Wednesday: Ain’t there one damn song that can make me…Break down and cry?

 

And I did cry…

I found out about David Bowie’s death around 4;00 am Monday Morning, it was so sad. Bowie was born in 1947…the same year as my dad, maybe that was why it touched a nerve? I don’t know. But as the days have past since the news of his death, I’ve been able to look back on his music and massive product of work. I see now just exactly amount of thread this artist has woven through my memories. For all my life.

Simon Pegg sent out this tribute tweet:

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I was born in April 1970. Space Oddity was 1st released in July of 1969. For me that tweet is especially true.

 

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The post today will feature artwork by David Bowie and include a few links to photo galleries…as well as a few other articles about Bowie the man, flaws included.

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Just a couple of thoughts before we start.

My mom took me to see Cat People and The Hunger back when I was a kid…

 

I can still feel that powerful voice of Bowie’s pounding in the theater as the credits rolled when he sang Putting Out The Fire.

 

 

And I always thought, for some strange reason…that he would live forever somewhere…never imagining that he would die a few days after turning 69.

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Now for the links.

Highlights of President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address – Politics – NYTimes.com

Full text of President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

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And if you didn’t catch the speech…check this out:

CNN Releases Video Imagining the State of the Union as a Wes Anderson Movie (No, Really) | Mediaite

“What if the State of the Union was like a Wes Anderson movie?”, asked no one ever. Well, CNN is here to answer your question, nobody!

And, well, it’s not so much a movie as it is a primer on the history of the State of the Union address and all the things that go into making it happen.

(P.S. If CNN is taking requests, next year do it Tarantino-style. God knows these speeches could use some tense moments and balls-to-the-wall profanity.)

Gag….okay.

Now, moving on.

Interesting video here: Arctic seed vault ‘key to future global crops’ – BBC News

And then you have this newsy bit here: Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall Are Engaged | Vanity Fair

 

Ugh, more gag.

Meanwhile on the Ted Cruz “birther” irony front:

Under Ted Cruz’s own logic, he’s ineligible for the White House – The Boston Globe

There’s more than meets the eye in the ongoing dustup over whether Ted Cruz is eligible to serve as president, which under the Constitution comes down to whether he’s a “natural born citizen” despite his 1970 Canadian birth. Senator Cruz contends his eligibility is “settled” by naturalization laws Congress enacted long ago. But those laws didn’t address, much less resolve, the matter of presidential eligibility, and no Supreme Court decision in the past two centuries has ever done so. In truth, the constitutional definition of a “natural born citizen” is completely unsettled, as the most careful scholarship on the question has concluded. Needless to say, Cruz would never take Donald Trump’s advice to ask a court whether the Cruz definition is correct, because that would in effect confess doubt where Cruz claims there is certainty.

People are entitled to their own opinions about what the definition ought to be. But the kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the Supreme Court is an “originalist,” one who claims to be bound by the narrowly historical meaning of the Constitution’s terms at the time of their adoption. To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn’t be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and ’90s required that someone actually be born on US soil to be a “natural born” citizen. Even having two US parents wouldn’t suffice. And having just an American mother, as Cruz did, would have been insufficient at a time that made patrilineal descent decisive.

This narrow definition reflected 18th-century fears of a tyrannical takeover of our nation by someone loyal to a foreign power — fears that no longer make sense. But the same could be said of fears that a tyrannical federal army might overrun our state militias. Yet that doesn’t lead Cruz — or, more importantly, the conservative jurists he admires — to discard the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms” as a historical relic, or to limit that right to arms-bearing by members of today’s “state militias,” the national guard.

On the other hand, the kind of judge I admire and Cruz abhors is a “living constitutionalist,” one who believes that the Constitution’s meaning evolves with the perceived needs of the time and longstanding practice. To that kind of judge, Cruz would be eligible to serve because it no longer makes sense to be bound by the narrow historical definition that would disqualify him.

When Cruz was my constitutional law student at Harvard, he aced the course after making a big point of opposing my views in class — arguing stridently for sticking with the “original meaning” against the idea of a more elastic “living Constitution” whenever such ideas came up. I enjoyed jousting with him, but Ted never convinced me — nor did I convince him.

At least he was consistent in those days. Now, he seems to be a fair weather originalist, abandoning that method’s narrow constraints when it suits his ambition.

Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president – The Washington Post

Donald Trump is actually right about something: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.

The Constitution provides that “No person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The concept of “natural born” comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, the preeminent authority on it, declared natural-born citizens are “such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England,” while aliens are “such as are born out of it.” The key to this division is the assumption of allegiance to one’s country of birth. The Americans who drafted the Constitution adopted this principle for the United States. James Madison, known as the “father of the Constitution,” stated, “It is an established maxim that birth is a criterion of allegiance. . . . [And] place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States.”

Cruz is, of course, a U.S. citizen. As he was born in Canada, he is not natural-born. His mother, however, is an American, and Congress has provided by statute for the naturalization of children born abroad to citizens. Because of the senator’s parentage, he did not have to follow the lengthy naturalization process that aliens without American parents must undergo. Instead, Cruz was naturalized at birth. This provision has not always been available. For example, there were several decades in the 19th century when children of Americans born abroad were not given automatic naturalization.

Article I of the Constitution grants Congress the power to naturalize an alien — that is, Congress may remove an alien’s legal disabilities, such as not being allowed to vote. But Article II of the Constitution expressly adopts the legal status of the natural-born citizen and requires that a president possess that status. However we feel about allowing naturalized immigrants to reach for the stars, the Constitution must be amended before one of them can attain the office of president. Congress simply does not have the power to convert someone born outside the United States into a natural-born citizen.

Let me be clear: I am not a so-called birther. I am a legal historian. President Obama is without question eligible for the office he serves. The distinction between the president and Cruz is simple: The president was born within the United States, and the senator was born outside of it. That is a distinction with a difference.

Thanks to Boston Boomer for the H/T on both of those links.

Back to some bad journalism… now that it has been a few days since that riveting piece of “journalism” from Sean Penn in the latest Rolling Stone? (Flash Frame: That was a piece of shit.)

The problem with Rolling Stone’s El Chapo interview isn’t Sean Penn. It’s his editors. – Poynter

If you’re an editor about to send a famous and sympathetic writer to interview one of the world’s most notorious villains, here’s how you might prep him:

First, drill him on his assumptions and make sure there is an intellectual argument elsewhere to back him up.

Then, you’d likely remind him that his loyalty should be with his readers, not his subject. And you’d reinforce that by helping him anticipate the natural questions those readers might bring to such a controversial interview.

You’d want to see his interview questions ahead of time to ensure they are asked in neutral language that will hold your notorious source accountable.

Of course you’d advise him that it’s unacceptable to cut a deal that provides the source with prior review.

And finally, you’d remind him that the story must be well-reported and intellectually honest, so that it could stand on its own without a byline. That’s how you know it’s worth the paper it’s printed on.

It’s common for a writer’s ambitions to outpace his talents. (Sean Penn, you are no Hunter S. Thompson). That’s what editors are for. The best editors lift writers above the level they might reach on their own. They bring discipline to wandering pieces. They force writers to nail down assumptions and abandon unnecessary prose.

The editor’s role on the front end is the easy work. All he had to do was prepare Penn to set aside his own ego and go into the interview with his loyalties firmly on the side of Rolling Stone’s audience. But that front end work often makes the heavy lifting on the back side a bit lighter. During the actual writing, an editor should have been working with Penn to identify a structure, build a coherent argument and then challenge readers to see a complicated character operating in a complicated system.

How do you do that? You have to bring in other voices. Here’s what’s missing from Penn’s El Chapo piece…

Take a look at that link to see what is missing. I would guess that Penn did not do this work with Rolling Stone backing his moves. I suggest it is a Penn deal alone…and possibly a movie in the works all along. The “article” was probably shopped to the highest bidder and under no circumstance could it be “edited” because it is Penn’s pitch in glorified shit filled black and white print. *Note: I may be wrong here, in which case I really don’t give a damn…but that is my own opinion on the matter.

But what does give me a problem about this commentary on what Penn’s article is missing…is that there is a big stink about the single Penn’s crappy piece, but what about the fucking trash put out by journalist on a daily basis? Ana Kasparian is asking that question in this article:

Sean Penn interviews El Chapo and suddenly journalists care about ethics

No one expected Sean Penn to interview the world’s most wanted drug kingpin after he escaped prison for the second time. But three months before El Chapo was recaptured by Mexican Marines, he was hanging out with the actor in a jungle for a lengthy Rolling Stone interview. In an interesting turn of events, Penn’s discussion with El Chapo has been criticized as “unethical” by politicians and journalists who couldn’t score or stomach the interview.

At the heart of the issue is how Penn allowed the violent head of the Sinaloa drug cartel to sign off on the final Rolling Stone piece, which certainly does breach journalistic ethics. One rule of journalism is to ensure that the subject being reported on doesn’t have any sway or influence on the final product, and letting El Chapo decide what can and can’t be published defeats the true purpose of doing the interview in the first place.

“Allowing any source control over a story’s content is inexcusable,” Andrew Seaman, chair of the Society of Professional Journalist’s ethics committee wrote in a blog post. “The practice of pre-approval discredits the entire story. The writer, who in this case is an actor and activist, may write the story in a more favorable light and omit unflattering facts in an attempt to not be rejected.”

Seaman does make a good point. But with the daily ethics violations committed by people who were actually trained to be journalists, it does seem strange that all of a sudden members of the media want to hash out what’s acceptable in reporting the news or conducting interviews.

You’re goddamn right!

It is a shame that her article is only a couple of more paragraphs long, using an example regarding a situation with PBS and funding to illustrate her point (go and read the rest at the link) but it should open the can of worms, don’t ya think?

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Mona had a question up on her Facebook feed…about this topic…I think this article is a good way to open it up for discussion:

The dark side of David Bowie: As the mourning goes on, we can’t ignore his history with underaged groupies in ’70s – Salon.com

More Bowie, this time pictures:

vintage everyday: The Icon of Androgynous Fashion Style – Marvelous Color Photos of David Bowie in the 1970s-80s

vintage everyday: Amazing Vintage Photos of David Bowie in the early Days of His Career

On with a few more news links.

Pennsylvania police fatally shoot 12-year-old at her home | US news | The Guardian

Scientists struggle to stay grounded after possible gravitational wave signal | Science | The Guardian

Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says – The New York Times

Central American immigrants scramble for options to deportation by U.S. | Reuters

In human rights news:

Saudi Arabia Arrests Samar Badawi, Human Rights Advocate – The New York Times

U.N. war crimes investigators gathering testimony from starving Syrian town | Reuters

Let’s not end on that note.

The Mysteriously Tiny Drawings of an 18th-Century Artist, Born Without Hands or Feet

Baeck_Vignettes_Collection of Ricky Jay

In Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay, opening today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there’s a 1724 engraved self-portrait that the “Little Man of Nuremberg” would have used to promote his act. As the portrait shows, the German-born artist, who stood 29 inches tall, was born without hands or feet.

Using an implement he wielded with his stumps, Buchinger excelled in calligraphy, ornamentation, and micrography, the practice of making patterns with tiny letters. In this self-portrait, in the curls of his wig, he has written seven full psalms and the Lord’s Prayer.

Art was just one of Buchinger’s talents. He was a master magician, superb marksman, and a virtuoso musical-instrument player, to name a few of the skills he was paid to perform in fairgrounds and noble houses across Europe. He could also throw dice, and could put wooden objects in tiny bottles.

To contemporary sensibilities, the idea of an 18th-century dwarf magician getting a Met show of his text art might come off as an arch conceptual hoax. But Buchinger was real, and very much a part of his time.

Oh, how I wish I could see this exhibit.

Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawingsfrom the Collection of Ricky Jay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

January 8–April 11, 2016

Exhibition Location: The Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery, 2nd floor,Gallery 690

Approximately 15 drawings by the 18th-century German artist Matthias Buchinger (1674–1739), who was born without hands or feet, will be presented in Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay, opening at the Metropolitan Museum on January 8, 2016. Despite his physical limitations, Buchinger was celebrated in his own time as a draftsman and calligrapher as well as a magician and musician, and poetic broadsides were written in Europe and Britain about his many talents and achievements. Known as “the Little Man of Nuremberg” because he was only 29 inches tall, Buchinger lived a nomadic existence and boasted a clientele that included noblemen, kings, and emperors, along with members of the public who visited him at inns and fairs, from Leipzig to Paris and London to Belfast.

And in another Met website link:

Color The Temple: Using Projected Light to Restore Color | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is a long read but fascinating.

Did You Know The Temple Wasn’t Always Beige?

The small square shows a cleaned surface on a temple in the Karnak Temple Complex. Image courtesy of the authors

Temples in Egypt, and in much of the ancient world, were not only carved with detailed reliefs, but also painted with vivid colors, like the example from the Karnak Temple Complex shown above. The small square shows a cleaned surface in an otherwise soot- and grime-covered relief scene. This small section at Karnak allows visitors to see the temple in new ways, and we set out to do this digitally with The Temple of Dendur.

The Temple of Dendur was originally located on an ancient site south of Aswan in the West Bank of the Nile, near the border between Egypt and the Sudan. Because the Nile flooded every year, the Egyptian government attempted to control the water through a series of dams. However, by the late 1920s, Dendur and the surrounding area was flooded for nine months out of the year. In the 1960s, the Egyptian government planned to construct a new dam that would have made this flooding permanent year-round.

Well, that is all for today…

Have a safe Wednesday. This is an open thread.


Is it Sunday? Reads: Yeah, I guess it is…

 allegory of Winter: Neptune in a dolphin chariot Filippo Alberici, Hieroglyphica, Paris ca. 1507 British Library, Royal 12 C III, fol. 16r


allegory of Winter: Neptune in a dolphin chariot
Filippo Alberici, Hieroglyphica, Paris ca. 1507
British Library, Royal 12 C III, fol. 16r

Good Morning All

I had completely forgot today was Sunday, and since my laptop is still giving problems…and my new one is not being delivered until Monday, this post is going to be brief.

Images will be from this blog…discarding images, if you have some time go and check that site out.

 flame-farting bonnacon 'In Asia an animal is found which men call bonnacon […] when it turns to flee, it discharges fumes from the excrement of its belly over a distance of three acres, the heat of which sets fire to anything it touches. In this way, it drives off its pursuers with its harmful excrement.’ (transl. The Aberdeen Bestiary Project) De Natura animalium, Cambrai ca. 1270. Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 711, fol. 8r


flame-farting bonnacon
‘In Asia an animal is found which men call bonnacon […] when it turns to flee, it discharges fumes from the excrement of its belly over a distance of three acres, the heat of which sets fire to anything it touches. In this way, it drives off its pursuers with its harmful excrement.’ (transl. The Aberdeen Bestiary Project)
De Natura animalium, Cambrai ca. 1270.
Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 711, fol. 8r

I love the crossed eyes on the knight that is getting hit with the flaming fart…and the sad face on the bonnacon, like he is sorry but he can’t help it…

Now the links:

AirAsia flight QZ8501: icing of engines was likely cause of crash, says agency | World news | The Guardian

Weather was the “triggering factor” in the crash of AirAsia flight 8501 with icing likely causing engine damage, Indonesia’s meteorological agency said on Sunday, as bad weather continued to hinder rescue efforts.

 Nosferatu  and Gandalf the Gray smoking a pipe? the text is Psalm 17:50 in Latin and Old Polish ‘Propterea confitebor tibi in nationibus, Domine, et nomini tuo psalmum dicam’; ‘Przeto spowiadać sie będę tobie w ludzioch, Gospodnie; i twemu imieniu psalm będę mołwić’ (‘Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, o Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name’) trilingual Sankt Florian Psalter (Psałterz floriański), Kraków 14th/15th century. Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa, Rps 8002 III, fol. 28v


Nosferatu (or Yoda) and Gandalf the Gray smoking a pipe?
the text is Psalm 17:50 in Latin and Old Polish ‘Propterea confitebor tibi in nationibus, Domine, et nomini tuo psalmum dicam’; ‘Przeto spowiadać sie będę tobie w ludzioch, Gospodnie; i twemu imieniu psalm będę mołwić’ (‘Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, o Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name’)
trilingual Sankt Florian Psalter (Psałterz floriański), Kraków 14th/15th century.
Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa, Rps 8002 III, fol. 28v

The Airbus A320-200 crashed into the Java Sea a week ago carrying 162 people from Indonesia’s second city Surabaya to Singapore, and relief workers are hunting for the “black box” flight data recorders to determine the cause of the crash.

The search teams from several countries including the United States and Russia recovered another body on Sunday, bringing the total to 31.

They also found another major part of the aircraft to add to the four discovered on Saturday but rough seas again forced them to abandon their efforts early.

In other aviation news: Saudi national airline may introduce gender segregation on its flights — RT News

You may remember I linked to a story recently about the delays caused by certain Orthodox Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women passengers on flights out of New York. This is on the other side of the coin…I mean religious coin, if you get what I am saying.

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don’t mess with female saints St. Juliana of Nicomedia and the devil (‘Hic bellum sathane superat virtus Iuliane’) Picture Bible, Abbey of Saint Bertin, Saint-Omer (?), ca. 1190-1200. Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 76F5, fol. 32r

Saudi Arabia’s national airline carrier is planning to introduce gender segregation aboard its flights following complaints from passengers who refused to have random males seated next to their wives, the Kingdom’s media report.

Airline company Saudia will order its staff to keep men and women separated onboard, unless they are close relatives, the Emirates247 news website reported.

 

Meanwhile, sticking with the Mideast…North Africa a little longer:

Have you seen this? Egypt warned Amal Clooney she risked arrest | World news | The Guardian

More on this from Juan Cole: Why Egypt’s Threat to Arrest Amal Clooney will hurt its Economy | Informed Comment

Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian reported on Friday that Amal Clooney was threatened with jail by Egyptian authorities last February if she released a report in Cairo on flaws in the Egyptian judiciary that had been commissioned by the International Bar Association. The report is available on the Web here.

tumblr_mkkx4j3sqA1rqxd5ko1_1280.pngSignificant elements of the Egyptian judiciary are obviously arbitrary, conspiratorial to the point of paranoia, and a complete mess, as demonstrated by the opposite verdicts reached in the two cases against former dictator Hosni Mubarak; in the mass executions of Muslim Brothers ordered by a notorious provincial hanging judge; by the jailing of Aljazeera and other journalists for reporting the news; and by the jailing of protesters for protesting (the hero of 2011, Ahmad Maher of the April 6 Youth, among many others, is in jail for another two years).

Ms. Clooney and her colleagues wrote early last year,

tumblr_mkoxhrHXom1rqxd5ko1_1280“Three distinct prosecutorial trends are discernible. First, under the short period of military rule that followed the 2011 revolution, more civilians were prosecuted for ‘crimes’ against the military – such as the crime of ‘insulting the military’ – than had ever been prosecuted during 30 years of Mubarak rule. Secondly, under Morsi’s Brotherhood presidency, those who insulted Islam or insulted the President himself were targeted. tumblr_mmxonvBMVN1rqxd5ko1_1280According to some sources, the number of prosecutions brought for ‘insulting the president’ in the Morsi period exceeded the number of such prosecutions brought over three decades under Mubarak and the number of persons who were sentenced to imprisonment for insulting Islam also increased dramatically. Finally, in the post-Morsi era during the second half of 2013, a startling number of prosecutions were initiated against Brotherhood figures, including the former President himself, the Brotherhood’s entire senior leadership and thousands of others.

 monkey baseball  Psalter, Flanders ca. 1320-1330. Bodleian Library, Douce 6, fol. 114r


monkey baseball
Psalter, Flanders ca. 1320-1330.
Bodleian Library, Douce 6, fol. 114r

This record of selective prosecutions undermines the potential for a peaceful transition and reconciliation between communities in Egypt, as well as the right to freedom of expression in a new democracy. It is therefore suggested that a transitional justice process be put in place, ideally with international involvement to guarantee independence and impartiality. This would honour the rights of the many victims of serious crimes that have been committed in Egypt and combat impunity for government abuses.”

So she probably wasn’t surprised when they threatened to prosecute her, too.

tumblr_mqusvm8X3G1rqxd5ko1_1280One reason all this matters, beyond the thuggish threats of arbitrary imprisonment of people for thinking independently, is that Egypt’s judiciary is an obstacle to the country attracting foreign investment.

More at the link.

To think that Clooney’s wife may get more attention then him? hmmmm

Not that I think it is, as the title of this article puts it: The End of Men – Atlantic Mobile

tumblr_mr7lfaMNZP1rqxd5ko1_1280.pngEarlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences

Meh, you go and read the article and take it for what it is…it is a long tumblr_mueq0vXF5M1rqxd5ko1_1280winded piece of…well, it was written back in 2010, I guess the Atlantic felt the time had come to republish it? I don’t know but they had it up at their site as if it was a recent post. The point is, things have gotten worse for women and I feel it ain’t going to get better any time soon.

Example? Why activists and feminists get so many death threats – Salon.com

More than twenty years have passed, but Jonathan Huston still vividly remembers one specific day during his stint as editor of a New Hampshire weekly.

 tumblr_mxv0lkEaXk1rqxd5ko1_1280

[I was] writing a series on the titans of trash — about racketeering by the nation’s two largest garbage haulers. A lawyer came to my office one day to convey a warning about my latest investigative reporting.

“Jonathan, I hope I don’t open up the pages of the Union Leader one day,” he said, “to read that the editor of a certain weekly newspaper got into his car, turned over the ignition, and got blown sky high.”

“That shall not happen,” I said.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I don’t own a car.”

tumblr_myqghh6suH1rqxd5ko1_1280To some extent the specter of violent death hangs over us all, lurking at the edge of consciousness most of the time, perhaps brought into focus by a mass shooting in which victims remind us of our children or friends, or of ourselves. Or maybe we are shaken by a local story about domestic violence, a murder suicide, a drive by, or road rage turned lethal.

For women in particular, the threat never completely disappears. A cartoon that made its way around Facebook underscores the point. On one side a thought bubble above a male figure reads, “What if she gave me a fake number?” On the other, a bubble above a female says, “What if he rapes and kills me?”

Mercifully, for most of us most of the time, the risk of violence seems small and distant. Even so, it can shape how we live. It can make us hesitate to say no. Or yes. It can make us hesitate to stay home alone. Or go out at night.

 breakdancing fox breviary, France 13th century. Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 102, fol. 324r


breakdancing fox
breviary, France 13th century.
Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 102, fol. 324r

Or speak our minds.

Fear has the power to paralyze and silence even strong, determined people, which is why threats of violence are such a potent, common, and toxic presence in political discourse. Consequently, it is a wonder, and a gift to us all, when engaged citizens like Jonathan Huston refuse to be silenced.



Threats of violence can be explicit or implied, verbal or behavioral. They can target a single individual like the president, or a class of individuals, like queers. And the intimidation can take many forms: the mob lawyer’s casual comment about a car bomb; an assault weapon slung over a shoulder in a Texas restaurant; a Louisiana law forcing abortion providers to publish their names, addresses and photos; the body of a lynch or rape victim swaying from a tree.

tumblr_n3rcrlrj021rqxd5ko1_1280As a psychologist turned writer, I found myself wanting to understand more about what life is like for activists who find themselves living—to borrow a biblical phrase—in the valley of the shadow of death. I wanted to understand also why some of them, instead of backing down decide to lean in. So, I started asking around. One of the first things I learned was how surprisingly many people within two degrees of separation from my own life had dealt with threats of violence at one time or another. The second thing—less surprising—was that staying centered and engaged in the face of even threatening innuendo is far from easy.

Read the rest at the link.

tumblr_nagw1vdxzr1rqxd5ko1_1280In strange as fuck news: Granite City man finds out what’s been hidden in his arm for 51 years : News

Uh, here’s the kicker…it was a piece of a car, a 1963 Thunderbird turn signal that got stuck in there from an accident years ago.

Anyway, there is a good article however over at the Atlantic about my home state of Georgia: What’s Wrong With Georgia? – Atlantic Mobile

Throughout the economic downturn and subsequent recovery, there have been some usual suspects when it comes to the most pitiful state in monthly unemployment figures.

 bird hat guy and a ballchinian monster Luttrell Psalter, England ca. 1325-1340. British Library, Add 42130, fol. 145r


bird hat guy and a ballchinian monster
Luttrell Psalter, England ca. 1325-1340.
British Library, Add 42130, fol. 145r

For awhile, Michigan took the prize for highest unemployment rate in the country, until Nevada knocked it off its perch in May of 2010. Nevada then held the title for most of the next three years, sometimes sharing the honor with California, until it ceded the top (more accurately, the bottom) spot to Rhode Island in December 2013.

But now, as the economy picks up steam, and consumer sentiment rises to its highest levels since 2007, a new state keeps appearing at the top of the unemployment list. Georgia, home to Fortune 500 heavyweights such as Home Depot, UPS, and Coca-Cola, had the highest unemployment rate in the nation in August, September, and October. With a November rate of 7.2 percent, the state was narrowly edged out by Mississippi’s 7.3 percent (December statistics won’t come out until mid-January).

tumblr_nf4l9i1WK01rqxd5ko1_1280This may seem surprising, since Georgia was named the best state to do business in both 2014 and 2013 by Site Selection magazine, largely because of its workforce-training program and low tax rates. Nathan Deal, the state’s GOP governor, handily won reelection in November against Jimmy Carter’s grandson by speaking about Georgia as a job magnet.

But those who follow the state’s economy say the state’s troubling economic figures are directly related to Georgia’s attempts to paint itself as a good state for corporations.

“This is what a state looks like when you have a hands-off, laissez-faire approach to the economy,” said Michael Wald, a former Bureau of Labor Statistics economist in Atlanta. “Georgia is basically a low-wage, low-tax, low-service state, that’s the approach they’ve been taking for a very long time.”

tumblr_nglj0eB3w61rqxd5ko1_1280Oh it is low everything state…but then again, we all know that already.

I found this interesting, Cannonfire-Get the government off our tops!

Are they serious? Oklahoma may soon have a law banning hoodies in public. Apparently, this new piece of legilsation is an extension of an old law against wearing a hood during the commission of a crime — a measure originally designed to make life inconvenient for the KKK.

This is ridiculous. I used to wear a hoodie, during my first winter on the east coast. When you’re a shaven-headed guy with no scarf, a hoodie can be a lifesaver. (My ears get cold, even in summer.) Eventually, I acquired some classier means of staying warm — tuques, hats, scarves, earmuffs, long winter coats.

tumblr_nhg5gjUCRZ1rqxd5ko1_1280

Devil gives Jesus a pet rock…

But dammit, I’ll wear a hoodie if I want to. It’s my right. Besides, they offer cheap warmth.

Interestingly, this measure is taking hold in Oklahoma, which is nobody’s idea of a blue state. How can the Republicans blame government intrusiveness on the Dems?

How the hell can the Republicans pass shit like this continuously, not to mention the crap they pull with women’s right to choose…and still say they are against government interference? We are in for a shitstorm of GOP legislative  fuckturds…I am telling you!

Oh, and since I brought up the subject of fuckturds: 2014 LIEBERMAN AWARD WINNER: BOB McCULLOCH | Gin and Tacos

(Editor’s note: The Lieberman Award is given annually to the worst example of a human being over a twelve month period. Click the tag at the end of the post to review past winners.)

medalGin and Tacos and its parent company, Nordyne Defense Dynamics, hold very high standards with respect to the final product you see published here four or five times per week. When we say someone is an asshole, we want you the reader to know that we have done our homework and vetted the subject thoroughly. We aren’t going to give you people who are just kind of an asshole. You can rest assured that when we look back at a year and say “This person was an asshole of such magnitude that he defined 2014 with how rotten he is at being human,” the honor is richly deserved and well earned.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch is everything wrong with America today, far more so than any cigar stealing Thug or even any trigger happy police officer could ever be. He is old, dying, white America incarnate, struggling mightily to control a country it is no longer capable of understanding and not even willing to try.

medieval facepalm (Noah, Ham, Shem and Japheth, Genesis 9:20-24) Biblia Pauperum, Netherlands ca. 1395-1400 (British Library, Kings 5, fol. 15r)

medieval facepalm
(Noah, Ham, Shem and Japheth, Genesis 9:20-24)
Biblia Pauperum, Netherlands ca. 1395-1400 (British Library, Kings 5, fol. 15r)

Bob McCulloch is every gun-hoarding authoritarian personality type who sees a threat in everything and everyone that does not look and behave like himself. Bob McCulloch is the America that is on its way being demographically irrelevant and is attempting to maintain a position of superiority by dominating the institutions of state power to such an extent that their privileges can never be taken away. You know, like white people did in Apartheid-era South Africa.

Bob McCulloch is your uncle who bitches constantly about big government and taxes while every paycheck he has collected in his life has been from the public teat. He is the public’s mental caricature of an incompetent, corrupt civil servant, so protected and insulated from the repercussions of his professional actions that he is unwilling even to fake giving a shit if you can see how corrupt he is. Bob McCulloch is the old, bitter white people that dot major cities throughout the Rust Belt; everyone young and financially able has left and now he reigns over a poor, crumbling, crime-ridden corpse of a city and it makes him so bitter and angry, despite his job security and material comfort, that all he can do to make himself feel a little better is lash out at people he considers a rung (or two) beneath him on the social ladder.

Venus

Venus

You need to go read the rest. Y’all know I post links regularly from Gin and Tacos, be sure to check this one out.

There is a series going on now at the National Geographic: On the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ Trail, the Dust Bowl Still Resonates

Retracing the route Steinbeck described in his classic novel 75 years ago, a family finds parallels between today and the ‘Dirty Thirties.’ This is the first of three parts.

“The highway became their home and movement their medium of expression. Little by little they settled into the new life.” —The Grapes of Wrath

Interesting indeed…

In another nostalgic look, this time cartoons: Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Dot and the Line

Moon

Moon

The 1950s were arguably the most successful decade of animator/director/overall creative genius Chuck Jones’ career: he directed almost two dozen cartoons for the Warner Bros. studio during that period. Eight of these cartoons would eventually be voted to the Jerry Beck-curated 50 Greatest Cartoons list in 1994; four of them–What’s Opera, Doc; Duck Amuck; Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Centuryand One Froggy Evening–appear in the top five of that list. In fact, Jones is the most-represented animator on the list–with ten total entries, his work comprises a full TWENTY PERCENT of what is considered the “best” animation of all time.

No other artist comes close.

Jones was undoubtedly the biggest asset to the Warner Bros. animation empire, and he was locked into an exclusive contract with the studio. But in the early 1960s, Jones collaborated with animators from UPA to produce the feature Gay Purr-ee (1962), which he co-wrote with his wife, Dorothy. tumblr_neb9d92fBo1rqxd5ko1_1280Ironically, Warner Bros. won the distribution rights for the film; when Jones’ role in its production was discovered, his now-violated contract with the studio was terminated in 1962. The Warner Bros. animation department was shut down the following year.

Jones subsequently formed his own animation studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions, and rehired his old unit from Warner Bros. (which had been disbanded after Jones was fired). The studio was contracted to create new cartoons for the Tom and Jerry series for MGM; two years later, Jones’ studio was purchased outright by MGM and renamed MGM Animation/Visual Arts. All in all, Jones produced nearly three dozen Tom and Jerry shorts throughout the 1960s.

 Devil changed his profile picture Breviary of Louis de Guyenne, Paris ca. 1414. Châteauroux, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 2, fol. 1v


Devil changed his profile picture
Breviary of Louis de Guyenne, Paris ca. 1414.
Châteauroux, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 2, fol. 1v

But his time wasn’t completely consumed by the antics of the cat and mouse; he also worked on several other projects for the studio, one of which–The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1965)–won Jones his only competitive Academy Award as a producer.

The Dot and the Line, as its full title indicates, tells of the romance between a dilettante dot and the straight line that loves her. While the dot is initially enamored of a “wild and unkempt squiggle” (whose wildness is underscored by a clamorous rock-and-roll tune that sounds every time it is onscreen), the “stiff as a board” straight line tries to adapt himself into something else in order to entice the dot back to his side. After struggling a long time, the line finally learns to form himself into an angle, which then allows him to form an unending series of increasingly complex shapes that, in the end, are much more appealing to the dot than the “chaos” presented by the squiggle. The cartoon concludes with the tongue-in-cheek moral: “To the vector belong the spoils.”

Read more about “The Dot and the Line” at the link and you can also see the full video of the cartoon here:

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Pork on crutches…

And since this post has been illustrated with doodles and drawings from Medieval manuscripts: New Images on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts – Medieval manuscripts blog

Exciting news for those of our readers who might want to search for an image of a 13th-century devil with horns, an English drawing of a horse from the 10th century, rain over the Italian countryside, severed limbs or even Job afflicted with boils. More than 200 new images are now available online in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. For those who have not yet used this catalogue, it has an advanced search page which allows you to search for key words combined with place of origin, date range and many other criteria: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/search2.asp.

Over 4000 illuminated manuscripts from 800 to 1800 have been catalogued to date and we have now added a new selection with images and descriptions that were not previously available online, mostly from the Additionals series.

I bet you can tell from the images below…the search keyword was “dwarf.”

Dwarf hitting Lancelot with a staff

Dwarf hitting Lancelot with a staff

 

miniature-of-the-month-of-may-with-a-seated-young-man-receives-fruit-and-flowers-from-a-courtly-group-composed-of-a-dwarf-three-girls-and-five-youths-some-of-whom-play-musical-instruments

miniature-of-the-month-of-may-with-a-seated-young-man-receives-fruit-and-flowers-from-a-courtly-group-composed-of-a-dwarf-three-girls-and-five-youths-some-of-whom-play-musical-instruments

 

drawing-of-king-mark-in-a-pear-tree-spying-on-tristan-and-isolde-who-have-come-to-meet-secretly-and-raise-their-hands-to-each-other-in-greeting-while-the-dwarf-spies-on

drawing-of-king-mark-in-a-pear-tree-spying-on-tristan-and-isolde-who-have-come-to-meet-secretly-and-raise-their-hands-to-each-other-in-greeting-while-the-dwarf-spies-on

 

Detail of a miniature of two knights kneeling in submission to Cleriadus, while another lies dead, and a fourth with a broken arm, with two ladies and a dwarf behind

Detail of a miniature of two knights kneeling in submission to Cleriadus, while another lies dead, and a fourth with a broken arm, with two ladies and a dwarf behind

Finally, bits of childhood keep washing up on the shores of beaches…BBC News – Mapped: The beaches where Lego washes up

 holy hemorrhoid  Roman d’Alexandre, Tournai 1338-1344. Bodleian Library, MS. Bodl. 264, fol. 56r


holy hemorrhoid
Roman d’Alexandre, Tournai 1338-1344.
Bodleian Library, MS. Bodl. 264, fol. 56r

The story of millions of Lego pieces washing up on beaches attracted huge interest when first told by the Magazine. The list of places where the toys have been spotted is still growing.

Beachcomber Tracey Williams has been picking up Lego along the Cornish coastline ever since a container spill dumped millions of the toy pieces into the sea in 1997.

Since the curious tale was reported by the Magazine, dozens of people have contacted Williams to say they, too, have found parts of the much-loved toy scattered on shores.

They mostly got in touch via the Facebook page she set up about the drifting toy pieces from various Lego sets, many of which were nautical-themed.

Most of the people who’ve contacted her found Lego around Cornwall, she says. “From what I’ve been told, Perranporth is a hotspot for brooms, and the Lizard seems to be a hotspot for octopuses.”

_79143996_lego_976map

Brighton, East Sussex, some 300 miles away, is the furthest confirmed report she has received to the east along England’s southern coastline. But some of the sightings have come from much further afield.

 hey cat. stop licking your butt on the Book of Maccabees or you’ll get an arrow! see also: Gospel Cat and Apocalyptic Cat below the cat: 1Maccabees 16:18-20 ‘Et scripsit hæc Ptolemæus, et misit regi ut mitteret ei exercitum in auxilium, et traderet ei regionem, et civitates eorum, et tributa. Et misit alios in Gazaram tollere Joannem: et tribunis misit epistolas, ut venirent ad se, et daret eis argentum, et aurum, et dona. Et alios misit occupare Jerusalem et montem templi’ (‘And Ptolemee wrote these things and sent to the king that he should send him an army to aid him, and he would deliver him the country, and their cities, and tributes. And he sent others to Gazara to kill John: and to the tribunes he sent letters to come to him, and that he would give them silver, and gold, and gifts. And he sent others to take Jerusalem, and the mountain of the temple’) Biblia Porta, France 13th century. Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire de Lausanne, U 964, fol. 376r


hey cat. stop licking your butt on the Book of Maccabees or you’ll get an arrow!
see also: Gospel Cat and Apocalyptic Cat
below the cat: 1Maccabees 16:18-20 ‘Et scripsit hæc Ptolemæus, et misit regi ut mitteret ei exercitum in auxilium, et traderet ei regionem, et civitates eorum, et tributa. Et misit alios in Gazaram tollere Joannem: et tribunis misit epistolas, ut venirent ad se, et daret eis argentum, et aurum, et dona. Et alios misit occupare Jerusalem et montem templi’ (‘And Ptolemee wrote these things and sent to the king that he should send him an army to aid him, and he would deliver him the country, and their cities, and tributes. And he sent others to Gazara to kill John: and to the tribunes he sent letters to come to him, and that he would give them silver, and gold, and gifts. And he sent others to take Jerusalem, and the mountain of the temple’)
Biblia Porta, France 13th century.
Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire de Lausanne, U 964, fol. 376r

Nearly 4.8 million Lego toy parts fell overboard from the Tokio Express container ship in a storm off Land’s End on 13 February 1997.

Williams says the pieces which now drift up on an “almost daily basis” in numerous locations are flippers, spear guns, seagrass, scuba tanks and life preservers.

There is a breakdown of parts that were lost and other pictures at the link…

Well, have a

wonderful day.

Sunday!


Friday Reads: Weaponized Oil and a tale of conspiracies

Good Morning!

So, I’m going to write briefly about something that’s been fascinating me lately.  That’s the incredible decrease in oil prices and the impact that it’s having on Russia and other oil producing nations outside of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia .  I’m a sucker for a good currency crisis since it’s basically right up my research putin_coveralley.  

Also, oil has been one of those commodities that’s pretty much dominated my adult life.   I remember having to buy gas on even days because the Dealer’s tags on our cars ended in 8 during the oil crisis.  I know what it did to my dad’s business as a car dealer.  Basically, oil’s been the most fungible commodity in modern times.  No modern economy can live without it.   We’ve definitely fought wars to control it.  Oil’s being weaponized like never before.

There are several key factors driving down your gas at the pump. First, the global economy has slowed down so that the demand for oil has tapered off.  That’s one thing that’s been at play. But the more interesting factor has been the increase in supply which is related to the interesting way that Saudis have been ignoring  OPEC quotas and inching up the supply.  There’s been some rumors going around–actual conspiracy theories– that they are doing so for three reasons.  First, they want to make sure that the nascent tar sands oil industry in North America isn’t profitable.  Second, they want to hurt Iran, Syria, and Iraq and any other Shia nation involved with oil production.  The third reason is to get at Russia.  I want to share what I’ve found on these fronts with you.  It has the feel of a new kind of cold war and the opposite of the gas wars of the 1970s.

Russia just experienced a “Black Monday” in that the Russian Stock market has collapsed as has the ruble.  The Russia economy is heavily dependent on oil exports so any decrease in oil prices has an impact.  These continued price decreases have their economy on the verge of failure.  The entire situation has been exacerbated by UN Sanction against the country for its invasion and intervention in the Ukraine.  It’s not pretty.

In recent weeks, the fall in the Russian ruble and Russian stock markets closely tracked the declines in global oil prices. But everything changed on December 15. The oil price remained stable, but the ruble and the stock-price indices lost 30% in the subsequent 24 hours. An unprecedented effort by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) in the wee hours of December 16 to stabilize the ruble, by hiking the interest rate from 10.5% to 17%, proved useless.

The cause of Russia’s “Black Monday” was readily apparent: the government bailout of state-owned Rosneft, the country’s largest oil company. Usually, bailouts calm markets; but this one recalled early post-Soviet experiments, when the CBR issued direct loans to enterprises – invariably fueling higher inflation. The CBR’s governor at the time, Viktor Gerashchenko, was once dubbed the world’s worst central banker.

In 2014, the CBR is more constrained than it was in Gerashchenko’s era: it cannot lend directly to firms. Yet it has also become more sophisticated at achieving the same ends that Gerashchenko sought.

In October, Rosneft issued $11 billion worth of ruble-denominated bonds (an unparalleled amount for the Russian market, equivalent to 70% of the total value of corporate bonds issued in Russia this year). The coupon on these bonds was actually 1.5 percentage points below sovereign bonds of similar maturity, which is also unusual, especially given that Rosneft currently is subject to Western sanctions.

Then, unnamed investors (allegedly the largest Russian state banks) benefited from the CBR’s decision on December 12 to allow these bonds to be used as collateral for three-year CBR ruble loans at the policy rate. Moreover, the CBR scheduled a special auction for such loans on December 15 – with the total amount of the loans similar to that of Rosneft’s bond issue. Thus, the CBR would be able to provide a massive pile of rubles to Rosneft at below-market rates. So why did the deal trigger a panic?

At first glance, this deal was intended to meet contemporary Russia’s most important economic challenge. Sanctions have cut off Russian banks and companies from Western financial markets. Russian companies have to repay or refinance about $300 billion of debt over the coming two years. Some of this debt is owed to Russian companies’ offshore owners, who will certainly be happy to roll it over. But in most cases, firms’ liabilities comprise real debt owed to major international banks.

CARICATURE: Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Global investors are anxiously awaiting some kind of strategy for recovery.  Actions by the Central Bank of Russia have been very curious.   All of the countries that depend on oil exports for huge amounts of their funding are in trouble.  Russia is probably just the most obvious of them.  This goes for Iran also. That’s because both of them are heavily weighed down by UN sanctions.

The non-OPEC producing countries (Russia, Brazil and Norway, as examples) are starting to become backed into an economic corner.  In all of these countries, oil represents a major export and helps finance other economic activities.  For example, as Russia sells oil in the open market (priced in dollars) at $60 per barrel, the revenue in dollars is 50 percent less than was the case in June of this year.  Since June, the Russian Ruble has declined by 59 percent (to the U.S. dollar).  A “crash” in the value of any currency leads to very high inflation (imports are now more expensive than would have otherwise been the case), which leads to potential civil unrest.  On a global scale, the “wealth” of Russia as a nation, priced in Rubles, has declined by 59 percent in the last six months. 

 This is the stuff that leads to revolutions.  Oil, other commodities and vodka are about the only exports Russia creates and helps fund their country’s spending.  They are net importers of most all consumption goods (health supplies, food, etc.).  In their own currency, those imports are now 59 percent more expensive than they were this past summer.

To some, the problem Russia currently faces sounds like something Vladimir Putin created by his dalliances in the Crimea and Ukraine.  There is some truth to this as those actions led to economic sanctions unleashed by the West on Russia. The oil pricing issue is indirectly due to his destructive behavior.   What really matters to the rest of the world at this stage is the potential for economic weakness to spread to the rest of the world from Russia… monetary contagion, anyone?

How would this happen?  Why would the rest of the world be negatively affected by weakness in the Russian Ruble?  Russia’s economy is the world’s eighth largest (as measured by the IMF ), a little larger than Italy and a little smaller than Brazil.  At about $2.1 trillion in GDP, Russia is dwarfed by the United States at $17.5 trillion.  If Russia’s economy contracts by  4 percent (which potentially is in the cards for 2015), it will impact the world’s GDP by about $84 billion, or .1 percent.  No big deal.  However, let’s think not about the world’s income statement (GDP) but rather about the world’s balance sheet – the world’s banking system.

Most Russian national debt is priced in Rubles and the value of that debt has collapsed from six months ago when the Ruble was higher and Russian interest rates were dramatically lower.   Russia’s public debt is $216 billion.  The Russian benchmark interest rate was at 7.5 percent in June of this year – that interest rate is now 17 percent.

How much this impacts any other country has a lot to do on how many banks hold Ruble-denominated assets or liabilities.  The interesting thing is that Saudi Arabia seems no where done with its dalliance in increasing oil supply.  This particular bit of news is what motivated me to finally bring this up here.  The emirates and Saudi Arabia seem willing to dig into their own sovereign wealth and their countries’ spending to see this through.  They must be extremely serious about something. Is it the threat from Shia Muslims?  From US Fracking Oil?  Do they just plain hate the Russians?

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Thursday endorsed a 2015 budget that projects a slight increase in spending and a significant drop in revenues due to sliding oil prices, resulting in a nearly $39 billion deficit

In a sign of mounting financial pressure, the Finance Ministry said the government would try to cut back on salaries, wages and allowances, which “contribute to about 50 percent of total budgeted expenditures.” That could stir resentment among the kingdom’s youth, who make up a majority of the population and are increasingly struggling to find affordable housing and salaries that cover their cost of living.

The price of oil— the backbone of Saudi Arabia’s economy — has fallen by about a half since the summer. Saudi Arabia is extremely wealthy, but there are deep wealth disparities and youth unemployment is expected to mushroom absent a dramatic rise in private sector job creation. The International Monetary Fund says almost two-thirds of employed Saudis work for the government.

A the height of Arab Spring protests sweeping the region in 2011, King Abdullah pledged $120 billion to fund a number of projects, including job creation and hikes in public sector wages. The move was largely seen as an effort to appease the public and blunt any challenges to monarchical rule.

Associate Fellow and energy researcher at Chatham House, Valerie Marcel, said massive government spending across the Gulf on public sector salaries is “really the thing that keeps the lid on the bottle.” She said that for now the Arab monarchies of the Gulf can afford to run deficits due to surpluses accumulated over the years from high oil prices.

Now that’s commitment. There’s actually some discussion around that the US and the Saudis basically colluded to drop oil prices.   This all is happening while OPEC has called for widespread production cuts.  Anyone with a little game theory bashar_al-assad_lrgbackground along with economics know that this is a deadly game.  The ones that cut their production will lose income.

Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.

However, analysis shows the reasoning is complex, and may go beyond simply taking down the price to gain back lost marketshare.

“What is the reason for the United States and some U.S. allies wanting to drive down the price of oil?” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro asked rhetorically in October. “To harm Russia.”

Many believe the oil price plunge is the result of deliberate and well-planned collusion on the part of the United States and Saudi Arabia to punish Russia and Iran for supporting the murderous Assad regime in Syria.

Punishing Assad and friends

Proponents of this theory point to a Sept. 11 meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it was during that meeting that a deal was hammered out between Kerry and Abdullah. In it, the Saudis would support Syrian airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS), in exchange for Washington backing the Saudis in toppling Assad.

If in fact a deal was struck, it would make sense, considering the long-simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its chief rival in the region: Iran. By opposing Syria, Abdullah grabs the opportunity to strike a blow against Iran, which he sees as a powerful regional rival due to its nuclear ambitions, its support for militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and its alliance with Syria, which it provides with weapons and funding. The two nations are also divided by religion, with the majority of Saudis following the Sunni version of Islam, and most Iranians considering themselves Shi’ites.

“The conflict is now a full-blown proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is playing out across the region,” Reuters reported on Dec. 15. “Both sides increasingly see their rivalry as a winner-take-all conflict: if the Shi’ite Hezbollah gains an upper hand in Lebanon, then the Sunnis of Lebanon—and by extension, their Saudi patrons—lose a round to Iran. If a Shi’ite-led government solidifies its control of Iraq, then Iran will have won another round.”

The Saudis know the Iranians are vulnerable on the oil price. Experts say the country needs $140 a barrel oil to balance its budget; at sub-$60 prices, the Saudis succeed in pressuring Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, possibly containing its nuclear ambitions and making the country more pliable to the West, which has the power to reduce or lift sanctions if Iran cooperates.

Adding credence to this theory, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting earlier this month that the fall in oil prices was “politically motivated” and a “conspiracy against the interests of the region, the Muslim people and the Muslim world.”

So, you can see, there’s a little bit of economy theory blended with conspiracy theory here.  Frankly, I”m all for Saudi Arabia crippling American Fracking even though I’m sitting in a state where things will only go from bad to worse in this situation. (Although I imageswill mention I’m actively looking at real estate in Washington State right now.)

Despite repetition in countless media accounts and analysts’ notes over the past few weeks, though, the idea of a “sheikhs vs. shale” battle to control global oil supplies has precious little evidence behind it. The Saudi-led decision to keep OPEC’s wells pumping is a direct strike by Riyadh on two already hobbled geopolitical rivals, Iran and Russia, whose support for the Syrian government and other geostrategic machinations are viewed as far more serious threats to the kingdom than the inconvenience of competing for market share with American frackers.

Among the world’s oil producing nations, few suffer more from the Saudi move than Tehran and Moscow. At a time when both are already saddled with economic sanctions — Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Iran for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons technology — the collapse of oil prices has put unprecedented pressure on these regimes. For Russia, the crisis has hit very hard, with the ruble losing 40 percent of its value to the dollar since October. This is particularly problematic since Russian state-owned oil firms have gone on a dollar-borrowing spree in recent years; now, servicing that debt looks very ominous.

True, Saudi OPEC minister Ali al-Naimi insisted last month that the move was intended to target shale. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? After all, his OPEC counterparts were standing beside him — including the OPEC minister from Iran.

The fact is, Saudi Arabia has little to fear from shale. Saudi Arabia’s huge reserves of conventional oil can and probably will be produced for decades after the shale boom has run its course — which the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects to happen by 2050 or so — and at much lower costs.

So, that one could be just a conspiracy theory.  Anyway, it is very interesting situation that seems to converge economics with geopolitics.  It won’t be the first time that oil and other commodities have been used as weapons.  The Spanish Empire was taken down by its gold lust and hoarding by Good Queen Bess as one example.   It’s really interesting no matter what the rationale.

For all our worries over Russia, however, we in Britain should not lose sight of the humiliation of another swaggering and once-mighty force in world politics, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). When it burst on the world scene 40 years ago, OPEC terrified the wasteful West.

Over the previous decades, we had grown used to abundant oil, bought mostly from Middle Eastern producers — with little global muscle — at rock- bottom prices.

However, OPEC changed that. By restricting supply, the cartel quadrupled the oil price, from $3 to $12.

Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there. Above, the country’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ibrahim Naimi

That is only a fraction of today’s price — but the oil crisis sparked by the rocketing cost in 1974 was enough to lead to queues at filling stations and national panics in the pitifully unprepared industrialised world.

Four decades later, Saudi Arabia has become one of the richest countries in the world, with reserves totalling nearly $900 billion.

But the rest of the world is less at its mercy than it once was. Here in Britain, our energy consumption is dropping remorselessly — the result of increased energy efficiency.

Moreover, many other nations now produce oil. And oil can be replaced by other fuels, such as natural gas, which OPEC does not control.

Also, OPEC no longer has the discipline or the clout to dominate the market, and we in Britain are among the big winners from all this, reaping the benefits of lower costs to fill up our cars and power our industries.

At its meeting in Vienna last month, the OPEC oil cartel — which controls nearly 40 per cent of global production — faced a fateful choice.

Would it curb production and thus, by reducing supplies, try to ratchet the oil price back to something near $100 a barrel — the level most of its members need to balance their books? Or would it let the glut continue?

The organisation’s 12 member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela and Nigeria, chose to do nothing, proving that its once-mighty power has withered. Oil prices subsequently fell even further.

One central problem is that several of OPEC’s members detest each other for a variety of reasons.

Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.

They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.

The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.

The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.

The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin does not have that luxury — and the Saudis know it.

They revile Russia, too, for its military support of President Assad, and for its sale of advanced weapons to Iran.

1212070025s2wKj4So there’s the piece on why Russian and Iran are targeted.  Anyway, unless you’re a CIA analyst specializing that area with access to all the back and forth, it’s hardly possible to untangle all these wicked webs.  It is evident, however, that the Saudis have some bones to pick with a lot of folks and picking away they are.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold.  I have no doubt this will have bigger implications and I also know that most folks aren’t following this.  I’m also pretty sure the usual news outlets are giving this short shrift. You can tell if you if follow any of my links because only one goes to the NY Times.  The rest are mags that are read by very few folks.

So …. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

War, Pablo Picasso

War, Pablo Picasso

Good Morning!!

Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.

 

Reactions to Obama’s speech

From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.

President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.

In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.

“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”

In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.

Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.

According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso's Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso’s Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.

Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.

In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.

At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.

Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.

 

It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

A couple more interesting stories to check out:

Imran Kahn at Aljazira, Iraq and the Obama plan: Officials and experts broadly welcome US president’s plan to destroy the Islamic State group, but with crucial caveats.

Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.

 

Violence Against Women News

From Picasso's War, a commentary on race hatred

From Picasso’s War, a commentary on race hatred

I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.

The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter.  The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.

In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.

“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.

She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.

On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.

The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.

That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.

The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”

Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.

The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.

ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.

Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.

One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.

“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.

The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.

“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.

“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”

There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.

A few more links:

NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?

SB Nation, Ray Rice speaks out for the first time since his release.

CBS Sports, Ray Rice’s wife: How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid.

NYT, In Ray Rice cast, NFL sees only what it wants to see.

 

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Other News, Links Only

AP, USIS, the contractor that handled Edward Snowden’s security clearance loses federal contract.

BBC News, Michael Brown death: Ferguson highway protest blocked.

The Guardian, Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more.

The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.

ABC News, Five things that may happen if Scotland votes for independence.

Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.

Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.

HNGN, Baboons With Closer Friends Have Longer Lives Than Loners.

Forbes, Scientists find gene that may delay aging of whole body.

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.

 

Peace, Pablo Picasso

Peace, Pablo Picasso

 

 


Sunday Reads: Anti-Vaccine Hysteria brought to you by Jenny McCarthy, Pretty Illustrations by Hedvig Collin, and Medieval Dwarf Characterizations by Your Preconceived Ideas

BIBIGood Morning

Oh, I cannot wait to get to the link on Medieval Dwarfs…but until that time comes, here are some stories for you on this fucking* cold ass Sunday Morning!

(*Just FYI, we passed freaking cold ass on Friday night.)

Today’s post will feature artwork by illustrator Hedvig Collin. When I look at her work, I think of Jessie Wilcox…and other women artist/illustrators at the time.

Hedvig Collin was educated at the Drawing and Industrial Art School for Women in preparation for the Royal Academy School for Women , where she studied in 1903 – 1907 . She continued her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts decoration school in 1 909 – 1910 and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris . In 1915 she studied freskoteknik on Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin . She had from 1904 repeated studies in France , she performed in the 1920s and 1930s, traveling to Italy , Greece , Poland , Germany , Czechoslovakia and England . In the period 1922 – 1925 and again during the second World War she was in the United States .

2377102Hedvig Collin painted most portraits and landscapes , but was also an illustrator of children’s books; 1 916 – 1922 she published several illustrated children’s song books, for example. Our Children’s Songs (1916), and the Children’s Picture Book (1922).

While looking for information about Collins, I could not find anything on an “English” website, so the only sources are in Dutch or German. This one here has lots of postcard images, which many of the images in the post are from: Google Translate-Hedvig Collin 1880-1964 by Per Sorensen

Parents: Photographer Alfred Collin and Ottilia f Bloch.

Hedvig Collin was unmarried.

She was a painter, illustrator, journalist and author.

Hedvig Collin was educated at drawing and industrial arts school for women and later graduated from the Academy of Arts, where she studied from 1903 to 1909. Later she took extra education in Paris.

Hedvig Collin traveled extensively throughout Europe and the U.S., and she drew a large number of illustrations – both Danish and foreign publications. However, it was illustrations for children’s books, which became her biggest mark – no one has she been able to put themselves in the children’s place and make illustrations for children. From 1916-1922, she published each year, along with colleagues, the very well known, illustrated children’s song books. She has also made ​​many children portraits.

Her postcard production also bear the imprint of children and fairy tales, and you can clearly see the French inspiration in her work. See for example the “Lady with the Little Dog,” which is very similar to Gerda Wegner line.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pictures…let’s get this show started!

Jeg_en_gaard_mig_bygge_vilSeems like Fukushima is well on its way to becoming another something more than a metaphor for the phrase “Fucked up.” When things are Fukushima’d up…it is beyond anything FUBAR could ever comprehend.  ‘Duct tape, wire nets’ were used to mend Fukushima water tanks – worker — RT News

The 48 year old Japanese man said that workers were sent to various places in Fukushima, including an area called H3 with high radiation levels.

In one of those cases in October 2012, Uechi was given a task to cover five or six storage tanks without lids in the “E” area close to H3 as it was raining, the Japanese paper reported. When he climbed to the top of the 10-meter-high tank Uechi found white adhesive tape covering an opening of about 30 centimeters. After using a blade to remove the tape he applied a sealing agent on the opening and fit a steel lid fastening it with bolts. According to instructions he was to use four bolts, though the lid had eight bolt holes.

According to the employee, his colleagues later told him that the use of adhesive tape was a usual practice to deal with the problem of sealing in radioactive water.

91jlFH8MfhL“I couldn’t believe that such slipshod work was being done, even if it was part of stopgap measures,” Uechi told The Asahi Shimbun.

Among other makeshift cost-cutting measures was the use of second-hand materials. Uechi also said that wire nets were used instead of reinforcing bars during the placement of concrete for storage tank foundations. In addition, waterproof sheets were applied along the joints inside flange-type cylindrical tanks to save on the sealing agent used to join metal sheets of the storage tanks. Rain and snow had washed away the anti-corrosive agent applied around clamping bolts, reducing the sealing effect, Uechi added. According to the Fukushima worker, many of the tanks were later found to be leaking contaminated water.

Now, granted…that is from RT.com, and it goes without saying that there could be some bias on the reporting of a Russian nuclear disaster compared to a foreign one…but read the rest of the “stopgap” measures at the link.

Hedvig_Collin17Meanwhile: Dennis Rodman Names Team For North Korea Exhibition That Includes Former NBA All-Stars

NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean Senior National team on Jan. 8, marking Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

I have no idea who these NBA stars are, but this is really a stupid move on their part.

And if we are talking stupid, I put a link to this yesterday in the comments, but it deserves front page status: New Report Says: Jenny McCarthy’s Son May Not Have Had Autism After All – Hollywood Life

After years of speaking out about her son’s autism — and against childhood immunizations — Jenny McCarthy is reversing her position.

After years of speaking publicly about her belief that MMR shots (immunization for measles, mumps, and rubella) caused her son to suffer from autism, Jenny McCarthy now faces the reality that her 7-year-old son Evan — who no longer shows any signs of autism — may likely have lived with completely different illness.

A new article in Time magazine — which Jenny was interviewed for — suggests Evan suffers from Landau-Kleffner syndrome, “a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage.”

Hedvig_Collin36All that shit spewed from Jenny’s lips…because of misdiagnosis? How many idiots have listened to that anti-immunization “Tits McCarthy” idiot and how many kids have paid the price?

Ugh!

I know I am jumping around today, but…check this out: Woman Attorney Launches Saudi Arabia’s First All-Lady Law Firm

Just a few months after Saudi Arabia allowed women to serve in court, the first licensed woman attorney Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran has just opened the first female law firm, dedicated to representing women and bringing women’s rights issues into the courts. YES.

Women have continually been neglected by the court system for a number of reasons, including simply not being taken seriously by male lawyers. Women’s issues concerning conflicts like inheritance, domestic violence, marriage, and you know, that whole driving thing are often simply dismissed. Also, while more women are joining the workforce, the country has yet to catch up in terms of legal support for working women.

Clearly Al-Zahran has her work cut out for her four-woman team, but as reported at Arab News, she’s ready for the challenge:

“I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system. This law firm will make a difference in the history of court cases and female disputes in the Kingdom. I am very hopeful and thank everyone who supported me in taking this historical step.”

Hedvig_Collin27Just in time, because watch out, we know that some men in the U.S. are trying to take women backwards to a time a place very much like the one these Saudi women are working to pull themselves out of…

Did you see the latest on the men’s rights front? Men’s rights activists call for rape ‘accuse-a-thon’ to smear sex assault victims advocate | The Raw Story

A men’s rights group is encouraging its followers to falsely accuse a sexual assault victims advocate of rape in a stunt intended to undermine the veracity of all rape accusations.

Paul Elam, founder of the website A Voice For Men, hosted an online discussion Wednesday with his site’s editor-in-chief, John Hembling, and feminist critic Karen Straughn to discuss their plan to harass executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

“I have looked at a number of cases where people have reported alien abductions were they were prodded and poked and had different orifices in their bodies explored by aliens in spaceships, and a common theme among these is that it turns out, in most of these cases, it was Karen Smith,” Elam said. “It wasn’t aliens.”

The men’s rights movement has been angry at Smith since at least this summer, when she helped promote the “Don’t Be That Guy” rape prevention campaign that inspired imitators in other cities and a counter campaign blaming women for their own sexual assaults.

Men’s rights activists also conspired to shut down a website that allowed the anonymous reporting of sexual assaults by flooding the system with false complaints.

Innit wonderful?

Assholes.

Hedvig_Collin4How about this, all this news about Colorado, and the amount of money the state will get from Marijuana sales tax…What about Vegas, ‘marriage capital of the world,’ left at the altar on gay weddings | Al Jazeera America

Because of a state constitutional ban, Nevada’s wedding industry loses untold millions while other states make it legal.

Here is two stories on commercial flying…

Customs officials explain why they destroyed musician’s prized flutes | The Raw Story

Yeah, they mention a plant pathogen. I don’t know…

Hedvig_Collin22CEO predictions for the next 100 years of flying – Yahoo Finance

Did you know that commercial flights began in my hometown of Tampa Florida?

Millions of people step aboard airplanes each day, complaining about the lack of legroom and overhead space but almost taking for granted that they can travel thousands of miles in just a few hours.

Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight: a 23-minute hop across Florida’s Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line was subsidized by St. Petersburg officials who wanted more winter tourists in their city. The alternative: an 11-hour train ride from Tampa.

Pilot Tony Jannus had room for just one passenger, who sat next to him in the open cockpit. Three months later — when tourism season ended — so did the subsidy. The airline had carried 1,204 passengers but would never fly again.

Remember that Nazi salute I mentioned last week? Here is an update:  Concern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in France – NYTimes.com

The rest of today’s links are fun stuff…or “special interest.”

There is a special coming up on PBS: ‘The Poisoner’s Handbook’ details birth of forensic science in US | Culture | McClatchy DC

Hedvig_Collin31I love the title of this Medieval guidebook: Advice Concerning Pregnancy and Health in Late Medieval Europe: Peasant Women’s Wisdom in The Distaff Gospels

This paper explores an area which has proven difficult for scholars to penetrate: women’s popular wisdom concerning medical matters in the later medieval period. Contextualized within an examination of medieval medical texts both by and about women, our discussion focuses on a later 15th-century French work, The Distaff Gospels. This text, published recently in English for the first time since 1510, consists of more than 200 pieces of advice or “gospels,” ostensibly conveyed to one another by a group of women who met together during the long winter evenings to spin. A significant portion of the advice might be considered “medical” in nature; it is grouped into two broad categories: pregnancy and health. We conclude that although our text is male mediated, it provides a reliable and valuable guide to peasant women’s medical lore during this period.

Another medieval paper for you: Anorexia and the Holiness of Saint Catherine of Siena

In the medieval period, the control, renunciation, and torture of the body were understood not so much as a rejection of the physical, but as a way of achieving the divine. Gradually, the manifestations of this renunciation of the body came to apply peculiarly to women, for whom this state may be defined as “holy anorexia,” identified by the following features.

0100151The Female Body as an Expression of Sexuality. The body of the woman was seen as an expression of sexuality, curvaceous with prominent breasts, and was thought to be the product of the woman herself, whereas the male body was formed by God. This supposition was confirmed by the extremely changeable nature of the female body, particularly in terms of control. Thus, the female easily slipped into a trance, into levitation, into catatonic states, leading rapidly to asceticism or anorexia. She displayed spontaneous lactation and bleeding, manifestations that sometimes were accompanied by stigmata. Indeed, at least fifteen medieval saints bled at the moment they received the Eucharist. In contrast, of saints in other periods of history, only Padre Pio and San Francesco displayed stigmata that were preserved on their bodies after death. If we are to consider specifically anorexia as a characteristic of sanctity, we must examine the periods of 1200 and the end of 1500 when Theresa of Avila (a Spanish saint who joined with a mystic force and spirit to reform Catholicism, resulting in the reinvigoration of all religious orders) began frequently to use twigs of olives to induce vomiting and completely empty her stomach. In this way she was able to truly take into herself the Host, which became her unique source of sustenance. From an investigation of the conduct of 170 Italian medieval saints by Rudolph Bell, fully one half of them exhibited symptoms of anorexia.

More at the link…lots more.

The next medieval link has a special place in my heart…The Hole: Problems in Medieval Dwarfology

Hedvig_Collin21When trying to understand Old Norse dwarfs, one problem is knowing too much. Almost everyone comes to the old texts with some preconceived idea of dwarfs, if not from The Lord of the Rings, then from romances, folktales and modern novels, all presenting their own consistent image of dwarfs. However, although later representations of dwarfs may have some relevance to medieval dwarfs, in this study I will try to limit myself to what can be discerned from medieval sources. That is not really possible: I, like everyone else, have known since childhood what a dwarf is. And yet I think the attempt may have some merit, in spite of being bound to fail in the most rigorous sense.

What I will attempt here is to pay close attention to the nature of the sources and what they reveal, or, as if often the case, do not reveal. Mythological scholarship is characterized by inclusiveness, a tendency to collect information en masse, sometimes with little discussion of the nature of the sources. When it comes to Old Norse dwarfs, it might be helpful to distinguish between three types of sources, in which their nature and function may take various forms. While there is perhaps not a case to be made for dramatically contrasting views in the Middle Ages, it is unwise to assume that all medieval sources agree on the nature, character and function of dwarfs.

You have to sign up on the site to download that article, or look for it here:  HoleArvMedDwa.

Hedvig_Collin39This one is for Dak: Skeletons ‘Embracing’ In Death May Represent Gruesome Ancient Siberian Custom (PHOTO)

Bill Nye is going to kick some Creationist ass: Bill Nye to visit Creation Museum for evolution debate | AccessNorthGa

A new exhibit in Brookyn: Susan Sontag was right: War photography can anesthetize – Salon.com

And lastly, one hot mama: The Tina Turner Blog On Twitter Is Pretty Much Everything

There are few things we love as much as Tina Turner, so you can imagine how ecstatic we were when we came across the Tina Turner Blog on Twitter. The account tweets up-to-the-minute news, videos and most importantly, awesome throwback photos of the singer. And we have to say, this lady has serious style.

https://twitter.com/tinaturnerblog/status/419477868675358720

Well, if that doesn’t get you…what about these legs?

Fabulous!

Hedvig_Collin28Have a wonderful day and stay warm!


Saturday Reads

desire-dehau-reading-a-newspaper-in-the-garden-Toulouse Lautrec

Good Morning!!

Amid all the bad news, there’s apparently progress in the negotiations with Iran. The LA Times reported yesterday that a “nuclear deal appears imminent.” Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Geneva, Switzerland yesterday to help out.

After a rocky day Thursday, negotiators appeared for now to have overcome their differences on Iran’s entitlement to enrich uranium and on how to curb progress on a partially built nuclear research reactor that Western powers view as a particular threat.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry left late Friday for Geneva to help “narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement,” the State Department said. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, arrived from Moscow early Friday evening, making him the first of the six nations’ ministers to show up for a possible signing ceremony that would end a decade of usually stalemated negotiations….

A deal would be a first-stage agreement that would give Iran temporary relief from the crushing Western sanctions on its economy in exchange for temporary limits on its nuclear program. Many nations fear that Iran, despite its insistence that its program is for peaceful purposes only, is seeking weapons capability with its huge nuclear infrastructure.

This deal would open the way for tough bargaining on a final, comprehensive agreement that would take six months or longer to be reached.

Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish with a little carrot and stick diplomacy? Too bad Bush and Cheney never tried it.

From USA Today:

U.S. negotiators and their counterparts from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China have been meeting with the Iranians since Wednesday in an effort to strike an interim deal to delay Iran’s nuclear program while a larger deal is worked out that would prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke of “very difficult negotiations, saying “narrow gaps” remain on the same issues that blocked agreement at the last round earlier this month.

“We’re not here because things are necessarily finished,” Hague told reporters. “We’re here because they’re difficult, and they remain difficult.”

Still, the fact that they are talking is definitely encouraging. In another sign that something is actually happening, the Chinese foreign minister arrived in Geneva today. “Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Saturday the talks…have reached the final moment.”

For those of you who still use air travel, the FCC is on the verge of making a decision that could make flying infinitely more annoying that it is already. From The Washington Post: FCC sees backlash after proposing to allow in-flight cellphone calls on planes.

The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that it will consider rules that would allow air travelers to make calls and use their cellular data plans once a plane reaches 10,000 feet. Restrictions would remain for takeoffs and landings.

The proposal, which will be raised at the commission’s meeting next month, has the backing of the agency’s newly appointed chairman. But the idea is bound to be controversial. Within hours of the announcement, consumers flooded the agency with protests.

One FCC commissioner received hundreds of e-mails complaining that the move would lead to unbearable noise pollution, an aide said. Passengers are already crammed into smaller seats and tighter rows, and being forced to listen to one another’s calls would be yet another indignity, they wrote.

petition quickly went up on the White House Web site Thursday, asking the Obama administration to stop the effort. “This would make an already cranky, uncomfortable travel experience exponentially worse, and as a frequent flier and concerned citizen, I think the administration needs to nip this in the bud,” a resident from Richmond wrote.

Something tells me if this plan goes through, there are going be a lot more air rage incidents in the not-so-friendly skies. But after the uproar, USA Today is reporting that the new FCC commissioner–only three weeks into the job–is backpedaling rapidly.

NEW YORK (AP) — A day after setting off an uproar among travelers opposed to in-flight phone calls, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Chairman backtracked, saying he personally isn’t in favor of calls on planes.

The role of the FCC, he added, is to advise if there is a safety issue with using phones on planes. He said there is “no technical reason to prohibit” the use of mobile devices on planes.

“We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself,” chairman Tom Wheeler said in a Friday statement.

The decision to allow calls will ultimately rest with the airlines, Wheeler emphasized.

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III “Appears Receptive to Critics of NSA’s Collection of Phone Data.” Back in 1979, the Supreme Court decided that phone records are not private, because we willingly give the information to our telephone company. But now Judge Pauley is questioning that decision based on recent revelations about NSA data collection.

“Doesn’t the information collected here reveal far more?” U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III asked during a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Friday.

Judge Pauley also questioned whether Congress could authorize the collection when the NSA program’s existence wasn’t widely known among lawmakers.

The hearing stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and its New York affiliate days after the program was revealed in news reports that were based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The groups argue the bulk collection of records called metadata—which includes the phone numbers people dialed and where they were calling from—violates Americans’ privacy rights, as well as federal law.

The judge issued no immediate ruling and left open the possibility that he could dismiss part of the case, because federal law designates the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as the proper venue for certain national-security issues.

Pauley is a Clinton appointee.

In Pakistan, a protest by about 10,000 people against U.S. drone strikes succeeded in blocking a supply route to and from Afghanistan.

The protest, led by Pakistani politician and cricket star Imran Khan, had more symbolic value than practical impact as there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays. The blocked route in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province leads to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan.

Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party runs the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, called on federal officials to take a firmer stance to force the U.S. to end drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country.

“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told the protesters.

The demonstrators dispersed after Khan’s speech, but his party put out a statement saying they will begin stopping trucks from carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa indefinitely beginning Sunday night. That could spark a clash with the federal government.

Raw Story has an update in the case of Kendrick Johnson, the 17-year-old whose body was found inside a gym mat in a Valdosta, GA high school.

At least an hour of footage is missing from each of the four surveillance cameras at Kendrick Johnson’s high school, and the original footage showing how the Georgia teenager died might be gone, CNN reported on Thursday.

“Those files are not original files,” forensics video analyst Grant Fredericks told CNN. “They’re not something investigators should rely on for the truth of the video.”

CNN enlisted Fredericks in order to analyze more than 290 hours of video it acquired from Lowndes County High School, where the 17-year-old was found dead in the gym in January. Local officials initially determined that he died from asphyxiation after getting trapped inside a gym mat, an argument his family has rejected. An independent autopsy ordered by the victim’s family found the cause of death to be “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma.”

But while the Lowndes Public Schools district told CNN the video it provided was “a raw feed with no edits,” Fredericks disagreed, saying it was “altered in a number of ways, primarily in image quality and likely in dropped information, information loss. There are also a number of files that are corrupted because they’ve not been processed correctly and they’re not playable. I can’t say why they were done that way, but they were not done correctly, and they were not done thoroughly. So we’re missing information.”

Specifically, two of the cameras are missing 65 minutes of footage each, while the other two are missing 130 minutes apiece. Another camera outside of the gymnasium has a time stamp 10 minutes behind the ones inside.

It sounds like the cover had to involve someone in the school administration, doesn’t it?

So . . . it’s kind of a slow news day, but I found a few stories for you to talk about. What are you hearing? Did I miss any big news? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Open thread: Little Blue Dot

e08dac3e48811d0832f1fd8e5900af39Good Evening

My, the British press has been busy today, but I am not going to mention or link to any royal baby news…the only English thing I am paying attention to tonight is watching the film Georgy Girl that I had taped earlier this week. (Love that movie…don’t you?)

Alright, such sad news this afternoon: R.I.P. Dennis Farina: How a Chicago cop became a character actor

( CBS / August 12, 1998 ) Dennis Farina, a former Chicago cop who played a cop on “Law & Order,” has died.

Dennis Farina, who died Monday morning at the age of 69 of a blood clot in his lung, had two distinct careers. He was a veteran Chicago police officer until a chance meeting with director Michael Mann, who was in the Windy City to make his first feature film, 1981’s “Thief,” changed his career path.

In a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Farina joked that he “blamed” Mann for turning him into an actor. The two had a mutual friend, a retired cop, who was a writer on “Thief.”

“Michael is a Chicago guy anyway,” Farina said. “He says he wants to talk to some real-life characters. I talked to him, and he asked me to do a part in the movie. I said, yes, sure.”

But he still didn’t give up his day job as a cop. Mann gave him a guest-starring role on his landmark NBC series “Miami Vice” and then cast him as FBI agent Jack Crawford in his 1986 thriller, “Manhunter.”

It wasn’t until he landed the starring role in Mann’s atmospheric NBC detective series “Crime Story” in 1986, as Chicago Det. Mike Torrello, that Farina finally turned in his badge and retired from the police force.

Though his acting career saw him mostly in tough-guy roles — notably as mobster Jimmy Serrano in the Robert De Niro-Charles Grodin film “Midnight Run” — Farina proved to be a versatile character actor, playing Jennifer Lopez‘s concerned dad in Steven Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight,” Bette Midler’s ex-husband in the 1997 comedy “That Old Feeling” and an Army officer in Steven Spielberg‘s World War II epic, “Saving Private Ryan.”

Farina said that he went out of his way to avoid typecasting. “I think it would be kind of boring to do the same things,” he said. “I think the idea of acting is to spread your wings a little bit. I was so grateful for ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Snatch‘ and things like that.”

And he loved being a character actor. “I think it’s a nice compliment. I accept it with all humility.”

Farina admitted that he never had acting aspirations until he got that call from Mann.

“I was always a movie fan. As a kid, we would go to the neighborhood theater and watch Bogart movies and Cagney movies and stuff like that. I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing.”

I always thought Farina was an awesome actor, but I never knew he was a cop for 18 years in Chicago.  What a loss, and so sad it came soon after the unexpected death of James Gandolfini.

There is a quick update about the rape victim case in Dubai: Sentence dropped for woman jailed in Dubai after rape claim

And some good news for women in North Dakota: Federal judge blocks N. Dakota’s most restrictive abortion law

Take a look at this beautiful women…can you guess who it is?

rbg

Well?

Check it out: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Looked Amazing In 1953

…this incredible image of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was a senior at Cornell in 1953…

Nice!

One more link for you tonight.  NASA photos show Earth from vantage point of Saturn, Mercury

Photograph of Earth below Saturn’s rings taken by the Cassini spacecraft.(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Most all of us have seen the photograph of Earth as the big “Blue Marble,” but what about a tiny “Blue Marble?”

That’s basically what is seen in the stunning new images released by NASA on Monday.

Taken with cameras from two interplanetary spacecrafts that are currently located near Saturn and Mercury, the images show what Earth looks like from hundreds of millions of miles away.

One color photograph taken from the Cassini spacecraft on July 19 shows the beige rings of Saturn hovering above a tiny bluish dot, which is Earth. In this image, Earth is nearly 900 million miles away.

Have a wonderful evening, and here is something to leave you with…hey there Georgy Girl!

This is an open thread.