Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Allegory of the Wise Counselor

The following post was written by frequent commenter "Jay-Ottawa."

Lothario was a charmer and, as for Columbia, she was dazzled by the words he spun into dreams. Her dreams were his dreams. True, he made none of the dreams happen and he continued to see other women. Tall, dark, handsome and, oh, that smile and, oh, so cool, so different from all her other suitors. Lote promised everything, so Colie said ‘yes.’

Like other wives of men with vague business and pockets full of money, Colie did not ask questions. He met people behind closed doors. He hired people he once called crooks. He himself began doing things he had said should stop. Even on their honeymoon, he continued to see other women.

Within months of the honeymoon Colie’s allowance for the household began to shrink. When she spoke up, he beat her. Was she some kind of purist? He was doing the best he could under the circumstances. One day he gave away their first born, Socia Surity, to pay off an associate, and later sent her favorite, Medicah, into an apprenticeship for a friend who really wasn’t a friend. Colie complained some more, and Lote beat her some more, then cut off her allowance entirely.

To hope forever is hell. So Colie, now in rags, ran off to the last shelter in town. Its motto was: “Do Not Complain” -- or DNC for short. Winnie Poop, the head counselor, heard Colie’s story and told her to run back to Lote’s arms.

“Really?” Colie was incredulous.

“Be realistic,” said the counselor. “Can’t you see your future will be even more bleak apart from Lote? You will end up on welfare, lose the kids, and spend your last days under a bridge. Do you realize you need major party affiliation to secure the best spots under bridges? Lote was committed to you. Count the emails begging you to come back. That’s more than you can expect from most guys these days. Believe me, in these times, you should not depend on the kindness of strangers.

“With Lote, at least you’ll have three squares and a roof over your head. If you do fall ill, at least you’ll have your own bed to die on. Kiss the fist that strikes the blow; he might be shamed into pulling some future punch. Didn’t you say Lote was nice once in a while? When he kicks you, jump nimbly. You’ll come to appreciate the days he doesn’t batter. You could never achieve such intimacy with other guys.

“Just remember there are worse monsters out there. Their motto is ‘Indifference Yesterday, Indifference Today, Indifference Tomorrow, Indifference Forever.’ Lote’s your man. Don’t let him down. He gives you a good day once in a while. Go home. Look at it this way: Lote is the lesser of two evils.”


Draft Spitzer said...

Well done, Jay.

Or as my favorite secretly feminist writer, Mario Puzo, penned it:

Godfather I:
Michael: "All right. This one time I'll let you ask me about my affairs."
Kay Adams: "Is it true? Is it?"
Michael: "No."
[Kay smiles and walks into his arms]
Kay Adams: "I guess we both need a drink, huh?"
[Kay goes to the kitchen to fix a drink, but sees Peter Clemenza, Rocco Lampone and Al Neri enter Michael's office]
Clemenza: "Don Corleone."
[Clemenza kisses Michael's hand, and Neri shuts the door in her face...]

Godfather II:
Kay: "It made me think of what you once told me: "In five years the Corleone family will be completely legitimate." That was seven years ago."
Michael Corleone: "I know. I'm trying, darling."

Hey, don't blame draftspitzer for a second Obama term - she's voting for Hyman "because-THIS-is-the-business-we've-chosen" Roth for VP.

Separately: Here's a link to Molly Haskell's brilliant feminist take on The Godfather. (Background: Puzo based Don Corleone on... his mother.)

My only beef with Haskell's essay is the exclusion of the abortion disclosure scene in Godfather II - Kay is beaten, but she is hardly "simpering", having struck out on her own in a fairly bold way for the 1950's. And Connie Corleone is no pushover, and never was, half Antigone, half-Mafia princess. 

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you'll allow a little Shakespeare...

Desdemona wound up dead. And Othello wasn't the villian. It was Iago.


Jay - Ottawa said...

In the version I saw, Othello, the top executive, was the one who chose Iago as his close advisor and kept him until it was too late. And it was Othello's own hands, not Iago's or any other character's, wrapped around Desdemona's sweet neck that snuffed her out. Certainly can't blame the audience wailing like bloggers as events unfold.

But I would never ever think about drawing any parallels -- such an interesting idea, though -- between Desdemona and our middle class, the poor, the elderly and the homeless, or between a certain economic advisor or two whispering nonsense into the boss' ear, or between the top executive presiding over a shredding of founding documents as well as the lives of millions of innocents who once looked up to him.

Draft Spitzer said...

Ned, the question is who plays Iago in the White House production. We were told for over a year that Rahm Emanuel was Iago. But Emanuel is gone. So maybe Obama is Iago.

And who's Othello?

Who the hell knows?

Anonymous said...

No, the question is who plays Iago in THIS production.


Draft Spitzer said...

No doubt that depends on one's perception of Iago's level of presumed villainy. I never thought that Shakespeare took a terribly Manichean approach to building characters.

John in Lafayette said...

Thank you Karen, for sharing this great story, and thank you, Jay, for writing it.

On a different note: Brilliant response to Krugman today, Karen. It brings to mind my own story. Begging your indulgence, I'll relate it here.

I recently completed my doctorate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas after having lived and worked in that city for nearly twenty years. I was offered a job at the University of Louisiana and left Las Vegas. The house my wife and I own in Las Vegas was appraised for $325,000 in 2004. When we put it on the market last summer we asked for the $170,000 we owed on it.

Today the house is listed for $75,000 and we still can't sell it. With de facto unemployment in Las Vegas well over 20%, the only people left buying houses are speculators, and they're betting the market hasn't bottomed out yet.

Bank of America holds the mortgage. They bought it from Countrywide using TARP money for pennies on the dollar when Countrywide folded. We weren't offered the opportunity to buy our own mortgage for those same pennies on the dollar.

If we short sell the house the government - using my tax dollars - will pay BofA a large portion of the shortage, yet the government's doing so will not relieve me of the responsibility to pay BofA back; they can still come after me for that money. And here's the beautiful part: BofA gets paid by the government based on the $170,000 I owe, not on the $30,000 the mortgage actually cost them. You know, the same mortgage they used my tax dollars to buy.

And if BofA forecloses on us the government - again, using tax dollars - will pay BofA an even larger portion of the amount they "lose" on the transaction.

I'm not whining about the loss of money. That's what happens when you buy any commodity. But why doesn't that apply to BofA, too? What I am upset about is that our President and our Congress have decided that Bank of America is too big to fail, but I'm not.

Tom Toles had a cartoon a few months back that had the "really short version of Monopoly." It had two rules:

1. One person is declared the banker.
2. He wins.

As you wrote this morning, Karesn, "kind of makes you believe democracy already has one foot in the grave,if not the whole corpse."

DreamsAmelia said...

Brilliant, Jay! Hooray, and thank you, Karen, for posting!
Perhaps moving to Hamlet simplifies the metaphors--the middle class is going to be floating upside down in a stream like Ophelia...Hamlet (Lote) was never a real suitor at all, but only professed to love her 40,000 times more than any brother _after_ her death. O (Ophelia, that is) has it right, when speaking of Lote:

Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!—
The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword,
Th' expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
Th' observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That sucked the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatched form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy. Oh, woe is me,
T' have seen what I have seen, see what I see!"


Only the rhyme of tuneful stridor from this guest post as well as Marie and Karen's highlighted Krugman comments provides any real succor on this day that no longer proclaims independence so much as degeneracy into the "corpse of oligarchy."

Yet in this vibrant dissent is where all courage is mustered, where all hope springs from the ashes. True defeat is silence, not this determined drumbeat to place the meaning of nation back into the hands of ordinary people, away from oligarchs who would snatch it from us.

Napoleon said...

This is, I think, the presentation of a false choice. We are not yet confronted with this horn of a dilemma any more than Obama is in making choices or Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are in framing responses to Obama's policies. Perhaps, it will come to this in the next presidential election but for the present we are no more there than civil rights activitsts or anti-Vietnam war activists were in their protests during the sixties to pressure president Johnson. To be sure, the end result was the election of Nixon but it was also the triumph of the civil rights movement and the beginning of the end of the Vietnam war, signal achievements in themselves. Even Lyndon Johnson, in signing a civil rights bill, recognized that although it would result politically in turning the South over to the Republicans for an indefinite time, it was nonetheless the right thing to do.

What is key, I think, at this point, is to apply the lesson of another successful movement of the sixties, namely, that of disclosure and particularizing the details of the adverse impact of governmental action or private action having a substantial footprint on the public sphere.

What would be helpful, I believe, is for liberals, Pelosi, Reid, and even Obama himself, to harp constantly on particularizing details of the impact of specific Republican policies harmful to the national interest. This is a way to put pressure on government leaders, to educate the public, and to try and change the climate of public opinion and drift. As I recall, thought dimly, Obama stated during his campaign, to this supporters that if they want him to do something, then they should make him do so. Making use of disclosure and impact statements is a way of trying to do so. In any event, it is better to engage in active criticisms of Obama's policies, and those of others, by emphasizing in detail their adverse impact than to focus too much on possible false choices or horns of a dilemma.

Karen Garcia said...

Nixon, Republican crook that he was, FEARED the liberals. Thus, we got federal funding for family planning, the EPA and an attempt at universal health care legislation. Thanks for reminding us it was Obama himself who urged his base to hold his feet to the fire. He needs to face as much pressure from the "professional left" as he does from the right wing GOP. Focusing on issues rather than the personalities of crazoid Tea Partiers has got to get started in earnest.

Aaron Walton said...

Ms Garcia, I've been following your posts after Krugman's column (How do you always get in so early?), and I'm with you. My question to you is what do we do now? Blogging is not an altogether worthless pursuit--lord knows posting my rants on the interwebs is the limit of my recent political activity--but expressing our displeasure on the net can't be enough.

What now? Can we organize a progressive protest movement within the Democratic Party? Can we--gasp!--organize a third party? What about a voter strike?

I think a voter strike has merit, though to be worthwhile it would need to be organized, cohesive and LOUD. Call it Real Democrats or something. The message is that we believe in the Democratic Party defined as the party of FDR and the LBJ (Johnson the reformer, not Johnson the Vietnam warrior), and that we wish to see that party reborn but that until that happens no Democrat will get either our votes or our $$$.

Karen Garcia said...

There is a big march on Washington planned for this October. From all accounts it will be peaceful, but nothing like the feel-good, co-opted Let's Just Be Nice rally held last fall. There are also various protests around the country; for instance, in NYC a street protest called Bloombergville, protesting the city and state budget cuts, has been going on for a couple of weeks now.
The sky's the limit, as far as I am concerned. I refuse to listen to the no we can't naysayers. To the right of this page, under Blogroll, you will find links to progressive sites which are organizing people. Right now everything is extremely loosely put together, but that's how these things get started.
As for how I can sometimes get my NYT comments published early, there is a thing called "Times Wire" on the homepage where the op-eds are posted first. But submitting early is no guarantee of getting published early or even getting published at all, from my own experience!

Draft Spitzer said...

I just read through the comments here and on the last entry. Yes, there are two camps, but reading through Marie Burns' comments (which I did not find to be without merit, but which I did find in the end to be unpersuasive), I finally realized that these two camps aren't going to reconcile. You either support TLOTE, or you can't. As Colette wrote in "Gribiche":

"When you can stick it you stick it, when you can't, you can't."

And so, strategy? I like the idea put forth by James Traynor of voting to keep the Dem Senate majority and grow the Dem House ratio, while withholding the vote from the Dem Pres candidate (if it is, as it will surely be, Obama.)

Having just typed that last sentence, I felt a real sense of sadness. This was the first Presidential candidate I'd felt truly invested in. I've been angry with him since a few weeks following his appointment of Geithner, and that anger has grown into exasperation, and I've frequently written and said that I won't support him. But reading the comments here really bolstered that conviction to walk away from him. 

I wonder if Karen would do a "strategy piece" weaving together the strategies suggested by James and others. It deserves to be consolidated into an article that can be easily digested (and sent), rather than having to go back and forth scrolling for the positions of the strategies suggested.

Anonymous said...

It was a different time, Karen, and I think one might legitimately argue it is not accurate to imply that the Nixon administration passed sweeping environmental legislation and federal support for family planning out of fear. And though not an altogether reliable source, but if Wikipedia has it right, Noam Chomsky said Nixon was the last liberal president.

Nothing wrong with focussing on the issues, but that history seems a little blurry.


Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Oh, my gosh!! Just tuned in! My Internet has been upside down today!

Jay, BRILLIANT!!!! As my Aussie husband would say, BLOODY BRILLIANT! I have forwarded it to all my friends! I am printing it for my files! I may send it out in my Christmas cards!

Well Done!

VLT said...


Check out the New Progressive Alliance. They are organising on the alternative front.


Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay - Ottawa said...

To all of you, thanks.

Our positions have been well aired. Important new ideas were introduced. Now, what to do?

I want to echo the clear note sounded by James Traynor and seconded by Draft. We should not go Third Party because we have no champion of great stature to create that out of thin air; nor do we have massive numbers to build a new party brick by brick in every state in time for 2012 and 2016.

But by working for a better Democratic House and Senate, while simultaneously, assiduously ridding ourselves of Obama, the millstone around our necks, in 2012, we can create an opening -- and the most achievable corrective available to us -- for a truly progressive party leader, instead of the fake we now have as leader of the Democratic Party.

Karen, can you help us refine such a plan and bring it to the wider public?

Napoleon said...

Aaron Walton asks what can be done to make a difference and whether a voter strike is a good idea.

I don't have an adequate answer to the first. I have participated in many protests since the sixties. I believe part of what we sought to accomplish through the demonstrations was to convey an alternative message, to let others know they were not alone if they felt the same way, to inspire like-minded believers to stay on message, to make the electorate and political figures know about the counter movements in ways more definite than polling could reveal, and to persuade adherents to our beliefs that if they acted upon their beliefs, whether in voting or demonstrating or supporting candidates or lobbying, they would be part of a larger group of people acting similarly.

It seems to me that a significant portion of these functions can now be performed by blogs, by comments to articles in publications on the Web, by Youtube videos, by Twitter like media, and utilization of other internet resources for communication and feedback. This blog serves these functions as do the comments in HuffingtonPost and in the New York Times, at least for those limited articles for which comments are allowable.

One drawback however is the lack of publicity given to the comments. More publicity would allow others, especially politicians, to be more aware of the extent of the disenchantment. It helps that HuffingtonPost counts the number of comments and that the New York Times has a section of comments entitled "Readers' Recommendations" (often at variance with the section entitled "Highlights"). Perhaps a blog calling attention periodically to the number and quality of such comments, i.e., a review, would be a worthwhile venture for helping progressive causes. Why leave all that information standing without comment or interpretation?

Karen Garcia said...

I am overwhelmed by all the brilliant comments and suggestions brought forth here during the past few days. This blog has truly become a community enterprise. Many thanks to all of you. For the most part the tone has been civil even though we have disagreements among ourselves. Personally speaking, I welcome challenges to my opinions as well as corrections when I get my facts wrong.
Also personally speaking, I have come to the conclusion that presidential politics are a waste of time, and our efforts would be better directed toward supporting local and state candidates not yet in the thrall of big money. It seems to me that the Republican Party is on the verge of imploding, while the Democrats are sitting on the sidelines either wringing their hands or plotting how best to co-opt conservatism and claim it as their own. (all the while throwing out the occasional liberal crumb).Pretty sorry state of affairs.
As far as my organizing a movement, I am afraid that is not in my skill-set, but I would direct you to the Progressive Alliance on the Blogroll. My activism lies in my writing.
Speaking of writing, I invite you all to submit regular posts as well as comments. I can't do it alone. Thanks again for inspiring me, all of you.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...


Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I found your comment moving and disturbing. I think we need to hear more experiences from people like you; people who have played by the rules their entire lives – hard-working, went the extra mile and got college educations, excellent job reviews, bought a house within their means, lived reasonably – and then poof, on the verge of bankruptcy or close to it. Or like my friend, sixty-two, unemployed for several years, savings depleted, no home, few possessions and a very uncertain retirement. These stories are important because the Right is still trying to portray the picture that those who have lost everything somehow deserve what has happened to them.

I think it is also helps us to see that the Middle Class – even those who feel economically secure - have far more in common with the unemployed factory worker than we do with the elites . I know that you feel this bond, but many of my acquaintances are still allied with the wrong camp because they are buying into the lies of the Right. Have you thought of sending your story to Bernie? I think he is still collecting them.

I would be interested in your take on DraftSpitzer’s suggestion that the gay rights issue is being used as a distraction to keep us from focusing on much bigger problems. You have a gay son and you have been affected, more than many of us, by the economic injustices of bailing out the banks and leaving Main Street not only footing the bill but not reaping any of the benefits. Do you consider it a scrap thrown to us, or is it momentous? I am not trying to open a contentious can of worms. Just very interested in how you, Lafayette, see it given your unique and personal perspective.

I must confess, I think DS’s suggestion has some merit. My Republican relatives, even the religious ones, don’t have too many problems with gays marrying. I think, as it should be, any reasonable person understands two people who love each other ought to be able to commit to one another and enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples. Is it just the right time and place for our country to get over one more prejudice against a group of individuals whose preferences don’t impinge on anyone else’s lives? I don’t want to minimize the prejudice that this still out there – My best friend and daughter’s godfather is gay and he still lives in the closet professionally for fear of a backlash. I witnessed prejudice against him when we taught together by “manly men.”

Just your thoughts, John.


Marie Burns said...

I agree with Garcia that the place to make change is at the Congressional level. But in keeping with Jay's theme & with my belief that Obama is a better bet than Generic Republican, I have come up with his 2012 bumper sticker:

"Vote Obama. Not as Bad as Bachmann."

Now I call that truth in advertising.

The Constant Weader

John in Lafayette said...


My own belief is that the Democrats are using the gay rights issue in much the same way the Republicans have pandered to the religious right. They push this issue to demonstrate to the base that they're still really on our side.

The only difference is that advancing gay rights is far more legitimate than trying to force people to adopt someone else's religion.

But please note, in both instances the agendas being advanced appeal to the base, but don't ever get in the way of the corporate agenda. The banks don't care if gay people can marry. Giant agribusiness doesn't care if your kid has to say a prayer in school. If throwing those bones to us mean we pay less attention to them so much the better.

As far as my economic situation goes, I feel fortunate that this is all that's happened. I didn't relate the story as a "woe is me" sort of thing; I did it to demonstrate just how twisted our federal government has become.

I've decided, by the way, to let the bank foreclose on the house, but all it will really cost me is a five year beating for my once perfect credit rating and all the money we invested in the place over the years. I still have a job and a decent income. There are so many people out there who have it far worse, and I really feel for them (so many of our old neighbors are facing foreclosure with nowhere to go); and I agree that the large majority of people who are still doing pretty well don't understand just how close they are to sharing in that fate. There's no such thing as a secure job any more.

But at least we have the advances in gay rights to assure us the Democrats don't really want things on Wall Street to be just as they are.


Jay - Ottawa said...

Here we go again.

A pug-ugly brute mugs you then kidnaps you, then takes you to the edge of a cliff and hurls you onto the rocks below.

A new friend invites you to his pedigreed 28-room "cottage" at Newport for the weekend. Lovely family. While engaged in elevated conversation along Cliff Walk, he invites you to turn and admire the sea. While saying, "Always look to the future," with both hands and one foot he pushes you over the edge. Just before you hit the rocks, you hear him add, "And try to be more patient."

Question: Which is the lesser of those two evils?

Phrase me a bumper sticker for that.

Draft Spitzer said...

I think I know the bumper sticker for that.
I don't know if you remember one of the last big stories on Lieberman in the Times, maybe it was late last fall, maybe it was after one of his last petulant statements about continuing his "service" in the Senate.
They opened the story to reader comments, and some poor soul, driven to distraction by Lieberman's antics, filled a comment box with the word "ha" repeated maybe 200 times. I forgot how he punctuated it, there was some break near the penultimate "ha" to indicate that he'd run out of breath or what remained of his sanity from this bitter laughter.
Anyway, he kind of summed it up for me, and I think it would make a suitable bumper sticker. It's the "ha" of the Chinese peasant farmer, taxed nearly to death, whose patience breaks not at an increase in his taxes, but by the insistence by the visiting party official that he should be grateful for what the Party has provided him: double-speak, starvation, and rage. Ha! Ha ha! Ha ha ha!


Jay - Ottawa said...


Ich bin ein chinesischer Bauer !


Valerie Long Tweedie said...


Well said and thanks for sharing your insight. I have copied both your last comment and your first one about losing your house to my files because I think they both are powerful pieces of writing.

While I know you didn't have any self-pity when you wrote about losing your home - your matter of fact tone - the non-fiction version - was in a way more moving to me. Just the facts - you were screwed and Wall Street got richer.

The only reason I suggested you send your story to Bernie is I think he is the only one collecting them and together, these stories paint a very human, gut-wrenching picture. If you don't want to, with your permission, may I write to Bernie telling him of your story? I was planning on writing to him about my friend as well. It won't make a difference - Bernie won't charge in on his white horse to save you - but it is a story worth hearing, as are the stories of your neighbours. This is all SO WRONG!

Again, thanks for your candour both on the gay issue as well as about losing your home.


Draft Spitzer said...

Or, for the bumper sticker, this would do perfectly, from your first tale:

"Do you realize you need major party affiliation to secure the best spots under bridges?"

VLT said...

As for great bumper stickers - I have no fresh ideas other than, "I want another option" but the two bumper stickers I have had on every car I have driven for years are:

"Well-behaved women rarely make history" (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich) I can't tell you how many women rush up to me and ask me where they can get one for their car!

And the old adage "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance"

I feel, as I point out my disappointment with Obama and Co. on a daily basis that I have to be fair. We are struggling with the same two lousy, corporate choices in Australia as well. No one likes the leaders of either the Liberal (Conservatives) or the Labour Party. Of course, with the Parliamentary system - in case anyone doesn't already know this - one group has to get 51% of the vote, so it forces the big parties to make coalitions with smaller parties with similar agendas. The great thing is we can vote for the Greens knowing that our vote really will help someone of our persuasion get into Parliament and the more Greens there are in Parliament, the stronger demands they can make on (in our case) the Labour party.

This winner take all thing we have going in the U.S. just isn't serving our country anymore – if it ever did. As my husband pointed out, of all the countries the U.S. has “democratised,” not one has ever elected to copy our system. They all choose some version of the Parliamentary System. In fact the only other countries that follow our lead are Malta and Jamaica - pretty sad isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think a Parlimentry form of Government like Canada would be an improvement here. It would allow people to join smaller parties that matched their beliefs more closely. The small parties would have grater influence in state or federal governments. It would also be possible to throw out a government that didn't do what the voters elected them to do.


VLT said...

Yes, Richard, Me too! The problem is the Legislature is made up of people invested in keeping the Two Party system as the only game in town.

John in Lafayette said...


These comments are in apublic forum. Feel free to do with them what you will.