Germany, Renewable Energy, More Good

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They just keep hitting new milestones for renewable energy usage in Germany that are great!  And embarrassing for America. All the stuff that detractors say can’t be done, keeps getting done, in a large economy that has the equivalent sunlight of Alaska, the least sunny place in our entire f’ing country!

The 4th Largest Economy In The World Just Generated 90 Percent Of The Power It Needs From Renewables

On Sunday, for a brief, shining moment, renewable power output in Germany reached 90 percent of the country’s total electricity demand.

Sie gehen Mädchen!!  (“You go girl”!)

What, I should have written “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles – in the limited context of renewable energy?

A Slice of the Confederacy in Brazil

You know how weird the world is?  This weird – this is a cemetery in Brazil.

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A Slice of the Confederacy in the Interior of Brazil  tells the story of the annual celebration of the Confederacy held in Santa Barbara D’Oeste, Brazil. Why?

Because this is where a bunch of devoted slavers settled during the Civil War so that they could continue their peculiar institution in a place where it wasn’t considered so peculiar. Slavery was big in Brazil and continued there till 1888.

The commemoration reflected the resilience of what some historians call the lost colony of the Confederacy in this region of sugar cane fields and textile factories. Unencumbered by the debate raging in the United States over whether Confederate symbols promote racism, the Brazilian descendants of the American settlers, many of them clad in Civil War uniforms, mingled at food stands offering Southern fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits.

The motto of the organizers: To Live and Die in Dixie.

The presence of the Confederados in the interior of São Paulo State dates to an effort by Emperor Dom Pedro II, a staunch ally of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, to lure white immigrants to Brazil. Thousands of Southerners took him up on his offer, moving here in the 1860s and 1870s.

So for many today this is a harmless, but tacky, celebration of Southern culture.  A paean to hush puppies, grits and good old boys running from Boss Hogg or something.

Harmless.

Did you hear about the  Scottish guy who trained his girlfriend’s dog to salute when Hitler comes on his TV screen?

Harmless… Actually it was, the guy did it as a prank because the dog was so cute, he thought – let’s teach it to do the least cute thing you can imagine. Just a misunderstanding, the guy has apologized to the Jewish community of Scotland, all 3 of them.

So going back to the good old boys of Brazil, maybe it is harmless in this context because you have a country in Brazil that is 51% black or mixed race – that was caused by the slave trade.  The descendants of those white supremacists who came to Brazil to continue slaving are now the same color as the people their forefathers bought and sold.  To these people today there is no connection to slavery, the Confederate flag is disconnected from the owning of people. No one there is using it to assert the legacy of slavery as something to celebrate. Perhaps in a place that’s so black and brown where there is no active remnant of the KKK to reckon with, it is truly harmless to glorify the kitchification of the antebellum south when the context of torture and murder is expunged.

I’m here just because I just love America,” said Sergio Porto, 38, a worker at a truck parts factory in São Paulo who was wearing a Confederate bandanna and a T-shirt saying “Hillbilly Treasure.” Mr. Porto explained that he was part of a subculture in Brazil that exalts the rural culture of the Southern United States and listens to Brazilian bands that perform country music in English instead of Portuguese.

Yeah, that stuff still sucks in any language, but okay.  Maybe I can even applaud Sr. Porto when I think that his counterparts in the U.S. who would love what he’s wearing and listening to, would hate him wearing it and listening to it.

Trump Hires Damaged Goods to Hire People

Might he hire David Wildstein, Bill Stepian and Bridget Kelly for the transition team?

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Trump just hired Christie to be head of his transition team. So he’d be hiring people to help Trump be presidential. The irony here is that, if you take Christie at his word, he’s a terrible judge of character.  He completely blamed Wildstein, Stepian and Kelly for the petty and vindictive GW Bridge closure which was planned as punitive action against Christie’s enemies. His only fault was that he trusted too much. So sad. (sniff, sniff)

Thinking that we should once again change Chris Christie’s moniker from “Damaged Goods” to “Sad” Chris Christie. It’s so sad that he had to come to the realization that his career had hit a wall and was dependent on the guy he called a “carnival barker”.

 

Philippines Election Coverage and Context

I work with a very nice guy from the Philippines.  I find that when I say that, everyone responds the same way – they too work with or know a very nice person or persons from the Philippines. Anthony Bourdain’s recent show on the Philippines was all about how cheerful and generous, sacrificing and enterprising the Filipino people are. It seems like half the Filipinos in the world are somewhere other than the Philippines working diligently somewhere prosperous to send money back to their impoverished homeland.

That nice guy I work with was telling me a few weeks ago about the election that occurred today. He was looking forward to the election of Rodrigo Duterte, who did indeed win today.  He said that this guy was the Filipino Bernie Sanders.

So okay, the Filipino Bernie Sanders if as mayor of Burlington, VT he’d used “death squads” to clean the streets. But that’s really a moralistic cheap shot based entirely on our American context and that’s the point.

A tough-talking mayor, known as “the Punisher” for his lax attitude to extrajudicial killings, looks set to clinch the presidency in the Philippines with unofficial tallies giving him a big lead.

Rodrigo Duterte, a 71-year-old ex-prosecutor, has 38.6% in an initial tally of 80% of the vote, nearly 16 points ahead of the next candidate. The five-person race does not need a majority candidate to win – the outgoing president Benigno Aquino won in 2010 with 42%.

My friend said flat out weeks ago that this guy was no angel.  As a prosecutor and the 20 year mayor of Davao City, a very large and very successful South East Asian city, Duterte has been a kind of real life Charles Bronson (actually they call him “Duterte Harry”)  in an area of the world that is an analogue to New York in the 70s.  He’s done and said some things that Americans would find very disturbing. On his May 8th show, John Oliver, who is usually more nuanced in his attention to context, did a segment about Duterte only focusing on the candidate’s controversial comments and involvement in extrajudicial crime fighting.

But the context is something else.  Duterte is a regular guy from the streets, a democratic socialist by policy and corruption fighter by reputation who is vehemently opposed by the 40 or so ruling families of the Philippines. The Philippines are an oligopoly run by family dynasties that have been in power in each state since colonial times. They systematically suck  up the wealth of the country because they run it. The local and federal governments have been dominated by family dynasties as much as their economics have. Duterte is not of these dynasties, he’s vowed to destroy them and they hate him.  His election in the face of their enmity is an unquestioned victory for the average people of the Philippines.

But none of that context got into John Oliver’s piece, or in any of the cursory pieces about Duterte that I’ve seen in the last few weeks here in America.

Moreover, his history as a prosecutor and mayor and his violent rhetoric craves the context of the reality on the ground in Davao City. It’s huge, clean and prosperous, one of the safest cities in the region despite it’s history of having been the nexus of drug trade throughout South East Asia.  Heroin from China was routed to the west through Davao City.  It’s was the meth capital of the country.  But it’s ranked as one of the most progressive cities in the world now and the 9th safest.

“As the long-term mayor of Davao City, he has turned a rebel-infested, crime-plagued community into one of the country’s safest,” added Mr Lavina. “People in the rest of the Philippines want that chance too.”

In an election with 5 candidates, to get 38.6% is pretty impressive. The Filipino people have embraced Duterte as a hope and change candidate in a place that needs much more hope and fundamental change than America in 2008 did.

His presidency will bear watching to see if the people continue to back him against the dynastic families that have held dictatorial sway over the country, but desperately warn that he’s a potential strongman who must be defeated.  But if Duterte sounds more like a combination of Clint Eastwood’s “Harry Callaghan” and Rudy (“a noun, a verb and 9/11”) Giuliani, it is the context that matters.  I would argue that both Dirty Harry and Rudi Giuliani were fictional characters fighting fake bad guys that in one case were the broadly drawn caricatures that movie audiences could root against and the other was Clint Eastwood. Giuliani put up fake window decals on the burned out buildings of the South Bronx, had cops hassle black and Hispanic kids and took credit for crime rates that had already been going down steadily for years. Nothing more fictional than that. But some places are real beyond all comprehension and require more than politically motivated cosmetic half measures.

During the election, there has been violence, which is common in Philippine politics. On Saturday, a mayoral candidate was shot dead in the south by a gunman. And just hours before polls opened on Monday, seven people were shot dead when a convoy of vehicles was ambushed in Rosario, just south of Manila.

The Filipino people deserve some respite from violence and corruption.  Duterte has vowed to clean up crime, spread the wealth of the country a bit wider than it is currently distributed and fix the crazy corruption that makes doing business in a banana republic rather unpredictable in order to attract more business to come there and employ Filipinos in their home country.  I hope their faith in Duterte is rewarded. It’s just not as simple as that to call him the “Trump of the East,” because he’s not rich (he’s fighting the rich), he’s not a racist (he’s a fervent pluralist), and he has a record of achieving positive things for the people who elected him.

  • Just to be clear, not advocating “death squads”, but like “Sling Blade said “some folks just need killin'”.