Happy 95th Birthday Mom
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
Today was my mom’s 95th birthday. I regret I was not able to be there to share it with her.
The rains have arrived in SE Asia. They begin at about mid-day and continue on and off through the evening. I go to the health club in the early mornings so that I can get my swim in before the downpour starts. Some, mostly Western, members of the club have taken to swimming during the rain (“Swimming in the Rain” was the title of a little known movie set in Seattle starring Jonny Weissmuller and Esther Williams). The health club staff advises against that. They say that the pool could be struck by lightning and boil the swimmers like lobsters in a pot. I believe that is far less likely in BKK than getting hit by a motor-bike taxi while walking along one of the City’s sidewalks, or for that matter, falling through those same sidewalks and disappearing forever into the foetid sewers underneath.
After the rains the air becomes heavy with warm moisture. The smells from the innumerable sidewalk food stands mingles with the stench risings from the sewers until I feel as though I am bathing in a bowl of week-old bouillabaisse.
Most of my life I feared my tendency to become addicted to certain obsessive behaviors. That is why, for example, I rarely kept liquor or dope in my house although I freely indulged in them outside. For the most part whenever I would recognize (and recognition is the key since, like most people, my first defense was usually denial) the addiction I would quit. For example, when I was in my early teens I was addicted to chess (I was not particularly good at it but I was addicted none the less). I would play day and night. When I recognized the nature of my behavior, in panic I quit. Since then I only play now and then when social circumstances made refusal difficult. Perhaps that is one reason I tend to quit jobs and relationships as often as I do (the obsessive tendencies, not the chess).
One passion that I never really quit is reading. During my most recent bout of mania, I read about six or so hours a day. What’s worse is that I am not even comfortable or relaxed while reading. It would be nice if I had, say, a recliner to lie in where after a few moments I could fall into asleep and drool. Instead, I sit at the edge of my bed or on an uncomfortable kitchen chair engrossed with whatever trashy novel I may be reading. LM, whenever she comes to cook or clean, finds it bizarre to see me sitting rigid and unmoving for four hours or so at a time.
It surprised me then when, following weeks of worry that I was sinking into addiction, I found an author whose books for some reason satisfied me enough to halt my frenetic reading and to wait for his next effort .
By no means can this author be considered great or even semi-great. He is simply someone who writes a fairly interesting story with an easy style and has a mind like a junk yard. I like that a lot. I love authors that can comfortably integrate those bits and pieces of things found in his own mental junkyard into his tale. Perhaps that is why I always liked James Joyce despite his so-called “difficulty.” I always thought he was more boring than difficult. I enjoyed how he would pull things in from almost everywhere in literature, hide it within his story and challenge you to find it. Now, why he would hide things like that I never really understood. If someone found a carburetor from a 1956 Mercury in his junk yard, why would he hide it or call it something else unless he was trying to trick or play a joke on someone. I know Joyce is said to have once commented that if something took him 10 years or so to write he would want the reader to spend the same amount of time trying to understand it. How’s that for self-indulgent bullshit? I suspect Joyce was a bit of a poseur.
He must have felt quite insecure walking by the Martello Tower along the Strand with its grey water and overcast sky (The sun does not shine very often in Dublin, the Strand is the pits and the tower an unimposing dump). I have a feeling it was not just the lack of sunshine and the dull grey colors of the landscape that set him to brooding. I think he was depressed because he knew that in just about every pub within a mile or so from where he was walking there would be several people dead drunk with their heads down on a table, an empty glass of Guinness or half and half beside him who, upon being shaken awake, could rattle off at least a dozen or more stories and tales far more interesting, poetic and inventive than Joyce could ever dream of.
Hayden arrives in BKK tomorrow after spending a week or so in Italy. It makes me both happy and anxious. Happy because I missed him, anxious because now I have to focus on his needs to the extent that I am aware of them.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Note: the following continues my series about the four governmental agencies that I had some role in developing.
A. The State of New York’s Mental Health Information Service (1965):
4. My Assignment.
I was placed in charge of mental hospitals in Bronx, Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties. My job was to monitor patient intake into the system, provide the patients with information about their rights and to make myself available to assist them in understanding and exercising those rights. I also staffed the hearings held in the hospitals to adjudicate patient objections to involuntary incarceration. Although the area I covered was quite large, my job was made easier by the fact that the major receiving hospital for the area was Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. It was from Jacobi that patients processed there every day were distributed to the State Hospitals in the area.
As far as Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties were concerned, because of their substantially lower population densities and greater wealth, very much fewer involuntary patients were admitted into the hospitals located there.
In the mornings I attended the patient intake meetings at Jacobi. In the afternoons I toured the wards of the various hospitals. After a few months I was also assigned ward duty at the massive Manhattan State Hospital that occupied much of an island in the East River and Bellevue and its wing containing the criminally insane wards.
About once a week, I attended hearings, usually in Jacobi but sometime in other hospitals, at which the claims of the patients objecting to their incarceration were heard. The hearings were presided over by a judge from one of the trial courts in the district. I prepared a brief for the court on each case and was available to answer any questions that may arise.
5. Civil Liberties v Civil Libertarians.
The MHIS law was promoted by those concerned with protecting citizens from illegal or unnecessary incarceration whether civil or criminal. I am sure that many believed that civil involuntary incarcerations should not exist at all, but if they did exist then they were adamant that the procedures proscribed in law must be scrupulously adhered to. Sometimes, in my opinion, civil libertarians placed too great a reliance on the procedures of law courts to protect civil liberties. As a result they often confused access to those procedures with the civil liberties themselves. This manifested itself in at least two ways during my tenure with MHIS.
The first was to conflate the right of speedy access to a courtroom with the right to effective medical treatment. For example, no matter where one comes down in the debate about whether or not mental illness exists or the accuracy of standard psychological categories, when someone finds somebody lying in the gutter in a catatonic state unable to respond, almost everyone would agree that person should be brought directly to a hospital emergency room rather than dumped into a jail cell to await the determination by a non-medically trained individual such as a judge as to whether or not medical treatment is warranted.
This issue actually arose early in the MHIS existence. A woman was found on the Staten Island Ferry standing on the rail threatening to jump into the water. The cop on the scene managed to prevent the woman from jumping and then took her to the hospital where she could be examined and treated if need be. The more doctrinaire attorneys on the MHIS staff objected arguing that we should bring an action against the police officer in the name of the woman because as one of them put it, it was our job to eliminate discretion on the part of the police and that if she were taken directly to the jail she would be brought to court the next morning rather than the 48 to 72 hours it would take for a hearing to be arranged were she admitted into a hospital.
I opposed them making the following arguments:
1. It was not our job to monitor police procedures but to focus on the welfare of the patients.
2. There is a vast difference between imposing stringent procedures and protocols on public safety personnel that I supported and removing all discretion from them, which I did not.
3. The person was a danger to herself and not others and given that it appeared the severity and duration of episodes like this were directly related to the speed with which medical treatment was available to the patient, we were taking upon ourselves the “discretion” of deciding for this person her right to effective medical treatment, and,
4. Their position was simply nuts.
Simon agreed with me.
The second issue was the tendency to see all those who may have opposed the legislation or the program as enemies rather than interests. This will be explored in greater detail below.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Bryan: Who killed Thursby?
Sam Spade: I don’t know.
Bryan: Perhaps you don’t, but you could make an excellent guess.
Sam Spade: My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs. Spade didn’t raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a district attorney, and an assistant district attorney and a stenographer.
Bryan: Why shouldn’t you, if you have nothing to conceal?
Sam Spade: Everybody has something to conceal.
It was about 4:30 when Fat Al called me back. I was already floating in that place between sleep and wakefulness when the call came in so it did not take too long to snap into more or less my usual awareness. Al began by explaining how sad Reiley’s death mad him and how highly he thought of him. I on the other hand couldn’t stand Reilly. His death, it seemed to me, just rid the world of another predator. I did not mention my feelings on the matter to Al but let him blubber along.
Al then reminisced about his warm relationship with Reilly, especially about meeting his wonderful family and having dinner at their house. I attended those dinners also. When Reilly thought he needed something from me and wanted to get it from me cheap, he invited me over for dinner. After about 15 minutes with the wife and kids at dinner they left while we finished eating and repaired to the living room where we drank wine and smoked dope and I listened to him go on about the wonders of eastern philosophy and the simple life while he sidled into suggesting how with my expertise and connections combined with his support and technical back-up we can both do well by doing good. Reilly was an alpha parasite.
I finally decided that l had enough of Al’s grieving and asked him what his contacts in the Department had to say about Reilly’s death.
“Well, it’s too early for them to say. There will be an autopsy and they will know more then.
“Al, these are cops were talking about. They have an opinion on everything — even their mothers pre-marital virginity–especially that. What do they think happened?
“Well, Dragon, they seemed more reticent than usual to tell me what they thought.”
“OK, That tells me something. What about the grieving widow. When are the almost high and mighty going out to pay their respects? At the wake?”
“Well, Chang the captain in charge of homicide is going out to Riley’s house tomorrow afternoon to pay his respects to his family. He invited me to tag along.”
“Yeah, Reiley’s secretary called Chang in response to his call to express his condolences and said that Nok called her and told her that, although she is in shock, she recognized that Clarence’s friends would want to pay their respects. I guess it is sort of pre-wake since the body won’t be released until the autopsy is finished. That could take a day or two. And then another day more for the mortician to prepare the body.”
He promised to keep me up to date if he learned anything more from the police. I thanked him and hung up. I thought for a moment. I was still convinced that there was less here than meets the eye.
I called Mavis, explained I was not up to getting together tonight. I asked her if she had ever visited Reilly’s house. She said that she had gone there once with Lilly and Mark for a pool party on a Sunday afternoon. “He was very nice,” she added. “He said he was thinking of getting a tattoo and that if he decided to do so he would come to me.”
“Did he hit on you?”
“Oh, are you jealous of a dead guy?”
“Well did he?”
“Well I guess a bit, But he was mostly interested in Lilly.”
“Who else was there?
“The Vietnamese guy Marvin or whatever his name is. He had two young Vietnamese guys with him. One of them came to the shop for a tattoo a few weeks later.”
“Yeah, a couple of more people. I think a port commissioner. An Asian woman. And a guy who sits on the Police Commission. And a few others, I don’t remember. I was stoned.”
“How long ago was this?”
“Oh about six months ago.”
“Was Mark Reilly’s dealer?”
She hesitated for a moment. “Yeah, I think so.”
“So what happened to the dope that came in the furniture shipment?”
“We smoked some of it.” “Oh!” She obviously remembered that she had told me before that she knew nothing about it. I ignored it. Said, “Go on.
“There was’t much. Only a key or two.”
“Weed only? What about cocain or heroin or pills?”
“Nothing that I saw.”
After telling her I would call tomorrow and hanging up I called Martin Vihn and told him some of what Al told me but made it appear as though the cops were leaning toward the murder possibility. I then asked him what would his response be if I had evidence the shipment contained drugs just as I had suspected all along.
“I’d say you were full of shit. But discussing it over the phone right now is not a good idea.”
So, we made arrangements to meet tomorrow for breakfast.
I thought about calling Lilly but changed my mind. She probably would hang up the phone as soon as she learned it was me on the phone. On the other hand, it could be worse. She might not hang up on me.
I decided that I probably would be seeing her again soon anyway so I can avoid winging it and prepare for the confrontation. I realized I would probably be winging it then also, so I called Joe instead of going back and forth about it any more.
I made arrangements for him to pick me up and drive me to my breakfast with Vihn. He asked me if there was another movie he should look at as part of his training to be a detective. I recommended, “Too have and have not.” He asked if Bogart was in this one too. I said he was, but that Bacall was a lot better looking than Brigit O’Shaunessey.
After the call, I scrounged through the refrigerator. Found some apples, and made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, poured a glass of milk and spent the next three or so hours on my computer gathering background information before putting myself to bed.
1847: The US Marine Corps Hymn begins with the words, “From the Halls of Montezuma..,” Those words commemorate the Corps’ participation in a battle in one of our country’s earliest imperialistic wars. The Corps suffered 90% casualties in the struggle for Mexico’s capitol city.
In that battle the US troops overran a badly undermanned Mexican garrison in the so called “castle” on Chapultepec Hill that guarded the entrance into Mexico City. A large portion of the defenders were made up of the students at the military academy (equivalent to a US high school) located at the site, some of whom were only 13 years old. The defenders, about 400 in all including about 100 teenage students from the academy, faced over 4000 battle hardened American soldiers. As the Mexican troops retreated when the assault rolled over them, six of these young men from the academy bravely but foolishly stayed behind to defend the Mexican flag. They were slaughtered by the American troops. Obviously, playing capture the flag was more important than the lives of a few teenage greasers.
Among the participants in this same battle was John Riley the leader of the Batallón San Patricio, a group of Irish immigrants forced into service by the U.S. Government during the Mexican-American War. Being Catholics, they were treated terribly by their Protestant superiors. They got fed up and decided to desert and join their fellow Catholics on the Mexican side. By all accounts, they fought valiantly throughout the war, but during the battle for Mexico City the Batallón San Patricio’s positions were overrun. As Chapultepec Castle fell, every last one of John Riley’s men was hung in front of him. The US commander waited to execute the Irishmen until the moment that the Mexican flag that the kids were shot for defending was lowered so that they could watch as they died. It has been reported that the U.S. generals didn’t kill John Riley along with his troops. They supposedly branded both of his cheeks with D’s for desertion, lashed him for a full day in front of his dangling men, and then handed him back to Mexico.*
Remember, only 14 years later many of the same American officers involved at Chapultepec, who so mercilessly executed the Irish Catholic deserters and the Mexican adolescents, themselves rebelled against the United States. And, following a war that saw the greatest percentage of the American population killed in any war in the nations history, not one of these men were executed for treason or spent significant time in prison. Many are now listed as among our nations greatest heroes.
Ulysses S. Grant, a legitimate hero at the Battle of Chapultepec,** as well as in the subsequent war to suppress a rebellion against the United States instigated by the slave owning aristocracy and who later was elected President of the United States, stated in his memoirs that in his opinion the Mexican-American War was “one of the most unjust wars ever waged on a weaker nation by a stronger one.”
On March 5, 1947, a few months before the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Chapultepec, another U.S. President, Harry S. Truman, traveling in Mexico at the time, placed a wreath at the monument to the six students and stood for a few moments of silent reverence. Asked by American reporters why he had gone to the monument, Truman said, “Brave men don’t belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it.”
* Note: one of the major purposes of the war with Mexico was to acquire additional territory in which to expand slavery in order to balance the votes in the US Senate of the more abolitionist inclined tier of newly created northern states carved out of the Louisiana Purchase. Mexico, by the way, at that time prohibited slavery which was one of the main reasons that a few years before the white Protestant Texans who had recently immigrated there sought independence from Mexico.
Finally as long as I started on the slavery issue, the argument often posed by many southern apologists that if we had only waited a few years the “peculiar” institution of slavery would disappear simply as a result of economic pressure on that inefficient system (the invisible hand again), begs the question of why then was it the South that seceded and attacked first when the rest of the nation, except for the somewhat disturbed John Brown, had done little more than make speeches about the immorality of slavery, hide a few escaped slaves and and elect a guy who, although he did not like slavery, admitted that he was not going to be able to do much more about it other than support prohibition of its extension into new territories, such as those taken from Mexico a decade or so before?
** Grant climbed up the bell tower, single-handedly captured a howitzer located there and then used it to fire on the Mexican troops below. Yes, in America even Rambo can become a US President, although not a very good one.
“Boys grow up oblivious to the fairer sex. Their daily concerns involve Tonka trucks and Kung-Fu movies. But boys grow older. One day, a girl makes a subtle motion, a swish of hair, a bat of an eye, and suddenly the lad takes notice. That’s when all the problems start. It starts slow. He doesn’t work it out right away. He finds the Spanish teacher’s lectures more interesting. He double takes passing a billboard. Then one morning, he wakes up sticky. He learns to do it manually. He accumulates a collection of porn— a compendium the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the library of Alexandria burnt to the ground. He becomes an expert on female anatomy. He learns breasts. He learns butts. He can mentally image the entire high school cheerleading squad in a dramatic re-enactment of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. He prepares for all conceivable eventualities— and he’s entirely unprepared for the real thing.”
B. Justin Shier. Zero Sight (Zero Sight Series, Book 1) ( Astraeus Press).
“Yeah, to a certain extent. I mean, it wasn’t my life. It wasn’t the center of my life. But I mean, when you’re — let me rephrase that. I enjoyed being president. And when you’re president, you’re famous. Now whether I enjoyed fame itself, I just, you know, you’d have to get the psychoanalyst on me,”
George Bush reflects on what being President of the most powerful country on earth ment to him.
Hayden at Como with skateboard.
- The Myth of the Civil Libertarian Democrat (independent.org)
- The Inner Crisis of American Society: Civil Liberties, Militarization, Economic Inequality | Global Research (priceofliberty.tumblr.com)
- Isn’t every FISA Court Judge concerned about “civil liberties”? Maybe not. (citycomfortsblog.typepad.com)
- Startups are No Sweat for This Company (prweb.com)
- MLFA Applauds Dismissal of Criminal Charges Against Yonas Fikre (prweb.com)
- Bikie Laws Sicken Civil Liberties – Eureka Street (doohan.id.au)