Category Archives: History++

Are digital technologies making politics impossible?

The Mask of Anonymous

“Well, maybe this: If you want to satirize the condition of a society, going after the apex of the pyramid is a waste of time. You need to attack the bottom. … And this requires the satirist to present the average citizen as a naïve sheep who fails to realize the hopelessness of his or her position.”   – Chuck Klosterman, I Wear The Black Hat

On January 27, 2000, President Bill Clinton congratulated his fellow Americans and himself, in his State of the Union speech:

“We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history. Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis and so few external threats. Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity and, therefore, such a profound obligation to build the more perfect Union of our Founders’ dreams.  We begin the new century with over 20 million new jobs; the fastest economic growth in more than 30 years; the lowest unemployment rates in 30 years; the lowest poverty rates in 20 years; the lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates on record; the first back-to-back surpluses in 42 years; and next month, America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in our entire history.”

Academics wrote of the end of history.

By Mike Davidson for Hillary for America

By Mike Davidson for Hillary for America

Recently though, politics has not been so grand nor so compassionate. Examples are abundant; here are just a few: the U.S. Congress’s pitiful response to the ZIKA virus, the corruption scandals in Brazil, Malaysia and South Korea, the imploding economy of Venezuela, Zimbabwean hyperinflation, the bank note farce in India, and a horrible war in Syria, and another in South Sudan. This sorry state of affairs has become normal for our post-millennium times, yet 2016 will be unique due to two events, BREXIT and the election of President Trump. Two others should also get an honorable mention: the ‘No’ vote in the Italian referendum, and the narrow defeat of Nobert Hofer, who belongs to the far-right Alliance party, in the Austrian Presidential Election. Hofer might have been the first far-right European president since World War II.

In the postmortems on the European events in the U.K., Italy and Austria, the phrase “digital technologies” was not bandied about much, nor how it threatened democracy much discussed, although hindsight may reveal a bunch of malign influences, murky conspiracy, and sinister programmers. During the BREXIT debate, there was plenty of lying of the good old fashioned kind; the most egregious porkie (rhyming slang: pork pie) was the big red bus emblazoned with “We send the EU ₤350 million a week”, and “let’s fund our NHS instead”. At any other time, any one of the European dramas would be a big thing, much discussed in the media. The honorable mentions might fizzle away. BREXIT will take years to effect, and yet may die – an anencephalic left in a side ward. Then, there is the surreality of Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States of America.

This was so wildly improbable back in December 2015 that a bet placed on Trump would now yield 18 times the original stake. How did The Donald pull it off? Three days after her defeat, Hillary Clinton blamed her loss on FBI director, James B. Comey, and his announcement eleven days before the election. By December 8, she knew that: “It’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences”, and implied that she had been robbed in the 2016 Presidential Election by fake news planted in the social media, principally Facebook. The CIA says they can prove that the Russian government was behind the hackers. The FBI isn’t so sure, maybe. The right-wing news website breitbart.com, which is run by President Trump’s (first) political strategist, has called the CIA reports fake news. Meanwhile, President Obama agreed that he had warned the Russians about hacking and has evicted a few from American soil, which brings us to the topic of this essay: “Are digital technologies making politics impossible?” As a high school term paper, a resulting essay might look something like this:

Digital technologies are what computers turned into and they are everywhere, even my dog. In olden times, computers printed things like the Snoopy my gran’ma has in her restroom downstairs. Then the hippies in California invented The Internet and PC’s, and soon everyone was happy and sending emails all the time. Then they got even happier when Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook and it became real easy to share pictures, messages and things with their friends. Now everyone spends hours and hours on Facebook, and don’t even watch TV no more.

Politics is what governments do. The government is run by people like Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. Politics is about stuff what happens in other countries far away where they don’t have a clue how to do things right. Out there there are lots of really bad people like in Russia there is a very bad man called Putin, and other places there is ISIS who is also really, really scary.

Politics became impossible this year, because Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the American election. Hillary is much better at politics and has lots of friends in Washington D.C. and

New York, and said she could do things to help people. Donald Trump is really, really rich, like a billionaire, and is famous for being on “The Apprentice”. He would say “You’re fired”. He don’t know anything about politics and is friends with that Putin guy in Russia.

Hillary Clinton lost because of Fake News. Like I said, everyone spends their time on Facebook and don’t watch TV much. They get news from their friends. This is called echo chambers. Because everyone trusts their friends that bad man Putin paid people to pretend to be everyone’s friend and tell awful lies. That Jestin Coler says right-wing people believe anything bad about colored people, China, gays, Democrats, the left-wing media conspiracy and Hillary Clinton.

Fixing fake news is difficult because like I said right-wing people like it, and don’t care much if most people think they are stupid. Some people make money making fake news, sometimes a lot. We need to copy China. China has a Great Chinese Firewall and can tell whether the news is from China or just fake. If you live in China and you send fake news a police man will take you to a special camp to educate you. That might work here.

This fictional essay, from one of Klosterman’s naïve sheep might be worth a B minus – appalling academese, I know, but it’s a fair summary of the Fake News circus of Spring 2017. Would Hillary Clinton substantially improve on its substantive? She did leave US national security to a computer you might buy at Best Buy. Her fellow Democrats fared little better.

The blistering pace of modern invention leaves everyone a little amnesiac. It wasn’t so long ago that a mobile phone was the size of a brick, and computer programs PUSHed and POPped data a byte at a time. Any worthwhile book on “digital technologies” ought to define what the beast is, describe it and how it got to be. This ought to be eminently readable but also tech savvy, touching on areas such as the Deep Web, Dark Fiber, Deep Mind, and perhaps Deep Thought.

In my opinion, there are two crucial facts that the Fake-News FBI-conspiracy circus is uncannily obtuse about.

Thing1:

The first fact is the failure of the polls to predict President Trump. Newsweek reported: “By almost every metric, Clinton was the favorite to win. Trump’s presupposed loss was so unanimous among the political pundit class that he was used as an example to put the 2016 World Series into context. On October 30, after the Cubs fell behind to the Indians two games to one, FiveThirtyEight gave the Chicago squad less chance than our current president elect …. It should have been a sign.” That is except for The National “Enquirer: The Voice Of America!”, who along with an exposé about Tom Cruise’s girlfriend starring in a lesbian porn movie, claimed that, “The ENQUIRER drove light years ahead of the “lame”stream media …. Though The ENQUIRER did not follow the strict rules statistical samples, they proved to be the ONLY accurate results”. Perhaps Agent K’s assessment in Men In Black is true:

Kay: [at newsstand] We’ll check the hot sheets.

Jay: *These* are the hot sheets?

Kay: Best investigative reporting on the planet. Read the New York Times if you want, they get lucky sometimes.

Jay: I cannot believe you’re looking for tips in the supermarket tabloids.

Kay: [front-age article about farmer’s stolen skin] Not looking for. Found.

Quality Journalism Means an Informed Citizenry by Mike Licht

Quality Journalism Means an Informed Citizenry by Mike Licht

Thing2

The second fact is that the supposed chuckleheads who voted Trump into the Presidency and the spinsters from Rhyl who voted for BREXIT agreed with Thomas Piketty and his tome, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I doubt that Brer Cletis et al. have heard of Piketty, nor do they know much about negative interest rates, Gaussian copula functions or the Panama Papers, but they have intuited the principle political truth of our times: the richer you are the richer you are getting, and this is now a problem. Although one should not go overboard about the wisdom of crowds, the Trump presidency clearly shows that the Trumpers and Trumpettes know that Globalization has made Thing2 The Problem.

Finally, the bad side of Globalization has become a political hot potato. We are lucky that it happened, and if social media contributed to it, that too is good. Back in 2002, Bo Karlson et al. from Wireless@KST published the seminal Wireless Foresight: Scenarios of the Mobile World in 2015. The book is prescient, as it predicts Fitbits, Google Glass, Siri, Netflix, Internet of Things, and has much to say about how this was to come about. It posits four scenarios: two were slow and environmentally friendly, one was disruptive and the last Orwellian. Karlson favored the disruptive “Wireless Explosion – Creative Destruction” scenario. This is the one we got: we won.

Panama Papers

Panama Papers

Any worthwhile book on modern global politics, possible or otherwise, ought to describe how the world became a village and the roles that digital technology played in this process. Such a book ought to examine how power has bled away from nations to organizations, bigger and smaller, which may ignore national boundaries and can manipulate national law. An example is the wrangle about taxes between Apple, Eire and the EU.

Just over one hundred years ago, in one day, 84,710 men from France, men from Britain, and men from Germany died a violent death in a field in Flanders. They had their faults but they also had families, friends and sweet-hearts. At Christmas, they had sung Silent Night. Such loss shattered the notion of Pro Patria Mori, destroyed the four absolute monarchies which entered the war, and would take supreme world power away from Europeans and give it to others. Today, we marvel at how the decision-makers chose a War to End All Wars. Also, we are reminded that many of their considerations were frankly trivial and how they sheltered under a common delusion that their choices could not harm them personally. Comparing their times and ours, we find that equality in wealth is roughly the same, elites who are aloof, fearful, and ill-prepared, technology that has run well beyond the ken of all but a handful, and most people dispirited and poor. To this, our times can add global warming, unprecedented environmental destruction, tens of millions of refugees and atomic bombs. What could go wrong?

So, say should The Donald and Teresa and buddies be unable to recast our world, do we, we humans, have a Plan B? One that does not involve hundreds of millions of people dying. One that does not wreck our planet, forever. One that attempts to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Any worthwhile book ought to suggest ways to recast our world. I believe we can, we will, and that it will be quick. After all, gay marriage became law in only a few short years. We have the technology, we have the talent, how might it happen?

A mustard seed

Cognitive Bias Codex - 180+biases, designed by John Manoogian III

Cognitive Bias Codex – 180+biases, designed by John Manoogian III

We love stories. We met them in childhood when we learn their conventions. They grow up with us and are pressed into business, history and politics. The adult world employs those linear, narrative conventions found in fairy stories to shape our understanding and our reasoning. The same tools are used to make sense of the Norman Conquest and World War 2, Fibonacci’s Liber Abaci and Quantum Mechanics, and the invention of the printing press and the Industrial Revolution. The minuscule size of the human working memory means that anything more complex than a Russian novel requires a crib sheet.

The usual workaround in the study of the past is to focus on a few individuals or events, and exclude the rest into a fuzzy background, occasionally narrated by Charlie Brown’s teacher. Complexity is hidden within flabby labels, caricature and generalization. When writ small, as in a TV show, these errors are magnified: traditions and peoples are squashed into cartoonish stereotypes, and the world is drawn as a spectator event viewed through soap opera glasses. This simplification has real world consequences. Did Aleppo fall to Assad partly because the US media portrayed his enemies primarily as jihadists like ISIS? No wonder Vladimir Putin pores over and vets school textbooks.

The world is now too complicated to rely on narrative technique alone; story telling needs an upgrade.

A good model for the process of this upgrade is the development of the procedural computer language C into the Object-Oriented C++. Bjarne Stroupstrup did this by adding keywords, so C++ is commonly described as a superset of C. The purpose of the Object-Oriented methodology is to reduce computer bugs by making code reuse part of the design of the language and to promote careful thought at the start of a project, rather than optional.

CPT-OOP objects and classes

CPT-OOP objects and classes

My book will suggest candidates for History++..  Descriptive linguistics and the Classic Style in writing are promising. History++  would be at home with math, be it Game Theory, Statistics, or Linear Modeling. It would facilitate connecting humans, history and Big Data. It would recognize that people are people, and listen to Kahneman and Tversky. It would live in a real world of volcanos and famines, the Life-World and bacteria, fashion and sex.

History++ would eschew magic. Its Classic Style would deal in concrete events, choices, and where possible measures. These are bound together in a causal network. They are effected by an environment, including all the above and more, marshalled by a notion from descriptive linguistics: some rules are necessary, e.g. Newtonian physics, and others are optional to various degrees, all are relevant at the cutting face.

The continuum of human life and events, are not loped into ages of this material or that person. Instead, it grounded in Rubicon events, which have direct and indirect participants who make choices and who have their own histories, agenda and character; events framed by beliefs, the natural world, and technology; events that are essential to understanding the world they leave in their wake. Caesar’s Rubicon choice is not one of these Rubicon events; if he won big in Gallia, he always intended to return to Rome. One such event is the arrival Cortez’s first treasure ship at Seville, on December 9, 1519.

Labels should be scrutinized. Flabby ones, with their overflowing steamer trunks of baggage, would be ridiculed and discarded. For example, “populism”: it has become the cliché of a speaker, no one in particular, rabble rousing. It connotes Mark Antony, Elizabeth I, Winston Churchill, Mussolini, Martin Luther King and Donald Trump. It’s quintessentially snobby and smug, and should be retired, immediately. History++ would employ the notion, borrowed from Object Oriented program design, called encapsulation. By requiring a strict provenance, History++ would limit 20:20 hindsight and woolly pontification. Its aim is the eloquent simplicity of the C++ keyword, “this”.

For example: How does narrative interpret the choices made by Henry, second of that name King of England, Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, and Lord of Ireland, and in particular his support for the common law? Simon Schama’s narrative view, in his excellent “A History of Britain”, is that Henry chose trial by jury because he honored his coronation oath, i.e. Henry was a nice guy and deserves a statue in Parliament Square.

Bueno de Mesquita’s game theory approach suggests that his choice was financial and part of the cold war against the Pope. He chose trial by jury over trial by ordeal, because trial by ordeal was miraculous and the business of the church. It was good business, too, and, for Henry, depriving the church of a nice little earner was a good move. So, a 12th Century squabble over land becomes a part of the stream of events which leads to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The difficult birth of a German king and the hemophilia of the son of another are part of the event stream leading to World War I.

History++ really takes off when it leaves the halls of academia.

this is aztec gold. for real by erin leigh mcconnell

this is aztec gold. for real by erin leigh mcconnell

This how I envision the first block of the 6th grade history class, History of the America. Teacher comes in, takes the register, and announces that today is August 27, 1520. You are either a spices merchant in the town of Ghent, or the spice mechant’s wife. Today you are going to see the treasures on display bought to Ghent by Charles V, the Spanish king. On the way in you bump into a German artist called Albrecht Dürer. You see golden bells, “earrings and nose ornaments of exquisite workmanship, and feathered ornaments mounted in jewels, and there were even ‘books such as the Indians use.” There was an Aztec calendar, “a golden wheel ‘seventy-nine inches in diameter, of a thickness four reales’’ cover in magic symbols and malevolent gargoyles. A ceremonial shield made of feathers. You are rather frightened by the four Aztec warriors dressed in war paint, feathers and precious little else. Ok, kids, I have a question for you: how do we know any of this is true? The teacher quotes Dürer’s diary for that day, and by the by introduces the class to the notion of primary sources. Mrs. Krabappel now invites questions and there are so many of them. The rest of the class, she spends curating those questions as per the teacher’s guide, assigning who will investigate and report on what, all in preparation for next lesson, the Spice merchant’s source of pepper. a Portuguese which leads us to Prince John, the rounding of that African cape, and the dedication of Hagia Sophia and the fall of Constantinople. Back to Charles V’s grandparents, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the Fall of Granada, the Spanish Inquisition, and Columbus, and Pre-Columbia America. The Vikings.  Arrival of the French and then the Brits.

Public policy might model Bueno de Mesquita’s predictions about Iran. Imagine the US sitting down to negotiate with Iran with his game plan. Public policy would require little to be hidden. News reportage would no longer be a TV soap but a sports report.

Of course, there will be timid souls, historians afraid of math, officials guzzling the gravy train, who would prefer the current ruinous state of affairs. I hope this idea will find friends with the intellectual courage, the insight and the foresight to bring it to the world soon.

Once done, the superset nature of this idea make it antifragile; criticism can only make it stronger. Our global networks would give it geometric growth, and as Albert Einstein said “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. … .” It would be wonderful if we could say of our work, the words written by Martin Luther of his faith:

“Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing,… .”

 

Simply Wicked: The story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

The Jewish Cemetery, Prague

Last week I came across a remarkable book called The Plot: The Secret story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion written by Will Eisner. Will was a great cartoonist, so this book is a cartoon, but with a deadly purpose: the history of a little number about ‘The Jews’.

Napoleon_III (Wikimedia Commons)

Napoleon_III (Wikimedia Commons)

To begin with, we are introduced to Napoleon the Third, grandson of Bonaparte and incompetent tyrant. His misrule inspired a satire, “The Dialogue between Machiavelli and Montesquieu”, by Maurice Joly. Machiavelli, byword for self-interested government, wrote “The Prince”, a book in which he asks the question, “Is it better for a prince to be loved or feared?” Machiavelli’s answer is feared, something that Napoleon III, along with lots of others, took note of.

The story shifts to pre-World-War-I Russia and the twit of a tsar, Nicholas II. For a time his most trusted adviser was Sergei Yulievich Witte. Witte had dangerously modern views, even entertaining the notion that the blood sport of pogroms might be a bad thing. A couple of characters from the old guard, by the name of Gormykin and Rachkovsky, were scandalized by the man and his corrupting ideas.

Goremykin and Gerard by Repin

Goremykin and Gerard by Repin

To deal with the Witte problem, Rachkovsky came up with the idea of a smoking gun with which he could use to malign The Jews and taint Witte, so alienating him from the Tsar. He also knew someone up to the job, a talented propagandist called Mathieu Golovinski. Golovinski had honed his talents faking evidence for Tsar Nicolas’s secret policemen, the Okhrana. Unfortunately for Golovinski, a wave of liberality saw him fired and exiled to Paris.

In Paris, Rachkovsky found him. What Rachkovsky wanted was much bigger than Golovinski’s usual product, but luckily he had read Joly’s book about Napoleon the Third, which he freely plagiarized, creating his mischief-piece: The Protocols.

Apparently, in the Old Jewish Quarter of Prague near the synagogue and its cemetery, the Hidden Hand, the committee of the Elders of Zion, “Three hundred men, each of whom knows all the others”, met to discuss The Great Jewish Master Plan. Although the Hidden Hand had been around in 929BC, they hadn’t had the foresight to try to take over the world yet, and had waited two thousand years of eviction, exile, poverty, massacres, bigotry, and general persecution before getting around to making The Great Jewish Master Plan. Then they had it all written down, printed, and nicely bound.

But “Providence … brought to the light of day these secret Protocols [so] all men may clearly see the hidden personages … at work ‘behind the scenes’ of all the Governments. This revelation entails on all peoples the grave responsibility of examining and revising AU FOND their attitude towards the Race and Nation which boasts of its survival over all Empires.”

(If you think this passage is a tad purple … It is a quote from  https://www.biblebelievers.org/. Really.)

Doctor Sergius Nilus

Doctor Sergius Nilus

Somehow the inattentive Elders had mislaid a copy which was found by a Doctor Sergius Nilus, writer and self-proclaimed mystic. He included it in his apocalyptic book which has the catchy title of The Great within the Small and Antichrist, an Imminent Political Possibility. Notes of an Orthodox Believer. Rachkovsky’s smoking gun was a runaway success: Witte was fired and GormyiKine got his job. The Protocols, this ghoul book has gone on to haunt the nightmares of Europe and then the rest of the world, inspiring the wickedest thoughts and causing the most heartbreaking tragedies, and no matter how many times it has been shown to be a malicious hoax, somehow like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Leatherface and the rest of the slasher movie villains, it has been able to resurrect itself time and time again.

On Wednesday, August 17th, 1921 the prestigious Times of London published “Jewish Peril” Exposed: Historic “Fake” which detailed the Protocols’s provenance and parallels between the Protocols and Joly’s The Dialogue.

In 1920, Henry Ford, the Steve Jobs of his day, bought a small Michigan paper called The Dearborn Independent. From 1920 to 1922, it published a series of articles entitled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem based on the Protocols. In April 1924, Aaron Sapiro, a major figure in the American farmers’ cooperative movement and lawyer, read the thinly veiled attack in Ford’s book. The International Jew accusing him and other prominent Jews of acting as agents in The Great Jewish Conspiracy. Shapiro sued Ford who chose business over principle and had the Jewish activist Louis Marshall, write an apology. Ford closed the Independent in 1927.

Freddy Krueger e Hellraiser by Anigate Cosplay

Freddy Krueger e Hellraiser by Anigate Cosplay

In 1934 the United Jewish Communities sued the Nazi United Front to make the Nazi prove their claim that the protocols were genuine.

“The judge asked both parties to produce an expert on the contents of the Protocols.

The Jewish committee produced a dozen!

The Nazis could not produce any …
So . . . the Nazis simply submitted the name of a clergyman nobody could find.”

In 1964, a subcommittee of the United States Senate published a report on the Protocols describing it as “one of a number of fraudulent documents that peddle the myth of an “International Jewish conspiracy.” The report goes on to back up this damning indictment.

On November 24, 1999, L’Express, a French newspaper reported, that the respected Russian historian Milhail Lepekhine had read the files of the defunct Soviet KGB and proved that the Protocols were written by Golovinski.

So imagine my surprise and dismay when in 2012 a bright charming man from Egypt started rattling on about the Protocols. I pointed out that they are and always were a forgery, but mere facts did not sway him. Even if it was a forgery, like so many before him, he thought that it is the kind of thing that Jews do. You can see where Kafka, who lived in Prague, got his ideas. The Egyptian probably got the idea from a TV serial called “Knight without a Horse” broadcast in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries which is based on that proverbial bad penny, the Protocols. If you wish to find out more about the real story I recommend Simon Schama’s superb BBC series The Story of the Jews.

You would think that folks who peddle The Protocols would know more about real history and take note that the Protocols carry a curse for those who believe in them.

Nikolaus II (Wikimedia Commons)

Nikolaus II (Wikimedia Commons)

Napoleon the Third, the subject of Joly’s The Dialogue, lost the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and surrendered. Parisians were much tougher, erecting barricades and defending the city for two months, an event known as the Paris Commune. Napoleon was first captured by the Germans and, as the French did not want him back, went into exile where he died in 1873.

Nicholas II, the target of Rachkovsky’s smoking gun, personally lost World War I for Russia and killed 1.7 million Russians in the process. He was forced to abdicate during the February Revolution in 1917 and was put under house arrest. The October Revolution brought Lenin and the Bolsheviks to power. In the following year, on March 1, 1918, he and his entire family was executed by bullets and rifle butts.

Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the Third Reich, dragged Europe into a Second World War, the world’s most deadly war to date, killing an estimated 60 million people. As the transcript of the Wannsee Conference shows he personally instructed Himmler’s goon Reinhard Heydrich to arrange the Final Solution. This has become known as the Holocaust from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustoshólos, “whole” and kaustós, “burnt”), or the  Shoah  (Hebrew:  השואה,  HaShoah,  “the catastrophe”) which took the lives of 5.93 million Jewish people. Hitler died by drinking a vial of potassium cyanide solution and shooting himself. He was so frightened of the Soviet troops who were about to capture him that he had his remains and that of his wife, Eva Braun, burnt. He is widely considered the most evil human being who ever lived.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s poison dwarf, who used the Protocols as part of the Nazis’s propaganda shot himself and his wife Magda, after she had killed their five children.

Joseph Goebbels bei Empfang

The state of Israel has taken on all its Arab neighbors – twice – and soundly defeated them. At present, in 2015, all Arab countries are either under a ferocious dictatorship or sliding towards becoming failed states ripped apart by civil war and atrocities. Now millions have lost their homes and hundreds are drowning trying to escape across the Mediterranean Sea. The human cost is heartbreaking.

The Synagogue in the Old Jewish Quarter in Prague no longer is home to Jewish prayers on the Sabbath. The graves lie higgledy-piggledy, the stones covered in moss, the ground rucked up like a rumpled satin bedspread. Men have to wear a yarmulke when they go in. Instead of songs and prayers from the Bible there are names written on the walls, when they were born, when they died, hundreds of thousands of them.

 

'Why single out only Muslim women Women covering all around the globe ,in different religions , (& it doesn't mean they are all oppressed , they are happy

‘Why single out only Muslim women Women covering all around the globe ,in different religions , (& it doesn’t mean they are all oppressed , they are happy

 

Cohen Bros. Moments: How Japan met America at the end of the Pacific War

Geisha Makeover at the Katsura Studio,Tokyo by lu_lu

First scene: the Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

In the end it was the Tenno, 天皇 (てんおう), the Son of Heaven, the divinely appointed ruler of Japan, who made the decision. The credo of Budō, the Japanese Way of the Warrior, demanded that a warrior surrender his life whenever his lord needed it. That had been the cornerstone of the Empire’s zeitung, its imperishable spirit of conquest. The Empire’s armies had beaten the British and the French, and ground down the Chinese. Those British had treated the emperor with contempt. That ex-King had mocked him and his impeccable Western clothes, as a “prize monkey”. The news that a British battleship Prince of Wales had been sent to the bottom by Japanese torpedoes, had given the emperor grim satisfaction. That ex-King had been Prince of Wales when he gave such insult. During the siege of Singapore, the British soldiers thought that the Japanese bicycles running on stripped steel rims were tanks, and the civil servant in charge had meekly surrendered what Churchill thought an unsinkable battleship. Unfortunately, all its guns pointed out to sea.

"Budō" shuji, brushed by Kondo Katsuyuki, Menkyo Kaiden, Daito ryu

“Budō” shuji, brushed by Kondo Katsuyuki, Menkyo Kaiden, Daito ryu

Then the Empire had taken on a greater foe. That foe should have fallen apart at that first crushing victory. Its leaders had let the country rot for over ten years, leaving it to gangsters and film starlets to run things. They were a mongrel horde without discipline. But it hadn’t worked out like that. What should have been an easy next battle turned out to be a disaster. Somehow the mongrels knew and were ready. They had conjured aircraft carrier after aircraft carrier from who knows where. Their airmen were ferocious. At least as committed as our warriors who had been given Bushido souls with their mother’s milk. The mongrels never ever gave up, and kept coming on, hit after hit, until we started to lose aircraft carriers, the proud victors of the Battle of Pearl Harbor; first Soryu and then Kaga. We lost four irreplaceable ships and so many men. In the end Admiral Nagumo had to give up. The rout was hidden for a while. The eyewitnesses who might have spread discord, those soldiers and the airmen who had survived were interred. Our propagandists announced a great victory. But that was a lie.

Now the Tenno and his generals were down to just two options. Super weapons had vaporized the downtowns of two medium sized cities, apparently left intact by the Super Fortresses just to see what these weapons could do. And who knew how many more super bombs the enemy had and where they would be used? One thing was for sure, there was nothing that the army, navy or airforce could do to stop them. The slimmest, deluded hope was an agreement signed back in the glory days. The fact that it had been a cynical matter of convenience, at least by the ally who sponsored it, didn’t seem to matter much. He had gone to break the farcically named “non-aggression” treaty with a spectacular invasion, which he had called Barbarossa. The snows of the Steppes and the bloody minded persistence of the Untermensch, had turned it into a hellish rout which had rolled all the way back to his Fuhrerbunker under his chancellery in Berlin. Now he was dead, suiciding not by honorable Seppuku but a quick bullet and glass vial of prussic acid, while around him raged Gotterdammerung , a monstrous parody of Wagner’s tale of the Nordic gods. Hitler’s war had shattered European imperial power forever, at an incalculable cost in resources and some fifty million lives. (There is an excellent film on those last days called “Downfall”. The drawback is that it’s in Deutsche but is nonetheless an absolutely compelling tale.)

Empress Sadako with Prince of Wales in 1922

Empress Sadako with Prince of Wales in 1922

That other Axis ally had always been a flake and was dead too, shot by peasants and his corpse urinated on by their women. Now Uncle Joe, the Tsar in all but name of the Soviet Union, had unequivocally torn up that ‘non-aggression’ agreement by formally declaring war. The Russian army had already beaten the Imperial Army once before, and was now on its way down the Trans-Siberian railway. The great Soviet General Zhukov, who had seen off the Wehrmacht and had commanded that first defeat of Japanese forces in Manchuria, would steamroller the last vestiges of Japanese Imperial might and, if the Soviet Army behaved as it had done in Germany, would fulfill every horror story concocted by our propagandists. The Imperial Army had a lot of hidden skeletons like those tales back in Korea and China.

The options were simple: trust General Anami’s Ketsugō plan, which included arming children with sharpened bamboo sticks, or surrender to the Americans. Hirohito, Divine Son of Heaven, Tenno, chose door number two. The Tenno, divinely appointed ruler of Japan, the pinnacle of Bushido, had decided that he preferred to live and take his chances.

:Namban Attributed to Kano Naizen

:Namban Attributed to Kano Naizen

The Atomic Bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9th which was the same day that the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. After trying to get a concession or two the Empire of Japan signaled that it accepted the Potsdam declaration, which demanded total and unconditional surrender. On August 15 the Japanese people heard the Emperor Hirohito’s radio broadcast telling them that they would have “to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable”. Few of them understood what was about to happen due mainly to the archaic form of Japanese he used, which was something like FDR or Churchill using Chaucerian English, and in part to the scratchy recording made by NKK and the Emperor’s thin reedy voice. Japan waited for the victors.

Second scene: Flashback

tengu statue by the station by erysimum9

tengu statue by the station by erysimum9

The Japanese do not call themselves Japanese. Their name for themselves is Nihonjin and the name of their country is Nihon (日本), the sun’s origin. Europeans first learned of this country from Marco Polo’s book where he described an island known to the Chinese as Zipangu. Our name Japan was garbled from the original by filtering it through Mandarin and Italian or maybe Cantonese and Dutch. Any which way, one would be hard put to find more dissimilar languages.

Until 1945, Japan had never been successfully invaded, although Genghis Khan had a couple of goes back in 1274 and 1281. They are a homogeneous insular people, courteous and intelligent, and minimalist by necessity and by taste. They also think very highly of themselves.

When in the 16th Century Europeans arrived, the few Japanese who met one were not impressed. Yes, the Europeans brought interesting ideas like muskets which the Japanese readily copied but the men themselves were appalling. They were ketto yabanjin(けっと 野蛮人), dirty hairy beasts just like the goblin tengu 天狗 with huge long noses, enormous penises and venal tastes. During the war, the Imperial propagandists had capitalized on these prejudices. And now these barbarians would have the run of the place.

Third scene: Atsugi Air Base, Japan

Ase o fuku onna by Utamaro

Ase o fuku onna by Utamaro

It wasn’t long before those dreaded Americans arrived. On August 28, 1945, only 13 days after Hirohito’s broadcast American troops arrived at Atsugi Air base, just south of Tokyo, with orders to secure Yokohama for General MacArthur and his staff. The troops formed a convoy of trucks and ventured into enemy territory. They were soon met by a Japanese convoy sent by a new organization set up by the helpful Japanese government called the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), and these trucks were carrying Japanese women in elegant kimono, who had “volunteered” to service the horny Yanks. Well, for many of the women sex was their day job anyway. The American officers were shocked and offended, and said so but, no doubt, some of the GIs would have been game. And so began a fascinating bit of human history, replete with every human vice but also much sweetness.

Atsuji wasn’t the only airfield which had to be commandeered. In early September, fifty Marines were sent to secure the air base at Omura near Nagasaki in Northern Kyushu. They too were welcomed by a party of geisha, and finding the base adequately secured, the men, lead by their fearless first sergeant, moved on to commandeer a nearby geisha house which they chose as their billet — while they waited for reinforcements — as it was well supplied with beer, ‘hibachi-grilled fish’ and girls. The doughty first sergeant of MAG-44 commandeering party was 22-year-old Nick Zappetti who already had a colorful history. He had grown up in the Italian enclave of East Harlem on Manhattan, New York. His cousin was Gaetano Luchese aka “Three Finger Brown” and Zappetti knew lots of other guys with nicknames, “Boss of Booze” Joe Rao, “Trigger” Mike Coppola and Joe Stretch whose real name was quite melodramatic enough.

Fourth scene: Hikari wa Shinjuku Yori, Japan

Bob Johnson of Reading, Mass. cordially greets Tamiko San by Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Bob Johnson of Reading, Mass. cordially greets Tamiko San, by Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Japan, of course, had its own wise guys. They called themselves ya-ku-za, the numbers 8-9-3, a term for a losing hand in cards. In other war torn countries black markets had flourished and Japan was no exception. While the Emperor and his cronies mourned, and the people feared the impending hordes of yabanjin, the yakuza reaction to the cessation of hostilities was let the good times roll. Only three days after the Emperor’s speech, they placed an advertisement for a black-market market called charmingly Hikari wa Shinjuku Yori (Shinjuku has more Light) and a couple of days after that the market in Shinjuku opened with supplies which had been destined to support General Anami’s Ketsugō army and then liberated and repurposed by the Yakuza. It was not long before the victors and vanquished were able to make working arrangements about the economic facts of life.

Tokyo was a shanty town of lean-to huts; some folk were even living in bomb craters, and nobody had enough to eat. The point that the government ration was totally inadequate was neatly, if inadvertently, made when a Tokyo District Court Judge who had refused to eat anything bought illegally died of malnutrition. So, despite “not overly successful” attempts to rout out American involvement, the light of Shinjuku AKA the black market boomed. Some eight million dollars worth of remittances were sent back to America, more than “the entire military payroll”. Naturally, the Yakuza claim that they saved the people at the beginning of the post war period.

Fifth scene: Rikidozan in the Ring

Fascinating although this is, it isn’t really Cohen Bros. material. For that we have pro-wrestling. After years of being told how tough the Japanese fighting man was (true) and how victory was inevitable (not so true) the post war Japanese male felt something of a letdown. The depth of such feelings were discovered on the night of February 19, 1954 in a puro-resu bumu held on Tokyo.

In the blue corner representing America were the Sharpe Brothers, Ben (6’ 6”, 240 pounds) and Mike (6’ 6”, 250 pounds). In the red corner representing the Land of the Rising Sun, Home of Sumo were Rikidozan (6’ 2”, 220 pounds) and Kimura (5’ 8”, 170 pounds). A Japanese journalist wrote, “The difference in physical size, especially in Kimura’s case, triggered painful memories among the spectators of Japan’s devastating loss in the Pacific War.” The ring announcer agreed, “Those Americans are huge. How can they possibly lose?”

The American Goliath, Mike Sharpe, climbed into the ring to confront tiny Rikidozan. Then Riki, as he became known, ‘flew into the ring and began pummeling Mike Sharpe with powerful karate blows.’ Mike backed down towards his corner and was quickly worn down by the furious Jap. To escape he tagged his brother. Ben received the same warm welcome. The blitzing attacks of the feisty Riki dazed him; he collapsed and Riki held him down for the count.

Rikidozan in action

Rikidozan in action

The audience went wild, jumping to their feet and throwing cushions, hats and anything else into the air. The crowd of some 20,000 gathered at Shimbashi Metro Station to watch the match on a 27 inch “General” went bananas, stopping traffic outside. Folks who had climbed trees to get better view of another jumbo TV in Ueno Park were so jubilant that they fell from their perches, “incurring serious injury and … ambulances shuttle[d] back and forth …. to the nearest hospital for much of the evening.”

It was estimated that between 10 and 14 million Japanese had watched the show live, and when it was broadcast 24 million, around a third of the population, watched. Riki was now a celebrity adored by millions including the media mogul and owner of NTV Matsutaro Shoriki who said,”Rikidozan, by his pro wrestling in which he sent the big white men flying, has restored pride to the Japanese and given them new courage.”

Alas, it was pro-wrestling and pro-wrestling is not known to be much of an actual contest, and this wasn’t at all. The match had been “scripted, rehearsed, and staged with the full cooperation of the Americans, who had been extremely well compensated for their trouble.” Nick Zappetti realized that was money to be made and was recruited to be a fall guy along with fellow American, one John MacFarland the Third.

Sixth scene: The Imperial Hotel Diamond Incident

MacFarland was not exactly inconspicuous in a nation of shortish, black haired people. He was 6’ 4”, 250 pounds, his red hair was cut into a duckbill, and he went by his wrestling name of “Gorgeous Mac”. As well as being a prize on the pro wrestling league, he had issues. He had been hospitalized for manic depression and treated with insulin shock therapy for his shocking temper. Gorgeous Mac was also in debt and an illegal, as his tourist visa and his passport had expired, so he need a lot of money fast, so he talked with Nick, with his connections and all, how this could be achieved.

Geisha Makeover, by lu_lu, at Katsura Studio in Tokyo.

Geisha Makeover, by lu_lu, at Katsura Studio in Tokyo.

The plan MacFarland came up was a doozy. He wanted to rob the Diamond Shop in the arcade of his swanky hotel. First off, this was some hotel. It was called the Imperial and had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and had survived the great Kanto earthquake in 1927. It was a home-from-home to high-ranking officers from GHQ, senators and Hollywood stars and was ‘generally acknowledged as the Greatest Hotel in Asia.” The plan sounded simple enough. The Diamond Shop offered ‘private showings’ of its merchandise to certain qualified guests. Gorgeous Mac would establish his credentials with a suitcase of cash, which in reality was newspaper with a thin overlay of bills. He would get chummy with the salesman and offer him a drink. The drink would contain ‘knockout drops’, rending MacFarland and the salesman unconscious, Zapetti would emerge from another room and swipe the diamonds. It seemed plausible until Gorgeous Mac said, “I gotta have a gun”.

Zapetti tried to argue him out of his questionable request by pointing out that he was an enormous pro-wrestler and could easily handle any salesman. All Gorgeous Mac would say is “I gotta have a gun”. Zapetti had seen MacFarland totally lose it before, so declined to be part of the venture. He did however provide a .38 revolver which he gave, sans bullets, to one of   Gorgeous Mac groupies. This teenage boy was nicknamed the “Mambo Kid”, “M” for short, on account of  his taste in clothes: ‘black rhinestone-studded Latin clothes and big pompadours’. Should you doubt that Japanese folk love Latin dance you should go to the Asakusa Samba Festival.

So, on “January 15, 1956, at 10:20 AM, Imperial Hotel arcade jeweler Shichiro Masubuchi carried a briefcase filled with . . . diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies to MacFarland’s room.” He was relieved of the case by MacFarland and M who then chose to take the elevator to the main lobby, “where MacFarland agreeably stopped to sign autographs. Then he stood in line for a taxi in front of the hotel …” That evening MacFarland made front page news and had a team of seven detectives “- one for each leg, one for each arm, one man to grab his torso, another for the neck and a detective to snap on the handcuffs on” – on his trail. It didn’t take long to find, and when they caught him he came along quietly. MacFarland got eight months in a Japanese jail for his trouble.

So there you are.

This is but a taste of the wonderful Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster. As the wise man said no one could make this stuff up. and Cohen Brothers would have a field day making it into a film.

Featured Image: Geisha Makeover, by lu_lu, at Katsura Studio in Tokyo.

 

 

 

 

Eddukashun: Wot problem?

Boy Square Root

[Note: This was written way back in 2014, when the idea of a President Trump was unheard of.]

Getting the goods is hard. We live in an age of a superabundance of data but almost no information. Most folk around the world think that the Russian involvement in the independence of the Crimea was – at the least – unsporting; not so according to Russia’s media, which means most Russians are content with the story that Russia has recently fought and won World War Three, liberating the oppressed peoples of the Crimea from the brutal oppression of the Ukrainian fascist stooges and their criminal bosses in Europe and the US. Meanwhile in the land of the free, an average evening program of world news might contain up to three items on events outside the USA, sometimes none.

Getting the goods is hard, so I like to cast my net broad, across different media, different countries, and different ages. One day, while working at Walmart, three of my sources came up with three stories relating to education.

Wired

Sergio Juárez Correa & Paloma Noyola Bueno [Wired]

Sergio Juárez Correa & Paloma Noyola Bueno [Wired]

The first source is the magazine Wired. Wired has had some the best journalism of the last 10 years, although it scaled down its efforts since the heady days of the Wired style manual. The piece is entitled “How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses”. The epicenter of the story is Matamoros, which is on the wrong side of the US-Mexican border. Life there is grim – you can imagine – but there are kids there and some go to José Urbina López Primary School, AKA un lugar de castigo (“a place of punishment”). If you think that would be a stupid place to start looking for a revolution in math education, then you would be dead wrong.

The dismal prospects for the inmates of the lugar de castigo were the starting point for Sergio Juárez Correa, a teacher at José Urbina López. He started to look for something more effective than the government’s curriculum, and in his searches, he discovered the work of Sugata Mitra, a pioneering educationalist, who had the daft idea that kids want to learn, and could teach themselves.

One day Juárez Correa went to his whiteboard and wrote “1 = 1.00.” Normally, at this point, he would start explaining the concept of fractions and decimals. Instead he just wrote “½ = ?” and “¼ = ?” “Think about that for a second,” he said, and walked out of the room.” He came back with 10 pesos (75 cents) and watched as one of the kids, Alma Delia Juárez Flores, explained to her class mates the concept of decimal fractions.

That was interesting. So, he persisted in his ridiculous pedagogy and tried an old teacher’s trick: he told the kids to add up the numbers from 1 to 100. Normal people will start to add 1 to 2 to 3 . . . but there is a short cut, if you can stand back and see the wood for the trees. 0 + 100 is 100, and so is 1 + 99, and so is 2 + 98, so the answer is 50 x 100 plus the 50 in the middle making a total of 5050. The kids were quiet for a moment until Paloma Noyola Bueno raised her hand and said, “The answer is 5,050. There are 50 pairs of 101.” Juárez had his aha moment.

History of math is not something that folks are big on, so may I explain why Juárez was so moved. This sum was set for another child in another country, over two hundred years ago; the child was Carl Friedrich Gauss. When he told the schoolmaster the answer, just like Paloma, Gauss’s teacher, rather than beat him for being a smart alec, told the Duke of Brunswick. The Duke duly sent Gauss to the best school around called Collegium Carolinum (now Braunschweig University of Technology) which was very smart of him. Gauss went to become Princeps mathematicorum (“the Prince of Mathematicians”). In baseball terms Gauss was Babe Ruth, and, like the Babe, he was a game changer. The next generation of mathematicians went on to explore radical new ideas about math. It is this math which underpins the physics and hence the technology of the twentieth century. It is no accident that one of the two of the schools of thought about Quantum Mechanics is the Göttingen school, named after Gauss’s home town. So, if it is possible to build a Warp Drive, it will be someone like Paloma who will be its creator.

Gauss on the 10 Mark Bank

Gauss on the 10 Mark Bank

Back in Matamoros in June 2012 a coordinator from the Ministry of Education arrived to give the kids one of those standardized tests so beloved by such people. It came and it went, except that this time Juárez Correa noticed the kids were distinctly unfazed, taking the test in their stride as just another trivial chore.

The real news had to wait until Sept 2012 when Ricardo Zavala Hernandez, assistant principal at José Urbina López, logged on the ENLACE, Mexico’s national achievement exam web site, to check the results of the June 2012 tests. On the whole things were predictably a little bit better than last year, except for Juárez Correa’s class. In the Spanish tests, all the students were well above average and Zavala Hernandez had the top mark in the state AND the country. Palomar came TOP in math in the country with ten of her class mates above the 99.99th percentile.

Juárez Correa obviously had something but nothing that Francisco Sánchez Salazar, the chief of the Regional Center of Educational Development in Matamoros, was interested in. He said, “The teaching method makes little difference,” . . . “Intelligence comes from necessity,” he says. “They succeed without having resources.” Nice job.

The US clones of Jefe Salazar at present are pushing something called Common Core. This Youtube video shows one student’s withering option of it.

From Our Own Correspondent

From Our Own Correspondent

The next source is I had “From Our Own Correspondent” a broadcast and podcast from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC, or Auntie has she is affectionately known as, was created in a time of Empire, and still tries to apply British notions of truthfulness and fairness to its news reporting. Many people including the Dali Lama think it an excellent source of impartial, well presented information. The “From Our Own Correspondent” reports are topical, well sourced and have humanity. This story is from Sarah Toms in Singapore entitled “Mrs Wong and Mrs Lim Go Shopping”. Sarah’s daughter is at school there and is deluged with homework. She has been doing algebra since age eight. Not only does this challenge the kids, it challenges their parents. So much so that in Singapore there are Saturday morning classes for parents, to teach them the material in their children’s homework. Sarah went to one of these classes along with sixty or so concerned parents to do math, along the lines of “Mrs Lin bought twelve pears and ten apples . . . “

What are the chances, do you think, of seeing a class for parents in math in the UK or USA any time soon?

New York, New York

The last story that day was about the latest results from New York, New York. I can’t find the exact story but it was along the lines that only a fraction of high school students could get into community college. It doesn’t matter. There is no lack of dismal statistics about New York schools and American public schools in general. There is the dutiful wringing of hands and promises of a better tomorrow, again.

Walmart

To the mix, I should add that a friend who had become a Supervisor (Acting) at the store had been asked by another supervisor, one of the trusties, how do you spell “medicine”?

What does all this mean, if anything?

I am not sure which I reckon is a good start. Part of the problem is that there are too many people with simplistic solutions or poorly thought through opinions, e.g. I know I went to school you know. I think that what is missing are good questions and honesty.

Some questions we can ask and answer quite easily, e.g.

Boy Square Root

“Boy Square Root”

Q) Are there many people like Paloma in the world today?

A) A lot. Chelsea Mae made a video about a urchin call Gerald AKA “Boy Square Root” which was published by the Huffington Post.

It would be nice if these kids had their Duke of Brunswick to scoop them up and send them on to college and a glittering future.

Q) A more difficult question is why bother?

A) Governments and educationists, those in the education reform industry, would claim that the answer is obvious, and start droning on about technology. I think that at the least they are being disingenuous, in the wonderful phrase of a British Civil Servant, “economical with the truth”.

My second piece of evidence for such a point of view also comes from another Wired article, this one entitled ‘If Politicians Had to Debug Laws Like Software, They’d Fix the Bugs’ which begins:

In the spring, members of Congress set off to fly home for a holiday—and ran into mammoth lines at the airports. Why were things so bad? Because of airport furloughs caused by the “sequester.” The sequester, you may recall, is the ridiculous measure Congress passed when members couldn’t agree on a budget, and it mandates across-the-board cuts.

Critics warned that the sequester would cause hardship throughout the country, but congress-folk didn’t care — until they had to share in the pain.When they discovered that the sequester was eating into their vacation time, they rushed back to the Capitol and passed a law restoring funding to airports, working so fast that part of the bill was handwritten.

Congress, it turns out, isn’t paralyzed. It’s just not motivated correctly. In this spirit, there’s one simple way to get our do-nothing legislators off the dime: Have them eat their own dog food. Then maybe one day Captain Kirk will command his USS Enterprise “to boldly go where no one has been before”.

Seez You by Nate Beeler

Seez You by Nate Beeler @ http://www.cagle.com/author/nate-beeler/