Sunday, March 18, 2018

My Log 613 March 18 2018: Chronicles from (almost) the Tenth Decade:50; Some stories about the origin of my family, nineteenth-century immigrants to New Zealand from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.

A year or so ago my son Thom, who is a writer, suggested I should be filling my days by writing an epic  novel based on my family. Though I am not a novelist --- the proof of which is the six novel manuscripts that I have completed but that remain hidden away in drawers and files, unwanted by any publisher --- I did begin to research my family, a subject which quickly took on an almost compulsive interest for me. I even began the novel, although, as usual, it did not advance very far.
This represented a rather abrupt change of direction for me, because, as Thom had asked me repeatedly, if I had such a cheerful, games-playing childhood as I have always claimed to have had, why did I decide to cut myself off almost completely from my family when I left New Zealand at the age of 22? I had never produced an adequate answer to his question. And the best answer I have come to since is that I grew up in a family whose father and the most powerful of my four brothers were  concentrated on a business in which I had no interest. I didn’t like their rough business methods, disagreed with their assumption that their business was the beginning and ending of life, and I decided to get as far away from them as I could.
That has had the unfortunate consequence of robbing my own family of four children of any close relatives, except very spasmodically, and especially to have never known grandparents, which are almost universally acknowledged to have a strong influence on their grandchildren.  
The earliest of my ancestors I have been able to trace were born in the Scottish highlands around the end of the eighteenth century.  On the male side, my ancestors were from Northern Ireland, and appear to have been part of the considerable Protestant \\\emigration from Scotland to Ulster, that subsequently fanned out to colonize many parts of the Commonwealth. My grandfather, Samual Richardson, was the fourth of seven children of a Robert Richardson of whom I could find only that he gave rise to a family of exceptionally courageous adventurers.  Of the seven,  born between 1847 and 1872, four died in the United States, Canada or New Zealand, and one other had been to New York and California and had returned home, where she died.  Samual was 22 when he arrived in New Zealand in 1878, having braved the terrible experience of the three-month journey from Britain, which was invariably accompanied by heavy seas, frequent storms, and, especially for immigrants overcrowded into tiny ships,  the most uncomfortable conditions of on-board life imaginable.  He went immediately south to the small village of Wyndham, where a friend had already settled, and took a job ploughing for a local farmer. 
I think I might have established a sort of connection with my grandfather from the fact that we both left home at the age of 22, never to return. Indeed, it is said of my grandfather that he never wrote home.  I had a letter many years ago from a man living in Canada who told me he was convinced that my grandfather and his were brothers, as turned out to be the case. This man confirmed that neither brother kept in touch with their parents, but he went so far as to visit my family in New Zealand to make the connection real.
Without too much delay young Samual was able to become a driver for the stables that ran coaching services to meet the trains in nearby Edendale, and to the small coastal village of Fortrose, where he had dealings with a  butcher and farmer, John Anderson, whose wife, Agnes, was a Scottish girl from a family, six of whose seven children, as well as their mother, ended up in New Zealand, having joined the huge Scottish emigration that populated the southern part of the South Island.  Samual met Sarah, Agnes’s sister, and married her when he was 26 and she was 20. Eventually Samual took over the coaching stable, and had established a successful business, and a sterling reputation for his business dealings throughout the district, when he died unexpectedly in 1897, at the age of 42, leaving Sarah with a family of five children.
My Dad was 10 when his father died. But Sarah took over his thriving business, added to it a funeral parlour, and did not die until 1935, at the age of 73. I was seven by that time, and must have met my grandmother, but have no memory of her.
I do remember clearly, however, her sister, Agnes, Aunt Aggie, as she was known to everyone, whose husband John Anderson, twenty years older than she, had left her with a profitable butcher’s shop and  farm, and a family of  two boys and two girls to bring up. This woman, Aunt Aggie, is still alive in my memory ---- 68 years after I last saw her ---  as one of the most beautiful people I have ever met: unfortunately her eldest son had taken to drink, had a fondness for the horses,  and had managed to largely dissipate the family fortunes. But to visit her was always a joyous occasion, from which we returned to the city not only full of the authentic Scottish  scones she baked, but with plenty of farm produce that she always laid on us --- eggs, butter, cream and occasionally meat ---  although I always had the impression she could scarcely have afforded this generosity.  As long as I knew her she wore long, black frocks down to her ankles, and retained a lovely Scottish accent and beautiful, soft,  speaking voice. To me, she seemed the epitome of gentleness; and I always thought it a cruel irony that her life had been so misshapen by the misfortunes of her later years. She had a lifetime employee, an old man called Bill Thomas, like her, a gentle old person who stayed on living rent-free in her house long after he was capable of doing any work. Later, I was happy to learn that our frequent visits to Aunt Aggie were occasions on which my Dad was able to help her out financially, to the limit of his capacity.
The Southland plain on which I was brought up was originally shunned for settlement, because it appeared to the newcomers that most of it was swampy land difficult to penetrate. Today, it is regarded as some of the most fertile land in the country, home to highly productive farms.
Wyndham is still a distribution centre for the local farmers, never a village of more than 400 to 500 people, which is set between three small rivers that have been known to flood occasionally. My father, a carpenter by trade,  made farm gates and cow byres for the local farmers, until, under the influence of my second eldest brother, Harold, one of those people who could succeed at whatever he applied his mind to, he raised his sights and began to tender for bigger jobs. He built the dairy factory in Wyndham in the early 1930s leaving me with the memory, as a five-year-old, of falling off the back of his truck into a coal-black puddle on the building site,  and breaking my arm. My mother was at first reluctant to take it seriously, but I kept on howling my head off, and they then took me the 26 miles to the neighbouring city, Invercargill, to be admitted to hospital (a large extension to which was actually built by my dad and brothers a few years later). I was scared to death when left alone there overnight, I remember, but all was forgiven when my parents arrived the next day to pick me up and take me home.
I have vivid memories of Wyndham, because I returned there during my school holidays for several years, staying with my aunt whose husband kept one of those General Stores that stocked everything under the sun, and was a veritable marvel for any small boy who entered it. My uncle, the owner, was another of these gentle village people, known to have helped many of his customers with easy credit, probably much of it never repaid, during the years of the Depression. I spent a good part of each holiday in the back storeroom, perfecting the art of throwing up peanuts and catching them in my mouth, by which expedient I must have gotten rid of a good part of any profit they ever made on the peanut.
My father was a simple village carpenter who, rather mysteriously, in his early twenties went to the North Island, and stayed for a year or two in Cambridge, a more settled small town in the Waikato district, 83 miles south of Auckland, the major city. He played the cornet in the village band, and through this, presumably, came in contact with the Boyce family, whose father, quite a drinker if the stories about him are true, ran the village pharmacy. He had 11 children, five girls and six boys, and according to the tales handed down through the family, this was a family of English origin that rather prided itself on its cultural awareness. I believe it must have been through the band that my father met my mother.
I also doubt that this family --- which, as I discovered from my brief acquaintance with them, was full of snobs --- would have been overjoyed that one of their daughters was marrying a village carpenter from, gasp! --- wait for it --- the South Island! It was always a bit of a mystery to me why my Dad brought my mother south to live this village life, when she had been brought up to believe herself above such a backwater.  I know that her sisters-in-law, married to two of Dad’s brothers (and a right pair of harridans they were!) made life difficult for her, although I am prepared to admit that she may have been partly the cause of it, from having some superior airs.  It was only after a diligent search of the facts that I discovered the reason for my Dad’s strange decision: he married my mother on April 7, 1912, when she was 20, and the birth of my eldest brother Doug was in July 24 of the same year --- a mere three months later.
I have taken some satisfaction in learning this, because I had long ago decided that my mother’s excessive puritanism, rigidly imposed on us, had resulted in my entering manhood in a fairly screwed-up frame of mind about women, which dominated my life --- deleteriously, I must say --- for many years. And this gap between the fact that she had been a naughty girl, and the rigid puritanism she tried to impose on us --- drinking forbidden in the home, strict and stern watch over anything that might be construed as sexual experience --- supports what I have always believed, that such censorious people, usually motivated by religion,  are, at bottom, total hypocrites.
That may sound like a harsh judgment: but in fact, when I think of the life my mother was condemned to, in a house of rambunctious men none of whom --- including me --- showed her much affection, or gave her any help in her onerous duties, my final judgment is that she had was more to be pitied than criticized.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My Log 612 March 15 2018 Chronicles from (almost) the Tenth Decade:49; I hand over to a guest writer: veteran US dissident William Blum who suggest that interference in foreign elections may be an American invention

I’m handing over this Chronicle to the veteran American dissident William Blum, who puts out what he calls his Anti-Empire Report every two months or so at This one is his 156th, and it deals with the American obsession that Russians interfered in the last American election. He comes to the conclusion that the many contradictions in the official American version “lends credence to the suggestion that what actually lay behind the events was a ‘click-bait’ scheme wherein certain individuals earned money based on the number of times a particular website is accessed. The mastermind behind this scheme is reported to be a Russian named Yevgeny Prigozhin of the above-named Internet Research Agency, which is named in the indictment.”
Blum’s conclusion to the recent flurry of accusations against Russia is summarized in his title,

Blum then goes on to give an astonishing list of  more than 40 elections in 27 different countries in which the United States has interfered in the 56 years between 1948 and 2004,  a list that I think is worth reproducing below:
*               *                *
Here’s some Real interference in election campaigns
[Slightly abridged version of chapter 18 in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; see it for notes]
Philippines, 1950s:
Flagrant manipulation by the CIA of the nation’s political life, featuring stage-managed elections with extensive disinformation campaigns, heavy financing of candidates, writing their speeches, drugging the drinks of one of the opponents of the CIA-supported candidate so he would appear incoherent; plotting the assassination of another candidate. The oblivious New York Times declared that “It is not without reason that the Philippines has been called “democracy’s showcase in Asia”.
Italy, 1948-1970s:
Multifarious campaigns to repeatedly sabotage the electoral chances of the Communist Party and ensure the election of the Christian Democrats, long-favored by Washington.
Lebanon, 1950s:
The CIA provided funds to support the campaigns of President Camille Chamoun and selected parliamentary candidates; other funds were targeted against candidates who had shown less than total enchantment with US interference in Lebanese politics.
Indonesia, 1955:
A million dollars were dispensed by the CIA to a centrist coalition’s electoral campaign in a bid to cut into the support for President Sukarno’s party and the Indonesian Communist Party.
Vietnam, 1955:
The US was instrumental in South Vietnam canceling the elections scheduled to unify North and South because of the certainty that the North Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would easily win.
British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64:
For 11 years, two of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to prevent Cheddi Jagan – three times the democratically elected leader – from occupying his office. Using a wide variety of tactics – from general strikes and disinformation to terrorism and British legalisms – the US and Britain forced Jagan out of office twice during this period.
Japan, 1958-1970s:
The CIA emptied the US treasury of millions to finance the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections, “on a seat-by-seat basis”, while doing what it could to weaken and undermine its opposition, the Japanese Socialist Party. The 1961-63 edition of the State Department’s annual Foreign Relations of the United States, published in 1996, includes an unprecedented disclaimer that, because of material left out, a committee of distinguished historians thinks “this published compilation does not constitute a ‘thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions’” as required by law. The deleted material involved US actions from 1958-1960 in Japan, according to the State Department’s historian.
Nepal, 1959:
By the CIA’s own admission, it carried out an unspecified “covert action” on behalf of B.P. Koirala to help his Nepali Congress Party win the national parliamentary election. It was Nepal’s first national election ever, and the CIA was there to initiate them into the wonderful workings of democracy.
Laos, 1960:
CIA agents stuffed ballot boxes to help a hand-picked strongman, Phoumi Nosavan, set up a pro-American government.
Brazil, 1962:
The CIA and the Agency for International Development expended millions of dollars in federal and state elections in support of candidates opposed to leftist President João Goulart, who won anyway.
Dominican Republic, 1962:
In October 1962, two months before election day, US Ambassador John Bartlow Martin got together with the candidates of the two major parties and handed them a written notice, in Spanish and English, which he had prepared. It read in part: “The loser in the forthcoming election will, as soon as the election result is known, publicly congratulate the winner, publicly recognize him as the President of all the Dominican people, and publicly call upon his own supporters to so recognize him. … Before taking office, the winner will offer Cabinet seats to members of the loser’s party. (They may decline).”
As matters turned out, the winner, Juan Bosch, was ousted in a military coup seven months later, a slap in the face of democracy which neither Martin nor any other American official did anything about.
Guatemala, 1963:
The US overthrew the regime of General Miguel Ydigoras because he was planning to step down in 1964, leaving the door open to an election; an election that Washington feared would be won by the former president, liberal reformer and critic of US foreign policy, Juan José Arévalo. Ydigoras’s replacement made no mention of elections.
Bolivia, 1966:
The CIA bestowed $600,000 upon President René Barrientos and lesser sums to several right-wing parties in a successful effort to influence the outcome of national elections. Gulf Oil contributed two hundred thousand more to Barrientos.
Chile, 1964-70:
Major US interventions into national elections in 1964 and 1970, and congressional elections in the intervening years. Socialist Salvador Allende fell victim in 1964, but won in 1970 despite a multimillion-dollar CIA operation against him. The Agency then orchestrated his downfall in a 1973 military coup.
Portugal, 1974-5:
In the years following the coup in 1974 by military officers who talked like socialists, the CIA revved up its propaganda machine while funneling many millions of dollars to support “moderate” candidates, in particular Mario Soares and his (so-called) Socialist Party. At the same time, the Agency enlisted social-democratic parties of Western Europe to provide further funds and support to Soares. It worked. The Socialist Party became the dominant power.
Australia, 1974-75:
Despite providing considerable support for the opposition, the United States failed to defeat the Labor Party, which was strongly against the US war in Vietnam and CIA meddling in Australia. The CIA then used “legal” methods to unseat the man who won the election, Edward Gough Whitlam.
Jamaica, 1976:
A CIA campaign to defeat social democrat Michael Manley’s bid for reelection, featuring disinformation, arms shipments, labor unrest, economic destabilization, financial support for the opposition, and attempts upon Manley’s life. Despite it all, he was victorious.
Panama, 1984, 1989:
In 1984, the CIA helped finance a highly questionable presidential electoral victory for one of Manuel Noriega’s men. The opposition cried “fraud”, but the new president was welcomed at the White House. By 1989, Noriega was no longer a Washington favorite, so the CIA provided more than $10 million dollars to his electoral opponents.
Nicaragua, 1984, 1990:
In 1984, the United States, trying to discredit the legitimacy of the Sandinista government’s scheduled election, covertly persuaded the leading opposition coalition to not take part. A few days before election day, some other rightist parties on the ballot revealed that US diplomats had been pressing them to drop out of the race as well. The CIA also tried to split the Sandinista leadership by placing phoney full-page ads in neighboring countries. But the Sandinistas won handily in a very fair election monitored by hundreds of international observers.
Six years later, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington’s specially created stand-in for the CIA, poured in millions of dollars to defeat Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the February elections. NED helped organize the Nicaraguan opposition, UNO, building up the parties and organizations that formed and supported this coalition.
Perhaps most telling of all, the Nicaraguan people were made painfully aware that a victory by the Sandinistas would mean a continuation of the relentlessly devastating war being waged against them by Washington through their proxy army, the Contras.
Haiti, 1987-1988:
After the Duvalier dictatorship came to an end in 1986, the country prepared for its first free elections ever. However, Haiti’s main trade union leader declared that Washington was working to undermine the left. US aid organizations, he said, were encouraging people in the countryside to identify and reject the entire left as “communist”. Meanwhile, the CIA was involved in a range of support for selected candidates until the US Senate Intelligence Committee ordered the Agency to cease its covert electoral action.
Bulgaria, 1990-1991 and Albania, 1991-1992:
With no regard for the fragility of these nascent democracies, the US interfered broadly in their elections and orchestrated the ousting of their elected socialist governments.
Russia, 1996:
For four months (March-June), a group of veteran American political consultants worked secretly in Moscow in support of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign. Boris Yeltsin was being counted on to run with the globalized-free market ball and it was imperative that he cross the goal line. The Americans emphasized sophisticated methods of message development, polling, focus groups, crowd staging, direct-mailing, etc., and advised against public debates with the Communists. Most of all they encouraged the Yeltsin campaign to “go negative” against the Communists, painting frightening pictures of what the Communists would do if they took power, including much civic upheaval and violence, and, of course, a return to the worst of Stalinism. Before the Americans came on board, Yeltsin was favored by only six percent of the electorate. In the first round of voting, he edged the Communists 35 percent to 32, and was victorious in the second round 54 to 40 percent.
Mongolia, 1996:
The National Endowment for Democracy worked for several years with the opposition to the governing Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRR, the former Communists) who had won the 1992 election to achieve a very surprising electoral victory. In the six-year period leading up to the 1996 elections, NED spent close to a million dollars in a country with a population of some 2.5 million, the most significant result of which was to unite the opposition into a new coalition, the National Democratic Union. Borrowing from Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the NED drafted a “Contract With the Mongolian Voter”, which called for private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment. The MPRR had already instituted Western-style economic reforms, which had led to widespread poverty and wiped out much of the communist social safety net. But the new government promised to accelerate the reforms, including the privatization of housing. By 1998 it was reported that the US National Security Agency had set up electronic listening posts in Outer Mongolia to intercept Chinese army communications, and the Mongolian intelligence service was using nomads to gather intelligence in China itself.
Bosnia, 1998:
Effectively an American protectorate, with Carlos Westendorp – the Spanish diplomat appointed to enforce Washington’s offspring: the 1995 Dayton peace accords – as the colonial Governor-General. Before the September elections for a host of offices, Westendorp removed 14 Croatian candidates from the ballot because of alleged biased coverage aired in Bosnia by neighboring Croatia’s state television and politicking by ethnic Croat army soldiers. After the election, Westendorp fired the elected president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, accusing him of creating instability. In this scenario those who appeared to support what the US and other Western powers wished were called “moderates”, and allowed to run for and remain in office. Those who had other thoughts were labeled “hard-liners”, and ran the risk of a different fate. When Westendorp was chosen to assume this position of “high representative” in Bosnia in May 1997, The Guardianof London wrote that “The US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, praised the choice. But some critics already fear that Mr. Westendorp will prove too lightweight and end up as a cipher in American hands.”
Nicaragua, 2001
Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was once again a marked man. US State Department officials tried their best to publicly associate him with terrorism, including just after September 11 had taken place, and to shamelessly accuse Sandinista leaders of all manner of violations of human rights, civil rights, and democracy. The US ambassador literally campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolaños. A senior analyst in Nicaragua for Gallup, the international pollsters, was moved to declare: “Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country’s electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it.”
At the close of the campaign, Bolaños announced: “If Ortega comes to power, that would provoke a closing of aid and investment, difficulties with exports, visas and family remittances. I’m not just saying this. The United States says this, too. We cannot close our eyes and risk our well-being and work. Say yes to Nicaragua, say no to terrorism.”
In the end, the Sandinistas lost the election by about ten percentage points after steadily leading in the polls during much of the campaign.
Bolivia, 2002
The American bête noire here was Evo Morales, Amerindian, former member of Congress, socialist, running on an anti-neoliberal, anti-big business, and anti-coca eradication campaign. The US Ambassador declared: “The Bolivian electorate must consider the consequences of choosing leaders somehow connected with drug trafficking and terrorism.” Following September 11, painting Officially Designated Enemies with the terrorist brush was de rigueur US foreign policy rhetoric.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs warned that American aid to the country would be in danger if Mr. Morales was chosen. Then the ambassador and other US officials met with key figures from Bolivia’s main political parties in an effort to shore up support for Morales’s opponent, Sanchez de Lozada. Morales lost the vote.
Slovakia, 2002
To defeat Vladimir Meciar, former prime minister, a man who did not share Washington’s weltanschauung about globalization, the US ambassador explicitly warned the Slovakian people that electing him would hurt their chances of entry into the European Union and NATO. The US ambassador to NATO then arrived and issued his own warning. The National Endowment for Democracy was also on hand to influence the election. Meciar lost.
El Salvador, 2004
Washington’s target in this election was Schafik Handal, candidate of the FMLN, the leftist former guerrilla group. He said he would withdraw El Salvador’s 380 troops from Iraq as well as reviewing other pro-US policies; he would also take another look at the privatizations of Salvadoran industries, and would reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba. His opponent was Tony Saca of the incumbent Arena Party, a pro-US, pro-free market organization of the extreme right, which in the bloody civil war days had featured death squads and the infamous assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
During a February visit to the country, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met with all the presidential candidates except Handal. He warned of possible repercussions in US-Salvadoran relations if Handal were elected. Three Republican congressmen threatened to block the renewal of annual work visas for some 300,000 Salvadorans in the United States if El Salvador opted for the FMLN. And Congressman Thomas Tancredo of Colorado stated that if the FMLN won, “it could mean a radical change” in US policy on remittances to El Salvador.
Washington’s attitude was exploited by Arena and the generally conservative Salvadoran press, who mounted a scare campaign, and it became widely believed that a Handal victory could result in mass deportations of Salvadorans from the United States and a drop in remittances. Arena won the election with about 57 percent of the vote to some 36 percent for the FMLN.
After the election, the US ambassador declared that Washington’s policies concerning immigration and remittances had nothing to do with any election in El Salvador. There appears to be no record of such a statement being made in public before the election when it might have had a profound positive effect for the FMLN.
Afghanistan, 2004
The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, went around putting great pressure on one candidate after another to withdraw from the presidential race so as to insure the victory for Washington’s man, the incumbent, Hamid Karzai in the October election. There was nothing particularly subtle about it. Khalilzad told each one what he wanted and then asked them what they needed. Karzai, a long-time resident in the United States, was described by the Washington Post as “a known and respected figure at the State Department and National Security Council and on Capitol Hill.”
“Our hearts have been broken because we thought we could have beaten Mr. Karzai if this had been a true election,” said Sayed Mustafa Sadat Ophyani, campaign manager for Younis Qanooni, Karzai’s leading rival. “But it is not. Mr. Khalilzad is putting a lot of pressure on us and does not allow us to fight a good election campaign.”.
None of the major candidates actually withdrew from the election, which Karzai won with about 56 percent of the votes.
                *                *                     *
And he didn’t even mention Iraq!  It seems like a case of “don’t do as I do, do as I say!”