Author Archives: reidcurtis

A History of Chile

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHILE

CREDIT: The History of Chile, John L. Rector

CREDIT: Structure and Structural Change in the Chilean Economy. Aroca and Hewings, Editors

CREDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chile

CREDIT: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19356356

CREDIT: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19357497

CREDIT: https://www.heritage.org/index/country/chile

CREDIT: https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/52/3/297/583295

CREDIT: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ci.html

CREDIT: https://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2018/wha/281737.htm

Preface

Ever since graduate school, I have been tracking Chile’s rise. It has emerged today as one of the most economically and socially stable countries in the world today. 

Its history is the stuff of a great novel: adventure and adventurers, exploring this far-away place; tragedy and triumph, as the adventurers encountered indigenous people who rankled at their attempts to put down roots; blood and guts; expeditions in search of gold; high seas and mountain passes, with pirates and traders and trading posts.

There is high drama, as the country is rocked by a Spanish Crown with dreams of conquest and a proud indigenous population outraged by their attempts to lay claim to their land. 

Later, there is more high drama, as the country is rocked by far left wing socialism and then rocked again by far-right-wing dictatorship. 

Its a great story. Brutal defeats. Starts and stops. Blood and guts. Rebels and loyalists. Exploiters and exploited. Expeditions in search of gold. Later, expeditions in search of copper and nitrates and coal. 

A great novel deserves a great landscape, and Chile meets the test.  Chile is beautiful. It is a magnificent aggregation of landscapes, climates  and cultures. The country’s landscapes range from mountains to deserts, and from forests to coastlines, straits, harbors, and rivers. Glaciers. And islands everywhere.

Chile Today

This history starts from the beginning. However, this section anchors the story in today. 

Sebastian Pinera won the presidential election in December 2017, having served as president for four years until 2014.

He is a billionaire conservative. The conservative movement in the country holds power for now, but the country has experienced wild swings in power from right to left over the years. 

Pinera presides today over a proud country – and rightly so. 

Chile is a beautiful country. It is crazy-making because it is so long (2,670 miles long). And yet, for all that length, it is narrow (217 miles wide at its widest, with an average width of 110 miles). It sits at the southwest corner of South America. It is among the longest countries in the world. 

The country has 18 million people, a GDP of $451 billion, with a 2.2% compounded 5-year growth. This 2% growth is actually a slow-down from recent history, when growth was around 5% annually – high by any standard. 

Importantly, it enjoys a per capita income of $24,537 – which classifies it globally as “upper middle-income”.

Chile has well defined borders, which make it secure. The long Eastern border is with Argentina along the Andes mountains. The northern border was defined years ago, though a war with Peru and Bolivia, which Chile won.  The southern border is equally well-defined, as disputes with Argentina were resolved in 1984. 

Most of the Earth’s climates can be found in Chile. Over 10 have been identified in Chile. This wide range of climates can be divided into three general zones: the desert provinces of the north, central Chile (with a Mediterranean climate), and the humid regions of the south. Each of the three zones have different ecosystems, topography, and vegetation.

Sound Policies

Chile today is the beneficiary of sound policy. School policy has brought a 96%+ literacy (ages 15 and over). Transportation policy has brought it good roads, 21 airports, and excellent bus transportation. Social policy has sharply curtailed the income inequality that had plagued the country. Chile proudly reached all of the UN’s “Millenium Development Goals” by their target date, 2015. Reduction of poverty was a key goal.

Chile has sound health policies.  Historical investments in sanitation, nutrition, potable water, and basic education dating back to the 1920s have resulted in significant reductions in communicable diseases. Its health profile mirror that of a developed country, with chronic disease as its remaining challenge.

Chile has sound economic policies. Chile today is the beneficiary economic reforms that were instituted in the 1970’s  – over 45 years ago. Termed “neoliberalism”, economic policy set the country on a growth path of high exports, high investment, improving wages and working conditions.

It was not easy. The early years after reform created many doubters.

Economists trace the fits and starts that followed economic reform: a sharp recession followed the reforms; investment averaged only 16% in the ten year period 1974 – 1984; a turnaround followed, and investment grew strongly – averaging 25% of GDP in a decade-long boom from 1987 – 1998. 

From 2003 through 2013, real growth averaged almost 5% per year, despite a slight contraction in 2009 that resulted from the global financial crisis. Growth slowed to 2% in the last five years.

It’s prosperity is hailed by conservative commentators. The Heritage Foundation says: “Chile’s economic freedom score is 75.4, making its economy the 18th freest in the 2019 Index. Its overall score has increased by 0.2 point, with increases in labor freedom, business freedom, and monetary freedom offsetting a steep decline in judicial effectiveness. Chile is ranked 3rd among 32 countries in the Americas region, and its overall score is above the regional and world averages.”

The Arts

There is a strong tradition of music, poetry, art, artisan products, and literature. Chileans support museums, art galleries, outdoor fairs, and libraries that maintain these traditions. Folk music traditions are pervasive. Chile is proud of its two Nobel Prize winners in literature, Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral.

A History of Political Swings from Left to Right and Back

For 20 years, the country was governed by a center-left coalition, which came to an end in 2010. Conservatives took power from 2010-2014, and the left coalition resumed power in 2014. Pinera came back to power for the right in 2017.

From 1973 – 1990 Pinochet ruled as a right wing dictator of the country. Much has been written about this traumatic period in the Country’s history. 

American government worried for years about the ascendancy of communism in Chile. This worry reached a zenith when Salvatore Allende was elected as a socialist in 1970.

Chile was a seesaw politically for years. During World War II, the government veered left, attempting to emulate the social policies of FDR in America.

Chile has struggled to maintain a kinder and gentler face to the world. With Pinochet, the country endured 17 long years of brutal dictatorship. This was followed by 20 years of center-left leadership. Then, the country elected a far right candidate, followed by a return of the center-left. All the while, Chile was growing economically, thanks to the implementation of economic theories attributed to Milton Friedman and economics form the University of Chicago. He actually visited Chile in 1975.

For all of his brutality, Pinochet is credited with instituting the economic reforms that set Chile on the course it enjoys to this day.

Spanish Colonialism 

The Spanish arrived in the early 16th century, and was ruled as a crown colony until the 19th century. Chile declared its independence from Spain in 1810, but never achieved that independence until 1818. 

The history of Spanish rule roughly tracks the history of Spanish rule in all of Latin America. The history includes outrageous abuses by the “encamienda” system. This system was a methodology employed by Spain wherever they assumed lands by conquest. It did not include land grants (which is interesting) but the results were like land grants. The system involved granting to encamindors the right to subjugate local indigenous labor. It began as its name implies, to “entrust”. But greed and natural evolution took hold, and it became a form of enslavement, where indigenous people traded protection for commitments to pay – usually in the form of the fruits of labor (farmed good, for example). 

Before Spanish Arrival

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Incas inhabited northern Chile for nearly a century while an indigenous people, the Mapuche, inhabited central and southern Chile. Only traces of the Inca civilization remain, but the Mapuche continue to have a significant presence in Southern Chile. Their history is one of continuous rebellion against Spanish rule. Their rebellious nature was so strong that Spanish conquerors actually gave them autonomy for over 250 years,

TIMETABLE

Key Periods

1500’s – Spanish adventurers arrive in Chile and fight with indigenous peoples, especially the Incas and Mapuche (Araucanians). Magellan came from the South (he was looking for Asia), and Diego de Almagro came from the north. Charles V granted Almagro a charter authorizing him to explore and conquer a new territory called “New Toledo”. This effort failed, as he lost battles with Pizzaro of Peru. It was Pedro Valdivia, chartered by Pizzaro, who led men south to plant down roots in Santiago. Later, he discovered Mapuche gold mines north of Valpariso. He died at the hands of a Mapuche rebellion. Were it not for Francisco Villagra, who put down the rebellion, the entire effort of the Spanish in Santiago would have been lost. His efforts  were not rewarded by the Crown, who appointed Hurtado de Mendoza (the son of the Peruvian viceroy) as Governor of Chile. 

1600’s – 1800’s – Spanish struggles to maintain control. In 1608, facing massive Mapuche rebellion, the King ordered the enslavement of the Mapuche. This act was poorly received, to say the least, and brought on two centuries of fierce rebellion. Their struggles were compounded when the Dutch and English sent their own adventurers to attempt to seize control.  In the 1640’s, the Governor granted the Mapuche sovereignty of their territories to the south, but this peace plan did not last long. The only resolution that was lasting was found in trade. Spanish and Mapuche became skilled at bartering goods. 

Early 1800’s – Locals try to capitalize on Napoleon’s takeover of Spain by declaring independence, and are crushed by Napoleonic forces. But they are ultimately victorious, thanks to the “Army of the Andes”.  Military leaders Jose de San Martin and Bernardo O’Higgins are heroes of the independence movement. Bernardo O’HIggins becomes first leader of the country in 1818.

1823 – 1830 – Civil war, a fight between “federalists” and “centralists”. The conservative centralists win. 

1851-61 – New constitution. President Manuel Montt liberalises constitution and reduces privileges of landowners and church.

1879-84 – “War of the Pacific”, which Chile wins. Chile increases its territory by one third after it defeats Peru and Bolivia in War of the Pacific. It annexes two mineral rich provinces to the north and cuts Bolivia’s access to the Pacific.

Late 19th century – Pacification of Araucanians paves way for European immigration; large-scale mining of nitrate and copper begins in the North. Nitrates slowly decline, and copper rises. 

1891 – Civil war over constitutional dispute between president and congress ends in congressional victory, with president reduced to figurehead.

1925 – New constitution increases presidential powers and separates church and state.

1927 – General Carlos Ibanez del Campo seizes power and establishes dictatorship.

1938-46 – Communists, Socialists and Radicals form Popular Front coalition and introduce economic policies based on US New Deal.

1948-58 – Communist Party banned. Fear of communism rises.

1952 – Gen Carlos Ibanez elected president with promise to strengthen law and order.

1964 – Eduardo Frei Montalva, Christian Democrat, elected president and introduces cautious social reforms, but fails to curb inflation.

1970 – Salvador Allende becomes world’s first democratically elected Marxist president and embarks on an extensive programme of nationalisation and radical social reform.

1973 – 1990 – Chief of Staff General Augusto Pinochet ousts Allende in coup and proceeds to establish a brutal dictatorship.

1990 – Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin wins presidential election; Gen Pinochet steps down in 1990 as head of state but remains commander-in-chief of the army.

1994-95 – Eduardo Frei succeeds Aylwin as president and begins to reduce the military’s influence in government.

1998 – Gen Pinochet retires from the army and is made senator for life. He is arrested in Europe, but returns.

2000 – 2004 – Socialist Ricardo Lagos is elected president.

2002 Gen Pinochet resigns from his post as a lifelong senator.

2005  Revised constitution, (revisingPinochet-era constitution), including one which restores the president’s right to dismiss military commanders.

2006  Michelle Bachelet returns to power, wins the second round of presidential elections to become the fourth consecutive head of state from the centre-left Concertacion coalition.

2006 August – Chile and China sign a free-trade deal, Beijing’s first in South America. More exports.

2006 December – Pinochet dies, after years of failing health.

2008 Peru files a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in a bid to settle a long-standing dispute over maritime territory with neighbouring Chile.

2008 May – Unexpected eruption of Chaiten volcano which has been dormant for 9,000 years. Authorities order complete evacuation of two towns in the Patagonia.

2009 February – President Bachelet makes the first visit to Cuba by a Chilean leader in almost four decades.

2009 October – Relations with Peru are strained further after Chile stages a military exercise in the north, close to the disputed border.

2010 Right-wing billionaire Sebastian Pinera defeats former President Eduardo Frei in presidential election, ending 20 years of rule by the left-wing Concentracion coalition.

2010 February – Earthquake: Hundreds die and widespread damage in central Chile. 

2011 Protests throughout the country

2013 April – Bolivia files a lawsuit against Chile at the International Court of Justice in The Hague to reclaim access to the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia lost access to the coastline in a 19th century war with Chile, leaving it landlocked ever since.

2013 May – Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru agree to scrap most of the tariffs on trade between their countries, hailing the move as an historic step towards regional integration. Chile continues its path toward exports.

2014 Left-wing candidate Michelle Bachelet returns to power.

2015 Using 1990 as baseline, Chile has accomplished the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Millennium Development Goals for developing nations. Among them: poverty reduction.

2017 Sebastian Pinera returns to power, and country again shifts to the right. Country reverts to modest growth 0f 1-2%.

It occurs to me…

My Model of How Civilization works needs Revision

It occurs to me, after reading so much Chilean History, that perhaps my model of how “civilization” works is somewhat wrong. 

My model addresses the “how” of civilization. How does order come out of chaos? How do we rise out of the muck, and become more human and less savage beast? How do we develop rules that guide our behavior, particularly toward each other?

My model is about government, and governing – and the rule of law which protects the average citizen from arbitrariness, and instead substitutes “justice”. 

A better model is conquest. This better model recognizes the role of adventurers, explorers …. men in search of something.  When the adventurers are sponsored by a Crown (in this case, the Spanish Crown), they are aggressively spotting opportunities to lay down a claim. And, of course, laying down such claims almost always means a fight. These men were fighters. They fought for everything they claimed. In this case, they faced major opposition: the fierce Mapuche peoples to the South, and the Incas to the north. 

To continue this revision to history, it is now clearer to me that any major King (the Crown) grasped the advantages to their empire of letting the adventurer explore, and then fight for, territory. If they succeeded, the Crown would ensure that the adventurer was paid handsomely for their work. At the same time, the Crown made sure that loyalty was assured, and that taxes would be paid, as wealth developed. 

This basic theme plays itself out over and over again throughout history. 

The warrior fighter is “granted” the territory. This is the basis of the “land grant” system. A land grant was an enormous territory, set forth in documents which described the grant, which became “property rights”, and the requirements of continuing to hold the grant, namely the taxes that must be remitted to the Crown.

The Spanish case study is slightly different from a pure land grant. In the 1500’s, the practice was called “encomienda”, whose root word is to “entrust”. 

This practice did not actually grant land, but rather people. The people granted were people who could be employed by the grantee. The abuses of this system are now well documented: the people became virtually enslaved, much to the consternation of the Crown. The abuses were so egregious that the Crown actually decreed that the practice was banned. All this happened in the 1500’s. The ban was largely ignored in faraway places, and Chile certainly was one of those. 

Effectively then, the land grant system operated in much the same way as a franchise system does in Corporate America. The franchisor grants to the franchisee certain right (in the case of Coca-Cola, these original grants were in perpetuity). In return for the right to a territory, the franchise promises to behave: to pay royalties to the franchisor, to respect the boundaries granted, and to aggressively build the business – in a manner that mutually benefits the franchisor and the franchisee. 

Following this a bit further, the Coca-Cola franchise system in the US was originally for massive areas – six to be exact. They were called “parent bottlers”. It was their job to secure bottlers for the territory, which they aggressively did, and thereby ensure the growing distribution of Coca-Cola – a product in high demand. 

So, it occurs to me that the expansion of empire was effectively like a franchise system. The warrior/adventurer was rewarded by the Crown for his conquest. They were awarded with massive territories. They then set about to develop those territories, by investing in towns, which became cities, and roads, which became highways, and harvests, of agriculture or of mines to harvest natural resources, and ports, which became the source of greater wealth through imports and exports. 

And then there is another consideration: the church. In this case, the Catholic Church, and its role in “civilizing” a long and narrow country. 

Perhaps the church played, and plays, a greater role than I had originally thought. 

Perhaps the church was co-equal, or even superior, to bringing order out of chaos. 

Perhaps the church was the core source of hope: that tomorrow would be better than today, that protections and justice come to those with faith, and that the world is much bigger than me, and even includes the heavens and a place called hell. 

So …. Aren’t there really two rules of law – the law of the church and the law of the government? 

And, if we read history with openness, perhaps a truthful statement is:

For any given person, at any given time in history, the experience of “civilization” is either more true or less true. 

If that person’s experience is more true:

  • The person is probably also experiencing a “culture” – sometimes without even being aware of this notion. That culture is gifted with cultural norms that form the basis of civilization – rules or laws that guide all members’ behavior. 
  • the person likely has two institutions to thank for this “culture: their government and their church. 
  • Which is primary, and by how much, is an important marker for a given time, in a given geography. 

History gets very interesting as we ponder which communities were more aligned with the church as their primary institutional reference, and which communities were more aligned with their government. 

Is Chile a Microcosm of the World?

The intrigue, the conquest, the rebellion, the retribution: is Chile, a microcosm of the world? Does it provide universal insights?

Possibly. Here are two:

Incentives to control land and expand reach are powerful.

The story of Chile is a story of powerful men exploiting opportunities. As early as 1541, Spanish invaders ….

Napoleon was one of many Spanish kings who encouraged loyalists to to form alliances which bound them to fight for land. Once victorious, the loyalist would bring that victory back to the King (Emperor), and – more often than not – the King would grant that land back to the loyalist (Lord) who had conquered the land.  This, of course, was only done with a pledge of continuing loyalty from the loyalist, and a pledge to give back to the king payments in the form of taxes, armies, or whatever the king required.

Conquest breeds resentment, and even hatred.

The story of Chile is a story of conquest, followed by new rules and retribution for the conquered. We know change is hard, and culture change is the hardest of all. In all cases, imposed changes fostered resentment, and retribution, often harsh, bred hatred. When it.surfaced, it became rebellion.  

Deep Learning

Singularity, Deep Learning, and AI

DRAFT: January, 2019

CREDIT: The Deep Learning Revolution, by Terrence J. Sejnowski

CREDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_learning

====================

Sadly, I was giving up on speech recognition just as it was emerging. I gave up, after 30 years of waiting, around 1995. Bad idea.

Speech recognition stopped being just cute, and exploded onto the world scene during the late 1990’s. It has taken almost two decades to commercialize, but the technologies birthed in the late 1990’s have now yielded commercial grade results. 

Why then? Why the late 1990’s?  

In reading “The Deep Learning Revolution”, by Terrence J. Senjnowski, I learned why: an underlying technology called “deep learning” had come of age. 

“Deep Learning” was birthed in the late 1990’s, but the research leading up to the term goes back to the 1980”s (and the foundations of all this goes back to 1965).

Many trace the current revolution in deep learning to October 2012. Researchers proved successful in a large-scale ImageNet competition. Their approach won the ICPR contest on analysis of large medical images for cancer detection.

In 2013 and 2014, the error rate on the ImageNet task using deep learning was further reduced, following a similar trend in large-scale speech recognition. The Wolfram Image Identification project publicized these improvements.

Image classification was then extended to the more challenging task of generating descriptions (captions) for images, often as a combination of CNNs and LSTMs.

IN 2015, spectacular practical application began to burst on the scene in 2015. Speech recognition was one. Facial recognition was a second. Pattern recognition can identify cats, dogs and dog breeds, and applications that allow medical diagnosticians to improve their diagnoses. 

Today, applications address computer vision, speech recognition, natural language processing, audio recognition, social network filtering, machine translation, bioinformatics, drug design, medical image analysis, material inspection and board game programs, where they have produced results comparable to and in some cases superior to human experts.

It turns out that new approaches to Deep Learning have broad applicability. But one of those applications that has broken into mass commercialization is …. speech recognition. These breakthroughs trace back to breakthroughs in “speaker recognition” – results that were achieved at SRI.

To understand the massive improvements, consider this: In 2015, Google Voice Search experienced a dramatic performance jump of 49%.

Or consider this: All major commercial speech recognition systems (e.g., Microsoft Cortana, Xbox, Skype Translator, Amazon Alexa, Google Now, Apple Siri, Baidu and iFlyTek voice search, and a range of Nuance speech products, etc.) are based on deep learning.

More on speaker recognition: The recent history traces back to breakthroughs at SRI in the late 1990’s. The research arms of NSA and DARPA needed answers. To get the answers, they turned to SRI international. SRI made the biggest breakthroughs. They cracked “speaker recognition” at that time. They failed, however, to crack “speech recognition”. That came later, around 2003.

Specifically, important papers were published in the late 1990’s describing how deep learning could solve the nagging issues of speaker and speech recognition. 

The deep learning method used was called long short-term memory (LSTM). (Hochreiter and Schmidhuber, 1997.)

Deep learning for speech recognition came later, in the early 21st century. In 2003, LSTM started to become competitive with traditional speech recognizers on certain tasks.. Later it was combined with connectionist temporal classification (CTC) in stacks of LSTM RNNs.

Google Voice Search drew upon “CTC-trained LSTM” – in other words, the LSTM technologies birthed in the late 1990’s had by 2015 yielded commercial-grade results.

Today, lay people understand the power of speech recognition by using “Siri” – or by using the voice transcription technologies on their iPhones. Everyone has noted the vast improvements in the last several years. All of these improvements are due to Deep Learning. 

Let me step back at this point and trace the breakthroughs by researchers. I begin with a glossary:

AI – Artificial Intelligence

ANN – Artificial Neural Networks

DNN – Deep Learning Networks – a variant of artificial intelligence in which software “learns to recognize patterns in distinct layers

RNN – Recurrent Neural Networks

“Deep” – The “deep” in “deep learning” refers to the number of layers through which the data is transformed.

“Layers” – each layer represents a level of abstraction that allows the machine to group like data from unlike data (the machine classifies). Each successive layer uses the output from the previous layer as input. The “deep” in “deep learning” refers to the number of layers through which the data is transformed. Deep learning helps to disentangle these abstractions and pick out which features improve performance.[1]

Pattern Recognition

Image Recognition (In 2011, deep learning-based image recognition has become “superhuman”, producing more accurate results than human contestants.)

Speech Recognition (and ASR – Automatic Speech recognition)

Speaker Recognition (In 1998, deep learning-based speaker recognition was proven to be effective)

Visual Recognition – recognizing object, faces handwritten zip codes etc

Facial Recognition – for example, Facebook’s AI lab performs tasks such as automatically tagging uploaded pictures with the names of the people in them.

Object recognition – (in 1992, a method of extracting 3D objects from a cluttered scene

Medical Imaging – where each neural-network layer operates both independently and in concert, separating aspects such as color, size and shape before integrating the outcomes” of medical imaging

Deep Learning Techniques

Supervised – uses classifications

Unsupervised.  – uses pattern recognition (without human assistance)

Backpropogation (Backprop) – passing information in the reverse direction and adjusting the network to reflect that information.

LSTM – long short-term memory 

CTC – connectionist temporal classification

CAP – the chain of transformations from input to output. CAPs describe potentially causal connections between input and output.

More precisely, deep learning systems have a substantial credit assignment path (CAP) depth. The CAP is the chain of transformations from input to output. CAPs describe potentially causal connections between input and output.

Applications 

TAMER – in 2008, proposed new methods for robots or computer programs to learn how to perform tasks by interacting with a human instructor.[

TAMER (Deep TAMER) – in 2018, is a new algorithm using deep learning to provide a robot the ability to learn new tasks through observation. (robots learn a task with a human trainer, watching video streams or observing a human perform a task in-person). The robot practices the task with the help of some coaching from the trainer, who provided feedback such as “good job” and “bad job.”

CRESCEPTRON, in 1991, a method for performing 3-D object recognition in cluttered scenes. 

Hardware

GPU – in 2009, Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) were used by Google Brain to create capable DNNs. This increased the speed of deep-learning systems by about 100 times.

Training Sets

TIMIT (Automatic speech recognition trainer)

MNIST (image classification trainer)

The MNIST database is composed of handwritten digits. it includes 60,000 training examples and 10,000 test examples. As with TIMIT, its small size lets users test multiple configurations.

With this glossary, a few simple statements can pinpoint why the current revolution is exploding:

Hardware has advanced, thanks to GPU commercialized in 2009.

Software has advanced, thanks to GPU-based successes in cancer image identification in 2012. 

Pattern recognition has advanced, with speech recognition leading the way. The TIMIT training set has allowed exponential progress, especially in 2015, leading the way. 

Robotics have advanced, thanks to deep TAMER breakthroughs in 2018. 

Voice Recognition Explodes

CREDIT: The Deep Learning Revolution, by Terrence J. Sejnowski

CREDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_learning

====================

Sadly, I was giving up on voice recognition just as it was emerging. I gave up, after 30 years of waiting, around 1995. Bad idea.

Voice recognition stopped being just cute, and exploded onto the world scene during the late 1990’s. It has taken almost two decades to commercialize, but the technologies birthed in the late 1990’s have now yielded commercial grade results. 

Why then? Why the late 1990’s?  

In reading “The Deep Learning Revolution”, by Terrence J. Senjnowski, I learned why: an underlying technology called “deep learning” had come of age. 

“Deep Learning” was birthed in the late 1990’s, but the research leading up to the term goes back to the 1980”s.

It turns out that new approaches to Deep Learning have broad applicability. But one of those applications that has broken into mass commercialization is …. voice recognition. 

To understand the massive improvements, consider this: In 2015, Google Voice Search experienced a dramatic performance jump of 49%.

Or consider this: All major commercial speech recognition systems (e.g., Microsoft Cortana, Xbox, Skype Translator, Amazon Alexa, Google Now, Apple Siri, Baidu and iFlyTek voice search, and a range of Nuance speech products, etc.) are based on deep learning.

The recent history traces back to breakthroughs at SRI in the late 1990’s. The research arms of NSA and DARPA needed answers. To get the answers, they turned to SRI international. SRI made the biggest breakthroughs. They cracked “speaker recognition” at that time. They failed, however, to crack “speech recognition”. That came later.

Specifically, important papers were published in the late 1990’s describing how deep learning could solve the nagging issues of speaker and voice recognition. The deep learning method used was called long short-term memory (LSTM). (Hochreiter and Schmidhuber, 1997.)

Deep learning for speech recognition came later, in the early 21st century. In 2003, LSTM started to become competitive with traditional speech recognizers on certain tasks.. Later it was combined with connectionist temporal classification (CTC) in stacks of LSTM RNNs.

Google Voice Search drew upon “CTC-trained LSTM” – in other words, the LSTM technologies birthed in the late 1990’s had by 2015 yielded commercial-grade results.

Today, lay people understand the power of speech recognition by using “Siri” – or by using the voice transcription technologies on their iPhones. Everyone has noted the vast improvements in the last several years. All of these improvements are due to Deep Learning. 

Microbiome Science Advances

On January 28, the New York Times published a major article on recent advances in microbiome research.

The article says that breakthroughs began in 2014, when scientists began finding evidence that the micro biome is linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, schizophrenia, autism, and other conditions.

The article also describes the early 2000’s, when major advances came from figuring out how to sequenced DNA from microbes in the micro biome. Apparently, a gene called SHANK3 Is particularly central to autism research.

Also apparently, Researchers have isolated one particular bacteria, lactobacillus reuteri. They seem to have identified compounds that are released. These compounds send a signal to nerve endings in the intestines. The Vegas nerve send these signals from we got to the brain, where they alter production of a hormone called Oxsee Tosun. This hormone apparently promote social bonds.

The article is below:

Digital Immortality

In this week’s Sunday NYT Magazine, a discussion was recorded about the future of technology. One of my favorite writers, Sid Mukerjee, discussed chronic disease. In that discussion, he touched on a notion of immortality that I have been pondering for some time.

Here is what he said, and after is what I say in response.

MUKHERJEE: “In terms of longevity, the diseases that are most likely to kill us are neurological diseases and heart disease and cancer. In some other countries, there is tuberculosis and malaria and other infectious diseases, but here it’s the chronic diseases that dominate. There are three ways to think about these chronic diseases. One is the disease-specific way. So, you attack Alzheimer’s as Alzheimer’s; you attack cancer as cancer. The second one is that you forget about the disease-specific manners of attacking diseases and you attack longevity or aging reversal in general. You change diet, change genes, change whatever else — we might call them “trans factors,” which would simply override the “cis factors” that existed for individual diseases. And the third option is some combination of that and some digital form of immortality, which is that you record yourself forever, that you clone yourself and somehow pass along that recording. Which is to say that the body is just a repository of memories, images, times. And as a repository, there’s nothing special about it. The body per se, the mortal coil, is just a coil.

This is the first time I have heard a major thinker put immortality into this context. And yet – its so obvious to do so!

For example:

– wouldn’t it be fair to say that every autobiography ever written would be a sincere attempt by the writer to achieve some form of immortality?

– in like manner, isn’t the task of the biographer, in part, to immortalize their subject?

– more broadly, how do societies around the world remember their ancestors? Their memories are their attempts to allow ancestors to live forever!

This point is nicely illustrated by the Irish culture. In my work on the History of Ireland, the centrality of “oral tradition” was crystal clear. I came continually across how the Irish told stories to revere their ancestors. The Irish would distill their ancestors into a wide variety of stories that helped the present generation understand the past.

So, by extrapolation from this point (which is obvious), can this be asked: “Can I be immortalized digitally?

Digital storage costs have plummeted. Methods of organizing and tagging video and audio recordings are now commonplace. Search engines are commonplace. Pattern recognition combined with search is exploding.

So what will prevent me in the future from immortalizing myself digitally? What prevents me from storing who I am, what I did, what I learned, where I have been, what I have experienced, who I knew, who my ancestors were, who my children and grandchildren were, etc etc?

Perhaps the answer is: nothing. Nothing prevents me from being digitally immortal.

User Pays is Trending

“User pays” is trending.

….because convenient methods of paying are trending.

This new trend is making the economics of capitalization and payback MUCH easier. Markets will be built for investment capital where payback rates can be credibly estimated.

Discussion

New apps, GPS technology, iPhones, Internet technologies, credit card apps and sensors make it simpler for the user to pay for the services they use.

An example of app-based technologies is MobilePass – an app for conveniently paying for parking instead of “feeding the meter”. Its popularity is making it possible for paid parking to work.

A second example of app-based is Uber. Uber users summon their ride using an app, which charges in advance to a pre-assigned credit card – thereby allowing a ride to be summoned based on the destination sought and the pick-up location. GPS technology effortlessly allows the app to calculate the price of the ride and to scan for nearby free Uber cars.

An example os sensor-based technologies is EZ Pass and technologies like it. EZ Pass reads license plates at bridges and on toll roads. It replaces the “toll booth”, where vehicles needed to stop, wait in line, and then pay their toll to a toll worker.

E‑ZPass enjoys tremendous brand recognition and high levels of customer satisfaction, and is the world leader in toll interoperability, with over 35 million E‑ZPass devices in circulation. It operates in all of New England, except VT and Conn, and goes west to Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and South to North Carolina.

But EZ Pass is one of many. Here is a rundown of the apps chosen:

Simple Example of User Pays

ParkMobile (app that allows users to pay for parking)
Uber (app that allows users to pay for taxi service)
Meters (meter readers are being replaced by smart meters)
Toll roads (with EZ Pass and similar technologies)
Train, Bus, Boat and Plane Tickets
Concert Tickets and Ticketmaster
Hotel Rooms and Expedia and Hotels.Com
Rent and AirBnB
Electricity Service and smart meters

Colorado

EXPRESS TOLL®

Delaware
E-ZPASS

District of Columbia
E-ZPASS

Florida

EPASS®

LEEWAY

SUN PASS®

Illinois

I-PASS

Indiana
E-ZPASS

Maine
E-ZPASS

Maryland
E-ZPASS

Massachusetts
E-ZPASS

New Hampshire
E-ZPASS

New Jersey
E-ZPASS

New York
E-ZPASS

North Carolina
E-ZPASS

Ohio
E-ZPASS

Oklahoma

PIKEPASS™

Pennsylvania
E-ZPASS

Puerto Rico

AUTOEXPRESO

Rhode Island
E-ZPASS

San Francisco

FASTRAK

Texas

EZ TAG / TX TAG / TOLLTAG

Virginia
E-ZPASS

Washington

GOOD TO GO!

West Virginia
E-ZPASS

PlatePass makes all of this happen for rental cars

The 6 Best Payment Apps to Get in 2018
PayPal. Courtesy of PayPal. PayPal is the granddaddy of payment companies, with a history going back to 1998. …
Venmo. Courtesy of Venmo. …
Square Cash. Courtesy of Square Cash. …
Zelle. Courtesy of Zelle. …
Google Wallet. Courtesy of Google Wallet. …
Facebook Messenger. Courtesy of Facebook.
Sep 20, 2018
The 6 Best Payment Apps to Get in 2018 – The Balance
https://www.thebalance.com/best-payment-apps-4159058

A History of Ireland

A BRIEF HISTORY OF IRELAND

CREDIT: http://www.livinginireland.ie/en/culture_society/a_brief_history_of_ireland/
CREDIT: http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/history/index.htm
CREDIT: The Course of Irish History, Moody and Martin. (Note this is the companion book to the acclaimed 21-part television series of the same name).
CREDIT: The Great Shame, and the Trumph of the Irish in the English Speaking World, Thomas Keneally
CREDIT: Ireland, Land, People, and History, Richard Killeen
CREDIT: The Druids, by Stuart Piggott
CREDIT: The Ancient Celts, by Barry Cunlifffe

Preface
Ireland is an island – at once remote and at the same time close. Its remote west coast faces the Atlantic. Its close east coast faces the Irish sea, easily traversed from Dublin to Holyhead, England (110 km). It is 13 miles across at its closest point to Scotland. It is this closeness that invites adventurers, plunderers, and settlers alike.

It is a beautiful island. For those looking for beauty as an end onto itself, Ireland should be high on the list. Beware though: JH Andrews cautions that “nature has remained inhospitable”; “seared by winter gales”; “goodness washed from the soil by drenching rain”. All of this beauty comes with a cost.

Ireland’s natural beauty include beautiful highlands; steep-sided glens; low-land fields, peet bogs; abundant rivers, streams, harbors; hilltops, and long views everywhere. But note: these very natural attributes have confounded invaders for thousands of years.

Ireland is also blessed with what people have added over the years: lovely villages, great ports, winding roads, and castles. And yet, even here it should be noted that savvy people have placed their castles at the most secure points, where they secure land and river travel, and where the winding roads allow complex transversals through steep hillsides.

It is a country of poets and writers and musicians and farmers. You can’t go far without seeing or being inspired by the land that WB Yeats and James Joyce so proudly wrote about.

Ireland has a tumultuous and complex history. Every Irish man, woman and child proudly feels all the glory and all the pain of this history. It is a rich heritage. And it is by no means monolithic.

Ireland’s heritage is conquest, first by Celts, then by Irish Kings, then by Vikings, then Anglo-Normans, and finally by English Kings. From conquest comes rebellion – the Irish are rebels to the core. With rebellion comes, way too frequently, crushing defeat and retribution.

In spite of this, using today’s lens, Ireland looks resilient and proud – the Irish always come back! And they look victorious – ultimately triumphing. It is an exciting history of leaders, their shifting lands, their shifting allegiances, treacheries and betrayals, myths and oral histories, and evolving forms of church and state.

Overview
The history below starts from the beginning. This overview starts from the end, today, and goes backward, from present-day Ireland to first evidence of human activity.

Today, Ireland is split into two – the Republic of Ireland (4.8 million population) and Northern Ireland (1.8 million). The split is the legacy of the Irish War of Independence in 1919-1922. It’s end culminated in this compromise, which neither side liked and which has been contentious ever since.

The Republic of Ireland in independent, and joined the EU in 1973. Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain. It was created in 1920, and the War of Independence left it unchanged.

From 1798 to 1922, Ireland lost population and failed to recover from two brutal events: the crushing defeat of the the Irish rebellion in 1798, and the devastating Potato Famine of 1846-1848. English rulers were not kind during this period, and stoked the hatred that the Irish felt for the English.

Why such hatred? Because, from 1541 to 1798, the English attempted to impose their laws and religion. The Irish resisted, an the resistance often became open rebellion. These rebellions were often brutally crushed, and retribution was swift. The Irish hated them for it. The English brought to Ireland hated movements of all kinds. There were movements to take away Irish religion; to take away Irish land; to take away Irish rights; and to invoke cruel forms of genocide, e.g. their actions during the potato famine. Henry VIII kicked off this horrible period when he declared himself King of Ireland in 1541, with the Pope’s blessing.

From 1169 to 1541, Ireland was in the hands of Anglo-Norman lords and Irish Kings. The lords were the result of the successful conquest of much of Ireland by “Strongbow”, and English lord, in 1169. He brought with him a coalition of English and Normans.

From the eighth to twelfth century – 400 years – Ireland was ruled by Irish Kings and Vikings. Saint Patrick is widely credited with leading the move of Ireland toward Christianity. Viking influence faded as Irish Kings and Christianity began to dominate.

Before the fifth century, Ireland was an island of farmers. Amazingly, the Island missed a period of Roman Empire domination. Historians have reported discussion by Roman leaders to invade Ireland, but those ideas were never implemented. As a result, Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe without legacies from the Roman Empire.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF IRELAND

Early Irish History
Ireland’s early settlers trace to about 6,000 BC – a relatively late stage in European terms. Farming began around 4000 BC. Metal-working, thanks to copper deposits, began around 2000 BC. Evidence of European trading (tools, etc) trace to about 800 BC. Celts came to Ireland from mainland Europe around 300 BC, and stayed well over a thousand years. Celts had mastered iron-working, and no doubt had superior weapons (note the Celts sacked Rome in 390 BC). Ireland’s language. Irish (or Gaeilge), stems from Celtic language. Celtic is considered an “Indo-European” Language – like Sanskrit, Greek, German, Latin, Slavonic, and Persian.

A fitting summary comes from Binchey, who says that the Celt culture, which spread throughout northwest Europe, was “tribal, rural, hierarchical and familiar”. While Roman culture was redefining civilization, Ireland remained outside its reach – backward by today’s standards.

Many writers say that this tendency to see this era of Ireland as “backward” is a bit unfair. In fact, very early romantics, in idealizing this culture, actually saw it as virtuous. One spoke of it as a political virtue: “turning humanity back to its state of prehistoric innocence.” Surely this is a stretch, written by those who are aware of the tendency for civilization to turn harsh, and even corrupt, at many historical stages. Nonetheless, maybe it is good to remember that disparaging remarks from the civilized have a counterpoint – the longing for a virtuous state of innocence.

Its a great image, this “Golden Age”, where “good-hearted barbarians” live outside of corruption, outside of war-making, outside of technologic disruption, living on the land, and epitomizing the “noble savage” . Even today, that idealization inspires us, and allows us to dream about a distant, remote past where innocence is primary, and treachery takes a backseat. As this path is followed, the subject of Druids inevitably comes up. They were somehow considered an elite group, with special attributes (some refer to magic). One of those attributes was their wanderings, which gave them insights not available to most. They were considered “learned and holy men.”

Early Christian and Viking Ireland – 600 AD
By now, this hierarchical Irish culture had continuity with its past, it had thankfully settled into an agricultural island, composed of at least 150 small “kingdoms” (called tuatha). This insight is what leads to the articulation of hierarchy below.

Above the king could be an over-king (ri tuatha), and even a Provincial King (ri coicid).

Beneath this societal unit were extended families, called “fine”, including all relations of male descent going back five generations. Property rights of each fine were respected, and laws evolved that assigned assets and liabilities, and even crimes, according to the fine.

So here is where one’s heritage becomes of vital importance. Status in society depended on your fine. The top of this very stratified society was a king of a tuath , but an ollam, or chief poet, and a bishop were accorded equal status to a king.

Indeed, the ollam enjoyed a special place in Irish society: they could roam freely from tuath to tuath; their brethren were considered “filid” – the “men of art”. The filid were also known as Druids, and they became the class that eventually formed the basis of higher learning, and the class that were the “true bearers of the ancient Celtic tradition”.

And kingdoms mattered because of tribute. Unless you were related to the king, you no doubt were obligated to pay tribute to the king. In return, the King offered security and a very rough sense of a rule of law.

Interestingly, there were no towns or villages then. The island had less than 500,000 people.

Saint Patrick and other missionaries brought Christianity in the early to mid-5th century, replacing the indigenous pagan religion by the year 600 AD. The Rock of Cashel stands today as a testimony to this long history of missionaries for Christ, led by Saint Patrick.

At the end of the 8th century, Vikings from Scandinavia began to invade and then gradually intermingle with Irish society. The Vikings founded Dublin, Ireland’s capital city in 988. Following the defeat of the Vikings by Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, in 1014, Viking influence faded.

The Anglo-Norman Era and “Strongbow” – 1166
The English and Normans arrived in the twelfth century (1166), driving out the Vikings. They brought walled towns, castles, churches, and monasteries. They also increased agriculture and commerce in Ireland.

They were actually invited. The just-defeated King of Leinster visited England and met with King Henry there, as well as many noblemen. His mission: garner support to retake his lands. The king demurred,, so he sought the support of Anglo-Norman noblemen in re-establishing his prior dominance (he had been badly defeated in a battle by the “High King of Ireland”, who was from Connaught).

Several noblemen offered help. They were led by the Earl of Pembroke, also known as “Strongbow”. Strongbow’s army landed in 1169 and quickly re-took Leinster.

Importantly, they went further and also defeated Dublin, exiling its Viking king. In 1171, the existing King of Leinster (Mac Murchada) died, and and Strongbow became King of Leinster.

The English King Henry decided to sail to Ireland in 1171 – clearly in a move to now consolidate his power after his subjects had vanquished their opponents.

The visit went very well, and resulted in Strongbow pledging his loyalty to Henry. Every other very major Irish king did as well (other than O’Connor of Connacht and O’Neill in the north).

In the next period of years, the English Kings, with Anglo-Norman lords, consolidated their new lands by building castles, setting up market towns and engaging in large-scale colonisation. Prince John arrived in Waterford in 1185 and initiated the building of a number of castles in the South East region. An example is Dungarvan Castle (King John’s Castle).

Importantly, the Anglo-Normans did not move the native Irish from their land in any major way.

Ireland became a Kingdom in 1199 with Papal approval. All English laws were extended to Ireland in 1210. By 1261, most of Ireland was ruled by Anglo-Norman lords, under the watchful eye of the King of England. Thus, what Strongbow had initiated in 1169, had evolved well into a Kingdom under the King of England.

But stability was a to last for less than 100 years. Ireland kept spinning out of control.

English Kings Lose to Scotland’s Bruce family – 1315

In fact, by 1316, the King had essentially lost control of Ireland, except for Dublin. Cleverly, the few remaining Irish Kings forged an alliance with Scotland that upset British domination. Here is what happened: The Irish Lords in Ulster – O’Neill and O’Donnell – allied with Robert Bruce of Scotland.

Bruce’s military prowess had become so legendary that he actually was crowned King of Scotland in 1314. With Bruce’s help, they together essentially defeated the Anglo-Normans in 1315. Edward Bruce was named King of Ireland until he was assassinated by Normans in 1318.

Since then, until Henry VIII ultimately succeeded in 1541, several major attempts were made by English Kings to regain control. Several invasions by English kings during this period were deeply resented by all locals, including the lords. They were hailed as successes at the time, but were also short-lived. By 1450, English control of Ireland had been reduced to Dublin.

Meanwhile, across centuries, many Norman lords and their ancestors essentially “went native” – increasingly adopting Irish customs and culture through inter-marriage, etc.

Anglo-Norman Feudalism – Counties, Liberties and Charters
The Irish adventure of English Kings can be best understood by studying incentives – the motives by which men went to war, to win land, and to then subjugate themselves to the King.

Before the “feudal” system of government and tex collection is discussed, a simple method of keeping score is useful. The score in questions is: how can you easily measure how much control England had at any given moment in time? The answer lies in counting how many of three. jurisdictions existed at any point in time:

“Counties” were areas in Ireland that were under the complete control of the King and his feudal system.
“Liberties” were areas in Ireland that were loyal to the King, but did not participate in tributes to the king via feudal arrangements.
“Charters” were areas in Ireland that were independent of the King, completely under Irish Kings and Lords. However, importantly, these areas had treaties with the King that specified how they could co-exist.

Knowing this, the King had every incentive to create counties, which would pay taxes and pledge their allegiance to the Crown. The King’s men would conquer lands that were Charters, and make them Liberties or Counties. Then, they would slowly evolve any remaining Liberties to be Counties. This describes the first three centuries of evolving Irish Government. In 1250, vast majorities of northern Ireland were chartered lands, while counties were mostly strong on the east coast.

So how did it come to pass that Ireland was mostly counties by the 16th century?

The incentives for the warrior noblemen were enormous. The King, on seeing that Irish land had been conquered by his loyal subject, would frequently make a land grant back to that noblemen (mostly of the land that had just been conquered) – in return for feudal arrangements discussed below.

Anglo-Norman society was based on the “feudal” system of government, a standard practice though-out Europe in the day. Under this system, the king owned all land. He in turn granted it to Lords. In return, the Lords agreed to pay an annual “tribute” to the King. This could take the form of money, goods, or even armies in times of war.

The Lords, in turn, granted parcels of their lordships to peasants (ordinary people) in return for money, a soldier at time of war or some goods. Many lords set up market towns in their lordships to encourage trade and to convert goods into money. At the bottom of the hierarchy were landless peasants who were granted a plot of land on another peasant’s plot in return for manual labour on the farm.

The Irish system, by contrast, saw no overall ownership of land, but rather each individual Lord had absolute ownership of their land. The commoners worked on the Lord’s land in return for accommodation and food.
Peasants were granted land by a lord in return for annual payment of crops. The lords, in turn, were granted land by the King.

Henry VIII, New English Control and “Plantations” – 1534
King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church in England in 1534. He also ensured that the Irish Parliament declared him King of Ireland in 1541, with the support of the Pope.

There followed 250 years of brutality that culminated in a deep hatred by the Irish for the English.

From 1541 to 1798, Ireland had been in the grip of the English Crown. Those 250 years – from 1541 to 1798 – are scandalous, because the English brought to Ireland hated movements of all kinds. There were movements to change their religion (from Catholic to Anglican); to steal Irish land; to take away Irish rights; and in many ways to invoke on the Irish people a peculiar form of genocide (for example, look at the history of the decimating Irish potato famine of 1846-8). Henry VIII kicked off this horrible period when he declared himself King of Ireland in 1641, with the Pope’s blessing. The English brutally ruled from 1541 to 1798, and the Irish hated them for it.

Enforcing his will, to change England and Ireland from Catholic to Protestant (he named himself the head of the Anglican church), the King adopted a “plantation” policy. Under this policy, Protestants would get massive land grants, displacing Catholic land-holders. Thousands of English and Scottish Protestant settlers arrived during his reign. Catholics lost their land.

From this period on, a common theme became Irish rebellion followed by crushing defeat followed by retribution. The victors, England, understandably attempted to impose their will. In the process of doing so, though, it became a hated history – of depriving catholics of their land, and then their rights, and then their very lives.

Bloody 17th Century and “Penal Laws”
The 17th century was a bloody one in Ireland. England imposed the “Penal laws” on Ireland. These laws took away rights from Catholics. They took away the right, for example, to rent or own land above a certain value. They outlawed Catholic clergy,. They forbid Catholic higher education, entry into the professions. During the 18th century, Penal laws eased but by then resentment and hate dominated the country.

Irish Defeated During Rebellion – 1798
In 1782, Henry Grattan (a Protestant) successfully agitated for a more favourable trading relationship with England and for greater legislative independence for the Parliament of Ireland. Inspired by the French Revolution, in 1791 an organisation called the United Irishmen was formed with the ideal of bringing Irish people of all religions together to reform and reduce Britain’s power in Ireland. Its leader was a young Dublin Protestant called Theobald Wolfe Tone. The United Irishmen were the inspiration for the armed rebellion of 1798. Despite attempts to help from the French the rebellion failed and in 1801 the Act of Union was passed uniting Ireland politically with Britain.

Catholic Emancipation and Daniel O’Connell – 1829
In 1829 one of Ireland’s greatest leaders Daniel O’Connell, known as ‘the great liberator’ was central in getting the Act of Catholic Emancipation passed in the parliament in London. He succeeded in getting the total ban on voting by Catholics lifted. They could now also become Members of the Parliament in London.

After this success O’Connell aimed to cancel the Act of Union and re-establish an Irish parliament. However, this was a much bigger task and O’Connell’s approach of non-violence was not supported by all. Such political issues were overshadowed however by the worst disaster and tragedy in Irish history – the great famine.

The Great Famine – 1845 – 1847
When a potato blight destroyed the crops of 1845, 1846, and 1847, disaster followed. During this decade, Ireland’s population plummeted from 8 to 4 million. Two million died. Others left – seeking refuge in America. Potatoes were the staple food of a growing population at the time. The response of the British government also contributed to the disaster. While millions of people were starving, Ireland was forced to export abundant harvests of wheat and dairy products.

The famine brought death. But, with lasting consequences, it also brought resentment and more hate.

First Move to “Home Rule” defeated – 1877- Irish Home Rule Party and Charles Stewart Parnell
“Home Rule” became the cry of all who wanted self-government in Ireland. Until 1877, there was no effective challenge to Britain’s rule over Ireland. Then, at the age of 31, Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-91) became leader of the Irish Home Rule Party, which became the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1882.

Parnell failed to achieve Home Rule. For his efforts, though, he was widely recognized as ‘the uncrowned king of Ireland’. His efforts gave the idea of Home Rule legitimacy.

Irish Unionists – led by Sir Edward Carson in Northern Ireland
In Ulster in the north of Ireland the majority of people were Protestants. They favored the union with Britain – fearing that they would suffer retribution and a loss of rights as a minority in a Catholic controlled country. The Unionist Party was lead by Sir Edward Carson. Carson threatened an armed struggle for a separate Northern Ireland if independence was granted to Ireland.

Second Move to Home Rule Successful – 1912 – but not enacted because of WWI
A Home Rule Bill was passed in 1912 but crucially it was not brought into law. The Home Rule Act was suspended at the outbreak of World War One in 1914. Many Irish nationalists believed that Home Rule would be granted after the war if they supported the British war effort. John Redmond the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party encouraged people to join the British forces and many did join.

However, a minority of nationalists did not trust the British government leading to one of the most pivotal events in Irish history, the Easter Rising.

Declaration of Independence I – Easter Rising – Irish rebels defeated – 1916
On April 24 (Easter Monday) 1916, two groups of armed rebels, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army seized key locations in Dublin. The Irish Volunteers were led by Padraig Pearse and the Irish Citizen Army was led by James Connolly. Outside the GPO (General Post Office) in Dublin city centre, Padraig Pearse read the “Proclamation of the Republic” (the Irish Declaration of Independence). The. Proclamation declared an Irish Republic independent of Britain. Understandably, Britain was appalled.

Battles ensued with casualties on both sides and among the civilian population. The Easter Rising finished on April 30th with the surrender of the rebels – a bitter defeat for the insurgents.

But public opinion was turning. The majority of the public was actually opposed to the Rising. However, public opinion turned when the British administration responded by executing many of the leaders and participants in the Rising.

All seven signatories to the proclamation were executed including Pearse and Connolly. These executions became a war cry in the war that followed.

Declaration of Independence II – 1919
Two of the key figures who were involved in the rising who avoided execution were Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins. In the December 1918 elections the Sinn Féin party led by Éamon de Valera won a majority of the Ireland based seats of the House of Commons. On the 21 January 1919 the Sinn Féin members of the House of Commons gathered in Dublin to form an Irish Republic parliament called Dáil Éireann, unilaterally declaring power over the entire island.

War of Independence – 1919-1921
What followed is known as the ‘war of independence’ when the Irish Republican Army – the army of the newly declared Irish Republic – waged a guerrilla war against British forces from 1919 to 1921. One of the key leaders of this war was Michael Collins.

Michael Collins led this initiative that ended with the label “Bloody Sunday”. It was one day of violence in Dublin on November 21, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. In total, 32 people were killed, including thirteen British soldiers and police, sixteen Irish civilians, and three Irish republican prisoners.

The day began when Michael Collins led the IRA to assassinate the ‘Cairo Gang’ – British undercover intelligence agents. IRA members went to a number of addresses and shot dead fourteen people.

Later that afternoon, members of the Auxiliary Division and RIC opened fire on the crowd at a Gaelic football match in Croke Park, killing eleven civilians and wounding at least sixty.That evening, three IRA suspects being held in Dublin Castle were beaten and killed by their captors, who claimed they were trying to escape.

Overall, while its events cost relatively few lives, Bloody Sunday was considered a victory for the IRA, as Collins’s operation severely damaged British intelligence, The net effect was to increase support for the IRA at home and abroad.

Third attempt at Home Rule adopted – 1920 Government of Ireland Act – Creates Southern and Northern Ireland under Home Rule
This Act of Parliament was intended to keep Ireland part of the United Kingdom – through Home Rule institutions. The Act establishes two new subdivisions of Ireland: the six north-eastern counties were to form “Northern Ireland”, while the larger part of the country was to form “Southern Ireland”.

Home Rule never took effect in Southern Ireland, due to the Irish War of Independence, which resulted instead in the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment in 1922 of the Irish Free State. However, the institutions set up under this Act for Northern Ireland continued to function until they were suspended by the British parliament in 1972 as a consequence of the Troubles.The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 created the Irish Free State. At the same time, the Parliament of Northern Ireland was created. The Parliament consisted of a majority of Protestants and while there was relative stability for decades.

Anglo-Irish Treaty Ends War of Independence – Divides Ireland – Dec 1921
In December 1921 a treaty was signed by the Irish and British authorities. One of the key provisions of the treaty was a compromise. Ireland was to be divided into Northern Ireland (6 counties) and the Irish Free State (26 counties) which was established in 1922.

As in the Home Rule Act of 1920, most signatories of the treaty were hopeful that the division of the country into Ireland and Northern Ireland would be temporary. However, the division has stayed in place for almost a century.

While a clear level of independence was finally granted to Ireland the contents of the treaty were to split Irish public and political opinion.

Instead of bringing peace, the signing of the Treaty plunged the country into a three year Civil War.

Civil War – 1922-1923
A Civil War followed from 1922 to 1923 between pro and anti treaty forces, with Collins (pro-treaty) and de Valera (anti-treaty) on opposing sides. The consequences of the Civil war can be seen to this day where the two largest political parties in Ireland have their roots in the opposing sides of the civil war – Fine Gael (pro-treaty) and Fianna Fáil (anti-treaty).

It was in 1923, after such war-torn strife, that William Butler Yeats was given the Nobel Prize for Literature. Fittingly, the Award was made with this quote: “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”

Republic of Ireland – 1937 – Join EU
The 1937 Constitution re-established the state as the Republic of Ireland.
In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union).

Northern Ireland Catholics Rebel – 1968
Stability in Northern Ireland ended in the late 1960s due to systematic discrimination against Catholics. 1968 saw the beginning of Catholic civil rights marches in Northern Ireland. These protests led to violent reactions from some Protestant loyalists and from the police force. What followed was a period known as ‘the Troubles’ when nationalist/republican and loyalist/unionist groups clashed.

In 1969 British troops were sent to maintain order and to protect the Catholic minority. However, the army soon came to be seen as a tool of the Protestant majority by the minority Catholic community.

Bloody Sunday – 1972 and “The Troubles”

This was reinforced by events such as Bloody Sunday in 1972 when British forces opened fire on a Catholic civil rights march in Derry killing 13 people. An escalation of paramilitary violence followed with many atrocities committed by both sides.

Between 1969 and 1998 it is estimated that well over 3,000 people were killed by paramilitary groups on opposing sides of the conflict.

Peace with Belfast Agreement – 1998
The period of ‘the Troubles’ are generally agreed to have finished with the Belfast (or Good Friday) Agreement of April 10th 1998.

Since 1998 considerable stability and peace has come to Northern Ireland. In 2007 former bitterly opposing parties the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin began to co-operate in government together in Northern Ireland.

20th Century to present day
In the 1980s the Irish economy was in recession and large numbers of people emigrated for employment reasons. Many young people emigrated to the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia.
Economic reforms in the 1980s along with membership of the European Community (now European Union) created one of the world’s highest economic growth rates. Ireland in the 1990s, so long considered a country of emigration, became a country of immigration. This period in Irish history was called the Celtic Tiger.

It occurs to me…

My Model of How Civilization works needs revision

It occurs to me, after reading so much Irish History, that perhaps my model of how “civilization” works is somewhat wrong.

My model addresses the “how” of civilization. How does order come out of chaos? How do we rise out of the muck, and become more human and less savage beast? How do we develop rules that guide our behavior, particularly toward each other?

My model is about government, and governing – and the rule of law which protects the average citizen from arbitrariness, and instead substitutes “justice”.

Perhaps the church played, and plays, a greater role than I had originally thought.

Perhaps the church was co-equal, or even superior, to bringing order out of chaos.

Perhaps the church was the core source of hope: that tomorrow would be better than today, that protections and justice come to those with faith, and that the world is much bigger than me, and even includes the heavens and a place called hell.

So …. Aren’t there really two rules of law – the law of the church and the law of the government?

And, if we read history with openness, perhaps a truthful statement is:

For any given person, at any given time in history, the experience of “civilization” is either more true or less true.

If that person’s experience is more true:

The person is probably also experiencing a “culture” – sometimes without even being aware of this notion. That culture is gifted with cultural norms that form the basis of civilization – rules or laws that guide all members’ behavior.

The person likely has two institutions to thank for this “culture: their government and their church.

Which is primary, and by how much, is an important marker for a given time, in a given geography.

History gets very interesting as we ponder which communities were more aligned with the church as their primary institutional reference, and which communities were more aligned with their government.

Is Ireland a Microcosm of the World?

The intrigue, the conquest, the rebellion, the retribution: is Ireland, this small island of six million people, a microcosm of the world? Does it provide universal insights?

Possibly. Here are two:

Incentives to control land and expand reach are powerful.

The story of Ireland is a story of powerful men exploiting opportunities. Any Irish King, or Norman Lord, or English Kings encouraged loyalists to to form alliances which bound them to fight for land. Once victorious, the loyalist would bring that victory back to the King, add – more often than not – the King would grant that land back to the loyalist (Lord) who had conquered the land. This, of course, was only done with a pledge of continuing loyalty from the loyalist, and a pledge to give back to the king payments in the form of taxes, armies, or whatever the king required.

Conquest breeds resentment, and even hatred.

The story of Ireland is a story of conquest, followed by new rules and retribution for the conquered. We know change is hard, and culture change is the hardest of all. In all cases, imposed changes fostered resentment, and retribution, often harsh, bred hatred. When it.surfaced, it became rebellion.

Crash and War Anger

Crash and War Anger

All of us love validation – especially when it comes from an admired source.

That’s the way I feel after reading the NYT Review by Fareed Zakaria – possibly my most admired journalist

The review is of a book called Crash, by an eminent scholar writing about the consequences of the crash of 2008. The review is below.

It validates my deep belief that the seeds of Trump’s victory go back to the “crash” of 2008. It was a moment of major negative “reset” for far too many Americans. Their savings, or their employability, or their home values, or their prospects for credit changed so negatively that it created an emergent body politic. The new body politic was characterized by a primary sentiment: seething anger. More importantly, it was characterized by a call to action: “throw the bums out!”.

The deep irony here is that democracy handed the angry a “throw the bums out” choice that many didn’t want – Barack Obama.

But their anger at inside-the-beltway Republicans, and George W. Bush, was so strong that – inside the ballot box – they pulled the lever for Obama.

When Donald Trump had the courage to viciously criticize the Republican establishment, and especially Bush, he was speaking directly to this new body politic. If their sentiment was resentment, they found their gladiator in Trump.

My only beef with the book and the review is that they do not go back far enough.

I believe the seeds of Trump’s victory go back to 9/11. It was that fateful day that itself created a new body politic, whose primary sentiment was “We are under attack and we must fight back.”

George W. Bush was responding to that scary, new sentiment when he announced not just one, but two new wars. History will record that the Iraq War – which cost trillions – was a major mistake. History will be somewhat more kind about the war in Afghanistan, which led the nation into a massively expensive 15+ year engagement of limited success and many, many unintended consequences.

So my point is that 9/11 reigned holy hell on the nation – because of the new body politic of “we are under attack and we must fight back.” – by pushing a very weak leader George W. Bush – to start two wars that almost immediately looked incompetent and wrong.

The 2008 crash was the final straw. Two stupid wars and a major economic reset were enough to push most Americans over the edge to a seething anger and a “throw the bums out” call to action.

It took the decade after to weave a tapestry of cause and effect, supported by right wing media. Never mind that most of the tapestry was a fabrication. Never mind that he was a serial liar. It was soothing to have a gladiator (Trump) that spoke the truth about the subjects that really mattered: “those folks in Washington don’t know what they are doing and they need to go”; “you are being screwed by the economic resets” and “the war in Iraq was a major mistake”.“

There is very little question in my mind that Donald Trump will go down in history as our worst president. He will be remembered by his failures, his indecency and his lack of integrity. He will be remembered for his failures abroad, where he embarrasses us and plays the fool, and his failures at home, where he depletes the treasury and breaks the back of the Affordable Care Act. Everywhere he goes, he does what is bad, and undoes decades of progress In defining what is good,, e.g. environmental regulation. His indecency and his lack of integrity will leave lasting scars on the office, but hopefully schools and parents will now have an example of what not to be, how not to act.

How did the nation get to this horrible outcome? We will only have perspective on this decades from now, but the “second draft of history”, to me, traces it all back to 9/11 and it’s two awful wars. The cruel irony was that after eight Bush years of misguided foreign adventurism, the American economy collapsed. It was the straw that broke the camels back, causing all of us to say “we are mad as hell and we need to throw the bums out!”

So the math, looking back thirty years form now, might well be:

Afghan war + Iraq war + economic crash = Obama
(Obama was the backlash. We threw the bums out for him, and thank God he was as level headed and as competent and decent as he was)

Economic reset for most Americans + unresolved racist and nationalistic impulses + Comey + Russia = Trump
(Trump was the backlash to Obama, supported by all events above)
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CRASH

CREDIT: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/books/review/adam-tooze-crashed.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fbook-review&action=click&contentCollection=review&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront
NONFICTION
Looking Back at the Economic Crash of 2008

By Fareed Zakaria

Aug. 10, 2018

How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World

By Adam Tooze
706 pp. Viking. $35.

Steve Bannon can date the start of the Trump “revolution.” When I interviewed him for CNN in May, in Rome, he explained that the origins of Trump’s victory could be found 10 years ago, in the financial crisis of 2008. “The implosion of those world capital markets has never really been sorted out,” he told me. “The fuse that was lit then that eventually brought the Trump revolution is the same thing that’s happened here in Italy.” (Italy had just held elections in which populist forces had won 50 percent of the vote.) Adam Tooze would likely agree. An economic historian at Columbia University, he has written a detailed account of the financial shocks and their aftereffects, which, his subtitle asserts, “changed the world.”

If journalism is the first rough draft of history, Tooze’s book is the second draft. A distinguished scholar with a deep grasp of financial markets, Tooze knows that it is a challenge to gain perspective on events when they have not yet played out. He points out that a 10-year-old history of the crash of 1929 would have been written in 1939, when most of its consequences were ongoing and unresolved. But still he has persisted and produced an intelligent explanation of the mechanisms that produced the crisis and the response to it. We continue to live with the consequences of both today.

As is often the case with financial crashes, markets and experts alike turned out to have been focused on the wrong things, blind to the true problem that was metastasizing. By 2007, many were warning about a dangerous fragility in the system. But they worried about America’s gargantuan government deficits and debt — which had exploded as a result of the Bush administration’s tax cuts and increased spending after 9/11. It was an understandable focus. The previous decade had been littered with collapses when a country borrowed too much and its creditors finally lost faith in it — from Mexico in 1994 to Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea in 1997 to Russia in 1998. In particular, many fretted about the identity of America’s chief foreign creditor — the government of China. Yet it was not a Chinese sell-off of American debt that triggered the crash, but rather, as Tooze writes, a problem “fully native to Western capitalism — a meltdown on Wall Street driven by toxic securitized subprime mortgages.”

Tooze calls it a problem in “Western capitalism” intentionally. It was not just an American problem. When it began, many saw it as such and dumped the blame on Washington. In September 2008, as Wall Street burned, the German finance minister Peer Steinbruck explained that the collapse was centered in the United States because of America’s “simplistic” and “dangerous” laissez-faire approach. Italy’s finance minister assured the world that its banking system was stable because “it did not speak English.”

In fact this was nonsense. One of the great strengths of Tooze’s book is to demonstrate the deeply intertwined nature of the European and American financial systems. In 2006, European banks generated a third of America’s riskiest privately issued mortgage-backed securities. By 2007, two-thirds of commercial paper issued was sponsored by a European financial entity. The enormous expansion of the global financial system had largely been a trans-Atlantic project, with European banks jumping in as eagerly and greedily to find new sources of profit as American banks. European regulators were as blind to the mounting problems as their American counterparts, which led to problems on a similar scale. “Between 2001 and 2006,” Tooze writes, “Greece, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, the U.K., France, Ireland and Spain all experienced real estate booms more severe than those that energized the United States.”

But while the crisis may have been caused in both America and Europe, it was solved largely by Washington. Partly, this reflected the post-Cold War financial system, in which the dollar had become the hyperdominant global currency and, as a result, the Federal Reserve had truly become the world’s central bank. But Tooze also convincingly shows that the European Central Bank mismanaged things from the start. The Fed acted aggressively and also in highly ingenious ways, becoming a guarantor of last resort to the battered balance sheets of American but also European banks. About half the liquidity support the Fed provided during the crisis went to European banks, Tooze observes.

Before the rescue and even in its early stages, the global economy was falling into a bottomless abyss. In the first months after the panic on Wall Street, world trade and industrial production fell at least as fast as they did during the first months of the Great Depression. Global capital flows declined by a staggering 90 percent. The Federal Reserve, with some assistance from other central banks, arrested this decline. The Obama fiscal stimulus also helped to break the fall. Tooze points out that almost all serious analyses of the stimulus conclude that it played a significant positive role. In fact, most experts believe it ended much too soon. He also points out that large parts of the so-called Obama stimulus were the result of automatic government spending, like unemployment insurance, that would have happened no matter who was president. And finally, he notes that China, with its own gigantic stimulus, created an oasis of growth in an otherwise stagnant global economy.

The rescue worked better than almost anyone imagined. It is worth recalling that none of the dangers confidently prophesied by legions of critics took place. There was no run on the dollar or American treasuries, no hyperinflation, no double-dip recession, no China crash. American banks stabilized and in fact prospered, households began saving again, growth returned slowly but surely. The governing elite did not anticipate the crisis — as few elites have over hundreds of years of capitalism. But once it happened, many of them — particularly in America — acted quickly and intelligently, and as a result another Great Depression was averted. The system worked, as Daniel Drezner notes in his own book of that title.

But therein lies the unique feature of the crash of 2008. Unlike that of 1929, it was not followed by a Great Depression. It was not so much the crisis as the rescue and its economic, political and social consequences that mattered most. On the left, the entire episode discredited the market-friendly policies of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schroeder, disheartening the center-left and emboldening those who want more government intervention in the economy in all kinds of ways. On the right, it became a rallying cry against bailouts and the Fed, buoying an imaginary free-market alternative to government intervention. Unlike in the 1930s, when the libertarian strategy was tried and only deepened the Depression, in the last 10 years it has been possible for the right to argue against the bailouts, secure in the knowledge that their proposed policies will never actually be implemented.

Bannon is right. The crash brought together many forces that were around anyway — stagnant wages, widening inequality, anger about immigration and, above all, a deep distrust of elites and government — and supercharged them. The result has been a wave of nationalism, protectionism and populism in the West today. A confirmation of this can be found in the one major Western country that did not have a financial crisis and has little populism in its wake — Canada.

The facts remain: No government handled the crisis better than that of the United States, which acted in a surprisingly bipartisan fashion in late 2008 and almost seamlessly coordinated policy between the outgoing Bush and incoming Obama administrations. And yet, the backlash to the bailouts has produced the most consequential result in the United States.
Tooze notes in his concluding chapter that experts are considering the new vulnerabilities of a global economy with many new participants, especially the behemoth in Beijing. But instead of a challenge from an emerging China that began its rise outside the economic and political system, we are confronting a quite different problem — an erratic, unpredictable United States led by a president who seems inclined to redo or even scrap the basic architecture of the system that America has painstakingly built since 1945. How will the world handle this unexpected development? What will be its outcome? This is the current crisis that we will live through and that historians will soon analyze.

Fareed Zakaria is a CNN anchor, a Washington Post columnist and the author of “The Post American World.”