December 28, 2017

Santa’s Chariot of the Sun

Santa carries the sun of the dying year in his reindeer-drawn sled through the sky of the longest night, distributing the lights and gifts with which we kindle the sun of a new year out of the sparks and embers of the old.

November 26, 2017

Excerpt from La Belle Sauvage, Volume One of The Book of Dust

Excerpt from La Belle Sauvage, Volume One of The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman:

The lawns all sloped gently up to a great palace, glowing at every window, where people (too small to see in detail at that distance) moved about as if at a ball or a reception for important guests. They danced behind the windows, they stood talking on the terrace, they wandered here and there among the fountains and the flowers in the garden. Scraps of a waltz played by a large orchestra drifted down to the travellers on the grass, and scraps of conversation too, from the people who were walking to and fro.

On the other bank of the little river there was . . . nothing to see at all. A thick fog covered everything beyond the edge of the water. From time to time something would make the fog swirl and seem about to part, but it never did. Whether the opposite bank was like this one, cultivated, beautiful, wealthy, or whether it was an empty desert, they couldn’t tell.


The path to the palace led through the gardens, among the little trees with lights, past the beds of roses and lilies and other flowers, past a fountain with glowing water and then another with water that sparkled and a third that sprayed up not water but something like eau de cologne – and after all that, the travellers seemed not a yard closer to the building on the hill. They could see every window, every column, every one of the steps leading to the great open door and the glowing space inside; they could see people moving about behind the tall windows; they could even hear the sound of music as if a ball was in progress; but they were just as far from the palace as they were when they started.

‘This path must be laid out like a sodding maze,’ said Alice.

‘Let’s go straight across the grass,’ said Malcolm. ‘If we keep it right in front of us we can’t go wrong.’

So they tried that. If they came to a path they crossed it. If they came to a fountain they went round it and carried straight on. If they came to a flower bed they went right through it. And still they were no closer.


Wandering towards them was a little group of two men and two women. [...] They were young and elegant, dressed for a ball, the women in long gowns that left their arms and shoulders bare, the men in black and white evening dress, and they each carried a glass. They were all laughing and talking in that light happy way that Malcolm had seen lovers doing, and the dæmons, all birds, fluttered around or settled on their shoulders.

‘Excuse me,’ he said as they approached, ‘but . . .’

They ignored him and walked closer. Malcolm stepped right in front of them.

‘Sorry to bother you, but d’you know how we can—’

They took no notice whatsoever. It was as if he didn’t exist except as an obstacle in the path. Two went one side of him, laughing and chatting, and two went the other, hand in hand, murmuring into each other’s ears.


He found that he could return to the canoe in just a few steps. Somehow that wasn’t surprising.


[Malcolm climbs a tree for resin to repair his canoe ...] Then he looked out of the tree and across the great lawns and flower beds as far as the terrace and the house beyond it: gracious and comfortable, splendid and generous. He thought that one day he’d come here by right, and be made welcome, and stroll among these gardens with happy companions and feel at ease with life and death.

Then he looked the other way, across the little river. And he was high enough in the tree to see over the top of the fog bank, which only extended upwards for a few feet, as he now discovered; and beyond it he saw a desolation, a wilderness of broken buildings, burned houses, heaps of rubble, crude shanties made of shattered plywood and tar-paper, coils of rusty barbed wire, puddles of filthy water whose surfaces gleamed with the toxic shimmer of chemical waste, where children with sores on their arms and legs were throwing stones at a dog tied to a post.

[...] Bonneville! It’s him!


‘That’s the place where people go when they forget. You seen the fog on the other side?’

‘Yes. And I saw what was behind it.’

‘That fog’s hiding everything they ought to remember. If it ever cleared away, they’d have to take stock of theirselves, and they wouldn’t be able to stay in the garden no more.’

November 11, 2017

Seven megatrends for global warming ‘hope’ – five of which are bunk

At The Guardian on 8 November, Damien Carrington wrote “The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: ‘There is reason for hope’

1. Methane: getting to the meat
2. Renewable energy: time to shine
3. King coal: dead or dying
4. Electric cars: in the fast lane
5. Batteries: lots in store
6. Efficiency: negawatts over megawatts
7. Forests: seeing the wood

#1: Methane not only has >20 times the greenhouse effect of CO₂, it persists in the atmosphere only ~10 years, whereas CO₂ persists for hundreds, ie, the emissions from coal burning in the 19th century are still out there and those from coal and oil in the 20th century and today will not diminish for hundreds of years.

Alas, besides #1, and except for #6 (using less energy), the other points are bunk.

#2: Intermittent and variable renewable energy (wind and solar) do not significantly reduce emissions, because backup sources are required. And such diffuse energy sources require massive amounts of land and materials to collect any meaningful amount: real adverse effects being the cost of theoretical-only benefits.

#3: Coal use is not diminishing, only slowing in growth. Where it has decreased, it is being replaced by cheap natural gas (half the CO₂ emissions but lots of methane leakage at the wells; also most practical backup for wind, except that forces the generators to operate at about half the efficiency they are otherwise capable of).

#4: Electric cars are only as "green" as the grid they get their power from (and see #5).

#5: Batteries reduce efficiency (see #6). For example, an internal combustion engine is a lot more efficient that burning fuel to make electricity (with two-thirds of the energy lost as heat) to charge batteries to then move a car. And like electric cars, they are an environmental disaster on a large scale.

#6: There is a shortcoming here, though, in that demand for energy continues to grow with increasing population and wider technological prosperity (i.e., more of the world living like the richest), offsetting increased conservation and efficiency.

#7: The article calls for rather than cites ending deforestation. It does not mention that much of it is driven by animal agriculture (another, besides #1, of its contributions to climate change). It mentions palm oil plantations, but doesn't mention that those are for "green" biofuel. It doesn't mention the cutting driven by demand for wood as a "green" source of electricity and heat.

Cf:Wind and Solar Power Advance, but Carbon Refuses to Retreat” By Eduardo Porter, New York Times, Nov. 7, 2017

September 26, 2017

Don't waste your time with distractions from pulling down statues, taking a knee, punching nazis

C. J. Hopkins writes (excerpt):

Now, despite what the Russian propagandists will tell you, this recent outbreak of fascistic behavior has nothing whatsoever to do with these people’s frustration with neoliberalism or the supranational Corporatocracy that has been expanding its global empire with total impunity for twenty-five years. And it definitely has nothing at all to do with supranational political unions, or the supersession of national sovereignty by corporate-concocted “free trade” agreements, or the relentless privatization of everything, or the fear that a lot of people have that their cultures are being gradually erased and replaced with a globalized, corporate-friendly, multicultural, market-based culture, which is merely a simulation of culture, and which contains no actual cultural values (because exchange value is its only operative value), but which sells the empty signifiers of their eviscerated cultural values back to them so they can wear their “identities” like designer brands as they hunch together in silence at Starbucks posting pictures of themselves on Facebook.

No, this discontent with the political establishment, corporate elites, and the mainstream media has nothing to do with any of that. It’s not like global Capitalism, following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. (its last external ideological adversary), has been restructuring the entire planet in accordance with its geopolitical interests, or doing away with national sovereignty, and other nationalistic concepts that no longer serve a useful purpose in a world where a single ideological system (one backed by the most fearsome military in history) reigns completely unopposed. If that were the case, well, it might behoove us to question whether this outbreak of Nazism, racism, and other forms of “hate,” was somehow connected to that historical development … and maybe even try to articulate some sort of leftist analysis of that.

This hypothetical leftist analysis might want to focus on how Capitalism is fundamentally opposed to Despotism, and is essentially a value-decoding machine which renders everything and everyone it touches essentially valueless interchangeable commodities whose worth is determined by market forces, rather than by societies and cultures, or religions, or other despotic systems (wherein values are established and enforced arbitrarily, by the despot, the church, or the ruling party, or by a group of people who share an affinity and decide they want to live a certain way). This is where it would get sort of tricky, because it (i.e., this hypothetical analysis) would have to delve into the history of Capitalism, and how it evolved out of medieval Despotism, and how it has been decoding despotic values for something like five hundred years. This historical delving (which would probably be too long for people to read on their phones) would demonstrate how Capitalism has been an essentially progressive force in terms of getting us out of Despotism (which, for most folks, wasn’t very much fun) by fomenting bourgeois revolutions and imposing some semblance of democracy on societies. It would follow Capitalism’s inexorable advance all the way up to the Twentieth Century, in which its final external ideological adversary, fake Communism, suddenly imploded, delivering us to the world we now live in … a world where a single ideology rules the planet unopposed from without, and where any opposition to that global ideology can only be internal, or insurgent, in nature (e.g, terrorism, extremism, and so on). Being a hypothetical leftist analysis, it would, at this point, need to stress that, despite the fact that Capitalism helped deliver us from Despotism, and improved the state of society generally (compared to most societies that preceded it), we nonetheless would like to transcend it, or evolve out of it toward some type of society where people, and everything else, including the biosphere we live in, are not interchangeable, valueless commodities exchanged by members of a global corporatocracy who have no essential values, or beliefs, or principles, other than the worship of money. After having covered all that, we might want to offer more a nuanced view of the current neo-nationalist reaction to the Corporatocracy’s ongoing efforts to restructure and privatize the rest of the planet. Not that we would support this reaction, or in any way refrain from calling neo-nationalism what it is (i.e., reactionary, despotic, and doomed), but this nuanced view we’d hypothetically offer, by analyzing the larger sociopolitical and historical forces at play, might help us to see the way forward more clearly, and … who knows, maybe eventually propose some kind of credible leftist alternative to the “global neoliberalism vs. neo-nationalism” double bind we appear to be hopelessly stuck in at the moment.

September 7, 2017

Still, by Adam Thorpe (an excerpt)

The point is, guv, Mr and Mrs Trevelyan APPROVED of what Mr Trevelyan’s second cousin once removed did to his boy, who was called Ashley. Agatha remembers them approving. When the subject pops up now and again, as it does, not even a hairline crack has appeared in the huge windowless wall of their APPROVAL. Actually, this wall is a dam. It’s keeping out what’d sweep everything away in a tide of moral filth and squalor. This APPROVAL appals Agatha. She’s eighteen, just. There’s a big gap between her and her parents. She’s not Victorian but Edwardian OK Georgian. Her cognisant life has been spent out of the shadow of that miserable old tent. It’s made a difference. Her heroine is Sylvia Pankhurst. She’s hung around at the back of two demonstrations for Women’s Suffrage in Hyde Park. She’s seen a woman dig her elbow in a policeman’s stomach. Her friend Amy tells her that there are secret classes in hand-to-hand combat and How To Disable A Policeman. Zelda wouldn’t believe me when I told her this. I said these suffrage women make Germaine Greer look like a kitchen sink. Zelda has this idea that everyone before 1968 were parents, they just spent all their time yelling up the stairs about the noise and collecting Tupperware and getting their hair done. I said 1968 was a wash-out, it was a fake, it was a student vacation in the woods where the camp-fire and the brown acid does weird things for an evening or two. She thinks I’m hung up about ’68 because I was too old for it. You were too young for it, I tell her, you were too young for it. Anyway, 1968 is completely outrun by what’s happening around Agatha. These people are inventing things like Cubism and Old Age Pensions and Militant Feminism and National Insurance and the Modernist Novel. It’s really incredible what’s going on behind these gigs and omnibuses and Model T Fords and mahogany doors with brass knockers and ridiculous clothes that swish and hats that fall off in a wind, they’re so tall, so broad. It’s really incredible. Blimey, think where it could have got to. But the contraption is on the move. Sir Philistine Fascist is shaking his Spectator in the Criterion. He’s plotting how to quell the natives. Break their spirit. Give them baubles. Kill ’em in large numbers. Ho yes, Sir Philistine won’t be that easily taken. Wha’dya think of it, Trevelyan? Ha? Arthur Trevelyan peeps out briefly from behind his Times. His knee is being attacked by the Spectator. Trevelyan is having a hard time just at this moment. I won’t go into details but it’s to do with Izal cornering the market in anti-typhoid measures in India. Trevelyan Disinfectants has sat back on its buckets and is paying the price. Izal have made huge inroads in London hospitals. Izal Disinfectants & Antiseptics are cheaper. Trevelyan had pinned his recovery on the enormous requirements of the sub-continent, the teeming filth and flies, the mass swab that the Empire demanded and which he was absolutely primed to provide. But Izal is 2d cheaper per bucket. He doesn’t like Sir Philistine Fascist banging his knee with the Spectator. It’s vulgar, apart from anything else. But Sir Philistine is a knight, he has connections, he has the ear of Bonar Law. Quite so, quite so, says Mr Trevelyan. My wife is a nervous case, for instance. They are all nervous cases. Society is rapidly becoming a nervous case. I suggest the medieval instrument whereby the scold was silenced. It fitted around the mouth and was locked with a key. I shall take out a patent and go into immediate production if you provide the investment, Sir Philistine. Sir Philistine roars his approval, turning heads. It’s good for these heads, they need the exercise, most of them have been asleep under their newspapers and illustrated periodicals for about forty years. I’ll tell ya what, Trevelyan, growls Sir Philistine, I’ll back ya to the hilt as long as it’s not the other damn opening you’re plugging up, what? He roars again. Trevelyan nods politely and disappears back into the obituaries. Terrible to say, but Sir Philistine’s vulgar quip has stirred Mr Trevelyan into a mild sexual need. An antique orgy is briefly squeaked down in front of the day’s dead, hiding the bishops and judges and generals and stuff. He closes his eyes and lets it play itself out. One of the participants is Ruthie. Ruthie does not fit in with the general picture, which is kind of eighteenth-century classical-pastoral. She giggles too much and says gerrofwivyer and her unlaced flopping corset is out of place amongst the gossamery Psyches with their fat thighs and tumbling hair under the ilex. He must see Ruthie. He must fit her in before dinner. He stirs and studies his fob with a frown. Apart from the fact that the guy has a wing collar and mutton-chop whiskers and an antique suit it might be now, it might be one of those City pinstripes with veined cheeks checking his Rolex in between meetings that keep the free market free and the world in jail. Sir Philistine Fascist is snoring. He always does this, it’s embarrassing, he dribbles some sort of coppery stuff. Trevelyan’s mouth goes up at one corner, shoving his whiskers around. He’s anticipating, he’s anticipating. Saliva gathers in his throat. He swallows it down along with some sweet smoke and a taste of antique sherry. He hasn’t been smoking, he hasn’t been drinking, it’s just the air, the air is expensive in here, it’s exclusive to the club and it’s been built up over about a century to this very collectable miasma. He settles back and closes his eyes. He has pouches under his eyes. He’s only forty-five but he has pouches. He likes to close his eyes sometimes and listen to the baize doors thumping away off and the brash and vulgar world tiptoeing past on its muffled hooves like a memory but Sir Philistine’s snore is really bad today and Trevelyan clears his throat loudly which always helps. Sir Philistine grunts and twitches his nose like a fly’s landed on it and then he lets off. It’s foul, it really is, there’s something very rotten inside Sir Philistine’s guts, my great-great-grandfather closes down the hatches of his nose and breathes through his mouth. The fellow knows Bonar Law. Bonar Law might form the next government. Members are always pooping. You can’t bar a fellow for letting orf. You can only bar a fellow for not wearing a tie. That’s the worst thing, that’s criminal. The second worst thing is to expire under a newspaper so no one notices. Sometimes no one notices until decomposition sets in. When it is eventually noticed there’s a lot of whispering and flunkeys bobbing about and then suddenly the chair is empty. Then this guy comes in and swabs it discreetly because there’s often some sort of evacuation and even if there isn’t it’s a symbolic gesture, it’s a reassurance, it means you can sit in it as soon as the smell of disinfectant has evaporated and the leather’s dry but no one does for about a week, just in case. Mr Trevelyan likes members to expire on site because he can smell his product. It’s always Trevelyan’s. The reason it’s always Trevelyan’s is because he’s done a cut-price deal with the club. The day they use Izal he’ll resign and probably go shoot himself. So he keeps this deal up, even though it hurts. Especially when times are lean. And they are increasingly lean. His eyelid tic is due to this leanness. It tics away uncontrollably in meetings and just before he goes to sleep. I’m leaving him in the chair because Agatha and William are having an interesting conversation in the attic about ten streets away and I don’t want to miss it. Notice how I’m really concentrating and not thinking about Zelda and HIG too much. This is because I’ve had a break. I’ve been off set for about a month. The Mussolinis, anyway, were wondering why I was spending so much time in the library. They don’t like the idea of their employees spending too much time in the library. It means they might he spending HCDVA time on research, instead of their own personal time, like after midnight or just before dawn. So they gave me three extra classes and five hundred essays to mark. It was really about fifty essays but the students can rewrite, it’s a divine right, it’s liberal and progressive and so they take all your comments and the notes they took down when they wasted an hour of your life asking you why you gave their work of incisive genius a lousy grade and they hang ’em together and come back and you give them a slightly less lousy grade and encourage the use of the comma and the full stop and even the semicolon from time to time and the whole process repeats itself. Meanwhile Zelda was seeing Hair In the Gate. I got very depressed. I took my phone off the hook because these dumbo students kept shouting down it. Now they’ve all got straight As because I’m a great essay-writer, I know my stuff, there’s nothing I do not know about stuff like the impact of the moving image on social discourses and the impact of social discourses on the moving image – it’s all in here, tap tap, and I can’t blow the Hair Out of the Gate. So I’m concentrating. Zelda says hey, it’s platonic. I say I never believed that stuff about Plato. So I’m concentrating and not in the HCDVA library. I’m in my study, I’m busking a bit part in The Life and Times of St Jerome. We go out once in a while, my sweetheart and I. To the zoo, last week. It has great colobus, they like doughnuts, they keep looking around like neurotics who’ve just realised why they’ve lost. I could watch them for hours. Zelda prefers the cheetah. I can’t stand the cheetah. I can’t stand watching the fastest animal in the world searching for somewhere to get the acceleration up and not finding it, not ever finding it. I’m patient. One day I will tell him to lay his hands off. Not yet, not yet.

September 4, 2017

Wicker men

On Facebook, John Steppling shared Hiroyuki Hamada's post: August 31 at 7:09am [UTC] · A nice summation of all that is wrong with Hedges reactionary and historically distorted piece.

Hiroyuki Hamada: August 29 at 6:37pm · As a general rule we should all remember that the empire always wins when people chant "all violence must stop". That is how the scope and depth of imperialism, firmly guided by the wealth and power accumulation, manifests itself. And when there is a call for unity among the oppressed from such a perspective, we should regard it as a call to accept the wasting hierarchy of money and violence. That's basically what people like Chris Hedges do.

Here is a rather comprehensive analysis of Hedges' latest problematic essay.

What's Wrong with Chris Hedges view that ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right’

John Steppling: September 2 at 2:37pm · amazing that historical revisionism of the worst sort is seen as weak critique. But i give up. And as authoritiarinism....uh....anti fa may be half informants at this point, and agent provocateurs...but authoritarian? out. This is tedious beyond endurance. Hedges is a tool of Imperialism. Margaretk Kimberley was right, Bruce Dixon was right, phil and I are right, and Hiroyuki. Id think with that, just for openers, as a list of voices against hedges that people like Jonathan here would pause. Think a bit. And as the thought experiement goes. Of course there is a difference. Look...conflating fascism and anti fascism is the ploy of the state. Its working apparently. But im done with this topic. I swear. Out.

Olaf Errwigge: The problem is not "conflating" – the problem is who is actually fascist and who anti-fascist. The Weekend Wehrmacht wallows in the symbols of historical fascism but stand against the corporatist imperialist state. The Pink Putsch adopt the symbols of historical civil rights struggles but shut down demonstrations, suppress speech.

Lex Steppling: No hahah, that's not the problem in this case. In this case the fascist and the anti fascist are pretty clearly articulated. The other conflation happening, oddly, is that of antifa with liberalism.

Jonathan Berhow: Hiroyuki I respect and causes me to pause, which is why I read this and commented. I was hoping for a hard but fair, incisive critique of Hedges. This article wasn't it. It was more concerned with confirmation bias than analysis.

The authoritarianism to which I was referring was of the ideological, tribalist variety, not the kind that simply defers to a hetman.

Of course there is a difference, and I recognized it. But there are also significant similarities. To suggest a total, black and white difference is simplistic--at least in that it does not recognize the point on the political spectrum where left-right converge over issues of control over their group (and here is one aspect of authoritarianism) and over The Other. But insisting on a total difference does serve a purpose in regard to identity.

Is "conflating fascism and anti fascism" more or less "the ploy of the state" than instigating those with similar socioeconomic status to fight against one another instead of against those above them with serious power and money?

But here is the point of clarity: I'm not interested in being right, but in understanding this issue. Being right is a horse of a different color. And if that is what is most valuable to you, then we are not communicating and any analysis is irrelevant except to signify rightness and identity.

Olaf Errwigge: Lex Steppling — The conflation of antifa and liberalism would certainly be fair as all who don't daily express a hatred of Trump are conflated with white supremacists. (Hedges' main error is the latter conflation.)

Lex Steppling: Olaf, all you ever do is offer strawmen. You are creating composites of the people you don't like, and basing your arguments on them. As for being a Trump apologist, if you are, then yeah, fuck you, but then don't assume I have other political position...See More

Olaf Errwigge: You have just illustrated exactly what I described.

Lex Steppling: I have yet to see you actually say something. You want a safe space to be wrong, or turn the other cheek at state terror, then yeah, you wont find it with me. I'm engaged in this conversation because it's important, but you have literally not said anything of any substance.

Olaf Errwigge: State terror is real. Shutting down undesired political speech is part of it. Only one side is doing that, and it's not the "Trump apologists".

Lex Steppling: Are you more bothered by white nationalist murdering people in the street, or campus activists shutting down speeches by alt right figures? I'm genuinely asking. And yes, the right could give a fuck about free speech, they are concerned with one, and that's the their own race based ideology.

Olaf Errwigge: See, you're using one death in Charlottesville to condemn the entire "right". And you accuse me of straw man argument.

[Regarding Hedges’ column, Olaf Errwigge: August 28 at 5:06pm · If Hedges wants to slander the alt-right as having a lust for violence behind it, then he should similarly not limit his mirror to antifa but extend it to all of pseudoleftist enablers of the Democratic party. There are hateful thugs on both sides, driven by their respective sense of righteousness. But driving today's violence is the "liberal" side, that has dismissed half the country as irredeemable deplorables and thus "rationalizes" a purge, not just from public discourse and commerce but even physically. Like the Ukrainian coup and the Egyptian counter-revolution coup, it's violence in the name of making one lifestyle the only lifestyle, one way of thinking the only way. Populism is the enemy of liberalism, and so the latter has diverted the issue into this meaningless – though highly destructive – culture war. The mirror of Antifa is not the populist alt-right, but the reactionary Daesh.]

[John Steppling: August 31 at 6:11pm · Wow. Just wow.]

[[[[ | ]]]]

They kept going on … John Steppling: September 1 at 4:51am · when I criticized hedges I ended up having to block several people. I was stunned. It is political immaturity. But its more. I had someone on my thread yesterday refer to the rise of national socialism and the "communist inquisition". So the propaganda and revisionism runs very deep. As does indoctrination.

Chris Hedges is a Public Menace
Olaf Errwigge: It was in 1978 that the Supreme Court agreed with the ACLU that however much one felt "attacked" by seeing a swastika, it is a symbolic form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protections and itself did not constitute "fighting words." But of course, now Trump is President, and the steady march of neoliberal corporatism and neoconservative imperialism since 1980 is suddenly a concern. Or is it the alt-right's opposition to it that people really can't deal with? Throwing the racist baby out with the populist bathwater.

Lex Steppling: It would be a lot easier for you if you were actually arguing with this imaginary person who believes we should do away with the first amendment and attack anyone with a differing viewpoint with sticks and shovels. You are debating points that nobody here has made. If you don't like people showing up in the streets and fighting each other, then go ahead and deem it distasteful, but enough with the red hearings and composite opposition.

Olaf Errwigge: From the posted article: ‘The self deputizing, vigilante, already quasi-death squads must be confronted. They must be forced to crawl back to their basements and hotel rooms. The threat is real, so must the resistance be. If we are to transform society more work than this need be done. If we are to prevent self deputizing death squads from roaming the street they must fear public gathering.’

In other words, public gatherings of people imagined to be "self-deputizing death squads" must be prevented, ie, the first amendment does not apply and violence is justified.

Lex Steppling: The last time they assembled, they murdered people.

Olaf Errwigge: One person murdered one person. Destroy the village, right?

Lex Steppling: You officially disgust me, and I'm happy I don't know you. Your a disgusting piece of shit. And the law doesn't protect murder, let alone assault, so you aren't even making sense other than to seem really committed to the notion that punching a Nazi is worse than letting one kill you or your loved ones. I'm pretty astounded. Your the type of person who would hide under a table while someone got the shit kicked out of them or worse by a group of people. Cowardly scummy old fuck.

Lex Steppling: John Steppling — this is the element youve apparently attracted. Fuck me im repulsed.

Paula Densnow: Collective punishment is illegal under international law. Why does that repulse you?

Olaf Errwigge: Stand your ground, now. Don't you see how much you sound just like what you purport to be against?

Olaf Errwigge: No, the law doesn't protect murder or assault – so why are you advocating it against an scourge that is only imagined?

Lex Steppling: You are both clearly armchair cowards. You don't know shit about international law obviously, and even if that was the case no one is calling for purges, this is literally about people showing up for brawls. But it obviously doesn't matter, your more concerned about a nazis face than you are the lives of the people they keep attaching and will co tongue to atrack, and have attacked and killed for years.

Olaf Errwigge: See, you're still at it: First, you call them all nazis, and second, you imagine they "keep attacking and will continue to attack and have attacked and killed for years". That is exactly the language of "self-deputizing vigilante quasi–death squads".

Lex Steppling: I'm not advocating it. But you don't like to actually read what people or saying or pay attention to the argument. And they are violent and are intent on making that clear by doing things like killing people. So I'm not sure what your committed to believing at this point

Olaf Errwigge: You charged me with being "committed to the notion that punching a Nazi is worse than letting one kill you or your loved ones", which is based on nothing I've written. Therefore, one must assume that you imagine Nazis as an active threat and advocate punching them to prevent it. To not see them as an active threat and therefore to not advocate shutting them down violently or otherwise is to be "cowardly", one gathers.

Lex Steppling: I did charge you with the former, cause that's what you said. As for the latter, that's more the imagined debate you keep participating in. Nazis are a threat to people's safety as they keep proving, whether a threat to the state or not, is a whole other question. But they have been shooting into crowds and bombing buildings and lynching people and moving people down with cars for years. So yeah, when they are around to see them as a threat is rational. And yes, on believe you to be a coward.

Olaf Errwigge: Please show me where I said it.

Lex Steppling: Every time to try to diminish their violence or pretend it's just a free speech issue while simultaneously condemning those who brawl with them in the streets you are doing just that

Olaf Errwigge: Lex Steppling — That is your view, not mine, because you are doing the opposite: exaggerating their violence and threat and relishing violently shutting them down.

John Steppling: ok...Olaf you are only trying to create red herrings in order to keep arguing. I have found you a fatuous troll in the past and now Im seeing it again. What exactly is it you believe? That somehow nazis are not a threat to anyone? They are and people, communities have the right to defend themselves. A bit like palestinians do, or any black american does. Or native american. The panthers obviously realized that. I never *avocate* violence. But creeps like Hedges, a guy who still parrots the new york times on all matters of foreign policy, are equating fascists and klansmen with black box and antifa. That is because hedges is anti leftist. If your political immaturity is such that you cant grasp that, then just go away. You are a fucking waste of everyone's time and Ive indulged many of you people for several days. You are trolls. I dont know you and know nobody who knows you. So explain who you are and what you believe or just go the fuck away.

Olaf Errwigge: John Steppling — I have myself criticized Hedges, about whom I generally agree with you. But in this case, I have criticized him because he makes the same error you do: exaggerating the violence and threat of public demonstrations by Trump supporters because of the symbolism of one very small faction. He does it to equate antifa with them. You do it to justify violence against them. That is all I have been saying, and it is you and Lex, unable to grasp that simple argument, who have been trolling me.

John Steppling: do you know someone's psychology? Relishing? How do you know that? That sort of assumption is idiotic. If you think their violence is exaggerated. Fine. I dont think it is all that huge either, in comparison with the police in america. But ideologically they are identical. Prison guards, cops, KKK, the promise keepers...that sort of religious right...all of them are fascistic. Hyper nationalist, racist, and xenophobic. Also militaristic. It is my experience that when the police are NOT on your side, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain a pacifist.

Olaf Errwigge: John Steppling — Exactly. But all we've seen are massive actions to shut down tiny political rallies.

John Steppling: no, but you miss the point that the police are acting on behalf of the white klansmen etc. It may or may not be, often, political theatre. But there are obviously deeply entrenched racist structures of state and bureaucracy in the US, The prison system is one. These guys do initiate violence. I dont fear them directly, but im not there. Ask cornell west. So....if you are poor and black in the US, then those numbers are relative because you live in a system that reflects THOSE guys beliefs and not your own.

John Steppling: or vice versa. Those white racists are part of a structural system of of white supremacism. And it is deeply entrenched in the US. Im not sure europeans can fully grasp that. It is a daily reality for black people in the US. And cops are one with those white racists. Absolutely aligned with them. And of non violence is fine until you realize that it is non stop violence against black people and communities in the US. 24 hours a day.

Olaf Errwigge: It is nonstop violence against /all/ people and communities in the US. Racism thrives in that environment. But the issue at hand is the exaggerated (and misplaced) response to tiny political rallies in support of Trump.

Lex Steppling: ^"all lives matter lol

Olaf you are a troll whether you realize it or not. White nationalists showed up to blm rallies and ok one occasion shy 5 people there. They showed up to standing rock and pulled guns on people. They show up to immigrants rights rallies and once plowed a car into it. They did the same at a transgender march. Every progressive change ever made in this country has come from direct action, and in every case they have shown up and killed and named. I've made this point countless time and you choose to ignore it. They are a threat to the personally safety of people like me and many I know, and have. Even proving it for generations, and at the moment they feel particularly empowered. So if you choose to stubbornly continue to claim that they aren't a threat, or to call the violence exaggerated, then do it somewhere else. Cause right now you sound like and old racist piece of shit, and my guess is that you've never been out in the streets for anyone. My assumption is now that you have no idea what any of this looks like. its ok not to know, but it's not ok to keep talking when you don't.

Olaf Errwigge: Again, I agree, but the actual villains are not the ones being attacked. That only adds to the problem.
Perusing Hr. Errwigge’s Facebook page, one finds this (among much else of interest):
August 25 at 6:30pm · Fact check: "There are no nice Nazis." The fallacy in that statement lies in the unproven assumption that the people referred to are in fact "Nazis". They may in fact be "nice" people (at least no less so than others) who are being slandered as such.

It's a lazy trope. You can't say "There are no nice Democrats" or "no nice Sanders or Stein voters" or "no nice Republicans" or even "no nice Trump voters" (although the latter are very common memes in some circles (whose members no doubt consider themselves to be "nice")), so call them Nazis and you can.
And a comment he added:
This actually began during the election campaign, when people tried to block Trump's events. At the Democratic nominating convention, the crowds on cue shut down dissenting messages from Sanders supporters. It continued to the inauguration, when people tried to block access there, too. Yesterday a "Patriot Prayer" event in San Francisco was cancelled in the face of thousands of people ready to block it as "Hate". Today a "No to Marxism in America" event in Berkeley was cancelled for similar reasons, but some Trump supporters gathered and were met by more people calling them racist, white supremacist, KKK, and Nazi.
A later post: “As always, battles between the haves are fought by the have-nots.”

Update:  Hr. Errwigge has informed your editor that John Steppling "unfriended" him at some point after the above discussion.

August 23, 2017

Travels in My Homeland (Almeida Garrett)

Excerpts from: Almeida Garrett, Travels in My Homeland (Viagens na minha terra, 1846)


No – go to the Devil, you generation of steam and pottery; macadamize roads; make railways; build flying machines, like Icarus, to cover faster and faster the numbered hours of this material, coarse and humdrum life that you have made of the one God gave us, which was so different from the way we live today. Go on, money-grubbers, go on! Reduce everything to figures, reduce all the considerations of this world to equations of material interest: buy, sell, speculate. At the end of it all, what profit will there have been for the human species? A few dozen more rich men. I ask the political economists and the moralists if they have calculated the number of individuals who must be condemned to misery, to excessive labour, to depravity, to villainy, to wanton ignorance, to insurmountable wretchedness, to absolute poverty, in order to produce one rich man. The British parliament should be able to tell them, after so many commissions of inquiry there, they must have computed the number of souls that must be sold to the Devil and the number of bodies that must be delivered before their time to the cemetery to make a wealthy, noble textile manufacturer like Sir Robert Peel, or a mine-owner, a banker, a gentleman farmer or whatever: every rich, well-to-do man costs hundreds of unhappy wretches.

Therefore the happiest nation is not the wealthiest. ...

I has long been said that honour and profit are not good bedfellows ... (ch. III)


Because the story of this world is the story of the house that Jack built. Here is the dog that bit the cat that killed the rat that gnawed the rope, etc. etc: it keeps going on like this. (ch. XIII)


Joaninha’s eyes are a vast book, written in moving characters whose infinite combinations are beyond my comprehension.

What are your eyes saying, Joaninha?

What language do they speak?

Oh, why do you have to have green eyes, Joaninha?

The lily and the jasmin are white; red the rose; the rosemary blue . . .

The violet purple and the jonquil gold.

But all nature’s colours come from one alone, green.

Green is the origin and first type of all beauty.

The other colours make up green; in green is the whole, the unity of created beauty.

The eyes of the first man must have been green.

The sky is blue . . .

The night is black . . .

The earth and the sea are green . . .

The night is black, but beautiful. Your eyes, Soledade, were black and beautiful as the night.

The stars that shine in the depths of night are beautiful, but who does not sigh for day at the end of a long night?

And for the stars to disappear, to go away, at last! . . .

Comes the day. . . . The sky is blue and beautiful, but one’s eyes weary of looking at it.

Oh, the sky is blue like your eyes, Georgina! . . .

But the earth is green and the eyes find it restful, never tiring of the infinite variety of its pleasant hues.

The sea is green and rises and falls. . . . But oh, it is as sad as the earth is joyful.

Life is made up of joys and sadness . . .

Green is sad and joyful, like the joys of life itself!

Joaninha, Joaninha, why do you have to have green eyes? (ch. XXIII)

[cf. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939), pages 611–612]


I hate philosophy and I hate reason, and I sincerely believe that in such a topsy-turvy world as this, a society which is so false, an existence as absurd as this one is made by its laws, customs, institutions and conventions, to affect in words the accuracy, the logic and integrity that does not exist in things themselves, is the worst and most pernicious incoherence there is.

Let us say no more about this, because it is not good for one, and let us end the chapter here. (ch. XXXVIII)

The end of the previous chapter is, I know, a terrible document in support of the charge of scepticism that has been brought against me by certain unlettered moralists, at whom I have the audacity to laugh, at them, their indictment and their accusation, at the same time protesting that I shall neither seek redress nor appeal, nor ask for any reversal of the wondrous judgement their most excellent hypocrisies may deign to pronounce against me.
After this solemn declaration, let us proceed.

And as for you, benevolent reader, to whom I wish to give only pleasure, if these fantasies still weary you, I advise you to turn over this obnoxious page, because the reflections in the last chapter are as out of place in my book as most things are in this world. Go to sleep, then, and wake not from the fine ideal of your logic.

It is a discovery of mine, of which I am vain and conceited, this idea that logic and punctuality in life’s affairs are much more a dream and an ideal than the most fantastic dream and the most exquisite ideal in poetry. (ch. XXXIX)

August 18, 2017

Lyme disease: natural prevention, first aid, and treatment

Sojourns Community Health Clinic in Westminster, Vt., provides herbal and "integrative" treatment of Lyme disease, with a couple of their naturopaths being "tick experts". The following is from their handout on prevention and first aid.

  • Use "Tick Shield" by Cedarcide as a repellant. It's safe for medium-size and large dogs, too, not for cats.
  • After possible exposure, put your clothes in the dryer on high for 15 minutes. Check your body, especially the warm moist areas. They also recommend some (rather expensive) herbal support regimens to take "during" possible tick exposure.
  • If you've been bit, get the tick tested. Note the date, and watch for symptoms over the next 30 days. Treat the bite topically with Andrographis tincture. If worried (before any symptoms), start a course of herbal antibiotics.
And the following outlines their integrative treatment regimen.
  • Antibiotics: Ceftin (cefuroxime axetil) or doxycycline
  • Nystatin (antifungal) and probiotics to mitigate the effects of the antibiotics
  • Serrapeptase to expose the bacteria by breaking down their protective biofilm
  • Their own "Tick Bite Formula" of cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa), Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), cryptolepis (Cryptolepis sanguinolenta), and houttuynia (Houttuynia cordata)
    Note:  In addition to the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, ticks may carry a Babesia parasite (B. microti, now classified as Theileria microti) and Bartonella bacteria. Cat's claw and Japanese knotweed target Borrelia, cryptolepis acts on the Babesia, and houttuynia is for the Bartonella.
  • — all of the above for at least 2 months
  • After the Tick Bite Formula, "A-L Formula" (Byron White) for immune support for 1 month.
Their herbal-only option is just the Tick Bite Formula and Serrapeptase. A child-friendly option is Samento (Nutramedix; cat's claw) and Serrapeptase.

You can order the herbal medicines from the Sojourns apothecary.

Note:  Dosages have been deliberately left out here; you should consult your own Lyme-literate integrative naturopath or holistic practitioner. Alexis Chesney of Sojourns has written a book, "Living Tick-Free: Preventing Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease", that is available electronically.

August 17, 2017

The dangerous madness of “antifa”

Statement by Gainesville Antifascists:
The method of "opposing" fascism that calls for ignoring the genocidal ideology and its supporters and strict non-violence (in lieu of self/community defense) is often an attempt to abdicate responsibility by the advocate.

However, this spectacle of claiming the moral high ground actually exposes the speaker's ignorance and privilege. Only someone unaware of and temporarily safe from the immediate threat of fascism would claim this is a viable solution.

A diversity of tactics is always welcome and needed, but singing hymns and holding 'peace' signs is not a direct way to defend your community against fascism. It may help bridge solidarity amongst participants -- and this is needed. But the antifascists will be the ones risking life and limb to oppose the fascist violence.

If your preferred tactic is nonviolence and/or you personally choose to "ignore" fascist recruitment, at the very least, you are morally bound to avoid denouncing the only historically successful tactic of organized antifascist community defense.

Paragraph 1. Who has called for ignoring genocidal ideology? Did Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi thus "abdicate responsibility" in their adherence to nonviolent resistance? Self-defense and community defense beyond nonviolent demonstration requires an actual physical attack. Gatherings of the Weekend Wehrmacht that are not actually violent themselves, however inherently provocative, are not actual attacks requiring violent defense.

Paragraph 2. Again, what communities are actually facing a fascist takeover (beyond what Americans have already inured themselves to for decades)? And again, where is the actual concerted physical fascist violence that needs to be opposed?

Paragraph 3. Again with the straw man that nonviolence means "ignoring" something. And again with the fantasy of community defense.

In short, if you don't agree with the tactics (or grasp of reality) of this self-described antifascist group, you are by definition fascist yourself. And as a fascist, you represent an "immediate threat" of genocide et cetera and must be met with decisive violence ("fire and fury", eg).

This sounds exactly like every hate group in history.

This group is particularly dangerous, however, because, unlike the marginal and marginalized who misdirect their rage into hateful white identitarianism, the anti-white identitarians are egged on by elitists, mainstream media, and even politicians. Their eagerness for violence and vandalism is backed by the powers of the state. They are agents of the regime change being pursued by those who cannot accept the results of the 2016 election. They are making the US a banana republic. This is, in fact, fascism in action.

August 13, 2017

The (dishonest) madness of George Harvey

Once again (actually, no doubt more than once (see next paragraph), but once more it comes to this writer’s attention) George Harvey betrays his inability to acknowledge any adverse impacts of the energy alternatives he advocates for by setting up a straw man from which he launches an ad hominem dismissal and proceeds to change the subject with his usual non sequitur pabulum.

Harvey maintains a blog, cohosts a community television show, and writes for Green Energy Times, and the first piece referred to here was reprinted in The (Windsor County, Vermont) Commons newspaper from the Clean Technica web site. In fact it was reprinted also in the issue of Green Energy Times (in which issue 13 articles were penned by Harvey) that this writer picked up for another headline (see next two paragraphs). Thus the central example here is unlikely to be unusual.

The headline that caught our eye was “Hanover [N.H.] Pledges to Go 100% Renewable: How Are They Going to Do It?” by Rick Wackernagel. It is not a short article, yet it does not describe how “they are going to do it”. The few plans mentioned are, besides throwing up solar panels everywhere, mostly installing heat pumps, thus switching from fossil fuel burned efficiently on site to electricity (fossil fuel burned inefficiently off site). The one specific plan is that Dartmouth College will replace diesel in its steam heating system with “biofuel”, possibly from Dartmouth’s forests in the White Mountains in the ridiculous accounting by which mowing down forests is credited as “green”. Even this very issue of Green Energy Times mentions (in a book review) the importance of forest protection in reversing climate change and (in a rant against noise regulations for giant wind turbines) the contribution of deforestation to global warming. (The latter writer apparently exempts turning forested mountain ridgelines into energy plants.)

Nowhere is there mention of cutting the town off from the regional grid, so the fact is that they will still get the same electricity as everyone else in New England. Commendably, they plan to use less of it – along with less of other fuels – but “100%” will doubt rely mostly on buying the Enron-invented scam of “green tags”.

Back to George Harvey, ... actually, we have already said all that needs to be said about the piece of his originally mentioned, titled “The Sound of Wind Turbines and the Horror of Genocide”: He sets up a straw man from which he launches an ad hominem dismissal of all dissent and proceeds to change the subject with non sequitur pabulum.

There is, however, another piece by Harvey in the same issue that is actually informative. It is about research to reduce methane emissions from ruminant – particularly cows’ – digestion by adding seaweed to their diet. The results are reported to be quite dramatic, even to the claim of eliminating 99% of the methane.

Yet Harvey neglects to mention that the methane from cows is only part of the climate change contribution and environmental destruction of animal agriculture, which is the leading cause also of deforestation, species loss, water depletion, and ocean dead zones – none of which are due to their flatulence. The subtitle of Harvey’s article invokes helping to save the planet, but it is only about reducing one source of methane emissions, not at all about actually saving the planet. It is about “greenwashing” one of the planet’s primary destroyers.

August 12, 2017

On the upper sea

Hodd by Adam Thorpe (Jonathan Cape, 2009) begins (after Introduction and Translator’s preface) ...

The seas are folded over us, above our heads, the lower sea becoming the upper sea and yet still blue when not girt with sea mist, which is grey and melancholy. Some men when they look up see birds, but I see only a kind of fish, sometimes in great shoals. These fish are beaked and feathered, as we all know, and return to dry land to nest in trees, shrubs, meadow grass or crops, rocks or walls, or even under our own thatch, where the nestlings make a great beseeching noise that might keep us from sleep.

Only birds pass from the sky’s air to its water without harm, for they have the property, like the fish of the lower sea, of breathing underwater. And I have seen with my own eyes a cormorant swimming under the water of the lower sea, and a myriad of gannets plunging into its waves at a good distance from its cliffs. Likewise do birds plunge into and out of the blue of the upper sea without harm. If men sail far enough, namely a sufficient number of leagues beyond the horizon, they unwittingly pass over our heads, yet too high up to discern us or the dark of our forests through the blue of the waters of the upper sea.

It has been recounted to me that mariners have lost knives overboard and that these same knives have been found caught in trees, or that they plunge through a [thatched] roof to stand upright and trembling in a table, to the surprise of those eating. And fish sometimes fall (as we know) from the sky, like arrow-struck birds, but with no visible wound.

I myself once found a piece of cork ballast in the middle of a field, very far from the sea. I looked up and saw a dark cloud in the shape of a ship, as if I was perceiving it from underneath. In former ages perhaps men knew of such things, having greater clarity and knowledge, since it is well known that we have declined in wisdom, and are running further and further into ignorance as the world approaches its end in the manner that St Paul foretold. I myself have heard the faint echo of infernal torments discernible on the wind, as these come closer and closer towards us, heralded by the blast of trumpets.

If I had happened not to have met with the outlaw called Robert Hod, so many years ago that none are still living from that time but myself, I would be less tormented in my spirit; for quite apart from the other matters it was Hodde who put strange ideas and questionings into my head. ...

July 25, 2017

Donald Trump’s story to the Boy Scouts about William Levitt

From Donald Trump’s remarks at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve, Glen Jean, West Virginia, July 24:

THE PRESIDENT: In life, in order to be successful, and you people are well on the road to success, you have to find out what makes you excited. What makes you want to get up each morning and go to work? You have to find it.

If you love what you do and dedicate yourself to your work, then you will gain momentum, and look — you have to, you need to. The word momentum — you will gain that momentum, and each success will create another success. The word momentum.

I’ll tell you a story that’s very interesting for me when I was young. There was a man named William Levitt — Levittowns, you have some here, you have some in different states. Anybody ever hear of Levittown? (Applause.) And he was a very successful man. He was a homebuilder — became an unbelievable success, and got more and more successful. And he built homes, and at night he’d go to these major sites with teams of people and he’d scour the sites for nails and sawdust and small pieces of wood. And they’d clean the site so when the workers came in the next morning, the sites would be spotless and clean, and he did it properly. And he did this for 20 years, and then he was offered a lot of money for his company.

And he sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. At the time especially — this was a long time ago — sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not going to tell you what he did.


THE PRESIDENT: Should I tell you? Should I tell you?


THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life. So — look at you. Who would think this is the Boy Scouts, right?

So he had a very, very interesting life, and the company that bought his company was a big conglomerate. And they didn’t know anything about building homes, and they didn’t know anything about picking up the nails and the sawdust and selling it — and the scraps of wood. This was a big conglomerate based in New York City, and after about a ten year period they were losing a lot with it. It didn’t mean anything to them, and they couldn’t sell it.

So they called William Levitt up and they said, would you like to buy back your company, and he said yes, I would. He so badly wanted it, he got bored with this life of yachts and sailing and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places. You won’t get bored, right? You know, truthfully, you’re workers. You’ll get bored too. Believe me. (Applause.) Of course, having a good few years like that isn’t so bad. (Applause.) But what happened is he bought back his company, and he bought back a lot of empty land. And he worked hard in getting it zoning, and he worked hard on starting to develop.

And in the end he failed, and he failed badly. Lost all of his money. He went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party, and it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross who was one of the great people — he came up and discovered — really founded — Time Warner, and he was a great guy. He had a lot of successful people at the party.

And I was doing well so I got invited to the party. I was very young, and I go in — but I’m in the real estate business — and I see 100 people, some of whom I recognize and they’re big in the entertainment business. And I see, sitting in the corner, was a little old man who was all by himself. Nobody was talking to him. I immediately recognized that that man was the once great William Levitt of Levittown, and I immediately went over — I wanted to talk to him more than the Hollywood show business communications people.

So I went over and talked to him, and I said, Mr. Levitt, I’m Donald Trump. He said I know. I said, Mr. Levitt, how are you doing? He goes, not well, not well at all. And I knew that, but he said not well at all. And he explained what was happening and how bad it has been and how hard it has been. And I said what exactly happened? Why did this happen to you? You’re one of the greats ever in our industry. Why did this happen to you? And he said, Donald, I lost my momentum. I lost my momentum. A word you never hear when you’re talking about success. When some of these guys that never made ten cents, they’re on television giving you things about how you’re going to be successful, and the only thing they ever did was a book and a tape.

But I’ll tell you, it was very sad, and I never forgot that moment. And I thought about it, and it’s exactly true. He lost his momentum. Meaning, he took this period of time off long — years — and then when he got back, he didn’t have that same momentum. In life, I always tell this to people, you have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum, and if you don’t have it that’s okay. Because you’re going to go on and you’re going to learn and you’re going to do things that are great. But you have to know about the word momentum.

But the big thing: Never quit. Never give up. Do something you love. When you do something you love — as a Scout I see that you love it. But when you do something that you love you’ll never fail. What you’re going to do is give it a shot again and again and again. You’re ultimately going to be successful, and remember this, you’re not working. Because when you’re doing something that you love like I do — of course I love my business, but this is a little bit different. Who thought this was going to happen? We’re having a good time. We’re doing a good job. (Applause.) Doing a good job. But when you do something that you love, remember this, it’s not work.

The above excerpt begins at 16:15 and goes to 23:08 in the video below:

July 24, 2017

A good word

Irish adage:  Níor bhris focal maith fiacail riamh.

Pronunciation:  Neer vrish fuhcul-mah fihcul-riff.

Translation:  A good word never broke a tooth.

Actual word order:  Did not break a word good a tooth ever.

July 22, 2017

Two excerpts from Deep South by Paul Theroux (2015)

Hot Springs — Pleasures and Miseries

My afternoon drive from Monticello to Hot Springs was a long panning shot of sad towns and beat-up villages, Warren to Edinburg, which was poor and small and lifeless, and Fordyce, which I’d heard about in Alabama as the birthplace of the beloved coach “Bear” Bryant, a town where every store was shut or abandoned or turned into a thrift shop. At the crossroads on Fordyce’s Main Street, the faded signs and empty premises were a testament that there was no call for Benton Hardware, Farm Implements, a dress shop, or a soda fountain in the Walmart era. Then tiny Tulip, and Malvern, which had some vitality that radiated from Hot Springs, farther along the road.

In a sudden, rocky, high-sided vale of the Ouachita Mountains, with two tall Soviet-looking buildings, one the VA hospital, the other the Arlington Hotel, Hot Springs was a surprise, a spa town with a claim to architectural splendor and the gamy smell of an old circus. The thermal-spa buildings that lined Bath Row were Art Deco marvels well restored, and narrow buildings lined steeply sloping streets on the cliffsides. Half the place was painted, decked out, yet with a residue of its vicious past existence; the other half was blandly residential. The town looked carved from rock in the mountain gap, one of the most dramatic physical settings in any Southern town.

Many signs on the main streets extolled its raffish atmosphere, its criminal history — allusions to the visits of gangsters, gloating mentions of crime, brothels, and sensational murders. “It’s hard to imagine the city as a hotbed for organized crime, such as gambling, prostitution and bootlegging,” said the Hot Springs promotional brochure, piling it on (it was subtitled “The Past Is Where the Fun Is”). “But from the late-1800s through the mid-1900s, especially in the 1930s, Hot Springs was a popular hangout for Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and other infamous mobsters. The safe, secluded scenic location of Hot Springs made it the ideal hideout.”

Of the many houses of prostitution, the busiest was “The Mansion,” owned by the celebrated Hot Springs madam Maxine Temple Jones, who catered to the rich and powerful, criminals and politicians. For decades resisting the mob, whom she ratted on in return for a pardon, she stayed in business into the mid-1960s and later wrote a book about her life and times.

“Honey, I like an old-fashioned whorehouse that has respect and dignity,” she told the Arkansas Times in 1982. “And my girls were always very proper. I always taught them what my daddy taught me: to walk tall and always remember that it’s not what you do, but how you do it.”

The gangster era came to an end in the late 1960s and is luridly depicted in the Gangster Museum of America on Central Avenue (“where you won’t be gambling on a good time, but betting on a sure thing!”). Because of its pleasant climate and sleaze, the town had been a destination for spring training for Northern baseball teams from the 1880s to 1940 — a wild era too, when players routinely binged and whored.

That was Hot Springs’s colorful past, but it was the recent past. No place to raise a child, is what you’d say — dangerous, wild, full of malign influences, opportunists, career criminals, tarts, cheats, trimmers, and schemers. Yet that’s what the newly married Virginia Clinton did, accompanying her second husband, Roger, there, her seven-year-old Billy in tow.

Bill Clinton was born in the small, sweetly named town of Hope, in southwestern Arkansas, in 1946, as the often-told story has it in the mythology of the man. But the banal truth is that he grew up — was formed, educated, became a man — in raw, reckless Hot Springs, a hundred miles north, amid its miseries and splendors. His father, William Blythe, was killed in a car crash before he was born. His mother studied nursing, so that she could provide for the boy. In 1950, his mother met and married Roger Clinton, and three years later they moved from Hope to Hot Springs, Roger’s hometown.

“While Bill Clinton’s writings about his boyhood in Hope in the late 1940s acknowledge the racial separation of the town of 7,500 people, his memories are mostly sepia-toned and nostalgic, like those of his Pawpaw’s grocery store,” the Arkansas writer Jay Jennings explains in Carry the Rock (2010). “But in the first two decades of the twentieth century, when cotton was king and Jim Crow was unwritten law, Hope was the site of enough racial murder that it was sometimes called the lynching capital of the South.”

In Hot Springs, Roger Clinton was known as a shiftless drunk. In a town of degenerates, being a boozer was no shame, but Roger proved to be a wife-beater as well as a demented alcoholic, and when young Bill was old enough (he says he was fifteen), he defied his stepfather’s wrath and defended his mother. The marriage ended. Virginia continued working as a nurse anesthetist, but in an expression of hope over experience, she remarried the same pathetic man a year later.

Meanwhile, young Bill studied, learned to play the tenor saxophone, excelled academically at Hot Springs High School, attended church at Park Place Baptist, bought chili cheeseburgers at the Polar Bar (now Baily’s Dairy Treat), ribs at McClard’s Bar-B-Q, apple pie at Club Café, and ice cream at Cook’s Dairy, and went to movies (Elvis movies, biblical epics) at the Paramount and Mako theaters. He tells us this in his autobiography, My Life, displaying great affection for the town and an extraordinary memory for detail.

But he does not say that the theaters’ balconies and back entrances were for blacks, that the motels and restaurants were segregated, and that the black part of Hot Springs was miserably poor and decrepit. Speaking of the time of Governor Orval Faubus’s racist intransigence and of the federal marshals forcing the integration of Little Rock’s Central High, all he says is “Most of my friends were either against integration or unconcerned. I didn’t say too much about it, probably because my family was not especially political, but I hated what Faubus did.” He is equally disengaged when describing segregation in Hot Springs: “It bothered me that Hot Springs’ schools weren’t integrated. The black kids still went to Langston High School.”

One afternoon in Hot Springs, I made a point of driving over to Langston, the neighborhood on the opposite side of town from where Clinton lived. I found broken streets, run-down houses, a wholly black area around the school, Southern impoverishment, the other side of the tracks. Still a disgrace fifty years after Clinton lived in town, still poor and obviously neglected, Langston looked like a black “location” in South Africa, ripe for uplift from an NGO (though none was in sight), the very sort of place that should have been a target for improvement by the Clinton Global Initiative, but wasn’t.

While Clinton was a teenager (and from his account he roamed freely in Hot Springs), gambling was rife, murders were common, gangsters were part of the scene, Maxine Jones’s brothel and many others were thriving, and the town, run by a crooked political machine, was alight with roisterers, whores, and high rollers. You’re bound to wonder what effect that ingrained culture of vice might have had on an impressionable schoolboy.

Contemplating Hot Springs, it is difficult to imagine a more unpromising origin for a president, one so likely to warp a mind or corrupt a soul. Yet the defining characteristics of a president are worldliness and guile. The world in all its bizarre forms had come to Hot Springs, and Clinton was buoyant in it; the town was clearly the making of the man. In My Life, Clinton repeats the tedious Hot Springs boast of larger-than-life visitors — “outlaws, mobsters, military heroes, actors, and a host of baseball greats” — and describes his upbringing: the abusive stepfather, the hardworking and loving mother (who was also a drinker, gambler, chain smoker, and harmless flirt — an Auntie Mame type, adored by her son), his love of the tenor sax, his visits to relatives, his after-school job at the small grocery, his classes as a math whiz, his dabbling in student politics, his earnest posturing that successfully masked a troubled home life.

The pain of being hard-up and frugal in such a flashy, freewheeling place; the necessity to succeed, to achieve something and get out, to prove himself worthy of his mother, and to redeem her belief in him — these aspects formed him. It’s an American story, but in Hot Springs it is gaudier than most. Clinton was transformed by his upbringing, yet he was, like many white Southerners, a late convert to vocally demanding integration. In My Life he extols the diversity of the Hot Springs population — Jews, Greeks, Arabs, Italians — but the black side of town, the Langston neighborhood, is not mentioned; black life does not exist for him; he apparently has no black friends.

In his autobiography, Clinton continually makes the point that he was a keeper of secrets, leading a double life, never letting on in school of the turmoil at home. The succession of houses he grew up in (now all privately owned and unwelcoming) were in modest but respectable white neighborhoods. But a visit to Hot Springs is convincing proof that throughout his early life, as a young boy, as an older student, Clinton was performing a balancing act, keeping his head up while tiptoeing through a mud-puddle sludge of human weakness and greed, crookedness and carnality (the survival strategy of many politicians).

His relief at leaving Hot Springs is palpable in his telling. He had chosen Georgetown University because “I wanted to be in Washington.” Yet after Georgetown, a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, and Yale Law School, he did what many might regard as the unthinkable: he returned to Arkansas. It was a calculated move. He was still in his twenties, it was a state he knew well, and he was implausible anywhere else. Perhaps he had a long-term plan — he doesn’t say in his book, but you can see he is driven: the desperate, do-anything-to-win drive of the man from nowhere, who seems to be hiding something (wounds, fantasies, transgressions, family secrets). He taught law for a year at Fayetteville, then ran for Congress in 1974, and lost. He became state attorney general in 1976 and governor in 1978, at the age of thirty-two — “the boy governor,” as he was known.

To his supporters, Bill Clinton was a man of immense charm who improved health care and education in Arkansas, at the same time mastering the art of consensus building, while retaining his amorous disposition. To his enemies, he was the fiddler and liar who turned the governor’s mansion into a fornicarium. He served multiple terms, totaling almost twelve years, and, still only forty-six, became president.

It was a breathless run, and he kept on running, for a second term, and afterward — he has never lived away from the public eye, has an obvious, perhaps pathological aversion to solitude, has always sought attention — for the role of world statesman, global humanist, and reformer; but also plotter in the shadows, conniver in schemes, and double-talker, in a mold described by Thoreau in a skeptical essay, “Now, if anything ail a man so that he does not perform his functions ... if he has committed some heinous sin and partially repents, what does he do? He sets about reforming the world.”

Hot Springs had two distinct sides, so did the Clinton household, so evidently does Clinton himself. This conflict could have made him a criminal, or disillusioned him, turned him cynical; instead it made him ambitious, adaptable, eager to please, charming, charismatic, sympathetic, and hardworking. But it also made him covert, adept at role-playing and posturing, with a hint of the huckster in everything he proposed, a teller of half-truths, and a master of secrets. Clinton’s drive to succeed was unstoppable, and it continues: his passion to lead, to be in charge, to relieve the planet’s ills, to be an explainer, a crowd pleaser, friend to the great and good (Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama), emotionally immature, and hungry for the world’s affection. “He seemed like the hungriest man I’d ever met,” a writer friend told me after accompanying the candidate on the campaign in 1992. In his autobiography, Clinton continually interrupts the narrative ·of his early life by flashing forward and describing how he learned a lesson or atoned for one lapse or another. America knows him as the great atoner, the fixer, the compromiser. The bird-dogger of chicks is also, inevitably, the most fervent sermonizer at the prayer breakfast.

Hot Springs has tried to reinvent itself as a family-friendly holiday town and destination for conventioneers. It has a look of solidity and criminal elegance, a big-city gloom and density, rare in a Southern town — the shadowy aura of a place in which many dramas have occurred, the rub of history, where a great deal of money has been spent to tempt the visitor to linger.

Horse racing and some low-level gaming persisted, as moronic pastimes rather than vices, but the present was simply seedy, college kids barhopping and late-summer tourists traipsing the streets, darting in and out of the gift shops and bars, shabbily dressed, pushing baby carriages, screaming at their children, hunting for fun in a place that seemed chilly and bleak. The barbecue joints and the occasional pageant or festival could not compete with the shootouts and the orgies of the past.

Now Hot Springs is a place wholly itself: the decaying abandoned buildings and vacant hotels on the main drag, funky motels, tacky shops, a whiff of damp motor courts on the outskirts — Southern neglect combined with Southern casualness and vulgarity, and redeemed by hospitality and self-parody. Part of the town’s good fortune is that it is just a gap in rocky cliffs, minutes from.the deep woods and lovely hills.

There is something joyless in a place advertising itself as joyful, a note of desperation in the hype. Faded glory, faded hope, faded hilarity, the weird junk shops, the air of desperation, the stink like an alcoholic’s breath or a carnival sideshow, the shallowness and obvious scheming that is part of every gambling town on earth. And, like every other boomtown, doomed to failure.

But Hot Springs had once been a vortex of energy, and it is a characteristic of the power of such libidinized places to make their residents morally blind — you could say the same about the White House. Hot Springs, destination of murderers, cheaters, and whores, produced a president, a peculiar one, morally blind on many occasions — as in 1992 when Governor Clinton rushed back to Arkansas to sign the death sentence of drooling, brain-damaged Ricky Ray Rector, sending him gaga to the electric chair, so that candidate Clinton would win votes as a crime fighter. Complex and contradictory, the public man seeking redemption, mock humble in manner but lusting for glory, perpetually enlisting big companies to help him expand his brand, Clinton is the quintessential Southern huckster who does not know when to stop, and Hot Springs, the corrupted town, which advertised its waywardness, was itself Clintonesque.

Farmers on a Rainy Day

On a wet day in Fargo, just north of Brinkley, I made my way under a gray sky along muddy fields — some of them silvery with puddles and others lightly flooded — past the turnoff to the derelict town of Cotton Plant, to meet Dr. Calvin King again. As he promised, Dr. King had invited some black farmers to meet me — early risers, they had arrived before me, and some had come many miles for this meeting. We gathered around a table in a room at Dr. King’s Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, a low brick building on a Fargo dirt road. Black Angus cattle grazed where the road abruptly ended at a fenced field; they were stock from the experimental ranch, chewing at bales of damp, darkened straw.

The farmers were men in overalls and feed caps, the oldest in his late seventies, the youngest twenty-three. A woman sat at a side table, appearing to take notes. Two other women, both of them farmers, had been invited, but at the last minute had other obligations. They were silent, watchful, patient men, somewhat ill at ease among the bare tables and many spare chairs in the conference room. Farmers are not a sedentary lot, and these men seemed restless and out of place.

“I’m a stranger,” I said, to introduce myself. “I’ve traveled and written about many foreign countries, but I realized I hadn’t spent much time in the Southern states, where many of the problems are the same as in the so-called Third World.”

I went on in this vein, explaining that I was traveling through the Deep South, trying to understand what I saw. I thanked Dr. King for arranging this session and said I was grateful to these workingmen for meeting me on a weekday morning, a helpful turnout.

“It’s the weather,” one of them said. “It’s too wet to do anything on the farm. If this had been a sunny day, you wouldn’t have seen any of us. Our fields is flooded.”

“And we already done our chores this morning,” another said, and laughed with the others.

They were resigned to the realities of Mother Nature and human nature, but they were anything but passive and fatalistic. As I was to find, their willingness to work, to plant, to harvest, to repay loans, made them self-sufficient and gave them dignity.

They laughed again and introduced themselves. The first man who had spoken was Andre Peer, who was forty-two and had been farming for twelve years. He now had four thousand acres under cultivation, near where he lived, about forty miles away, outside Lexa, in Phillips County. He was a stocky, well-built man of medium height, forthright in gesture and word, who looked me in the eye and spoke his mind. The best educated of this group, Andre had earned a degree in agriculture in 1995 from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He grew wheat, corn, grain sorghum, and soybeans. I later learned that he had made such a success of his farm, he and his wife and son had been named Phillips County Young Farming Family of the Year in 2013, with a profile in the Helena World.

“But it’s always a struggle,” Andre said, and placed his muscular farmer’s hands against his head and squeezed hard. “You got to hear about the banking.”

“That’s a mighty big subject,” Ernest Cox said. He was a slender, mild-mannered, and sinewy man in his late sixties, weather-beaten from a life of farming — he’d worked in the fields since boyhood, on his father’s acres. He had an attractive and disarming habit of smiling and nodding even when he was speaking about something unpleasant, such as debt or financial obstacles or the hurdles at the loan office. He ran a large third-generation farming business with his brothers, Herschel and Earmer, on five thousand acres. This family farm — soybeans, wheat, and the grain sorghum known as milo — was just outside the small town of Marvell, also in Phillips County.

All these men — family farmers — lived and raised their crops in the Arkansas Delta, in communities ten miles or less from the Mississippi River, and near the river town of Helena, where their crops were loaded, to be barged downriver. Talking to them, I remembered Reverend Lyles in Alabama telling me how his father had been advised by a white man not to sell any of his land to a white person. “Sell to blacks,” he’d said, because that was the only way a black man could get a foothold in a rural area.

“I’ve got views on the banking,” Samuel Ross said. In his late seventies, he was the oldest of the group. “But I’m retired. I’ll let the others speak.” And that was all he said for an hour, though he was an attentive listener.

“Me, I’ve just started, sort of,” Roger Smith said. He was twenty-three, yet was in his fourth season farming. He’d begun as a smallholder at the age of nineteen, leased a few hundred more acres each succeeding year, and now had seven hundred acres in rice and milo. He was soft-spoken and shy, with a drawl so heavy and such a sideways reflex of talking that many times I had to ask him to repeat himself, and even then had to mentally translate what he said.

“And that’s Rickey Bone,” Dr. King said, introducing another older man. “He’s the only one here not planting row crops.”

“My wife and I are growing produce,” Rickey Bone said. “She’s really the one who should be here. Mary’s a ball of fire.”

“For these men the problem is access to capital,” Dr. King said. He was a farmer too, as he had told me before. And although he had an authoritative, almost scholarly way of speaking, he was fluent in enumerating the issues. He ran the Arkansas Land and Farm organization, so he was used to conferences and workshops and committees. “It’s imbalance,” he went on, “and it’s the problem of expanding impoverishment. Listen, I had a friend said she was going to South Africa. I asked why. She told me about the need. I said to her, ‘You don’t have to go to South Africa to find the need: She was from Little Rock. I said, ‘What about our need?’ She said, ‘I don’t think it’s the same. In South Africa it’s water quality issues: I said, ‘I can tell you about water quality issues right here!’”

I said, “I started traveling in the South for that very reason, because I saw so many outsiders committed to solving Africa’s problems. They were the same problems that exist here — poor housing, poor access to health care and education. Child hunger. Illiteracy.”

“And the banking,” Andre Peer said, tapping his thick fingers on the table. His tapping was insistent, but he also had a way of widening his eyes to express impatience.

“Banking is a white monopoly in Arkansas — it’s white controlled,” Dr. King said. “Traditional banks lend on the basis of a hundred and twenty percent credit security. Think of that. And there are serious problems of imbalance at the USDA.”

“We need operating loans,” Ernest Cox said. “Every year we have to go to the bank. We’re doing all right — I’m farming with my brothers. But we’re at the mercy of the merchants.”

“Thing you got to understand,” Andre said, and thought a moment before he proceeded. “Bankers give other farmers more.”

“What other farmers?” I asked.

Andre widened his eyes and blew out his cheeks but said nothing.

“You can speak plainly to Mr. Paul,” Dr. King said.

“By ‘other’ I mean white,” Andre said. He told a story about a loan he had sought.

It was then that I realized what these men were up against, because the loans — for machinery, for seed, for infrastructure — were considerable, in the many hundreds of thousands.

“She let me have $442,000,” Andre was saying. “It was a bad, disastrous year — 2006 into 2007 — drought and excessive heat. My harvest was poor. I asked her not to turn me in to the USDA to file a loss claim. I didn’t want to be in default. I knew I could make good on it. I know how to work. I wanted to pay what I owed. I needed time. And I did pay — every dollar.” He thought a moment, then said, “White folks say we lazy. All we want is opportunity. We willing to work.”

“These guys are surviving against the odds,” Dr. King said.

“If you’re in a bind, in serious default, white farmers want to buy your land,” Andre said. “They’re just waiting for you to fail. They’re on one side, bankers on the other. My bankers are all right, but I have to explain a lot to them to get them to understand my situation. There are no black loan officers. It’s not talked about, it’s not written about. There’s none.”

“Loan officers,” Ernest Cox said in a knowing voice, smiling, nodding, adjusting his cap.

“Another loan officer,” Andre said. “We just talking, talking about people. I said, ‘Would you give that man a loan?’ He says, ‘No.’ I say, ‘But you don’t know him.’ He says, ‘How can he buy all that equipment? Must be selling drugs.’ He thinking, ‘How he able to do that, ’cause black people don’t do that.’ The same ones talking like that are the ones sitting on the banking boards.”

“Arkansas is not like other places,” Roger Smith said in his drawl, and turned aside, as though he’d surprised himself by offering an opinion. He was shy and oblique, but he was not timid.

“The Klan don’t wear sheets,” Andre said, and looked around at his fellow farmers. “They sitting behind the desks in the banks. Uh-huh!”

“The South gives indications of being afraid of the Negro. I do not mean physical fear,” Frank Tannenbaum wrote ninety years ago in Darker Phases of the South. “It is not a matter of cowardice or bravery; it is something deeper and more fundamental. It is a fear of losing grip upon the world. It is an unconscious fear of changing status.”

Roger said, “Harrison. That town — it’s a Klan hotbed.”

It was not by chance that this remark was dropped into the conversation. Allusions to the Klan, to the past, to the insecurity that Southern blacks face especially in rural areas, I found to be common, for the Klan was the historical nightmare, the arch-destroyer, relentless and reckless, with connections in high places. Harrison is an Ozark community, the seat of Boone County, in the center of the northern edge of the state, where it lies flat against Missouri. Its decent citizens, of whom there were presumably many, hadn’t made any headlines, but its cranks were infamous.

Roger said, “Harrison has a big billboard advertising the Klan.”

“Oh, God, Harrison” was a murmur in the room.

The farmers talked generally about the miseries and abuses of Harrison, and then Ernest said, “You don’t have to go all the way to Harrison to find this business. Moro does not have a black family.”

Moro was a crossroads in nearby Lee County, with fewer than three hundred people.

“A black family moved in some years ago,” Andre said. “But they bought him out.”

“So many inequities here.” The speaker was the woman taking notes, Ramona Anderson, whom I had taken to be a recorder of the remarks in the meeting. But she was a staff member of the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, and up to now had been sitting quietly over her notebook.

She told a story about the strange history of Cotton Plant, a town just north of Brinkley. “A man came in the 1960s and saw a bird — not the ivory-bill woodpecker that everyone talks about, but another rare one. He was the only man who saw it. The result was that town authorities set aside many acres for that bird. They used eminent domain to get black farmers off the land around Cotton Plant.”

“This was done maliciously,” Dr. King said. “No one wants to talk about inequities in race around here. Brinkley has a majority black population but has never had a black mayor. This is not talked about.”

“Cotton Plant was once an important town,” Ramona said. “It’s now small and poor.”

“The big landowners don’t want schools and hospitals,” Dr. King said. “Marianna Hospital closed in 1980. It has never reopened. DeWitt is just the same size, but it has a hospital. DeWitt is majority white. They don’t want educated blacks, they want blacks driving their tractors.”

This again put me in mind of the white farmer James Agee mentioned in his survey Cotton Tenants in 1937: “I don’t object to nigrah education, not up through foath a fift grade maybe, but not furdern dat.” Rural Lee County, where Dr. King lived and farmed, had one of the highest rates of illiteracy in Arkansas (and the nation).

“Public education continues to deteriorate,” Dr. King said.

“Economic development has no color,” Ramona Anderson said. “But they manipulated the minorities. Instead of a Delta-wide initiative, they control each portion by dividing them. A true community development plan would benefit the poor, and that’s not something they want.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” I asked.

“The powers that be,” she said. “Instead of a big hospital, they put in a clinic. You think that’s all right? But in a true community development plan it would be a big hospital rather than a clinic here and a clinic there.”

“People have forgotten about the farmer,” Andre said. “We are producing food for people to eat. We are creating exports. How about rice? Our rice is exported. It’s seven dollars a bushel — the price is up. Our production is increasing.” All true, I found. The National Farmers Union reported a massive increase in rice growing in the United States, and that exports were going to China, Africa, and the Middle East. Andre went on, “But all the while it’s a struggle. We’re fighting the good ole boy.” He clutched his head again and said, “Keep Pigford in mind and class action.”

“Pigford” was a word I heard from other black farmers. It was shorthand for a court case that related to some of what these men were telling me about the racial inequities in the farming business. Pigford vs. Glickman was a class action lawsuit brought in 1997 by Timothy Pigford, a black farmer from North Carolina, and four hundred others, against the Department of Agriculture (and its secretary, Dan Glickman), seeking redress for the routine denial of loans to black farmers, whom the USDA had discriminated against, thus leading to a sharp reduction in their numbers.

Although a settlement was approved in 1999, and more than a billion dollars had been paid so far by the government (under both the Bush and Obama administrations), serious allegations of fraudulent claims have been made, and there was proof of connivance by profiteering lawyers and politicians, scammers and “race hustlers.” If you look into the details of this tangled case, it is obvious that a trough was provided for the benefit of many worthy farmers (successful claimants got $50,000 apiece) as well as for the snouts of many opportunists. Yet black land loss was reversed, and after years of decline, the number of black farmers and black landowners had grown in the South and elsewhere.

“But we’re still struggling with the banks,” Andre said. “We’re still struggling with the good ole boys. After all these years we still have to prove ourselves.”

I said, “Bill Clinton spends a lot of time in Africa and India. Couldn’t he do something here to help?”

“If Clinton came here,” Andre said, “the good ole boys would say, ‘Why you coming here? Why you want to change things?’” He looked around the room for approval, and got the nods he expected. “That’s why he doesn’t do it.”

All this time, in all this talk, I could sense the men were restless. As farmers, habituated to digging, to fetching and carrying, loading trucks, repairing machines, tramping the margins of their fields, they were unused to sitting indoors for such a length of time. They were too polite to object but still seemed uncomfortable, hitching forward, clasping their hands, squirming on the plastic chair seats.

I went on asking them about their farming operations, until finally, one of them — probably Andre, because he was the most frank of the group — stood up and said, “You won’t learn much here from us talking. We have to show you, if you have the time.”

I said, “I have all the time in the world. I’d love to see your farms.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Dr. King said, as he’d said to me before. Then he took me aside and said, “When you look at the Delta, do you see businesses owned by blacks, operated by blacks? In manufacturing? In retail?” He smiled, because the obvious answer was: very few. He went on, “Compare that to the black farmers here, who are part of a multibillion-dollar business.”