Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New title: IBM and the Holocaust

One of the newer titles in the John Trigg Ester Library is IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi German and America's Most Powerful Corporation, by Edwin Black. This book is about how IBM created pre-computer technology that enabled the Nazis to identify, locate, and catalog European Jews—and thus round them up and murder them.
IBM and its German subsidiary custom-designed complex solutions, one by one, anticipating the Reich's needs. They did not merely sell the machines and walk away. Instead, IBM leased these machines for high fees and became the sole source of the billions of punch cards Hitler needed.
From Richard Pachter's review of the book in the Miami Herald:
The result is an exhaustively researched, highly detailed look at IBM, its history and business dealings. …IBM technology, Black asserts, also enabled the German war machine's mighty manufacturing and distribution prowess. …The question is raised how Watson and other IBM employees managed to get away with this murderous collaboration, how they escaped the notice of the press and the government. The answer, naturally, is complicated. Though much of the firm's activities at home and abroad were reported in newspapers (television news reporting was virtually nonexistent, and radio hardly a credible news medium) there was little effort made to "connect the dots''-with one significant exception. In 1942, an investigation by a minor U.S. government bureaucrat did, indeed, make the necessary connections, but IBM, by then the world's biggest corporation, was also an integral part of the Allied war effort, and had been careful to create an unimpeachable image of patriotism. The investigation was abandoned.

Black's book is, in many ways, like Spielberg's movie, Schindler's List; …More than just another Holocaust tale, the author paints a remarkable portrait of how a powerful company created enormous opportunities, irrespective of moral concerns and consequences. It's a chilling lesson in politics and business that remains potent relevant, and highly revelatory.
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (February 12, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN: 0609607995

Friday, March 18, 2011

Latest developments at the Ester library

Many exciting new developments have occurred in the last few weeks. These include:

  • Sending the 501(c)(3) application to the IRS. It's quite likely that we will receive our federal charitable nonprofit status sometime this summer (the application was sent March 1); this means that donations to the library will be tax-deductible for the 2011 calendar year. The board of directors has been working toward this for over a year and a half, developing the appropriate policies, bylaws, and other organizational documents needed for a charitable organization. We will provide donors with a receipt and our identification number when we receive it. And our sincere thanks!
  • The (almost) final architectural plans have been received from USKH. Other pieces, including the civil engineering and site plan, the structural plans, and the detailed architectural plans, have been contracted for and are expected by May 11, 2011. Electrical engineering, the computing and internet technology plan, and our various permits are also progressing. To view the current floor and site plans, please check out the design and construction planning pages on our website.
  • Launching our community survey. This important survey will help the board plan future programs and better manage the library; the suggestions and comments we've already received in this first two weeks have given us some great insights that will help us with construction, operations, and budgeting. The board is seeking critiques, comments, kudos, and suggestions; we are hoping to see how the community views the role of a library; the importance and meaning of libraries and community spaces to the local population; the best hours and desired programs or services for the community; how important internet access, computers, and e-books at the library are to people; reading and materials preferences; and more. Board members and other volunteers will be at the Ester Post Office every Saturday through the month of April from 10 am to 1:30 pm to discuss the library's future with you. Please come and talk with us and tell us what you think!
  • Setting up an endowment. While we have a capital campaign to raise funds for our building construction, we also need to plan for our long-term fiscal health. Operating the library in perpetuity requires a stable source of funding, and an endowment can help supply this stability. The board voted at its March 13 meeting to establish an endowment with the Alaska Community Foundation, beginning with a $2,000 allocation from our savings; we will need to increase this to $5,000 within a year in order to secure it. As soon as it is set up (which should be no later than the end of April, and perhaps sooner), supporters of the library will be able to donate to the fund in a variety of ways, including payroll deduction, the PickClickGive program, bequests, and other possibilities.
  • Scheduling a grantwriting workshop. A significant part of our capital campaign includes applying for construction grants. We are offering a grantwriting workshop/work session to the public on the first two weekends in April, where attendees will gain experience in the grant application process by working on actual grants for the construction of the library. We expect a group of people of mixed experience; students will be both teaching and learning from each other and the instructors. (For more information, please contact us at library@esterrepublic.com or call 451-0636.) If you are on Facebook, you can sign up as an attendee there, too.
  • Our second library lecture series season has begun! Upcoming lectures will include Thorsten Chlupp on April 20, discussing the type of design we plan to use in the new building, Passivehaus design for low or near-zero net energy usage; Jennifer Jolis on the fate of the people of Attu Island during World War II (May 18); Neil Davis; Sandy Jamieson; and others. This season's lectures are at Hartung Hall on the third Wednesday of the month, 7 pm.
These are the major highlights of the library's current activities, but there is more. If you are interested in becoming more actively involved with the John Trigg Ester Library or would like more information, please contact any member of the board.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Panchatantra: statecraft for blockheads

Image from Wikipedia, from an illustration of a tale
in an Arabic version of the Panchatantra.
Emeritus professor of philosophy and eastern religions Walter Benesch will present the first Ester library lecture of 2011, on the Panchatantra, one of the world’s oldest and most satirical/practical guides to politics and political science—applied to the politics of our time!

Come hear Benesch talk about this collection of fables originally composed between 400 and 200 BCE. The author(s) are not clearly known, but the whole is attributed to a Brahman, Vishnusharman, who had been asked by a king in Kashmir to teach the king’s three blockheaded sons the art of statecraft so that when the king died, his kingdom would continue to flourish.

Wednesday, March 16, 7 pm, Hartung Hall
at the corner of Main Street and Ester Loop (parking available at the Golden Eagle Saloon just a block away)

All Ester library lectures are free and open to the public (donations gratefully accepted, however!).