Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Ballotpedia to me: Get a lawyer

I sent the following message through a web form to Ballotpedia (I screenshotted it or there would be no record): 


In 2018, they were very responsive to a different request so I was disappointed that a question about the sort of information that they regularly publish was treated as a legal inquiry rather than a suggestion to gather and share information that would allow voters to make better decisions.

What do you think of this response? Maybe my message was not clear enough? I greatly admire this organization, despite it being founded by a Libertarian and have used it when teaching civics. I believe that citizens living abroad need to know which states permit them to vote in local elections. I'm glad that at least one organization, Democrats Abroad, is providing that info on their wiki at this time: 

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Ballotpedia Editor <editor@ballotpedia.org>
Date: Tue, Jul 28, 2020 at 7:21 AM
Subject: Re: What US States only permit overseas or abroad citizens to vote in federal elections?
To: <alee@alexanderplee.com>


Hello Alexander,

Thank you for contacting Ballotpedia! It is our policy that we do not offer legal advice, and this question would be considered legal advice. We would recommend consulting with a lawyer about this question. Sorry we couldn't be of more help!

Sincerely,
Megan

 

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Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Sent from my iThang

Friday, July 10, 2020

Letter to Congressman's Office on USPS Preparation for Elections

How Will Overseas Voters Find Info They Need for Remaining Primaries and General Election?

I spent an hour this evening (China time, starting just after 9:15 AM ET) on hold with USPS's 1-888-275-8777 toll-free number before giving up. I did try leaving your office a VM, but am also following up with this email.

Essentially, it is very difficult to find Section 8 (see below) and I think it would serve overseas voters better if the USPS had, front and center on their website, readily available information on postage-paid envelope specs (e.g., dimensions, weights) for returning a) ballots, b) the FPCA, and c) a FWAB.

For understandable reasons, the Dept of State consular offices who place our sealed ballots in a diplomatic pouch have indicated that they do not want to act as a post office, rejecting or accepting envelopes based on size or weight or indicia. It is the responsibility of the citizen to properly follow all USPS guidelines, but it is exceedingly difficult to find (on the USPS website) how big an envelope (i.e., US size 10) one is permitted to use for a postage-paid envelope that will travel by diplomatic pouch back to the USA. This information was provided to me by FVAP, which has been helpful, but many voters will turn to the USPS for info about how to mail a ballot and will be unawares of the FVAP office nested in DoD.

Section 8 at https://pe.usps.com/text/DMM300/703.htm?q=ballot&h=ballot&t=H&s=R&p=1&c=DMM|QSG does have some helpful information, but this is not particularly accessible to the layperson. I am wondering if anything can be done soon and ahead of the election to make this information easier for overseas voters to find. I can imagine that even domestically, people will be turning to the USPS for information on how to mail their absentee ballots and may have a hard time finding the info that they need.

Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Thursday, July 9, 2020

"Whataboutism" (Red Lives Matter)

臭蟲論  

(with credit to Lu Xun[1])

What about 1495 in addition to 1619?

What about 1962 in addition to 1865/1965?

What about Jorden Stephens in addition to George Floyd?

Can we make the Washington, Donehogawa Commonwealth or District of Crazy Horse (Tȟašúŋke Witkó)? Should Washington itself become Pulaski or Rush? Who really is pure enough to deserve this honor (asked ironically)? The man who saved Washington or the doctor whose students killed him—abolitionists both, though Rush a demonstrable racist.

Are there statues of General Stand Watie that need to be torn down?

Why is there no Gen. Ely Parker (Donehogawa) statue?

Why do Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima ride off into the sunset before the Redskins or the Indians? Is it tyranny of the minority majority?

You want to talk about Joseph Vann?  Let's talk about Buffalo Soldiers.

It is high time to name a federal holiday for a day when a white general came to Galveston, Texas, and announced that a white President's words bestowed freedom upon the remaining slaves, but why don't we name it with the Karankawa word for the sixth month of the year instead of naming it after June. [2] Or maybe we should make the day that white men in Utah in 1962 finally bestowed the franchise on American Indians a federal holiday.

-------------------

[1] "A synonymous Chinese-language metaphor [for whataboutism] is the "Stinky Bug Argument" (traditional Chinese: 臭蟲論; simplified Chinese: 臭虫论; pinyin: Chòuchónglùn), coined by Lu Xun, a leading figure in modern Chinese literature, in 1933 to describe his Chinese colleagues' common tendency to accuse Europeans of "having equally bad issues" whenever foreigners commented upon China's domestic problems. As a Chinese nationalist, Lu saw this mentality as one of the biggest obstructions to the modernization of China in the early 20th century, which Lu frequently mocked in his literary works." (Wikipedia)
[2] The Latin name for June is Junius. Ovid offers multiple etymologies for the name in the Fasti, a poem about the Roman calendar. The first is that the month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of the supreme deity Jupiter; the second is that the name comes from the Latin word iuniores, meaning "younger ones", as opposed to maiores ("elders") for which the preceding month May (Maius) may be named. Another source claims June is named after Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic and ancestor of the Roman gens Junia. (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Difficulty of Voting from Abroad in the Time of COVID-19

As the head of a social studies department at a reputable Guangzhou high school,  I care about American history and, as a lawyer and amateur civil rights activist, I know something about poll taxes. Paying to send my ballot through China Post, EMS, DHL, UPS (the green option), FedEx (which may rise to the occasion and mail US ballots for free!), etc. is, in my opinion, possibly a poll ta. Even if I might, personally, be able to send my ballot in a platinum envelope by private jet...which I cannot, there are those who cannot. That is why Americans overseas are able to send ballots through their consulates' diplomatic pouches. Yet, I also understand from the consular officer who just called me that it is a service but not a requirement, dependent on volume (which, incidentally, is very low now), that the consulates accept ballots to be mailed in this fashion. 

Mailing out ballots without a poll tax is discretionary in 2020!?

At approximately 10:40 AM today, I entered the US Consulate in Guangzhou passing two male security guards at different checkpoints with my backpack and proceeded to the door of the security checkpoint where a young woman was helping another American with a green card. After she finished helping him I told her I was there to mail my ballot and she said that I needed an appointment. I insisted on being seen, explaining that staff were supposed to be retrained in January or February  after my last visit where I was told that mailing a ballot does not require an appointment, and, at that point, she asked me if I spoke Chinese, then summoned another guard who spoke English. That guard had me call American Citizen Services and they required my name (just my name) so that they could call the door guards to let me in. They let me in and then told me that since I had a laptop in my bag, I would need to leave and come back. 

At about 11:10 AM, I came back, bearing only keys and a cell phone, which I left at the door in a cubby, and thanked them politely. 

Then, I went to the window on the second floor with my envelope which I believed was too large for postal regulations. I asked if it was an acceptable size and she asked me to wait while she went to check and then she returned saying I was all set and I could just email them, like last time, to get the tracking number. I do not blame this person for doing a poor job in checking the size requirements, but I am worried that others' ballots will be rejected by USPS somewhere along the chain (or even by some consulates) because they do not meet size requirements. This possible objection to ballots needs to be resolved! 

At about 12:10 pm, I called to say that I was confused because I did not think my ballot was the right size and they told me the person who handled it would call me back and let me know if I needed to return to retrieve it. Imagine returning to retrieve a voted ballot when the staffer at American Citizen Services did not even check my passport, although, to her credit, the door staff did check my passport after I was forced to call and give my name. 

I received the promised call at about 1:25 PM Tuesday in China and it was from a male consular staffer who was very helpful, professional, and understanding, not the Chinese staffer who had helped me, who was also helpful. I have messaged them now and asked for the tracking number. They will also RE-confirm that the envelope size is appropriate. I hope this information is helpful for you as we strive to improve the overseas American voting experience ahead of the remaining primaries and November 2020 General Election. Thank you. Apologies for being such a strident, Kafkaesque character, but given the alacrity with which these problems need to be solved I do not know how else to communicate efficiently with those who need to know about these problems.  I hope they are local and not happening across the globe.

Alexander Lee
Guangzhou, China 🇨🇳 

PS I buried the lede: I was almost turned away again from the same consulate. If I was not versed in my rights, I would have left when the first guard asked me to. This really is not acceptable, even in this plagued time, given past correspondence with this consulate to which this message is a reply.




---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Guangzhou ACS <GuangzhouACS@state.gov>
Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 12:13 PM
Subject: Re: Voting
To: VoteBEIJING <VoteBEIJING@state.gov>, CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov <CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov>, alee@alexanderplee.com <alee@alexanderplee.com>
CC: Aaron Kruse <aaronmkruse@gmail.com>, ada shen <ada.shen@gmail.com>


Mr. Lee,

Thank you for taking the time to email with your feedback. Your ballot was well received this morning and we have reminded our staff that U.S. Citizens do not require an appointment to deliver their ballots, even during this difficult time.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Best regards, 

Carrie

Guangzhou American Citizen Services Unit

U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou | 美国驻广州总领事馆

43 Hua Jiu Road, Zhujiang New Town, Guangzhou, China 510623 | 广州市珠江新城就路43号,510623

Tel:  (020) 3814 5775

Fax:  (020) 3814 5572

 

After hour emergencies:  (010) 8531 4000

Email: guangzhouacs@state.gov

Website:  http://china.usembassy-china.org.cn

 

Follow us on WeChat!



From: Alexander Lee <alexander.p.lee@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, February 7, 2020 11:07 AM
To: VoteBEIJING <VoteBEIJING@state.gov>; CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov <CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov>; Guangzhou ACS <GuangzhouACS@state.gov>
Cc: Aaron Kruse <aaronmkruse@gmail.com>; ada shen <ada.shen@gmail.com>
Subject: Voting
 
To Whom It May Concern:

In light of the coronavirus, it is understandable that an appointment may eventually be needed for all American Citizen Services in China, Hong Kong, and other places in the world. On Wednesday, in Guangzhou, I was turned away with my completed ballot and asked to make an appointment. Today, I brought my ballot and it will go in the next diplomatic pouch. I received very good service at the counter and want to thank you for helping Americans fulfill their sacred duty to vote during this troubling time, when so much else weighs upon us.

I hope that at all consulates across China and in Beijing's embassy facility, the paid Chinese security personnel can be reminded that nobody who appears to mail a ballot, even in this trying time, should be turned away...as I understand that is still the policy.

Thank you and sorry to add to your burden during this busy and trying time.

Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Sending a Hershey's Kiss: An Open Letter to Bill McKibben of 450.org

This post wrestles with the question, "What is hubris?" and may even display some of my own. 

Jeff Chiu/AP/Shutterstock; Craig Lassig/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Before you read this, you should watch Michael Moore's Planet of the Humans and read Bill McKibben's response in Rolling Stone, ‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal.

I have personally known Bill McKibben since college, when, in 1996-97, I wrote part of my thesis about him and invited him to join the advisory board of a nascent Project Laundry List, to which he agreed. I participated in the 2007 and 2011 events of 450.org [sic] as a principal organizer in Concord, NH. I have supported him morally and loyally over the years, maintained a friendship, and believe he has great courage (death threats suck, I am sure) as well as leadership ability.

I watched his earlier days as a frequent attendee at his public remarks, replete with his practiced "I am humble" boilerplate, delivered consistently with an almost Biden-like stutter, "I am a writer, not a public speaker." I observed him with some mixture of skepticism and some measure of awe. Though, from a technical forensics point-of-view, I could never really understand why, he is nonetheless a force behind the podium. With his Mr. Rogers-like, sweater-wearing shtick (except Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, not a UCC parishioner) and his command of the zeitgeist, as well as the evolving "facts" of climate science, he draws us in. He does not have the outwardly powerful oratory skills of Dr. Helen Caldicott, his other Project Laundry List advisory board member and a closer friend of mine. But he does have a command of the logos, ethos, and pathos that are necessary to deliver a good talk. He also has a sort of John the Baptist prophetic thing going on, some of it born of his constant reminders that it was he, in 1989, a year after I did my 8th grade science project on the greenhouse effect, who really brought the climate change debate out of the laboratories and into the New Yorker-reading salons of America. He greets people like a Quaker, "How are you, Friend? Nice to see you again, Friend." He is just appealingly warm, like Mr. Rogers. And I don't say this to be dismissive. (What is it that Dorothy Day would say when people called her a saint? "I don't want to be dismissed so easily.")

With Machiavellian or Sun Tzu-esque determination and stratagems, McKibben has built 450.org [sic] into a force to be reckoned with and the battery of successes in recent months with Goldman Sachs, Oxford University, Chase Manhattan are a testament, in part to the fortitude he has shown, in the face of our daunting task: repairing humanities ways enough to avoid major disruption or even our own species decimation. As Bill would say, though, even before his daughter Sophie reminded him of it after that "overflow" Brown talk (mentioned in the Rolling Stone piece), these successes are really attributable to a small army of mostly volunteers, not all under the banner of 450.org [sic] and many of them not white men, like Bill (and me).

I respect Bill, admire and like him as a very human being. Therefore, I read his self-admittedly somewhat self-aggrandizing, albeit probably necessary, Rolling Stone piece, mentioned above as required prerequisite reading for this post, and came away feeling sad that he felt the need to write it. There is an aspect of, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." (Shakespeare, Hamlet) It is a convincing polemic, but sort of pathetic, too.

Michael Moore has always been a noisy, iconoclastic, sloppy grouch. It is his brand, his schtick. He seems to revel uncomfortably at times in his wiggly girth and shows off his Flinty proletariat sneakers as the quintessential Everyman from Middle America. Like Bill McKibben in his Boston Red Sox cap, some of Moore's trappings are campy and rehearsed, or, to give the benefit of the doubt to both successful men, authentic expressions of who they really are. (We are citizens, after all, of a country where the Senate Majority Leader thinks the return of baseball is a top priority. Meanwhile... no, I will not digress.)

Anyway, I was sort of sorry that McKibben took the bait, but maybe "all press is good press" and this is a fight worth having, because McKibben really believes, like my friend Chris from high school ("$&@&((;!!!! $&@$&($;@??)!!!!!!...I’m going to have this film thrown in my face by policy makers."), that this is going to divide the environmental movement or, worse, provide power to the fossil fuel power lobby. I am not convinced on these last two points, partly because I do not fancy that there really is a cohesive environmental movement and mostly because I think people are smart enough to see the problems with Moore's film. A small library of critiques has already been published.

A Story Out Of My School: Is the Kiss Story True?


Now I want to tell a tale out of school. A couple days after hearing Dr. Helen Caldicott speak powerfully about how we are likely to all die from nuclear weapons or nuclear power, I went to visit Bill McKibben in his office on the top of the hill in Middlebury, Vermont, at the college on the hill. He was a somewhat recently appointed Scholar-in-Residence at that point and his sparse bookshelves had a bag of Hershey's Kisses on them. He offered me one and I smirked, "Helen would not want me to eat that."

"Why?" he asked.

"Because Hershey's Kisses are made next to Three Mile Island." [the site of a nuclear accident near Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania]

McKibben's next words surprised me. He has always been avidly anti-nuclear, because he recognizes the hubris inherent in that bargain, but he said, "That's ridiculous. Black carbon is going to get us first..." He launched into a long description of what he meant and I ate the Kiss. A couple days later, Professor Michael Dorsey, then at Dartmouth College, had invited me down to Cambridge, MA, to hear Dr. Theo Epstein, an aged, now deceased expert on endocrine disruption. In her speech she said something to the effect of, "It is not climate change or nuclear weapons, but dangerous chemicals in the environment that are going to get us first." This inspired me--as much an expert on laundry as Helen on nukes or Bill on climate or Theo on endocrine disruption, to write ironically, in a book about laundry that I never got published, "Laundry is the only thing that matters."

In looking for a publisher, I shared the manuscript with Bill. Though I will go to my grave knowing what was uttered, because I could not make-up the details of the Hershey's Kiss story if I tried, McKibben told me that we had never had that conversation. I decided not to pursue it, because I thought what Bill was doing was worthy and I did not need a rift with him over some silly throw-away line in an allegory for my book. It wounded me, though, because he questioned my veracity and it scared me a little, because I saw that he knew then how important control of the message about who he is had become. There were so many lessons to glean from the day of the Kiss and the day he rejected the Kiss story.

Nobody Likes (Or Should Like) A Javier

Jon Krakauer's nasty Three Cups of Deceipt turned me off to his writings permanently. Well-researched and correct on many accounts, it was a tremendous amount of effort on Krakauker's part to show (er, expose) that someone who was basically well-meaning, if ethically a bit loose, was not a knight in shining armor. Michael Moore, niggardly and with all of the flare of Ai Wei-wei but less of the gravitas, has advertently or inadvertently stepped into that Victor Hugo role with the release of this film. I hope that McKibben's Lady Macbethian protestations do not force him and Gibbs to dig in their heels. That is, indeed, the risk of McKibben's response. Since Bill has sought to demonize them and make them into irresponsible trolls, bent on breaking a movement (that does not really exist) or providing cover for the dishonest corporations, such as Exxon, and their eleemosynary handmaidens at Heartwood or such, the natural response of Moore and Gibbs might be to say, "We made this movie because we think we are right."

I am no moral relativist, but there is no right here. We are all feeling our way in the dark. I have some John the Baptist qualities, too. I remember having another conversation with McKibben, both of us non-scientists, where I said that I did not understand why "natural gas" was being promoted as a transition fuel, because methane was 87 times more potent as a climate warming gas over a 20 year period than carbon dioxide. At that time, natural gas was seen as better than dirty coal and he did his best to explain. Now we know that it might not be (but let''s not get lost in that red herring argument right now) and, as Bill notes in Rolling Stone for the zillionth time, we know that we have to get off all fossil fuels and wood chips today. Whether we should also get off solar and wind is an interesting question. (Maybe we should stop doing laundry, too, and just wear our Levi's for months without washing. Not a novel suggestion!)

The real truth is that we, as a sentient species with higher-consciousness, are desperate in the face of a likely existential challenge. We are faced with the question, in America (as America goes, so goes the planet?) of whether we want to die quickly with Trump, a dangerous anti-science ignoramus, or slowly with Biden, who has never been a leader on climate change. Those of us who have been thinking about climate change since 1988 or 1989 or longer know that we are, as a species, fucked and that a lot of other species are fucked because of us. I knew it about ten years ago, which is why I did the cowardly but sane thing, and moved to China to teach English and American history, leaving the environmental movement behind. It was clear. Enough people were not going to cold-water wash or line dry their clothes, properly inflate their car tires, adopt LED bulbs, etc. Corporations and governments were not going to do the right thing in time for us to avoid catastrophic warming. We did not know enough about the impact of thawing permafrost and methane clathrates, leaking pipelines or much of anything to be sure that we could keep the Earth's air and water currents flowing in their current patterns. But people like McKibben and my high school friend Chris, who, when we met again in our thirties, was an eager beaver bureaucrat (with the over-confidence inculcated into us at the Academy, he thought he could change the world), have soldiered on for this past decade. Why? Hope. Hope, faith, and love. The greatest of these may, in the end, not be love (heretical as that may be), but hope. Hope, Human and Wild.

So what is so enraging about the Moore and Gibbs' project is that it is hopelessly devoid of solutions, but that does not then make it a worthless endeavor. Michael Moore works on worthwhile topics; credit where credit is due. As I said before, it asks some good questions, which, as I tell my students, is the most important skill. The big question for all of us is: where do we need to go and how fast? The Hopers (like Chris and Bill) think that the world we must create assembles a bearable existence (no Utopia, for sure) with fields of solar panels and pasture-fed livestock. The Cynics like Leonardo DiCaprio's Cowspiracy directors, Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn, and Michael Moore's Planet of the Humans director, Jeff Gibbs, believe that the world, if it is to be joyous and inhabitable, may not look like that Sierra Club and Greenpeace-approved version. These are not two camps. I, for one, do not belong to either one. I hope, nay I faithfully believe that most of us know we are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic until we figure out together what that world has to look like, still knowing that when we do "know" we may still be wrong. Nobody can be sure. If they tell you that they are, cry, "Hubris" and move to China...or Australia.







Monday, April 20, 2020

Eulogy: Dr. N has Passed Away

Today I learned that Dr. N died of COVID-19 complications in a nursing home in Canton. He was a Persian immigrant, a cardiologist who drove early morning carpool a couple times per week when I was in kindergarten and first grade (which I did twice with good benefit!). He would firmly correct me and the other kids, though seemingly I was the most frequent offender, “Not Mr. N., Doctor N!” He was married to a boisterous friend of my mother’s, who was famous with us for going barefoot in all environments in all months of the year, a memory which is surely exaggerated by the passage of time. They had three kids together, all of them older than my twin sister and me; I think all of them might have become doctors.

So Dr. N. died and I am melancholy because now I know somebody, but maybe it was a blessing because he spent the last years of his life mostly separated from the ones that he loved and who loved him. Instead of the seemingly marvelous Gandhi that he was in the days before dementia set in, he had become an unmanageable tyrant, which apparently Gandhi was, too, moving from institution to institution, including McLean, where the very much alive James Taylor and the late poet Robert Lowell and other Brahmins have spent time struggling with demons. 


I feel a million miles away. Starting to play the unhealthy game of: What if I get sick? What if my aged parents or other loved ones, whose funerals I have pledged (silently to myself) that I shall not miss, get taken away? Of course, it occurs to me that even if I was in New England, funerals might not take place for months. 

I am trapped here--almost no commercial planes in or out--in a country that has nearly doubled its death toll number for the city at the epicenter. ("The Chinese government has upped its official coronavirus death toll to 4,632 -- an increase of nearly 40 percent.") The Trump Administration is ratcheting up the rhetoric about China, with Pompeo focused on 5G from Huawei and the President off-message, but pounding China as a foe. On March 4, I made a decision to return, which I do not yet regret, but it was certainly based on incomplete information. Nevertheless, China's "fake numbers" does seem to be the result of media bias. By mid-February, China had flattened its curve.

I have watched the unfolding events here with horror and a growing amount of fear. "Harbin has had 26 new confirmed cases and 19 asymptomatic infections since April 9. Before that, the province had reported zero domestic infections for 29 consecutive days." Harbin, the capital of China's northeasternmost province, is 2070 miles away or roughly as far away as Chibougamu, Quebec, is from Miami, Florida, but it is relevant, because, like Guangzhou, it is a border city and the Chinese have tried mightily in the last few weeks to make the case that most new cases have stemmed from foreigners. They have rushed to gather the data that proves their point.

Readers of this blog know that there was a dragnet for Africans here in Guangzhou, which eventually attracted international media attention and the condemnation of legates from a variety of One Belt, One Road countries in the global South. The police force here has vowed to deport 'foreigners' who refuse to be quarantined amid rising xenophobia due to coronavirus. "Officials have also disclosed that 4,553 Africans, out of a black population of about the same figure, had undergone testing in Guangzhou since April 3." [my emphasis] (The Nation- a Nigerian publication)*

On a brighter note, a black British acquaintance of mine, whose wife is from a nation in Africa from which no reported imported cases came, was thrown into quarantine for only three days and then released, rather bafflingly. I surmise there was a response from Beijing to the local government's draconian treatment of blacks--no matter where they are from. However, the blaming of foreigners for the spread of this disease seems to be on the rise, perhaps as a reaction to the problematic response of my own government, where top officials call it the Wuhan or China virus. This may just be my perception from news articles and endless reports from foreign friends and acquaintances. 

Yesterday, another acquaintance reported that not only was he in quarantine because a sick person had visited the restaurant where he is a proprietor, but all four restaurants that are frequented by foreigners on that street have been shut down by the government. One of the people who went to one of those restaurants is from Boston and he was taken away from his Chinese girlfriend and her daughter after contact tracing led to his door. He is angry, because they scammed him into extra blood tests and a CT scan. "Seems it was optional." He is also frustrated because he says, "I was taken out of my house like a criminal." 


*I think that these numbers are underestimates; there are many more Africans here than that, quite a few without proper paperwork reportedly, and there are large numbers of "blacks" (of African and Caribbean origin) who are here from the US, UK, and other nations. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

"Sorry Africa"

for Tony Bird


It has been a long, long time since I have seen Tony Bird, who visited the stage of Phillips Exeter Academy when I was a student there, but his lyricism haunts to me today, as President Donald Trump withdraws the United States from funding the World Health Organization (WHO).

"The widespread evictions and mistreatment of African migrants in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has caused a serious rupture in China-Africa relations. Chinese ambassadors across Africa have been called into various foreign ministries to explain why so many of their nationals in Guangzhou have been visibly mistreated by authorities and rendered homeless by the evictions from their homes and hotels." (The China Africa Project) You may want to have a listen to the following if you want to see a constructive resolution to this problem.



Meanwhile, in the United States, racism against people of Chinese origin and, based on appearance, against all East Asian people, is on full display. Historically, black, brown, and red communities in the United States have had negative saving rates (i.e., large amounts of credit card debt) and virtually no wealth, outside of often second-rate lands held in trust by the tribes and Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is a problem that Dr. Fauci and others have been clear can no longer be ignored or shoved under the rug.

The strategic and humanitarian blunder of this temporary, and possibly long-term, denial of funding to the World Health Organization by the United States government will crush the developing world, destroying its chances of procuring needed supplies...unless China, in its push for soft power in the global South (or because it is a humanitarian regime?), steps in. Trump has invited that solution, which will virtually eliminate the United States reputation as a force for good in the world.

The WHO is certainly not beyond reproach, but how will the world get Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, etc. test kits and personal protective equipment without the full-funding and assistance of the WHO? It will be a patchwork response like we have seen in the United States, because of the failure of the disorganized federal government led by a heartless, merciless egomaniac. The small states, that don't get to band together with CA, OR, and WA, such as Idaho and Burkina Faso, may well go without or see poorly implemented "back-to-work" efforts that lead to more deaths.