When you drive through the older parts of Milwaukee, you might notice the large number of churches or former churches. The reason is partly explained by this map, if you understand the underlying culture(s).
Milwaukee, like many Midwestern cities, had lots of foreign born citizens. In those days, nationality was a lot like race is today. Each group felt different and usually superior to those others around them.
Their children and grandchildren would intermarry and forget their nationalities except for some food preferences and t-shirts saying something like “kiss me, I’m …”, but back then, as my father told me, a lone Polish kid could get harassed if he wandered into a group of Serbians and the Polish “gang” would return the favor when the situation was reversed. Religion was a big part of cultural heritage and so each nationality built its own church, sometimes only a short distance from the others. My grandparents were proudly Polish Catholic. Despite their poverty, they invested in sending my father and his brothers to Catholic school at Saint Stanislaus and made of special point of getting a house within easy walking distance of the church and school.
You cannot tell how close it was if you go there today. They build the I-94 freeway through the old Polish neighborhood, putting a river of concrete between my grandparent’s house and their beloved church.
Freeway construction and urban renewal had the (maybe) unintended outcome of hastening the breakdown of the old ethnicity, the remnants of which we can now see in nice bars and restaurants occupying the extant old buildings.
One of the reasons I still like to visit and walk around my native city is that I can appreciate the layers of history, seeing what is still there and imagining what is gone but still leaves its social and cultural shadow.
Margret Thatcher is sometimes praised and often criticized for saying that there is no such thing as society.
This is the whole of what she said, and she was right – “There is no such thing as society. There is [a] living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us [is] prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.”
I have been reading a lot about emergence and society. Humans are an immensely social species. We are cooperative in ways no other animals are, while (so far) avoiding the tyranny termites, ants and bees. Our conflicts about cooperation are about how much, not if it is going to happen.
Those of us who believe in free market democracy are often accused by progressives and always by socialists of being somehow in favor of a cruel competition. In fact, my views are much closer to a true interactive community than most progressives and all socialists. Community presupposes interactions and reciprocal help and obligations among all members, as Mrs. Thatcher says. Contrary to socialism (or worse) that rely on centralize planning, command and control, free market democracies rely on the people and their emerging cooperation based mostly on free associations among individuals to guide societal change.
Barack Obama drew the ire of many, me included, when he chided successful people by saying “you didn’t build that.” He was actually correct in what he said, but wrong in why he said. it. None of us is independent and almost nobody really wants to be. We live with the accumulated wealth, wisdom and (yes) mistakes of humans who came before us and those that currently share our planet. This is like the fish not knowing he is in water. It does not preclude individual free will, but rather supports it. It also supports our freedom and autonomy. We are in the tapestry and cannot escape, but within that we have choices that make life better or worse for us and for others. We choose. We are not carried along like a cork in a stream, but the most effective decisions are informed by understandings of currents and possibilities.
Some things come easily to us humans. We usually think of those are “natural.” We can easily determine nuances in languages, verbal and non-verbal, that we cannot teach to our most sophisticated computers. Others are harder for us. The math problems that computers can solve in nanoseconds, befuddle most of us. These are learnable, but “unnatural”. And some things we just cannot have, no matter how much we want them. (I always thought that quotation “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” was inspirational until you thought about it and saw it was just claptrap) Distinguishing among these things, preferentially choosing natural paths when possible, pushing through the less natural when necessary and avoiding things we cannot have, even if we really want them, is what makes life for individuals and societies better or worse.
So nobody is an island, entire of themselves, but we all have autonomy (if we choose to take it) and we all have contributions to make and enjoy. However, only those who choose the somewhat more difficult path of looking to what they can contribute, rather than what they can have, looking to responsibilities as well as rights, can have the chance of being complete human beings.
I know I make a value judgement here and I am indeed saying that we are not all equal in what we do and the outcomes we seek. I am not saying I always know the right, but I am saying that it is incumbent on all of us to seek it.
I attended “The Premiers’ Perspective: A Canada-U.S. Relations Outlook for the New Decade” at Wilson Center on February 7, 2020. It was advertised as “a conversation with the Honourable Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta. The Premiers will speak on how provincial interests play a role in Canada’s vision and presence on the global stage and how topics such as trade, energy, and innovation will shape Canada-U.S. relations in 2020 and beyond” and that was what it was. “Politico” co-sponsored the event and so Luiza Savage Executive Director at “Politico” joined Jane Harman President & CEO, The Wilson Center in welcoming the guests and Lauren Gardner Reporter from “Politico Pro Canada” moderated the discussion. The program lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. Jane Harman introduced Chris Sands as the new director of the Canada Institute. Notes are below. — The funniest part of the “Premiers’ Perspective: A Canada-U.S. Relations Outlook for the New Decade” came when Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan seemed to say he disagreed with everything Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney said, after they agreed on everything else up to that point. What he had in fact that is that “I would JUST agree …” Kenny asked right away, and Moe cleared it up on the spot. Goes to show how misunderstandings happen. USMCA Besides what would have been big news, but wasn’t, there was probably little that surprised people familiar with the two leaders, but there was a lot of useful insights and explanations. Saskatchewan & Alberta are especially tightly integrated into the North American market, so it was no surprise that both premiers strongly endorse USMCA. They foresaw no problems getting the agreement ratified by the Federal Parliament and reported that the premiers of all the provinces had come out strongly for the agreement. Jason Kenny said that it was especially important to get ensconced in the North American zone, as there are growing concerns about protectionism in the USA and around the world. Both agreed that the new USMCA was an improvement over NAFTA, although they did not voice complaints about NAFTA. When asked about concerns about specific products, they mentioned forestry, aluminum and dairy. Softwood lumber exports are important in both provinces. Detailed adjustments can be made within the treaty, so the sooner they get in the better to start the detailed work. Defer to the Federal Government in international affairs Both premiers made a point of emphasizing while they want to make the concerns of their own provinces well-known, it is the Federal Government that runs foreign policy and trade negotiations. Jason Kenny added that this is especially important to recall now, given the challenge of China. They don’t want to give the Chinese the impression that they can divide Canadians. Huawei dispute hurts Western Canada has been hurt by the Huawei extradition dispute. When the USA and China have disputes, Canada suffers collateral damage. Scott Moe mentioned harm done to potash exports from his province, as well as general agricultural products. Beef and pork restrictions have also hurt, but the thorniest problem might be the canola ban. They did not explain. Speaking about China tensions, Jason Kenny said that there was more than two Canadians (Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor) imprisoned related to diplomatic dispute surrounding the Huawei extradition. He made special mention of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen and former Uighur activist who has been imprisoned in China for 13 years. Energy Both provinces are producers of raw materials and especially energy and this is the biggest bone of contention between these provincial and the Federal authorities. Some of it has to do with the provinces thinking that they pay too much to the Federal Government, but more of it is related to policies that restrict, or at least do not encourage, energy exploration and transportation. Pipelines and transporting energy Scott Moe characterized their concerns “the three Ts”: taxes, trade and transportation. Jason Kenny said that he must assume that the Trudeau government is in favor of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, since the Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDIC), accountable to the Canadian Parliament, acquired the responsibly in 2018. He explained that Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal cleared the way by ruling against challenges from First Nations groups concerned about the environmental impacts of the project. [The Trans Mountain expansion would add more than 600 miles to the pipeline and increase its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000.] The government has a duty to consult indigenous people, but this does not imply their power to veto a project. Kenny regretted the Obama decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and implicated the new (at the time) Trudeau government. He suspected the there was at least a tacit agreement by Trudeau not to kick up a fuss. Kenny believed that the veto violated the spirit if not the letter of NAFTA. Scott Moe went on to explain the importance of pipelines. No form of energy exploration or transport is risk-free but moving oil by pipeline is by far the safest, compared with alternatives such as rail and trucks. Beyond that, moving oil by rail gets in the way of other commodities, such as potash, timber and other agricultural products.
The Keystone XL pipeline is beneficial for international interests, Jason Kenny added. It will produce billions in revenues, create jobs and enhance closer relationships between the USA in Canada. It also creates jobs in the USA as far away as the Gulf Coast, where refiners are tooled to refine heavy crude, no longer so easily available from Venezuela. North American energy Scott Moe pointed out that North American energy is important for geopolitical as well as straight economic reasons. We are transitioning from oil to renewable or other non-fossil forms of energy. This transition will take some time, but when it happens much of the world’s oil will become a stranded resource. It is better if the last useful barrels of oil come from North America and that if the resource is stranded, better it be stranded elsewhere. Until then, current demand will be satisfied from somewhere. North American energy is more secure and extracted in more ecologically friendly ways than in places where environmental protection is viewed with somewhat less enthusiasm. Science-based regulation Both premiers advocated a science-based regulation process. Kenny pointed to his province’s $30/ton tax on industrial carbon tax as part of his government’s commitment weaning the world off fossil fuels. [The tax went into effect on January 1, 2020 and is the centerpiece of Premier Jason Kenney’s climate strategy. The tax could increase in future years to keep pace with the federal government’s climate plan for industry. Alberta’s oil sands are included in the tax.] Don’t mock the people: the rise of populism In response to questions, the premiers talked about the rise of populism. This factor in all advanced Western countries. Kenny thought that Canada was less affect by this malady (my word) and he credited Canada’s better immigration policies as well as the Canadian energy industry. Canada’s skill-based immigration system matches potential immigrants with Canada’s needs. They integrate much easier into society and are more easily welcomed by Canadians, since they provide useful skills. The other factor, the energy industry, is less direct, but Kenny explained that semi-skilled workers in downsizing industries could move into the booming energy industries, and their related functions. Many have moved some distance from declining eastern areas to the booming prairie provinces. Kenny recommended former Prime Minister Stephen Harpers 2018 book, “Right Here, Right Now,” that addressed the root causes of populism. When political elites dismiss the concerns of ordinary people or even mock them, they react with populism. Wexit Addressing the “Wexit” issue, calls for Alberta to leave the Federation, Kenny said that concerns are genuine and serious, and he would not want it to develop further, but it is mostly talk. Still, polls show that 25-30% of the Alberta population supports Wexit, but that 75-80% understand the concerns. Canadians first Both Kenny & Moe emphasized that they thought it important to be Canadians first. They emphasized that it was important that the Federal government run foreign policy and trade negotiations. They singled out Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland for special praise two separate times and praised the work of Canadian diplomats in Washington. They also referenced section 92 of the Canadian 1867 Constitution that gives significant power to provinces to develop and manage natural resources. Good balance. Moe and Kenny agreed on most things, in fact it seemed on all things discussed at the Wilson Center meeting, so much so that there was little need to differentiate. Besides getting along very well, they gave the impression of being practical and competent leaders. A complete video of the program is attached.
George C Marshall did not write memoirs. He was dedicated to his country & his duty. He gave credit to others, even for things he mostly did. He did not promote himself, never acted for political motives did not even vote. He went where his duty took him and did his best work when he got there. He was as close to the ideal of an American public man as ever lived. We never had many like him and I am afraid that we produce even fewer these days. Never complain, never explain and never apologize type guys, the ones that control their emotions and keep their private lives private, are out of style.
He might even have had trouble getting started. George C Marshall was an indifferent student in high school and showed no genius in college at VMI. He showed leadership skills early on, including superb organizational skills and extraordinary ability to judge people, put them in the right jobs and then let them do their jobs.
Marshall used to say that it was important to ask what a man COULD do, not what he could not. This was absolutely the right way to think and it certainly contributed to the Allied victory in the World War, and to American success in the very uncertain post-war world, where the most talented players had serious flaws, i.e. were human. (This would not fly today, in our days of zero tolerance and looking harder for flaws than achievement. I hope that we get past this and become adults again.)
I was in Lexington to give a talk on Aldo Leopold at Washington & Lee. I arrived when it was already getting dark, so I wanted to stay a little longer the next day so I could see a little. Lexington is not a big city. It took me 19 minutes to get from the hotel to VMI Marshall Museum, not counting a stop for breakfast. I was still too early. The museum did not open until 11am. So, I walked back to the hotel to get my car. I had left it, since I feared it would be too hard to park. There is ample parking around VMI. I got a place right in front of the Marshall Museum, reserved for visitors and giving two hours to visit.
It is worth seeing. I talked to a couple of the people there. They were dedicated to the job and to keeping the memory of George C Marshall alive. This is made more difficult by Marshall’s virtue of not promoting himself.
Americans are generally forgetting their history, more precisely not learning it. Marshall’s job as the organizer of victory just makes a less compelling narrative than being on the front lines. His avoidance of politics made his voice very powerful in getting things done, but it made him less famous. He was not a physically imposing man, not a gifted speaker. More’s the pity. He is the kind of man we should revere as a leader – a quiet man who does his duty, does it well, does not brag or complain and leaves when his work is done, knowing in his bones that service to his country was reward enough.
The first picture is Marshall’s statue at VMI. He is the University’s most illustrious graduate. Next is the library, classy. Picture #3 is Marshall’s desk, followed by a special book that has all the Marshall documents. Finally is a map at the center that shows the progress of the war. They say it lasts more than a 1/2 hour. I got as far as you can see, about the middle of 1940. Spoiler warning – I knew how it ended.
There have been books and documentaries talking about what the “real” Jesus looked like. Of course, nobody knows. Scientists have tried to guess based on what a statistically representative person living in that region might look like. Of course, we don’t really know what people from that region looked like 2000 years ago and Jesus’ father was from outside the region anyway. Does it matter?
I have been looking at examples of religious art, depicting Jesus, Mary and the Apostles. Very often, the people in the paintings look like the people who painted them. There were some very old conventions and some artists followed them. Some say the idea of what Jesus, Paul and Peter looked like was set before the 5th Century in art. I have included some examples.
The first is from Florence by an artist called Phillip Lippi. It is Mary and Jesus. We don’t know what Mary and Jesus looked like for sure, but thanks to this picture we know what at least some people in Florence looked like around 1400, since historians think this is Lippi’s wife and baby.
Next is Mary and Jesus by Giotto. He was among the first to make paintings more lifelike. We don’t know who he used as models, but his is a more traditional type of painting for the Virgin.
Getting into some older visions, we have St Peter & St Paul from what is now Turkey but in those days Constantinople was Roman. This is close to places where Peter and Paul actually walked. Finally a mosaic from Jordan, which is closer to the original action. We talk today about having role models that “look like” us. Same back in those days.
The anniversary of the introduction of slavery to the English colonies in North America inspired me to think a little more about how and why it was abolished. This is a more interesting question. Slavery in some form was universal until it suddenly (in terms long history) it was largely abolished in the course of a few generations.
You cannot get far talking about abolition w/o considering William Wilberforce. The Wikipedia entry featured a paragraph I found especially interesting.
“In the 1940s, the role of Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect in abolition was downplayed by historian Eric Williams, who argued that abolition was motivated not by humanitarianism but by economics, as the West Indian sugar industry was in decline.Williams’ approach strongly influenced historians for much of the latter part of the 20th century. “
I see no contradiction here. Economics, the great enrichment and the market revolution, enabled the implementation of the moral revolution pushed by leaders like Wilberforce. Moral leaders in many past societies inveighed against forced labor, but never succeeded over large areas of for long periods of time. Maybe they failed not only because they could not convince enough people of the righteousness of their cause, but also for the practical reason that the world – all the world – was too poor and poorly coordinated to allow it. We take for granted the wealth and capacity for progress we now enjoy. We often are unaware of the quantum change humanity experienced from around the middle of the 17th Century. The leap is ongoing and accelerating, but a lot of the basic ingredients came into being in the roughly two centuries from abound 1650-1850.
Reasonable people might disagree about the precise time period, but this encompasses the establishment of the scientific, democratic & market revolutions. We can point to individuals like Issac Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Adam Smith, David Hume, John Locke, and many more, but the remarkable things was the combination. Ideas passed from science to society to morality to philosophy to politics.
These sorts of ideas created the United States and it was in the USA that many of them best developed in a practical sense.
In 1550, abolishing forced labor was just beyond that capacity of any society because of their lack of wealth in all senses. They had not developed the technologies of production (engines, mills, precision techniques) to make stuff. They had not developed the technologies of the mind (differential calculus, scientific theory) to allow what we call progress, had not yet developed the technologies of administration (statistics, limited liability corporations, communications) to allow modern economies or the technologies of governance that allowed countries to put it all together.
All these things enabled a higher morality. Our ancestors, the people of the past could produce wonderful structures, great literature and impressive philosophy, but their physical and intellectual technologies did not permit them to take the steps we can and that our more recent ancestors could and did.
A note on Wilberforce. He should be better remembered.
It is the idea of dynamism and change that is hard to understand. America is dynamic. We can become “more perfect” but nothing on earth is perfect. American genius was that our founders recognized that perfection was a process and not a destination.
My job for more than thirty years was to explain the United States to people around the world. Try to explain. That was also a process not a destination. I progressed from knowing not much to knowing not enough, but I couldn’t stop looking. It is a big country and one in perpetual state of becoming something new. That is how I started all my talks with foreign audiences, some variation of that. I must have given the talk hundreds of times and it was never the same twice, like the USA.
I wanted to be able to add personal color, so I made an effort to get out “into America”. We drove across the USA at least six times, depending exactly on how you count. We took the train once from California to Chicago. That was good. And I tried to talk to people along the way.
The more you talk to ordinary people, the more you come to respect ordinary people and understand that nobody is ordinary.
State Department (and USIA) had programs where diplomats could volunteer to talk around the country. I did that and arranged some of my own. Sometimes State Department gave talking points. I tended not to use them. They were too simple. One time I gave a talk about economics and trade to an audience in Amarillo, Texas using my fancy pants talking points. The audience knew a lot more than I did. I talked about international trade; they did it. I learned two things at that encounter: I learned about trade in agricultural products and I learned not to underestimate guys with cowboy hats and faded blue jeans. I got this sort of lesson over-and-over. I knew lots of general things; they knew lots of useful ones. I know my country is not perfect and never will be. But I know it will always be getting better. We can see farther because we stand on the shoulders of giants. It is easy to disparage them, for their lack of vision, but maybe we should just be grateful for the boost they gave us.
Met Pete Buttigieg today. I read his book and was impressed by his intellect.
I am not impressed when politicians present detailed plans. Everybody should know that the detailed plans will always fail, as the conditions presidents face will be different from those they imagine. What I liked about Buttigieg is that instead of detailed plans, he talks about the intellectual process that we reach goals. It might seems a subtle difference, but it is important. During his brief talk today, he said that the best thing we can do is envision the future we want and then work to figure out how to get there. He didn’t say it, but I think it implied the iterative approach that is best for addressing complex problems.
He didn’t engage in that anger you too often hear on the campaign trail. He was critical of the “current president” but specifically showed respect for those who voted for him. He said that the election was not the cause but the result of frustration. Some people voted for a candidate that they did not love because they wanted change.
Asked about foreign policy, he supported our network of alliances, adding that American values are important in the world and that we had the responsibility to advocate for them in our deeds and our words.
I literally got an elevator speech with Pete. After the talk, there was the usual milling around and I thought I there was nothing more for me to see, so I went to the elevator. Just about the time it arrive, Buttigieg and his entourage showed up. I offered to take the next one, but he invited me in. I told him that I had read his book. He said that he wrote to book to show the kind of guy he was, rather than just a long political advert. I said that I was impressed, but it might be that he is too intellectual to play well with much of the electorate. He responded that problems were nuanced and required nuanced solutions. I agree. He said that he got along alright with the people in Indiana and thought that people could understand the complexity if properly presented.
Seemed a good guy. Let’s see how it does.
My first picture is the standard photo with the candidate. Next is the Capitol. It was very pleasant day. Extraordinarily fresh for middle June. Last is part of the green roof at the building where we met.
The Senkaku paradox refers to something unimportant causing a major war, as all sides escalate until it all gets out of hand. That is the World War I scenario. Nobody got what they thought, much less what they wanted.
I rode down to see Michael O’Hanlon talk about this paradox. The Senakaku Islands are totally unimportant. Nobody lives there. Nobody goes there. Their total land area is only seven square kilometers. They don’t even qualify as islands under the law of the sea. But China has begun to talk about claiming them. They are currently “administered” by Japan, but not even claimed by the Japanese. How can these piles of rocks constitute a risk? The Chinese are using this as a provocation. It is a matter of pride and principle. This is what happens when there is no practical value and it makes negotiations harder, since nobody can trade concessions.
The “islands” are covered by the USA-Japan defense treaty, so if the Chinese make a move on them, the USA is bound to help Japan. Failing that would harm the alliance. Doing it would risk a war over something nobody cares about. This is the paradox. O’Hanlon also talked about Putin. China is a rising power, and rising powers are dangerous to the established order. Russia is a declining power, and declining powers are even worse. Consider that World War I was provoked to a large extent by a declining power, Austria-Hungary, trying to hold on to its fading glory.
Putin wants to weaken NATO. What if he made some “small” aggression into a Baltic country, something too small to fight about but big enough to endanger the alliance if left untended?
O’Hanlon suggests sanctions aimed very precisely against Russian gas and oil. This is better deployed as a threat than a response.
Putin can be put on notice if the Europeans build more ports for liquefied natural gas. Putin would know that we COULD be serious about cutting off his markets. W/o energy sales, Russia is just a 3rd world country.
Fracking has greatly weaken lots of bad guys, chiefly Putin and the Iranians. Anyway, good talk and worth the time going down.
I have a personal story about Michael O’Hanlon. Back in 2007 I ran State Department Worldwide Speaker Program. I noticed that too many of our speakers were Bush supporters. I was myself a Bush supporter, but our mandate was to represent all the diversity of American opinion and I respect the principle, so I checked into it. I learned that some programmers were avoiding “controversial” speakers, and by controversial they meant possible Bush opponents. The irony is that most of the programmers were liberal Democrats. They feared the reaction, even if there had never been one. They believed those intolerant myths.
I reiterated our long-standing policy of representing all of America and told everybody that if there were any complaints to send them my way. Among the people I asked our programmers to recruit was O’Hanlon. He had written lots of good articles. They were often critical of Bush but thoughtful. I don’t recall if he ever traveled for us, but he was contacted, as were many other thoughtful liberals.
We got only one complaint. A couple colleagues showed up in my office looking scared. They said there had been a complaint that one of our speakers was critical of Bush. I determined that the complaint was unjustified and then asked who complained. I assumed that no experienced diplomat would lodge such complaint. Still, I was relieved to find out it was nobody important, some pissant junior officer who had yet to learn not to antagonize his betters. We could safely do nothing and nothing is what we did. I told my guys not even to answer the guy. So ended a tempest in a teapot.
Let’s hope that other small things like that end w/o even whimper. It is too easy to make little things big when you think small.
This is the simple, fair & transparent solution. Determine threshold requirements based on a combination of tests, grades and courses taken. This might produce many more qualified students than places available. Then do a lottery.
There is no such thing as a “whole person” at 18-years-old. Any attempt to be more precise in assessments is silly and invites bias and corruption. Keep it simple and it is harder to cheat.
Almost all kids who want to go to college can go to college today. The problem comes from the artificial scarcity created by the “top” universities. A lottery addresses this. It also makes the kids less crazy competitive and would make them less hierarchical.
Consider that today if a kid is rejected by a university, she feels personally aggrieved, maybe suspects cheating. The lottery would not eliminate the sorrow, but it would mitigate the anger and the hurt.
I feel strongly about this and have articulated it for years in more detailed form. IMO, the big reason we do not eliminate the anxiety in admissions is that too many benefit from it. One more thing. Consider that those kids that got in through the dishonest procures discussed in the recent scandal evidently did okay in those “competitive” schools. Some have already graduated. What does that say about the emissions process? Beyond the threshold requirements, it is not better than random chance, just more anxiety causing, expensive and opaque.