Public Service-221009

During the four years of Donald Trump’s term as president I often wondered why he gave his son-in-law Jared Kushner recognition. Kushner served as Trump’s advisor, but in his memoir he writes very detailed accounts of his role as a leader on several high level and huge projects. Among them were re-negotiating the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico, Criminal Justice Reform, Middle-East peace, and the COVID-19 response. All of these yielded major benefits to the country.

Jared tells his story in a fast moving narrative that held my interest through out. His writing style is mesmerizing. Since I lived through this period, it was refreshing to learn the inside details of how success was achieved, i.e. not easily, but required persistence and constant brainstorming to come up with creative solutions to problems. I was particularly moved by the response to the pandemic. The process used was classic engineering project management, and reminded me of similar situations that I faced in my role as Chief Engineer of a manufacturing company. His process as facilitator of the Mid-Eastern peace deal was one of classic “think outside the box” management. Unfortunately, bureaucratic thinking and processes cannot move past the traditional forms and age old methodology of years of failure. Each administration and career diplomats merely continued to rehash old talking points for the past fifty years. Too many people within the system are interested only in advancing their own career over what is best for the country. The result is a swamp full of creatures whose only interest is to live off each other, and to procreate the process. Kushner kept repeating the old adage that he must not keep repeating the same unsuccessful steps over and over and expecting a different outcome. He made this point repeatedly to Arab leaders throughout his negotiations.

One fact that Kushner writes about never appeared in the press. During his tenure, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent surgery and follow-up treatment. He never let the diagnoses affect his ability to serve, and he continued to look forward and not let the past affect his drive. Luckily, his treatment solved the problem.

As an engineer, I had many opportunities to write reports and to present them. So many times I was disappointed by the revisions that the CEO made to my work. Eventually, I learned that drafting a report from scratch is much more difficult than it is to revise it. Once the main man has the basis for a decision he can then modify it to arrive at a better outcome. I used this argument in mentoring sessions with engineers. I followed the same process as my boss, and learned that my revisions made a report more valuable than the original. I always gave credit for the final report to the engineer. Kushner’s presentations to the President almost always triggered Trump to make revisions that led to a better solution.

Working in the White House is vicious, stressful, fast paced, and relentless. Too many of the people who work there are constantly seeking power and favor from the president. The most notable tactic for a staff member to feel powerful is to become a leaker. It seems that people who feed inside information to the outside gain an adrenaline rush from the knowledge that their information was obtained because of their position next to the president. Many times the leaker is someone who opposes the president and is seeking to destroy his agenda. Kushner describes experiencing many incidents of leaking. One of the advantages Trump had within the White House was to have his son-in-law. Working directly for him. Kushner being a family member was there to serve his country and to protect his father-in-law.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a penchant for history and the inside machinations of top level government. If you are not that interested in government I still recommend the book as a biography of a young man who served his country at the highest level.

Pay Back

Currently, I am reading a book titled “1434-The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance.” Surprise, surprise author Gavin Menzies makes a brilliant case exposing the Renaissance and giving the Chinese credit for all the inventions that the Italians used to bring Europe out of it’s doldrums and into a burst of progress.

Menzies begins by building a time line for world maps. Most of the maps are Chinese and show places like America and Brazil in place many decades before Columbus “discovered” America. He did the same with Magellan and other explorers who discovered new places but mysteriously the same places were already documented on maps. He credits Zheng He, a Chinese explorer with spreading the information around the world. In the year 1421 Zheng He was commissioned by Chinese emperor Zhu Di whose dream was to conquer the world and thus bring great wealth to China in the form of tribute.

Much of the author’s account is based on his findings and how he logically deducted that the Chinese were hundreds of years ahead of the Europeans in everything.

I was really blown away when my hero Leonardo Da Vinci is shown to be a plagiarizer. This book is loaded with drawings of Chinese inventions and right next to them are the Italian version almost line for line identical. I will only say that Da Vinci’s draftsmanship was far superior to that of the Chinese. The devices, however, are remarkably the same.

My third and fourth grade teachers never mentioned Zheng He when teaching that Columbus discovered America in 1492, nor did they when we were taught that Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the earth, or when Vasco Da Gama discovered Florida. All of these explorers had maps which showed their discoveries already in place, however unnamed or unclaimed.

After Zheng He’s travels a new emperor came into power and stopped all further Chinese exploration, and contact with the outside world.

As i am reading this history it occurs to me that the current Chinese government has no problem stealing any or all developments to catch up to the modern world. That is when the idea of “payback” struck me. The European world had no trouble stealing and using Chinese developments five hundred years ago. The difference between the two eras is that the Chinese stopped participating in world activities and thus stopped developing as a nation. Thankfully, we have chosen to continue, but it hurts when we see China stealing technology that we spent millions developing.

This history is a fascinating read, and I recommend it to anyone who has a penchant for learning about the advancement of our planet.

PSA-220819-Book Report

This morning I finished reading a book titled “The Lies I tell” by Julie Clark. I opened GrumpaJoesPlace on WordPress to log the book into my booklist page. Surprise, surprise, my list has been corrupted. Some electronic gremlin has removed all of my 2022 reads and two thirds of my 2021 reads. No one ever looks at this list, except me. I use it to refer books I have read to friends. The page serves as a history of my reading. I show the title, author, the type of reading it is, such as fiction, history, etc. and my rating. Usually, if I like a book I give it five stars. I’ve noticed that many non-fiction books only have two or three stars. It tells me that I’d rather read stories than factual accounts. After fiction my next favorite class is history or historical fiction.

I’ve contacted the happiness engineers at Word Press to help me restore this file. I was able to locate a back up which has 28 entries for 2022. I read a book a week, and at this point I should be on number thirty, this back-up is not too far away. The good thing is I found the back up, the bad thing is I am too stupid to know how to actually restore it to the Blog site.

A few years ago, our library dumped the Dewey Decimal system of classifying books. I complained bitterly to the director, but my voice rolled off like water from a duck’s back. I had to join the modern age of computers they said. Since then I notice that the books come with a label that classifies the type of reading it is. Hmmm, it finally sunk in that putting books on shelves at random would only cause chaos. The moderns have finally realized that even computers need some classification scheme to help them locate material. Dumping Dewey has made it easier for library staff to shelve books. Shelving by a simple class and the author alphabetically removes the strain caused by trying to determine decimally which slot a particular volume fits into. Anyway, I have joined the moderns and have accepted their new system, I had no other choice.

I’ll end with a short synopsis of The Lies I Tell. Although it is fiction, it has to be based on history because the author has told a story about a lady conman with such detail that it had to be taken from an actual source. The principle character in this tale is a young lady who becomes homeless because her dying mother was desperate for funds, and fell prey to a man who stole her savings and her home, then evicted her and her grammar school kid. Mother and daughter wound up living out of their car. The mother dies and the daughter is left to her own choices, she chose to become a grifter. The story held my interest throughout simply because of the uniqueness of this grifter’s style. Her motives for selecting marks made me think of Robin Hood who stole from the rich so he could give to the poor. She picked on men who take advantage of women. She did it in a way that kept them from getting police involved. This is a five star read.

I Might Change My Mind

A few days ago, I mentioned that I’m reading a book titled “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. At that time I was only a hundred pages into the story, and made the comment that I don’t understand why Blacks continue to ask for reparations. The various movements like Black Lives Matter, and Defund the Police are also a mystery to me. After reading another two hundred pages of this story I am beginning to understand where these people come from with these radical ideas, and why they claim that America is systemically racist. Another term I have begun to understand is Jim Crow. I have personally witnessed Jim Crow treatment of blacks during my lifetime in Chicago, except the Jim Crow policy wasn’t legislated into a law to prevent blacks from advancing.

My earliest recollection of Jim Crow treatment dates back to 1951 when a black family moved into a home in my neighborhood of Burnside. I saw a blue and white police car parked at the front of a house immediately across the street from Tuley Park my favorite childhood hangout. At the time, it never registered that the cops were there tp protect the family who had just moved in. Nor, did I know that it was a black family. Later, I learned the specifics, and it kind of shocked me. I was thirteen years old then, and did not know what racism, or segregation was. It was only into my adulthood did I learn about these things.

In this story author Wilkerson depicts very graphically the treatment of slaves. White slave owners were wrong. To them, slaves were property like a plow, a wagon, etc. At best they believed blacks to be a life form beneath that of a white human. They treated slaves like they treated mules or horses. By the time Lincoln got around to the Emancipation Proclamation, over one hundred and fifty years of abusive treatment of slaves by whites transpired. Since 1662 whites, world-wide, had ingrained the cruelly harsh treatment of blacks and the notion that they were less than human. England did not abolish slavery completely within the kingdom until 1807. a few years after the North American colonies seceded. The difference between England and the USA was that there were not many slaves living in England only the English colonies. To the English, slaves were a figment of their imagination, in the USA slaves were all around and hated. The blacks were suppressed from voting, language, education, white friends, travel, food, and entertainment. A slave owner required his slave to ask for permission to do anything, and if the owner chose not to grant the request the slave went without. Slaves were beaten for any infraction or rule in place, or a rule invented on the spot. Black men who looked at a white woman, and the look was considered lascivious by the woman or her husband the black man was whipped, beaten, and often hanged. I cannot convey the horror that a slave endured as well as Ms Wilkerson can express in her writing, and I recommend that all white people read this book.

A strange thing happened on September 22, 1862, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the slaves. Bingo! Overnight approximately 5 million blacks were instantly liberated. Except there was no radio, no internet, no phones, only newspapers and telegraph to tell the story. Blacks could not read so newsprint was useless. Most heard about their freedom from someone else. But what did that mean, freedom? Most ex-slaves stayed with their owners, and were paid something for their labor, and most owners cheated the heck out of a share cropper’s part of the earnings. The end result was that the freed man was no better off than before. But, he was now free to travel, and to speak to whites, that is, if he spoke respectfully. If a black man were walking on a sidewalk and a white was coming toward him the black was expected to step off the sidewalk and allow the white to pass. If a black man looked at a white man’s wife and the white man thought it was a leer the black was punished, usually by the white man and his friends. Very often, the black was hanged after he was tortured. Where was the freedom? If a black wanted to move off the plantation he had to reconcile his debt with the owner who always found some hidden debt, and thus was cause to keep him on the farm until it was paid off. He could now send his kids to school with whites. Except, the kids had to be kept apart from each other. Or, the black teacher was summoned to work somewhere else and the school closed. In short, the black man was not free.

Over six million blacks finally woke up to their plight and decided that the only way out was North. They snuck out of their towns on trains and busses all headed for cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and even Los Angeles. All of them saw this as the lessor of two evils. Although they didn’t expect to find what they did. The North was basically just as racist as the south. They did conclude that the north was more friendly than the south. They learned that they did not really have access to hotels, restaurants, rest rooms, and jobs like they were hoping for. Suddenly these cities were inundated by new people squeezing into already crowded ghettos, and putting pressure on every resource the north had. The cro-magnum man did not appear on the doorsteps of New York by the millions expecting to be fed, housed, clothed and educated. The black didn’t want a handout but they did need and want work that could support them. The black man from the south took a huge leap forward in getting out of his dilemma in the south, but it took many years for them to assimilate into the populations they moved into. We often complain that immigrants coming into our country illegally must be given time to assimilate, and we as the people whom must accept them should be given time to help them to assimilate. We complain about people who come here from foreign countries who don’t speak our language, are not citizens, but want everything we can give them. We fail to recognize that the black people coming north from the south were also foreign to us. Yes, they were citizens because most of them were born here, yes, they could speak some form of our language, but we had to learn to listen, yes they were un-educated, but most were smart and could learn easily. Still, we refused to accept them immediately. I am from a generation that did not learn to be a bigot from my parents, I learned it from the population around me. Until I read this book, I had no clue as to the conditions of the people of slavery. I do not hate black people, I do not believe they are lower form of animal. I do not believe these people came here for the benefits. I do believe that most of them are hard working people who want a better life for themselves and their families. The problem was that when they flooded our cities we were not ready for them, and they were not ready for what they found.

It took man millions of years to evolve into the form we exist in today, yet we believed back in 1862 that all we had to do was sign an executive order and the evolutionary step would mysteriously be by-passed. In 1863 the proclamation was finally passed into law. That is when the individual states began getting creative in how they would keep whites and blacks separated. Each state wrote laws on how to vote, how to educate, how to sit on public transportation, how to drink water, how to go to the toilet. “White Only” signs appeared everywhere they wanted to keep blacks away. These laws and rules became known as Jim Crow laws. Now that I understand what Jim Crow means I can still see evidence of segregation going on. All of it is very quiet and never touted with signs, but people remain committed to keeping blacks out of white areas. One such example is how a white town will keep blacks out, and remain completely within the law. Most small towns are very old with small homes on big lots that were built 50-90-years ago. They are small by today’s standards, and not very architecturally beautiful inside as they are today. A builder will execute his own form of Jim Crow by buying up an old home in a desirable school district. He will pay top dollar for the home thus giving the seller a great profit. The builder then demolishes the outdated home and build a new mega-mansion on the lot which is typically two to three times the cost of what he bought the old one for. The remaining affordable homes in the immediate neighborhood just increased in value. If the builder does this often enough, the homes in the affordable neighborhood suddenly becomes less affordable to the average income family. I see this happening in neighborhoods in and around Chicago.

If I were a black person whose ancestors were treated as the 6 million migrants from the South to North were treated I’d be hollering retribution too. I am not black so I won’t say I can fill those shoes well enough to complain. I can sympathize with the plight of the blacks if they identify Jim Crow rules being applied against them. These rules are stupid, and not fair and should be abolished. I don’t believe that every complaint a black has against a white is the result of Jim Crow, and each incident must be proven to be true, and not used as a political tool to get what they want.

This book has certainly caused me to examine my conscience on the matter of racism, and racial bias. I don’t believe any human is lesser than another. I don’t believe blacks should be treated unfairly, on the other hand I don’t believe blacks should be given an upper hand (affirmative action) when gauged against others in any endeavor. I don’t believe schools should lower standards for entrance below a common norm. I do believe that poor students should be held back a year to catch up. If school districts don’t like this then too bad for them. I graduated from grammar school with a couple of kids that were twice my hight, twice my strength, and shaved. I lived through it, they lived through it, and our teachers lived through it. We all survived and thrived. Upon seeing these guys as adults they all made a living, had families, and enjoyed life.

In conclusion all I can say is that I didn’t write as exquisite an essay as I had intended, but I’m lazy, and good work takes effort. I gave it my best. The worst that will happen is that the good Lord will flunk me, and make me spend another year in this school we call Earth.

She Made Me A Believer, Almost

Erica Lee has made me a believer that America is a racist nation. I see her point from two different view points: 1. Americans still tend to dislike people they don’t identify with, and 2. There are a whole lot of different people in our country than we know about. We are a catch basin for all races.

When people associate racism in a hateful way I believe it is because the people we pick on don’t fit into our metric of people we admire and relate to. Another reason might be that we can’t relate to people who look radically different from us, namely blacks and Asians. They are so easy to pick out of a crowd and so easy to pick on that we tend to do it, i.e. pick on them. Ms Lee presented some interesting facts in her book “The Making of Asian America” that we should all become aware of. For instance the segregation of Japanese during WW II. I, for one, feel that the government made a wise decision to separate people who look so different from the general population during time of war with their country. I believe we saved these Japanese from a severe backlash of hatred by our white population. Ms Lee points out that the Japanese kept in the camps felt very different about their treatment. They felt that we should have treated them as loyal citizens which most of them were. What we didn’t learn from our history lessons was that the government deliberately treated them harshly. Never the less that period of history is over now and we must move forward. She wrote that after 9/11 a similar backlash against Pakistanis occurred against Sikh followers who could be easily picked out of a crowd. What surprised me about her timeline is how the United States created racial problems with our wars and then willingly took in refugees from those countries. I have not seen huge numbers of these ethnic groups in and around Chicago, but the numbers she gives are very large. Her description of the fall of Saigon at the end of the war cites hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese coming into the country, most of them undocumented. It didn’t end with Vietnamese because thousands of people from surrounding countries helped. Cambodians, Laotians, and Hmongs came as well. Recently, we experienced the need to do the same with Afghanis. With all of these people coming in from so many different places the cultural mix of the country is changing. The assimilation of so many different cultures, and languages will be difficult at best, perhaps impossible. Now, we also see an influx from South and Central America with additional cultures, customs, and languages. We also need a way to give these people work so they can feed and house themselves. There are just so many cleaners, dish washers, and grass cutters that we can occupy. One problem Ms Lee points out is that many of the people coming in are educated, but because of language differences they cannot find work that they are trained for. The result is that Phd level teachers, doctors, and nurses are finding work as truck drivers to provide for their families. It is sad, and the result is we have taken in too many people without any plan for providing meaningful work.

The assimilation of the millions of immigrants we’ve taken in since the seventies will take several generations to happen. As these new people change so will we. Together we will learn to love and help and integrate our new neighbors into a melting pot society. Perhaps by 2121 we will no longer be writing books about systemic racism. Or maybe the opposite, we will be writing more books about how bad it has become since the great influx of the twenty-first century.