Monday is a day of regularity. It is a day of predictable assemblages of people and objects.
To counter Monday’s clockwork, I present the following links to mysterious assemblages:
The Guilty River, a free ebook by Wilkie Collins opens with a dreary time: “The mysterious assemblage of trees was blacker than the blackening sky. Of millions of leaves over my head, none pleased my ear, in the airless calm, with their rustling summer song.”
In 1931, Victoria University noted the work of Mr. Hebberley, a Maori carver with a “mysterious assemblage of old gate-posts, mouldering but beautifully designed pieces from whares, Maori mats and Fijian canoes… hideous faces and poked-out tongues” in his workshop.
Carol, friend of Black Jack, contemplates the artwork of Magdalena Abakanowicz, who refers to her sculptures as something like a flock of birds, a swarm of insects, or a crowd of commuters, similar and in common movement, yet not identical. “abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand can not repeat its own gesture”
The Canadian Museum of History shows a painting of a Tlingit leader, carrying a raven-shaped rattle with “a mysterious assemblage of figures on its back.”
The Smithsonian explains that a toxic ocean algae may be responsible for a “mysterious assemblage” of ancient whale bones.
Dallas Bogen discusses speculation about the origin of the melungeons, a “tri-racial” group of people who lived in the Appalachians. In a more complete review of melungeon history and genetics, it’s explained that the melungeons appear to have mostly a mixture of European and African ancestry, with only one melungeon family including native North American ancestry.
To me, the most mysterious assemblage of all comes from artist Mary Bauermeister, in the form of the wooden tray you see below, holding a few half-orbs covered with cryptic scribbles and philosophical tossings such as “This is not this.” What makes this assemblage mysterious to me is that its price is $4,800.
Who would pay that for this, given that it isn’t even this?
The Mayday Super PAC, asking Americans to “embrace the irony,” is planning on spending millions of dollars (half from big donors) in order to promote policies that it says would enact “fundamental reform in the way elections are funded.” Some are enthusiastic about the prospect. Others are derisive. I am uncertain. On the one hand, the Mayday PAC is fairly explicit about the reforms it says it supports — vouchers and matching programs — and has released some data regarding its smaller funders. That’s promising. On the other hand, the American landscape is replete with groups that say they oppose big money in politics but turn out to have a hidden agenda. Mayday PAC leaders ask us to take their sincerity on faith, and some of those same leaders were involved with Americans Elect, which portrayed itself as pro-democratic but acted anti-democratically in practice.
This means that I’m inclined to watch Mayday PAC’s actions very closely. Does it act in a manner consistent with its promises and professed principles? Does Mayday PAC allow its biggest donors a special say in the candidate selection process? Does Mayday PAC select candidates who support a narrow range of policies having nothing to do with campaign finance? Does Mayday PAC send money to those who have a cozy social relationship with Mayday leadership?
On that last point, we’re about to witness a test of the Mayday PAC. Some time this week, the Mayday PAC is scheduled to announce the roster of Congressional candidates it will support with its unlimited “independent” spending. One candidate for Congress, Nick Troiano, is a close Americans Elect colleague of Mayday PAC Board members Kahlil Byrd, Lawrence Lessig and Mark McKinnon; these three make up a majority of the Mayday PAC board. Lately, curious public feelers have been sent out mentioning Nick Troiano in the same breath as the Mayday PAC. Some examples:
“(I) Nick Troiano vs. Rep. Tom Marino (PA-08) Nick Troiano is a young guy who worked for Americans Elect and several other political reform nonprofits who speaks directly to campaign finance reform (and reform in general) in his platform. It is tough to win as an independent but he is a moderate running a smart, well-funded, disciplined campaign, and $2 million could make a real difference for him. Marino is a real scumbag.” — Comment to Reddit Thread by Mayday PAC CTO: “The board meets this upcoming week to decide the candidates we’ll independently support. Who are your top picks?”
If you think these aren’t an explicit enough connection to the Troiano campaign, how about this letter to the editor from Troiano campaign petition circulator Jerry Kairnes? (update: per Mr. Kairnes’ request, note that this is the second half of his letter):
“We need a Congress that is free to lead. We need candidates like Independent Nick Troiano running this year in our district, who raised more than $85,000 exclusively from more than 500+ citizen donors, an amount more than any nonparty candidate in the country. We need to elect a Congress that is dedicated to campaign finance reform and we won’t get our democracy back until we change the way campaigns are funded.
“That is the driving force behind Mayday, a citizen-funded Super PAC more than 50,000 small donors strong. Mayday is a Super PAC, whose only goal is to end all Super PACs, forever. It is an ambitious plan that will support five races in 2014 to prove that a reform candidate can win, followed by as many races in 2016 as necessary, to elect a Congress that is dedicated to campaign funding reform.
“The Mayday Super PAC should choose our Congressional district, PA10 as one of its 2014 pilot races. Let’s have a level playing field and give us the chance to lead the way and choose campaign funding reform.
Not enough for you? Heck, Nick Troiano has even sent out a feeler himself:
Will the Mayday PAC board follow the path of social-network politics and divert its funds to a friend? Or will Mayday PAC avoid the temptation and stay true to its call for an end to cronyism in politics? Watch this week and see.
When a politician’s speech starts with the words “Our nation is drowning in debt, $17.5 trillion dollars of it, and every additional second I speak to you on this video message adds another $23,000 to this already staggering number. Yet…”, you know that the politician is about to announce plans to eliminate spending of some kind.
So it was this week when U.S. Representative Matt Salmon, from the 5th congressional district of Arizona, introduced H.R. 5210, which would completely eliminate spending on the National Endowment of the Humanities.
The annual budget of the National Endowment of the Humanities is 154 million dollars. That’s less than 9/10000 of one percent of the federal debt that Salmon referred to at the beginning of his speech. That means that Matt Salmon’s legislation would take more than a million years to pay off the federal debt – if the federal debt did not accumulate interest, which it does.
The current annual interest on the federal debt is $354.9 billion. If the savings from Matt Salmon’s proposal to cut the National Endowment for the Humanities were added to an account to pay down the interest on the federal debt, it would take more than two thousand, three hundred years to save up enough money to pay down just one year of the interest. In all that time, interest on the federal debt would continue to compound, so, Matt Salmon’s plan would never, ever, pay down the federal debt, or even pay off one year of the interest on that debt.
The math makes it plain: Matt Salmon’s plan to deal with the federal debt by eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities is completely ineffectual. Given that, it’s worth considering what the impact of eliminating funding for the National Endowment of the Humanities. The following would be cut if Salmon’s bill were signed into law:
- Research into ways to use the computational power of Big Data to benefit humankind.
- Funding for museums and libraries
- Programs to improve teachers’ ability to provide effective instruction in American history
In Matt Salmon’s home state of Arizona, the following are among the recent projects that received support from the National Endowment of the Humanities:
- Efforts to preserve historical documents at the Northern Arizona University Cline Library
- Cabinets to preserve historical documents at the Museum of Northern Arizona
- Preparation of a long term exhibit on the history of human settlement of the Southwestern United States at the University of Arizona
- Transportation of historical artifacts in the collection of the Arizona Historical Society
- Preservation of Clovis Archaeological Materials at the Arizona State Museum
- Promotion of cultural heritage tourism projects in Arizona communities
If funding for these programs were cut, much of the record of Arizona’s history would be lost. Does Matt Salmon really want Arizona’s history to be forgotten?
There are alternatives to eliminating the tiny budget of the National Endowment of Humanities. For example, the Back To Work Budget that was proposed last year would have cut 4.4 trillion dollars in federal spending every year. The Back To Work Budget would have been more than 28,000 times more effective than Matt Salmon’s plan to force libraries to sacrifice America’s historical records. Yet, Matt Salmon voted against it
The following 40 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted against H. Con. Res. 105 yesterday:
Robert Aderholt, Susan Brooks, Eric Cantor, Matthew Cartwright, Mike Coffman, Chris Collins, Tom Cotton, Eric Crawford, Sean Duffy, Bill Flores, Paul Gosar, Tim Griffin, Michael Grimm, Duncan Hunter, Bill Johnson, Sam Johnson, Mike Kelly, Steve King, Peter King, Adam Kinzinger, Luke Messer, Steven Palazzo, James Renacci, Cedric Richmond, Martha Roby, Tom Rooney, Peter Roskam, Paul Ryan, Aaron Schock, Pete Sessions, John Shimkus, Steve Stivers, Bennie Thompson, Tim Walberg, Jackie Walorski, Randy Weber, Lynn Westmoreland, Joe Wilson, Steve Womack, Todd Young.
Why does it matter that they voted against this legislation? What was so important about H. Con. Res. 105?
H. Con. Res. 105, if it passes into law, will force the President of the United States to consult Congress before starting a new war in Iraq. Currently, Barack Obama asserts that he has the right to take the United States into a new war in Iraq at his sole discretion.
The active clause of H. Con Res 105 reads, “Pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C.
1544(c)), Congress directs the President to remove United States Armed Forces, other than Armed Forces required to protect United States diplomatic facilities and personnel, from Iraq–
(1) by no later than the end of the period of 30 days beginning on the day on which this concurrent resolution is adopted; or
(2) if the President determines that it is not safe to remove such United States Armed Forces before the end of that period, by no later than December 31, 2014, or such earlier date as the President determines that the Armed Forces can safely be removed.”
By making the removal of U.S. military resources from Iraq the legal default, H. Con. Res. 105 would make it necessary for Congress to approve any new war in Iraq. The 40 U.S. representatives who voted against this resolution were in essence voting to allow Barack Obama, or any future president, to send the American military off to fight in Iraq all over again – even if the American people are opposed.
At present, the United States Senate needs to pass an equivalent piece of legislation to H. Con. Res. 105 before the law can move forward to the White House to be signed into law. If you want to curtail to this century’s bad habit of rushing off to war, call your two U.S. Senators and urge them to act on this issue, before it’s too late.
Help me understand this reasoning of this sign, which surely hopes to accomplish something as it’s read on the street. I just can’t figure out what. What does this declaration communicate to someone who is already a Christian other than a recapitulation of what Christians already believe? From a marketing point of view, what does this communication convey for someone who is not a Christian, given the 2,000 year-old dating of the described event? Perhaps I’m missing something in the message; what is it?
Since I’ve moved to Maine, I’ve encountered a lot of friendly people, but I’ve also heard many derogatory comments about the supposed criminality of Somali immigrants who began arriving in Lewiston, Maine in the year 2001. Last year, I decided to check the claim that Somalis had brought crime to Lewiston against the observed crime rate of the city collected in the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report. Results, available through the year 2011 then, indicated that since Somali immigrants came to Lewiston, the crime rate had gone down, not up.
A year has passed since then, and crime data for Lewiston is now available through 2012. In the meantime, anti-immigrant hysteria is resurgent as border-state politicians see massing immigrant hordes in a bus of YMCA campers and imagine that immigrants from Central America will somehow infect the U.S. with ebola.
What do the new statistics on crime in Lewiston, Maine show? See for yourself:
As you can see, both violent crime rates and property crime rates are lower on average since Somali immigrants came to Lewiston. The notion that Somali immigrants have plunged pleasant Lewiston, Maine into the sordid depths of criminality is contradicted by observable fact. The whisper campaign against Lewiston’s Somali-Americans is based in myth, perpetuated by ignorance and fear. Fear is surprisingly resistant to change, but ignorance is curable. If you live in Maine, you can help with the cure; the next time someone talks about “those” Somalis and “their” criminal ways, respond with the facts.
The United States has real problems with capital punishment. Our nation’s methods of execution are often unnecessarily cruel, as seen in the case of Joseph Rudolph Wood, who took two hours to die after receiving a lethal injection in Arizona. These problems have brought publicity to the recent opinion of Alex Kozinski, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who has declared that executions in the United States ought to be done with guillotines.
People who are familiar with the American system of justice are aware that the opinion of one judge is not enough to change the law. Kozinski may continue to say that he’d like to see guillotines used to execute prisoners, but his statements won’t change the way that prisoners are actually executed.
The members of network of right wing religious conspiracy theorists, however, either don’t understand the way that laws are made in the United States, or are choosing to exploit others’ ignorance in the matter. They’re using the Kozinski’s statements to revive a favorite story of theirs: That mass executions by guillotine will soon take place across the USA, as a One World Government led by a demon-possessed leader takes power.
We’ve written about this conspiracy theory here at Irregular Times before. Over two years ago, we took note when Pamela Rae Schuffert declared that guillotines were being set up all across the United States for mass executions that would soon begin. Schuffert never provided any evidence for the existence of these guillotines, however, and the mass executions never took place. The obvious falsity of these failed conspiracy theories haven’t prevented them from being repeated, and accepted by gullible readers.
The newest incarnation of the guillotine urban legend has it that Judge Kozinski is a part of the New World Order Illuminati conspiracy, and that Georgia has already passed a law to enable the execution of prisoners by guillotine, with other states soon to follow. Is it true? Is there a law in Georgia that allows the government to kill people by chopping off their heads with guillotines?
As with most successful conspiracy theories, this one is half true. There really was legislation to legalize execution by guillotine in Georgia. However, this legislation is old news. It was introduced in January of 1996 – over 18 years ago – and was never passed into law.
HB 1274 was written by state legislator Doug Teper in order to provide for the possibility of organ donation from the bodies of executed prisoners. Lethal injection and electrocution render organs unsuitable for transplantation, but decapitation leaves them intact. The bill never even was allowed to come up for a full vote by the state legislature.
The truth is simple, and can be easily researched by anyone who cares to do so: There is no law in Georgia allowing execution by guillotine.
Health conscious people are commonly depicted as extremists who are so obsessed with chasing after ideal identities that they’ve forgotten how to have fun. Now, that stereotype has been blasted to pieces by Ritual Wellness, which has developed a new line of organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed juice blends that can be consumed by people following programs of detoxification… when mixed with alcohol.
What’s the point of being well if you can’t get a little loose and sloppy every now and then?
Marra St. Clair and Lori Kenyon, the founders of Ritual Wellness, explain that they wanted to find a way to drink alcohol “without sacrificing their health and fitness completely”.
Drinking alcohol with a depleted uranium mixer wouldn’t work. Cocktails laced with cyanide were straight out. St. Clair and Kenyon merely wanted to sacrifice their health and fitness partially. So, they developed Ritual Mixers, to help their customers combine hard-hitting liquors with a veneer of self-discipline and health consciousness to add that extra special sparkle, so that they can reshpect themselves the morning after.
The juices in Ritual Mixers are not merely natural, St. Clair and Kenyon explain. They’re “super natural”. They contain no added chemicals, so that you can add all the chemicals yourself, for an alcohol cleanse!
Today, I got an unsolicited email inviting me to the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit in Chicago this November 12th and 13th.
In that email, Euan Hunter, a global sales executive with Innovation Enterprise (“an independent business-to-business multi-channel media brand focused on the information needs of Senior Big Data, Strategy, Advanced Analytics, Strategy, Innovation, Digital, Finance, Operations, Publishing & Decision Support executives”) warned that “There are a limited number of early bird passes available. If you would like to attend please reach out to me directly…”
If the people at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit are so good at predictive analytics, how come they have to ask me if I would like to attend? Why do they need me to reach out to a global sales executive to let them know that I want to attend the summit?
Why can’t they just predict that I want to attend, and have my credentials waiting for me?
The speakers at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit include Kelly Uphoff, Director of Experimentation and Algorithms for Growth and Targeting at Netflix, the company that predicted that because I watched Doctor Who, I would want to watch Family Guy and Top Gear.
I propose that Innovation Enterprise rename their summit to be a bit more accurate. How about: Predictivesque Analytics Innovation Summit?