IS THAT ROTTEN FISH I SMELL?

November 16, 2017

Sure enough, the fish always rots from the head, just as political regimes come to reflect the character, or lack thereof, of the most powerful person.  With Trump it is lies and disruption, with PM May in Britain it is solipsism and stubbornness.

Here is historian’s take on the level of corruption in the Trump Syndicate.

Meanwhile, the nation waits to see if the Republican Party triumphs with a new senator apparently guilty of sexual abuse of minors.  This is an even more spectacular test of public morality than placing the sexual harasser, Clarence Thomas, on the Supreme Court where he still sits and snoozes and votes for demolition of  civil rights or any restraints on corporate greed.  Will there be a Senator Roy Moore?  Should Alabama be encouraged to secede, and stay there this time?  Why should anybody be surprised that Alabama is as amoral as Hollywood or Fox News or Congress or women’s gymnastics or any of the myriad venues that have long protected powerful males who abuse less powerful females or children?  Since when did loudly proclaimed Christianity (like Moore’s) actually lead to ethical behavior?  Molesting priests should long ago have shown the shallowness of self-proclaimed religiosity of any kind.

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THE NEWEST MORNING AFTER

November 8, 2017

A little electoral success for Anti-Trumps.  It may or may not be significant.  It may or may not make the Republicans’ effort at changing the income tax laws easier, harder or impossible.  It certainly portends even more timely retirements of elected Republicans in both houses of Congress.  That may or may not be good news for Democrats.

The Mercer syndicate has been very strongly supporting the Trump syndicate.  Click here for a profile of how the Mercer’s protect their money from taxation.

Can you imagine a man who pretends to know things he doesn’t, claims titles he hasn’t earned, likes squiring around attractive young women, holds clandestine meetings to talk about Russia-linked spying and generally purports to be a figure out of some James Bond novel?  Of course, in this day of alternative facts and bloviating twitterers, such a character is emblematic of at least one major political syndicate.  You guessed it, orange is the new orange, the color of scandal, and now the above described professor has scarpered.  Click here for a real life, shudda-guessed mystery.  Where is he now?

This is not a unique time in American history.  It is just the latest severe crisis in a nation always preparing for wide swings from good times to bad.  Why “now more than ever” is just self-aggrandizing BS in this age in which the U.S. is once again a scourge to civilization…but don’t think this is new.  Genocide of the American Indian over two centuries… The Great Depression…slavery and the need for a civil war to end it…continued racism fostered by white supremacy preachings across the Old Confederacy and wherever like-minded whites gather…the Vietnam War based on lies and hollow political paranoia [did we really imagine Ho Chi Minh attacking Singapore and Melbourne?]…the inability of an atheist to openly run for political office [the last great American taboo]…the lack of a humane medical and eldercare system…the widely-held self-destructive dislike of trains and other mass transit that would ease traffic and greenhouse gas problems…the pathological need for ever more guns and ever more deadly ones with ever larger magazines of ammo to kill ever more people.  That is one kind of inflation the government should be concerned about, but isn’t.  And we have long been a nation of corruption in government and business from Big City machines to the use of federal power or poorly regulated corporations…all invites to do dirty deeds: Teapot Dome, Grant Administration, Iran-Contra, Watergate, Joe McCarthy’s commie-shaming, J. Edgar Hoover’s slimy blackmailing of pols of all stripes and pecadillos while he lived a closeted life, Drexel-Burnham, Enron, Bernie Maddow, Purdue Pharma’s opioids, Big Tobacco, DDT, leaded gasoline, neo-nicotinoids, Franklin Savings & Loan, the 2008 financial meltdown and on and on and on.
Here’s a nice little lecture on not pretending this is such an unusual time in America.

Jared the real estate mogul, son-in-law and princeling, and international affairs genius has problems unrelated to anything Russian.  Were there nefarious doings in Maryland?  Didn’t he know that Maryland is not run by Republicans?

Does our economic system breed the ordinary (made in America) mostly white-male-alienated-violent mass killer?

Is that blood they can smell or just the rotting carcass of a sadly outmoded electoral system that favors gerrymandering and anti-intellectual rural populations who are embittered and economically marginalized?

All I can say for sure: the stock market is no indication of the future health of this nation.  How many Trumpian syncophants will run for the hills, and how soon?  As the indictments accumulate who will stand by the captain as he runs the ship into the iceberg of anger that is now at the heart of American polity…found all across the spectrum of political opinions?

TRUMP HAS TWO WORLD-CLASS SKILLS

November 7, 2017

Chaos and demolition.  He is adept and successful in spreading both across the U.S. federal government.

Here is outsider’s look at what’s happening to the national government.  Trump is being wildly successful at ending most regulation or enforcement so get ready for dirty air, dirty water and more opioid-like drug deals.  We are now the only nation on Earth that does not want the Paris climate accord adherred to.

Trump’s made the U.S. into a rogue state.

For chaos: look within his own syndicate [i.e. family]: Jared and Junior meeting with Russian contacts in Trump Tower…his first wife claiming she is true first lady…his own inability to remember what he said, or claims to have said, or  even means when asked about any policy, large or small.  For chaos: look at the spate of resignations from within veteran Republican members of Congress…his executive orders that can’t get beyond performance whether it be medical industry, anti-trans in military or immigration…his pardoning of Sheriff Arpaio…his verbal attacks on his own cabinet members…his continued loss of White House staffers from Spicer to Bannon…his inability to stop wanting be like Putin despite all warnings and threats about what it could do to him personally.

His various pathologies are playing out globally but are doing most serious damage (so far) to our own government and national well-being.  We now have a national government run entirely by a power-hungry and greedy cabal that wants only to be in charge and make lots more money.  They pretend they care about the good of the nation and its citizens but given no indication that is true.  Bump-stocks all around and full body armor in church for everyone!  This is Trump and the NRA’s dream state.  Gun sales soar.

TRUMP AND MANAFORT: AN EGO MATCH SAYS PAUL’S DAUGHTER

October 31, 2017

Reading messages between one of Manafort’s daughters and some of her friends is better than any political soap opera you’ll ever see.  Click here for a fun read.  You will find yourself noddind your head, as in  “Of course, what did I expect?”

LET’S PLAY CARTEL

October 29, 2017

There are few professions in this country that can limit competition: professional league athletes….and medical doctors.   How does that affect medical costs?  Politico took a look.

Insurance companies, untaxed “not-for-profits,” Big Pharma, and doctors…sooey, plenty of slop in the trough.

THE WORD MATTERS

October 11, 2017

“Protect the Word”

Protect the word,
Protect and cherish the word,
Cherish and preserve.

The word has many enemies,
Things as they are
Are not of  help.

Music-lovers, lovers of art,
Empty shells, mere seeing-eyes,
Are not of help.

At the beginning was the word,
Before the image or the sound.
In chaos, order is its heart,

In order freedom is its soul.
It is art in which to feel
Is not enough, and yet in which

The best are not the most skilled.
There seemed many great auks
Till the last one was killed.

                              –John Fowles, 1960

At this time anybody who knows the value of words as purveyors of information, feeling and, perhaps, some tentative truths can see that a bloviating blowhard, an orange political prominence, is daily assaulting both words and truth.  So, in honor of Fowles’ poem, I offer two current examples of words that serve the better side of our deeply flawed by awfully powerful species:

The Girl in Jersey No. 8.  If this doesn’t wring a tear or two, you need to stop thinking like a billionaire real estate da capo.

Joan Didion,  the documentary.  A woman whose whole life was dedicated to using words to communicate, not to bully or belittle.

 

 

IS VEGAS THE TRUE ESSENCE OF AMERICAN CULTURE?

October 8, 2017

There’s a newly published book on Las Vegas by a professor of urban design at the University of Pennsylvania.  In this book the author explores the relationship of this desert city full of fountains and man-made monuments to chance and greed…and the cultural myths and aspirations that shape our United States today.

In a brilliant review of The Strip in the Times Literary Supplement (London) Keith Miller writes how this book “traces the rapid evolution of Las Vegas from an adobe Mormon stockade to a Wild West theme park, to Dayglo modernist utopia, to neon Babylon, to the po-faced pastiche and art galleries of the 2000s, to the ghastly good taste of present-day ‘starachitects’ such as Kohn Pederson Fox and Foster + Partners…[Vegas] isn’t some carnivalesque exception to the American story…it is the American story, simmmered down to a sleazy, exuberant quitessence.”

The recent massacre there of dozens of concert-goers by a domestic terrorist only serves to underline how typical this city is of today’s America.  No public space is safe from well-armed mass killers.  Vegas isn’t just about gambling, being in Vegas is a gamble in itself.  The same is true of any airport, bus, meeting room, movie theatre or cafe in America.  One man–it is almost always a man–can own any number of guns and any mountain of ammo he can afford…to use against any people he doesn’t like or doesn’t even know.  The Vegas attacker apparently had no specific connection to any of the concert attendees or the musicians or the event…it was a target of convenience, so many targets in one place at one time.

Of course, now the paranoid right-wing nut jobs are already saying the news reports are lies, that the gunman was part of an anti-Trump conspiracy, etc. etc.  This, too, is so typical of our current state in the States.  The massacre also was great for the gun sales.  That minority of Americans who always need more guns began buying ever more.  The only limit on gun and ammo buying now in this nation is storage space.

Nevada, BTW, is an open carry state for anybody 18 or over.  So there were presumably plenty of good guys with guns at the concert and in the hotel.  That should lay to rest the myth that the answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Sadly, in the world of firepower, size and positioning really do matter.  Yet the gun lobby and sellers will continue to praise gun owners as harbingers of safety and urge even heavier arming of the population.  Should we require anybody appearing outside his or her own home to carry a loaded weapon?  Now that would be some homeland security, I’m tellin’ ya.

Beyond the massacre there is an even scarier story because it reveals a heartless use of the legal system to lock up and rip off elderly Americans whose only crime is getting old in Vegas.  This report in the The New Yorker tells how freelance greedmeisters use legal guardianship to lock up old people and then sell off their property and then bill the estate until they have drained off the cash.   Families and wills get ignored and the old people put into “homes” and drugged.  You can only read it and weep and hope you die before some sleazebag decides you are worth the trouble.

And none of this deals with the overwhelming environmental catastrophe of over a million people living and bathing and watering golf courses in the southwestern desert.

Website for the book: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/strip

How elderly lose their rights: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-the-elderly-lose-their-rights

“TLS” review of The Strip: https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/quintessence-of-lust/

Some apt Vegas quotes:

“For six bucks you got a filet mignon dinner, and me.”            –Frank Sinatra
“absolute advertising city”                                                              –Jean Baudrillard
“This is not a good town for psychedelic drugs.  Reality is too twisted.”   –Hunter S. Thompson
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but the 400-pound woman perched in front of a slot machine, oozing bum-flesh off her stool as she balanced a cocktail and cigarette in one hand and robotically tugged the slot arm with the other… that’s still with me.”
–Brian Sack
“Las Vegas is a city of kickbacks. A desert city of greased palms. A place where a $20 bill can buy approval, a $100 bill adulation and $1,000 canonization.”     –Nicholas Pileggi
“Las Vegas is perhaps the most color-blind, class-free place in America. As long as your cash or credit line holds out, no one gives a damn about your race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, address, family lineage, voter registration or even your criminal arrest record. Money is the great leveler.”              –Marc Cooper

FIFTIETH REUNION AT CARLETON

June 23, 2017

CARLETON 1963-2017

“Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
‘Rip down all hate,’ I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now…

“A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
‘Equality’ I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now…

“Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.”   –“My Back Pages”  by Bob Dylan from Hibbing

Our reunion fifty years after our 1967 graduation calls for reflection, remembrance, gratitude among those of us still alive, appraisal and even relaxation. We’ve made it this far…
For most members of the Class of ’67 (regardless of when we graduated, or not) our run has been long and in many instances productive.  It is a common trait among Carls to be active and productive, or how else would we have gotten to the college in the first place?
Some honors were duly noted.  Margaret Simms, a previous honoree for her own professional work, led the ceremony where the newly-minted honorees were presented.  Two of my best friends from that era were on the stage: John Mollenkopf for his work in political science and society, David Sachs for his work on combatting tobacco addiction.  Good work, guys!

In our memories the college remains as we saw it and felt it in 1963 and the few short years thereafter.  Upon returning physical changes are noted, many are obvious.  Gridley’s gone. No more race to those steps at night before the final door is locked. The trees around the Bald Spot are much larger.  Sayles-Hill is now a social center and Willis relegated to offices. The library and art buildings are larger and grander.  New buildings fill old openings and Watson towers over the trees.  The tennis courts have been moved from the Mighty Cannon’s flood plain. A large building sits atop the hill behind Goodhue.  The once-barren slope down toward town from Musser now has a series of student houses. Old grassy slopes have been sown with native plants including milkweed.  It was heartening as I saw monarch butterflies fluttering about campus.

The town of Northfield has certainly moved up in the world.  Somebody who’s been to Paris got ahold of the Cannon riverfront and put in footbridges, parks benches, outdoor cafes, and walkways and spruced up the old Malt-O-Meal factory.

Tunes

“A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while…

Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues…”     — “American Pie” by Don Maclean

Popular music was a significant way we defined ourselves in our generation.  Not everybody liked folk or rock or Miles Davis or classical, but nearly everyone had the music that she or he needed to carry on. TV or movies or sports or dress fashion or food or drink were important only in the practicality of a day’s events.  Music provided the soundtrack, the atmosphere, the emotional climate of our inner lives as well as being entertaining or compelling.  I cannot deny that “Universal Soldier” helped convince me that there was no way I would participate in the Vietnam War.
To have Mark Reigel, Mark Headington and their musicians play twice for our reunion is not just emblematic of our youth but reassuring.  Younger alumni stood in marvel as the still-dancing seventy-somethings shook it up in the Tea Room while the neo-Nightcrawlers played on.
“Twist & Shout”  “The House of the Rising Sun”   “Brown-eyed Girl” “All I Have to Do is Dream”
“I Shudda Known Better”
The background music of my life still includes those songs I first heard at Carleton, from singers and groups that personified the Sixties: Animals, Baez, Beach Boys, Beatles, Donovan, Dylan, Ian & Sylvia (in certain lighting my first wife looked like Sylvia, hmm), Lovin’ Spoonful, Mommas and Pappas, Simon & Garfunkel, Stones…
Aren’t the minstrel poets of our time among the most significant voices we have heard and echoed in our hearts and heads?  Dylan, foremost.  Yet also Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Lennon & McCartney, et al.

Serious Stuff

             At one point in the weekend my politely introverted wife asked, “Don’t you Carls ever stop talking?”
I thought about that.  As students when we were not reading a book waiting for the co-op flic to start we were talking to somebody, right?  At meals the talk was almost non-stop, mouths full or no, right?  You might listen in class but there would be talking before, even during, and after.  Sometimes the prof was available for even more talk as well. Classes weren’t enough, we had convos.
I spent way too many hours in the “Carletonian” office on the weekly editorial night to put the paper together.  There we all talked all the time.  That’s probably where I became a newsman, I loved typing up stories and headlines while talking non-stop.  Pure newsroom. My favorite ‘Tonian moments being when Peter Iverson and I could spin off unending puns in a spasm of verbal PUNishment for everyone around us.  Groans of pain were considered higher praise than applause.
At our reunion serious stuff was talked about seriously among the seventy-plus crowd.  Climate change. Immigration. America’s current political state.  Brexit.
At our Friday night banquet I think we were all heartened to hear from current students and recent grads about discussion and dialogue at Carleton today.  Even if much of it occurs online. It  happens. Bravo.  And now we can see how far the college has come in treating women as fellow humans.  During my time at Carleton it was run by and, largely, for white males.  In four years I had one female instructor for one term.  One other instructor was not a white male. The only female college administrator those four years was the dean of women.  All our class now can recite all the other inequalities: dress codes for women, curfews for women, numerous openly chauvinist professors who would gleefully embarrass or belittle women students, maid service only for men’s dorms.  Carleton has changed for the better it seems.

Sex and Pleasure

               There was never an extended period of time when any Carl was removed from the many swirling emotions around sex, dating, not dating, intimate relationships and all that trucks along with these things.  We were young, hormones were abounding, times were changing and the speed with which the college world and the world outside seemed to be moving made us feel that there was no time to lose.  In those dark days a woman could not get birth control in Northfield until she was 21 years old.
Kudos to those Carleton marriages that have weathered the stormy decades.  David and Deedy Jensen were justly applauded for celebrating their 50th anniversary in conjunction with our reunion.  There are a handful of other couples married back in 1967, still together.  Often those starter marriages fell apart.  One classmate told me she had talked to her former and first husband, also a classmate, for the first time since 1975.  She smiled and said they had a pleasant talk and were now at ease.  Time…
Long since over the open house furor of the Sixties we reuniters all settled into dorm life that would have scandalized a Carleton administrator in 1967.

Gone Birding
About forty people came on the morning bird walks. A 630 AM start time did not scare off everybody.  And the birds were waiting: Orchard Orioles building a nest, Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Kingbird, Black-capped Chickadees, Cedar Waxwings, Barn Swallows nesting on Evans, American Goldfinch and about twenty more species.   The Lyman Lakes area is a rich mix of habitat and attracts birds smart enough to be at Carleton.      

Gone

Barb Davis led a touching memorial service on Sunday morning for our departed classmates.  There were multiple tributes to Ann Jansen Aby, the beloved wife of my room-mate the last half of freshman year.  Though he is alone now I can only hope Bob is occasionally warmed by knowing so many of her classmates loved her a fraction as much as he did. To hear the names read one at a time induced the golden glow of nostalgia mixed with the dark shadow of times and friends gone forever.
Our generation has been marked by deaths, some from war, some from hatred and madness in a culture where guns are too available for anybody who wants to kill.  John F. Kennedy.  Martin Luther King. Robert Kennedy. John Lennon. Thousands of nameless gun victims.  The American Way of Death is not likely to change. Guns, drugs and cars.  Obesity and cancer.  If the lead in a bullet doesn’t get you the chemicals in your water might.  It is not only the violent deaths we have seen.  There have been the suicides from Hemingway to Phil Ochs to David Foster Wallace.  Then the self-inflicted deaths of so many: drugs, drunk driving, even anorexia. It seems a triumph when a friend or relative dies from aging or some expected illness after many decades.

 

A Note on Schiller
Our Schiller is gone forever. To that imaginary place where symbols of a bygone era can dwell in the mind’s eye and require no molecules, no moisture, no air, no breath. But Friedrich Schiller, in a manner, lives on at Carleton.  There is a fragile white bust of the German romantic, and this makes rare and fleeting appearances at certain crucial events.  Then there is a sturdier blue one that can pop up at any moment.  There is no official recognition of either bust nor any publicly-confirmed status.  That is as it should be.  Covered by a shawl, draped in a curtain, surrounded by myth and mystery–how romantic of Schiller to persevere so.

The Libe

“To  book” was a widely used verb on campus in the 1960s.  Often used pejoratively that slang actually reflected the institutional and social importance of books as a major source of knowledge, entertainment and complexity in our college lives.

After I returned for this reunion I went once again into the Gould Library for the first time in ten years, I found it changed from that place abiding in my memories.  Gone are the checkout desk just to the left of the entrance and the small informal lounge room to the right of the front doors.  Were there any elevators in those early days?  Surely there were not double rows of study carrels as there are now.  And all the various comfortable lounging and conference areas are all new.

Changes sure, yet this library is still a protected refuge for books and book lovers. My return to the library in 2017 was on a hot, muggy June afternoon.  It was very like the first day I entered the library in June, 1963. Back then I was a callow eighteen-year old at Carleton and in Minnesota for the first time. I’d arrived for a pre-freshman Summer Term. Recently graduated from a small southern Missouri high school I walked into an unfamiliar but welcoming world at the Carleton Library.  So many books.  I wandered wondering through the air conditioned stacks.  There were names that I had never heard of, and vaguely familiar names were on actual books I could touch for the first time.  Baudelaire.  Tolstoy.  Martial.  Whitman. Thoreau. Novalis. Flaubert. C. Wright Mills. Kant. Herodotus. Ovid. Pater.  John Kenneth Galbraith. Veblen.  In the library I was surrounded by an unforeseen but rich world.  Here were centuries of intellectual and literary creations that beggared anything I had previously imagined.

No other single building has played a stronger role in my life.  Since my introduction to the world of serious books at the Carleton libe I have remained a book person.  I read them.  I read about them. I buy them, collect some authors, try to follow the world of literature, politics, economics, science and poetry as it is distilled into books, both new and old.  I have been drawn to other fine libraries in many places: the Beinecke at Yale, Huntington Library in Pasadena, J.P. Morgan in Manhattan, American Library in Paris, Folger in Washington, Bancroft at U. C. Berkeley, the Pepys Library at Cambridge, university libraries from Stanford to Oxford.  But in recent years the best library I have enjoyed was the British Library in London where centuries of books, manuscripts and ephemera are gathered and valued and preserved.  Never throw anything away said one wise book person. The British concur.

Despite heavy use of online references and information sites, I find nothing can approach the glories located and discovered in a good library.  A table of contents, an index or even a blur on the book jacket can head your mind into a new direction.  Once opened a book can elucidate, enlighten or enervate, even evade a reader. A library is not a congress of equals, each individual is rich in particularlity, its own origin and influences and meaning (or lack thereof, take Gurdjieff). As books differ so do we readers.  Each brings a unique array of interest, experience, expectation, understanding. Each of us changes as well.  My nineteen year old self found Proust and Flaubert a bit fustian.  Today I see why the fuss.  Over half a century after my first encounter I find their writing glows with social insights.

Spring, 2017, this aged Carl walked through the Gould Library stacks, touching a few spines, opening a couple older books with checkouts noted in the 1930s, admiring the full shelves by books by a single author.  To inhale that library air, to see so many books of such age, to imagine the rows of other books that I shall never touch, to know that some unsuspecting frosh is about to enter this holy place for the first time to have her or his life altered–all this is to say simply, thank you, Carleton. Professor emeritus Karl Weiner told me when the Carleton campus went on strike in May, 1970, after the Cambodian Invasion, Karl went to the college president and assured him the students would not burn down the library.  The world needs and I appreciate a place where books are used, discovered, protected, restored and valued.  Please continue…

Here’s a memory from the 1967 class poet,  Paula Bonnell:

“In that room, Nourse 100 [dorm room], I was reading French–at first, by eyesliding across pages, but then realizing that the bike balanced.  I was riding.  A book borrowed from the college library, an old book.  Beaumarchais. A book made in the late eighteenth century. Coming to an uncut page. (Nineteenth century novels let me know that such things existed.) I walked to my desk for a letter opener, awed that I would be the first to open and read those pages.”

 

              

SOME CALIFORNIA BOOKS

April 19, 2017

beecheybeechey2california setcalifornia set2guillou covrguillouguillou2sutro broadside2sutro broadsidesutro bookplatessutro bookplate2REVERE TITLESREVERE SPINEREVERE MAPREVERE DRWINGmambrinojones2JOnes