Sunday, February 26, 2017

POLITICS AS ENTERTAINMENT

For many, politics is very boring.  Some will pay some attention during an election campaign and some think it is a waste of time.

A few of us don't think it is boring.  It is both about life and death and it does affect everyday life.  It does get buried in details.  What gets me excited is the power struggle between good and evil and the manipulation of minds.

Power is less based on merit, but more on marshalling social forces.  Decisions likewise often bear little resemblance to civic good.  Manipulation is becoming more scientific--not only do they develop a message, but it is targeted.  Under our present system it is not necessary to get 50%+1 so by accumulating niches that add up to enough to be first past the post you can win an election.

Money plays a big role, but surprisingly is not always decisive.  Part of my interest is similar to  basketball when the little guy overcomes the big guy.  Sometimes the less financed contender also overcomes the better financed, but usually the underdog is such for powerful logical reasons.

Most politicians say things they don't believe and reluctantly advocate for causes as part of a package.  The best example is climate denialists, most of whom are well educated, but also know where their campaign funds come from.  They can bury their statements amongst other more appealing agendas.

Celebrity worshipping  "Dallas" glorified power manipulation and adultery.  Getting away with it was entertaining.  "House of Cards" drew a lot of attention, even Barrack Obama admired the machinations. Donald Trump's most famous line "You're fired"would devastate in person, but somehow seems tough. making us wish we had as much grit.

Not all political junkies share the same philosophy.  Some like the conservative agenda which boils down to the freedom of entrepreneurs.  They appreciate that social conservatism can be tied into the package and make victory possible.  check, http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/10/social-conservatism-is-pivotal.html  Others like myself feel those in power are stacking the deck against everyone else and that leads to a lot of unhealthy responses.  We think the "good guy" would win if more people realized the merits of the cause.  On either side are some who feel compromise is necessary while others feel it is to be avoided.  There are different consequences at the end of all this political manoeuvrings.

Boring?  Definitely not!

Friday, February 24, 2017

ANTONIA'S LINE

"Antonia's Line" (just"Antonia" in the original Dutch) won the Oscar as best foreign film of 1995 and a lot of other awards including a People's Choice award at TIFF.  It is well worth a view for its quality and uniqueness.  Dutch movies aren't so easily accessible as other foreign films, but they do go for quality.

Just as you are getting settled in your seat you will quickly realize this is a woman centric movie.  Men are not neglected, but play a secondary role.  There are a large number of characters that you will get to know in some ways better than most large ensembles.  The main character Antonia starts the movie proclaiming her death is today and summons her great grand-daughter who she had promised she would remember at this time.  Then the movie goes over her life starting with her arrival with her daughter Danielle back to her home where her mother is about to die.

Danielle has quite the imagination and we witness her fanciful distortions of reality.  We are soon introduced to some characters.  Mentally challenged people, particularly one known as Loopy Lips are sympathetically brought to our attention as Antonia treats everyone as humans.  Deedee is shown to us as a rape victim.  Antonia attacks the rapist and later forces him out of town.  As the narrator points out Loopy Lips and Deedee find each other to their mutual enjoyment.

An old moody man, Crooked Finger over the course of the movie becomes a mentor for a a few generations of women.  He is always quoting Schopenhauer and one remembered line was that "it is better never to be born."  He is one of many that discuss their philosophy of death.  Nevertheless he is beloved.

Sex is celebrated in this movie.  Although there are two rapes shown, mostly sex is a joyous event.  When Danielle decides she would like to become pregnant her mother takes her to a big city while they check out possible males.  They find one from a pregnant  woman in a home for unwed mothers.  Danielle obviously enjoys the sex, but cuts off a relationship.  Later the resulting daughter turns out to be a mathematical genius and Danielle has a joyous lesbian relationship with the math tutor.  The woman who brought the sperm donor into the picture eventually ends up at the village and has a love affair with the local priest who gave up his religious position.  All the sexually active couples (at least five couples by my count)are shown in a montage with celebratory music.

Marleen Gorris directed and wrote the script.  By some research and a comment from the special features Marleen's background and philosophy is of feminism.  According to some write-ups some of her earlier films were guilty of misandry, one good example being "The Lost Island" (1990). With "Antonia's Line" she struck a more practical chord by featuring strong women.  Afterwards she has directed English language films including "The Luzhin Defence" (2000) and "Within the Whirlwind" (2009) both featuring Emily Watson as a strong female character.  Not seen either of these two films.

Willy Stassen, born in Belgium was the cinematographer has done mostly French movies and tv. shows.  Michiel Reichwein was the editor and had done two other films with Marleen.  Music was provided by Ilona Sekacz who had mostly composed for British movies and tv. shows.

Willeke Van Ammelrooy played the lead, Antonia as a very strong woman with a love of life.  She had won 3 Dutch national awards for best actress.  I had seen her in "Bride Flight," (2008) and surprisingly in a Hollywood film, "The Lake House" (2006).

Els Dotterman played the daughter Danielle with quite a range of emotions.

Jan Decleir played a widower with five boys who patiently courted Antonia and eventually won her love.   Two years after this film he played a lead role in "Character" which won another best foreign film Oscar.

This movie is the sort that make me glad I am not hung up over subtitles.  It is well worth the effort.
For more on Dutch movies:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/dutch-movies-are-hidden-gems.html

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Ek Doctor ki Maut" where Jealousy and Politics inhibits science


This 1990 Bollywood movie is about a workaholic.  Actually he is driven to do research as he feels that is more important, but needs a government hospital job to make ends meet.  His wife is exasperated by his long hours and inattention to her but sticks by him.

To do his experiments Dr Roy found a way to infect brown mice with leprosy and then using studies by a German Jew who died in the Holocaust he developed a cure.  The government accuses him of shoddy research and not going through proper channels.  To stop his efforts he is transferred to a small rural village where the medical demands use up his time and energy and he loses many of the indispensable resources needed for his research.   His wife stays at their original home, except for the weekends so she can care for the animals and get him books.  His colleagues view him as a temperamental man, stirring up trouble.  Because by accident he discovered a side effect involving female fertility, gynaecologists ganged up on him.

In 1990 animal rights were not as big an issue as it has become.  Near the end when his work is not credited he kills the animals including a rhesus monkey as he feels they are suffering needlessly.

Jealousy underscores many of his moves.  Instead of supporting his efforts government officials refuse to give necessary financial aid to finish his research.  Eventually a school mate after a plea from his wife campaigns to get more attention, but even that runs into a wall.

The bureaucracy seems more concerned over protecting their status. bureaucrats, eventually while delayed and delayed he lost out to Americans who used the same source material and came to the same conclusions.

Dr Roy does attract attention of an American research company and is offered a job.  He accepts because he wants to work and the film ends with an airplane taking off.  The lesson here is that talent (and a strong work ethic) is valuable.  The countries who put up barriers will lose in the long run.

The movie was based on the experiences of Subhash Mukyopadhya, a medical doctor in Kolkata,(Calcutta) who was the second doctor to have an in vitro fertilization baby born in the world, but was treated almost as a criminal for not going through government bureaucracy.  A very few years later he committed suicide.  The English translation is "The Doctor Dies."

The film won a number of awards in India.  One that got my attention was from the Bengal Film Journalists awards.  The movie put a premium on the role of reporters getting out the truth.

Tapan Sinha, the director was a science graduate from the University of Calcutta and became a sound engineer for films.  Went to Britain for two years and came back to direct movies.  Most of his films were in Bengali, the dominant language around Calcutta, now known as Kolkutta.  He composed music for 12 movies and for "Ek Doctor Ki Maut" was the music director.   He also wrote the screenplay.

The music was written by Vanraj Bhatia.  the only other one of his movies I watched was "Pardes,"
starring Shah Rukh Khan.

Soumendu Roy was in charge of cinematography.  Watch for the ocean scene.  Had done "The 'Chess Players."

Subodh Roy had edited mostly Bengali movies.  This movie was his last film.

Pankaj Kapur in my limited experience played mostly dirty old man roles, however now I  better appreciate he played a variety of roles.   He opted for art movies.  Movies I have seen him in include "Roja," "Finding Fanny," and "Matru ki Biljee ka Mandola."  He is currently married to Supriya Pathak and from a previous marriage is father of Shahid Kapoor

Shabana Azmi had been considered one of the dominant female actors of 'Parallel Cinema' in the 1970' and 1980's  Married to Javed Akhtar, making her step mother to Farhan Akhtar (http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2011/11/farhan-akhtar-young-man-on-rise-in.html) and Zoya.  Shabana's  father was an Urdu poet and her mother an actress--appeared in two films directed by Canadian Deepa Mehta, "Fire", a very controversial movie, banned in India after riots and "Midnight's Children."  Oher notable films include "Neerja" "The Chess Players," and "Matru ki Biljee ka Mandola."  She is excellent.

Irrfan Khan is better known to North Americans with such films as "The Namesake" "Slumdog Millionaire," "Life of Pi."  His "The Lunch Box" was popular at TIFF,  Also big in Bollywood with such as "Talvar," "Haider" and "Madaari," (http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/02/madaari-open-movie-about-government.html).  He plays a journalist with science background who encourages the main protagonist.

The film is something of a lost gem.  It reminds us of the harmful effects of jealousy and of bureaucracy.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Madaari--an open movie about government corruption

It would be hard to accept that every word of "Madaari" is based on a true experience, because it explores what many of us might hope for, but never, ever expect to see.  The focus is on corruption with the protagonist determined to expose it.  We root for him, even though he is using extreme means.  A few powerful men want him killed.

In some ways it is a typical suspense movie.  A young boy has been kidnapped, his desperate, but powerful parent uses his resources to pursue.  An intelligent officer gradually uncovers information while the tech savvy kidnapper manages to stay one step ahead.  Before it is resolved there is a great deal of tension.

Actually it is more than just a suspense movie, it points to how endemic corruption can become.  As one character declares it is not that individuals are corrupt, but that the structure of the government breeds corruption.  It doesn't matter who gets replaced, corruption will resume.

The protagonist uses the media to make his point.  The climax is satisfying in that the protagonist is able to force crooked government people to confess before a live camera.  As you might imagine that would be quite a trick and I don't want to spoil how he does it.

The Stockholm Syndrome is brought up and helps create a maudlin few scenes, that might make some people cringe, but I found believable.  It works for me because they point out the opposite of the usual viewpoint in this case that the kidnapper can also become attached to his victim.  When you think of his original impulse it seems credible.

Irrfan Khan has a long history of challenging roles and is fairly well known in America for such films as "Life of Pi." "The Amazing Spider-Man," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Inferno"(not seen) and even some tv. series.  But he is even busier in India with standout performances in such movies as "Talvar," "The Lunchbox," and "Life in a Metro."  He has won more than his share of awards including 3 Filmfare.

Jimmy Shergill plays a ruthless clever detective tracking down a very resourceful kidnapper.  Some of his notable films include "My Name is Khan," "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" (one of my favourite comic movies) and "Traffic" where he played the critical role.

The young kidnapped boy is played by Vishesh Bansal who had previously played in tv. series.  He was very effective as a spoiled young boy gradually coming to like his kidnapper.  His parents were effectively played by Tusher Dalvi and Ayesha Raza.

Nishikant Kamat, director has been involved as writer in other projects dealing with corruption.  He wrote and directed "Drishyam."   http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/11/driishyam-bollywood-remake-masterpiece.html  His first film was in Marathi and for his next film he is doing another.
Also did a Tamil film with a corruption theme.

Sutapa Sikder, Irrfan's wife was one of the producers.  Previously she had written dialogues for "Kahanni" and "Drishyam," two top movies.

Avinash Arun was the cinematographer who had filmed "Drishyam" and "Massan."  His one directed film was in Marathi.

Aarif Sheikh was the editor.  He had won an award for "D-day" and also edited for "Drishyam" and "Haider."  see http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/02/haider-bollywoods-version-of-shakespeare.html

Sameer Phaterpekar composed the music and like other crew members also worked on "Drishyam."

Another producer Shailja Kejriwel also supplied the story.  He has produced a number of movies in the Urdu language.

Most viewers would enjoy this movie if you like a little suspense well presented.

Regional movies are more important than I realized.  Many of  the crew developed their skills in regional movies or developed their career.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/01/regional-films-from-india.html

Monday, February 13, 2017

Underground Airlines

This is a work with "alternative facts," but that it is why "Underground Airlines" is a work of fiction.  But more like Picasso's  "Art is the lie that tells the truth."  There is a lot of truths to be found in this narration with bits that illustrate current conditions.  As with time travel when one event is changed all the subsequent events are effected, but author Ben H. Winters likes to include familiar names to the changed circumstances.  Also it is a compelling mystery.

The Civil War never happened as Abe Lincoln was assassinated in Indianpolis on his way to his inauguration.  As a compromise back in 1861 the United States legalized slavery and required those not practicing slavery to respect it.  Four hard States  (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Caroline) actively used slavery to current times, but much of law enforcement, both white and black sympathized with abolition so the slavers hired people like the protagonist.  Victor, is actually partly black, but somehow got trapped in a job he despises, hunting down and returning runaways.

Canada is referred to as a safe haven, several times.  A place where the slave hunters did not have to be respected.  We Canadians can be a bit self-righteous, but underneath we have our prejudices, but are superficially relatively polite.

A football reference seemed to imply that black football players could be rented out.  James Brown was brought to the north as a slave band, but escaped to Canada.  Ironically sports and music were two of the first breakthroughs for blacks as whites slowly came to enjoy at least some talents of African Americans.  Yet we have generally used this appreciation as a stereotype that limited our ability to appreciate them as equal humans.

Racism is still strong in the north.  Flags with "1819" on them are explained as representing the year before 1820 when slavery was abolished in Indiana.  Similar to the Confederate flag that symbolizes the "good ole days."  The word "boy" is used as a slur.

Little bits of revised history are brought in spaced throughout the story.  Martin Luther King Jr. played a key role in abolition in Texas and then was killed.  Other protests occurred in Selma, Alabama.  The United States withdrew from the United Nations in 1973.

In 1927 a Clean Hands Act was passed in Massachusetts to make it illegal to possess, sell or consume any slave made products.  After a Supreme Court decision other states adopted their own version of the act.  But the slave manufacturers found a way to re label their products in another country and sell them back into the states as they were that much cheaper.

Recently read, "The Half Has Never Been Told" about the critical contribution of slavery to American capitalism.  I was surprised to learn that brutality, carefully calculated could dramatically boost the efficiency of slaves.  "Underground Airlines" suggests that science and technology would be used to improve the profitability of slave labour.  Check out:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/12/the-half-has-never-been-told.html

What makes mysteries so compelling is missing information or misinformation.  You never know the full story, until the end, if ever.  You are being teased and you can't help wanting to move forward, at least with a well written mystery.  Nobody, including the protagonist is quite what they appear to be and you are never sure what their motivations are.

The author Ben Winters has written 7 previous novels and has won awards for both mystery and science fiction.

I have since read the Pulitzer prize winner "The Underground Railroad" that confused me with a similar title.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/05/the-underground-railroad.html 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS ENTREPRENEURS

How many businesses have you seen go under?  Too many for me, particularly of start-ups.

Who to blame?  Obviously some individuals made some mistakes.  Perhaps they were naive, inexperienced, or under financed.  You might think the blame was on these individuals who were foolish enough to start a business, but I think you have to include us consumers.

It is easy to criticize other's failings from a safe viewing spot.  I have been an employee, an employer, a consumer, a salesman and have seen many failed businesses.  As a salesman I am conscious that the need for a salesperson comes from the fact that everyone is a creature of habit.  We feel comfortable when not rocking the boat.

Large companies have an advantage (most of them earned it): volume advantages, credibility, but also consumer habits.  But the larger they are the more they tend to be remote and have no emotional attachment to your concerns.  They operate on formulas and although flexible something are apt to get lost.

It is easy to underestimate what is needed.  To be successful it is necessary to have a lot of up front expenses as attracting attention requires marketing.  Too many these days rely on free marketing. Social media can be very helpful and needs to be attended to, but is not enough in itself.  The underlying assumption is that if they build a better mousetrap that people will flock to buy it.

Experience is an often abused word, but is critical.  The mechanics of the process of business have to be learned  Before one is a manager one should understand the details of the business.  Maybe more important learn how to work with people.  Obviously there are groups and individuals that are willing to advise and many of them can make a difference.  New entrepreneurs need to be selective and not too proud to seek help.

Another problem that illustrates why the individual must be prepared is that most consumers are creatures of habit.  A few are mercenary and will seize advantages wherever they can.  Many will give a new entrepreneur some encouraging words and go back to their old habits.  Others will try to take advantage of introductory prices and then seek out other introductory deals.  Many will bargain in bad faith.  To build a sufficient base of loyal customers requires a lot of effort and other resources.  Marketing is a skill.  Accounting is a skill.  Purchasing is a skill.  Customer relations is still another skill.  Many details--you can learn some of them by making the mistakes or you can pay someone (hopefully trustworthy) to avoid some of them.

As a consumer I see the advantages of dealing with huge corporations--McDonalds, the Keg, Best Buy,   When traveling to unfamiliar places it is reassuring to see a familiar company and their formulas are usually well thought out.  But there are advantages of dealing locally.  If you want to understand a different culture one way is to buy locally

Big companies are able to take advantage of you and that is true the bigger they get where they gain access to very sophisticated tools.  You really can't be friends with the actual owner unless you travel in their circles.  There is truly a tried and true formula to make you feel comfortable, but it is a formula.

When you buy local there are many advantages.  Instead of shipping goods from the other side of the globe many of their supplies come from local sources with fewer pollutants. and some of the money stays in the community.  You can get to know the owners and managers.  If you admire someone with the gumption to take a chance you will find many at the local level.   You can build a relationship that is well nigh impossible with big companies.

The consumer is king and everyone wants your hard earned (and any other kind) of money.  We all recoil from bad service.  The real key is how an owner deals with a problem.

At the same time there is no need to be afraid of goods from other lands and feel guilty because you like them  I love mangoes which I usually buy from a local vendor at the Farmer's Market.

I remember reading an autobiography of Sam Walton and at first thinking what a cut throat business man he must have been, but he surprised me.  He decided to focus on price.  He felt a local business man could give better service and if he didn't try to squeeze too much should be able to thrive.

The bottom line is some businesses might well deserve to go out of business, but not before we give them a chance to prove themselves and learn from their mistakes.

Friday, February 3, 2017

TRUMP AND THE MEDIA OR THE MEDIA AND US

The press has power.  Would-be dictators will curb that power any way they can get away with.  Delicate egos distrust honesty.

I am sick of writing about Trump but he won't go away.  The most amazing thing about Trump is his sensitivity to criticism or any diminishment.  To many of us he is laughable, except he has power and vindictiveness.  He also has a fan base that just loves his every move.

BUT the media is guilty of helping to get him elected.  They broadcast his birther claims.  Any reasonable intelligent person could see how ridiculous and unfair the claim was, but Donald well knew others were just looking for an excuse to diminish a black man who ruled over "real Americans" and the media gave him his platform.

Much of the media adopted a balanced approach which enabled them not to take sides.  But all too often lies were made by one side--such as Obamacare was bad or that  Climate Change has not really been proven that overshadowed the truth.   Another problem was that the mainstream media has become very concentrated by owners with vested interests.  Corporate ownership had been encouraged under Republicans, perhaps most noteworthy under Reagan.   Ratings are now the key to profits and survival.  News has become entertainment.

When Trump declared his candidacy, although almost all media felt he had no chance, they still gave Trump a huge platform.  Bernie Sanders was drawing crowds, but not getting much publicity with almost no explanation while Donald was able to crowd out other candidates with very trivial presentations.  Hilary was hit with a lot of disproved or trivial bad things.  After awhile it was too late.  The press kept alive ridiculous stories about Benghazi and email servers ignoring way worse crimes by Republicans.  Important issues are ignored.

Now the Trump team has declared war on the media with Donald actually calling them the opposition.  They have used strategies from Orwell's "1984" of distorting the truth, knowing full well that if repeated enough the lies will be accepted by enough.

What can be done?  The media has to earn credibility.  A key to that is the truth and prioritizing what is actually important.  Voters have been misled and misdirected and many have no clue how they have been duped.

The economic platform of the Republicans is more corporate and 1% friendly so they have adopted the strategy of tying themselves to social issues.  Emotional concerns can easily lead to one issue voters, but that is what leads to voting against your own best interest, even on the emotional concerns.  A few examples.

Gay and Transexual rights.  Sure they are different, but really how different?  Does it affect their ability to do constructive things?  Do they relate to others of different persuasions?  We know they come with all political viewpoints, even where they are not welcome.  Do you realize how much they have contributed to the well being of many others (including you)?  Is love limited?

Guns are supposed to protect you, but they also are a threat to others (as well as yourself).  Cars are supposed to help us get things done.  A big difference is that we have more rules about who can drive a car and how as a way of protecting the rest of us.  Do you feel you have to have access to military weapons in order to protect you from the government?  Is it only the bad guys who get hurt?

Abortion is perhaps the king of one issue voters.  Agreed it an undesirable solution to a perceived problem, but what is the best way to reduce it?  Sex education and access to contraception actually work, but are opposed by many of the same one issue voters.  To some of us that smacks of rigid anti-promiscuity.  The one issue voters tend to accept all sorts of restrictions on helping the poor, which strikes many as hypocritical.  Desperation comes to families of all persuasions and it is ironic that often abstinence only families have their share of unwanted pregnancies.  Suffering comes from illegal abortions and there is a link between unwanted babies and more suffering.  Hilary Cllinton who has seen much suffering has been quoted as saying "Abortion should be safe, legal and rare."  Should abortion be a one issue decision or should it be put into context with all life and death decisions?

Socialism is not really understood, but considered very un American.  I see it as co-operation over competition.  Both have merit and diminishing either one has negative consequences.  Neither should be authoritarian.  The balance is tricky and one might hope that the fifth estate would see a duty to keep reminding us of the difficulties.

Media is financed in different ways, but most of us take it for granted that advertising revenues, a government grant or a sugar daddy will take care of it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A BROKEN PROMISE

As a Canadian I did not vote for the Liberals, in fact I voted for the Green Party, one of the minority parties that stood to benefit from electoral reform.  Minority party supporters all stood to gain, but more importantly so did everyone else.  Who knows what Justin was thinking, but I suspect he figured he would do better under the current voting system.

Over the years I have noticed a lot of confusion over what proportional representation really means and many think the status quo is ok, so why try to complicate the matter?  What they don't seem to realize is that most of their votes are wasted.  It is great if your party gets in, but very possibly you could have stayed home and your party would still have won.  Mind you, if everyone took that attitude (and some do) your party might not have gotten in.  More votes than what is needed don't have much if any real impact.

In a multi party system more often than not, the winning party does not get over half the votes which would signify more of a true mandate.  In fact a common strategy of politicians is to split the opposition.  If you really want your vote to make a difference take a closer look at the proportional systems.

Although most people claim they vote for the person, not the party, it doesn't really hold up.  A great number vote for the party regardless--I offer Donald Trump as an example.  Under some proportional systems you are contributing towards your person.  If each party has to provide a ranked list you not only evaluate where your favoured person ranks, but can also evaluate the character of all those on the list, compared to other lists.  It is true for a party or a candidate to actually get elected they must attract a criteria point.  If they don't, they don't make it.  You could say in that case your vote didn't accomplish anything, but in fact you have at least registered your support which may be useful in future elections.

In general minority parties do get more representation, but a status quo party might well find they are able to use excess enthusiasm from one area to bolster less enthusiasm elsewhere. A problem for some winning parties is that they don't have representatives from all geographic areas or have a suitable gender balance.  A ranked list can give fairer representation for everyone.

In my case I know my vote won't make as much difference, but I feel I have registered my support and hopefully someone else will be encouraged.  But combined with other Canadian voters across the nation, the Green party (substitute your minority choice) would under proportional voting get a few more voices and a bigger platform where they can have some influence.

Was there enough consultation?  Of course there could always be more.  Details do matter.  Referendums are scary, but with most political parties favouring a new system I think it would be fairer than the one held in Ontario a few years back.  The public has to let itself be heard.  In the future I suspect one party or another will see it has a positive issue.

The biggest problem is not the honest confusion, but that those who make the rules benefit by the rules they set.  If one can get elected with only 39% of the votes and control the rules it makes sense to keep the rules that help maintain your power.  It would help if more people realized where their advantage lies to impact decisions they care about.

Although I feel my vote was "wasted" I am glad I didn't stick with my status quo choice of Liberals because I would be pretty angry.  The photo is just a contrast to an ugly decision.

An earlier post goes into more details about proportional voting:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/12/your-guy-didnt-get-in.html

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

WHITE TRASH

America likes to  promote itself as a classless society but with upward mobility.  Nancy Isenberg paints a different picture. Her premise is that from the beginning Americans have had a class system and uses "white trash" to illustrate.

The English were pleased to have a place to send vagrants and others.  The poor were seen as lazy.  North America was conceived as a vast vacant land, overlooking the fact that there was a large indigenous population.  Pocohontas, by marrying an English noble was seen by many as granting land to Europeans.  Many of them were purged by unintentional diseases, but as time went on by violence.

Tobacco was a product that required a lot of labour and after trying to work with natives, the European investors felt that black slaves would be more profitable.  Benjamin Franklin felt that black slaves made the English more idle and impotent.  William Byrd by 1726 declared that the poor whites in the south despised labour.

Voting in the early days was restricted to property owners.  Many of the poor white might have been called squatters and of course were not qualified to vote, but perhaps more importantly were seen as lower class.

Jefferson, a slave holder was a key person in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It seems likely that he fathered some children with a mulato servant, although it is conceded it might have been one of his male siblings.

Andrew Jackson, war hero, Indian fighter, slave holder was considered by many to be of a lower class because of his temper and habits.  As President he ignored the Supreme Court and pushed for a removal of Cherokees.

The Civil War had consequences for social classes.  Large slaveholders naturally looked down upon non slave holders, but needed to convince the poor to help fight their cause.  They lied about northern wages, suggested the way to move up in class was to save and buy a slave.  As long as the blacks were beneath them, the poor were not at the bottom.  Many poor non slave holders felt they were being asked to fight a rich man's war.  A slaveholder with 20 or more slaves could be draft exempt while wealthier officers were able to get furlongs more easily.  By 1864 the south faced a manpower shortage and some advocated putting slaves into uniform to fight, but others felt that would elevate blacks and would cause another set of problems.

After the Civil War, freed blacks were in an economic dilemma and many ended up working for their old masters.  Chain gangs were hired to do much work and blacks were easily imprisoned for this purpose.  Poor whites were able to feel superior (but also a bit threatened).

When integration started in earnest, it was the poor whites who resisted the most.  The author provides an example from Little Rock of a particular white woman who verbally lashed out at young black students entering a formerly all white school.

Hillbilly, redneck and cracker are terms used to insult people.  The movie "Deliverance"(which I remember as a very scary movie) depicted lower class whites that were physically repulsive and violent.

On the other hand Elvis Presley helped launch a cultural revolution.  He  came from a very poor Mississippi family.  He took a lot of black music and brought it to the white world where especially teens were very excited while their elders were bewildered.  One of the things Elvis did for his mother was to buy her a chicken coop at Graceland.  Obviously broke down barriers, but still many people looked down on him and where he came from.

Lyndon Johnson was the son of a sharecropper and became a teacher.  As President probably more responsible than any other politician for the legal advancement of civil rights since the Civil War.  "If you can convince the lowest of white men he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket."  He advocated for better education in the Appalachia region.  A smart man he used his background to gain votes and to understand the lower classes of the south.  Still many thought of him as crude.

Bill Clinton was yet another President from a poor southern background.  Raised by a single mother he overcame lots of obstacles to get an Oxford and Yale education that helped him to gain a political career.  He described himself as a Bubba, another derogatory southern term, but appealing to much of his audience.  He encountered lots of vile opposition often aimed at his mother who had several marriages and suffered addiction problems.

The author contends that politicians are able to convince large numbers of people to vote against their self interest by using class strategies.  Both parties carve the population into a wide range of classes and try to determine how best to build coalitions that will help them win an election.  The electoral college was designed to get acceptance of the smaller states.

The author points out that social mobility is greased by connections and class based knowledge.  The children of celebrities get a head start.  Another interesting observation is that dating services are designed to match compatible people which means to the author, class comfort.  Another ironic observation is that Europeans have more social mobility than Americans.  An eye-opening good read.