“There’s nothing more dangerous than to give an American hope.”
Caldwell, Ian. The Fifth Gospel: A Novel (p. 103). Simon & Schuster.
In Memory of the Armenian Genocide — 1915:
Armenian Women Crucified During the Genocide*
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S SLIGHTLY MEMORABLE OVERNIGHT ADVENTURE:
On Wednesday, I left the golden hills for the Bay Area to meet with the trustee of some coastal property in order to advise him about options available to the trust. We met for lunch in a building that survived the ’06 earthquake. The building was the home of a men’s club established in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.
Club membership includes the captains of industry and commerce in the area. About 50 years ago many doctors and dentists were also allowed to join, as well as some Italian-Americans. I recall that when I was growing up the emphasis was exclusively on the word before the hyphen. Then, through the efforts of some of the least ethical and most dourly aggressive and greedy members of our community, some of us gained enough wealth that American began to gain prominence in our minds and in the minds of many of those exclusively pale hyphenated Americans whose ancestry did not include the word Native.
I remember when the darkness was bleached from my soul and I simply could call myself an American and look down in sadness at the dark souls of members of other hyphenated communities who had not yet received the miracle of the Blessed Bleach. I remember fondly that day when I noticed that my skin had gotten two shades lighter than it was the day before
In all likelihood, there are only one or two members of the club that are Democrats. On the other hand, most of the staff are.
I learned that many of the members also belong to an organization called the Greco-Roman Dentists’ Fishing Society (truly, it was organized by the Greek and Italian dentist in the club). They gather once a year somewhere in the northeastern part of the state for a weekend of fishing and other things.
Since I was to sleep that night in one of the club’s guest rooms, I ate dinner there and met a few of members. One guy was referred to at the “Corn King,” another owned a string of radio stations. He was forced to sell because Rush Limbaugh was not pulling in the listeners like he used to. I had a pleasant conversation with a man whose parents came from Genoa. Like many of the club members, he had a few vacation homes. One was on the beach in the Italian Riviera.
I met the manager of the club. He used to manage the well-known men’s club in Sacramento. When I worked in that city, I received some minor notoriety by refusing to attend meetings and conferences there because of their policy on women members. Of course, I would periodically slip in there for lunch. My moral standards permit minor acts of hypocrisy and one or two large ones now and then.
All the governors that I was familiar with had been members and used the clubs facilities extensively — except Jerry Brown who refused to step foot into the place. Apparently, Governor Arnold used to impress the club members by carrying a large marble chess table from room to room. The members were not so thrilled when the same immigrant governor placed armed guards at the elevator and prevented the members from using the floors where he lounged about — relaxing, I assume, between feats of strength. The members told the muscled one that, if he ever did that again, he would be publicly thrown out of the club.
That night after dinner we played poker. I also thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the recent diagnosis clearing me of lung cancer by smoking a cigar. At the table with me were the Corn King, the Media Lord, a dentist, a retired gynecologist and a few others whose professions I did not know.
Now, as a rule, I do not like gambling and avoid it whenever possible. It was one of my father’s most appalling vices. However, when I do play poker, I have a few rules:
1. It is always preferable for the other players to believe you do not know what you are doing.
2. Fold early and fold often. Unless by the first bet you know you have the best hand on the table, fold. Hoping to improve your hand is as worthless as drawing to an inside straight.
3. Never raise someone else’s bet.
4. If the game chosen by the dealer allows wild cards, quietly fold before the first bet.
5. Never forget that it is not how much you win that counts but how little you lose.
The retired gynecologist was the big winner followed by the Corn King. I was the only other winner.
That night I spent in the club’s guest room. For some reason, I was unable to sleep well and woke up muzzy. After breakfast, I headed back to the golden hills. Because I was so out of it, I kept taking the wrong turns and ended up in Stockton by way of the Delta. Normally I would enjoy a ride through the Delta, but not today. I was lost. This being California I knew that as long as you do not drive around in circles you will eventually cross a freeway. And so I did, except the on-ramp was closed for construction. So I continued east and eventually found another freeway and wound my way home, where I immediately went to bed and slept the rest of the day.
The weather is warm enough now in EDH to begin wearing the $2 shirts of many colors that I bought at the flea market. It makes me happy. I enjoy looking in the mirror at myself dressed in my new shirts.
Another weekend slid by — breakfast in Roseville, a trip to Denio’s, a flag football game, one or two books, a lot of naps and, of course, a lot of time to feel sorry for myself — then it was Monday. Two days gone from the 3000 or so the actuaries say that an average man of my age has left to live.
The pool at the health-club was closed this weekend for annual maintenance. Perhaps that explains the depression gnawing at the edges of my consciousness.
During the past few days the weather has cooled and I have come down with a cold so I spend most of my day in bed. This more likely explains the malaise I mistook for depression.
The photograph at the top of this page shames me. Given the nature and extent of the suffering going on in the world, here I sit (SOS) complaining about feeling bad because I have a runny nose or the pool is closed.
The weather continues cool and the skies overcast. While I wait for my cold to pass, I spend most of my days puttering around the house. I have even taken to watching television to pass the time. I watched Rambo III. In it the honest and brave Americans befriend the engaging, non-Muslim, soon to be Taliban, noble natives in Afghanistan and slaughter the gross and evil Russians who for no apparent reason have been torturing and killing the peace loving Afghanis especially their non-combatant women and children. A few years later in the movie of life, it is the Americans who get to portray the Russians in the sequel and slaughter their erstwhile allies, the murderous, suddenly Muslim Taliban. The question, I asked myself was who got to play John Rambo?
Speaking of glorious wars and martial memories, EDH is planning to build a large memorial park to celebrate, not those who have given their lives but the military as a whole. In it will be large memorials to, the Viet Nam War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Cold War, the War on Terror (but not the War on Drugs or Christmas) with seemingly smaller memorials commemorating WWI and WWII. No mention or memory is made of The Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, or the Civil War or the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War or any other American imperialist military victories. I guess the good citizens of EDH are secret Anti-America radicals ironically seeking to celebrate wars we lost rather than those we won. I assume, however, if I complain vigorously enough I could get them to include memorials to the wars against Grenada or Panama.
As long as I’ve begun to rant I may as well get this off my chest. No matter what you may think of Hillary Clinton — the Devil’s Handmaid or the patron Saint of Feminism (there does not seem to be a middle ground) — don’t you think it odd that the speculation, even if true, that she somehow gave special consideration to the rich in order to take their money to give to the poor is somehow worse than the fact that almost every political critic of her alleged actions including those currently running for the presidency has also taken money from the rich, bragged about it, given them special consideration, but kept the money for themselves.
Also as to the Russian uranium deal in specific, besides it having to have been approved by many independent governmental entities other than the State Department, isn’t it odd that those in Congress complaining about this sale of American uranium assets to Russia never publicly objected to it at the time, even though they presumably knew or should have known all about it.
A few months ago I wrote a series of posts here in T&T in which I pointed out that the current turmoil in the Near-East is, in many ways, a replication of events 1400 years ago when, following the drying up of the grasslands, some Arab pastoralists adopted an ideology (Islam) encouraging them to invade lands of the more productive societies nearby, take over their wealth and overthrow the ideologies and governments that controlled those lands.
According to Scientific American’s article regarding the Defense Department’s 2014 review of the effect of climate change on the area:
“Drying and drought in Syria from 2006 to 2011–the worst on record there–destroyed agricCulture, causing many farm families to migrate to cities. The influx added to social stresses already created by refugees pouring in from the war in Iraq, explains Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who co-authored the study. The drought also pushed up food prices, aggravating poverty. “We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” Seager said. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”
Arable land in the area has been drastically reduced over the past 20 years and expected to continue to decrease. Population, on the other hand, has exploded and estimated to double over the next two decades.
It appears more and more apparent that the immediate goals of the modern Arab insurgents (ISIS, Al Qaeda and so on) is, as it was in the Seventh Century, to capture the wealth of the richer societies that control the littoral areas of the Near-East (Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Israel, Yemen and the like) and replace the ideologies of those countries with their own.
It is no Arab Spring but it well may be the beginning of an Arab Winter.
Yemen, a country much in the news recently, is a key in the insurgents strategy. It has the second largest population on the Arabian Peninsula, dominates the southern entrance to the Red Sea and if controlled by the insurgents, forces the oil sheikdoms to face threats on two fronts.
The insurgents in Yemen have toppled the government and appear to be on their way to subduing the entire country. The Saudis responded with air strikes but shied away from commitment of troops. Without troops on the ground, they may impede but not halt the insurgency. Unfortunately, heavily militarized societies that spend a lot on military hardware have only too often proven incapable of successfully engaging in armed combat with a highly motivated adversary. American or other Western nations’ involvement with “boots on the ground” may defeat the insurgents but not the insurgency. I suspect some of the oil sheikdoms now are considering payment of “protection” in the form economic support for ISIS activities in Syria/Iraq in return for temporary relief from attack. This is the same strategy used 1400 years ago. It did not work then and it will not work now. Eventual adoption of the ideology, however, did preserve their wealth and power.
Of the three major non-Arab or non-Sunni regimes on the periphery, Turkey, Iran and Israel, none of them sees ISIS as a significant threat to its physical integrity. All of them see political and economic gains in the prolongation of the conflict and all three would be pleased if the oil sheikdoms find themselves preoccupied and under stress.
(It should be pointed out, the particular form of Islamic terrorism and ideology practiced by ISIS and others appears to be lacking [or at least, weak] in most non-Arab Muslim countries except perhaps Iran.)
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
A few years ago I traveled to New York City for some reason. I arrived in NY on the A train. After a few days, I left it by taking the A train again to Far Rockaway. “Far Rockaway.” It sounds exotic. One could almost imagine emerging from the subway onto a sandy beach by clear blue waters — perhaps there is a boatload of buccaneers waiting offshore to attack. One does not usually associate NY with broad sandy beaches. Actually, it is one of those few major cities with large beaches within its city limits, like Rio. True Rockaway Beach, Jones Beach and Coney Island do not quite conger up the same images in one’s mind as Copacabana or Ipanema, (or even Venice Beach in LA) but they do have their own quirky and gritty charm. In the summer, those beaches were packed with beach-goers and sunbathers like subway cars during rush hour.
When the train emerged from the tunnel and into the sunlight over a section of outer Brooklyn or Queens (I never could remember which it was out here near JFK) we rode above the rows of brick attached homes and trees, lots of them, and passed Aqueduct Raceway. I left the A train at Howard Beach and boarded the AirTrain, taking it the last mile or so to the terminal at JFK.
Boarding the car with me were two New Yorkers dressed in SF Forty-niners shirts on their way to SF to see the Niners play the Giants. One of them was a large pear-shaped man with a pencil thin mustache and wearing a Joe Montana shirt. He announced to everyone in a very loud voice that he was a Niner and Montana fan for all his life no matter what his friends and coworkers thought about it. In an accent that could only be from Brooklyn, he told several of the other passengers that he was a scraper, someone who scraps the paint off bridges in preparation for repainting and that this was only the second air flight he had ever taken.
So while listening to the two of them express their excitement and their plans about what they wanted to see when they get to SF (Fisherman’s Wharf and the Crookedest Street), I pleasantly passed the time until we arrived at the terminal where I boarded the plane and left NYC behind.
The Niners lost that game.
A. Quigley on Top:
“Reich, a 42-year-old professor of law at Yale, is concerned with the mutual interpenetration of public and private power which constitutes the American way of life today and determines, within constantly narrowing limits, how resources are used, how we live, and what we hear, eat, wear, believe, or do. This nexus of anonymous and irresponsible power, which Galbraith called “the New Industrial State” is called by Reich “the Corporate State,” both unfortunate terms because the chief feature of this monstrous system, emphasized by both writers, is not public authority but a fusion of public and private power in which the private portion is by far the more significant part. The combination brainwashes all of us, influencing our outlook on the world by mobilizing social pressures and organizational structures to coerce our behavior and responses in directions which are increasingly destructive.”
Carroll Quigley. Review of Greening of America by Charles A. Reich.
B. Xander’s Perceptions:
“Whenever my kids made disparaging remarks about labor unions, I politely informed them that hundreds and hundreds of people DIED for the rights they take for granted today — child labor laws, minimum wage laws, mine safety regs [which are roundly ignored even today, since the fines are a pittance], job safety regs and laws, and on and on.
Millennials ought to study the goddamned history of this country and see just what “rights” they enjoy today came at a horrific price over many many years of suffering. The early 1900s were an especially violent time, when union organizers and strikers were clubbed by thugs hired by corporate owners, whether it was UMW miners, or Teamsters being beaten and killed, or UFWA grape pickers working for slave wages in horrendous living and working conditions, the short-handled hoe and pesticides just being two of the many horrors.
When the brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence pledged, “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” they were committing treason for which they could have been hanged.
Could you imagine wealthy white men in America today, pledging THEIR fortunes for the benefit of common people and for doing the right thing?”
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“In America today. you can make more money inventing a new conspiracy theory than you can by curing cancer.”
D. Today’s Paraprosdokian:
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
(Paraprosdokians are found in the darkest places of the mind right next to the root cellar where puns are kept.)
E. Today’s Poem:
From childhood’s hour
I have not been
As others were;
I have not seen
As others saw;
I could not bring
My passions from
A common spring.
From the same source
I have not taken
I could not awaken
My heart to joy
At the same tone;
And all I loved,
I loved alone.
—EDGAR ALLAN POE, “ALONE.” (excerpt)
“A little mixing of genes never hurt the species.”
In the late 1950s when I was President of the Catholic Interracial Council, all sides rushed to assure that equality did not include sexual relations or marriage between the races. At a conference of the major civil rights organizations at the time sponsored by CIC, I gave the welcoming address in which I said:
“We can never achieve true equality, if one of the central features of what it means to be human, the love between two people, forever remains segregated. Racial harmony would reign in America if everyone had a spouse of a different color and a Jewish mother.”
As usual, with graphs of this type, it confuses more than it explains. It would be more informative if it also included student performance by country. According to the OCED, the top performing students come from Korea, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand and Austria. Among the poorer performing students are those from USA, Mexico, Greece, and Spain. Those countries not listed above include Canada, China and Poland among the best and among the worst Brazil and Russia.
Based upon the above, neither teacher hours worked nor relative pay appear to be very determinative of student performance.
Painting by the Blind Artist John Bramblitt.
*Note: Regarding the photographs of the crucified Armenian women that begins this post, it is important to mention that a few compassionate Turkish Muslims managed to save some of those women by taking down from their crosses those women that had not dies before their crucifiers had left.
It should also be noted that Hitler acknowledged his debt to the Turkish approach to ridding themselves of their hated Armenian and Greek compatriots for many of the ideas he used to rid himself of the Jews, Gypsies, non-Nazi homosexuals and Slavs living on land slated for German Lebensraum (In the US it was called Manifest Destiny**).
By the way,it seems to me, for some Turks to justify the Genocide as they do by claiming it to have been caused by some Arminians who vigorously opposed governmental policy and sought international assistance would be like Americans justifying lynching all African-Americans because the protests in Ferguson against police brutality caused foreign press to express sympathy with their plight.
** In Manifest Destiny, because the US was somewhat more democratic, we allowed citizens to kill or enslave the non-white, non-protestant inhabitants living in the lands conquered, with the government stepping in only when the native reaction was too strong or effective for the good white citizens to handle.