Sunday, January 29, 2012

Arco Iris

Amina Alaoui and her fellow musicians on Arco Iris give us enchanting non-Western roots music. The ensemble includes Alaoui as vocalist, accompanied by violin, oud, flamenco guitar, mandolin and percussion players. As far as I can tell they're skilled on their instruments, but no trace of showy virtuosity is evident. This is direct transmission from soul to soul.

The music is traditional, although apparently not slavishly so; Alaoui and the musicians on the album are credited with the lyrics of some songs. (The words to others are by St. Theresa of Avila, the 16th century mystic, and other long-ago sources such as Ibn Zaydun de Cordoba, whose dates are given as 1003-1071.)

The most obvious influences are fado and flamenco, but the spirit of North Africa is rarely far away -- in turn, carrying echoes of campfires in Arabian nights and winds carving the sand. Nothing could be farther from the calculated, synthetic music of the pop charts and Grammy awards.

ECM's guiding light and producer, Manfred Eicher, has always made a point of audiophile recording standards and has done so here. Listening on the AKG 701 headphones, Alaoui and her partners sound almost physically present.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the disunion


"We've come too far to turn back now."

I'm afraid this line from the Failed Messiah's speech is correct, although not in the way he meant it. Too far, yes: toward a government ruling class, a foreign policy of Muslim appeasement, population replacement, a Kafka-esque regulatory system for business, and so much more that recovery of the former letter and spirit of the U.S. that inspired generations may be unrecoverable.

Not that I listened to the speech. He makes me so ill that my constitution, like that of the United States, can't handle him.

However, the NBC Politburo summarizes the teleprompter script.
But Obama also painted a dire scenario of a nation divided into a wealthy elite and a mass of struggling Americans on the verge of insolvency.
Again, mostly true, but not in sense the Failed Messiah implied. We have a wealthy elite of corporate nabobs, but a power elite of lobbyists, politicians, bureaucrats, federal judges, tenured campus Marxists, ethnic grievance pushers, and one-sided mainstream media. But his Tattered Holiness simplifies it down to how much money anyone makes to determine how much they can be bled in taxes, which in any case can't make up for a budget that feeds a bloated welfare state.
Reviving a proposal that the Senate rejected in 2010, Obama made a vigorous pitch for changing the law to allow young illegal immigrants to become American citizens. "Hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country," he said, "were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation." 
But his "mass of struggling Americans on the verge of insolvency" are among the very people who are in danger of being, or already have been, replaced by immigrants legal and illegal. Buraq doesn't care about them, for that matter doesn't care about the hundreds of thousands of illegals except as shock troops for a permanent Democratic coalition to overwhelm indigenous Americans.

This is how soft totalitarianism works. First the government ignores its own duty to citizens by encouraging illegal immigration, then insists that there are so many illegals it's a fait accompli and the only thing to do is accept it and make the illegal legal. But it isn't only illegal immigration that's the problem -- they're just a new clientele for the government Social Work Establishment. It's the astonishing number of legal and "green card" immigrants who will finish the job of transforming the country into a multi-culti, polyglot post-American America.

We could still, just possibly, turn back. But it won't be possible much longer.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Apple's un-emancipation proclamation

Karl Denninger isn't quite sure that the late secular messiah, Steve Jobs, and the company he steered were quite the benefactors of humanity they are widely proclaimed these days. In fact, he suggests that our wonderful World of Cool Technology is largely built on a moral disaster.

First he quotes from a New York Times article:
Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
Denninger homes in on a small consideration that doesn't trouble Apple-bots:

It's easy to be "speedy" and "flexible" when you effectively own your "employees" as slaves!

How many of you caught the paragraph up there?  At midnight, without warning, the factory foreman went into dormitories in which the workers were sleeping, roused them and effectively compelled them to work a 12-hour shift with nothing more than a biscuit and cup of tea.

Did you get that?  These are not employees, they're slaves.

People on my end of the political pasture are given to hand-wringing about the impoverishment of the American working class by business's use of immigrant labor, legal and illegal. Quite right. But the human cost of unfettered corporatism isn't confined to population replacement at home; the outsourced manufacturing work in countries where it's managed by Inhuman Resources departments is almost beyond imagining.
What Apple (and other companies) want are employees that are housed in dormitories, can be roused at midnight to work a 12-hour shift on demand fueled with only a cup of tea and a ten cent biscuit, paying them $17/day. THAT is what Apple and these other firms demand.
It is absolutely true that America cannot fill that demand, because at one dollar an hour you can't manage to put the food on your table for a family of four, say much less pay rent, electricity or gasoline for your car to get there and back!
Once again, from the Times:
“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”
Legally, I suppose that is true. But what does it say about America's most revered corporation when its mission excludes any consideration besides its products? Have we -- including all us consumers of Apple's undoubtedly attractive devices -- no other values left? And of course it's not just Apple, it's practically all the companies whose brands are thought essential for our lifestyle.

Sure, they all run ads telling you how "Green" they are, how they "give back," how they "make a difference" (usually with projects on behalf of certified victim groups). Meanwhile, factory labor has reverted to a Dickensian world, far enough away from most of us that we don't need to see or think about it.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

De-central time zone

Brandon Smith at his site is more optimistic than much of the financial commentariat. He believes there is hope for recovery -- but only on a local basis, and that economies controlled to one degree or another by central government, which is to say yours, mine, and theirs, are cooked.

"Decentralization Is the Only Plausible Economic Solution Left," he titles his latest posting. (Tip o' the hat to Zero Hedge.)

I've sung a few arias on a similar theme in Reflecting Light, although more about politics than economics. Our federal government, like most of the developed world's national governments, is a lumbering dinosaur with a tiny brain.

Smith -- whose site carries ads such as one for the "Asset Preservation Institute: Preparing Americans for the transformation of America, the collapse of the currency and a prolonged hyperinflationary depression" -- says:
The great lie that drives the fiat global financial locomotive forward is the assumption that there is no other way of doing things.  Many in America believe that the U.S. dollar (a paper time-bomb ready to explode) is the only currency we have at our disposal.  Many believe that the corporate trickle down dynamic is the only practical method for creating jobs.  Numerous others have adopted the notion that global interdependency is a natural extension of “progress”, and that anyone who dares to contradict this fallacy is an “isolationist” or “extremist”.  Much of our culture has been conditioned to support and defend centralization as necessary and inevitable primarily because they have never lived under any other system.  Globalism has not made the world smaller; it has made our minds smaller.
Good points. Most people today have had no experience of life other than in a country where the government decides what kind of light bulbs may be sold. Since emerging from the womb they have been bombarded with globalist propaganda and told that looking out for their own country is outmoded know-nothingism. And continuation bias is part of human nature: we all expect that the future will be like the present but at a louder volume.
With the latest S&P downgrade of multiple EU nations, including France, Italy, Austria, and Spain, there can be no doubt that interdependency has led to ruin.  Despite French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s insistence that the S&P downgrade “changes nothing”, the fact is, the EU has just been dealt a death blow. ...
While some may applaud the fall of the EU as a victory, I would recommend looking a few moves ahead of the game to see where we are really headed.  Yes, the EU is a perfect example of the feebleness of centralization, but it is also an expendable piece on the grand globalist chess board, just like the U.S. dollar.  Already, IMF mascots like Christine Lagarde and MSM pundits have begun suggesting that the EU is failing not because of centralization, but because the union is not centralized ENOUGH! 
Yes, a showdown is looming. Rather than admit that their fantasy of a one-size-fits-all European currency has gone pear-shaped, The Powers will insist that everything will be well if only those fractious former countries quit insisting on setting their own economic policies. Hand over the controls to Brussels/Washington and the joys of an economy managed by the superbrains will be yours forever.
As we have discussed many times over the years, the subversive and sometimes subtle debasement of the dollar is in fact a deliberate program designed by international financiers to force the American public to accept loss of sovereignty and centralize economic authority into the hands of an elite few.  The situation in Europe is no different in this regard.  Both cultures are being strong-armed through the removal of options and funneled into a waiting net like so much oblivious trout.  So, the question must be asked; how do we fight back?
Smith's answer:
The essentials of an independent life are food, water, shelter, property, trade, and safety.  The means to attain these essentials have been relegated to instruments which central banks and other elitist entities administer and control.  However, that control is and always has been an illusion, an illusion we could walk away from anytime we wish.  This is done through localizing the production of essentials.  Changing the way we look at trade is the key.  A few simple rules, if followed in a determined fashion, make this change a reality ...
His rules may be simple. Implementing them seems to me anything but simple. To wit:
1)  Provide Essentials For Yourself Whenever Possible: Some essentials can be covered even when you are alone.  If you have access to property, can grow your own food, and have water collection capability, then you are far ahead of the average American in many respects.  With modern technology, including space and energy saving methods, self sustainability is possible even in urban surroundings.  The goal here is to do for yourself whatever you can, whenever you can, making you less vulnerable to mainstream economic chaos.  The more insulated you are, the better equipped you will be to help build or participate in an alternative market.
This "grow your own" lark has been popular in certain circles since the late 1960s, when as a volunteer at the Berkeley Ecology Center I tried hard not to twitch while listening to home-canning bores. Sorry, I just can't see more than a tiny fraction of Americans growing vichysoise in window boxes or raising chickens that roam freely under the bed. But why does the federal government need to have anything to do with food distribution?
2)  Network Or Die: Some essentials cannot be provided by one’s self.  Organization and networking in order to construct mutually beneficial trade groups is not only necessary, but inevitable in the face of economic collapse.  One way or another, every American who wishes to survive will one day have to get up off their couches, leave their houses, and begin working with other people.  Either they will see the wisdom in preempting collapse and start networking now, or, they will start networking after collapse out of desperation.  Better to start now, and save ourselves the heartache…
Working with other people is a fine idea, and before our political-corporate Politburo started its campaign to de-Americanize America through mass immigration, it might have been feasible. In today's balkanized America, how can anyone "network" with people who press 6 for Urdu on the phone menu?
3)  Trade Skills, Not Dollars: Use paper currency while it still has some value, but simultaneously, wean yourself off of it through barter of goods and services.  See how many essentials you can fully provide without the use of dollars and without purchases through corporate chains.  Think of this as going financially “off-grid”.  What systems do you depend on that ultimately harm you?  How many of those systems can you decouple from now?  Private trade makes independent living attainable by localizing your means of procurement to your own two hands, instead of to a paycheck doled out by a corporation.
Look, the counterculture of the '60s tried this -- it was an article of faith in Berkeley -- but the results were not what the innocents dreamed of. One fine day it was discovered, alas, that the guy who could make your car run again after it went into a coma didn't fancy trading his labor for the turnips you grew in your urban backyard Eden. Of course some individuals can do off-the-books swapping, but what works for certain people in particular situations can't be scaled to a whole economy.
4)  Use Commodities, Dump Dollars: Precious metals are the only practical currency exchange available for broad use in a decentralized market.  Fiat coupons, digital currencies, sticks and shells, etc., will not work.  The inherent rarity of PM’s, combined with their tangibility, and inability to be artificially reproduced, makes them the ideal currency alternative to fiat.  Digital currencies, reliant on an internet which may not exist in the manner we know it today, are a tremendous waste of time.  Any trade dependent on a system outside of local control is not free trade.  Metals place true free trade, at a local level, within reach.  Even in a highly developed barter market, currency will play an important role, and PM’s should not be discounted.  
Practical currency exchange? There is lots of talk about hoarding gold for the real bad times -- presumably the Asset Protection Institute (see above) would prescribe just that. I've written postings about gold, and think it's not a bad idea to own some if you can -- but as an investment or means of retaining value. It makes no sense to me as a direct medium of exchange, rather than backing for paper currency. Are you going to carry a doubloon to Safeway (if you are so retrograde as not to grow all your own sustenance) and hand it to the checkout clerk, who will slice it using the cash register's buzz saw attachment and hand you a wodge of gold back in change?

5)  Become Your Own Industry ... That's fine, if you're the entrepreneurial type. But not everyone is. Very few have what it takes to create a business on their own; I certainly don't. Smith casually overlooks the fact that people vary in their intelligence, temperament, talents and other traits. He apparently believes in human bio-identicalness, otherwise known as the blank slate. He is mistaken.
6)  Internalize State Commerce: When enough citizens within each state finally wake up to the dangers of municipal default, federal encroachment on state lands and resources, and the weakness of interdependency on federal subsidies, they will begin to look for ways to plug the fiscal leaks they have ignored for so long.  Decentralization truly finds its home within the structure of the states, and the powers afforded them through the 10th Amendment.  At bottom, states have the ability legally as well as economically to become the ultimate decentralized systems, being that they are Constitutionally mandated to take such measures anyway.  Resource rich states will likely be the first to undertake decentralization in the midst of economic collapse.  Oil, minerals, farm capacity, timber, coal, etc, should be the solid ground upon which states and their citizens set foundation, and states should utilize these resources with the intent to enrich their citizens FIRST, through increased employment and local independent business incentives.  This would be a far cry from the corporate pirate ship plundering that goes on in states today, and far more financially sound.
Well said. That's one you can take to heart.

Smith concludes, "The path is clear; we decentralize, we localize, and we do it now, or, we lose our country, our cultural identity, and our legacy." If we haven't lost them already.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Grimshaw redemption

I thought my fascination with the paintings of John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) was yet another of my eccentricities. But it looks like, despite his love for picturing the effects of night and twilight, Grimshaw's day has come.


Recently I began noticing CD covers based on Grimshaw's artwork, as well as its appearance in Web sites about art and Victoriana. A little casual research turned up the information that "today his oil paintings fetch up to £500,000," according to a story in The Mail, which adds that -- sadly -- "towards 1876 Grimshaw suffered a mysterious financial disaster forcing him to leave his palatial surroundings and settle with a studio in Chelsea, London."


Grimshaw was contemporaneous with the Impressionists in France and the luminist school in the United States. He shared their attraction to mood and atmosphere, but was particularly drawn to fantastical half-lights, fog, and the gleam of moist surfaces. The draftsmanship is detailed and fine -- for all his dreamlike visionary impulses, there was still enough in him of the commonsense, roast-beef-and-pudding Englishman to insist on the importance of structure, architecture.


If this is anti-revolutionary romanticism or pictorialism aimed at middle class tastes, it is still suffused with the mystery of everyday things. He loves warm gaslight seen through windows, sunset pastels reticulated by winter-shorn branches, "bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang."


His landscapes are autumnal but not particularly sad. Their renascent popularity is due in part to their evocation for us battered moderns of a civilized 19th century England, confidently serene in its buildings of stone and oak. Idealized, yes; but Grimshaw is a link to an age when the ideal was not yet scorned.


Grimshaw's art is welcomed again; if only we could admire its beauty without a wistful sigh.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Cowardice, by Alfred Stevens

I define weaselstrike as a supposedly conservative argument that concedes the primacy of non-conservative values. The implication is that the opposition isn't wrong, just not living up to politically correct ideals.

For instance, cowardly "conservatives" criticize the Muslim politico-religious world view because it is unfair to women and gays.

But it's in race relations, where even most people who would identify themselves as conservatives or libertarians cower in fear of being called racist, that they especially resort to the weaselstrike. offers an extreme example from a columnist named Mike Adams:
Most liberals are racists in the classical sense. You told one of my bosses that I am a racist because I wrote a parable featuring a black character who was a rapist. Alleging that blacks occasionally commit crimes like rape is not racism. Racism is actually a belief in the intellectual inferiority of other races. In this country, it is often a belief held by a white individual and directed at blacks as a group. What you fail to understand is that most of my liberal supervisors and liberal colleagues are racists in the classical sense.
Instead of forthrightly denouncing the slimy tactic of using "racism" as a curse to silence opposition, Adams just insists that he's not a racist. After all, even though Department of Justice statistics show that a hundred black-on-white rapes occur every day, he only said that blacks "occasionally commit crimes like rape." See, he's not tainted. Just to nail the point down, he says racism "is often a belief held by a white individual and directed at blacks as a group." Only whites -- other whites, not our Mr. Adams -- are racists.
The overwhelming majority of my colleagues support using race-based affirmative action here at this university. The form of affirmative action they support ads points directly to the SAT scores and GPAs of black students. The reason they support such an ad-on-point system for blacks (but not Asians) is pretty simple: they consider blacks (but not Asians) to be intellectually inferior and thus incapable of competing on an even playing field. They may say that SATs are “culturally biased.” But they make no similar claim that GPAs are “culturally biased.” It is just a liberal code phrase that means “too hard for black people.”

I disagree with my colleagues and supervisors. I believe that black/white performance differences would go away within a few years of eliminating affirmative action. I guess, I’m one of the few non-racists working here at the university.
Pure weaselstrike. "Racism" is the issue, no argument there with the campus Marxists, but it's his colleagues who are racist. Black-white test scores would "go away within a few years" if only those racist liberals would stop with the affirmative action -- no explanation given of why this would be so. Never mind -- did he mention that he's no racist? You won't catch him breathing a word about human biodiversity.
Liberals believe there are other forms of racism besides individual racism. Like individuals, they think institutions can be racist, too. For example, they think the criminal justice system advances “institutional racism.” Their reasoning is that the justice system incarcerates blacks disproportionately. According to them, that is racist even in the absence of individual intent. 
While I don't believe American institutions are racist, it makes no sense to me that only individuals can have qualities, which is what he seems to be saying. But he doesn't argue the point, instead quickly pulling a new rabbit out of his top hat.
Unfortunately, they lose the moral high-ground by supporting abortion, which kills 51% of blacks while they are still in the womb. It really doesn’t make much sense to me when you tell my liberal colleagues I’m a racist. I oppose the one procedure that is responsible for killing over half the black population. They vigorously support it. I think that’s why they are so eager to entertain accusations of racism.
Another weaselstrike. However you feel about abortion, claiming that liberals are racists for supporting abortion rights is beyond nonsensical. Liberals may support the right of women to choose abortion, but they are far more adamant about the "right" of women (especially women "of color") to have babies they can't support and raise them at taxpayer expense.

Mike Adams no doubt thinks he is a fearless scourge of "Marxism":
Today’s lesson on racism, Marxism and morality comes in three parts. I’ll keep it as direct and relevant as possible.
But he is neither direct nor relevant concerning a real blight of our times, the hateful ethnic racketeers who try to get their way by recklessly tossing accusations of racism at anyone who stands in their way. All he can do is protest how un-racist he is and claim it's his opponents who are racist. Racist, racist, racist. Weasel, weasel, weasel.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

London's grotesque new skyline

Chicago? No, London.

It's called "The Shard." Apparently that isn't even a nickname, like "The Gherkin," but the official name chosen by the developer.

Der Spiegel says of London's latest monstrosity:
Once completed, this building will have a total of 72 floors. Including the enormous spire at the top, it will stand 310 meters (1,017 feet) high. Even in its unfinished state, it's the tallest building in Western Europe, jutting toward the sky like a glass wedge with sharp contours. The building is certainly no beauty, and its silhouette seems confident, almost arrogant. Even its name sounds aggressive: the Shard.
... The Shard -- essentially London's first genuine skyscraper, has broken a taboo. It's the first building to alter the city's character, one that shrinks the old Roman city of London down to a picturesque stage set.
Well said. And doubtless the diminishing few of London's population who care about architectural tradition are consumed with futile regret about this blatantly rude, egotistical new building.


Yet their aesthetic sensitivity does them no honor. Most of those whingeing about The Shard weren't bothered about the more important perversion of London's character. What had been an English city was transformed by their rulers into the nest of an international financial plutocracy side by side with millions of ethnic proles hailing from every Third World country from Jamaica to Pakistan. I'd bet many an elite architectural preservationist was, and is, also an ardent champion of cultural Marxism.

What they did not understand was that the traditional look and feel of London derived from a particular culture with its own values, which took pride in English roots. Destroy that culture, as they have so fervently cooperated in doing, and London is no different from Chicago or Lagos.

The Shard is simply the outpicturing of inner changes that have erased English roots in favor of globalism at the top of society and Third World masses at the bottom. It is truly a Tower of Babel.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Heaven and earth in Italy


Two linked headlines adjacent to one another at Gates of Vienna seem to symbolize the modern status of the City of Man versus the City of God:
Cash-strapped church closes until Easter

A church near Treviso is closing until Easter because of a plunge in offerings due to the economic crisis. Father Stefano Taffarel, parish priest at Fontanelle di Treviso, said his flock's less giving ways meant he could no longer pay to heat and light the church of Sts Peter and Paul.

Italian stores open as long as they want

A new law went into effect Monday allowing Italian stores to open and close whenever they please. Previously the law required that stores close after a certain number of hours per day, as well as some holidays, Sundays and one day during the work week. Bars and restaurants can also stay open non-stop. Intended to boost consumer spending, the relaxed rules are part of the emergency government's package of stimulus and budget measures that aim to raise 30 billion euros and lift hurl the country out of its debt crisis.
Shop, eat, pray? Uh, no. Shop and eat. Shop and eat. We have a new religion, the economy, open 24/7.