What Shakespeare should have written:
“First let’s kill all the bankers, the lawyers will then die of starvation.”
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
Hayden arrived from Italy on Sunday, we spent the next two days together. We stayed at the Federal Hotel on Soi 11 so he could be nearer to SWAC and her mother and sister while we decided whether or not we would travel south to Phattalung in order to stay a week at our home there. Unfortunately all the flights and train accommodations were full for the next week so the trip was cancelled. Hayden has spent the last few nights with his old nanny at her house.
I have spent the entire week wrestling with exhaustion and depression, perhaps for no other reason than a lingering cold or some other malady. Whatever it is, I feel like I am transitioning from the world of the merely aging to that of the truly aged.
A few days ago Hayden and I ran into Gary and Pui and their son Gary II too. Gary is a Canadian and Pui is Tai. I have known Pui for almost as long as I have known SWAC. Pui lived with us briefly in SF. I no longer remember if she and Gary met in SF or in Thailand. They own a spa here that provides massage, nail and other cosmetic services. Gary tells me that there are Hockey leagues in Thailand and he plays in a senior league.
This issue of T&T seems to me to be obscenely long and made up mostly of my rants. As usual, most of them range somewhere between bullshit and barely interesting. As I look it over again, the only thing I can recommend as worth reading, beside the amusing story of American family lost in my neighborhood here, is the note containing the long Jared Diamond quote.
I am quite fond of Diamond, the scientist and birder turned historian. Back when I was getting my degree in History we only studied the history of politics and male blood lust. Few if anyone then recognized that Darwin was perhaps a greater historian than scientist. My classmate, that fortunate child Winston Churchill, mentioned that physics, his major, was, after one learned some rudimentary mathematics, only history.
Perhaps that was why I rejected my scholarship advisors pleas that I major in physics also. I wonder what my life would have been like If I were now a 73-year-old ex-physicist living on social security rather than an aged un-employed attorney? But life is like that. First you scream in terror of the light and then you end cringing in fear of the darkness.
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Soi Arab in Bangkok, between the Sukhumvit 3 and 5 roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Tourist Family Safely Returned To Thailand After Harrowing Night On Soi 3 — 4 Jun 2013
NANA – An American family of visiting tourists has been safely brought back to Thai soil after being lost for four hours in the lower Sukhumvit area, police reported yesterday.
The Waldens, comprising James, 43, his wife Meredith, 41, and their children Didi, 13, and Zachary, 9, were reported in healthy condition at Bumrungrad Hospital after an examination following their escape from the international territory known colloquially as “soi Arab.”
“It was the most frightening experience of our lives,” said a visibly shaken James. “One minute we’re in Thailand, enjoying our vacation, and then suddenly we’re in some other country full of Middle Eastern people, West Africans, and Indians. It was like something out of a bad science fiction movie.”
According to police, the Waldens accidental departure from Thailand began when they left their hotel, the Landmark, at 8pm to look for what they had been told was a good place for wood-fired pizza. Mistaking soi Loet Sin 2 for what they thought was soi 11, the family walked deep into a dark neighborhood of construction sites.
“Jim insisted we were on the right street but I knew something was wrong right away when we turned the corner and saw all those Indian restaurants,” said Meredith. “It just felt wrong.”
The family then wandered down soi 5 and attempted to enter Gullivers Pub, only to be pushed out by a brawl that was erupting between a drunken pack of British football fans and a hostile group of Israeli backpackers.
“I didn’t see any Thai people, anywhere,” noted Didi.
The Waldens then fled into the Nailert Foodland Plaza, where they became disoriented trying to find their way out again. Exiting a fire escape onto an alleyway, they then worked their way deeper into the warren of sub-sois that led to soi 3/1.
“Everyone around us was African,” said James. “We might as well have been in Africa. And I’ve never seen so many sandal shops in my life.”
After attempting in vain to find anyone who spoke either English or Thai, the Waldens spent 20 minutes working their way through a maze of leather stores, travel agencies, and sheesha pipe exporters, only to emerge on soi 3/1, where they were confronted by a bazaar of Middle Eastern and South Asian restaurants, women in burkhas, and men in robes and turbans.
“Poor Zach was so shocked that he just started shouting out ‘Terrorists! Terrorists!’” said Meredith. “We had to cover his mouth. It was embarrassing. Actually it was scary. People were staring at us, so I just grabbed the kids and went down the nearest alleyway.”
Emerging onto soi 3, the Waldens encountered “about 300” prostitutes of Middle Eastern and Russian origin, whose “huge asses” made it impossible to walk on the pavement towards Sukhumvit. Forced to go the other way, the family tried to ask for directions from one of the Thai vendors selling sex toys on the streetside.
“There were, like, a million vibrators and dildos,” recalled Didi. “That was like all they sold. It was gross.”
Unfortunately, every Thai vendor they encountered turned out to be deaf, and only gestured at the family using hand signs and large Casio calculators. Now completely terrified, the Waldens cut through an Ethiopian restaurant and fled into what appeared to be a large international hotel, the Grace.
“That was the worst place in the world,” said Meredith. “Like a nightmare, like a Twilight Zone episode. Every time we asked for directions it felt like we were interrupting an arms deal.”
The Waldens spent the next 90 minutes lost in the various areas within the Grace, including the bowling alley (“The balls weren’t even round”), the basement coffee shop (“The pit of hell”), and the mirrored casbah disco (“Men dancing with other men, but they were too ugly to be gay.”)
Around midnight the Waldens were finally rescued by a sympathetic transvestite named Pinki, who took them to the street, hailed a taxi, and instructed the driver how to get back to their hotel in Thailand. Once there, the hotel concierge noted their agitated state and called the hospital and the police.
The Waldens are expected to be released today, and have expressed optimism that they can complete their Thai holiday without incident. However, they have been warned to avoid the Nana area, as well as instructed not to enter the Thonglor area without first learning some basic Japanese.
(Thanks to Gary [Pattaya Gary, not Canadian Gary] for this bit of humor.
Alas, this is the pretty much the neighborhood in which I choose live while here in Thailand. Every morning I wander through it on my way to the health club on Soi 11. I eat breakfast at Foodland, check out the newest vibrator models in the sidewalk stands nearby, window shop for the latest designs in rhinestone encrusted sandals and get my haircut at the barbershop in the Grace Hotel. Although it has been years since I have observed the running of the bulls at Gulliver’s, I still find myself at times forced off the sidewalk by the generously hipped ladies of the night making one last morning troll before retiring. And, I’m sure Pinki is the name of that pretty ladyboy who always invites me to enjoy the best massage in Bangkok whenever I walk by.)
2. A Report from the Front Line in the Battle Against Global Warming:
In an effort slow the escalating release into the earths atmosphere of the serious sunlight absorbing gas, methane, in 2003 the government of New Zealand proposed a flatulence tax. It was not adopted because of public protest.
3. Educational innovation:
The Bangkok Post, Thailand’s major english language newspaper, featured an article regarding the pride that the Thai education agencies take in their elementary school program to teach students the proper way to use western style toilets.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Note: the following continues my series about the four governmental agencies that I had some role in developing.
A. The State of New York’s Mental Health Information Service (1965):
6. Problems and insights.
After attending the morning intake meetings a few times, I recognized two problems that I would have to deal with. The first was that something seemed wrong with the whole psychiatric process and the second was that no one liked a representative of the MHIS being there.
a. the psychiatric process. From the beginning of the development of psychoanalytical theory at the end of the 19th Century with its a priori categorizations of mental processes, an elementary concern hovered over the profession. As one of the more distinguished doctors in the hospital put it, “Essentially, we cannot determine whether we psychiatrists helped the patients at all or whether they got better on their own.”
Only a few years before this, a discovery was made that fundamentally changed how mental illness was to be treated. The administration of certain drugs (among the first was lithium) seemed to miraculously relieve some of the worst manifestations of mental illness, conditions that up until then often were considered incurable.
The use of this therapy was slow to be adopted because no one at that time really knew how the drugs worked. In addition, they often seemed to replace the illness with drug induced torpor. It also was difficult to maintain the pharmaceutical regime with patients who tended to forget or refuse to take their medicines once beyond the control of the hospital. And perhaps most significantly, it shredded the fundamental assumptions of the psychiatric practice without replacing it with alternatives. As for the latter, in essence, pharmacological psychiatry was a serious threat to the growth of the psychiatric treatment industry. Many highly trained individuals felt threatened.
At the intake meetings in a major urban psychiatric hospital this basic problem with psychiatry appeared evident to me, if not in terms of technically understanding it, then at least in terms experiencing elementary discomfort with what I saw.
!n 1965 as it had been for the past 100 years, severe mental illness was most often seen as a disease of the mind expressed in a bewildering array of categories and concepts over which psychiatrists of various schools could endlessly fight, much like economists do today. At least that was an improvement over the claims of demonic possession and moral turpitude that had been the common belief before then.
What was beginning to become clear by the early fifties however was that what was referred to as mental illness was most likely a defect of some sort in the brain and not in the mind, which had always been imagined as something like a soul hovering somewhere between physical reality and somewhere else.
We all know now, for example, that when we see the color red, what we actually see is photons or waves of different frequencies that strike a few nerve endings (usually of three distinct types) then flash through a few nerves connecting the eye to the brain. There the brain integrates all this into a cohesive image we call Red. If something upsets the eye (cataracts), nerve endings (genetic predisposition to color-blindness) or the brain itself (trauma, genetic issues or chemicals and drugs) we may not see red at all. In fact, as certain hallucinogenic drugs have shown, one may “see” almost anything from melting colors and shapes to ghosts and even as has been reported hearing colors as well. Some people are frightened when the brain fails to integrate the signals from the eye, like those experiencing a bad trip on LSD. Others like Monet or El Greco translate it into great art.
In 1965, even before the host of drug therapies became widespread, it was beginning to become clear that in most cases, certainly in the most severe cases of mental illness requiring hospitalization, the brain itself had suffered some trauma, genetic, physical, chemical, or whatever that was causing these symptoms. Environmental or social experiences then mediated how they were expressed or whether they were even expressed at all. In other words, just like with colors, the brains function to integrate the information into a sense of regularity and consistency failed.
Patients vacuumed up off the streets the night before the intake meeting because they appeared incapable of caring for themselves were brought to the hospital’s emergency room. Only the most severely distressed of them were admitted into the hospital wards where the next morning they were brought before the intake panel. After dividing out the elderly and those suffering chemical caused dementia, almost all of those remaining had one thing in common, terror. Some shutdown, others screamed and still others lashed out, but they all were tormented by something beyond their ability to handle it.
Imagine, if you will, walking down the street on the sidewalk and everything disappears into a black pit. Well, that is akin to what the patients experienced. The brain is supposed to provide a person the sense the world is reasonably regular and reliable at least as to the things we normally experience every day. Although we may intellectually know for example that the sidewalk beneath out feet is mostly empty space, our brain integrates our senses and memories and assures us we will not fall through. For whatever reason the patients brains are not presenting them with the underlying experiences of the physical world that we all assume are reliable and they panic.
Of course, with the prevalence of psychopharmacology today we rarely see this occur anymore even in the emergency rooms of major urban hospitals today. If the slightest evidence of this pathology is suspected, even if it manifests itself in early childhood, appropriate drugs are prescribed to correct whatever imbalances exist allowing in many cases healing to occur so that eventually the drugs are no longer needed. Even as it was then with hospitalization as the only therapy, the sooner following evidence of the pathology the patient is treated, the briefer was the time needed for recovery.
In 1965, however, there were more potential patients then there were beds available even with the huge mental hospital complexes that existed in the State of New York.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Vivian: So you’re a private detective. I didn’t know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors. My, you’re a mess, aren’t you?
Philip Marlowe: I’m not very tall either. Next time I’ll come on stilts wear a white tie and carry a tennis racket.
Vivian: I doubt if even that will help.
I was awakened by the screeching doorbell. I had hoped it was Mavis bringing me café latte, donuts and some after dinner sweets. It was not. It was Joe Vu.
“Hiya Boss. You’re gonna be late. You look like hell. Nice place you got here,” he added as he walked by me into the loft.
“Did you bring the coffee and donuts? I can do without the sweets.”
Joe puttered around the house while I showered and dressed. We left and got into the car. It was a big black Lincoln.
“We’re downscale today,” I commented.
“Martin is using the Lexus.”
“How many cars does he have?”
“Lots, he collects them.”
“I saw the movie,” he added as we drove away from the curb.
“Yeah, The Big Sleep, with Bogart and Bacall that you told me to watch. I don’t know about that Bacall, skinny bitch, no tits or ass.”
“They liked them like that then. Skinny ment rich and elegant. Today we still do skinny, but we add the tits and the butts, often fake ones, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Zaftig is out in the modern world.”
“I couldn’t figure anything out. Who killed the chauffeur and Rogan? And why was everything so dark? I liked the car though.
” Yeah, it was a sweet Plymouth. Nobody knows who killed the chauffeur or Rogan, not the guy that wrote the story, not the director of the movie and certainly not the actors. Life is like that and so is the private investigation business. Sometimes, hell most times, you simply do not know what happened and never will. And, just like in the movie, it probably doesn’t matter.
As for the dark and the shadows, in films and books that’s called noir. It’s French for dark. Dark shadows, dark thoughts and dark deeds. It’s not like real life at all. Everyone likes light in their life. If it gets too dark they go to sleep. Even bad things are usually done in the light, behind closed doors and in secret perhaps, but the lights are usually on.”
“So, I guess it was like the last one you had me watch, there’s nothing in the movie to learn about bring a private eye?”
“No, in this one there is a lot to learn and remember. For example, you’re never hired by people who have to choose between food and you. It’s always someone who has a some spare cash around. They can spend it on you or a new piece of matched luggage. It’s all the same to them. So make sure you get paid. Up front if you can.
The movie also tells you, don’t work at night. Its dangerous. Sometimes you have to work at night. Like when you’re sitting in your car with your camera watching, hoping to catch client’s husband disappearing into the motel. Still, in the world of private detecting or in life itself, nooners are safer or right after work. Late night trysts interfere with your sleep and should be avoided. Always try to charge more for night work.
Also, if your client has a good-looking daughter, sleeping with her makes the job more interesting. And if he has two, and you have to choose, choose the skinny one.
And finally never, ever have dealings with someone named Eddie Mars.”
“You’re very sick, boss. Why the skinny one?”
“I don’t know. It is one of life’s mysteries.”
We arrived at the IHOP at Fisherman’s Wharf where I was to meet Martin Vihn. We spent a good 15 minutes or so looking for a parking space. We found one half way to North Beach. We walked down the boring part of Columbus to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was chilly as it normally is in the mornings near the water. The swimmers from the Dolphin Club, their little shower caps peeking above the frigid waters near Hyde Pier had already completed most of their laps. The tourists, still drowsy, were beginning to arrive hoping to be amazed. The tee-shirt shops and souvenir stands were open and ready. As we turned toward the IHOP, a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge lit up by the morning sunlight gleamed over my left shoulder. There may often be fog in San Francisco, and like everywhere else people die here in mysterious circumstances, but to me noir was only something the City wore to a masquerade.
A Golden Age?
(We who lived through the last half of the 20th Century undoubtedly have experienced one of the world’s greatest golden ages. However, the significance of the productivity multiples listed on the chart above needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The only productivity gains that really matter are in those related to food, energy [energy productivity gains are missing — how much more or less does it cost to travel a mile today than in 1900?] and health services. The food productivity increases are notably less robust than those experienced in the reproduction of Horatio Alger books. Also, almost all the significant gains in all categories listed in the chart occurred after WWII and based upon statistics for the first 14 years of the 21st Century those rates of growth in many areas are diminishing. In the case of food for example, the so called Productivity Multiple since 2000 actually has been decreasing.
Even in health services, despite the great advances in treatment during the past 50 or so years, their costs for similarly effective treatments has increased dramatically in the past few years so that in all too many cases the time-to-earn number is growing. Also with the emergence of antibiotic resistant diseases and a spate of new environmentally based maladies it is still up in the air as to whether the advances in health sciences will continue at the same pace and whether they will be affordable if they do.)
A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
(Contrary to popular belief, at least since the Korean War US Federal Government spending [including welfare and Social Security], like budget deficits and the national debt, generally increased during Republican Administrations [except during the Eisenhower Administration] and usually fell during Democratic ones. The reasons for this vary and are often highly political. For example, during their periods in power Republicans generally lower certain taxes [most often on the wealthy and for rent seeking activities], while increasing governmental expenditures [usually by large increases in defense spending or in expanding direct transfers of federal revenue to states]. This produces a temporary appearance of prosperity, but over the long run the lowering of revenue and the maintenance or increase in expenditures leads inevitably to larger deficits and debts especially during those periods of prosperity when debts and deficits should be reduced.
Democrats, however, inheriting these increased deficits and debts, as well as criticism from the Party that created them that the promised expenditures upon which the Democrats ran for office would further increase those debt obligations, generally begin their administrations attempting to increase revenue [usually from those who benefitted from the other Party’s largess] or by cutting programs, usually those favored by the other Party [like Defense]. Proving once again that Democrats are wusses.
In any event, that’s not the problem. There is plenty of tax money received by the federal government to pay for the ever shrinking share of governmental revenues dedicated to things like defense and other discretionary expenses that the politicians like to fight over. It is the growth of transfer payments and not the shrinking share of revenue dedicated to general federal government operations, that appears at first to be a potentially serious problem.
Three of the largest components of the transfer payment or non-discretionary portion of the federal budget are, Social Security disbursements, transfers to state and local governments and various costs associated with health care.
Since 1970, US real GDP has grown a little more than three times more than it was then. Social Security payments, perhaps the largest component of transfer payments during this same time have increased more or less by the same amount [meaning its percentage of GDP has remained relatively stable].
Transfers to state and local governments on the other hand have exploded from almost nothing in 1965 to become, next to SS and Defense, the largest component of federal spending not included in the discretionary portion of the budget [The red, blue and green lines].
A major source of this huge growth occurred when the Nixon and Reagan Administration packaged many existing federal programs [such as housing and many welfare programs] into automatic transfers of tax revenues back to the states and local governments [this is partially why the poorly run State governments, primarily in the South, receive so much more federal revenue than they contribute in taxes]. This effectively put that money outside of the budget cutting debate, because no elected official likes to cut money received by his state; entitlements, if you will, that allow the state to balance its budget without raising taxes. [That Democrats went along with this dodge to fund state governments from federal revenue, further cements their reputation as the wuss party.]
The last major component of the non-discretionary spending that has grown significantly has been in health care. Independent of the issue of who is covered to receive health care and who is not, it is to try to control these costs that comprise a major goal of Obamacare. It is these cost control provisions and not the coverage provisions that those who can afford to directly oppose the program really most object to. Recall that the medicare drug program passed by the Bush administration was a direct redistribution of taxpayer funds to the drug industry without any cost controls. Obamacare thanks to the efforts of both Republican and Democratic legislators ended some of the most egregious aspects of that legislation.
Republicans are especially hesitant to curtail or eliminate transfer payments to their states [after all this was a tremendous victory for political expediency over policy]. Democrats feel the same way about Social Security. They both, until Obamacare came along, have been reluctant to take on the Health Services industry.)
B. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:
For those who pay attention to such things, in the last chapter of Enter The Dragon, Dragon had told Joe Vu to watch To Have and To Have Not. I made a mistake I ment The Big Sleep. Sorry.
“Historically, Populism like most mass movements scours up both the worst and the best in a society as it scrapes across its depths. It is prompted by a deep mistrust of a community’s most powerful individuals and institutions who, its adherents believe, have misused and mishandled the trust they had been granted, violated the social contract if you will. As the indefatigable realist Machiavelli pointed out; ‘on the broad areas of public policy the general populace is almost always more reliable than the elite.'”
(It never ceases to amaze me that I still am inundated by communications from those who, I suspect, decided to disbelieve the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change and search for something, anything, that agrees with their bias usually written by someone with the title of Dr. or Professor before his or her name. I surmise that before distributing the propaganda they never bothered to check to find out if the person is actually an expert in the field or if anyone who is, agrees with him.
One of the most recent missives refers to someone, whose name preceded by Dr. [area of expertise undetermined], who promotes the long discredited claim that vulcanism is responsible for all or most of the elevated carbon found in the earth’s atmosphere today.
The slightest bit of research would reveal that the carbon emitted by every eruption since records have been kept are included in most of the models developed by the scientists upon which the evidence for global warming are based. Did those people who blindly passed on the report without thinking about it actually believe that all the scientists who produced the 50,000 or so peer-reviewed articles confirming climate change just happened to overlook a major carbon source such as volcanos in their calculations?
Now in fairness to all the parties involved in the climate change controversy, I must admit that I have my own conspiracy theory on the matter to promote.
Since the beginning of the 19th Century when accurate meteorological records began to be kept, world population has grown to be more than six times larger than it was then. Today there are six billion more people alive than there were then. Yet the PPM concentration of carbon in the atmosphere [the claimed major factor in global warming.] has increased only by about 50%. Does this mean that had we maintained the population levels of 200 years ago, despite industrialization, the amount of green house gasses in the atmosphere would have remain static and perhaps even decreased? And, if so isn’t birth control the solution now?
If my speculation is accurate, then the mystery is why isn’t the birth control solution at the top of everyone’s agenda? I expect for the environmental community it is because to do so it would threaten to diminish their obsessive focus on industrial regulation. For conservatives it would mean accepting and promoting what to them is morally hateful; birth control, abortion and woman’s liberation. For the business community it means refocusing from supplying existing products to an expanding customer base, to the much more difficult task of creating new wants among existing buyers.
Perhaps it would be appropriate to remind everyone of a quote by the economist Brad DeLong that I included in T&T a few weeks ago:
“Only with the coming of female literacy and artificial means of birth control can a society maintain both a slowly-growing or stable population and a substantial edge in median standard of living over subsistence.” *
And, it is equally appropriate for me to urge once more something I have advocated time and time again here in many T&T posts and in a number of blogs that the sooner the instruments of power in society world-wide are turned over to women, the more likely it is that we can avoid the Armageddon that may be rushing towards us.
* Note: Recent archeological evidence seems to indicate that it is overpopulation within certain pockets of hunter gatherers that led to the discovery of farming and that the resulting agricultural communities suffered a substantial decline in their caloric intake and general health as compared to the hunter gatherers that remained in the area.
According to Jared Diamond:
“There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health. First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early farmers obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops… Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease…
Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing élite set itself above the disease-ridden masses…
Farming could support many more people than hunting, albeit with a poorer quality of life. (Population densities of hunter-gatherers are rarely over on person per ten square miles, while farmers average 100 times that.) Partly, this is because a field planted entirely in edible crops lets one feed far more mouths than a forest with scattered edible plants. Partly, too, it’s because nomadic hunter-gatherers have to keep their children spaced at four-year intervals by infanticide and other means, since a mother must carry her toddler until it’s old enough to keep up with the adults. Because farm women don’t have that burden, they can and often do bear a child every two years…”)
Waiting for the bus.