“Stories tell you all you need to know.”
Belateche, Irving, The Origin of Dracula (p. 156). Laurel Canyon Press.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
El Dorado Hills is an almost place, almost a forest, almost a mountain, almost a city, almost a community and living here is almost a life.
Today, the caesious skies above the Golden Hills filled up with rolling clouds promising cooling temperatures and a bit of rain. Too cold for swimming, I contented myself with a little Poe, some apples and a glass of cranberry juice. Later, after a nap, I pondered if I could do more to entertain myself. Unable to think of anything, I left Hans Pfaall in his balloon somewhere over the North Pole and waded into the problems of Morgaine the qujalan and Vanye her ilin, pursued by Thiye of Hjemur the Immortal Lord of Rahjemur, as they fled across Andur-Kursh in a desperate effort to close the Gates at Ivrel.
Later, HRM and I giggled and shouted our way to the orthodontist. Returning home feeling I had a satisfactory day so far, I took a second nap after which we enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs accompanied by a bottle of Lone Buffalo Zinfandel given to us by Stevie and Norbert. I then puttered about on T&T, posted a few articles in my blogs and went to bed believing that I had accomplished more this day than I started out to do.
Unfortunately, my dreams raised a symbolic re-creation of something that I failed at in my past. I was only able to rescue part of it in my dream. After a brief period of dissatisfaction, I persuaded myself that I had done better in my dream than I had done in real life, so I woke up the next day in a good mood.
My life feels like I am swimming through a vat of maple syrup. It tastes good and the smell is delightful, but the going is slow and the blueberry pancakes are missing.
B. MORE NOMINATION FOLLIES:
1. The Blond Dreadnaught proceeds in stately procession swamping her rivals, leaving them a glimpse pant-suited confidence marching off toward the Nomination. The nation’s press, gnashing their teeth at the loss of their story lines, beg the Republicans to conjure up another scandal out of thin air.
The Blond Dreadnaught’s campaign for the nomination, freed from the need to distinguish herself from her rivals, will now drop any pretense of policy and concentrate exclusively on promoting her love of everyone, especially women and children, but not the NRA and Republicans (unless of course they are women or children).
The Green Mountain Socialist continues to fly around the country performing his wickedly accurate impression of Larry David. In an effort to burnish his green credentials, he proposed the legalization of Marijuana.
Martin the Man it seems got his start in politics playing Irish Music in Boston bars. He claims a good dose of Irish music and a few pints of Guinness can solve any national problem. I tend to agree with him.
2. On the Republican side, the Brain Surgeon has leapt into the lead in some polls. A few pundits have opined his popularity rests of on such national unifying themes as preventing college professors and students from disagreeing with him or equating those he does not like with Hitler. Other commentators suggest that the reason for his surprising rise in popularity is that at his public appearances he appears either drugged or dead, which they claim is a quality a segment of the American public wants to see in their President. The liberal and conservative press are beside themselves in anguish. They dread the expected collapse of their ratings in a presidential campaign between a scandal-less Clinton and a Zombie.
3. The Donald, having seen The Brain Surgeon rise in the polls and displace him as leader of the pack, claimed it is obvious that unless the polls show him leading they are not scientific. At his campaign rallies, The Donald’s supporters have adopted the old American custom of beating up those who disagree with them. The Donald promised his supporters that he would introduce that tradition into the White House as soon as he is elected.
4. While tending bar before the second Republican debate, The South Carolina Nonpareil briefly peeked out of his closet to announce that he would consider marrying Grim Carly for her money. (As I have said, sometimes you cannot make this stuff up.) Meanwhile, Kasich of the Longface wondered what had become of his party — something many of us have been wondering also.
5. The Republicans candidates for their Party’s nomination completed the third of their scheduled 10 debates. They primarily attacked the moderators as being part of the liberal media for asking questions they did not want to answer. The Donald tweeted during the debate that he was embarrassed being there. So were most of those watching, I suspect. Everyone criticizes CSMB for not keeping control over the debate. In fairness to the moderators, it should be pointed out that they are news readers and not kindergarten teachers. Anyway, most commentators believe Water Boy won the debate by responding to The Lesser of the Lesser Bushes’ claim he has missed the most votes among all Senators because he keeps “French Hours,” that he is not lazy because other Senators miss votes too. (I cannot wait for the SNL version.) Others thought Cruz the Munster won because he was best at refusing to answer the questions. Nevertheless, the consensus among the common folk was that The Donald won because he was… well, The Donald.
While there may be several claimants for responsibility for the current crisis in the Middle East, I believe the following article describes the most likely culprit. Although Climate Change may have exacerbated the situation, as the article demonstrates, not all contributing factors are direct causes. It is simply the Tragedy of the Commons played out on a larger scale.
How Russia and Western Style Capitalism Set the Stage for the Horror that is Syria Today — and no it is not about oil.
“Over-exploitation of an ecosystem
The Syrian steppe covers 55% of the country’s territory. This vast steppe land, together with portions from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, has been grazed sustainably by nomadic indigenous pastoralists (Bedouins) for centuries (if not more). Each tribe and clan was linked to certain seasonal pastures and this ensured the sustainability of the grazing — a practice finely calibrated on the need of plant regeneration.
These pastoralists of Arabia are known to have been pioneers in establishing ‘protected areas’ (hema): certain pastures were relieved from grazing, permanently or temporary, in order to allow keeping the whole ecosystem healthy and functional.
The beginning of the ecological degradation and destruction came with the modern state, so keen to uncritically import ideas of maximization of agricultural yields from the Soviet Union: in particular the central government decided to nationalize the steppe in 1958, establishing de facto an open access system — a well known recipe for ecological disaster.
Through this arrangement the customary link between the natural resource and its user was interrupted — abruptly disowning the traditional ecological knowledge of this ancient people. The pastures, not managed and protected anymore by the tribes, started to be over-grazed by free-ranging pastoralists.
A major role in this unfolding disaster was played by affluent urban investors who threw thousands of livestock into the steppe turning the grazing into a large-scale, totally unsustainable, industrial practice.
A similar sort of story of gross mismanagement took place in the eastern part of the Syria’s steppe land, the territory east to the Euphrates, allocated to intensive agriculture via irrigation through underground water.
Water has been pumped from limited underground reserves without much control for decades — so that wells had to be dug every year deeper and deeper with increasing consumption of fuel.
Year by year, desertification sets in.
The alternation of wet and dry periods (sometimes lasting up to 5-7 years) is a key structural and natural feature of this kind of environment. The relentless ecological degradation of this semi-arid fragile ecosystem produced a gradual and steady decrease of its resilience in the face of cycles of droughts made increasingly more severe and frequent by a long-term regional drying pattern linked to the greenhouse effects.
Note that increasing the resilience of ecosystems is actually one of the key natural solutions as adaptation to climate change, as it is currently referred to within the circles of climate change international aid work.
While in the past the steppe was able to recover even following intense periods of droughts, during the past decade pastoralists and farmers have started to complain about a sharp and ineluctable reduction in soil fertility and an increase of frequency of fierce dust storms due to erosion.
An evident desertification process has been on display across the steppe land for quite some time. Recommendations to reduce the ecological pressure on this fragile environment — from myself and others — went unheard.
Ecological crisis fans the flames of rebellion
Following a recent cycle of intense drought during 2006-2010, the agriculture system eventually collapsed in eastern Syria greatly facilitated by an abrupt halt of government subsidies and consequent soaring prices of fuel for wells.
At the same time, the ecological impoverishment of the rangelands reached unheard-of levels. “The drought only brought to light a man-made disaster,” said a local journalist from eastern Syria to the International Crisis Group in 2009.
This combined ecological crisis of croplands and rangelands created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the rural areas of the country, followed by massive internal displacements, that the government clearly failed to tackle and manage.
For the first time ever Syria, known to be proudly autonomous in terms of food production (and actually even exporting food), had to rely on a massive international emergency food aid in 2008.
It is therefore not a coincidence that the uprising in 2011 started in provincial towns rather than in the major urban centres of Damascus and Aleppo, Francesca De Chatel argues, aptly defining the rebellion as a “rural Intifada” — one in which Bedouin tribes of steppe origin played a key role.
The same sort of conclusions were reached in analyzing the triggers of the Darfur war that that took place from 2003 to 2010 not far from Syria. Darfur suffered from precisely the same sort of over-exploited semi-arid ecosystem, while one again rural and indigenous people were the victims, including nomadic pastoralists.
Gianlucca Serra, UN — FAO.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
“One Punch” Sammy Santoro was one of the terrors of my youth as well as one of its dark heroes. (He beat the shit out of Richie Santaliquito twice and he and his gang was about to do the same to me and a friend for knowing Richie until “Chickie” Muscalino interceded on our behalf.) I have written about him in T&T before. The last I had heard of him, he had an operation going using a “little person” to break into homes. I always wondered what had happened to him. For some reason, I thought he had died in the electric chair. Recently by chance, I found the following in a 1972 appellate brief in New York.
“The indictment charged that Santoro and Tortora, along with Joseph Chiaverini, Gene Genaro and Nicholas Rattenni, lent money to Joseph Formiglia although they had reasonable grounds to believe that the money would be used by Formiglia to make extortionate loans. It further charged that they had used extortionate means to collect the money loaned to Formiglia.”
“The scheme began in November 1969 when Formiglia, a jeweler, borrowed $400 from Santoro, promising to pay $40 a week interest until the $400 principal was repaid. Shortly after this first loan was made Formiglia wanted additional money, but did not want to borrow it under his own name. Thus he conceived the idea of borrowing from Santoro on the pretext that he himself was relending the money at usurious rates. Beginning in early December 1969, Santoro made additional loans to Formiglia, amounting to approximately $11,000 by the middle of February 1970. Tortora frequently was present when these loans were made. Rattenni was present at two of the transactions.”
“By late February 1970, Santoro suspected that Formiglia was not actually relending the money. Chiaverini was delegated to go with Formiglia on his next collection date to visit his “customers.” When Formiglia protested that his customers might not like this arrangement, Santoro said, ‘We’ll go around and collect the f____’ money or we’ll break their heads if they don’t pay us.’”
“Formiglia feigned sickness on the collection date, but this merely confirmed Santoro’s suspicions that Formiglia’s customers were nonexistent and that the “loans” were only a pretense to cover Formiglia’s own borrowing. Santoro met with Formiglia and threatened to split Formiglia’s tongue or put a ‘bullet through [his] head’ unless the money was repaid.”
“A few days later Tortora went to the jewelry store where Formiglia worked and told him, ‘My man, you are in a lot of trouble . . . what are you going to do about these f______ loans.’ No arrangements for repayment were made, however. Later that day Santoro telephoned Formiglia, who said that he was going out of town, whereupon Santoro replied, ‘Have a good time because it’s your last trip.’ The next week Tortora went to Formiglia’s store and told him to show up at a meeting at Genaro’s fish market regarding repayment of the loans or Tortora would ‘drag [him] up by [his] head.’”
“Frightened by these threats, Formiglia called the Yonkers Sheriff’s office and was instructed to telephone Tortora and delay the meeting one day. The Sheriff’s office then recorded the conversation.”
“Wearing a hidden tape recorder supplied by the Sheriff’s office, Formiglia met with Tortora the following day at the fish market. Tortora accused Formiglia of juggling the loans and suggested that to repay the loans Formiglia might have to rob a store. Tortora then telephoned Santoro and put Formiglia on the line. Santoro said that if Formiglia did not pay he would break Formiglia’s wife’s head and burn down his house. Tortora then told Formiglia that he better work out a deal to repay the money.”
“The next day Formiglia arranged to go to Santoro’s house, ostensibly to repay the loans. He brought with him money supplied by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. After Formiglia had been in the house a short while, investigators from the District Attorney’s Office entered and arrested Santoro with his hands on the money. Tortora was later arrested by the FBI.”
Sammy skipped out on the trial and disappeared. I could find no further record of him.
Note: Nicholas Rattenni or as he was also known, “Cockeyed Nick” was the head of the mob in Westchester County and a Capo in the Genovese family. He owned a garbage company and controlled refuse collection in the County as well as the construction trades. I used to caddy for him and some of his button men at a local golf club. (They tipped well, so carrying their golf bags became a highly competitive and political competition among the caddies.) A few of the button men were friends of my family. Most of the button men I knew had fled to Florida and other places before the events described in the opinion took place.
May 20th 2009. In Manhattan, Brian McLaughlin president of the city’s Central Labor Council was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing $95,000 from a Little League fund for the Electchester Athletic Association in Flushing, Queens – cash raised through donor letters that promised, “A Child in Sports Stays Out of the Courts.”
A. Quigley on Top:
Professor Carroll Quigley on how the Western Great Powers subdued the rest of the world from the 16th through the 20th Centuries:
“In many cases this military superiority was so great that it did not have to be applied in battle. The native rulers yielded and allowed their own communities to be destroyed by the non-military weapons of Europe, such as its disease, commercial practices, and legal rules. From this arose the curious result that the English-speaking peoples were able to persuade themselves that they had not needed their military power at all. They spoke of “peaceful economic penetration of colonial areas” even when natives were dying by millions, as in China, from the innovations they had brought in. By “peaceful” they came to mean, not that weapons had not been used because European military power was so overwhelming, but that weapons had had nothing to do with it. The perfect example of this is the opening of Japan to Western commerce by Perry over a century ago. Only to Americans did this appear as peaceful economic action; the Japanese knew then, as we know now,
that it was a conflict of power even if that did not become overt.”
Weapons Systems and Political Stability (1976).
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“The so-called neoliberal economics born at the at the University of Chicago is little more than an operating manual for sociopaths.”
C. Today’s Poem:
When dawn’s first cymbals beat upon the sky,
Rousing the world to labour’s various cry,
To tend the flock, to bind the mellowing grain,
From ardent toil to forge a little gain,
And fasting men go forth on hurrying feet,
BUY BREAD, BUY BREAD, rings down the eager street.
When the earth falters and the waters swoon
With the implacable radiance of noon,
And in dim shelters koils hush their notes,
And the faint, thirsting blood in languid throats
Craves liquid succour from the cruel heat,
BUY FRUIT, BUY FRUIT, steals down the panting street.
When twilight twinkling o’er the gay bazaars,
Unfurls a sudden canopy of stars,
When lutes are strung and fragrant torches lit
On white roof-terraces where lovers sit
Drinking together of life’s poignant sweet,
BUY FLOWERS, BUY FLOWERS, floats down the singing street.
– Sarojini Naidu
”Consciousness is an accidental by-product, a feedback loop to conserve resources.”
Mather, Matthew. Darknet (p. 249).