Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Democracy struggles in Turkey but is not dead

Erdogan votes June 23rd. Source NYT
If you have been following Turkish politics over the past couple of decades, you have seen some interesting and frightening changes. As Prime Minister, Erdogan led his AKP party in a series of economic and political reforms over the first ten years that had people thinking a moderate Islamist might be not so bad. Then Erdogan began acting like Putin, clamping down on press freedom and opposition.

An attempted coup in Turkey three years ago couldn't have been better for Erdogan is he had planned and carried it out himself. Blaming former ally, Fethullah Gulen, for the coup, he purged the army, police, judiciary, bureaucracy, schools, and universities of anyone he suspected of being a sympathizer. Thousands of people were convicted in mass trials and jailed, and hundreds of thousands lost their jobs.

Erdogan was then elected president and in a rigged referendum gave himself executive powers, in effect president for life.  The new system came into effect in 2018. Elections in the past several years have been, shall we say, less than free and fair.  Opponents tend to be arrested or banned. In a previous election, the lights went out all over Turkey when the ballots were being counted, as an example.

American news has likely been keeping people up to date on Erdogan's coziness with Putin, purchase of anti-aircraft rockets, problems with NATO, etc, so I won't go into that.

This brings us to this year's municipal elections. Erdogan's party and chosen candidates lost the election for mayor of both Ankara and Istanbul. Perhaps his invincibility is coming unraveled? Istanbul is a loss he could not afford.  Too much face to lose and too much opportunity for directing city money to friends in city contracts. Since the winner edged out Erdogan's man by a mere 0.5 percentage points, the election was canceled on a technicality and rerun on June 23rd.

This time the opposition candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, with a unifying message beat Erdogan's candidate, Binali Yildirim, by 9 percentage points.  this in spite of Erdogan throwing everything he had into the campaign.  Erdogan is highly divisive, those not for him are enemies of Turkey.

When the economy is good, everyone loves an authoritarian but the Turkish economy is in a bad way and people are getting tired of living in fear of the constant crackdowns on liberty. 

These three articles sum up the situation and the hope that this win might be the beginning of the end of Erdogan's one-man rule.

Istanbul mayoral vote: Is ‘disastrous’ loss beginning of Erdogan’s end? 

Turkey Trials Seen in New Light After Erdogan’s Istanbul Defeat 

The global importance of Istanbul’s election

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Concentration" Camps and Cousins' Reunion

Several headlines in my news feed the past few weeks have confirmed Trump is not only running concentration camps for Latin Americans and other refugees flooding across the southern border of the USA but also reopening the concentration camps where they sent Japanese Americans during WWII. I will make no comments on that other than I need to quit reading the news. Following the ruination of several countries by politicians out of control is not good for my mental health.

I have been having trouble concentrating. Am trying ADHD meds to see if that helps.  I have OCD-ADHD. I want everything to be perfect but only for a short time. That joke is not funny to people who suffer from OCD. Maybe they should send me to a "Concentration" camp where I can learn to concentrate.  They have summer camps for everything else. My almost 16 year old granddaughter will be going to an English summer camp in Poland for a while this summer. Last year she was at one in Poltava.

Writing decent blog posts takes effort and I appreciate those of you who actually have regular posts.  It is hard work, I know that.

This past weekend, the ten children of the three Johnson sisters gathered for a Saturday afternoon and evening, just so we could say we were all in one place like we did as youngsters and teenagers.  It had been years since that happened though certainly, we were all in touch and we had all visited with each other from time to time. Just not all at once. Tanya was the only spouse missing and sent regards by Whatsapp. We celebrated two 70th birthdays as our excuse for gathering.

We grew up within 70 miles of each other and when our grandparents were alive, the whole crew of us would gather at least twice a year.  And we visited back and forth many times during the year too. Right now there is one of us in Vancouver, one in Calgary and me in Ukraine. The rest are within an easy three-hour drive of each other.

Our grandparents farmed at Kelfield until 1955 then sold out and retired to Biggar. Grandpa was a good farmer and a good manager. Grandma could grow flowers in the desert. During the drought of the 1930s, Grandpa would haul water in barrels on a stoneboat from a distant slough so Grandma could water her flowers. She always had a solid wall of sweetpeas at the farm and in her yard in Biggar. We lost Grandma in 1960 and Grandpa in 1967.

The three sisters and their husbands died in the first decade of the new century so we 10 are it. Ranging in age from 72 to 63. I hope we are still all here and we can do this again. Soon.

Johnson cousins June 2019

Johnson sisters and spouses c 1970s

Our Grandparents Johnson c 1950s
Grandma's flower garden on the farm

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Alberta

Since today is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing in Normandy, this seems to fit right in. I spent two weeks in Alberta, visiting my son, my sister and a bunch of friends and relatives I had not seen for years. One of the days, my son took off work and we went to Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, about an hour south of Calgary.

The Avro Lancaster on display does not fly but the engines run.  My son was there two years ago when they fired them up. The first part of the museum is made up of posters describing various bombers, various bombing runs including the dam busters, various pilots and crew, etc.  There are several examples of radios, bomb sights, and navigation equipment, uniforms, etc.

The main part of the museum has as its centre-piece a Lancaster from the Dam Buster squadron. The top gun turret is removed as are the bomb bay doors. There is also a front end of a Lanc from a movie set that one can crawl into, which I did. They were not meant for guys my size, I can tell you that, though the last chapter of "Only the Stars Know" by DA MacMillan tells the story of a Moose Jaw farm boy they nicknamed Jumbo.  The only position he could fit on a Lanc was pilot.

The first two pictures are from the museum website, the rest are my own.  I could not get back far enough from the bomber to get a good front view.

Lanc bell with bomb bay doors removed

Looking backward from the front of bomb bay towards dambuster bomb

Tail gunner position

Tall Boy bunker buster bomb
Cheeta IX powered the Avro Anson

Curtiss Wright R2600 powered the B25 Mitchell

Cutaway view of the mighty Merlin

the Merlin engine powered the Spitfire and the Lanc 
The posters about bombing raids talked about the "sad inevitability of civilian deaths", referred to as collateral damage. In the main, this was true as the raids were supposedly intended for military targets. However, there were three raids that were not mentioned: Hamberg, Cologne, and Dresden. These were firebombing raids that deliberately targeted civilians, killing tens of thousands. There should have been posters acknowledging the raids with whatever rationale was given at the time. Then people can make up their own minds.