“The index of punditry in a society is inversely proportional to its intellectual solvency”
Ruiz Zafon, Carlos. The Labyrinth of the Spirits (Cemetery of Forgotten Books) (p. 426). Harper.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
These are gloomy days. Moody skies cover the Enchanted Forest as the winter storms pass over the Great Valley. Threatening they may look, but they leave behind only a ceaseless cold drizzle and little silver droplets on the branches of the trees — the only bright spot in the muted and silent landscape. I assume the storms reserve their wrath for the mountains depositing layers of new snow to the delight of skiers and those who fret about reservoir levels.
My mood is bleak also. There are three daggers aimed at me now. My cancer of course, but also an enhanced threat of infection and a shut down of my ability to pee threatening irreparable damage to my kidneys.
Naida had a bad cold. We walk around the house with masks on, wash our hands constantly and I try to avoid touching places she has touched as though…well, as though a dread disease lurks there — which of course it does. As Rosanna Rosannadanna says, “It’s always something.” And, at my age, that is probably truer than ever.
My daughter Jessica is in San Francisco, thanks in part to the government shutdown and to attend a funeral she is hesitant to talk about. I am very excited to see her. It has been a long time, perhaps two years, maybe more.
(Note: As I type this, I am also watching a movie about Giant carnivorous rabbits attacking a town in the western US. This has got to be the nadir of my existence.)
During the past few days, a lot of the usual annoyances of life sped by — towing my car and the rush to get it out of the pound, confusing discussions with pharmacists and medical professionals, and so on. Naida remains sick, Trump remains not my president, life continues as it usually does until it doesn’t, and I find myself unusually bored. But, tomorrow is another day (Scarlett O’Hara).
On Sunday, my daughter Jessica arrived. She drove up from San Francisco to see me. Seeing her after almost three years made me very happy. It has been too long. She looks well. She’s recovering from a series of concussions she experienced playing soccer over the years. The concussion injury to her brain caused several perception and other problems. We talked about our various maladies and other things. He Who is Not My President’s governmental shutdown has had one good result, my daughter, furloughed by the shutdown, was able to return to California and visit with me.
It is now Tuesday night. What I wanted to write here since that time has passed on from when I thought it important or at least depressed enough to think so. It appears another of my medicines had caused an allergic reaction that resulted in me wanting to simply give up. It has passed.
I don’t often give up. Not giving up has always been important to me. In the almost incessant fights I found myself in during my youth, I would not give up no matter how badly I was beaten. And, I was beaten most of the time.
During my years as a trial lawyer, I asked only to be assigned cases no one in the office would touch because they believed those cases were losers. I still managed to amass the third longest string of consecutive victories at the beginning of a career in the history of New York (while also losing my marriage because of my obsession).
I refused to be daunted by opposition from the medical profession and my own colleagues in setting up NY’s Mental Health Information Service that reformed NY’s mental health hospital system from the horror it inflicted on my mom and innumerable others. It became the model for the nation. That agency still exists today.
There was no option for me other than the approval of California’s Coastal Program as it was expected to be, and the successful establishment and financing of the innovative California Coastal Conservancy no matter the cost to me (another marriage) and to those that worked for me. That occupied 13 years of my life.
The same can be said for the law firm on whose management committee I served and obsessively fought against often unanimous opposition to alter the economic and social mores of the firm for the benefit of the workers, women attorney’s and the firm as a whole by, among other things, demonstrating that the health and profitability of the firm did not depend solely upon the efforts of those with the largest books of business who inevitably end up plundering the firm for their own benefit. The health of a firm depended as much upon the lowliest of paralegals and junior partners and that balanced practice groups are necessary in order to weather the effects of the various business cycles and that those groups adversely affected by a business cycle should not be punished by those groups benefiting from the cycle (e.g., bankruptcy and real estate often operate on opposing cycles).
As a member and later Chairman of California’s High Speed Rail Commission during a period when it appeared to be foundering, I put it back on track so to speak, by pushing through its EIR, changing its tendency for locating its stations at the edges of the cities to bringing them downtown where they would revitalize the communities, developing the concept of the HS network as a backbone transportation system for California whereby multiple regional transportation systems could connect to the downtown stations and service the entire region; and finally fighting against the rapacious efforts of the four of five large engineering firms who sought to control the process for their own benefit and who, I believe, can be blamed for much of the criticism HSR has been subject to since I was removed by Governor Schwarzenegger over the issue.
On the other hand, when I lost (most often a marriage), I usually ran away and started again and again somewhere else. From New York to Pennsylvania, to Rome Italy, to back to the US, to San Francisco, to Thailand, to The Golden Hills and now to the Enchanted Forest. In each place, often penniless, I licked my wounds, struggled with despair, indulged in excess and dreamed of renewal, a new life somehow somewhere, and ultimately I moved on. There was, however, even during these times always something I could not give up on, first Jason, then Jessica and now HRM. I may not always have been successful in their view, but I tried and they kept me more alive and happy than I am sure they believe I have benefitted them. But no more now, they are grown (perhaps not HRM) and despair now is reserved for those times when the pains and discomfort of my various maladies become too much and instead of not giving up, I sometimes long for the peace of oblivion.
Talk about depressing things, the HAC just towed our automobile again. I left them a nasty message and threatened to sue them.
B. UPDATE ON THE MYSTERIOUS ORB.
For those interested in the odd adventures of the Mysterious Orb, it has moved slightly from when it emerged from the bush behind which it had been hiding to show Nikki the way to our house. It has now rolled on a short way and appears to be intending to hide behind another bush to await for whatever the orb waits for next.
￼The Mysterious Orb —Photograph Taken From Our Garage.
It moved from its hiding place behind the smaller bush on the right where it had hidden for a few weeks to the center of the space where Nikki saw it. The Orb has since then moved on toward the bush on the left. Whether it will choose to hide behind that bush or proceed on up the alleyway, I can only guess. I await the next episode in the adventures of the Odd and Mysterious Orb.
Today about four days after the above was written, the Orb made its decision and is now well hidden behind the bush on the left.
A few days later, during an early morning walk, I passed by the alley where the Odd Orb was hiding. I noticed one of the Turkey Gangs pecking around that part of the alley near where the Orb was hiding. It got me thinking. Do you suppose it is the Turkey Gangs that are moving the Orb around? The birds are big enough to do so. If so, why? Another mystery.
C. OFF TO THE BIG ENDIVE ON THE BAY.
First, we bailed the car out of impoundment. I grumbled and plotted revenge on those I believed targeted me specifically. On the drive home in response to my complaints, Naida said, “I guess we know now that there is a wicked witch in the Enchanted Forest.”
Then we spent some time on our computers doing last minute things. Finally, we and the dog set off to the Big Endive on the Bay. We arrived at Peter’s house in late afternoon. My daughter arrived soon after. We had a pleasant evening reminiscing. Jessica planned to leave on Friday to go back to Washington DC. I will be sad to see her go I do not know when I will see her again.
The next day I met with my doctor and received the first glimmer of good news in at least the past three months. He said that cancer had shrunk enough to bring the possibility of an operation to remove it before the board of surgeons. They then efficiently scheduled all tests and my infusion to occur the remainder of the day.
That night we had dinner at a local Italian Restaurant that I used to enjoy when I lived in that neighborhood years ago. It used to cost about $10 for the same meal I enjoyed that night. Now, that same meal cost me $70. Nothing had changed but the wealth of those that now live in the neighborhood.
Later, Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda arrived at Peter’s house for a visit.
D. BACK TO THE ENCHANTED FOREST.
We returned to the Enchanted Forest on Friday. On Saturday I drove into the Golden Hills to drive the Scooter Gang around. While we were driving HRM turned to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Pookie, I have a girlfriend.” How does one respond to that? I settled on, “Good for you” and high-fived him. Now I worry.
Among the books I have read so far this month was James Lee Burke’s most recent Robicheaux and Purcell saga. The boys are getting old — and they know it. They still, however, act like adolescents while Burke places in their minds the sorrows and sadness of aging heroes approaching their end. Although, the novel takes place by Bayou Teche in Louisiana and Monument Valley Arizona, the epilogue has Dave, Clete and Dave’s adopted daughter Alifair recovering from their efforts and injuries in a motel in Bodega Bay California and traveling up and down Highway One for entertainment.
Alas, I just got word that Lucia’s bar in Sacile, a place I always considered the happiest place on earth, is no more. It has succumbed to the downsizing of the nearby American military base and the Italian economy’s multi-year depression. Lucia is now working as a barista in one of the other cafes in the town. This is all so sad.
I am losing my hair as a result of the chemo. Great gobs of hair flitter down from my head often falling into my food as I eat, making it even more unappetizing than usual. It all amuses me. If it continues I will become the first person in my direct ancestry to go bald in at least five generations. My head looks like it is covered with down.
Let’s face it, the United States and the West, in general, lost the Fourth World War or what can be called the First Cyber War.
The Third World War between the Russian-Soviet Empire and the American Empire ended in 1989 with a victory by the American Empire and the destruction of the Soviet Empire. The war was conducted through proxy wars (Korea and Viet Nam for America and Afghanistan for the Soviet Union) and competition between the empires to amass more and more expensive and technically advanced armaments that would be rarely ever used except for a small percentage in the proxy wars. In effect, the war was an economic competition to see who could produce the most weapons of war without suffering an economic collapse.
Instead of attempting to engage the American Empire in another war of military hardware show and tell, Vladimir Putin the Russian President and chief Oligarch decided to do what he knows best to undermine the American power and resorted to cyber warfare in an effort to split the western hegemony apart.
After forays into destabilizing the European democracies by overt and subversive support for the nationalistic opposition to the more internationalist leaning parties currently leading them, he then found his metier by affecting the successful Brexit vote to split England from the European Union.
He found gold however in launching a cyber attack of the US 2016 Presidential election campaign in support of either a willing idiot or a suborned asset. His candidate won and proceeded to alter 100 years of American policy in favor of the international goals of the Russian Oligarchs.
Since then, America’s role on the international stage has shrunk considerably as we have abandoned our traditional allies and Fascist regimes steadily gobble up the world’s democracies.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
June 2011, My First Visit to Sacile and Tamai in the Veneto Region of Italy.
About four hours later we arrived at Nikki’s condominium in Busto a small working-class town located just outside of Milan adjacent to Malpensa Airport. We unpacked, cooked dinner and went to sleep. The following morning I was awakened by a lot of shouting and banging of things being moved about. I left my room to find SWAC in the midst of packing and shouting. It seems that her period commenced (Her statement not mine) the previous night and that according to her, it was an absolute necessity we immediately depart the messy and cramped condominium for the supposedly spacious and elegant farm of her friends located almost completely across the top of the country from Milan, somewhere near Venice.
She insisted that I accompany them, stay the night and return to Milan the next morning, leaving Hayden and her to spend two or three weeks there. I demurred, explaining that I had had enough traveling for a while. Following somewhat emotional discussions and a series of telephone calls to the so-called friends, it was agreed that I would accompany them to the Veneto and remain with Hayden lodged at the farm while she returned to Milan with Nikki and departed for Thailand to return in about two weeks.
So, four or so hours later we drove into Sacile (pronounced Sah Chili) a town about 40 kilometers north of Venice. It is also known as “Il Giardino del Serenissima,” or something like that. It translates as “The Garden of the Most Serene Republic of Venice.”
Before reaching the center of town we stopped on a side street at a coffee shop/bar operated by a friend of SWAC and Nikki, a tall slender middle-aged woman named Lucia. Outside the bar were a few tables, one of which was occupied by several locals playing the traditional Italian card games of Scopa and Bresaola. They and the other patrons were generally drinking Prosecco, not the sweet bubbly crap one gets in the US but the refreshing local, hot weather afternoon, kick back and enjoy life drink. It was very good. We had two glasses and spent about an hour in pleasant conversation with Lucia, her strange boyfriend and some of the customers.
We then walked to the main plaza of the town that has a river running through it. Apparently, during the heyday of La Serenissima, barges from Venice would travel up the river to the small falls that made further travel difficult. The barges, carrying, I guess, things like Murano glass souvenirs, porcelain Carnivale mask and things like that would be offloaded and replaced by agricultural goods from the area and other things like cuckoo clocks carried over the alpine passes from Switzerland and Austria. The town sprung up to service this barge traffic, I assume to provide food, drink, and entertainment to the lonely bargemen as they awaited their consignments.
The town is a picture postcard of what someone would imagine a Venetian town should look like. At first blush, it appears that the ancient town has reemerged from history. A closer look reveals something a bit more like one would find at the Venetian in Las Vegas, a use of post-modern architectural design flowing seamlessly into the few remaining vintage structures.
Post-modernism despite the acres of intellectual drivel generally written by those hoping to make some money off of it, is merely a form of colorful mostly straight edged Moderne (with pitched rather than flat roofs) as it existed before Walter Gropius sex crazed with Anna Mahler tarted it up into Bauhaus (Or had Gropius become a sexual deviant before the advent of Moderne, I never could remember which). Essentially it consists of a series of rectangular planar facades painted or otherwise colored in earthy reds, yellows and beiges adorned with simple architectural elements, like plain arches ( now and then festooned with architectural artifacts). It was concocted by Venturi and Graves hungry for commissions out of their impression of the reconstruction of traditional domestic and small commercial structures in post-war Italy as the local people filled in the bombed-out spaces between the surviving historical structures with simplified copies of traditional design and painted them with a brighter version of the standard stucco. It spread back to Europe and It works here in Italy since that was always the local vernacular architecture anyway.
In NY, Johnson, tired of living in glass houses and unable to diddle Anna himself, nevertheless attempted to capitalize on the post-modern craze by creating the worlds largest and perhaps ugliest misrepresentation of a piece of obsolete junk furniture as a New York skyscraper. San Francisco, ever ready to slavishly follow East Coast fashions adopted postmodernism as the design element of its planning code thereby converting something generally simple into the gross monstrosity of pink-tinged architecture that graces the City today.
Ah well, I liked Sacile a lot, even if it seemed a little bit like an urban version of Danville.
As we walked about, I noticed that this was a town populated by people with prominent noses, from fleshy cyranoesque proboscis to hawk-like aquiline appendages cleaving the air as they walked along like axe heads cleaving a log. These notable features adorned generally slender well dressed men and equally fashionable and sensuous women. Unlike the drab dark colors, I found ubiquitous in the US, here both the men and women were more colorfully attired. Although there was the usual excess of pre-stressed jeans and off the shoulder tank tops, there was nary a velour exercise outfit to be seen,
After wandering around the city for about an hour our hosts arrived and we followed their automobile to their farm on the outskirts of a village with the pleasantly sounding name of Tamai.
￼A View of Sacile
Raven (Dotson ‘sa or Dotson’sa in the Koyukon/ Denaakk’e language): Raven is the creator god of the Koyukon and other Alaskan Athabaskan tribes. He is a revered and benevolent transformer figure who helps the people and shapes their world for them, but at the same time, he is also a trickster character and many Koyukon stories about Raven have to do with his frivolous or poorly thought out behavior getting him into trouble. http://www.native-languages.org/…
A. Melinda Cooper on Top:
That conservative parties’ policies redistribute wealth and power upward while distracting their mass base by focusing them on internal or external enemies has long been the point of Toryism—since before the Gordon Riots, in fact. And now Tucker Carlson is surprised that there is gambling going on, and is just asking questions? Does he want us to take him seriously?: Eric Levitz: Why Tucker Carlson Plays a Critic of Capitalism On TV: “Melinda Cooper… explains:
Writing at the end of the 1970s, the Chicago school neoliberal Gary Becker remarked that the “family in the Western world has been radically altered—some claim almost destroyed—by events of the last three decades.” … Becker believed that such dramatic changes in the structure of the family had more to do with the expansion of the welfare state in the post-war era than with feminism per se… a consequence rather than an instigator of these dynamics…. Becker’s abiding concern with the destructive effects of public spending on the family represents a key element of his microeconomics… that is consistently overlooked…
…Thus the bedrock logic of the alliance between social conservatives and reactionary capitalists was this: One valued “small government” because it (supposedly) enabled the patriarchal family (and/or racial hierarchy), while the other valued the family because it enabled “small government.” Social conservatives have paid a price for hopping into bed with the worshippers of mammon. But social conservatives were always the junior partners in the GOP coalition. And when the dual objectives of rolling back the New Deal bargain—and reviving cultural traditionalism—came into conflict, the former took priority. As a result, the logic of social conservatives’ alliance with capital has fallen apart… Thanks to a combination of global supply chains, corporate consolidation, and network effects, capital has been fleeing rural counties and concentrating in big cities—taking many conservatives’ kids along with it… Capital has paired its literal abandonment of culturally conservative areas (and concomitant undermining of family formation in such places) with more superficial slights. As upper-middle-class millennials have become an immensely valuable consumer block, corporate brands have begun advertising their “wokeness.” Television commercials now regularly sing the praises of social liberalism, feminism, and ethnic diversity…
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
He Who is Not My President places us squarely in that age-old bind. Is our leader an ideologue or an idiot?
C. Today’s Poem:
Warm Summer Sun
BY MARK TWAIN
Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night
Twain and Jonathan Swift were born on the same day. The following bit of doggerel was written to commemorate that fact.
Born today were Mark Twain and Jon Swift.
For skewering sarcasm, each had a gift.
Which of them was more profane?
You make the call. Was it Swift or Mark Twain?
D. Giants of History: Another Snag from Brad DeLong.
Brad DeLong (https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/01/eg-ben-alpers-_a-far-right-anti-semitic-conspiracy-theory-becomes-a-mainstream-irritable-gesturehttpss-usihorg2.html#comment-6a00e551f080038834022ad3866887200c) directly takes on the attempts to rehabilitate the anti-Semitic canard of “Cultural Marxism” by some contemporary. conservative pundits
Where did David Brooks learn to use the term “cultural Marxism”? From Alexander Zubatov and his attempt to rehabilitate it from its anti-Semitic not just connotation but denotation. How does Zubatov do this? By taking Russell Blackford out of context: Zubatov claims that Blackford’s bottom line is “in other words, [cultural Marxism] has perfectly respectable uses outside the dark, dank silos of the far right”. Blackford’s actual bottom line is that the modern
The conception of cultural Marxism is too blunt an intellectual instrument to be useful for analyzing current trends. At its worst, it mixes wild conspiracy theorizing with self-righteous moralism… Right-wing culture warriors will go on employing the expression ‘cultural Marxism’… attaching it to dubious, sometimes paranoid, theories of cultural history… Outside of historical scholarship, and discussions of the history and current state of Western Marxism, we need to be careful…. Those of us who do not accept the narrative of a grand, semi-conspiratorial movement aimed at producing moral degeneracy should probably avoid using the term ‘cultural Marxism’…
Why does Zubatov misuse Blackford? In the hope that he will pick up readers like Brooks, who will take his representations of what Blackford says to be accurate. Why does Brooks take Zubatov’s representations of what Blackford says as accurate? Because Brooks is too lazy to do his homework: Ben Alpers: A Far-Right Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory Becomes a Mainstream Irritable Gesture: “At the heart of this largely rote piece of Brooksian pablum is a claim that deserves a closer look. ‘The younger militants’, writes Brooks, ‘tend to have been influenced by the cultural Marxism that is now the lingua franca in the elite academy’. This is interesting both for what Brooks appears to be trying to say and, more immediately, how he has decided to say it… Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik… murdered sixty-nine people… William Lind… associated with both the Free Congress Foundation and Lyndon LaRouche… Lind’s conception of Cultural Marxism was explicitly anti-Semitic…. Over the course of these years, the idea of Cultural Marxism spread across the American far right… [with] a big boost from Andrew Breitbart…. Why would a columnist like David Brooks, who is himself Jewish in background (if, perhaps, no longer in faith) and who has tried to build his brand identity by peddling in respectability and civility, adopt the term?…
…Brooks… defended his use… Alexander Zubatov entitled “Just Because Anti-Semites Talk About ‘Cultural Marxism’ Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Real”… For Zubatov, it wasn’t so much the Frankfurt School, but rather György Lukács, Louis Althusser, Herbert Marcuse, Edward Said, Judith Butler, Stuart Hall, and, above all, Antonio Gramsci who are at fault… Zubatov… maintains that Cultural Marxism is “a coherent program” and accuses it of many of the same things that Lind does:
It is a short step from the Marxist and cultural Marxist premise that ideas are, at their core, expressions of power to rampant, divisive identity politics and the routine judging of people and their cultural contributions based on their race, gender, sexuality and religion… Public shaming, forced resignations and all manner of institutional and corporate policy dictated by enraged Twitter mobs, the sexual McCarthyism of #MeToo’s excesses, and the incessant, resounding, comically misdirected and increasingly hollow cries of “racist,” “sexist,” “misogynist,” “homophobe,” “Islamophobe,” “transphobe” and more that have yet to be invented to demonize all those with whom the brittle hordes partaking in such calumnies happen to disagree.
Zubatov prominently cites the English philosopher Russell Blackford… But in the very piece Zubatov cites, Blackford concludes that the phrase is so marked by its connection to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that it is, in practice, largely unusable:
In everyday contexts, those of us who do not accept the narrative of a grand, semi-conspiratorial movement aimed at producing moral degeneracy should probably avoid using the term “cultural Marxism.”… Like other controversial expressions with complex histories (“political correctness” is another that comes to mind), “cultural Marxism” is a term that needs careful unpacking.
Of course, Zubatov, much less Brooks, is not very interested in carefully unpacking anything. Zubatov and Brooks are attached to a pejorative which they’d prefer to be uncoupled from the anti-Semitism to which it has been usually attached…. “Cultural Marxism” is a toxic expression that entered our national discourse as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. It ought to be avoided on that basis alone, especially given the more general mainstreaming of anti-Semitism…
“Krugman also points out how justifications for austerity were invented on the fly, and maintained in the face of contrary evidence. In the US, this perhaps presaged a more general collapse of respect for evidence and expertise on the political right. This collapse raises questions as to whether the role of ideas in politics is undergoing a fundamental shift in the US (and perhaps UK), in which the whole idea of expertise becomes an issue of partisan contention.”
Henry Farrell and John Quiggin. Department of Political SciePaulnce and Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University and School of Economics, University of Queensland