October through December 2013

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 34 Pookie 0002 (December 16. 2013)

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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year.

(Remember December 20th is a free day during which you are allowed to do whatever you want.)

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS AND MENDOCINO:

Murmurs and Grumbles

It has been a while since I have written T&T. For some reason during the past few weeks I seem to have lost interest in it, preferring instead to sit around contentedly watching the trees shed their leaves and winter settle in. Perhaps the increased dosage of my happy pills have turned my frustrations with life away from an acute pain needing immediate attention to simple dull aches that soon disappear. I guess artists and those who seem compelled to do things beyond simply maintaining their existence are not a particularly happy lot but do what they do in an effort order to find it. Don’t we all?

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I travelled to Mendocino with HHH, my sister and her husband George to spend the Thanksgiving holidays there. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies, sparkling waves, the temperature brisk but not cold. One day we walked along the Fort Bragg ocean-front from Glass Beach almost all the way to Ten Mile Beach a distance of several miles.

Fort Bragg is sad little coastal town that had consumed at least a score of years trying to recover from the disappearance of the logging industry responsible for its foundation and the mainstay of its economy. The ocean front, tucked behind blocks of decaying commercial buildings, moderate priced motels, and some small homes, is a magnificent stretch of coastal dunes, and meadows, small coves and large sandy beaches.
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A view of the Fort Bragg oceanfront

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Winter has struck El Dorado Hills today, freezing cold, grey lowering sky and rumors of snow. I spoke with my son Jason yesterday. It seems that the City had restored most of the salary a wage cuts to employees instituted during the recession and his bitter struggle for the basics of material survival have lessened a bit. Alas, holiday season is coming and for most of us the forlorn hope that the festival of lights will illuminate our lives with joy often leaves us only disappointed and more in debt.

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Speaking of Christmas and the Festival of Lights, one of my pleasures of the season is observing the competition among the residents of the neighborhood to adorn their homes with the most garish and elaborate displays of lights. Having watched my friend Al’s weeks long obsession with mounting of his display and the misery to which he subjected the rest of his family while doing it, my enjoyment of the spectacles is somewhat diminished. When I was a kid, and even now, I hated the Holiday Season. What began for me as greedy hope for Santa’s promised riches, ended in listening to loud bitter arguments often ending in tears.

I liked, however, hearing the carols and songs of the season especially those sung in latin by the choir of the little Italian Church I attended. I enjoyed the pomp and color of Christmas High Mass much more than what went on under and around the Christmas tree in my home.
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Mornings in Mendocino we spent walking along the ocean bluffs and into the town where I would enjoy my caffe latte and brioche. Later I would accompany HHH to the local book store and then to the two delightful toy stores in the town. One toy store boasted of no electronic toys whatsoever and the other was devoted exclusively to science.

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Hayden in Mendocino standing in front of the “science” store and the book store.

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One day recently I spend most of the day in the Roseville Galleria, a mega shopping mall a few miles from where I am staying.

For much of my time there I sat staring at the Santa Claus exhibit where children and their parents, for between $20 and $40, can have their picture taken sitting on Santa knee. The red-faced Santa had a real beard and would try to cop a feel from many of the good-looking moms who had their picture taken with him. Triple H at almost 9 years old still fervently believes in Santa. He told me that the Santa’s in the malls are all fake and the real Santa lives at the North Pole and is too busy to sit all day at the mall. Interestingly he also believes that Santa does not begin making his list and checking it twice until December 1. Presumably one can do whatever one wants the rest of the year.

I stopped believing in Santa when I was six or seven after my older cousin explained that the whole thing with Santa was a fake. As a result I stayed awake that Christmas eve to find out if what he said was true. I was convinced after catching my father placing the presents under the tree.

I began believing in Santa again when I turned seventy. There must be, I reasoned, something transcendental that rewards unmitigated greed since that seems to be the way of the world. Santa is as likely a culprit as anyone or thing. I call my religion Santaism. And, if Triple H is correct only worrying about doing the right thing for one month every year seems to be a pretty good deal.

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While traveling to Mendocino we stopped off in Healdsburg for dinner. The town has changed a lot since I had last seen it almost 30 years ago. At that time it was a run down hippie magnet, art pottery shops and tie dye emporiums. In the hills surrounding the town were situated helter-skelter quaint little shingle houses overlooking various streams housing counter-cultural types of all varieties. With the advent of the wine bubble, the town now looks more like Rodeo Drive in the boonies. I assume the creek side shacks have mostly morphed into multimillion dollar designer homes.

I used to spend a lot of very happy time there with my son and a woman I knew. She lived in a cute little cottage on the edge of a bank overlooking a pretty stream. She was a teacher. I met her while introducing some novel lesson plans into the Santa Rosa School District based upon Bucky Fuller’s various manifestoes. Bucky was one of the heroes of the counter-culture. I had run his San Francisco World Games Workshop sometime in the early 1970’s. After that I had a brief career consulting with local school districts preparing lesson plans based upon Fuller’s geometry concepts and history lesson plans derived from his insights regarding integration of large systems into historical analysis, an approach different from national politics and great man biographies that passed for history at the time. This latter course was directed at high school students. The mathematical course was aimed at elementary school. Interestingly the geometry engendered a surprisingly positive reaction from some of the students in the so-called at the time 600 classes, the extremely slow learners. These students eventually were recruited as teaching assistants to help with the advanced students who in many cases were experiencing difficulty with the concepts.

Anyway, after my relationship with the woman ended, she went back to school to acquire a PhD in geology and eventually joined the US Geological Survey and ultimately was stationed in Alaska. I few years later I read in the newspaper that she had been out on a field survey when a bear  attacked her. It an effort to save her life she played dead. It worked as far as her life was concerned, but not before the bear had chewed off both of her arms. A few months later I saw a photograph of her in the newspaper right after she had been fitted with a prosthesis on both of her arms. She was always a very positive and upbeat person and in the story that accompanied the photograph she had indicated that her misfortune would not deter her from proceeding on with her life doing whatever it was that she enjoyed doing.

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One day while driving I was listening to the local classical music station when the announcer indicated that the next piece, a concerto or something like that, was written by my old client Danny Elfman. The music was tinkly and repetitive but seemed as good to me as much of the other music played by the station.

Danny was the brother of another client and friend, Rick Elfman, a director of some notably bad movies one or two of which were so bad they became cult classics. Rick was the father of the actress Jenna Elfman. He made his professional boxing début as one of the oldest boxers to make their début in Canada (he was too old to be allowed to do so in the US). The match was terminated before it began when he injured himself stepping into the ring.

Danny had exhibited scant aptitude for music in his childhood, however, during his mid teens he picked up a guitar and found he could play it quite well without instruction. He promptly disappeared with his guitar into Africa and emerged two years later with a vast knowledge and repertory of African music and musical techniques. Thereafter he and his brother created the rock group Oingo-Boingo which led eventually to Danny writing the music to Pee Wee’s Playhouse and fame, ultimately winning him a couple of Oscars for his music.

The last time I saw Danny was at a warehouse in Venice or Santa Monica or Malibu, I cannot remember which, but it was in the Coastal Zone in any event. Now that he was an “artist,” Danny wanted a studio worthy of his fame. He planned to convert the warehouse into a series of studio’s where he could enhance his artistic capabilities. He wanted separate studios for his music, painting, sculpture and who knows what else. He wanted my advice on securing a Coastal Permit for his dreams. I told him he would be better off to keep the changes he had planned internal to his existing building making only minor changes to the outside of it.

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PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
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This fascinating group of charts demonstrates that over the past 50 years or so we have truly lived in a golden age (At least in the West) but we are also rapidly approaching the crisis of our times. Each of the smaller charts shows a rate of growth that the science of physics tells us is unsustainable and must soon taper off. They also imply that Global Warming and Climate Change are merely artifacts of the Great Acceleration.

World population has increased almost six fold in the last 60 years while all the other charts show increases of at least seven fold. Except for population most of that growth has occurred in the West and in Japan, with the rest of East and South Asia now struggling to catch up.

B. A Little Bit of Twain:

“That is a simple rule, and easy to remember. When I, a thoughtful
and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any
question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious
matters.

“When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the
Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am
spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because
you never can prove anything to a lunatic–for that is a part of his
insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane,
for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his.

“All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.
Mark Twain

(Twain was a Mugwump [Middle Way Democrats of the time] and he believed they were definitely not insane.)

 
TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Obama himself can cease to exist – in the pornographic fantasies of birthers, he has never actually been president — gay people and their marriages can melt back into the closet and women can vanish from corporate boardrooms, only to reappear in the kitchen with an apron and a spatula. Civil-rights laws will unwrite themselves, millions of immigrants will turn out never to have come here, the entire federal government will be revealed as a useless and unnecessary fiction. The Civil War itself can be relitigated by other means, with a different outcome (accepting, for the moment, the conventional view that the North actually won). None of this is even remotely coherent, except that it all belongs to a fantasy narrative in which white heterosexual males are history’s most persecuted and marginalized group, having absorbed all the suffering of the African-Americans and Jews and Indians and women and improved upon it in their inimitable style.

Forces that we thought were dead in American public life, like the ideology of white supremacy and the legacy of the Confederacy, have returned in zombie form, imbued with bathos and victimology. If they’re not half as powerful as they once were, they’re still too ugly to be ignored. As we’ve seen all too recently, the deranged American minority that longs to “take our country back” from unspecified usurpers is zealous, well-organized and determined to befoul our political life into the indefinite future. Those forces remain dangerous,
Andrew O’Hehir, Solon.

TODAY’S CHART:
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This is an interesting map. Someone had taken a number of sociological studies and mapped the results. Apparently, there emerged in their minds the separate Americas pictured above. In political terms, the Democrats predominate in New Netherlands, El Norte, The Left Coast and Yankeedom and split with the Republicans in the Midlands and Tidewater. Republicans are concentrated in Greater Appalachia, the Deep South and the Far West while splitting with the Dems in New France.

If accurate, this map seems to indicate that contrary to the belief of many liberals and media types, the Republican Party is not a regional party restricted to the South but predominates in much of the center of the country. This is reflected to a great extent in the current makeup of the House of Representatives.

I suspect in the future El Norte to expand in the South West and the Dems to increase their political ascendancy over the Tidewater leaving the ongoing battle over the Midlands and Western Yankeedom the key to control of the nation’s political power.

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Categories: October through December 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 28 Pepe 0002 (November 14, 2013)

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Halloween came and went leaving behind a bag of assorted candies through which I rummage several times a day searching for a piece of chocolate that I then happily devour.

Halloween I spent at a remote subdivision in Cameron Park, a town a bit further into the foothills than El Dorado Hills. There I watched greedy little children and some adolescents rush from house to house begging for candy, oblivious to anything else. The residents of the subdivision took their Halloween seriously. They sat costumed in their driveways beside large bonfires and behind tables burdened with candies for the children and drinks for the adults. Huge automatons (e.g. a twelve-foot tall animated figure of the Headless Horseman) and sculptures, emerging from the fogs of mist making machines stood blinking and moving awkwardly on the lawns.

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Fall has finally come to the foothills. The yellow-leaved trees have now come out among the red. The lawns and streets fill up with fallen brown leaves. As I walk along the breeze twists the leaves from the branches and they drift on to the lawns and streets like slow motion snow. Yellow, orange, red and brown the colors of Autumn. I guess I could describe the scientific process by which the leaves turn color or the metaphors it represents but I leave that to the reader. To me fall has never meant an ending but a fulfillment. Perhaps the drunken poet was wrong and we should go softly into that dark night. Nah, what would be the purpose of that? You might as well scream. It will be the last chance you get.

It is quite chilly on the mornings but in the afternoons it warms up enough for me to still sit on the porch in the sun and drift off to sleep.

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I spend my days now a bit like a part-time messenger, picking up or dropping off things for Dick or Hayden. I find it quite enjoyable. Traveling here and there, spending a few moments on whatever business I was directed to do and then traveling on. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, had a pretty good gig.

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A few days ago I learned that, distressingly Triple H has slipped completely into the dark side. After conning me out of a few dollars on bets he could not lose, I overheard him on the telephone cadge some more money from SWAC in order to buy LEGO kits and SKYLANDER characters. Following his phone call he turned to me and said, “I am a money ninja. I do not give up until they agree just to be rid of me.” I thought it was time for some parental guidance on the subject, but I was so shocked I did not know what to say.

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My doctor just told me that I need to stop spending so much time alone and need to get out more and socialize. In the interim he increased my happy pill dosage.

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JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:

ENTER THE DRAGON

She stopped about 10 feet from our car. “Where are you going,” she said?

“Uh, my name is Matthew Dragoni, I’m an attorney and accompanying my client to meet with someone.”

“I know who you are. Who are you planning to meet with?

It came back to me. She was the Deputy Sheriff that had something to do with the investigation of the unpleasantness at my ex law firm a few years back. I could not remember her name and I could not read her name tag pinned to her uniform. A second uniform detached itself from the group standing by the house and began walking toward us just as the doors to the Ambulance were slammed shut and the emergency personnel jumped into the front seats.

“Uh, look here sheriff,” the name came back to me, Meg, something or other, Polan I think. “I am happy to answer your questions but I really have to know what this is all about.”

Mavis who had rolled down the rear window now shouted “Oh my God, has something happened to Mark?”

“Please get out of the car all of you,” Meg ordered. She placed her hand on her gun just as the second Deputy arrived and the Ambulance took off and headed our way, lights flashing and siren screaming.

“Ok, kids get out slowly hands where they can see them, I said to my passengers. “From here on Mavis please shut up,” I warned sotto voce.

The ambulance passed the two officers and disappeared over the rise. “Ok were getting out,” I shouted. “But I still insist in knowing what this is all about.”

As soon as we got out of the call Meg turned towards Mavis and asked, “What is your relationship to this… ah Mark.”

I quickly put my hand on Mavis’ shoulder to stop her from talking and said, “You know better than that deputy.”

After some back and forth we agreed to give statements to the police which scrupulously avoided mention of dope, suicides, Martin Vihn and furniture shipments. In return we learned that Mark Holland had been found behind the house shot. Later reports had him in a deep coma. A neighbor had heard what sounded like a shot or car backfire and a car driving rapidly away. He then left his house nearby with his dog it order to investigate and to attend to some dog business. He saw nothing except Mark lying there and then called the police on his smart phone. Among the things Meg asked in addition to whether we knew why anyone would want to harm Mark, was whether any of us knew whether Mark was dealing dope. We denied knowledge of everything. Meg did not appear to believe us. It took about four hours to finish giving our statements at the scene. On the way back to the car she took me aside.

“So you left the big firm, I heard,” she said. “Yeah,” I answered. “I wanted to associate with a better class of people.” She smiled briefly. “I can understand that.” “You know,” she added. “I don’t believe you are telling me all you know. If I find out that you are not, I’ll make sure you lose both your law license and investigators license.”

“We’ve given you accurate statements,” I said. “But I’ll call you tomorrow after I look into some things.”

“Why not tell me now and I’ll look into them too?” she responded.

“Trust me.”

“It’s your ass on the line.”

“It won’t be the first time.”

We left the scene and returned to The City mostly in silence. Mavis indicated she wanted to spend some time alone so we dropped her off at her apartment. Joe wanted to report to Martin personally and drove me to my apartment where I took a nap and then prepared for my dinner with the widow.

 

DAILY FACTOID:

2013: “Today, when we produce more food than ever before, more than one in ten people on Earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight.”
Raj Patel. Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System.

2013: According to a study of the data acquired by Nasa’s Kepler Telescope there are almost nine billion earth like planets in our galaxy capable of sustaining life including one only 14 light-years away.

So where is everyone?

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:

Here’s an abstract of a study by the Department of Psychology of UC Berkeley that support the conclusion: Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior:

“Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study3), take valued goods from others (study4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.”

B. Testosterone Chronicles:

From some guy named Hickman:

“When Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis, it spawned a “worldwide phenomenon,” says Hickman. “Across America, and from China to Peru, copycat cases began to occur, with Thailand becoming the epicenter: By the end of the millennium, over a hundred cases had been reported to Thai police, who admitted there were probably many more but the victims preferred to keep their loss to themselves.” Hickman reports cases of women feeding dismembered penises to farm-life and one wife in India who attached her husband’s severed member to a helium balloon.

C. Tales of Inhumanity:

“Khristya Chunyak, a forty-year-old peasant woman from the village of Krasilovka, in the Brovarsky district of the Kiev oblast, told me how Germans in Brovary were escorting a Jewish doctor, Feldman, to be executed.
This doctor, an old bachelor, had adopted two peasant orphans. The locals were very fond of him. A crowd of peasant women ran to the German commandant crying and pleading for Feldman’s life to be saved. The commandant felt obliged to give in to the women’s pleas. This was in the autumn of 1941.

Feldman continued to live in Brovary and treat the local peasants. He was executed in the spring of this year. Khristya Chunyak sobbed and finally burst into tears as she described to me how the old man was forced to dig his own grave. He had to die alone. There were no other Jews alive in the spring of 1943.
Vasily Grossman in the Ukraine with the advancing Red Army discovers what the Germans did in Kazary.

D. A Blast From the Past: Danny and the Tale of Prince Heimlich.

So, last night, at bed time, I continued telling the series of stories to Hayden that I had begun about two years ago when he was six. The stories concerned the adventures of Danny (Hayden’s alter ego) and his trusty pony Acorn (who Hayden now and then rides whenever we visit the ranch owned by our friends Bill and Naida).

Danny was resting at an oasis in the desert following his besting of “The Old Man Under the Mountain.” With him were his two friends; “The Black Knight,” a gorilla (Whose alter ego, a cuddly toy that Hayden insists share my bed) who is “The World’s Strongest Knight” and rides a white horse with brown spots like a cow and is called appropriately “White-brownie or Brown-whitey,” and; “The White Knight Who Used to be ‘The Old Man who Dressed Like a Beggar’ and was The Worlds Most Powerful Magician,” until Danny, in the throne room of the Green Castle, defeated him in a duel of magic aided by “The Monster Who Lives in the Closet and Who Now Lives in Acorn’s Saddlebags,” and turned him into a mouse.

In order for Danny and The Black Knight to escape from the dungeon of the “Old Man Under the Mountain,” Danny, again with the aid of “The Monster who lives in the Closet but Now Lives in Acorn’s Saddlebags” turned him from a mouse into a young handsome human except with less magical power so that his full name now became, “The White Knight Who Used to be an Old Man Dressed Like a Beggar and the Worlds Most Powerful Magician Until he was Turned into a Mouse and Then into A Young Man who was Not a so Powerful Magician.” The White Knight rode a black horse named, “Blackie.”

They had just finished dinner and were drinking their milk while staring into the campfire when a troop of musicians and actors who were camping nearby came by and offered to put on a performance for the famous Knights.

The knights agreed that they would enjoy that and the chief musician tuned up his Lute and began his song by introducing his main protagonist a skinny boy of indeterminate age named “Heimlich.” Heimlich lived in a not so great but good enough castle in a dreary country somewhere that was always foggy. Heimlich was sad because his father, who was called “Pruneberry the King of the Castle” (and, if truth be known, King of little else) had just died. In addition almost before the body became cold or whatever it is body’s become after its inhabitant dies, his mother “Natasha Dewlap” married Heimlich’s uncle, “Julius Caesar” (we both thought that was a very funny name).

Anyway, Heimlich and his friend (who strangely did not have a name but it could just as well been something as ridiculous and “Guildenstern” or “Rosencrantz” or even “Miracle Max”) one evening, for some unknown reason, decided to go to visit the grave site where Pruneberry was buried. Along the way they came upon a pile of bones and a skull. Heimlich thought the skull reminded him of “Mortimer” his old kindergarten teacher.

Anyway Heimlich’s friend decided to return home after they discovered the bones because he was a sensible lad and was creeped out by the bones and Heimlich’s weirdness. Heimlich went on by himself.

When Heimlich arrived at the gravesite, a Ghost popped out and said, “Heimlich I am your father, Pruneberry and I was killed by Natasha Dewlap and Julius Caesar who put poison up my nose while I was asleep.”

At this point Hayden asked me, “How can a ghost speak after he died?”

“A keen observation,” I acknowledged. “That is why Heimlich did not believe him and went back home.”

The next morning, as coincidence and fairy tales have it, a group of traveling actors came by the castle and asked Heimlich if he would like to have them perform a play. Maybe, Heimlich, thought, if they perform Pruneberry’s death like the Ghost told it in front of Natasha Dewlap and Julius Caesar one of them would be reminded and say something like, “Say that looks familiar,” and Heimlich would then know what the Ghost said perhaps could have been true.

And so the traveling players put on the show and at just the right moment, Julius Caesar turned to Natasha Dewlap and said, “Say Natty does this look familiar to you?” At which point Heimlich became furious and drove Natasha Dewlap and Julius Caesar out of the castle where they were forced to live in a tent and sell apples and rutabagas to passers-by.

Hayden then asked me, “What are rutabagas?”

I said, “I did not know.”

Heimlich, thereafter spent every day alone in the little castle in that dismal country with his furry white cat named “Snowy,” looking out of his window and down upon Natasha Dewlap and Julius Caesar trying to sell their apples and rutabaga to passers-by, except for once a year when the troop of actors came by and they had a party. The End.

I then told Hayden that the actors would perform another tale for the Three Knights that I would tell him about tomorrow (I was already working on a children’s version of King Lear). But, Hayden asked me if Danny was ever going to go back home to visit his mom who lived in the cottage by the “Deep Dark Wood,” before setting out on another adventure. He thought it would be a good idea if he did.

I told him that Danny told the musicians that he would not listen to the story because he needed to get a good nights sleep so that tomorrow he would be well rested for his trip back through the “Deep Dark Wood’” to visit his mom.

 

TODAY’S QUOTES:

“Marriage after all was invented primarily to make sure that those with enough resources for it to matter who agree to live together know how those resources are used and who gets them if one party dies and where the eager lovers overlooked entering into whatever version of a prenuptial agreement available at the time. (Kings and Queens have always entered pre-nups of one source or another. It was included in the dowry, especially when the dowry contained say a kingdom.) Love never had anything to do with it.”
Trenz Pruca

” The tragic truth, however, is that the young as they age become conservatives, ethnic groups as the move into the middle class do so also. The gay community is now free to vote Republican without shame while the black community is prevented from voting even if they are Republican. And worse of all, the seven and eight year olds of our nation seem to have been indoctrinated in many of our schools to hate others as well as to despise science.

We progressives can slap ourselves on the back all we want, but as usual we often fail to grasp the grim realities of politics that it is an eternal war of attrition and the opposition is better funded, equipped and trained while all too often all we have is our optimism to sustain us as the barricades are overrun while we wait for popular support that never comes.”
Trenz Pruca

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
Enviro_Good_Map

 

Categories: October through December 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 14 Pops 0002 (October 31, 2013)

 

Happy Birthday Aaron

Happy Halloween Everyone

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

So my 74th birthday came and went. My daughter sent me a number of interesting books with which to pass my time, including Neal Stephenson’s latest.

My sister held a small birthday party for me at her house in Berkeley. She gave me a wonderful present, a portrait of me painted with colored paper. Here is a photo of it.

IMG_5573 - Version 2

She also cooked up some of my favorite things from my mother’s recipes including her version of cheese cake. My mother, although she was a great cook actually hated to cook, especially to bake. As a result she concentrated on reducing her recipes to the simplest ingredients necessary to appeal to the tastes of her family. Her cheese cake recipe added the step of beating the eggs to a froth producing a cheese cake as light as sponge cake but with all the flavor of something from Lindy’s.

My ex-daughter-in-law Ann told us that my grandson Aaron apparently has become quite the story-teller. At my granddaughter Athena’s 16th birthday party held at the Art complex at Hunters Point, the teenagers left the party to go to another room in the complex to spend most of the evening listening to Aaron tell ghost stories in honor of the season.

After the party I returned to El Dorado Hills and resumed my life as nanny. I spend most of the day while Triple H is in school reading the wonderful books my daughter sent to me.

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It appears as though I may not return to Thailand at the end of November. Originally my daughter scheduled a conference for Bangkok in December. I had hoped to be there with her. The last time she and I traveled around that country was about twenty years ago. The conference has tentatively been moved to January.

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Fall finally has begun here at the edge of the great Sacramento Valley. The mid-day temperature has dropped out of the 90’s and into the low 80’s and the morning temperatures are quite chilly. The trees for the past two weeks have begun their change to mostly red and brown. The brilliant yellows that have been so common in the area in past years have not yet appeared.

Speaking of the Sacramento Valley, there are places a few blocks from the house where on a clear day one can look across to valley and see the towers of downtown Sacramento on the horizon about 35 miles away.

I still have not resumed a consistent exercise program and have gained more weight than I would like. I blame my lethargy on my happy pills. While they certainly keep the screaming avatars of depression and despair from tearing through my consciousness, the rest of my body seems not to have benefited yet. Today however, I plan a long walk along the trails that snake out from the local park into what passes for wilderness among the subdivisions. Good for me.

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B. ENTER THE DRAGON:

Dragon’s Breath:

Eddie Mars: Your story didn’t sound quite right.
Philip Marlowe: Oh, that’s too bad. You got a better one?
Eddie Mars: Maybe I can find one.

 

Chapter 31:

While waiting to Mavis to change I received a call from the grieving widow Madame Riley.

“Did you forget about me?” She said. “We were going to talk about finding out how Clarence died.”

“No I didn’t,” I lied. “I have been clearing up a few things first,” I lied some more.

“When will you be free to talk about it?”

“How about this evening, say about 8PM at La Taverna in Belden Alley? Do you know where it is?”

She did and after passing a few more pleasantries she hung up. I had forgotten all about my discussion with her yesterday. “Well another day another thousand dollars,” I thought. I felt confident I could put together a report that would give her and her attorneys a fighting chance with the insurance company.

“Who was that” asked Mavis as she finished dressing? She looked like she was prepared for a two-week camping trip into the Sierras. She wore brown hiking boots, dun-colored cargo pants a checkered long sleeve shirt and a well-worn brown leather jacket.

“Just some business,” I replied.

We left and got in to the car. I put Mavis in the back seat this time. As I got into the passenger seat I asked Joe Vu, “do you have your gun with you? We may need it.”

“You never need a gun,” he responded. “But sometimes it can be useful.”

“Asshole,” I thought.

We traveled down the peninsula passing over Skyline Ridge to Half Moon Bay, then down PCH to the turn off to Pescadero. Pescadero was a tiny town nestled in a valley about a mile or two from the coast. It was noted for antique shops, pottery studios and a popular restaurant specializing in a cuisine focused of the many ways artichokes can be incorporated into a meal.

We passed into the low hills beyond the town and through several rural roads until as directed by Mavis we turned into a dirt driveway that seemed, given the mail boxes impaled near the turnoff, to service four properties that were hidden somewhere over a small rise. As we topped the rise we ran into a cop car blocking the road. Yellow crime scene tape connected several trees around a small clapboard house with peeling white paint and a tiny porch. Other official vehicles including an ambulance were scattered under the trees that surrounded the cottage.

“Oh shit,” I said as a group of uniformed individuals paused in their discussions and looked our way. A woman in a brown sheriff’s uniform broke away from the group and began walking in our direction. She had dark curly red hair, broad masculine shoulders and walked with the slightly waddling gait of a weight lifter.

I heard Mavis behind me say, “oh my God. Something’s happened to Mark.”

“Listen,” I said to the others in the car, “I’ll do the talking and try to find out what happened.” At first I though I’d lie and tell them that we were just taking a drive, but immediately thought better of it. If they found out later we were lying we’d come under scrutiny and scrutiny was something I hated.

As the woman came closer something about her struck me as familiar. I rolled down the window as she approached. “What’s up officer?” I said as she got within conversation range.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
6a00e551f080038834019affe506e7970c
B. Testosterone Chronicles:

Excerpt from Harvard Business Review article entitled “Why Do So Many Men become Incompetent Leaders.”

“In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.”

C. A Blast From The Past: Populism and Fred Harris

On April 24, 2010 I published the following as my first post in the liberal blog Daily Kos. I thought now, over three years later, it would be interesting to look at it again and see how it stands up to the test of time.

“For those not as old as me and for those who may have forgotten or missed it completely, Fred Harris briefly ran for President of the United States during the primaries of 1972 and 1976. In 1976, Jim Hightower was his national campaign manager and I was a volunteer on the California campaign tasked with preparing a handbook for his efforts in the California primary. The handbook was a collection of selections from the writings and speeches of Fred Harris arranged by topic so that campaign workers could respond to inquires about the candidate in his own words.

After rereading the contents of that long ago document from a now forgotten campaign, I realized how much of what Fred had to say remained relevant now despite the subsequent destruction of the historical American political consensus by the Californian and Texan presidential administrations. So I thought I would begin my diaries by examining some of the issues we face today in the light of what Fred Harris had to say about them 34 years ago.

But first a little about Fred Harris. Fred had been an US Senator from Oklahoma when that state still had a strong progressive populist tradition. Although he started out as a classic liberal, he eventually classified himself, and was in turn identified by the media, as a populist.

Populism deserves a diary of its own. It is a word often used in political discourse, but lacking a clear referent, is more a space filler than informative. For the purpose of this diary I believe it is probably sufficient to view Populism as a response by the populace of that time to specific perceived threats to their liberty and economic well-being. Beyond dealing with those threats populism has little more to say.

What differentiates populism from the more ideological based political philosophies such as liberal, conservative, progressive, reactionary and libertarian is just that, ideology. Populism usually focuses on the current threats and has no ideology beyond dealing with them. It freely borrows responses to those threats from the proscriptions suggested by the more ideological political movements without acknowledgment of their philosophical underpinnings.

There are I believe at least two main types of Populist that I shall call Liberal/Progressive Populists and Conservative/ Libertarian Populists. Liberal/Progressive Populists tend to see the immediate threats to be from government as well as other large organizations, usually corporations or financial institutions. They often believe that government shorn of its threatening aspects can and should control the ravenous appetites of the other institutions.The Conservative/Libertarian Populist sees the current threat emanating primarily from government alone and may be relieved by the elimination of those specific governmental activities they object to. Fred clearly was the former and not the latter.

Let’s turn then to what Fred had to say in 1976 regarding an issue recently front and center of the political debate, health care.

“If you step north of the Canadian border, you have free medical care. No deductibles or co-insurance, no limits on hospital stays or how many times you see your doctor. When that system went into effect twelve years ago, there were those who said the hospitals would be hopelessly overcrowded. Not so, as people are getting preventive care, and as they’re entitled to care without having to be sick enough to go to the hospital.

If you step back across that boundary to the south, you find in this country – the richest country in the world – the best medical care in the world for rich people, and awfully sorry medical care for a lot of people. We rank seventeenth among nations in infant mortality, which is a euphemism that means ‘Your baby’s dead. We don’t have to put up with that.

We ought to have a universal health care system, paid for out of the federal treasury, rather than an insurance system that might be regressive. There should be much more emphasis on group medical practice and preventive care. And a great more emphasis on paramedical personnel.”(Fred Harris Campaign Handbook)

‘It’s like déjà vu all over again.'(citation unnecessary). It has been 34 years since Fred’s proposal and although we have gotten a pretty good start on health insurance reform we are still awaiting health care reform.

Fred goes on to address the baleful influence of doctor dominated institutions on attempts to make fairer and more effective the delivery of health care in the United States. In 1976, doctors or doctor dominated institutions, for good or ill, controlled  health care. It was those institutions such as the AMA that successfully resisted health care reform at the time.

In 1976, the Reagan and Bush fire sale of American institutions to Wall Street, insurance companies, energy corporations and the defense industries had not yet begun but once started, it effectively wrested the United States health care system from the hands of doctors and other medical delivery personnel and placed it in the willing hands of accountants, investment advisors and bankers.

It is interesting to note that Obama’s strategy of allying with the doctor and medical community was probably a major factor in achieving the level of reform obtained by the passage of the recent health reform legislation.”

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:
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TODAY’S CHART:
Enviro_Bad_Map

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
IMG_20130927_170252_020
A visit to Locke California with Triple H and Nikki

 

Categories: October through December 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 27 Papa Joe 0002 – October 16 2013

 

Happy Birthday Anthony

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

Since Nikki’s departure on Sunday, my days have become so regular and uneventful, I have begun to wonder if what I am experiencing is some form of death. On the other hand, in response to my concern about my increasingly frequent episodes of elation and depression, my doctor has restored my happy pills regime. As a result, I now face each insipid day with a satisfying sense of drooling pleasure.

*******************************

One of my blog posts surprisingly was picked up by Brad DeLong’s Journal. This pleased me because it never happened before and because DeLong’s blog is one of my favorites. Of course, one of the reasons they may have reprinted it may have been because my blog essentially was about how perceptive an economist I believed DeLong to be.

***********************************

Through Brad DeLong’s Journal, I recently have been introduced to a blog written by Ashok Rao that contains some of the most penetrating and insightful analysis of contemporary economic thought I have read in a long time. What is amazing, however, is not the quality of the analysis but that Mr. Rao is only 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. He writes a one to two thousand word article almost every day reviewing the recent publications of some of the most eminent writers in the field. How does he find time to do his school work?

The following is one of his quotes that I liked a lot:

“We today owe our intellectual and humanitarian heritage to Franklin Roosevelt. Not because he vindicated principles of easy money or public finance. Not because he vindicated principles of modern liberalism. But – for the first time in the history of our nation and all nations – he demonstrated that government can exist for the great benefit of the many at the minor cost of the few. For almost a century both political parties have lived by this end, if disagreeing on the means.

There is an ideology that accommodates the worst of efficient markets, supply side economics, and neoliberal economists like Milton Friedman. It is called right-wing hackery, with Niall Ferguson as high priest.”
This is Ashok (Ashok Rao)

 

 

ENTER THE DRAGON:

Dragon’s Breath:

Vivian: Why did you have to go on?
Marlowe: Too many people told me to stop.
Chapter 30:

Mavis was in her shop when I arrived. She appeared to be cleaning the tattoo ink gun that I always thought resembled an assault weapon.

“OK,” I said. “Let’s try for the truth this time. You spoke with Holland. Were is he?”

She put down the weapon, gazed at the floor and said, “I do not know for sure.”

“But you have a pretty good idea.”

No answer for a few moments then, “Look I did not want anyone to get hurt, I only thought it might be a way to make a little money.”

“Confessions later, where’s Holland?”

“He has a friend who has a farm-house in the hills behind Pescadero. The friend travels a lot and Mark stays there now and then. I went there once. I do not know for sure if he’s there. He didn’t say. I’m just guessing.”

“Did you tell anyone besides Joe Vu about Holland’s call?”

“No..uh yes, I mentioned it to Lilly yesterday at the party..ah…wake.”

“Shit! Does she know about the farm?”

“I don’t know.”

I turned and stared out the shop window at the street and the Lexus in which Joe sat waiting. I tried to think. Did the Tons of Fun or whomever was running them know? They seemed not to. Why would they ask if I found something? Of course if they already found him, maybe they would want to know how close I was. Fuck, what am I doing here spinning out theories? I’m no fucking cop.

I turned back to her. “Let’s go over the story from the beginning.”

She haltingly began by telling how they met one day when he came into her shop for a tattoo. She eventually introduced him to Lilly. Besides buying some cocaine from him when he had some to deal she introduced him to Reilly who needed someone to help him with his remodel and Mark had been a carpenter at one time. Eventually Reilly told Mark about his dream to import furniture from Southeast Asia and sort of become another Ikea. Mark, Mavis and Lilly talked about this and Lilly mentioned Martin Vihn as a client looking for some cash investments. Eventually Mark became the go between with Clarence and Vihn. After about a month and a trip to Southeast Asia where he met with Clarence’s wife’s family things began to move along.

One day Mark came by the shop looking troubled. They went upstairs had a joint and Mark told her that someone wanted him to slip some jewelry into the shipment to be smuggled into the US. He was unsure about the risk but thought the money promised to him was enough to take the risk.

There were a few more trips back and forth to Asia one or two of which he was joined by Lilly. Then one night not long before the things were to be shipped, while they were sitting around stoned and Mavis suggested that maybe we could ship a little heroin also and they could split the sales. He did not say anything about it. The next morning she had second thoughts about it and told him so.

A few days before she hired me, Mark had told her the shipment had arrived but that more people knew about the smuggling than he thought. Mavis asked him who. He refused to answer but said that he thought their piece was secure. She began to scream at him that she had told him she did not want to be a part of it. That’s when he hit her and walked out. She had not heard from him until yesterday morning.

It was hard for me to believe anything she said but at the same time I hadn’t the slightest idea what if anything to disbelieve so I asked, “What did he say on the telephone call.”

“He said he was not far away and was in trouble and could I help him out. When I asked him what sort of trouble, he said that they may kill him. I asked who is trying to kill him, he said it was not something he wanted to tell me. He knew where the stuff was he said, ‘because I put it there.’ He said he needed money and help to get it away. I told him no, that I had hired you to find him and you had gotten hurt and I did not want anyone more to get hurt. Then he asked if you would be able to help him since there was a lot of money involved. I said I did not want you involved and asked him why he wasn’t asking Lilly or the gangster. He got himself in this mess and while I felt bad he had to get himself out of it. He threw a fit and threatened both me and you and hung up.”

“How do I get to the farm-house.”

“Why? Your not getting paid for this. Why put yourself in danger?”

“Well actually I am getting paid to find him but if I tell anyone about this I can’t promise he won’t be hurt.”

“I’m going with you. I know the way but I can’t describe it.”

Against my better judgement, I agreed.

“I have to change first.”

“Shit, Okay, I’m going to stay right here and watch. I don’t want you calling anyone.”

“Don’t you trust me?” she said with a smile.

“Not on my life.”

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

1870 to Present : Worldwide, 1870 saw five ounces of copper mined per person in the world. Today we mine five pounds. Today there are about seven times more people alive than in 1870. That means the total amount of copper mined is about 100 times more than was mined then.

1870 saw one pound of steel produced per person in the world. Today we produce 350.That means today we produce 2450 times more steel.

(I doubt that mathematically this level of growth can continue very far into the future. If not, then what happens?)

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
drugs

(What this chart really means to me is the regrettable tendency of this nation to enter foolish and unwinnable wars from the War on Drugs to the War in Iraq, that have proven to be a great drain on our treasury and which have impoverished us all. More empires and nations have vanished by engaging in improvident and fruitless wars than from just about any other cause one can think of. In fact, I cannot think of any nation, empire or civilization that has collapsed for being too generous to its ordinary citizens.)

B. Testosterone Chronicles:

According to the Harvard Business Review:

“Most of the character traits that are truly advantageous for effective leadership are predominantly found in those who fail to impress others about their talent for management. This is especially true for women. There is now compelling scientific evidence for the notion that women are more likely to adopt more effective leadership strategies than do men. Most notably, in a comprehensive review of studies, Alice Eagly and colleagues showed that female managers are more likely to elicit respect and pride from their followers, communicate their vision effectively, empower and mentor subordinates, and approach problem-solving in a more flexible and creative way (all characteristics of “transformational leadership”), as well as fairly reward direct reports. In contrast, male managers are statistically less likely to bond or connect with their subordinates, and they are relatively more inept at rewarding them for their actual performance. Although these findings may reflect a sampling bias that requires women to be more qualified and competent than men in order to be chosen as leaders, there is no way of really knowing until this bias is eliminated.”

(Harvard Business School seems to have confirmed my assertions in prior posts that perhaps after 10,000 years of male control in society, they should be replaced by female management of our dominant institutions. This does not mean that woman would not screw up as badly as men, only that their screw ups would probably be less catastrophic on species survival than that of men.

After all, bashing someones head in with a club, which seems to be something men do exceedingly well, may have had an important historical role in species survival and prosperity. Today, however, with the extent of the global interaction of humanity’s major institutions and the incredible and potentially devastating power of its technology, bashing someones skull in even with a metaphorical club does not appear to me to be a behavior conducive to either institutional or species success or for that matter survival.)

C. Tales of Inhumanity:

Vasily Grossman in the Ukraine with the advancing Red Army discovers what the Germans did in Kazary:

“There’s no one left in Kazary to complain, no one to tell, no one to cry. Silence and calm hover over the dead bodies buried under the collapsed fireplaces now overgrown by weeds. This quiet is much more frightening than tears and curses.

Old men and women are dead, as well as craftsmen and professional people: tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, jewellers, house painters, ironmongers, bookbinders, workers, freight handlers, carpenters, stove-makers, jokers, cabinetmakers, water carriers, millers, bakers, and cooks; also dead are physicians, prothesists, surgeons, gynaecologists, scientists — bacteriologists, biochemists, directors of university clinics — teachers of history, algebra, trigonometry.

Dead are professors, lecturers and doctors of science, engineers and architects. Dead are agronomists, field workers, accountants, clerks, shop assistants, supply agents, secretaries, nightwatchmen, dead are teachers, dead are babushkas who could knit stockings and make tasty buns, cook bouillon and make strudel with apples and nuts, dead are women who had been faithful to their husbands and frivolous women are dead, too, beautiful girls, and learned students and cheerful schoolgirls, dead are ugly and silly girls, women with hunches, dead are singers, dead are blind and deaf mutes, dead are violinists and pianists, dead are two-year—olds and three-year-olds, dead are eighty-year-old men and women with cataracts on hazy eyes, with cold and transparent fingers and hair that rustled quietly like white paper, dead are newly-born babies who had sucked their mothers’ breast greedily until their last-minute.

This was different from the death of people in war, with weapons in their hands, the deaths of people who had left behind their houses, families, fields, songs, traditions and stories. This was the murder of a great and ancient professional experience, passed from one generation to another in thousands of families of craftsmen and members of the intelligentsia.

This was the murder of everyday traditions that grandfathers had passed to their grandchildren, this was the murder of memories, of a mournful song, folk poetry, of life, happy and bitter, this was the destruction of hearths and cemeteries, this was the death of the nation which had been living side by side with Ukrainians over hundreds of years …”
(Taken from Brad Delong’s Journal)

D. Important points noted:

1. Izabella Kaminska: Dark inventory, death of a city edition:

 

“As we’ve argued before, the world is beset by a capital crisis not a debt crisis. There is too much capital and not enough productive use for it — at least not in western markets.”

2. Alvaro Vargas Llosa: Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America:
“The erosion of national boundaries—and even the idea of the nation state—is already underway as people become ever more inter-connected across borders. A jungle of myth, falsehood and misrepresentation dominates the debate over immigration. The reality is that the economic contributions of immigration far outweigh the costs.”

(I have argued these points, for good or ill, for years now.

Capital does not induce demand. In the Real world, only a very few entrepreneurs seek to develop incipient demand where there is money available in the hands of a consumer, most try to capture what is already there by manipulating desires. No-one invests money to encourage demand where the consumer has no funds to buy what is offered for sale.

As for immigration, for many reasons, we are entering a period of perhaps the greatest migrations of humanity in history. While it is true migrants seek greater security, they usually do not seek welfare. In every society welfare pays too little to make the trip worth it even where their lives depend on it. That is why so many of them take jobs no one else wants to do.

I believe one of the main reasons for opposition to immigration is not simple racism, that is just an excuse, but the real fear that immigrants will work harder than natives at jobs they compete for. Recall the largest mass lynching in American History was of a group of Italian immigrants in Louisiana essentially because the immigrant community was willing to work longer and at lower pay than the white natives.)

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

Government is real, and it has three basic functions:
1. Provide for the national defense.
2. Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent.
3. Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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(This chart makes it appear as though either we are the most lawless nation on earth or the most oppressive. Actually, we seem to imprison more people for victimless crimes like possession of marijuana than anywhere else. This trend accelerated in the 1990s and early 2000s when we began turning over operation of our prisons to private contractors.)

 

Categories: October through December 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 14 Papa Joe 0002

Happy Birthday Athena.

 

TODAY FROM AMERiCA:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

I received a call one night from my brother-in-law George informing me that my 95-year-old mom had been rushed to the hospital. The following morning I travelled to SF to see her. By then, my mom had been diagnosed with a urinary infection, shot up with antibiotics and returned to the nursing home. George and I visited her there. At first she was crying and complaining of the pain. As she began directing her usual insults at me, something that she has done for as long as I can remember, she seemed to perk-up enough so that when the nurse came into the room and told her the people in the nursing home lunch-room were asking about her she inquired if any of them were men. George and I then went to the cafeteria for lunch composed mostly of white and grey colored food. I offered a dish of vanilla ice cream to the woman in a wheel chair sitting opposite me. She declined saying her butt was too big already and then inviting me to take a look if I’d like. We returned to my mom’s room and, after settling her in for a nap, departed.

We then went to Bernie’s café in Noe Valley where we met Peter. We ordered coffee and then sat in the sun on the benches in front of Bernie’s and reminisced. Peter and George worked out the plot for the next mystery novel I would write and not finish. It concerned concentric circles and a well-known but very dead Scientologist who, through the internet, rented for the night Dragon’s apartment in BKK that looks a lot like mine and who expired in the arms of an equally dead Thai ladyboy. Dragon and a team of second-rate ex-pat novelists living in Thailand investigate.

Later I had dinner at my sister’s house with George and my nephew Brendan. Brendan plays in the band, “Not Sure, Not Yet,” whose next gig is somewhere in LA. My sister was in NYC as a panelist at a UN conference on social welfare organizations. Immediately following this she planed to attend the Bill Clinton conference at which my old partner Christine Lagarde current head at IMY is one of the keynote speakers. It has been over 20 years since I last spoke with either Clinton or Lagarde. They each have a different form of charisma. Clinton is like the warming sun after a cool night, while Lagarde in more like the electric turquoise shimmer of a glacier just before it tumbles into the ocean.

I waited for Nikki to arrive from Milan and when he did, he and I drove back to El Dorado Hills.

**********************************
Almost a week has gone by during which three grown and more of less aging men have spent most of their time responding to the whims of an 8 year old boy and enjoying it. I have alternated between furious bouts of black depression and gentle amusement punctuated by one night of boisterous drinking on the deck followed by a day of pain and suffering.

Recently I have been informed that a number of people I know consider me something between a tragic failure and an insufferable moocher. Now normally this would disturb me, being somewhat oblivious to my peculiar behavior and shocked when it is pointed out to me that it is looked at as both odd and undesirable. I can see where some may think that. God knows, at times I think it myself. But even if it were true, when I consider that one of those who has said that is the person who has repeatedly abandoned her child, I really don’t care too much. Nevertheless, I feel I have accomplished what I have set out to do, the boy is no longer teetering on the edge psychological and physical desolation so perhaps it is time for me to move on anyway.

I have begun to deal with my periodic bouts of boredom and depression by seriously exploring publishing options other than screeds in left-wing blogs read primarily by those who prefer spending most of their lives in dark rooms venting their spleen about things they will never have the ability to affect. I realize my stuff is not particularly good or especially interesting, but from what I have observed of what is out there that would place me somewhere in the middle. It, like life in general, is a lot like running in a marathon, you may never finish in the top 10, but just finishing itself can be considered a worthy accomplishment.

**************************************

Nikki left and later that day I spent some time with my old friend Lina. She was just passing through the Sacramento area on her way back to her home in Southern California. She seemed happy to remind me of the many failures of my personal life. The next day I went to the doctor for a check up. He prescribed a lot of pills. That made me happy.

**************************************

A lengthy digression on traveling and old Greeks:

I think here I should interrupt my usual narrative and share with you (well to be honest, impose upon you) my recent musings about traveling.

My approach to traveling is somewhat like my approach to life; it is not arriving at your destination that is important but what happened along the way. I call it Pookieism.

For example, assume that I depart from San Francisco intending to travel to, say Rome to visit the Vatican and see the Sistine Chapel. If that is what I efficiently did and returned home equally efficiently, I for one would be unsatisfied indeed.

If on the other hand I were to depart on that same voyage and along the way be diverted by circumstances outside of my control or through my stupidity and thereby facing perhaps danger, or passion, beauty or tedium and return home without ever getting to see Michelangelo’s frescos (the chapel would probably be closed anyway, for repairs or for some obscure holiday), I would consider my trip a success.

I guess, one could consider Pookieism something like Buddhism, but from somewhat the opposite viewpoint. Where Buddhism urges one to withdraw from the unreality of perception, Pookieism suggests you revel in it.

When I look back into my life, anytime I single-mindedly pursued a goal and overcame many obstacles to achieve it, I almost always came away dissatisfied, became depressed and soon decided to spend my time doing something else. On the other hand whenever I was diverted from my path, or failed in achieving my goal or found myself hopelessly lost, I often was overjoyed. Why, because there was so much experience, so much pathos and so much joy. And, oh the stories…

Yes, of course there were things that to this day I wish never happened and if I could I would want not to have occurred, but they did and the exquisite if odious memories of the experience accompanies me like tattoos on the skins of generation Xers.

For those males of a certain age, some of you may recall that time when you were a kid and in your imagination played the announcer of your life. “The great slugger stands at the plate. Here comes the pitch. He swings. He misses….” Or, “Here is the world-famous runner running through the woods. Will he break the record? Oh no! He trips. He falls. Will he be able to get up, finish the race and break the record? Stay tuned.”

Well, I still do that. “Here is the aging hero walking along the side of the road recalling past loves, triumphs and failures. Out of the corner of his eye he spies a small yellow flower, stops and contemplates its beauty for a moment and then walks on, crosses the street, the freshly painted striping glowing so whitely in the sun it hurts his eyes. Suddenly he remembers he forgot to buy that bottle of milk. Should he return to the store or proceed on toward home? He stands there at the edge of the road, like the brave Ulysses on the beach contemplating whether to return home to the aging but loyal Penelope or spend another night in the arms of the beautiful Calypso?”

Speaking of Ulysses, Homer’s account is not quite how it happened.

One night the short, bandy-legged, scraggly bearded young man named Ulysses, who lived in a subdivision on a small island in the Adriatic, left the home on a cull-de-sac he shared with his wife, young son, various hangers-on, and a pack of dogs, telling everyone he was going to the store to buy a carton of milk, or an amphora of wine or new sandals or whatever. Now twenty years later he stood on the corner of the block down from his old home, broke, hungry and older. He contemplated the excuses he would tell his wife for his long absence. He concocted stories about ships and strange wars, jealous gods, wooden horses, one-eyed monsters and to cover up the long periods of time he spent living with a succession of comely young women, he fell back on the tried and true excuse of philandering husbands of the time, bewitchment.

On the other hand, the also aging but still zaftig and supposedly loyal Penelope wanted no part of the smelly midget bastard’s return. She had happily spent the past 20 years screwing the Theban pool boy and every young stud in town. The assholes return would only mean she would have to give up the good life and return to working on that goddamn loom. Besides, she needed an excuse of her own to explain why for the last 20 years the same old piece of cloth hung on that machine with no further work done on it since he left. She told all her boyfriends that she would choose one of them to settle down with when she finished weaving the cloth. They were so stupefied with the thought of getting into her toga whenever she lifted its hem for them they forgot all about the status of that rotting rag.

She believed however that she would need something better to convince the crafty asshole of her unbelievable 20 years of fidelity. She decided to elaborate on the story and planned to tell her returning husband, if unfortunately he should ever return, that she weaved at the loom all day and every night she tore out what she had done during the day. If the simple and unbelievable story had worked on her lovers why wouldn’t this expanded version work on that scheming lying bastard Ulysses?

Nevertheless, she still was surprised when the testosterone poisoned dwarf suddenly and unexpectedly showed up at her door and started killing all of her boyfriends and the Theban pool boy as well.

Sadly, Penelope was forced back to working all day at the goddamn loom and at night diddling herself while the drunken scumbag lay snoring among his dogs after buggering some prepubescent boy-chick.

As Holden Caulfield would say, “Crummy.”

 

JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:

ENTER THE DRAGON

Dragon’s Breath:

Vivian: Why did you have to go on?
Marlowe: Too many people told me to stop.
Chapter 29:

“So,” I said to the smiling Vietnamese killing machine sitting next to me. “Did you have a good time last night.” Although I was determined not to show any jealousy, I failed by asking the question.

He looked at me, his ever-present smile dimmed slightly. “Mavis insisted we stop at Rabat for a drink.”

Rabat is one of those 20 somethings hangouts that over the past few years have sprung up south of the City’s Market Street in the old warehouse district first abandoned by the industries that they were built to house and then by the dot-com inundation that collapsed as suddenly as it began. Now it is a place filled with hook-up bars on the verge of decline as the newest generation begins to realize they can achieve the same results with their smart phones for less money.

“After one or two drinks she said she did not want you getting hurt. I asked why she thought that you might be harmed. She said she had spoken with Mark Holland that morning and he seemed angry, maybe drunk or stoned and was making threats. She would not say anything more. I tried to get her to talk to Martin but she refused. I offered to take her home but she wanted to be alone. So I left.”

There was no reason to ask him if he then spoke to Martin and told him about his conversation, so I took out my phone and called Mavis.

She answered on the second ring with a flat, hello.

“It’s me Dragon. You OK?

“Yeah. What do you want?”

“I have to see you right away.”

“I’m busy right now.”

“I’ll be there in thirty minutes. Make time.”

I hung up and turned toward Vu.He had tensed up and was staring at the street. The limo had passed again and stopped halfway down the block. One of the Tons of Fun got out of the passenger side and started walking toward us. The Limo took off again down Columbus toward downtown.

As he approached he lifted his hands up in a gesture of peace and said “relax, I’ve just come to talk.” He pulled out a chair and sat down his bulk overwhelming it.

“OK Brett whats up?”

He looked at Joe for a moment and said, “I just thought I’d drop by and find out how you’re doing on my little assignment.”

Anna came by. He ordered an espresso and a Tirimisu. I said to Anna. “Make sure you get paid when you bring the stuff. I’ve had too many people leaving me with the check recently.” He chuckled.

“I had gotten the impression I was fired.”

“Nah, just a failure to communicate. So have you found out anything about Holland yet?”

“No, I think he’s long gone from here.”

The coffee and Tirimisu arrived. He downed the coffee in a single gulp and the Tirimisu in about three forkfuls. Pushed back from the table.

“I’m pretty sure he’s around here somewhere.”

“How do you know?”

“A hunch.”

“I sure would like to know who ever it is that is whispering your hunches into your ears.”

He laughed and strode off. By the time he disappeared around the corner, I realized he had not paid for his snack.

I looked at Joe he was still tensely staring after the Fat Man. “Relax,” I said. “What did you expect a gun battle right here in Downtown San Francisco?”

He stared at the traffic passing on the street in front of us and said. “Guns are useful only at a distance and to scare the inexperienced. If you use a gun and don’t hit your target you are either crazy, stupid or incompetent. If it happens with a lot of people around probably someone not involved will be hurt. I assume if someone wants to kill me he will do it by surprise or from someplace hidden. If I am lucky and he misses, I need to find someplace to hide. The first bullet in my gun is a blank set up to be very loud and produce a lot of smoke. I hope it will cause my attacker to duck or close his eyes momentarily giving me time to get away. I also will not kill an innocent bystander in my panic to return fire. You Americans think guns protect you. They do not. Your brain protects you. Guns are a very limited tool, more dangerous to you than to anyone else.”

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
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B. Chronicles of the Parasites:

According to Robin Greenwood and David Scharfstein in their article, The Growth of Modern Finance:

“The U.S. financial services industry grew from 4.9% of GDP in 1980 to 7.9% of GDP in 2007. A sizable portion of the growth can be explained by rising asset management fees…. Another important factor was growth in fees associated with an expansion in household credit, particularly fees associated with residential mortgages. This expansion was itself fueled by the development of non-bank credit intermediation (or “shadow banking”). We offer a preliminary assessment of whether the growth of active asset management, household credit, and shadow banking–the main areas of growth in the financial sector–has been socially beneficial….”

Several times here in T&T and in some of my blog posts I argued that the modern financial system that first developed in the US and the north atlantic countries and has now spread throughout the world since 1980 has in fact limited the growth of world wealth rather than grown it as some of its supporters, such as Milton Friedman, predicted.

Brad DeLong has recently commented on the fact that in 1950 finance and insurance in the US accounted for less than 3% of GDP, but by 2011 accounts for almost 6% of GDP without measurable evidence that it has boosted growth by expected amounts.

Delong also pointed our a fundamental truth about the current financial system:

“There are two sustainable ways to make money in finance: find people with risks that need to be carried and match them with people with unused risk-bearing capacity, or find people with such risks and match them with people who are clueless but who have money…”

He adds:

“Over the past year and a half, in the wake of Thomas Philippon and Ariel Resheff’s estimate that 2% of U.S. GDP was wasted in the pointless hypertrophy of the financial sector, evidence that our modern financial system is less a device for efficiently sharing risk and more a device for separating rich people from their money–a Las Vegas without the glitz–has mounted.”

Recently in revisiting this problem Delong wrote:

“…the events and economic research of the past years have demonstrated three things. First, modern finance is simply too powerful in its lobbying before legislatures and regulators for it to be possible to restrain its ability to create systemic macroeconomic risk while preserving its ability to entice customers with promises of safe, sophisticated money management. Second, the growth-financial deepening correlations on which I relied do indeed vanish when countries move beyond simple possession of a banking system, EFT, and a bond market into more sophisticated financial instruments. And, third, the social returns to the U.S.’s and the North Atlantic’s investment in finance as the industry of the future over the past generation has, largely, crapped out. A back-of-the-envelope calculation I did in 2007 suggested that in mergers and acquisitions the world paid finance roughly $800 billion/year for about $170 billion/year of real economic value–a rather low benefit-cost ratio–and that appears to be not the exception but the rule.”

In other words, as I never tire of repeating, in one form or another the depredations of the parasite community impoverishes us all.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“It used to be that crazy people were more-or-less evenly divided between the (northern) Republican Party and the (southern) Democratic Party. Now they are concentrated in the Republican Party. This matters–and is a source of great terror and dismay for the non-crazy Republicans, and for us all.”
Brad DeLong

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
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Rosy Fingered Dawn in El Dorado Hills

 

Categories: October through December 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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