a hungry bug-catcher

Liz Heidhues is an astute chronicler of Art in the Pandemic era.

Shown here is her latest creation, “A Hungry Bug Catcher.”

Pictured below is an earlier Pandemic creation, “A silly bug,” Created March 18, 2020.

Posted one day after San Francisco began its Shelter in Place.

Liz Coronavirus art 3.18.2020.jpg

Can you pledge patriotic allegiance to a void?

I read the following brief piece in the current issue of The New Yorker and was struck by question, “Can you pledge patriotic allegiance to a void?’

In the Dystopian era of a Pandemic, America in dissaray and Trump in mental free fall it’s a good question.

Edward Hopper IV 7.31.2020

The New Yorker 8.3-10.2020 

I haven’t seen this large show at the Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland’s premier museum of modern art.

I take its fine catalogue, “Edward Hopper: A Fresh Look at Landscape,” edited by the exhibition’s curator, Ulf Küster, as occasion enough for reflecting anew on the artist’s stubborn force. (A selection of Hopper’s paintings is also on view on the museum’s Web site.)

The visual bard of American solitude—not loneliness, a maudlin projection—speaks to our isolated states these days with fortuitous poignance. But Hopper is always doing that, pandemic or no pandemic. Aloneness is his great theme, symbolizing America: insecure selfhoods in a country that is only abstractly a nation. (“E pluribus unum,” a magnificent ideal, thuds on “unum” every day throughout the land.)

Edward Hopper V 7.31.2020

The emotional tug of all of Hopper’s characters requires their unawareness of being looked at. To see them is to take on a peculiar responsibility.

Can you pledge patriotic allegiance to a void? Hopper shows how, exploring a condition in which, by being separate, we belong together.

You don’t have to like the idea, but, once you’ve truly experienced this painter’s art, it is as impossible to ignore as a stone in your shoe.

Edward Hopper I 7.31.2020.jpg

Trump’s gift to Putin. American GIs unilateral withdrawal from Germany

American forces in Germany are a staple of US-Russian geopolitical manuvering.

Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of troops from the geopolitical chess board is akin to surrendering your Queen in return for a Pawn.

It makes no sense. But then nothing the soon to be ex-President ever does. He probably thinks he’s irritating German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  Being far beyond him intellectually and politically, Merkels knows he’s an idiot prince and probably is saying, “Whatever,” to herself.

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 7.29.2020

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed on Wednesday that troops would be pulled and relocated from Germany. The move is set to be the largest shake-up of troops in Germany since the Cold War.

Green party opposition politician Jürgen Trittin, who sits on the foreign affairs committee in parliament, told DW he believed the real motivation was not military or defense policy: “It’s more a part of the economic warfare Donald Trump is fighting against the European Union and especially the Germans,” Trittin alleged, calling for Germany to cancel plans to purchase new F-18 fighter jets from the US in response.

German exit II 7.29.2020.jpg

Earlier this month, the Pentagon said that President Donald Trump had approved a plan to withdraw in the region of 9,500 US troops from Germany. But in Wednesday’s announcement, the first time the US set out concrete proposals on its “European Strategic Force Posture Review,” Esper tentatively put the number at 11,800.

Under the plan, the US will send home some 6,400 forces and relocate 5,400 out of Germany and to other European countries in Europe, the US Defense Department said. Roughly 25,000 troops are set to remain in Germany.

Read more:  US troop withdrawal a cause for NATO concern, German defense minister says

The reassignment envisages troops moving to Italy and Belgium, but some could also go to Poland and the Baltic states, if Warsaw agrees to an accord that the two sides have been working on, Esper said. The defense chief added the troop redeployment would cost in the “single digit” billions of dollars.

In a major shift, US European Command and Special Operations Command Europe would be moved from Stuttgart in Germany to Mons, Belgium, General Tod Wolters of European Command said.

Esper said that the troop reassignments were part of a larger plan to update US strategy against Russia. “We are following the boundary east, where our newest allies are,” the Defense Secretary said.

Esper did not explicitly say whether the decision to move troops had to do with President Trump’s comments regarding Germany. Trump has often criticized the European ally for not investing enough in defense and being “delinquent” in its NATO payments.

But Esper did back the president’s premise. “To give President Trump credit, we have seen an increase in defense spending by NATO,” the Defense Secretary said of White House efforts to get more countries to invest in NATO.

German exit III 7.29.2020.jpg

Photo:  American GI Elvis Presley in Germany (cica late 1950’s)

Read more: US military in Germany: What you need to know

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said the European ally “owes billions and billions of dollars to NATO.”

“Now Germany is saying it’s bad for their economy. Well, it’s good for our economy,” Trump said, referring to the consequences of the partial withdrawal. “They’ve been taking advantage of us for many years.”

“We don’t want to be the suckers any more,” the US president said, adding that he could “rethink” the plan “if they start paying their bills.”

The German government has said it expects to spend 1.37% of GDP on defense in 2020.  Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer recently questioned whether defense spending alone was a fair measure of NATO members’ contributions to the alliance.

Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder criticized the US withdrawal plan, adding that it served no clear military purpose and would even weaken the NATO alliance and the US itself.

“Unfortunately, this puts a burden on the German-American relationship,” Söder said.

“We are now waiting to see if the decision will last,” he added, in reference to the US presidential election in November.

https://www.dw.com/en/us-to-withdraw-or-relocate-more-troops-in-germany-than-previously-thought/a-54367804

Fox steals over 100 shoes in Berlin

In the dystopian Pandemic era here’s a nice change of pace story.

Deutsche Welle 7.27.2020

Residents in one Berlin neighborhood were bemused when their shoes began vanishing. The prolific shoe thief turned out to be a fashion-conscious fox with a passion for footwear.

A fox has stolen around 100 shoes from people’s homes in Berlin’s southwestern Zehlendorf neighborhood, according to local media reports.

All types of footwear had started disappearing from outside homes in the district, including slippers and sandals as well as sneakers, before the unlikely thief was unmasked by local resident Christian Meyer.

Foxes in Berlin II 7.27.2020.jpg

Meyer initially noticed his running shoes had disappeared and posted an inquiry on Germany’s community noticeboard-sharing platform Nebenan.de, reported Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel.

After posting, it became apparent that his were not the only shoes to have vanished in the area.

https://www.dw.com/en/berlin-fox-steals-shoes/a-54330292

Euthanasia

The psychological effect of involvement in euthanasia is substantial.

Physicians, trained in the fundamentals of promoting human wholeness and carrying out euthanasia according to patients’ wishes, are shocked, have a sense of powerlessness, and feelings of isolation.

Lay people can experience the same emotions.

EUTHANASIA

Your departure leaves a hole in the sandy beach of my life.

The hole gapes and threatens,

It might swallow me when I step into it.

I look for holes when I run barefoot in the surf, to avoid them.

My ears sift through the musical roar of waves, eroding the sandy beach of my life.

I returned you to the opalescent fog,

To the backdrop where the brown pelicans soar, in formation, soundless.

There is no sound gushing between you and I any more.

The silent memory is all I have.

I hoard this memory like precious gold.

The memory cannot be shared. 

It too will erode, like the sandy beach of my life –  where you left me at.

Poem by Liz Heidhues 7.26.2020

Cubist canine II 7.26.2020

 

Drawing – Carla Sonheim

Photo – Great Highway Ocean Beach, San Francisco – Lee Heidhues

 

 

 

It’s Hitler’s Germany 1933 in America. Trump deploys federal troops to US cities

Where is the outrage as Trump’s Police State takes hold?

Trump is totally laying waste to Democracy. 

If you doubt me this is exactly what Congressman James Clyburn said on a broadcast news program  yesterday.  He is the Majority Whip

The dispatch of federal troops to American cities smacks of the worst kind of totalitarian rule.  First it was Portland and now more cities are on Trump’s federal intervention list.

There is only one thing to stop this wannabe thug Dictator from pursuing his takeover of America.

Throw him out of office in 104 days.

Deutsche Welle 7.22.2020

The US president has made good on a threat to send more federal troops to combat unrest in major US cities. “Operation Legend” will see hundreds of agents deployed to Chicago and other urban centers.

Operation Legend II 7.22.2020

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he will “surge” hundreds of federal law enforcement officers to quell violence in cities around the US, despite resistance from local politicians.

“We have no choice but to get involved,” Trump said in a press conference in Washington, D.C. He said the move would help communities “plagued by violent crime.”

Around 200 federal police officers are to be sent to Chicago and 30 more to Albuquerque, New Mexico as part of “Operation Legend,” US Attorney General Bill Barr said. Some 200 federal police are already in Kansas City in the state of Missouri.

‘Worse than Afghanistan’

Trump on Monday had threatened to send paramilitary-equipped federal police units to Chicago and other cities. He characterized the situation in Chicago as “worse than Afghanistan.”

Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot condemned the idea, saying she would not allow federal forces on her city’s streets.

Operation Legend I 7.22.2020

“Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our citizens,” Lightfoot wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Chicago has noted a steep rise in homicides in 2020. Police data show some 414 murders so far this year, a rise of around 50% compared to the same time last year. Most recently, a shootout at a funeral on Tuesday left at least 14 people injured.

Accusations of excessive force in Oregon

In Portland, Oregon, sometimes-destructive protests against racial injustice prompted by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police have been met with brutal tactics from federal forces deployed there.

Top Oregon officials have decried what they characterize as an excessive use of force. Attorneys on Wednesday called for a restraining order against federal agents in Portland, who they have accused of arresting protesters without probable cause.

https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-deploys-more-federal-troops-to-us-cities-in-crackdown-on-unrest/a-54271477

“The Conversation” and its dark look at the perils of personal surveillance

Lee Heidhues 7.20.2020

Surveillance is a weapon.

It is used by law enforcement and private citizens. Too often the goal of personal surveillance is damage to and destruction of the other party.

The most egregious type of surveillance is when the party conducting the surveillance loses a sense of objectivity and becomes personally involved.

The Conversation II 1.12.2020

At that point the neutrality of the party conducting the surveillance is totally compromised

The result can be ruinous for everyone.

The Conversation V 7.20.2020.jpg

The 1974 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola goes deep into this issue.

This is the second of four Posts on Surveillance in cinema.  The next will be the movie Red (1994).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Conversation

The Conversation III 1.12.2020

 

Misogynistic campaign by Saudi Arabia. Prominent female journalists targeted

Journalists world wide are facing unprecedented harassment. Women in Saudi Arabia are a prime target, being villified on line for their work in criticizing the government.

This treatment of women journalists is an attack on the free press and blatant sexual harassment.

The social media abuse of Saudi women journalists is receiving the attention it needs and deserves.

Deutsche Welle 7.18.2020

Two Al Jazeera journalists have refused to stay silent following a sexual harassment campaign driven by thousands of social media accounts linked to Gulf states. For journalists in the region, it’s a common phenomenon.

Two prominent female Al Jazeera journalists have been targeted in what one researcher described as an “industrial level” misogynistic campaign by Saudi Arabian social media accounts, drawing condemnation from advocacy groups.

News anchor Ghada Oueiss and Ola Al Fares were subjected to a barrage of sexual allegations and innuendos about their successful careers in June after Oueiss said her phone was hacked and images of her in a swimsuit were leaked.

Oueiss and Al Fares had recently covered issues sensitive to Saudi Arabia, such as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Numerous studies have shown that women are targeted by online harassment significantly more often than men.

Nearly two-thirds of female journalists have experienced online abuse, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Saudi female journalists II 7.18.2020.jpg

“Another worrying result is that the majority of abused respondents said these attacks had had psychological effects such as anxiety or stress (63%), while 38% admitted to self-censorship and 8% lost their job,” the IFJ said.

In response, Ouiess notified Twitter but said they were slow to act. Last week, she published her reaction in US newspaper The Washington Post, describing an attack of 40,000 tweets in just a few hours that left her shaken. She said she refused to be silenced.

Advocacy groups such as the International Press Institute (IPI) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that such campaigns are part of a range of ways powerful state actors target critics and highlighted Twitter’s slow response.

“Political leaders and others who target journalists, including with online harassment campaigns, are essentially allowed to use these platforms to propagate these campaigns,” Courtney Radsch, the Advocacy Director at CPJ, told DW. “While Twitter has acknowledged the problem of online harassment, they haven’t really come up with enough tools to address it.”

Cannes Ola Al-Fares (picture-alliance/AP Images/Invision/A. Mola)Ola Al-Fares was hit by massive online abuse

 

Read moreHalf the world on mute: The fight against online harassment

Marc Owen Jones, a professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, told DW the campaign was amplified by local news organizations reporting unverified tweets. Such campaigns are extremely common and “systemic,” he said.

“Many of the accounts spreading this disinformation — doctored tweets and false narratives based on misattributed images and slut-shaming — are against Saudi law for example, yet no action is taken,” Owen Jones said.

Oueiss wrote that almost all of the accounts involved displayed Saudi flags and images of Saudi and UAE rulers. Saudi Arabia has cultivated a new hyper-nationalism in recent years, with influential social media accounts pushing government narratives, according to an analysis by Saudi researcher Eman Alhussein, formerly a fellow at the think tank European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR).

One UAE-based Twitter user, responding to Owen Jones’ analysis of the attack, said that journalists who criticize Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their leaders “should be ready for everything.”

Read moreJournalists under threat: July’s 10 most urgent cases

A report published last year by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) showed that the Middle East was a particularly hostile region for journalists.

Jamal Khashoggi (picture-alliance/newscom/AFP/Getty ImagesTNS)Khashoggi is believed to have been murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents

“As a result of wars, persecution by authoritarian regimes, as well as the number of journalists killed, threatened, silenced or forced into exile, most of the region’s countries are ranked low in the World Press Freedom Index,” the report said.

Improving Twitter’s response rate is essential in mitigating attacks but newsrooms are also obliged to protect staff and freelancers, “so the burden of reacting and preventing these attacks should not fall on the target,” Javier Luque Martinez, Head of Digital Communications at the IPI, told DW.

“Counter speech” and journalists tracing back their own digital footprints to minimize their exposure, especially before publishing on sensitive topics, are among the measures recommended in the IPI’s toolkit, Martinez said.

Oueiss has taken “counter speech” one step further, declaring she will not stop her critical coverage of the region. As she wrote in her op-ed: “I won’t be silenced by online attacks.”

https://www.dw.com/en/middle-east-female-journalists-resist-targeted-online-abuse/a-54224906

What would be the “point of no return” for Trump’s poll numbers?

Here’s hoping it’s true in 109 days…..November 3.

Quora Digest 7.17.2020

What would be the “point of no return” for Trump’s poll numbers?

It has passed.

It was 4th of July, 2020.

On that day, Trump was 8.8 points behind in both national non-partisan polls and RNC internal polling.

No presidential candidate in the history of modern polling has ever won after chalking up a deficit of more than around 4.5 points on Independence Day.

Dat’s all folks!

 

 

 

 

A Utopian dream soon to be reality. Car free San Francisco

It’s about time and you can tell all those whiners from the Fine Arts Academy who are concerned about the loss of parking spaces couched under concern for certain segments of the population that all their caterwauling has come to an end.

It’s almost here. Cars no longer rule in San Francisco.

Excerpted from San Francisco Examiner 7.16.2020

It could soon be possible to travel from Ocean Beach to Market Street on car-free roads due to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s most recent proposed expansion of the Slow Streets program.

The SFMTA will ask its Board of Directors to approve a proposal that would connect Martin Luther King Drive on Golden Gate Park’s west side to John F. Kennedy Drive, which was closed to cars in April to create distance for park users, connecting via Middle Drive West and Overlook Drive in areas already closed to through-traffic.

Though these changes to the park are temporary for the duration of the public health emergency, many advocates have called for them to become permanent once shelter-in-place orders have relaxed.

Car Free GG Park II 4.27.2020

“What we’re creating here is a true family-focused network for moving within the Sunset, and to and from the Sunset. This network provides better access, options and new and transformational opportunities for thousands of Westside families and residents,” Supervisor Gordon Mar, whose Sunset neighborhood is bordered by both Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park and lost much of its transportation when Muni cut service.

Sections of MLK that would be closed to cars currently offer little to no street parking and don’t provide access to essential services, SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin told the Recreation and Parks Commission Thursday. Some sections wouldn’t be closed entirely, but would require cars travel at much slower speeds.

He added only minor adjustments would need to be made to maintain parking near the Polo Field.

“We want to make sure Golden Gate Park is accessible to a full array of San Franciscans,” Tumlin told the Commission. He called the plan a “remarkable compromise” that honors advocates’ desires to prioritize people over vehicles while still allowing individuals who rely on their cars due to age, disability or distance to enter the park easily.

A handful of staff members from the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, both located within Golden Gate Park, called into the meeting’s public comment period to raise concerns about how banning cars along JFK could negatively impact the ability of all people — including tourists, seniors and individuals with disabilities — to reach the facilities once things reopen.

Car Free GG Park I 4.27.2020

Both rely on the park’s major roadways for access and parking for both visitors and staff.

SFMTA’s third phase of Slow Streets would also add 14 new corridors to the Slow Streets roster.

Kato said the agency based its recommendations on community input and used the same framework as the last two phases to evaluate whether a road would be successful: mostly flat and within a residential area; connections to bike and green networks; stop-controlled intersections, ideally four-way; more than two lanes; and between six and eight blocks long.

“Clearly, as we stick with practices that will keep us safe, being able to get outside with enough space for social distancing is crucial,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, whose district includes many of these areas.

Slow Streets were first introduced in April as a way for people to safely travel by foot or bicycle while still maintaining social distance. The program closes streets to cut-through vehicular traffic, while still allowing access to residents and emergency vehicles.

Many have praised the program for facilitating outdoor recreation and making parks and streets for people rather than private automobiles.

Tumlin said the existing Slow Streets have been so heavily used, in fact, that a third round of expansion is necessary to accommodate the demand.

“Slow Streets are the only infrastructure investment we have ever made that attract users of the full array of neighborhood demographics — including children, older adults, people with disabilities and people of color,” Jeffrey Tumlin said.

The SFMTA Board will vote on the proposal at its meeting on July 21. If approved, implementation would begin in a couple weeks, according to Kato, who said they’ll need to restock materials to repair existing barricades and signage as well as implement new ones.

https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/sfmta-proposes-car-free-golden-gate-park-mileage-14-new-slow-streets/