The Dictator

Lord Acton once wrote, “power  corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

This rule does not apply to me. I think I would make an excellent absolute monarch, better than Louis XVI, at least as good as the Sun King Louis XIV and probably even better than the saintly philosopher king, Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

I would be a somewhat libertarian monarch. But I would reserve the right to outlaw anything that disgusts me. My first two decrees would be as follows.

1. Henceforth the use of the word awesome is prohibited in my kingdom. Any man, woman, or child  who speaks the “a” word or writes the “a”  word will have their tongue cut off.

2. The production and/or consumption of light beer will be prohibited in my kingdom, Individuals who violate the prohibition will also have their tongues removed.

If you were the dictator what would you outlaw?

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Recently, my wife finished Timebends, Arthur Miller’s autobiography. Patricia said the book wasn’t well written.  I confess I haven’t read the book.  But I have seen many of Arthur Miller’s play. Arthur Miller is a great playwright almost in spite of himself. His dialogue does not have the poetry of his contemporary Tennessee Williams. He’s never witty or clever. He never wrote the  great American  bar play like Eugene O’Neill

Why was he able to write masterpieces like the “Crucible” or “Death of a Salesman”?   Arthur Miller saw the “Crucible” as a kind of parable of the McCarthy hearings.  I remember seeing the play in 1990 at the Roundabout Theatre. It was about the time Kelly Michaels won her appeal and was released from prison. Kelly Michaels was a teacher at the Wee Care Day Center in New Jersey who was convicted of child abuse in the 1980s. The journalist Dorothy Rabinowitz led a successful campaign to have her conviction overturned. In this era. the 1980s and early 1990s, there were several other cases of alleged sexual abuse and Satanic worship at Day Care Centers.

William Kunstler, the famous lawyer, was in charge of  Kelly Michaels’ appeal.  He thought the persecution of Kelly Michael was not so much the result of a conscious conspiracy as the outcome of a shared delusion.  William Kunstler said the the good people of Salem did sincerely believe that some of the young women in their community were victims of Demonic possession.

Both during the Salem Witch Trials and the Wee Care Day Center Trials, there was an enormous amount of community pressure “to believe the children.”  When Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible, he might have thought he was writing a play about the importance of individual courage, the need to stand up for truth, and the duty to sacrifice oneself for principle. ” He did write that play. But he also wrote another play about the tragedy of self-deception also called “The Crucible.”

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A small victory

On June 14th, Judge Herndon ruled in favor of the Spring Mountain Docents. Our contract with the Nevada Parks Department is valid until 2019. Attorney Hong argued successfully that firing the docents would do irreparable harm to the volunteers. Like much in America life the battle of the Spring Mountain Docents was won in the courts.

On my first day back at Spring Mountain, I worked with two older conservative white people. The husband was knowledgable about economics and politics. For example, he knew the role that Darpa plays in advancing American technology. Darpa is agency in the Defense Department that funds cutting edge research. Darpa supported the research that created the internet. His wife was less knowledgable and worked from a gut feeling that somehow Obama would destroy America and Romney would redeem our country.  I don’t think presidents have as dramatic effect on our daily life as partisans would have us believe.

I plan to vote for Obama even though in many ways his politics are more a continuation of the Bush-era than radical break from that period.

Spring Mountain Ranch is the second oldest historic sites in the Southern Nevada. The original stone cottage dates from the 1870s. There are remains of an old Mormon fort that predates the Spring Mountain homestead. And of course, there are Paiute Indian petroglyphs that are centuries old.

Both myself and the old white couple are history buffs. We both read an excellent biography of Old Bill Williams written in the 1930s. Old Bill Williams camped at what is now The Spring Mountain Ranch in the 1840s. In those days old Bill made his living from stealing horses from the Mexicans. I joked Las Vegas had a criminal connection right from the beginning of its history. The old lady said there was nothing wrong with stealing  horses from the Mexicans.

Old Bill Williams was a legendary mountain man. He roamed the frontier from  1815   to 1849 . In 1815 he married an Osage woman and became a member of the tribe. In 1849 he was killed by Ute Indians after he retrieved scientific equipment abandoned in the Southern Rockies. The equipment was left in the mountain during the disastrous 4th expedition of John Fremont.   About a third of the people who started on the adventure died in the mountains of starvation and cold.

Old Bill Williams was a pirate of the desert. But in the spirit of reconciliation of Red America and Blue America, I reinterpreted Old Bill Williams role in history, I declared to the old couple that Old Bill Williams was not a pirate, but a privateer.

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Recently I finished Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost. Harlot Ghost is a very long novel about the CIA, 1286 pages. Of course the CIA was a conspiratorial organization. Some of their conspiracies were successful, the coups in Iran and Guatemala for example.  Most were not, the Bay of PIgs for example. The failed conspiracies often caused great harm. Many countries in Africa and Latin America still have not recovered from their adventures with the CIA.

Norman Mailer wrote in exhaustive detail about the CIA of the years 1954-1963, the early Cold War years. The CIA of that era was full of legendary characters, most of them children of the old upper-class prep school America. These men were rich and did want to protect their wealth. More important than their desire to Protect United Fruit and Gulf Oil was their almost theological hatred of communism.

Looking back 50 years at the era, many of their schemes seem completely crazy. Why would any rational person believe the Bay of Pigs would be successful or that the Mafia would be able to kill Castro.

Looking back nine  years why would any rational person believe that the invasion of Iraq could be successful. Looking back 18 months, how could any rational person believe that selling guns to Mexican criminals would not end in disaster.

I think the answer is this for people in power, the game itself becomes the thing. Adventure itself becomes the purpose. Operation Fast and Furious is well named. The adrelin rush of organizing a conspiracy is the purpose of the conspiracy




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As we get older greed replaces lust as our primary passion. The young man who dreams of seduction becomes the old man who counts every penny.

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fired from a volunteer job

How seriously should we take our own minor disappointments and how seriously should we take other people’s minor disappointments. Last month along with 85 other people I was fired from volunteer job at the Spring Mountain Ranch, the oldest homestead (circa 1875) in Southern Nevada and also a celebrity ranch. Owners over the years included Howard Hughes and Vera Krupp.

All organization started by any group of people are prey to jealousy, resentment,  and senseless rivalries. The Nevada State Park System is no exception to this rule. Some individuals in the Nevada State Park System allied themselves with a small faction in our organization, the Spring Mountain Docents against other employees in the Nevada Park System.

There was a coup staged by the upper echelon of the Parks Service. They ordered the Docents disbanded . There is a smaller  volunteer organization at the Ranch, VIP, Volunteers in Park. The organization is limited to 25 members. The more active and knowledgable volunteers are not welcome in the organization. By knowledgable and active, I mean the kind of person who know the name of every type of rock and plant at the Ranch and loved sharing this knowledge.

Firing a volunteer tour guide is not the worst of fates.  The destruction of a small volunteer organization is not a great tragedy.  I’ll miss the four or five hours I spend at the ranch. And the public will loose a valuable service.

When I was young, about 8,  my parents belonged to a  reformed Synagogue. The board fired the Rabbi. My parents sided with the fired rabbi and joined his new, much smaller synagogue. A couple of years later they rejoined their older larger synagogue.

I never know the reasons for the split. My  sister who is older and reliable source for all thing that happened to our family when I was young, said she had no idea what the caused the split.

Was this split the beginning of my disillusion with organized life? Probably not. Still this incident must have some effect on me.

The old synagogue is no longer a reform congregation. It’s now a Bukharan Jewish Synagogue. I don’t think any of us would have known about the Bukharan Jews in the 1950’s, even as a minor somewhat exotic branch of Jewish culture.

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lazy road

Lazy Road will be a blog for my friends and family.

I know most people are very busy now, we all live in the fast lane. Is that always good? There’s something called to the slow food movement. Do you think it’s time for a slow thought movement.

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