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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Clinic Challenge !

Instead of shooting ferocious giraffes, perhaps we should try and promote different ways to prove manhood/womanhood/adulthood by a new challenge:

The Ebola Clinic Challenge.

Say work a month at an Ebola Clinic, take some snapshots of yourself there, and come back to quarantine and a new sense of self worth.


ROOTS: How Important Are They?

Old Chrysler HQ in Highland Park, Michigan

I was driving She-who-must-be-obeyed to her dental appointment down by MLK Jr.Boulevard and Rosa Parks Boulevard. We were taking I-75 to the Davison Freeway; the Davison is the world's first concrete depressed freeway, and it is driving the way it should be.
I remember once taking Oakman Boulevard  (lots of "boulevards"... we used to have a lot of stately elm trees in Detroit which lined them and the streets were beautiful) from Dearborn up to catch onto the western end of the maybe 3 miles that make up the Davison.
Oakman Boulevard at the Davison was a vibrant, bustling black community. In my memory, it is sort of like a Midwest Harlem, but my memory must be embellishing. It was bustling, but it could not have been as interesting as I remember. It was still a living community, however.
My memory is script, script writer, redactor, editor, actors and actresses, Foley editor, camera man, producer and director. One cannot rely too heavily upon it, as it seeks fascination rather than truth.

It makes me think of doing a project documenting the neighborhoods of Detroit, actual and disappeared. Same thing for Flint. I have already spent hours scooping out things around the Millard Saxton House in Flint.

That is all not part of Roots, however.

As you turn onto the Davison from I-75 heading south, you immediately pass Oakland Avenue - not Oakland Boulevard, even though there is a median with trees for a mile or so - and that is in the City of Highland Park, and a stone's throw from the Davison Freeway is where the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation was until the 1990s, when it moved to Auburn Hills, Michigan.

The financial effect of Highland Park was devastating. Lee Iacocca worked out a fund of some sort to help the city financially for a while, but city politics being what they are, the fund is gone.

In Flint, within walking distance from the Millard Saxton house is the site of the old vast Chevrolet facility - "Chevy In The Hole" as it was called, probably because it was built on both sides of the flood plain of the Flint River, and there is a bit of a drop as you drive through it.
GM's abandonment of Flint has been recorded in many places. Michael Moore's Roger and Me comes to mind.

Some Remains Of Chevy In The Hole

Now, is it not interesting that the two car companies - GM and Chrysler - which abandoned their birth places, causing great financial upheaval, both had to be bailed out in 2009?

Ford Motor Company did not need any government and taxpayer money.

Ford World Headquarters still exist in Dearborn, Michigan, not far from the rural farm where Henry Ford was born.

 Ford HQ

He was born in what was then Greenfield Township. Greenfield Twp. is now part of Detroit and Dearborn and Highland Park. His first motor car was built and run on Mack Avenue in Detroit, and Mack avenue exists today, running from the eastern suburbs into Detroit up to Woodward Avenue, or M-1 and Woodward has its own long history, where Mack changes its name to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard...

Which is where we were going.....

And Mack Avenue is named after a Mr. Mack who had a farm there.
He was the maternal uncle of Joseph Smith, the prophet of Mormon. I cannot remember whether Joseph Smith ever was documented as having spent time with his uncle at the farm....

And Greenfield is remembered in Ford's Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's recreation of the era of his birth:

 Greenfield Village At Christmas

History is everywhere, coming from our Roots.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On Torture Considered As One Of The Fine Arts: Zero Dark Thirty

As you must know by now, Thomas De Quincey, whom I often conflate and mistake for Daniel DeFoe, wrote a pamphlet entitled On Murder Considered As One Of The Fine Arts.

I have finally decided to view the film Zero Dark Thirty after a year.

I decided to wait until the release of the Senate Committee Report on the CIA and Torture.

I also watched Jean Seberg in Joan of Arc.

The Inquisition seemed to know quite well that information gained under torture is worthless.
Not so American 21st century policy makers. Not so President Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney, and all the vile Minions indwelling in the caves of Langley, and all the Mengeles of psychology who oversaw the torture.

We are making the future as we sleepwalk through life, and walk the knife-edged expressionistic roof tops like Cesare under the spell of our Caligaris, our Caligulas, our Cagliostros of celebrity, nobility, and mud.

Read one of the few perceptive reviews of the time for this ghastly brief pro torture :
Zero Conscience in “Zero Dark Thirty”
By Jane Mayer

Read about how the film "shows the complexity of the debate".

If they had watched Joan Of Arc, the debaters might have gotten a 400 year leg up on the discussion.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Egypt's President El-Sisi

The American Conservative

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited the main Coptic Christian cathedral Tuesday during its Christmas Eve mass (Coptic Christians celebrated Christmas yesterday), “the first such visit by an Egyptian president in history” according to First Things writer Mark Movsesian. “It’s important for the world to see this scene, which reflects true Egyptian unity, and to confirm that we’re all Egyptians, first and foremost. We truly love each other without discrimination, because this is the Egyptian truth,” Sisi told service attenders.

Coptic Pope al-Tawadri thanked Sisi for his visit, calling it “a pleasant surprise and a humanitarian gesture.”

It isn’t the first such gesture that Sisi has made—in a speech celebrating the birth of Mohammed on New Year’s Day, he called on Muslim religious leaders to help fight against extremism: ”I say and repeat, again, that we are in need of a religious revolution,” he said, according to CNN. ”You imams are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting on you. … We need a revolution of the self, a revolution of consciousness and ethics to rebuild the Egyptian person—a person that our country will need in the near future.” ...

There are 2 important points in this article.

The first and most obvious is the embrace of the Coptic population of Egypt. They are ancient, and it was their language Coptic which was the language used by those who deciphered the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, as the base of the Coptic language extends back to Ancient Egypt.

The second, and not quite as obvious, is the speech of el-Sisi celebrating the birth of the Prophet on New Year's Day.

That is a holiday strictly forbidden by Saudi Wahhabis and Islamic Fundamentalists. Celebrating the Birthday of the Prophet is waving a red flag in the face of the bull of religious intolerance.
It is a big deal to fundamentalist Islam.

So el-Sisi's speech said as much or more by the choice of the day upon which it was delivered as by the words of the speech themselves.

I admire the spirit of this ex-general.
Too bad there are no real generals left in Turkey's army.


photo:  Francisco Martins / Flickr

First, Second, And Third Impressions

Seth McFarlane and Bill Maher

I never actually liked Bill Maher, and I counted it one of the random benefits of life that he was on a premium cable channel, and only available to the really important minds of the universe.
He was reserved to the "movers" and "shakers" of reality, and Montag the Obscure need not be troubled by the mind-boggling mix of politics, morality, religion, philosophy, satire, sarcasm and comedy.

I just noticed that Bill Maher has "Man in the Glass Booth" eyes!
Just draw some spectacles on the photo, and see whether he doesn't.
He looks as if he's waiting to go on trial in front of some vastly important tribunal.

I just read Michael Moore's (Yay, Flint, Michigan!) defense of Bill Maher  -   -  and it strikes me that the logic Mr. Moore uses leads to such conclusions as odd or as natural as the following:

"This Wounded Knee business proves that American Capitalism is genocidal, and it must be destroyed."

Although the premises are ghastly, the conclusion goes too far, as if the logical deduction can be forced to greater issue by the heinousness of the situation.

The only problem I have with people talking about "Islamist threats" is the demonstrated fact that all of our wealth and war effort will be expended on Non-Threats

such as:

1)  Iraq under Saddam Hussein  (non-Al Qa'ida),

2)  Afghanistan under the Taliban  (non-Al Qa'ida),

3)  Libya in 2011  (non-Al Qa'ida... but we had it in for Qaddafi, and Libya has been a mess ever since).

The only political will that exists in the USA is the will to settle petty grievances with blood and arms. The true dangers are shoved to the side and have been for a long, long time.


The Department OF Education Kicks Butt !

The American Conservative

It’s a morning Kenneth Wright will never forget: 15 armed agents break in his front door and grab him by the neck, still in the boxer shorts he slept in. For six hours, a handcuffed Wright sat in a cruiser parked outside with his three children, ages 3, 7, and 11, while agents searched his house.

“They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids,” the Stockton, Calif., resident told a local news outlet at the time.

Drugs? Weapons? Domestic violence? No. As Wright later found out, his gun-toting visitors were from the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). What the neighbors mistook as a S.W.A.T. team raid was really the execution of a search warrant in a student loan fraud case involving Wright’s wife, who wasn’t even there at the time.

“They busted down my door for this,” he exclaimed, “it wasn’t even me.”

The Department of Education took a drubbing from conservative and libertarian media but was unrepentant in its explanation. It offered no information on what the search warrant was for, other than to say that the OIG got it signed by a federal judge, and that the OIG routinely executes warrants for bribery, embezzlement, fraud, “and other criminal activity.” The department also said it “assesses” the danger of each search based on “a number of factors” before bringing the guns, like the whether the “persons” known to be at the house have a criminal or violent history.

Wright had no previous record, according to the above-mentioned report.

It might come as a surprise to most Americans, but the DOE considers its inspector general’s office to be its “law enforcement” arm and has outfitted it as such. In 2010, the department purchased 27 Remington Brand Model 870 police 12-gauge shotguns to replace its old firearms. “OIG operates with full law enforcement authority,” the department said after the Stockton incident.

And it was right. After the 9/11 attacks, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 gave inspector generals’ offices across the federal spectrum statutory authority to build up such law enforcement capabilities—including the right to carry weapons and arrest people.

Not surprisingly, as the nation debates the militarization of local and state police in the wake of several high-profile use of force cases, the proliferation of the law enforcement culture within the federal bureaucracy has largely gone unnoticed. The fact is, agencies whose prime directive is to audit and investigate regulatory transgressions like waste, fraud and abuse, are arming up with rifles and submachine guns—in essence, getting ready for battle.

“Not only is it overkill, but having these highly-armed units within dozens of agencies is duplicative, costly, heavy handed, dangerous and destroys any sense of trust between citizens and the federal government,” declared Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, in a statement to TAC. He plans to re-introduce language he sponsored in the last session that would repeal the authority given to the OIGs in 2002 and prohibit any federal agency outside “those traditionally tasked with enforcing federal law,” like the FBI and federal marshals, to get their hands on machine guns, grenades, and other military weapons...

(emphasis mine)

A Weaponized Society is more than merely scads of individuals packing heat to the grocery store and to church; it is bureaucrats now armed to the teeth, too. Everybody gets a chance.

Things are really getting... Waco


Reading About France : The Beatitudes

 Pope Innocent X   (not actually relevant to the body of the post)

"Bienheureux les artisans de paix, car ils seront appelés fils de Dieu"

"Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called sons of God"

I remembered "children of God" rather than "sons of God", but upon looking into my Greek NT, I saw clearly:

μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί, ὅτι [αὐτοὶ] υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται.

and   υἱοὶ   is most definitely "sons".

We could meditate right about now...
I did and it came into my head that we live in the time of

"blessed are the peacemakers... yadda-yadda-yadda."

Think of what happens when one makes a satire of the Beatitudes.
Instead of insulting cartoons of various entities, what happens when we satire the Sermon On The Mount?

Why, you get Today's World, all wrapped up in a bow and looking as murderously fine as a rendition of Pope Innocent X by the painter Francis Bacon:


This is the first time I tried this method of posting:
the pictures are not literally related to the prose, but are more illustrative of some other parallel and parabolic point of their own, implied by - perhaps - but not stated outright within the writing.
The second icon, Jesus, actually does directly refer to the Beatitudes, however.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Schrödinger's Railroad Train

I go to this website often, being able to subscribe due to my previous employer, and to the years I spent making small rocks out of big ones - in this AREA #57 out of boulderous limestones. (American Railroad Engineering Association; ballast rock sizing 57)

My younger brother, God rest his soul, was more a fancier of lake vessels.

In the spring of 2014, we sat together at a scenic lookout in Port Huron just south of the USCG ship Bramble, and we were gazing across the river to Sarnia, Ontario or Point Edward, Ontario... never sure where the boundary was.

Anyway, there were two Canadian Steamship vessels which had wintered there in a slip just south of the fishery. One of the vessel had the normal lakes configuration of bridge in the bow and motors, stack, engineering, etc. in the stern. It had a clear, open deck. It was the most westerly vessel.
The other vessel was configured that all superstructure was in the stern, the bridge and all, with a self-unloading conveyor stretching forward.

What was amazing was that the angle at which we viewed things, the two boats looked to be exactly only one vessel! A vessel over-bridged, as it were, a bridge in the bows and a bridge in the stern!
As the minutes wore on, I strained more and more to try and disambiguate the vision. I mentioned it to my brother, and he noticed it, too.

CSL (Canadian Steamship Lines)  Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin

This was not the first time I had gazed at that spot. I remember a day earlier in the winter when the sun disappeared early and the lights came on the vessel with the clear deck, and I watched them twinkle in the darkling evening.

The other boat seems to have come later, possibly early in the spring. Else, I would have noticed the strange effect before.

That's not to say that Railroads are not without their enchanting visions!
I remember sitting on train A at rest, all the while Albert Einstein was on train B moving past us at a good clip, and for all the world, I thought my train was moving!!!

Schrödinger's Train, eh?


Holes In The Credo

Find the True Linen Threads, and Find the False.

An interesting thing about religious belief systems is that they do not really fall apart if some of the basic proposition of faith are denied or changed.

For example, there are many Christians today who have no use for the poor and homeless, and they are quite vocal about it. It is just as if they hear a Sermon on the Mount from the Anti-Christ.
Yet, their Christian lives are not impoverished, not materially changed, not spiritually transformed. They are considered Christian, and they live their lives accordingly.

Even though they seem like Christians with a big, gaping hole in their Credo.

ANd in Wikipedia, we read:

Nestorianism is a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius (386–450), Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine, which was informed by Nestorius' studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch, emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius' teachings brought him into conflict with some other prominent church leaders, most notably Cyril of Alexandria, who criticized especially his rejection of the title Theotokos ("Bringer forth of God") for the Virgin Mary. Nestorius and his teachings were eventually condemned as heretical at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451, leading to the Nestorian Schism in which churches supporting Nestorius broke with the rest of the Christian Church. Afterward many of Nestorius' supporters relocated to Sassanid Persia, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Over the next decades the Church of the East became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine, leading it to be known alternately as the Nestorian Church.

Nestorianism is a form of dyophysitism, and can be seen as the antithesis to monophysitism, which emerged in reaction to Nestorianism...

Nestorians reached China and left their mark. Their lives of faith were not impoverished by their so-called heresy.

Arianism is the nontrinitarian heretical, theological teaching attributed to Arius (c. AD 250–336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of God the Father to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Arius asserted that the Son of God was a subordinate entity to God the Father. Deemed a heretic by the Ecumenical First Council of Nicaea of 325, Arius was later exonerated in 335 at the regional First Synod of Tyre,[1] and then, after his death, pronounced a heretic again at the Ecumenical First Council of Constantinople of 381.[2] The Roman Emperors Constantius II (337–361) and Valens (364–378) were Arians or Semi-Arians.

This is one great difference between religious discourse and scientific discourse, this ability to transform.

The religious philosophers will have problems, but the faithful will not. The philosophers will complain of contradictions and inconsistencies, but not the faithful:  their faith transforms their lives and their lives flow from the past to the future...
It is all like a great river.

Science and Philosophy and Logic as we have developed them in our Western Tradition cannot allow holes in the Credo, or gaps in the Canon.

When we talk of "belief systems" we forget this.

We like to think that the proposition "I believe in X" must be true or false.
But that feeling of necessity is derived from the philosophers, from the scientists, and from the logicians.

The Faithful have demonstrated for all of human life that Faith is not "atomistic" and "axoimatic"; rather, it is a great carpet of many-colors with infinite selvages blowing in a ceaseless breeze.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

An Adventure In Art (63)


Jason Felix

Gun Fun

Firearm violence trends in the 21st century
December 17, 2014
University of California - Davis Health System

While the overall death rate from firearm violence has remained unchanged for more than a decade, the patterns for suicide and homicide have changed dramatically, a UC Davis study on the epidemiology of gun violence from 2003 to 2012 has found. The study posted online in the Annual Review of Public Health on Dec. 12 and will appear in the print edition in January.

"Suicide by firearm is far more common than homicide," said Garen J. Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis. "Over the past 30 years, firearm suicides have exceeded homicides even when homicide rates were at their highest in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But, since 2006, the gap between the two has been widening, with firearm homicides decreasing and suicides increasing."


Firearm homicide: Young blacks at high risk


Firearm suicide: White males and females at higher risk


Mass killings: a small percentage of deaths


Firearm violence facts from 2003 -- 2012

(1}  300,659 deaths from firearm violence -- more than U.S. combat fatalities in WWII An average of    82.3 deaths every day.

(2)  $165 billion in costs to society in 2010

(3)  In 2012, 96.2 percent of all firearm deaths were from homicide and suicide, and 64 percent of deaths from firearm violence were suicides.
(4)  Compared to other industrialized nations, the U.S. has a low predisposition to violence but the highest firearm mortality.

Point 4 is interesting, stating that our predisposition to violence is low, yet our mortality due to guns is very high.
Risk factors for firearm violence
According to the General Social Survey, more than 50 million people in the U.S. own firearms. Firearm ownership increases risk of firearm homicide or suicide at the population, household and individual levels, Wintemute said.
"Focusing on known risk factors and predictors for firearm violence can have a broad impact," Wintemute said. "We know alcohol and controlled substance abuse are important predictors of future risk for violence directed at others or at oneself, whether or not mental illness is also present." ...


Alternate History?

 Al Wakrah Sports Complex in Qatar

Interview with Architect Albert Speer: The Search for Sustainability at the Qatar World Cup
Albert Speer has done much to change the world's appearance. The 80-year-old architect designed a satellite city near Cairo for 3 million people, the Chinese automotive city of Anting, a new capital for Nigeria and the 2000 Expo in Hanover. He also developed the Olympic bids for Leipzig for 2012 and Munich for 2018. Speer's stadium designs are a significant reason why Qatar was awarded the 2022 football World Cup...

It happens that this is the son of the Albert Speer who left Spandau Prison in 1996.


Times Square


Mulligan Iraq

(In case you are unfamiliar with golfing terms, a "mulligan" is a chance to hit the ball again without counting the first unacceptable stroke.)
How the Iraq War Financed a Beltway Real Estate Boom
By Ken Silverstein

Back in the DC real estate doldrums of the mid-1990s, before he helped pave the way for war in Iraq, Stephen Rademaker owned a modest condo in Arlington, Va.

Then, a few years later, as a House staffer on the International Relations Committee, Rademaker wrote the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which called for regime change, a phrase that altered the course of history. Bill Clinton signed the Act, which became the basis for the congressional authorization for the use of force against Saddam Hussein four years later; by then Rademaker was working at the State Department.

Things soon took a turn for the better, at least for Rademaker; he left government and went to work as a lobbyist, eventually joining countless numbers of retired government officials who cleaned up, directly or indirectly, by leading the country into war.

I wrote the other day about two of these former senior government officials, who have made a killing in the post-9/11 era: former CIA director George Tenet and former FBI director Louis Freeh. But when it comes to those who profited directly from the last thirteen years of war, Exhibit A perhaps is Rademaker, a man for whom the Iraq war became a giant piggybank.


Also worth mentioning is that Rademaker is married to neocon Danielle Pletka, another former Hill staffer who is now senior vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, and who clings by her nails to the cliff’s edge of sanity. She and her think tank were major proponents of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and last August, Pletka co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed that called President Obama’s response to ISIS “inadequate.” She demanded that Obama arm the Syrian opposition, send military advisers and trainers to Iraq “by the thousands, not hundreds,” and stop “blocking the delivery of much-needed weapons” to Iraq.

There is a lot of interesting skullduggery here, but I am most interested in the portion I underlined in the paragraph first quoted and the one last quoted.

Imagine this:

(1) instead of attacking Al Qa'ida directly, we went off and attacked somebody who we have been taught to hate since the Gulf War on TV in 1990,

(2) this person and his regime had nothing to do with 9/11 or the terrorism of that day,

(3) the official cause for war was a lie.

By today, we have spent just over a $ trillion in this misplaced endeavor, with future costs estimated to total $3 trillion +plus ( a large portion being medical care for injured vets).

So, why not go back now and do it right for another coupla $trillion?

Well, why not?

It takes a while to get it right.

And while we're at it, let's bail out the Financial Sector again in 2017, and get it right this time.



The Future....


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dr. Strange

I have a number of quite old Dr. Strange comic books.
I love comix.


Bizarre Et Charlie... Et Un Imbécile En Train De Se Poser Des Questions

I do not think I have ever read Charlie Hebdo.
I suppose I shall now.

I assume it is a weekly magazine, "hebdo" being short for hebdomedaire, meaning "weekly". It is interesting how the Latin picked up the Greek, the Latin "septem" dropping the "s" and turning it into the rough breathing "h", and the breathed "p" becoming the sounded "b" and same thing for the "t" to "d".

Not that interesting, though.

I used to read Bizarre magazine, which was a humor and cartoon magazine published in France - not the Bizarre magazine published by Brits!

Bizarre est une revue littéraire et artistique fortement influencée par le surréalisme. Fondée par Michel Laclos, éditée par Éric Losfeld en 1953 puis reprise par Jean-Jacques Pauvert en 1955 après deux numéros, elle a publié 48 numéros de 1953 à 1968.

Bizarre is a literary and arts review heavily influenced by surrealism...

An example:

There are not many example on the Internet, and this one is not one I was familiar with.
The schoolboy being disciplined is writing "I must not kill little pals" on the chalkboard.
I used to find the old issues in the basement of Assumption College library, and I would go through them 'tween stacks.

Imbécile en train de se poser des questions...
(a drawing of fellow with an air of being in a philosophical mood sitting on the edge of a cliff, looking up at the full moon...)


Is Paris Burning?

Prominent Saudi Fundamentalist

After the events in Paris, I am very sad to see that now some people say that Bill Maher is half right, half wrong, whereas before they considered him wrong.

I do not understand.
Did we not expect more violence?
Did we think all terrorism had stopped, and this recrudescence of the terror is so unforeseen that we must stop and re-think?

All religions contain messages of peace and messages of war.
Islam is not alone. Even Buddhism attacks Muslims in Myanmar, and some Hindus attack Muslims in India, whereas in Pakistan it is often open season on everyone.

Again, I repeat that we have gone to war against terrorism with a Pork Barrel Political Agenda, wherein everybody that thinks they have a stake in the matter gets a say in who should be attacked. Most of the big time targets have ended up being non-Al Qa'ida entities... which is the usuall outcome of the Pork Barrel: a bridge to nowhere, a war for no thing!

We must fight terrorism and the intolerant sect of philosophy that bred it, the radical Wahhabi fundamentalism of the Saudi ruling elite.
If we have to even refuse to purchase the cheap oil, then so be it. Those who fight us understand the prices to be paid in their chosen confrontations. 

As Hadrat 'Ali ibn Abi Talib spoke:

اتَّخَذُوا الشَّيْطَانَ لاِمْرِهِمْ مِلاَكاً، وَاتَّخَذَهُمْ لَهُ أَشْرَاكاً، فَبَاضَ وَفَرَّخَ في صُدُورِهِمْ، وَدَبَّ 
 وَدَرَجَ في حُجُورِهِمْ، فَنَظَرَ بِأَعْيُنِهِمْ، وَنَطَقَ بِأَلسِنَتِهِمْ، فَرَكِبَ بِهِمُ الزَّلَلَ، وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الخَطَلَ، فِعْلَ مَنْ قَدْ شَرِكَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ في سُلْطَانِهِ، وَنَطَقَ بِالبَاطِلِ عَلى لِسَانِهِ!

They have made Satan the master of their affairs, and he has taken them as partners. He has laid eggs and hatched them in their bosoms. He creeps and crawls in their laps. He sees through their eyes, and speaks with their tongues. In this way he has led them to sinfulness and adorned for them foul things like the action of one whom Satan has made partner in his domain and speaks untruth through his tongue.


A Week At The Cinema

We saw Big Eyes.

I thought that I would be fatally bored, but instead I found a film that got my initial attention, then never let loose. The pace of this film was wonderful.
I mean, not once did my interest flag, not once did I feel a need for a piece of black licorice, not once did I dis-connect and look around the darkened hall.

It was impressive.

Then I saw Foxcatcher.

The pace was entirely different, rather glacial.
Of course, the story was very different and the film tried to reach deeper areas of the psyche, and my mind wandered quite a bit.
As I think back, however, I realize that this film was deep enough that I actually should have a second viewing to be able to analyze it better.

There were important things being said. There was the distinction between the government supported Soviet system of Olympic sports ( the year was 1986 or so) and the rugged individual USA approach... except the whole thrust of what was to be done was to obliterate the old amateur Olympic ideal in the USA and replace it with support by the Rich.
At which point, the distinction between the Soviets and the Americans is sort of quantumly schmeared like cream cheese on a bagel of indifference.

I also found brief interest in the depiction of an old American flag in a glass cabinet mounted on the wall behind John Eleuther DuPont's desk, which image caused me to think that the Rich have a different perception of the flag and patriotism.
For the Rich, Patriotism is yet another asset class.
These little ways that the plot was developed were great. It is a good film.

Then we saw Into The Woods.

Broadway musicals are sources of enchantment on the stage. Most do not survive their transgendering into films.
I liked everyone. Meryll Streep as the witch was the stuff of nightmares, and Anna Kendrick as Cinderella was the stuff of dreams. Everyone was superb.

But the film was tedious. Sondheim's approach to dialogue works on stage, but does not work in films. I think it s due to the physical immediacy of the actors on the stage which sweeps us along into the enchantment. The 2 dimensions of the big screen require something else.

I recall being repelled by Anne Hathaway's enormous Fantine in Les Miz, which filled the screen like the giantess from Into The Woods.
Not appealing.

On the bright side, the Cockney urchin singer was very intelligible, which was definitely not the case in Les Miz, when at the funeral of General Jean Maximilien Lamarque, the requisite Cockney urchin leaps onto the back of a tumbrel and launches  (along with the cast)  into what in my experience was the longest unintelligible song in the English language.
I think I could have understood more had he sung in Setswana.


Murderous Quixotes

The murderers in France were closely linked to Al Qa'ida.

For over 13 years we have been fighting, but whom have we been fighting?

We have been in Afghanistan since October, 2001, fighting the Taliban, who are:
(1) not Al Qa'ida,
(2) had no role in the 9/11 attacks.

We invaded Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Saddam Hussein was:
(1) not Al Qa'ida,
(2) had no role in the 9/11 attacks.

We have supported civil war in Syria by supporting insurgents, a great portion of which has become the Islamic State. We did this to remove Bashar Al Assad from power, and he is:
(1) not Al Qa'ida,
(2) had no role in the 9/11 attacks.

An ominous pattern takes shape. No Enigma Code here. It is quite obvious.

It is as if every politician in Washington D.C., every member of the Likud, every blow-hard right-wing media mouthpiece was handed a "wish list" soon after 9/11, whereon they could mark down whom we should spend trillions of $ fighting wars against.

Peop-le have spoken for years about focus, and we hear them again, but it is so much easier and rewarding to use the martial ardor of the populace to go crusades like some dim-witted Quixotes of murderous intent.

Oh, and we did kill Osama bin Laden, who was:
(1) indeed Al Qa'ida,
(2) had a major role in the 9/11 attacks.


Friday, January 09, 2015


Ice Castle:

 The 30th annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin has this entry from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.


The Truth About Fracking Change !!

NBC News
Fracking Examined as Possible Factor in Texas Quakes, Experts Say
After at least a dozen earthquakes hit North Texas in 36 hours, geophysicists said they're looking into whether fracking might have been a factor. The largest quake hit Irving, Texas, with a magnitude of 3.6 on Tuesday evening. By then, local nerves were already frazzled from the initial 2.7-magnitude earthquake that hit Tuesday morning and the 3.5-magnitude earthquake that hit earlier in the afternoon. "It could just be a natural event that just happened to occur," Robert Williams, a geophysicist with the USGS, told NBC News. "We're going to be exploring all possibilities, including any contributions that the oil and gas industry might have in terms of injection of fluids or extraction of fluids in the subsurface."

Earthquakes have historically been rare in the area. That means scientists know very little about the cause of temblors in the area as compared to in seismic hot spots like California. "Generally speaking, we have not been studying earthquakes in our backyard until recently," Heather DeShon, an associate professor of geophysics at Southern Methodist University, told NBC News. She said that studies had linked fracking with increased earthquake activity in North Texas and Oklahoma, but urged against jumping to conclusions, saying "We cannot say yet what's causing the Irving earthquakes."


All I can say is that when I first heard of fracking and saw how it was done, I immediately thought that it would de-stabilize the ground.

But there are some Fracking Destabilizing Deniers, too, and they deserve their say that there is no ground Fracking Change being brought about by human well-drilling activity.

The town of Azle, Texas was having problems a year ago.
Look it up and see what's happened to them in the past 12 month.

A.I. Again

On AI - artificial intelligence - we read at Bloomberg's:
Texas Hold’em Mastered by Computer With No Wrong Moves
By Michelle Fay Cortez Jan 8, 2015 6:21 PM ET
... A breakthrough in artificial intelligence has allowed a computer to master the simplest two-person version of the poker game, working through every possible variation of play to make the perfect move every time. When performed without mistakes, just like the childhood game tic-tac-toe, there’s no way to lose. In this case the player is Cepheus, an algorithm designed by Canadian researchers.

“We have a strategy that can guarantee a player won’t lose,” said Michael Bowling, a computer scientist from the University of Alberta, who led a team working on the program. “It’s going to be a break-even game. It’s only when someone makes a mistake that they could end up losing.”

You don’t have to take their word, though, their work is published today in the journal Science. The researchers are calling for poker players to test the program for Limit Texas Hold’em by challenging Cepheus online. The results may cause gamblers to rethink some common moves, Bowling said in a telephone interview.

“Not only did we prove some things that most people already believe, like the dealer holds a substantial advantage, we got some answers where the poker community isn’t settled yet,” he said. “For example, re-raising with very low pairs. Most good poker players wouldn’t do that.”

The term for what Bowling and his colleagues did was “solve” the game, creating an optimal way to play that will never lose. It’s the first time that researchers have solved a game played competitively by humans that involves imperfect information, meaning that players don’t know everything, such as their opponents’ cards, as it progresses, said Tuomas Sandholm, from Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department in Pittsburgh, in an editorial that accompanied the article.

The results apply only to the most basic form of the game, known as Heads-up Limit Hold’em, where there are two players and bets and raises are limited. Even with those restrictions, there are more than 10,000 billion decision points in the game...

... Solving the game required even deeper control than when the computer-program Chinook took the world championship title in checkers against humans in the 1990s or when International Business Machines Corp.’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997. While a computer program may one day beat the world’s best players of No-Limit Texas Hold’em, the most popular form of the game, it’s unlikely anyone will ever solve it because there are so many possible moves, Bowling said...

... The researchers devised a computer program that had no poker knowledge, playing in an utterly random fashion, and used artificial intelligence and game theory to calculate the best possible moves. Advances in general algorithms allowed them to work with larger-scale models; essentially the computer played 28.8 trillion hands per second for two months.

“By the time it was done, it had played more poker than all of humanity combined,” Bowling said. “It is so close to perfect right now that we call it essentially solved. You would never be able to know it wasn’t perfect.”

Cepheus’ winning ways aren’t just a matter of knowing the odds, something many professional and amateur poker players already have down. Instead, game theory and reasoning come into play, with the computer making complex decisions about bluffing and betting designed to throw off its competitors. For example, when the computer knows that it has a winning hand, it may not always bet that way -- instead pretending the cards are weaker than they actually are...

I have underlined two small sections. The first says that this is about artificial intelligence, and it is only about game playing.
The second mentions perfection. That which is perfect is not-human. Human is that which ceaselessly strives for perfection, for to have achieved perfection - however that goal could be judged! - is to stop trying. Period. Full stop. It is death-in-life.

Human intelligence is not merely running through billions of outcomes.

Faith is not based on the probabilities of Pascal's Wager, rather is is an intuitive shining within the World.

"Belief Systems" are based on the business of running through all the possibilities and finding them to be true or false. Our understanding of logic is very much based on the "atomistic" logic of Carnap and Wittgenstein and Russell, etc. and very close to machine theory mathematics.

Do not have belief systems. Live, don't believe.

As Sister Maria in The Great Beauty says, "Poverty is not to be talked about.... it is to be lived."
The virtues are not matters of discussion; they are to be lived.
God is not a book, a study, a belief system  alone... God is Life.



My wife thinks my post The Baby And The Beretta to be in poor taste. She does not like me making light of a tragedy.

I thought about it.

I will change nothing.

First, I can either ignore the event or write about it. If I write about it, I can say things that have occurred to every sentient human being who has read about it, and then merely repeat what everyone has already experienced... which is sort of an elitist stance indicating my awareness is somehow more literary or writeable or better-linguistically-organized than yours.

It is as if the reader is too dense, and requires the words of the commentator to be able to perceive the story in all its ramifications.

I do not like that. The reason I try to keep things short is precisely that I know the reader is quite sharp, and does not require extensive tutoring to a state of awareness.

Second, my rage can only express itself this way.
Think of it: how angry am I?
I am angry enough that I will turn tragedy into farce and turn the entire world of feeling and emotions upside down to try and pierce the thick hide of those who imagine themselves entrapped in a web of weapons and violence.
I am angry that we cannot break out of our prisons ourselves, but need the exhaustion or death of war to be able to be free and fly away.

In a weapon society, our right to bear arms, our need to bear arms, our absolute free access to mortal violence trumps everything else.
And what about those who have led us to this place? What do we do with them? Those whose stories and imaginations and warnings have undermined our sense of integrity... what of them?
What do we do with the one-trick ponies who, having experienced suffering, portray the future as beyond our influence and darkly dismal and full of discord?


Thursday, January 08, 2015


Every time I read the news I read about how the new Congress is going to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Since the oil will be coming from Canada, maybe we should see what they say about falling oil prices and oilsands exports.

Is it time to panic in the oil sands?

If the current pricing trends continue, at least one of the proposed oil sands pipeline projects would no longer be needed

Andrew Leach
November 29, 2014

...  if the current pricing trends continue, and appear to be longer-lived, expect to see a much lower long-term forecast for oil sands, not to mention light oil from the U.S. Bakken, the next time around. Such a change, as you can see in the figure below, could mean that at least one of the proposed pipeline projects would no longer be needed within the forecast horizon.

See the article for larger image.

Notice this was published at the end of November, 2014, and oil has fallen more since.

Essentially, production for export of Canada Oil (on left axis) may fall far short of what is in this old forecast by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

So, what's the Keystone gonna carry, Senator Mitch McConnell?


Deep Grammar Of Themes Of Destruction: One In The Chamber

The themes of stories that run through our society.

I was watching M. Night Shyamalan's  The Happening  as I was just resting before sleep. Some people read. I read or watch a film. Cinema to me is very much like books: a good film is to be watched again, just as a good book bears re-reading.

When you watch a film more than once, you begin to pick up things and become more aware of them than you did the first time around.

The wind plays an important role in The Happening. There is a toxin that drives humans to suicide: it is plant-manufactured and wind-borne.
The wind becomes a harbinger of death, and when we see the grass bend before the wind, we expect trouble to come.

I recall that I wrote about the wind being a character in Shyamalan's The Village,

The woods also played a large part in The Village, and it come into play in The Happening.
Nature protects itself in The Happening, and it protects an artificial throw-back society seeking to escape the troubles of the modern day in The Village.

Very obvious; I do not remember anyone talking much about it, but hardly anyone does the old "tolle lege" ("pick up and read" as the angel said to St. Augustine when he stumbled upon a Bible) with films. They are an entertainment, and critics review them as their job, and the box office revenues are reported on the news for some unknown reason.
I mean, there is no reason at all for box office receipts, unless the lazy media do not wish to hire critics and are using receipts as a surrogate.

I am interested in the recurring themes.

Think of the recurring theme of End Of Times, which has shown up forever: On The Beach to A Canticle For Leibowitz to Mad Max and to the present with films like Resident Evil or World War Z or I Am Legend.
(Not to mention Terminator !)

Whether machines revolt and call down nuclear destruction or we do it ourselves does not matter; it is all EOT, and how we achieve EOT are mere plot devices.

But what do we believe in ourselves??

Do we actually know that these things are merely stories?

I do not think so.
Otherwise, why are so many people going around with "one in the chamber"?

That lady who was shot in Idaho obviously had knowingly left one bullet in the chamber of her small, lightweight automatic with the sensitive trigger. She left it there because she knew...

she KNEW...

that if she were to reach into her purse and take the pistol from is place of concealment, it would take at least 1 second to bring it up fast and rack the chamber, and that 1 second would be enough for whomever she imagined to be holding her at gunpoint to re-act and shoot her first.

They are not "merely stories"

People are dying every day because of the deep themes with which we understand "the world".

All of those guns being carried around, all of those guns allowed into libraries, stores, art fairs...

how many have "ONE IN THE CHAMBER"?

"One in the chamber" to be able to gain that 1 second advantage over the coming End.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sad Music

Am watching The Saddest Music in the World.

I much prefer Il Cortometraggio di Barney, the short subject Barney Gumble did for the Springfield Film Festival.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Continuous Transportation

Un État de Transport Continu
inspiré par le film Transperceneige

Maryland Area Regional Commuter


The Washington D.C. Metro station at Grosvenor-Strathmore
Bethesda, Maryland

The Strathmore Music Center right next to the station


New York Cops

These are the words that some members of the NYPD find inflammatory:

This is profoundly personal for me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens.
I said to him I did. Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years, about the dangers he may face. A good young man, a law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face—we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.
It is common knowledge that young black men have to take special care in encounters with law enforcement. My grandson is tutored in that knowledge.

To deny this would be idiotic.

Therefore, the cops are really mad about something else, and this is a minor irritant.

The police are working under a contract that expired in 2010.

Perhaps we should read about the contact dispute between the City and the Patrolmen's Benefit Association:

New York Daily News
Bill de Blasio’s contract battle with police union has intensified their sour relationship
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the city have gone to arbitration, which has added to the bad blood between the mayor and police department. Cops are working under a contract that expired in August 2010.
BY Jennifer Fermino , Ginger Adams Otis
Monday, December 29, 2014



I have written about Bernard Malamud's The Natural a number of times here. I suppose it is because it is a story that has gone for me from being impenetrably boring to fascinatingly filled with the stuff of life. I have read some reviews and analyses of it, and they make little sense to me. I do not really feel the impulse to speak about further, and it is only that I feel it is so filled with meaning, that it would be mean-spirited and base not to share a vision of it: a fine vision of the World and Mankind.

The fuller essay will await the future, a time when I have much more leisure to indulge myself, not having to scrounge around for a job in a world where there are no jobs for the young, much less for the aged. However, I can share some things with you. If someone takes my untutored and disorderly impressions and runs with them to the definitive insightful analysis of The Natural, so be it. It cannot be helped.

If you know anything of the story - and I hope you do, at least Robert Redford's film version, for I shall not spend much time filling in the lacunae in your reading - the main character is Roy Hobbs, the natural baseball player, and perhaps the greatest born genius for the game ever. His quest to baseball greatness was diverted in his youth after he had been shot by an insane woman, who had been traveling the countryside, seeking the best athletes in order to kill them. By a chance train ride, they fell together, Roy's natural abilities were shown during an impromptu demonstration of pitching and batting, and she had her victim.

When Roy makes it to the big leagues, he still has his own bat, Wonderboy, a bat he had fashioned himself from the wood of a tree struck by lightning while he was still a kid. In the big leagues, playing for the New York Knights, Roy makes a phenomenal debut, and the Knights are lifted from cellar-dwellers into second place in the league. Suddenly, Roy goes into a batting slump, and things begin to deteriorate. "Pop" Fisher, the manager and co-owner of the Knights, finally suggests that Roy try another bat. Roy refuses to use some other bat, and it is a test of wills.
Finally, in a game when a distraught father of a sick boy has entreated Roy to hit one for his son - this being the only thing left that might help him, medical science having given up - Roy caves and comes up to Pop to say he will bat without Wonderboy, just as Pop caves and tells Roy to go to bat, even with Wonderboy.
Needless to say, Roy hits one into next Thursday, the distraught father rejoices - sure that a miracle will cure his son, and a mysterious lady in red has revealed herself in the stands, giving Roy a feeling of confidence.

There's much more. I'm just interested in Wonderboy, fashioned from a tree split by lightning: the burning bush. Wonderboy is Simche Torah, and that tireless and "childish" devotion to the word of God, so irrational and so bizarre to the Age of Reason, is the miracle-bearer. Without Wonderboy, bats are just bats; they are only differentiated by their length, color, grain, weight...just like laws are not the Law.

There is much more than this, however. Wonderboy will break, but we will have to deal with that later.


Great Ronald Reagan Moments

"Mr. Kroc,... tear down this wall !!"


Anomia is the inability to remember names, referring to a neurological problem which presents itself as an inability to remember names.
It was in the New York Times crossword last week, and I thought it oddly ironic that anomia should present itself now at a time when we have had a couple of winter storms that have not had names bestowed on them by the dimwitted media.

After having gotten used to such things as Winterstorm Thelma and Icestorm Louise, it gave one an uncanny feeling of deprivation and being absolutely mute not to have a handle upon which to hang one's pithy weather observations.
What I mean is, it was much more convivial to say something like, "This Thelma's a bitch!", rather than merely observing that it was cold, and having one's pal counter with, "Whatcha gonna do when winter starts?!"

We are nameless in the Gaza of Meteorology.

When the Climate really kicks in, we shall name names, and there will be accountability!


Tennis Player Drinks Coffee !

She-who-must-etc. has the cathode ray gizmo on, and I can hear it in the background.

We have just sat through an excruciating documentary on rural poverty - as well as smoking, obesity, being off one's meds, visiting mom in prison,  and general inability to pick up after oneselves - from Public TV, and it was suitably depressing, as documentaries on poverty should be.

The Today Show then came on, Al Roker was in paroxyms over a cold weather front - there was going to be snow, snow, snow, in Buffalo, Buffalo! - and then a young lady started the top story for the day: one of the Williams sisters apparently was playing tennis, and she sipped some coffee from a cup at some point.

If she had been playing soccer, she would have gotten a Starbuck card from the referee.