SMATTERINGS*

smatterings2

*(… sundry head-scratchers, gaspers, sunbeams and ironies collected from books read between dec 2 2019 and jan 21 2020)

 

1

“… in 1960, highranking Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann – one the chief architects of the Nazi genocide – was captured in Argentina, kidnapped and transported to Israel, where he was imprisoned while awaiting trial. Incidentally, at some point during his incarceration, one of Eichmann’s guards gave him a copy of the recently published German translation of Lolita, as German Jewish émigré philosopher Hannah Arendt puts it, “for relaxation.” After two days Eichmann returned it, visibly indignant, telling his guard, “Quite an unwholesome book.”

 

2

“In early 1949 a New Orleans distributor phoned Ahmet Ertegun trying to obtain Stick McGhee’s “Drinking Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee”, which was unavailable due to the closure of McGhee’s previous label. Ertegun knew Stick’s younger brother Brownie McGhee, with whom Stick happened to be staying, so he contacted the McGhee brothers and cut a re-recording. When released in February 1949, it became Atlantic’s first hit, selling 400,000 copies, and ultimately reached #2 after spending almost half a year in the Billboard R&B charts …although McGhee himself earned just $10 for the session.”

 

3

“With Sgt. Pepper ’s Lonely Hearts Club Band finished, the group left Abbey Road at dawn bearing an acetate and drove to ‘Mama’ Cass Elliott’s flat off the King’s Road where, at six in the morning, they threw open the windows, put speaker s on the ledge, and played the album full blast over the rooftops of Chelsea. According to Derek Taylor, ‘all the windows around us opened and people leaned out, wondering. It was obvious who it was on the record. Nobody complained. A lovely spring morning. People were smiling and giving us the thumbs up.’”

 

4

“Contemporary white travelers often wrote of how alarmed they were when visiting Southern cities at the large numbers of Afrikans on the streets. One historian writes of New Orleans: “It was not ‘unusual for slaves to gather on street corners at night, for example, where they challenged whites to attempt to pass… nor was it safe to accost them, as many went armed with knives and pistols in flagrant defiance of all the precautions of the Black Code. A Louisville newspaper editorial complained in 1835 that “Negroes scarcely realize the fact that they are slaves… insolent,  intractable.”

 

5

“Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s research on child orgasm is described in Chapter 53 of his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948). Some of the observations are summarized in Tables 30-34 of the book. The numbers of the children in the five tables were,  respectively, 214, 317, 188, 182, and 28. The minimum ages were, respectively, one year, two months, five months, (ages of children not recorded for Table 33) and five months. The tables identify sex experiments, for example, Table 32:  “Speed of pre-adolescent orgasm; Duration of stimulation before climax; observations timed with second hand or stop watch.”

Four excerpts from a taped telephone interview with Dr. Paul Gebhard, former head of the Kinsey Institute and Kinsey co-author:

Interviewer:  So, do pedophiles normally go around with stopwatches?

Dr. Paul Gebhard: Ah, they do if we tell them we’re interested in it!

Interviewer:  And clearly, [the orgasms of] at least 188 children were timed with a stopwatch, according to….

Dr. Gebhard:  So, second hand or stopwatch. OK, well, that’s, ah, you refreshed my memory. I had no idea that there were that many.

Interviewer:  These experiments by pedophiles on children were presumably illegal.

Dr. Gebhard : Oh yes.

Interviewer:  . . . back in 1977, where you were talking about an example of criminality in the Kinsey research, and I’m quoting, “An example of criminality was our refusal to cooperate with the authorities in apprehending a pedophile we interviewed who was being sought for a sex murder.” Do you think that’s defensible ethically?

Dr. Gebhard:  Yes….When we promised people absolute confidentiality we meant it….”

 

6

“In 1492, with three ships and a crew of 120 men, Columbus sailed toward an uncertain horizon. Previous explorers had proven that the sailors would not fall off the earth when they reached that thin line, but beyond that nothing was known of what dangers lurked beyond the familiar. On his first of four trips Columbus noted that the native people, who would love their neighbors as themselves, had the softest speech in the world. He named their islands “The Virgins” after St. Ursula, who, according to the myth, set sail with eleven thousand virgin friends, ending their trip as martyrs at the hands of Attila and his Huns. When Columbus returned in early January 1494, landing on the northern coast of Hispaniola with seventeen ships that Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of Spain, had outfitted for violence, his attitude had changed dramatically. The islanders who met the ships brought him gifts of fruit and fish; in return Columbus and his men and dogs took over the island and ruled ruthlessly, murdering, raping, enslaving, even lopping off noses and ears at whim. Many committed suicide and murdered their children rather than leave them at the mercy of the Christian invaders.

Bartolomé de Las Casas, historian of Hispaniola, deplored this viciousness:

“It was a general rule among the Spanish to be cruel; not just cruel but extraordinarily cruel. . . . So they would cut an Indian’s hands and leave them dangling by a shred of skin. . . . They would test their swords and their manly strength on captured Indians and place bets on the slicing off of heads or the cutting of bodies in half with one blow. They burned or hanged captured chiefs. Newborn babies were thrown to the dogs.”

 

7

“The sociologist St. Clair Drake relates how even among U.S. Empire forces in the Pacific, Afrikans would loudly root for the Japanese “zero” fighters overhead in the aerial dogfights against U.S. settler aviators. Robert F. Williams says that as a youth he heard many Afrikan veterans returning from the Pacific express sympathy for the Japanese soldiers, and even say that the Japanese tried not to fire at Afrikans. And studying the U.S. propaganda posters of dark-skinned Japanese trying to rape blond women, Williams saw a connection to settler propaganda against Afrikans. None of this was any approval for Japanese imperialism, but an expression of disassociation from the Euro-Amerikan oppressor. To the oppressed masses of the U.S., British, Dutch, French, German, and other Western empires, this war was not their war.”

 

8

“Women are responsible for the ever-increasing public taste in sensationalism and sexy stuff. Women who make up the bulk of the picture audiences are also the majority readers of the tabloids, scandal sheets, flashy magazines, and erotic books,” reported Variety in a perplexed front-page story in 1931. Next to the prurient mentality of women, “the mind of the average man seems most wholesome in comparison,” declared the trade paper. “Women love dirt. Nothing shocks ’em.”

 

9

“I spent most of yesterday (Feb 9, 1977)  with Louise Brooks, from one-fifteen in the afternoon till nearly eight o’clock.

“You bastard!” Louise said to me when she looked at the three drawings I’d done of her, but I knew that she was impressed by them. When I tried to explain their starkness, their frank expression of pain, she said: “You don’t have to apologize for them.”

She talked and moved the whole time I was working and kept quiet only briefly when I told her that I was drawing her mouth. We worked for two and a half to three hours but not until near the end of the last drawing did she indicate that she was in any kind of dis- comfort. Both of us sat on plastic and chrome chairs in her small two- room apartment. She had her right arm on a table which she’d pulled into the middle of her living room floor for a lunch she’d prepared, only for me, of scrambled eggs, toast, and two pieces of baked meat loaf which were dried out because they’d been kept in the oven all the time I was drawing.

She faced the north-lit window behind me. She had difficulty seeing me, she said, because I was silhouetted against the light. I asked her several times to look right at me, but she resisted, so then I drew her looking past me. During the second drawing I told her that I was going to include her left arm and hand. She objected at first, complaining of her arthritic fingers and knuckles which in fact are not very apparent, but then she quickly relented: “Oh well, if you want to.” She was wearing a pink nightgown and a pink quilted bed-jacket. She removed the bed-jacket just before I started work, saying that she didn’t want to be drawn in its scalloped collar.

Tuesday is her day for washing herself. “It’s so tempting,” she told me, “now that I’ve got it down to one day a week, not to wash at all. Age is dirty.” She’d washed her hair, too. I noticed that it didn’t have its oiled stiffness of the previous afternoon when Chris and I had first visited her. Going to the bathroom to slick back her hair with water, she returned with several drops on her forehead. “Have I doused myself ?” she asked. She brushed away a few of the drops and those remaining gradually evaporated.

Louise makes contact immediately. She began to talk as soon as I arrived and always watched me while she talked. Her talk was a cover for a minute inspection of me. Her manner is provocative, even challenging, as if to strike sparks to warm herself by. She talks openly about sex and watched my face carefully for any signs of shock. Referring to herself as “a basket watcher,” she spoke admiringly of “big pricks,” though she allowed that it was usually possible to get some sort of satisfaction from all but “the really drastically undersized.”  “There are two or three things I like having done to me,” she said, “and big pricks are best for those particular jobs.”

Redheads, she’d found, had predictably “small and misshapen pricks.” She described their often “bent and unappealing forms” and I encouraged her by adding “scarlet heads” to her list of their peculiarities. The look she gave me as she nodded her agreement acknowledged a fellow connoisseur. “I’ve spent a lot of time on sex,” she continued, “I don’t feel the least bit frustrated. I’ve had my share. More than that. And now that I don’t need it any more, I don’t feel cheated. I got lots of it when I wanted it.”

 

10

“When the pigs grab you, chances are they are going to insult you, rough you up a little and maybe even try to plant some evidence on you. Try to keep your cool. Any struggle on your part, even lying on the street limp, can be considered resisting arrest. Even if you beat the original charge, you can be found guilty of resisting and receive a prison sentence. Often if the pigs beat you, they will say that you attacked them and generally charge you with assault.

If you are stopped in the street on suspicion (which means you’re black or have long hair), the police have the right to pat you down to see if you are carrying a weapon. They cannot search you unless they place you under arrest. Technically, this can only be done in the police station where they have the right to examine your possessions. Thus, if you are in a potential arrest situation, you should refrain from carrying dope, sharp objects that can be classified as a weapon, and the names and phone numbers of people close to you, like your dealer, your local bomb factory, and your friends underground.”

 

11

“It’s true that Horton’s heroism causes unrest in Nool, at least temporarily. However, Horton’s neighbors are to blame for the disruption. They are the ones who have failed to properly investigate the facts. Indeed, note why we see Sour Kangaroo as the antagonist: by single-mindedly valuing her personal project—even one that brings general harmony to Nool—over the Whos well-being, she fails to respect their inherent worth as persons. She thereby affirms that the denizens of Nool and the contentment they enjoy are more important than the Whos and their livelihoods and, indeed, their very lives. There fore, although hers is not a completely selfish project—unlike Mayzie’s—she still commits the gravest of Kantian moral errors. However, upon realizing her error, she quickly makes amends. She exclaims to Horton “from now on, I’m going to protect them with you!” (“And the young kangaroo in her pouch said, ME TOO!”) (Horton). Sour Kangaroo changes her ways because of the obviousness that “a person is a person, no matter how small.”

That the temporary civil unrest in Nool was caused by willful ignorance highlights an important feature of doing moral philosophy: one must be sufficiently informed by getting the relevant facts straight. Horton and Sour Kangaroo disagreed about what ought to be done with the speck because they disagreed about whether it contained persons. (“On that speck—as small as a head of a pin—persons never have been!” [Horton]) But once the Whos “yopped” loud enough and Sour Kangaroo was sufficiently attentive, her disagreement with Horton disappeared. Ethically speaking, they didn’t disagree. Both agree with Kant that persons are of utmost moral value and deserving of respect.

 

12

“In its March 29, 1939 issue the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the major Afrikan newspapers, ran an editorial on the coming world war that summed up what most colonial peoples in the world thought about it:

“The ‘democracies’ and the ‘dictatorships’ are preparing to do BATTLE in the near future.
“The referee is IMPERIALISM, who stands ready to award the decision to the victor.
“The stake is the right to EXPLOIT the darker peoples of the world.
“The audience consists of the vast MAJORITY of those who happen to be NON-WHITES.
“They have NO FAVORITE, because it makes NO DIFFERENCE to them which party WINS the fight.

“They are ONLY interested in the bout taking place AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
“The audience knows that the destruction of white civilization means the EMANCIPATION of colored people, and that explains why they eagerly await the opening.

“The democracies which now CONTROL the dark world have never extended DEMOCRACY to the dark world.
“THEIR meaning of democracy is for WHITE PEOPLE only, and just a FEW of them.
“The dictatorships FRANKLY DECLARE that if they win THEY will do as the democracies HAVE DONE in the past.
“The democracies as frankly declare that IF they win they will CONTINUE to do as they HAVE BEEN doing.”

 

13

“After our drawing session and the lunch she prepared for me, Louise Brooks got up from her bed with her usual difficulty but without asking for help or making any pitiful demonstration. She went into the bath-room and, perhaps intentionally, didn’t bother to shut the door. I could hear liquid tinkling into the toilet bowl. Then she coughed and the coughing made her fart. Because she is a straightforward, no nonsense woman who would never do anything so unfriendly as to behave like a lady, her fart in no way impaired her dignity.”

 

14

“Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: “Do you actually think there’s a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?” For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together – on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot – though they call it “planning” and “strategizing” – and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure.” (Dr. Michael Parenti)

 

15

“* Much of the original proof that fluoride is safe for humans in low doses was generated by A-bomb program scientists, who had been secretly ordered to provide “evidence useful in litigation”  against defense contractors for fluoride injury to citizens. The first lawsuits against the U.S.  A-bomb program were not over radiation, but over fluoride damage, the documents show.

* Human studies were required. Bomb program researchers played a leading role in the design and implementation of the most extensive U.S. study of the health effects of fluoridating public drinking water–conducted in Newburgh, New York from 1945 to 1956. Then, in a classified operation code-named “Program F,” they secretly gathered and analyzed blood and tissue samples from Newburgh citizens, with the cooperation of State Health Department personnel.

* The original secret version–obtained by these reporters–of a 1948 study published by Program F scientists in the Journal of the American Dental Association shows that evidence of adverse health  effects from fluoride was censored by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) –considered the most powerful of Cold War agencies– for reasons of national security.

* The bomb program’s fluoride safety studies were conducted at the University of Rochester, site of  one of the most notorious human radiation experiments of the Cold War, in which unsuspecting hospital  patients were injected with toxic doses of radioactive plutonium. The fluoride studies were  conducted with the same ethical mind-set, in which “national security” was paramount.

* The U.S. government’s conflict of interest–and its motive to prove fluoride “safe” — has not until now been made clear to the general public in the furious debate over water fluoridation since the  1950′s, nor to civilian researchers and health professionals, or journalists. The declassified documents resonate with a growing body of scientific evidence, and a chorus of  questions, about the health effects of fluoride in the environment.”

 

16

“The U.S. Empire faced the problem that its own split into two warring settler nations had provided the long-awaited strategic moment for the anti-colonial rising of the oppressed Afrikan Nation. Just as in the 1776 War of Independence, both capitalist factions in the Civil War hoped that Afrikans would remain docilely on the sidelines while Confederate Amerika and Union Amerika fought it out. But the rising of millions of Afrikans, striking off their chains, became the decisive factor in the Civil War. As so scathingly points out:

“Freedom for the slave was the logical result of a crazy attempt to wage war in the midst of four million black slaves, and trying the while sublimely to ignore the interests of those slaves in the outcome of fighting.”

Judge John C. Underwood of Richmond, Virginia, testified later before Congress that: “I had a conversation with one of the leading men in that city, and he said to me that the enlistment of Negro troops by the United States was the turning point of the rebellion; that it was the heaviest blow they ever received. He remarked that when the Negroes deserted their masters, and showed a general disposition to do so and join the forces of the United States, intelligent men everywhere saw that the matter was ended.”

 

17

“This was a study of the dental and physical health of workers in a factory producing fluoride for  the A- bomb program, conducted by a team of dentists from the Manhattan Project.

* The secret version reports that most of the men had no teeth left. The published version reports only that the men had fewer cavities.

* The secret version says the men had to wear rubber boots because the fluoride fumes disintegrated  the nails in their shoes. The published version does not mention this.

* The secret version says the fluoride may have acted similarly on the men’s teeth, contributing to  their toothlessness. The published version omits this statement.

The published version concludes that “the men were unusually healthy, judged from both a medical and dental point of view.”

 

18

“Cannes was the last place I ever thought I ’d see Groucho Marx. I don’t remember why he was there – he certainly hadn’t made a film in years – but his press conference was a lively affair. Groucho was old and rather deaf by then. A black reporter asked him what he thought of the Black Power movement in America. He leaned over to a press office and asked, ‘What did the schwatza say?’ Whether that was his way of answering the question or whether he really didn’t hear it, no one will ever know, but he caught a lot of flak for the remark.”

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

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