Wednesday, April 11, 2018

False Creek

False Creek, Vancouver 2017
The beauty of photography is that it immortalizes a moment that has long past and been forgotten.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Central Europe Blues

“The young take liberty for granted. They never had to fight for it.”
Marcin Matczak, in NY Times' Roger Cohen's piece on Poland and Hungary's descent into authoritarianism.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Passover Thoughts

Kudos to Abba for a nice selection of readings:
"We still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom.
Yes, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt, and we have crossed a Red Sea that had for years been hardened by a long and piercing winter of massive resistance, but before we reach the majestic shores of the promised land, there will still be gigantic mountains of opposition ahead and prodigious hilltops of injustice...
Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.
Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.
Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.
Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.
Let us be dissatisfied until men and women...will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin.
Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, “White Power!” when nobody will shout, “Black Power!” but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power."
-Dr. King, August 16, 1967 at the Annual SCLC Convention, Atlanta

Of Time and Freedom: Thoughts on Matza
How improbable that the central symbol of the great event in Jewish history is a cracker! Why matza? When told to "hurry up," Mary Moody Emerson (aunt of Ralph Waldo Emerson) once responded, "Hurry up is for slaves."

Time is the most precious human commodity. If we cannot control our own time, we are not free. We all have obligations, but only a slave has no control over his own time. Matzah represents the forced hurrying of the slave.


Our tradition took this symbol of hurry, of slavery, and made the bread of affliction the symbol of Passover freedom. Israeli scholar Israel Yuval writes: "In the ancient world, the rising and leavening of dough, represented the power of civilization, of human activity, and interference in nature, while the matzah was a symbol of simplicity and primitivism, the bread of the unsettled nomad, and the bread of affliction that lasts a long time."


Pesach is a bracing meditation on time and freedom. In leaving Egypt, there was no time to bake bread. The fleeing Israelites transformed the "hurry up, slave" message of matzah into a declaration of freedom for all humanity.

Time is the most precious human commodity. Let the message of the matzah not go unnoticed - let us not rush through our own lives, lest we become enslaved to our own Pharaoh.

Grain, Water, Zeal, and Spirit
Buff Maniscalco
Matzah
Bread - "The staff of life." Matzah is the most basic bread, the simplest food made by man. Matzah is a combination of the basic elements: earth, water, air and fire. The ingredients of matzah are flour and fresh water -- nothing more.


Flour from grains. Grains grow from the clay of the earth. Nourished by the sun and the soil. They are cut down and ground into dust.


Fresh water from the sky, appears like manna, a gift from Adonai. When fresh water is breathed into the dusty flour, the sweet sugars hidden in the dough are released.


Yeast, a bacteria found naturally in the air, enters the dough to eat its sweet sugars. Their life span is limited to 18 minutes -- no more, preventing over-population and fermentation of the dough's sweet sugars. The dough is poked and prodded, preventing it from becoming gaseous or puffed up.


Quickly, to overcome the influences and limitations of time, the matzah is baked. Acting with zeal and speed, the matzah is flat, even and humble; the foundation of spiritual growth.


The words "mitzvah" and "matzah" are analogous. As it is said, "When a mitzvah comes your way, do not allow it to ferment." Or simply put, "When the opportunity to do a mitzvah arises, seize it."


As we perform the mitzvah of eating matzah, may we be inspired with; a heightened connection to Adonai, to our world and to each other, steeped with a deep awareness of time, and a greater zeal in all that we do.

Character

"Character is what you are in the dark."
-Dwight L. Moody

Saturday, March 31, 2018

In the Woods

"What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies and concealment and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely, spending hours and days stupor-deep in lies, and then turn back to her holding out the lover's ultimate Mobius strip: But I only did it because I love you so much.

I have a pretty knack for imagery, especially the cheap, facile kind. Don't let me fool you into seeing us as a bunch of parfit gentil knights galloping off in doublets after Lady Truth on her white palfrey. What we do is crude, crass, and nasty."
-Tana French, "In the Woods"

H/T Pogo.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Liberation

"Mark Zuckerberg is Pharaoh.

I say this neither glibly nor lightly nor in jest: The company he runs, Facebook, is dedicated to ensuring that each of us becomes chattel—its to sell, trade, or use as it sees fit....

It’s time for this to end. It’s time for us to break free, and there’s no better time than Passover to rise up and walk out of the house of digital bondage. Sadly, real liberation, given the power these tech behemoths hold over every aspect of our lives, is hard to achieve—as Stoller argued in Tablet earlier this year—and would likely require decades of erring in the wilderness to achieve. But if we want to truly honor the spirit of the upcoming holiday, we need to clean more than our kitchen cabinets. Social media is the chametz of the soul: Let’s swear off it for one whole week.

Imagine the pleasure: a week without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. A week without flurries of distraction, bile, or rage. A week without the weight of a predatory corporate entity trampling over yet another corner of human life into which it was never invited. A week, in other words, of real and sweet freedom.

No government liberated the Israelites from their bitter lot. It took a prince to raise his hand, his voice, and his people’s hopes. We can each be a Moses to our friends, both real and virtual, and log off for the week. We’ll still be in Egypt in April, but our call would be impossible to ignore or misinterpret: Let our data go."
Liel Liebovitz, "Let Our Data Go"

I'm liberating myself from social media for the Passover week.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fellow Semites

“This Easter, I can’t help but wonder, what would our church and society look like if we just remembered that Jesus was brown? If we were confronted with the reality that the body hung on the cross was a brown body: one broken, tortured, and publicly executed by an oppressive regime.”
-Robyn Whitaker, "Jesus wasn't white: he was a a brown-skinned Middle Eastern Jew. Here is why it matters."

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A tinfoil tip

Fox News/Breitbart tip: George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and the Deep State paid 800K crisis actors to march on Washington to take away your guns. A Socialist Muslim Kenyan was behind it--I have proof in Hillary's emails.

Friday, March 23, 2018

America Takes the Next Step Toward Tyranny

"Part of me, of course, has long worried and hoped that my assessment of Trump as truly the tyrant of Plato’s imagination is melodramatic overkill. I’m given to excitability, even catastrophism. I’ve been wrong before. And there are many ways in which American life still seems the same. Political tribalism didn’t begin with Trump; neither did the appeal of populist authoritarianism, or the celebrification of politics. We still hold elections — even if the president asserts that they are all rigged against him. In November, we have a chance to use the ballot box to save this country, and there are some signs that a wave is building. The courts still have some independence and feistiness; the media is still free, if now accompanied by a full-bore state propaganda channel.

But I worry that the more Trump is opposed and even cornered — especially if he loses the House this fall — the more dangerous he will become. If Mueller really does have the goods, and if the Democrats storm back into congressional power, then Trump may well lash out to protect himself at all costs. We know he has no concern for the collateral damage his self-advancement has long caused in his private and public life. We know he has contempt for and boundless ignorance of liberal democracy. We know he is capable of anything — of immense cruelty and callousness, of petty revenge and reckless rhetoric, of sudden impulses and a quick temper. We also know he is commander-in-chief, who may soon need the greatest distraction of all.

War is coming. And there will be nothing and no one to stop him."
-Andrew Sullivan, "America Takes the Next Step Toward Tyranny"

H/T YS

Boltonium

"For now, the key takeaway is that Bolton brings to the president's national security agenda a competence that this White House has lacked. I generally agree with Benjamin Wittes that some of the president's worst instincts have often been tempered by sheer ineptitude. What makes Bolton dangerous is his capacity to implement those instincts effectively."
-Matthew Waxman, "The John Bolton I knew"

"It’s awfully fitting that John Bolton has been named national security adviser just a few days after the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. Bolton was one of the staunchest advocates for the war within the George W. Bush administration, and, as under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security, one of the most prominent voices making the case that Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction. That someone with Bolton’s dangerous views and unimpressive record has been appointed to this critical position is not only a galling next turn in the increasingly frightening Trump years, but also the latest sign of a national failure to grapple with the legacy of the Bush years."
-Joshua Keating, "John Bolton and Gina Haspel Are the Consequences of Our Failure to Reckon With the Bush Years"

The night is dark and full of terrors

I think I would prefer Ramsay Bolton for National Security Advisor.

And Trump is a Frey.

Winter is coming.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

On Naivety

Naive you are 
if you believe 
life favours those
who aren't naive.
-Piet Hein

H/T Abba

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Quixotic Borges Problem

Let us imagine that in Toledo someone finds a paper with an Arabic text and that the paleographers declare the handwriting belongs to that same Cide Hamete Benengeli from whom Cervantes took his Don Quixote. In the text we read that the hero — who, as the story goes, rambled about Spain armed with a sword and lance, challenging all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons — discovers at the end of one of his many frays that he has killed a man. At this point the fragment breaks off. The problem is to guess, or to conjecture, how Don Quixote reacts.

As I see it, there are three possible solutions. The first is negative. Nothing special happens, for in the hallucinatory world of Don Quixote death is no less common than magic, and to have killed a man need not perturb someone who struggles, or thinks he struggles, with monsters and enchanters. The second is pathetic. Don Quixote never managed to forget that he was a projection of Alonso Quijano, a reader of fairy tales. Seeing death, realizing that a dream has led him to commit the sin of Cain, wakes him from his pampered madness, possibly forever. The third is perhaps the most plausible. Having killed a man, Don Quixote cannot admit that his terrible act is the fruit of a delirium. The reality of the effect forces him to presuppose a parallel reality of the cause, and Don Quixote will never emerge from his madness.

There remains another conjecture, alien to the Spanish world and even to the Occidental world. It requires a much more ancient setting, more complex, and wearier. Don Quixote, who is no longer Don Quixote but rather a king of the Hindustani cycles, intuitively knows as he stands before his enemy’s cadaver that to kill and to beget are divine or magical acts which manifestly transcend humanity. He knows that the dead man is an illusion, as is the bloody sword that weighs down his hand, as is he himself, and all his past life, and the vast gods, and the universe.
-Jorge Luis Borges, "A Problem"
[Translated by Mildred Boyer]

Below is Yuval Noah Harari's take on it in his book: Homo Deus.

"The narrating self is the star of Jorge Luis Borges’s story ‘A Problem’. The story concerns Don Quixote, the eponymous hero of Miguel Cervantes’s famous novel. Don Quixote creates for himself an imaginary world in which he is a legendary champion going forth to fight giants and save Lady Dulcinea del Toboso. In reality Don Quixote is Alonso Quixano, an elderly country gentleman; the noble Dulcinea is an uncouth farm girl from a nearby village; and the giants are windmills. What would happen, wonders Borges, if due to his belief in these fantasies, Don Quixote attacks and kills a real person? Borges asks a fundamental question about the human condition: what happens when the yarns spun by our narrating self cause grievous harm to ourselves or those around us? There are three main possibilities, says Borges.

One option is that nothing much happens. Don Quixote will not be bothered at all by killing a real man. His delusions are so overpowering that he will not be able to recognise the difference between committing actual murder and dueling with the imaginary windmill giants. Another option is that once he takes a person’s life, Don Quixote will be so horrified that he will be shaken out of his delusions. This is akin to a young recruit who goes to war believing that it is good to die for one’s country, only to end up completely disillusioned by the realities of warfare.

But there is a third option, much more complex and profound. As long as he fought imaginary giants, Don Quixote was just play-acting. However once he actually kills someone, he will cling to his fantasies for all he is worth, because only they give meaning to his tragic misdeed. Paradoxically, the more sacrifices we make for an imaginary story, the more tenaciously we hold on to it, because we desperately want to give meaning to these sacrifices and to the suffering we have caused."

Printing pressed

"If you had asked me, when I got started with Facebook, if one of the central things I’d need to work on now is preventing governments from interfering in each other’s elections, there’s no way I thought that’s what I’d be doing if we talked in 2004 in my dorm room."

Gutenberg has no clue. And we are all fucked for it.

Yuval Noah Harari got it back in 2015 when he wrote in his book Homo Deus:

"On a more sinister note, the same study implies that in future US presidential elections Facebook could know not only the political opinions of tens of millions of Americans, but also who among them are the critical swing voters, and how these voters might be swung. Facebook could tell that in Oklahoma the race between Republicans and Democrats is particularly close, identify the 32,417 voters who still haven’t made up their minds, and determine what each candidate needs to say in order to tip the balance. How could Facebook obtain this priceless political data? We provide it for free.

In the heyday of European imperialism, conquistadors and merchants bought entire islands and countries in exchange for coloured beads. In the twenty-first century our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos."

Others understood the weight of their responsibilities:
THIS IS A PRINTING OFFICE
    CROSS-ROADS OF ALL CIVILIZATION
  REFUGE OF ALL ARTS
         AGAINST THE RAVAGES OF TIME
ARMOURY OF FEARLESS TRUTH
         AGAINST THE WHISPERING RUMOUR
    INCESSANT TRUMPET OF TRADE
FROM THIS PLACE WORDS MAY FLY ABROAD
  NOT TO PERISH AS WAVES OF SOUND
                  BUT FIXED IN TIME
NOT CORRUPTED BY THE HURRYING HAND
          BUT VERIFIED IN PROOF
FRIEND, YOU STAND ON SACRED GROUND
   THIS IS A PRINTING OFFICE
-University of California Press,
found in the house of one Jocelyn Berger in San Francisco many moons ago.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country

"No one knows for certain how many Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion 15 years ago. Some credible estimates put the number at more than one million. You can read that sentence again. The invasion of Iraq is often spoken of in the United States as a “blunder,” or even a “colossal mistake.” It was a crime. Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of Trumpism and a mostly amnesiac citizenry. (A year ago, I watched Mr. Bush on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” dancing and talking about his paintings.) The pundits and “experts” who sold us the war still go on doing what they do. I never thought that Iraq could ever be worse than it was during Saddam’s reign, but that is what America’s war achieved and bequeathed to Iraqis."
-Sinan Antoon, "Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country"

And another view from the ground:

"We had stumbled into Baghdad, as a nation, and were now stumbling into an insurgency, as a military, because of the ham-handed way in which we were occupying the country. Iraqis simply didn’t believe that we were so incompetent we didn’t know what we were doing. They felt certain the confusion and abuse in their lives was part of our plan, and they understandably resented us for it."
-Andrew Exum, "One Morning in Baghdad"

Anti-Semitism is Rising; Why aren't American Jews Speaking Up?

"Anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise, up 57 percent in 2017 from 2016, the largest single-year jump on record, according to the Anti-Defamation League. That increase came on top of the rise in incidents in 2016 that coincided with a brutal presidential campaign.

I have personally seen the anti-Semitism, in online insults, threatening voice mail messages and the occasional email that makes it through my spam filter.

If not quite a crisis, it feels like a proto-crisis, something to head off, especially when the rise of anti-Semitism is combined with hate crimes against Muslims, blacks, Hispanics and immigrants. Yet American Jewish leaders — the heads of influential, established organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federations of North America — have been remarkably quiet, focused instead, as they have been for decades, on Israel, not the brewing storm in our own country.

But American Jews need to assert a voice in the public arena, to reshape our quiescent institutions and mold them in our image. And Jewish leadership must reflect its congregants, who are not sheep."
-Jonathan Weisman, "Anti-Semitism is Rising; Why aren't American Jews Speaking Up?"

Although, since this is a Jewish issue, of course there are other opinions.  Allison Kaplan Sommer writes a rebuttal in Ha'aretz:

"I don’t know precisely what American-Jewish community Weisman is describing, but his generalizations bear little resemblance to the one I’ve been reporting on. It is certainly true that anti-Semitism has surged during the rise of Donald Trump. But the American Jews I’ve watched have been anything but sheeplike in their response."

The complexity of identity:

A fascinating take on identity by Nick Walker:

"A sobering reflection on the complexity of identity:
If I were to die rescuing a child from a collapsing building, news reports would describe me as “a college lecturer popular among his students and colleagues, a dedicated teacher of aikido, and a devoted husband and father.” And this description would be factually accurate. If, on the other hand, I were gunned down by police, news reports would describe me as “a 200-pound developmentally disabled man with a history of violence.” And this description, too, would be factually accurate."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Flava out

A bigger loss to the world than the outgoing Sec o' State.  RIP Craig Mack.

#ResistanceGenealogy

Resistance Genealogy, or shake the family tree of hypocrites and bigots and see what comes out...

Sec o' Stateless

It is strange times when I can say that I made a bigger contribution to American diplomacy and public diplomacy than the outgoing Secretary of State. But that is where we are at these days.....

Although let's be honest what really got Tillerson fired: his willingness to admit that Russia was guilty in its cloak-and-dagger games in the UK.

And apparently the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein was also fired.  I definitely made a bigger contribution to American public diplomacy than he did. 

It would all be comical if it wasn't so awful.  As I have long said, Trump is an albatross for American diplomacy and public diplomacy.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Guns and White Supremacy

"Gun violence is rooted in white supremacy. We can’t solve the first without understanding its connection to the second.

Discussions of gun “rights” in the United States usually revolve around debated interpretations of the Second Amendment. But if we truly want to understand the influence of guns in our society, we need to center the debate in a much earlier period, one before the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

In Colonial America, gun ownership equaled power. More specifically, it meant the power to control the means of violence and use those means to suppress the voices of the disenfranchised. Throughout the 17th century, almost all the English colonies along the Eastern Seaboard passed legislation prohibiting women and slaves from owning guns and forbidding the sale of guns to native peoples. By the 18th century, gun ownership had become a defining feature of white masculinity in the English colonies and guns played an integral role in Colonial men’s public displays of that masculinity."
-Nathan Wuertenburg, "Guns rights are about keeping white men on top"

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Micro-Colonization

Is gentrification micro-colonization?  Is it micro-class warfare?

Brechtastic

"Our opponents are the opponents of mankind. Their point of view is not just: their point of view is injustice. It is understandable that they defend themselves, but they defend robbery and privileges, and to understand here does not mean to excuse as well. He who is a wolf to man, is no man, but rather a wolf. Today goodness means where the bare self-defense of the great masses becomes the final battle for the position of command, the destruction of which makes goodness impossible."
-Bertolt Brecht