Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Donald Trump Believes in Climate Change

In 2014, Donald Trump was negotiating to buy a golf course on the Irish coast in County Clare. He promised to invest up to $50 million to “make it one of the greatest golf courses in the world”. He hoped to bring the Irish Open there. But just before the deal closed, a big storm lashed the coast and eroded up to 25 feet deep of valuable golf course coastline.

Trump bought the property, renaming it Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland. Like a good businessman, he worried about the risks to his investment. So against local rules, he began dumping tons of rocks on the shoreline to protect it from further erosion. Local authorities used an enforcement notice to stop him. His company has now applied to the county council for permission to spend $1.7 million to build a 65-foot wide limestone seawall along two miles of beach.

Trump’s application said that he would not make further investments in the local economy, unless he could address the dangers to his property. “If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct, however, it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland. In our view, it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring. … As a result, we would expect the rate of dune recession to increase.”

Following the scientific consensus about how climate change will affect weather patterns during the rest of this century, the application offered this prediction: “Our advice is to assume that the recent average rate of dune recession will not alter greatly in the next few decades, perhaps as far into the future as 2050 ... but that subsequently an increase in this rate is more likely than not.”

Trump anticipated that he would need his neighbors’ support to overcome possible government objections, so his company distributed a brochure to local residents, who hope that Trump’s investments will boost their economic future. The page entitled “Need for Coastal Protection” emphasized the dangers of climate change: “Predicted sea level rise and more frequent storm events will increase the rate of erosion throughout the 21st century.”

Communities as far apart as Alaska and Florida are already suffering from the sea level rise and the storm patterns, that are predicted by virtually all the world’s climate scientists. But Trump’s worries about his Irish golf course might seem surprising, because as a politician he has consistently denied that global warming exists.

In fall 2011, he tweeted, “It snowed over 4 inches this past weekend in New York City. It is still October. So much for Global Warming.” In March 2012, he tweeted, “Global warming has been proven to be a canard repeatedly over and over again.” In November 2012, he wrote, “Global warming is based on faulty science and manipulated data.” That year he made a more precise claim: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

By January 2014, Trump had settled on the word “hoax”. That month he tweeted three times that climate change was a hoax, and visited FOX News, where he said, “This whole global warming hoax .... it’s a hoax, I think the scientists are having a lot of fun.”

This January, 4 years after, he said on “Fox and Friends” that he wasn’t serious about the Chinese part. But Trump continued to insist that climate change is a hoax. The Washington Post editorial staff asked him in March, “Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?” Trump said, “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. ... they don’t know if they have global warming.”

In the billionaire’s worldwide enterprises, Trump’s Irish Wall is small potatoes. But if you follow the money, you can find out a lot about Trump’s politics. When he considers his financial interests, Trump is a climate change believer. Trump the businessman was arguing with the Irish authorities about allowing him to make an extraordinary investment to protect his property over the course of this century, because “it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring”.

All the while, Trump the politician insisted over and over to the American public that he did not believe in global warming, that the scientists cited in his Irish petition were liars and cheaters, that the whole thing was a hoax. Protecting his property and protecting his votes call for a complicated strategy.

It seems to be working. His supporters cheer for the man in the big suit, because he says in more entertaining fashion what they’ve been told by generations of Republican politicians. They somehow don’t care about the real Donald Trump, when he thinks about his money.

That’s good, because he doesn’t care enough about them and their future to say what he really believes.

Steve Hochstadt
Springbrook, WI
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, September 27, 2016

My thanks to my brother-in-law, David Booth, for pointing out the golf course story. A few papers noted it back in the spring and then forgot it. The NY Times noted it in yesterday's editorial "Why He Should Not Be President".

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Who is Deplorable?

Hillary Clinton should not have said that about half of Trump supporters are deplorable people. That would mean that one-quarter of Americans are deplorable, a terrible thing to believe. But remember, many conservatives have said even worse about the other half of Americans: that all liberals are treasonous, that 47% of Americans are unwilling to take personal responsibility for their lives, that everyone who voted for Obama is stupid or a dupe. Republican outrage about Clinton’s comment is merely hypocrisy.

All of these comments are both stupid and wrong. Political professionals like to say, “Don’t attack the voters.” Those undecided American voters, if there are any left, don’t like to be told that supporting the side they are still considering would make them deplorable. These comments are not only bad for a campaign – they are also wrong-headed. Even though nearly half of Trump supporters say in polls that blacks are violent, criminal and lazy, I don’t agree with many political commentators that these prejudices make them deplorable people.

Trump does have some deplorable supporters, there’s no question of that. The fringe of white supremacists wholeheartedly support Trump, from former KKK leader David Duke to white nationalist leader William Johnson, whom the Trump campaign picked as a convention delegate from California.

But the great majority of Trump supporters who harbor racial prejudices are normal Americans, who have allowed themselves to be misled by the truly deplorable people, those who have been promoting racism in public for years. We have seen too many examples of the political triangle between deplorable leaders, deplorable media personalities, and people learning deplorable ideas.

Here’s how that has worked on the issue of race. Trump has continually disparaged those who have brought up the issue of police brutality against African Americans. He suggested at a rally in November that a Black Lives Matter protester “should have been roughed up”. Bill O’Reilly asked Trump on his program on July 12 about racial problems in America. Trump first blamed President Obama for creating racial divisions. O’Reilly said that there are “still some black Americans who believe that the system is biased against them,” implying this was an outdated and purely black idea. Trump compared racial discrimination to his own privileged life: “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged when I ran as a, you know, for president”.

O’Reilly wondered how Trump would be able to convince “African-Americans who believe America is a bad place built upon grievances in the past to put that aside.” O’Reilly then said that Black Lives Matter is a “hate group”, thus comparing them to the KKK or other white supremacists. Trump was a bit more moderate: “I think it’s certainly, it’s very divisive and I think they’re hurting themselves.”

Just as the Republican National Convention was getting underway in Cleveland, O’Reilly asked Donald Trump on July 19 whether Black Lives Matter was a “provocateur” in the killings of police officers. Trump replied, “I have seen them marching down the street essentially calling death to the police.” O’Reilly reworded his question, asking whether Black Lives Matter was “a fuse-lighter in the assassinations of these police officers?” Trump said, “Certainly in certain instances they are.” O’Reilly asked whether Trump as President would have his Attorney General investigate BLM, and Trump agreed, calling the group a threat. “We just can't let it happen.”

Neither candidate nor TV host knew of any evidence that Black Lives Matter was a danger to our country. BLM never called for death to the police. In 2014, a different group of protesters in New York City chanted, “What do we want? Dead cops.” One man who wants to be President and one man who reaches 2 million viewers every day agreed that Black Lives Matter was responsible for killing police and should therefore be investigated by the federal government.

Trump’s campaign dismisses the reality of real racial problems and criticizes anyone who speaks of them. That has encouraged others to create an echo chamber for these ideas. The crazies and racists of the far right are delighted because they believe they have now joined the mainstream. The Springfield State Journal-Register published a column by radical right-wing writer Ann Coulter last week comparing Black Lives Matter to David Duke.

White Americans who would like to believe that racial discrimination no longer exists, that black complaints about discrimination are outdated, that their deep feeling that blacks deserve their subordinate status in our country is true, can hear these ideas confirmed, repeated, and “proven” by public persons who know better. White Americans’ ignorance is not innocent, but is also not deplorable. Their indoctrination by politicians and media characters is deplorable. And the cheerleader for the acceptance of racist ideas in America, Donald Trump, is the most deplorable of all.

Steve Hochstadt
Jacksonville IL
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, September 20, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Inspiration from the Paralympics

Right after the Nazis took power in 1933, Ludwig Guttman, one of the top neurosurgeons in Germany, was fired from his position at a public hospital, because he was Jewish. In 1939, he and his family fled to England, when they realized their lives were in danger.

Guttman convinced the British government to start a new center for veterans with spinal injuries, and he became the first director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Guttman wanted to reintegrate his patients into society. Physical rehabilitation was only the first phase of his treatment. One of his patients wrote, “One of the most difficult tasks for a paraplegic is to cheer up his visitors!”

Guttman believed in athletic activity, both to improve a patient’s physical health and to aid in integration into the community, by increasing self-respect and competitive spirit. Some of his paraplegic patients would roll their wheelchairs along the hospital halls and hit objects with sticks. Guttman developed team sports, which became the first Stoke Mandeville Games, when 16 ex-servicemen and -women competed in archery on the day that the 1948 Olympics opened in London. In 1952, a team of Dutch war veterans joined in, creating the first international games for the disabled, with 130 participants.

In 1958, Guttman and the Director of the Spinal Center in Rome, Antonia Maglio, started preparations for the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games to be held in Rome in 1960. Only athletes with spinal cord injuries competed. The competition took place six days after the Rome Olympic Games, and besides archery included swimming, wheelchair basketball and fencing, and track and field.

The Rome Games were a tremendous step for all athletes with physical impairments. Later that year, an International Working Group on Sport for the Disabled was created to consider sports for other kinds of disabilities: the blind, amputees, and persons with cerebral palsy. In 1961, Guttman founded the British Sports Association for the Disabled, and national organizations began to proliferate. Acceptance for the legitimacy of international games for the disabled grew, and eventually in 1988 in Seoul the word Paralympic came into official use.

The Games have expanded to include 20 different sports and over 4000 participants from nearly every nation in the world. In 1976 in Toronto, different disabilities were included for the first time, expanding the games beyond athletes in wheelchairs. American athletes won the most medals at each meeting until Sydney in 2000. The Chinese made their first significant appearance then, and in the next meeting in Atlanta in 2004 won the most medals, which they have done each time since. In London in 2012, volleyball, cycling, and judo were added. In Rio, athletes will compete for the first time in sailing and triathlon.

Many types of disabilities from birth, disease or accident can distort the normal functioning of the human body: missing limbs, limited range of motion of joints, decreased muscle power, visual or intellectual impairment. The Paralympics movement has developed a complex system of classifications to insure “fair and equal competition”. In order to include as many athletes as possible, there are multiple versions of the same event. In the 100-meter dash, 15 gold medals can be won by women in different classes depending on degree of visual impairment, or whether they are missing legs or arms.

The Rio triathlon exemplifies the complexities of creating inclusivity among athletes with different disabilities. Blind athletes can compete with a guide accompanying them in all phases. Paraplegics use wheelchairs for the run and handcycles instead of bicycles. Race bikes with adaptations are used by those with partial use of their legs. Men and women competed for three gold medals in triathlon in Rio, including 10 blind women in class PT5, each accompanied by a guide.

Looking for inspiration from athletic success? Watch a one-legged high jumper from China clear the bar at 6' 5" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FoUNuTGFzg. That’s not a world record, though, because the Canadian Arnie Boldt, who lost a leg in a grain augur accident at age 3, jumped 6' 8" outdoors and 6'10" indoors in 1981. Or watch the women’s 100-meter final from London in 2012, when 9 runners with 7 full legs among them competed, and Martina Caironi set a new world record of 15.87 seconds.

Ellen Keane from Ireland used to wear long sleeves to cover up the fact that she was born without a left arm. Now she proudly dons a swimsuit to compete in the 200-meter individual medley, in which she won a bronze medal at the 2015 International Paralympic Committee World Swimming Championships in Glasgow. She says, “Sports taught me to accept my handicap. I now find it okay to have only one arm. I wouldn’t have it any different.”

Dr. Guttman’s vision has been realized on a world scale. The athletic performances of the thousands of Paralympic athletes in Rio, far exceeding what most “normal” athletes could accomplish, make the word handicapped seem inappropriate. None of them can earn a living from professional sports. They have achieved much more: pride in what their bodies can do, rather than shame for what they can’t.

Steve Hochstadt
Berlin, Germany
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, September 13, 2016

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Architectural Politics of Rebuilding Berlin

Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, was subjected to one of the longest bombing campaigns in history. From 1940 through 1945, 363 air raids by the British RAF and the American Air Force devastated the city and its inhabitants. The death toll lay between 20,000 and 50,000, probably more than were killed in the fire-bombing of Dresden. Much of the city was reduced to rubble.

As in other European cities where wartime destruction was nearly total, some people suggested in 1945 that Berlin be abandoned. Behind that idea lay a particular architectural and political ideology: old buildings and old cityscapes were outdated and should be replaced with modern architecture and more efficient urban designs.Those who valued locality, who connected their identity with built history, favored recovery of the old. No former cities were abandoned, but the modernizers and the reconstructionists argued for decades, both influencing the eventual rebuilding of European cities.

Discussions about demolition and reconstruction inevitably touched political ideologies of all kinds. Two Berlin sites, one east and one west, show the variety of architectural politics which determined the process of rebuilding.

The City Palace,built in the 15th century, rebuilt and expanded many times for the rulers of Prussia, became the home of the German Emperors after 1871. In February 1945, Allied bombers damaged the walls and burned out the whole interior. When Berlin was divided, the site ended up in the Russian zone, then in East Germany.

Although the Stadtschloss could have been saved, the East German government declared that the building represented hated values of Prussian militarism and monarchical rule, and decided in 1950 to get rid of it. 19 tons of dynamite leveled the walls and created an open space named Marx-Engels-Platz. During the 1970s, the Palace of the Republic was erected in its place, a new modernist building with bronze-mirrored windows, which served as the seat of the East German parliament, but also contained a bowling alley, a discotheque, and 13 restaurants, symbolic of the alleged connection between citizens and their government.

One of the final acts of the East German government after the fall of the Berlin Wall was the closing of the building to the public because of asbestos contamination. Removing the asbestos took more than decade. By that time, a new debate had broken out about whether this symbol of communism should be replaced by a rebuilt Stadtschloss.

Both sides argued that history should not be erased, but disagreed about which history ought to be respected: the more recent and still existing Palace of the Republic or the more distant and now only imaginary City Palace. In 2003, the German parliament decided to tear down the Palace of the Republic and rebuild the outer walls of the City Palace to house a new cultural center. Today construction is underway.

A different kind of symbolism is attached to a church in the center of former West Berlin. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kirche was built in the 1890s by Emperor Wilhelm II in honor of his grandfather, Wilhelm I, the first emperor of the newly united Germany.

Gerhard Justus Eduard Jacobi, who had earned two Iron Crosses in World War I and spent a year as a prisoner of war, became the Lutheran pastor of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kirche in 1930. He gathered a circle of young pastors around him, which after 1933 became a center of opposition to the Nazi efforts to assert control over the German church and to propagate their racist ideology. Jacobi became the Berlin leader of the newly founded Confessing Church, working closely with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller. He was beaten up and hounded by the Nazis, but continued his opposition.

On November 23, 1943, the church was badly damaged during a British air raid, and further devastated by raids in 1945. After the war’s end, little was done to keep the ruins from further collapse. The church represented to some the German nationalism which had ended so badly in the 20th century. The modernist architect Egon Eiermann won the competition to rebuild a church on the site, and decided to tear the remains down and start again. That plan sparked public outrage, which resulted in a compromise: the ruins would remain as a monument for peace, and Eiermann would build the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church next to them.

The very modern Gedächtniskirche was consecrated the same day as the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, which had been burned out in the German air raid of November 14, 1940. Coventry Cathedral is also a combination of a destroyed and a new building. Three medieval nails from the ruins, fashioned into a cross, have become an international symbol of peace and reconciliation, which is prominently displayed at the Gedächtniskirche. Its prewar and postwar pastor Jacobi was discussed as a candidate for President of West Germany, but declined.

The Gedächtniskirche is an emotionally powerful reminder of the senseless material destruction caused by war. Its pastor Jacobi personifies courageous opposition to evil authority.The Stadtschloss is a monumental reminder of the historic power of German monarchs. These contrasting symbols coexist in modern rebuilt Berlin, representations of its complicated history and its potential lessons.

Steve Hochstadt
Berlin, Germany
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, September 6, 2016