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Fri, 27 Nov 2015

Manzanar

— SjG @ 1:48 pm

(This is a post from the end of September. I didn’t finish writing it then, but recent events made me revisit it).

I just finished reading Camp and Community: Manzanar and the Owens Valley, an oral history compiled in the mid 1970s by Jessie A. Garrett and Ronald C. Larson. Unlike many of the oral histories of Manzanar, these interviews are not of internees. Rather, this is a collection of interviews of twenty some odd people who lived and worked in the area. Some of them worked at the camp itself (including one director of the camp), while some had no connection to it at all.

It’s a fascinating read. Not unexpectedly, people often contradict one another and the memories are rife with inconsistencies, but it paints a picture of a small, relatively isolated community being confronted with substantial change and influx of outsiders (both within the camp and with the outside personnel the camp required). The change was an economic boon in a lean time, and it brought outside attention to the area. Both of these factors affected the attitudes of the community.

There is a strong impression that some people’s feelings changed in the twenty-five to thirty years between when the events took place and the interviews occurred.

Among the people whose opinions changed against the internment, there were all of the expected explanations: it wasn’t actually so bad, some of the the internees came voluntarily, it was for their own protection, the internment was a fait accompli and there was nothing to be done, there were legitimate mutual threats against America and Japanese Americans so this was sadly necessary, and so on. Among the people who supported the internment then and now, the arguments were also the expected ones: it was war, these were people of suspect loyalty, internees were treated better than the Japanese would treat Americans, to do otherwise would be to invite disaster.

One theme, as valid today as any time, is that fear is easily stirred up and manipulated to make people do things they would ordinarily oppose. Several of the interviewed people reflected on the fact that American citizens were unconstitutionally stripped of their rights, but excused it because there was a foreign threat to the country. It was also clear that the sense of “otherness” was key. Many of the people interviewed said they’d never seen (much less met) a person of Japanese descent before the establishment of the camp.

Another theme is essentially the William Goldman adage to “follow the money.” People like newspaperman Manchester Boddy helped establish the camps — and profited greatly on buying up the property of Japanese-Americans at firesale prices when they had twenty-four hours to liquidate their belongings before being shipped out.

Some of the defenses of the creation of Manzanar are true. People were afraid. We were at war. The imperial Japanese army was terrible and cruel to captured peoples. And yet, even if true, these are irrelevant. If our rights as Americans are subject to revocation when we’re afraid, then they’re not rights. If our answer to enemy cruelty is cruelty, then we’re no different than our enemy. If we can strip citizens of their freedom and property just because they look different than the majority, then we descend into mob rule and our lofty appeals to our ideals are just so much hot air.


Mon, 27 Jan 2014

Overheard

— SjG @ 9:25 am

Coffee shop, West Los Angeles.

Angry Guy: You can’t pass a law to take away people’s guns and claim it’s to make things safer. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Other Angry Guy: Yes, that’s why we’re passing a law to only take away the bad guys’ guns.

AG: How do you know who the bad guys are? It’s not that simple!

OAG: Exactly! So let’s discuss the topic like adults, and drop the kindergartener’s vocabulary of good guys and bad guys.

AG: Don’t insult me, you arrogant son of a bitch!

OAG: Then raise the fucking discourse to an adult level.

AG: I’m not going to sit here and argue with a goddamn communist!


Mon, 7 Oct 2013

Dear Mr. Speaker

— SjG @ 8:02 pm

Dear Speaker Boerner,

I had thought that the current shutdown was simply obstructionism and petulance over the recent elections, but now I’m beginning to understand. You have realized that the hijacking of the Republican party by mad ideologues is untenable, and, for the good of the country, are euthanizing the party. It’s a good plan. At least you will leave a legacy of having taken decisive action, and putting the interests of the American People above petty politics. I congratulate you on your resolve.

Sincerely,
Samuel


Thu, 24 Jan 2013

Conspiracy Theory

— SjG @ 9:58 pm

I don’t get these people who think Sandy Hook was a evil conspiracy on the part of Obama to take away their guns.

Clearly they didn’t listen to Henry Peterson, when he said “Follow the money, Earl, because that’s where it’s going to be.”

Anecdotally, after Sandy Hook (and Aurora, and … and …) gun sales were up significantly, as were NRA memberships, and ammo supplies have been slammed worse than they’ve been since the months immediately after the 2008 election1.

If there’s any conspiracy2, I’d be looking at the armaments industry, not at the President.

But then again, I prefer Occam’s razor to his bayonet.

1 Remember how, even well into 2010, it was nearly impossible to find .380ACP?
2 There isn’t. Let’s face it. We’re a violent culture, and an alienating culture. A lot of people are not only alienated, but depressed. Some people are mentally ill. Some are medicated. Some snap. There’s no conspiracy; it’s a structural problem.


Thu, 11 Oct 2012

Perplexing

— SjG @ 8:40 pm

I have to admit, this latest presidential election has me perplexed1. Why is there even a contest? The Democrats love Obama, and the Republicans should too. After all, the Obama administration is the apotheosis of traditional supply-side GOP ideals — a Republican wet dream. “Wait. What?” I hear you say. Turn off the partisan filters for a moment, and consider the following facts:

  • Corporate profits are at an all-time high.2
  • CEO salaries are the highest ever.3
  • Wall Street salaries are close to the highest they’ve ever been.4
  • The Stock Market is within a few percent of its all-time high.5
  • Interest rates are the lowest on record.6
  • Corporate Taxes are at the lowest effective rate ever (recording begun in 1947).7
  • Tax rate for highest earners is the lowest it’s been since 1931.8
  • The US Defense budget is at an all-time high.9
  • There are more deportations of illegal immigrants than ever.10
  • More terrorists / enemy militants killed per year than ever before11

So, given this list, why is the current administration so hated by the American Right and so loved by the American Left? We have, in essence, a pitched battle between two symbols, which we choose to take at face value. Never mind that the actuality is nothing like what it says on the label12.

1 OK, not really. But the phrase works better, rhetorically. This entire posting should be considered in that light.

2“Corporate Profits Just Hit An All-Time High, Wages Just Hit An All-Time Low”, Business Insider Magazine, 22 June 2012.
US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

3“Historical Trends in Executive Compensation” (PDF), 1936-2003, Carola Frydman and Raven E. Saks, November 15, 2005.
“C.E.O. Pay Is Rising Despite the Din,” NY Times, 16 June 2012.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics survey for 2001-2010.

4“Wall Street Pay: A Record $144 Billion, Financial Overhaul Has Affected Structure but Not Level; Revenue-to-Compensation Ratio Stays Flat”, Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2010.
“The Giant Pay Gap Between Wall Street And Everyone Else Isn’t Going Anywhere”, Business Insider Magazine, October 10, 2012.

5The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 13,494.6 on 3 Oct 2012, the all time high was 14,164.53, so it’s only 4.8% down from the highest it’s ever been. The S&P 500 was 1,450.99 on 3 Oct 2012, the all time high was 1,576.09, so that’s a bigger gap, but it’s still only 8% down from the all-time high.

6“Mortgage rates now below even lows of early 1950s”, Associated Press, 30 Sept 2011.
National Bureau of Economic Research, Macrohistory: Interest Rates.

7St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, FRED® Economic Data, “Graph: Federal Government: Tax Receipts on Corporate Income (FCTAX)/(Corporate Profits After Tax (CP)+Federal Government: Tax Receipts on Corporate Income (FCTAX))”

8Historical Top Tax Rate, Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.

9Government Printing Office, Budgets
US Census Bureau historical records

10“President’s Approval Rating Drops, but He Leads 2012 Rivals. As Deportations Rise to Record Levels, Most Latinos Oppose Obama’s Policy” PEW research, 28 Dec 2011.
Numbers may have been inflated by changes in how they’re counted; even so, deportations are still higher than Bush numbers. “Deportation statistics said to be inflated”, Washington Times, 23 August 2012

11“The Year of the Drone. An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2012” New America Foundation

12And just so you don’t think I’m picking on the Democrats alone, I only point out the one side as it’d take a whole additional posting to show that the Republicans are the “spend and borrow” party, etc.


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