morning Mitch McConnell woke up to his biggest mess because of this fact; he has many walls to accommodate in trying to manipulate an effective conclusion to the country’s health policies based on the many walls deciding the 2018 elections.

These two additional distinct US walls’ economies work within the wall of the larger, global one. This is the one Trump is attacking, the global ‘wall’. The federal economy (the larger US wall) and a separate state economies (under the ‘control’ of originally 13 entities and now more than 50 when you look at Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and other fed-controlled walls) also compete within the global one. Then, within these, as it has occurred for the past ten thousand years, there is the very local economy, which is a fourth wall. In the United States at present, a great many of the participants in the economy are in favor of libertarian economics as I mentioned earlier, which is pure capitalism and having no federal oversight and almost no taxation. They do not like the control of the first three walls on many levels at all. It is a most selfish position, though the protestors in Hamburg at the G20, frustrated by these walls, do have some valid points.

It is the existence of these four walls that causes our US problems and how we decide also affects the globe’s 6 billion other inhabitants, economically, militarily and on climate changes. A related topic, the health care debate, is now becoming primarily an economic one, as the Republicans have the reins. The idea of health, medicine, ethics, fairness, are all being subjugated to a bottom line. That probably won’t work as Congress tries to function and legislate prior to the August recess and the GOP’s attempt to ‘correct’ the ledger based on ideology is causing them impossible problems to solve. That an insurance company like Blue Cross Blue Shield can operate in Tennessee, or Maine, or California is a fact, but they must deal with the wall of each state and laws that force them to approach each state differently and therefore the cost of doing business is determined differently in each state. Should they, must they, can they (whoever the they are as an entity) allow companies to compete across state lines (George Will believes this is a must)? Does the federal government have ultimate control of that economic and ethical choice, or should the guy in North Dakota who just wants to have the same health options as the guy on Fifth Avenue. Who pays for his hospital in rural Dakota? Is it as good as the one in Charlotte, or in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, or at Johns Hopkins? Can a Mayor Bloomberg, local legislator in a city within a state, ‘encourage’ New Yorkers to cut down on their sugar intake by regulating glass sizes? Can St. Louis, a blue city within a red state, establish its own minimum wage? Can I barter with my electrician to swap something of value for his labor, all off the books? Should the farmers’ market exchange be taxed the same as the Hannaford’s? As far as Health Care, I may feel the need to look at this in a future blog and have already started taking notes. As someone said, it’s complicated.

As of now, economic decisions are floating in 2017. There is no agreement within Congress, for certain, and certainly not within the GOP. They built their recent brand of the past thirty years or so on fiscal responsibility, but the word responsibility is a loaded one. Responsible to the group or to one’s own self. The libertarian/Tea Party wing chooses the latter at all our expense. We don’t have leadership at present to decide what is best related to those four walls.

Now Trump has the reins, to a certain ephemeral extent, on the US position related to its economy and therefore great influence on the world’s economy (and its stability). In the past century the US assumed the role of the most trusted measuring tool in the world’s exchange of goods through supplanting the Pound Sterling, moving off the Gold Standard, and setting up internationally recognized agreements on economy and trade for capitalist nations at Bretton Woods and ultimately the system that allow for money to be valued through fiat. Trump is finally accountable on some level that interests a lot of people in his party who need him and also the other 98% of the world who hates him.

We are trying to figure out Trump’s wall. We are now exploring his own psychological wall ala Pink Floyd. He seems to be inevitably spiraling towards insanity or dementia or what. His philosophy is impossible to discern, unless one uses Greek mythology and terminology using reflecting pools. It appears he is about to pull his US finger from what he thinks is a hole in the trade wall and put tariffs on certain goods to encourage/protect/stimulate the economy within our own wall, that imaginary line around the US and its territories that actually has been irreversibly breached over the past three or more decades through globalism. There are not many who have respectable reputations as economists who feel Trump is making good decisions for the economy (save for the protections he is affording those in his tax bracket). The decisions after 1929 by economists and legislators prohibited tariffs and economic agents of evil, in fact, with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, the economic wall that has been built since 1945 is not the actual boundary of the US, it’s the much larger arranged, ephemeral wall of trade that has occurred through this capitalist globalized era. It is this arrangement that caused the Soviet Union to fail and which opened up the Chinese economy to the rest of the world. It was not Ronald Reagan personally taking down the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Empire. The governments and companies throughout the world’s approximately 200 countries have willingly accepted the global case for trade with each one to varying degrees doing its own tiny bit of mercantilism where it can. Yet, all are accepting of that US dollar as their arbiter, which is what has the economists from either the Chicago school or the Harvard and Berkeley schools discussing what to do about this arrangement.

Speaking of mercantilism…a very short lesson. Just about the time that our strange country was deciding what it would be in the late 1770s, the Europeans were at the apex of the mercantilistic system that had been perfected under the tutelage of Louis XIV and his ministers, with the fulcrum then just starting in the 1770s to tip in favor of capitalism and imperialism as the new ‘isms’ on the block. Adam Smith comes along to start the ball rolling on trying to describe and defend ‘laissez faire’. Yet, for the past hundred-plus years prior to 1781, the world had been relying on mercantilism: protection of one’s own country’s economy over all others and measuring wealth by how much gold stayed/came inside the borders. Tariffs were the economic weapons then. Bringing expertise from other countries to train one’s citizens in jobs that workers from other countries might do more effectively was also a tool. Immigration, hmm. Tariffs ultimately led to trade wars, higher costs, and the little man paid the price in higher goods, and where competition for wages drove them lower and control by some other entity than the little man decided his fate. Enter Charles Dickens AND the Ayn Rand and the Viennese School of Economics, which tweaked Adam Smith’s vision of capitalism further. We always forget about Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ of determined self interest that he thought was a Christian one…moral boundaries, to be sure.

One country that is nearly completely outside of the economic wall the world uses today is North Korea. Its economic arrangement is determined by only a few individuals and they are either within North Korea or in Beijing (with a few local Chinese players within a short distance of the 800 mile long border making their “local” arrangements that are not completely privy to or under the control of Beijing (and can we assume there are a few North Korean players guilty of playing outside the rules, too)). Because it has pursued a weapons program for the past two generations over which the world has little control, the world relies on the pressure the Chinese can put on them. It used to be the Soviets who were the puppet masters, but that has been supplanted by history and economics and local control…Beijing is much closer than Moscow and its economy is huge compared to Russia’s.  It remains to be seen whether Beijing has the interest or/and the ability to do something to influence Kim. Again, we are also wondering what Trump knows and will do regarding these arrangements as he tries, like every administration before him, to deal with the present Kim guy in charge. Another blog, though, sorry for this short diversion.

To close out this blog, consider Pink Floyd. Its iconic album, The Wall, is useful as a metaphor for Mr. Trump. Beyond its timely discussion, its timeless message is applicable today. If you look at the analysis of the Another Brick in the Wall: Part 1 in the album analysis,wall album it looks at the psychological state of an individual struggling to define his place in the world…just as we all do. Trump has certainly built a wall between him and anything resembling empathy for anyone else. It is hopefully the final stages of Mr. Trump’s influence on that world that we are presently witnessing. Recent revelations concerning his son, his son-in-law and Manafort seem to be putting exceeding pressure on that spigot that is holding back the tide of investigation and revelation and perhaps now we can see the possibility of toppling the GOP wall of resistance to investigation. As pointed out recently in an article, the GOP was happy to grasp any whiff of scandal and investigate Hillary.  Yet, they have been slow to pick up on the obvious issues concerning their president and dragging their feet at every turn to avoid investigating. Are they about to find their principles and finally conclude he has duped them as he has so many of those with whom he has done business. Check out Ross Douthat’s July 11 oped piece. Is he really going to be Humpy Dumpty when this is all over?

Those Thousand Elephants: Sy Safransky and his amazing magazine

Hermann Hesse wrote, ‘Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.’”

Nearly forty-five years ago now, one of my contemporaries took on a project of passion that became his life’s work. We Baby Boomers all came of age after films changed from B&W to color, missed FDR and Truman in the same way our parents experienced him though we may have technically been alive for one or both (my dad, a lifelong Republican voted only once for a Democrat in FDR) and we knew little of the McCarthy era and the Civil Rights issues that were exploding upon the American scene in the 50s even though it was right under our noses every day.

Even though Sy and I grew up in the same era, his experiences were very different based on his specific roots, family and personal cultural history. He started in Brooklyn, not the Brooklyn of today but, as he says, the time before Brooklyn was “Brooklyn”. He is of Jewish heritage, though from its cultural roots rather than its religious one. We owe so, so much in America to those roots. While I was wandering naively back and forth across the nation following my dad’s postings as a Marine brat, some important times in Virginia, a bit of Kentucky and a lot of Southern California, Sy was a city boy from New York. That meant he, through his parents’ liberal discussions at the dinner table, his exposure to the Bedford-Stuyvesant of the 50s and 60s, to the Robert Moses efforts in New York at the same

time, the certainly different perspectives his parents had on the McCarthy hearings and many other issues they surely discussed and with which he was a part, made him attuned to the world in a way very different to my own upbringing. But, I think we have aligned our two Venn Diagrams greatly over these past fifty years. I now recommend him heartily and am sad I came so late in learning of him. For some of you, I am sure your paths have crossed his earlier already and you know of his efforts for literature, for the little man, for humanity. Here is a passage I’ll borrow from his history page of The Sun Magazine’s webpage to introduce him to those other novices among you like me….

  “One day in the early seventies, a young man with a hunger for truth and a love of good writing quit his job as a New York City newspaper reporter. He was tired of churning out routine news articles. It seemed to him that some of the most important stories never made the headlines: stories that challenged the status quo; that explored the messy and heroic lives of real people; that touched the mystery of our humanity.

   In 1974, as the war in Vietnam was winding down and President Richard Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal, Sy Safransky typed up the first issue of The Sun in a friend’s garage in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he was living at the time. He wanted to start a magazine that would present courageous, honest writing and respect readers in a fundamental way. To print that issue, he had to borrow fifty dollars. Then he stood on the street with a stack of stapled pages under his arm, trying to convince passersby to pay 25 cents per magazine. He ended up giving most of them away.

   He had no savings, no business plan, no staff — just a conviction that if he worked hard and stayed true to his ideals, The Sun would survive. During those early years, when he carried his “office” in his backpack and kept the names of subscribers on index cards in his pocket, he learned that committing himself to something he believed in gave him the strength to get up early, stay up late, and do what he could never do just for the money. And though The Sun nearly went bankrupt many times, it never did.”

The magazine has survived through now more than 500 editions. Just this month he celebrated that milestone and he now has a staff working for him, all of like minds. He is still in Chapel Hill, which means Mary and I were in his neighborhood a few times and were unaware. Funny how the Venn Diagrams of life happen and then you hear about the time you were in someone’s territory but didn’t know it at the time. As an historian my favorite parts of history are those times that describe these linkages and then they are articulated by those great historians at some later time for us to savor. I am at least thankful I have the ability to recognize their meaning, if not the ability to articulate their significance as well as I would like. Sy has seeded some great writers and poets, though he gives all of his readers an opportunity to contribute. It is part of the philosophy of his community on line and in print.His magazine is unique in that it does not contain nor is it influenced by advertising. His stories rip at the very nature of American life and often, either through the photography or the words, lays bare the bones in our sinew. If I were to recommend an article to get one’s first taste, sample this one about Gregory Bright, written by him and Lara Naughton called, Twenty-Seven And A Half Years

There are many others once you browse the magazine’s website, as Sy has graciously made his archives available. In the past forty-three years, Sy’s magazine has grown to attract 70,000 subscribers, who receive his little piece of American dreams in the mail every month. I will add to that list shortly. He has been interviewed about his magazine and his life, the links to them are at the end. Enjoy. He is soft-spoken, self-effacing and intelligent, things we’ve all found wanting in the past year or so. In one such interview he was intrigued by a question and he then went on to write a response. This was in 2007 and brings us to those Thousand Elephants. Here again is Sy in his own words, but, please, do click on the link to savor his wit, humor and humanity in this one page. Your day will be better for it. Too, in order to learn the significance of those elephants, you must.

Sy, in describing his magazine’s purpose in 2007:safransky_-image4 “I said it’s partly because of the deeply personal nature of much of what we publish. It’s also because we try to relate to our readers without cleverness or guile. We’re not selling a solution to life’s problems or presenting ourselves as any wiser than we actually are. I think of the magazine as a conversation between a writer and a reader. A conversation is interesting to me when people are being genuine, when they’re more concerned with sharing difficult truths than with showing off. What’s the use of striking a pose? We’re all in the same boat — mysterious flesh-and-blood creatures, radiant and broken — and of course the boat is sinking, but there’s still time to share a story or two as the night comes on.”

or, from another interview of Sy, “When I started the magazine I toyed with the idea of calling it The Sometimes Sunshine,” Safransky quipped. “It seemed more descriptive of my sometimes melancholic nature. “But now I can’t imagine it being called anything but The Sun.”

 or “If you read someone a poem you’ve written, you don’t want to be asked, ‘What does it mean?’ You want the poem to stand on its own. I feel that way about The Sun. I don’t like to label The Sun as ‘literary’ or ‘political’ or ‘spiritual’ because it ends where those labels begin, which is where life gets interesting.”

others on the magazine’s influence: East West Journal says “The Sun gently opens the heart, soothes troubled feelings, and probes matters of the spirit with a clear and grounded intelligence . . . . The whole magazine is like an intelligent compassionate friend who perceptively articulates your innermost thoughts and dreams.” Utne Reader awarded Safransky’s publication its Alternative Press Award, calling it “a magazine completely unlike any other, always personal, always meaningful, always unexpected.”

Please enjoy the other links at the end if you have enjoyed the introduction to Sy found here. He is a real treat in all the manifestations found in those links.

https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-sun-magazines-sy-safransky-muses-on-lifes-brevity-before-dawn-in-many-alarm-clocks/Content?oid=4408343

http://www.statedmag.com/articles/interview-sy-safransky-the-sun-and-the-stars-who-revolve-aro.html#

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm_1uecNQLQ

http://gracefullyradio.com/aging-gratefully-a-legendary-writereditor-on-growing-old/

http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/474/twenty_seven

http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/373/a_thousand_elephants?page=2

http://thesunmagazine.org/about/a_brief_history

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ron-howell-goodbye-bed-stuy-article-1.1978542

A Thousand Elephants and Boom Boom:Musings born out of yesterday in Northeast Harbor

elephants carvedThis spring, while moving things into our store space on Sea Street, we had the good fortune to meet Hank Jordan, whose 93 year old mother lives across the street from our store. Hank lives in nearby Surry, but tends to several of the homes owned by wealthy summer residents. Hank turned out to be good-natured, full of the local history and a good, Maine storyteller. As former owner of the grocery store in town and having lived in a town of less than a thousand for those ninety years, his mother, I’m sure, knows everyone’s story. Hank, as her son, has done a mighty fine job of collecting them, too, as well as contributing to a few on his own. I’d say he’s in his mid-fifties now.

Like most coastal towns in Maine, especially those in proximity to an inhabited offshore island, there are many levels of citizens. A smaller number are the True Mainers. They live here all year round and have done so forever. Then there are the summer ‘cottage’ or ‘camp’ owners who fly in with Lear jets, bring staff, and shore up the economy. They are the captains of industry and finance and intelligence in America all along this coast. As summer residents and owners of the grandest of properties, they do not qualify as Maine citizens due to their limited time in state and they do not vote in Maine~that is the privilege of the True Mainers. Then, for good measure, there are an even smaller number of islanders living a unique life off the coast. For them, when they come across on the ferry, they are coming to the United States. All other time spent on their island is a unique blend of Valhalla, Robison Crusoe and Handyman Hank seeing to the properties of those captains of America who finance the whole show and own properties on the islands, as well. (For fun, click on this link to see a cartoon version of this relationship made famous by the brother of a good friend, who married a Taiwanese lass. Therefore, an amalgam of their two names O’Brien and Chang, the O’Chang Comics) Then, at the bottom of the heap are the vacationers who come to lick the ice cream cones. They are supposed to arrive, spend little time, break nothing, buy food and drink and then leave: while here they can also play miniature golf, whale watch, hike, bike, see a movie, but don’t use the special back road around the traffic jams that only the locals know about.

The true Mainers have several generations under their skin and know how to work six or seven jobs, create, repair and cook a variety of things and one needs at least an hour with all of them to ask a simple question and elicit a response. There are too many stories to just let a simple life live its own pace, one must slow it down here in Maine and spin a yarn.

My most recent story actually involved Hank and was not told by him. The previous night Mary and I had ventured up to Town Center where two establishments coexist on the same property; Mainley Meats and the Atlantic Brewing Company. This is a collusion of the best kind. The meat that comes to the table is tender, tasty and amply piled on the plate. The beverages work well, too.

Mary and I split one of those ample plates and the waitress, on bringing the one plate, asked if we might want a second, empty plate to divide our meal. We declined, figuring we could handle the proper apportioning of the various offerings on the Sampler Plate. Yet, with good natured kidding the two elderly gentlemen next to us said they would share with us. We chuckled and made some acceptable comment that allowed us all to get on with our meals (from appearances it was not immediately apparent as to their state or regional origin…one must remain vigilant and suspicious now-a-days and this being July the parking lot was full of at least six states’ licenses). They had just finished two enormous and fabulous looking hamburgers and were just visiting afterwards. As we later finished our meal, they were still enjoying their company.

Something at that time led to further conversation. We were not sure if they were from some point south=Boston, NY, Philly or elsewhere, where the pace was faster, the people more numerous, the suspicions with one’s neighbors more prevalent and we were happy to continue to keep it simple and quick. But, the man closest to me pressed a few questions, asked what we were doing in Maine and if we were enjoying ourselves. With our fifteen year history locally and nearly thirty since buying in Camden, we know we are still “from away” and always will be, so we gave the abridged description.

Albert, that man on my left~a person a few years my senior, actually was from Northeast Harbor and was therefore most interested in the nature of Mary’s store there and how we ended up there. We were in for that one hour conversation after that first question. Albert, it turned out, had been the fire marshall, the ambulance dispatcher, worked a bit on the harbor, did a stint helping in the police force, did the usual summer and then winter jobs…a true Mainer. I, of course, asked if he knew Hank. A Slow Smile. He said, “when you see him next, ask him what he knows about the Bangor Bomb Squad” and then left it at that. The conversation then was about to conclude and the four of us go our own ways.

But, this is Maine. The hook had been planted, the story was in its preparatory bubble over all of our heads. Albert stepped into the spotlight and proceeded. “Many years ago there was a bomb scare in Northeast Harbor. A suspicious article with wires and tape and liquid was found in a bathroom of the Harbor Master’s Office and the police and fire were called in to shut off all access to the Harbor” (meaning the closure of the three access roads into the large area below the town where the adjacent park houses all the harbor facilities). The harbor was emptied of boats. This being just after school let out in June, meant there were many to round up and move out. It was a huge undertaking bringing in local and state police and a bomb squad from Bangor 50 miles away.

The whole town assembled at the top of the hills overlooking the park as onlookers. The first responders were doing their duty to see to the suspicious object above the toilet, tucked up in the piping. Turns out the Harbor Master was a stern sort of character who had been through a few ruckuses in his career. He was also maneuvering that summer in a wheel chair, having suffered a serious snowmobiling accident the previous summer, poorly splitting the distance between two small trees that ended up breaking both his legs below the knee. Well, he was having none of this shilly shalliyng and decided to wheel his way into the head to take matters into his own hands. In the ensuing discussion about the pros and cons of such a potentially foolish deed, one of his ‘friends’ found a long-handled shovel and decided it would be the right thing to do in this instance if he waited until the wheel chair occupant was inside the bathroom when he could haul off and whack the outside wall as hard as he could with the flat underside of the shovel blade.

By now it’s the next day and I am appending this story because I am getting Hank’s version. Hank thought the Harbor Master must have jumped out of the chair and ran out of the toilet, but he wasn’t sure. Turns out he and his two buddies who had cooked up this lame joke were nowhere near all the crowds on Main and Sea Street who were gawking at the goings own, because they were terrified and wanted to melt into the scenery somewhere else, which actually brought the suspicion their direction.

Now, you need to know that Hank at this time is 13 and had just graduated from the Middle School. His mom was a formidable feature of town and, once suspicions got to her ear, she was not shy about settling the score. The time between the planting of the prank and its discovery did not transpire as quickly as the boys hoped. In the afternoon, when they put their bombs in the bathroom, they were out on the dock, bragging, joking and thinking up ways to challenge each other as they waited for the guys in the building to use the toilet and to give them a laugh. Seems no one needed to relieve themselves. Hank and his friends began to challenge each other by jumping from the dock to a boat, moving the boat a bit each time to increase the peril. They had pretty much left the bomb prank off their ‘fun list’ for that afternoon by then. After some time one fell in the water, which in Maine is never a warm thing. The boys, cold and played out, forgot about the bomb, went home, showered, ate, went to bed and were only aware of the impact of their plan early the next morning when they awoke to the closed harbor.

It wasn’t long before Hank took to his room to hide out the proceedings. He said he can still hear the very particular determined footfall that he knew was surely his mother’s as it came down the floor of the family market in the direction of his room. He doesn’t think his feet hit the ground until they were planted by her in the chair at the town office, having been carried there by his ear that had been firmly gripped by an agitated mother.

Confessions were delivered, probation was handed out, Hank’s first year in high school, where differing middle schools enter into a single high school, was difficult. Mount Desert Island, then as now, has a culture that allows for all the winter people to know everything about what all of them are doing. The town of Northeast Harbor’s adults still call Hank, “Boom Boom” more than forty years later and the kids from across the island who were then coming into the same high school as Hank sure knew the story and his new nickname. It has become a part of the lore of MDI.

After his version of the story was accounted for Hank had a few more stories to tell. One led to stories in a magazine he had been following for years and he asked me if I had ever heard of it. I hadn’t. Perhaps you have, it has some notoriety on a special level as it sells no advertising and its philosophy is to develop a relationship and communication between the readers and the magazine. It has fabulous photography, gritty stories, exquisite poetry and has seeded some great literature. Seems The Sun has done that since it was started by Sy Safransky in 1974. He has a wonderful story about the magazine’s beginnings and life that leads to the story of a thousand elephants. Next blog though, your hour is up.

8 years of suffering under Barack Obama

enjoyed this retort from another blog and reposted it on mine

Teri Carter's Library

andersonlogo

3C54DC7D00000578-4140672-Barack_Obama_waves_as_he_boards_Marine_One_and_departs_the_Capit-a-77_1484945371469 Photo credit: The Associated Press

The sentence I hear most from well-meaning, conservative friends since President Trump’s election is this: “We suffered 8 years under Barack Obama.”

Fair enough. Let’s take a look.

The day Obama took office, the Dow closed at 7,949 points. Eight years later, the Dow had almost tripled, closing at 21,414.

General Motors and Chrysler were on the brink of bankruptcy, with Ford not far behind, and their failure, along with their supply chains, would have meant the loss of millions of jobs. Obama pushed through a controversial, $8o billion bailout to save the car industry. The U.S. car industry survived, started making money again, and the entire $80 billion was paid back, with interest.

While we remain vulnerable to lone-wolf attacks, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed a mass attack here since 9/11.

Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

He…

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Alaskan Salmon: Wild or Not, Gold and the GOP, and Individual vs. State vs. Federal~ must be some reference to Trump there somewhere…

Salmon artIn perusing the NYTimes this morning, I was intrigued by an article containing a beautiful photo of salmon on a plate, a sight always welcomed in our household and kitchen in particular. It was not long before that led me to this blog. It was also interesting that, since November, when our dear Donald was elected, the fate of many of these salmon is now again in doubt since his EPA choice and decisions made there are taking our country and world down the drain of its personally made swamp. Bristol Bay could become a swamp, too, thanks in part to the Alaskan GOP, most of whom don’t want a gold mine in the back yard. Again, NIMBY applies to the GOP, but it’s that pesky libertarian thoughts from Ayn Rand that is biting them in the arse.

What could intrigue you who read on is that there is a meaningful discussion about where your salmon comes from and how it gets to your table. Words like sustainable, healthy, GMO, sea farm or land farm, regulatory and regulations, trustworthy authorities, public opinion and, oh yes, NIMBY are part of this blogs mix.

There are links provided within the next section to allow you to expand your understanding of all these terms should you have the time and interest. Simply click on the highlighted word to go deeper. I will simply outline the issue for clarification and to set the stage to see where it goes should this become more interesting for Trump supporters in Alaska. There have been so many stories surfacing of how each Trump supporter wants him to help them personally, with nearly all still believing that he will do so. Yet, nearly all those stories about these individuals, when followed up with an serious intent, lead to disappointment for these Trump supporters, whether it is a hope for a better health system, more coal jobs, better steel prices, a wall around their island that is sinking in the Chesapeake Bay, unfettered sales of glass eels to Japan, and now help in deciding what to do about the wild salmon spawning grounds in Bristol Bay, Alaska. nixon webAsk yourself what Sarah Palin’s daughter’s name is and then delve into her announcements and actions on the Pebble Mine proposal for Alaska. Ah, the webs those Trump supporters weave, the spider who consumes itself within its own web. They’ve done it before and  I wonder what will happen this time.

Wild salmon are beautiful creatures. There is a long history of their place in our diets, though the  Scandinavians and native Pacific indians have the longest claim to their place in their own cultures. With globalization the salmon have become prey to many more of us on the globe and the folks in Alaska have, since 1959 when Alaska became a state, been interested in codifying their independence from the rest of the world and the efforts to protect themselves from it. Of course, there has been a little money made along the way and one has written a book on the hedging the residents have collectively made on the portion of their constitution that claims to love their independence, their environment and their own power to make money as they see fit. To quote from a blurb on this book, “Alaskans as a collective almost always opt for development, even as they profess their genuine love for the beauty and bounty of their state’s environment.”

The genesis of this blog, wild salmon, led me to how they are caught, what happens to them after they are caught to keep them fresh, who buys them, what this means to that person- be him/her you at the local market, the restauranteur, the sushi company in Japan, or a citizen anywhere else in the world-in regards to the earth’s view of sustainability and how this might impact someone’s wallet. That brings us to Alaska, the GOP-past and current, the Pebble Mine proposal and Ayn Rand’s thoughts, again.

There is a wonderful article in today’s NYTimes that I referred to at the beginning that describes how 09eat-master768-v3beautiful and tasty a dish salmon can be. It is worth your time. But, this led me to finding out a bit more about those folks in Washington who oversea, through fishing, selling, rating and regulating the salmon that is fished in the Bristol Bay of Alaska. The issue of how this fish compares to the more sustainable farm-raised fish is one that has many faces, supporters and detractors. For one’s own welfare, you should take this issue seriously. Sunset Magazine wrote a wonderful comparative article about just this. Time Magazine, in 2014, also wrote to this issue well. To quote from this article, “The Atlantic salmon deemed “Best Choice” by Seafood Watch were neither caught, nor from the sea. They spent their lives indoors in warehouses as far inland as Shepherdstown, West Virginia.” There are some great links within the article, some of which I will use further here. I found a that discerns the two fish, farm and wild, though perhaps a more recent research article is now desirable. There’s a good podcast from Future Food 2050 that delves into the topic, too.

Once I got into Bristol Bay the story widened to a Canadian mining company, the history of Alaska and the conflict between the indigenous Alaskans and those self-styled libertarian Alaskans who have settled from the lower states over the past six or seven decades. I found that Alaska, for all its proud independence and disdain for federal oversight, uses more federal dollars per capita than any other state. Hmmm. Their own GOP is divided on issues, the Bristol Bay, mining and fishing being a few of the issues that cause them problems. What surfaced some years ago was the issue of whether to take advantage of the vast gold reserves under and around the Bristol Bay that are in the multi-billions in value. The first reaction of Alaskans was to nix the mining in favor of fish. But, with Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA and the Trump administration’s disdain for allthingsObama, who knows. As of 2017 the New York Magazine revisited the issue of the Pebble Mine because of the election of the Donald. Again, the NYTimes took on this same issue in an excellent article. The 2009 Report on the Pebble Mine gives you an in depth review of the issue.

Now it is up to the federal government, state law that gives Alaska residents veto power over environmental choices in Alaska to a large degree, and the force of public opinion as voiced by those many stewards of the environment that act on our behalf to see what happens to those luscious, bright red miracles of the waves.

Vietnam: LBJ, Nixon, Yo Yo Ma, Jimmy Hendrix and a thousand more characters pulled into focus by Ken Burns. What’s not to like.

lvsCWEjThis September we will be treated to another fabulous production by Burns covering the Vietnam War from as many possible perspectives as were available during its filming. They sorted through more than 25,000 photographs, coming up with some that have never been seen or printed until now. They filmed in Vietnam as well as interviewed in the States. It appears to be the definitive work in this medium about this war, probably because the timing is excellent to include both the distance from the war’s occurrence to allow proper historical context while not being too late to gain meaningful first hand insights from its aging participants, all of whom have digested its impact on their own lives and who have come to some sort of peace with it by now.

As many of my/our circle are Baby Boomers and can fully appreciate the impact this event and era had on our lives, this may be difficult as well as informative and enjoyable. The crew who worked with Burns commented on when they were working on the Kent State Massacre (a biased choice of phrasing in historiography) many of them broke down and some even had to leave the screening room to recover. We are still recovering.

It should also be noted in this time of attacks on Public Broadcasting of all kinds that Ken Burns said it would not be possible to gain support from any other company than PBS, who were willing to give him the 10 years time, the budget, the individuals and the support to go where he wanted and needed to. Of course, when you are Ken Burns, you can elicit support from the likes of Yo Yo Ma and the composers for the Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy. The sound track from this series promises to be superb.

Enjoy this teaser when you have time…..http://www.pbs.org/video/3001104790/