Dum Spiro, Spero.
“Economics, where the inmates get corporate funding to run the asylum.”
Happy Birthday Stevie.
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN BANGKOK:
Well, so far today it’s been a good day. No one has called me an insensitive, dull-witted loser for a few days now (well maybe they have, but we’ll get to that later.) I woke up, dressed and walked to the health club. The overcast skies had departed briefly and the sun was shining. At the club, I sat in the lobby among the Old Men’s Caucus reading the newspapers and swapping stories.
After I did that for a while, I accompanied the Old Sailor to his locker where he took out a wooden box about the size of a small cigar box. He told me it contained the ashes of a close friend of his who had died a few months ago. The dead man’s sister, who lives in Ohio, sent them to the Old Sailor telling him that one of her brother’s last wishes was to send some of his ashes to the Old Sailor so that he could spread them around Bangkok’s houses of ill repute in his memory. So, the Old Sailor explained, he dutifully carried the box with him during his pleasure rounds sprinkling some of his friend’s remains around as he leaves the various establishments.
Now although at first this may seem to be simply a quirky amusing story, alas, it has a less appealing context. It demonstrates for the billion billionth time that the average human male equates his life with his genitals.
I suspect women tend to think there is more to their life than the happiness of their vaginas. I could never imagine a sane woman sending her ashes to her best friend and instructing her to sprinkle them over the floor of the singles bar whenever she leaves with some guy. Maybe pouring it into an ex-husbands coffee, perhaps.
After that, I left to do some banking and get my ticket to return to the US. For those interested in my peregrinations, I arrive in SFO sometime on the 23rd of August and intend to spend the evening in the Bay Area. From then until the end of the month I have no idea what my schedule will be or where I will bed down at night. However, I am looking forward to spending the Memorial Day weekend at my sister’s place in Mendocino.
After obtaining the ticket, I returned to the health club, swam, enjoyed a steam bath, showered and left for my weekly massage. Following that I walked back to my apartment, took a brief nap and wrote this. All and all it has been a good day so far.
Of course, I am of the temperament that believes that in life all good must be balanced by an equal or greater amount of bad. Although I try always to remain conscious of my motto, Dum Spiro, Spero (Where there’s Life there’s Hope), unfortunately, far too often I believe in its darker alternative: Dum Spiro, non Spero (Where there’s Life, there is no Hope). Nevertheless, whenever I feel entrapped in one of my periodic episodes of existential dread, I try to focus on the advice of three of my favorite American philosophers whose wisdom seems to me to fit most circumstances I face in my life:
Rosanna Rosannadanna: “It’s always something.”
Scarlett O’Hara: “Tomorrow is another day.”
Woody Allen: “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone you love.”
For those reading this you probably think I’m kidding. Well, let’s see about that.
Assume you have just experienced a serious tragedy. The first thing you may want to tell your self is, “It’s always something.” If that does not work for you, then try, “Tomorrow is another day.” That still doesn’t do it, then it may be time for you to try sex with someone you love (or at least never tells you they don’t feel like it right now).
Well, another pretty good day in the bank. It started at the Old Man’s Caucus at the health club. The Old Sailor and I decided to go to Khao San Road so that I can pick up a driver’s license. Despite its notoriety I had never been to Khao San Road before. It has been described as, “The Place to Disappear.” For years it was the backpackers center of Thailand where one could buy almost anything, especially drugs and STD. To me it looked more like the Venice California boardwalk than Bangkok, only the sellers in the stalls lining both sides of the street were not western tourists.
After securing the license, we stopped for lunch at McDonald’s where we were joined by Joe a man who looked like the cadaverous twin of Jerry Merrill. Both the Old Sailor and Joe hinted that they were suffering some truly life threatening maladies. Joe’s skin was pocked with oozing sores. I was disappointed to learn that although I thought they both were substantially older than I, they were actually two years younger.
I spent the afternoon sitting in that McDonald’s on Khao San Road listening to their stories of trips around the world with stolen credit cards, dope deals gone bad, scams that worked and those that didn’t and the mysterious disappearance of four kilos of gold. After that, we went to the travel agency and internet café around the corner where we played on Skype for a while talking to some guy in the Philippines in order to arrange for Joe’s accommodation’s there when he visits in two weeks. I decided to check with the agent to see if they would have been able to get me a better price for my air travel to the US than I was able to get after about a week of trying. I was quite upset they were able to find a ticket for one-third less than I had paid. We then said goodbye to Joe and left Khao San Road. After a two-hour bus ride through downtown BKK, I returned to my apartment.
Today was somewhat interesting. It rained and swimming was not an option. So after attending the Old Men’s Caucus at the health club, I only took a steam bath and shower. As I prepared to leave, I was enticed into a discussion with a likable, intelligent, paranoid conspiracy theorist. His name is Christopher. He was born in Australia of a Jewish father and Australian mother. His father’s family is originally from Transylvania but spent a few generations in Vienna before emigrating to Australia.
He identifies himself proudly as an anarchist and firmly believes in just about every conspiracy I have heard about and a few that I did not: The Twin Towers Conspiracy, Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission and so on and on. One of them I did not know about goes something like this:
Since the signing of Magna Carta, we unknowingly have been subject to Admiralty Law and not Common Law; which means that we are not individuals but chattel in the eyes of the law. Among the proofs of this amazing assertion was his claim that all birth certificates since then have been written on special paper usually used to write Bills of Lading for transporting goods by ship. Since Bills of Lading are often negotiable documents and can be used as security for debts, our birth certificates over the years have become owned by banks because they were used as collateral by nation states to secure their loans for various wars and the like. He says if you look at a real birth certificate instead of the copy you usually receive (the real ones are kept in the vaults of the major international banks) you will discover on the back stamps from the banks and financial institutions you have been pledged to.
This was probably the least shocking conspiracy he revealed in the several hour conversation I had with him. At one point, he mentioned that if your name is written in all capital letters on a document, that means you are a corporation and not an individual. At least that is what I thought he said.
It was, for me, a few hours fascinating voyage into the arcane world of the truly sublimely insane. Much better than the books I have been reading recently.
He claims he made enough money converting his training as a bio-chemist and phlebotomist into a series of blood testing centers around Australia and England to retire to Thailand. I thought this was an interesting choice of occupation for someone whose family is originally from Transylvania. Anyway, he invited me to join him for dinner one evening before I return to the US.
A few days ago I received an interesting email. It seems that about four years ago as I was closing down my law practice before escaping to Thailand, someone, I no longer remember, asked me to begin some litigation on his behalf for free. I pointed out to him that I did not do litigation and although during the prior few years of practice most of my clients failed to pay their bills, I was not interested in beginning another pro bono representation. The prospective client then explained that the statute of limitations to bring the action would run out in a few days and begged me, as a favor, to file the action so that he could have the time to find an attorney willing to represent him for free. Alas, always a sucker for a sad story, I agreed and filed the case. As could be expected, my friend did not secure alternative representation by the time a mandatory settlement conference was set up. I missed conference and was fined by the court. Ultimately the case was resolved with no further problems and I left the US. Unfortunately I forgot to pay the fine. Now over four years later I learn from my friends through the email that I have been prohibited by the Bar Association from further practice of law in California because I had failed to pay the fine.
Around the same time as my departure from the US, I also tried to retire from the Bar. I was told that in order to do so I would have to pay all unpaid back dues, a fee for retirement and annual dues to remain on inactive status. This conversation occurred during that time when the Bar Association had been unfunded by the California (In effect disbarred by California) and was somewhat desperate for money. After a few arguments over the telephone with representatives of the Bar about my inability to pay the back fees all at once and the unreasonableness of having to pay a fee and dues, no matter how small, to retire and receiving no satisfaction, I explained to them what I thought they could do with their demands. Eventually I began to receive notices by mail from the Bar Association which I assumed were continuing demands for payment of the dues. I treated them just the same as I treated notices from credit card companies demanding payment and threatening to ruin my already ruined credit rating; I threw them all unopened into the trash until, after about a year when my forwarding address ceased to be operative, they ceased. I assume some of these notices contained demands for the payment of fine as well.
At least I was not accused of moral turpitude. Although I certainly have in my life often turpituded my morals, my failing, it seems, was not the terps and tudes that usually gets the Bar Association’s knickers in a twist.
Now in order to save what remains of my reputation and avoid the malicious whisperings of those who should know better, I am faced with the option of possibility paying many thousands of dollars so that I can be reinstated and continue to pay the Bar Association in order to remain on inactive status. I find my chances of choosing this route highly unlikely.
On the other hand, one of my favorite mystery writers, Christopher Moore’s, main character in many of his novels is named Vinnie Calvino, a half Italian, half Jewish lawyer from NY who was disbarred who now lives in Bangkok and eaks out a living as a PI. I find, on the whole, the Calvino approach to dealing with recalcitrant bar associations rather romantic.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Note: the following continues my series about the four governmental agencies that I had some role in developing. I skipped over the California Coastal Commission because I have dealt with its creation at length in previous issues of T&T (although never completed).
C. The California State Coastal Conservancy.
2. Rational for creation of the Coastal Conservancy.
The 1973 voter approved Proposition 20 required the preparation of a plan for the preservation of the resources along California’s 1500 miles of coast by a new governmental entity, The California Coastal Commission. In order to prevent new development from subverting the Plan, the Commission was authorized to regulate all proposed new development within a band extending 1000 feet from the high water line. I was the chief counsel to the Commission in charge of, among other things, the creation and management of the regulatory program. Later I also wrote three elements of the Coastal Plan including the Government, Powers and Funding element that described the Commissions proposals for implementation of the substantive recommendations of the Plan.
The interim regulatory program allowed the Commission and its staff to experience first hand the dynamics of development along the coast and the limitations inherent in a regulatory program. Among these limitations we recognized the following:
1. Although it is capable of moderating the adverse impacts of new development or stopping it all together, regulation proved ineffective in altering negative forces already set in motion by prior development. Neither could it remedy the damage to resources that had already occurred.
2. Regulation, no matter how stringent, leaks. For innumerable reasons inappropriate or developments with unforeseen consequences get approved now and then continuing, albeit slower, the deterioration of the resource. The “leakage” inevitably confirms David Brower’s lament regarding attempts to protect the environment, “All our victories are temporary and all our defeats permanent.”
3. Regulation can stop additional bad things from happening, but it could not take action to create good things nor take preëmptive action. It could not restore degraded resources, build and manage access ways for the public to enjoy the coastline everyone was working so hard to protect, promote and create urban resources, establish physical boundaries to sprawl rather than simply attempting to impose juridical boundaries that ultimately “leak.”
4. Regulation must, for a number or reasons, treat the problems and resources as infinite; for example “wetlands should not be filled,” or “Developments should not interfere with significant public views,” and the like. Yet, in fact, the resources were finite. It was these specific wetlands that needed to be protected and those particular views. As a result regulation was not as sensitive to the more complex requirements of the individual resource.
5. Regulation was passive and reactive. One had to wait for a development to be proposed before a regulatory action could be taken. If the resource was extremely valuable one could not predict the dynamics that affect the decision nor the appropriateness of the action.
6. If the specific resource’s environmental merits were high enough then, leaving it exposed to the conflict of economic interests and value that push and pull those involved in the regulatory process, seem foolhardy.
(To be continued)
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Vivian: I don’t like your manners.
Marlowe: And I’m not crazy about yours. I didn’t ask to see you. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners, I don’t like them myself. They are pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings. I don’t mind your ritzing me drinking your lunch out of a bottle. But don’t waste your time trying to cross-examine me.
I followed Mavis into the pool area where she had already settled into what appeared to be an amusing conversation with Lilly Park. For some reason I assumed it was about me. I approached them. Lilly turned to me with a big smile, said, “Well, here’s the great private detective. Come to shake me down again?”
“The threesome offer is still open,” I responded. “That’s the only type of shaking I’m interested in right now.”
“Ooh, I might just be into that. Can I bring a fourth?”
“Bring whoever you’d like.”
“Maybe I’ll bring Malcolm,” she said. “I heard you two get along real well.”
Malcolm Dornbush, the octogenarian real estate developer of many of San Francisco’s most notable high rises, philanthropist and major contributor to the City’s Democratic Party since there is no opposition party to corrupt. Oh and a major prick. He never forgave me for representing a competitor in a battle over which one could misuse the City’s environmental planning policies to benefit himself at the expense of the other as well as the public. I won.
A few weeks later at a political event at which we were both honored for our meretricious contributions to the party, Malcolm approached the table at which I was sitting along with a number of unmemorable political appointees to various city boards and commissions and in a loud voice berated me for causing him to lose some of his expected outrageous profits on the project. He also swore that he would never give me and my firm and legal work in the future and capped the diatribe off with a threat to destroy my career. I knew that the threat was meaningless. I was quite capable of destroying my career on my own and certainly did not need his help to do so.
I responded, “Mal, you can fuss and fume all you want, but you are an old man and I am much younger than you and I will always have the pleasure of knowing that I will outlive you and that you know it.” Actually I was not so sure. Even then I believed the fucker was so evil he would live forever.
“I thought I just heard someone mention my name. Was that you, Lilly my dear?”
The mostly bald, liver spotted creäture of darkness that was Malcolm Dornbush seemed to emerge from behind some vegetation that had hidden him like a swamp hides alligators. He was followed by his equally reprehensible son who rumor has it was so incompetent he was sent off to the bush leagues of Oakland to suborn that city into allowing him to fail at redeveloping an already misused piece of Port property.
“Why hello Dragon,” said the talking pus bucket as he turned to me. “I almost did not see you. You’re easy to miss among all these distinguished people. I see you know Lilly. I hear you do not get out of North Beach much anymore. Pity.” He smiled for a moment and continued, “As you can see I am still alive.”
“I congratulate you Mal, on your brilliance in living this long and forcing me to delay that inevitable day when I stand there and piss on your grave.”
“Ah, same old Dragon.” He pointedly turned his back to me and said to Lilly, “Come Lilly. I see Bertha Briggs the Chairwoman of the Port of Oakland over there. We have to say a few words to her about Alvin’s project. Why don’t you join us my dear?”
He, ever the Lothario, said the last to Mavis and with his arms spread wide like a farmer herding ducks moved them all off to where the ever loud Bertha was holding court. Mavis turned her head to me and shrugged before she and everyone else left me standing there alone.
2013- The US has over 1.1 million lawyers and graduates about 40,000 more per year. The US leads the world in lawyers per capita. As a whole lawyers are among the highest paid professionals in the US. They produce little of value to the nation as a whole.
At the same time, we have only about 16000 physicists and 8000 materials scientists. They do not earn on average as much as lawyers do. A significant portion of the technological advancement that forms much of the economic foundation of the nation’s wealth depends on them.
What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
“Even without being able to gauge the actual political power of wealthy citizens, we can confidently reject the view that extensive political power by the wealthy would be of little practical importance anyway because their policy preferences are much the same as everyone else’s. On many important issues the preferences of the wealthy appear to differ markedly from those of the general public. Thus, if policy makers do weigh citizens’ policy preferences differentially based on their income or wealth, the result will not only significantly violate democratic ideals of political equality, but will also affect the substantive contours of American public policy.”
Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans, by Benjamin I. Page, Larry M. Bartels, and Jason Seawright
“Naturally, the common people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to do the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and endangering the country. It works the same in every country.”
Herman Goering during his testimony at the Nuremberg Trials.
“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
“What if nothing exists and we’re all in somebody’s dream?”
Me at the beach holding up the sky like Atlas, except I do it with only one hand.