“Your mind, never active at anytime, is now even less than ever so. All I heard was a kind of rattle, unintelligible even to me who knew what was intended. I can’t go on, I’ll go on: You invent nothing, you think you are inventing, you think you are escaping, and all you do is stammer out your lesson. To every man his little cross. Till he dies. And is forgotten.”
Happy Birthday Hayden
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S BRIEF ADVENTURE IN SAN FRANCISCO:
Every time I return to San Francisco, I am surprised at the changes to the City that have occurred since the last time I have been there — more high-rises, more coffee shops, more parks being re-landscaped, more people who do not dress like San Franciscans used to dress.
Anyway, I spent two nights with my son Jason and his family watching a sci-fi thriller and holding a small birthday party for my granddaughter Amanda (she is 11).
A couple of afternoons with Peter Grenell sipping coffee at Bernie’s in Noe Valley talking old men’s talk and telling oft-repeated stories. One evening I traveled to Pacifica to hear his band “Blind Lemon Pledge” play at Cheers, an interesting night spot in that coastal community.
Then, a lunch with the ever vivacious and interesting Kathleen Foote at a nice little restaurant on Market Street named “Alta” where she regaled me with stories of her recent trips to India and Cuba. All in all, it was a pleasant four days. Then it was off to the Golden hills — home again, home again jiggity jig.
B. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
Back to breakfast at Bella Bru, swimming through the pain, long naps, short walks, bitter memories, and dreams of what could have been. As Marcel Proust observed, ”Experiences are less real when you have them than when you either remember them or imagine them.” Ain’t that the truth?
Meanwhile, the Wicked Witch of the East pads up and down the hallways like a crazed cockroach searching for its ball of shit.
Today, I wait for the rain. It is supposed to last for six days. The skies are already a deepening gray. I think happy thoughts about its beneficial effects on the current drought in order to prepare myself for the horror of spending most of the week cooped up in a house with a deranged wraith. It could be worse, I guess. I could be just a metaphor.
Thinking of metaphors brings me back again to Samuel Beckett. There was a time when I voraciously devoured all his works. It was a time I was more depressed than usual. I could never tell whether Sam was cynical, depressed or suffering from some as yet unnamed personality disorder. My favorite novel of his was “Krapp’s Last Tape.” It fascinated me how someone, who in his plays rarely had his characters speak more than one word of dialogue whenever it was their time to declaim, could expend so many words on the subtle miseries of dying.
“It’s so nice to know where you’re going, in the early stages. It almost rids you of the wish to go there. There is man in his entirety, blaming his shoe when his foot is guilty. Don’t wait to be hunted to hide. What a joy to know where one is, and where one will stay, without being there. You wiser but not sadder, and I sadder but not wiser. I don’t understand how it can be endured.”
Two days of low gray skies and little rain. Perhaps today is the day the skies open up and wash the Golden Hills down into the Great Green Valley.
I disagree with writers like Proust. If it can’t be boiled down to one sentence (or two if you are especially loquacious) then it’s probably not worth writing about. It is certainly not worth reading about.
The difference between Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler is that Hitler, at least, believed the shit he was saying.
It is hard to believe that one political party considers the primary qualification for President of the United States is the size of the candidate’s dick. Perhaps it has always been that way.
I constantly see comments in Facebook and social media from men claiming they don’t hate all women, just Hillary, and all you women will simply have to wait until one we white men approve of comes along.
On Sunday, thanks to Stevie and Norbert, I escaped to Lone Buffalo Winery in Ophir for their Buffalo Chili feast. Stevie also gave me the DVDs of the entire Montalbano television series. I can see hours in front of the TV in my future.
Monday was HRM’s birthday. He baked his own birthday cake.
Alas, Puff the Bearded Dragon’s short life has ended. The vet said he was sold to us with a birth defect. Both H and I cried — he for Puff and I for him.
I have surprisingly actually completed writing a book. It is essentially a collection of some of the posts from my blogs. Now that I placed them into a word processor that prepares them for publication, I cannot get them out again to do so. Nor, can I figure out how to format it so that it produces one rather than two columns in the final draft. I guess, I have to content myself with the satisfaction of having completed something. I suppose this is a good thing since it avoids the embarrassment of having others read it.
The Problem with Electric and Self-driving Automobiles:
I support the movement toward electric vehicles and self-driving automobiles. They are a necessary component of any comprehensive assault on the looming crisis of human-induced climate change. There is, however, an emerging problem that should be examined and solutions proposed and implemented— the sooner the better.
The automotive system in the United States, as it is in most countries, can be described as predominately individually owned vehicles operated on collectively owned and maintained public rights of way. In the US, this system of right of ways is funded, not from the government’s General Fund, but chiefly by a type of user tax based upon levies on gasoline and other petroleum products used to power the vehicles.
Since about the turn of the Century, miles driven per person have fallen consistently year after year. Increased mileage rates per gallon of gasoline have risen putting additional stress on the various Highway Trust Funds. Major replacement of aging bridges and tunnels must now use the government’s general funds if they are to be repaired at all.
What will happen to the nation’s roads and highways during the 2020s when electric cars and trucks are expected to make up significant portions of the vehicles using the nation’s roadways? They are now given a free ride. That cannot continue. Solutions should not wait for the crisis to occur that may leave the highway fund in a hole that it may never be able to fill.
Although there appear to be several credible ways to resolve this emerging problem, we are talking about changing a nation’s entire system for funding its most significant transportation network upon which its economy is based. It will take time to work out the politics, procedures, and technologies of any system we settle on.
We should be doing this now before not after the crisis hits us.
According to a Gallup poll,18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Almost all of those that do, vote Republican and watch Fox News.
A. Quigley on Top:
The following is the seventh in the series containing excerpts from the Prologue to Quigley’s uncompleted magnum opus, WEAPONS SYSTEMS AND POLITICAL STABILITY. It discusses the relationship between security and power.
“Security and Power
“Just as our ideas on the nature of security are falsified by our limited experience as Americans, so our ideas are falsified by the fact that we have experienced security in the form of public authority and the modern state. We do not easily see that the state, especially in its modern sovereign form, is a rather recent innovation in the experience of Western civilization, not over a few centuries old. But men have experienced security and insecurity throughout all human history. In all that long period, security has been associated with power relationships and is today associated with the state only because this is the dominant form which power relationships happen to take in recent times. But even today, power relationships exist quite outside of the sphere of the state, and, as we go farther into the past, such non-state (and ultimately, non-public) power relationships become more dominant in human life.”
“For thousands of years, every person has been a nexus of emotional relationships, and, at the same time, he has been a nexus of economic relationships. In fact, these may be the same relationships which we look at from different points of view and regard them in the one case as emotional and in another case as economic. These same relationships, or other ones, form about each person a nexus of power relationships.”
“In the remote past, when all relationships through which a person expressed his life’s energies and obtained satisfaction of his human needs were much simpler than today, they were all private, personal, and fairly specific relationships. Now that some of these relationships, from the power point of view, have been rearranged and have become, to a great extent, public, impersonal, and abstract, we must not allow these changes to mislead us about their true nature or about the all-pervasive character of power in human affairs, especially in its ability to satisfy each person’s need for security.”
“The two problems which we face in this section are: what is the nature of power? And, what is the relationship between power and security? Other questions, such as how power operates or how power structures change in human societies, will require our attention later.”
“The nature of power”
“Power is simply the ability to obtain the acquiescence of another person’s will. Sometimes this is worded to read that power is the ability to obtain obedience, but this is a much higher level of power relationship. Such relationships may operate on many levels, but we could divide these into three. On the highest level is the ability to obtain full cooperation. On a somewhat lower level is obedience to specific orders, while, still lower, is simple acquiescence, which is hardly more than tacit permission to act without interference. All of these are power relationships which differ simply in the degree and kind of power needed to obtain them.”
“The triple basis of power in our culture”
“The power to which we refer here is itself complex and can be analyzed, in our society, into three aspects: (1) force; (2) wealth; and (3) persuasion. The first of these is the most fundamental (and becoming more so) in our society, and will be discussed at length later. The second is quite obvious since it involves no more than the purchase or bribery of another’s acquiescence, but the third is usually misunderstood in our day.
“The economic factor enters into the power nexus when a person’s will yields to some kind of economic consideration, even if this is merely one of reciprocity. When primitive tribes tacitly hunt in restricted areas which do not overlap, there is a power relationship on the lowest level of economic reciprocity. Such a relationship may exist even among animals. Two bears who approach a laden blueberry bush will eat berries from opposite sides of the bush without interfering with each other, in tacit understanding that, if either tried to dispossess the other, the effort would give rise to a turmoil of conflicting force which would make enjoyment of the berries by either impossible. This is a power relationship based on economic reciprocity and will break down into conflict unless there is tacit mutual understanding as to where the dividing lines between their respective areas of operation lie. This significant subjective factor will be discussed later.”
“The ideological factor in power relationships, which I have called persuasion, operates through a process which is frequently misunderstood. It does not consist of an effort to get someone else to adopt our point of view or to believe something they had not previously believed, but rather consists of showing them that their existing beliefs require that they should do what we want. This is a point which has been consistently missed by the propaganda agencies of the United States government and is why such agencies have been so woefully unsuccessful despite expenditures of billions of dollars. Of course, it requires arguing from the opponent’s point of view, something Americans can rarely get themselves to do because they will rarely bother to discover what the opponent’s point of view is. The active use of such persuasion is called propaganda and, as practiced, is often futile because of a failure to see that the task has nothing to do directly with changing their ideas, but is concerned with getting them to recognize the compatibility between their ideas and our actions. Propaganda also has another function, which will be mentioned later and which helps to explain how the confusion just mentioned arose.”
“On its highest level, the ideological element in power becomes a question of morale. This is of the greatest importance in any power situation. It means that the actor himself is convinced of the correctness and inevitability of his actions to the degree that his conviction serves both to help him to act more successfully and to persuade the opposition that his (the actor’s) actions are in accordance with the way things should be. Strangely enough, this factor of morale, which we might like to reserve for men because of its spiritual or subjective quality, also operates among animals. A small bird will often be observed in summer successfully driving a crow or even a hawk away from its nest, and a dog who would not ordinarily fight at all will attack, often successfully, a much larger beast who intrudes onto his front steps or yard. This element of subjective conviction which we call morale is the most significant aspect of the ideological element in power relationships and shows the intimate relationship between the various elements of power from the way in which it strengthens both force and persuasion.”
“It also shows something else which contemporary thinkers are very reluctant to accept. That is the operation of natural law. For the fact that animals recognize the prescriptive rights to property, as shown in the fact that a much stronger beast will yield to a much weaker one on the latter’s home area, or that a hawk will allow a flycatcher to chase it from the area of the flycatcher’s nest, shows a recognition of property rights which implies a system of law among beasts. In fact, the singing of a bird (which is not for the edification of man or to attract a mate, but is a proclamation of a residence area to other birds of the same habits) is another example of the recognition of rights and thus of law among non-human life.”
“Of course, in any power situation, the most obvious element to people of our culture is force. This refers to the simple fact of physical compulsion, but it is made more complicated by the two facts that man has, throughout history, modified and increased his physical ability to compel, both by the use of tools (weapons) and by organization of numerous men to increase their physical impact. It is also confused, for many people, by the fact that such physical compulsion is usually aimed at a subjective target: the will of another person. This last point, like the role of morale already mentioned, shows again the basic unity of power and of power relationships, in spite of the fact that writers like myself may, for convenience of exposition, divide it into elements, like this division into force, wealth, and persuasion.”
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
It seems to me that in the United States, the difference between conservatives and liberals comes down to the following:
Conservatives believe that Liberals are capable of preternatural genius in fomenting secret criminal conspiracies to assault what Conservatives are convinced is the fundamental rightness of their view of the world.
Liberals simply believe Conservatives are stupid.
C. Today’s Poems:
1. Bump by Spike Milligan
Things that go ‘bump’ in the night
Should not really give one a fright.
It’s the hole in each ear
That lets in the fear,
That, and the absence of light!
2. THE BIG STORM, not by Spike Milligan
it is coming,
THE BIG STORM.
it will knock down bridges,
with its howling wind,
scrape the earth from the hills
and end the drought.
it will do all of that and more.
through the window
at the grey-black sky
if I will be disappointed.
“More and more often one was obliged to initiate an investigation by trying to sort out what the police had been up to. Not infrequently this proved harder than clearing up the actual case.”
Sjowall, Maj; Wahloo, Per. The Locked Room: A Martin Beck Police Mystery. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.