Friday, December 30, 2011

Egypt 2.0

Yesterday Egyptian security forces raided the offices of two U.S.-funded organizations set up to help the Egyptians "transition" to a democracy, one organization affiliated with the American Democratic political party, the other with the Republican party.

Are they upset with the example of the Iowa caucuses?  The electoral college?  Maybe they want a third party.Sheesh.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Protests in China

It has been the year of the protester and Chinese have done their part.

They are protesting in Wukan,  a "village" of 20,000 people. Wukan is located here:

People in Wukan are protesting the corruption of local officials.  Specifically, they are protesting the sale of "communal" village land by local officials to developers without the villagers consent, thereby enriching the local officials, providing for the future enrichment of the developers and leaving the villagers with no land and no yuan from the whole deal. This has been going on since 1993 in Wukan. It has also been going on throughout China since Deng Xiaoping proclaimed "to be rich is glorious."

The various human vices get under all peoples' skins but particular vices get under particular peoples' skins.  It's street crime in America. In China it is and always has been public corruption.  I think that has to do, in part, to the country's Confucian heritage. Confucianism is really an ethical system for the ruled: thou shalt obey, and thou shalt obey in the following 1,000 ways. In return for slavish obedience Confucianism... suggests rule that in some ways can be considered "benevolent"--as long as it ultimately redounds to the stability and longevity of the rulers. It's not quite equality of rule, one distillation of the whole system being "If I (ruler) say it, it's so."

It seems to me Chinese are, in general, okay with this "division of responsibility" between ruler and ruled. Mao got Chinese to believe that they could make steel in their backyards;  Mao got Chinese to believe they could grow fruits and vegetables the size of cars.  Until near the end if Mao said it could be done, then Chinese believed it could be done.

Chinese obedience to, and faith in, the emperor, royal or red, can in one sense be analogized usefully to religious belief in the West. If pure belief in the face of facts and common sense is characteristic of religions then Chinese are religious. This is what the Western Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard termed belief "by virtue of the absurd."*  Kierkegaard wrote that religious belief requires "a leap of faith," that is a leap over facts. It seems to me Chinese, in general,  have this kind of faith in their rulers in their soul.

In another sense, in the Wukan protest sense, the analogy to Western religious faith, is not useful.  An ethical system does not have a transcendent religion's ability to justify by genuflection to an almighty. Acceptance is more susceptible to comparison with earthly results.  And the results are not acceptable to the residents of Wukan. At least one person has died and the protests have been going on since September.

*Vaclav Havel termed his country's communist regime, "Absurdistan."  He did not believe belief by virtue of the absurd virtuous.

Go Wolves.

Naming Names.

Never heard of "Mitt" as a first name before. Mitt Romney's full name is Willard Mitt Romney.  I would call myself Mitt too if the alternative was "Willard."   Mitt though was named for an uncle or something who's real first name was "Milton," who preferred Mitt to Milton or "Milt." Okay.

Never knew a "Newt" either. I think there's a "gnewt," maybe a forest dwelling animal, I don't know.
Newt was born Newton Leroy McPherson :O  He was the issue of a 16 year old girl and a 19 year old guy whose marriage dissolved shortly after his birth. Mrs. Newt then married an army guy, Gingrich, who adopted him. Newt was denied tenure at the Harvard of western Georgia :O :O  That's pretty embarrassing.  Once you're denied tenure at one place it's very difficult to get another academic job and if you're fortunate enough to get another job it's at some place several rungs down the ladder. There is no lower rung from West Georgia College. Thus Newt became qualified to be a congressman.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I…wish you a Merry Christmas,
I wish you a Merry Christmas,
I wish you a Merry Christmas, 
And a Happy New Year.

Good tidings to you, where ever you are,
Except North Korea and Pak’stan and Saud' ‘rabia.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
Oh, bring…Wait a minute.  “Oh, bring us a figgy pudding?”  What is that?  Who would want a “figgy pudding?”

I don’t want a figgy pudding,
I don’t want a figgy pudding,
I don’t want a figgy pudding,
Take it to Korea.

We won’t go until we get some,
Oh yes I’ll go before I get some,
You can take your figgy pudding,
And stick it in your ear.

It’s the thought that counts. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hairstyles of the Dictatorial and Famous.

Dictator schools worldwide teach that there is a “dictatorial look” that all dictators should have.  Kim Jong-un evidently missed that particular class.

We have looked in the index to the authoritative textbook Hairstyles for Dictators and there is no entry for “Fade.”  We have done research on current and recent past dictators and can find no example of a dictator with a Fade. Hairstyles provides illustrations of some approved looks:

Idi Amin, a classic, understated, executive look. Clean.

Fidel Castro, a lush, macho style.

Mao's hairstyle might have been done by Bugs Bunny. It combines male pattern baldness with thick growth on the sides. It worked for him.

Mussolini was ahead of his time, turning male pattern baldness into the contemporary, popular "skinhead" look. Sleek.

Hitler, hands folded over his dysfunctional sex organ, employed the side-part.

Stalin had the best hair of 20th century dictators. Lush and full on top but not "unruly" like Castro's. Dictators should be "ruly."

And so we see that there is no precedent among popular dictators for un's Fade. It is very un-dictatorial. un should grow it out. He seems to have a natural part in the middle, in which case the style demonstrated by Bugs might work for him.  Or he could grow it long and adopt the modified-Elvis look of his father, il:

But he must lose the Fade.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

North Korea

The East is 

The Son has risen,

China's friend has brou-          forth a fat kid with a Fade!


North Korea

He's got a Fade!  Look at him, he's got a Fade!  il's son un has a Fade!  This has to be the first Fade in the history of modern dictatorship. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Newtie and the Blowhards

America is unique in the world in how it chooses its chief executive.  We spend a year doing it.  There are elections, plural, “primary” elections, as they are called, in different states. The purpose of those primary elections is…to choose delegates to the national conventions of the two major political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. It is those delegates who actually select the nominees of the two parties Oh my god, this sounds stupid. Then those two nominees run in the “general” election in November and voila we have a president.  Actually, no voila.  The delegates from each of the fifty states then choose “electors” Does anybody have any cyanide? to a body called the “electoral college.” The electoral college then meets, or maybe they can do it by email or something now, I don’t know, andtheyvoteandvoila.  Actually…the new president is not sworn in until sometime in January. I don’t know why.  I would like to stick a knife in my veins.

Now, as to the substance of this post. The first actual, like, votes, in this year’s presidential selection process are still a couple of weeks away from being cast Ignore anything you here about “caucuses,” there is no such word in the English language but candidates have already been campaigning and spending tons of money for months.

The point of this post is that the Republicans are acting like Democrats this year. Let me explain.  The Republicans, being the smaller of the two parties, are more likely to focus in on a very few candidates in the primary season.  They do that so that they can survive and oppose the Democrat united. The Democrats are more likely to have a half-dozen or more candidates, some of them even qualified to be president.  This year though, no Democrat is opposing President Obama in the primaries, which might sound self-evident but is not because other Democratic presidents have had primary challengers. However, this year the Republicans started this interesting process with nine “serious” candidates.  It is this field of nine candidates that I impudently refer to as “Newtie and the Blowhards,” which I know has been a long time ago but which is the title of this here post. Actually, the field is down to seven now but I’m sticking with the title.

Uncharacteristically, the Republicans seem to have something like attention-deficit disorder this year. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt (that’s his real name (I think)) Romney has been at or near the top of public opinion polls of Republicans for much of the year but Republicans have not been able to commit to Romney.  Part of the reason for that is that he is a disciple of Joseph Smith, that is, he is a Mormon.  A higher percentage of Republicans are Christians, or at least politically active Christians, than are Democrats and many Republican Christians look askance at disciples of a religion founded by a schizophrenic grandiose type who received his religious “vision” from an angel named “Moroni” and who practiced and preached polygamy and who was chased half-way across the continent before he was cornered in a jail and offed. Some Republicans look askance at that.  Others don’t look so askance at that but do look askance at the fact that Romney was governor of Massachusetts which to many Republicans is a ninth circle of hell.  So Republicans have not been able to unite behind Romney.

He of the nine who made it eight was the governor of Minnesota, Tom Pawlenty.  I forget what his problem was. Not enough support.

He of the nine who made it seven was “Herman Cain” who started a pizza business, experience in running a business being next to godliness for many Republicans.  Mr. Cain was the subject of a mini-boomlet among Republicans earlier this year before he was convincingly accused of having too many wives (of a fashion).

Ron Paul is: (1) a congressman from Texas (Republicans like Texas. A lot), (2) a physician, (3) a former candidate for president, (4) one of the founders of the Tea Party movement, (5) someone with two first names, (6) someone who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (7) 106 years old. The last three are disqualifying.

Rick Santorum is: (1) a former congressman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (2) a former senator from Pennsylvania, (3) a former senator from Pennsylvania who lost to a Democrat by eighteen points. The last three are disqualifying.

Rick Perry is the governor of Texas (see Ron Paul, above). He also has two first names.  Rick Perry has attention-deficit disorder. During a debate, he was…debating with Ron Paul about how many federal agencies each would cut. Paul (Ron?) wanted five; Perry (Rick?) wanted three, but couldn’t remember “all” three.

Jon Huntsman is a former governor of Utah. He is Mormon. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He was President Obama’s Ambassador to China.  Huntsman has a better chance of getting votes in China than among Republicans.

Michelle Bachmann is a congresswoman from Minnesota.  She knocked her Minnesota twin, Tom Pawlenty, out of the race.  That’s been the extent of her impact so far.

Newt Hold my hand, want you to hold my hand; hold my hand, want you to hold my hand; hold my hand, want you to hold my ha-hand. I’m gonna love you the best that, the best that I ca-a-a-a-an Gingrich is: (1) smart, (2) knowledgeable, (3) a good speaker, (4) a good debater, (5) former Speaker of the House of Representatives.  He is the flavor de jour (maybe was the flavor de jour). A few weeks ago Gingrich suddenly rocketed to the top of the polls.  Republicans generally are fond of rockets but they found this one disconcerting. Why?

Gingrich has been around several blocks. While Speaker, he also rocketed to the top of political consciousness. He engineered a Republican takeover of the House. He authored the “Contract with America,” a manifesto of political principles that garnered a lot of attention.  And then he fizzled.  He went after President Clinton and became a polarizing figure.  He resigned his congressional seat under an ethical cloud. He has been married three times, which is two times more than you're supposed to as a Republican, and was having an affair with the future third Mrs. Gingrich while he was married to number two, and while he was going after Clinton for marital infidelity. He is a former professor at the Harvard of west Georgia, West Georgia College. He conveys his intelligence, knowledge, etc. with the condescending air of a college professor to a class of unpromising undergraduates. He has used this tone with Congresswoman Bachmann in debate.  That has not gone over well. People got tired of hearing Speaker Gingrich speak, including Republican people.  Republicans hadn’t heard from Gingrich much since he resigned Congress and when he began speaking recently they liked it, like they liked it when he first became Speaker. Now that they’ve heard more from him again as he’s rocketed up the polls, they’re getting tired of hearing him speak again. And he’s fizzling.  The latest Iowa poll has him in a statistical tie with Romney when a couple of weeks ago he had a clear lead. The word you read from Republican Party officials on Gingrich is “undisciplined:” undisciplined in his personal life, undisciplined in his political life. Oh, and he was born and raised in Pennsylvania.

And so there you have it. One of these homo sapiens will oppose President Obama in the fall of 2012. The bet here is that it will be Governor Romney, and it should be Governor Romney, he seems to be the most able of the Republicans.

Painting:  The Four Freedoms (Speech), Norman Rockwell (1943).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong-il Life Termination Event.

The "Dear Leader" of the nation of racist dwarfs* passed into wherever dear leaders of racist dwarfs pass into. This event occurred a couple of days ago but the North Korean regime did not announce it until yesterday.

*The phrase is that of the late Christopher Hitchens. 

True Crime Stories: A Christmas Story

When I get one of these old files, I try to piece together the case. You only get what was introduced into evidence in the trial and that never includes full-story narratives like the lead detective's report. And so you open the file and examine each exhibit, each piece of evidence, and try to see the whole from a part.

When I opened this file there was a smaller manila envelope with some small hard objects inside. They were what looked like an audio tape, one of those old reel-to-reel ones, and some metal and glass squares, about 2"x 2". I held one up to the light. It was a photo still. This must have been what slides were in 1956 and the reel must have been the film from which the slides were made. It was hard to see but I could make out the face of a smiling man. Maybe an old home movie.

I opened a larger envelope correctly assuming it contained the crime scene photos. I love the pictures. Old black and white photos of long-ago parts of town long gone. The period pieces. The wonderful 1950's cars, first generation television sets, old wooden houses, so charming compared with the CBS construction of today but of course much more inviting to termites.

Several of the 8"x10"s were enlargements of the slides. Now I could see the smiling man, dressed in a Pendleton-type work shirt walking in front of a yard and house which were blurred as if in motion. Still could've been a home movie. Then I saw the policeman in the foreground, his features blurred so that initially I didn't recognize who or what he was. His lips were pursed slightly and he looked down at the ground as he held the smiling man by the arm, obviously taking him into custody.

So this was the murderer as he was being arrested. And the film was from a TV camera. I had looked through a hundred or more of these old incinerator-destined murder files and had never seen TV film before. TV was still in it's infancy in 1956, especially in this city, whose loss of innocence and insignificance was still three years away.

What to make of the smiling murderer? Of course the first thought is insanity. There are plenty of crazy murderers with all kinds of weird looks on their faces but this man didn't look that daft. He looked "normal."

The autopsy report was in the file. Three of them. The first page just had the name "O'Malley" on it. O'Malley, O'Malley, O'Malley. Three copies of the same report I thought. Then I saw another document from the Medical Examiner's file, with case numbers 601, 602, and 603. There were three victims.

The suspect had given a statement to the police, two now that I saw. The introductory case reference paragraph at the top said:

"Investigation into the fatal shooting of one
Barbara Ann O'Malley, wf, age 41, George
Howard O'Malley, wm, age 7 months, and
Carla Laura O'Malley wm, age 4 that occurred
at 1791 NW 60 St, December 25, 1956."

The killer was George Howard O'Malley, Sr., the husband and father of the victims.

O'Malley told the police that the family was about to be evicted from their house because of their financial problems and if that happened the State would take away his children. He had had a cancer operation and spent two weeks in the hospital in November. He couldn't pay those bills and hadn't worked in some time.

Additionally, his wife had had two operations recently and they owed money from those also. In all they owed $3000.

O'Malley and Barbara apparently loved kids, they ran a foster home out of the house, a big old rambling two-story clapboard with hardwood floors and plaster walls that would have carried sound so that Barbara could hear little George when he cried or Carla as she played when she was working in the kitchen or puttering about the house.

They had tried everything to raise money to pay off their bills including selling almost all of their furniture. That got them $163.

The most desperate fundraising attempt they saved till last. O'Malley's father was a well-off businessman in Cincinnati. At some time in the past however father and son had had a bitter falling out. On Christmas eve they called him and asked for help but he turned them down.

"He told me to put the children in an orphanage or
put them in the county home," George O'Malley told the police.

So they awoke Christmas morning at 7:30 and sat down and talked. As O'Malley wrote in his suicide note,

"We talked things over and weighed the the
results--since we find no other means of
staying together--the decision was this."

They wrote farewell letters to their families in Cincinnati. Barbara's handwriting is steady, the shape of the letters and words calmly written, the structure of her sentences coherent. She stressed the mutuality of the decision,

"Don't think it is his idea alone and blame him
because I'm the one that suggested it to him,"
she wrote to her "mom."

"Right now I am not sad because it isn't everyone
who can take their loved ones along with them
when they leave this world. They came into this
world through me and they will go out of it with
me. I'm also relieved to know George will be with
us. He has suffered enough and God alone knows
what he would go through left behind..."

"It will be all over within seconds. No more worries
--sickness--and wondering if the children will have
enough food and a roof over their heads...If we didn't
love them it would be easy to put them in a county
home as was suggested by Mr. O'Malley...George and
I could not do it and never would."

Barbara concluded with instructions for the children's burial,

"Dress Carla in blue, it is her party dress and she
loves it--baby George in his green suit--he never
has worn it."

All the letters were unopened and stamped "Return to Sender."

George was to kill Barbara first ("she couldn't stand to see the kids hurt."), then the children. He was then to call their pastor and advise him of the circumstances before killing himself. The preacher talked him out of the suicide ("He kept me on the phone too long."). Bastard. Fucking-bastard-shaman-son-of-a-bitch-holy-man.

They went into the children's room where the kids were. Carla was playing in her big-girls bed. Little George was in his crib. Maybe Carla looked up and smiled when she saw them. Barbara sat on the floor and prayed.

"I shot Barbara first."
"how many times did
you shoot her?"

Little Carla must have screamed, perhaps "Mommy! Mommy! Daddy! Daddy!"

Baby George would have cried, startled at the boom-booms.

He shot Carla next. She would have seen the gun swinging toward her. Maybe she screamed "Daddy, No!" and held out her little hands.

"I shot her in the chest, then I got up,
leaned over and shot her again."

She was found face up. The tears could have been still on her cheeks when the police arrived.

"I shot the baby and I think the second
bullet creased him."

The bodies were all in one room allowing for a comprehensive death scene photo. Carla is in her bed, one chubby arm extended out apparently sleeping but on close examination her little eyes are open slightly. There is a large dark stain on her chest. A stuffed animal lies on the floor in front of her bed.

The baby is face down in the middle of the crib, his bottle in a corner. One of those abacus-like baby's toys with primary-colored balls strung on a string is attached to the crib. There's blood trailing from the top of his head down behind his right ear and much blood under his head.

Barbara lies barefoot in her pajamas face up on the floor. Her eyes are closed and dried blood is coming out of her nose. She is pregnant.

The scene was located at the corner of an intersection off the main highway in the city. To the left the road extended off into the distance, getting smaller and narrower until it just stopped. To the right it became a causeway over a body of water and ended at one of the barrier islands.

The house is painted what appears to be a battleship gray. It has an inviting wrap-around porch. A tricycle is outside next to a swing set.

The room has off-white walls and hardwood floors and is unfurnished except for the crib and Carla's bed.

Three big windows look out over the front yard and they would have provided a nice cross-breeze to cool the room when it got too warm.

The day was overcast, the gray of the sky and the black and white of the photos creating a monochrome, the distinction between light and dark muted.

*No real names used.

"A Christmas Story" was first posted here in 2004. Until 2009 it was reposted each year during the season. In a professional life spent with death and murder and tragedy and pathos I have never encountered anything like this. It is the saddest story I've ever heard. I have never been able to look at the file again or even reread this post.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel, In Memoriam.

Vaclav Havel the playwright who became president of the Czech Republic died today at age 75.

Mr. Havel’s plays were banned in then Czechoslovakia after the Soviet Union invaded and crushed the “Prague Spring” reform movement in 1968.  In 1976 he became involved in a project drafting the human rights manifesto Charter 77.

In 1989, with the communists still in power, Mr. Havel was unanimously chosen to be president by the dissident legislature. He was elected by popular vote in 1990.

Mr. Havel used his literary talent to skewer communist repression. He referred to the regime as “Absurdistan.”  His 1978 essay “Power and the Powerless” began with a pastiche of the opening sentence in the Communist Manifesto:

“A specter is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called ‘dissent.’”

 In a nationwide television address after his selection as president in 1989 Mr. Havel said:

“Out of gifted and sovereign people, the regime made us little screws in a monstrously big, rattling, stinking, machine.”

Lei Feng is one of the state-chosen role models of the People’s Republic of China for allegedly writing:

"A man's usefulness to the revolutionary cause is like a screw in a machine. It is only by the many, many interconnected and fixed screws that the machine can move freely, increasing its enormous work power."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Seeking the Soul of Pennsylvania.

Why did the worst sports-related scandal in the history of American higher education happen at Pennsylvania State University and not at: Ohio State, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Florida State, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, or Washington State?

The “Penn State scandal” as defined here is how one man, and the coach of one sports team for godssake, took over an entire university—became the university.  Not sports in general—basketball has never been anything at Penn Stateone sport.  And one man: for forty-six years.  The one sport-one man phenomenon is what makes the Penn State scandal unique. No one man and-one sport has ever taken over a university like Joe Paterno and football did. 

Is there something about Pennsylvania that enabled this?

In the beginning some saw Pennsylvania as a utopia.  Voltaire wrote that “that golden age of which men only speak and which has never before existed” had been brought forth by William Penn and the Quakers. Only Massachusetts is reasonable alternative to Pennsylvania as most important in colonial America: Benjamin Franklin, the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress, the Constitution.  Three Pennsylvania cities, York, Philadelphia, and Lancaster served as the capital of the new republic. It is known as the “Keystone State” to this day.

Yet, Pennsylvania has produced only one president, the stupendously forgettable James Buchanan. Massachusetts has John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, and (if one counts place of birth) George H.W. Bush. Further, in the last half century only one other Pennsylvanian, William Scranton, has been considered a plausible president.

In higher education Boston has Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, and Tufts; Philadelphia has Penn, Temple, LaSalle, and Drexel.  Massachusetts has in addition Brandeis, Williams, Amherst, Wellesley, Holy Cross; Pennsylvania has Dickinson, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Bryn Mawr, Carnegie Mellon, Penn State.

Boston became “the hub of the universe;” Philadelphia, the site of the filming of 1984.  

What happened?

Puritan Boston, Quaker Philadelphia, a 1996 book written by Penn sociologist and scion of an old Philadelphia family, Edward Digby Baltzell, made the argument that the divergence of the cities trajectories was foretold by their dominant faiths at founding. Puritanism emphasized an individual’s calling; the Quakers emphasized individual goodness (thus the “city of brotherly love”).  To have a calling is to have a mission in life. Puritanism was in this sense a faith for the ambitious.  It was in the Puritan DNA to achieve, to win.  Not so the Quaker emphasis on goodness:  “Good guys finish last” is a maxim of hard-driving America.  William Scranton succumbed to a Draft-Scranton boomlet in 1964 and reluctantly agreed to be the Republican vice-presidential candidate if offered (the GOP didn’t).  John F. Kennedy ambitiously declared for the presidency in 1960 saying he was against “vice” in any form.

It seems to me that the founding religious differences have their analog in the approaches taken by the two states to higher education—and in the quality of the end product. Massachusetts emphasized private education, Pennsylvania public education. The best schools in each state are private but Harvard and MIT dwarf Penn (nickname "Quakers") and Carnegie Mellon. The largest university in Massachusetts, Boston University, is private, as are five of the top ten. With 45,000 students, the largest university in both states is Penn State, which is far below the quality of either Penn (25,000) or Carnegie Mellon (11,000).

Penn State was not viewed as a utopia in the beginning. What became Orwellian "Happy Valley" began as the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania, about as modest and un-ambitious an educational enterprise imaginable. The change to Pennsylvania State College and a classical curriculum in 1874 was too ambitious for Pennsylvanians, for whom an agricultural college was good enough.  Enrollment bottomed out at 64, threatening the existence of whatever the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania/Pennsylvania State College had become.

Voltaire also wrote, "the perfect is the enemy of the good."

In 1950 Joe Paterno, just graduated from Ivy League Brown University, took his first job as an assistant football coach at Penn State College. This was the reaction of Paterno's father:

"For God's sake, what did you go to college for?"

What does football have to do with a college education?  With college?  With education?

Penn State did not even become a university until 1953.

Enrollment was 11,000 in 1953. Its football team was good, stadium capacity was 30,000.  Year-by-year Penn State grew; in 1960 enrollment was 16,000 and a new football stadium sat 46,000.  In 1966 when Joe Paterno became head football coach enrollment was 23,000.

In 1968, and again in 1969, this good university's good football team became perfect, undefeated. And the perfect became the enemy of the good. Penn State became football and Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno became the most popular human being in Pennsylvania.

In 1973 the football team was perfect again and enrollment was 30,000. Stadium capacity was increased to 60,000 in 1976, then to 76,000 two years later. In 1998, the year of Jerry Sandusky's first known alleged child molestation enrollment was 41,000 and the stadium sat 94,000. This year, the year of Sandusky's, Paterno's and the university's fall, Beaver stadium's capacity was 106,000, the second largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere and fourth largest in the world. The Agricultural College of Pennsylvania had come to all of this.

The rise and fall of Pennsylvania State University is not the consequence of ambition. This is a peculiarly Pennsylvanian story: there was no plan, no vision; it is the story of un-ambition. "It just happened" as year-by-year for half a century good Pennsylvanians sold the soul of a good university piece-by-piece to one sport, football, and one man, one good man, Joe Paterno.  Sometimes, good guys finish last.

Image:  American Gothic, painting by Grant Wood (1930).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Time's Person of the Year.

Boy, Time nailed this one: "the protester."  From Tunisia to Egypt to Britain to Wall Street to Russia, this has been the year of the protester.

Image: Guernica, Pablo Picasso (1937)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Zhang Mu. Chapter 5 (Part III)

Baby steps. The numbers are in reference to the photos which Benjamin Harris, Book Editor, has never been able to republish.  I would like to stick a knife in my veins and let my bodily essence seep away.

(1) On January 8, 1976, Zhou Enlai died of illness. (2) At the simple Zhou’s memorial service on January 15, Deng Xiaoping delivered the memorial speech. (3) Jiang Qing, Li Xiannian and so on in Zhou’s memorial service. (4) Zhou Enlai memorial service was simple, but Xie Fuzhi and Kang Sheng’s memorial service were far grand. When Zhou remains passed the street, 1,000,000 residents spontaneously in both sides of the street pay silent tribute.(5) "April 5 (Ching Ming Festival) counter-revolutionary incident" in Tiananmen Square

April 5, 1976 was the Chinese Qingming Festival, traditional observance mourning ancestors. Nanjing, Taiyuan, Xi'an and so on regional populace mourned Zhou Enlai. In Beijing from March to the beginning of April, the populace was gathering spontaneously in the Tiananmen Square, placed wreaths, gave speeches, the populace gave vent here to Mao and Gang of Four's hatred. On April 4, the square population reaches much 1,000,000. At 4:00 on April 5, in the authorities (security minister Huang Guofeng) implemented to suppress, polices and the militiamen attacked the Tiananmen Square, expelled the demonstrator, 57 volunteers who stand-night-watch were arrested by the police. Despite the police prohibition rule, the demonstrators angry rushed in and occupied the square. Some people were killed, several hundred people were arrested. In the evening the CCP Central Political Bureau held meeting, said qualitatively this was “the counter-revolutionary riot”. After Mao’s death, in December, 1978, the third plenary session of the 11th CCP committee, decided that abolished the CCP Central once sent out all the documents about the “counter the Right deviationist trend to reverse correct verdicts" and “Tiananmen Incident”, gave rehabilitation for the “April 5 Tiananmen Incident”. But later the CCP media forbade to mention the “April 5 Tiananmen Incident”, because of 1989’s Tiananmen Incident was the similarity, but the scale was much bigger and brutal.

From March to the beginning of April, 1975, Tiananmen Square thousands populace spontaneously delivered wreaths, gave speeches, recited and so on form, expressed respect to Zhou and the discontent to Mao and Gang of Four.

(1) Facing police’s suppression, the young students loudly song “unite to tomorrow” in the Tiananmen Square. Photo by Wu Peng. (2) “workers militiamen” followed orders to come the square to do suppression, were scolded by the populace, some were dingy withdrawal. (3) On March 28, 1976, Nanjing University’s teachers and students assembled to protest that the Gang of Four criticizing Zhou, the city had many mass demonstrations.

(1) Protest speaker in the square (2) Applaud saluted to speaker in the square. Photo by Wang Liping. (3) The people came from far away spontaneously, the parked bikes. (4) Bloodstain on Tiananmen Square monument’s corner, the “workers’ militiamen” followed order to suppress, some put the demonstrator's head to clash on the monument stone.
(1) The populace came to protest in the square spontaneously unceasingly. (2) On April 5 at noon, large quantities of armed personnel enclosed the square. (3) Around the square the protesters had burnt several cars.

(1) Unceasingly some protesters were taken away. From April 6th to 7th, martial law in Tiananmen Square, clean vehicle and the water spray vehicle were used to clean the bloodstain in the square, eliminates slaughter’s evidence. (2) On April 8, People's Daily announced, the people spontaneous protest activities was “premeditated, planned, organized counter-revolutionary political incident”. (4) On November 16, 1978, People's Daily announced “Tiananmen Square event is completely the revolutionary action”.

Image:  Death of Marat, Jacques-Louis David (1793).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Zhang Mu. Chapter 5 (Part II)

I think I will develop a second career in something I'm really good at, like editing someone's book, or as an art critic. 

(5) Zhou Enlai died due to illness

In May, 1972, Zhou was found out suffering from early bladder cancer, might use the surgery to permanently cure, the medical experts immediately suggested that had a surgery as soon as possible. Mao arranged through Wang Dongxing: First, keep secret, did not tell to Zhou’s wife Deng Yingchao; Second, did not check again; Third, did not operate; Fourth, strengthen nursing and nutrition. The medical experts stressed the urgency of the treatment, did not understand Mao’s decision, intended to write directly to Mao, it was detained by Wang Dongxing. Then the Fourth Session of National People's Congress, “formed cabinet”and seized power, “crushed Lin Biao group” and so on, caused Zhou very busy. Hereafter Mao and Jiang Qing had carried on four attack to Zhou: The first time was at the end of 1973, criticizing Zhou’s“capitulationism line”, second time was“criticizing Lin Biao and Confucius and Duke of Zhou”, the third was criticizing “empiricism”, the fourth was commenting “The Water Margin” and back to the so-called “capitulationists”question. They intended to put Zhou in adeathtrap. After Lin Biao’s fall, in fact was the fight between Mao and Zhou, obviously they want Zhou to die before Mao then their succession plan could realize. In February, 1973, Zhou presented massive hematurias, in March the medical group run risks to tell Deng Yingchao, Ye Jianying pleaded Mao, only then Mao authorized only to check, explicitly not permit to do electricity burn treatment. Dr. Wu Jieping in 2003 said, the medical group braved the pressure to disobey orders secretly did electricity burn treatment for Zhou,“We have violated Mao’s instruction, but have Sister Deng's words, we can at least keep out a matter how, we insisted on and had done”. In May, 1974, Zhou was in critical condition, doctors proposed once more to operate, the CCP Political Bureau did not agree. Deng Yingchao had to ask the medical group to explain to Mao, then Mao agreed finally. On June 1, Zhou was done the first surgery. But soon it soon relapse, on August 10, had performed the second surgery. Mao said: “I said that cannot operate, but you must do. Now it do the second time, it will do the third, the fourth time.” Because the cancer cell proliferates the whole body, on January 8, 1976, Zhou died at the age of 76 years old.
Mao lived near the hospital which Zhou long-term treatment, Mao had never gone to look at or the telephone regards. The CCP media explain that Mao was seriously ill, actually it was not the reason. Before 1976 New Year's Day, Mao met with American former president Nixon’s daughter and the son-in-law, in his studio, Mao said in this meeting “China has 800,000,000 populations, why do not struggle!” On February 21,1976, Mao met with Nixon who step down the US President’s office. On May 12, Mao also met with Singapore Premier Lee Kuan Yew. On May 27, Mao met with Pakistani Premier Bhutto.
After Zhou’s death, the most CCP leads hoped that Mao to participate in Zhou’s memorial service, the medical experts also thought participating could not affect his health. But Mao did not. According to Wang Dongxing preserved Mao’s conversation record, Mao said in January 12, 1976: “why should me attend premier's memorial service? I also have the right not participate! ......I’ve struggled with the Premier at least ten times.” At the same time, Mao ordered the persons around him: they were not permitted to do the last honors to Zhou’s remains; they were not permitted to wear the mourning armbands.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Protests in Russia

What do our fellow Rooski homo sapiens want?  A fair election.  That should be do-able. Just maybe not by the Russians.

Who do they want to win the elections? 

In a poll conducted of Rooskis 60% said they want former KGB official Vladimir Putin’s United Russia to win.  One percent said they wanted our brother Alexei Navalny.  And obviously there are some who would like a return to the good ol’ days. O! Party of Lenin. Oh, oh, oh.

“It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression.”
                                                                  -Paul Krugman, New York Times, December 12. (See post,

Image: Stained glass by Oidtmann Linnich (1974), St. Gertrude Catholic Church, Schuld, Germany

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, now a Republican presidential candidate, said the following recently in an interview:

"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places."

Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich is right.  Arab demands for a Palestinian homeland have always been a masquerade for anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiment among Muslims.


The person "most responsible for the extraordinary burst of anti-government activism"* in Russia lately is Hillary Clinton...No, Alexei Navalny (image). Completely ungovernable, Mr. Navalny is a blogger (,, and a better angel of Russia's soul.

*New York Times, December 10, 2011.

Friday, December 09, 2011

"While it is premature to reach any conclusions regarding civil or criminal liability arising out of these events, there does appear to be sufficient information to raise significant concerns as to whether a concentration of power in a single individual or program may have threatened or eroded institutional control of intercollegiate athletics at Penn State."

This is exactly right.  The statement is from the Big 10 conference in a letter to Penn State's president advising that the conference will be conducting a separate investigation, in addition to those already begun by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the Pennsylvania Attorney General, and the United States Department of Education. Penn State as an "institution" is in deep trouble. It should be shut down.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Vladimir Poot-Poot Putin has accused U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Fight-Talk-Build Clinton of interfering in Russian "sovereignty" for her comments, consistent with those of international observers, that Russia's recent parliamentary "elections" in which Poot-Poot's party "United Russia" won a majority, were...not quite fair.

Interfering in Russia's sovereignty?  Really? Sheesh.  I really don't think she would do that. I don't see any evidence Secretary Clinton wants to interfere in any nation's sovereignty.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pearl Harbor

Today was the beginning.  A lot of good came from that sneak attack by Japan.  World War II changed the soul of Japan.  In the blinding flash of a thousand suns brutal, imperial Japan became non-militarist, democratic Japan. World War II also ended Prussia as a geopolitical entity.  Out of that destruction came peaceful, democratic Germany. World War II changed the soul of England.  The English, like the French, became a race of appeasing whores after World War I.  World War II produced Winston Churchill and he saved England and the English soul. Unfortunately, World War II did not change Soviet Russia's soul and the post-war world was debased for 45 years by that state's existence.  World War II changed the world for the better. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Wanna Get Away?

"Kepler 22b" above Who names these things? I move that Kepler 22b's name be changed to Barkevious Mingo might be the place.

Kepler 22b is a planet in another solar system. It is noteworthy This is the big news story today because it is the first planet found outside our 'hood that is in the "habitable zone" for life.  It has an average surface temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the fine print: (1) the image above is an artist's rendition. If K-22b actually looks like that it's Kiribati, but nobody knows what it looks like. (2) it's 600 light years away, so unless you find a way of breaking the interstellar speed limit you can't go there. (3) "If it has a surface, it would have a very nice temperature...," William Borucki, NASA. If it has a surface?  What do you mean "if it has a surface?"  Isn't that, like, key?  How do you calculate the "surface temperature" without, like, a surface? 

You wanted news, this is news. 
You want another art review?  It's a slow news day. 

Naming Names.

Do you like your name?  I like “Benjamin Harris.”  I like that it’s three syllables and then two syllables, bum-bum-bum, bum-bum.  I like the way it sounds.  I don’t like the way one syllable-one syllable names, like “John Clarke,” sound.  But Benjamin Harris is very white bread.  No pizzazz.  Not like these names:

 “Vontavious Burfict.”

“Furious Bradley.” 

“Barkevious Mingo.”

Those are the actual names of actual people who play actual college tackle football in America.  Those are the most tremendous names in the history of names.  If there is reincarnation I don’t care what I come back as but I want my name to be Barkevious Mingo.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Well...some good economic news for once.  At least good if you're American.  Unemployment "unexpectedly" (the adverb is Business Week's) fell to it's lowest level in 2 1/2 years in November.  The overall unemployment rate is down from 9% to 8.6%.  Paul Krugman* will find bad news in there somewhere.

*Spellcheck for Krugman is "Frogman" and "Krugerrand."  Spellcheck rocks. 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Things Things Say. Jonathan Lamb

I have had this book for over two months. I cannot read it. Professor Lamb cannot write.

Shutting Down Penn State

How could it be done?

Penn State suckles at the teats of the state and federal governments.  Those beneficent expressions of the common weal exempt legitimate institutions of higher learning from taxation.  The common weal is not benefited by conferring this coveted exemption on a corrupt entity. End those exemptions.

Penn State also gets a large share of its funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The Commonwealth could end that funding.  As a major research university, Penn State also gets substantial funding from the U.S. government. End that.

And Penn State could be subject to criminal prosecution under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) acts at both the state and federal level. Penn State is both an organization and corrupt under the meaning of that legislation. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Soul of Penn State.

Penn State does not educate, it indoctrinates.  Penn State people are not educated, they are indoctrinated.  Pennsylvania State University is a fraud.

There are some who argue that Penn State’s football “program,” as it is called, should be shuttered. No. That is misdiagnosing the problem.  Penn State and its football program are inseparable. That is the fraud. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the relevant departments of the federal government should shut down the Pennsylvania State University.

And then the United States government should go after the other football and basketball factories and take their presidents and their trustees to a shuttered “Happy Valley” and show them what became a university that sold its soul. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Soul of Penn State.

Seeking the Soul of Penn State.

Penn State Symphony Orchestra.

                                                         Penn State sculpture class.

Penn State library.

                                                   Distinguished Penn State alumnus.

                                                         Penn State fashion arts class.

                                                                   Penn State classroom.

Penn State students.

                                                      Penn State creative writing class.

                                                             Penn State zoology class.

Monday, November 28, 2011

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Murder of Bian Zhongyun.

I knew the composition of that photograph looked familiar.

I do not mean to suggest by the* juxtaposition of these two death scenes that Bian Zhongyun was a Christ-like person. But there are similarities in their murders! Both knowingly submitted to their fates. Both were tortured. Oh my God, this is cracking my brain.

 I am intending to see if there is something in the way that Chinese reacted to Bian's death that helps explain what they thought--what the female students who killed Bian thought, what Wang Jinyao thought, what his daughters in the photograph thought, what Bian thought.

That photograph is Mr. Wang's composition. He took several photographs of Bian's body.  To document Bian's injuries was one reason, that was one thought he had. This photograph shows facial bruising but it doesn't seem reasonable to attribute the same forensic thought as to the full-body photographs.  This is, at least partly, a mourning shot.  It's like a photograph that would be taken in a funeral home in the West except photographs usually aren't taken in funeral homes in the West.

What was in Mr. Wang's mind when he took this photograph of his two daughters weeping by their mother's body? Whatever the answer to that question, does that answer say anything about what kind of killing he thought it was? A street crime murder?  A political murder, that is an assassination?  Did he think there was a transcendent meaning to his wife's killing?

* "Coincidental" deleted, 5:35 pm.  I don't know for sure if Mr. Wang's positioning of the figures in the photograph was coincidental to a biblical lamentation scene. I assume so, but I shouldn't assume.

Painting:  Lamentation of Christ, by the Master of the Housebook, late 15th century. 
I am not advancing as an art critic. 

What an awesome painting.  It is Berthe Morisot with a Fan by Edouard Manet, 1872

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

China's Great Wall of Silence: The Murder of Bian Zhongyun.

Two years ago* I wrote an introduction to a brief series on a China-related trip to Providence, Rhode Island. The introduction was also a retrospective on my amateur studies to that point. I was stumped and wrote:

"Trying to imagine what was in the minds of the Beijingers involved in Bian Zhongyun's Passion was the wall I hit."

There was no forethought given to use of the term “Passion;” it just came out that way when I wrote.  I’ve given some afterthought to it and it seems to me there’s some hunt in that dog.

Bian knew she was going to be made a “sacrifice”--that word is Weili Ye’s--, just as Jesus of Nazareth did. Bian bathed the night before to make sure her corpse would be clean.  Both willingly went to their deaths, Mr. Wang Jinyao walking his wife part way and watching her disappear around a corner. Both were tortured before death.

Christ willingly went to his execution to save mankind.  Bian?  Several nights ago I read this:

“I am not afraid to die, Citizen Evremonde, but I have done nothing.  I am not unwilling to die, if the Republic, which is to do so much good to us poor, will profit by my death;”**

If we substitute “Comrade” for Citizen Evremonde, and insert “People’s” before Republic, that might be the mentality of those, like Bian, who willingly became victims during the Cultural Revolution--like the man who casually went to the stadium where he was to be struggled. Or it might not. Mr. Wang never offered anything like this as explanation in my interviews of him.

The killings of Jesus Christ, Bian Zhongyun, and Dickens’ nameless seamstress were all ritualized and all done in the name of some higher good.  This is considering the Cultural Revolution from an anthropological perspective, as palimpsest.

** “A Tale of Two Cities,” Charles Dickens, 368.

Image: Teacher Bian's children weep over her corpse.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Libya 2.0

He-he-he-he, ha-ha-ha-ha. Oh! Er, a, yes.

Umm, Saif al Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Muammar Gaddafi, was captured over the weekend. We urge a, ah, fair, ah trial, yeah trial, for al Islam.