Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

It’s Samhain!!

 The Celts called it Samhain, which means ‘summer’s end’, according to their ancient two-fold division of the year, when summer ran from Beltane to Samhain and winter ran from Samhain to Beltane. (Some modern Covens echo this structure by letting the High Priest ‘rule’ the Coven beginning on Samhain, with rulership returned to the High Priestess at Beltane.) According to the later four-fold division of the year, Samhain is seen as ‘autumn’s end’ and the beginning of winter. Samhain is pronounced (depending on where you’re from) as ‘sow-in’ (in Ireland), or ‘sow-een’ (in Wales), or ‘sav-en’ (in Scotland), or (inevitably) ‘sam-hane’ (in the U.S., where we don’t speak Gaelic).

Not only is Samhain the end of autumn; it is also, more importantly, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Celtic New Year’s Eve, when the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year, just as the new day begins at sundown. There are many representations of Celtic gods with two faces, and it surely must have been one of them who held sway over Samhain. Like his Greek counterpart Janus, he would straddle the theshold, one face turned toward the past in commemoration of those who died during the last year, and one face gazing hopefully toward the future, mystic eyes attempting to pierce the veil and divine what the coming year holds. These two themes, celebrating the dead and divining the future, are inexorably intertwined in Samhain, as they are likely to be in any New Year’s celebration.

As a feast of the dead, it was believed the dead could, if they wished, return to the land of the living for this one night, to celebrate with their family, tribe, or clan. And so the great burial mounds of Ireland (sidh mounds) were opened up, with lighted torches lining the walls, so the dead could find their way. Extra places were set at the table and food set out for any who had died that year. And there are many stories that tell of Irish heroes making raids on the Underworld while the gates of faery stood open, though all must return to their appointed places by cock-crow.

As a feast of divination, this was the night par excellance for peering into the future. The reason for this has to do with the Celtic view of time. In a culture that uses a linear concept of time, like our modern one, New Year’s Eve is simply a milestone on a very long road that stretches in a straight line from birth to death. Thus, the New Year’s festival is a part of time. The ancient Celtic view of time, however, is cyclical. And in this framework, New Year’s Eve represents a point outside of time, when the the natural order of the universe disolves back into primordial chaos, preparatory to re-establishing itself in a new order. Thus, Samhain is a night that exists outside of time and hence it may be used to view any other point in time. At no other holiday is a tarot card reading, crystal reading, or tea-leaf reading so likely to succeed.

Samhaim–which is technically tomorrow–is a celebration of the end of summer.  Like many holidays, it was co-opted by Romans trying to bring Roman influence, culture, and religion to regions in Northern Europe.

At sunset on October 31, clans or local villages begin the formal ceremonies of Samhain by lighting a giant bonfire. The people would gather around the fire to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. It was a method of giving the Gods and Goddesses their share of the previous years herd or crops. In addition these sacred fires were a big part of the cleansing of the old year and a method to prepare for the coming new year. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, and danced around the bonfire. Many of these dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle of Wheel of Life. These costumes were adorned for three primary reasons. The first was to honor the dead who were allowed to rise from the Otherworld. The Celts believed that souls were set free from the land of the dead during the eve of Samhain. Those that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead and sent to their new incarnations. The wearing of these costumes signified the release of these souls into the physical world. Not all of these souls were honored and respected. Some were also feared as they would return to the physical world and destroy crops, hide livestock or ‘haunt’ the living who may have done them wrong. The second reason for these traditional costumes was to hide from these malevolent spirits to escape their trickery. The final representation was a method to honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of the harvest, fields and flocks. Giving thanks and homage to those deities who assisted the village or clan through the trials and tribulations of the previous year. And to ask for their favor during the coming year and the harsh winter months that were approaching. In addition to celebrations and dance, it was believed that this thin veil between the physical world and the Otherworld provided extra energy for communications between the living and the dead. With these communications, Druid Priests, and Celtic Shamans would attempted to tell the fortunes of individual people through a variety of methods. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

Today, we celebrate the holiday as Halloween quite commercially since it’s also been co-opted by many businesses in their attempt to ring up their cash registers.  Well, everybody takes it more seriously as Halloween except Henri the Extensional Cat.

I still remember this from being a kid and I love the image of Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin.  I love playing the song on the piano still.  No matter what time of year I gig, this song awakens the kid in a lot of people. It’s fun to stick it in the middle of a set an watch people perk up!

It’s also the end of the season for watching a bunch of great movies and switching to nasty movies, horrid shopping conditions, and generally harassment as once again I take up arms in the war against christmas where the Roman’s morphed from Mithras’ birthday and story into yet another way to wipe out ancient cultures and myths.  However, tonight, I can still watch old horror movies and watch the fun.


Romney Does Double Back Flip on FEMA

You had to know this was coming. Just yesterday, Mitt Romney repeatedly refused to answer reporters’ questions about his position on FEMA funding. During the Republican primaries, Romney argued that the Federal government should have no role in disaster response and that the functions of FEMA should be returned to individual states.

But today, Romney suddenly switched gears and became a fan of FEMA. The Boston Globe reports:

Mitt Romney on Wednesday stepped up his support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, further rebuffing accusations that he would end funding for disaster relief if elected president.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Romney’s comments last year during a GOP debate in New Hampshire were interpreted by some as a call to eliminate FEMA altogether.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” Romney said. “And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Politico has more reporting on the sudden switch, directly from the campaign trail:

Mitt Romney’s campaign tried Wednesday to reassure voters that the GOP nominee believes the Federal Emergency Management Agency plays a “really important role.”

“Gov. Romney believes in a very efficient and effective disaster relief response, and he believes one of the ways to do that is put a premium on states and their efforts to respond to these disasters,” senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters on the flights from Tampa to Miami. “That’s why they call them first responders — they’re first to respond, the states. Traditionally, they’ve been best at responding to these disasters. But he does believe FEMA has a really important role there and that being a partner for these states is the best approach.”

So why couldn’t Romney just say this yesterday in response to the 14 separate questions he ignored in Kettering, Ohio? Did his campaign have to run a focus group overnight to determine his new policy?

Madden also dodged a question on whether Romney agrees with NJ Governor Chris Christie that President Obama has been doing an excellent job in responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:

Asked if Romney agrees with Christie’s comment that Obama’s response to the natural disaster has been fantastic so far, Madden said: “I refer to Gov. Christie’s remarks. I believe the response is still going on so I’m not in a position to qualify the response by the federal government. I believe it’s still ongoing.”

Frankly, I can’t imagine Romney is going get away with this one, but if in the next couple of days he starts claiming that he always supported FEMA and that he did a great job responding to disasters as Governor of Massachusetts, we’ll know the focus group liked his latest backflip.


Boy Who Killed Neo-Nazi Father Goes on Trial in California

I thought I’d take a brief break from politics to update a story I wrote about back in the spring of 2011 about the death of neo-Nazi Jeff Hall of Riverside, California. Hall’s 10-year-old son Joseph admitted to shooting his father.

At the time, I wrote that it is unusual for children to kill their parents unless there is a history of parental abuse. Hall abused his children first by exposing them to neo-Nazi meetings in the home where they soaked up his hateful ideology, and second by beating both Joseph and his stepmother. The boy had been separated from his mom for years, and at the time of the shooting was the subject of a custody battle between his biological parents. Clearly, he had been under incredible stress. I wrote in May 2011:

So we have a young boy who probably has Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from years of abuse by both parents, from being separated from his mother, and from being exposed to hate-filled rhetoric at Neo-Nazi meetings and probably from his father. It’s like something out of American History X. How could a judge allow children to live in a home like that? To me, exposing young children to racist, anti-semitic, and anti-immigrant vitriol is in itself abuse.

Since the boy is under the age of 14, he cannot be tried as an adult and will likely be put in a youth offender facility. According to the articles I read, he will probably get out when he is 25 years old. By that time, he’ll most likely be a hardened criminal.

I looked at several studies of young children’s understanding of death. A ten-year-old has barely begun to comprehend the irreversibility of death. His brain development has not reached a point where he has good impulse control or the ability to manage strong emotions well. This story makes me heartsick.

Joseph’s trial for murder began yesterday.

The 10-year-old son of a neo-Nazi leader told his younger sister that he planned to shoot their father, then a day later took a gun from his parents’ bedroom and fired one bullet into his father’s head as he slept on a couch, a prosecutor alleged Tuesday.

The boy’s father, Jeff Hall, was an out-of-work plumber who as regional leader of the National Socialist Movement headed rallies at a synagogue and a day labor site.

In opening statements at the murder trial, Riverside County prosecutor Michael Soccio dismissed the notion that Hall’s neo-Nazi beliefs contributed to his son’s behavior, as the defense maintains, and instead said the boy, now 12, was a violent child who had been kicked out of every school he attended.

The boy also suspected his father was going to leave his stepmother, and he didn’t want the family to split up, prosecutors have said.

At least he isn’t being tried as an adult. If convicted, he could be released at age 23.

Joseph’s public defender told The New York Times that:

his client has neurological and psychological problems, compounded by exposure to neo-Nazi “conditioning” and physical abuse in the home.

“He’s been conditioned to violence,” Mr. Hardy said, adding, “You have to ask yourself: Did this kid really know that this act was wrong based on all those things?”

Instead, Mr. Hardy said, Joseph thought he was being a hero by shooting his father. “He thought what he was doing was right,” said Mr. Hardy. “And while that may be hard for other people to understand, in his mind, in a child’s mind, if he thought it was right, or at least didn’t think it was wrong, then he cannot be held responsible.”

But here’s the most tragic part of this case, in my opinion:

if found responsible for the killing and made a ward of the state, Joseph, who is now 12, would be the youngest person held in one of the three fenced-in facilities run by California’s Department of Juvenile Justice, which houses about 900 of some of the state’s most serious juvenile offenders. The median age of these offenders held by the state is 19…

So the kid will be exposed to older boys who will probably abuse him physically, sexually, and emotionally. As I wrote last spring, he’ll most likely be a hardened criminal by the time he’s back on the street.

According to Joseph Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, it’s extremely rare for a child so young to go on trial for murder.

But Mr. Soccio said that Joseph had a history of violence, including an attack that involved wrapping a telephone cord around a teacher’s neck, and needed to be in a security setting “receiving as much help as possible for as long as possible.”

“I’ve had some people say, ‘How can you do that to a little kid?’ ” said Mr. Soccio. “And I ask them, ‘Well, would you like him to come live with you?’ ”

Whatever strategy the lawyers use, life inside the Hall household will most likely come up in the trial, and Joseph may take the stand, Mr. Soccio said. The court could also see testimony from members of the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement, of which Mr. Hall was a West Coast leader.

Obviously Joseph should have been removed from the home years ago. Maybe it’s too late to rehabilitate him–I can’t say. It just makes me so angry that we live in a society that doesn’t give priority to protecting children and helping them cope with and recover from emotional trauma and abuse. Instead we cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and skimp on anything that could change outcomes for children like Joseph. As I wrote last spring, it’s just plain heartbreaking.


Wednesday Reads: Twisted Tales… Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Many kids will be missing out on tonight’s Trick or Treating…lots of towns within the path of Sandy have postponed their Halloween festivities.  I just want to put up a couple of links on the aftermath of Sandy then we will get to the juicy stuff.

The New York Times has this list of ways Sandy impacted each state…sort of painting the destruction by numbers if you will.

Tracking the Storm – Interactive Feature – NYTimes.com  I will give you a quick peak at a few:

NATION
8 Million+ Left without power.
18,000+ Flights canceled.
139 Miles per hour of top wind gust recorded (Mount Washington in New Hampshire).

And here are a some other links on Sandy as reported early this morning (I am writing this at 4 am):

‘Absolute Devastation’ Left by Storm in N.J., Christie Says – SFGate

Sandy’s force leaves millions across East Coast reeling Death, ruination in Eastern US and beyond- The Boston Globe

New York Subway System Faces Weeks to Recover From Storm – Businessweek

46 dead, millions without power, transit after Sandy – Weather | NBC News

Mayor estimates up to 25,000 stranded in Hoboken as flood conditions worsen – The Maddow Blog

Saw this tweet also on the Maddow Blog and thought it was great.

Okay, now let’s move on to some news that I am sure you all missed the past two days.  Do you remember that family that was murdered in the Alps this Summer? There is a wild bit of information being reported about the bank account of one of the victim’s family members. According to The Guardian: Saddam Hussein linked to Alps killings

The former Iraqi dictator deposited a huge sum of money in a Swiss bank account belonging to the father of murdered British engineer Saad al-Hilli, it has been claimed

When I first saw this story in the news, it seemed strange that such a connection is being made. Check it out.

Saddam Hussein deposited £840,000 in a Swiss bank account belonging to the father of the British engineer murdered with his wife and mother-in-law in the Alps, it has been claimed.

Saad al-Hilli, 50, has been linked to the former Iraqi dictator through his father Kadhim, who was once close to the tyrant’s Ba’ath party but fled his homeland for Britain in the 1970s. The money was reportedly deposited into an account in Geneva, an hour’s drive from where the massacre took place on 5 September at a remote spot near Lake Annecy in eastern France.

Hilli, his wife, Iqbal, and his mother-in-law were shot while his seven-year-old daughter, Zainab, was left badly injured and her four-year-old sister, Zeena, deeply traumatised. A French cyclist was also shot dead and the motive for the killings remains a mystery.

A French police source revealed that the money had been traced to Hussein by the German intelligence agency, the BND, according to Le Monde. Agents routinely monitored cash transactions with Baghdad as Germany did more business with the regime than any other country.

An intelligence source in Munich was quoted as saying: “They know the money trail, and they know how to follow it. They have spent decades monitoring money transactions between the west and Iraq. The BND is the first port of call in such circumstances.”

The Guardian states that…

The Le Monde story was published under the headline “The potential links between the al-Hillis and Saddam Hussein.”

It said: “According to a French police source, the German secret service informed the gendarmerie’s anti-terrorist branch that there were links between the al-Hilli family and Saddam Hussein’s fortune. The tensions began after Saad al-Hilli’s father [Kadhim] was struck off the list of beneficiaries of the former Iraqi dictator.”

When Kadhim died he left behind his considerable wealth in a will.

Le Monde identifies the money in the Swiss bank account – and not the inheritance – that may have been at the centre of the conflict. Swiss investigators discovered the secret account earlier this month, but according to Le Mondethey didn’t make the link to Iraq.

Interesting? Hmmmm, I’ve got another news story update with a twist, this one is about that plane crash many months ago that wiped out the entire Polish government. (Well, the president and his administration.)

Explosive traces ‘found on crashed Polish presidential jet’

Traces of explosives have been discovered on the wreck of the Polish presidential jet which crashed in Russia in 2010, killing then president Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

“Tests have confirmed the presence of TNT and nitroglycerine on 30 seats. The substances were also found on the area linking the fuselage with the wing,” Poland’s leading Rzeczpospolita daily said.

The recent tests were conducted by “Polish prosecutors and experts” it said, but testing by Polish and Russian investigator immediately after the 2010 crash had ruled out explosives.

Seem far-fetched? I don’t know…

Rzeczpospolita raised the possibility the reported explosives might be traced to unexploded World War II bombs in Smolensk, an area of western Russia which saw heavy fighting.

“We must wait for prosecutors to draw their conclusions and establish the source of the substance before taking any measures,” government spokesman Pawel Gras told public TVP broadcaster.

[...]

…most of the blame for the April 2010 disaster — in which all 96 people on board died — lay with Poland, but also faulted Russia, where the plane went down in thick fog.

It had ruled out “extremist versions” of events, including sabotage and pressure from third parties on the crew to land despite bad weather.

The Russian investigation concluded that there was “psychological pressure” on the crew to land in dangerous weather conditions, prompting Warsaw to criticise their report as incomplete and riddled with errors.

Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party — led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s twin brother — has accused Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s centre-right government of failing to take Russia to task.

Sounds like a new Bond flick to me? Talk about Skyfall…Ooof!

A Law and Justice-run parliamentary commission that probed the crash blamed Russia, claiming it had forged the testimony of Smolensk’s air traffic controllers, who it alleged had misled the pilots.

The doomed presidential delegation had been bound for a memorial ceremony in Katyn, near Smolensk, for thousands of Polish army officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940, a massacre denied by the Kremlin until 1990.

See what I mean. It’s got everything, intrigue, assassination, KGB and a cover-up. The whole story could be pitched to the movie folks, and I am sure they would go for it. Hey, if Disney paid  George Lucus $4 Billllliooooon dollars for the rights to Star Wars…I am sure we can get Daniel Craig out there saving the world from the USSR. (Romney would definitely think it is a cool docudrama.)

One more strange story, and I believe this was something that Boston Boomer brought up months ago, about Paul Ryan and his brilliant scheme from the mind of Pinochet…Where Did Paul Ryan Find Inspiration for ‘Reforming’ Social Security? A Brutal Military Dictatorship, Naturally

The basis for Ryan’s big plan was hatched under the radical right-wing Chilean torture regime of 1973 military coup leader Augusto Pinochet.

While the Republican Party and its wealthy plutocrat backers have been accused of waging an elitist virtual war against the American majority, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have financial and ideological ties to rich Latin American elites who have waged real wars against average citizens in their countries.

The anti-democratic ethos of today’s GOP, displayed in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s  apparent contempt  for 47% of U.S. citizens, is reflected in the origins of Mitt Romney’s private equity firm Bain Capital, which was  founded with money from Central American financiers linked to government-backed death squads in El Salvador. Paul Ryan’s budgetary ideas have a similarly dark origin, in the paradigmatic case of what author Naomi Klein has dubbed  “The Shock Doctrine” .

In August 2012, Republican political consultant Roger Stone made the  accusation that the billionaire libertarian Koch Brothers had bought Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as a running mate, by offering to kick in $100 million more for “independent expenditures” in the 2012 presidential election.

While the charge may never be substantiated, Paul Ryan is  one of the few  elected officials allowed into the inner sanctum of the Koch brothers and their fellow libertarian big money donor circle.

We know the Koch brothers have always been up to no good.

It is also the case that Paul Ryan’s Social Security privatization ideas  closely track  Koch Brother schemes promoted from the Koch-funded libertarian Cato Institute since 1980, over three decades ago – before Ryan had even hit puberty. Cato’s website currently features the ringing  endorsement of Paul Ryan…

“Ryan is an articulate defender of free enterprise, and he consistently argues not just for the practical advantages of smaller government but also about the moral imperative to cut… if the next administration is Republican, and if it decides it wants to push major reforms, Paul Ryan is uniquely qualified to lead the charge.”

In 2005 Congressman Paul Ryan led a failed Republican legislative push for a Social Security privatization plan that also later popped up in Ryan’s 2010 “Roadmap For America’s Future”. This  centerpiece of Ryan’s budgetary vision traces back to a vicious war on the poor and middle class that was waged over three decades ago by a South American police state.

The conceptual basis of Ryan’s Social Security privatization approach was hatched as the  Piñera plan  that was  implemented under the radical right-wing Chilean torture regime of 1973 military coup leader Augusto Pinochet.

Give that article a read…very interesting indeed.

That is all I have for you this morning, but it should be a pretty good start, ay?


Smarter America? Via Fox News…

Good Evening!

So earlier today, I was looking for updates on Sandy…I mean we all have been watching the news reports, seeing the photos of the destruction. Anyway, as I was reading about the homes that were on fire in the Breezy Point section of Queens, I came across this little nugget on the Fox News website.

 

Ah yes, a Smarter America ? Via Fox News…there has to be something ironic about that.

An entire section, full of news stories that…are about, well check it out:

Yes, you can learn about Robot Tunas that work for Homeland Security!

Or perhaps you will be amazed at a company who has made the most streamed-lined semi-truck in the world?

No, I am not kidding! Check out the screen shot on the left…or just go straight to the source.

Smarter America | U.S. | Fox News

And read the following articles:

MAN unveils super-streamlined semi truck | Fox News

  • mantruck660.jpg
  • mantruck6602.jpg

This gives the phrase “Keep on Truckin’” a whole new meaning.

MAN trucks has teamed up with trailer builder Krone to build a futuristic, streamlined semi that could improve the fuel economy and range of long haulers by 25 percent.

MAN trucks? Am I the only one who finds that funny?

How about this one? World’s first spaceport nearly ready in New Mexico | Fox News

Spaceport America Concept
  • Plane lands at Spaceport America
  • Spaceport America Run.jpg

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. –  New Mexico Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson says it will be New Mexico’s Sydney Opera House. Virgin Galactic Chairman Richard Branson has hinted it will host the first of his new brand of lifestyle hotels. And the eclectic hot springs town of Truth or Consequences has been anxiously awaiting all the economic development the nearly quarter-of-a-billion-dollar project is supposed to bring to this largely rural part of southern New Mexico.

Looks like one of those bed pans they give you in a hospital…or perhaps its more like a vagina…maybe it is influenced by Georgia O’Keefe?

This next one is great: Robot tuna joins Homeland Security arsenal | Fox News

  • robot-tuna-02.jpg

Speedy tuna capable of swimming tirelessly in the Earth’s oceans have inspired the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fund a lookalike robot for underwater patrols.

The “BIOSwimmer” robot features faithfully replicated fins and a flexible tail to pull off quick maneuvers like the real-life fish.Homeland Security made the choice to fund the robot made by the Boston Engineering Corporation in Waltham, Mass., with an eye toward missions such as exploring the flooded areas of ships, inspecting oil tankers or patrolling U.S. harbors to watch out for suspicious activity.

Oh yeah, there is nothing like a robot fish to come between us and al Qaeda.

A smarter America today? A Fox News Nation tomorrow…

This is an open thread.