Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kafranbel: The Syrian Revolution in 3 minutes

So now the UN is destroying the Assad regime's chemical weapons - but what about all the rest of them? We stand by with our hands folded and do nothing. This is a video from the rebel village of Kafranbel that covers the Syrian revolution in three minutes.

For more explanation see this CNN story: In Northern Syria, rebels use satire as a weapon.

And for more on Kafranbel, see their Facebook page, Kafranbel Syrian Revolution.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Western Wall in 1898, as painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner, "The Wailing Wall", ca. 1898
Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was an African American artist (born in Pittsburgh), who spent most of his artistic career in Paris, where he was freed of the anti-Black racism of the United States and was able to pursue his art without constantly being insulted and mistreated. He studied with the painter Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1879-1885, and then in 1891 he went to Paris and spent the rest of his life there.
He visited Palestine twice in 1897 (for six weeks) and in 1898 (for six months). As a result of his visit, in addition to many other biblical scenes, he painted Jews praying at the Western Wall, both men and women. Notice that there's no mehitza (screen to divide men and women at prayer), and that there is a row of women standing right in front of the Kotel, all wearing colorful scarves.
In "Mutual Reflections: Jews and Blacks in American Art," Milly Heyd writes that Tanner
depicted the  site as symbolizing the destruction and hoped for revival of the old Temple, an image that became a visual icon for a specific national struggle, constantly repeated by artists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Tanner painted the wall and worshipers with great empathy and an emphasis on the group as well as on the individual: "Nor do I forget the deep pathos of 'Jews' Wailing Place' - those tremendous foundation stones of that glorious temple that stood upon Mount Moriah, worn smooth by the loving touch of tearful and devout worshippers from all over the world, under the scornful gaze of the to-day Turkish conqueror."
This painting is on display at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Some good news from the world of Hebrew manuscripts. The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem is digitizing and will be posting online 1600 manuscripts from the Palatina Library in Parma, Italy.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's National Library says it has signed an agreement with a leading Italian collection to display online some of the world's most important Hebrew manuscripts, making them accessible to the public for the first time. 
National Library Judaica curator Aviad Stollman says it will be digitizing the Palatina Library's collection of about 1,600 documents dating to the Middle Ages. He says the collection includes rare illuminated manuscripts and one of the oldest existing copies of the Mishna, a central Jewish text. 
Stollman said Thursday the manuscripts are on par with Vatican and Oxford collections. He says Israel's library is also negotiating with those institutions to scan their manuscripts 
Stollman said Israel's National Library is seeking to digitize and post online all of the world's Hebrew manuscripts.
Folio from a 13th century Hebrew Bible written in Toledo, Spain.

Are these people crazy???

Speaker of the House Boehner said today that the U.S. Is On A Path To Default, unless President Obama gives in to the Republicans. He said that he wants a "serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up. It would be irresponsible of me to do this." If a conversation is all he wants, why doesn't he just make a phone call? You don't threaten to tear down the house if all you want is a conversation.

Is he serious? It is supremely irresponsible for him to threaten not to raise the debt limit, since not raising it would lead to an economic catastrophe. Doesn't he remember the financial meltdown of 5 years ago? I was just thinking about that the other day. On September 14, 2008, Lehman Brothers was not saved by the Federal Reserve and filed for bankruptcy. Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch. AIG was in big trouble, and eventually was saved by the Fed. On September 15, The Dow Jones fell 504 points. On September 28, 2008, the House of Representatives voted no on the plan to bailout the financial industry, and the stock market plunged over 700 points. I remember staring at the graphic of the falling stock market on the Times website in the middle of the afternoon and having the feeling that no one was in charge.

Is this what Boehner really wants? If he has any concern about the financial state of the United States and its standing in the world, he would not be making these threats and he certainly would not carry them out. I had thought that one stable point in the American political system was that the Republicans were the party of business, especially big business. I suppose I should have been disabused of that notion in the fall of 2008 when Republicans opposed bailing out the auto companies. But this is even crazier.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
If U.S. lawmakers fail to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit this month they will cause a “very, very severe recession with no obvious way out,” Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi said Friday.

With the government unable to enact fiscal policies and the interest rates set by the Federal Reserve already near zero, “there would be no policy levers” to use against the resulting recession, Mr. Zandi said in a conference call with clients.

Mr. Zandi’s comment’s echo recent warnings from Wall Street titans like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and from the White House.

The U.S. Treasury has said it will run out of room to maneuver to remain below the $16.7 trillion debt limit “no later” than Oct. 17 unless Congress raises it. That deadline is fast approaching, even as the government entered its fourth day of shutdown because of deep-seated disagreements among lawmakers over spending.

If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, Treasury will have to match its ongoing expenditures to its revenue on a day-by-day basis. Since the government spends more than it takes in, the inability to borrow money will take billions of dollars out of the economy that it injects through daily operations and spending. The situation could also eventually lead to a government default if the Treasury is unable to make payments to its creditors.

Even if the U.S. Treasury were to prioritize debt repayment over outlays for Social Security, Medicare and other payments, investors would grow increasingly nervous about their holdings of government debt securities. “The real unknown is how financial markets will react,” Mr. Zandi said.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Zandi expects to investors to start applying increasing pressure on lawmakers in Washington to resolve the twin fiscal crises. He noted the stock market this week has been “softening,” while the cost of insuring U.S. Treasuries against default has been rising. “If this drags into next week the sell-off will start to intensify,” he said.
In other words, if the government defaults on its debt, what happened in fall of 2008 will seem like a walk in the park.