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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Morning Blather

My daughter is in town, so I hear news not only at dinner time, but also in the morning, as Joe Scarborough holds forth about everything under the sun. This morning he told us his can't-lose solution to the ISIS problem: arm the Kurds in Northern Iraq, let them go wild, and peace will reign.

One of the many problems with this particular solution is the fact that every group we have armed with weapons has turned them against us sooner or later as our interests and theirs diverged.

Once IS (or whatever the bloody name is!) is defeated, then the vision of a Greater Kurdistan will take form, and we won't be on board the same ship of fools anymore.


The Greatest Generation

The Spirit Who Always Denies

I was hanging around someone who was talking about "The Greatest Generation".

Of course, I - being der Geist, der stets verneint - decided to disagree, saying that the decision to fight to defend oneself and one's country has been a common phenomenon throughout history, and in no way makes one generation of people in one country a greatest generation.
They can be pretty good stuff, but not the best.

I said that it was probably just another form of the idea of America being exceptional in the best possible sense, and heads and shoulders above the rest of the world, which, truth to tell, was a bunch of third world riff-raff and G20's barely 40 years from Hershey bars and Lucky Strikes and various benighted troglodytes.

My experience with "The Greatest" nowadays is pretty much my mother.
I printed some financials articles on various things, one of which was the federal deficit and the fact that it was decreasing and revenues were increasing.

Nobody disputes it.

That is why it was not a factor in the election last month: it could not even light a fire under a tinderbox.

My mother said that maybe the Financial Times was   slanting   the news to make Obama look good. It was a distinct possibility in her opinion, formed by FOX.

I said that the notion that everybody was lying to you (except your cable news shows) was a pretty good definition of paranoid obsession.

It has been a long 68 years.


News From Ferguson

I just now - 9:05 AM - heard on MSNBC News from Ferguson that the clergy in Ferguson who, when things get hot, work to defuse tension between protestors and the police...  "Blah, blah, blah."

Literal quote.

"Blah, blah, blah."

Now that's coverage.


Les Sports


Les pompons de la gloire
Elles tiennent une place aussi dorée que détestée dans les  " rom com "  que dans les séries américaines. Si la vie de cheerleader professionnelle n’est pas aussi pailletée qu’il n’y paraît, certaines équipes savent se faire remarquer...

"les rom com"  =  romantic comedies... at least, I am pretty sure it does.

长征.... Changing Times

Postcards my dental student at University of Detroit-Mercy College School of Dentistry sent me.


A Possible Scenario For 2017: Terminator-Style

I have been scratching my head (and other parts) trying to figure out what's up with 2017.
I mean, the year 2017 does not exist in my consciousness...

All the other years are there: the painful process of trying to get through the telephone and media attacks running up to the presidential elections of 2016, the hazy future of 2018, a blip for 2019, and a future unclear from then on.
The point is not that the picture is unclear or hazy; the point is, to quote a fine figure and to make a fine point of it, is that 2017...

"...  It's not there, Mac !"

 (Donald Moffat as Garry to...

Kurt Russel as MacReady... 

in John Carpenter's The Thing)

Here's a maybe-why or a possibly-might scenario dealing with equity market flash crashes, about which I have written before:
Breakdown: A Glimpse Inside the 'Flash Crash'
By Scott Patterson
June 10, 2012 5:56 p.m. ET
Pools of Darkness
In the weeks and months following the flash crash, a fierce debate erupted over what had become of the stock market. Angry words were exchanged in the halls of Capitol Hill, on financial television shows and at trading firms in New York and Chicago.
Congress held panel discussions. The Securities and Exchange Commission grilled the previously unknown chieftains of the high-speed merchants, including Mr. Cummings of Tradebot and Mr. Peterffy of Timber Hill.
The complex, labyrinthine nature of the market vexed ordinary investors. Years ago, before the rise of electronic networks, most trading took place at the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.
BY 2012, trading occurred in roughly seventy different venues, including giant hedge funds and banks. So-called "dark pools," private markets in which trading took place away from public exchanges such as the NYSE, accounted for more than 10% of all U.S. stock trades, according to Tabb Group.
As the markets slid into discrete pools of darkness, investors, too, had been left in the dark.

It is only our dire lack of imagination that forces us into Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 modes of envisaging the future.

Skynet may destroy the future of many generations of mankind as effectively with a Flash Crash of equity markets, power grids, and many other complex system which have abandoned human oversight and control, as with the robotic armies sweeping through the streets of Los Angeles.

We have trouble imagining the banes to come that we have not yet afflicted ourselves with.

We will have placed the Robot boot upon our skulls.

Despair is worse than slavery.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When The Flash Uses Public Transport

 ...    he uses a bus just like this bus.

photo: Himmel Uber Berlin

Storm On The Great Lakes

I forget exactly when this occurred, but it was within the past 5 years. I do not think this vessel is still in service under the name Selkirk Settler that appears here.


Last Adjustments Outside The Chapel

I think I may have taken this picture.
Can't recall.


My Beautiful Laundrette Journal

Goodbye To Summer...

This is from the blog  I Am A Washing Machine


Tales From Immigration

"Lez jus put all them immigrants back on them boats, and let 'em sail back ta where they come from, back ta Mexico."
Sarah Palin

pix: stefanparis  wednesday bad dream

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Approach To The Mount Loretto Girls Orphanage

photo: Shaun O'Boyle

Tales From The Drought

There's a yarn hereabouts that the infernal drought has got so bad in Californie that even the sea coast is beginnin' ta dry up!

pix:   stefanparis: changing world

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Extremely Close And...

I watched Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close again.

Of course, I liked it again. I give it just over 92% in my Rotten Tomatoes rating system, and sucks to the critics and the audiences who poo-pooed it.
I paid close attention this time......

(By now, if you have read this blog long enough, you must sense that I have a bit of a problem paying attention to things which are not my real focus at the moment. I mean, in the film we are talking about, I could have been paying too much attention to the fact that Viola Davis cracks open the door and does not want Thomas Horn's character to enter and looked exactly the same as she did in Solaris when she did not want George Clooney's character to enter her cabin.
I coulda been doin' that.)

... and I understood the grandfather storyline.

Now I suppose that the critics say that the reunion of the grandfather (Max von Sydow, who incharacter was to have witnessed the death of his parents in Dresden... probably the Fire Storms) with the family after the death of his son (Tom Hanks) in the World Trade Center, and particularly his new relationship with his grandson (Thomas Horn) is rather unbelievable and saccharine.

However, when I followed it along - resisting diversions, which were plenty, I can assure you, such as taking tambourines along and shaking them to keep one's cool! - I realized that the story was no sugary nonsense, but it immediately reminded me of the play Copenhagen, in which the characters of Werner Heisenberg, the German atomic scientist, and Niels Bohr, the Danish genius behind Quantum Theory, had so achingly much to say to each other.
They had so much that they met in the midst of World War II, but discovered that they could not really open up and talk like Buber's "Ich und Du" - I and Thou. They discovered they had to wait until after death until they could speak in Copenhagen.
(To my mind, that almost defeats "I and Thou".)

That is no small thing.
So there had to be a Death intervention before the grandfather could come back to his family. Good. There had been enough Death, so why begrudge an ending with Life?

I suppose if everyone had died in Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close that the critics would have been somewhat more positive.

Life should be all sugar, honey.


Old Doc Landon

My old sawbones sent this along, saying that he used it to scare me back in the day.


Scrimmage At The Institute Of Arts

Ms. Gabriela Montaño de Bolivia

Ms. Montaño, who lives in Bolivia, is my ideal political-type-person.
I do not know where to start, so I won't.

However, when I attended a lecture by Edouard Duval-Carrié on the Arts of Haiti at the Detroit Institute of Arts (The DIA) , and the lecture was plagued with electronic problems, and I asked whether it was because we were in Danto Hall (playing on the closeness of "Danto" with Elizi "Dantor", which is often spelled Dantò anyway.... so I thought "Close enough."

So Elizi Dantor is a lwa or power of Haiti with which one should not get on the bad side of. In fact, one should never mess with any of the powers of Haiti, or of anywhere else, for that matter. 

Of course, my suggestion implied that M. Duval-Carrié had in some undefined way "messed" with the aforementioned Elizi Dantò (using the variant spelling), so he took offense, upset enough already by the shambles of his lecture.

I was sitting three seats away from a lady who looked exactly like Ms. Gabriela Montaño, so I was in heaven.

If you know anything about Elizi Dantor, it will be clear that she had picked me to be on her team for that day! We were "Skins", the others were "Shirts".

 Edouard Duval-Carrié


Getting In Shape For Thanksgiving

Even though this cartoon is for Christmas ( Natal ) rather than Thanksgiving, the thoughts remain the same.

Loose translation:

Lady on Treadmill:  You really have to lose weight for Christmas.

Turkey on Treadmill:    Even if it kills me...

Everything I know about Portuguese, I learned on the Net. I think it is a totally wizard and shaman way to learn a new lingo. Next I shall attempt English.

reprint from past Thanksgivings

Acceptable Statistics Of The Heart Rending Kind

After a great deal of study and soul-searching (!?), it has been determined that the following story is an Acceptable Statistic - and thus receives a big "thumbs up!" - of a Modern Weaponized Society:

Boy With Toy Gun Shot By Cleveland Police Dies At Hospital

Mark Hanrahan, International Business Times
UPDATE 11:14 a.m.: The 12-year-old Cleveland boy shot by police has died, a representative from the Cleveland police union confirmed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer....
 A police officer in Cleveland shot a 12-year-old boy who pulled a realistic-looking toy gun from his waistband Saturday. The boy, who was shot in the stomach, was in “serious condition” and undergoing surgery...
The officers responding to the report saw a group of people sitting outside the rec center and a black gun on a table in front of them. The boy picked up the gun and put it in his waistband. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer description of the incident, one officer told the boy who had picked up the gun to raise his hands, after which the boy grabbed the gun from his waistband. An officer then fired two shots, one of which hit the boy in the stomach.

WOIO-TV, Cleveland, reported the weapon was subsequently determined to be an “airsoft”-type replica, and an orange safety indicator clip that normally would be around the muzzle had been removed.

Another thing we did not hear about in the last election. Heck, things are tough everywhere.


Misperceptions Of Celebrity

I always thought that celebrities merely had to snap their fingers from the back of the limo, and heaps of willing guys and dolls would respond to be their playmates. I did, really. I thought that celebrity had an aura about it that made hooking up the simplest of the day's tedious chores.

Apparently not.
Bill Cosby was a celebrity going back to the 60s, and he was popular for a long time, yet he required drugs to ensnare someone into having sex with him. The running total today - on the totalizator bar running in Time Square - has 12 drugged, 1 attempted drugging, and 3 otherwise misled or overpowered.
And these cases are old, back in the times when he was actually good looking, not at all like the fuzzy, mottled, keratin-blistered antiquity of today.

Everything about this situation is disgusting, including my interest.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Yet Another War

Do you have any idea how  cool  is a right wing war on science?
That would be a true global game changer!

The Battle Of Iraq

There are some of soft heart and weaker mind that say that President Obama pulled the troops from Iraq too early. We should have left them there for another ten years or so, or just until everything was hunky-dory.

A nation and a people have to fight their own battles.
The USA did in the American Revolution. We had help from the French, but the most critical help was the fleet at Yorktown, not troops on the ground.

We can help, but everyone has to fight their own battles. Otherwise, they will never be free.


Duchess Of Alba

She-who-must-be-obeyed was perusing the NY Times...

(I call it the Nī Tī - I mention that even though you could care less. I refer to the Xinhua of China as Xin Xin, and nobody cares, either.
Le Figaro of France is il Barbieri, and Al Jazeera is  D'j'a read uh?, as in "Did you read it?" , which is supposed to be a joke - not one person has laughed yet - based on the Arabic word for "newspaper" Jareeda.)

and she mentioned that the Duchess of Alba had passed.

I said that I had seen a photo of her earlier, and she looked like a crazed Ruth Gordon. I hesitated briefly before adding that when I said "crazed Ruth Gordon", I was not being redundant.


The Meeting Of The Film Society 1

I am watching Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds again on Turner Classic Movies (Huzzah for TCM!), and for the first time I am appreciating it for how well executed it is. I am also enjoying seeing Tippi Hedren as an actress, instead of a Hitchcock protegée.

(Of course, it is not as quite as perfect as School Of Rock with Jack Black, which was perfect in all regards, from writing to acting to directing to wardrobe to editing to sound to Foley artistry, etc.,etc., etc.
School Of Rock had the extra added gold star of ignoring the question of what immediately happened in the aftermath of the story. There were scenes at the end showing how things were in the near future, but it totally - and correctly! - ignores the ridiculous business of trying to square a fantasy with reality; i.e., how the kids and their fast-tracking parents were immediately reconciled to having lost a semester of studies.
One does not reconcile fantasy with reality within the context of the film. School Of Rock did a slight return to the normal world by adding those scenes at the ending credits, which did not detract from the main story in the slightest.)

I find myself liking The Birds a good deal. Of course, there is the lovely Veronica Cartwright, whom I would not see again until Alien some fourteen years later, and a mesmerizing Jessica Tandy who floats like a butterfly and stares like a cobra.

I think it a shame Tippi Hedren did not have a more robust career as an actress. Unfortunately, with a first name such as "Tippi", I suppose most of us expected her to be associated intimately with "Longstockings", or something along those lines.


The Dizzy Distaff Side Of Commentary

 Politician, Commentator, Author, and Quitter

Sarah Palin apparently said - in reaction to President Obama's speech on immigration - that we should round up (or did she say Round Up™  !?) all the Mexicans and put them into boats and send them back across the ocean to Mexico.

Perhaps she had them mixed up with the Vietnamese with whom we actually do share a common border.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

中國戲曲... ... 好消息

I do not know if that is exactly correct, but "Chinese Opera"! Yay! Huzzah!

There is another coming to the area, and I'll be able to attend.

The first Chinese Opera I went to in Ann Arbor, I moaned and groaned for the first ten minutes. Then, suddenly, I became totally enchanted by the beauty of all the arts upon the stage.


Old Man River 2

If the certitude of death is like falling into the dark ocean and finding the bottom just 2 feet down, then the absolute of the Holy is like having a hand reach out and grab you to end your fall.

Such certainty transcends the need for knowledge.


Mad Max's Oil Futures

"GDP Rose Again For The 6th Straight Month..."

At CBS MoneyWatch

there is an eye-opening and rather alarming article for those believers in a constant march upwards of Progress and Gross Domestic Product.
Succinctly, there is work suggesting that after a recession, the economy does not return to long term trend of GDP, ratherthe trend line itself tends to lower a bit and make it look like the GDP has returned to the trend line.

The economy doesn't return to trend so much as the trend is revised downward to reflect weaker economic output.


The conclusion is that demand shocks may have a permanent impact on a country's GDP. In short, the shocks are not fully reversed over time as economists have long believed. What does that mean in practice? In the job market, it could mean that the long-term unemployed never find work.
If the Fed researchers are correct, that has enormous implications for what might be necessary to help the U.S. economy get back on track. Government policies to maintain employment -- by modernizing the country's aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure, for example -- may avoid some of the permanent effects of the cataclysm that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

What does this mean?

Well, I find it rather astounding, as it flies in the face of our quaint faith in progress.

It is the Science Fiction of Dystopian Futures made Mathematical and Real.


It's In The Blood

Two Palestinians entered a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood and carried out a terrible terrorist attack with butcher knives and a gun, killing a number of them. The attackers were killed by security forces.

The right wing government of Israel then attacked upon their mediaeval belief that terrorism is in the DNA, and thus ordered that the houses of the families of the terrorists be destroyed, driving their families into homelessness.
It is not enough that the terrorist be killed.
It is a good thing to see that terrorism is a racial characteristic of Palestinians, and all relatives of terrorists must be dealt with harshly.
“Do not discriminate between blood and blood,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night, calling for international condemnation of a murderous attack inside a synagogue that morning. Moments later, he announced the steps he plans to take in response to the senseless bloodletting.

“This evening I ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre and the hastening of the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the earlier attacks,” Netanyahu told the nation, asking it to allow the state to settle scores on its behalf.

Five months earlier, Netanyahu made a similar statement after the horrific murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “We don’t distinguish between [Palestinian] terror and [Jewish] terror, and will deal severely with both,” the prime minister said, vowing to bring the full force of the law down upon the murderers, who he said, “have no place in Israeli society.”

Of course, Netanyahu — like his predecessors — does discriminate between blood and blood, and he does distinguish between Jewish terror and Palestinian terror.

The prime minister did not order the police or army to demolish family homes of the suspects in the Abu Khdeir murder. Then again, they, and their families who live in said homes, are Jewish....

and from CNN:
Local media reports said one of the attackers worked at a store in the area. Freshly plastered signs on one wall read, "Jews Employ Jews."

A sign on a storefront that reads "Jews Employs Jews"... or Juden beschäftigen Juden...
What does that remind me of?

 Where else have I seen storefronts emblazoned with slogans that begin with the word "Jews"... or Juden?

Racism is still a prime weapon in the arsenal of violence. It is the proverbial two-edged sword which injures he who wields it as well as he who is struck by it.

Yet in the arena of our blood lust, who has time to contemplate such wisdom?
Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni raised the ire of leftists on Wednesday after he ordered to temporarily stop the employment of Arab construction workers who are tasked with building protected spaces in educational institutions in the city...
As if the important point were the "ire of leftists".
The mayor did what he did for what he considered good reasons. Fine. I do not disagree, for there are always good reasons.
We are still dealing with good people here, so there are always good reason when we are dealing with good people. It is a tough call, isn't it? Add to it that everyone has a "belief system" in which the God of the universe agrees with them and them alone.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Odd Comments

 A Number Of Seamen

I have a couple of comments from the honorable Mr. Semen Rendi.

He touts cars and boats. He has an odd name.

He reminds me of the odd joke about the overweight person who says, "I'm on a sea food diet; if I see food, I eat it."

Mr. Rendi sells boats. Perhaps he is on a seamen diet.


Old Man River

Tomorrow my elder brother has the first of his 4 (minimum) operations to replace hips and knees. The ops themselves are not that much anymore, but there is general anesthesia, secondary infections, recovery, re-hab, and pre-existing conditions that may complicate things.

Earlier I was listening to the film Show Boat, and zeroed in on the song Old Man River, and I thought how interesting that sequence of arts is - a sequence being the novel and its history, the play and its history, the films, and the revivals.

I thought of Paul Robeson, and the mystic of the music that tells the story of oppression below the surface of white consciousness, slipping like water through an old earthen dam in that would collapse one day.

To be tired of living and to be scared of dying was sharp-pointed: was it uniquely American in its truly anti-Zorba spirit of abject acquiescence of a vicious status quo between the poles of life and death?

Later, upon waking from my nap, I saw my younger brother, who had passed just over a month ago. We took a ride over the ontology falls of the dream Zambezi, and things went really quite fast.
However, he said that Death is absolute certitude.
I asked whether he meant something like,
"The only sure things are death and taxes."

It was sort of like it.
We went to the dark sea where I had fallen once through the icy depths of despair, and it was a black, black sea with a wind not too strong blowing over the face of it. It was a dark, endless abyssal ocean without horizon of hope.
We jumped in, and it was about 2 feet deep!
So we walked about a bit.
And he indicated that was certitude: no abyss, no descent, just sure and steady sea floor beneath us.

What need is there of all the human tricks of knowledge in Death? In absolute certitude, there is no need of cunning, intelligence, curiosity, or fear.

Certitude never changes.

(By contrast, the final scene in the film Take Shelter discovers to us the bottom of the sea, where we did not step in, but the ocean was ripped from us, where the inconstant water has pulled far away, preparing to sweep in and change Everything.
Here the bottom of the ocean requires flight, cunning, fear, hope, technology of escape... as if we can gaze upon it, but only stand firm for a fleeting second.)


Monday, November 17, 2014

New Words: Slum-Rise

A combination of "slum" and "high-rise" is "slum-rise", as in
"We have just rented a fab slum-rise near the favela."


The Rosetta Probe: Oh, Alexandria!

 Rashid (Rosetta) on the Nile

Having written about the European Space Agency Rosetta probe the other day, I recalled something.

In 1879, Sir Richard Burton wrote in his Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madina and Meccah:

Alexandria, moreover, is an interesting place to Moslems, on account of the prophecy that it will succeed to the honours of Meccah, when the holy city falls into the hands of the indidel. In its turn, Alexandria will be followed by Kairawan (in the Regency of Tunis); and this by Rashid or Rosetta, which last shall endure to the end of time.


"Pallywood" !?

 Palestinian Extras Cutting Prop "Barbed Wire" 
During the Filming of Intifada: The Prequel

This sort of jumped out at me since I had just seen the film Interstellar and had my attention riveted by the fact that its depiction of the future had our elementary schools teaching Science wherein the Apollo moon landings were said to be staged film productions.
By Larry Derfner
|Published November 15, 2014 

‘Pallywood’: A particularly ugly ethnic slur

And a very popular one among right-wing Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

I’ve been writing for years against the “Pallywood” theory – the right-wing notion that videos showing Palestinians getting killed by Israelis are really elaborate fakes meant to blacken Israel’s name. Yet it’s only this morning I realized that the term “Pallywood,” which was coined by Boston University Prof. Richard Landes (see below note A), is an ethnic slur, and a particularly ugly one.

It not only mangles the name of an entire people, it does so in the most contemptuous context – it links the name Palestinian with the telling of lies, and not just any lies, but lies about Palestinian deaths at the hands of their conquerors.

Pallywood. Compared to that, referring to New York as “Hymietown” is mild stuff.

What a bigoted term Landes invented, and what a popular one it is in the Israeli/right-wing Jewish political lexicon. A Google search for “Pallywood” this morning turned up 406,000 entries. There’s a Wikipedia page for it, too.

And I didn’t even notice how vicious an insult it was until now, which says a lot about how living in Israel makes you numb to abuses of Palestinian, or Arab, or Muslim dignity: In Israel, we Jews say things about them that they could never get away with saying about us.

Note A
Richard Allen Landes (born June 26, 1949) is an American historian and author, specializing in Millennialism. He coined the racist term "Pallywood" for what he considers the practice of "staged filming" of "evidence" against Israel for the benefit of the Palestinians. He currently serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Boston University. Landes was the director of the now quiescent Center for Millennial Studies.

Landes is notable for views on the use of film footage related to conflicts in Israel, in particular his use of the term Pallywood (Palestinian Hollywood), which is described by Ruthie Blum, writing in the Jerusalem Post, as a term coined by Landes to refer to "productions staged by the Palestinians, in front of (and often with cooperation from) Western camera crews, for the purpose of promoting anti-Israel propaganda by disguising it as news." Landes himself describes Pallywood as "a term I coined... to describe staged material disguised as news." Landes cites the film of the shooting of Muhammad al-Durrah, the Gaza beach blast and Hamas's alleged exploitation of electricity shortages during the 2007–2008 Israel-Gaza conflict, as incidents of Pallywood...

The algorithms of big lies.


גולאג פרטית משלי

My Own Private Gulag...

soon in our neighborhoods... sooner than one thinks.

In 972mag
By Noam Sheizaf
|Published June 1, 2014

Israel renews restrictions on nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu

Despite serving 18 years in prison, including 11 in solitary confinement, Vanunu is forbidden from traveling and speaking to the media. Recently, he was denied a permit to speak before the British Parliament, following an invitation by 54 MPs.

The Israeli interior minister and the IDF Central Command have decided to extend restrictions on nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu’s freedom of movement and speech. Vanunu’s attorney, Avigdor Feldman, has been notified on the decision and told +972 Magazine he will once again petition the High Court of Justice on Vanunu’s case.

Since his release from prison in 2004, Vanunu hasn’t been allowed to leave Israel, enter a foreign consulate or embassy, come within 500 meters of an international border, port or airport or enter the West Bank. He is forbidden from speaking to journalists, and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) monitors all foreign nationals with whom he meets. The Shin Bet must also approve Vanunu’s meetings with a foreign national who the Israeli media says is his partner.

Last month, Vanunu’s request to travel to London for a three-day visit was denied. He had been invited to speak before the British Parliament (his invitation was signed by 54 MPs) as well as to attend an Amnesty International event. Feldman also petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice against that decision...

Mr. Vanunu's photo is on the right upper column.

Some people on the West Bank have communal prisons that are located within the archipelago of settlements of doubtful legality...  other than the legality of conquest.... which, to put not too fine a point on it, Macht geht vor Recht.
Mr. Vanunu has his own private gulag, and it is in a Siberia of contradictions.


The World As Thing

Siefried Kracauer

Reading Siegfried Kracauer's great book From Caligari To Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film published in 1947 In the present section, he is writing of the German films in the early years of The Great Depression, and has just finished discussing UFA's production of Mensch Ohne Namen (Man Without A Name) made in 1932 and starring Werner Krauss.
The next paragraph begins:
Times were indeed so bad that even qualified specialists could not count on re-employment once they had been dismissed.
Indeed!We have gone through such times.

Kracauer picks up the thread with a discussion of Die Gräfin von Monte Christo (The Countess of Monte Cristo) of 1932, another UFA film. Brigitte Helm is cast as a film extra cast as a leading lady. While shooting at night, she drives her luxury car used in the film to a real de luxe hotel, where she is treated royally because of her impressive luggage emblazoned with "Countess of Monte Cristo".
Things happen, and eventually she is found out. With a flair for publicity, the film company soothes over things with the hotel and turns the escapade into a great front-page story which is good for everyone involved: the film is on everyone's lips and she gets a good contract.
So ends that story,
...proving conclusively what all these screens opiates tended to demonstrate: that everyday life itself is a fairy tale.

It sounds so much like Reality TV, which itself is crudely and cheaply scripted, and is so remote from "reality" that when a member of the cast commits suicide, all references to such unpleasantness have to be removed from the film already shot... all this in order to maintain the diseased  fairy tale illusion of our modern lives.

We allow illusions, because we treat the world as an "it", an object which we manipulate.
When we pray to God for something, we are treating the Holy as an object to be cajoled and manipulated into giving us miracles.

Only the film companies can work miracles!



I often feel subject to the following criticism:


US Equity Markets

 Norway's Flag

We have an unfortunate tendency to be uninformed and desirous of remaining so. It is reflected in our political choices. The most recent elections here contained no mention whatsoever of the US deficit, a topic which was all the rage a few years ago.

If the topic is important, the ignoring of it in a hotly contested election needs explanation.

The explanation is that even the greatest issues are poorly understood, and this ignorance is the breeding grounds of the illiterate frenzy which we are whipped into by politicians and our media. I mean, why should any public figure or media company try to supply real information when ideology is so much more lucrative?

Anyway, the deficit is decreasing. After having sky-rocketed during the years of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and a Republican House of Representatives that never saw a spending bill they did not like  (remember Dennis Hastert's time as leader of the House?), the deficit is down to about where it was in the middle of the Reagan years.

So.... success.
A success that electorally seems to mean nothing.
I mean, you would think that that very fact of deficit reduction would be meaningful to the people who were so obsessed by it just 2 years ago; you would think it would be entered under the "feathers in our cap" column, instead of under "black eyes"...  or "Baghdadi beheadings".

The point of this post is our understanding of US equity and bond markets. I will wager that most of us think they are rather massive and monolithic and overly regulated.
Not quite.

In Bloomberg we read:

Norway Wealth Fund Outsmarts Flash Boys as Algorithms Abandoned
By Saleha Mohsin Nov 16, 2014 6:01 PM ET

Oeyvind Schanke, head of asset strategies at Norway’s $860 billion sovereign wealth fund, has worked out how to dodge traders in the U.S. trying to profit on his orders by leaving no pattern for them to track.

Investors who want to pre-empt trades by the world’s biggest sovereign-wealth fund and act on that information to make a profit -- a practice known as front running -- won’t have much success, he said.

“We’ve done a lot to try and avoid leaving those patterns,” Schanke said in a Nov. 14 interview at the Oslo headquarters of the fund. “We’re trading less using algorithmic trading now than we did some years ago and are doing much more trading in large block sizes to avoid pattern-reading.”

Norges Bank Investment Management, which runs the wealth fund as part of the central bank, held about $150 billion in U.S. stocks at the end of September, according to its latest quarterly report. It holds $500 billion in stocks globally and is Europe’s biggest investor. Schanke, who started at the fund as a trader in 2001, oversees which companies and instruments it invests in from NBIM’s London office.


The investor’s biggest challenge in the U.S. is the fragmented market structure, which has driven up costs across as many as 52 trading venues, introducing a “latency overcharge,” Schanke said.

The market as he sees it “isn’t good enough for raising investor confidence,” which has been an issue in the U.S. since the financial crisis and was deepened by the flash crash of May 2010. While the solution isn’t necessarily public ownership of exchanges, he said a closer look at the existing regulation could help make markets less complicated.

“Some of the things that an exchange does are in a way a utility function,” Schanke said.

The fund in June said it supported Brad Katsuyama’s IEX Group Inc. exchange because it allows “all players to participate on the same terms.” ...

I should think a fragmented market structure is a considerable impediment to our economic dream world "perfect" markets with "perfect" information available to all investors.
And I remember the Flash Crash, and I remember that subsequently people on the Street spoke of almost daily occurrences of computer-induced volatility.

At least the deficit is coming down, even though no one noticed.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Real Decoy

The New York Times crossword had an unusual word today. The clue was "feints" and the answer was "dekes".

"Dekes"?!  As in "he dekes me out." ??

I thought they had gone to a dialect dictionary of Yorkshire to find that, but it turns out to be a Canadianism.
Having spent many years at school in Canada, my wrath was throttled somewhat. I rarely spill vitriol all over the Great White North, but upon reading further, I let loose with a condemnation of the land of Steven Harper.

It turns out "deke" derives from "decoy". It was used in hockey for the short-of-breath to refer to a feint, or a move intended to deceive the opponent. "To deke" is "to decoy" or "to misled by a quick movement". Or, as we say in basketball, "to fake someone out".

However, since the Canadians were on to a good thing, they could not leave well enough alone.
There is another usage which means "to make a side trip"; a real side trip, not a phoney side trip intended to deceive.
For example,
"Before we get home, I'm going to deke down the Danforth  (or "down the Mortimer" or "down the Dawes" or "down the Victoria Park" or whatever definite articulate road we may be near!)  and pop into the jug milk store!"
Jug milk store.
There's Canada-speak for ya: jug milk.
Personally, I calls it the Maxie Milk Store at the sign of the Kerry dancing Cat. People in Canada think I'm really Canadian then; a bit provincial, but definitely from the right side of the Love Canal.

My favorite Canuck store is, of course, St. Hubert chicken:

Anyway, so there it is; "to deke" means both "to deceive with a phoney side step" and "to make a real side trip".  It is ever cool to have such a blanket concept to cover both the true and the false. Such things could revolutionize philosophy and belief systems.

We in the States. alas, have no wit to conjure up such things.
The only coupling of concepts that I can think of that comes close to the Canadian "Deke (fake and real)" is the well worn pair:



The Real McCoy.

Some may say I have taken liberties here, but !!!!!!.....................

I have "deked" you !   (In both senses).