“Historically, Populism like most mass movements scours up both the worst and the best in a society as it scrapes across its depths. It is prompted by a deep mistrust of a community’s most powerful individuals and institutions who, its adherents believe have misused and mishandled the trust they had been granted; violated the social contract if you will. As the indefatigable realist Machiavelli pointed out, on the broad areas of public policy the general populace is almost always more reliable than the élite.”
TODAY FROM THAILAND AMERICA:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND CALIFORNIA:
I took the train from Sacramento to San Francisco. The tracks ran through Susuin Marsh. I recall a time in my life when I would have moved Heaven and Hell to prevent even one acre of a wetland from falling beneath the blade of a bulldozer. Of course, I fully understand and agree with the intellectual, economic and ethical reasons for their preservation. At times when great flocks of birds fly screeching above the vegetation or mucking about in the shallows or at certain times of the year when they are bathed in the colors of spring or autumn, one can almost breathe in the tendrils of poetic inspiration rising from their fetid depths.
On the other hand at times like this, when the skies are overcast and grey, the vegetation a sickly yellow-brown and the waters a dingy black, I can understand a man coming upon them and thinking, “what a waste.” He would, I suspect be likely to aspire to killing it in order to create something that would profit him more than basking in the glow someone else’s idea of aesthetic pleasure.
I would like to think most women coming upon the same marsh would dream instead about how the marsh itself could benefit them and their families without killing it first.
Being male, today those same marshes look like shit to me. I would not mind seeing them disappear beneath the antiseptic familiarity of a few Starbucks or MacDonald’s or the like. By the time we left the marshes behind and chugged into Richmond, however, I changed my mind and decided that, if I were not be the one making the money from the deal, I would prefer leaving the wetlands pretty much as they are.
At night, at my sister’s house in Berkeley, I began reading Sheldon’s newest novel The Terrorist Next Door. Its main character is a cop who, I suspect, to the disappointment of his jewish parents failed to become a doctor, lawyer or famous writer of mystery novels and ended up a Chicago homicide detective. He is teamed up with a black partner in a relationship reminiscent of that between Danny Glover and that famous anti-Semite Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series of movies.
There are three things I noticed and appreciated about the novel. First it is an incomparable travelogue of Chicago (one should read the book with a map of the city nearby). Second is what one learns about Michelle Obama, a girl from the neighborhood. Third, Sheldon in his own good-hearted and upbeat way puts his finger upon the essential flaw in the American character and gives you a glimpse of how good things can be without it and how truly and horribly destructive it really it.
For those of you familiar with and aficionados of the Siegel cannon, he began his writing career trying to write a novel about a young jewish attorney wrongfully accused of the murder of one of his partners, a fictional stand in for a partner of ours at the time whose removal both Sheldon and I agreed probably would immeasurably benefit humanity. Alas, in his writing of the initial drafts, his main character was overwhelmed by a fast talking Irish criminal lawyer and his estranged Chicana attorney wife. This resulted in the beloved character’s prominence being eclipsed. He disappeared entirely by the third novel in the series; even his name is now lost to memory.
My experience is similar to Sheldon’s. I attempted to write a mystery (Red Star) here in T&T. The main character, a stand for yours truly, managed to come across as a boring jerk. He was ultimately replaced in interest and importance by a musclebound bisexual female deputy sheriff from San Mateo County.
Detective David Gold is made of stronger stuff. I see and hope for Gold’s career to be at least as long and as distinguished as Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman, also a Chicago detective and also a disappointment to his parents.
I suspect Sheldon always wanted to write a novel with Chicago, the city he grew up in, as a setting.
I have visited Chicago only a few times. Nevertheless, for me given my ethnic heritage, it has always been one of the sacred places; like Umberto’s Clam House in New York’s Little Italy. For over a decade the stain remained on the sidewalk where, having staggered out of the restaurant after being shot, Joey Gallo fell down and bled to death. Every year, I would make an annual pilgrimage there until time and the City’s acid laced rains erased every vestige of the epic event.
Chicago was the home of the sainted Scarface Al. Alas, I have never visited any of the pilgrimage sites there; such as SMC Cartage warehouse site of the massacre that occurred on the feast day of the saint of love. I sometime wonder what ever happened to many of the relics of my legendary ethnic heroes. Are they in a museum somewhere? Where now, for example, are the artifacts such as Anastasia’s barber chair, Mo Green’s massage table, St. Frank’s used condoms,
Deano’s shot glass and Mario Puzo‘s typewriter? And, while I am at it, where have you really gone Joe DiMaggio? And, why did Tony Benedetto, (nee Bennet), a New Yorker who chose to live in LA, really decide to leave his heart is SF?
Just because an outcome is determined does not necessarily make it predictable.
The motion system of three or more stars acting on each other gravitationally is generically chaotic. Similarly no activity affected by the behavior of three or more human beings is predictable in the long-term. On the other hand, as it has been pointed out time and again, in the long-term we all end up dead. But, not before someone does something so unpredictable it makes it all seem almost worthwhile.
I bet you did not know something like that exists. What do the students actually learn there; the art of punching out hecklers, the aphrodisiacal benefits of Wheaties Breakfast of Champions, how to be successful singing off-key, the secret meaning of doobie doobie doo…?
A. Testosterone Chronicles:
• When looking at pictures of immoral acts, women’s judgments of severity correlate with higher levels of activation in emotion centers of the brain, suggesting concern for victims, whereas men show higher activation in areas that might involve deployment of principles
(Carla Harenski and collaborators).
What this seems to me to mean, if one can generalize it to a gender based approach to public policy, is:
“For men, first punish the guilty and for women, first protect the innocent.”
• When men watch wrongdoers getting punished, there is activation in reward centers of their brains, whereas women’s brains show activation in pain centers, suggesting that they feel empathy for suffering even when it is deserved
(Tania Singer and collaborators).
Does this mean that women are genetically predisposed to liberalism? No wonder God considers them the lesser sex.
• Numerous studies have found that women are more likely than men to reciprocate acts of kindness.
(reviewed by Rachel Croson and Uri Gneezy).
Screw you Rachel and Uri. I will have you know that men are kinder to their guns, beer and dogs than women are. We also think we are kind to (and admittedly, at times a little frightened by) large female breasts; vaginas, not so much.
In an analysis of the range of findings of the emotional differences between men and women in situations that could affect social decision-making (some of which I have included in precious posts), the authors opine that on the whole, women seem to be more empathetic and more focused on the collective good. This is broadly consistent with the suggestion by at least one of the researchers that women are more likely than men to base moral decision on a care orientation, whereas men gravitate more towards principles.
This is why I previously wrote:
“For at least 10,000 years or so virtually every political system, economic system and religion has been designed by men for men. There is no natural or divine law that requires any of these structures to be designed in the way that they have been. During those same 10,000 years every justification of those structures have been developed by men to benefit men.”
Trenz Pruca’s Journal.
Would it not now be appropriate for men to just step aside and turn the whole sorry mess we have made of things over to women? I doubt very much that they could do worse than we men have.
I am getting sick of receiving the same email from several of my more right wing friends about a “good friend” of theirs from Texas who threatens to close down his business if Obama is reelected.
1. He is not your “good friend.”
2. He is not from Texas.
3. He will not close down his business if Obama is reelected.
“The Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads.”
Robert Kennedy, 1968
“Sadly, everything Communism said about itself was a lie. Even more sadly,, everything Communism said about Capitalism was the truth.”