She’s doomed


Above, the new logo for Hillary’s presidential campaign. What were they thinking of? This is surely one of the ugliest and most repellent designs ever. Did a committee come up with it?

This particular rendering — a PNG file — displayed at full scale shows the predictable sawtooth edge of the arrowhead. Do Hillary’s votaries regard her as so inevitable that nobody has to pay attention to this stuff?

But the image is disturbing on so many levels that one really doesn’t know where to start. Perhaps it’s sufficient to mention how hard, aggressive, and even menacing it is. Which makes it fairly appropriate, I guess — Hillary’s latent physiognomy. Or rather, patent physiognomy.

Compare and contrast with Obie’s soothing logo, which always reminded me of an ad for some kind of tranquilizer:


Bibi the Irrelevant


One is really beginning to feel almost sorry for Bibi Netanyahu. The sharp-elbowed Israeli jefe was able to shove aside some poor diminutive Franco-African chap and inject himself into the front line at a Charlie Hebdo demonstration in Paris, back in January, when Charlie Hebdo was still a thing. But his more recent attempt to crash the party, at a conversation among real Great Powers, about Iran, fizzled badly.

After the recent announcement of the tentative nuke agreement with Iran, the Israeli plug-ugly took it upon himself to insist that any such agreement had to include some kind of recognition of Israel on Iran’s part.

Now of course one of the obvious implications of any actual substantive agreement with Iran, on the part of the Powers, would be that Israel and its mad projects were left out in the cold. So Bibi’s petulant demand for the top brick of the chimney was manifestly ridiculous. But he made it anyway. Even with a weatherman, this blockhead doesn’t seem to know which way the wind is blowing.

Amazingly enough, the US State Department, no less, sent Bibi away with a contemptuous dismissal, entrusted to a rather junior porte-parole named Marie Harf. Hardly anybody reported this, except Fox News, and even they played it pretty straight. Ms Harf said explicitly that the question of Israel was in no way on the table in the discussions with Iran, and between the lines, that Bibi could bugger off.

God, that must have been fun. Lucky Marie Harf.

The Times inverts Middle East reality…


… as usual. Today’s headline — a nice big one in the print edition — read


What it should have said, of course, is


Because the real story here is not that Iran has proven willing to “unclench its fist”, as the Times goes on to say. Iran has for decades been almost desperately willing for a normalization of relations with the so-called ‘West’ — with the important proviso, of course, that ‘normalization’ is not a euphemism for ‘recolonialization’. All the spook agencies — even the Mossad! — agree that the Iranian government has not been trying to develop nuclear weapons — though given the fact that Israel has such weapons, who could blame them if they did? The Iranians have always signaled their willingness to go well beyond their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — to which they, unlike Israel, are a party — and indeed they have now agreed formally to do so.

As usual in dealing with the Empire, and its juiced-up, erratic, hair-triggered gunsels like Israel, all the ‘give’ has been on the Iranians’ side. Cf. the Palestinians.

No, what is new here is that for once the US and its lapdogs — collectively referred to as ‘the West’ — have decided to negotiate in good faith. They drove a hard — an unnecessarily hard — bargain, but this time, they didn’t go to the table intent on tipping it.

Like the failure to provoke a war with Syria back in fall 2013, this clearly seems to be a significant defeat for the neocon faction at the hands of what’s usually called, for lack of a better term, the ‘realists': that is to say, people who never did, or no longer believe that giving Israel a blank check is the one-size-fits-all imperial answer to every question the Middle East poses.

Hillary The Inevitable must be appalled. She and her husband have, after all, made a career of carrying Israel’s water. Will she face an agonizing decision: repudiate the agreement and make a lot of Democrats unhappy, or embrace it and let her opponent, whoever that might be, have all the true-believer Zionist money?

This should be fun. Or at least, as much fun as an American presidential campaign could ever hope to provide.

Friendly, or at least tranquil


More about unhappy airline pilots:

Commercial pilots in the United States are grounded by Federal Aviation Administration regulations if they are taking certain prescription drugs, including all sedatives, tranquilizers, anti-psychotic drugs and most antidepressants — with the exception, since 2010, of four: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.

Quis custodiet, and so on


The likelihood of a pilot’s mental illness or suicidal feelings resulting in a crash in the U.S. is low; the Federal Aviation Administration maintains very strict guidelines for evaluating the mental health of aircrew. Under FAA rules, no one suffering from psychosis, severe personality disorder, manic-depressive illness or substance dependence can be issued the medical clearance to fly an airliner. Captains are required to renew their clearance every six months and first officers every year. Hundreds of people get refused every year.

That last sentence intrigues me. One would like to be a fly on the wall at a few of these proceedings.

Would you buy a used opera from this man?


That’s Peter Gelb, above, who’s running the Metropolitan Opera these days. Running it into the ground, by all accounts, and not a minute too soon.

Don’t get me wrong: some of my best friends are opera fans, in spite of the old musicians’ joke to the effect that there are music lovers, and then there are people who are into opera. I’ve spent a few pleasant nights at the opera meself. Admittedly, it was mostly Handel and Mozart. Wagner is fun, up to a point, but one wants to take a shower afterwards. Verdi is a fine composer but he should have confined himself to oratorio. And dare one say it, Monteverdi is at his least interesting in the medium he is said to have invented. Mozart’s most lovable opera(*) is also the least operatic. And so on.

My opera-fan friends are buzzing just now about an item in The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker) about the woes of the Met, under the mad Mussolini-like diktatura of Mr Gelb — who bears more than a passing resemblance to the late unlamented Steve Jobs, don’t you think?

I was delighted to see Eustace Tilley taking a swipe at a Ring cycle I also mocked, to the best of my ability, back in the day: one of Gelb’s satrap spectacles.

It should surprise no one that Gelb & Co. are now attempting to fund their overblown follies by cutting the salaries of the fiddlers in the pit and the singers in the chorus. The New Yorker piece linked to above gave some numbers about their pay. I was shocked. These are people who have spent years mastering a difficult craft and have succeeded brilliantly at it. They ought to be a lot better-paid than I am. They’re not. This is just obscene. But Gelb, like every other corporate executive, wants to reduce them to beggary. Gelb, I should say, and his board of economical billionaires.

I wish the Met every ill that could possibly befall it. I want to see it shuttered and dark: the dull tennis-court sized Chagalls relocated to a Masonic hall or a skating rink somewhere, the trashy tawdry building — Robert Moses’ work — crumbling like moldy icing sugar under the wrecker’s ball.

Opera fans will still go see opera in a garage, or a barge, or an abandoned derelict warehouse; and opera would be much more lovable under those circumstances, not to mention more affordable. The divine fiddlers in the band and more-than-competent singers in the chorus, I think, will find a way. We are a depraved and unamiable species but at our worst we retain a love for music, the dulce laborum lenimen, and I hope and believe that we shall never lose it.

(*) Zauberfloete, of course. Let’s put on a show!

O treason most vile!


Golly, liberals really love to call the cops, don’t they?

It seems that just about everybody I know is mad as a wet hen about the Republican senators’ childish, fatuous letter to the ayatollahs. A bizarre legal curiosity called the Logan Act has been exhumed — by liberals! — from two hundred years’ worth of well-deserved oblivion. Charges of treason are being proffered, prosecution demanded, garments torn, hair set afire….

Not surprisingly, the most insightful, rational, and adult response I have seen to the senators’ silly letter came from the heir of an ancient and sophisticated civilization, namely Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, who was kind enough to give this imbecile stunt more careful consideration than it deserved from anybody.

Perhaps hysteria evokes hysteria. As the Republican loons increasingly take flight from reality, it appears that their liberal counterparts feel obliged to keep pace.

It’s a depressing spectacle to see the enlightened, well-educated libs and the ignorant, obscurantist Yahoo flat-earthers scrambling for the same brass ring. Who’s the traitor? Who’s the patriot? Who’s the law-breaker, who the law-enforcer?

Of course one expects reactionaries to call people traitors — it’s a fundamentally reactionary concept — but it says something about the latent physiognomy of liberals when they show themselves so eager to do the same. There are, of course, precedents: see for example the American postwar Red Scares, organized respectively under the Wilson and Truman administrations.

One cannot, of course, leave this topic without observing that there are exactly two parties whose noses would be put out of joint by a rapprochement between the US and Iran: namely, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Accent on the ‘yahoo’


You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that fifty-some Congressional soup hounds — including eight senators! — had actually boycotted Netanyahu. Truly we live in an age of miracle and wonder.

Liberal commentary on this startling phenomenon has been self-stultified to a degree. The only thing that seems to matter is that Boehner, by inviting Bibi without consulting an individual always respectfully referred to as ‘the President’, had been guilty of disrespect to the latter. The fact that Bibi, who was of course applauded to the echo by the rest of Congress, is a mass murderer and also, remarkably enough, a crashing bore, was apparently of no consequence.

Rachel Maddow, needless to say, was the wettest of the various media hens who took a peck at this topic. The good part starts at 2:50 or so:

A fine example of the essential authoritarianism of the respectable liberal mind.

Netanyahu is an odd-looking fellow, isn’t he? Was he assembled out of Legos? A sort of prefab Golem?

Surely Obie could have prevented him from coming. Just say no, eh? No such luck, of course. It would have been fun to see Bibi’s big cinderblock of a head barking at the Congressional applause machine via Skype: projected on a screen, ten feet high, like Oz The Great And Terrible, each plug-ugly twitch and glare and grimace taking up more space than a frisky Labrador in a studio apartment.

Bad move, Leo


Maybe we shouldn’t blame St Leo for the Orthodox/Roman split in 1054 (seems like only yesterday, doesn’t it?). But he certainly teed it up for his Legate, wonderfully named Humbert, whose was the proximate curial slipper that kicked over the hornet’s nest. Not quite a thousand years later, the consequences continue to reverberate:

Syriza in Athens and Putin in Moscow: An Unholy Alliance?

[Oy vey!] the troubling attitudes of Syriza and its leaders in foreign policy…

Syriza has chosen to rule in alliance with 13 deputies from the rightist party of Independent Greeks, which gives the new government a majority. But why did a militant neo-Marxist phenomenon like Syriza find itself wedded to a conservative force like the Independent Greeks?

Information about the background of this puzzling lash-up is dismaying, and indicators point to meddling from Moscow….

The first foreign official to visit prime minister Tsipras was Russian ambassador Andrey Maslov, who soon invited defense minister Kammenos to visit Moscow. Putin echoed the welcome. Meanwhile, aside from its criticism of European economic policies, the Tsipras cabinet has dissociated itself definitively from Western sanctions against Moscow over the seizure of Crimea and other Russian armed intrigues in Ukraine.

This piece was written by somebody named Steven Schwartz, who seems to be associated with an organization called “The Institute for Islamic Pluralism”. (Funny… you don’t *look* Islamic.) But of course other, less obviously ridiculous figures have worried about some sort of entente between Syriza and Russia. With good reason, I hope and pray; and my prayers on this topic ascend in Latin and Greek impartially. In fact I may brush off the Old Church Slavonic grammar and make a stab at that.

Ah, those Greeks. Not only are they making a break from Miss Merkel’s Austerity Academy; they seem to be going AWOL from the NATO citadel.

This all makes me very very happy.

Big data, big dreams


We all know that Google and Amazon and Facebook know everything about us, right? This bothers some people — it bothers me, for example — and not others. But what bothers the Chronicle of Higher Education is that the lords of Big Data aren’t sharing it with… academics:

[W]hat should be an opportunity for social science is now threatened by a three-headed monster of privatization, amateurization, and Balkanization. A coordinated public effort is needed to overcome all of these obstacles….

While many folks are legitimately concerned about privacy in an era of Internet giants, we think that these private firms and public-sector agencies should be made to share their data more—not less—but with the National Science Foundation, not the National Security Agency….

Rather than just apply to Yahoo to work with its data in a silo, researchers would be able to link such proprietary data to other, diverse sources of information including those of other firms and government agencies, or even to newly collected information.

Gotta admire the chutzpah.