Monday, August 20, 2018

Blood And Roses

The Smithereens.

I want to love but it comes out wrong
I want to live but I don't belong
I close my eyes and I see
Blood and roses

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Troubles In Israel?

My go to guy on Israel is Yaacov Lozowick, currently the State Archivist for Israel, and the former archivist at Yad Vashem.  He's also written of his political change from a Peace Now activist in the 1990s to supporting (reluctantly) Ariel Sharon in 2005, a change prompted by the Second Intifada, launched by Yassir Arafat, after he rejected creation of a Palestinian State in 2000.

Lozowick used to be a frequent and fascinating blogger, but since taking on the state archivist role he posts very infrequently.  However, he also has an active Tweeter account, though he usually stays away from commenting on current internal Israeli politics, so when I saw this a couple of day ago I paid attention:

The link is to an article by David Horovitz in the Times of Israel the theme of which is:

"Israeli democracy isn’t broken . . . But Israeli democracy is being battered. There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics."

I don't know enough about Israeli politics to comment but when Lozowick takes this seriously, I do the same.  Some further excerpts:

There’s a purportedly reasonable explanation for everything.  [Horovitz then goes on to list several incidents, including:]

The arithmetic was different for the nation-state law. If a phrase noting Israel’s commitment to full equality for all its citizens had not been excised from the text, support in the Knesset for the legislation, with its overdue definition of Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” would have been overwhelming. But the argument was made that provisions for equality are already enshrined in existing legislation, albeit without the actual word “equality,” and notwithstanding the fact that this is the law that defines the very nature of Israel.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Taken one at a time, ostensibly acceptable rationalizations can be found for all the crises and controversies I’ve listed. Taken together, the picture is bleak.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The New Mexico Connection

A few days ago the FBI and local police arrested a small group of people, adults and children, living in a remote compound in New Mexico.  The inhabitants were Muslims from the northeast who had moved to the desert several months ago.  The ringleader was identified as Siraj Wahhaj, a wanted man for the kidnapping of his own child (who is suspected of being the dead child found on the premises).   The adults were charged with child abuse and authorities further believe they were plotting attacks. [Update: I believe any charges alleging plotting of attacks were dropped].

I had not planned to write anything on the story until the name Wahhaj triggered my memory, leading me to do some further research and led to me adding this note on the connections between the Wahhaj family and some better known Americans. The incident also provides a further illustration of what the “non-partisan” media wants you to know and, more importantly, not to know.

As noted in some of the coverage, the father of the group’s ringleader Siraj Wahhaj, is a New York area iman, also named Siraj Wahhaj. The elder Wahhaj is a follower of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman  ("The Blind Sheik") who is now serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing of the World Trade Center in the 1990s.  Wahhaj served as a character witness for Rahman during the trial, and is an advocate for the imposition of Sharia Law and has frequently called for the death of homosexuals.

The Iman Wahhaj has some interesting admirers. One is Linda Sarsour, the Muslim darling of progressives, particularly progressive women, despite her anti-Semitic views and outspoken hatred of anyone who disagrees with her. In a speech given last year to the Islamic Societies of North America (ISNA), Sarsour referred to Imam Wahhaj as “a mentor, motivator, and encourager” of hers.

But what prompted my post was another surprising connection, one I stumbled upon in 2016. It was so startling I initially dismissed it until my further research found the GoFundMe page for the event discussed in the article. It concerns Ibtihaj Muhammed, the female American Olympian who competed wearing a hijab and received glowing media coverage as an example of America’s inclusiveness and as a rebuke to the “haters.” Here’s just one of countless examples of her favorable coverage.

It turns out the keynote speaker at her 2016 Olympic fundraiser in Newark, NJ was none other than the Imam Wahhaj! At the time I noted it as just another example of how the media provides preferential treatment to those who meet its narrative needs. But when the New Mexico arrests were reported the name Wahhaj rang a bell with, reminding me of the connection with Ibtihaj and I did some further research which revealed this 2016 article at Harry’s Place.  There are several websites covering Islam and anti-semitism, some of which have a well-deserved reputation for overstatement and distortion of facts and events, tending to unfairly lump all Muslims together, and which I consider unreliable sources of information.  In contrast, I have found Harry's Place to be reliable.  Harry’s is a UK-based blog run by left-wingers who are appalled by the progress and acceptance of Islamists and anti-semites in British culture and politics and have devoted themselves to exposing the perpetrators and, along the way, have also pointed out unfair characterizations of Muslims.  The article makes clear that Ibtihaj has a long history of connections with radical Islamists. Some excerpts from the article, which is worth reading in its entirety.
Muhammad has also received special mentions and recognition as an Olympian in a Hijab from the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And, according to the New York Times, she was even invited to sit on a ‘roundtable discussion’ with the President to discuss ‘varying concerns within the Muslim community like Islamophobia’. That wouldn’t be the first time she got the ear of high places either; in 2012 she posted an update saying she was seated on the same table as the president at a White House Event.
Unfortunately though, the portrayal of Muhammad as an icon of liberal progress and tolerance is simply false. As on the contrary, her social media activity makes it clear she is very politically minded and appears to have praised or befriended several of the most dubious figures on the Islamist scene in the US.
For at least the past 5 years, Muhammad has frequently attended and spoken at numerous events and conventions from an array of organisations widely acknowledged to be Islamist, and regularly expressed praise, admiration and friendship for a number of highly controversial Islamists.
Another who Muhammad has spoken warmly of is the even more gruesomely hardline Islamist Siraj Wahhaj, who has a long track record of espousing truly despicable and vile views.  Wahhaj, who converted to Islam under the mentorship of the radical Louis Farrakhan, has advocated Sharia Law and all of its brutal punishments, advocated violent Jihad, spoken about his distaste for both the USA and democracy which he hopes ‘crumbles’, and offered praise and support to all manner of extremists including Al Qaeda fighters.
The accounts Muhammad follows on Twitter include Qadhi, Suleiman, Jangda or Mogahed and various others of similar ilk plus their organisations such as CAIR, ICNA or the Al Maghrib Institute. She has frequently praised them all personally, and for several years attended and spoken at numerous of their events, and just a couple months ago invited someone as hardline as Siraj Wahhaj to speak at her very own fundraiser.
There is absolutely no way that is the behaviour of a truly secular liberal Muslim. Even if she may not share every specific one of their views, it’s extremely hard to believe Muhammad has spent that long in and around the same circles as these Islamists that she could be merely entirely ignorant of their theocratic world view (someone like Suleiman has openly expressed desire for Sharia at some of those ICNA conventions).
 The Harry's post concludes with a very telling point:
But most sadly of all, this is just another example of the moral illusion the Western Left repeatedly keeps falling for.
Rather than celebrate well integrated Muslims who’ve adopted modern liberal values, they choose to celebrate the religiously conservative, and then think they are being progressive in doing so.
By repeatedly failing to be honest about radical Islam, the media denigrates the views and work of Muslims who are open to participating in a tolerant and secular society, and provides ammunition to those who are prejudiced against all Muslims.

In addition to the Harry's Place post, I also found several other sources documented how intertwined Muhammed and her family are with a small group of radical Islamist imans.

And, by the way, Ibtihaj Muhammed is now on tour promoting her new biography, Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American DreamWe'll see if she gets any tough questions.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Chain Of Fools

An alternate take to the version released as the hit single.  Wow.

Never saw Aretha in concert.  Closest was in the mid-90s when we had tickets but she cancelled at the last minute.  No one could touch her at her peak.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

There's Always Something New In Baseball, Part 924

Last night Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey forgot to transfer the ball from his glove to his hand during his pitching motion and was called for a balk.  Bet that has never happened before.

Later in the game, in which the Cleveland Indians routed the Reds 10-3, Reds position player Brandon Dixon was inserted as a pitcher and struck out MVP candidate Jose Ramirez on a 67 mph curveball!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Use Me

Sometimes the THC Memory Bank fails and he loses track of music he enjoyed way back when.  In this case he was reminded when Use Me turned up as the soundtrack for a recent TV commercial.  That is one funky tune, and Bill Withers wrote and sang a series of melodic singles during the 70s, made particularly memorable by his resonant, warm voice.

Withers was a late bloomer on the pop scene, born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, enlisting in the navy out of high school, serving nine years in the navy and beginning his attempts to break into the music scene only in his late 20s.  Even when he had his first hit (Ain't No Sunshine) at the age of 33 in 1971, he initially did not quit his assembly job at Douglas Aircraft Corporation, doubting the ability to sustain a career in music.

Bill quit the music business in 1985, frustrated with the entire scene.  He was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame by Stevie Wonder in 2015.  He celebrated his 80th birthday this past July 4.

Use Me (1972) - This live version is even funkier than the recording.  The bass, drums, and keyboards have such a groove.

Lean On Me (1972)

Just The Two Of Us (1981)

Lovely Day (1977)

Ain't No Sunshine (1971)

Grandma's Hands (1971)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Black Day For The German Army

After Germany's defeat in World War One, that country's nationalists adamantly maintained that the German Army had not been defeated in the field, and the Empire's devastating loss had been caused by a "stab in the back" from treacherous factions in the homeland, led by communists, socialists, and Jews.  The primary military proponent of the stab in the back was former Army General Erich Ludendorff, considered the brains behind General Hindenburg, the army chief of staff, Germany's most powerful military leader.  It also became a constant theme of the new leader of the National Socialist Party, Adolph Hitler.  The real story was much different.

In March 1918, after transferring hundreds of thousands of troops from the Eastern Front where Russia had withdrawn from the war, Germany launched the first of four massive Western Front offensive designed to defeat Britain and France before fresh American soldiers began flooding into France.  Those assaults resulted in advances, but ultimately failed and, in the process, caused enormous casualties among German troops, and exhausting and damaging the morale of the survivors (for more background read The Kaiserschlacht).

Sensing that the tide had turned, late July saw the Allies agree on launching a series of coordinated offensives designed to decisively evict German armies from France.  The first of these offenses occurred around the city of Amiens beginning on August 8, 1918.  The innovative attack plan, which involved masses of new available tanks and doing away with the normal lengthy pre-attack bombardment met with immediate success, as British, Canadian, and Australian forces gained seven miles in the first day, a shockingly large advance after the stagnant fronts of the prior four years.  It was the beginning of what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive which finally ending the four years of bloodletting.

More alarming to the German command than the ground lost were reports of their troops retreating without making strong resistance, and the taunting of reinforcements as they moved to the front.  Ludendorff referred to it as "the black day for the German army".  It shattered Ludendorff's confidence and from that time he was convinced that Germany could not win the war.

At an Imperial Conference on August 14, Ludendorff for the first time took up the position that victory by arms was impossible, and therefore peace by understanding was necessary.  The military situation worsened over the next six weeks, finally prompting a panicked note from Ludendorff to the military liaison to the government asking to transmit to the Imperial Chancellor his "urgent request that our peace proposals should be issued at once. To-day the troops are holding their own: what may happen to-morrow cannot be foreseen."   This was followed later in the day by a further communication from Ludendorff containing "his urgent request to issue the peace proposal at once, and not to hold it back until the formation of the new Government, which might be delayed."

The civilian government however hesitated to take Ludendorff's advice until, on October 3, General Hindenburg reiterated Ludendorff’s message, stating that “The German army still stands firm and is defending itself against all attacks. The situation, however, is growing more critical daily, and may force the High Command to momentous decisions. In these circumstances it is imperative to stop the fighting in order to spare the German people and their allies unnecessary sacrifices. Every day of delay costs thousands of brave soldiers their lives.

It was only then that Germany's civilian government stated publicly its willingness to engage in peace negotiations based on President Wilson's Fourteen Points.  It was the military, not civilians, which prompted the actions leading to Germany's agreement to an armistice on November 11, 1918.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Solsbury Hill

Peter Gabriel's first single (1977) after leaving Genesis.  Solsbury Hill is a 625 foot high summit near Bath, in England's West Country.  It's one of the possible sites of the Battle of Badon, which likely took place in 490 AD, a victory for the British against the Anglo Saxon invaders, stalling their westward advance for almost a century, a battle also associated with the legend of King Arthur.

What will you do when your eagle flies out of the night?
Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing, stretching every nerve
Had to listen, had no choice
I did not believe the information
Just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom, boom, boom
"Son", he said, "grab your things, I've come to take you home"

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Baseball Day

Started out the day going to Chase Field for the 1pm game between the Diamondbacks and Giants.  A well played game but the Dbacks lost 3-2.  I then raced home and made it in time to watch David Price pitch to the first Yankees batter.  Watched the entire game, all 11 innings and nearly five hours.  The Sox, down 4-1 in the bottom of the 9th with two out and the formidable Aroldis Chapman pitching, came back to tie and then won in the 11th.   This capped a four game sweep by Boston, of which I watched all but two innings.  All in all, a perfect baseball day.

So given my baseball fixation, I spent some time on while watching the games so can inform you of these interesting tidbits:

In 1976, Mark Fidrych, the Detroit Tigers 21 year old rookie had a phenomenal debut season, of which THC has written (read The Bird), in the course of which he accumulated 9.6 Wins Above Replacement value (WAR).  There are only three other players since 1900 who have had more than 9.6 WAR at age 21 or younger; Babe Ruth, Bob Feller, and Mike Trout - two Hall of Famers and the best player in baseball today.  Unfortunately, Fidrych hurt his arm the next year, but it was one glorious season for him.

I also decided to investigate in more detail the 1966 campaign of Juan Marichal, the stylish Hall of Fame pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, another player of whom THC was written before (see Gibson Koufax Marichal Mashup and The Fight)

From 1963 through 1969, Marichal won more than 20 games six times, only falling short in 1967 when he was injured.  In 1966, Juan started out 10-0 after his first 11 starts, with the only non-decision coming in a May 17 start against the Dodgers when he was lifted after ten innings after allowing only seven hits and one run in a game the Giants eventually lost in the 13th inning.

Marichal (who was also known as The Dominican Dandy) was dominating in his first 10 starts having an ERA of only 0.59 after shutting out the Phillies on May 26, but it was this game that alerted me to his astonishing usage pattern by Giants manager Herman Franks.

In those first 10 starts, the Giants hurler allowed zero earned runs on five occasions, one earned run four other times, and gave up two runs against the Cardinals, and only gave up six extra base hits (3 doubles and 3 home runs).  It looks like the two runs scored by the Cards may have been because Marichal let up a bit against them, after the Giants scored 13 runs in the top of the third before adding another in the fourth to take a 14-0 lead.  Juan allowed the two runs in the fifth before being removed from the game.

In those ten starts, the Giants star tossed three games on three days rest, five on four days rest, and once on six days.  Eight of the ten starts were complete games, the exceptions being the five innings against the Cardinals and the ten against the Dodgers.  The Dodgers game was his eighth start, followed by a three hit shutout against the Mets on four days rest.  His next start was against the Phillies after only three days off and he threw 14 innings to beat the Philadelphia team 1-0, raising his record to 10-0.  He must have thrown somewhere between 160 and 200 pitches, simply unthinkable by today's standards.

Franks trotted him out against the Reds on four days rest in his next start.  Though Marichal threw another complete game victory he gave up three runs for the first time in 1966.  He then pitched his next two starts on three days rest, giving up six runs in both of them!  So did Franks give him some more rest?  Of course not!  The Giants manager continued to pitch him on three days rest and Juan was effective beating the Dodgers and Astros in his next two starts.

Though he was not as effective for the rest of the season, Marichal finished with 25 wins and only six losses setting career single season best performances on hits per 9 innings, walks per 9 innings, and K/W ratio.  It was a different time.

Saturday, August 4, 2018