Daily Archives: April 2, 2015

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 20 Pops 0003 (September 3, 2014)

“I think of myself as mostly a bad man who at times tried to do good and now and then succeeded only to find those successes often were ephemeral in significance and ambiguous in result.”
Trenz Pruca

Happy Birthday Good/Bad David

TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. RUTH GALANTER AND I SOMEWHERE IN ITALY SEVERAL YEARS AGO:
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We travelled with my son, daughter in law, and three grandchildren. I remember it as a happy time. (I think I still have those pants)
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

1. Three lessons, more or less:

On Saturday I drove to San Francisco to visit my mother, daughter and son.

My mother, who is 96, is clearly dying. Unfortunately for her, she is fully aware of it and lies in her bed in the nursing home in terror of the prospect. There is a big difference between knowing that the great existential serial killer lurks somewhere around the corner and actually having him grab you by the throat.

(Did you know that in Irish mythology Death is a woman named Morrigan and appears in the form of a crow?)

Later, I had an excellent lunch with my daughter at an overpriced restaurant near North Beach. Among her portfolios for the State Department, she co-ordinates the American participation in the World Health Organization’s response to the rise in antibiotic resistant microorganisms. The creation of antibiotic resistant pathogens by inadvertence or design can be considered as great a threat to the US as terrorists launching a biologic weapon. When we speak about honoring those who defend our nation we too often forget about the many like her that also do so, with their minds and not with guns.

She brought me a briefcase full of photographs that I had stored at a friend’s house when I got rid of everything I owned five years ago. I had forgotten about them. Looking through them made me sad.

I also visited with my son and his family. My granddaughter had just returned from Japan where she and her mother had spent the summer with her mother’s family. I gave each of them one of LM’s colorful knitted caps.
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I learned there is a significant difference between the borderline and poor libertarians/tea partiers and its middle class supporters who you often see at protests and on Faux News. They, the borderline and poor, make more than minimum wage but often less than a real living wage. They rent and live in substandard housing in run down neighborhoods. They feel abandoned by the liberals with their emphasis on middle class interests and their seeming indifference to placing groups of working class poor in conflict with each other. They hate Republicans for their slavish support of oppressive corporate interests. As a result they have become bitter, anarchistic and compulsive purchaser of guns.

2. A question:

The following in a photograph of my current state of sartorial splendor. Several people have urged me to change my Facebook photo because I look too angry in it. Do you think I should replace it with this photo as a better representation of what I have become? I am obviously not the least bit angry or for that matter embarrassed.

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3. Along the Cosumnes River:

HRM is studying California history with his fourth grade class, beginning with the Donner Party. For those unfamiliar with how California schools approach the State’s history, they do not begin with the arrival of the Native Americans or of the Spanish, but with the Donner Party where a group of arrogant fortune seekers try to cross the Sierra Mountains in winter, get trapped in the snow and are forced to eat each other to stay alive until the remnants of the group were rescued.

Anyway, we decided to spend the morning with Naida West and Bill Geyer at their ranch on the banks of the Cosumnes River. Naida as you know wrote that wonderful historical trilogy about the area around the ranch during the Nineteenth Century. The eldest of the Donner children who was 14 years old at the time was married off to an unspeakably obnoxious employee of John Sutter, Perry McCoon. He was in his late 30’s. They moved to a small adobe cottage on the property where he left the young Donner girl alone for long periods of time. In the novel the young girl made friends with an indian woman from the village nearby who she discovers was also Perry McCoon’s wife and had a child by him.

I thought this visit would benefit HRM’s studies and ingratiate him with his teacher. Naida showed us some old photographs of the Donner girl and some of the other settlers in the area. She also brought out some of the Indian and settler artifacts she found on the property.
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We visited the site of the original adobe house, Perry McCoon’s grave, the remnants of dam site over which the miners and the ranchers had a shoot out and the indian village that the miners destroyed while slaughtering most of the inhabitants in an effort to steal their gold.

B. READINGS:

I have begun reading three non-fiction books more or less simultaneously. The first is Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Times that I discuss in this and the previous issue of T&T.

I also am reading Quigley’s Weapons Systems and Political Stability. That book, although over 1000 pages long, was only partially completed when Quigley died. It eventually was published in manuscript form without editing. I am attempting to prepare an edited version with comments and summaries that I will issue in a new blog I hope to create.

The third book a translation of Kautilya’s Arthasatra (Economics) written in about 300BC as a treatise on governance for the Emperor-King of the Maurya empire Chandragupta. Chandragupta was one of Alexander the Great’s allies in his conquest of Western India (now mostly Pakistan) who after Alexander’s death rebelled against his successor Seleucus.

Kautilya was Chandragupa’s chief minister. His book bears great similarity to Machiavelli’s, The Prince written over 1800 years later except that Kautilya was much more bloody. An interesting chapter of the treatise concerns how to undermine a democracy* of which there were several in India at the time.

*Note: historically a democracy was and always has been government by a more or less large group with an equal say in limited aspects of governance in their society. It almost never meant universal suffrage. For example, in the Athens of Pericles, it meant, at best, male property owners with a much smaller group composed of the largest property owners exercising the most power. In the United States, it generally meant, at the beginning, white male Protestant property owners. The history of the US can be seen as a constant battle over the years to expand suffrage culminating in the mid 1960’s and receding since then. The first limitation to go was Protestant, then property owners, then ensued a 150 year un-concluded war over white interspersed with the removal of male as a limitation on suffrage.The recent reaction against expanding suffrage seeks to give those possessing significant wealth greater weight in both suffrage and power than those lacking it and to restrict by several means the exercise of the franchise by non-white Americans, the poor or recently naturalized citizens without wealth. Despite the overall expansion of suffrage, real power in the US has almost always been exercised by a much smaller group of men owning or heading immense economic entities. Usually these entities have been big industrial, natural resource or financial concerns and for a brief period large centrally controlled labor organizations. There has never been in America a power entity organized to represent the middle class, the intellectual and professional class or the consumer. Those are generally perceived as the prey of the other power groups and the potential unwitting supporters of whichever group defrauds them into believing they have a real unity of interest.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

QUIGLEY ON TOP

Carroll I hardly knew ye. Carroll-Quigley-1956 Carroll-Quigley-1956-Pr1_tn

I have never met anyone who has taken Carroll Quigley’s class at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service who has not agreed the experience was life changing, and that includes such diverse personalities as Bill Clinton and Pat Buchanan. Clinton in his Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address 16th July 1992, said this about Quigley:

“As a teenager, I heard John Kennedy’s summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest nation in history because our people had always believed in two things: that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so.”

I remember Professor Quigley, in the old military barracks that served us for classrooms back then, plunging down the aisle, arm outstretched as though it held a sword or a spear, shouting out the intimate details of whatever great world shaking battle we were learning about at the time. I recall also my shock when I learned that Plato was not just some Greek in a toga who was Socrates mouthpiece and talked a lot about caves and shadows, but that his ideas, for better of worse, but mostly for worse, may have shaped the fundamental beliefs of whole societies.

His book The Evolution of Civilization (1979) contains more or less the substance of his lectures. Tragedy and Hope (1966) containing over 1300 pages and the uncompleted Weapons Systems and Political Stability (1983) with over 1000 includes most of his lectures adjusted and expanded to cover the special focus of each book. The question this brings to mind of course is, given the multitude of facts and the breadth of the subject matter, how was it possible for the student to digest this knowledge. Even more remarkable is that many of us remember the specifics of the lectures, even as in my case over 50 years later.

He accomplished this feat of teaching by the immense theatricality of his lectures combined with breaking down the facts into repetitive categories and the surprising novelty of his insights. As an example of the latter, I opened Tragedy and Hope and extracted a random quote:

“Helmuth von Moltke, who had never commanded a unit so large as a company previously. Moltke’s great contribution was to be found in the fact that, by using the railroad and the telegraph, he was able to merge mobilization and attack into a single operation so that the final concentration of his forces took place in the enemy country, practically on the battlefield itself, just before contact with the main enemy forces took place.”

All I had ever known of von Moltke before was that he had humiliated the forces of Napoleon III of France. The surprise that he was an amateur and his vaunted strategy so simple, forever fixed these facts my mind.

Of course, the way it usually happens with successful military innovations, they become doctrines that others copy. The French military academies took the concept of mass assault and interpreted it as a question of morale. Unbelievably, French military doctrine following their defeat, maintained that defense was irrelevant, that mass attacks were the only strategy and the army with the highest morale would always win because the army with lower moral would run away. This also would produce fewer casualties. The Italians modified this theory to eliminate morale and opted to place machine guns at the backs of the troops instead of in front of them in order to shoot any who hesitated in the attack. Of course, at Caporetto it meant that the Italian troops charging the Austrian lines surrendered in mass when they reached the enemy’s trenches. Italian troops were not so dumb as to buy their leaders view of “Patria” as something to die for.

This military doctrine of bringing troops rapidly to a huge front for a mass attack collapsed in WW I when both sides ran into barbed wire, machine guns and trenches and died in huge numbers no matter how quickly they got to the battlefield or how high their morale.

Perhaps the central element of Quigley’s teaching is that it is the humanism of society and not its form of government that should be at its heart. For example, about minority rights he wrote:

“I define democracy as majority rule and minority rights. Of these the second is more important than the first. There are many despotisms which have majority rule. Hitler held plebiscites in which he obtained over 92 percent of the vote, and most of the people who were qualified to vote did vote. I think that in China today a majority of the people support the government, but China is certainly not a democracy.

The essential half of this definition then, is the second half, minority rights. What that means is that a minority has those rights which enable it to work within the system and to build itself up to be a majority and replace the governing majority. Moderate deviations from majority rule do not usually undermine democracy. In fact, absolute democracy does not really exist at the nation-state level. For example, a modest poll tax as a qualification for voting would be an infringement on the principle of majority rule but restrictions on the suffrage would have to go pretty far before they really abrogated democracy. On the other hand relatively slight restrictions on minority rights — the freedoms of speech, assembly, and other rights — would rapidly erode democracy.”
The Mythology Of American Democracy

Teaching was Quigley’s life. Many of those he taught intended to enter the United States Foreign Service. He believed they needed to comprehend the cultures they would work in and therefore he developed a method of analysis of culture, history and society that would aid them in their vocation and hopefully create a better world.

He was always was an optimist. Later in life, however, that optimism began to wane. I guess it was like a person who builds one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and warns those who inhabit it that they must remain vigilant against rust and rot only eventually to find the residents too busy pursuing what appears important to them individually to bother with what was necessary for them all.

He ended one of his last lectures with the following:

“Now I want to say good night. Do not be pessimistic. Life goes on; life is fun. And if a civilization crashes, it deserves to. When Rome fell, the Christian answer was, ‘Create our own communities.’“

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“I see great things in baseball.”
Walt Whitman

TODAY’S CHART:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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A stunning photograph of a scuffle in the Ukraine Parliament bearing an astounding resemblance to a Renaissance painting. Actually, it is more Mannerist than High Renaissance. It is also an almost perfect example of chiaroscuro. Caravaggio would love it.

Categories: July through September 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 10 Pops 0003 (August 25, 2014)

“Poets are not happy people.”
Trenz Pruca

TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. COMPOSITION IN RED AND GREEN:

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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

In a modern upper middle class subdivision community like El Dorado Hills it is difficult to observe, like Thoreau did, the macrocosm in the microcosm, the larger in the smaller, the world in a blade of grass, society in the clash of competing ant colonies. The reason for this is that the novelty and chaos of the microcosm is determinately eliminated in a place like El Dorado Hills and replaced by orderly organization of the environment and the society living in it. It should be pointed out, I am speaking of organization and not regimentation. In fact, regimentation would be antithetical to the appearance of freedom the orderliness intends to convey. Alas, freedom, if one can use that generalization, reflects more in our adaptation and reaction to the vagaries of our environment. If our environment is too organized and orderly we risk being absorbed into it like a fly stuck in wet paint.

For this reason I often find few observations to write about here. How many ways can one discuss an organization or anything that de-emphasizes change.? The same trees appear in orderly rows along the parkway medians, distinctions among them blurred. Change seems slowed and conflict submerged in silence. I expect even the ant colonies have given up their competition over food.

A relief from this organized orderliness lies in the appearance here and there of feral animals who have adapted to this environment, wild turkeys, coyotes, snakes and the like. They romp fat and unwary across the landscape as long as the gates to the subdivision remain closed and the humans within disinclined or prohibited from killing and eating them.

Therefore, I welcome the odd and unknown clank and wheeze in the car requiring me to bring it in to the repair shop, as I did a few days ago, and, until the car is repaired, spend my day in and around Sacramento’s Capitol Park among my beloved trees.

Now, my friend Yeates is quite fond of birds and very knowledgable about them. I suspect that, from a smear of birdshit on the sidewalk, he could deduce the latin name of the avian shitter; the color of its feathers; where it was going and whether it was reading the NY times when it shat.

I, on the other hand, love trees. True, I do not know many of their species names unless I read them on a plaque affixed to the trunk, but I know I can hug them when I want to and which ones give good shade to old men sitting on benches in the park. I can tell the differences between those with rough barks and those with smooth. I know which ones would be good for climbing if I were 60 years younger. And, I can imagine grasping the highest branches and looking out over the countryside while wafting back and forth in the breeze unafraid of falling, confident that the branches will catch me in their arms before I hit the ground cradling me like a mother embracing her child.

Anyway, eventually I left the park and the trees for lunch with Stevie and Norbert where we played “ain’t it awful” while we ate.

B. A PLEASING COMMENT:

Naida West’s thoughtful and sensitive comment on my rumination in the previous issue of T&T about my upcoming 75th birthday pleased me greatly. I though you might enjoy it almost as much as I did.

“You wrote:

‘Someone’s 75th birthday seems to me to be an important milestone in life. One should spend those milestones with those with whom they had shared a portion of it, friends and family. Unfortunately, I will not be able to do so. …Maybe I’ll buy myself a birthday cake.’

I’ll go a step further and say: One’s 75th birthday IS an important milestone that ought to be shared with friends and family. I was happy to learn that my Carmel High School class of ’57 is throwing a birthday bash for all of us, since we’ve all turned, or will turn, 75 this year. We’re calling it the “57-75” party — more than a reunion.

I recall my 2 birthday parties — the first a wondrous event with a kitchen table full of kids and my mother setting a birthday cake before me, ablaze with 4 candles. My father and I had held hands as we walked down the alley to the tiny corner grocery store to buy the candles, and I will always remember his loving tone as he spoke to me like I was a grown up. My cousin once removed, 7 at the time, leaned over and blew out the candles before I understood my role. Two of my aunts scolded him; he turned red, and I felt sorry for his embarrassment. My next and last birthday party occurred when I turned 8, with one friend there, and my brother and little sister.

Long ago I told my husbands, in turn, and my children, that I don’t care about my birthdays, that they needn’t bother their heads about it. Yet when I turned 75 in April, I felt it would have been nice to have some sort of shared celebration. Maybe I’m just an unfair old grouch looking back over 50 years of arranging birthday parties for my elders, my 2 husbands, and each of my 3 children from age 1 to about 15.

Yes, buy yourself a birthday cake! And consider me to be a spirit guest, as well as a member of the great class of ’57. In Carmel I’ll raise a glass of wine to you. A classmate who owns the party building, along with nearly every other building in downtown Carmel, has doubtless encountered evidence of your work.

Also from TNT, your dream: “…a reverse nightmare, waking up was the horror.”

Well said.”

I urge all of you who read this, to treat yourself (perhaps on your birthday) to Naida’s three wonderful historical novels set in the Cosumnes River area near Sacramento during the 19th Century. You will not be disappointed. You can order them at: bridgehousebooks@gmail.com.

Pookie says check it out.
C. A MESSAGE TO THE TOOTH FAIRY:

HRM wrote the following note to the tooth fairy which he placed under his pillow along with the detached tooth:

“Dear Tooth Fairy,

Did you ever take John Cena’s tooth? Yes__ or No___

Please respond.”

Clearly a future CEO; dynamic and imperious behavior set in an imaginary universe.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:
Quigley up top:

Carroll Quigley (1910-1977), one of the great but unheralded minds of the latter part of the 20th Century, wrote a book entitled “Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Times” (1965). He believed the explanation for the disintegration of a society can be identified in the gradual transformation of social arrangements functioning to meet real social needs into social institutions serving their own purposes regardless of real social needs.

Perhaps because of what it also revealed, his book mysteriously quickly disappeared from the selves of bookstores to be replaced four years later by a heavily edited version that eliminated much the book’s disclosures. In about 2002, the original version finally was republished.

To professor Quigley’s great dismay, the revelations in the book and the facts surrounding its publication became fodder for the tin-foil hat brigade, including Alex Jones, and inadvertently inspired the conspiracy culture that still infects America today. Although “Tragedy and Hope,” became the wellspring of innumerable conspiracy theories, Quigley strenuously objected to them all. He wrote:

“This radical Right fairy tale, which is now an accepted folk myth in many groups in America, pictured the recent history of the United States, in regard to domestic reform and in foreign affairs, as a well-organized plot by extreme Left-wing elements…. This myth, like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. “

After describing the “modicum of truth,” he continues:

“I have no aversion to it (the organizations and activities that the conspiracy theorists base their conjectures on) or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies… but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.”

In this and following issues of T&T, I will write more about Quigley, discuss and at times criticize his arguments and disclosures as well as provide examples of its content and of his other writings.

As an illustration, Quigley, rightly or wrongly, maintained that until the later half of the 19th Century society as reflected in history was the story of the economic, intellectual and military elites. The peasants and proletariat were, other than for the technology they used, of little account.

“it is revealing that the ideological appeal for allegiance in the last two thousand years of Europe’s history (and, indeed, in most of mankind’s earlier history) made almost no effort to reach or to attract the peasants, who were, throughout history down to the nineteenth century, not only the most numerous class in society but were also, of course, the economic support of the power structure. This failure to make ideological appeal to the most numerous and most necessary group in the community was a consequence of the facts of power which are being discussed in this book. Whatever the number of the tillers of the soil or the indispensable nature of their contribution to the community, their power has always been insignificant, except in the few, relatively brief periods when they have been of military importance to the community. Except for the period before about 4000 B.C., and for a few centuries in Roman history and an even briefer period in some areas of Greek history, the peasantry has played almost no role in military life and, accordingly, almost no role in political life of the communities which have made history. This military and political incapacity of the tillers of the soil, so glaringly evident under feudalism or during the Thirty Years’ War, was a function of the distribution of weapons and of military organization, and is a remarkable example of the weakness of economic necessity in contrast with the role of force in any society. As we shall see, the rise in political significance of peasants and farmers in the nineteenth century, a rise which never took them to a dominant position, was a consequence of changes of weapons, a fact almost unmentioned by historians of the modern period. A similar neglect of peasants has existed in most of history, but on a gigantic scale, in Asia and in Africa, and, above all, in China,…”
Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History. 1983, Washington DC: University Press of America.

Be that as it may, according to Quigley this élite produced a society in the West (including North and South America, etc.) that distinguished it from others and, without diminishing the values those other societies, it was something that he approved of.

“it is clear that the West believes in diversity rather than in uniformity, in pluralism rather than in monism or dualism, in inclusion rather than exclusion, in liberty rather than in authority, in truth rather than in power, in conversion rather than in annihilation, in the individual rather than in the organization, in reconciliation rather than in triumph, in heterogeneity rather than in homogeneity, in relativisms rather than in absolutes, and in approximations rather than in final answers.”
Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. GSG & Associates Publishers.

Quigley believed that the intolerance or rigidity often evident in the religious practices and among some secular groups in the West were in the most part aberrations from its nature of relative inclusivity and diversity. I am less sanguine about this last point. It, however, has been reported that in the last few years of his life Quigley became more pessimistic about the West’s commitment to those ideals.

Quigley also published, The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis. First edition, 1961, New York: Macmillan, 281 pp., The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden. 1981, New York: Books in Focus, 354 pages, and Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History. 1983, Washington DC: University Press of America, 1064 pages.

DAILY FACTOID:
1775: Jeanne Baret of France, became the first woman to sail around the world. She did it disguised as a man so that she could assist botanist Philibert de Commerson, who was also her lover. One of them — quite probably Baret — discovered the Bougainvillea plant.

Ah, those French, always with the love and the flowers…

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:
A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:

An honest commitment to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights.

“‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security.”
Franklin Roosevelt 1944 message to Congress

Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that its citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom, to those without wealth, income or power?
B. A young man named Oliver:

Oliver’s brilliant response to comments disagreeing with a Facebook post of his.

“Kayleigh Sedlack: Don’t be part of the problem Olivier.. Let’s try to be positive and find peace.

Nick Mojica: He is the problem.

Olivier Tomas Grandvoinet: Heyyyy get that shit outta here, y’all aren’t the demographic I’m rallying with at the moment.”

C. More from Facebook

I just noticed that my time-line has reported my new life event: “started working at retired.” Thank God, here I thought I was only wasting my time.

TODAY’S QUOTE:
“Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
Lauren Bacall

TODAY’S CHART:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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The Good Gay Poet Walt Whitman.

“God is a mean-spirited, pugnacious bully bent on revenge against His children for failing to live up to his impossible standards.”
― Walt Whitman

Categories: July through September 2014, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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