Friday, July 31, 2015

Lake Scenes and Bottle of Beer

We went for a walk around Salem's city lake yesterday, and Sun-Ae took some photos, which I reproduce below and which offer close-ups by clicking on the photos, respectively.

Here's a photo of the lake from a small wetlands area fed by a tiny creek behind us and therefore not visible in this photo:

Next is a peaceful shoreline scene:

You see in the photo below some local wildlife (several geese and a duck, but I can't make out the duck as I post this), though these fowl don't seem especially wild:

The lake has a dock, but whether for small boats or just fishing, I don't know:

Here's a view of the lake showing its length:

After the lakeside's arduous march without provisions, we stopped by at my brother Tim's place, where I enjoyed a small bottle of the devil's brew:

The drink would appear to be obscurely hinting at the possibility that it offers a 'bottomless' bottle of beer, but there was - fortunately for me - a bottom to this bottle.

I therefore had another . . .


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Conversation with Jim Scott . . .

Republican Road
Geoview Info

Yesterday, I visited my old high school math teacher Jim Scott for about four or five hours to ask him various questions pertaining to his views on life at 82. I hadn't seen him since 2010, but he's still very sharp mentally.

He lives with his wife, Barbara, on their Ozark farm just off Republican Road in Fulton County, Arkansas, near my hometown of Salem, and that reminds me of a question I forgot to ask him, namely: How did Republican Road get its name? Any readers know?

Anyway, Jim and I had a grand time discussing his responses to my various questions, though we both got stumped on our affirmation of free will - what it is and how it works.

But I did get an answer to my question as to when he realized that he was a very smart individual, and to my surprise, he replied, "In the army." The military administered him an IQ test, and he scored very high. Only then did he notice that he was quicker at insights and solutions than most other people he knew.

But he started mathematics late, after two years in the army and a few years living a cowboy life, and he stopped working for a doctorate in math when he realized the need for a practical job to support his growing family.

But he admitted that his interest in math was more practical than theoretical, anyway, and that he preferred to use math in building things. Nevertheless, I read him the analogy that Charles Fefferman made about higher math being like playing chess with the Devil, and Jim agreed that the analogy was a good one.

I asked what gave him the most satisfaction in his life, and he again said that it would have to be building things, particularly his house, which he designed and constructed pretty much on his own.

I asked if his surveying work also gave him satisfaction, but he said, "Not as much." But we had an interesting conversation about surveying, anyway, and he explained a problem with the old Gunter's Chain - it tended to lengthen with use as the links rubbed against one another and wore the metal down. Because of this, surveyors in the old days were issued two chains, one to use in measuring land and the other to use as a standard.

After our long conversation, I showed Jim my novella and related the story as we went through the illustrations, and Barbara came through the room as I was doing this, noticed the colorful story, and decided she'd have to order it for her Kindle.

By that time, we were getting hungry, so I treated them to dinner with Sun-Ae and me at a local Mexican restaurant, where we spoke of other things.

That day ended, and another now begins . . .

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Winging It to Memphis

Wingin' It

We flew into Memphis yesterday, where my brother Tim picked us up and drove us the 150 miles to my hometown, Salem, Arkansas, but the photo - as you can see, if you also trust me - is from our Detroit-to-Memphis flight,

Detroit, by the way, seems to be recovering - if the airport is a hint of better times. The place looked much better than the last time I was there, which was 2010, I believe.

Anyway, we've arrived safely in the Ozarks and are both looking forward to a great two weeks!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sparse Blogging, Next Two Weeks

I'll be in my old Ozark stompin' grounds the next couple of weeks, so the blogging might be sparse, but I'll try to report on the Hodges Boys Reunion as well as on my High School Class of 1975 Reunion, and on places my wife and I visit, along with pictures, if possible . . .


Some EWIS Feedback . . .


I received some feedback from a student who took my EWIS course, and her words are a 'virtual' advertisement for the course:
EWIS Gll is the best course for a student who has a definite content and a specific goal of writing. 1:1 tutorials with the professor, who usually checked an overall flow of a draft as well as concrete details and subtle nuances of words and expressions, were very helpful to upgrade the quality of the draft. Even when a student had an ambiguous direction, the professor helped to develop the idea by giving some guidance of where to get started, how to approach, and whether the idea had a logical flaw. It was a huge advantage not to force students make an outcome in a particular format but to manage a student to write for herself on her necessity. I am preparing to apply for a master's program in the United States, and with the professor's help I completed the three versions of my statement of purpose and CV in the classes. Other students also wrote for their fields and interests and the professor counseled each student and gave her guidelines. In such a process, the students could realize their understanding of their field or interests, and learned how to make a persuasive argument. As for me, I earned a clear concept of writing, for applications that the institutions wanted, by the professor's guidance, and could develop a strategy for each of them. If I had not taken this EWIS GII course, I would have been in chaos, not knowing where to start my writing and how to complete it. In this sense, I think that it was very fortunate to have a chance to take this course, and thanks to that, I could go one step forward to my goal.
Maybe I should spend a bit more time on grammar, but I think what I do is a far better use of time, and I thank the student for her implicit understanding of that.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Issam Amira Aims at Conquering the World for Islam

Issam Amira
His Aim Is Bad!

In the Memri circular for July 4, 2015 (Clip No. 5001), the Palestinian Cleric Issam Amira is described  as having announced in the Al-Aqsa Mosque the need for an Islamic state and having revealed that "Our Main War Is with [the] U.S. and Europe; Russia and China Will Embrace Islam Peacefully":
An Islamic state is required to deliver the call for Islam to the whole world. Therefore, this state must be qualified for expansion, militarily, ideologically, economically, and geographically . . . . Therefore, our main war is with whom? With the Byzantines, with America and Europe - with France, with Britain, with those places . . . As for Russia and China, there's no need to worry about them. I am optimistic that when the Emir of the Believers writes to the Chinese [demanding that they convert or die], they will convert to Islam, because they are reasonable people. As for the Russians, they are stubborn, but once Moscow is liberated from the shackles of the USSR, of Bolshevism, of the Czar, and even of Putin, they will join Islam, and that will be that.
Russia might gradually come to have a large Muslim population due to higher birthrates among the Muslim mminorities, but I don't see the Russians themselves going under the banner of Islam without a fight. As for the Chinese, they are an old, proud civilization and have no interest in becoming Muslim, so they won't prove so 'reasonable' as anticipated by this Muslim cleric. He has a few words for the great infidel regions:
The problem will [be] with America and Europe, but we are ready for them.
Ready because Allah will score - or make an assist to his celestial minions:
Don't be afraid of America's nuclear weapons. The angels have anti-nuclear capabilities.
The angels have high-tech capabilities, or so Amira implies, and these weapons will assist the Caliph in his Islamic state:
The Islamic Caliphate must be restored, so that it will lead the armies to war against the infidels . . . . [so we must] establish the Islamic State . . . . Show no mercy or compassion.
Show no mercy? Right. For instance:
When you unleash the [Muslim] people, they will shatter these false idols. Unleash the [Muslim] people upon banks that exact usury, and they will destroy them. Unleash them upon unveiled women, and they will pounce upon them.
I suspect pouncing is merely the first step toward many atrocities and war crimes! Such are the high moral standards of this so-called 'cleric.' I wonder where he picked his ethics up.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Tao of Mathematics: Playing Chess with the Devil

Terry Tao

Gareth Cook tells us of "The Singular Mind of Terry Tao: A prodigy grows up to become one of the greatest mathematicians in the world" (New York Times, July 24, 2015), but even for him, the process wasn't easy:
The true work of the mathematician is not experienced until the later parts of graduate school, when the student is challenged to create knowledge in the form of a novel proof. It is common to fill page after page with an attempt, the seasons turning, only to arrive precisely where you began, empty-handed - or to realize that a subtle flaw of logic doomed the whole enterprise from its outset. The steady state of mathematical research is to be completely stuck. It is a process that Charles Fefferman of Princeton, himself a onetime math prodigy turned Fields medalist, likens to "playing chess with the devil." The rules of the devil's game are special, though: The devil is vastly superior at chess, but, Fefferman explained, you may take back as many moves as you like, and the devil may not. You play a first game, and, of course, "he crushes you." So you take back moves and try something different, and he crushes you again, "in much the same way." If you are sufficiently wily, you will eventually discover a move that forces the devil to shift strategy; you still lose, but - aha! - you have your first clue.
Does one ever defeat the Devil in this game? Not really. One might win a game, but that game is simply part of a larger game. One merely gains ground, game by game, in the great game of an infinite number of games, and the Devil has all the time in the world, but you don't. Interestingly, Fefferman takes the chess analogy further, as we see in an interview with Daniela Martínez Nava for Ciencia Nostra, “Math is a chess game against the devil” (June 10, 2012):
Math is like playing chess but you are playing a game against the devil. But you get to take steps back; you get to take back as many moves as you like. So if you play against the devil[,] you get crush[ed] and you think about why you lost and you try to change your move and again you are crush[ed]; you are simply wrong, whatever reason you thought was the reason for you being crush[ed] that's not the reason at all. But sooner or later maybe you get an idea and then you get a little scare[d] to play and get crush[ed] again[,] but you give it a try because the devil will have to make another move, and pretty soon after a few years of playing many games[,] you start to see what is going on[,] and after a while of fighting[,] you win. But while you play this game God is whispering in your ear "move your peon [i.e., pawn] over there, is all you have to do and then he is in real trouble[.]" But you can't hear, you are deaf . . . well not deaf[,] but you have to pay a lot of attention [because] if not[,] you can't know what God is telling you. But that is the spirit of the thing.
Interesting. God plays a role. I gather mathematicians sense that they dealing with a logical mind when they attempt to elucidate proofs . . .

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rushdie Speaks Out!

Salman Rushdie
AFP / Alfredo Estrella

In an interview recently, "Rushdie says 'wrong lessons' [were] learned from his Iran fatwa ordeal" (AFP, July 22, 2015):
More than a quarter century after being slapped with a fatwa from Iran calling for his murder over his book "The Satanic Verses", Salman Rushdie says the world has learned the "wrong lessons" about freedom of expression . . . . Rushdie said some writers and other people were too cowed to talk freely about Islam . . . . "Instead of concluding we need to oppose these attacks on freedom of expression, we believed we should calm . . . [Muslims] through compromises and ceding," . . . . [which are] "politically correct" positions . . . motivated by fear . . . . "If people weren't being killed right now, if bombs and Kalashnikovs weren't speaking today, the debate would be very different. Fear is being disguised as respect . . . . Extremism constitutes an attack against the Western world as much as against Muslims themselves . . . . Keeping silent does not help Muslims."
And that's why I speak up.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Cranial Percussion Therapy - or a More-Basic Method?

Over at Dr. Boli's place, a divisive reader maintains that CPT (Cranial Percussion Therapy) is the answer to disobedience of all sorts, and that reader offers this anecdotal evidence:
Every mother who has ever taken it upon herself to smack some sense into her child has administered CPT in its most ancient and therefore most effective form, making a record of literally billions of case studies unmatched by any other therapy.
Billions of case studies? Each case is purely anecdotal! Now, I would agree that CPT works, but as I suggested to that divisive reader, there is an even more basic method, one that gets to the bottom of the problem, namely, SKITA:
Personally, I find that SKITA works better than CPT. The real problem is not that people don't know, it's that they're just too darned lazy, so they concoct excuses like, "Oh, I don’t understand." That's when the CPT gets applied, and it does work, but to get to the seat of the problem, which is laziness ("Oh, I'm too busy," they always say), giving the subject a SKITA works even better. I'd be happy to demonstrate how a swift kick works, but I wouldn't know where to begin with a public demonstration, and I don't have the time anyway.
So, remember, folks, the problem ain't cognitive, it's behavioral! People are lazy and just won't do what they ought to do! No need to strike the cranium - just kick the butt.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Warning: Islam is a Peaceful Religion

British Prime Minister David Cameron
Zahra Qadir
LA Times

In a report by Henry Chu for The Los Angeles Times, "Britain's David Cameron calls for combating 'vicious, brutal' extremists" (July 22, 2015):
Although he warned that Islam was a peaceful religion, Cameron emphasized it would be an "exercise in futility" to pretend there was no link between Islam and the radical ideas espoused by militants who call themselves Muslims.
What? Uh? Oh. Right. Got it:
Although he emphasized that Islam was a peaceful religion, Cameron warned it would be an "exercise in futility" to pretend there was no link between Islam and the radical ideas espoused by militants who call themselves Muslims.
Confusion on this point about "warning" and "emphasizing" is too easy to fall into, so let's quote Cameron at length on what he considers the British creed and explicitly note the subtle connections to avoid when we think of Islam with respect to this British creed (i.e., the incorrect associations about Islam are my parenthetical remarks):
"We have in our country a very clear creed, and we need to promote it much more confidently," . . . [Cameron] said. "There are things we share together. We're all British (but members of the Ummah first). We respect democracy (one man, one vote, one time) and the rule of law (Muslim law). We believe in freedom of speech (except when we don't), freedom of the press (ditto), freedom of worship (for the time being), equal rights (for some, but not for others) regardless of race (hundred yard dash, hundred meter dash, we're not picky), sex (for martyrs, and lots of it), sexuality (eh, didn't you just ask about this) or faith (submission is enough). We believe in respecting different faiths (as long as they sit down and shut up), but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life (so long as that way of life conforms to Islam)."
Now comes an actual warning (emphasis mine) from the Muslim Council of Britain (again with parentheticals to avoid when thinking about Islam):
The Muslim Council of Britain . . . welcomed Cameron's remarks but warned against "litmus tests (Islamophobic questions that back us into a corner) which may brand us all as extremists (very pious Muslims), even though we uphold and celebrate the rule of law (the aforementioned Islamic law), democracy (yeah, one man, one vote, one time) and rights for all (unequal rights)."
No need to thank me - I'm glad to get all of this straightened out. Just remember: Forget those above-noted parentheticals! They will lead you 180 degrees astray from what we're supposed to think about Islam.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The NecronomiCon Providence Team Contacts Me . . .

H. P. Lovecraft

I recently received an email circular with the above photo announcing yet another NecronomiCon get-together in Providence, R.I. (2015) to the memory of H.P. Lovecraft. I am told that "Preparations are wrapping up . . . , and we know there is much movement on all horizons as folks from around the world prepare for their pilgrimages to the sacred city, Providence," which sounds vaguely ominous, especially as "some quick and pertinent details" are dragged into my consciousness, e.g., "the Eldritch Ball and Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast," tickets to which "will go on sale . . . Wednesday, 22 July, at 5 p.m. EST!" That sounds remarkably like today.

What's my connection to all this?

I include much detail about Lovecraft and Cthulhu in my novella The Bottomless Bottle of Beer, so perhaps that's a reason I get emails such as this one, and I welcome it.

You can learn more about NecronomiCon at the Facebook site . . .


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cormac McCarthy's Novel No Country for Old Men

In light of the abortion video released only a few days ago, this passage in Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country for Old Men seems particularly apt (with hat tip to JK and David Duff):
Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that's a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way this country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation. (Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men; quoted in Jean Bethke Elshtain's Sovereignty: God, State, and Self, Basic Books, 2008, pages 203-204)
Excellent recounting in dialect of a conversation, and a stunner of a conversation killer, but the words bring one to thinking . . .


Monday, July 20, 2015

The Left: Willy-Nilly Favors Free-Market Democracy?

Writing for The Point, Daniel Luban argues in "Forward with Fukuyama" that the 'End of History' is still among us, with the democratic, free market system the only real solution to humanity's problems, so much so that even the Left agrees:
The point was driven home with great clarity in a recent speech by Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, the darling of the left since Syriza's electoral victory. The experience of recent decades, he argued, demonstrates the futility of hoping that crisis would inevitably lead to something better. "The left must admit that we are just not ready to plug the chasm that a collapse of European capitalism would open up with a functioning socialist system." As a result, Varoufakis suggested, Syriza finds itself in the unlikely position of trying "to save European capitalism from itself," however ambivalently it might approach this task.
Well . . . perhaps Varoufakis can see this clearly, but much of the Left does not. Nor does a little snag called Islamism . . .

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Faustino 1 for a friend . . .

Faustino 1

My wife and I went shopping on Saturday in a nearby Costco for a gift wine to give to a friend, and we found this lovely bottle of Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, which Bodegas Faustino tells us was voted number 1 wine of the year in 2013 by Decanter Magazine:
Faustino I Gran Reserva, 2001 has been chosen as Decanter's Number One Wine of the Year.

From more than 3,200 wines recommended in Decanter over the past year, their tastings team has picked out not only the highest-scoring but also the best-value wines.

With 19.25 / 20 points, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001 has been positioned as Number 1 out of 50 wines featured.

Described [by Decanter] as "Restrained, mineral style with elegant tannins, youthful and fresh, feminine and complex. Deliciously decadent with extraordinary vitality in the palate and a long unique finish. A jewel at this price point!"

"A classic Rioja that is still fresh after 12 years, with more to come." Annette Scarfe MW

With ageing potential of another decade, Faustino I makes a great Christmas investment gift - or just open it this Christmas and enjoy its complexity of flavours with your turkey!
That all sounds pretty good. I hope it's also accurate - it seems to be. I've read that the Faustino 1 is a dry wine - as I expected - and that the Rioja region is one of Spain's oldest and finest for wine-making (which I didn't know).

I should have bought two bottles, one to test and the other to give. Perhaps I will. Meantime, any readers out there who know this wine?


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Planned Parenthood and Planned Organ Harvesting

Deborah Nucatola
Google Images

Sandhya Somashekhar and Danielle Paquette report that an "Undercover video shows Planned Parenthood official discussing fetal organs used for research" (Washington Post, July 14, 2015). The official, Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Research for Planned Parenthood, was recorded on camera explaining Planned Parenthood's work in 'donating' fetal tissue to researchers, according to the Center for Medical Progress, which recorded the discussion and which claims Nucatola's words prove that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law by selling fetal organs. Here are some of Nucatola's words:
I'd say a lot of people want liver, . . . [a]nd for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they'll know where they're putting their forceps . . . . We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I'm not gonna crush that part, I'm gonna basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact . . . . Every provider has patients who want to donate their tissue, and they want to accommodate them . . . . They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as: This clinic is selling tissue. This clinic is making money off this. In the Planned Parenthood world, they're very, very sensitive to that. Some affiliates might do it for free. [But if they charge, t]hey want to come to a number that looks like a reasonable number for the effort . . . allotted on their part . . . . [I]t's probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what's involved . . . . It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there that's going to be doing everything . . . is there shipping involved? Is someone going to be there to pick it up?
Nucatola seems to be very careful in avoiding language that suggests Planned Parenthood to be involved in selling fetal organs, but money is definitely described as changing hands, and that itself offers the temptation to charge more if more trouble is taken, especially if Planned Parenthood is taking orders for specific organs, a problematic issue in its own right:
Arthur Caplan, director of New York University's Division of Medical Ethics[, says,] "I think the only relevant goal of an abortion clinic is to provide a safe and least risky abortion to a woman . . . . If you're starting to play with how it's done, and when it's done, other things than women's health are coming into play. You're making a huge mountain of conflict of interest."
Even if an abortion clinic is not getting money, the harvesting of organs from fetuses is highly problematic, for the reason Caplan gives. And note that Nucatola's matter-of-fact wording presupposes fetal body parts as commodities, even in her remark - or perhaps especially in her remark - that "Some affiliates might do it for free." Because some, perhaps most, do not do it for free . . . but for a price.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Blame the Jews! (Again)

Antisemitic Caricature of Jewish Banker
Vos iz Neias

Over at the Marmot's Hole is a report that Samsung is engaged in a struggle over control as shareholders prepare to vote on the potential merger of Samsung with Cheil Industries, a merger especially opposed by the shareholder and hedge fund corporation Elliott Associates LP, and some Koreans have made arguably antisemitic comments, as reported in "South Korea - Jewish Organizations Call On Samsung To Denounce Accusations Of Jewish Cabal Blocking Deal" (Vos iz Neias? July 14th, 2015):
According to South Korean financial publication MoneyToday, "Elliott is led by a Jew, Paul E. Singer, and ISS [an advisory firm that analyzed the merger] is an affiliate of Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), whose key shareholders are Jewish. According to a source in the finance industry, Jews have a robust network demonstrating influence in a number of domains."

Meanwhile, Mediapen, another local publication, asserted that "Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles" and that it is a "well-known fact that the US government is swayed by Jewish capital."

Jewish money, it reported, "has long been known to be ruthless and merciless."

In an accompanying photo, Singer was referred to as the "greedy, ruthless head of a notorious hedge fund."
Every long-time reader of my blog knows where I stand on this issue, but just in case some commentators over at the Marmot's Hole don't know, I posted an unambiguous comment for everyone's edification:
Samsung's problems? I blame the Jews! And the cyclists!
I believe that surely clarifies my view on this significant issue . . .

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

What We See When We Look

Photo by Tim Ernst

Nature at work in the Boston Mountain area of the Arkansas Ozarks, grinding the valleys deep down low, if slow, like God's mills, and creating great beauty in the process.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Inchoate = Not Choate? Only by Accident . . .

On page 15 of his book What We See When We Read (Vintage Original, 2014), Peter Mendelsund says:
You may feel intimately acquainted with a character . . . , but this doesn't mean you are actually picturing a person. Nothing so fixed - nothing so choate.
Mendelsund may well be correct that we don't picture a character as we read, but what does he mean by "choate"? Does he consider it the opposite of "inchoate"? This word (as we all know) means: "2. Imperfectly formed or developed; disordered or incoherent" (The Free Dictionary by Farlex). That would suggest "choate" means "Perfectly formed or developed; ordered or coherent."

But "in-" in this usage does not mean "not"; rather, it is the enceptive "in-," which signals the beginning of a process. By a stroke of linguistic luck, then, something is inchoate because the process has only begun, so the thing is still in a disordered state, not yet choate, i.e., ordered - just as if "-in" meant "not"!

But is "choate" actually a word? There is some dispute about this, but "choate" has been used as a legal term since 1828, according to Wikipedia, and it means "perfected, complete, or certain" in a legal context.

Whether Mendelsund knew all of this or not, then, he could justifiably defend his choice of the term "choate" since its legal meaning fits the context here . . . insofar as we are judging character.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Annoying Game Theorist?

Yanis Varoufakis

I think the Greek government, led by the left-wing Syriza political party, selected Yanis Varoufakis to 'negotiate' for better conditions in the austerity program because he is an expert on game theory, but game theory presupposes conflict between antagonists, a kind of words warfare, so just imagine the message that the Greek government was sending in making Varoufakis their champion, for in doing so, they showed the EU that they would be fighting against austerity to the last millimeter of terms rather than discussing how to make the austerity program workable, a hint of hostility that instantly alienated the EU, particularly since many in the EU had already come to the point of scarcely any longer caring whether Greece had to leave the euro zone or not, meaning the EU states felt they could not lose, no matter how skillful Varoufakis should prove to be in game theory, because the endgame no longer mattered.

Once the Greeks realized this, Varoufakis dropped out, and Greece began to negotiate in earnest, Or so things seemed to me, but what do I know about any of this?


Monday, July 13, 2015

Ronald J. Granieri: Hypocritical Germany?

Writing for Geopoliticus: The FPRI Blog, Ronald J. Granieri analyzes "Greek Debt, Austerity, and the Myth of the Hypocritical Hun" (July 6, 2015). Here's a redacted version:
Most Greeks, facing mounting economic chaos and armed with only a vague idea of the specific deal, apparently welcomed the chance [in the referendum] to denounce austerity without jeopardizing Greece's place in Europe, and believe they can retain the Euro[, but s]uch assumptions are, to put it mildly, optimistic, though the resignation of Varoufakis this morning indicates that Tsipras still hopes to restart negotiations . . . . [Many SNS sites] over the weekend were flooded with images of Greek and other European states signing the 1953 London Agreement, which greatly reduced the debt burden on West Germany, and is correctly considered a key moment in the postwar German "Economic Miracle." Some journalists on the pro-SYRIZA Left have gone so far as to accuse the Germans of hypocrisy in refusing to give Greece the same consideration . . . . Such assertions fit into a popular narrative that combines two popular villains (bankers and Germans) . . . . [I]n 1953 West Germany and its creditors reached an agreement that greatly reduced the debt burden on Germans . . . . West Germany in 1953 was indeed treated differently than Greece in 2011-2015[, but] that agreement only came after the government of Konrad Adenauer demonstrated its willingness to submit both West German heavy industry (in the European Coal and Steel Community) and its military (in the ill-fated European Defense Community) to supranational European authority. West Germany also behaved differently than Greece - demonstrating a willingness to make compromises for Europe, and also enduring a period of austerity and slow wage growth, in order to help create the political atmosphere that made the 1953 debt agreement possible . . . . The 1953 deal was not automatic . . . . The simple image of hypocritical Germans rests on a misreading of the historical facts . . . . The 1953 analogy has much to teach us, but not in the ways that it is currently being used. A clearer historical perspective should help us see that things could have turned out rather differently in the 1950s, but turned out the way they did as a result of conscious choices made by leaders in Europe and the United States. Adenauer pursued his vision of German Westbindung with ruthless consistency, and found partners in French colleagues such as Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, Italians such as Alcide De Gasperi, and Belgians such as Paul-Henri Spaak, with whom he shared a vision for European integration that helped overcome national suspicions . . . . Any hope that we may have of a sensible resolution to the current crisis will require much wiser and more creative leadership than we have seen thus far.
In short, Germany didn't receive a debt agreement in 1953 without accepting demands from other European states, something Greece has been finding hard to do.

We'll soon see the consequences of the Greek's application of game theory . . .


Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Islamic State: "a place so barbarically horrible . . . [you're] better off dead"

Islamic State Gunmen
The Spectator

James Delingpole, writing for The Spectator (July 11, 2015), reviews television "at its most unmissable" in "A documentary that ought to rank with the footage of British troops liberating Belsen," showing on British Channel 4's upcoming episode (July 15th) of the documentary series Dispatches, Escape from Isis, which shows secret clips from within the terrorist Islamic State. Let Delingpole suggest a thought experiment:
So you've just popped out of town for the day on an errand. And when you get back, everyone has gone. Your wife, your kids, your nephews and nieces, your friends, your customers: they've all been kidnapped and dragged off to a place so barbarically horrible that really they'd be better off dead.
Consider the life of your daughter if she's 'lucky' and ends up enslaved to a woman:
The very least she can expect is to have to spend her every day in the most restrictive clothing anywhere in the Muslim world. Her hands must be hidden by black gloves, her eyes invisible behind three veils. On those rare occasions when she is allowed outside, she must stumble as if half blind. If she accidentally breaks these rules she'll be beaten; if she raises her voice she'll be beaten; if she disobeys an order she'll be beaten - usually by the al-Khansaa Brigade, a special female police group of brutal enforcers, mostly foreign recruits determined to prove their loyalty by being extra zealous.
But suppose your daughter is unlucky, as the thought experiment of enslavement turns real:
One 18-year-old escapee reports what happened when she was bought by a self-styled 'sheikh': first, her owner raped her; then his six bodyguards - through the night till morning ("they were not raping me in a gentle way, but with force and fast movement, without care"); then, the driver gave her to 12 men. "They did everything to me. I'm still in pain."
This poor woman was at least able to escape from the Islamic State. Women trapped there suffer on, unless they are rescued:
Escape From Isis uses secret footage . . . to show you in unsparing detail what it's like behind the Black Flag curtain: everything from the small talk of Islamic State fighters as they jauntily discuss what they're going to do [sexually] with their . . . [female] captives to [other atrocities]. It's ugly, it's almost unbearable to watch and it's essential viewing . . . . [because] what makes it bearable, uplifting even, is the extraordinary story it tells of the rescue operations that have brought at least some of these captured [women] . . . back to the bosom of their tearful families. Watch and you will share their joy.
Most of these women are Yazidis, a pagan sect particularly despised by Islamists, and as pagans, they have no rights at all under Islamic law, hence their enslavement.

That's the reality. Their only hope is rescue.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Next IS Battlefield: Europe?

Terrorist Routes to Europe
Die Welt

Alfred Hackensberger warns us that "The Next Great Battlefield is Europe" ("Das nächste große Schlachtfeld ist Europa"), (The World (Die Welt), 2015). Hackensberger starts with a focus on Lorenz Berger, a European briefly caught by the Islamic State (IS), then goes on to argue that IS terrorists are entering Europe in the guise of refugees and that they intend to open another battlefront. The original article is in German, but I have prepared an English paraphrase with gaps leaving some parts out and connectors bringing some points in, and so on, as you'll see in my concluding remarks:
Lorenz Berger spent a week captured by a terrorist militia of the "Islamic State" (IS). He used to be a soldier and has long been in the Middle East as a freelance agent, so he is used to hardship, but he thought he was going to die. He escaped when the Syrian air force bombed the area where he was prisoner. In the confusion, he grabbed one of the guards' guns, shot the terrorists holding him, and escaped. Berger is now at home in a peaceful EU country, but he has come to realize that the war is following him home.

Almost exactly one year ago, on June 29, 2014, the IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the caliphate. He declared himself a successor to the Muslim prophet Muhammad and started organizing his own territory to form a government. He intended to rule over an Islamist dream empire with brutal punishments and slave markets. But there would be more coming - and there is. Some sources claim that the IS has followed a strategy of systematically smuggling Arab fighters into Europe. If so, the IS is expanding its war into Europe.

This may seem illogical at first glance, but the basic principle of IS warfare is that the more enemies, the better. This is according to the doomsday theory of the IS: total war will bring humanity closer to the Last Day and Muslim martyrs closer to paradise.

As recently as April this year, the Berlin Ex-rapper Deso Dogg, now fighting for the IS, threatened Europe in a video with attacks by "sleepers," terrorists who secretly prepare attacks under the guise of a normal life for years, ready at any time to perform on command. Such IS sleeper cells already exist in Europe, say some sources, and they are growing in number under the guise of refugees, say others. Three main routes are clear on which IS people might come to Europe. The first leads from Syria over the Bosphorus to Greece. The second route runs through the chaotic mini-states of former Yugoslavia. The third is the Bulgarian route. A fourth, frequently mentioned itinerary, from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy, seems scarcely used.

IS fighters are already everywhere in Europe, some experts claim, and sources say groups of them have been commanded to go to Germany, for example, and apply for political asylum there, and wait for further instructions from Syria. Once refugees receive political asylum, they are free to move and work in Germany.

In the leadership of the IS, there are former officers of the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Many of these were trained in the former Soviet bloc. After the Wall came down, many old communist spies went to the Middle East. According to some experts, the IS terrorist organization has inherited the Baathist and Communist expertise and knows how to conduct sensitive, dangerous paramilitary operations. The IS thus does not act like a guerrilla group, but as a state, for the secret services of the Eastern bloc were very professional and have trained the IS well. After Syria, then, the next big battle is Europe.
Or so says Alfred Hackensberger, more or less, and he seems to be an expert, but I find the Communist angle somewhat speculative and likely exaggerated, though some links might be drawn from Communists to Baathists, and there definitely are former Baathists among the IS islamists. But Communists aside, what Hackensberger expects of the IS with respect to Europe is based partly upon the fact that the IS has opened fronts in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and other places, so why not expect the IS to open a front in Europe?

Finally, any mistakes in the text above are likely my own, for I've translated, paraphrased, summarized, omitted, and commented in preparing this for posting. In short, if anything is incorrect, blame me, not Hackensberger.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Saudi Writer Zuhair Kutbi: "How do you expect the West to respect the Prophet"?

Saudi Writer Zuhair Kutbi

In a recent interview, the Saudi writer Zuhair Kutbi complains that "The [Saudi] Regime's Efforts at National Dialogue [for Reform] Achieved Nothing" (Memri, Clip No. 4993, June 22, 2015):
[The success of the King Abdulaziz Center's National Dialogue for reforming Saudi society from within was, f]rankly speaking, . . . about zero percent . . . . It was nothing but hot air, a waste of public funds, eating, drinking . . . I was there . . . . [Y]ou have to distinguish between National Dialogue as an institution and dialogue itself . . . . If only they had implemented even 10% of what was discussed in the 100 or so National Dialogue sessions.
Kutbi sounds less than satisfied with the results of the Saudi national dialogue, and his next remark makes the same point, but personalizes it this time:
The National Dialogue institution has gained nothing positive for Saudi society. Give me one example . . . For instance, we all demanded to change the religious discourse. It has not changed, and it will not change either . . . . [T]hey turned off our microphones . . . mine . . . twice . . . . due to the content, not time. They cut me off. And when the session aired on TV, . . . my remarks had been omitted.
Kutbi's next remarks reveal why the authorities cut the mike and omitted his statement:
There wasn't much freedom . . . . I was talking about the incident with the Prophet [cartoons] in Europe. I said to them: How do you expect the West to respect the Prophet, when in our own country, in the Great Mosque of Mecca, we say: "Oh Allah, destroy the Jews, and turn their women into widows, and their children into orphans"?
In effect, Kutbi was siding with the Europeans in their lack of respect for the Muslim prophet Muhammad, given the genocidal sermons delivered in the Saudi's Great Mosque of Mecca, and he also implicitly contrasts the fortitude of Europeans and European intellectuals with the cowardice of Saudi intellectuals:
Let me be frank . . . , although I know that I am being harsh: Most Saudi intellectuals are cowards. They are cowards and do not speak the truth . . . . The issue of the intellectuals is a very serious one. The struggle between the authorities and the intellectuals is an eternal one [everywhere], but in Saudi Arabia, it [has been] . . . completely contained. There is no such struggle.
One could borrow an expression from Julien Benda and call this "the treason of the intellectuals" - though I wouldn't limit this to Saudis, for as Paul Berman has shown, the cowardice extends to Western intellectuals, too. I suppose Kutbi considers himself a courageous intellectual. The Saudi authorities have considered him insane, or so he says:
My beliefs have cost me my youth, my health, and my future. I have been forbidden to travel. I have been in prison six times . . . . I have been in the majority of Saudi prisons. They [even] put me in an insane asylum in Ta'if . . . . They said: This crazy man wrote a letter to the king demanding reforms. I was the first Saudi citizen to demand a constitutional monarchy. I wrote this to King Fahd in 1989-90.
He concludes with these words deploring Saudi narrowness:
Let me tell you, regionalism and racism are part of Saudi Arabia's identity, and of the identity of Saudi people. Racism and regionalism are within us. We should not lie to ourselves and pretend that we are perfect angels. We are racist, racist, racist!
I suspect one can find racism in every country, but what the Saudis suffer from is more than racism, it's Islamist supremacism, characterized by extreme intolerance and intense hatred of non-Muslims . . . on the part of a tiny minority of extremists, of course.

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Thursday, July 09, 2015

Jim Pirtle: NoZe Brother and Performance Artist - or is that redundant?

Jim Pirtle
Performing Performance Art

I was going through my numerous art-mail emails and happened across an artist named "Jim Pirtle." The surname struck a mystic chord of memory - one doesn't forget a surname like "Pirtle." Could this be the Jim Pirtle I knew at Baylor? The friend who heard that I had scored at the 99th percentile on the English Literature GRE and observed with mock seriousness, "That means that out of 100 people, you did better than 99 of them." I had to laugh. Anyway, I Googled his name and found some of his work at the CUE Art Foundation, which also provided some biographical details:
Jim Pirtle was born in Houston, TX in 1960. In High School he was selected "Most Nonconformist." He went to Baylor University in Waco, TX and received a BA in history but more importantly was a member of the NoZe Brotherhood. The group was an underground mask-wearing secret society of satirists that through writing, campus interventions and performance art exposed the hypocrisy of conservative Baptists.
Yeah, that was him. And we did claim to be exposing hypocrisy. But the NoZe Brotherhood as performance artists? Never thought of it quite that way, but I suppose we were. In part. Pirtle, anyway, has an interesting perspective on art and how he turned to it, which started with his job at a hospital, a job somehow linked to research on rats:
In one psychological experiment examining fight or flight responses to electric shock, it was found that one rat in a cage would escape when possible. Two rats in one cage with no escape would fight each other. One rat in a cage with no way out and no one to fight would turn his fight instincts onto himself, weaken and die. When I worked in the Austin State Hospital in Austin, TX, I saw a lot of rats in a no escape cage who were so drugged they couldn't fight. I found one patient who drew all day as a way of fighting his demons instead of himself. I became his friend and advocate. I did a lot of reading about mental illness and began to wonder if the individual's response might be a perfectly sane response to a society gone mad.
And he adds:
When I left there I decided to make art, my escape into the safe cage.
Good call there, Pirtle! I wonder if you remember me . . .


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Postcarded Poems

James C. G. Conniff
The Jersey Journal

The writer Richard Conniff writes of the "Postcard Poems" his father, James C. G. Conniff, wrote on postcards and posted to his grandchildren, that is, the grandfather's grandchildren (i.e., Richard Conniff's children), in "A Grandfather's Postcard Poems" (NYT, July 4, 2015):
My father was a great believer in the Postal Service, and when his grandchildren were young, his postcards to them arrived almost daily. They were plain white postcards, never the photo variety, so there was plenty of room to write on both sides, and from edge to edge. What he wrote was almost always nonsense verse, with titles like "The Mother of All French Fries," and "Reasons to Sneeze."
Nice titles, but what in particular did he write? "On a postcard from 1985, . . . [his] oldest child is . . . a 2-year-old hunting for jelly beans with his entourage":
Jamie Conniff took a ride
With six monkeys by his side,
Fourteen leopards out ahead,
Sharp of fang with eyes of red . . .
The ellipses must indicate that this poem continues . . . toward a climax in which fourteen ferocious leopards corner a number of equally ferocious jellybeans! Maybe? Some of the poems might pose interpretive puzzles for children as his "verse often veered into bizarre literary . . . territory" that includes James Joyce and shares ground with Edward Lear's Jumblies:
Boomba-Zoomba went to sea
In a waterlogged snot-green boat
(He had no choice — he'd been reading Joyce),
And he took along a goat.
Some of the poems - for example, the one just quoted - work like limericks, and would be classic limericks if their third line were divided in two.

The verse is charming and ought to be published . . . but see what Richard Conniff says about that.


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Economics: Josh Barro Cites Greg Mankiw, and I Learn Something Sort of New

Property Tax
Illustration by Mark Shaver

In an article titled "The Inevitable, Indispensable Property Tax" (NYT, July 4, 2015), Josh Barro reminds us of something we already know (else it wouldn't be re-minding):
As the economist Greg Mankiw wrote in this space three years ago, "A good rule of thumb is that when you tax something, you get less of it."
I kind of knew this intuitively, but I'd never heard it formulated, not even as a rule of thumb. The exception to this rule is . . . da-da-da-dum: Property Tax. Why the exception? "[B]ecause it can't be moved and it lasts a long time."

That makes two (or three?) new things I learned today! I realize most of my readers know these things already, but I've got a very spotty education. In fact, if I had my education to do over again, I'd make sure to take some economics courses.

"Hindsight is better than foresight" - which I think means we can see better with our hind ends than with our foreheads.

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Monday, July 06, 2015

Was Ringo the Greatest Beatle?

Ringo Starr in 1964
The Spectator

James Woodall claims that "Ringo's no joke[, insists that the drummer] was a genius and [that] the Beatles were lucky to have him" (The Spectator, July 4, 2015). Woodall further states:
I think Ringo Starr was a genius. The world seems to be coming around to the idea. Two months ago, he was finally accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - the last Beatle to be inducted. About time too. On 7 July he turns 75 . . . . He wasn't spectacular; he set the Beatles' backbeat and kept time, making up for a lack of upfront technique with his characteristic 'fills' - flicks and flashes across the drums between lyrics and musical phrases . . . . [P]roper focus on his musicianship reveals his indispensability to the other three [Beatles]. His rhythms were tight and infectious, shaping and shaped by guitars and voices: never obtrusive, always consistent. His thuds and whacks behind that bass drum helped create magnificence on nearly every track the Beatles recorded . . . . Many [fans] might suppose that 'She Loves You' (from mid-1963) opens with just those words, sung in chorus. In fact, it kicks off on a fantastically propulsive Starr tom-tom. Through a revolutionary two minutes 20 seconds he frequently plays off the beat. With thrilling use of hi-hat cymbal he opens dynamics and heightens decibels in a manner hitherto not heard on a Beatles record. Such percussive glee was a band war cry as, from 1964 into 1965, the Beatles shook the world . . . . Ringo got subtler the further the band left touring behind and the more experimental, from mid-1966, they became in the studio. Without him, there'd be no Beatles track like 'Tomorrow Never Knows', which ends the album Revolver. With its tape-loop screeches and Lennon's eerie vocal, the whole is held together by Starr's astonishing, off-the-beat control on slackened tom-toms. His drumming makes this piece of music shamanic and, still, utterly fresh . . . . Lack of close listening has disallowed Ringo from being considered as complete a musician as John, Paul and George. When the Beatles took him on . . . , Ringo was in fact a highly experienced performer, and had long been better known in Liverpool than the others put together . . . . Jonathan Gould . . . wrote: 'There is little question that the invitation to join the Beatles was the single luckiest thing that ever happened to Ringo Starr. But Ringo's acceptance of that invitation was also one of the luckiest things that ever happened to the Beatles.'
Well? What do you Beatles fans think? Is Ringo a genius?


Sunday, July 05, 2015

Photos from a Korean Conference of Postmodern Medieval Modernists

Here are some photos from my most recent conference presentation. I only go these days if I'm invited, so I don't go to many - though I've gone to more than I anticipated back when I made this decision to go only if invited. Here's the first photo, one of the final photos, actually and obviously:

I'm in the back row, just left of center, wearing a cap. Now for the second photo:

Professor Bae Kyung Jin is the kind lady who invited me to present a paper at the conference, and we were trying to find the paintings I had located on the internet to use for illustrating the occasional instances of the peach as forbidden fruit. One image I had carefully located had simply vanished! We did without that slide into the fallen world . . . Next comes the man with all the questions, Professor Suh Hong Won:

Professor Suh was kind enough to refer to the paper as a "work in progress" - and it became that over these last two weeks as I read and re-read the paper and made changes . . . subtle changes. By the bye, that lady on the screen is even offering a peach as the forbidden fruit, a painting used in the paper's section on T. S. Eliot's famous peach in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" even though no connection was proven . . . Here's what the brouhaha was all about:

As you see, the paper was co-authored by me and Professor Salwa Khoddam, who couldn't make the trip from Oklahoma, "where the wind comes sweeping across the plains" . . . though I don't think that the sweeping wind was the sole good reason that she couldn't attend (and there's a poem in there somewhere). Finally, the real reason for going to these conferences anyway, as shown in the next photo!

Well . . . this is the reason I go. If I can't have a career, I can at least have fun!

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

Kenya play that country sound . . .

Sir Elvis
Country Music
Will Swanson

As I said only two days ago, "I learn something new every day." Well, to be frank, I'm not sure I learned anything new yesterday, but I did learn something new the day after yesterday . . . which I believe we call "today," though if I rightly recall, it was called "tomorrow" back then. Time. Who can understand it?

But enough metaphysics. What did I learn today? I learned there is something called "Kenyan country music." Meaning American country music played by Kenyans. In Kenya! According to Isma'il Kushkush, "Country Music Finds a Home Far From Home, in Kenya" (NYT, July 1, 2015), and here it is:
Sir Elvis, dressed in a yellow and black plaid shirt, jeans, boots and a black cowboy hat, tuned his guitar under the wooden roof and neon beer advertisements of the Reminisce Bar and Restaurant. With a signal to the band, he began singing . . . in a purring baritone . . . . This would not be an unusual sight for Nashville or just about any country tavern in the United States. Except this was not East Texas, but Nairobi in East Africa, where American country music has a surprisingly robust, and growing, following.
How did this happen?
"I grew up with it, and my parents loved country," said Elvis Otieno, 37, who has become perhaps the best-known Kenyan country performer. Sir Elvis, as he is known onstage, was born the year Elvis Presley died, and was named after him by parents who were big fans of the King.
That reminds me of something Charley Pride said about growing up listening to country music and never thinking that it might be just white folks' music. Like Pride, Kenyans listen to all kinds of American music:
But it is country music that has a strong hold. Country songs are regularly played on the radio. The Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation has a weekly radio show, "Sundowner," that often features country, while a private television station, 3 Stones, broadcasts a program called "Strings of Country." Reminisce and the Galileo Lounge here have weekly gigs, and the first country music fair in Kenya, the Boots and Hats Country Festival, took place in March [and] . . . . Kenyan country singers are writing their own music about love and longing, in an American twang.
I was used to Charley Pride singing great country music, but I still was surprised to learn that the country genre had Japanese fans. I discovered that fact in Berkeley, in the latter 1980s, when several Japanese girls appeared as dinner guests in the house where I lived on Alcatraz Avenue. During the after-dinner conversation, I happened to mention Hank Williams, and one of the girls became excited and cried out that she loved country music. How did this happen?
American country music has found audiences around the world, introduced by American soldiers to Japan, Korea, Thailand and Germany, and through Hollywood movies. Particularly devoted fan bases have grown in unexpected places like Australia, Jamaica and South Africa . . . . In Kenya, country music's popularity dates to the 1940s and crosses classes, but is especially pronounced in the central highlands, the country's farm belt. Many of the fans are over 50, but a younger generation who grew up listening to their parents' music also tune in.
But how did country music reach Kenya?
European settlers, mostly British, transported the music here during Kenya's colonial era, which ended in 1963. "We took it up from them," John Obongo, the host of "Sundowner," said of the Europeans . . . . Kenyans, Mr. Kimotho said, "can identify with the stories in the songs." A type of music called Mugithi, a genre developed in central Kenya and traditionally sung with guitar accompaniment in the Kikuyu language, has a country feel, giving its listeners an affinity for modern American country music.
I can imagine the affinity the Kenyans feel because of Mugithi, but did the British really carry country music to Kenya?

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Friday, July 03, 2015

Brother Shan Doing Good Things . . .

Brother Shan
Back Row, Second from Left

Michael Freedman tells us that my brother "Dr. Shannon Hodges Volunteers Counseling Expertise In South Africa" (NU News, June 28, 2015):
Dr. Shannon Hodges, professor and coordinator of Niagara University's clinical mental health counseling program, spent four weeks performing volunteer work in South Africa during May and June. He volunteered his counseling, training and consultation services in six different orphanages, making 18 presentations (ranging from 1-5 hours apiece) and assisting in group and individual counseling. He also served as consultant on treatment issues with children ranging from 6 months to 18 years of age.
I'm amazed at Shan's energy and personnel skills. I couldn't handle this:
"Many of the children are HIV orphans, though others have been removed from their families due to neglect of various types of abuse and neglect," Dr. Hodges noted. "Thus, most of my work was focused on understanding the role trauma plays in the lives of the children and how the staff can promote resilience."

According to Dr. Hodges, roughly 90 percent of the orphans were Zulus (the large cultural group in the KwaZulu-Natal region) with roughly 10 percent Afrikaner children (European origin).
But there was more:
Dr. Hodges also keynoted a conference for social workers and childcare workers in Durban, South Africa.

"The mental health needs in South Africa are tremendous, especially with regard to addressing trauma recovery," he said. "Of the nearly 500 children and adolescents in the orphanage systems, virtually all have experienced significant trauma. Yet the amazing thing was just how hopeful many of the children seemed to be. The staff members at the orphanages were doing a very good job, especially given the circumstances.

"Though the pace was very busy and the issues overwhelming at times, the experience was very fulfilling. I would like to return in the next couple of years and take a student or two with me as the experience would be transformative."
So . . . who is this Hodges guy, anyway?
Dr. Hodges possesses more than 20 years of counseling experience in community agencies, university counseling centers, and in residential living communities. He is a former director of a university counseling center and clinical director of a county mental health clinic. An award-winning researcher and professor, Dr. Hodges began teaching at Niagara in 2000.
As kids back in the Ozarks, none of us could have imagined growing up to do such things, but we did grow up and are doing those things we never imagined.

Imagine that.

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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Big Jerks as Great Visionaries? Or Vice-Versa?

Elon Musk

As I was reading Tony Schwartz's recent article, "The Bad Behavior of Visionary Leaders" (NYT, June 26, 2015), I finally understood why visionaries like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk can be so "unnecessarily cruel and demeaning . . . to the people who helped make their dreams come true." Schwartz helped me see why:
I would argue that most of the bad behavior of these men is fear-based, impulsive and reactive rather than consciously hurtful. It grows not out of a sense of superiority but rather of insecurity.
Still, why the insecurity? They're geniuses. The insecurity comes from the fact that those around them are not all geniuses. Schwartz tells us:
I know well the anxious feeling that can arise when a deal is coming undone, a project isn't gelling or an employee seems to be falling short. I know how frightening it can be to feel out of control . . . . Each of [these three visionaries] . . . was far more likely to act out suddenly and behave poorly when he wasn't getting exactly what he wanted - when he felt that others were failing to live up to his standards.
I finally understood. Great visionaries make great demands. Insanely great demands. They do so for their visions, and if they see their vision fading because of some employee failing to perform in an insanely great fashion, they lose control in trying to maintain control.

I can see how that happens. I understand . . . and I learn something new every day.

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