20181112: Desk | Kitchen

I resumed my work for OSF today and Murphy's law ruled the morning. All of the most recent Premiere and After Effects files were not uploaded to the cloud, nor copied to my hard drive. To recreate all of the work necessary to be in a position to complete what I was intended to finish this week, would itself require a week of work. I searched everywhere three times before contacting my supervisor and inquiring about the possibility of him logging into my laptop and copying all the .aep and .pproj to box. Afterward, I changed my Okta password.

The time difference meant that the morning was spent researching exactly what was left outstanding and the evening, after I had received the files, were conforming the tasks to the current files. I worked 16 hours Monday.

Later in the evening Dr. Steven Weiss, a marine biologist from Uni Graz, met me at Preisterseminar to talk about the Murkraftwerk and the Zentraler Speicherkanal. Since my project was an extension of the Illinois River Project, I started by asking him about carp. Native to Central Europe, carp were part of the local sport fishing as well as holiday carp recipes. Weiss didn't have a recipe that he personally enjoyed; the recipes he did enjoy consisted of heavily disguising the flavor of the fish with something else. As bottom feeders that can thrive in toxic waters, the carp topic framed the following question about the condition of the Mur.

Historically river had been very polluted, even to the point that some people avoided it, or warned others to stay away from it. But an aggressive clean up had started in the 1980s, in part by ecological movements that have gotten hold after the postwar period when food, subsistence and class were at the forefront of sociopolitics in Austria. But the river was still heavily polluted, although huge improvements had been made.

There was already a chain of hydropower plants on the Mur, so the ecology had already been greatly altered. But the little life that persisted was going to be squeezed out. Each accumulation of life that formed behind the dam would be washed away each time the locks were opened. Steve’s concern was for life, biodiversity and he was open about his indifference to wastewater entering the river through overflowing sewer pipes; that was where the biggest fish were. When a river is polluted, it can be cleaned up and life will return, if the headwaters are still functional. But once a river is dammed, its amputated until that structure is removed.

In the minds of most Austrians hydropower was considered a clean, renewable energy. Although late getting out the door, when the information about the Murkraftwerk was publicized it was sold as cleaning up the river. Weiss saw this as a deliberate misrepresentation, contesting that the amount of organic matter that would diverted from the Mur was less than 2% of what was already in the river when the waters were in Graz.

The term “water rich” doesn’t just describe having water as a natural resource. If that were the case, every coastal city would be water rich. When Austria is referred to as ‘water rich’ it more accurately describes the value that pure water has to the people but also the wealth that has been extracted from water ways, such as through hydropower. Weiss stated that hydropower has a long history in Austria: since the beginning of the 20th century, not a single year has passed without the construction of a hydropower plant. At one point most of the electrical power used in Austria came from hydropower. In 2018, it produced about 60% of the electricity consumed. And, as wealth grows in Austria, consumption is expected to grow.

In Steve’s opinion the biggest environmental problem in Graz was not the management of the Mur river, but he air quality. The fine particulate matter in the air collected in the city center with wind stagnating due to the surround hills. And as the city population grew due to Austria urbanization and immigration initiatives, traffic would increase and the condition would become worse. The fact that the Murkraftwerk felled thousands of trees pinpointed his opposition to the project.

The representation that Austria is green is, by Weiss’ metrics dishonest or at least misleading. The image was really about being tidy or clean, but not environmental. He noted a number of regressive practices that included very poor encouragement for organic farming from the central government, and outdated management techniques of fisheries and wildlife, and a general disregard for biodiversity. Local protections were flawed and companies held considerable influence over their regulations that should have governed them. The Murkraftwerk summarized these poorly order priorities.

Steve joined the protest by accident and was reticent to get involved in a small country in which everyone knew everyone. But he became one of the faces of the protest, due to his scientific background as a marine biologist. But when the trees were finally downed, and the Speicherkanal and hydropower plant moved forward, he was devastated. The city had been ripped apart, governmental coalitions broke up, people’s lives were smothered. He had to come to terms with the mantra of never giving up while being prepared to lose.

What was amazing about talking with Steve was that his perspective was at once informed both from the very local, the very specific case study, but also by the larger cycle. He thoughts flowed fluidly between the technologies that were yet to be adapted and the very old. He used the notion of the swamp as the core of medieval fear to demonstrate how our perceptions of nature and cities have changed. He framed the pursuit of modernity in terms of how Mur had been straightened, motivated by normalization property lines, but the example gave a visual reference to how this pursuit had played out: When a river is channelized, the riverbed deepens because the currents move more quickly, the water digs at the earth. The water table sinks. Erosion at banks occurs, sometimes destabilizing bridges and roads. The Banks towered over the surface of the Mur by at least four meters. But his general point was why should the city be concerned about a small improvement in the water quality of a polluted river if the entire ecosystem in the water would be destroyed?

20181209: Separating | Separated

While editing the Empire Kanal, I was reminded of Steven Weiss’s comment of how most European countries were shrinking in population, except Austria. Due to since it's wealth immigration had continued to drive its the population growth. But across Europe a reaction to this form of growth had taken hold in populist movements Hungary, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Austria and even in Spain. I was confused by the reaction and the portrayal of the each political argument in the media. Feeding on the debate, a division had been struck between opposing views. The trend was to label one party ‘far-right’ or ‘far-left.’ But mostly I was confused about each relationship to either political pole to labor.

During the 20th Century, the poles of right and left most coherently followed a relationship to labor with business owners to the right, and laborers to the left. In the 21st Century these two poles are complicated by a vigorous polarity of identity politics. In the US, the complication arose from the conservative party today being the larger supporters to end slavery, Radical Republicans introduced the 1866 civil rights bill, and predominantly supported the 1950s and 1960s civil rights acts. [1] The popular rebuttal to this confusing fact was that the motivation to end slavery was not an ethical decision, but intended to subordinate the power of slave states, which were expanding westward, motivated by the comparative fertility of the soil. That is, Lincoln and the Republicans were motivated by a relationship to labor.

The confusion continues in the history of labor unions and the socialist left. In the 19th and early 20th Century, labor unions were notoriously racist either by excluding blacks all together through constitutions or by-laws, or through the predominately white leadership. [2] [3] Not only were labor unions discriminatory against blacks but their growth during times of increased low-wage work supplied by immigrants equated to ethnic conflict.[4] It’s not hard to believe that many blacks were sympathetic to the Right to Work movements that sought to undermine the exclusivity of jobs to union contractors, although by the mid 20th Century, Martin Luther King Jr. was supporting union protesters.[5] [6] The current protest in populist movements seems vaguely familiar, but with a twist.

Democracy Now and the Financial Times, surrogates for the left and center of American politics respectively, portrayed the political party of Vox, from Andalucia, as “far-right.” The FT subtitle read “Extreme right energised by opposition to Catalan separatism and illegal immigration,” on their December post. [7] RT’s headline read “Right-wing ‘Reconquista?’ Anti-immigrant party enters parliament in Spain’s most populous region.” [8] Neither source actually engaged anyone from Vox, so I was curious to hear a spokesman of Vox denounce the label. [9] What is it meant by “far-right”?

The polarity of right and left in 2018 doesn’t follow the historic cogent divide based on a relationship to labor. “Far-right” and “far-left” became catch-all terms that described the subscription to or against the prioritization of an individual in their national state on economic terms but also how labor interfaced with social identities. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that a political platform or party couldn’t perfectly separate labor from identity. The result was first generation immigrants supporting Brexit, blacks who voted for Trump or Muslims who voted for Le Pen. [10] In the minds of their opposition, these individuals were gullible, confused, or traitors to their race. But in the race of identity politics, money always finishes first.

What’s more confusing is that even opposing poles may arrive to the same conclusion, in one or more of their sub-priorities, based on the success of another sub-priority. For example, Vox is, in part, a reaction to the Catalan independence events of 2017. Three of their four manifesto points reference a strong central state and Spain nation.[11] (A king, a dragon, a knight in shining armor?) But on the spectrum of polarity, if Vox was the far-right, then the Català independent movement was far-left? The autonomous region advocates immigration, the human rights of gender and sexual freedom, but curiously the strongest international supporters of the secession were Alex Jones, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Vladimir Putin. [12][13][14] Russian meddling aside, from a simpleton perspective: why would right-winger a left-wing movement? This isn’t to say that the Catalan movement is necessarily right-wing. The elements ethnic preservation of language and culture that justified secession for residents of Cataluña, mirrored the claims for ethnic preservation of “Western culture” in France, Germany and Austria, but also the ethnic element that made Vox far-right. Collectively, these were identity politics concerns and resulted in the creation walls and a march toward separation.

Our attraction to one of the ideals of a political pole, even by the slightest sway, we were supposed to conclude in a complete opposition to all of the ideals of the opposite end of the spectrum. The references were to point to the most egregious examples of politics in the 20th Century. But far-right and far-left were both simplification of belief sets. This was the perversion of the logical formula, with contradiction, all else follows. A series of sub-priorities arise from this subscription: pro- or anti-immigration; pro- or anti-ethnic diversity; pro- or anti-social roles; pro- or anti-gender roles; pro- or anti-anti-social welfare systems. But what’s curious is that, at least some these sub-priorities are read through the lens of labor, yet completely flip the political pole in terms of the 20th Century orientation. The segment of nationalism that is anti-immigration claim that they are motivated by national right to labor and, I suppose, by extension, labor rights. Those on the left would suggest that the real motivation of nationalists opposing immigration is due to racial discrimination against the brown and black people immigrating. The support for labor on the left is through unionization or strong labor laws, yet Trump, a nationalist, was pro-union.

The relation to labor is, more profoundly, a relationship to production, where and how goods are produced. But again the distinction falls short. How would right-wing nationalists aim to preserve jobs for locals or how would left-wing activists garner support for unions are both antiquated models that percolate differently in a world of trade. In some countries nationalism equated to libertarian solution while other countries nationalism looked to centralized regulation. But then in a global, international context the reverse became true. Nationalists stood for de-regulation. Trump stood against free trade, having pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This was a flip-flop position of Clinton, and a partnership supported by Obama. Later Trump flip-flopped in responding to the OBOR with trade competition, “‘The new economic vision is obviously targeting China and the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, and will further complicate US-China relations,’ said Pang Zhongying, a Beijing-based international affairs analyst.”[15]

Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister strongly supported the One Belt project stating, “Hungary has always been a supporter of the most possibly free and fair global trade network and we have always been supporters of the Eurasian cooperation. That is why we are absolutely interested in the success of the One Belt One Road Initiative and that is why we were the first European country to sign the bilateral cooperation agreement about its implementation.“[16] Does Eurasia include Syria, and would cooperation include housing refugees? Or was Orban a neo-liberal who believed in the movement of material goods and money but not people?

Under the belief to have a more reciprocated trade relationship than the decades of “free trade,” Madrid’s socialist President, Sanchez, also signed onto the One Belt Initiative.[17]

I heard a knock at the door and met Kseniya who had been working all day and had cabin fever. It was Sunday and the only establishment that was open was UP 25, a cocktail bar that was completely empty except for a couple who were holding anchor at the bar. We sat in the non-smoking section. A dart board and a disco-ball created the illusion of activity. I ordered a White Russian, believing it fitting of the anecdotes of Ukraine that Kseniya was recounting. She ordered the same. They were perfectly mixed, shaken, not stirred. A froth on top that permeated the blend. I drank mine before it separated.

[1] How Republicans went from the party of Lincoln to the party of Trump,” Andrew Prokop, Vox, November 10, 2016

[2] “Black Workers & the Unions,” Ray Marshall, Dissent Magazine, Winter 1972.

[3] “Up from Exclusion: Black and White Workers, Race and the State of Labor History,” Eric Arnesen, Reviews in American History, Volume 26, No. 1, March 1998.

[4] “Labor Unrest, Immigration, and Ethnic Conflict in Urban America, 1880-1914,” Susan Olzak, American Journal of Sociology, Volume 94, No. 6, 1989.

[5] “Martin Luther King Jr. Championed Civil Rights and Labor Unions,” Berry Craig, America’s Unions, April 2, 2018

[6] Keith Lumsden and Craig Petersen posit that Right to Work laws had little to no effect on unionization in the United States.

“The Effect of Right-to-Work Laws on Unionization in the United States,” Journal of Political Economy 83, no. 6, 1975. Pp. 1237-1248

[7] “Extreme right energised by opposition to Catalan separatism and illegal immigration,” Ian Mount, Financial Times, December 3, 2018

[8] “Right-wing ‘Reconquista’? Anti-immigrant party enters parliament in Spain’s most populous region,” RT News, December 4, 2018

[9] “Could the rise of Vox bring fascism back to Spain?” Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, TRT News, December 7, 2018

[10] “Marine Le Pen’s surprise supporters,” David Patrikarakos, Politico, January 23, 2017

[11] “Nuestro Manifesto,” Vox, Spain, 2018.

[12] “Breaking: Catalan Parliament Declares Independence from Spain,” Alex Jones, InfoWars, October 27, 2017.

[13] “Hungary to ‘respect’ will of people in Catalonia vote,” Jacopo Barigazzi, Politico, September 18, 2017.

[14] “Putin Backs Spanish Integrity Amid Russian Meddling Claims in Catalonia,” Sputnik News, May 26, 2018

[15] “US competes with China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ with US$113 million Asian investment programme,” Shi Jiangtao, Owen Churchill, South China Morning Post, July 30, 2018

[16] “Speech of Viktor Orbán at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE),” Cabinet of the Office of the Prime Minister, Hungary, November 7, 2018.

[17] “China, Spain pledge 'more balanced' trade ties,” France 24, November 28, 2018.