Monday, May 21, 2018

I Love Maps



Maine has the second largest collection of globes in the country housed at the Osher Map Library on the campus of the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Only the Library of Congress has more. The Osher Library also contains more than 400,000 maps of all kinds and over 7000 have been digitized according to the Library’s web site.


Prior to computers, maps were the best way to organize many kinds of knowledge. As a teacher my classroom was full of them. Seven were pull-downs and I still miss being able to walk over and pull one down like a shade to study it when something happens in a remote part of the world. As things change politically, maps have to depict new national boundaries, especially after wars, but the old maps will always be valuable as historical references.

Topographic maps don’t change nearly as fast — only after a lot of volcanic and tectonic activity. Depending on how extensive the eruption in Hawaii becomes, local maps may need modification. Last month I toured Civita di Bagnoregio — a town perched on the head of a pin which is all that remains of once-thriving Italian town founded by Etruscans over 2500 years ago. In the 17th century it had 2500 people but now only ten live there year-round. Most of the town has fallen away due to earthquake activity and erosion and what remains is a small butte with medieval buildings atop and accessed by a long pedestrian bridge.

Civita di Bagnoregio last month
Maps depict what we know and older ones show what we didn’t know. The earliest printed map of what is now the state of Maine was done in 1793, decades after most towns around where I live in western Maine were established and it was part of Massachusetts. Mapmaker Osgood Carleton didn’t know much about interior Maine, nor the course of the St Croix River which became part of the boundary between the USA and Canada in 1842. There were few surveys and he had to rely on anecdotal data.


Subsequent Carleton maps indicate that Moosehead Lake still had not been surveyed by 1795 and he etched its eastern boundary as a vague dotted line. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of information on these early maps. When I visited the Osher Library with one of its benefactors eight years ago, I witnessed some of its efforts to digitize its extensive collection, a tedious process employing a 60-megapixel camera. Pulling up one of their thousands of digitized maps now, we can zoom in very close without losing resolution.


Astounded by the camera’s capabilities back then, I’ve since purchased a Nikon D850 which was introduced only last fall with 45 megapixels. I had to wait over a month to get it because it’s so popular all around the world. Mapping renders relatively small pictures of very large things, like the entire earth’s surface for one example. By contrast, my new camera enables me to shoot a faraway image with my zoom lens at its strongest, then put the image on my computer and zoom in further to see details I never would have been able to view with my former equipment, or with my naked eye.


Researching for this article, I came across a 1902, birds-eye view of Mount Washington on the Osher web site. If you’re reading this in a newspaper, go here: http://oshermaps.org/exhibitions/map-commentaries/the-eye-of-mt-washington). First published in a pamphlet, it was a piece of artwork as well as a guide, offering then-unique perspectives on our environs in the north country. People couldn’t fly over the mountain back then, but they could pull out their pamphlet and use a magnifying glass to see details only available to eagles.


Before Saco Valley Printing in Fryeburg went out of business, I purchased sets of old county maps of Maine and New Hampshire from both 1858 and 1880 as well as larger maps of Oxford County towns around where I live. They’re slices of history showing old roads and farms no longer in existence —  abandoned and reclaimed by wilderness. Now only stone walls and cellar holes remain, and occasionally dead hulks of what had been massive sugar maples behind which houses and barns once stood.


While I have GPS devices for my vehicles, I also have hard-copy maps in each. When navigating in unfamiliar places there’s nothing like those 21st century GPS devices to get where I’m going, but if I’m not in a hurry, I like to have a real map in my hands to get perspective on where I've ended up. A real map enables me to see what’s over the next hill because I might decide to explore it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Working Hypothesis



Shenanigans in our federal government are so numerous and they’re being exposed so rapidly that’s it’s very hard to keep up, much less to make sense of it all. Several months ago I developed a working hypothesis — a theoretical framework — to put new information into a plausible context. Here it is: Officials in the Obama Administration, together with their allies in mainstream media, the Clinton campaign, and “never Trumpers” in the Republican establishment, have been working to sabotage first Donald Trump’s campaign, and now his presidency.


I realize that to some I sound like a conspiracy nut who should be fitted for a tinfoil hat, but I haven’t had to change my hypothesis as new information emerges. It all fits. Six months ago I would have considered the above paragraph ridiculous. I never believed it could get this bad, but now I’m thinking it could be even worse. Did leftist Democrats in charge of our federal government weaponize our intelligence community to use against an opposing party candidate for president? Evidence is mounting and the question becomes: Who was involved? Many names we already know. Eventually we’ll be resurrecting the refrain from the Watergate investigation: “What did the [now former] president know and when did he know it?”


The latest datum is a plausible claim that Obama’s FBI planted a spy in the Trump campaign sometime around July, 2016. It could even have been even before Trump won the Republican nomination but neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice (DOJ) will reveal either the spy’s identity or the timing of his implantation. Both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal reported on this last week but neither names him. Kim Strassel, who wrote the WSJ piece, said she believed she knew his identity but couldn’t completely verify it.


However, the anonymous source who calls himself “Sundance” at the Conservative Tree House web site does name him: Stefan Halper. So does The Daily Caller. A background article on Halper indicates he worked in three or four Republican Administrations from Nixon to Bush, including several campaigns but I had never heard of him. This is big, but you’d never know it if you get all your news from mainstream media (MSM). Except for the Washington Post, they’re giving it a good leaving alone.


When President Trump tweeted that President Obama was wiretapping Trump Tower, MSM outlets too numerous to list here ridiculed Trump and insisted it was an outrageous allegation for which there was no evidence. It was eventually proven true, however, when we learned about the “Trump Dossier” and its use to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil Trump’s campaign. We only know about that because of digging by Devin Nunes and his committee — and he only started investigating after Trumps wiretapping tweet March 4, 2017. He’s still at it.


Nunes has gathered lots of evidence but he’s still being stonewalled at FBI and DOJ. According to the Washington Post:

A subpoena that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) issued to the Justice Department last week made a broad request for all documents about an individual [the implanted spy] who people close to the matter say is a sensitive, longtime intelligence source for the CIA and FBI. The Justice Department has refused to provide the documents. Intelligence officials say the material could jeopardize the source, a U.S. citizen who has aided the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

President Trump, however, can force DOJ to declassify any DOJ documents or release them to Congress. So, why doesn’t he? Rush Limbaugh speculated on his program last Friday that Trump wants it all to play out on its own, that he wants his base to see him as the persecuted victim of a witch hunt by his opposition — the MSM and “The Swamp.” If Limbaugh is right, that wouldn’t necessarily negate my working hypothesis, but it’s troubling. Why not expose it all now? Is Trump playing “Rope-a-Dope” with his enemies? Is he timing the release for just before the mid-term elections? Is he waiting for a new John Dean character to emerge from the Deep State? For the “Why doesn’t he?” question, all I can do is speculate.


But for now, consider how MSM would react if there were evidence that George W. Bush’s FBI planted a spy in the Obama campaign, then used a bogus dossier for a warrant to wiretap his offices. What if the “national security” justification for all this turned out to be completely fabricated? That’s how this whole thing is shaping up, but you’d never know it if you got all your news from the New York Times and the alphabet networks.

Will continuing events prove it necessary to modify my hypothesis? We’ll see.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Left & Right May 9, 2018



Trump pulls out of Iran deal; Iran/Israel standoff; Gino defends the JCPOA. I trash it. Michael Avenati, attorney for Stormy Daniels raking up alleged evidence of Trump/Russia collusion. I claim the Deep State conspiring to bring down Trump. Obama, Clinton, et al involvement. Maine governor's race. Possible Trump impeachment if Dems take over the House.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Best And The Worst



Perhaps the most-quoted poem in the English language is “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats. For nearly a century different writers have cited one or more of its 22 lines written ninety-nine years ago which begins with:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;


The second and third lines resonate most for me:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,


Maybe it was world-wide demonstrations last week on Mayday, which has for more than a century been a day for the left to rally against capitalism. Masked, black-clad, anarchist ANTIFA demonstrators rioted once again in Europe, Canada, and America. In Paris where they burned cars and businesses and clashed with police and over 200 masked thugs were arrested. The left and the right in America are increasingly polarized since the 2016 election prompting renewed fears that maybe “the centre cannot hold” here.


Begun by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) sometime in the 1880s, Mayday demonstrations often turned into riots and became a worldwide phenomenon after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. That event, among others, shook Yeats and catalyzed his famous poem. Others included the “Great War,” or what we now call World War I, and Ireland’s “Easter Rebellion” which, after many unsuccessful attempts to gain Irish independence from Great Britain, did eventually result in liberating most of the island, but only after a long, brutal struggle.


Despite the religious tone implied by the poem’s title, Yeats was for the most part agnostic. Though born into what Irish historians call the wealthy “Protestant Ascendancy” in 1865, Christianity meant little to Yeats. He dabbled in mysticism and the occult and worked against the influence of Catholic Church in his native Ireland. 


Despite the overwhelming prevalence of Catholic Irish peasantry in the independence movement, Yeats became a leader of sorts and a senator in the new Irish government around the time he won the Nobel Prize for literature. He wrote The Second Coming in 1919 when it seemed, as he described in the next four lines:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. 


Yeats grew up comfortably and could dabble in poetry without worrying about supporting himself, but he could see that, were anarchists to topple everything in their passionate intensity and things really did fall apart, his family money and his leisurely life could disappear also. But it didn’t; the centre held until his death in January, 1939, just before the blood-dimmed tide was loosed again across Europe and the world.


Literary analysts claim Yeats was referring to clergy when he claimed: “The best lack all conviction,” as if they didn’t really believe what they preached, “while the worst” — anarchists, socialists, and Bolsheviks — looked as if they might well take over western civilization.


Western pundits today call Europe “post Christian” as churches are abandoned across the continent — or converted into mosques for another religion “full of passionate intensity.” To end the poem, Yeats seems to describe the Sphinx:

A shape with lion body and the head of a man, 
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, 
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it 


Finally, he asks:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
What rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?


Judge Robert Bork edited the last line as title for his 1998 book Slouching Toward Gomorrah which I’ve been reading for the past three months. At the same time I was reading Jordan Peterson’s 2018 book 12 Rules For Life; An Antidote for Chaos which has been a bestseller across the English-speaking world. Both authors analyze Yeats’ poem at some length.


The subtitle for Bork’s book is: Modern liberalism and American Decline. It’s more direct and hard-hitting than Peterson’s. Writing twenty years apart, both men perceived that: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Bork’s nomination to the US Supreme Court was famously sabotaged with passionate intensity by leftist Democrats including Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy.




Today Peterson is pursued wherever he speaks by passionate (some would say crazy) leftists and anarchists who literally pound on the windows and doors outside venues to which he’s invited — and shout him down before being removed from the halls.


Some claim President Trump caused the increased polarization in today’s America. Others claim his victory was a result of pre-existing polarization. Trump’s blunt talk and scrappy style endear him to his base and enrage his opposition, but which side is the best and which is the worst depends on your perspective.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Nice to be home


Leaving Bay of Naples
One of the nicest things about exploring far-away places is coming back home to Maine. A week and a half is about my limit for traveling. After ten days comes a point of diminishing returns after which the excitement of seeing new places is eclipsed by the desire for home and familiar routines. Perhaps if I were younger I would enjoy it longer but, like many, I couldn’t afford to travel then and was way too busy with work and family to get away.


This was my fourth trip to the Mediterranean and I can see why western civilization originated there. Compared to northern Europe where my barbarian ancestors came from, the living is relatively easy. It seldom snows except in the high mountains. In late April there was still snow in the Pyrenees and in the Alps, but it very seldom snows at sea level where we spent most of our time.

Lobsters? Barcelona market
The markets were full of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. They grow year-round in most areas, unlike here in northern New England where farmers must rush to plant, tend, and harvest as much as they can between frosts, and where too much rain, too little rain, a late frost, or an early frost can wipe out everything. Then farmers have to wait a whole year before gambling on it all again. In the old days of subsistence farms, that could mean the difference between eating or starving.

Our ship/city
My small town of Lovell has barely over a thousand people, but there were four thousand passengers on our enormous cruise ship, not to mention fourteen hundred crew. It was a floating city with several restaurants, theaters, bars, a casino, and I don’t know how many staterooms. It pulled into bigger cities each night where it tied up near other huge, floating city-ships. Local guides waited next to tour busses each morning to show us all around their native habitat as we walked down the ramps.

Walled town in Tuscany
Clearly those guides loved their homelands as much as I love Maine and their pride was evident as we followed them around and they explained what we were seeing. One theme every guide mentioned was the need for security. Over there, they measure history by millennia whereas the history of North America is measured in centuries. Every place on earth is equally old, of course, but if history is defined as the written record of events, the record of the Mediterranean Basin goes back far longer. And, as Karl Marx observed: war is the locomotive of history. There’s been plenty of that throughout the region.


Being one of ten or fifteen people in each tour group, I mostly listened. Guides explained their cities were once fortified — surrounded by high walls and always expecting attacks. Traveling through interior Tuscany our guide pointed out hilltop villages surrounded by walls, each with a tower inside where someone was constantly scanning the countryside for invading armies or roaming hoards of bandits. Earlier there had been a long period of relative peace when the Roman Army was so strong it could protect its provinces from outside attack — The Pax Romana, or The Peace of Rome.


When Rome collapsed, Europe went into the Dark Ages — a period when no one was in charge for very long and various tribes battled for dominance. There were was no common law and few authorities to enforce it if there were. Life was tenuous and people didn’t travel much. They ventured into the countryside to tend crops and animals, but didn’t stray far from the fortress back to which they would flee if invaders appeared.

After the Dark Ages came the Pax Britannia during which England ruled the seas and few could challenge it — until the World Wars of the 20th century. Most of you reading this have grown up in a time and place during which there has been no invasion of hostile forces bent on rape and pillage. We have lived during the Pax Americana. No armies, no navies, no hoards of bandits have dared molest Americans because they knew they wouldn’t survive if they tried. We’ve been unusually fortunate to have lived peaceful lives here but how many of us realize that?

Monaco street
While most of Europe was made up of small kingdoms during the Middle Ages, or Dark Ages if you will, nearly all merged into nation states by the 20th century. One that remains is Monaco which we visited last Friday. It has been ruled by the same family since the 13th century and it’s a rich little principality of less than a square mile and over 38,000 people. It was preparing for the May 27th Grand Prix while we were there.

Naples fortification
It’s a nice place but much too crowded for me. I like Maine.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tension in Barcelona



Opposite our hotel
Though I wasn’t looking for it, I couldn’t avoid politics during our three days in Barcelona. My wife leaves all the trip planning to me so I booked the little Hotel Bagues based its proximity to the Gothic Quarter and the sea. We could walk to places of interest along La Rambla, a popular, tree-lined pedestrian boulevard. It’s very popular and it appeared there were tourists from just about everywhere else in the world.



There were mimes, tourist shops, and restaurants with sidewalk tables along La Rambla. Above the first floor restaurants and shops were residences with small balconies overlooking the streets and nearly half displayed political banners, flags, and posters draped over them calling for Catalan independence. Tourist literature called our section the “nerve center” of Barcelona — the city which is itself the nerve center of Catalonia.



We were sipping wine on our little balcony our first night there when we heard chanting in Spanish getting louder by the minute. Then demonstrators marched out of the street across from our balcony which connected La Rambla to the Gothic quarter. They carried Catalan flags and signs and chanted a phrase neither of us understood.

Last October, Catalonia tried to hold a referendum declaring independence but Spanish authorities violently disrupted the vote. According to CNN: “Police fired rubber bullets at protesters and voters trying to take part in the referendum, and used batons to beat them back   using rubber bullets.” Nine hundred people were injured.



Across from our balcony was another owned by a local woman with a Catalan flag and another banner I couldn’t read. Our bellman told me she is a leader in the independence movement. Last October counter demonstrators gathered on the street below and tried to get her to come out, but she wouldn’t. “They would have killed her,” said the bellman.



As if that weren’t enough, the previous August, another kind of political violence flared up when Moroccan Muslim immigrants mowed people down along La Rambla with a rented van. Sixteen people were killed and more than a hundred wounded. Our bell man told me three people died under our balcony and a dozen more lay gravely wounded. The door man pulled out his phone to show me videos too gruesome to show on television. The night before, an imam blew himself up in another area as he tried to construct explosives with gas cylinders.



Last Saturday in the Gothic Quarter very heavy drumming filled the air of a plaza where we were eating breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. Heavy base vibrated my sternum as it bounced off the stone buildings on all four sides of the plaza but I couldn’t pinpoint its source. We paid our bill and walk up the front steps of a gothic cathedral across the square where many people milled about. Looking over their heads, we could see the drummers surrounded by people holding banners and flags. When it stopped, one man with a banner told me they were rallying to keep Spain united.


Below our balcony
Saturday night six motorcycle police gathered there and two vans of heavily armed soldiers with automatic weapons positioned themselves below our balcony at dusk and hotel employees said that wasn’t unusual for a Saturday night. Going to our cruise ship Sunday, there were more soldiers with automatic weapons deployed at the waterfront. 
Naples
Two days later in Naples, Italy I saw an even heavier military presence soldiers with two very alert soldiers with automatic weapons were deployed every fifty yards along a pedestrian walkway in the center of the city. On Friday we’ll be in Nice, France where two years ago a Tunisian Muslim driving a cargo truck killed 84 people and wounded 458 others. Clearly tension is high in heavily-trafficked pedestrian zones of Mediterranean cities.


Truck Attack in Nice
A huge, 13th century castle dominates the Bay of Naples where our cruise ship tied up, built by the French when they dominated the region. It’s a reminder that political conflict is nothing new here as it’s been besieged many times. Muslim navies terrorized the entire Mediterranean for centuries. The last Muslim armies were expelled from Spain in 1492, the same year Columbus discovered America.


Castle Nuovo in Naples
Castles and other material fortifications are useless, however, against the kind of terrorism plaguing the region now. The European left encourages Muslim immigration, while the rising European right wants to cut it off, especially in eastern Europe. The right claims Muslims don’t want to assimilate, don’t want to become Spaniards, Italians, Germans, or French, and have a long-term strategy to take over Europe by demography. Demographic studies indicate that native Europeans are not producing offspring in numbers sufficient to maintain population. Meanwhile, immigrants are having large families.


Europe is changing but it’s still possible to travel peacefully, for now.

Addendum:
(ANSA) – Naples, April 26 – State and Carabinieri police arrested a Gambian national in an antiterrorism operation in Naples on Thursday, sources said.
The arrest comes after investigators found evidence the suspect was planning an attack, the sources said.
Alagie Touray, 21, admitted to investigators that he had received a request to drive a car into a crowd, the sources said. The evidence against him includes a video published on Telegram in which he allegedly pledges alliance to ISIS leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi.
He was detained as he left a mosque in Licola, in the province of Naples. Touray landed in Messina along with over 100 other asylum-seekers in March 2017….
We were there Tuesday. Touray was arrested Thursday. The first sign one sees when arriving in Naples by sea quotes Pope Francis and pleas for no borders. Let everyone come who wants to.
Europe is committing suicide.