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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Thoughts on This Week's World

Of all the comments on the recent Mueller Report, I think the best observation was that of longtime journalist Mark Shields.  He pointed out that Robert Mueller and Donald Trump both had the advantages of wealthy parents and private educations, and both are Republicans – but Mueller went to Vietnam and was wounded, while the Trumpster can't remember which of his feet has the bone spurs that excused him from the draft.


On more or less the same topic, I had my doubts about Julian Assange at the beginning, and now I'm even more convinced that he lacks any moral principle.  He's akin to Roger Stone and other dirty tricksters who view government as a game:  they care much more about how they can win rather than what the goal is, and many are nerds who never think about "why," but instead are all about "how."  They are proud to have broken into secure places, especially electronic places, and they want us to think that WikiLeaks has the same credibility as Wikipedia. 


Thus these privacy pirates seldom think to explain their underlying motivations.  Yes, the collusion with Russia was "to get dirt on Hillary," but what sort of dirt did they expect to find?  The woman has been vetted and vetted and vetted, with every aspect of her life turned inside out for inspection during decades in Arkansas, New York, and Washington.  I can't think of anyone in all of history who has been so closely examined for so long and who has had so many crazy, baseless charges thrown at her. 


The bottom line is that WikiLeakers were not political researchers looking for a plausible point to make against an electoral opponent.  They were boys playing with toys.  That their misinformation affected the lives of literally billions of people was no concern of theirs.  They just wanted to get their names in the headlines and have fun.  So I hope Assange ended up thinking it was fun to spend years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he behaved so literally execrably -- in the sense of smearing excrement on walls -- that they finally threw him out.  Juvenile delinquency and childishness, that's what we've got at the top of government now.  My comfort is that at least Hillary can spend time with her grandchildren.


On the Other Side of the World


News from Women's Media Center arrives in my inbox every few days, and you might want to sign up for it, too.  The top story in the most recent edition was that South Korea's highest court had struck down a 66-year-old law that criminalized abortion.  Sixty-six years gets us back to 1953 and the end of the Korean War.  (Well, it didn't formally end and we still have troops there, but an armistice has lasted since the Eisenhower administration agreed to it.)  We imposed a right-wing government there under the authoritarian Syngman Rhee, and he followed through by limiting women's freedom to control their bodies.  This ever has been part of the fascist agenda; their sole goal for women is to deliver another generation of soldiers.


But women ever have had their own aims, especially to provide a viable life for the children they already have.  According to Human Rights Watch, at least one in every five Korean women has ignored the law and had an illegal – and probably unsafe -- abortion.  The respected British newspaper, The Guardian, quoted activist Bae Bok-ju:  "Women deserve to be happy…  Today's decision was made because countless women ceaselessly fought for their right for so many years.  We deserve the world's attention, and we deserve its recognition."


Such assertiveness is a generational change from the Korean women I met when Hubby and I lived at a university near the North Korean border in the 1990s.  I almost had to pry their teeth apart to get a word out of these taught-to-be-shy young women – and there were no older women on the faculty or anywhere else.  (Well, except for the elderly ones under sunbonnets who cut the grass using what effectively were big scissors.)


I clearly remember being in the dining room and asking a female student when Korean women got the vote.  She demurred, so I asked if it was before World War II or after it.   She agreed that it probably was about then, so I was grateful when a youngish male professor at the next table provided his answer:  not until the 1970s.  That was before the internet, and I just now checked on it.  Apparently women did get the vote in 1948, just after World War II – but I think that the fact that these well-educated people didn't know the answer says a good deal about the reality of the right.  Asian women are getting there, but it is slow.  Confucius did so much harm.


Running the State like a Business


Did you see the recent report by the highly respected Pew Charitable Trust that Florida has only enough money in its "rainy day" reserves to run the government for 16.2 days?  That's compared to the national average of 23 days – and less than half of where we were in 2002, when we had enough for 33 days.  Yes, 2002, soon after the 1998 election when Republican Jeb Bush beat Democrat Buddy MacKay. 


Buddy had been lieutenant governor under Lawton Chiles, and they plugged a deficit hole that had been left by the previous Republican, Bob Martinez.  Since the end of the Chiles/MacKay administration, Florida voters have put Republicans into the governor's office at every election -- and "rainy day" funds have plummeted.  Who's prudent?  Who's careful to plan for the future?  Not that government is a business, but the party of business certainly isn't practicing what it preaches.


Fiery Language About a Fire


Although I join with most other intellectuals in bemoaning the loss of local newspapers, reading old ones sometimes makes me think it wasn't such a loss after all.  My good friend, eminent Florida historian Gary Mormino, sent another example of the thank-god-it's-gone writing that too often prevailed.  I don't have to spell out the point here:  there are indeed so many points that the writer's own words make clear his lack of mental acuity.  Quoting from the beginning of an article in the Clearwater Evening Independent on November 24, 1924:


        "She was a creature of the ferocious flapper type, according to reports – one of those with an uncanny mop of hair flopping around its ears and a look of defiance in its eyes.  Whether it wore trousers or not, deponents did not state, but many such specimens are now invading our southland, and this is a mere detail.  The outstanding feature of the case was that this invader attempted to set fire to the Seminole bridge.

         "Fishing from the bridges of the county highway system is absolutely prohibited, and therefore seems to appeal to the motor freebooter, who insists this is a free country.  Evidences of this freedom are to be found on every bridge in the county, where sharks, catfish and stingaree [sic] lie in the sun to attract buzzards and bones remain to puncture tires.

         "This sort of thing has caused a great deal of trouble…  One with any consideration for his fellows would of course understand this without being told, but this story concerns one 'far more deadly than the male.'  She was going to fish on the Seminole bridge, regardless of the rules. There is a chill in the air these nights, so she proposed to have a fire.  Sending her two minions who appeared to be of the male persuasion…to make firewood, a great bonfire was soon blazing merrily… The fact that this fire would cause the asphalt pavement to ignite and ruin the highway…meant nothing to the Amazon with the pruned hair, but the light from the fire attracted attention and Assistant Engineer Evans went to the scene.

         "When he suggested that the fire be put out, the flapper of 40 or so 'cussed him out' in characteristic manner and the engineer was obliged to toss the burning brands overboard, to save the bridge, while he was expecting an attack from the militant suffragette and her lieutenants.

         "Engineer Burleson says he intends that this sort of business be stopped.  County motorcycle police will be instructed to see that the law is carried out, to the end that our new bridges may be protected from preying females who did not have to help pay for the roads and who do not care what happens to them."



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