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Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

In his remarkable recent book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, Kurt Anderson quotes a conspiracy theorist during the Civil War commenting on spiritualism and Abraham Lincoln.

“[I]n an 1863 exposé called Interior Causes of the War: The Nation Demonized and Its President a Spirit-Rapper, the author, a ‘resident of Ohio’ said it was no coincidence that abolitionism and the craze for communicating with the dead had taken off simultaneously during the late 1840s and 1850s. The spirits, dead people, “have a magnetism peculiar to themselves, fired with vengeance [and] hatred.” In other words, ghosts and their living American interlocutors—the spiritualists—were scheming to destroy the nation. “For a number of years before the war, the spiritualists were promised, by spirits, a president of their own faith.” Lincoln “sprang mysteriously from the prairies,” “selected by spirits for the very work—the equalization of white men and negroes—which he is now endeavoring to perform.” “These spirits…are now in control” of the Union. By means of “a secret hole in the White House, a rapping table,” “Mr. Lincoln, and at least a portion of his cabinet…are now holding spiritual circles in the executive mansion, and consulting spirits in regard to the prospects and conduct of the war.” The spirits had essentially hypnotized Lincoln and the Union leaders into thinking they’d win the Civil War in order to send America “down the broad road to ruin.”
Andersen, Kurt. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (p. 94). Random House Publishing Group.

As Anderson points out conspiracy theories are as American as apple pie and baseball. Well,  we can be thankful that at least Lincoln was not accused of membership in the Illuminati.

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How will it change us?

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I am old enough to recall a time before even television arrived on the scene. It was predicted to change the world. Many thought the change would be for the worse (except for Marshall McLuhan). Then the personal computer came along with similar predictions for social disaster. But, in my opinion, nothing has been so revolutionary as the smart-phone. Now people, for better or worse, can be connected with just about everything else on earth. If the medium is the message what is it that the internet and the smart-phone are telling us?

In about 1992 fewer than 2 percent of Americans used the Internet. By 2002 most Americans were online. This seismic social change we must remember is now only a little over 15 years old.

“But once the Internet came along, we were definitely on a superhighway to a certain destination with no likely looking exits. Before the Web, cockamamie ideas and outright falsehoods could not spread nearly as fast or widely, so it was much easier for reason and reasonableness to prevail. Before the Web, institutionalizing any one alternate reality required the long, hard work of hundreds of full-time militants—the way America’s fundamentalist Christians spent decades setting up their own colleges and associations and magazines and radio stations. In the digital age, every tribe and fiefdom and principality and region of Fantasyland—every screwball with a computer and a telecom connection—suddenly had an unprecedented way to instruct and rile up and mobilize believers, and to recruit more.”

“In every pocket, there is now a library, a phonograph, a radio, a movie theater, and a television, as well as a post office, a printing press, a telegraph, a still and video camera, a recording studio, a navigation system, and a radio and TV station. It is advanced technology indistinguishable from magic.”

Andersen, Kurt. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (p. 260). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

Can the California Coastal Conservancy Assist in Recovery from The State’s Recent Wildfires?

 

Many problems and hardships now face individuals as they seek to recover from the damage caused by the recent disastrous wildfires that have rocked California. State and local governments are scrambling to assess the damage, review policies that could help or hinder reconstruction, and find solutions to the age-old problem of agencies working together.

Over 40 years ago as part of the massive legislative program to preserve California’s Coast and its irreplaceable resources, an innovative agency was created called the California Coastal Conservancy. I had a significant role in designing that agency as part of the California Coastal Plan. As the Conservancy’s first executive officer we enacted various legislative initiatives including giving the Conservancy the authority to purchase, redesign and return to the market pre-existing subdivisions that no longer met the requirements of the State’s coastal protection laws. The Conservancy has been in existence for over forty years now and has developed the expertise to carry out these projects.

Today, the subdivisions destroyed by the California fires, are faced with a number of significant impediments as they seek to rebuild. In addition to the costs entailed and uneven insurance coverage, building construction technologies, planning and environmental regulations have evolved since these subdivisions were developed. By example, the simple matter of the diameter of water pipes in homes and subdivisions has changed and to rebuild will cause substantial cost increases and delays within communities as individuals seek to reconstruct their lives. In addition, over the past 40 years significant regulations, must be considered, that have been designed to protect homes, outbuildings, and infrastructure from future calamities of this type.

I suggest that the economic and social needs of the communities affected by today’s tragic fires are so great that the Coastal Conservancy should be authorized to use money from the state bond acts to go into the affected communities and work with local entities and property owners. The Conservancy has the capacity to purchase and redesign properties so they can be redeveloped and returned to the market or grant funds to local non-profits to carry out these projects. This would place the rebuilding back into the hands of the community and reduce the inevitable burden and delays associated with multi-agency engagement on these types of projects.

In Northern California alone well over 5000 homes were destroyed. Over the decades California has enacted some smart legislation that is environmentally sound and seeks to mitigate bureaucratic delays. Isn’t now the time to put this legislation into action to relieves the burden for many while improving the land for generations to come?

 

 

1948 — 1973 a golden age like no other.

 

“The second half of the 20th century divides neatly in two. The divide did not come with the rise of Ronald Reagan or the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is not discernible in a particular event, but rather in a shift in the world economy, and the change continues to shape politics and society in much of the world today.”

“The shift came at the end of 1973. The quarter-century before then, starting around 1948, saw the most remarkable period of economic growth in human history. In the Golden Age between the end of the Second World War and 1973, people in what was then known as the ‘industrialized world’ – Western Europe, North America, and Japan – saw their living standards improve year after year. They looked forward to even greater prosperity for their children. Culturally, the first half of the Golden Age was a time of conformity, dominated by hard work to recover from the disaster of the war. The second half of the age was culturally very different, marked by protest and artistic and political experimentation. Behind that fermentation lay the confidence of people raised in a white-hot economy: if their adventures turned out badly, they knew, they could still find a job.”

“The year 1973 changed everything. High unemployment and a deep recession made experimentation and protest much riskier, effectively putting an end to much of it. A far more conservative age came with the economic changes, shaped by fears of failing and concerns that one’s children might have it worse, not better. Across the industrialized world, politics moved to the Right – a turn that did not avert wage stagnation, the loss of social benefits such as employer-sponsored pensions and health insurance, and the secure, stable employment that had proved instrumental to the rise of a new middle class and which workers had come to take for granted. At the time, an oil crisis took the blame for what seemed to be a sharp but temporary downturn. Only gradually did it become clear that the underlying cause was not costly oil but rather lagging productivity growth — a problem that would defeat a wide variety of government policies put forth to correct it.”

“The great boom began in the aftermath of the Second World War. The peace treaties of 1945 did not bring prosperity; on the contrary, the post-war world was an economic basket case. Tens of millions of people had been killed, and in some countries, a large proportion of productive capacity had been laid to waste. Across Europe and Asia, tens of millions of refugees wandered the roads. Many countries lacked the foreign currency to import food and fuel to keep people alive, much less to buy equipment and raw material for reconstruction. Railroads barely ran; farm tractors stood still for want of fuel. Everywhere, producing enough coal to provide heat through the winter was a challenge. As shoppers mobbed stores seeking basic foodstuffs, much less luxuries such as coffee and cotton underwear, prices soared. Inflation set off waves of strikes in the United States and Canada as workers demanded higher pay to keep up with rising prices. The world’s economic outlook seemed dim. It did not look like the beginning of a golden age.”

“As late as 1948, incomes per person in much of Europe and Asia were lower than they had been 10 or even 20 years earlier. But 1948 brought a change for the better. In January, the US military government in Japan announced it would seek to rebuild the economy rather than exacting reparations from a country on the verge of starvation. In April, the US Congress approved the economic aid program that would be known as the Marshall Plan, providing Western Europe with desperately needed dollars to import machinery, transport equipment, fertilizer, and food. In June, the three occupying powers – France, the United Kingdom, and the US – rolled out the Deutsche mark, a new currency for the western zones of Germany. A new central bank committed to keeping inflation low and the exchange rate steady would oversee the Deutsche mark.”

“Postwar chaos gave way to stability, and the war-torn economies began to grow. In many countries, they grew so fast for so long that people began to speak of the ‘economic miracle’ (West Germany), the ‘era of high economic growth’ (Japan) and the 30 glorious years (France). In the English-speaking world, this extraordinary period became known as the Golden Age.”
Marc Levinson, End of a golden age, Aeon

Why would anyone choose the wealthy to govern us simply because they made a lot of money?

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We would not expect someone to have the talent to pitch for the New York Yankees simply because he is wealthy, so why would we give to the wealthy, solely because they have been successful in making money, the right to tell us how we live, how our money invested in government is to be spent and a host of other things of common interest. After all, their expertise is limited to making money, usually in a very narrow field of endeavor. Why would we not expect their advice to be biased to favor them making more money?

We would; we do. Except, of course, when we choose a snake oil salesman to Make America Great Again.

Memories of The Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI).

 

 

While rooting through the bowels of my computer for something or other I came across the following notice. It mentions one of the few things in my life of which I am truly proud.

 

Sheppard Mullin and Joseph Petrillo to Be Recognized for Work to Benefit the Homeless; San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to Honor Firm’s Efforts.

 

Business Editors & Legal Writers

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 23, 2002

The Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI) has announced it will honor the law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP and partner Joseph Petrillo at TIHDI’s annual fundraising dinner this Thursday night, April 25. On TIHDI’s behalf, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will honor Petrillo, TIHDI’s Fundraising Chair, “for his extraordinary dedication and commitment to building a new San Francisco neighborhood from the ground up.”

“I am deeply honored that Sheppard Mullin is being recognized for its commitment to the community,” Petrillo said, “but I am even more proud of TIHDI’s success.”

Through Petrillo and Sheppard Mullin, TIHDI has benefited from pro bono legal services including work that has resulted in subleases for housing and service spaces. Sheppard Mullin has also provided important assistance in the development of memorandums of understanding between member agencies and the TIHDI Board of Directors.

Petrillo practices in the Real Estate, Land Use and Natural Resources practice group in Sheppard Mullin’s San Francisco office. One of California’s pre-eminent land use lawyers, he was principal author and administrator of California’s monumental coastal program. He has represented public and private clients throughout the United States in resolving urban development, natural resources, environmental and land use conflicts. Petrillo was recently appointed to the High-Speed Rail Authority Board by Governor Gray Davis. Petrillo served as chief counsel to the California Coastal Commission from 1973-1975, chief counsel to the California State Senate Select Committee on Land Use Management from 1975-1977, and executive officer of the California State Coastal Conservancy from 1977 to 1985.

 

Wake Up America: Charlottesville, the American Kristallnacht.

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The title of this post may appear over broad. I am sure some people will be happy to point out the many differences between the two events. But, look at it this way:

We have a group of heavily armed men attacking mostly innocent civilians. In this case breaking bodies instead of glass, but the message is all too similar. The response of progressives or right thinking citizens and social media express shock and outrage but also urge calm. Meanwhile, the evil buffoon heading the nation at first supports the thugs and then realizing they may be becoming politically dangerous and not under control issues a tepid criticism of them.

Imagine then — what if the Nation’s leader and his cronies create an anti-terrorism entity to subdue these Alt-right terrorists and all other groups or individuals they or the entity decides are terrorists? Sounds Familiar doesn’t it? Did that not happen not too long after Kristallnacht with the suppression of Brown Shirts and their replacement with the SS. Could it happen here in America? No, well think again.

Just a few weeks after Charlottesville, the Leader of the Nation reversed an order of the prior President and permitted the release the Nation’s stockpile of military hardware to local police departments in order combat terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Progressives and others will probably still call for a reasoned careful response that will not place their supporters in harm’s way, or to wait for the hoped for return of the rule of law and reason.

This is madness. Shouldn’t we now rather think about what the German Progressives, liberals and people of good sense the very morning following Kristallnacht could have done to prevent the catastrophe that ultimately occurred?

Like then, this is no time for tepid hopes and half steps. Like it or not, the war has already begun and we either confront it now or we certainly will suffer its consequences later.

Fascism and the politics of hate have no place in any just society. It is time for Americans to throw back at these evil gangsters their own slogan and say, “No more, Not in our Country and Not on our Soil.” It is time to act massively. And if it comes to millions of citizens surrounding the White House and dragging these criminals out by their heels so be it.

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