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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

I come home in the morning light,
My mother says "When you gonna live your life right?"
Oh ,mother,dear, We're not the fortunate ones,
And girls, They wanna have fun.
I am not sure how to describe the Pharaoh's women. Collectively they were called a harem, but today that title conjures up Victorian images of sex starved coquettes waiting impatiently for the a few moments attention from their sugar daddy -  a male Egyptologist's fantasy if ever there was one. It also seems an inefficient use of resources, what with years of housing, feeding and clothing so many sperm receptacles when, in the end, only one really counted. Surely these ancient women, like modern women,  had to be multi-taskers. For example, we know the Pharaoh's harem had a very nice choir.
But besides harmonizing, the ladies of the harem must have earned their keep between reproductive sessions by cutting ribbons at temple openings, encouraging teenagers to just say no to drugs and reminding stone masons of their vital role in the Pharaohonic economy. Proof of the importance of women in Ancient Egypt can be found in events which occurred some 4,200 years ago, at the end of what is called "The New Kingdom" - which gives you some idea of how old Egyptian civilization really is. In the spring of 1167 B.C.E. Ramses III sat down to talk with his wives, and he did not get up again.
Usimare (Ramses III's real name) was a good example of the vagaries of picking a Pharaoh. He looked the part. He was tall for the age - about 5.8", smart, competent and dedicated. His reign should have been as successful as his idol's, Ramses II, who during his 67 years of rule (according to tradition) threw those freeloading Israelites out Egypt. But Usimare was also a really unlucky guy.  Just before he became Pharaoh a volcano in Iceland blew its top, and the shadow of its ash cloud damaged Egyptian crops for twenty years. The price of wheat skyrocketed. Outside of Egypt entire civilizations of farmers and fishermen became hobos, stealing that they could not buy, be it food or and new place to live. It is suspected the new  vagabonds  became the Phoenicians, among other names. Those who settled In the Middle East were called the Philistines, and spent a couple of hundred years bringing "tsuris" to the wayward Israelites -  or maybe that was visa-versa. In Tunisia they established Carthage, and a thousand years later became the Roman Republic's worst enemy. In Egypt they were called the Sea Peoples, and fighting them off left the treasury flat broke. That distant volcanic eruption wasn't Ramses III's fault, but he got the bill. He just wasn't lucky. He wasn't even lucky in his death.
The phone rings in the middle of the night,
My father yells "What you gonna do with your life?"
Oh,daddy,dear,
You know you're still number one,
But girls, They wanna have fun
By the spring of 1167 B.C.E., poor, unlucky and broke Ramses III was about 65 years old and had been Pharaoh for thirty-two years. He now dragged his entire court to Thebes for the five day celebration of his Heb-Sed, or Feast of the Tail of the Jackal. This was a cross between Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee and Carnival time in Rio. There were parades, dinners, banquets and lots of drinking, and on the fourth day the Pharaoh had to "run" a course and shoot arrows to prove he was still fit enough to be Pharaoh. What they would have done if the old boy had not been up to it, I don't know. But in the Old Kingdom they used to kill the king if he was too feeble. 
As I said, Ramses III's harem had of course come with him, headed by his new Great Wife Isis-Ta-hemseret. The harem had given Ramses III ten sons. Six of the potential Kings were still living,  including Isis' boy, 22 year old newly crowned Prince Heqamatre. But there was also Prince Pentaweret, who was Ramses's son with Queen Tey.   Now, Tey's two eldest sons had already died, and Penatweret was just a few months younger than Heqamatre.  But that slight seniority had moved Heqamatre next in line to be Pharaoh over Pentaweret. That also meant that Hegmatre's mother Isis had replaced Tey as the new Great Wife. Ramses III could have overridden these automatic adjustments in his royal household if he had felt one heir more suited than the other, but for whatever reason he did nothing. And that would prove to be a fatal choice because Tey was the kind of a girl who carried a grudge. She could have stared in the "Jersey Shore".
Well, she wasn't a girl, she was a grown woman who had given birth to three sons, and she was at least forty years old by now. Still, Tey must have been an impressive broad, because six of the other wives sided with her in this matter. And they were all the daughters of powerful families.
In addition, Tey had considerable support from the bureaucracy which maintained the harem. Chief of the Chamber, Pebekkamen, and his assistant were down with her plan, as well as Peynok, Overseeer Of The Harem and his scribe and seven royal butlers, who were all titled members of the bureaucracy. Tey also managed to draw the army into her conspiracy. The sister of an officer in the Nubian Archers, who was one of the "harem six", urged her brother to "Incite the people to hostility! And come thou to begin hostility against thy lord." Well, I suppose, she could have been more circumspect. In any case, Tey even had conspirators working inside the local cops, the Thebian police force. She was also attempting to seduce the head of the Egyptian Treasury, which was called The White House. And Tey even managed to enlist Iroi, Ramses III's personal priest-physician. But it appears he was the only priest who joined the conspiracy. And that may have made all the difference.
Some boys take a beautiful girl,
And hide her away from the rest of the world.
I wanna be the one to walk in the sun.
Oh, girls, They wanna have fun.
See, ancient Egypt was peppered with temples, large and small, and each had their priests and their grain fields to support them, and slaves to work those fields. They were like corporations are today. By the best estimates, 14% of the irrigated land and 2% of the population were owned by the temple priests. The temples also owned 500,000 head of cattle, 88 large ships and some 53 workshops and shipyards. And in 1167 B.C. E. all of this was tax exempt, which shifted more of the tax burden onto the nobles and peasants. Does any of this sound familiar?
Ramses III tried to reduce his expenses by replacing his bureaucrats and large parts of the army with slaves, supplied by independent contractors, a practice in current vogue with the American government. But Ramses III also contributed to this power shift to the priesthood by continuing the practice of donating large sums to the temples. Gold and silver went straight out of the government coffers and into the collection plates. Ramses III boasted on a temple wall, "I did mighty deeds and benefactions...for the gods and goddesses of South and North." Those benefactions hastened the bankruptcy of the national treasury. Familiar again, right?
Just three years before this original "Year of the Woman" the artisans working in the royal tombs had stopped work because their pay had stopped. It was like a Republican government shutdown. Ramses crushed this first worker's revolt in history as if he were the Governor of Wisconsin. But that wildcat strike indicated what was at stake. Tey was not just trying to make her son Pharaoh, she was trying to reverse what she saw as the decline of the power of The Pharaohs. They couldn't prevent the next volcano from exploding, but then they did not realize that is what had bankrupted the nation. They figured Ramses III had angered the gods somehow. And it was just a lucky break for Tey that what the gods wanted also favored her and her son.  The whole thing came to a head, say the ancient accounts, near the end of the Heb Sed, when Ramses III decided to spend a night sitting with the girls. And this was a seriously bad choice, because while he talking with "the girls" somebody cut his throat. 
It was a professional hit. The button man or woman sliced a three inch wound across the old man's throat, just beneath the larynx, so he could not call out for help. But it did not matter, since, in the words of the British Medical Journal which imaged Ramses III's mummy  in 2012, 'The extent and depth of the wound indicated that it could have caused the immediate death of Ramesses III.” Poor Usimare, er, Rasmes III. And it was clear how the people of Egypt felt about his murder, because for centuries afterward, Egyptians invoked Ramses III's name when seeking divine assistance in the case of snake bite. And like a snake, Ramses III lashed out after death against those who had stepped upon him.
In three very public trials conducted after the murder, twenty-seven men and six women were convicted of treason, including Tey's boy, Pentaweret.  Poor Pentaweret was slowly strangled. Then they wrapped his mummy in an "impure" goat skin. Said the Medical Journal, which also examined Pentawaret's remains, "He was badly treated for a mummy."  And he may have been the lucky one. Every one else, including Tey herself,  were slowly simmered to death on a barbecue, cooked until the flesh was just falling off their bones.  And then their bones were ground up and their ashes were scattered to the four winds, condemning the immortal souls of these original resurectionists to wander the after-life without a body. Tough, I know, but if you are going to shoot at the Pharaoh, you had better not miss. And there better be no witnesses, and the cops better be in on it, and the army better be backing you, and the priests, and..., well, you just better not even try it. 
And it is a shame Tey did get caught. In his will, Ramses III donated 86,400 slaves to the estates of the god Amun's temples. His son and heir, Isis' boy Heqamatre, became Ramses IV, but he ruled for just six years. And after his demise Ramses followed Ramses with such rapidity that the High Priest of el-Kab who had helped Ramses III celebrate his Heb Sed, was still in office when Ramses IX died in 1111 B.C.E. By then the priest were openly the dominant power in Egypt, and the country was run for their benefit, sort of like the bankers run America today. Egypt slipped into a centuries long dark age.  
When the working day is done,
Oh, girls, They wanna have fun.
Ah, if only Tey had been more circumspect, and more successful, then the New Kingdom might have lasted a few hundred years longer, and women might have played a bigger part in history, and history might have been more fun. After all, the girl just wanted to have fun.
- 30 --

FAT FUCKING IDIOTS

I admit, with no small personal embarrassment, that I, along with many of my fellow Americans, are too often - fat fucking idiots. Please allow me to justify my choice of language and then my claim. As of November 13, 2013, the United States had 317 million citizens, about 16% of the total world population. We weigh a total of 56 billion, 426 million pounds, about 34% of the total human biomass. By comparison, Asia has 61% of the human population but only 13% of the total human biomass. World wide, the average human weighs 136 pounds, while the average American weighs 178 pounds. Sorry my fellow Americans, we be fat.
The second word in my description, according to the Wide World of Words website, originated in the Roman Latin word “fornix”, which meant a wall “bent over” as in an arch or a vaulted chamber. As such it came to refer to the cellars of Roman drinking establishments, where prostitutes often practiced their trade. Over time the word evolved into the noun “fornicationem”, meaning a brothel, and the verb“fornicari”, meaning what you do in a brothel.
From here “fuck” entered the English language just in time to explain what Christopher Columbus and his ancestors were about to do to native Americans, and what the first four generations of European Americans would then do to their African-American slaves, and the next five generations of European Americans would do to their African-American fellow citizens. About the only comfort Americans of all ethnicity can draw from that history is that Americans are not much worse than the anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism and anti-Christianity hysteria in today's Egypt, Serbia, Sweden, India, Russia, Japan, China and Tennessee, to name a few. The rest of humanity might not be as fat as America, but they are just as much “fucked” and “fuckers”.
And that brings us to that last word in my allegation, born in ancient Athens, from the Greek “idi-O-tes”, meaning a selfish person not interested nor educated in public affairs, as in soldiers who could not be bothered to ask why they were being sent off to fight. The Romans called such uneducated selfish people “idiota”, which became the Old French “idiote”. By the 16th century in English the word had unfortunately lost its connotation of selfishness and came to mean merely a person whose decisions were consistently (in Latin) a bad (dis) star (aster), or a disaster.
So the phrase “fat fucking idiots” is an honest use of the English language, meaning, any offense felt, may not be because of the language, but the message it delivers. So please allow me to justify my argument via a “thought experiment” like those used by physicist Albert Einstein, but this one created by a biologist
Imagine a super smart green algae cell, floating down a stream. Sheer chance steers our genius eukaryote down the narrow neck of a discarded bottle, sitting on sunny sand bar below the surface. Our algae abruptly finds itself in an environment seemingly designed for its pleasure and comfort. The water in the bottle is warm and still. Fresh oxygen and nutrients enter the bottle through the small open mouth. The algae begins to divide and grow, doubling in mass every twelve hours. The question asked by this experiment is: what is the earliest point at which our super smart algae can be expected to realize it is eating itself out of house and home?
If you would rather work this out yourself, stop reading here. For those who cannot stand the suspense, the correct answer is no more than twelve hours before algae doomsday, or just before the final doubling. As long as at least half the bottle is still empty, our sentient algae would not realize it (they) were about to block half their sisters from receiving nutrients, and those dead cells would then poison the survivors. Until the remaining space and resources are smaller than that already occupied by the colony, it is unlikely its members would realize the doom about to descend upon them. And that threshold would be crossed only when a single generation of sister cells was about to consume the last of the available resources.   Evidence of an approaching similar non-theoretical threshold in the real world is growing, as proven in a pair of disaster incubators, separated by 5,000 miles.
The first is just east from where the last drop of Pacific Ocean moisture is squeezed out of thin air above the front range of the Rocky Mountains, allowing the now bone dry cool air to rush out across the surface of America's Great Plains, where it collides with the heavier, warm air flowing unhindered into the center of the continent from the warm Gulf of Mexico. This shifting atmospheric collision front, which usually occurs around 100 degrees west longitude and between 40 degrees and 35 degrees north latitude, is known by one of two names': either “The Dry Line” or “Tornado Alley”.
A similar collision zone occurs high over the western Pacific, when equatorial heat creates rising air (a high pressure zone) that is forced to drop its moisture with altitude as the air pressure drops. Finally, at about 30 degrees north latitude the now relativity cool dry air falls again, creating a low pressure zone. The spinning of the earth twists the meeting of these two air masses, and approximately 600 miles northeast of Papua New Guinea, 500 miles southeast of Guam, and 2.500 miles southwest of Hawaii, between 5 degrees and 10 degrees of north latitude and between 150 and 160 degrees west longitude, in the Subtropical Convergence Zone, are born the Pacific hurricanes, called typhoons.
At about two on the afternoon of 8 July 1680 the Reverend Increase Mather witnessed a “whirl-wind” strike Cambridge, Massachusetts. A servant named John Robbins was crushed by the storm, becoming the first European killed by a tornado in America. Over 1,200 tornadoes hit America in an average year, four times as many as anywhere else in the world. Almost all of them (80%) are rated an EF 1 with winds of 110 miles per hour or less. Less than 1% are EF 4 or above, with winds over 267 miles per hour. Since 1875 more than 18,000 Americans have been killed by tornadoes, but the annual numbers have dropped in the last century, from 260 per year before 1936, to 54 annually from 1976 to 2000. Most of this drop is due to better public warnings, but it seems the downward trend in the victims  is changing again.
On Friday, 31 May, 2013, the largest tornado ever recorded by humans slammed into the small central Oklahoma town of El Reno. It was, by radar measurement, more than two and one half miles wide. Winds in its satellite vortices reached 295 miles per hour, second in power only to a 1999 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, with winds of 302 miles per hour. But the Moore twister was smaller. In between those two individual massive storms, on 27 April, 2011, occurred the largest tornado outbreak in American (and thus, world) history. On that single day Tornado Alley produced 209 twisters, including 11 rare EF-4s and 4 of the still rarer EF-5.s. That May saw 770 tornadoes, three times the previous record number, recorded in 1974.
Five months later, and 5,000 miles to the west, on 7 November, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the southern Samar Island, Philippines. Just before impact the super storm's sustained winds were measured at 196 miles per hour,  a speed which reached out 56 miles from the eye wall, making it one of the largest and the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall. Most of the 5,632 who died, drown in the 20 foot storm surge. Typhoon Tip in 1979 may have been larger, but its winds were slower and it weakened substantially before it made landfall in Japan. So the largest, strongest tornado, and the largest, strongest typhoon in history, both occur in the same year. Would such evidence convince climate change skeptics that we are past the time for action, that our bottle is half full, rather than half empty?
There is substantial political support for the glass being half empty. First and foremost is the lack of evidence. The United States Weather Service was not established until 1870, and the scientific approach to observations and forecasting is a almost purely a 20th century invention, providing us, less than half way through the second decade of the 21st century, with just 41,245 daily observations from any specific location in America. However, no matter your stated political belief system, few would spend a spring day in Tornado Alley, or a fall week along America's Atlantic Coast, without checking the National Weather Service forecasts, and act according to their warnings. To argue that climate predictions, also based on the scientific method, should not be given at least the same weight, is simple sophistry.
What would we lose if the predictions of climate change are wrong? Taking action on coal fired power plants could save $2 billion in emergency room visits by the 30% of children suffering asthma attacks brought on by air pollution. And according to a March 2011 American Lung Association study, such reduction in pollution would also reduce the 13,000 Americans killed every year by the 386,000 tons of hazardous poisons pumped into the atmosphere by the 400 coal fired power plants in 46 of the 50 states. Saving the climate at the same time, would be just be pure gravy.
And gravy is something even a fat fucking idiot should be able to understand.
-30 -

Sunday, February 02, 2014

HAVING FAITH Part Five IMAGE

I believe the outcome was preordained. Conventional wisdom said that Asa "Ace" Keyes had all the power. He was male, and as District Attorney he could play the legal system like a musician played a tune. And he was willing to do whatever the law allowed to convict those who violated the law. But the truth was the uneducated Sister Aimee Semple McPherson held a winning hand, if she played her cards right.. She was willing to do what ever was required to defend her favorite child, her church. And she had one advantage that she had the disadvantage of being a woman. It was the professional cynic from Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, who most succinctly described her ultimate weapon, when he surprised his readers by writing in her defense, "What she is charged with, in essence, is perjury...uttered in defense of her honor." And in 1926, that was not only a justification for perjury, it was a requirement.
“Before the God in Whom I have every faith and utter belief in, every word I have uttered about my kidnapping is true.”
Aimee Semple McPherson 1926
It was a former USC classmate who offered the kindest description of the 28th District Attorney of Los Angeles. In his daily column "The Lancer" Harry Carr observed that during a 20 year career in the department "Ace" Keyes (above) proved to be "a careful slow minded trial lawyer". He was also honest and fair. Appointed in late 1923 to replace his ill predecessor, in 1924, Asa ran for the top job. He was praised from the pulpit by Sister Aimee.
And oil magnate Courtney Chauncey "C.C." Julian (above) called Keyes the "squarest District Attorney’ that ever held that office”. As soon as he was elected Keyes replaced most of his staff, while cutting the length of the average felony trial from 120 days to just 51. But by the end of his only term, the city of Angles had found his weak points and cracked him wide open..
"What brought about District Attorney Keyes’s change of belief? Did the overlords of the underworld who are fighting me, and who are heavily interested in Los Angeles, have anything to do with it?”
Aimee Semple McPherson September 1926
The roaring twenties, described by Franklin Roosevelt as "a decade of debauchery and of group selfishness", found the weak points in a lot of people, especially in Los Angeles . Just as the post war population boom produced a rush to subdivide the Los Angeles basin for new homes, as much as 10 billion barrels of oil was discovered under that very same land. One oil man observed, "They ruined a perfectly good oil field by building a city on top of it.” Brand new houses were bought and leveled to erect drilling derricks, as the locals went "stark, staring, oil mad." Some, like Edward Doheny, hit a gusher and got stinking oil rich. But the high fever of greed made it easy for the confidence men like C.C. Julian and Sheridan C. Lewis to fleece the vast majority.
“You may call it a ‘Fight the Devil Fund’ if you wish, because that’s what it will be used for....I am here to say that when I am proved innocent he will certainly have to go.”
Aimee Semple McPherson September 1926
At the top of The Julian Petroleum Company pyramid was a "Bankers Pool" of wealthy "preferred stock" holders, millionaires like movie mogul C.B. Demille, mine owners and recent oil men like Edward Doheny, and businessmen like Harry M. Haldeman, grandfather to Watergate conspirator H.R. Halderman. For a $1 million investment, they each made as much as 19% annual return by selling 4 million watered down general shares to 43,000 dreamers. 
After taking over "Julian Pete" in 1924, by 1927, Sheridan Lewis (above) had printed up and sold general shares equal to 3,614% of the company's worth. Lewis secretly unloaded his own shares, but retrained control and his generous salary by simply not telling anyone. He even used his now non-existent worthless stock as collateral to borrow millions from the biggest banks in Los Angeles, avoiding any questions by agreeing to interest rates so high they were illegal.
“Everybody knows that Asa has his hands pretty tight around my throat just now and wants to squeeze a little tighter every day until he chokes the life out of me.”
Aimee Semple McPherson 1926
Eventually it began to be whispered that there was far more "Julian Pete "stock on the market than was supposed to exists. In response to these rumors, Lewis (above) publicly formed a new "Millionaires' Pool" supposedly to save the company. In fact it merely extended the scam until the total fraud reached $150 million ($2 billion today). As Lewis reassured one of his nervous "Bankers' Pool", "You have made more money out of this Julian play than any other living man." And they all had.
“The vile insinuations which fell from the lips of Mr. Keyes during his examination today could not, in my opinion, exist in the mind of any pure man! He has subjected me today to the most exquisite cruelty and suffering that the human mind can conjure up.”
Aimee Semple McPherson 1926
Into this den of thieves stepped the "careful slow minded" Asa Keyes. Tempted by the enormous bribes offered for seemingly minor compromises, District Attorney Keyes began drinking and gambling, which is another way of saying he went into debt. Debt made him plastic. And by 1926 those in the know, knew the District Attorney was for sale, the price depending more on "Ace's" losses at the gaming tables than on the moral compromise he was being asked to make.
“Mr. Keyes means to do a-plenty to me right away! He has already blasted my name with trumpets with trumpets across the world—settling it for everybody—if his word is the Gospel—that I am the worst ever.”
Aimee Semple McPherson 1926
In mid-September,Asa Keyes announced his indictment of Aimee, her mother, Kenneth Ormiston and two others. At the press conference Keyes assured the press, “Mrs. McPherson is not and never has been a victim of persecution in so far as the law-enforcement agencies of this city are concerned...This office has its duty to perform and must do it regardless of who is hurt. I am sorry for Mrs. McPherson, but that cannot influence my sworn duty.” After her arraignment on the charges, Aimee's mother, Mildred Kennedy, told the courthouse reporters, “Jesus distinctly taught that His church should have persecution. As far as we know we are the only church in the world today to have this honor.” And in her next Sunday sermon broadcast, Aimee added, “ The sole purpose of this dastardly attack was to persecute me and besmirch my character, and possibly to destroy this temple. To my mind this is itself evidence of a hidden motive.”
“Asa Keyes—if you are listening in, you are a dirty, lecherous libertine! I urge every single taxpayer listening to my voice to contact your office and demand immediately an accounting of the money—thousands upon thousands of dollars—that you have been squandering—you and your wife and your assistants and their wives—on trips to vacation resorts in Carmel, Douglas, Arizona, and Mexico for what we are supposed to believe are investigations into my integrity.”
Aimee Semple McPherson 1926
Just as the charges were being filed against Aimee, Reuban F. McClellan, Chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, swore under oath that Keyes had misused county funds in his investigation of Aimee.   McClellan, a retired mining engineer, was running for Governor, and he was depending on Aimee's Four Square congregation to support him. But by mid-October the court proceedings were over and although they produced a few headlines, the charges were proven to be empty. And then McClellan lost in the Republican primary, finishing him as a political force. But it was clear that Aimee was now using every weapon she could lay her hands on, and in a far more sophisticated way than ever before.
"Whether you like it or not, you're an actress."
Charlie Chapman speaking to Aimee Semple McPherson
- 30 -

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