January 2011 through March 2011

First quarter 2011

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. March 28, 2011

TODAY’S FACTOID:

a. 10,000 BC The Middle East domesticates goats (they later domesticate sheep).

(And the jokes have not ended yet.)

b. 2010 General Electric managed the remarkable task of paying absolutely no taxes on US profits of $5.1 billion.

(37 companies like Citigroup and AIG that received more in tax credits than they paid.)

c. 2006 Jackson Pollock’s 1948 painting entitled No. 5 sold for $140 million (Inflation-adjusted value: $151.8 million).

(Not a bad wage for spilling a can of paint.)

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

a. There was a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in northern Burma just across the border from Thailand. There was some damage to buildings in the area. As usual after events of this kind there are calls for strengthening the building code. Developers claim current codes are adequate (even though buildings did fall down). As far as I know Thailand has no significant zoning codes or planning laws. I am not sure if it has a building code or has code enforcement capability.

b. Apparently here has been a military reshuffle that has consolidated the power of the dominant “Tigers of the East” faction. This faction spearheaded the suppression of the Red Shirt protest.

c. Thailand has purchased 200 tanks (yes 200) from the Ukraine (yes the Ukraine). Many of the troops are unhappy with the purchase preferring a South Korean model over the Ukrainian. Apparently the Ukrainian model has to stop moving to reload.
(What foreign enemy does Thailand require 200 new tanks to repel? Stops to reload!!!)

d. A recent report in the Bangkok Post raises fears that a potential victory by the opposition party could lead to replacement of the current army chief (protegé of the leader of the military coup that toppled previous democratically elected regime) resulting in another coup attempt.

e. Fake Buddhist monks (usually foreigners) are becoming a problem in Thailand. It appears that these fake monks are wandering the streets of the country alms-collecting after 10 AM, the time the local monks end their activity and return to the temple precincts.

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

I am writing this from Paradise by the Sea where I have been residing the past four days. I will probably return to Bangkok today and post this from there.It is still overcast and both the sky and the waters of the bay are a shimmering grey with almost no discernible horizon. The only colors are provided by the beach umbrellas and the flags fluttering from the fishing boats as the chug out to lay their nets in the bay.

I have done little since I have been here except enjoy the solitude and the break from parenting.

Of course Hayden’s impending departure is sad for me. I have the option of returning to the US with him and SWAC in early May. I may consider it since I have to arrange for my operation during May or June anyway.

SWAC is now contemplating sending him to boarding school in a year or so. For a young boy whose separation anxiety has become almost pathological, such a course of action seems incomprehensible to me. On the other hand he is now getting to that age where whatever trauma he has suffered begins to become hard-wired into his personality. Here may be a boy growing up too quickly being forced to face down life. What was once and endearing little boy suffering under the vagaries of adult insensitivity, within a year or two may congeal into the personality of an uncontrollable brat, making such drastic solutions the only options for such inept parenting. On the other hand, and there is always another hand, maybe not.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Chapter 15:

The next sensation Vince had was of a strong hand pulling him up by his arm followed by blinding pain in his head. Slowly his vision cleared and he saw that it was Isabella pulling him upright with one hand. In her other she grasped a gun. As he gained his feet and leaned into her for support and the world continued to spin about he noticed a body lying in its back on the sidewalk bleeding profusely from its nose and mouth and gasping for breath.

“Whaa..” he got out of his mouth slowly before feeling her push him toward the car.

“Quick,” she said, “lean on me.”

As he turned for support he glimpsed what appeared to be the other assailant limping away around the corner.

“Give me your keys,” she demanded when the reached the car. She took the keys unlocked the doors and helped him into the passenger seat,got into the driver’s side, threw the gun into the back seat, started the car and squealed off down the street in the opposite direction from which the other attacker fled.

“Where are we going?” he asked, grabbing the back of his head and pressing on it in a futile attempt to stop the pain.

“To the hospital to have you checked out, you may have a concussion.”

“No, no,” he said. “Lets go somewhere I can walk around for a while. I am sure I will be all-right.”

So she drove them to Noe Valley, a fully gentrified San Francisco neighborhood. A one time working class ghetto, than artist hangout in the sixties and seventies, followed by an influx of yuppies flush with money from dot-com startups seeking a picturesque community in which to set down roots and drive up property values which they did with a vengeance until at one time property values were the third highest neighborhood in the City. With the collapse of the dot-com bubble, those who had not already cashed out of their inflated properties were trapped by their mortgages just like the working class families of a generation or so ago.

She parked about a block off the main commercial drag, 24th St, of the neighborhood and after walking about for about an hour or so they found themselves sitting in one of the overabundant coffee shops that sting up in neighborhoods like this like crab-grass in a suburban lawn.

“What happened back there?” Vince asked.

She stared at him for a moment with that placid look she affects. “You were very brave. You stepped in from of me and threw a punch into the face of that guy. He fell down and dropped his gun.”

“Why did I fall?”

“You probably swung so hard you tripped”

Later after driving him to his apartment and parking in the parking lot, she said,“I have to be going. I’ll take a taxi.”

“Won’t you come up? I may need medical assistance during the night.”

She laughed. “I am sure you will be all-right. I will call tomorrow,” and walked off.

He now stood in his bathroom the following morning, swallowing a handful of Tylenol to kill the pain. He stared in the mirror and began to have an uncomfortable feeling. At first he thought is was chagrin at his failure to appear attractive enough to he for her to accept his clumsy invitation to spend the night. No, although that was hard enough to deal with, it is something else he thought. Then he looked at his hands…

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Collins:

` “…[N]ilism is a male disease of the soul, because we are not bearers of life. Men do not carry hope the way women do.”

b. Pookie’s Epistle on Economics:

THE PROBLEM WITH ECONOMICS TODAY-

My underlying criticism of economics today is what it leaves out and not what it includes. Among the many things left out in its idealized systems is that in the real world markets are manipulative. The basic drive to avoid competition by gaming and controlling either supply demand or the markets themselves appear to be either downplayed or ignored by resorting to the myth of the “invisible hand.”
.
Let me begin by repeating the insightful quote by HM Keynes:

“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.”

I think we all for the most part agree with his observation. I would, however, substitute Classical (or Neoclassical) Economic Theory for capitalism. It appears most economic theory essentially ignores the reality that these nasty men won’t work for the benefit of all of us and perhaps more importantly some of them will unduly effect the course of economic events affecting the rest of us in a negative way. Many economists appear to approach this problem in one or more of the following ways:

1. They wring their hands and call for political intervention (Keynesians, etc.).
2. They ignore it claiming it could never happen (Neoclassical economists).
3. They consider it an externality along with the host of other externalities that are outside of the scope of their discipline (All).
4. They think it is a good thing (Neoclassical again and others).

To some extent they are all right that this and other supposed defects are external to the discipline. Such things like ethics, fraud and the commons and so on are beyond the tools of their profession. Looked at another way however, these so-called “externalities” represent almost everything that is important and necessary in life and in society. Nevertheless, these panjandrums of industry, academia and government are asked to advise us and even to act on our behalf on such things as jobs, education, food supplies and even our national interest all of which are fundamentally determined by ethics, fraud, the commons and a host of other so-called externalities. Unless these externalities, especially the thirst for power, are brought into a sociological system, the discipline will remain both defective and dangerous.

A recent article in WIRED discusses the seemingly inevitable domination of goods and serves by the uncontrolled few and examines its genesis.

“It is the cycle of capitalism. The story of industrial revolutions, after all, is a story of battles over control. A technology is invented, it spreads, a thousand flowers bloom, and then someone finds a way to own it, locking out others. It happens every time.

Take railroads. Uniform and open gauge standards helped the industry boom and created an explosion of competitors — in 1920, there were 186 major railroads in the US. But eventually the strongest of them rolled up the others, and today there are just seven — a regulated oligopoly. Or telephones. The invention of the switchboard was another open standard that allowed networks to interconnect. After telephone patents held by AT&T’s parent company expired in 1894, more than 6,000 independent phone companies sprouted up. But by 1939, AT&T controlled nearly all of the US’s long-distance lines and some four-fifths of its telephones. Or electricity. In the early 1900s, after the standardization to alternating current distribution, hundreds of small electric utilities were consolidated into huge holding companies. By the late 1920s, the 16 largest of those commanded more than 75 percent of the electricity generated in the US.

Indeed, there has hardly ever been a fortune created without a monopoly of some sort, or at least an oligopoly. This is the natural path of industrialization: invention, propagation, adoption, control.

Now it’s the Web’s turn to face the pressure for profits and the walled gardens that bring them. Openness is a wonderful thing in the non monetary economy of peer production. But eventually our tolerance for the delirious chaos of infinite competition finds its limits. Much as we love freedom and choice, we also love things that just work, reliably and seamlessly. And if we have to pay for what we love, well, that increasingly seems OK. Have you looked at your cell phone or cable bill lately?”

And the writer identifies a rule that describes this tendency to control over the so-called market by individuals or a small groups:

“Monopolies are actually even more likely in highly networked markets like the online world. The dark side of network effects is that rich nodes get richer. Metcalfe’s law, which states that the value of a network increases in proportion to the square of connections, creates winner-take-all markets, where the gap between the number one and number two players is typically large and growing.”

To me it seems that this dolorous progression; invention, propagation, adoption and control — and some version of Metcalfe’s law are vital to a valid description of the economic process. But, in the public debates and analysis of economists on the current state of our society, I rarely observe any recognition that this problem even exists.

The great historian Fernand Braudel pointed out that a “capitalist” does not participate willingly in markets or specialize but instead he searches the world to find whatever it is that would give him control over supply. In other words the last thing they want is competition.

Perhaps instead of capitalist (which like the word Capitalism) has become defined more by emotion, politics and private interest than any referent , we should call them by the name coined by Buckminster Fuller, “The Great Pirates”.

Although individuals may open shops and small businesses as alternatives to working for someone else, the Great Pirates enter into an enterprise only if in fact there is sizable unmet demand that can be easily controllable, or they perceive the potential for controlling the supply of some good or service. No other purpose makes any sense. To the Great Pirates competition is anathema.

Nor do the Great Pirates plan much beyond the next quarter or to counter immediate perceived threats to their own income and wealth. Nothing else appears to be of particular significance to them except to game whatever system is available for their own benefit (They hire consultants, economists, accountants and attorneys for everything else). As Stephen Herrington put it:

“I’ve never met anyone that was that smart and that ruthless at the same time. Maybe I’ve just not met the man in charge. Bernie Madoff was not that smart, only ruthless. He, like our global finance system, adapted to conditions as they presented themselves. He had no plan other than the next paycheck… Madoff gamed the low-interest rates arising from government policy of monetary easing necessitated by tax cuts. He promised higher returns and security where banks and stocks could not. He created a Ponzi scheme not too dissimilar too what global finance undertakes internationally right now. Global finance is loaning, secured by nation/state assets, on assets that will eventually run out and leave the countries loaned to in default and the banks failing because of defaults. They, like Madoff, do not have a plan.

Global finance now preys on government’s obligations to meet the needs of people. They loan and government pays, never quite reaching the horizon in which the returns on Keynesian investments in national economies pays off. This has become a global socioeconomic hamster treadmill in which no one benefits except the brokers. Eventually the global economic decline this predicts will affect bankers too. They just refuse to see it coming, like Madoff.”

The Huffington Post, May 13, 2010

These Great Pirates individually or in concert exert a significant influence in the creation of distortions of the so-called market. Failure to account for their influence as sooner or later a given in every market is a core defect in economic theory and if it is treated at all it is treated as an anomaly or dismissed as impossible.

Exacerbating this problem with market capture or dominance is that we are also currently experiencing a fundamental shift in the nature of the institutions that provide the vehicle for this. Corporations were originally created by government for a specific manufacturing or trading venture or task intended to benefit the state. Because often the uncertainty was so high and the potential size of the loss so great, the then existing debtor laws placed the investor’s estate at risk for confiscation on account of the debts occasioned by the potential failure of the enterprise, therefore it was necessary for the state to protect the investors estate in order to encourage investment in these ventures. After a certain amount of time estimated to be required to achieve the goals of the venture, they were supposed to go out of existence and the market system returned with all its risks intact.

This governmental intrusion (the creation of corporate institutions exempt from individual responsibility) into the supposed normal workings of the market for a public purpose, has over the centuries evolved first into exempting them from any time limit on the existence of the enterprise except organizational suicide or bankruptcy. The latter in most cases merely being a reorganization of their immortality.

Currently, this public exemption from the basic risks upon which the entire edifice of classical economics is founded has progressed to where these publicly chartered entities appear to be successfully grasping for the right to be treated as individual citizens under the Constitution but with fewer, if any, duties (including paying taxes should the corporate tax structure be shifted onto a consumption tax as these entities clearly desire).

Nor are they required to adhere to any standard of patriotism other than that needed to sell their products. (When has a corporation gone to war like the citizen solider is required to do?) As one of our founding fathers put it:

Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains. Thomas Jefferson

As an aside, if the so-called bond market vigilantes as so dead set on threatening the government by raising their bond ratings if their income from prior bonds purchased by government are put at risk, shouldn’t they be considered to be traitors or terrorists. The kings of old were willing to throw a few of them in jail whenever they attempted that brand of extortion.

Perhaps one of the most fundamental concepts imbedded in the United States Constitution is the objection to and prohibition of the establishment of hereditary nobility controlling the resources and power of the nation. After 200 years or so the corporate entities created by we the people for a limited and comprehensible reason, now stand on the threshold of something the nobles of old could only dream about, immortal control of wealth and power.

Add to this creep to an enduring aristocracy of the corporate elite is the evidence that these same entities originally created by us but now almost laws onto themselves have begun to take over (as did the nobles of old) the very functions of government that here in the United States were reserved by our Constitution to we the people.

Corporate officials and employees are involved in all aspects of governing and negotiating “over policy making, implementation, and enforcement,” as one legal scholar has noted.

Yet contractors’ imperatives are not necessarily the same as the government’s imperatives. Contractor companies are responsible for making a profit for their shareholders; government is supposedly answerable to the public and the nation in a democracy.

Amid this environment complicated by mixed motives, new institutional forms of governing have gathered force as government and contractor officials interact (or don’t) in the course of projects; as chains of command among contractors and the agencies they supposedly work for have become ever-more convoluted; as contractors perform inherently governmental functions beyond the capacity of government to manage them; and, as contractors standing in for government are not subject to the same rules that apply to government officials. Wedel and Keenan, Shadow Elite The Huffington Post, August 26, 2010.

One cannot have a market system where major players in the market are exempt for the risks inherent in the concept. Instead of focussing on returning capital to the rules of the market, the elite seek the Economists as their mouthpieces who dutifully obsess with other thing things like breaking up community land holdings in order to bring them into the market (See DeSoto______)

Despite the obviousness of it all and irrespective of the fact that these entities (The Great Pirates and the Multi-national Corporations) are major players on the economic stage and have garnered to themselves the power and ability to destroy and enslave whole societies, should the worst occur, the economic consultant community I expect, once again, will claim they could not have seen it coming.

Make no mistake about it, this is not Capitalism. Marx was wrong. He did not comprehend the sociology or psychology of it all. This lust for wealth, power and control is fundamental to humanity and the various so-called economic systems (Capitalism, Feudalism, Mercantilism, yes and even Socialism and Communism) are merely the mechanism used to assure that the fruits of society are reserved for its most socially irresponsible members. Fraud is endemic to all these systems and yet mostly ignored in their intellectual underpinnings.

As a result of this, the basic concepts of supply and demand are ephemeral at best since both are almost infinitely manipulate (e.g., advertising manipulates demand and monopolization manipulates supply).

Another thing missing in most economic discussions that I have read or listened to, is the impact of transition costs (fees, etc.)inherent in a market as well as the independent entities (brokers, etc) managing the transactions in distorting the ephemeral efficient market (ultimately it is the parasite who usually does the best).

While many astute and responsible people call for a paradigm shift in the essential bases of economics (such as Krugman [New York Times September 2, 2009]) they must be approached with caution since they themselves are practitioners of that very discipline that has been found so wanting.

In Science a physical theory that is logically consistent may be considered to be the truth only until it is falsified. Once falsified the theory looses its status and should be thrown away. The Economists wish their discipline to be considered the next best thing to a hard Science but they seem unable accept their theories may be added to the trash heap of history. Not only is it lacking in its central concepts but almost without exception its practitioners work for the very interests that seek to preserve their hard-won ascendency. You would be considered a fool to believe an attorney retained by his opponent when he tells him that is looking out for your best interests. Why then do we believe the economists?

It we must choose a discipline with which to begin a reformation of this world view, I would much prefer sociology at least there the pretense of a panglossian world is muted. It also does not look back to a founding prophet (Adam Smith) from which all deviations can be described as evolution of the essential truth (whether or not referred to as paradigm shifts). That is a religion and not a science.

What I think is required now is to begin with the basic concept of the society that we wish to live in and the social science we call Economics today should be developed as a mechanism to describe how to get there, that is if we the people hire them before they go to work for those who would prefer we not get there at all.

c. Today’s chart:

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“A conservative is a man who believes that nothing should be done for the first time.”

~Alfred E. Wiggam

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Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. March 25, 2011

TODAY’S FACTOID:

2008-A record 14.6% of all new marriages in the United States were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another. This compares to 8.0% of all current marriages regardless of when they occurred. Multiracial Americans numbered 6.8 million in 2000, or 2.4% of the population. Now statistics show that the percentage has increased to 6.7% in 2010 (Now over 12.5 million in November 2010).

(I could not help but notice that this 12.5 million is almost the same number that some claim are the number of illegal aliens in the United States today. Could it be that this rampant miscegenation is part of the same liberal plot to destroy American Capitalist Christian values, or am I just being smarmy again?)

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

The situation in Libya and Japan’s dominance in the news media seems to have made most of the ruling political entities in Thailand happy since those in opposition are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining coverage.

What happens in Thailand over the next few years may mean something to the retired farangs living here and some of the Thais but probably within a score of years it will be of little importance. Many other things are happening other than the shifting fortunes of the existing powerful like Gaddafi or those seeking the spoils of power themselves. We are approaching the perfect political and sociological storm caused by the undeniable impact of climate change, the continued explosive growth of population, globalization and urbanization added to the exhaustion of energy and resources like water. For example just the demographic shift in available workers for future production throws all long-term economic and political prognostication into turmoil.

It has been estimated in some business journals that only sub-Saharan Africa stands to see an appreciable growth in youth manpower. In fact, the sub-Sahara will account for over 100% of total growth in the world‘s 15-29 population, because many regions will find their pools of young manpower shrinking over the next two decades. Japan and Europe as a whole are both on course for significant absolute declines in this key manpower pool over the next 20 years (prospective drops of almost 25%). But by far the most massive falloff in young manpower is set to take place in China. Over the next 20 years, by the Census Bureau‘s projections, this key working age group will be falling in China by fully 100 million persons—or over 30 percent.

In 2008 some two hundred million people — 3% of the world’s population — were living outside their native land. In most first world countries the population of foreign-born was over 10%.

The most ironic fact of all this is that in all likelihood the future lies in the North Central US, Canada and Siberia. Those working age people will flock to the agricultural and natural resource jobs made available by warming and diminishing resources elsewhere (think water and wind). The already minuscule population base of these areas (6 million in Siberia and 35 million in Canada, that currently comprises about .05% of the world’s population on about 15-20% of its land area) will be overwhelmed by these new immigrants, irrevocably altering those societies.

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

I have retreated to the solitude and solace of Paradise by the Sea to try to deal with the fact that I seem unable to deal with the facts. If these decisions were of the significance of say life or death I would understand my difficulty in making them. But alas, I must admit they are more about whether to have a second cafe latte or leave for the US on April 29th or May 5th or whether I should wear my camouflage shorts today or a solid color pair. Heaven must be where one goes to avoid all responsibility. God upon greeting you probably says, “Congratulations you made it. You don’t have to give a shit anymore. Just wear a white shift and spend all day stoned on glory and a sense of superiority that no you longer have to figure out how to survive as you or for that matter even be nice to anyone.”

(Damn, I finally found a reason to want to go to heaven.)

For the past few weeks the weather has been mostly overcast and a bit dreary here in Thailand. Obviously we are going into some seasonal change. Some people I have spoken with have said that this weather is quite unusual for the season. Others blame it on global warming.

Annual fluctuation in weather is mostly meaningless. Any process of climate change — both natural and man-made — unfolds erratically over time (a lot like the stock market). Long term all peer-reviewed studies have shown that, regardless of the cause, we are locked into some degree of warming; but by the end of this century, the actions taken now whether to try to curb it or to ignore it and deal with a host of other problems will matter enormously. To a greater or lesser degree, the worlds desert belt (Sahara, Middle East and Southwest North America will expand north and south (probably including Northern India and Southeast Asia and Central China) while the east and west coasts of the northern continents will experience more precipitation as rain and snow.

The Chinese have a curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Alas, our children and their children certainly shall.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Chapter 14

Vince awoke suddenly with a splitting headache and shattered memories of last night. He gobbled up five extra-strength Tylenol to deal with the former and lay back on his bed to try to deal with the latter.

He recalled that he and Isabella had just left the Club Basta, a trendy restaurant located in the Mission district on the wrong side of Mission Street. They had just finished dinner and were walking back to his car. The area was filled with semi-abandoned small factory buildings and warehouses that gave employment to the irish and italian immigrants who flocked to the Mission during the first half of the twentieth century. Now these buildings where not abandoned are invested with artist studios and restaurants and night clubs seeking low rents, the first wave of the eventual gentrification of the neighborhood. The neighborhood sat at the edge of the Mission Barrio where the new immigrants, from South and Central America settled after their predecessors left for the East bay and peninsula, taking the businesses and jobs with them leaving to these new immigrants the long difficult task of forging a new neighborhood from which they in their time will leave also.

They had just turned the corner onto a narrow dark street on which he had parked his automobile. Between him and his car he saw two men walking toward them looking a bit drunk. At first they did not concern him, but as they drew closer whatever evolutionary development of male harmonies operated to make him wary he placed himself between them and Isabella. Now of course, not even Neanderthal man would place himself in the danger that modern man in his misguided concept of chivalry would.

As they grew abreast suddenly he saw something that looked metallic being drawn out of one man’s pocket. He moved forward seeking to protect Isabella from whatever. Suddenly he felt himself thrust violently back against the warehouse brick wall. There was a flash or white light, like lightning from a summer storm, then everything turned red and faded to black.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Chart of the Day:

b. From Gods mouth to your ears:

“He that is wounded in the stones or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”
– Deuteronomy 23.1.

(Does this mean that those who have had their prostate removed are excluded from church or temple? Should I rethink my doctor’s recommendation on theological grounds? Should I pray for a miracle?)

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.”
~Henry David Thoreau

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment by 3Th. March 22, 2011

TODAY’S FACTOID:

1548 – The Hispaniolan Edible Rat becomes extinct.

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

It appears as though the current government remains well positioned to retain a controlling majority in the national elections now scheduled for sometime in late June or early July. Should they falter between now and then, look for first a manufactured crisis and if that fails, military intervention. Unless the military can engineer a compromise with the opposition, they have no real option but to act. They have too much at stake (budgets and careers).

(Which reminds me, why do we have both a Department of Defense and a Department of Homeland Security? Isn’t it the job of the Defense Department to protect the Homeland? Perhaps it no longer should be called the Department of Defense but the Department of Foreign Military Adventures instead.)

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

a. Speaking of rats (see today’s factoid above):

The kitchen of our Bangkok apartment is infested by rats (the non-edible kind) that at night after the lights are out gaily scamper about the room. Recently the maid put out an anti-rodent device that consists basically of a plastic sheet covered with a glue type substance that traps the rat unlucky enough to step on it and results in what appears to be a cruel and painful death of the creature.

My feelings about the Rodentia situation in my apartment are somewhat ambiguous. I feel neither fear, sympathy or disgust for the circumstances of either the infestation or the rodenticide. It is more like the feeling one has when one seeks to avoid meeting with someone one prefers not to meet, on the one hand one feels a little bit cowardly skulking away while on the other-hand one also is generally aware that forcing a meeting through some misplaced moral sense is probably as stupid a thing to do as can be imagined.

This ambivalence about rats I find strange given my history with the species. Growing up in New York I generally fell asleep with the sounds of rats scurrying through the walls. As a child, I was never able to settle on whether these sounds in the walls by my bed frightened me or comforted me.

When I was about Hayden’s age my family was homeless for a while. Ultimately we found an empty store that we moved into and soaped up the glass front for privacy. There was neither heat nor hot water and at night the large Norwegian roof rats would enter the room through the spaces between walls and ceilings of the store and the various pipes and plumbing servicing the residential apartments above and the grocery store next door.

Every night my mother would remain awake armed with a knife to chase away the rats while my brother and I slept. One evening while so armed and on guard she fell asleep sitting beside the kitchen table. She was suddenly jolted awaken by the sound of the rats scrabbling to get into a cake box on the table. The rats startled by her movement, leaped onto her face and head as it was the highest point in the room between the floor and the exposed pipes available to them to make their escape. She fell to the floor in an epileptic seizure beginning a 10 year period of seizures and hospitalizations.

After her being taken away in an ambulance that night, I spent the next four years living with various relatives and strangers who took me in but mostly with my grandparents. I never knew where my brother lived during this time.

After a few years and hospitalizations we began living together again but her periodic fits continued until I was about 17 years old and in a surprise to everyone mom became pregnant again with my sister and the seizures stopped. She considered both the pregnancy and the curing of the epilepsy a miracle. I was not so sure.

b. Mopey’s melodrama:

Today SWAC made it clear that she intended to withdraw Hayden from school following the completion of this semester on April 5 and return to the US at the end of April. As far as I can tell no accommodation for his continued schooling has been made.

This news will probably alter my travel schedule. Since the boy will not be continuing his education at his current school after this semester, the reason for me to travel to the US during the semester break no longer exists. I may very well wait until he leaves at the end of April and travel back to the States then for my medical treatment instead of returning in July a second time as I had planned.

Although it will be sad for me to see him leave, the burden of child rearing has become a heavy and thankless one for me under the circumstances. And, while I remain concerned for his welfare, my own experience has taught me that to the child, as long as he or she is free from privation, assault and fear, all else probably appears normal life. He has already learned at least one important survival tactic, that of appealing serially to the various authority figures that crowd into his life until he finds the one that will give him what he wants. What may have been, has little impact on anyones life other than the diminishing disability of regret.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Delayed while in search for a metaphorical rodent character to enhance the plot.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

The recent collapse of the world economy and the attempts to save it has highlighted the role played in society by classical economics and economists. Not since the middle ages has a belief system and its episcopate so dominated secular society as classical economics and economists has these past 30 or so years. So what is wrong with that, you may ask?

Here are some of the whats wrong with it (Can you think of more?):

1. Despite every attempt to demonstrate its kinship to science there is no natural or scientific law that requires that it be set up as it has been.
2. It is a system set up by men to benefit men and based upon the evolutionary directives of their sex.
3. It assumes human behavior is deterministic and minimizes the unpleasant fact that people can and do choose and agree to live and act in ways inconsistent with its theology.
4. It was developed in an attempt to explain certain international transactions and the actions of a few men in coffee houses in sixteenth century England. It failed to establish any significant predictive value for those transactions then and it fails to do so now for contemporary transactions.
5. It has for the most part been immune to the advances of science, biology, sociology and psychology that have occurred over the past 400 years.
6. It relies on classifications of people and activities that at best are illustrative of certain past events and at worst worthless.
7. It claims, like a religion, that it can explain most significant political, commercial and mass behavioral activities while it steadfastly ignores other explanations and analyses for the same phenomena.
8. It refuses to recognize that is has a fundamental conflict of interest at its core in that its episcopate, the economists, generally are employees and agents of the system that rewards them and that they then claim they have the ability to describe and analyze withoug bias.
9. It has at best become neither a hard science nor a social science but a lobby for itself and its employers.
10. It has polluted the system by which we govern ourselves by claiming expertise where it is lacking.
11. It assumes that because its practitioners can articulate what may have happened in the past they are better suited to guess what will occur in the future than anyone else with access to the same information.
12. It steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that expertise in describing past transactions does not qualify one for advising on or administering anything.

In short classical economics is treated today as a religion and its practitioners, the economists, as priests. In order to deal with the current crisis we should add economists to Shakespeare’s famous quote about lawyers.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“The dichotomy between personal liberties and property rights is a false one. Property does not have rights. People have rights.”<em
~Potter Stewart

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. March 16, 2011

TODAY’S FACTOID:

Did tax cuts for the rich create the Great Divergence?

Income tax rates have changed dramatically during the past 30 years. During the Reagan administration (1981-89), the top marginal rate dropped from 70 percent to 58 percent, and eventually to 28 percent. Under subsequent presidents it has hovered between 30 percent and 40 percent. But effective tax rates—what people actually pay—didn’t change nearly as much. For incomes in the top 1 percent, the effective tax rate went from 37 percent in 1979 to 29.5 percent today, with a big drop and subsequent rise during the 1980s. For incomes in the bottom 20 percent, the percentage change in the effective tax rate was much more dramatic—it was halved, from 8 percent in 1979 to 4 percent in 2007. But to contribute to the Great Divergence, the bottom quintile’s effective tax rate would have to have increased.

Tax cuts for the rich certainly contributed to the Great Divergence. But it would be hard to argue, based on this data, they were the major factor.

(The question remains, if the top 1% have seen their Federal taxes reduced by almost 1/3 and the lowest 20% by half, who has been paying for this huge increase in government spending we have been hearing about*? Actually, it has been paid for through borrowing by the Republican administrations and by various forms of bracket creep on the middle class occurring during every administration.
* Only entitlements and defense spending have been increasing, discretionary spending has become an ever shrinking portion of the Federal budget. Many civilizations and empires have collapsed under those budgetary circumstances).

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

a. Letter to Bangkok Post regarding vote-buying:

“In our home village in SaKet… Voters are paid upfront for their vote. Their identity cards are taken and a list made of all individuals, along with how much each is paid. The villagers do not even consider taking money from a politician and voting for someone else. The tally must match. If there are 60 votes that are bought and paid for, then there must be 60 votes cast for the vote buyer.”

b. The tragedy in Japan continues to dominate the Thai news media. The drama at the disabled nuclear power plant forcing even Gaddafi of the front page.

This reminds me of when we were first struggling with the question of Nuclear Energy during the early years of the coastal planning process in California prior to the completion of the California Coastal Plan. Sure there were serious environmental issues raised, some over-blown, like the impact of heated waste water on the marine environment and others, like the disposal of the radioactive waste, real and unresolved to this day. There were also safety concerns again some real and some not so. But interestingly, what concerned several of us who were responsible for the land use regulation and planning for the coast were the economic and political implications of the then planned nuclearization of American electrical energy.

You see each nuclear power plant was a giant financial capital sink, each plant costing more and requiring more sunk capital (Investment money not returned if the plant did not ultimately come on-line for its full economic life) than most other individual construction projects. In addition, were all the planned units to come on-line within the times proposed, they could have absorbed most of not all the capital resources available at the time potentially squeezing out other needed capital projects and increasing the cost of money.

In addition, because the sunk capital costs were so high the only way they could be financed required reducing risks to almost zero. This necessitated ever more governmental assistance in terms of subsidies, guarantees, regulatory exemptions, limits on liability and the like. In effect the taxpayer was paying for or guaranteeing these plants while others were reaping the profits and leaving the environmental costs to future generations of Americans.

So, what else is new? This is the way things work, how things get done right? Most of us looking into it agreed, but some asked the question, why and was there another way.

We were told even back then that this was necessary for the nation to reduce its dependency of foreign oil. Fair enough, but there were alternatives as feasible as these over engineered, frightfully expensive, dangerous and risky projects. For example, although none of us thought is was practical, every home and business in the US could have been fitted with photovoltaic cells for less than the cost of the nuclearization plan with lower demands on the capital market and fewer environmental and social impacts. True the cost of electricity would rise since the photovoltaic cells are less efficient in electricity production than power plants(a problem certainly as subject to future solution as the disposal of radioactive wastes). Nevertheless, even though it can be acknowledged that increasing per unit electricity costs would certainly be a political problem, the fact remained that technically options to nuclearization appeared available.

So what was going on then?

A commitment to nuclearization of the energy grid ment a commitment to a small group of engineering, supply and energy companies and the three or four financial companies large enough to finance such projects. Almost all other potential energy sources do not require such centralizing financing and engineering. The potential profits that could be made by those few large companies from the engineering, construction and above all financing fees, not to mention the potential monopolization of a segment of the energy market made it worthwhile to encourage a consistent public and political relations campaign to benefit themselves.

What they could not tolerate however was risk since the sunk costs were so large. The complexity of the legal and regulatory process in the US supplied such unacceptable risk and coupled with flattening demand and the continuing low price of oil the nuclear electrical generating industry ultimately failed in the United States. In other countries however a powerful cartel of less than a dozen state-owned or state guided firms have spearheaded the growth of the industries in those countries.

Unfortunately, the capital project financial industry in the US could not see smaller decentralized capital projects as worth their efforts (although they continue to search and lobby for large capital-intensive energy projects such as wind farms and huge solar arrays). The less capital-intensive energy options have fallen to the much smaller investment financing market.

An unintended consequence of the failure of the nuclearization of energy production was its impact on a generation of engineers and engineering schools dependent and expectant on continued growth in the demand for super large capital projects like nuclear power plants. The high-tech boom failed to provide an adequate alternative to employ this excess engineering capacity resulting in civil engineering becoming almost a lost art in the US to be replaced by a demand for and explosive growth of business and financial schools. Unfortunately, as Henry Ford observed, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

This morning as I walked Hayden to school we were faced with something new in my Bangkok experience. It was cold, forcing us to return to the apartment to change into warmer clothing.

I have recently been reading a book by Dan Simmons an author I occasionally like to read. As many of you know ever since I was three or four years old I have read to pass the time waiting for something interesting to happen in life. I have never been particularly much of an adventurer. I preferred waiting for the train to arrive rather than wandering the tracks looking to meet it. When it arrived I would hop on and ride it to wherever until I fell off or more often than not was pushed off. I would then sit by the tracks again and read until the next train came along.

It has never been particularly important what I read (although I have my preferences), fiction, non fiction, cereal boxes, bus schedules they were all the same, doorways into adventure. Reading the content list on a soup can could leave me traveling in my mind to the sources of the natural and not so natural ingredients occupying hours while waiting for something to happen.

Anyway Simmons is generally classified as a writer of speculative fiction although rarely of the “science” or “fantasy” kinds. Recently he wrote a novel called “Drood” that imagined the circumstances surrounding the writing of Dickens’ novel of the same name. The current book “Black Hills” recounts the life of a Sioux holy man from the Battle of Little Big Horn through the sculpting of Mount Rushmore. He previously wrote a novel retelling the Iliad. What marks Simmons’ novels are that they are inevitably long (I like that) and he has never met a fact in his background research that he has not found a place for in his novel (I like that too). His failure is that his stories are always about motivation (Why was Wilkie Collins so jealous of Charles Dickens as to contemplate his murder; Why did Paha Sapa plot the distraction of the Mount Rushmore monument?). Unfortunately, the motivation given rarely appears to me to justify the action contemplated and so ultimately his novels are not completely satisfying.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Red Star, Chapter 14.

Vince turned toward Jerome who prefers to be called Horace mostly because it was difficult not to look at since he had no real form but appeared to be composed of shadows and looked somehow unfinished. “What do you think,” he asked?

“Look at me,” he said. “I have appeared in several things the author has written. He always promises to write a story just about me and flesh me out so to speak but he never does. Now he appears to have completely lost interest, probably because none of his readers cared”.

Nina looks up from her knitting. “Shadow-boy and the doxy have a point,” she says. “It really does not matter whether we are the dregs or not our choice is whether to do something or not and perhaps bringing more action into the story will help. It’s worth a try.”

“But how do we do that,” Vince enquired? “The next real action sequence is not scheduled for about six chapters.”

“Flashbacks, authors often use that to make sure interesting things are always happening.”

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Book World from Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next or one thereafter:

“… Clark’s Second Law of Egodynamics: ‘For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert.'”

b. Moral leadership through the ages (or do as I say not as I do):

John XII (955-964). Born from an incestuous relationship between Pope Sergio III and his 13-year-old daughter Marozie, John, in turn, took his mother as his own mistress. Pope at 18, he turned the Lateran into a brothel. He was accused by a synod of “sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery and incest” and was temporarily deposed. He took his revenge on opponents by hacking off their limbs. Fittingly, he was murdered by an enraged husband who caught him having sex with his wife.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?
~John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, 20 June 1815

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, By 3Th. March 14, 2011

A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.
~Howard Scott

TODAY’S FACTOID:

1870 A camel is listed on the Christmas Eve menu of Voison restaurant during the Siege of Paris in 1870.

(How did they get a camel into Paris during the Siege or, were there camels already roaming the streets?)

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

a. Col. Chatchai Rainmek, deputy chief of the centre of investigation under the Metropolitan Police Bureau in Bangkok when speaking of the recent killing of some politicians observed, “It is an inexpensive investment. Gunman are usually hired at between 100,000 and 300,000 baht ($3000 to $10,00 US), depending on how difficult the job is, while vote-buying requires at least 5 – 10 million baht.”

b. The tragedy in Japan has driven most other news off the front pages of the Bangkok english language newspapers.

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

Like some perverse chronometer almost precisely two months to the day from when she promised that Hayden would finish out the school year and through the summer, SWAC announced her intention to return to the US with the boy at the end of this semester July 5. She indicated that, notwithstanding the fact that someone other than her pays it, the $4000 tuition per semester was too expensive and that she had a “business” opportunity with one of the uncles that owns some restaurants in the Bay Area.

At my urging she agreed to consider retaining him in the school for one more semester.

Of course, I only have a limited and admittedly jaundiced view of things but we know from Rashomon that perceptual reality and motives are fragmentary depending greatly on the observer. Nevertheless whatever were the motives of the participants in the movie, someone did die.

Nevertheless, I am still planning on returning to the US for about 10 days beginning the sixth of April.

I have discovered that my current exercise regime of full weight training and cardio (Swimming) five or six day’s a week is too strenuous, so I have decided to alternate the weight training and cardio.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Red Star, Chapter 13

Just as they had all sat down at the conference table, the door to the conference room burst open and in strode Isabella carrying a large metal bucket.

Gone was her shoulder length hair, replaced a short spiky do. She has two rings in her left eyebrow and several more on each ear. A rhinestone stud gleamed on the side of her nose. A tight black bias cut shirt leaving one shoulder bare and dipping so low over one breast her nipple stud peeked out. She had on tight black leather pants and a pair of out of date Doc’s. She had black lipstick and nail polish and enough white powder on to face to give it the required bloodless look

She had auditioned for the part of Lisbeth in the recent successful Steig Larsson trilogy, she made it to the finals but was clearly too tall and too shapely to be cast as Michael’s sometime toy.

Nevertheless she obviously liked the look.

She dropped the bucket on the table, threw herself onto a chair and began swinging back and forth.

“A…hello Isabella, glad you can make it,” said Vince. “What’s in the Bucket?”

“Some stuff from the author’s ‘Well of quotes’. I thought it might be useful. So Vince what’s your problem?”

Vince explained his concern with the lack or readership and what it ment for all of them.

“Let’s face it,” said David. “We’re the dregs. Not only do we have an unfinished work by an unpublished author who probably never be published but he is writing an email to a few of his friends. That is worse that Vanity press. How low can we go? The next stop is oblivion.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Isabella still swinging back and forth on her chair. “Once I get more involved things will change. Even the author will get more involved”.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Book World from Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next or one thereafter:

“Randomness has an intoxicating effect on the preordained.”

b. Today’s Chart:

Did the United States grow more unequal while Republicans were in power? It sounds crude, but Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels has gone a long way toward proving it. Bartels looked up income growth rates for families at various income percentile for the years 1948 to 2005, then cross-checked these with whether the president was a Republican or a Democrat. He found two distinct and opposite trends. Under Democrats, the biggest income gains were for people in the bottom 20th income percentile (2.6 percent). The income gains grew progressively smaller further up the income scale (2.5 percent for the 40th and 60th percentile, 2.4 percent for the 80th percentile, and so on). But under Republicans, the biggest income gains were for people in the 95th percentile (1.9 percent). The income gains grew progressively smaller further down the income scale (1.4 percent for the 80th percentile, 1.1 for the 60th percentile, etc.).

Two other observations are worth making:

1) In all income categories except the 95th percentile, income growth rates under Democratic presidents exceeded income growth rates under Republican ones. That suggests greater income equality can coexist with (or even help create) greater prosperity.

2) The 95th percentile fared about the same under Democrats and Republicans. (This chart shows it doing slightly better under Democrats, but the margin of error erases the Democrats’ advantage.) Bartels’ party-based interpretation of income inequality can’t address the Great Divergence, Part 2—the stratospheric rise in incomes at the very top—because for this group, it doesn’t matter much whether a Democrat or a Republican inhabits the White House. Political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, of Yale and Berkeley, respectively, argue that the apparently nonpartisan solicitude Democrats and Republicans express toward the rich is the result of a massive increase in Washington’s corporate lobbying sector since the 1970s—and that the growing power of big business in Washington has been a major contributor to the Great Divergence.

Source: Larry M. Bartels.
Chart by Catherine Mulbrandon of VisualizingEconomics.com.

(Is this proof of what we already know or were the Republican’s too busy cleaning up the mess unleashed by the Democrats during their time in power for: allowing hoards of invading Mexicans to rape our woman; crazed dopers to destroy the alcohol and tobacco strengthened moral fiber of our nation; creeping regulation to weaken the patriotic thrill of bankrupting your neighbor and; gangs of abortionists to roam the streets of our suburbs? It was only the success and sacrifice of these Republican patriots in staunching the flood of immorality rotting the character of America that allowed those economic benefits to occur that just so happened to manifest themselves during the administrations of those very same Democrats who are so eager to dismantle our great country.)

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”
~William E. Gladstone, 1866

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. March 10, 2011

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.
~Plato

TODAY’S FACTOID:

September 2, 1642, the Puritans ordered the closure of the London theaters, thus ending the Elizabethan Renaissance.

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

The Thai prime minister, Abisit the Unready, appears ready and is calling for a quick elections, no later that mid-April if possible.

Recent articles in the Bangkok newspapers have mentioned that studies have shown that Thai women are the most financially sophisticated women in Asia. Given that unlike many other places, the sex trade in Thailand is run by sole-proprietorships, it is an understandable statistic.

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

The weather appears to be transitioning from the relative comfort of the high tourist season (Temperatures in the 80’s) to the beginning of the hot season that continues through June. A few thunder showers have brightened up the days.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Chapter 13.

Vince woke up in a cold sweat. He was still in his temporary apartment in San Francisco. He had dreamed that he had resigned as Chairman of the Management Committee of the firm and returned to retirement in Thailand. But that would not account for the cold sweat. Perhaps the potential impending disaster for him and the firm that the “Red Star” investigate portended that caused this upwelling of fear that he felt.

No, that was not it. Suddenly it struck him like a punch in the solar plexus. He was not being read. Not being read ment a slow death to a fictional character. What could he do about it? It was mostly the authors job to find readers. All he or any fictional character could do was be the best he could with what the author had given him.

He rolled over, grabbed his cell phone off of the night stand and called Isabella. Since she was the other main character, she had as much to lose as he did.

“Hello” she said in her husky voice. She was at the gym as she always was three or four hours a day. Action characters had to keep themselves in shape. Vince’s character was pretty indolent so he could afford to loll around in bed for a while.

He told her about his concern.

“I agree,” she agreed,“I have been having the same feeling for several chapters now. The author seems to continually put off any significant impact of my character on the plot. After all, I am the main action figure,” she reminded him. “That’s probably why no one is reading.”

Just like Isabella, Vince thought, everything revolves around her.

“I thought it would be a good Idea for the some of the main characters to get together and talk about this, to see what, if anything, we can do about it before we are all out of a job. Why don’t you call around and I will do the same to see who we can get together.”

“Ok,” she said. “Where?”

“In the conference room at the firm. It has not been used yet. Let’s say 10 minutes.”

Vince made a few calls. When he arrived at the meeting place several of the main characters had already assembled and were talking among each other in small groups. As expected, Isabella had not arrived. She would wait until she could make a dramatic appearance of some kind as she always does.

Vince noted that David Kitchen was there dressed in a flamboyant kaftan. In real life David was gay. The two the members of the management committee that had appeared in the book so far were huddled in the corner talking in wishers. David was busily chatting up Ray, who although still dressed in his transvestite attire was actually a homophobe and seemed on the verge of punching out David,

Nina the other secretary was already seated at the conference table knitting something or other. Like her fictional character she tried to keep busy at all times with one handicraft or another. Stephanie was standing alone by the window. She appeared still a bit drunk. She always had difficulty getting in and out of character.

Also getting some coffee that was set out on the credenza was Baba Giufa and Jerome who prefers to be called Horace. Strictly speaking they were not characters of the unread mystery novel, but since they were created by the same author they definitely had an interest in things.

Vince would have liked to include a number of characters from other works by the author, but when he had called them he found most of them have had their phones disconnected or they were not answering. He suspected the worst had happened to them, recycled or, he shuddered, oblivion.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Book World from Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next or one thereafter:

‘There was a good reason I was asked to do this, and I will not impugn my lack of competence by being irresponsibly accurate. I have a reputation to uphold.’

b. From God’s Mouth to your Ears:

When Solomon completed building the Temple of Yahweh and the royal palace, Yahweh appeared to him a second time, saying to him, ‘If you act with integrity and righteousness, obeying all my commandments and regulations, as your father David did, then I will secure your dynasty forever as I promised David.’

‘But if you or your sons ever fail to obey the commandments and regulations I gave you, or worship other gods, I will eradicate Israel from the land I gave them.’

‘Israel will be the object of ridicule among the nations, and this temple will be a heap of ruins! ‘ 1 Kings 9:1-10.

(God suffers from PMS?)

c. Models of religious tolerance and morality:

“My advice… is: First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire.”
Martin Luther (“On the Jews and their lies” 1543)

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
~John Kenneth Galbraith

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. March 4,2011

“There are only two great currents in the history of mankind: the baseness which makes conservatives and the envy which makes revolutionaries.”
~Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt

TODAY’S FACTOID:

Approximately 1250 BC Achilles dies on the Plains of Troy from an arrow shot into his heel by Paris, the instigator of the Trojan War. He was 28 years old at the time of his death. Two days before his death, Achilles in turning down a request from a delegation of Greek nobles that he return to lead them in their struggle against Troy, said:

“I for my part did not come here for the sake of the Trojan spearmen to fight against them, since to me they have done nothing.”
“…For not worth the value of my life are all the possessions they fable were won for Ilion…”
“Of possessions cattle and fat sheep are things to be had for the lifting, and tripods can be won and the tawny high heads of horses, but a man’s life cannot come back again, it cannot be lifted nor captured again by force, once crossed the teeth’s barrier.”

Within 50 years of their triumph over Troy, the victorious Achaean Greek society collapsed plunging Greece into a “Dark Age” of almost 600 years. They even lost the ability to write.

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

Gaddafi, Libya and the border clash between Thailand and Cambodia seems to have become the primary preoccupation of the english language media in Thailand. Meanwhile, the various political parties and factions as well as the major institutions (Palace, Military, Police, Chinese business community , etc.) are jockeying for position prior to the upcoming elections. Promises are being made with no intention of implementation while deals are struck in back rooms. Nothing new there; nothing new from here either.

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

Last night, I received a telephone call from friends Frank Gatto and Monty Ormsby. They were luxuriating on a beach in Florida. I was happy to hear from them since their phone numbers had been changed and neither reads their email. I was especially pleased to hear from Monty who I had not heard from for over a year and was worried that time had finally caught up with him.

Hayden is off with his mother and “an uncle” to Koh Samet an Island in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast to Rayong not too far from Paradise by the Sea. Koh Samet is a more of less working class resort without the glitz of Phuket and Koh Samui. Most of the resorts are low-rises and aging. I have always liked it. The white sand on its beaches is as fine as talcum powder.

Given that my babysitting duties were in hiatus, I had thought about heading of to the beach myself, back to Paradise by the Sea, but I decided instead to remain in Bangkok with the “little masseuse” and to spend the weekend shopping for books that I would give Hayden for his sixth birthday on Monday.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Chapter 11.

At the dinner in a quiet corner of the dining room, Vince sat with David and the only two members of the Executive Committee that David had been able to round-up. Vince, responding to the evasive answers to his questions, began to lose his composure. “I want the files that Charlie took from Sam’s house,” he said through clenched teeth.

“I am sure Charlie will give them to you when he returns from his vacation,” said Gerry Dine, the portly and avuncular governmental contracts law expert.

“I do not want to wait for who knows how long. I am sure this has something to do with the “Red Star” investigation and I am not sure if it is your problem or the firm’s problem. But I intend to find out sooner rather that later.”

“You know Vince,” David continued. “these contracts with the Defense Department have all sorts of controls, checks and audit requirements and the Defense Departments employees in charge of monitoring these things are pretty good. In fact they are usually dammed too picky if you ask me,” he added.

Vince stared at him for a moment trying to get his emotions under control. “Bullshit” he shouted, finaly. “They are like everyone else, they have families to worry about , bosses to please, they are constantly going up against legions of guy’s like you, who are paid more to be better prepared than they are and who have access to their bosses and members of the administration and Congress, that they never will have”.

He then leaned forward and looking at each of the others in turn and said, “Besides I probably should not be meeting with any of you. You all have a conflict of interest. Tomorrow I will be seeing our outside attorneys. I will ask them for an opinion on the extent of the conflict and what to do about it. I suspect they will suggest that you all take a leave of absence from the firm. I also am going to send someone out into the Alaskan wilderness to find old Charlie and get him to return. I think his long-planned “vacation” is bullshit too.”

There was silence, then David suggested that maybe Vince was getting a little ahead of himself, but acknowledged that it was probably a good idea to confer with outside counsel for all their sakes.

Later back in his apartment Vince woke from his sleep having suddenly made that decision that is often results from the sub-consciousness workings of the brain during sleep as it wrestles with a problem unsolvable by the waking mind.

The next morning he called all the Executive Committee members and resigned, and caught the next flight back to Thailand. I few days later he called Isabella and suggested that she visit him.

She declined.

The End.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Book World from Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next or one thereafter:

“‘It’s very simple,’ said the third Russian, indicating who did what on her fingers, ‘Nastasya Petronova is Raskolnikov’s landlady’s servant, Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova is your sister who threatens to marry down, Sofia Semyonovna Marmeladova is the one who becomes a prostitute, and Marfa Petrovna Svidrigailova – the one you were first talking about — is Arkady Svidrigailov’s murdered first wife.’
‘I knew that’ said Raskolnikov in the manner of someone who didn’t, ‘so… who are you again?’
‘I’m Alyona Ivanovna,’ said the third Russian with a trace of annoyance, ‘the rapacious old pawnbroker whose apparent greed and wealth lead you to murder.’
‘Are you sure you’re Ivanovna?’ asked Raskolnikov in a worried tone.
‘Absolutely.’
‘And you’re still alive?’
‘So it seems.’
He stared at the bloody axe.
‘Then who did I just kill?’
‘Listen’ I said ‘I’m sure everything will come out fine in the epilogue. But for the moment, your home is my home.”’

b. Barry Goldwater’s warning:

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise.
There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs.
There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being.
But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly.
The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.
They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent.
If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.
I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D.
Just who do they think they are?
And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate.
I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they’re dead.”
~Leo Rosten

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:


Koh Samet.

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. February 23, 2011

“The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too.”
~Oscar Levant

TODAY’S FACTOID:

February 26, 1564, Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury England to Catherine Marlowe and John Marlowe, a shoemaker. He attended Cambridge University, lived a life of high adventure as a spy, wrote some of the greatest plays and poetry in the english language and died in a barroom brawl before he was 30.

(Don’t forget to celebrate.)

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

Same old, same old.

There is a Palm Oil crisis in Thailand. Palm Oil is used by the majority of Thai’s for cooking. The price of Palm Oil is rising as is the price for food, natural resources and precious metals. Food prices are under somewhat greater pressure than the other two because climate change and extreme weather has begun to affect harvests. To add to the pressure, the so-called investment community (the rich and their advisors), fearing inflation, are moving money out of some financial instruments and into commodities as a hedge.

Because Palm Oil is essential to most Thais, the government initially acted to raise short-term supplies by removing some of the limits on the importation of the oil. This met with opposition from those in the financial community and some of the palm oil producers that would benefit most from the rise in prices. In addition to the usual political pressure articles suddenly started appearing in the press written by so-called experts that Thai producers and workers will be adversely affected. Also the producers simply warehoused the additional supply in hopes of increased future prices. The Government then effectively terminated the trade liberalization to the benefit of the producers and financial interests. Nevertheless, the government recognizing the dependence of the average Thai on the oil and the imminence of national elections, limited the retail price of the oil. While this had a lesser effect on the financial speculators, the producers see their profits squeezed down from obscene to normal and have reacted with fury. Stay tuned. One way or another, despite the best efforts of some in the government, the average Thai citizen is in for another screwing.

On a completely different matter the Thai newspapers contained a comment by Moammar Gaddafi on the demonstrations in Libya:

“This is my country, my country.”

Indeed…

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

This morning I dropped Hayden off at school and proceeded along Soi 4 to Sukhumvit. Some of the shops and bars were just opening for the day’s business. The Restaurants and cafes serving breakfast were in full swing with bleary eyed farangs trying to down their first coffee of the day. A few of the ladies of the night were still out on the streets. Whether they were out trying to get an early start on the day’s business or just hoping for one last score on their way home to sleep away the sunshine hours after last nights commerce, I do not know.

I stopped at a Starbuck’s at the corner of Sukhumvit and Nana for a Cafe Latte and to read the newspaper and then proceeded to the barber shop. The barber shop I use is located in the Arab quarter because we of the olive skin race, (bordering the Mediterranean and extending into the mountains of Persia and Afghanistan), tend to be generally more hirsute than the races from the north, south and east of our homeland.

I ordered a shave and a deep ear cleaning. Now, for those unfamiliar with the it, deep ear cleaning is a process that would probably be banned in North America or Europe. The barber inserts a series of long sharp instruments into ones ear and scrapes, swabs and otherwise digs out what ever he or she finds in there. In my case it must have been a lot since when I left the shop, the insistent noise of Bangkok appeared louder than when I went in.

From the barber shop, I walked through the back alleys of Arab town with their shops and cafes and travel agencies and the like catering to the mostly Muslim population of the area. The air smelled of spices, shawarma and falafel reminding me of my love of the cuisine.

I come out of the alley in front of Gulliver’s, a large barn like club. Inside there are several circular bars around which in the evenings young women sit in hopes of being hit on by preferably older and wealthier farangs.

I walk past Food Land Market. It houses a counter inside serving some of the least expensive good food, western and other, in BKK.

I enter a tunnel that runs between Soi’s. It is dark and filled on both sides with tiny bars, food stalls and shops. The tunnel exits next to an establishment named The Beer Garden. It is basically a downscale version of Gulliver’s and is referred to by some as “The Chicken Farm.” I cross the street and pass through the driveway alongside the Amari Hotel that ends in a large parking lot that skirts the abandoned lobby of what I guess is another hotel, on the doors of which are sculpted a magnificent brace of swans.

The parking lot ends at Soi 11 adjacent to the Rain Tree Spa and across from my destination, the Ambassador Hotel, containing the health club and pool I use for my morning exercises.

Following my workout, I walk along Sukhumvit to Soi 4 to go back my apartment. I often stop in the Landmark Hotel and visit the Asia Books store located in the lobby to see if there and any new releases I want to read.

As I walk along, every now and then a rat would poke its head out through a crack in the sidewalk, I guess for a glimpse of sunlight and perhaps safety from the dangers of the dark subterranean canals that lie just below the pavement, their fetid waters home to rats, snakes and god knows what else. When Bangkok enclosed most of their canals to provide the motorways for the modern city, it created a miasmatic swamp just below the city’s streets. Who knows what is breeding down there. The sewers of Paris are palaces compared to these. Novels have been written of escapes through the sewer systems of many cities, even New York. But if you’re trapped in Bangkok’s I doubt the possibility of survival. I sometimes wonder if in a hundred years or so some new creature or creatures would rise from those mephitic waters, a plague perhaps, or something larger than minuscule disease bearing organisms. Something looking like the Naga’s of Thai myths, multi-headed serpents ascending from those hidden waterways and careening down the then flooded streets pursuing the few remaining inhabitants of the city.

Arriving home, I usually grab my computer and go to the small restaurant across Soi 4 from my apartment, really not much more substantial than a sidewalk cart where I have lunch. It has the benefit of free wi-fi access, so I play with the internet, check on the 49rs and write things like this until it is time to pick Hayden up from school.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

A few weeks ago (or maybe not so long ago), I opined that the fiction novel is dying and soon to be replaced by Twitter and Facebook fiction. Well, today an article appeared in the paper that reporter that young bloggers are abandoning blogs for Twitter and Facebook essentially because blogs are more passive and less immediate while Twitter and Facebook seems to be more in your face kind of communication. So I guess were I to write Chapter 10 in Twitter is would go something like this:

Isabella, looking hot enters the bar where Vince is sitting and tells him that he may be at the fall guy for the Brethren and Red Star. She leaves when David Kitchen arrives.

(Maybe that’s how Elmore Leonard learned to write.)

Chapter 10.

Vince entered the noisy restaurant. To his left was a large slightly raised platform containing a long bar and several small cocktail tables. To his right was a doorway leading to the eating area guarded by the unsmiling wannabe model hostess.

The Bar was lined with the usual young professionals looking to hook up one way or another that night. He took a seat at one of the cocktail tables facing the door and ordered a ginger ale from the waitress that appeared promptly at his side.

At precisely six-thirty the door opened and Isabella Yeung walked in. She seemed to like making grand entrances thought Vince. At least she likes being on time.

She was dressed in what he could only describe as high-end hooker. Her full black hair fell in glistening ringlets to her shoulders. Overly large hoop earrings peeked our from under her coiffure. She had on shimmering metallic top, clinched around the neck leaving her shoulders bare and split into a fringe above her navel and falling to just touch the top of her black micro-skirt. Her feet were encased in black multi-strapped four-inch heels. Over her bare shoulders was a long-sleeved black see through net vest, ruffled at the edges.

Her eyes locked of his and she strode directly over to his table and, as he now realized was her way, immediately sat down.

“Would you like a drink,” he asked?

“The same as you are having, ginger ale.”

He grunted, beckoned over the waitress and placed the order.

“Ok, so you are a private investigator showing me you have done your homework on me by knowing that I generally drink ginger ale. I hope you have been able to learn more than that.”

“Oh, a lot more.”

“There is a lot to know,” he responded. “Much more than there seems to be about you.”

“You probably have not looked in the right places.” She countered, that same placid stare did not for wander from his face even for a moment.

He was getting quite annoyed and frustrated by her arrogant self-assurance and if he could admit it to himself, a bit desperate. She was a very attractive woman and he appeared to be getting nowhere with her.

“Do you know agents Kittrel and Gonzales?” he asked hoping the sudden change in topic would throw her off her game and reveal something.

“No should I?”

Her ginger ale arrived. “How about a Mr. Jessel?”

For the first time her eyes left his face as she reached down, picked up the drink, took a sip and said, “I do not think so. Why?”

“All three appeared at my office this afternoon to ask me about ‘Red Star’ one of the things you chose to warn me about earlier. So, if you are not working with the Feds and will not tell me who you represent, why are you here? Is this game only to play with me because I find you attractive or is there something else on your mind?”

The hint of a smile appeared on her face that did not reach her eyes.

“This is not game,” she said. “I have been investigating the Brethren for some time now and it has led me to ‘Red Star’. I was making some headway and now you show up. You are an arrogant, self-important fool, just the tool to be used by those cleverer than you so that you become the fall guy and derail everything that has been done so far.”

Vince was stunned to silence. Then he heard a voice say, “Well well, if it is not the seductive Ms Yeung and my managing partner. Enjoying a little private discussion?I hope I am not disturbing you?”

It was David Kitchen. He had arrived early for our meeting.

“No you did not disturb anything at all, Mr. Kitchen, I was just leaving.” and with that she got up and without further comment to either Vince of David strolled out of the Restaurant with the same aplomb with which she walked in taking the longing glances of most of the males at the bar along with her.

“I trust you are not being taken in by her?” said Kitchen as he slid into the recently vacated seat.

“I have no idea what that was all about,” he replied. “Obviously you know more than I. All I know is that she is one good-looking piece of merchandise, but probably nuts.”

“A few weeks ago she showed up in my office asking questions about ‘Red Star.’ I directed her to address any questions to our firm attorney.” David added. “You would be well advised to do the same. I have reason to believe she is working for one of the suppliers to ‘Red Star’ looking for anything that would give them a preference in a possible bankruptcy.”

“She does not appear very professional about it.” Vince opined.

“There is more there then meets the eye, I think. But there sure is a lot to meet the eye as well.”

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Book World from Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next or one the thereafter:

The continuing tale of Thursday’s invitation to three characters to take refuge in her home:

“He turned to the third Russian.
‘Tell me, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin: who precisely is Marfa Petronova Svidrigailova?’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the third Russian who had been staring at her shoes absently, ‘but I think there has been some kind of mistake. I’m not Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin, but Alyona Ivanova.’
Razumikhin turned to Raskolnikov and lowered his voice.
‘Is that your landlady’s servant, the one who decides to marry down to secure her fortune or the one who turns to prostitution in order to stop her family descending into penury?’
Raskolnikov shrugged.
‘Listen’ he said, ‘I’ve been in this book for over one hundred and thirty years, and even I can’t figure that out'”
(To be continued.)

b. Today’s cognitive bias:

Reminiscence bump — the effect that people tend to recall more personal events from adolescence and early adulthood than from other lifetime periods.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. ”
~Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

(So much for the invisible hand.)

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. February 20, 2011

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
~Seneca the Younger

TODAY’S FACTOID:

In about 440-470 AD Moses of Crete convinced the Jews of Crete to attempt to walk into the sea to return to Israel; he disappeared shortly after that disaster.

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

The news here in Thailand, as it probably is in most of the world has been focused on the demonstrations occurring in the Arab countries of the near and mid east and north Africa. It has become fashionable for the press to describe these protests as an apparent nascent awakening of democratic sentiment in the authoritarian Arab world. I have always found that, as a rule, news reporters are generally a lazy lot, always looking for the easy story and conventional insight and analysis. As in Thailand with the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts, all is usually not what it seems. To paraphrase Seneca the Younger quoted above. Popular demonstrations for change in governance is regarded by the common people as a sign of beneficial change, by the wise as a conflict among the elite over a countries resources and by potential new political leaders as useful.

As I see it, what we are observing are the some of the earliest effects of the conflict between local population growth, reduced water resources and increased desertification in the area engendered by climate change and the falling political influence of petroleum economics and wealth. What will probably occur in most of these countries is that if there is a regime change at all, it more than likely will be either a quickly failing representative democracy replaced by another authoritarian regime or simply the replacement of the current authoritarian regime with a more vigorous one.

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

I spent a few days back in Paradise by the Sea with Hayden and “the little masseuse.” One morning we swam in the pool then watched “Casper the Friendly Ghost” on television. Later I learned that SWAC sold the last bit of Hayden’s real property potential inheritance. The proceeds have disappeared into the Rattanaphan family coffers. Still later I had a massage and we then all went for another swim in the pool.

After returning to Bangkok, as I was taking a sauna at the health club a rather large man entered, mixed into a plastic cup some water from the bucket containing eucalyptus, a white powder that looked like cocaine but I assumed wasn’t because no sane person would throw cocaine onto hot rocks and some liquid from a small green bottle. He then poured the concoction over the hot coals. Almost immediately the air in the sauna became noticeably hotter, my skin began to prickle and I began to sweat profusely. The usual camphor smell of the vapors from the eucalyptus water changed subtly to a more citrus taste and smell and penetrated much more deeply into my lungs. The alchemist and I sweated together in the small room until I gave up and left to take a cool shower. I felt unusually light-headed for a awhile.

Now you may wonder why I did not inquire of the mysterious stranger what he was up to. Alas, in my life I have preferred the adventure of discovery to the safety of knowledge.

Later that day, I ate lunch at AVA. Hayden and I along with two older children of one of the employees at AVA (the woman with one eye) returned to the apartment where I was to baby sit them overnight. The youngest boy, about 10-year-old, seemed shy and just sat while Hayden and he children from the apartment downstairs romped up and down the stairs from apartment to apartment. Later the teenaged boy fixed the interactive sport game and they all played with it until it was time to sleep. The two other children decided to leave and return their own house. The maid returned in the early morning with a young man whom she introduced to Hayden and me as her “son.”

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Attached is Chapter 9 in which Vince and I, the author, ruminate on what to do next.

I have begun to consider that current fiction in the form of a novel is dying because it lacks immediacy. Future fiction will probably be written in chapters of 140 characters or less accompanied by a series of U-Tube clips.

Chapter 9.

Later that day Vince left his office and decided to walk the ten or so blocks from his office where he was to meet with Isabella and later attend a strategy meeting with David Kitchen and with whichever members of the executive committee he could round-up. He thought the walk would do him some good. It was the only exercise he was likely to get that day. He also found that a brisk walk often helped him to contemplate the seemingly intractable puzzles that were common place in any attorney’s practice. Let’s face it, more often that not the attorney is brought in after the client has screwed up the situation often beyond repair and expected to make it right, for a price.

And today the puzzle was more intractable than usual. As he crossed Market Street the busy main street that bisected San Francisco’s downtown and entered into the area known as SOMA, he tried to reconstruct and understand what he now knew about the firm of McKenzie Reed and the job he had probably foolishly assumed.

The firm, like most large law firms had been buffeted and by the recent downturn in the economy. The strategies he fought so hard to implement during his last stint on the executive committee had enabled the firm to weather the storm better that many of the other large law firms. Coupling cyclic practices like bankruptcy and real estate where one does well in an up economy while the other does better in a down, although slightly lowering profits in boom years lowered losses during down turns was one of the strategies. Successful attorneys, like those on the executive committee, essentially being greedy bastards opposed this vigorously, arguing that struggling cyclic practices should be jettisoned quickly to increase the profits that they, the currently more successful attorneys, shared well out of proportion to the rest of those that worked in the firm. The increased use of paralegals, while of great benefit to the client in lowering costs were resisted for some of the same reasons.

But it was not the mundane issues of management and administration that concerned him this evening, but the revelations surrounding Sam’s death and the Red Star imbroglio that occupied his attention and the mysterious Ms Isabella Yeung. He hadn’t had sex for two weeks now and the image of her sitting across from him in his office kept sliding back into his consciousness whenever his mind wandered.

While the revelations about Sam and Red Star were surprising and curious they seemed primarily the problems of those partners involved. His job he reasoned was to keep any potential fallout from harming the firm. He would jettison this partners involved immediately if necessary to protect the firm and the other partners and employees whose livelihood depended upon the firms economic health.

He made a note to himself to spend some time tomorrow with the firm’s outside counsel to strategize how best to separate the firm from those involved partners and inoculate it from their actions. He preferred to suspend all involved until the issues were resolved. Most of them would fight that and that he realized could be even more destabilizing. Preparation and drift appear to be the soundest course of action, as it usually is.

He had arrived at one of the trendy new SOMA night spot that spring up like weeds after a rain storm, flourish for a moment and wither just as quickly as they grew. He looked up at the sign above the door announcing the name of the establishment and chuckled. “Bizarre” it said.

“Amen brother,” he mumbled as he entered the noisy establishment.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Book World from Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next or one thereafter:

The ongoing story of Thursday inviting three characters into her home.

‘Allow me to introduce Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov.’
‘Actually,’ said the second man leaning over to shake my hand. ‘I’m Dmitri Razumikhin, Raskolnikov’s loyal friend.’
‘You are?’ said Raskolnikov in surprise. ‘Then what happened to Svidrigailov?’
‘He is busy chatting up your sister.’
‘My sister? That’s Pulkheria Alenandronova Raskolnikov, right?’
‘No,’ said Razumikhin in the tone of a long-suffering friend, ‘that’s your mother. Andotya Romanova Raskolnikova is your sister’
‘I always get those two mixed up. So who is Marfa Petronova Svirigailova?’
Razumikhin frowned and thought for a moment.
‘You’ve got me there.’
(to be continued)

b. Definition of the day:

“Inspiration: a peculiar effect of divine flatulence emitted by the Holy Spirit which hisses into the ears of a few chosen of God.”
~Voltaire

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“He didn’t say that. He was reading what was given to him in a speech. ”
~Richard Darman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, explaining why President Bush wasn’t following up on his campaign pledge that there would be no loss of wetlands.

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. February 14, 2011

Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.
~John Stuart Mill

TODAY’S FACTOID:

1805. The Viennese man Johann George Lehner invents the Frankfurter.

(I always thought his name was Nathan and he lived on Coney Island.)

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

Today while sitting on the beach at Paradise by the Sea with Nicky and Hayden watching the Siberian hoards filling the strand around us like grunion during a full moon, I commented that I thought it strange that it was so rare to see any of them smile. Nicky observed that during his travels through Russia and Siberia a few years ago, outside of the larger cities, running water into homes was rare. I responded that if that was true Thailand must appear to them to be a first world country.

Of the few times I have seen what passes for a smile among the Siberians, they appeared to scrunch their mouth into a brief frozen rictus somewhere between a grimace and a grin. Americans on the other hand, in addition to smiling easily when amused, often smile as a signal of non aggression and sometimes embarrassment. During my stays in Europe, that often prompted many Europeans that I encountered to consider us Americans slightly addled and empty-headed. In Europe smiles were reserved for humor. Meeting people required a more serious demeanor. It was a matter of respect.

Thailand has been called, “The Land of Smiles.” I read somewhere that a Thai has 13 types of smile. I believe nine of those smiles mean, “I’ll get you later, you son of a bitch.” One means, “I have gotten even with you.” One is, “You lost face and I haven’t,” and one is for pleasure, usually exhibited when some farang embarrasses himself. The final type of smile is reserved for other Thai’s and we foreigners never get to see it.

————————————————————

When she was not too much older that Hayden, my daughter Jessica suffered similar fears of the night and of sleeping that he does, and for similar reasons. So, every night at bedtime, I used to tell her long involved tales within a never-ending story. To her great annoyance often the stories would put me to sleep well before her.

With Hayden, I make up separate shorter stories every night in an effort to avoid nodding off during the telling. Last night’s story was a tale in a series about Danny, a boy of about Hayden’s age, and his pony Acorn. Danny had ridden Acorn to school where the Good Princess Zoe (the same name as Hayden’s teacher) sent him on a quest to the Mountains of the East to free the Prince of Words from the evil witch Miss Spelling and prevent her from turning the world into a dark place of unreadable books and a babble of unintelligible speech. Danny had to spell his way to dispatch Miss Spelling, free the prince and save the world. When I finished, I asked him what he thought of the story.

“Who is Miss Spelling’s mommy?” he responded.

I could not answer him but promised to reveal it to him in a later story. I could use your help. Does anyone out there know Miss Spelling’s mommy?

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Chapter 8, in which Vince, still in search of a plot for his story, contemplates giving it all up and returning to Thailand.

Chapter 8

As he sat in the automobile trying to digest the news of Charlie’s disappearance into the Alaskan wilderness, Vince put a call into his cross-dressing secretary Ray to instruct him to go to Sam’s house and collect all the files in the “Secret Room”.

“OK I will get right on it,” he answered. “Would you like more information on Ms. Woo-woo,” he added?

“Who?”

“You know the background of that Isabella Yeung woman you asked me to look into.”

“No, I’m too busy.” Then he remembered that he had agreed to meet with her tonight. “OK what did you find out?”

“I think her parents or relatives were Theodore Yeung a successful computer scientist specializing cryptography and Isabella Zeffino Yeung a well known neurosurgeon. They died 15 years ago in an unexplained small plane crash in upstate New York 15 years ago.”

“So, what makes you think they were related?”

“I located an order of the probate court in New York City three years ago releasing the contents of Theodore and Isabella’s Estate to an Isabella Yeung. What is odd however there is no record of the Yeung’s having a daughter only a son, David. He apparently was a Navy Seal and went missing about eight years ago on some hush hush mission in central America and is presumed dead.”

So, he could have married this Isabella.”

“No marriage license.”

“Could have married anywhere. What makes you think it is our Isabella?”

“Similar ages names and nothing else on the record.”

“Hm, sounds pretty flimsy to me. Look don’t waste any more of your time on this, just get on over to Coign’s house and pick up those files as soon as you can.”

“OK boss,” and he hung up.

Vince thought for a moment about today’s surprises and tried to make sense of them. He quickly gave up and drove back to the office.

When he arrived Nina told him that there were some people in reception wanting to meet with him. He walked into the reception area and found three people sitting on the low uncomfortable furniture that seems to be the standard for reception areas in doctor and lawyers offices. They stood up when he approached them.

“I am agent Kittrel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation” said the beefy one. “And this is Agent Gonzales,” he continued indicating a dark stocky woman on his right “and this in Mr. Jessel from the Department of Defense.”

Jessel appeared to be far beyond retirement age for a federal employee, tall, wispy white hair, stooped.

“Wait right there,” said Vince. “You know better than this. If this is about Red Star, the firm has retained counsel and all communications must go through him”

Ronald Bekker of the well known white collar crime boutique firm in the City named Bekker and Schulman had been retained by the firm to represent it in the investigation. The attorney’s of the firm potentially involved also had all hired their own lawyers.

“We are not here to discuss the investigation,” beefy said. “But since you are the new managing partner of the firm we thought it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves to you”

“OK, you have and it is still inappropriate. Thank you for your consideration in stopping by. The firm wants to cooperate fully with the investigation. I trust I will be seeing you all again in the presence of Mr. Bekker, not too soon I hope.” Vince gestured toward the elevator bank.

“Oh,” said the spokesman, “I am sure you will, and very soon.” As they moved off toward the elevators. The old one lagged a bit behind the other two and with a wintry smile said, “It was a pleasure meeting you Mr. Biondi. I have heard a lot about you.”

“I doubt it. Both the pleasure and the lot,” responded Vince as he turned and made his way back to his office.

Once back in his office he slumped forward in his chair. He shook his head and thought, this is all too much stress, maybe I should just quit and return to Thailand.

Then he sat back, looked up at the ceiling as a hard smile crossed his face and said aloud, “God, how I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Book World from Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next or one thereafter:

The ongoing story of Thursday inviting three characters into her home.

“Welcome to my home, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.”
‘Oh,’ said Raskolnikov, impressed that I knew who he was. ‘How did you know it was me? Could it have been the subtle way in which I project the dubious moral notion that murder might somehow be rationalized, or the way in which I move from denying my guilt to eventually coming to terms with an absolute sense of justice and submitting myself to the rule of law?’
“Neither,” said I. “It’s because you’re holding an axe covered in blood and human hair.” (To be continued…)

b. Today’s cognitive bias:

Availability heuristic — estimating what is more likely by what is more available in memory, which is biased toward vivid, unusual, or emotionally charged examples.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.”
~Bill Gates

Categories: January 2011 through March 2011 | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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