Too little, too late

I’m late with this comment, but Trump at the Taj Mahal in India went beyond irony, into ridiculousness. He’s wandering around wondering, how did I get it so wrong.

It’s the same problem he has with the coronovirus. Too little, take credit for nothing done.The Chinese have been playing fast and loose with the facts around the new infection, and Trump and his Wall Street Big Wigs and Cronies have been repeating Chinese lies.

Remember Don, about games and infections, it ain’t over until it’s over.

FOREIGN POLICY OF DEMOCRATS

To the people of IOWA, an acronym for I Owe the World an Apology,  please consider,

FOREIGN POLICY EXPERIENCE OF THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES

Bernie Sanders: He comes from Vermont. The remaining 49 states of the United States are foreign lands, and their people, especially New Yorkers, are foreigners. Witness a campaign surrogate, Michael Moore, who is rivaling Don Trump and Mike Pompeo for the Mr. Chunky 2020 title, free meals in every fast food restaurant in Iowa and New Hampshire in January and February 2020. Not everyone likes a fat man.

Joe Biden: Having been Vice President and a Senator, he seems equipped. Let’s hope he doesn’t turn out like Richard Nixon who had a similar resume.

Pete Buttigieg: Other than his last name which is impossible to pronounce at first glance, he’s the mayor from a small city in Indiana. His primary foreign policy exposure is dealing with Mike Pence. Little known and hardly recognized are skirmishes where Mike and Pete try to get the other deported for being an illegal alien. 

Elizabeth Warren: Her primary foreign policy experience is dealing with tribes of Native Americans, which once were Nations but most have mostly entered the world of gambling. A while back there was an unhappy disagreement between Senator Liz and the tribes, which no one wants to mention today. Lori Laughlin should be so fortunate.

Mike Bloomberg: He seems well-travelled, his face revealing the faults and worries of many continents. Flying on his private jet, he seldom mets the common man. However, nobody in diplomatic and foreign policy settings worries about the common man.

Andrew Yang: No one should blame Yang for the coronavirus or the flu, human or swine. I feel mine is a a minority position, the first minority I’ve been in. Yang has spoken against communicable diseases.

Amy Klobuchar: She has negotiating skills and has a reputation for getting stuff done, however small. In this day and age, those talents are dated. Who wants to get along with the Canadians or the Mexicans? Everyone knows to have a successful deal one must shoot first and learn whether negotiations are needed, afterward. Pres. Don has proven that approach with the North Koreans.

Who else is running for President as a Democrat? The woman from Hawaii? Hey, surf’s up! Other candidates have dropped out and have stopped paying their dues, so their foreign policy credentials have expired.

DEUTSCHE BANK & CASABLANCA

DEUTSCHE BANK & CASABLANCA

Deutsche Bank has had a bad reputation for a long time. Almost eighty years (80) ago in the movie Casablanca Rick is at his chess board monitoring patrons allowed to enter the gambling room in the casino. It is not long into the movie when the follow exchange happens. Please excuse my missing a line, a bit of description of action or a word from the dialogue.

Rick sees a Well-Dressed Man wearing a flower at the entrance and shakes his head no. 

Doorman: Sorry, Sir, this is a private room.

Doorman steps out and closes the door behind him. 

Well-Dressed Man (incredible): Who do you think I am? I know there is gambling in there! It is no secret. You can’t keep me out of there.

Well-Dressed Man pushes on the door; it opens.

Rick steps out.

Doorman: This gentleman—

Rick Yes, what is the trouble?

Well-Dressed Man: I’ve been in every gambling hall between Honolulu and Berlin. 

(pulls out wallet, hands card to Rick) If you think I’m going to be kept out of a saloon like this, you’re very much mistaken. 

Peter Lorrie (holding cigarette) bushes through door congestion.

Lorrie: (To Well-Dressed Man) Excuse me please. (Looks at Rick) Hello, Rick. 

He gets nod of approval from Rick.

Rick looks at card and rips it up. He gives it back to the Well-Dressed Man: You cash is good at the bar. 

Well-Dressed Man: You know who I am?

Rick: I do. You’re lucky the bar is open to you. 

Well-Dressed Man: This is outrageous! I shall report it to the _____. (turns stomps off, tosses pieces of card in the air.) 

Rick returns to his table. Peter Lorrie intercepts him.

Lorrie: You know, watching you just now with the Deutsche Bank, one would think you’ve been doing this all your life.

Rick: What makes you think I haven’t?

Lorrie: Oh—–When you first came to Casablanca, I thought —

Rick: You thought what?

Lorrie: What right do I have to think?

elizabeth warren/sarah palin

Today’s Sarah Palin is Elizabeth Warren. This revelation arrived after watching Saturday Night Live: Preppy, smiling woman utters nonsense but offers life advice. Trillions of dollars are fantasy figures like spending the money before winning the lottery.

I’m not certain that Elizabeth Warren knows where Russia is, but Sarah Palin does. I hope Elizabeth Warren’s trademark sweaters are not of foreign origin, like Canada: Never wear a stain-collecting sweater twice. I have yet to see Elizabeth Warren’s family, whilst Sarah Palin’s family was foisted upon us. The names of children were somewhat natural: Branch, Leaf, Root.

There is a difference between the women. Sarah Palin is a master of adjectives. Using adjectives to explain policies supports a variegated life. Great or Grand is a question of the ages.

Elizabeth Warren likes incomprehensibility: Use antitrust laws to break up tech companies. Question One: What is the monopolized market – Intellectual Property? Decades back a British newspaper warned in a April 1 headline that a media mogul had purchased all intellectual property in the world. Human beings not laughing were terrified. Prove that the barriers of entry for intellectual property have risen so high, become burdensome and are noisome and onerous that Americans have stopped thinking and expressing themselves.

So Sarah and Liz, go to it Girls!

SEA OF CORTEZ

John Steinbeck

For a month Steinbeck joined an Exhibition to collect species of fauna in the Gulf of California, once known as the Sea of Cortez. It is not a travel book, although the parts where the author breaks into travel are the most interesting. 

This is mostly a go-out-and-find-a-new-species book. It some ways it is like Moby Dick, Melville writing about whales and killing them with heavy political overtones. It is also like Theodore Roosevelt’s book about traveling up the River of Doubt(?) or the River or No Return, in the middle of the Amazon in 1913. Roosevelt almost killed himself and everyone else. That story became repetitive – one portage after another, shortage of food, equipment lost, people missing, everything what should happen in the jungle did. It was tiresome reading. I stopped halfway and flipped to the end.

Likewise, Steinbeck has days where everyone searches for species. One collection day is like other collection days. I didn’t care if it was Easter Sunday. He observes about some scientific writing (Chapter 10) “In some reports it is impossible because of inept expression…” Steinbeck does write adequately, but the reader really has to love species. Steinbeck takes another shot in Chapter 17: “The literature of science is filled with answers found when the question propounded had an entirely different direction and end.”

Upon arriving in La Paz Steinbeck gives warning to California, which no one has heeded: “On the water’s edge…a new hotel…before long and the beautiful, poor, bedraggled old town will bloom with a Floridian ugliness.” That is the California’s coast line from San Francisco, south, looks like: plastic, cement, steal and glass along with the old, reliable El Camino Real. Today, Steinbeck might agree that Cannery Row has become a hippie, freak Disneyland.

Steinbeck writes about Mexican youth: “At last we stopped in front of a mournful cantina where morose young men hung about waiting for something to happen. They had waited a long time – several generations – for something to happen.” (Chapter 9)

Further on, Steinbeck wonders: 

“It would be interesting…to explain to one of these Indians our tremendous projects, 

our great drives, the fantastic production of goods that can’t be sold, the clutter of 

possessions which enslave whole populations with debt, the worry and neuroses that go 

into the rearing and educating children who find no place for themselves in this world: 

the defense of the country against a fanatic nation of conquerors, and the necessity to

become frantic to do it; the spoilage and wastage and death necessary for the retention of the crazy thing; the science which labors to acquire knowledge, and the movement of 

people and goods contrary to the knowledge obtained.” (Chapter 21) 

Avoid the species but read this book.

A RUSSIAN JOURNAL

John Steinbeck

Steinbeck got an assignment from the New York Herald-Tribune to visit the Soviet Union, and to take, photographer, Robert Capa with him.

There were incidences of deprivation, some caused by Soviet society and authorities – can’t see something, can’t go somewhere or permission arrived too late. Other inconveniences arose by being in remote Moscow (suspicious of the West), in the Ukraine, Stalingrad or in Georgia. Note that Steinbeck had to travel to each location from Moscow. He could not go from the Ukraine to Stalingrad. There is a sense that neither Steinbeck nor Cape knew much history, sociology or psychology of Russia or of the Soviet Union. Yet, Steinbeck’s observations ring true.

It is a writer’s notebook. He strives to put together a story, an understanding of the great nation and its people. Everyone works but removed from political power with no ambition, most citizens of the Soviet state present the feel of human beings everywhere. None mentions internal politics, complains about officials (harvests are good), or fears the Secret Police. People dance and sing. In the country and in the smaller cities (Kiev was mostly in ruins in 1947) there seems no disparity in income, no flashiness of individuals, no errant ideas coming from any source. There is no free marketplace of ideas. Everything is collectively harvested and lumped like rye gathered from a field. 

Steinbeck disapproved: 

I believe one thing powerfully – that the only creative thing our

species has is the individual lonely mind. Two people can create

a child but I know of no other thing created by a group. The 

group ungoverned by individual thinking is a horrible destructive

principal. The great change in the last 2000 years was the 

Christian idea that the individual soul was very precious. 

Page XXV. 

In the absence of the individual, arts in the Soviet Union were withering. Before 1917 the Russians had a thriving musical community: Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Stravinsky departed. Prokofiev returned and left, and in the mid-1930s he stayed. But great performers and conductors left as the Communist regime oppressed. Think about Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff being criticized and controlled by Stalin and his bureaucratic goons, like Khachaturian, Shostakovich and Prokofiev were denounced. 

Among writers every city and town had an organization or union. Steinbeck is not complimentary of Simonov, playwright of The Russian Question. The American stopped interviewing after the first try. Questions were two paragraphs long, the first part being unconnected to the second. Steinbeck asked for a translation from the Russian of an answer he had given. It wasn’t close to his response. 

Steinbeck wonders, “We had made contact with many Russian people, but were the questions we had wanted answered actually answered? I had made notes of conversations, and of details…But we were too close to it. We didn’t know what we had.” (Chapter 9) “[W]e had to see something every minute…We were living a life which for virtue had only been equaled once or twice in the history of the would.” (Chapter 8) 

Steinbeck felt constrained. His assignment with photographs rushed into journalism was incapable of being told, except to tell of experiences and observations of the Russian people: Moscow everyone seemed afraid and could not act without multiple authorizations that something could be done or photographed. And in the country where few restraints hampered Steinbeck and Capa – yet they were among citizens, common and surviving and somewhat happy with no ambitions, no knowledge, no ideas and no dreams.

What perplexed Steinbeck was not the difference between city and country folk. It was the dreams of people – most people have dreams and imaginations. He could not observe those, work and hope for the future. Perhaps Steinbeck needed more time and exposure – he had a trip to Tchaikovsky’s home but found little inspiration there. In the Soviet Union as happens in all totalitarian states inventiveness and originality is suspected and shunned. Steinbeck likely saw these circumstances and was frustrated.

AMBROSE BIERCE, OOPS

This nineteenth century person is known in California and in journalism and by dictionary readers. When a Library of America volume of his writings came my way, I bought and read.

Bierce (mostly revised and published in 1909) cherishes Nineteenth Century expression eschewing advances in the language and literature by Melville, Twain and others. He wasn’t  journalistic, using excess words per sentence and attempting to create structures, possibly parallel to one another within a sentence. That today is eliminated by using the correct verb. (It’s his style, right?) When writing a Memoir, what sort of author has the parenthetical, If memory serves me correct?

Having read books about the Battle of Shiloh, Easter Sunday, 1862, I was interested in Bierce’s first-hand account. A lot of men died at Shiloh. For a reader of a battle it is important to know direction – north, east, south, west, or ahead, left, right, behind, or the time on the dial of a clock. Bierce tell little of that or the intensity of the fighting – I never learned whether 20 bodies were piled up before Bierce or whether he looked out and saw 50 bodies covering a field. Where did the shooting come from? Was anyone in command?

Anyone writing about battles, military maneuvers and placement of men and armies runs into the excellent Autobiography of US Grant (1885)  There is no nonsense on any battlefield; there is none on paper. Straightforward facts allow irony, humor, social commentary to rend the reader’s imagination. Grant conveys, A Union unit of African-American teamsters and cooks were ordered to do something by their general in early May 1864. The General left. Grant conveyed further, that General did not see those teamsters and cooks until July 1864. What happened to that unit seems obvious. Any officer of rank came across them and gave a new order, or countermanded orders, and the Unit was under his command. An entire story can be told of that unit, while the Union Army fought from Northern Virginia to the James River.

If anything like Grant’s few sentences every appears in Bierce, it is hard to find.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT AUTOBIOGRAPHY

DeCapo

This engaging book is an example why political autobiographies rarely succeed. e.g. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography stops where he begins to discuss politics, policies and persons. There is always slippage, the author confusing his own ego, ideas and proposals with the will of the people. It is seen every day on TV – politician XY or XX bellows that this, that or the next thing is what Americans want.

TR (Theodore Roosevelt) succeeds mostly because he writes well, he states his reasons and logic and he hits issues face on. During his Presidency, opponents labelled him a Socialist. He goes after this issue whilst complaining about persons like Debs, Haywood and others, on one hand, and also disclaiming persons like Harriman – not a good citizen. Whether the reader agrees with TR, he advances his ideas and his deeds. He takes on the Columbia-Panama-Canal issue vigorously. He somewhat solved the Anthracite Coal Strike by changing titles of members of a Presidential Commission. 

The first half of this life is filled with intimate tidbits. Who knew TR admired Jane Austen, unlike his contemporary Mark Twain: “…it is too bad they let her die a natural death.” Which readers have seen eld used, hoary eld in the book; the right stuff apparently is a term of the nineteenth century. Before the big policy issues of the Presidency, TR writes intelligently and efficiently about a number of issues, including, New York City; ineffective men in politics; party patronage; newspaper editors; women’s rights; slum labor; pardoning the wealthy; reading by statemen (or people with power); unequal justice; sociological justice; etc.

There are reasons why Theodore Roosevelt is on Mt. Rushmore; some are found in this volume which I recommend. He looked to the future, not the past, as the salvation of the country, and he discussed issues clearly and intelligently. Any person committed to be a progressive or an activist would do well to read and use thoughts and ideas in this Autobiography:  Why? Because everyone knew that Theodore Roosevelt was a plain, simple, outright Commie!

STATE OF EXISTENCE

At the beginning of September 2019 the Wall Street Journal interviewed Salmon Rushdie.  He’s getting on and has a novelistic fearsome perspective: “I have no idea what’s coming next, but on the basis of what we see, it doesn’t look great.” Later in the interview/review, he says,”Nothing goes according to the old rules anymore.”

That is a plausible perspective. But were the old rules any good, and can anyone ever figure the future?

Today, Americans and everyone in the world who want a change need talents in disciplines beyond literature, Molecular and Cell Biology, software programming and law.  Knowing all four is a good start, but having one discipline and being financially secure makes that individual unfit and likely to pursue any idiot ideology, or an abnormal cult, or follow a way of life offered by a guru from Gordo. Something in every human spirit and being must accept communication and compromise – so sprinklers are redirected to avoid spraying a neighbor’s drive.

If I got it right, Rushdie’s new novel, Quichotte, is a retelling of Don Quixote. Research for this book included watching The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and shows of that ilk. I doubt if I’ll ever read a rewrite of Quixote, but anyone looking for love from TV shows is at a loss. It’s like getting instructions from Trump University on love, all the while knowing Don’s PSA reading is .15. No one can get more real than that, although it sounds like a jolly lie.

Many citizens no longer read. They are attracted to sound. Music is jumping, but what to make of company and incomprehensivensss: Big money, little minds.  Thinking, thought, pondering, ruminating and other activities keeping human beings connected to the world best and attached to one another begin with one individual. Conversing, discussing, talking, saying need another person. Is that difficult? 

FREE SPEECH IN AMERICA

The excellent THEODORE ROOSEVELT AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the Republican Party in 1900 tells, 

…the monotony usually attendant upon such a campaign of political speaking was diversified in vivid fashion by occasional hostile audiences. One or two of the meetings ended in riots. One meeting was finally broken up by a mob; everybody fought so speaking had to stop. Soon after this we reached a town where we were told there might be trouble. Here the local committee included an old and valued friend, a “two-gun” man of repute, who was not in the least quarrelsome, but who always kept his word. We marched around to the local opera-house, which was packed with a mass of men, many of them rather rough-looking. My friend the two-gun man sat immediately behind me, fixing his gaze with instant intentness on any section of the house from which there came so much as a whisper. The audience listened to me with rapt attention. At the end, with a pride in my rhetorical powers which proceeded from a misunderstanding of the situation, I remarked to the chairman: “I held that audience well; there wasn’t an interruption.”

To which the chairman replied: “Interruption? Well, I guess not. Seth had sent around word that if any son of a gun peeped he’d kill him!”

Chapter 4, p. 129-130; New York, DA CAPO, 1985.