Greenlanders and Trump

After Trump was elected, a friend said “If Trump proposes any cuts to the military, Democrats will demand a 600-ship navy.” In that same vein, while I was traveling around Greenland in preparation for a Northwest Passage cruise, my Facebook friends were defending continued white European colonialism in Greenland following Trump’s offer to purchase the island from Denmark.

What does Greenland look like? Here’s Sisimiut, one of the largest cities, population 5,500 (10 percent of the island’s total population):

Danish colonial rule was legitimized (at least by the Klaboona) in the 1930s. History from the museum in Ilulissat (posited source of the glacier that sunk Titanic):

What did Greenland residents think of the Trump offer? I asked everyone whom I met during August 2019 visits to Kangerlussuaq, Ilulissat, Sisimiut, and Itilleq. There was a huge amount of enthusiasm for continued Danish rule… among those who were actually Danish, e.g., an art museum director who was born in Copenhagen to Danish parents and emigrated to Greenland roughly 25 years ago. There was zero enthusiasm for continued Danish rule among those whose heritage was “Greenlandic” (Eskimo/Inuit). People of mixed genetic heritage had a mixed opinion.

One Greenlandic gal noted “the Danes never thought about doing anything for us until Trump made his offer.” The Danes living in Denmark with whom I spoke considered the offer in “What can Greenland do for us?” terms, e.g., what were the value of the minerals that could potentially be mined. They did not mention any consideration of whether Greenlandic folks would be better or worse off under the cruel boot of the Trumpenfuhrer.

Thus, based on my sample of roughly 40 individuals, native Greenlandic folks have the same affection for European colonialism that Native Americans do for European-American immigrants.

My notes from watching short documentaries on Air Greenland (nice airline) during the inbound flight:

People want to fight the Danish and be independent. Yet young people move to Denmark. Young people leave smaller Greenland towns for Nuuk. It is a huge waste of time for Greenland kids to learn Danish; they could be a lot more integrated with the world economy if they learned English instead.

Acknowledgement that they are financially dependent on Denmark, but expressed hope that they can be self-reliant as in the past. Why aren’t the fishing rights lucrative enough for independence ? Plenty of cod back in Viking times.

Why do they have alcohol? Much coverage in the tourist promotional videos of the damage done by alcoholism. Young woman beat up a number of other girls at a bar. Had no memory and no reason to have attacked any of them. Sentenced to 70 hours community service. Industrial cheap alcohol in a place where the sun doesn’t rise for 6 months?

Some photos from the in-flight magazine and seatback video:

Note that helicopters are included within the category of “aeroplanes.” In case you were considering signing up for a dogsled ride, “Travelling with dogs is a sensual experience that penetrates travellers – and remains there”. Mira Kleist, a young diplomat, gives advice to teenagers that might not make sense in the digital age: “Just do what you want to, people soon forget.” (But Google, Facebook, and Archive.org remember, as anyone whose Harvard acceptance has been rescinded can attest.)

Related:

  • “Greenland’s exit warning to Britain” (Politico), regarding the three-year process (1982-1985) required for an island of 56,000 population to leave the European Union. (one fun thing to do on the cruise, whenever the English passengers started to talk about Brexit, was to ask Norwegians at the table if Norway would like to join the EU, a proposal that was greeted with howls of derisive laughter)
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Drone attack on Saudi Arabia proves we shouldn’t build big expensive Navy ships?

Back in March, I wrote “Robot kamikaze submarines shaped like blue whales render navy ships useless?” and asked “Does it make sense to spend $billions on these Navy ships that could be attacked by robots?”

A reader responded “Forget about submarines, anti-ship missiles probably make every surface ship a sitting duck in a war.”

Does the recent drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities (Guardian) prove this reader’s point?

They had the latest and greatest air defense systems says “Did U.S. Missile Defenses Fail During Saudi Oil Attack?”:

The attack revealed the limits of Saudi Arabia’s seemingly sophisticated air-defense system. Riyadh in recent years has spent billions of dollars building up six battalions of U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles and associated radars. The Patriots didn’t stop the recent attack.

A ship doesn’t have a better air defense system than what the Saudis had, does it? If not, why would we want to spend $10+ billion on a Navy ship when it can be wiped out by a relatively weak adversary, such as the Houthi rebels that are blamed for this attack on the Saudis?

(Also, why should the U.S. fight with Iran over this? Saudi Arabia is not a member of NATO, right? China is not going to deploy its military on one side or the other of this fight. If it doesn’t make sense for China to weigh in, why does it make sense for us?)

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Asking museum visitors for feedback… and getting it

The (awesome) Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark holds five restored 1000-year-old ships:

The museum also features seaworthy replicas on which visitors can travel in the summer.

One fun part of the museum was the feedback wall:

Dressing up is popular:

There is some passion for American culture:

The Vikings had only two gender IDs:

“Send Them Back” stickers in the adjacent parking lot:

I wonder what would happen if American museums allowed this kind of open feedback whiteboard!

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Which president has done the most to fight global warming?

A 5th grader here in Massachusetts relayed some information learned from a (unionized government-paid) teacher: Donald Trump is the worst president when it comes to accelerating global warming.

If we do want to worship presidents as modern-day gods on Earth, which president can be considered to have done the most to fight CO2 emissions and global warming?

How about Jimmy Carter? By presiding over a period of recession, he slowed down economic activity in the U.S. and therefore emissions.

Or Richard Nixon, whose “guns and butter” policies generated the inflation that led to the inflation and recession for which Jimmy Carter got blamed. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, whose regulations have led to reduced emissions compared to the 1960s.

Barack Obama? He raised taxes and thereby slowed the economy.

(Separately, is it fair to say that Donald Trump has accelerated global warming? He has been trying to cut back on immigration from poor countries with low per-capita CO2 emissions. Every time someone from a poor country arrives in the U.S., worldwide CO2 emissions should go up. Wikipedia shows that U.S. emissions are roughly 17 tons per person. In Honduras, on the other hand, emissions are only 1 ton per person. Thus, if Donald Trump were to be successful in reducing migration from Honduras to the U.S., CO2 emissions would also be reduced.)

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Why is it difficult to make a reliable refrigerator?

We had a 7-year-old GE refrigerator that would fail every couple of years, requiring $400-500 in service. We got tired of throwing out spoiled food and living out of coolers for 3-4 days so we invested $2,600 in a KitchenAid (one of the few with the same dimensions as the old GE, which fit into a kitchen recess that an architect thought was a good idea).

The KitchenAid failed after three weeks, unable to keep the refrigerator side cooler than 50 degrees. (It has a separate evaporator on the freezer side, so we can live on microwave pizza.)

Given decades of experience and continuous improvements in electronics, why is it difficult to engineer and build a working refrigerator? A modern Honda or Toyota may run for three years and 36,000 miles without anything failing, despite being exposed to hot and cold temperatures and vibration. The car has myriad systems, each of which could fail independently, and yet generally these all soldier on for 5-7 years before the first failure of any kind.

“Owner Satisfaction” is terrible with all refrigerators, according to Consumer Reports. LG is the only brand that achieves a 5/10. Whirlpool and KitchenAid are down at 3/10. Compare to 9/10 for Bosch or Miele dishwashers or 9/10 for LG washing machines.

What’s the challenge with an apparently simple fridge, sitting in a kitchen that is kept within +/- 5 degrees of 72?

[We discovered during this process why modern McMansions are always built with at least two refrigerators. BestBuy refused to accept a return on the unit, citing that it was purchased more than 15 days previously. Whirlpool/KitchenAid wouldn’t answer the phone on a Sunday, but when I got hold of them on Monday morning they cheerfully described their full warranty. They would be happy to come look at the fridge and begin the process of diagnosing the failure… in October. Was that normal? “Oh yes,” said the agent on September 17, “In a lot of areas I’m scheduling the second or third week of October as the first available visit.”]

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Gitmo costs $13 million per prisoner

The NYT took a rare breather from its study of Donald Trump and calculated that U.S. taxpayers spend $13 million per prisoner per year at Guantánamo Bay (story):

The 40 prisoners, all men, get halal food, access to satellite news and sports channels, workout equipment and PlayStations. Those who behave — and that has been the majority for years — get communal meals and can pray in groups, and some can attend art and horticulture classes.

The prison’s uniformed staff members also include a Coast Guard unit that patrols the waters below the cliff top prison zone; Navy doctors, nurses, psychological technicians and corpsmen; a unit of Air Force engineers; lawyers, chaplains, librarians, chaperones and military journalists. Each has layers of commanders who oversee their work and manage their lives at Guantánamo.

In 2018, Congress approved spending $115 million on a dormitory-style barracks complex to replace trailer housing for 848 troops. But no contract has been awarded, construction has not yet begun and Navy spokesmen could not provide the target completion date.

So there are at least 848 troops to guard 40 prisoners?

Readers: What’s a good comparison for this $13 million/year cost? A high-end hotel in Havana is about $150/night or $54,750 per year. Add another $45k for room service and each prisoner is costing the equivalent of 130 hotel rooms with food.

[Separately, how can the NYT know that the 40 prisoners are “all men” unless the reporters have recently queried each one regarding his/her/zir/their current gender ID. Is the NYT making cisgender-normative assumptions?]

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ARKEN: Copenhagen’s contemporary art museum

Some pictures from a summer visit to ARKEN, a waterfront concrete museum that opened in 1996.

The entrance…

The regular collection is heavy on Damien Hirst…

More exciting… Benedikte Bjerre built an airport conveyor system out of IKEA bed parts (she says “the work addresses our dreams and hopes of the good capitalist life and social mobility across global borders”):

The museum was doing a big show of work by Australian Patricia Piccinini:

Does your dog like to jump up and share the bed?

Can you explain this traffic accident to Hertz?

Is it fair to say that not all concepts for Little Mermaid sequels are successful?

Miscellaneous:

Many of the artists claim to be concerned about “marginalised individuals and groups,” but how many of those folks will ever purchase or view a contemporary artwork?

Exit through the gift shop…

And then fold your big Danish frame into a tiny Danish car…

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Why do Democrats want to impeach Kavanaugh?

“Calls for Kavanaugh’s Impeachment Come Amid New Misconduct Allegations” (nytimes):

Several Democratic presidential candidates called for the impeachment of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Sunday after The New York Times published new information about allegations of sexual misconduct against him, while Republican leaders condemned the reporting as irresponsible and defended him.

“These newest revelations are disturbing,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote on Twitter about The Times essay. “Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”

Kamala Harris, a Democratic senator from California and a member of the Senate committee that presided over his confirmation hearings, on Twitter echoed the call for impeachment.

I don’t understand what Democrats would gain if the two proposed impeachments were successful. Trump gets replaced by Pence, right? Wouldn’t that just set Pence up for a 9-year presidency? Similarly, if Kavanaugh were to be impeached, wouldn’t Trump (or Pence, in the Democrats’ ideal world!) simply appoint an equally conservative replacement? If the replacement happens to identify as a woman, e.g., Amy Coney Barrett, then the current standard playbook couldn’t be used.

(I personally would be happy if Kavanaugh were gone, since he has admitted to being “proud” of having practiced sex discrimination in hiring (nytimes: “I am proud that a majority of my law clerks have been women.”). I don’t understand how the U.S. can have a gender-neutral legal environment when judges brag about not treating all 52 (54?) genders equally.)

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Richard Stallman on Jeffrey Epstein: time to switch from Emacs to vi?

“Renowned MIT Scientist Defends Epstein: Victims Were ‘Entirely Willing’” (Daily Beast):

An MIT engineering alumna, Selam Jie Gano, published a blog post calling for Stallman’s removal from the university in light of his comments, along with excerpts from the email in which Stallman appeared to defend both Epstein and Marvin Minsky, a lauded cognitive scientist and founder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab who was accused of assaulting Virginia Giuffre. Giuffre has alleged that sex offender and financier Epstein trafficked her to powerful men for sex, including Minsky, who died in 2016. She’s alleged that Epstein and his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell recruited her at Mar-a-Lago when she was 16 years old.

Stallman wrote that “the most plausible scenario” for Giuffre’s accusations was that she was, in actuality, “entirely willing.” Vice’s Motherboard later reprinted the emails in full. Gano did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stallman also wrote in the email exchange that “it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”

[MIT President] Reif is facing calls to step down after acknowledging that the Media Lab accepted funds from Epstein long after his 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution, with Reif’s own signature found on a 2012 note thanking Epstein for his generosity to the university.

Will there be a mass exodus from Emacs to vi (also known as “the Devil’s crummy text editor”)?

Related:

  • “Please Do Not Buy Richard Stallman a Parrot And Other Rules” (Gizmodo): “If you can find a host for me that has a friendly parrot, I will be very very glad. If you can find someone who has a friendly parrot I can visit with, that will be nice too. DON’T buy a parrot figuring that it will be a fun surprise for me. To acquire a parrot is a major decision: it is likely to outlive you. If you don’t know how to treat the parrot, it could be emotionally scarred and spend many decades feeling frightened and unhappy. If you buy a captured wild parrot, you will promote a cruel and devastating practice, and the parrot will be emotionally scarred before you get it. Meeting that sad animal is not an agreeable surprise.”
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Danish kids absent from school for a month

The two youngest passengers on our Northwest Passage cruise were 13 and 15, public school students in Denmark. I asked the parents what kind of bureaucratic obstacles there had been to taking the kids out of school for a month. “None,” replied the dad. “The teacher said that they’ll probably learn more on this trip than in school.” Hurtigruten’s promise of working Internet on the Roald Amundsen did not materialize due to (a) limited satellite coverage, and (b) inability of the ship’s antennae to point low enough. Had the disconnected children experienced trouble in completing their assignments? “They weren’t given any,” said the father. “The curriculum in Denmark is standardized at the federal level, which can be great, but for children who are stronger than average academically it means they have no trouble catching up if they miss a month.”

[I also learned from this family that Denmark has instituted a busing system for children of immigrants. If a born-in-Denmark child does not speak Danish well, he or she is bused away from the neighborhood school, which presumably will also contain a bunch of children who speak a non-Danish language, to a school full of Danes. Where are these folks from? “Syria, after four straight years as the biggest generator of asylum-seekers in Denmark, lost its crown to Eritrea last year, but this year it is back on course to generate the highest number. … Uffe Østergaard, a Danish university academic specialising in identity history who works for both Aarhus University and Copenhagen Business School, has suggested in a Politiken opinion piece that Europe should build a wall around its perimeter… ” (CPH Post)]

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