Archive for the ‘History’ Category

No Expectations

January 21, 2017

I spent all yesterday in darkness. First thing in the morning, I briefly skimmed the business channels on TV, but I couldn’t bear to look at any mainstream Anglo-Saxon news.

I found myself tuned to Euronews, about as exciting as watching paint dry—the piece described how an avalanche buried a hotel in the Italian mountains, killing thirty people. It resonated, because Wednesday I was on the phone with a guy in Rome, and twice during the conversation his whole office started shaking as the earthquakes hit.

I know his building looks out onto the coliseum and I suggested if bits started falling off he might want to head outside.

But no matter how much I practiced my ostrich imitation, my head wouldn’t give me any peace—the ‘i’ word was always there yesterday, and although I resolutely tuned out all things Trump, I kept thinking this must be how people felt when Hitler took power.

In February 1933, Hitler’s inauguration speech (I have abridged, but without changing meaning) informed the world of a new beginning.

In the profoundest distress, millions of the best German men and women from all walks of life watch, as the unity of the nation vanishes and dissolves in a muddle of political and egotistical opinions, economic interests and differences…

The misery of our volk is appalling! The starving millions of unemployed proletarians in industry are being followed by the impoverishment of the entire Mittelstand [middle-class] and artisan professions. When this disintegration ultimately reaches the German peasants, we will be confronted by a catastrophe of unfathomable dimensions. For not only will the Reich disintegrate, but with it a 2000-year-old inheritance, the most valuable assets of human culture and civilization.

The National Government will therefore regard it as its first and foremost duty to re-establish Volksgemeinschaft – the unity of spirit and will of our volk. It will preserve and defend the foundations upon which the power of our nation rests. It will extend its strong, protecting hand over Christianity as the basis of our entire morality, and the family as the germ cell of the body of our volk and State. It will reawaken in our volk, beyond the borders of rank and class, its sense of national and political unity and its resultant duties. It will establish reverence for our great past and pride in our old traditions as the basis for the education of our German youth.

Resolved and true to our oath, we will thus—in view of the present Reichstag’s inability to support this work—ask the German volk itself to take on this task we call our own. Reich President von Hindenburg has called upon us and given us the order to use our own unity to restore to the nation the chance for recovery. Thus we now appeal to the German volk to take part in signing this deed of reconciliation.

The government wants to work, and it will work. It was not this government which led the German nation into ruin for fourteen years; this government wants to lead the nation to the top once more. It is determined to pay the debt of fourteen years in four years. But it cannot make the work of reconstruction dependent upon the approval of those who are to blame for the collapse.

Now, German volk, give us four years, and then pass judgment upon us!

This morning, I see a number of articles highlighting the common ground between the words above and yesterday’s inauguration speech. I invite you to compare.

The last sentence of Hitler’s speech is the most chilling of all. And while I don’t think the comparison extends to the same degree with respect to the facts that triggered the second world war, I believe we are well on our way to the third.

I’m not suggesting the USA will initiate it, but I do think it will now help create the conditions for it to happen. And I am sure that if it does, it will have a Eurasian theater, with a significant European component.

The stimulus of Brexit, and the danger posed by the upcoming elections in Holland (March) France (April/May), and (why not) Germany (September), make 2017 the year of living dangerously.

A potential collapse of the EU, touted in cheerful terms by dangerous idiots such as Farage and Trump, indicates a complete misunderstanding of both European and American history.

Actually, take that back—misunderstanding requires study, and neither of these morons has ever studied anything in his life.

To say I am concerned is putting it mildly. And the reason is very simple. During the campaign, there was the famous quip about taking the candidate seriously but not literally, or vice-versa.

To be honest, I couldn’t give a shit about what Trump says, he’s a buffoon. An article in El Pais summed it up perfectly.

Es un llorón con un ego gigante y frágil a la vez, como un enorme huevo de porcelana.

You can read the full article here, if you do Spanish (build that wall), or you could always phone a friend (Google Translate).

Or you could ask one of those guys from Guatemala or Honduras who hangs around outside Home Depot hoping for a day’s work. Kind of changing DIY to DIU—Do It Usted.

I’m sure in the new MAGA all that will disappear, and all Americans will become empowered to do their own DIY.

If you’re not up for any of these solutions, the gist is that Trump is ‘a seventy-year-old crybaby, as fragile as a giant porcelain egg.’

I’m amazed at his claim that politicians have been the ones getting rich at the expense of the American people. While DC pols have no doubt benefited, the huge benefit has gone to big business, including investment banks.

In the first one hundred fortunes in America, not a single politician is listed—all of them are businessmen, the very same ilk that now populate the new cabinet—MAGA my ass.

But as I mentioned, I don’t give a fuck what he says. Just twitterrhea, which could be defined as talking out of your arse on twitter, with unsettling and pungent fluidity.

So why is yesterday so upsetting? Because it marks a paradigm shift.

Before this Friday, Trump could only say things.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

BrownBerry

January 14, 2017

It’s been a year since I pored over the maps of Andrea Bianco. At that time, I’d almost finished writing Clear Eyes, and during my research for the book I’d found copies of a map from 1436 that mentioned the Mar da Baga, which means ‘The Sea of Berries.’

Bagas are part of the Sargassum seaweed—they are pneumatocysts, to give them their scientific name, gas bladders rich in oxygen. Practically all plants are photoautotrophic—they depend on light for energy—and therefore they face a major challenge in the ocean, since things get dark pretty quickly.

Because the sea is deep, there can be no plant life below a couple of hundred feet—but there’s nothing as wonderful on this planet as life itself, and plants have adapted to the marine environment by floating.

Usually this means they have to be very small—if you’re tiny enough, you live in a weightless wonderland, the anti-gravity world of Atmos Fear. But there are advantages in growing larger—you get eaten less (though you may get nibbled), you live for longer, and you get to have sex.

Sargassum stays in the limelight because it floats—the Sargasso Sea occupies two million square miles in the western Atlantic Ocean, between the Azores and North America, and although it’s not chock-full of seaweed, there’s lots of it floating on the water.

In the fall of 1492, Columbus was stuck in it for a good while, his sails dead, his men getting increasingly restless.

Bastos awoke at dawn and looked aft—the mainsail was slack. He made his way to the gunwale and urinated, then spat into the sea. From his pocket he pulled a wad of salt pork and chewed pensively as he gazed into the green waters below.

He could see the captain talking to Pilot Nino on the poop deck, pointing at the Pinta and the Nina—both vessels were practically becalmed. Bastos lowered a baler and pulled up a tangled mass of weed.

Around him, other sailors did their ablutions and muttered uncertainly about the vegetation in the water.

Es un mar de yerba,” one of the men said, a sea of grass.

“And no land anywhere,” said another.

Mala yerba!” The two sailors crossed themselves.

The muttering grew louder, as the men again doubted whether they would ever find land to the west, and most importantly, whether they would ever return home—in one week, it would be two months since they had left Palos de la Frontera. The sea was like a pancake and the sails hardly moved.

Columbus’s fleet was becalmed in an area of high pressure, stuck between the northeast trades and the Westerlies. This pressure band, at around thirty degrees north, was later christened the horse latitudes, due to the practice of throwing the animals overboard to conserve drinking water.

The two sailors looked aft at the mizzen mast, and noted the flaccid lateen. Despair set in.

Estamos plantados num mar de coles”—we’re planted in a sea of cabbages. The men’s despair slowly turned into a seething anger at the foreigner who had put them in this predicament.

Bastos looked at the seaweed in his hand. It was a patchwork of dark and light brown, and the fronds were knotty and ribbed. The Portuguese had seen similar weeds in Lisbon—the Tagus was full of oysters, and a brown wrack was often fixed to the oyster shell—but the brown plant was smoother than this one, with bladders all along the frond.

He knew that when those brown weeds detached they might survive a short while, then die. But these ones were clearly thriving, just floating at the water surface, and there was a mighty forest of brown, as far as the eye could see.

Bastos understood how they floated—each plant had dozens of grape-like berries on it, each fixed on its own little stalk.

Berries! Bagas!

Something was bothering him. Where had he heard that word before?

“Bastos!” The captain looked down from the poop deck. “Bring me that yerba. And get to work.”

“Sir.” Bastos walked up the companionway and handed over the tangled mess.

Columbus fingered the weed, stopping at the round vesicles as if counting a rosary. “Odd. Like grapes.”

“In Portugal we call them bagas.” Bastos turned and walked down, afraid the captain would see the hatred in his eyes.

The diary of the first voyage of Columbus, compiled by Friar Bartolomé de Las Casas, contains the first account of the Sargasso Sea; of the brown weed, and the home it provides to shrimp, worms, and small fish—an ecosystem more typically found inshore, close to the sea bottom.

Las Casas is the primary source, as historians are fond of saying—how then do we find a reference to the Sargasso Sea, using its Portuguese name, in an obscure Venetian map that precedes Columbus by fifty-six years?

"Higher floor, per favore!" You might be excused for such a request at your hotel, as the Venetian aqua alta occupies the lower stories of the beautiful buildings that line the Grand Canal.

“Higher floor, per favore!” You might be excused for such a request at your hotel, as the Venetian aqua alta invades the lower stories of the beautiful buildings that line the Grand Canal.

On the plane leaving Venice last year, I wrote of my disappointment in not finding the magic words on the original map, and then my joy when I discovered I must have missed the correct folio.

Among other things, it gave me a reason to return to Venice.

A freezing wind blows across the city, and storm surges have flooded the Piazza de San Marco and other low-lying areas. The water laps at the doors of the good people of the Serenissima Repubblica, while the oblivious Chinese wave at the vaporetto from their gondolas.

Venice is still one of my favorite cities, but lots has changed for the worse. The monumental area (well, the whole city is monumental) of San Marco is a babel of selfie-stick-toting fools, and the locals are moving out in droves.

The main culprits are short-term rental platforms like airbnb, which have destroyed the residential fabric of city centers. From Dublin to New York, from Venice to Lisbon, residents have simply given up, saturated with groups tramping up and down the narrow stairs of old buildings, marching suitcases in and out, and raucously celebrating their two days in town. Premium rental price points did the rest.

Venetians have moved out of the city, going northwest to small dormitory towns like Mestre.

The flooding in San Marco meant I had to share the emergency walkways with the selfie-stick brigade, but as soon as I ducked into the library entrance, I stopped at the sign and smiled.

Italy is big on the phrase solo persone autorizzate, and the Chinese tourists hell-bent on exploring were stopped in their tracks.

They watched jealously as I pulled out my library card and crossed the hallowed archway.

I approached the guard, scanned the card, and that was it! Of course there are always a few small hitches, revalidation and registration, but I did all that with the smiling lady in the reading room.

She examined my correspondence, typed some mystery strokes into il computer, gave me a clean bill of health until 2018, and vanished in search of Andrea Bianco.

I sat at one of the long wooden tables and gazed at the beautiful bookcases, filled with the history that the new US president refuses to read, and waited.

The maps arrived. I pored. I found the Mar de Spagna, which had so disappointed me before. I looked at the spread of islands marked there. The Canaries, and particularly La Gomera, home to the insatiable Beatriz de Bobadilla, mistress of both Columbus and the Spanish king Ferdinand of Aragon, are poorly drawn.

But they are marked. Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, and Hierro, the most westerly one. If Columbus knew this map (in my book he does), it would easily support his mistaken belief that Asia was very close to Europe.

Bianco draws the Antilles, or rather a large rectangle called Ante Illa, just to the west of Hierro—he misses the detail that the two are on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

You turn the page to Folio 8. Not 6, as the library description itself tells you.

Northwest Europe. England. Scotland. Ireland. I can recognize a few place names, the Thames Estuary, astonishingly magnified, and what looks like the Mersey. Bristol is marked, as is the Severn, and southern England is fairly well drawn—I suspect we must thank the Romans.

Ireland is a mess, cartographically speaking.

The Sargasso Sea, represented on a map from 1436, over half a century before Columbus sailed.

The Sargasso Sea, represented on a map from 1436, over half a century before Columbus sailed.

To the west of Ireland (which on this chart is to the right) is a big brown circle, labeled to its right as ‘y. barzil’. The ‘y’ is for isla, or island, and the name is misspelt—on the previous page, another island near the Azores has the correct spelling.

Almost directly south (upward) another island is drawn—it looks like a crescent moon and appears to be called Ysla d’Ventura. To its right, further west, we hit gold.

Questo xe mar de baga.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

Brown Nose

January 7, 2017

The British satirical magazine Private Eye regularly awards the O.B.N., or Order of the Brown Nose, to sycophants of the worst variety.

I tried to find an example for you, but Private Eye doesn’t do digital particularly well. Nevertheless, a trip to their site is never wasted time. In the current issue, they share two key insights.

Reports of Messiah dismissed as ‘fake news’

and, in a Christmas edition of Letter from Santa, the venerable fellow provides much needed advice to perplexed parents:

Should you tell your children Trump is real?

The best thing about ‘The Eye’ is its stunning originality—or at least that’s my view. This is not, however, universally shared. Lots of people hate the magazine: it has a substantial and costly history of lawsuits due to its investigative journalism—Private Eye broke the Milly Dowler story, which revealed unsavory links between British police and scandal-sheet ‘news desks’.

That particular story took years to get to mainstream media, and resulted in the closure of perhaps the shittiest of Brit papers, Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. What the newshounds did was truly horrible—they repeatedly deleted the voicemail on the dead girl’s cellphone, and the poor parents thought that this meant she was still alive.

Among the magazine’s readers, there’s been a storm of ‘righteous’ indignation, and much hoohah about subscription cancellation, due to its coverage of Brexit. The Eye pours scorn on the ‘strategy’, and draws invective as a consequence.

The UK exit strategy takes a leaf from the Old Testament’s Book of Iraq, i.e. it is non-existent. There are ample parallels between what’s happening with Theresa May’s Britain and Trump’s America, not least the blaming of your country’s ills on others.

But one of the first characteristics of the so-called Strong Man, and I capitalize to generalize, is the magnetic draw of sycophants.

Perhaps this is because such people are generally major assholes, and therefore the pull of the brown nose is pungently powerful. An early diagnosis of what is to come is straightforward—both the putative puppets and the proper putins shed dissenters very quickly, and often violently.

A first sign of the brexit battles that will mark 2017 was the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, British ambassador to the EU.

In the US, the intelligence briefing soap opera was a very similar process.

Both bear the cross of Columbus in Clear Eyes: “a set of opinions uncontaminated by facts.”

In the US, two weeks from inauguration, Trump’s position is (for once) easy to explain. The man who thinks he knows the art of the deal is determined to let nothing kill his best deal: becoming the 45th president of the United States on January 20th 2017.

I can’t fault him for that one, and neither should you. In Britain, May is doing something similar. The Whitehall diplomat explained he was concerned about ‘muddled thinking’, and I presume he was uncomfortably close to the truth—so hot, in fact, that it burned him.

The UK brexit camp doesn’t want the truth to be known about how poor their thought process actually is, and Sir Ivan will have made this plain to his masters.

What do the US spooks and the Brit dip have in common ? They are both bearers of unwelcome news, as opposed perhaps to (rather more welcome) fake news.

Sir Ivan wrote in his resignation letter that his job was to ‘speak truth to power.’ Well, that’s a shit job (sorry, I meant a noble calling) if I ever saw one!

One of the more visible features of this brand new year.

One of the more pungent features of this brand new year.

So this is one of the gifts this new year will bring, a foul, diarrhetic stream of brown nosing.

Because, you see, the sycophant, brown-noser, or toadie, is a very particular species. I’ve learned to spot them with unsettling speed, and have always disliked them intensely.

Some people have a natural calling, but this is always exacerbated in autocratic environments. I saw it at school, in both students and teachers—it becomes immediately obvious if I use the British terminology of pupils and masters.

I saw it in society, growing up in a country where the mantra was:

Quem pode manda, quem deve obedece

He who can, rules, he who must, obeys. Or even: Able men rule, others obey. Either way, enough said.

And I’ve seen it everywhere through the decades: from notaries to hospitals, from classrooms to office parties.

The stench never ceases. The coterie that congregates around Strong Men, be they Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong, or your immediate boss, always has two sides—it’s a compensation mechanism for all that shit you eat.

In UK public (i.e. private) schools, the prefect system is a perfect example. Pupils appointed into the system kowtow to masters, and abuse those they rule, subjecting them to varying degrees of violence.

In dictatorships, it breeds the Goebbels, the Chemical Ali, the heads of myriad agencies of the secret police, men who always tell the boss what he wants to hear. Much worse, the system propagates downwards—the tyrannical behavior of those men to their underlings bring about a further layer of mercaptans.

As always, when we live another day, we’re looking at history in the making. But what we are watching is not new.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

The Year the Music Died

December 31, 2016

Freedom is the lifeblood of the West, and much like the real stuff that courses through our veins, we take it for granted until there’s a spillage.

The concept is so entrenched in Western society that few of us are committed to defending it on a daily basis. Just as you can’t value what you never had, it’s hard to put a price on something that’s always been there.

That’s why all of freedom’s manifestations are important, including (and perhaps especially) the ones we dislike.

For me, 2017 will bring a number of those, but I still defend the right of free citizens to make the choices. Two things I know for sure: there will be a lot of disappointed people next year, and I won’t be short of subject matter for these chronicles—2017 is history in the making.

It’s all about Russia, China, and the United States, and the story begins in the Mid-East, as evidenced by the recent global conference that ‘forgot’ the US.

Next come the South China Sea, North Korea, and a host of other matters.  That’s when the values of freedom will be put to the test.

One of the very first freedoms to vanish is art—the expression of thought on paper, canvas, and through image and sound.

Literature and music are particularly valuable. We live in a world of video—an immersive experience where we live the lives of others—but a poem, a story, or a song sets the mind free.

The imagined characters live by themselves: Paul Simon’s boxer, Kenny Rogers’ gambler, or Joni Mitchell’s coyote. You give them the shape, the features, the dreams—deep inside they’re your dreams really.

Since freedom is all about letting you dream unfettered, words and music are painted targets for would-be tyrants, those who know better.

In a pre-Trump article in Vox, Sean Illing wrote:

Plato thought political regimes followed a predictable evolutionary course, from oligarchy to democracy to tyranny. Oligarchies give way to democracies when the elites fail, when they become spoiled, lazy, profligate, and when they develop interests apart from those they rule.

Democracies give way to tyrannies when mob passion overwhelms political wisdom and a populist autocrat seizes the masses. But the tyrant is not quite a tyrant at first. On the contrary, in a democracy the would-be tyrant offers himself as the people’s champion. He’s the ultimate simplifier, the one man who can make everything whole again.

It’s well summed up in a tweet from Voltaire.

Le doute n’est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde.

In Australia the new year has already come, in Europe there are still some hours to go.

We can, however, already mourn 2016 as the year the music died. The list is tragically long, starting with Glenn Frey from the Eagles and ending with George Michael. In between, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, and Rick Parfitt of Status Quo.

Sometime over the last couple of weeks, as Christmas songs invaded stores, restaurants, and radio stations, I started thinking about the place of music in religion, and how it varies from faith to faith.

Traditional Christmas music of the Silent Night variety obviously conveys a religious message, but what it mostly does is highlight that this is a happy time of year—a festive season.

So I decided to learn more about how other religions view music. My first port of call was Islam. In truth, my gut feeling was that music does not have a comparable role in the Muslim faith when compared to Christianity—the only music I could recall was a capella singing from the muezzin, summoning the faithful to prayer.

I asked the ‘Is music permitted…’ question and trawled the net.

You can certainly find sites that extol Christian rock, reggae, and rap, but the overall message seems to be that secular music is acceptable within fairly broad limits.

Matters appear to be different in Islam. One Imam provides the following interpretation when discussing forbidden, or haraam, singing.

The kinds of singing which are also unequivocally prohibited, are those that remove a person away from the worship and appropriate presence with Allah, e.g., leading a person to be involved with cross-gender mixing, lazing around, rather than taking a short break to relax from exhaustion…

The analysis further explains that almost all Hollywood and Bollywood songs fall into this sinister category. Given that both references are to movie and TV productions, I was a little perplexed by the connection—I am however pretty sure that any of the artists who are listed above would not be in the ‘permitted’ category.

I tried to explore further by googling ‘George Michael sales Saudi Arabia’ but all I got was a multiple hits about British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including cluster bombs that have been used in Yemen.

Then I tried ‘Wham!’ and the results were (predictably) even more sinister.

So I expanded my search to the whole of the Middle East, and, as expected, the London singer turned out to be pretty popular.

I read some more religion, and according to my source, Islam appears to make a distinction between songs and music.

The kind of music referred to as malahi are abhorred and prohibited. This kind of music is simply for entertainment for dance, frivolous enjoyment and the like.

I was curious enough to check out malahi, since I have no idea what it means. Any search leads straight to YouTube, and I can’t see anything wrong there—perhaps the lyrics are subversive.

One Algerian video showed what appeared to be street music, of the kind you might see in Paris or New York—with the difference that there wasn’t a single woman visible.

Let’s celebrate the freedoms we have, and protect them for they were hard-won.

Let’s enjoy tonight, take the opportunity to relax from exhaustion, and why not, indulge in a little frivolous enjoyment.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

 

A Little Peace

December 26, 2016

This year, the nicest thing about Christmas was a respite from hatred.

It’s certainly a symptom of age when you start to draw comparisons to what happened last decade, or a quarter-century ago.

This would be an unusual trait in a thirty-year-old, but once you’re close to forty and the growth curve has tailed off, you inevitably give the present the benefit of past experience.

In recent memory, I don’t recall a year so filled with acrimony, so driven by hate promoters. In Europe, you’d need to read your history, go back to the first half of the XXth century—Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Tito… you’d be spoilt for choice.

Today I want to fight all that, and sing the magic of Christmas—the wonderful message that the birth of a newborn baby can unite and strengthen a family.

It’s not faith that drives me, Mr. Wibaux is not a religious man—but I stood in a small chapel on Saturday night, as many will have done throughout the world that evening, and listened to the litany and the songs.

What’s driven me to this tiny church every year is history. There are hardly more than hundred people there, grouped into families, but together they represent a village. I know very few of them, and they don’t know me, but for a brief period we are all one.

At one point we are asked to greet one another with a simple message and a handshake. Strangers exchange handshakes and hugs, and that icy separation that seems to invade our day-to-day, promoted by television, big cities, and hate-mongers, disappears for a brief moment.

Like many village chapels, the inside is poor, the images reflect the true poverty of a nation that pretends it’s rich. Nothing there has the trappings of high church, there is no stained glass, gold, or incense.

And the congregation feels at home in this place, with a priest who is one of their own—a short man, a little rotund, whose rough country boots stick out below his cassock like a pair of large, black chorizos.

Here are the carpenters, cleaning ladies, factory workers and shop attendants. Mostly Portuguese, but also Romanians and Ukrainians. In a poor nation, there’s never an immigration problem—why would people want to come?

And there’s no terrorism problem, why would anyone want to blow us up? Terror needs headlines, as a  parasite needs a host—if someone attacked our little chapel it would make one headline on CNN, somewhere between Carrie Fisher and George Michael.

An American friend made that point when he read The India Road. “It’s a great book, but no one cares about Vasco da Gama. Now, if he had been a New Yorker…”

I’ll write less that usual today, a sort of mega-tweet. It’s Christmas, you’re with your family, and this is just a stocking-filler, in true Anglo-Saxon yuletide spirit.

Love is what we need right now, and always always always humor. So for those of you who have not yet had the privilege, hit play below.

May peace be with you.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

Christmas Cod

December 17, 2016

Portugal is the second biggest consumer of fish in the world. At one point in the nineteen-sixties it was the greatest consumer—that was before the 1970’s cod wars, which pitted Iceland against the UK, in a fight which the English lost.

By 1980, when the third cod war was done and dusted, the UK’s cod catch was way down, and Iceland had overtaken Great Britain in terms of cod landings. Along the way, they became the nation that eats the most fish.

But the disputes between England and Iceland didn’t start in the XXth century—they were just the last of ten cod wars, or þorskastríð in Icelandic, that began in the fifteenth century, when the Portuguese were busy traveling the India road.

The decline of the Portuguese cod catch was due to several factors. In the early seventies, the new exclusive economic zones, or EEZ, were established—a two hundred nautical mile area around every maritime nation, with exclusive fishing rights.

The area around Newfoundland’s Grand Banks, the best cod fishery in the world, became part of the Canadian EEZ, and the cod moratorium was put in place to protect the stock.

In 1974, the Portuguese revolution completely changed the political landscape, and with it the fishing rights in the (now) ex-colonies of Angola and Mozambique.

In parallel, one of the great bulwarks of the fascist great leap forward, Salazar’s Campanha do Bacalhau—or Cod Campaign—was winding down.

From Belém to the Azores, then NW to Newfoundland, and then north to the Arctic. A journey repeated for forty years in search of cod.

From Belém to the Azores, then northwest to Newfoundland, and finally north to the Arctic. A journey repeated for forty years in search of cod.

In keeping with the dictator’s policy of ‘orgulhosamente sós’ (proudly alone), currently echoed by the populist-nationalist movements in Europe and North America, in the 1930’s Portugal decided to emancipate itself from cod imports.

To that end, various companies from the Aveiro and Oporto areas organized yearly runs to the Grand Banks, fishing cod over the summer months.

These campaigns, which departed Portugal in the spring and aimed to (but didn’t always) return before the North Atlantic hurricane season, had some interesting parallels with the XVth and XVIth century discoveries.

They were annual events, and since the majority of vessels were under sail—although many also had diesel engines—the calendar was set by the weather.

The fishermen on board were poor people, like the sailors on the ships of Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama—and although the death toll was significantly lower, every year ships were lost and men died.

The ships sailed in company, a throwback to the days when pirates roamed the Northeast Atlantic. Two thousand men crewed thirty schooners, and the fleet would gather at Belém, to the west of Lisbon.

Just as in Gama’s day, mass was celebrated, and the women and children gathered at the dockside to bid farewell to husbands and fathers.

Then it was the brisk nor’easter, sailing past the bar of the great estuary of the Tagus, and on to the Azores. From there, the fleet headed northwest to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, and then, when summer broke the Arctic ice, due north to Greenland.

Throughout the last century, Arctic waters became warmer, and the cod moved north, followed by the Portuguese. By the 1950’s, much of the fishing took place off the west coast of Greenland, near the Arctic circle, in the area of the Davis Strait.

While the hook and line gear is out, fishermen used jiggers to bring up extra cod.

While the hook and line gear is out, usually for at least four hours, dorymen use jiggers to fish for extra cod.

The cod were fished by dorymen, using hook and line—a line would be set with six hundred or more hooks, baited with herring. Although the motherships were schooners, each carried a stack of dories, small rowing boats with no rudder or keel. Each fisherman took a dory and fished on his own—the best could catch a metric ton of cod a day.

Work began at four a.m., in the long days of the Arctic summer, and ended when the flag went up on the schooner to summon the little boats aboard. Atlantic gales would sometimes cut the day short, and blasts from the ship’s siren would call the dories in.

Often, sea fog would come down, completely blocking the view to the ship—it was then the doryman was at his loneliest. Dories had only a compass for taking bearings, a conch to blow a signal, and a pair of oars—dorymen could be lost for days, anchoring and waiting for the fog to lift, surviving in freezing conditions—raw cod for food, drinking water wrung from condensation on their caps.

Aboard the schooner, the cod were gutted and split, and livers sent to the pressure plant where cod liver oil was made. Kids of my generation have an enduring memory of being force-fed a tablespoon a day of the foul-tasting oil, in the interest of health and happiness.

A timeless image of bravery: alone in a dory, a Portuguese fisherman flies the cross of the caravels.

A timeless image of bravery: alone in a dory, a Portuguese fisherman flies the cross of the caravels in the Arctic waters.

The fish sides were salted and stored, and all the other bits kept—the tongues, the cheeks, everything that’s edible in a cod made its way home—it’s still perfectly normal today to see cod tongues or ‘caras’ (faces) on the menu in Lisbon restaurants.

A typical day for a doryman could be up to twenty hours long, with four hours’ sleep after midnight, before next morning’s 4 a.m. start. The campaign would only end when the hold was full—but when you salt cod it shrinks, and the brine that came out of the fish was pumped out twice daily. Just when you thought it was time to go home, space appeared in the hold for more cod.

For that reason, Portugal is the world’s number two consumer—if you estimate the fresh weight equivalent of that salted cod, which is the correct way of making the comparison with other nations, the little country on Europe’s western edge sails past South Korea and Malaysia—and adds an extra twenty pounds per year to each person’s intake.

And that’s exactly what you’d expect from a nation where salt cod is the festive dish on Christmas Eve.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

 

Retweet

December 10, 2016

The biggest mistake we all made this year was to underestimate Twitter.

The pen is mightier than the sword, at least insofar as those who wield the sword will one day die—but the written word endures.

However, this isn’t the case for tweets, swift messages with viral properties. These are not enduring words, although there’s probably a ‘best of’ Christmas book of tweets—tweets are weapons, short and sharp, and their reach depends on a fundamental property: the retweet.

My contempt for the tweet is rooted in the fact that I hate wasting time. I always have, but as the years mount, my sense of urgency increases.

The idea of blaring out banalities in one hundred forty typos seemed the paradigm of stupidity, on both sides of the trade.

It’s very difficult to be pithy in a few words, and I felt tweeting should be reserved for the likes of Churchill, a tweetmeister with gems such as

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

or even

I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

or when admonished by reporters at age eighty that his fly was undone

The dead bird will not flee the nest.

Neither shall the dead bird tweet.

So I watched as celebrities touched the very hearts of their fans with critical information about eating a burger in Beijing, and felt increasingly out of touch with this new medium—it was just a connection I couldn’t make.

I also expected that when life turned sour, as it has a habit of doing, those same tweeters would be far less enthusiastic—and saw it again and again, as the divorce or the cancer struck. @chemo hair fell out awesome just doesn’t have the same spark.

But at the end of 2014, someone showed me the power of the retweet. He did it by posting—sorry, tweeting—an absolute banality, and then grinning as the comment spread like wildfire.

And I still didn’t get it.

It was only when I began thinking of the non-linearity of the tweet that the penny dropped.

If anyone deserves the end-of-year award in 2016, it’s the retweet. Why? Because it’s caused a paradigm shift in politics, and has therefore secured its place in history.

Mainstream media just didn’t get it. If you run a ‘serious’ newspaper or TV station, the underlying assumption is that people will go there for news. The medium cultivates an image of trust, and attracts specific groups: Fox for these, CNN for those, Sky for us, BBC for them.

And you pay for it. The cost of the newspaper, the TV license, ads…

If someone on TV, or maybe on the web, tells us something we want to pass on, we do it. If you’re sitting next to someone, maybe you’ll comment. Perhaps you’ll call someone, email them, SMS, or even better, tell them over a glass of wine next time you meet.

After all, we all love a good story.

What we have here is the old-fashioned way of sharing information—personal, limited, and slow.

Whereas the new paradigm is ‘personal’, limitless, and fast. The trick is that you personally receive a message from the president-elect of the United States. You turn around to your mom and say ‘Hey mom, Donald Trump just wrote me.’

Does Putin tweet? Da, you bet!

Does Putin tweet? Da, you bet!

Then you retweet to all your friends. You may not even understand what was said, but the great man spoke with you—you just gotta tell the others. Pretty soon, they too will sign on to follow old Delirium Tremens (defined in the dictionary as a ‘rapid onset of confusion’—highly appropriate).

This snap of Putin and Seagal claims 847 retweets. How far it spreads depends on two factors: the first I will now name deepth. If the average deepth is three, then the message will go down three floors on the elevator. The second factor is peedth—the average proportion of followers who retweet each retweeter. Let’s say ten.

In this case, the elevator door opens on floor three, and lets out 8470 retweets. On floor two, these go up by an order of magnitude, and by the time you reach the bottom, you’re up at around one million.

Putin has 501k followers, half a million souls who wheet him—that’s Wibaux-speak for worship his tweet, which sounds vaguely sexual.

From this we calculate that between one and two percent retweeted the riveting news about Seagal’s embrace of the rodina.

Xi Jinping is now also on Twitter. Alas, he has but one tweet and 464 followers.

But fear not. Enter Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. Quoted on the NASDAQ, it boasts over five hundred million subscribers.

So while we sneer at the tweeting classes, those who understand the medium are taking over the world. From Farage to Duterte, from Le Pen to Assad—the Syrian dictator has almost thirty thousand followers.

These are the new rules. Time to fight back.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

Dong Fang Hong

December 5, 2016

I’m about six hours away from take-off, sipping lù chá in Capital Airport’s Terminal 3. Possibly the longest layover I’ve ever had.

I flew down from Wei Hai early this morning, after spending the week in a small town called Rongsheng. Last time I was there, eleven years ago, it had two hundred thousand people, and the nearby bay was wall-to-wall aquaculture—one hundred forty thousand metric tons of it, growing everything from sea cucumber to abalone.

Nowadays, the Wei Hai area is still small, with a population of two and a half million—not big by Chinese standards. In the five years since I last visited, the country has flourished. All my lao peng you—old friends—own cars, and all the young Chinese have driver’s licenses—it’s rare to see a bicycle, even out in the sticks.

And the aquaculture is still there, about thirty percent less than in the old days, but a beautiful sight, with long lines of colored buoys arranged into squares, black for one company, yellow for another, white for the next.

Gone are the days of smallholdings and farmers’ cooperatives, and when you go into a meeting room no one smokes. These are modern, Western-style firms, concerned about the environment, traceability, and product certification, with production levels of twenty thousand tonnes or more—big business.

I did all my favorite things: catching the cold wind from the Yellow Sea on the flat rooftop of a diesel workboat, looking out at the traffic passing by—wooden boats laden with seaweeds, scallops, and oysters, the red flag of the People’s Republic fluttering on makeshift lanyards.

Modern rural China manifests itself in a thousand different ways: good roads, twice as wide and four times emptier than anything in the West, clean toilets, cappucino—and tourism.

Chinese tourists are everywhere, a sure sign of disposable income. It always amazes me how communism and capitalism co-exist in harmony here—a political yin and yang you cannot find elsewhere.

I flew in the day Fidel Castro died, or at least the day it was communicated—communist regimes are notoriously tight-lipped about the death of the dear leader. When I got to Beijing, the China Daily oozed praise for their man in Havana, exalting his friendship with the Chinese proletariat.  Around me, stores displayed Gucci, Armani, gold, and jade.

The tourists have created a whole new sector, and introduced a fresh set of conflicts to the coastal zone. Western issues concerning use of space, recreational beachfronts, litter, and water pollution, mean that the ‘eco’ word is everywhere—and when China goes eco, it hurtles like a runaway train. They’ve pushed the oyster ropes off the coastline, banned smoking in public places, and the drinking culture’s gone.

Feeding the people, Chinese style.

Feeding the people, Chinese style.

Of course, you can still hear hawking in stereo in the male (never men’s) restroom, and the English signs remain delightful. One eco warning in Beijing instructs us to ‘do not disturb, tiny grass is dreaming!’—I speak enough Chinese to get by now, and for the first time I felt less than totally helpless in the Middle Kingdom—I’d never tested my training in China, and it’s wonderful to see the faces light up!

Speaking Chinese is like any other learning process, it goes in steps, rather than a ramp. I can easily see now why the translations are flowery pieces of poetry—a sign at Capital Airport proclaims: Be careful! No leaving residue! The characters that make up this wonderful recommendation are likely to have seven or eight meanings each—not synonyms.

The character fang, for instance, in the flat tone, means square, upright, power, direction, party, and prescription—among other things. If you broaden that out to other tones, it could be protect, house, mill, inquire, release, and animal fat.

In the title of today’s article, the flat tone fang would mean ‘is’. Dong Fang Hong translates literally as The East Is Red, a song from Shaan’xi province that became an emblem of Maoism.

You can find it on Youku, the Chinese YouTube. If you search on Baidu, the Chinese Google. Everything is digital now, but some things are still a no-no. Google has caused offense to the Chinese government, and it’s blocked on the mainland. As is Google Maps, gMail, and presumably anything else that hits the G spot.

As long as the dispute remains unresolved, Google has no access to a market of 1.6 billion avid consumers, one quarter of the earth’s population—in this zero-sum game, Bing is the big winner.

Never mind the old joke that the initials stand for ‘but it’s not Google’, Microsoft has landed a coup in China—I haven’t crunched the numbers, but it probably makes up for the lower market share in the West.

Along with Baidu and all the rest, WeChat is another Chinese digital success—billed as Chinese Facebook, it can be used to pay bills—even in a massage parlor.

The Chinese dichotomy between social left and economic right is something Europe is presently contending with. A senior Western diplomat gave me some interesting insights into the present European quandary: electorates that vote right on immigration but left on economics, and vice-versa. Socialists with left-wing social policies and public-private partnerships. Right-wing nationalists who support blue-collar economics. Brexit coalminers. Maybe that’s what screwed up the polls—the model of the working-class labor voter no longer works.

And in a blast of ping pang diplomacy, Kissinger’s back in town. He’s only ninety-three, and old guys rule. I’ve been completely shut off from Western news, but I gather the Donald saw fit to request a trip to China from Nixon’s elder statesman, no doubt hoping his grass-roots electorate will pardon the president-elect for reneging on yet another of his campaign promises.

Some weeks ago, Salena Zito produced one of the most quoted (sometimes sans source) aphorisms of the campaign. She said that the media took Trump literally but not seriously, whereas his supporters took him seriously but not literally.

That certainly seems true when trumpists defend the great man’s options of not building walls, not repealing the Affordable Heathcare Act, and not sending ‘Crooked Hillary’ to chookie. It seems fairly obvious that Trump’s main game is not doing what he said he would do—unsurprising, since after all, he’s a real estate salesman. What remains to be seen is whether he will do what he said he would not do, and square the circle of populism.

This different new China makes me happy for the people, who now live in much better conditions, although you still see dire poverty. You can talk politics, albeit in a subdued fashion—the locals told me they struggle to understand how decisions get made in the West—too much talking, and things take years to decide.

In China, someone proudly informed me, the arguments are put on the table, and the decision is made in five minutes.

But I miss the old China, like a part of my life that’s gone forever. I miss the hedonism, the hotels where the phone rings with a soft ni hao as the night begins, the banquets and the karaoke.

Since the drive against corruption began, the very Chinese ‘tigers and flies’ purge, banquets are a no-no, and many restaurants have gone bust. “We get great deals in Beijing these days,” my diplomat friend said. As I snapped a picture, a young lady turned around to me, a concerned look on her face. “Don’t put on internet. Very dangerous.”

I smiled. “Don’t worry. What happens in Rongsheng, stays in Rongsheng.”

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

Little Pork Pies

November 26, 2016

You have no doubt heard of Cockney rhyming slang, the peculiar East London dialect designed to fool PC Plod.

It’s been around for a couple of centuries, but as a secret code it has had its day. It’s all encrypted phones and other magic tricks these days.

And of course disinformation—which has always been there—repeat a lie enough times and it becomes the truth. Couples do it to each other, and so do countries.

But social media have taken pork pies, or lies, to a new level. During the cold war, the KGB transformed porkers into an art form. When I was a kid, I used to tune a shortwave radio (what’s that?) to the English language broadcasts of Radio Moscow, the 1960s equivalent of RT. Or maybe I’d listen to Radio Tirana, the mouthpiece of dictator Enver Hoxha—on a very clear night, when the stars were shining, you might even get Radio Hanoi, right in the middle of the Vietnam War.

Nowadays all that stuff streams, and you can get it on your smartphone with an app like TuneIn Radio.

So I heard a lot of lies growing up—not just from the left, but from Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America—both of which had the requisite CIA stamp. The alternative was listening to Portuguese news, which was all fake.

The difference between the lies of yesterday and today isn’t the content, it’s the reach.

Before the internet, and particularly before social media became more popular than oral sex, rumors were limited. Like any disease, or a wildfire, the limiting factor was connectivity.

The other limitation was that materials needed to come from a credible source. To an extent that still happens; Assange could have self-published the various flavors of Wikileaks that turned him into America’s number one enemy—at least before Edward Snowed ’em under, if you excuse the pun.

But instead, Assange moved the stuff on to The Guardian and Der Spiegel, in the knowledge that mainstream news sources would give him credibility. The same happened with the Panama Papers. On the ICIJ website, a search for Trump reveals a substantial list of corporations—but then it’s a catchy name.

Deliciously fake news.

Deliciously fake news.

But brexit and trexit have highlighted a growing trend in fake news, and the Washington Post published a fascinating article on it this week. Of course, the first thing that happened was a riposte from the targeted authors, explaining that it was the Washington Post that systematically published a pack of lies.

What drives the fake news sites? The twin ogres, money and politics.

In the case of libertywritersnews (excuse me for refusing to link to them), a couple of guys in their twenties have replaced their jobs at Pizza Hut for a world of tall stories, sold by the ad click.

By all means check out their site, and one or two stories that you find more interesting, but do me a favor: don’t click the ads—that’s how these fellows make a buck.

The more outrageous the fake news published, the more likely they will get ad revenue. Readers (!) click hither and dither, egged on by the ‘writers’ themselves, and as the clicks add up, the bucks roll in.

In this insane world of tweeting and re-tweeting, the secret is to get the story moving. There are a bunch of sites out there that just copy the fake tale to their sites, and pretty soon you can search for a sentence and find it on twenty different websites.

The stories themselves (How Hillary Silenced the Internet) are at best sophomoric, and the feedback they get is far more interesting that the content.

And that’s the problem. The steady stream of mindless agreement shows that if you give the public what it wants, the sky’s the limit. Russia has exploited this to the utmost, using American-made tools to defeat the US.

Whereas in Russia sites are blocked, journalists arrested and killed, and civil liberties, whether analog or digital, violated daily, Western countries have very little capacity to impose restrictions.

This blind trust in internet content is seen in children, who are incapable of distinguishing fact from fiction, and also in adults, who should definitely know better.

This is cyberwarfare at its best, a combination of pseudonews and social networking, to reach a vast and credulous audience. It can influence elections, make you rich, start a war.

If you type “fake news” into Google, you get almost thirteen million hits. If you type “true news” it’s under half a million.

This week, a supposedly well-informed person (from Scotland) told a group I was with that immediately following brexit, the most popular internet search term in the UK was: ‘What is the EU’.

Tempting though it is, you can debunk it in ten seconds. Not true.

So fake news can strike at all levels, it just depends what you want to believe. You hum it, I’ll play it.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

Ancient History

November 19, 2016

In the end, it all boils down to thermodynamics. That sentence should make you hit the quit button right now.

If it hasn’t, look on the bright side—you only have to read this, but I have to write it.

From a historical viewpoint, the second law is the one that matters. It states that our world tends toward disorganization. It manifests itself on a day to day basis as untidiness.

Or to put it another way, kitchens get messy all by themselves, but they never get tidy that way. The same applies to gardens, villages, and societies.

So although the physics was designed to deal with complex principles such as entropy, the very same rules that control the energy balance of large systems apply in general terms to world history.

More entropy means more mess, greater chaos.

The definition and application of a set of societal rules requires an investment, as does the building of communities. Man soon realized that the connectivity of such communities was a critical factor—it avoided warfare, which is the strongest force for disorganization, and promoted trade.

My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the world, as the Arab saying goes. World history is really about the dynamics of this network of alliances, the construction of community connections to avoid rampant entropy, and then their collapse.

And just like the physics of non-linear systems, or the ecology of a garden pond, developments occur rapidly, particularly when the23w system collapses—the reason 23w appears here is not because it’s the key to universal harmony, but because a puppy leaped on me in mid-sentence, and spiraled my keyboard into entropy deep-space.

So change is quick, particularly when it heads toward chaos. Malcolm Gladwell makes the case admirably, but with a focus on the warm fuzzy examples—the tipping point for the Beatles was Hamburg—after three sets a day for months in the mind-numbing setting of the Reeperbahn, the band was tight.

Every story of empire has this characteristic: gradual build-up of structure, swift disintegration. In the case of the British empire, which took three centuries to build, destruction was brought about by two short world wars (particularly the second).

I say short, with no disrespect to those who suffered and died, because in world history, nine years is trivial. The added irony for Britain is that it won the wars but lost the empire.

With the recent UK withdrawal from the European Union, the people who voted to leave made a significant contribution to entropy—this explains why there’s no exit strategy. In effect, it’s the same game as we’ll see in Washington come January 2017.

Just leave! 127,310 souls who love entropy.

Just leave! 127,310 souls who just love entropy.

Cameron famously suggested that if the leave campaign won, he would invoke Article 50 immediately. Instead, he resigned.

As I write, almost one hundred thirty thousand people want Article 50 invoked right now. These are the bravehearts who want to launch the country into the unknown—and perhaps they should, much like the voters who elected the new accidental president in the U.S.

The problem is that 4.1 million signed an opposing plea, demanding a second referendum. In other words, societies have built-in mechanisms to fight entropy.

When these mechanisms break down, we can ascribe that to extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.

In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple, and neither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by its posterity.

The words above come from the book of the same name. You should buy it, as a hardback volume, and impress it upon your fellow man. If you can’t persuade people of the wisdom of its words, and the relevance of its examples, beat them about the head with it—you can’t do that with a pdf!

Perhaps the most important point is that since that book was published we’ve had the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Sino-Japanese War, two world wars, and what can only be seen as the Mid-East War, given it now spans territory from Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria and Libya.

Yes, my friends, Charles Mackay wrote those words in 1841, almost two centuries ago.

Quick, what was the name of your great great great great grandfather?

You don’t know? And on the distaff side? No?

You mean it’s not on Google? Facebook? Twitville? Pintassa? Oh shit!

To put it bluntly, in seven generations we’ve learned nothing. As societies, for all our sexy digital toys, the basic human reaction is to destroy everything on a whim, or as Mackay puts it, impressed with one delusion.

Just as adolescents repeat the errors of their parents, and increase the entropy in their lives, individuals force society to do likewise.

This ‘season of excitement and recklessness, when we care not what we do’, has just begun. It started with brexit and trexit, and will continue through 2017, with the populist movements in Italy, Holland, France, and Germany.

All this nicely condimented by the likes of Putin, who is working actively to help Europe split wide open, and to bring back the old hatreds that were the mainstay of Russian strength.

Vladimir is secure in the knowledge that Russia is not going down that road, and I believe he is looking forward to saying hi to his old neighbors again. It may not be too long before the bear drops in for tea at Tallinn.

In one of the classic Frank Zappa musical diatribes, he says: “questions, questions, questions, flooding into the mind of the concerned young person of today.”

Ever the great cynic, he was joking about problems such as “where can I get my poodle clipped in Burbank?”

But I have three questions, all looking ahead at 2030.

1. Who will succeed Putin (78 by then), and what will he (for it will be a he) do?

2. Will Europe once again be a viper’s nest of individual nations, busy plotting the next war?

3. Will the sacrosanct United States (three elections after Trump) be on the brink of breaking into two, possibly three nations, splitting along the lines we saw on election day?

By then the world population will be 8.5 billion, up 1.1 billion from today. Given the appalling state of inequality and debt, this will add a little of that hunger spice to our basic dish of bigotry, selfishness, and greed. Yum!

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.


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