Stuff and nonsense!

Lear

Born May 12th in 1812 Edward Lear he was.  Born in a war between Britain and France, born in a War with the USA when the guns roared out for all the day, and the great flag flew despite rockets and bombs, still flew in the morning inspiring a song that the Nation still sings today.

Famous for writing “nonsense poetry”.  But when I read his poems I see in them a pretty good description of democratic parliamentary business the world over.

“How wise we are! though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long, yet we never can think we were rash or wrong, while round in our Sieve we spin!”

Of course, one of the greatest features of democracy is that we can openly criticize our governments.  It is only in repressive regimes that the populace fear to criticize the glorious leader.

The Jumblies; by Edward Lear

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,

in a Sieve they went to sea:

in spite of all their friends could say,

on a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,

in a Sieve they went to sea!

And when the Sieve turned round and round,

and every one cried, `You’ll all be drowned!’

they called aloud, `Our Sieve ain’t big,

but we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!

in a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,

in a Sieve they sailed so fast,

with only a beautiful pea-green veil

tied with a riband by way of a sail,

to a small tobacco-pipe mast;

and every one said, who saw them go,

`O won’t they be soon upset, you know!

For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,

and happen what may, it’s extremely wrong

in a Sieve to sail so fast!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

The water it soon came in, it did,

the water it soon came in;

so to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet

in a pinky paper all folded neat,

and they fastened it down with a pin.

and they passed the night in a crockery-jar,

and each of them said, `How wise we are!

though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,

yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,

while round in our Sieve we spin!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

And all night long they sailed away;

and when the sun went down,

they whistled and warbled a moony song

to the echoing sound of a coppery gong,

in the shade of the mountains brown.

`O Timballo! How happy we are,

when we live in a Sieve and a crockery-jar,

and all night long in the moonlight pale,

we sail away with a pea-green sail,

in the shade of the mountains brown!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,

to a land all covered with trees,

and they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,

and a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,

and a hive of silvery Bees.

And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,

and a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,

and forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,

and no end of Stilton Cheese.

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,

In twenty years or more,

And every one said, `How tall they’ve grown!

for they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,

and the hills of the Chankly Bore!’

And they drank their health, and gave them a feast

of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;

and every one said, `If we only live,

we too will go to sea in a Sieve,—

to the hills of the Chankly Bore!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

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Demagogues

On this day in 1895 two controversial world leaders were born.

Zog

Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli was born to a wealthy landowning family in Albania.  He was appointed a district governor ahead of his older half brother, perhaps because of his mothers royal connections.  He signed the Albanian declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire and was instrumental in creating Albania as a parliamentary democracy.

He was elected first president of Albania in 1925.  In 1928 he turned Albania into a Kingdom and appointed himself King Zog I, King of the Albanians.  He was not recognized by European royalty who looked down upon self appointed kings, but he was well regarded in the Turkish/Arabic world.

Zog relied heavily on loans from Italy to prop up the Albanian Economy.  His military was run by Italian officers.

In classic Albanian style there were 600 blood feuds against him, and he survived 55 assassination attempts.  His Son and Heir, Leka, was born in April 1939.  At the same time the Italians moved on Albania.  Zog cleaned the gold out of the Central Bank, packed up his wife, child and the cash and fled the country.  He spent the rest of his life living in faded grandeur as a King in exile.

juanandevaperon

The other was Juan Perón, thrice elected President of Argentina, husband to Eva Perón nicknamed Evita, star of the Rice & Webber Musical.

Perón was raised from the entrepreneurial classes in Argentina, with roots in Sardinia.  He was sent to Catholic boarding school and joined the military.  He enjoyed a successful career as an officer and was sent to Mussolini’s Italy to study mountain warfare, for which the Italian Alpini were famous.  He was in Italy in 1939 when Mussolini was invading Albania.

In Europe Perón closely observed the governing structures of Fascim, Military dictatorship, Communism and Social democracy and concluded that the latter was the best form of government.  He preferred social democracy to liberal democracy, a view I share myself.

For everyone who expresses positive opinions on Perón you will find three people who hate him.  Throughout his career he focused on three principles.  Government should be democratic, alleviation of poverty and dignity of work.  Again, I happen to be aligned with him on these.

His three presidencies were interspersed with periods of military dictatorship.  His life was frequently at risk and he had to flee the country and live in exile.  The capitalists hated him because he fought against the exploitation of workers.  The conservative Catholics hated him for passing laws permitting divorce and legalising prostitution.  The socialists and the communists hated him because they felt he was too supportive of the entrepreneurial and capitalist system.  The military dictators hated him as a successful military officer who would not back their coups d’état or support the rule of military Juntas.  All sides contending for rule accused him of corruption, living a life of luxury through embezzlement of the public purse.  Meanwhile he was loved by the people, because he fought for them.

Don’t get me wrong here, I know Perón was no angel.  He was anti-education and I have a major problem with that position.  He was in a constant war with third level institutions.  Slogans abounded on the streets such as “Promote democracy- kill a student” or “Shoes not Books”.  His politics made for some very strange bedfellows.  He was on good terms with Che Guevara and Salvador Allende.  But he was a realist about US involvement in the overthrow of Allende and support for General Pinochet.  He warned the Argentinian People that this could happen to him.  He was also accused of having an affair with a 13 year old girl, on which accusation he commented “13?  I am not superstitious”.

He did his best to steer Argentina down a middle path in the cold war, attempting to maintain relations with both USA and Russia and gaining favour with neither regime.  His motivation was to maintain Argentinian independence.

He made Argentina the strongest economy in Latin America, despite overt attempts by the USA to undermine his reform government.  But Perón avoided turning his nation into another Cuba, or Chile.

A complex politician it is interesting to compare his career with that of Zog, who was a perfect example of someone who profited from rule.  Perón worked all his life for his country, despite the hatred and criticism he faced.  I believe he will go down in history as a good politician and a true patriot and that history will remember him well.

He was desecrated in death, his mausoleum raided and his hands cut off with a chainsaw.  His ceremonial personal effects were stolen.

 

Space Race

Sputnik

On this day in 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik.  The USA woke up to the fact that the space race had begun, and they were not even at the starting blocks.

With the launch of Sputnik the Russians engineered what was called by Eisenhower “the Sputnik crisis”.  The Russians proved they had rockets capable of launching nuclear warheads and reaching the USA.  The payload of 83 Kilos was initially dismissed by the US scientists as preposterous.  They were planning on launching a sub 10 kilo package and did not have the raw power available to shift  such a large mass into orbit.

With the launch of Sputnik the world changed overnight.  The USA, which thought of itself as the premier power in the world, found itself in second place.

In response Eisenhower commissioned the creation of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  DARPA pioneered computer networking and led directly to the creation of the Internet.

At the same time he created NASA to take responsibility for space exploration from the Military arms, which were focused on development of warhead delivery systems.

In the United Kingdom the launch of Sputnik brought into sharp relief that the nation, once the workshop of the world, was now a technological backwater.  Great Britain did not have the capability to enter the space race.

But Outer Space; by Robert Frost (from ‘In the Clearing’ published 1962)

But outer Space,
At least this far,
For all the fuss
Of the populace
Stays more popular
Than populous

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Pablo Neruda

Marmandes

Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto was born this day in 1904.  He ‘borrowed’ his pen name from a Czech poet, Jan Neruda.  A brilliant poet, a nobel laureate, nationalist and politician.  He was murdered under orders of Augusto Pinochet by a doctor treating him for cancer.  Pinochet staged a Coup D’état against the legally elected government of President Allende.

Pinochet was able to do this because he was supported by the US Government and received direct support from the CIA.  That’s American democracy for you!  Democracy for Americans who live in the United States, just not for all Americans, unless it is the right kind of democracy.

Enough with the politics, July is the month of tomatoes.  I planted Marmandes this year.  See the photo!

 

Ode to Tomatoes: by Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera,
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhaustible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

 

Coup d’Etat

Trump

Currently reading Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale”.  It is oddly prophetic in describing how the USA is subverted by Christian Fundamentalist Military who suspend the constitution and replace democracy with a police state.  The events set out by Atwood involve a rise in Islamic fundamentalism (remember this was written back in the 1980’s before anyone ever heard of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden.)

An assassination of the President of the USA and an attack on the Capitol wipes out the Government in one fell swoop.  The question is of course who instigated the attack?  Was it the Islamic fundamentalists or was it the Christian fundamentalist right wing?  The events are a mirror of what happened in Germany in the 1930’s.  Hitler did not have enough seats in the parliament to form a government.  He began by eliminating his main rivals, the Communists.  The Reichstag building was burned down and the event was blamed on the communists who were eliminated from parliament.  Hitler then cut a deal with the Catholic right wing to suspend government by passing the Enablement Act.  Stormtroopers prevented Social Democrat moderates from entering the parliament building for the vote.  Democracy was destroyed by a minority group of bullies.

Atwood uses this as a model for her own military takeover of the USA.  Does it sound plausible that the hard right wing could suspend democracy?  Just look at the rise of the Tea Party republicans!  The rise in Islamic fundamentalism has generated a polarising influence in US politics.  The result is a candidate like Donald Trump who speaks of banning muslims from entry to the USA and building a wall across the Mexican border.  In times of fear and uncertainty voters seek simple answers from strong leaders.  What they get are demagogues and dictators.

The 9/11 attacks targeted the world trade centre, the Pentagon and the White House.  What would have happened if the President had been killed?  US democracy is in a precarious position.  The Handmaid’s Tale is like a manual for suspension of democracy.  It seems to me that some of the hard right have been studying up on it.  No wonder they want the book removed from required reading lists in US schools.

Maybe allowing the US population to own all those guns is not such a bad idea?  What do you think?

 

 

War on Poverty

Change.JPG

These days we are used to hearing the USA declare war on unbeatable opponents.  At this stage the USA has lost the War in Vietnam, lost the War on Drugs, lost the War on Terror etc etc etc.

There was a time, back in the 1960’s when the USA was motivated to declare a more positive kind of warfare.  In January 1964 President Lyndon. B. Johnson declared a war on poverty.

More properly it led to the passing of the Economic Opportunity Act.  This built on measures introduced in the “New Deal” by FDR and established many structures that remain in place even today.

Sadly the War on Poverty in the USA was lost.  The republicans got into power and steadily eroded the foundations of the US Welfare State.  Wealth has increasingly shifted into the hands of a smaller and smaller elite of the super-rich.

Happy societies are those that offer the greatest opportunities to the lowest of the low, to enable them and encourage them to rise and better themselves.  Capitalist societies are not designed to deliver widespread contentment.  They are focused on the exploitation of the masses for the gratification of the few.

Purely communist societies have largely failed because they are not able to compete economically with capitalist societies.

Managed economies, be they rooted in Fascism (eg Post War Spain), Socialism (eg Yugoslavia) or in tradition and religion (eg Saudi Arabia) are designed to protect a ruling elite at the expense of reform or progress.  While they can be initially decisive and dynamic they rapidly decline into stagnation.

The best societies are those with a centrist democratic political structure, representative government, rule of law and a market economy.  The very best societies are those with the most educated populations and the strongest female presence in senior industry and political roles.

 

To a Poor Old Woman; by William Carlos Williams

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

Indian Country

For a short time it appeared possible that the Native American People would have their own country.  The proposed land encompassed the area lying between the Ohio river and the Great Lakes and takes in the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

We can only imagine what a different world it might be had this plan come to fruition.  Today, in between the USA and Canada you would have a huge tract of country with a status similar to Lesotho and Swaziland.  In economic terms it had the potential to become a powerhouse.  The proposed nation straddled the Mississippi and could have acted as a market exchange between the nations of Canada in the North, the USA in the East, French Louisiana in the South and the Spanish territories in the West.

The idea emerged after the American Revolutionary War.  The British came up with the idea of supporting their Indian allies and creating the new state as a barrier between the USA and Canada.

The USA treated the Native Americans as defeated powers.  The Native Americans did not accept this position and rose up against the American annexation of their lands.  On November 4th, 1791 a group of tribes led by Blue Jacket (Shawnee), Buckongahelas (Delawares), Little Turtle (Miamis) and with a large contingent of Potawatomis inflicted a catastrophic defeat on the US army led by Arthur St.Clair.  Popularly known as the Battle of the Wabash the indian victory made the idea of an Indian Nation all the more tangible for the British.

Then Napoleon began to conquer his way across Europe.  The British Government found itself isolated.  Rather than further antagonise the fledgling American State they abandoned the notion of an Indian Barrier State.

It is interesting to think, in an alternate reality, what North America could be like today.

Hell on the Wabash; by Carl Sandburg

When country fiddlers held a convention in
Danville, the big money went to a barn dance
artist who played Turkey in the Straw, with
variations.
They asked him the name of the piece calling
it a humdinger and he answered, “I call it
‘Hell on the Wabash.'”
The two next best were The Speckled Hen, and
Sweet Potatoes Grow in Sandy Land, with
variations.