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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Grand Rogner Bad Blumau Hotel

Designed by Friedrich Hundertwasser, Architect.



Lenin Street in Birobidzhan (in Yiddish)  לענין גאַס

Birobidzhan, The Jewish Autonomous Region of the Russian Federation.

...Jews never constituted more than one-fourth of the population of Birobidzhan, and today their share has shrunk a lot more. Emigration to Israel, often encouraged by the economic crisis of perestroika and an active campaign by Israel and its local agents, has depleted this Jewish community just as it has many others in the former Soviet Union. At one of the synagogues I saw leaflets recruiting new immigrants for Israel, even though, as the former deputy governor of the Jewish Autonomous Region Valery Gurevich later told me, there are more Jews returning from Israel than going there...
The retro-emigration is interesting, but is a phenomenon attested throughout the ages.


An Interesting Practice

...When individuals of questionable Jewishness (a category expanded since the 1990s to include all immigrants from the Former Soviet Union) seek to marry, the rabbinical courts rely on the opinions of four state-appointed “Jewishness investigators,” who are tasked with investigating and determining who is Jewish and who is not.

Officially acting only as expert advisors, the four investigators have unfettered discretion to collect any information — and their opinions are almost never challenged. They apply a body of “expertise” on Jewish genealogy that was never subject to public scrutiny or debate. The investigators use a computerized database called Maayanot to perform their investigations, and receive assistance from the Israel Police’s forensic investigators to examine genealogical documents they suspect as forgeries...


An Adventure In Art (60)

Diane Hoeptner
Diane Hoeptner Art Blog


Thursday, December 18, 2014

An Adventure In Art (59)

The Cutting Garden

Margaret Dyer
Pastels By Margaret Dyer



I think "Katzenjammer" might be a more descriptive and precise term than "dyslexia of memory", and I think I may adopt it for regular use. I could use it in situations, like, "I had to read the whole megillah, and I made a real katzenjammer out of it!"

Anyway, "katzenjammer" is like this morning:

I am watching Turner Classic Movies' screening of Nazi Agent, starring Conrad Veidt in a dual role, directed by Jules Dassin.
Veidt in his role as the evil Nazi is appropriately menacing, and in one scene he reminded me of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in the recent Star Trek film Into Darkness.

So...  as I made my morning cocoa I hummed a tune:

"Fritzchen freudig, Fritzchen freudig! Morgen gibt's Selleriesalat!"
"Fritzchen freudig, Fritzchen freudig! Turing cracks Enigma code!"

translation line 1: "Little Fritz is happy, little Fritz is happy! There's celery salad this morning!"

which even incorporates Cumberbatch's recent film The Imitation Game, in which he portrays Alan Turing, but which has an unfortunate resonance name-wise to The Crying Game, which leads to Forest Whittaker, and from there to Idi Amin.............


Miami Cubans Emigrees See An End To Political Welfare Benefits

Republican Senator Marco Rubio is furious over President Obama's ending of the 53 year embargo against Cuba. I, however, welcome it.

I see no reason to continue to use my tax money to support such a policy. The Cuban emigres never lifted a finger to assit me when I needed help, but then I never actually had a problem that was caused by and supported by the Politburo of International Communism.

However, I do have a whole lot of stuff made in China, which I believe is stilled ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, and everyone seems rather cool about it.

Senator Rubio, if there is a problem, it is a Cuban problem, and you and your community in Miami will have to deal with Havana on your own from now on. That is, assuming that there is a community whom you represent anymore.
In an interview, Senator Rubio responded to a question:

The Washington Post

... Another questioner pointed out that younger Cuban Americans support normal relations with Cuba.
“I don’t care if the polls say that 99 percent of people believe we should normalize relations in Cuba,” Rubio answered, later adding: “I don’t care if 99 percent of people in polls disagree with my position. This is my position, and I feel passionately about it.”
Yes, Senator Rubio, you are on your own. We should not have to support your political differences. For the last number of years this has been a political welfare hand-out to the Cuban political community in Miami, and it is right that it comes to an end.

The Voice Of Palestinian Christians At Christmas

Zionist Christians’ war on the true meaning of Christmas
By Activestills
|Published December 17, 2014

Kairos is a group of Palestinian Chrsitians that issued "in Bethlehem in December 2009 of the Kairos Palestine document, full title of which is "A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering", a call by a number of Palestinian Christians to Christians around the world to help fight the Israeli occupation. (Wikipedia, "kairos")]
For the last two years, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest Christian Zionist organization in the U.S., has sent email blasts urging their supporters to fight back against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by buying Christmas ornaments “Made in Israel.” Or rather, by receiving these ornaments as a reward for a tax-deductible donation. One message urges supporters to “commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ with this symbolic ornament that was made in the land where Jesus was born.”
Jesus was born in occupied territory. At the time, it was occupied by the Romans. Today, the West Bank town of Bethlehem is virtually surrounded by the Israeli separation barrier, which if completed as planned will confiscate some 64 square kilometers of the governorate’s land as nearby Israeli settlements continue to expand in violation of international law. How dare CUFI mention “the land where Jesus was born” without recognizing the plight of the Palestinian Christians who’ve carried his tradition to the present day?
Palestinians hold a Catholic mass as a weekly nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Beit Jala, September 7, 2012. If completed as planned, the wall would cut off the Cremisan monastery from the Beit Jala community, blocking access to one of the Bethlehem area’s last remaining green spaces, and a source of employment for area residents. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

When groups like CUFI do make a rare mention of Palestinian Christians, it is often to paint them as victims of Islamist persecution. This despite polls showing that Palestinian Christians overwhelmingly cite the Israeli occupation as the primary challenge in their lives.
In their Christmas email, CUFI claims that BDS supporters are: “Israel haters” who are “hoping you’ll not know that the freest Arabs in the Middle East are the Arab citizens of the Jewish State of Israel.”

While denying the persistent discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel and entirely ignoring the injustices faced by those living in the occupied territories, they also ignore fellow Christians. Some 3,000 Palestinian Christians, including the heads of 13 historic Holy Land denominations signed the Kairos Palestine Document, which calls for: “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”

Unlike the straw man “haters” of CUFI’s rhetoric, Kairos Palestine’s call for BDS is rooted in values of liberating love: “These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly and sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice.”
If only groups like CUFI reflected the best teachings of their faith as clearly. Instead, they have made an idol of the modern state of Israel. They may mention Jesus every now and then, but they rarely quote him. Benjamin Netanyahu gets a lot more airtime. “Netanyahu” even returns more than twice as many search results as “Jesus” when searching their web site.

I was not surprised to learn — from the extremely conservative Christian magazine Charisma of all sources — that CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, is “said to run CUFI like a political campaign.” The report goes on to say that, “[o]ne by one, the higher-profile Christian leaders who helped [John] Hagee start CUFI are dropping off as the organization becomes more focused on political lobbying.”

Unfortunately, CUFI and similar groups have convinced many Americans that “blessing Israel” means rubber-stamping every policy of its increasingly right-wing governments. This includes a message filled with military imagery to “stand with Israel” during last summer’s assault on Gaza, with talking points like, “Israel must not be condemned for doing what any responsible government would do to protect its citizens from terror.” Another message demands, “[t]ell President Obama to stop blocking weapons to Israel!” And yet another email cites 64 Israeli soldiers killed and describes a CUFI-sponsored solidarity visit by pastors to Jerusalem, Sderot and Mt. Herzl. None of these messages even mention the 2,200 Palestinians killed in Gaza, most of them civilians.
One need not be a Christian to recognize that Christmas celebrates the arrival of the Jesus who preached, “blessed are the peacemakers”, “love your enemies”, compassion for “the least of these,” and who taught his followers to pursue “justice and the love of God.” But as a Christian, I am compelled to question the priorities of fellow believers who have placed loyalty to the government of Israel above the life, teachings and example of Jesus.

A Palestinian pastor friend put it this way: “my biggest challenge with Christian Zionism is that it doesn’t promote peace and it ignores justice.”

Where is the Jesus of sacrificial love, peace and justice for all amid the Israeli and American flag-waving and military imagery? I therefore suggest that we stop calling such groups Christian Zionists and instead use the term Zionist Christians, to more accurately reflect their priorities.
The Kairos Document offers a sharply contrasting vision of concern for all life, but will U.S. Christians listen to their Palestinian sisters and brothers?

Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are one. … We call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence...

Politics is momentary; the Holy is forever.
Mixing them together makes the Holy seems transient, while Politics and Power emerges as an eternal object of idolatry.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

An Adventure In Art (58)


Jocelyn T. Bichard
Beauty In My World


The Trouble With Political Obsessions

 Alberta Oilsands

To paraphrase Scotty, in the film The Thing From Another World , produced by Howard Hawks and directed by Christian Nyby, "That's the Republicans for ya! Smart all the way to the top!"

Today's news:

First job for new Republican Senate is Keystone XL: McConnell
20 hours ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new Republican-controlled Senate's first act in January will be approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.

McConnell told reporters that the bill would be based on a measure that failed in the Senate last month that was co-sponsored by North Dakota Republican John Hoeven and Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu.

"It'll be open for amendment," McConnell said. "I will hope that senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments but there'll be no effort to try to micromanage the amendment process." ...

 And this is all fine. They did win the mid-term election.

Canadian heavy oil drops below US$40 as new oilsands projects rev up

Robert Tuttle, Bloomberg News | December 15, 2014 | Last Updated: Dec 15 3:58 PM ET
... Canada’s oilsands producers will probably be the first to cut output amid falling prices, Greg Sharenow, executive vice president of Pacific Investment Management Co. said this month.
Canadian crude produced from oilsands is some of the world’s most expensive to produce as it must be dug or pumped from the ground, turned into lighter synthetic crude and then transported by pipeline or rail thousands of miles to refineries...
Who knows?

And the trouble with political obsessions is the simple fact that what is does not always agree with a political viewpoint.


Christmas Street Again

I had a post Christmas Street a couple of days ago. I have updated the picture, and I include the original for comparison. It is sort of my Christmas Advent calendar where I make an improvement every day until Christmas.


picture today


Reading Arabic Calligraphy On Flags

The above calligraphy is termed the Shahada, and it is "La ilah illa Allah, Muhammad Rasuul Allahi", which is "There is no god but Allah, (and) Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."

This was the sign that was seen in the Sydney cafe, and I think it is the flag that a fellow in New Jersey got into trouble for having on his lawn. However, it is an Islamic profession of faith, and has nothing to do with partisan politics.

So it was not the flag of ISIS. Nor is it the flag of the Nusra Front. It is not the flag of the Taliban, although the Taliban flag consists of the shahada on a white background and would appear just as the picture above.
The American flag has stars on it, but few people believe that stars belong to America. Just so with the shahada.

This calligraphy, however, is rather difficult for someone as prosaic as myself to read. I will give it a try:

1) the light red outlines the first two words "La 'ilah..."  [there is no god...]
2) the light purple outlines the third word "... illa..."   [...but...]
3) the light green outlines the fourth word  "...Allah..."   [...Allah...]

 4) the light brown outlines the fifth word  "..., Muhammad..."

5) the light orange outlines the sixth word  "...rasuul..."   [...messenger...]

and this is even trickier for me, since the "r" in "rasuul" is below the "...suul", not in front of it (meaning to the right... remember Arabic is written right-to-left). Below is the "r" outlined in orange:
6) the darker green outlines the last word "... Allahi"   [... of Allah ]

It is easy to see why we get various pennants mixed up. Reading the calligraphy is not an easy task.

The 49 Year Syndrome

Earlier this year there was an article in The Guardian by Nick Cohen, and it was about climate change, and it was very good and well worth reading, but I fixated on the ending paragraphs, as they expressed a character of our times:

The Climate Change Deniers Have Won
Nick Cohen
Saturday 22 March 2014 
...The American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Eril M Conway quoted a researcher, who was asked in the 1970s what his country's leaders said when he warned them that C02 levels would double in 50 years. "They tell me to come back in 49 years," he replied...
It is a seven times Seven Year Itch that finally gets things moving.

It is a Rebel Without A Cause where we are James Dean, perpetually in some sort of spiritual conflict with ourselves, and tag along on field day trips to the Griffith Observatory to see films about the death of the universe. (We prefer zombies and financial collapses at present)
Suddenly some Buzz Gunderson swaggers along and challenges us to a "chicken run", thus making our spiritual conflict a tad more sweaty and real.
In the chicken run of 49 years, we race our car towards the edge of a high cliff at whose bottom pound the waves of the Pacific Ocean, and successfully bail out of the speeding vehicle at the last possible moment.
Buzz doesn't make it, though.
And Sal Mineo's character ends up being shot. (His name is Plato, and he looks only second-generation American, and seems an aesthetic-type destined for bad-endings-necessary-for-script-reasons.)

Sometimes it ain't nothin' but a chicken run


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Living Large In The Villa Dei Pisoni

I have started reading the report on Human Trafficking issued by the United Nations Office On Drugs And Crime (UNODC) issued in February, 2009.
I suppose that it is still timely. I mean, I don't think things have gotten much better. They may have deteriorated. Probably have. Human trafficking has probably gotten worse along with other areas of worldly things: wars, drugs, etc.

Villa dei Pisoni - Piso's Pompeiian Villa

I was talking to someone this morning about this modern form of slavery, and I was shocked at the scale at which it exists. I mean, it made me feel like Lucius Calpurnius Piso, Julius Caesar's father-in-law, taking in the sun at his villa in Herculaneum on the outskirts of Vesuvius...  probably stuffing wedges of oranges into his mouth and chasing the grandkids around the garden while the subterranean caverns trembled all about.

I knew that there was a large percentage of the populace that abused women and children. I knew that there was a segment that seemed to hate women and children and saw them as little more than the unwilling objects of whatever impulses drove them.

Some say that the amount of evil in the world is the same, that there is an average to which evil tends.
I disagree. I think we are in the Devil's Bull Market, and I feel like an ancient Roman looking about and feeling the winds of change steal the breath from his mouth.

Piso's villa was known as the Villa of Papyri because of the large amount of papyrus scrolls found there.
We have no guarantee against the storm, the deluge, the hurricane, the volcano of a world in love with evil. We find it the fondest expression of the Sublime to feel the fear of our own disintegration, and deny the drudgery of integration.
We stand on the edge of the cliffs, shunning the monotony of the low planes.
We seek the thrill of mountains to climb, ignoring the drabness of the "Meals On Wheels" lives of those who toil for the Good.

 The Rakekniven, Antarctica

We have looked at Greatness and seen ourselves. What else remains?


Attitudes Towards Women

We have already today mentioned the slaughter of students in Peshawar. I remember the opposition of the Taliban to education for girls, an opposition expressed by shooting a young girl, Malala, and leaving her for dead.

The mores of other cultures towards women may or may not be the subject to my judgement, or maybe it is.

According to the Report [A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons launched today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) , the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm.
Is there a relationship between violence and sexual exploitation? And between sexual exploitation and economic exploitation?
The fact that women themselves are among the traffickers is surprising briefly, but offers me no insights of value at the moment.

Morality for the most part is not in the eye of the beholder, and it is not relative to culture. Culture is a brief interlude of mankind in space and time.


Childermas - Pakistan - 2014

Childermas is the old name for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, memorializing the children killed by King Herod of Judea, when he discovered that the Magi would not return from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to divulge the information where Jesus was born.

Childermas comes early this year.

At least 120 people, students ranging from elementary to high school, and teachers were killed in Peshawar, Pakistan, in an attack upon a school by a group called Tahreek-e-Taliban.

The Taliban groups has decided it is inefficient to kill children one at a time by shooting them in the head as they stand waiting for a school bus. Better to kill them in masses.

The above picture reminds me of Newtown, Massachusetts, pictured below-

where again we saw children and teachers under attack.

Neither politics nor religion explain the monstrosity in Pakistan, nor does psychology explain the monstrosity in Massachusetts. What factor other than the perversely successful  strategem of attacking the undefended drives these attacks?

Think back. Did we not just recall the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I?
And was it not that war that most supremely devalued the lives of male soldiers? And did not that war begin the devaluation of the lives of the non-combatants, the women and children?
Then were not women and children, the sick and elderly, included in the targets of World War II?
And are not the innocent included now in imprecise attacks, and are not their deaths put down to collateral damage?

Have we not been on a 100 year killing spree?
And has not that devaluation of life infected every nation of the world?

Stand up and be counted, then. Are we too enamored of the king of Judaea? Are we Herodean, or are we Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, and all other religions of the Holy?

So far we have been Herodean, and we think that the end justifies the means.
I saw Vice-President Cheney on television. He thinks the end justifies the means.

There is a moral equivalence among monsters. They do not realize that sometimes somethings must not be done. Period!  Words are infinite, but sometimes things cannot be even imagined.

Vultures of a feather feast together.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Street

I have been modifying the base picture in my free moments.


How Politics Creates Its Own Reality

Reading a review of a study on political correctness, there is a result reached which seems so obvious after reading the article, that only our cherished stubbornness to view things objectively could have led us to miss it for so long.

This just in: Political correctness pumps up productivity on the job
Date: November 4, 2014
Source: Cornell University
Political correctness, loathed by some as censorship awash in leftist philosophy, actually boosts the creativity of mixed-sex work teams, according to new research published in Administrative Science Quarterly.

"Our work challenges the widespread assumption that true creativity requires a kind of anarchy in which people are permitted to speak their minds, whatever the consequence," said Jack Goncalo associate professor of Organizational Behavior at the Cornell ILR School and lead author of the study.

The research is detailed in the forthcoming article, "Stifling or Liberating? How Political Correctness Influences Creativity in Mixed-Sex Work Groups." Goncalo's co-authors are Jennifer Chatman, University of California, Berkeley; Michelle Duguid, Washington University; and Jessica Kennedy, Vanderbilt University.

Contrary to the widely held notion that being politically correct has a generally stifling effect, the results showed that a politically correct norm actually boosts the creative output of mixed-sex groups.

These results highlight a paradoxical consequence: A term that has been used to undermine expectations to censor offensive language as a threat to free speech actually provides a foundation upon which diverse work groups can freely exchange creative ideas.

"Political correctness facilitates idea expression by reducing the uncertainty that people tend to experience while interacting with the opposite sex," Goncalo said. "The PC norm, by establishing a clear guideline for how to behave appropriately in mixed-sex groups, made both men and women more comfortable sharing their creative ideas."

Who would have thought that being courteous would be helpful?


What's In A Name?

A rain storm by any other name would leave you soaked through and through...

The Weather Channel adopted the odious habit in 2012 of celebrating the launch of storms by giving names to the storms. It was a ploy aimed at making weather news more lucrative as well as more annoying than mere snow, rain, sleet, and tornadoes.
Al Roker was behind it all. Ever since NBC purchased The Weather Channel and made him king, his ever-present face is like Al Roker on the 8s, and anyone who tuned in for guidance on climate conditions has to sit through his seemingly inexhaustible schtick.
He has also become tyrannical and dictatorial, denouncing public officials who do not heed his premonitory warnings to close schools and keep cars off the roads. He has turned The Weather Channel effectively into his own climate bully pulpit.

Back to storm names:
The Weather Channel has released its list of winter storm names for the 2014-2015 season, the third annual rundown of names that will be attached to storms in the winter weather season...

Below is the list of 25 names to be used this season, as well as background on each and a guide for names with multiple or difficult pronunciations...

Astro (as-tro) – In Greek, it means star.

Bozeman – In honor of the Miss Shupe’s Bozeman High School Latin class, which provided the 2013-2014 list of winter storm names.
Cato (cay-to) – The name of a Roman statesman and his great-grandson, who were both known for integrity.
Damon (day-mon) – From Greek mythology; known for his loyalty.
Eris (air-is) – From Greek mythology; the goddess of discord.
Frona (froh-na) – Greek, short for Sofronia; related to the word for wise.
Gorgon (gore-gon) – From Greek mythology, one of three monsters; serpentine humanoids.
Hektor (hek-tor) – From Greek mythology, the Trojan champion who was killed by Achilles.
Iola (eye-oh-la) – From Greek mythology, a variant spelling of Iolë, a beautiful woman who Hercules wanted to marry, but could not.
Juno (joo-no) – From Roman mythology, a goddess who looked after the women of Rome.
Kari (care-ey) – A Finnish name derived from the Greek name Makarios from old-Greek meaning blessed or happy.
Linus (ly-nus) – From Greek Mythology, a son of Apollo known as a great musician.
Marcus (mar-cuss) – An Ancient Roman name referring to Mars, the god of war.
Neptune (nep-toon) – From Roman mythology, the god of the sea.
Octavia (ok-tay-vee-a) – The sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, who was also known as Octavian.
Pandora (pan-door-a) – From Greek mythology, the first human woman created by the gods...
"Astro" is not Greek for star; rather, it is the Jetsons' dog.
"Bozeman" was also a Roman emperor, or should have been.
I had a great-aunt Sofronia, who was called Sophie, not Frona.

I will stay indoors during storm "Gorgon".... brrrr! serpentine humanoids.

(As I read about these weather topics, I came across the uninformative bit from last January, wherein Rush Limbaugh asserted that Al Roker and other media weather folks had created the polar vortex and used it as a Climate Change bugaboo:
We are having a record-breaking cold snap in many parts of the country. And right on schedule the media have to come up with a way to make it sound like it’s completely unprecedented. Because they’ve got to find a way to attach this to the global warming agenda, and they have. It’s called the “polar vortex.” The dreaded polar vortex.
Do you know what the polar vortex is? Have you ever heard of it?
Well, they just created it for this week…They’re in the middle of a hoax, they’re perpetrating a hoax, but they’re relying on their total dominance of the media to lie to you each and every day about climate change and global warming.

 Al Roker countered in Twitter with:
For all the doubters who say the media "created" the Polar Vortex: From the 1959 AMS Glossary of Meteorology... (and a jpeg of the definition follows)
However, I remember this well, for I was checking WeatherUnderground at the time, using their "WunderMap" to check the various weather models.
Nine days before the polar vortex arrived - and four days before it was mentioned on cable TV - I was looking at the GFS model data for conditions at the 850 millibar pressure level for the next 10 days, when I saw it.

"What the heck!?!" I said out loud, even though it was 3:00 AM, and no one else was about.

I checked the color coding for temperatures at the 850 mb, then looked back up to the map and tried to comprehend it, for it seemed a bit too extreme.

"That's gonna be a bitch." I said to myself.
It was, too.

Today's WunderMap GFS Model 850 millibar level Run at 00:00 GMT
(looking pretty mild today, getting colder towards end week)


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Revolt Of The Parking Lots: The Symbiosis Of Kudzu And MacAdam

"It's alive! Alive!"

As Voltaire said, "MacAdam, c'est la pépinière de kudzu ",  or asphalt is the nursery garden of kudzu.
Kudzu gives volatility and mobility to the moribund parking lots, which are strung across the face of the world like an asphalt archipelago...

... and kudzu is the Polynesian-like  race to which they gave birth, and which propagated across the islands in the sea!  (Polynesian =  poly  "many"  +  nesoi  "islands")

Petroleum techniques has pinpointed the original macadam lot in  Titusville, Pennsylvania, and DNA tests have determined that all the present day parking lot kudzu has descended from one original mother kudzu plant  (Sample 125847:kud:1957 42 40/ 83 02)  somewhere in Shelby Township, Michigan in an area described by the old Packard Proving Grounds:

aerial view

facing Old Van Dyke Road


Christmas Art

by Johnny B.


Radio Raheem

Spike Lee marching in Washington D.C. demonstration against police violence.

Sal's pizzeria was in the NY Times Crossword today, and I could only remember Danny Aiello at first, not Sal. (Do The Right Thing)

Spike Lee foresaw and prophesied Michael Brown and Eric Garner in his film in the character of Radio Raheem (I'm pretty sure that was the name... too lazy to look it up).
Of course, it is easy to prophesy future violence against black folks when you're in a society that has such violence as one of its hidden pillars.


The Median Is The Message

The Median is a statistics which separates the higher 50% of a population from the lower 50% of the population. It is a real number, in that it does actually occur in a data population, whereas an average need not actually occur.
For example, in the series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.8  the median is 3 - right in the middle, and the average is 1+2+3+4+5.8 = 15.8   divided by 5 = 3.16,   and 3.16 is nowhere to be seen in the original data.

On December 12, 2014, The Pew Research Center released a report:
Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession
By Rakesh Kochhar and Richard Fry
...Our analysis of Federal Reserve data does reveal a stark divide in the experiences of white, black and Hispanic households during the economic recovery. From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased from $138,600 to $141,900, or by 2.4%.

Meanwhile, the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. Among Hispanics, median wealth decreased by 14.3%, from $16,000 to $13,700. For all families — white, black and Hispanic — median wealth is still less than its pre-recession level...
 The 2013 figures are $141,900 for white households, $11,000 for black households, and $13,700 for hispanic households.

Fully 50% of white households are under the $141,900 figure, and fully 50% of black households are below the $11,000 figure, and fully 50% of hispanic households are below the $13,700 figure.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Deconstruction Era

 Deconstructing The Capitol Dome

When the Republicans were victorious at the 2014 mid-term elections, I said to myself that now they have two years to botch things up in their own idiosyncratic way.
I hoped very much that they would not, but by and large Republicans are not conservatives as I am; I read The American Conservative, whereas most other Republicans take pleasure in things like The Drudge Report or Breitbart or even worse, things like NewsMax.

Of course, Democrats reading material is often hardly better.

In the BBC this morning, updated at 2:31 AM:
...The US House of Representatives has passed a $1.1tn budget, hours before government was due to shut down at midnight on Thursday...

As presented earlier in the week, the 1,600-page bill also includes a number of provisions intended to gain votes from both parties, including:
  • increasing the amount an individual person can contribute to a national political party from $32,400 to $324,000
  • blocking the District of Columbia from using its own funds to set up regulatory systems for marijuana legalisation
  • measures that would significantly weaken financial regulations in the Dodd-Frank law, including restrictions on derivatives trading
  • blocking certain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations
  • cuts in the budgets of the EPA and the US tax agency
  • increases in the budget for Wall Street regulation agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission...

Looking at the underlined sections, I am quite sure that the increased risks of weakening Dodd-Frank will not be mitigated in any significant manner by the increases in the budgets of Wall Street regulatory agencies.

The bill allows for banks to make risky loans with funds that are tax-payer insured.

This means that the chances for another future bail-out has just increased significantly.

If you recall, in 2008 none of the Wall Street regulatory agencies could do anything effectively to stave off the financial crisis.
And the same thing will be true in... say, 2017... to use my favorite "black hole" year as the example.

Since this is a modest example of what is in store when the new Congress begins next year.....
make your own prognosis.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kabbalah Overpass

Photo: Daryldarko


Disgust On All Sides

From The American Conservative:
Torturing God Out of Jihadis
By Rod Dreher
December 11, 2014, 12:39 PM

Michael Peppard pulls something particularly horrifying out of the Senate torture report:

The Senate committee was supposed to believe that a cruelly tortured man had thanked his torturer for breaking his religious faith. It goes without saying that the Senate committee found, after scrutinizing over 6 million pages of documents, “no CIA records to support this testimony” (487 n. 2646).

During the same hearing, Sen. Nelson asked about Hayden’s plans, if he suspected al-Qa’ida was training people to resist such techniques. His answer is chilling.

DIRECTOR HAYDEN: “You recall the policy on which this is based, that we’re going to give him a burden that Allah says is too great for you to bear, so they can put the burden down.” (487)

The new report does not describe the many techniques of religiously-themed abuse that I compiled from ex-detainee memoirs and interviews in 2007-08, nor does it extend our knowledge from the 2009 report, which admitted techniques such as forced prostration before an idol shrine to generate “religious disgrace.”

But what Hayden’s comments do show is that using religion as a weapon in prolonged psychological warfare was an actual “policy” – not a result of agents gone rogue.

The goal was to create a burden so great that a person’s religious faith would be destroyed. Nothing could be further from our country’s founding principle.

Peppard, who teaches at Fordham, has been studying how the US used religious abuse as a weapon against Muslim detainees. See here:

(Peppard quote:)
"This is truly unspeakable. I do not believe that the Islamic religion is true, and I have no problem with sending people who wish to make war on us in the name of Allah straight to Hell on the battlefield. They want to be martyrs in battle, fine, let’s give them what they want.

"But to take a captured prisoner, even one we can reasonably be certain has done evil things from religious motivation, and compel him to desecrate his religion, is to my Christian mind one of the most evil things that one human being can do to another. That the history of the Church shows Muslims have done this to Christians again and again and again does not make it right. It is always and everywhere a manifestation of utter barbarism. Again, consider the experience of Fr. George Calciu, a prisoner in the communist Pitesti prison camp in Romania:

They took very distinct steps. The first step was to destroy the personality of the youth. For example, the guards would come, together with a group of young prisoners who had converted to Communism, into a cell where there were perhaps twenty young students, and would try to intimidate them. They would beat them without mercy. They could even kill somebody. Generally, they would kill one of them – the one who opposed them the most; the most important one. Generally, he was a leader. They would beat him and even kill him. Thus, the terror began... "

The Terror began in the 20th Century and is building.

The government of our country has lost any sense of morality, and has sold its soul to Power and Mammon. Many of the people have, too. We are becoming the enemy, little by little, and sometimes by large leaps.

photo: Islamoyankee

The Revolt Of The Parking Lots 2014: Kudzu Comes Of Age

Within a small fracture in the macadam covered parking lot, small plants gestated and began to grow. They owed their lives to the protection given to them by the shelter of the randomized cracking of the asphalt lots and to the heat sink of the dark, black, sun-absorbing tar.

They joined the parking lots in their attack against the Urban.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake!

 House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

Or,as I believe is more historically correct, let them eat brioche is closer to what Marie Antoinette actually spoke before the deluge" "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche."
WASHINGTON (AP) — Time running short, Republicans and Democrats agreed Tuesday on a $1.1 trillion spending bill to avoid a government shutdown and delay a politically-charged struggle over President Barack Obama's new immigration policy until the new year.
In an unexpected move, lawmakers also agreed on legislation expected to be incorporated into the spending measure that will permit a reduction in benefits for current retirees at economically distressed multiemployer pension plans. Supporters said it was part of an effort to prevent a slow-motion collapse of a system that provides retirement income to millions, but critics objected vehemently.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House to the bill...

These pensions have been sending out alarms for over 20 years.

This is how the present generation of politicians handles these problems: break the promises, break the retirees backs, break any vestige of honesty and honor.

We are living in times where our "rulers" are aggressively stupid and craven. Our leaders cannot analyze and fix; they can only make unreal promises, and then make us all walk a short plank.
After a generation of death and despair, the sun will come up again, and history will forget us.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

The High End Dimes Weigh In

When I drive to the county campus to get flu shots and go to the farmers' market, we drive through Pontiac, Michigan. I usually circle on MLK Blvd. and get off at Telegraph Road. If We are going further west, I complete the semi-circle on MLK Blvd and get off on Cesar Chavez Road.

In Pontiac, Michigan, there is a group of young ladies known as The High End Dimes, and they had a take on grand juries and the killing of young men that was extremely brief and incisive, and sort of shocked me by its power; it recalled past eras, past wars, and summed up a weaponized society better than I ever could wish to.

When I said hello, they said, speaking of the nation as a whole:

"Welcome to 'Nam."

So I had a funny look, wondering why they were referring to my Vietnam era.

Then they said:

"Welcome to Kill-A-N*****-Nam!"


A Great Nebesh Happened There

My mind is spinning like a dreidel...

When I wrote the post yesterday about Chanute, Kansas, and the municipal endeavor creating their own broadband system, I titled it:

Chanute, Kansas ! Huzzah ! 

Now every time I see it fly by me as I edit, I wonder

(1) is it Hannukah yet?  (I pronounce the word with a hard "ch" sound as in the Scottish "loch", and that is usually transliterated as Channukah)  so it's the "Chan-" in "Chanute" that misleads me.


(2) I think of Eddie Cantor singing "That Old Sultan's Harem".
"Cantor" in Hebrew is Chazzan  (sometimes chazzin), and it is the "ch" and the "-zz-" in "huzzah" that beguile.

As an aside, the letters of the dreidel spinning toy are Nun, Gimmel, Hey, and Shin - n,g,h,sh - and their symbolism is as follows:

sh = sham = "there"

h = haya = "happened"

g = gadol = "large, great"

n = nebesh = nebesh 

and there is some doggerel like "nebesh gadol haya sham", or an approximation to the title.

Fire At The Hand In Hand

(Mirvat, a second grade school girl, practises her Oud at the Hand in Hand Arab Jewish bilingual school in Jerusalem December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Like school arsonists, Netanyahu rejects Arab-Jewish coexistence
By Mairav Zonszein
|Published December 1, 2014
The prime minister’s reaction — or lack thereof — to the arson attack against Jerusalem’s bilingual school reflects what can only be understood as contempt for Palestinian-Israeli partnership.

The arsonists who set fire to the Arab-Jewish bilingual school in Jerusalem Saturday night decided to pile up the first graders’ books and burn them in the middle of the classroom. Jews burned books. Belonging to six years olds. In Israel’s capital.

All Israeli citizens should feel they were targeted. A premeditated, intentional act aimed at instilling horror and fear into a small minority of Palestinians and Israelis whose only crime is an attempt at living in partnership and equality. An act of terror. It is reflective of nothing less than a national crisis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not see fit to issue a special statement, nor did he find it necessary to visit the school. He sufficed with this condemnation at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday:

We are making great efforts to restore calm and tranquility to Jerusalem. Of course, we will not tolerate attacks from any quarter and we will not tolerate setting fire to a bilingual school as we saw last night. We condemn any such attempt and we will act as vigorously – and with as much unity – as possible to restore quiet and law and order in all parts of the city.

He couched his statement in the larger context of unrest in Jerusalem. Netanyahu does not see the burning of schoolchildren’s books and a first-grade classroom as a stand-alone incident worthy of independent mention. It is on the same level as Palestinians throwing stones at soldiers who control their movement from behind shields and walls and armored vehicles. Jewish citizens in the Jewish state burned Jewish books. He can’t blame this one on Mahmoud Abbas – so I guess he has nothing to say.

Ms. Zonszein's article left out details supplied by Reuters:
...One of its classrooms was set ablaze, books were burnt and graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” was sprayed on a wall.

This is not a mere burning of a few textbooks; this is a part of our return to the darkness we thought we had escaped from in World War II.
This is Brennungsnacht 2014 - (Book) Burning Night  2014.