CHILEAN MINERS

One of the most devastating mining disasters ever occurred on August 5, 2010 in the San Jose gold and copper mine located in the Atacama Desert, which is about 30 miles north of Copiapo in northern Chile.  As the result of a substantial cave-in 33 miners were trapped.

The cave-in should not have been a surprise.  The mine was 121 years old at the time and had had a history of safety violations.  These violations had been responsible for several accidents, including eight deaths.   The owners of the mine had been fined and required to effect various repairs and safety upgrades.  But, due to carelessness, corruption, bribery of officials, and/or lack of follow-up by mining inspectors these had either been completed inadequately or not at all.  Nevertheless, mining operations had continued.

In view of the foregoing, little hope was held out for the miners.  Most people thought that they had not survived the cave-in.  When it was discovered that they had, indeed, survived the cave-in, rescue attempts began in earnest.  It became a race to rescue them before their air, food and water ran out.

What followed was truly compelling.  People all over the world agonized with the miners’ families and loved ones.  At first, few people thought they could survive until they could be rescued.   But, the group pulled together.  Later, we learned that they had followed a strict system of rationing, which enabled their meager supplies to last.  In addition, everything was decided by democratic vote, so that all of them had a stake in the situation.

Many of us followed the story closely for the entire 69 days until they were finally rescued.  Most dramatic of all was the manner in which the miners returned to the surface.  The rescuers had only been able to dig a narrow shaft.  Then, they lowered down a capsule in which only one person could fit at a time.  Over 1 billion people worldwide watched on live tv as they came up one by one.  The last one up was the shift foreman, Luis Urzua (played by Lou Diamond Phillips in the movie).  They all made it!

Everyone rejoiced in the rescue.

  1. Doctors marveled at how well the miners had coped physically.
  2. Clergy arranged a multi-denominational mass for the miners and their families.  Tragedy almost struck when a swarm of reporters and cameramen accidentally pushed and frightened Omar Reygadas’ two-year old great-granddaughter.  He told the reporters that he had had many nightmares since the ordeal, “but the worst nightmare is all of you.”
  3. They  were treated to various gifts, including cash, a trip to Disneyland, a cruise of the Greek Islands and an eight-day tour of the Holy Land.
  4. One of them, Daniel Herrera, even met his wife as a direct result of the ordeal.  While watching the saga on tv a German woman saw Mr. Herrera and fell in love.  She contacted him on line and eventually, they got married.
  5. Even President Pinera got into the act.  He saw an opportunity to capitalize on the miners’ notoriety and, like any good politician, he took it.   He hosted a reception for them at the Presidential Palace and invited them to play an exhibition soccer match against a government team.

CONCLUSION

Unfortunately, the aftermath has not been so rosy.  Once the cameras and worldwide attention went elsewhere, problems began to surface.  Many of them remain unresolved to this day.

  1.  In 2013 the Chilean government announced that it was terminating its investigation into the cave-in with no criminal charges being filed against the owners.  Obviously, this was met with disbelief and widely criticized.  One of the most vociferous critics was Laurence Golborne, the former mining minister (played by Rodrigo Santoro in the movie).  At the very least, it does not speak well for the integrity of the Chilean justice system.  A civil suit, however, is still pending.
  2. The miners have been “blacklisted” from working in mines.  Mr Reygadas feels that their notoriety has been working against them.  “If there’s ever a problem everyone will immediately find out about it since we get a lot of press.”  Some of them, like Mr. Urzua, who secured a better mining job, and Mr. Sepulveda, who runs a construction business and a charitable foundation, have landed on their feet, but most have not, which has led to severe depression and other emotional problems for them.
  3. Mario Sepulveda (played by Antonio Banderas in the movie) has been outspoken as to the miners’ treatment.  “The majority of us are very bad in terms of emotional health.  [P]sychiatrically and psychologically we were badly treated.”
  4.  Several of the miners have filed a civil suit claiming they were tricked into signing away their royalties pertaining to the collapse and subsequent rescue.  Apparently, some signed the controversial document, which was in English, and others didn’t, so the suit has pitted the two groups against each other.

One can’t help but contrast the fate of the miners with what it would have been had the collapse occurred in the US.  But, that is another subject for, perhaps, another blog.

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THANKSGIVING

My favorite holiday Combines food, football and family.

We Built It Blog by Larry Jacob

On Thursday, November 26, most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a paid federal holiday. All government offices and financial markets are closed. We will gather together with family and friends, eat turkey and other traditional foods, watch football games on TV, and enjoy a day off from work. Few of us will stop to think of the origins and meaning of the holiday. What is its meaning? What are its origins? Why is it celebrated at this time of the year? Read on for the answers.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated to give thanks for the year’s harvest. It has strong religious and cultural roots. Most people are aware that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the US (4th Thursday in November) and Canada (2nd Monday in October), but few of us are aware that variations of it are observed in other countries as well. In these other countries…

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WORLD WAR II INTERNMENT

The enforced relocation and internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII is a stain on our history.  When viewed in retrospect from the perspective of the 21st century it is appalling to realize that the government did this to a segment of Americans regardless of the circumstances and, moreover, that it was supported by the general populace.  Yet, we did.  As Casey Stengel was fond of saying: “You could look it up.”

The time was early 1942.  On the previous December 7 Japan had launched a surprise attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor, devastating our Pacific Fleet and plunging the US headlong into WWII.   In one of the most famous speeches in Presidential history President Franklyn Roosevelt had characterized December 7, 1941 as “a date that will live in infamy.”  Americans were shocked, furious and vengeful.  There was a strong anti-Japanese sentiment in the country.  It was focused not only on Japan, but also on the Americans of Japanese descent living in the US.

As a result of Japanese imperialism the US government was very wary of Americans of Japanese descent.  It had been secretly monitoring Japanese-Americans since the 1930’s in order to identify potential subversives.  In early 1942 it seemed to many that Japan was about to launch a follow-up attack on our West Coast, which was essentially defenseless.  The climate was right for the government to take drastic action against Japanese-American nationals.

In February 1942 FDR signed the first of a series of Executive Orders by which authority the government began the forced relocation and incarceration (“R & I”) of between 110,000 and 120,000 Japanese nationals.  This was effected without any due process.  The legality of this so-called “exclusion order” was subsequently validated by the Supreme Court (but not the incarceration without due process).   About 112,000 of the 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the US at the time were domiciled on the West Coast.  Anyone with as little as 1/16 Japanese blood was subject to enforced R &I.  Curiously, in Hawaii where the 150,000 Japanese-Americans comprised approximately 1/3 of the total population only about 1,500 were interned.  I’ll explain the reasons later.

It is important to distinguish among the three groups of Japanese involved.

  1.  About 2/3 of the aforementioned total were  “Nisei,” literally “second generation.”  They were native born children of Japanese immigrants and, as such, were American citizens.
  2. “Sansei,” or “third generation” were children of “Nisei,” also American citizens by birth.  Both of these groups should have been entitled to the full protections of the Constitution, just like any other US citizen.
  3. “Issei” were “first generation” immigrants who had been born in Japan and, based on specific legislation, were ineligible for citizenship.
Many of them had emigrated from Japan or Hawaii beginning in the 1860’s to find work, principally in agriculture.
Time was to prove that fears of disloyalty were unfounded as there were few, if any, instances of espionage by Japanese Americans.   In fact, the FBI had dismissed all rumors of espionage as being unfounded.   Nevertheless, the R & I proceeded.   It seemed that the enforced R & I was motivated more by racial discrimination than anything else.  Ironically, one of the prime proponents of R & I was the Attorney General of California, Earl Warren, who, later, as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, would be a strong advocate of civil rights.
Some of the strongest proponents of R & I were California’s Caucasian farmers.  This was likely due to their economic self-interest as the Japanese farmers had been competing with them.  They saw a chance to acquire their land below market prices and eliminate them as competitors.  In a further irony, the mass R & I created a labor shortage in Agriculture, which, ultimately, was filled by importing Mexican laborers.
That brings us back to Hawaii.  Hawaiian businessmen were also motivated by their own self interest.  They realized the critical role of the Japanese laborer to the Hawaiian economy.  For example, nearly all of the carpenters, transportation workers and agricultural workers were Japanese.  Incarcerating them would cripple the Hawaiian economy and severely inhibit the essential rebuilding necessary after Pearl Harbor.  So, they lobbied their government to enact laws to retain the Japanese citizens’ freedom.  (Remember, at this time Hawaii was a territory, not  a state.)

Life in the internment facilities was extremely degrading with one hardship after another.  Most detainees survived by following the principle of “gaman,” which means “endurance with dignity.”  The facilities were operated by various groups, including the Wartime Civil Control Administration, the War Relocation Authority,  the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Justice.  There were three types:

  1.  Civilian Assembly Centers were temporary facilities.  These were where families were sent initially.  Typically, they were located in race tracks or fairgrounds.
  2. Relocation Centers, aka internment camps, were the next stop for most people.
  3. Detention camps were for perceived trouble makers.  Really hard cases were sent to Citizen Isolation Centers or Federal Prisons.
 Living conditions varied widely from bad to worse to worst.
1. The best were the INS camps, which were governed by international treaty.  The food and housing were the best of all the venues (although not so great by civilian standards).
2.  In some camps, people lived in tar paper shacks with no plumbing or cooking facilities.
3.  In the camps located at race tracks people were forced to sleep in the stables.
4.  Many camps were enclosed with barbed wire and were patrolled by armed guards.
5.  Toilet facilities were primitive.
6.  Medical care was subpar as doctors, nurses and medicines were in short supply.  Illnesses, such as food poisoning and dysentery were common.
7.  Even though there were many children of school age, there was insufficient resources devoted to education.   There was a shortage of qualified teachers and books.  The classrooms, themselves, were often converted prison blocks that lacked windows and were poorly ventilated, and therefore were sweltering in the summer.
8.  Few students were able to attend college.
Perhaps, the most egregious indignity was the so-called “loyalty questionnaire.”  All adults were required to complete it.  Two questions were particularly controversial.  Number 27 asked if an individual would be willing to serve in the US armed forces.  Number 28 asked the person to forswear allegiance to the Emperor of Japan.  Those questions confused, frightened or angered many people, so they answered “no” to both.  These people were labeled “no nos” and were sent to a special camp for troublemakers.  About 20,000 Japanese Americans did serve in the armed forces, many of them with distinction.
CONCLUSION
Internment ended when the Supreme Court, as mentioned previously, ruled in December 1944 that loyal citizens could not be detained without cause.  Nevertheless, the ramifications were lasting and severe, for example:
1.  Many died as the result of the living conditions in the camps.
2.  Others had lost their land, businesses or other assets due to confiscation or unscrupulous dealings.
3.  Many suffered psychological problems such as depression.
Beginning in 1948 Congress commenced efforts to provide reparations and redress to those affected in the form of money, educational grants and an official apology .  These efforts met with mixed success because many victims had died and their heirs had difficulty proving the validity of claims.  In 1976 President Gerald Ford proclaimed that the internment was “wrong” and a “national mistake.”  In 1988 President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided $20,000 for each surviving detainee for a total of $1.2 billion.
One of the detainees was the actor, George Takei, who was imprisoned as a child with his family in camps in Arkansas and California.  Mr. Takei is best known for his role as Sulu in the original Star Trek TV show.  His experiences have been chronicled in the 2014 film “To Be Takei” and the current Broadway hit play “Allegiance.”  I recommend the play.  I have not seen the movie.

“JV” TERRORIZES PARIS

As the late philosopher, Yogi Berra, would have said, “It’s ‘deja vu’ all over again.”  Yesterday, various well coordinated Islamic terrorist attacks were carried out in Paris.  The targets were various “soft” targets, such as a restaurant, a concert, a sports stadium and a couple of bars.  What did these targets have in common? Two things: (1) they were not protected or secured by law enforcement or military personnel; and (2) they were packed with tourists and residents whose only crime was a desire for an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.  Instead, hundreds of them, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, were murdered or injured, many of them critically.

In addition, the manner of attack was particularly vexing.  Witnesses have stated that, after the initial attacks, the terrorists coldly, calmly and methodically searched out survivors and executed them one by one.  Some of the survivors managed to escape; others survived by playing dead by laying among dead people.  Think of the horror.  We’re not talking about trained soldiers or policemen.  These are ordinary people like you and me who one minute were enjoying a concert, a soccer game or a meal and the next were dead, injured or forced to lie among dead people in order to survive.

As I write this, no group has claimed responsibility for these acts of terror, but the evidence points strongly towards ISIS.  Indeed, French President Hollande has identified ISIS as the culprits.  To me, it makes no difference whether it was ISIS or another Islamic terrorist group. They are all interrelated anyway.

Mr. Hollande, declaring the attacks as “an act of war,” has taken other decisive actions, such as declaring a state of emergency, placing Army troops in Paris and closing the border.  None of these actions addresses the underlying issues that led to the attacks, but that is a subject for another blog on another day.

It does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that there were more than eight terrorists involved.  The eight that we know about had to have an extensive support system to carry out this kind of coordinated attack.  Likely, there are many more still at large in France and other countries.  Also, it is obvious that these were well planned attacks coordinated and financed from international sources.

CONCLUSION

Once again, the Islamic terror group that the current administration has derided as a “JV” has struck a massive blow against the West.  ISIS and its partners in crime have perpetrated many, many such attacks in the last several years – the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008, Mumbai also in 2008, Oslo in 2011, Toulouse in 2012, Nairobi in 2013, Brussels in 2014 and Nigeria, Paris (Charlie Hebdo), and Ankara this year, to name a few.  By comparison, can anybody name the last time a NON-ISLAMIC group carried out a terrorist attack?  Probably not.  And yet, President Obama still refuses to identify these Islamic groups as terrorists!

Most of you are familiar with the opinion voiced by some Americans that we need to fight the terrorists in the Middle East or else we will be fighting them here eventually.  Others have derided that argument as war mongering or sticking our nose in other people’s business.  No one, except, perhaps, a few extremists, is advocating sacrificing American lives unnecessarily, however, as time goes on and more terrorist attacks are perpetrated in the West the former philosophy is gaining more and more credence and the latter seems more and more misguided.  How long before a similarly well-coordinated attack occurs on US soil?  We have countless “soft” targets – malls, schools, restaurants, etc. – from which to choose.

As I have blogged before, words, negotiations, posturing and saber-rattling haven’t and won’t work.  Terrorists only understand and respect force.  Due to the Administration’s indecisive approach what was a small problem a few years ago has now become a big problem.

I say to the leaders of the West, we need to send ISIS and its ilk a strong message.  Appeasement did not work in 1938. Throughout history, It never has and likely never will.   Let’s learn from our history and not repeat it.  We have the ability to deal with this.  Do we have the will?

A SALUTE TO VETERANS

On November 12 we will celebrate Veterans Day. To many people, VD is merely a day off from work or a chance to spend time with family or friends. They do not stop to reflect on the significance of the holiday, its history, and the sacrifices endured by millions of people to make it all possible. Like so many things, we tend to take it for granted.

VD originated at the conclusion of WWI, which was the most devastating war up to that time. It lasted from 1914 to 1918. In those pre-WWII days, it was called “The Great War.” There were 37.5 million total casualties on both sides, including 8.5 million people killed. The countries with the largest number of casualties were Germany, Russia and France. The US’s casualties were relatively light, 116,000 killed and 323,000 total casualties, because it joined the war late (1917).

Most people know that the immediate cause of the war was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. However, every war has underlying causes as well. The underlying causes of WW1 had been building for many years. They were:

1. The proliferation of mutual defense treaties. All of the major European powers, Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary were bound by interlocking treaties. This insured that if one of these countries were to go to war all the others would be drawn in as well.

2. Imperialism. This was nothing new. Imperialism had been an issue since the 16th century. In the early 1900s it has risen to a new level. The European powers were all vying for pieces of Africa and Asia, primarily for their raw materials.

3. Militarism. The militaries in each of these countries were aggressive, bold and influential.

4. Nationalism. Various ethnic groups, notably the Slavs in Austria, wanted independence from the imperialist countries that controlled them.

Against this background, it is easy to see how a world war could break out. All that was needed was a spark, and the abovementioned assassination provided it. The principal antagonists were Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire on one side and Great Britain, France, Russia and the US on the other, although the Russians were forced to withdraw in 1917 with the advent of the Russian Revolution.

After four years of fighting, from 1914 to 1918, the combatants were finally able to agree on an armistice. It took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Eventually, it was ratified by the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed June 25, 1919 at the Palace of Versailles. November 11 became known as Armistice Day. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson made it official by proclamation. Armistice Day was officially changed to VD in 1954.

The “Father of Veterans Day” is a WWII veteran named Raymond Weeks. It was his idea to expand Armistice Day to include all veterans, not just those of WWI, and he became the driving force to effect this change. He petitioned General Dwight Eisenhower, and he led a national celebration every year from 1947 until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored him with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 at which time he was recognized officially as “The Father of VD.”

VD should not be confused with Memorial Day. VD celebrates the service of ALL military veterans living and dead, while Memorial Day celebrates only those who died in the service of their country.

VD is celebrated in many countries. Celebrations vary. In Canada the holiday is called Remembrance Day. In Great Britain the holiday is known as Remembrance Sunday, and it is celebrated on the second Sunday of November. In both countries as well as in many European countries, the occasion is marked by a moment of silence at 11:00 am. Also, in both Canada and Great Britain some people wear poppies in their lapels as a tribute. Red poppies became a symbol of WW1 after they were featured in the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

In the US we enjoy parades and other celebrations around the country. Many restaurants and other businesses offer veterans free meals or discounts on various goods and services. Additionally, there is a special ceremony in Washington, DC which features the laying of a wreath at the “Tomb of the Unknowns” at Arlington National Cemetery.

CONCLUSION

So, tomorrow as you enjoy the day take a few minutes to recognize and show respect for the veterans who sacrificed so much in order that the rest of us could enjoy the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. If you encounter a veteran, thank him or her for their service. It would mean a great to him or her to be so recognized.

Also, be cognizant of the inadequate medical services we provide our veterans, especially the significant delays in receiving medical care and other benefits. It is truly a national scandal that has received scant attention in the mainstream media and one that needs to be rectified asap. Just take a few minutes out of your day, a little bit of your time to those who have given so much.