Posts Tagged With: Brad DeLong

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 1 Capt. Coast 0008 (April 20, 2019)

 

“[R]estraint is a sign of weakness.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
Joy! Auntie Poldi has returned — finally (See Book Report below). I cannot resist posting here the magnificently exuberant and perhaps shameless bit of overwriting with which the author begins his novel:

“Although in the past few months Poldi had temporarily thwarted death thanks to solving her handyman Valentino’s murder, her romantic encounter with Vito Montana (Polizia di Stato’s chief inspector in charge of homicide cases), her friendship with her neighbours Valérie and sad Signora Cocuzza, my aunts’ efforts and, last but not least, her own love of the chase, we all know the way of the world: peace reigns for a while, the worst seems to be over, the sun breaks through the clouds, the future beckons once more, your cigarette suddenly tastes good again, the air hums with life and the whole world becomes a congenial place pervaded by whispers of great things to come. A simply wonderful, wonderful, universally familiar sensation. And then, like a bolt from the blue, pow! Not that anyone has seen it coming, but the wind changes. Fate empties a bucket of excrement over your head, chuckling as it does so, and all you can think is “Wow, now I really need a drink!” And the whole shitty process starts again from scratch. So it was no wonder my aunts became alarmed when Poldi still had no running water after two weeks and Lady was murdered. No doubt about it, the wind had changed and the ice was growing steadily thinner.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

It is Saturday morning and time for the weekly Saturday Morning Coffee Hour at the Nepenthe Club House. The Club House is nestled in a corner of the Enchanted Forest a short distance from our home. Under a bleak sky, Naida and I walked there along the meandering pathways that run beneath the flowering trees and bushes — I, leaning heavily on my fake shillelagh cane, and Naida gaily reciting some long poem by Longfellow or now and then breaking out into a few stanzas of song.

By the time we arrived, I had become so dizzy from the exertion of the walk, I plopped down on the sofa in the hope that the merry-go-round in my head would soon subside. Naida busied herself assembling coffee and various pastries.

Sitting around on a circle of chairs were the usual attendees at these weekly get-togethers: the Leader of course, the spy, Billie the cute woman, the artist, Big Bill, the short-haired lady, Good Old Dave who looks like someone named Dave should look, Silent Gordon, Jan who selflessly scuttles around making sure the place is set up and we all have our coffee and name tags, and a few others. The woman who suffers from what appears to be CP arrived a bit later and settled herself by the large fireplace.

When we all were in place with our coffee and pastry, our leader, Ginnie, rang the little bell she carries around with her and began making her announcements — where this months TGIF would be held, the date of the Take Me Out to the Ballgame Party, and various other housekeeping items. She then announced it was Jan and Good Old Dave’s birthdays. Jan brought out a cake and we all sang Happy Birthday. Then with the announcements over everyone got down to talking to one another other except for Young Silent Gordon who stared morosely at the floor and me.

I decided to slowly examine the other attendees in an effort to understand better why I am beginning to become so fond of these Saturday morning gatherings. I did not reach any conclusion on that but I did notice that Billie the Cute Woman seemed to be the most fashionably dressed, from her patent leather flats, to her tight black leather pants, to her poncho-like black and white buttonless jacket, black sweater, and large golden outline of a heart hanging from a chain around her neck. Her fingernails were colored a light gold to match her jewelry. The rest of us were dressed in sports or casual outfits except for Naida who sported a smashing tight multi-colored blouse.

Good Old Dave told us his father owned the historic hotel in Murphy’s. Naida told him about a book she had read, The Black Sun of the Miwok, a collection of six stories about the deaths of the last six Miwok in the area, one of which tales was set in the hotel. Unfortunately, the book is no longer in print after several Native-American groups objected to it because it focuses on how the miners and settlers ridiculed the death and suffering of those individuals.

Sunday — the wet weather departed for a day or two restored the sun to the sky, cleared the air and drove the annual Great Valley spring pollen assault into hiding. The flowering bushes and trees in the backyard are in full bloom.
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Backyard in Full Bloom.

 

Monday morning — it is hydration day. I sit in my comfortable reclining chair typing this while saline solution slowly drips into my arm. The sun is out. Naida hard at work on her computer prepares the version of her memoir that will be sent to the printers. The dog, freshly bathed, naps on the chair next to me. What’s not to like?

On Tuesday, my urologist informed me my plumbing showed no immediate threats to my current existence. I ate a hot dog and drank a root-beer float for lunch. After lunch, I washed the car. I apologize, but as one approaches 80 years of age, days like this are what passes for excitement. I look forward to tomorrow. I get my hearing tested.

I got my hearing tested and ordered new hearing aids this morning. This made me happy. At my age, it does not take much to make me happy. I also saw it all as a bit of adventure. For we Vecchi, little things often seem more significant than they are — sort of like a form of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AiWS). In addition to finding little things a big deal, I now often see minor events as great adventures. On the other hand, perhaps, I always did.

After my adventure with the certified audiologist, I drove into the Golden Hills, now a lovely green due to all the spring rains. The sun was out and the clouds were bunched up high on the Sierras like Miracle Whip on an ice cream Sunday. I picked up HRM and the Scooter Gang, Jake, Caleb, and Hamza at the Skatepark. After a brief stop at Dick’s house for some mysterious reason, I then dropped them off at Caleb’s — but not before urging them not to get into too much trouble although listening to them talk it seems they are well into the adolescent we versus them syndrome. Yes, I worry. Teenage alienation is not just a fact of life but also a concern for the adults involved.

This morning while I was lying in bed trying to decide if it was worth getting up, my eyes fell on a small red diary that lay among the books littering the floor at the side of my bed. I had kept this diary way back in 1960. Strangely, given the number of times in my life when I rid myself of everything I had accumulated, it is one of the two things I have retained from more than a few years ago. How it survived for almost 60 years I do not know.

The diary details an almost one-year relationship I had with a woman. Strangely, the woman’s name does not appear in the diary. I was clearly in love with her, at least as much as a callow 19-year-old can be, and perhaps she was in love with me also. Alas, like most of us at that age, I believed I knew all that I needed to know about life and love.

We met in January and our relationship ended the following December. According to the diary, much of my preoccupation that year was the conflict, in my mind at least, between my affection for her and my anguish over the fact that she had a three-year-old child and was Jewish. While in retrospect, I could berate myself for my shallowness, but this happened almost 60 years ago and I had lived my life until then within a relatively closed Catholic Italian-immigrant society and had little experience with much outside that culture. But that is not what I pondered this morning. You see, I had no recollection of that year, not her, not my name, not my anguish — not anything.

If someone does not remember something does that mean it does not exist? Does it then return to existence if one suddenly recalls it? Does everything we experience somehow exist in our subconscious or some configuration of our neurons? I spent perhaps an hour this morning contemplating those questions until the dog started barking at the garbage truck as it passed by on its rounds and I began to feel a desperate need for my morning coffee.

On Friday, I, once again drove into the Golden (Green?) Hills to pick up HRM and Jake. H told me his mom did not want him traveling with me during his spring break, We had planned a trip to Portland to visit Naida’s son who works assisting a noted sculptor, Bruce West, another Naida relative. There he was to be introduced to high-quality welding, something he was eager to learn. After that, we had planned to travel to Sun Valley Idaho so that he could get in a day or two snowboarding. Then a few days at a large cattle range in Montana with other relatives. Alas, H is now a latch key kid, forced to spend his vacation bunking with Jake at his family’s house.

Sunday came around. I do not recall what happened Saturday. Not very much I assume. Perhaps I slept most of the day. Anyway, On Sunday morning we received a call from Sarah, Naida’s daughter. She was suffering from an overabundance of Cala Lilies growing in her backyard and urged us to come over right away and take some. So, after a stop to buy a vase large enough to accommodate the flowers, we arrived at Sarah’s home and proceeded to the backyard where in addition to the Cala lilies, irises, roses and a host of other flowers were in bloom. Sarah’s husband Mark busily pushed a hand-held mechanical plow through the ground in order to begin the planting for this summer’s vegetable garden. Then we all retired to the deck and had an enjoyable lunch.
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The Backyard
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Drinks on the Deck with Sarah and Naida

 

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The Cala Lillies at Home

 

B. ONCE AGAIN OFF TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

Under a sunny sky, we left for SF. That evening at Peter and Barrie’s house, Judy, who lives across the street and is my most consistently responsive Facebook friend brought over two framed photographs of Peter and I sitting on the “geezer bench” in front of Bernie’s coffee shop that she made from a Facebook post of mine. Barrie again prepared a tasty meal this time featuring spaghetti with clams.

The next morning we left for my appointment at the hospital for my immunotherapy treatment. The doctor gave me the most ambiguously optimistic opinion I have received since my original oncologist opined that the swelling in my neck was nothing to be concerned about. He told us that the CT scan I had taken that morning showed some shrinkage in the tumor and he could not tell if it was now scar tissue caused by the previous radiation treatment or not but may be inactive. He also explained that chemotherapy does not cure cancer and the immunotherapy program I am starting on helps the body’s immune system to fight reactivation of cancer.

After the treatment we returned to Peter and Barrie’s home where Barrie prepared a delicious anchovy, garlic and parsley spread from a recipe of Leo’s mother.

Who is Leo?

The next morning I woke up and realized the aches, pains and general malaise caused by the side effects of chemotherapy are gone replaced by the sniffles, runny nose, itches and the normal aches and pains of life and age.

After breakfast, we left and returned to the Enchanted Forest.
C. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST

 

We arrived back in the Enchanted Forest at about 1PM. After a brief rest, I took Boo-boo for a walk. During the three days we have been away, spring has given way to summer. The fruit trees have shed their flowers and the camellias are gone. The branches of the deciduous trees sport their new shiny green leaves. We stopped at the small community center with the tiny pool and sat in the sun. It was perhaps the first day it has been open for swimming. There were two families there, an elderly couple in swimsuits taking in the sun and a mother and her three young children playing and shouting in the pool, The dog and I sat there under a cloudless blue sky and enjoyed the doings in the pool. I felt good but a little sad that swimming was out for me for a long time.
D. BOOK REPORT: Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2) by Mario Giordano.

 

I have just finished reading the second installment in the series of my current book crush, The Adventures of Auntie Poldi. Although purporting to be detective stories, I, frankly, do not recall who was killed or why in either of the two novels of the series I have read so far. Nor can I claim they are great or even good literature. So, what attracts me to these books?

Perhaps it is Auntie Poldi herself, a lusty sixty-year-old German woman who had married a Sicilian immigrant to Bavaria and who after his death retired to her husband’s ancestral town on the slopes of Mt Etna there to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.” Poldi wears a wig, dresses usually in brightly colored caftans, enthusiastically and vigorously enjoys sex, and as the daughter of a Bavarian chief of detectives is compulsively drawn to solving crimes, photographing cute policemen in uniform and bedding dusky and hunky Sicilian detectives (well one in particular). The quotation from the novel with which I began this post may give a glimpse of Poldi, herself.

On the other hand, Poldi was a woman of strong opinions as well as strong appetites. As she explained to her nephew whom she had appointed to be the Watson to her Holmes:

“I’ve never been devout,” she explained later before I could query this in surprise because I knew that Poldi harbored a fundamental aversion to the Church. “I’m spiritual but not devout, know what I mean? I’ve never had much time for the Church. The mere thought of it infuriates me. The males-only organizations, the pope, the original-sin malarkey, the inhibited cult of the Virgin Mary, the false promises of redemption, the proselytism, the misogyny, the daft words of the psalms and hymns. Mind you, I’ve always liked the tunes. I always enjoyed chanting in the ashram, you know. I screwed every hippie in the temple of that Kali sect in Nevada, I’ve meditated in Buddhist monasteries, and I believe in reincarnation and karma and all that, likewise in people’s essential goodness. I don’t know if there’s a god and if he’s got something against sex and unbelievers, but I can’t help it, I’m Catholic. It’s like malaria: once you’ve got it you never get rid of it, and sooner or later you go and make peace with it.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

On the other hand, perhaps it is the authors alter ego himself, Poldi’s 34-year-old unmarried nephew, the narrator in the books, a self-described but inept author who works at a call center in Bavaria. He has been attempting to write the great Bavarian novel for years now but seems to have only recently gotten inspired to write the first four chapters the last of which he enthusiastically describes in a blaze of overwriting:

“I was in full flow. I was the adjective ace, the metaphor magician, the sorcerer of the subordinate clause, the expresser of emotions, the master of a host of startling but entirely plausible turns of events. The whole of my fourth chapter had been completed within a week. I was a paragon of self-discipline and inspiration, the perfect symbiosis of Germany and Italy. I was a Cyclops of the keyboard. I was Barnaba. All I lacked was a nymph, but my new Sicilian styling would soon change that.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2) . HMH Books.

 

He found himself periodically called to Sicily to reside in an attic room in Poldi’s house whenever the Sicilian relatives believed Poldi was skating on the thin edge of reality or Poldi herself needing someone to beguile and complain to demanded his return.

Or perhaps, it is the denizens of my beloved Sicily like the three aunts fascinated, often shocked, and at times participants in Poldi’s escapades. Or her partners in crime, so to speak, sad Carmina and the local priest. Or, Poldi’s French friend, Valerie her forlorn nephews love interest who Poldi steadfastly refuses to allow him to meet.

“For Valérie, like Poldi, happiness possessed a simple binary structure, and the whole of human existence was suspended between two relatively distant poles. Between heaven and hell, love and ignorance, responsibility and recklessness, splendour and scuzz, the essential and the dispensable. And within this dual cosmic structure there existed only two kinds of people: the deliziosi and the spaventosi, the charming and the frightful. Rule of thumb: house guests, friends and dogs are always deliziosi, the rest are spaventosi. At least until they prove otherwise.”

“‘You see,’ Poldi told me once, ‘Valérie has understood that happiness is a simple equation. Happiness equals reality minus expectation.’”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2) . HMH Books.

 

Or perhaps it is just that I am a child of Sicily, have lived as well as visited many times and loved that large rocky Island whose citizens have suffered almost two thousand five hundred years of continuous occupation by a host of invaders— Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French, Spanish, Bourbons, Nazi’s, and even British and Americans. Where the inhabitants were considered so irrelevant by their foreign overlords their cities, unlike the rest of Europe, were built without defensive walls. Where the people are reticent with strangers but boisterous and generous with friends and family, where Bella figura reigns, the cuisine is wonderful, people speak in gestures and revel in the mores of their medieval culture and where “Being Sicilian is a question of heart, not genes” (Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna, An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2. HMH Books.)

Whatever, the reasons for my own enjoyment of the books,

Pookie says you should check them out, after all, as Auntie Poldi advises:

“Moderation is a sign of weakness.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

A. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:
Another snag from Brad Delong’s Grasping Reality with Three Hands (https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/04/economics-identity-and-the-democratic-recession-talking-points.html#more), this time an outline of a paper he wrote entitled Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Talking Points. I have included here that portion of the outline dealing with Economic Populism.

I would like to draw a sharp distinction between:

On the one hand, populists: who have a coherent theory about how the market economy is rigged against ordinary people by an upper class and have practical plans for policies to fix it;
On the other hand, a different group: a group who believe that a true people, among whom some are rich and some are poor, are being deceived culturally, sociologically, and economically by internal and external enemies, and need to follow a leader or leaders who have no patience with established constitutional powers and procedures to point out to them who their internal and external enemies are.
It is this second set of movements—true people-based, leader-based, enemy-based, that has been by far the most powerful since the breaking of the real populist movement before 1900 by the hammer of racism: the discovery that a large enough chunk of the populists potential base were easily grifted by a white identity-politics assignment of the “enemy“ role to African-Americans.
Powerful both in America and—except for when under the shadow of Soviet threat—in Western Europe since the day Benito Mussolini recognized that rich Italians who liked order would not fund Benito’s socialist movement, but would gladly fund Benito’s “we are stronger together, for a bundle of sticks tied together with leather thongs is strong even though each individual stick is weak“ movement.
Today looks to me like nothing that special: Recall:

Harding and Coolidge, Taft and Nixon, Goldwater, Nixon, and Buchanan:
Harding and Coolidge’s mobilization of the revived Klan and of nativism against blacks and immigrants to geld progressivism in the 1920s.
Taft and Nixon’s mobilizing McCarthy against the communistic New Deal at the end of the 1940s.
Goldwater’s transformation of the Republican Party from the party of upward mobility and those who believe they have something to gain from economic growth and creative distraction to the party of those who believe they have something to lose if uppity Negroes and the overly educated overly clever are not kept in their place.
Richard Nixon’s idea to drag out the Vietnam war for four more years at the cost of 40,000 American and 3 million Vietnamese lives. Why? So that he and Pat Buchanan can break the country in half, but with him getting the bigger half—until enough Republicans plus Mark Felt of the FBI were sick of him and willing to help bring him down.
How is today different? Possibilities:
Concentration of the easily-grifted, somehow the internet, Rupert the Kingmaker, the Gingrich model, unlock:
Tyler Cowen’s observation: 20% of the population have always been crazy— easily grifted by some variant of white identity politics—but they used to be evenly divided between the two parties and now they are concentrated in one.
Somehow the internet.
Blowback from Rupert Murdoch’s insight that if you could scare the piss out of all the people you could glue their eyes to your product and then make money by selling them fake diabetes cures and overpriced gold funds.
Rupert the Kingmaker: In the fifteenth century the marcher Earldom of Warwick was uniquely able to mobilize those in the affinity of Earl Richard for the battlefield—and so became known as “Warwick the Kingmaker”. There are analogies here…
The Gingrich model: We now have two generations of Republican politicians who believe that technocratic policy development is for suckers, and then what do you need are:
tax cuts for the rich,
regulatory rollback,
perhaps a short victorious war or two, plus
Whatever culture war currently resonates with the base—notice that “women need to stay in the kitchen and the bedroom“ and “we need to shun homosexuals“ have passed their sell-by date, but transsexuals and anyone who fails to shout “merry Christmas” every five minutes between Halloween and New Years are still fair game.
Or perhaps we have simply been unlucky—and we had gotten used to luck running in our favor:
Otto von Bismarck, perhaps: “a special providence watches over drunkards, fools, and the United States of America”…

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Too much happiness is a precarious state, it eventually leads to anxiety.
C. Today’s Poem:

 

Considering the current fear and anguish over migration, refugees, and asylum seekers, I thought it would be interesting to see what Homer may have thought about it over three thousand years ago.

SOME SHELTER FROM THE WIND: HOMER ON OUR DEBT TO EXILES
Homer, Odyssey 6.205-210

“We live at a great distance from others amid the much-sounding sea,
Far way, and no other mortals visit us.
But this man who has wandered here, who is so ill-starred,
It is right to care for him now. For all are from Zeus,
The strangers and the beggars, and our gift is small but dear to them.
Come, handmaidens, give the stranger food and drink;
Bathe him in the river, where there is shelter from the wind.”

οἰκέομεν δ’ ἀπάνευθε πολυκλύστῳ ἐνὶ πόντῳ,
ἔσχατοι, οὐδέ τις ἄμμι βροτῶν ἐπιμίσγεται ἄλλος.
ἀλλ’ ὅδε τις δύστηνος ἀλώμενος ἐνθάδ’ ἱκάνει,
τὸν νῦν χρὴ κομέειν· πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες
ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε, δόσις δ’ ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε.
ἀλλὰ δότ’, ἀμφίπολοι, ξείνῳ βρῶσίν τε πόσιν τε,
λούσατέ τ’ ἐν ποταμῷ, ὅθ’ ἐπὶ σκέπας ἔστ’ ἀνέμοιο.”

D. Readings from the Mueller Report:

 

In a section related to episodes involving the president and possible obstruction of justice, Mueller’s team explains how it “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.” But the special counsel’s team also said it was unable to definitively conclude that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice:

“Apart from OLC’s constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct … The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“You have imposter syndrome,” He says, “but paradoxically, that’s often a sign of competence. Only people who understand their work well enough to be intimidated by it can be terrified by their own ignorance. It’s the opposite of Dunning-Kruger syndrome, where the miserably incompetent think they’re on top of the job because they don’t understand it.”
Stross, Charles. The Labyrinth Index (Laundry Files) (Kindle Location 4514). Tom Doherty Associates.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:
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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
Children

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 20 Papa Joe 0003 (October 10, 2013)

“In my dealings with others, I always try to treat them better in person than I treat them in my mind.”
Trenz Pruca

Happy Birthday Aaron and Anthony
TODAY FROM THAILAND:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN BANGKOK:

Today was the first day I felt well since I arrived. I got up believing that things could not be better – a bad sign since by definition everything from that moment on had to be worse.

I sprang from my bed and began to exercise vigorously before the mirror. I have a theory that the more ridiculous your exercise movements appear, the better they are for you. Since I was exercising starkers that morning, they appeared ridiculous indeed. (Note: “starkers” means stark raving mad or stark naked or both.)

I left the apartment and headed off to breakfast. The sun was shining and sky was a clear blue. It was just warm enough to encourage a thin-film of sweat, not the mind numbing heat of a Bangkok afternoon.
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Street scene along the way to the health club.

As I walked along Soi Nana, I saw an ambulance pull over with – Heart Attack Emergency Response Unit – painted on its sides. It seemed that they were lost. One of the technicians leaned out of the window to ask directions from two passers-by. Each gave a different route. A lengthy discussion ensued. I listened for a while and then moved on leaving them to eventually find their way to the, I am sure, now deceased heart attack victim.

After breakfast, I went to the health club and paid the exorbitant $50 fee for one month’s membership in the decrepit facility. I complained and requested a discount. They refused but offered me free use of a locker for the month provided I supply my own lock.

After my swim, I walked with the old sailor/deep-sea diver back to his hotel which was on the way to my apartment. We talked about drugs and alcohol, their benefits and drawbacks. I found out that he had not been to the airport to see anyone off, but to meet me on my arrival. He said he knew how it was for someone to arrive alone at an airport after a long flight with no one to meet him.

I then continued on to my apartment and took a nap.

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

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On the fourth floor of the building in the photo is my apartment. It’s not much but I call it home. Under the small tree every evening one or two families, with infants in hammocks, roll out reed mats and have dinner together. I makes me very happy to see them.

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

After breakfast at Foodland, on my way to the health club, I usually walk through a very dark alleyway I refer to as “The Tunnel.” It is about four feet wide with shops on each side and extends and entire block. Since my last visit here, several of the massage parlors, pachinko shops and the like have been converted to tiny bars. These bars are open and lively at 8 AM. Light in the alley is provided by the opening at each end, some dim fluorescence here and there and a few colored lights on the beer advertisements in the bars. As I walk through, I can barely make out the outline’s of women’s shapes and their teeth when they smile. The men, mostly westerners, eye me warily as though I may be a threat or something.

Oh, and of course there are the bodies – usually one or two – not dead I think, but sleeping or sleeping it off. They allow me to indulge in my Augustinian arrogance. You know, “There but for…”, well not Grace or God certainly. How about, “there but for the invisible hand and the vagaries of fortune go I.” That great invisible hand and luck could just as well exalt me to physical comfort and existential anguish, or drop me unconscious in the gutter. All praise the hand of the Lord.

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Most people walking past The Tunnel would think it dangerous, I imagine. But I have been walking through here for years now and the only things that have happened to me have been, now or then receiving a slap on the back by a guy inviting me for a drink or a woman emerging from the darkness, pressing her body against mine and saying “Welcome mister” or, “Hello Pa Pa.”

With a smile I politely turn them down — not because I have an ethical or moral objection to what they are offering but because underneath it all, I’m a snob.

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

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This is the entrance to Foodland. Inside is a supermarket, pharmacy and bank. Also, it contains a small counter service café where I eat my breakfast most days. For the price, I consider it one of BKK’s best restaurants.

As long as I am doing show and tell on my regular eating establishments, the following photo shows the sidewalk café where I often eat lunch.
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And this is where I eat dinner a lot. The waitress is a ladyboy with the body of a NFL linebacker who entwines orchids in her thick black hair and wears rhinestone encrusted platform high-heels.
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****************************************

During my walks I often encounter the feral urban fauna of the City. Pigeons of course, but rarely on the street, too dangerous. I can, however, hear them cooing in the trees. Those little brown birds found in most cities flock around, wrens, starlings or something. Yeates would know. The ones in BKK look a bit greasy. The house next door to my apt has several large aviaries by the road containing Parrots that make a racket at certain times of the day.
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The mangy soi dogs don’t approach you as dogs usually do looking for a handout or a sniff of your crotch, but silently slink away if you pass too close to them. Cats, mean looking creatures, peek out at you from dark places or sun themselves on tiny unreachable ledges. Then, of course, there are the rats that scurry beneath your feet from crevice to hole as you walk by. Despite their meekness, I suspect the rats are the most sociable of the lot. They are certainly the most numerous.

B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

“One of the benefits of traveling to other societies is that we are free to apply our prejudices when we observe their culture.”
Trenz Pruca

1. Food exports

Today the Bangkok Post reported that Thailand has become the world’s greatest exporter of insects for food with most of it going to the US. Thailand has over 20,000 “insect” farms.

Among the many questions I have is, who is buying this food? I have not seen packages of Genuine Imported Thai Insects on the shelves of Safeway or Raley’s — Whole Foods perhaps?

Another question is why do we have to import insects? Don’t we have enough of our own? Do Thai insects taste better than American ones?

2. Tourist murder solved?

A few weeks ago two tourists were killed in Thailand. There were no suspects. About two days ago the Thai tourist industry announced that violence against tourist hurts the industry. Yesterday the Thai police continued their remarkable success in solving all high-profile crimes by announcing they apprehended the murderers of the two tourists – two Burmese immigrant teenagers who confessed to the crime.

And yes, not even the Thais believe it.

3. Hell, a Family Resort.

The newspapers today also reported that the City Fathers of Pattaya (sometimes referred to as “The Outskirts of Hell”) announced their intention to turn the City into a “family resort” notwithstanding its reputation for sex of all varieties, crime and corruption. Pattaya is owned by the Thai counterparts to the same type of organization that created Sin City in the Nevada desert and now also wants to convert it to a Family Resort. Pattaya which experiences the mostly unreported death of a westerner or tourist almost every week is mobbed up from the soles of the jack-boots of the lowest policeman to the toupee adorning the mayor’s head.

Of course I exaggerate, Pattaya cops do not wear jack-boots and I haven’t the slightest idea if the mayor even owns a toupee.

4. Eye of the beholder.

The military has set up a committee to draft a new Constitution for Thailand, a central element of which would attempt to eliminate corruption. By law the members of the committee have to disclose their wealth. To probably no ones surprise, among the wealthiest and by far the largest in number of millionaires on the committee are the generals appointed to sit on it. How you might ask does a public employee, which generals are, become millionaires while on the job?

Since, they are not required to disclose the sources of their income, one can be reasonably sure that whatever the regulations to control official corruption may be, they will not apply to the military. I am sure the generals believe that the sources of their wealth are natural, the result or operation of a gracious and beneficent invisible hand, and therefore necessary for a healthy national economy.
TODAY’S QUOTE:

“In most periods of human history, exploitation of natural resources to satisfy human needs could be achieved with less expenditure of energy and with less danger, even in less desirable territories. In other words, war has never been a rational solution for obtaining resources to satisfy man’s material needs. …
…But of course, men have never been rational. They are fully capable of believing anything and of adopting any kind of social organization or social goals, so that warfare became at least a minor part of life in most societies.”
Carroll Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
10588900_10204867413902150_189178716_n_2
Me standing before the entrance to the site of the Temple of Diana in Nemi, Italy (1997). I had spent almost 30 years, on and off, searching for it and found it on this trip when Ruth pointed it out the first time we passed by. Of course, as usual in Italy, the site was closed that day and no explanation given.

Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 4 Joe 0003 (July 22, 2014)

‘We’re here because we’re here. And since we’re here, we might as well be warm.’
Pratchett, Terry; Stewart, Ian; Cohen, Jack. The Science of Discworld: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SISTER MARY ANNE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

TODAY FROM AMERICA:
xl_american_odyssey_030-031
Photograph of the Statue of Liberty Taken in about 1910.

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

In between nanny duties when HRM was off on a play date, I slipped into the man cave ordered up a lemonade and a hand rolled regular panatela and watched Planet of the Apes: The Beginning on their wall sized TV screen. A few days later Dick, HRM and I went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes at the local movie emporium. Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar nomination.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk for about a week or so. No reason, it just happens now and then. During that time I pull a Garbo and withdraw from contact with others or become snappish when I cannot. I have not been able to exercise much during that time so I thought another trip into the darkness of the man cave would help my attitude. I sat there in the dim light listening to some classic rock and thought about the music I used to listen to many years ago as jazz began to give way to rock. It has been about 60 years since the heyday of Miles, Coltrane and Bill Evans. Sixty years are a long time ago, except for we alters. Sixty years before Miles popular music consisted mostly of polkas, hymns and rag time. Now in the second decade of the 21st Century streaming is strangling music as we know it as it is also killing literature. H shows me many strange things he finds on u-tube and the apparently popular games he likes that allows people to create their own universes and share it with one another. Perhaps future art forms will grow out of those. But what happens to music? Are future generations destined to forever to simply mine the endless lists of streaming music from the past?
B. SNIPPETS FROM OLD T&T’S:

A bar in Ft. Lauderdale with the Golden Vagina:

The next day Frank and I went to a place in Boca Raton called the Royal Pig (owned appropriately by the original promoters of Hooters) where we met up with a friend of his named Dorian. We ate a lot of bar foods including a tasty fried sweet potato snack. I drank a lot of different fruit juice based cocktails and got a bit drunk.

I remember we talked a fair amount to the bartenders; one a short young woman originally from Cambodia and the other a tall blond girl from Columbus Ohio. Being three Italian-American males of a certain age, we inevitable got around to discussing our ethnic cultural icons, in this case Dean Martin. The bartender from Columbus who is of Italian-German heritage and who’s father pitched for the Mets, shockingly (to us at least) acknowledged she had no idea who Dean Martin was.

Marlena, the director of a local cultural center of some sort, then arrived. She is an old friend of Dorian and Frank. Dorian mentioned that one of her current boyfriends recently had bought her an expensive house, cash. When I enquired how she had managed to accomplish that remarkable feat, she responded, “I owe it all to my golden vagina.”

I also learned that Chuck the Banker who I had met once in San Francisco on some deal or another but who disappeared after scoring some coke, was sitting in his car outside of the bar but refused to come in. We discussed his peculiar behavior patterns for a while.
18 Papa Joe 0001

C. BOOK REPORT:

Whenever I am in a funk (see above), I often dive into reading reams of escapist stuff. During past few days I read the seven books by Kevin Hearne in the Iron Druid series (one cannot get much more escapist than swords and sorcery literature. They operate like a mental laxative. Once your emotions and your mind become so constipated they freeze up rock solid, a good fantasy induces mental diarrhea leaving your brain an aching vacuüm.)

Anyway, our hero a 2000+ year old Druid the last of his kind is on the lam from the celtic god of love who for some reason or other (I forget why because it actually makes no difference) wants to kill him. I enjoy the books because the author peppers them with obscure quotes and historical ephemera. I especially liked one of the books where our Druid and a vampire talk to each other using obscure quotes from Shakespeare.

Oh, he also has a giant Irish wolfhound that talks only to him and says things like:

“I think life is like a ham bone if you live it right. You enjoy it and then you bury it when you’re finished. If you don’t enjoy it and you let it go to waste, you still have to bury it, so you might as well savor everything you can.”
Hearne, Kevin. Shattered: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Seven (p. 63). Random House Publishing Group.

Not to be outdone on flinging bon mots our 2000+ year old druid (who looks only 21 years old) opines:

“Making a good omelet is like living well: You have to pay attention to the process if you want to enjoy it.”
Hearne, Kevin. Hammered: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Three (p. 93). Random House Publishing Group.

And,

“Corporations might be harder to kill than gods.”
Hearne, Kevin. Tricked: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Four (p. 247). Random House Publishing Group.

Pookie says check it out.

DAILY FACTOID:

1961 – Chico Marx and Carl Jung die.
(Carl Jung’s final words were, “Does Chico yet live?”)

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A Irish Father’s advice to his son:

“A man’s supposed to shit himself after he dies, son, not before. Try to remember that, lad, so that when your time comes, you won’t make a right girly mess of it. Now fuck off and go play in the bog.”
Hearne, Kevin. Tricked: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Four. Random House Publishing Group.

TODAY’S QUOTES:

“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

“The world is a ball of dung and we are the worms that live in it and eat each other. The one who eats all the others wins — but he is still the last living worm in a lump of shit.”
Tad Williams, Shadowrise.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

TODAY’S CHART:
64-percent-of-americans-are-white-though-minority-populations-have-become-majorities-in-some-areas

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:
xl_american_odyssey_276-277_2
Photograph of a Bayou in 1890

Categories: July through September 2014 | 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:
1000922_10151550482679071_1194049097_n
(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:
6a00e551f080038834019aff58a4e0970c

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

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. Pops 26 0002

“As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It’s being drawn to Iraq and it’s not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don’t want the Eye to come back here to the United States.”

–Rick Santorum, Salon, October 2006

(Shit, who knew?)
TODAY FROM AMERICA:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN El DORADO HILLS:

Very little has gone on here in Paradise in the Foothills since I arrived. I spent a few pleasant dinners with Stevie and Norbert on Dick’s deck during which we discussed the pro-ported ancient Chinese arrival in California described in the new book, “1421.” It seems N&S had clients who owned the supposed landing sits upon which some of the books arguments are based. We also looked at some maps Norbert had prepared that showed parts of the California coastline as it looked about 15,000 years ago, at about the time the first native American’s showed up. Dick and I believe the main migration route of these early immigrants was along the shoreline exposed by the ocean’s retreat due to glaciation. The maps showed long stretches of plains and small hills now buried beneath the waves that made up most of the coast at that time. The string of coastal islands now stretching for hundreds of miles off the coast were, at that time one single massive island that approached the mainland as close as four miles or less. 13-15 thousand-year old sites of human habitation have been found on the islands.

I continue my nanny duties with triple H. He seems much more reticent and stand-offish with me then I remember him being just a few months ago.

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

The days go by with precious little to do; take HHH to and from school; play on my computer; worry about more than I should about what I can do little about. Excitement has consisted of backing the car into the wall around Dick’s house and a slight and hopefully profitable assignment regarding a trust that required an uncountable number of frustrating telephone calls with legions of bureaucrats at a bank.

Before one becomes aged, he or she can always try again when they fail (if they want to). You know, fall in love again, do another deal and so on. As one passes into the shadow of old age, trying again is not something that is often easy to do. In fact, the best thing I think I can do beside exercise and eat well is try to persuade myself that I am happy and attempt to find something interesting to do that is not too physically taxing. Writing T&T is one thing but I fear that I am beginning to lose my enthusiasm for entertaining myself this way. Some evenings I join Dick in drinking too much. It is enjoyable but its aftereffects are too debilitating and take a few days to disappear.

*********************************
A bit of excitement this past week, at least for lonely old men and the socially inept who spend a good part of their lives in darkened rooms or coffee houses spewing their obsessions into blogs and various social media. For the past few weeks, I have been clearing the detritus from my computer by re-posting much of it into various blogs. One of them is one of the nation’s major progressive blogs (or as my more right-wing friends refer to it, “communist” blog. Alas, if those who post there are todays version of communists, the left has fallen far indeed).

I like to post there because every once in a while I will write something mildly critical of the self-importance exhibited by many of those who declare themselves progressives, driving them to the verge of apoplexy. I say self-importance because it is very difficult to discern anything there rising to the level of a cohesive ideology. I often accuse the right-wing of suffering from irony deficiency (and of course stupidity but it is not wholly their fault that they have been persuaded that stupidity is a form of godliness.) Alas the left suffers from massive and dour fear their foibles would be seen as humorous. I often get the feeling that they believe the world would end or they fly apart should their self-importance not be treated with the seriousness that they believe it should be. While the right remains oblivious to how ridiculous they are, the left lives in mortal fear that they may be also.

Recently I wrote both a post and a comment in which I chided the left for often engaging in wishful thinking. For example, believing the tide of politics is running in their direction or that those elected officials certified as progressive will lead them into the promised land of a millennium of socialistic bliss. As for the latter point, elected politicians are at best your representatives not your leaders. They only lead if your terrorize them into it.

I wrote in my typically over-wrought style:

“The tragic truth, however, is that the young as they age become conservatives, ethnic groups as they 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 have failed to grasp the grim realities of politics which is that it is an eternal war of attrition and the opposition is better 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.”

One would have thought that with his bit of rhetoric I had plunged a knife into their collective belly. I could sense as I wrote it a moan of fury rising from those dark rooms with their smell of stale pizza and spilled beer — at least from the dozen or so people in those rooms that would actually read my post.

It was what passes for fun in my life now…

 

JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:

ENTER THE DRAGON

Dragon’s Breath:

Sam Spade: [impatiently] Now, let’s *talk* about the black bird.
Kasper Gutman: Let’s. Mr. Spade, have you any conception of how much money can be got for that black bird?
Sam Spade: No.
Kasper Gutman: Well, sir, if I told you… If I told you *half*… you’d call me a liar.
Sam Spade: No, not even if I thought so.

Chapter 27:

I was back at my usual table on the sidewalk in front of Pino’s place in North Beach. I had spent the morning happily reviewing the temporarily renewed health of my bank account. I had called Vihn’s accountant earlier to make sure everything I had earned had been deposited. I was now about to dip my fork into my favorite dish, gnocchi. The food a Pino’s like most of the restaurants in the City is mediocre at best. I like eating here because I can sit on the sidewalk and watch that slice of my world that is North Beach sidled by. Anyway, you really have to work at it to screw up italian food. Alas, a lot of cooks I know work exceedingly hard to do just that.

Pino was at his usual post, leaning against the parking meter across the sidewalk from the entrance to his place. He broke from his annoying importuning of passers-by and inept attempts of flirting with any remotely attractive woman in the area within shouting range, to turn and briefly smile at me. I raised my glass of Barbera and saluted him. The only reason he was smiling and not greeting me with his usual scowl was that, with my new-found wealth, I was able to pay off my tab that morning.

“Fuck you fat face,” I thought and amused at my alliteration turned back to my bowl of gnocchi in marinara sauce. I had just popped a chewy morsel into my mouth when my phone vibrated. The screen showed it was Vihn. Still chewing happily I flipped it on.

“We need to talk,” Martin Vihn said without waiting for me to say hello.

“So talk,” I said.

“No, I would rather meet with you, face to face.”

“Why? I completed my assignments and now my office is closed for the rest of the month while I spend my hard-earned profits on a vacation somewhere.”

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. I could never tell with Vihn, if these long silences meant he was amused, furious or just slow. I guess, that is what frightened me most about him. I could not understand what was going on with him. Like most people I suppose I am scared shitless by what I do not understand or what I am unmotivated to find out about.

Anyway, in the eternal battle between discretion and curiosity, with me at least, curiosity always wins. So, I told him I would wait there at Pino’s for him. I finished the Gnocchi. Anna the waitress came by to clear the table and take my order for espresso with a lemon peel, no sugar. I like my coffee like my soul, bitter and black.

Anna is from the Ukraine but she is a bit darker many of the descendants of the Nordic Rus conquerors of the Slaves so she looks somewhat Italian. She attends City College and works here at Pino’s part-time. She claims she speaks italian fluently. I suspect Pino is running an immigration scam perhaps with a little white slavery of the side. But hey, she’s white, young and beautiful so who cares if her immigration status is a bit hinkey. There are a few more Eastern-European women like Anna who work the tables at Pino’s. I sometime try to hit on them. I get a lot of promises but no commitments.

I was halfway through my coffee when I spotted Joe Vu saunter around the corner. As though it was choreographed, Martin Vihn’s big silver Lexus rounded the same corner at the same time and stopped in the bus stop in front of me. He got out of the back seat. Chang exited the front. The Lexus then sped off. Chang joined Vu. They sat at an empty table next to the one adjacent to mine in which a middle-aged tourist couple picked at their Veal Parmigiano’s and stared at the North Beach traffic. I though back to what my father told me while running one of the several Italian restaurants he had opened to great reviews that promptly failed. “Never order Veal Parmigiano at a restaurant,” he said. “The cheese and the sauce ate there just to hide the cheap meat.”

Joe and Chang were dressed in their usual outfits. Black shades covered their eyes. Joe nodded at me slightly before he sat down.

Martin sat at my table, his back toward the street and stared silently as he always does before starting a conversation with me. He probably thought it made me uncomfortable and anxious. He was right.

Anna arrived to take his order. He turned toward her and ordered an espresso with sugar. I thought that may have been a good sign. Anna moved over to Joe’s table. There was some flirty banter and Anna returned inside the restaurant to put in the orders. Vihn still had not spoken. He had, however, resumed his stare.

I was trying to come up with an amusing comment on his attitude when he leaned toward me across the table. “Almost everyone but you and me, even my accountant, met with the furniture manufacturer in Chiang Rai.”

Before I could respond, I noticed both Joe and Chang spring up out of their chairs and reach behind their backs. I slammed back my chair preparing to run, wondering why they would choose to shoot me down in broad daylight. I pictured myself falling dead right in front of Pino with two bullets in my back. My murder would probably make his place famous. I hated the thought that my death could be the cause of that wimpy weasels success.

Suddenly I realized they were not looking at me but at the limousine slowly passing by on Columbus Avenue. I could see Bulbous Bart driving. His obese brother sat in the front seat alongside him. The back windows were darkly tinted but I still could make out what appeared to be someone in the back seat pressing close to the window facing us. This did not make me feel any better.

 

DAILY FACTOID:

“In 1870 the daily wages of an unskilled worker in London would have bought him (not her: women were paid less) about 5,000 calories worth of bread–5,000 wheat calories, about 2½ times what you need to live (if you are willing to have your teeth fall out and your nutritionist glower at you). In 1800 the daily wages would have bought him about 3,500 calories, and in 1600 2,500 calories. Karl Marx in 1850 was dumbfounded at the pace of the economic transition he saw around him. That was the transition that carried wages from 3500 calories per day-equivalent in 1800 to 5000 in 1870. Continue that for another two seventy-year periods, and we would today be at 10,000 calories per unskilled worker in the North Atlantic today per day.

Today the daily wages of an unskilled worker in London would buy him or her 2,400,000 wheat calories.

Not 10,000. 2,400,000.”
Brad DeLong

(What this means is that after about 3000 to 4000 calories most of the rest of the 2.4 million excess calories go mostly to things we do not need to live. Or, as one commenter to my blogs wrote, “Its simple: it’s the shit you don’t need for the life you don’t want.” [by The Chop].)

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
526520_10151632377386275_475064735_n
(While I agree with what Jason [whoever he is] says, I wonder if that is a picture of him and if so why is it included and if not, I wonder if this is actually an Abercrombie commercial about who else they refuse to sell to [nerds with thick glasses] or the kind of ties they decline to stock.)

B. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

The good/bad David urged me to speculate on the potential of Hillary Clinton running as a third-party candidate for president in the 2016 presidential election so that people like him might find it possible to vote for her. Alas, David I have put this off another week. I promise, however, to try to get it into the next issue.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“A man is what he has passion about,”
Sanderson, Brandon (2008-10-14). The Hero of Ages: Book Three of Mistborn.

“the real world is driven by two types of people. Those who want power and those who want money. The first want a statue, the second enjoyment. And the currency they use when negotiating with each other to get what they want is called corruption.”
Nesbo, Jo (2012-10-02). Phantom

 

TODAY’S CHART:
original-1

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Sunset in the Foothills

 

Categories: Julu through September 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 11 Shadow 0002

TODAY FROM THAILAND:



A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

Bangkok

Bangkok Thailand is a city of gleaming skyscrapers, elegant shopping centers and spectacular temples surrounded by vast areas teeming with those who have left somewhere else in hopes of somehow securing a better life. Many of these migrants or immigrants huddle in informal settlements of rude shelters mired in poverty often as great as that they have left behind. But they have two things going for them. One as old as ever in the hearts of migrants, hope. The other just as old, but requiring renewal wherever the poor and destitute gather, a sense of community.

**********

The Good/Bad David’s 59th birthday was last week. He spent it being bad in Pattaya. He complained that next year he will be 60. I told him not to worry, 60 is the new 50. 70 I found out was the new 60. Alas, I also discovered that 73, however, is just the same as the old 73 — there are just more of us around.

**********

Gary (Canadian hockey playing Gary, not not Pattaya, weight-lifting Gary) and his wife Pui who own a spa on Sukhumvit Soi 13, have given me a complementary pass for spa and massage services. This has made me very happy.

DSCN1483

If you are in BKK Pookie says check it out.

**********

SWAC is off to Italy for some reason. She plans to stay for a week. Harley H. Hayden will be spending most of that time with me when he is not spending it with someone else.

DSCN1424

Harley H. Hayden’s BKK Gang.

**********

LM had one last complementary movie ticket. Since we already have seen all the movies showing, we decided to see “The Sapphires” again. I wanted see if I could figure out what I really liked about the movie. Of course, any movie that has Chris O’Dowd playing Chris O’Dowd has to be great. Similarly, any film whose featured song is “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” cannot miss. I am still in love with Deborah Mailman. I cried some more. Maybe it was the music and the memories.

Quote:

Dave (Chris O’Dowd) :

“Before we go than, girls when I met you were doing all country and western thing and that’s fine we all make mistakes. But here is what we learn from that mistake. Country and western music is about loss. Soul music is also about loss. But the difference is in country and western music, they’ve lost, they’ve given up and they are just all wining about it. In soul music they are struggling to get it back, they haven’t given up.”

If you do go to see it please let me know why you think I like the movie as much as I do. Also perhaps you can help me understand why I find a plain-looking slightly overweight 40 plus year old woman trying to persuade her audience that she is a 20 something singing star so desirable.

**********

Today I went to Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s version of Central Park or Golden Gate park. For the major park in the city, it is a bit run down. I fed the fish stale bread I had lying around the apartment. The fish were large, voracious and in great numbers. They were not as large as the fish in the lake at the Dusit Zoo in BKK, some of those were four to five feet long. There were a few monitor lizards swimming about. Again they were not as large or as numerous as those in the lake at the Dusit zoo. We spent about a half hour pedaling a swan boat around the lake and then returned home. This visit made me happy too.

DSCN1460_2

A Lumpen at Lumpini.

 

B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

Free at last:

At about the same time as the US Supreme Court handed down their decision allowing same-sex couples to get married, the highest court in China declared that mutual masturbation among consulting adults even if performed in exchange for money or other incentives, when not accompanied by direct penile to vaginal penetration (fingers, tongues and almost everything else one can think of is ok) is not prostitution as prohibited by Chinese criminal law.

(Well,… at long last a happy ending, but maybe not free…)

Speaking of the US Supreme Court:

A few days before their historic decision granting homosexuals the freedom to marry the person of their choice, the US Supreme Court took away the right of many black people to vote. So what this means is that now gays can join the Republican Party without shame while a lot of African-Americans…still cannot vote even if they are Republicans.

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

Note: the following continues my series about four governmental agencies that I had some role in developing.

A. The New York’s Mental Health Information Service (1965):

6. Problems and insights.

c. Problems raised because they did not want MHIS there.

When something new is instituted there is a tendency among those supporting it to view those who may have opposed it as “enemies.” This applies more to Progressives than to conservatives, since the latter are not noted for proposing or supporting things that could be entitled “new.”

In the case of the MHIS, much of the opposition to its creation came from psychiatrists and hospital administrators. The former because they feared “second guessing” by lawyers of medical decisions and the latter for concerns about costs and administrative regularity. After the legislation was passed many of those hired to carry out the law continued to view them as the enemy.

When it comes to implementation of any program, I always believed that viewing any person or group as enemies was unproductive. I preferred to consider them resources.

In the case of the doctors, the literary image of them eager to imprison unwary patients was simplistic at best. Once persuaded that their fears that the patients would be agitated in ways that would disrupt their treatment and that I was not there to challenge their findings, they began to rationalize the patients will to be independent not only had legal implications but therapeutic as well they grudgingly began to support the program.

I spent a lot of my time right away with the doctors especially the department heads trying to understand their concerns and accommodate them where the patients legal rights would not be jeopardized.

Similarly I met with the hospital administrators, inquiring about their concerns and simplifying procedures. This seems an obvious approach, but most of the other district directors believed that a more adversarial posture with the “other side” as they described them was more protective of patient rights.

By the time I left, it was only in my area that the program had been fully integrated. More patient requested judicial hearings were held than in any other district. In addition, more patients were released and sent home. All with the active support of the hospital administrations.

 

JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:

ENTER THE DRAGON

Dragon’s Breath:

Vivian: What will your first step be?
Philip Marlowe: The usual one.
Vivian: I didn’t know there was a usual one.
Philip Marlowe: Well sure there is, it comes complete with diagrams on page 47 of how to be a detective in 10 easy lessons correspondent school textbook and uh, your father offered me a drink.
Vivian: You must’ve read another one on how to be a comedian.

Chapter: 20.

We drove to Crissy Field in silence, parked and bought some ice cream at the small restaurant and souvenir shop in one of the converted military buildings. We walked across the restored marsh on the little wooden bridge. In front of us was the Golden Gate, the bridge soaring over the strait to our right. Massive tankers and container ships lumber through flotillas of pleasure craft while wind and kite surfers dart among them seeking the strongest breezes streaming between the headlands.

It was a sunny summer day, breezy and cool. I leaned over the fence looking at the restored marsh, my back to the Bay. Joe faced the other way watching the joggers and walkers pass by on the path in front of him.

Joe broke the silence. “So boss, what do we do next? Why are we here?”

I asked, “When you look at this wetland here, what do you see?”

He turned around, looked at the restored marsh for a moment then said, “OK,… I see some water, a lot of mud, a few ugly ass birds and a bunch of sick looking weeds. Do I pass?”

“It’s not a test. Wetlands like this are very fertile, a lot of things come here to eat, breed and grow, even humans used to hang around here, indians. I agree with you its pretty ugly for something that is a nursery of life; the water is pretty stagnant, barely covering the land underneath and it smells. There’s mud everywhere and the “weeds” as you call them crowd the shore pressing against one another, until like bankers they greedily seek more nourishment then the environment can supply and they die and eventually their husks will fill the marsh and it will disappear. The whole place reeks of death, and yet it is one of nature’s wellsprings of life. Nature made a mistake. No clear running water, crashing waves, or handsome trees. But here is where it, life, begins and flourishes hand in hand with death.”

“That’s sort of interesting boss. Weird too. What does this have to do about anything. You know private detecting or the case– er, the assignment.”

“This is a fake marsh. It was built by some rich people to memorialize what was here before. Sort of like a statue of a general on a horse representing some dead guy. In this case it looks like the real thing and acts a lot alike the real thing. But everything else that was there, that was a part of it is gone, even the indians. We have something else here, a new reality as well as a memorial”

“Are you stoned? it sounds like you’re stoned Boss. Did Martin freak you out? I remember at the temple monks talking like that, a lot of shit that makes no sense. Are you buddhist?”

I chuckled, pushed myself away from the fence and began to walk back to the car. Joe followed.

“Did you notice in the movies I told you to watch everything took place over a couple of days, yet the movie only took 90 minutes or so. What do you think they were doing during all the other time. Living that’s what, eating, sleeping, jerking off, shitting and going back to their offices earning a living. That’s what they were doing.”

“So, what, were going back to the office? You don’t have one.”

“You’re right, sort of. I do not have any other assignments as well as no office. On this assignment there is nothing to do until this evening. In the meantime we eat ice cream and stare at a bunch of mud. If I were buddhist I’d meditate to pass the time.”

“Does this mean you’ve figured it all out, solved it?”

“There is nothing very much to solve here. Nothing much has happened. Sometimes, most times, on most assignments nothing happens. People just imagine things.”

“Is that another rule Boss?”

I ignored him and continued on. We had passed around the edge of the restored marsh.

Joe said, “I don’t understand. You say nothing happened. The Reilly guy is dead that’s something and Martin’s furniture is missing that’s something too. And what about the two fat guys. That sounds like a lot of something.”

I responded, “As far as Reilly is concerned, he could have had an accident and fallen into the bay, or if he killed himself it could have been for a reason that had nothing to do with our investigation. And if he was in fact murdered, Reilly was an asshole, a lot of people could have off’d him and I’m sure many have reasons to do so. We have nothing that indicates the failed business deal we are investigating has anything to do with it, except they sort of happened near to one another in time; the failure of the deal and his death. Interesting, curious perhaps but indicative of nothing. We, you, me and the others happened on the scene. Our ego’s want to make it all related. That makes good mystery novels but bad investigations.”

“Does this mean you are going to have me watch another prehistoric black and white movie?”

“No, it means we are going to visit a real private detective one with an office, a badge and who even carries a gun.”

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

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 that evil man 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.

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

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

blog_epi_gini_1979_taxation_0

(I have no idea what this chart means except I am informed that it is something I should be upset about.)

B. André Malraux on the capture of the French Resistance leader Jean Moulin on June 21 1943:

21st June 1943: French resistance leader Jean Moulin captured: The Resistance was gaining in strength; fugitives from the forced labour draft would soon be taking to the maquis. The Gestapo was growing stronger too, and the Milice were everywhere. It was a time when, out in the countryside, we listened tensely to the barking of dogs in the depths of the night; a time when multi-coloured parachutes, laden with weapons and cigarettes, fell from the sky by the light of flares burning in forest clearings or on windswept plateaus; a time of cellars, and the desperate cries of the torture victims, their voices like those of children… The great battle in the darkness had begun.

On 27 May 1943, the first meeting of the National Council of the Resistance was held in Paris, in the rue du Four.

Jean Moulin restated the aims of Free France: “to prosecute the war; to restore freedom of expression to the French people; to re-establish republican freedoms in a state which incorporates social justice and which possesses a sense of greatness; to work with the Allies on establishing real international collaboration, both economic and social, in a world in which France has regained her prestige.”

Then he read out a message from General de Gaulle, assigning the first Council of the Resistance its primary goal: to maintain the unity of the Resistance it represented.

Each of its members went in daily peril of his life. On 9 June, General Delestraint, commander of the secret army, unified at last, was taken prisoner in Paris.

There was no obvious successor, as so often happens in the secret world. Before the arrival of Serreules, Jean Moulin said on many occasions, “Had I been captured, I would not even have had time to brief a deputy…”. He wanted the appointment of a successor to be made with the agreement of the Resistance movements, particularly those in the south. He was to meet their representatives on 21 June, in Caluire.

They were waiting for him.

So, too, was the Gestapo.

Treason played its part – as did destiny, which made the normally punctual Jean Moulin three quarters of an hour late, only to be matched by the tardiness of the German police. Soon enough, they learned that they had captured the head of the Resistance.

Little good it did them. In the Montluc fort in Lyons, on the day that the Gestapo agent handed him writing materials because torture had left him unable to speak, Jean Moulin sketched a caricature of his torturer. As for what followed, let us turn to the stark words of his sister: “His part was played, and his ordeal began. Jeered at, savagely beaten, his head bleeding, his internal organs ruptured, he attained the limits of human suffering without betraying a single secret, he who knew everything.”

Let us be quite clear that, for the days in which he was still able to speak or write, the fate of the whole Resistance hung on the courage of this one man. As Mademoiselle Moulin put it, he knew everything.


TODAY’S QUOTE:

“…it fit like a metaphor.”
BruenThe Dramatist

TODAY’S CHART:

800px-World_population_density_1994

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

254754_520979857922141_1053616045_n

Categories: Julu through September 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 20 Pookie 0001 (December 4, 2012

(Happy Birthday Jason [24 Pookie] and Annmarie [21 Pookie])

TODAY FROM THAILAND:

A. POOKIE’SPookieandHippy2 ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

My favorite Thai holiday is Loi Krathung. It falls on the night of the full moon of the 12th month of the year. On that night Thais launch, into the nearest suitable body of water, tiny boats adorned with candles, flowers incense and sometimes nail clippings an bits of hair for good luck. It is also the same day as the Lanna (the old Thai kingdom centered at Chiang Mai) Yi Peng festival when thousands of sky lanterns are launched into the air. LM and I went to the lake beside the Emporium shopping center on Sukhumvit Road to launch our boats and plead with the gods and goddesses for good luck. As with most holidays, it was much more pleasant in the anticipation than in the actual experience.

A few days later we went to the movies to see The Impossible, a film about an european family’s experiences while vacationing in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami. The scenes showing the fury of the water and the devastation caused by the inundation were riveting. Even more so were the images of its aftermath – the makeshift hospitals, the body bags, the injured, frightened, lost people and the frenzy of those searching for their missing loved ones. The movie brought back to me some long forgotten memories.

One evening, about four years after the tsunami, a friend and his wife invited me to join them at a reception in a home in Mill Valley, California. The homeowner’s family and another family, like the family in the movie, were vacationing in Thailand when the tsunami struck. The purpose of the reception was to raise funds for the ongoing tsunami relief efforts that the two families were heavily involved in.

The host’s family had been vacationing in Phi-Phi Island in the heart of the Andaman Sea. They had their two children with them, both girls; one about six or seven years old and the other perhaps eleven. They had just walked from their hotel to one of the two main beaches on the island about 200 yards apart on opposite sides of its wasp-waisted middle. They arrived at the beach just as the water suddenly rushed away exposing the sea floor almost to the horizon. Many people were standing around dumbfounded, staring at the curious phenomena. When the wife wondered aloud “What do you suppose that is all about,” an older Thai woman standing next to her responded, “I do not know, but if I were you I would take your child and run.” And so they did, as soon did almost everyone else when they noticed a ten meter high wall of water surging across the uncovered sea bed toward the shore. They all turned and ran toward the beach on the opposite side of the island where they thought they would be safe.

For some reason the oldest child yelled “no not there, up here,” pointing to the nearest of the two high hills sitting at each end of the tiny island. And so they ran up the mountain with the water literally lapping at their heels. Up they ran until, near the peak, they found a grove of trees in which they took refuge and there they remained along with a number of other survivors for the two or so days it took to be rescued.

Those that ran to the opposite beach all died as the second of the two tsunami waves struck that beach from the opposite direction.

The other family was not so lucky. They had been vacationing at Khao Lak (the site depicted in the movie, where over 4500 people died). In addition to the husband and wife, the family included a daughter, 14, and a son about 12 years old. They were all avid scuba divers and had spent much of their vacation happily diving off the dive boats that took them out to the reefs and the nearby islands where the water was clearer for diving than it was closer to the mainland. It was the final day of their vacation and the father wanted to spend one last morning diving before they left. The children did not. They preferred to spend their last day relaxing near the hotel. So early in the morning, the parents took the dive boat with a few other committed divers to a favored spot over a reef out of sight of land.

While diving, they felt a slight but powerful up thrust of the water. When they rose to the surface and looked about, they discovered that they were hundreds of yards from the boat. The other divers, who had been close by, now had been dispersed as much as a mile away from each other. After they were all picked up by the boat, they decided to head back to the mainland. As they came in sight of the land, they saw the ocean in front of them thickly covered with debris extending several miles out from shore.

As they slowed and got closer to the debris they noticed what appeared to be hundreds of dead dogs floating amongst the refuse. Closer still they realized that these “dead dogs” were in fact many types of dead animals including dogs and to their horror humans as well. A few were still alive and the boat trolled around a bit picking up those that they could locate.

When they arrived at the shore, they found much of the hotel destroyed and the casitas, in one of which the family had been staying, utterly demolished. The parents desperately spent the next few days searching for their children. The boy was eventually located alive, lying in a field about two miles inland from the hotel with a piece of fencing driven through one of his thighs.

The boy told his parents that he and his sister had been lying on separate beds in their room, he reading and she napping, when they heard a noise like hundreds of freight trains roaring together down the tracks. Water suddenly burst through the walls, picked him up and carried him out the open door at the back of the casita. For some reason, he was borne on the top of the leading edge of the wave as it roared inland through the village and then out into the countryside. He was unable to move until the flood spent its fury and gently deposited him in the field where he was discovered.

The daughter was not found. The father, in much the same way as the father in the film, spent the next month in a lonely search for his daughter through the hospitals and the refugee camps. And, one by one he went through the thousands of body bags opening each one to see if his daughter was inside. They never found her body.

The family that invited me to the reception also experienced the tsunami but in a slightly different way. They too were vacationing in Thailand at the time but decided to fly off to Sri Lanka to spend some time at a recently opened resort on that islands southeastern shore owned by an acquaintance. After they landed, they learned that the Tsunami had just hit. Not knowing the extent of the destruction, they decided to rent a car and drive to the hotel. As they drove along the coastal roads, they were perhaps the first outsiders to view the devastation (33,000 Sri Lankans died). When they realized the full extent of the damage the wife and children returned to the airport and left to go back to the US. He remained behind for several weeks helping to co-ordinate the relief efforts.

I had forgotten about all this until the image on the screen of the desperate father wandering through the ruins in search of his family jogged my memory.

B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

You get what you pay for:

A recent study, the results of which were published in the Bangkok Post, examined the incidence of HIV from those engaged in different high risk activities and compared to male on male sex, intravenous drug users, infidelity and the like and found that sex workers and those who engage them had by far the lowest rate.

Thus, you get what you pay for…or since this is Thailand, you get what you overpay for.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

A recent report indicated that President Obama has received 43,830 death threats during his first four years in office. If true, this would make him the most threatened president in the Nation’s history. Included in those threats was the plot by white supremacists in Tennessee to rob a gun store, shoot 88 black people, decapitate another 14 and then assassinate the first black president in American history. Some people say that these threats have nothing to do with race but merely reflect ravings of the deranged or an unfortunate over exuberant disagreement about policy. They accuse those that disagree with this assessment of “playing the race card.”

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

Old man’s memories: Donald Lundy (cont.)

I had gone off to college at Georgetown and Don went off to Idaho. About two years later during a school vacation, I got on to a bus somewhere in Westchester County and saw Don sitting in a seat about half way toward the back, staring out the window. I was happy to see him. I slid into the empty seat beside him and started jabbering away about how good it was to see him, how exciting it must be to go to school out west and things like that. After prattling on like that for a while I asked him, “What’s Idaho like?”

He turned to me. His eyes were cold and angry. I had never seen him like that before.

“You have no idea what it is like. You haven’t the slightest idea about anything,” he said. And with that he turned back toward the window and resumed staring out of it. We sat there in silence a few minutes until the bus arrived at my stop. I said, “Good to see you again Don.” He nodded slightly without turning from the window.

As I left the bus, I glanced back to where he was sitting, for a moment his eyes shifted in my direction. They seemed to me to lose their anger for a moment. He appeared to me at that moment just a young man suddenly realizing he was alone in a hostile world.

I later learned that he left Idaho for another University. I lost all connection with him from then until a few months ago when I received his son’s comment on my blog informing me that Dondi had died a few years back.

228717_1016937468285_5599_n

Don Lundy and his wife (Photograph taken from the Facebook page of Don’s son.)

DAILY FACTOID:

Since 1980, the insured losses due to natural weather related catastrophes in the US amounted to $510 billion, and some 30,000 people lost their lives. According to several insurance resellers, the size and frequency of these weather related catastrophes are increasing.
PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

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

“We used to have a framework for understanding the time dimension of inequality in the United States: we called it the “Kuznets Curve”. The United States starts out as a country that is relatively equal–at least among white guys who speak English. Free land, lack of serfdom, the possibility of moving the west if you don’t like the wages you’re being offered in the east–all of these produce a middle-class society. Then comes 1870 or so, and things shift. The frontier closes. Industrial technologies emerge and they are highly productive and also capital intensive. So we move into a world of plutocrats and merchant princes: people in the cities, either off the farms or from overseas, competing against each other for jobs. And we get the extraordinarily stark widening of American income inequality up until the mid-1920’s or so.

This then calls forth a political reaction. Call it progressivism, call it social democracy, call it–in Europe–socialism. The idea is that the government needs to put its thumbs on the scale, heavily, to create an equal income distribution and a middle class society. Progressivism and its candidates are elected to power in democratic countries in the North Atlantic in the twentieth century–in spite of everything you say about Gramsci and hegemony and the ability of money to speak loudly in politics. Thus from 1925 to 1980 we see substantial reductions in inequality in the United States–the creation of a middle-class society, at first only for white guys and then, gradually, for others.
In 1980 things shift again. Since 1980 we have had an extraordinary explosion of inequality in the United States. This explosion has taken place along two dimensions.

First, we have seen extraordinarily rapid growth between the top twenty percent and the lower eighty percent. The benefits to achieving a college education skyrocket–for reasons that I don’t really have time to go into, and for reasons that are still somewhat uncertain.

Second, we have an even larger explosion of inequality between the top .01 percent, the top 15,000 households, and the rest of the top twenty percent. This second explosion is the most puzzling and remarkable feature of the past generation. It puts the American political system under substantial long term threat, if only because equality of opportunity in the next generation will require substantially greater equality of result in this generation than we see today: a world in which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney puts his wealth into a blind trust but that blind trust then decides just as a matter of chance that what it should fund Tagg Romney and he then raises money from interests that want the Romney clan to think well of them. That is not a society fulfilling a democratic commitment to equality of opportunity, not at all.
Brad DeLong

B. Can you still trust these guys:

In 2001 the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation opined in support of the pending Bush Tax cuts:

•Under President Bush’s plan, an average family of four’s inflation-adjusted disposable income would increase by $4,544 in fiscal year (FY) 2011, and the national debt would effectively be paid off by FY 2010.

•The plan would save the entire Social Security surplus and increase personal savings while the federal government accumulated $1.8 trillion in uncommitted funds from FY 2008 to FY 2011.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

479772_10151150557171275_1084507000_n

TODAY’S CHART:

True_Size_Of_Africa

This map shows the actual size of Africa relative to many countries of the world. It corrects for that misperception caused by the Mercator Projection map you had in your grammar school classroom that showed the continent as smaller than Greenland. To me one of the more interesting thing about the map is that India with over 1.2 billion people fits comfortably within the Horn of Africa an area that currently supports a population of less than 10% of India’s.

 

Categories: October 2012 through December 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. ( 6 Mopey 0001) January 22 2012

TODAY FROM THAILAND:

A. Pookie’s Adventures in Thailand:

Last night unable to fall asleep, I looked around for things that would help me do so. I decided to calculate, with the help of the word counter program on one of my applications, the number of words I had written over the past two years. It turned out I had written about one million words.

Now what’s that all about? One Million words. That seems like a lot of words.

Why would anyone in their right mind write so much and not get paid for it? It’s like standing in a closed room and talking to yourself; that’s the definition of nuts.

One million words. That would be like writing 10 slim books or 5 longer boring ones.

And why was I awake at night adding up all this stuff about words I have written? Who cares?

That’s like figuring out how much I shit over the past two years. Since I shit about a little over pound a day, after two years I would have shit about 800 pounds. That is four times my weight.

So after two years, what I have to show for it all is one million words and 800 pounds of shit.

At least you can do something positive with the shit, spread in on some farm land and grow things. But, what does one do with used words.

What happens to all these words anyway? When you press the send button on your computer or whatever it is that you do, where do they go or where are they before or after someone reads them? Somebody once told me they are in a server someplace. Does that mean somewhere there is a server with a little electronic compartment called “Joey’s words?” Someone else said they just float around in the ether. Wouldn’t these trillions and trillions of words floating around overhead eventually become too heavy and come crashing down burying us all under tons of broken letters?

Frightening, no?

If I wrote all one million words on pieces of paper instead of into a computer, besides a bad case of writers cramp, I would have about 5000 pieces of note paper covered in scribbled words lying around my room.

That doesn’t seem so bad.

My little bookcase with my thirty or so books have more than that. My personal libraries over the years probably consisted of about 15,000 books containing over a billion words.

Why do we need so many words? Why would anyone read a billion words?

Think about it, every day probably 100 billion words are written and that’s just those written down. There must be a million times more words than that spoken. Why?

Maybe we are all made up of just words.

You know, if you ask a physicist what the universe is made of he will tell you “energy.” What the hell is that, “energy?” Well, the physicist probably will explain, it is like sunlight or electricity all waves or pulses. What the hell does that mean? Nothing.

Why not words? After all the Bible says in the beginning there was the Word. Maybe way back in the beginning all was silent. Maybe there was a prior universe and in that universe they said everything that could be said and so there was nothing more to talk or write about and everything became very quiet . The universe was sort of like a big deathly silent library.

Then, all of a sudden, someone said something like, “Oh shit, I dropped my fucking pencil,” and then everyone started talking a once.

“Boom” the “Big Bang,” words spreading out at the speed of light creating word galaxies, stars and solar systems.

And what about the “dark energy” the physicists tell us makes up most of our universe? Could it actually be “Dark Words?” Could they be those words floating around in people’s minds that no-one ever hears or sees?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

So what about my 1 million words? Don’t I have something better to do with my time?

The Little Masseuse spends much of her time knitting wool scarves. She does it while watching television, riding on a bus or at work. After all, there is not that much to do at a health club but hand out towels and give a massage now and then.

But wool scarves? This is Thailand for God’s sake. What would a Thai know about wool scarves? It never gets cold here. If they actually wore them, they would probably die of heat prostration. They probably saw them in some old western movie about rich people at some expensive resort in the Alps and thought they were fashion accessories beloved by westerners. It had to be old movies. Nowadays, when one goes skiing, one wears a sleek brightly colored outfit made of plastic that makes one look like an idiot robot or a cartoon character.

Anyway, sometimes she sells them to westerners at the health club.

What’s that all about?

Why would someone come all the way to Thailand and buy a woolen scarf instead of one of those fake traditional Thai handicrafts sold on the sidewalks along most of the streets in Bangkok? Or, one of those carved wooden penises that the Thai’s seem to like so much and carry around in their pockets or attached to a key chain or dangling from a string tied around their necks?

And, what is all that about penises being good luck? Come on guys when has your penis actually brought good luck; a little fun perhaps, but good luck, probably not. More than likely, the damn thing brings you a lot of bad luck if you ask me,

Anyway, there are wool scarves stuffed everywhere throughout my apartment. I bought a bunch of them from her just to bring them to the US to get rid of them.

No, I am not going to take up knitting instead of senselessly spewing out words to pass my time.

Perhaps I can go and play checkers in a bar somewhere every day.

Does anyone play checkers anymore? Probably not, they now most likely play video games on their iPhones complete with sound effects.

I could grow tomatoes. That’s what old Italian men do. My father did it and his father before him. They were not farmers, they grew the tomatoes in their back yards or along the side of the driveway.

My father loved his tomatoes, obsessed over them. At times I thought he loved his tomatoes more than his family. Between my father and my grandfather they must have grown a million tomatoes. That’s a lot of tomatoes.

It’s frightening really what people chose to do with their lives.

B. News, Straight or Slightly Bent:

Today I had my first piece published in anything other that my own blog or some other blog that accepts everything submitted. True, it was only in the letters to the editor section of one of the two national english language newspapers in Thailand, The Nation. Nevertheless, my letter completely filled all the space allocated for the section (in other words it was long, very long). I will send a copy in my next post along with what I am sure will be outrage at my comments since I claimed, in that pseudo intellectual language that I affect and like so much, that the Thai national flood control plan is crap and doomed to fail.

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

On the Edge: Stories about the Creation and Early Years of California’s Monumental Coastal Protection Program.

A. Chapter 1. In the Beginning: an oft told story (continued).

The next morning John took us on a tour of the “Ecological Staircase.” In some ways that hike changed my life as much as anything has. Never before had I experienced anyone that seemed to have such a passionate love of nature, or of anything really; musicians or those sexually bewitched maybe. Perhaps those who met John Muir or explored the marshes with Mrs. Terwilliger (“Spend the day at home and you’ll never remember it. Spend the day outdoors with me, and you’ll never forget it.”) may have been equally affected as I was during this walk. For me it seemed both revealing and somewhat disquieting.

I grew up on the East Coast in and around New York City. I could be included among those who that passionate cynic Don Neuwirth said get nose bleeds when the soles of their feet are not in contact with cement. To us the “Woods,” as we called it, was somewhat forbidding and dangerous, a place approached with care and where possible avoided.

As we walked along, John pointed things out like a tour guide in the Sistine Chapel. He would stop, dip his hands into the mulch of the forest floor breathing in its earthy smell then urging us to do so also. At times he tenderly touched this or that shy plant explaining its particular remarkable attributes. I soon realized I was experiencing someone who appeared to be speaking about his beloved.

To John nature was nothing less that a symphony of renewal. I on the other hand could not go quite that far, the smell of the earth although pleasant still possessed the faint odor of decay. Where he saw in a green shoot pushing up through the browned fallen leaves as the miracle of regeneration, I saw only the catabolism of the dead.

And yet, and yet, I could not resist his infective enthusiasm and hoped, no wanted it all to be true.

Or, I suddenly thought, was this in fact just another example of something I once read, of, “…our peculiar American phenomenon of seeking guidance or redemption within nature.” From what could John be seeking redemption? Not being “The Olmsted?” Something that happened during recess in grammar school? A secret life perhaps?

Among the stunted trees John explained how the nitrogen depleted soil encouraged the plants in the area to evolve to trap insects from which to obtain that chemical so necessary for life.

As we trudged along we passed through the towering redwood forests that grew where the hard-pan had been broken at what could be called the staircase’s risers, crushed by the incessant geological forces as they thrust one step above the other.

As we walked in the silent spaces between the giant trees, John referred to it, as many do, as a cathedral. Like a cathedral’s columns, the massive trunks climbed up to where far above sunlight filtered through the branches as it does through a cathedral’s stained glass clerestory windows. Far below, in shadow the ground revels in silence.

But, in reality, even I knew the trees grew that high in order to expropriate the sun’s energy at the expense of everything below, just like, I assume, the builders of the great cathedrals sought to expropriate the grace of God, leaving the few worshippers scurrying about in the gloom and quiet below. Whenever I visited one of those churches, enjoying the brief respite from the vicissitudes of existence offered by the silence, I, nevertheless, soon found myself longing for the excitement and distraction of life’s bazaar outside.

As we turned to go back to the cabin for lunch, I was a bit relieved; fatigued from scrambling across the wild terrain and somewhat overwhelmed by my sudden imersion into the intricate mysteries of nature. Mostly, I guess, because although we usually simply absorb our momentary experiences with Mother Nature in unthinking contemplation, wandering about with John, however, was more like a post-graduate course in ecological transcendentalism. It was made even more exhausting by exposure to a lovers passion that you, the observer, could not really share.

Still, unless one is simply hateful or irredeemably cynical one usually hopes the lover succeeds and perhaps thereby you gain some vicarious empathic connection to what you could never experience directly.

Watching them plod on ahead of me, Jeanne determined to wring all that could be wrung from her experience and John, in the lead, shinning like Gandalf the White, I felt a chill and I thought again about redemption.

We all seek redemption for something. For me, perhaps it was absolution for that morning long ago, hearing my wife screaming over and over again, “My baby, my baby is dead” while I tried to breathe life back into that tiny purple and red splotched body and failed, or later, feeling nothing but anger at the stares of the mourners and the somber burial on some forgotten hilltop?

Could an innocent excitement about the future and a lovers enchantment redeem anything?

I followed them back to the cabin.

B. Postscript: Monty.

Undaunted by this tragedy and the collapse of his hopes and dreams at that time Monty applied the personal skills that made him successful as a prize-fighter to go on to other careers including a stint as a radio sportscaster. Eventually like so many during that time, he found himself in California and like many of those who eschewed the burgeoning and disruptive hippy sub-culture went into Real Estate and development, primarily shopping centers. He became quite successful, married had two children and a large estate in Rancho Palos Verde overlooking the ocean. Then things began going bad.

Someone, suggested Monty consider buying some property in San Luis Obispo County; eighteen hundred acres right by the water. Monty went to see the property. It was an old cattle ranch astride Pacific Coast Highway. It had been heavily overgrazed and denuded of most flora and fauna except for the stunted grass. Yet, the gently rolling golden landscape was attractive in a desolate sort of way as it rose up into some low hills that on one side flowed seamlessly back toward the grazing lands and on the other fell precipitously onto the rocks and breakers of the Pacific Ocean. Standing there on the top of one of the hills, Monty fell in love in a way he had not experienced for many years. To some, falling in love means redemption or peace, to others it is the gateway to destruction. Alas, for Monty although he had hoped it was the former, it unfortunately turned out to be the latter.

PAPA JOES TALES AND FABLES:

See: http://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/

THE NAKED MOLE RAT CHRONICLES:

1. Chronicles: Unfortunately, I believe we have had enough dark tales for one post, so I guess we will have to wait a few more days to hear Old George’s Tales of the Dark Times.

2. H. Glaber fellow travelers:

The “Urban Dictionary” which defined the phrase Naked Mole Rat as someone looking particularly unattractive, usually early in the morning or late at night. Characteristics include squinty eyes, hair pressed flat against head, puffy features. Usually the result of poor or no sleep and/or way too late/early to be up and moving around.

“She washed her face and brushed her hair, but a naked mole rat still stared back at her in the mirror.”

“After playing video games all night he was more naked mole rat than human.”

“That’s not a baby! That’s a naked mole rat!”

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

RED STAR: Chapter, Don’t Piss Off Meg (continued):

Meg climbed the cliff face toward the road above while the wreck below still blazed. For a moment she wondered if killing a potential witness would make finding Stephanie’s killer more difficult. She dismissed that figuring he would have been dead anyway before he could be questioned and the automobile probably was a rental so it most likely had nothing helpful in it. Whatever there is to be gotten, she was confident the technical people will be able to extract it even from the burned scraps. Besides she thought, whoever killed Steph and tried to kill her made a big mistake, they got her pissed her off.

As she passed the emergency rescue team on the way down, she told them she was unable to get the driver out of the vehicle before it exploded and thought he was probably dead. She said she would send a technical investigation team down to sift through the wreckage.

Arriving at the top, she saw that no one from the Sheriff’s office had arrived yet. She recognized, Mike Williams of the Pacifica PD who seemed to be in charge. She told him the same story she told the emergency rescue team and added that she believed that the automobile and driver may have been connected to a previous incident being investigated by the sheriff’s office that would send a technical investigation team to assist the Pacifica group. She promised to call Mike tomorrow and coordinate the investigation. As they walked back to her cruiser, Mike joked about the crushed bumper when he saw it.

“Yeah,” she said laconically, “got to get that fixed.” She then got into the car radioed her office to bring them up to date and get things rolling. Picking up her cell phone she called Ray.

She told him everything that happened including with the lighter. He remained silent.

She then said, “Ray, I want to talk to everyone on your list starting with that fucking minister in Blackhawk. About 10 AM OK with you? Can you get it started?”

Ray agreed but insisted he come along on the interviews. She assented. Then following some discussion about coordination she put down the phone, started the car and drove to her home in Half Moon Bay.

She did not go directly into her house but walked the block or so to the beach, sat on a driftwood log watching the foam of waves shimmer in the moonlight and allowing the roar of the breakers drown out all thought. After a while she got up, took a deep breath, returned to her home, went in and slept deeply and unperturbed.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

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

TODAY’S FACTOIDS:

1. 2012: Giant Rats Trained to Unearth Dangerous Landmines.

Buddhist monk and Ashoka Fellow Bart Weetjens has trained sub-Saharan African giant pouched rats to detect land mines. Last year alone, in Gaza Mozambique 36 HeroRATs and 14 locally trained handlers cleared nearly 800,000 square meters of land, safely destroying 861 land-mines, 373 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO), 6,216 small arms and ammunitions (SAA), and one cluster bomb RBK-250-275. By the end of this year, APOPO hopes to clear an additional two million square meters of land.

In 2010, the Thailand Mine Action Centre (TMAC) asked APOPO to conduct land release surveys along its Cambodian border, in partnership with the Thai NGO Peace Road Organization (PRO). Ten weeks of sweeps uncovered 165 anti-personnel mines and 17 anti-tank mines. APOPO will maintain a presence in Thailand to assist the country’s compliance with the 2018 AP Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) deadline.

2. The good old days:

Does anyone long for the “good old days” when Lysol was marketed as a feminine hygiene product with ads like these:

3. Olive oil:

70% of “extra virgin olive oil” is probably a fraud.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/fake-olive-oil-2012-1#70-of-extra-virgin-olive-oil-is-probably-a-fraud-17#ixzz1k3KyOYG2

“POOKIE FOR PRESIDENT”

Please see the blog: http://papajoestales.wordpress.com/

What passes for political discourse in today’s United States of America:

In a letter to his colleagues, Kansas Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal ® regarding President Barak Obama called for his death writing:

“At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!

Let his days be few; and let another take his office

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.

May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.”

As far as I know, not a single Republican or conservative political leader or commentator objected to this. Had a politician of this rank called for the death of a Republican president, Faux news and the entire right-wing amen choir would have accused him of treason and screamed for his removal from office.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“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. Are we sure that most of the growth in finance stems from a rising share of financial professionals who undertake the former rather than the latter?”
Brad De Long

TODAY’S CHART:

TODAY’S CARTOON”

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

The mouse-sized naked mole rat is the longest-lived rodent known, surviving up to 31 years in captivity. Scientists are studying its longevity, including its ability to maintain good health and reproductive potential well into its third decade. (Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies/The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio)

Categories: January 2012 through March 2012, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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