America’s Aging Dams Are in Need of Repair


After two weeks that saw evacuations near Oroville, Calif., and flooding in Elko County, Nev., America’s dams are showing their age.

Nearly 2,000 state-regulated high-hazard dams in the United States were listed as being in need of repair in 2015, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. A dam is considered “high hazard” based on the potential for the loss of life as a result of failure.

By 2020, 70 percent of the dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“It’s not like an expiration date for your milk, but the components that make up that dam do have a lifespan.” said Mark Ogden, a project manager with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers keeps an inventory of 90,000 dams across the country, and more than 8,000 are classified as major dams by height or storage capacity, according to guidelines established by the United States Geological Survey.

~~~  READ  ~~~



When Chinese immigrants were detained at Angel Island, in the San Francisco Bay, they wrote poetry on the walls.

Although it was widely known as the Ellis Island of the West, Angel Island wasn’t meant to herald immigrants to the United States so much as to keep them out. Located just across from Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay, the immigration station started operating in 1910, largely to process the cases of Chinese laborers, who, three decades before, had become the first group of people to be specifically blocked by federal U.S. immigration policy. After the first of the Chinese-exclusionary laws was passed by Congress, in 1882, working-class Chinese men and women were only allowed into the U.S. if they could prove that they were related to American citizens. They did so by fielding hundreds of specific questions about everything from the layout of their ancestral villages to the number of stairs leading up to the attics of their homes in San Francisco or Seattle. Many migrants who did not have family in America claimed connections, and they committed detailed biographical information to memory in order to pass stringent interrogations. These people became the “paper sons and daughters” of earlier Chinese immigrants.

What would-be immigrants couldn’t tell their interrogators they inscribed on the walls in the form of classical Chinese poetry—complete with parallel couplets, alternating rhymes, and tonal variations. In 1970, when the buildings of Angel Island were due to be torn down, a park ranger noticed the inscriptions. That discovery sparked the interest of researchers, who eventually tracked down two former detainees who had copied poems from the walls while they were housed on Angel Island, in the thirties. Their notebooks, additional archival materials, and a 2003 study of the walls—which were preserved—turned up more than two hundred poems. (There could be hundreds more buried beneath the putty and paint that the immigration station staff used to cover the “graffiti.”) The formal qualities of the poetry—which was written, for the most part, by men and women who had no more than an elementary education—tend to get lost in English translation, but its emotional force comes through. One poem reads, “With a hundred kinds of oppressive laws, they mistreat us Chinese. / It is still not enough after being interrogated and investigated several times; / We also have to have our chests examined while naked.”


n 1970, when the buildings of Angel Island were due to be torn down, a park ranger noticed the inscriptions of poetry.

Signatures and comments were written on the walls in various languages, but “only the Chinese wrote poetry,” according to Judy Yung, a professor emerita in American studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who co-edited “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940.” Yung has dedicated much of her career to studying the immigration station through which her own father entered the U.S., along with a hundred thousand other Chinese immigrants. With meagre rations, restricted access to the outdoors, and separate quarters for men and women, the facility very much resembled a prison for Chinese detainees, who were held there for weeks or months. Meanwhile, European and many other Asian émigrés were typically allowed entry to the U.S. after just a few hours or days. More than half of the poems express deep-seated resentment for the immigration station’s dismal conditions or describe the desire to avenge unfair treatment.

It’s possible that much of what was written was destroyed. In 1922, twelve years after it opened, the Commissioner-General of Immigration declared Angel Island to be filthy and unfit for habitation—“the ramshackle buildings are nothing but firetraps,” he warned. In 1940, the facility finally did catch fire, and the blaze ravaged the building where women detainees were held. Whatever poems women wrote on those walls were lost to history.

~~~  MORE  ~~~



Senator Cory Gardner, the Republican from Colorado, didn’t show up at a town-hall meeting Tuesday night at a Fort Collins church, so it fell to a teacher named Julie to answer for his position on environmental protection. Someone had stuck a sign on the pulpit with Gardner’s name on it. Julie, who wore dangling earrings and whose silver hair was cut in a pageboy, stood next to it and was in the middle of explaining the senator’s perspective—“He believes that supporting fossil-fuel production on federal land is essential for holding public office” (he’s said as much)—when the crowd started booing. Julie looked concerned for a moment, then shrugged and reminded the audience, “It’s not me!,” at which point the crowd started to laugh. No, she wasn’t Gardner. That was the whole point. Gardner, having declined the opportunity to come to the meeting, was not there to explain himself, so his constituents were trying to do it for him.

This event got rolling on January 30th, when Monica Lynn, a Fort Collins resident who was inspired by the Indivisible Guide, a progressive manual that sprung up in response to President Trump’s election, wrote to Gardner inviting him to a town-hall meeting, a fairly typical request for members of Congress when they return to their districts for the February recess. The event, she wrote, would encourage “orderly dialogue” as well as “civility and respect.” The letter did contain a passive note of aggression: “Many of your constituents feel powerless and that they are not being heard by you; nonetheless, we will seek to open up dialogue, not shut it down.” Lynn hand-delivered the letter to Gardner’s Fort Collins office. When a staffer told her, several days later, that Gardner wouldn’t be able to attend—that he might not even be in Colorado during the recess—Lynn and her co-organizers decided to go ahead without him, delivering the questions to the senator at some later date. They publicized the event online and got so many R.S.V.P.s that they had to start rejecting people, telling them to watch a live stream online instead.

As the event approached, however, an agricultural forum in Denver listed Gardner as a speaker on February 22nd, and it became clear that he would, in fact, be in Colorado during the recess. The senator’s office didn’t respond to my requests for comment, but Alex Siciliano, a spokesman, told the Coloradoan that the senator had been spending the recess in meetings focussed on specific topics, such as encouraging small businesses and controlling health-care costs. He’d also rejected town-hall invitations in other cities. Protesters in Colorado Springs, south of Denver, had taken to posting fake missing-person signs, featuring a photo of a smiling, besuited Gardner, presumably taken in less contentious times.

To be fair—if you’re in the mood to be fair—this hasn’t been the most pleasant of Februaries for the Republican men and women of Congress. Citizens concerned about the Trump Administration and its policies, many of them Democrats, are intent on taking their often heated messages to their representatives, especially the Republican ones. The streak of angry town halls began with memorable footage of Representative Tom McClintock, a Republican from California, being escorted to a waiting car by police after a meeting with constituents outside of Sacramento; days later, there was that crowd shouting “Do your job!” at Representative Jason Chaffetz, of Utah, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which has the power to investigate Trump’s business conflicts of interest. Tuesday was an especially long day for some of Gardner’s Capitol Hill colleagues. At a Kentucky meeting, a woman bellowed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a while and then concluded, in reference to McConnell’s shutdown of Senator Elizabeth Warren, on the Senate floor, “If you can answer any of that, I’ll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren.” In Iowa, a constituent told Senator Chuck Grassley, “With all due respect, sir, you’re the man that talked about the death panels. We’re going to create one great big death panel in this country.”

Gardner likely expected a similar homecoming. Because he is a Republican in an ever-bluer state, his votes so far in the Trump Administration diverge from the politics of his constituents, according to FiveThirtyEight. Fort Collins, a left-leaning college town north of Denver, is particularly hostile territory. Nor was he alone in declining opportunities to speak to constituents. A spokesman for Representative Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas, told KXAN, an Austin NBC affiliate, that the congressman had declined one invitation from a local group affiliated with the Indivisible movement, because “if you closely examine the statements and missions of these groups, it’s clear that civil, substantive discourse on issues is not their true agenda.” The Republican congresswoman Martha McSally, of Arizona, declined a similar request, saying it was “about trapping people in a political ambush for political theatre.”

But it turns out you don’t need the politicians to perform the theatre. Tuesday night was unseasonably warm in Fort Collins, and fans turned overhead in the packed church. The attendees, many of them retirees, were dressed in flannels and T-shirts and jeans. Some of them held signs—“not my senator,” “represent us, not your donors”—but for the most part it was, as advertised, a civil gathering. A volunteer would go up and read a question about this or that—Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, Russia, preëxisting medical conditions, emoluments—and then another would sidle up next to the pulpit and offer an approximation of how the senator might have answered their questions. The audience would gently boo, laugh at, or heckle the volunteer, in Gardner’s place. And then another volunteer would suggest talking points that attendees could use to counter the Gardner talking points—or, to be more precise, the presumed Gardner talking points.

The volunteers each made sure to announce their professions, as a retort to the claim, levied by some members of Congress (including Gardner), that the people showing up at town-hall meetings or calling their offices were paid protesters. They included teachers, business consultants, a Ph.D. student, an accountant, a dietician, and several grandmothers who described themselves as either “nasty” or “pissed off.” Meanwhile, the pulpit itself remained unoccupied. It was a little like that skit at the 2012 Republican National Convention, when Clint Eastwood kept talking to an empty chair, pretending that it was President Barack Obama. But this performance was more successful, perhaps because the people gathered here, being non-actors, kept breaking the fourth wall and giggling at the ridiculousness of the event they’d staged, or perhaps because times have changed, and absurdity feels appropriate to the current historical moment. At one point, toward the end of the meeting, a photographer moved to the front of the room and tried to stir up a more conventional protest scene—“I want to see an angry crowd waving signs!”—and for a couple of seconds the audience obliged, but then they sat down and grew quiet again. There was no one to wave the signs at.
Vauhini Vara ~ THE NEW YORKER

Mr. Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’ Prepares an Assault on American Values


Golden Cosmos


The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, issued a remarkable pair of memos on Tuesday. They are the battle plan for the “deportation force” President Trump promised in the campaign.

They are remarkable for how completely they turn sensible immigration policies upside down and backward. For how they seek to make the deportation machinery more extreme and frightening (and expensive), to the detriment of deeply held American values.

A quick flashback: The Obama administration recognized that millions of unauthorized immigrants, especially those with citizen children and strong ties to their communities and this country, deserved a chance to stay and get right with the law. It tried to focus on deporting dangerous criminals, national-security threats and recent border crossers.

Mr. Kelly has swept away those notions. He makes practically every deportable person a deportation priority. He wants everybody, starting with those who have been convicted of any crime, no matter how petty or old. Proportionality, discretion, the idea that some convictions are unjust, the principles behind criminal-justice reform — these concepts do not apply.

The targets now don’t even have to be criminals. They could simply have been accused of a crime (that is, still presumed “innocent”) or have done something that makes an immigration agent believe that they might possibly face charges.

Mr. Kelly included a catchall provision allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers or Border Patrol agents — or local police officers or sheriff’s deputies — to take in anyone they think could be “a risk to public safety or national security.” That is a recipe for policing abuses and racial profiling, a possibility that Mr. Kelly will vastly expand if Congress gives him the huge sums required to hire 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

He wants to “surge,” his verb, the hiring of immigration judges and asylum officers. He wants to add processing and detention centers, which surely has the private-prison industry salivating at the profits to come.

He wants to ramp up programs deputizing state and local law enforcement officers as immigration enforcers. He calls them “a highly successful force multiplier,” which is true if you want a dragnet. It’s not true if you want to fight crime effectively and keep communities safe. When every local law enforcement encounter can be a prelude to deportation, unauthorized immigrants will fear and avoid the police. And when state and local officers untrained in immigration law suddenly get to decide who stays and who goes, the risk of injustice is profound.

So is the danger to due process. Current procedure allows for swiftly deporting, without a hearing, immigrants who are caught near the border and who entered very recently. But Mr. Kelly notes that the law allows him to fast-track the removal of immigrants caught anywhere in the country who cannot prove they have been here “continuously” for at least two years. He’s keeping his options open about whether to short-circuit due process with a coast-to-coast show-me-your-papers policy.

He plans to publish data on crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, and to identify state and local jurisdictions that release immigrants from custody. Why? To promote the false idea, as Mr. Trump has shamefully done, that immigrants pose particular safety risks and to punish so-called sanctuary cities that, for reasons of public order and decency, are trying to disconnect themselves from ICE.

This is how Mr. Trump’s rantings about “bad hombres” and alien rapist terrorists have now been weaponized, in cold bureaucratic language.

Mr. Kelly promised before his confirmation to be a reasonable enforcer of defensible policies. But immigrants have reason to be frightened by his sudden alignment with Mr. Trump’s nativism. So does every American who believes that the country is, or should be, committed to the sensible, proportionate application of laws, welcoming to immigrants, and respectful of the facts.

Kiitella Project: Audi Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Medals @ Aspen Snowmass


Kiitella‘s Audi Power of Four Skimo medals get a facelift this year with a glossy red powdercoat. The first place medal celebrates the classic ski pole basket with a steel ring and riveted leather loops. Fabricated in 1/8″ solid steel plate, the medals are a hefty take-home for the hard-core. The Audi Power of Four Race Series is a premier endurance race consisting of 12,000 feet of vertical gain over 25 miles traversing Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain. Feb 25 is race day and registration is still open!

Bernard Fall: The Man Who Knew the War


Fifty years ago today, on Feb. 21, 1967, the journalist Bernard Fall stepped on a land mine while accompanying Marines on a mission near Hue, in South Vietnam. He died instantly. He was 40 years old.

The literature on the Vietnam War is enormous and growing, but Fall’s work still stands out for its insight and sagacity. He remains our greatest writer on the struggle, despite the fact that he died before the period of heavy American military involvement had reached its halfway point.

Fall wrote six books on the Indochina conflict, along with more than 100 articles in popular publications like The New York Times Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post and The New Republic, as well as academic journals. Many an officer who shipped out to Saigon carried with him a dog-eared copy of “Street Without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946–1954,” published in 1961. In early 1968, when it seemed possible that American forces could be in for a disastrous siege at Khe Sanh, officers scrambled to get their hands on “Hell in a Very Small Place,” Fall’s searing account of the siege at Dien Bien Phu, 14 years earlier, in which the French suffered the decisive loss in their own struggle to control the country.

Born in Vienna in 1926, Fall moved to Paris after Germany annexed Austria, and as a teenager he fought for the French resistance. (His father, who also fought for the resistance, was executed by the Germans; his mother died at Auschwitz.) He came to the United States for graduate school in international relations and eventually became a professor at Howard University. He also began traveling to Vietnam in the 1950s and writing about what he saw. Passionate, tireless, intensely ambitious, Fall set out to become, as he put it, “the foremost military writer of my generation.”

Arguably, he succeeded, or came close. Always wishing to be seen as a soldier’s historian, from early on he earned the respect of French and American servicemen and their superiors for his close attention to their experiences, and for his penetrating and dispassionate analyses of strategic and tactical matters. Journalists and Foreign Service officers seeking to make sense of the war likewise devoured his books and articles, as did general readers drawn in by this transplanted Frenchman’s acute powers of observation and robust and engaging English prose.


To read Fall today is to be struck by his deep understanding of French counterinsurgency efforts in Indochina and other parts of the empire and their clear relevance for what the Americans sought to achieve in Vietnam. Counterinsurgency, that French experience taught, was extremely hard going. Results could be measured only over a period of many years, and success required an effective host government that in the end could carry the burden on its own. Moreover, notwithstanding counterinsurgency theory’s emphasis on nonmilitary measures, large-scale and brutal firepower would almost certainly be used, resulting in the widespread killing of civilians and heightening local resentments.

And therein lay a problem, Fall concluded, for the support of that local populace was absolutely vital. “In revolutionary war,” he wrote, “the allegiance of the civilian population becomes one of the most vital objectives of the whole struggle. This is indeed the key message that Trinquier” (the French military theorist) “seeks to impress upon his reader: Military tactics and hardware are all well and good, but they are quite useless if one has lost the confidence of the population among whom one is fighting.”

For that matter, was it even possible to keep the people’s confidence? Could a local population ever come to see an occupying force as its friend? Fall was skeptical. His own experience with the French underground had given him a taste of what it meant to fight a guerrilla war against such a force, and he saw the phenomenon again when, as a doctoral student at Syracuse University, he first visited Indochina in 1953 to conduct research for a dissertation on the nature and evolution of Ho Chi Minh’s regime (which he completed the following year and published as his first book in 1956).


Rolling Stone at 50: Interviewing Bob Dylan


Delve into the history of Bob Dylan’s deep relationship with Rolling Stone, reflected in nine major interviews dating back to 1969. Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

On June 3rd, 1968, eight months after the first issue of Rolling Stone hit newsstands, editor and publisher Jann Wenner sat down at a typewriter and wrote Bob Dylan a letter. “I don’t mean to add to the number of people that pester you every day,” he wrote. “But we would like very much to include some direct coverage of your activities in our publication. You don’t have to tell us what kind of oatmeal you like in between meals, but it would be nice to let us and our readers know what you think about your music and what is happening in popular music today.”

Wenner, 22, couldn’t
 have imagined he was kicking off a 50-year relationship between Dylan and Rolling Stone, one that would produce one revelatory interview after another. The nine major interviews represent an ongoing 
conversation with the most important songwriter of 
the past century, as well as his primary forum for communicating with fans beyond his songs. (In 2006, they were collected in the book Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews.)

Dylan’s connection to Rolling Stone predates the first issue. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ralph Gleason was one of the first critics to recognize the singer’s immense talent. “Genius makes its own rules,” Gleason wrote in 1964. “And Dylan is a genius, a singing conscience and moral referee as well as a preacher.” Three years later, when Gleason and Wenner started a new magazine, they named it largely in honor of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

At the time of Wenner’s letter, Dylan had been out of the public eye for three years, following a motorcycle accident in upstate New York. “Getting Bob to speak would be a big coup,” Wenner says. “And by this point, he’d seen Rolling Stone and had a sense it was a for-real thing and it was in his philosophical wheelhouse, something genuine that would appeal to him.”

It took a few more letters and a couple of near-misses, but by June 1969, Dylan was ready to talk. Over several hours in a Manhattan hotel room, Wenner asked Dylan about everything from his new, sweeter singing voice (“Stop smoking those cigarettes and you’ll be able to sing like Caruso,” Dylan explained) to The Basement Tapes, first revealed to the public in the pages of Rolling Stone in a June 1968 article by Wenner. He also got Dylan to address the subject that was on the world’s mind: why he’d disappeared in recent years. “Well, Jann, I’ll tell ya,” Dylan said. “I was on the road for almost five years. It wore me down. I was on drugs, a lot of things … And I don’t want to live that way anymore.”


Wenner’s 1968 letter to Dylan requesting an interview.

For his epic two-part interview with Dylan in 1978, Jonathan Cott sat down with the songwriter for marathon sessions that took place all over: backstage at a Portland, Oregon, concert; a tour bus; a hotel; and a restaurant, where Cott and Dylan shared a drunken meal. “Our discussion got a little bit … lively,” Cott recalls.

The interview was timed to the release of Dylan’s film Renaldo and Clara. Cott asked Dylan why he made himself so vulnerable by putting out a movie that starred his ex-wife, Sarah, alongside Joan Baez, another ex. “You must be vulnerable to be sensitive to reality,” Dylan said. “And to me, being vulnerable is just another way of saying that one has nothing more to lose. I don’t have anything but darkness to lose. I’m way beyond that. … It has
 nothing to do with the breakup of my marriage. My marriage is over. I’m divorced. This film is a film.”

The first part of the interview ran as a cover story in January 1978. (It was Dylan’s ninth Rolling Stone cover; there have been 19 in all.) Annie Leibovitz shot the cover during a loose session in her New York studio, capturing an iconic image of Dylan in shades. The second part of the interview ran in November ’78 – with a cover that found Dylan in a less-playful mood. It was shot 
at the end of a long tour, and 
instead of allowing a Rolling Stone photographer in, Dylan had a buddy snap some images in the bathroom of Madison Square
 Garden. (A urinal is clearly visible on the cover.)


Deep in Brazil’s Amazon, Exploring the Ruins of Ford’s Fantasyland~

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 7.22.49 PM.png

Aging vehicles are stored in the old workshops of Fordlândia, Brazil, a community founded in 1928 by Henry Ford. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

FORDLÂNDIA, Brazil — The Amazon jungle already swallowed the Winding Brook Golf Course. Floods ravaged the cemetery, leaving behind a stockpile of concrete crosses. The 100-bed hospital designed by the acclaimed Detroit architect Albert Kahn? Plunderers destroyed it.

Given the scale of decay and decrepitude in this town — founded in 1928 by the industrialist Henry Ford in the far reaches of the Amazon River Basin — I didn’t expect to come across the stately, largely well-preserved homes on Palm Avenue. But there they were, thanks to the squatters.

“This street was a looters’ paradise, with thieves taking furniture, doorknobs, anything the Americans left behind,” said Expedito Duarte de Brito, 71, a retired milkman who dwells in one of the homes built for Ford managers in what was planned to be a utopian plantation town. “I thought, ‘Either I occupy this piece of history or it joins the other ruins of Fordlândia.’”

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 7.23.44 PM.png

A statue of a man harvesting rubber stands near Fordlândia’s church. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

In more than a decade of reporting from Latin America, I made dozens of trips to the Amazon, lured back time and again by its vast rivers, magnificent skies, boomtowns, lost civilizations and tales of hubris consumed by nature. But somehow I never got to Fordlândia.

That finally changed when I boarded a riverboat this year in Santarém, an outpost at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajós rivers, and made the six-hour trip to the place where Ford, one of the world’s richest men, tried turning a colossal swath of Brazilian jungle into a Midwest fantasyland.

I explored the outpost on foot, wandering the ruins and talking to gold prospectors, farmers and descendants of plantation workers who live here. Hardly a lost city, Fordlândia is home to about 2,000 people, some who live in the crumbling structures built nearly a century ago.