Monday, March 19, 2018

Selling Leadership

Once upon a time educational institutions were in the business of education, adding to the learning ability of students and increasing their knowledge. In their ongoing effort to serve student/consumers, and maintain enrollment, they're attempting to peddle changes in social relationships between their graduates and the rest of the world. They're now selling leadership.

It's always been our position that leadership is a quality that really can't be taught. The military academies, whose primary purpose is to mold good students into martial leaders, can't actually do so. Most military officers are individuals that fit well into an existing structure. Their leadership qualities are often only recognized by the insignia on their clothing and their ability to adhere to bureaucratic procedures.

The concept of leadership itself implies followers. After all, leaders must have acquiescent followers in order to be leaders. In fact, there must be far more followers than leaders.


This sign over the entrance to an elementary school probably can't be read or understood by most of the students. It's purpose is probably to make parents happy about the prospects for their children, whom they do not wish to become followers. It's implicit that it's better to be a leader than a follower and that attendance at Jefferson School will assure this outcome.

Even a cursory historical analysis indicates that a huge proportion of leaders have led their followers down destructive paths, for both themselves and others. Leaders initiate unsuccessful theories and negative actions, many of which don't become apparent until it's too late.

It might be better if the educational process produced people that were determined to mind their own business rather than a minority that attempted to force their views on others.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Rankings of World Military Expenditure

Facebook and Pornography

Along with helping the Russians get Donald Trump elected to the US presidency, social media giant Facebook is under fire for its algorithm that identifies nudity as pornography and removes it as "inappropriate content".

The latest censorship incident involves the "Venus of Willendorf", a 30,000 year old statue discovered near Vienna in 1908 that currently resides in the Naturhistorisches Museum in the Austrian capital, as explained here.

The Venus of Willendorf
As is also explained in the article, this isn't the first time that there's been controversy over Facebook censorship. Famous 19th century French artist Gustave Courbet's 1866 painting " L’Origine du Monde" was included in a Facebook post that resulted in the closing of an account, although it hangs today in the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. Artnet News weighs in on the matter here.

L'Origine du Monde

The Facebook policy brings up some interesting questions. If they can rightfully refuse to carry what they consider pornographic, who else can do the same? Facebook is in the business of accommodating the public, just like people that bake wedding cakes. Do they have the right to censor not only images but also verbiage? Who is the judge of pornography? While there have been US Supreme Court decisions in this regard, who decides what is or is not pornographic in an individual case? How is it that ghastly images of death and destruction, murder, abortion, etc. are standard fare in all kinds of media, including Facebook, but a nude female, certainly familiar to almost everyone and a threat to no one, is forbidden? If Facebook, in its role of accommodating the public, can refuse certain images or ideas, what of other businesses? Can the power company disconnect the electricity of art galleries festooned with nudes?

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Jasper Johns Fiesta

Image result for Newsweek Jasper Johns cover
Cover of the October 24, 1977 issue of Newsweek featuring pop art icon Jasper Johns. The magazine wrote letters to subscribers stating that its article on Johns had produced more negative feedback than any other article they had ever published.

The Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles, CA is exhibiting a selection of more than 120 works in various media by Jasper Johns, as presented by the museum's web page.

John's "Flag", painted in 1967.

Image result for Jasper Johns Map, 1961

A loving review of the exhibition by New York artist Peter Plagens was published in the Wall Street Journal. One paragraph:

"The formidable catalog for the formidable exhibition "Jasper Johns: 'Something Resembling Truth," at the Broad museum, calls the artist the "painterly champion of fundamentally conceptual practices." He could also conceivably be called the conceptual champion of fundamentally painterly practices, which might make him the artistic equivalent of the world's shortest giant or tallest dwarf.It would if Mr. Johns (b. 1930) didn't make such a masterly art that combines the best of both head and hand."

 Image result for Peter Plagens
A painting by Peter Plagens. One might easily come to the conclusion that he and Mr. Johns are members of the same artistic brotherhood.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Do You Know These People?


These are the Russians that have been indicted by a US grand jury hearing evidence from US Special Counsel Robert Mueller in regard to the illegal influence they might have had on the US presidential election. None of these people are in US custody. Presumably US Marshals will be dispatched to Russia with instructions to slap some handcuffs on them and drag them back to the land of liberty.

Many photos are available of the craggy Robert Mueller, who appears to be a relative of John Kerry, but we have none of the assorted Russkie individuals that managed to steal the presidency from the beloved Mrs. Bill Clinton.

 In the absence of photographic evidence to their identities it might be possible for the US government to hire actors with Russian accents, prosecute and try them, then sentence them to prison for inflicting Donald Trump upon the nation. Later on, they could be secretly released with generous pensions or even well-paid positions in the FBI itself. Such things have happened in the past. 

Update from the AP: March 4, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia will "never" extradite any of the 13 Russians indicted by the United States for election-meddling, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, even as he insisted they didn't act on behalf of his government.
Putin's comments in an NBC News interview airing Sunday illustrated the long odds that the Russian operatives will ever appear in U.S. court to answer charges of running a massive, secret social media trolling and targeted messaging operation to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The United States has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can't compel it to hand over citizens, and a provision in Russia's constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.
"Never. Never. Russia does not extradite its citizens to anyone," Putin said.
Even if the Russians never face justice in the United States, the sweeping indictment served the added purpose of increasing the public's awareness about the elaborate foreign campaign to meddle in American democracy, legal experts have said. For years, the Justice Department has supported indicting foreigners in absentia as a way to shame them and make it harder for them to travel abroad.
The detailed, 37-page indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller last month alleges Russian operatives working for the Internet Research Agency used fake social media accounts and on-the-ground political organizing to exacerbate divisive political issues in the U.S. Posing as American activists, the operatives tried to conceal the effort's Russian roots by purchasing space on U.S. computer servers and using U.S. email providers.
Yet Putin argued his government has little to answer for until the U.S. provides "some materials, specifics and data." He said Russia would be "prepared to look at them and talk about it," while repeating his government's insistence that it had no role in directing the operatives to act against the United States.
"I know that they do not represent the Russian state, the Russian authorities," Putin said. "What they did specifically, I have no idea."

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Super Bowl LII Opportunity Cost $9 Billion

Since the most promoted and observed sporting event in the US is held on a late afternoon Sunday, most football fans probably aren't ditching other duties in order to watch it on television. It is, however, the television program that entices the largest audience of the year.

The 2018 Super Bowl LII, held in Minneapolis, MN on February 4, didn't set any viewer records but still managed to lure an audience of 103.4 million, according to the Nielsen people that determine television ratings.

Advertising on the 3 hour and 46 minute production cost a total of 414 million dollars. The commercials and other scenes not related to the actual game itself took up 49 minutes and 35 seconds of the program, 22% of the total broadcast time.

On the basis of these numbers, and the average American hourly wage, we can speculate that in order to watch this classic of athletic excellence viewers willingly gave up on an income of a little less than $9 billion. That represents only money that wasn't made. It doesn't include the cost of beer, chips, guacamole and chicken wings. Expenditures unrelated to opportunity cost, law enforcement overtime and trash clean-up, are not included.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Photographs of Evil People

This article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press reveals that a senior investigator of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension used his status to coerce sex from a paid informant and that in 2015 the state paid $117,500 to settle the affair with the offended lady.

Adam Castilleja

The individual involved, Senior Special Agent Adam Castilleja, was suspended for 30 days and assigned to other duties but remains employed at the state's most important law enforcement agency, roughly the Gopher State version of the Texas Rangers.

Amazing as that may be, what's even more amazing is that a media institution with a history of publishing significant news for 168 years couldn't come up with a photograph of this Adam Castilleja. While photographs of the easily recognized, Donald J. Trump, Tom Brady, Mrs. Bill Clinton, Governor Mark Dayton, etc. are daily sprinkled through the pages of the capital city's news and mug shots of unconvicted miscreants are generally seen, there's no likeness of a person so sleazy that no ordinary person would wish to be in the same auditorium with him. This is a normal operating procedure for a newspaper that defends the felonious elements of law enforcement no matter what the circumstances. It demonstrates not only the power of law enforcement over the criminal portion of society but also the media whose duty is to inform and enlighten that supposedly democratic society.

Maybe we should be happy to receive any information at all about this whole affair. Maybe there's some regulation that forbids the publishing of photographs of disgraced public employees. Even so, let's remember that video surveillance cameras and their still counterparts aren't installed for artistic purposes. Official video recording and photos are used primarily for identification purposes. The idea that the public shouldn't have easy access to the physical identification of its own employees is a feature of a secret police in a police state.