Monday, June 29, 2009

Afghan War Rugs

After the 1980s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and to the present day, Afghan weavers have incorporated imagery of modern weapons into their Oriental rugs.

To the left are details from some of the rugs, from top left to bottom right, crouching infantry, a bomber, a retreating tank and a missile.

A wealth of information about rugs of this style, thir history, a blog, numerous images, as well as war rugs for sale, can be viewed at the site: (which is where I got the pictured details from).

Both Soviet and present day Coalition forces are represented. There are also "War on Terrorism" rugs, which, according to Sergeant Major Herbert A. Friedman a psyops specialist, appear to draw heavily from propaganda leaflets distributed to the Afghans. The side by side comparisons of the leaflets to the rugs are convincing (sorry, I had to link inside a frame to get to that page so the site-wide navigation is broke on that link).

It is a fascinating and informative site. I'm sure many of the rugs are just cranked out for the troops in country, and Lord only knows the politics of whoever is weaving them, but the rugs do have a beauty about them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Democrats In Control I

A thousand words worth. The data is taken from the Department of Labor UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT and represents the total increase of Ins. Unemployment (SA) plus Extended Benefits plus Extended Unemployment Compensation 2008

The period covered begins January 31 and continues through June 13. The data represents the increase in unemployment, not total unemployment. The total unemployment numbers (and the unemployment rate) are published by the BLS in Employment Situation Summary the first week of every month. The current rate is 9.4% and my bet is that next week's report will take it to 9.7%.

The weekly reporting by state media, such as Associated Press, focuses on the "top line" number regarding initial claims. A more interesting story would report the astonishing increases in Extended Benefits both "standard" and those covered by EUC 2008. Employers have reacted to the results of the November election with a fair degree of alacrity. The Democrats have provided ample reason for them to continue to trim - with a meataxe.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Beat the Morons

[This will be revised and extended]

The current economic situation provides an opportunity to test economic forecasting skills in a period of rather high uncertainty. The challenge is to come closer to the advance BEA estimate of change in GDP for Q2 '09 than the median of the Bloomberg survey of economists. The BEA advance estimate will be announced on July 31 at 8:30AM EST. The current BEA news release contains what amounts to a primer on factors affecting the GDP plus links to more extensive explanations. Following are links to data sources that I have found helpful in formulating estimates of how the economy is performing.

BEA Table 1.1.5. Gross Domestic Product

BEA Table 2.1. Personal Income and Its Disposition

BLS Employment Situation Summary

Fed H.8 - Assets and Liabilities of Commercial Banks in the United States

BLS/Commerce Weekly Unemployment

Railfax - comparison of weekly car loadings.


Other Statistical Resources for Economics

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Inspired by Obama, I had decided it was time for me to end my meddlesome ways and cease my Ugly American antics. Thus, to support our Dear Leader, I thought I would conduct some hot dog diplomacy of my own.

I planned on inviting somebody from the Taliban, hopefully Mullah Omar if I could find his email address, to my house for a little good ol' Fourth of July hot dog munching, fireworks, and a bout of apologizing for the U.S. of A. To the left are the franks I had picked out. I'm certain they would have been appreciated by my new Taliban friends.

Alas, CNN is reporting that Obama may be rethinking his earlier invitation. It now looks like, in keeping with his new posture of being "shocked and appalled" by the thuggery of the Iranian rioters, that the hot dog diplomacy has been called off. However, the invitations that have gone out will not be rescinded. So I guess hot dog semi-diplomacy is kinda, sorta, somewhat still on the table. Maybe.

Now, what am I going to do with three cases of Hebrew Nationals and a gallon of mustard?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mullahs have feelings too

The United States said Monday its invitations were still standing for Iranian diplomats to attend July 4 celebrations at US embassies despite the crackdown on opposition supporters.
President Barack Obama’s administration said earlier this month it would invite Iran to US embassy barbecues for the national holiday for the first time since the two nations severed relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“There’s no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.
“We have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran,” Kelly said. “We tried many years of isolation, and we’re pursuing a different path now.”
Spit. What's wrong with these people. I mean our government and the nutcases who dominate its policies. "Strategic" policies, no less. It's disgusting.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To live or to just be alive, that’s the question.

Then at Towhid Square the scene changes drastically. The streets to Azadi are blocked. But this time, people don’t change their path. They fight for it. There’s a shower of stones. Tear gas. Fire. People jam the sidewalks. The battle scene is huge. We cannot see the limits but it extends to nearby street. My student is keener to go forward than I am. Her mother could persuade her to stay home for two days, but now allows her to go out on the most dangerous day. The people shout, ‘Down with the dictator’. The anti-riot police are also throwing stones. People don’t run back anymore. I grab a broken brick and throw. I’m amazed. I never thought I’d do it. I should practice. It was a very bad shot. I grab another one, the size of a pomegranate and keep it with me, hiding it behind my back. My feeling is a mixture of a university teacher and a hooligan.

If we want to go forward we need to pass through tear gas. So we ask a car to give us a lift. Then there is an attack. They cannot tell enemy from other people although they want to show everything is fine and they’re only after trouble-makers. There is a woman who is being beaten. She’s horrified and hysterical but not as much as the anti-riot police officer facing her. She shrieks, ‘Where can I go? You tell me go down the street and you beat me. Then you come up from the other side and beat me again. Where can I go?’ In sheer desperation, the officer hits his helmet several times hard with his baton. ‘Damn me! Damn me! What the hell do I know!’

One person's account of a day in downtown Tehran. I wish her good luck. Read the entire post: A Day in the Life.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Basij building blown up

A poem

Iran, I weep for you tonight
I weep for the 8
I weep for the hopes of millions dashed to the ground.
Tonight the night sky is devoid of stars, except one.
The Persian sky has turned from the green to black
and the world watches,
and I pray.
Iran, O Great Persia,
I weep for you tonight,
yet amidst the charcoal ballots
“a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground”.
“Despised and rejected”… by many
Misunderstood and misrepresented… by more
“No beauty or majesty to attract us to him”
(like a politician),
“He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth”.
He wept over Jerusalem long ago:
“If you, even you,
had only known on this day
what would bring you peace
—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
He weeps for you tonight, O beloved Iran,
for the millions,
for the 8.
A bloody, barren tree stands,
neglected on the outskirts of Tehran,
with a placard nailed to it:
“Where is My Lover?”
The lone star descends tonight
pierced arms open wide for embrace
walking the streets of Tehran,
searching for His Lover…
eager for their honeymoon called Freedom

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Colors of Tsarist Russia

Prior to World War One, a Russian photographer named Prokudin-Gorsky developed a means of taking color photographs. He did it by taking three monochromatic pictures, each with a color filter, and then recombined them by projecting specifically colored light through them. The result are some extremely striking color photos of bygone days that we're used to seeing in shades of gray.

Supported primarily by his job in a metal works, he established his studio in 1901 to perfect his process. His break came in 1908 when he photographed Leo Tolstoy.

This brought him to the Attention of Tsar Nicholas II, who funded his scheme of traveling throughout the Russian Empire and making a photographic record of what he saw.

More of his remarkable photographs, as well as further details of his life, can be found at Socyberty in the post The Incredible Century Old Color Photography of Prokudin-Gorsky (H.T. Neatorama).

Friday, June 12, 2009

60 years of doubleplusgood

Sixty years ago this week George Orwell's 1984 was released. You can read it online here. My favorite scene in it has always been the one below, when Winston meets his neighbor Parsons, as faithful a Party member as there is, in a holding room in the Ministry of Love.

This is the chapter where Room 101 is introduced. We don't know what it is at the time. We won't know until the rat cage is strapped onto Winston's head. Parsons had spent years savoring his Victory Gin, appreciating his Victory Cigarettes, and worrying about the enemy of the day. However, in the end, he ended up with his own version of the rat cage, and a bullet to the back of his head, all because he doubted in his sleep.

As sad as Winston's end is, Parson's is infinitely sadder. Sleep and its dreams as the betrayer -- the most sublime of all Thought Crime.

'Are you guilty?' said Winston.

'Of course I'm guilty!' cried Parsons with a servile glance at the telescreen. 'You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?' His frog-like face grew calmer, and even took on a slightly sanctimonious expression. 'Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,' he said sententiously. 'It's insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes, that's a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit -- never knew I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?'

He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to utter an obscenity.

"Down with Big Brother!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? "Thank you," I'm going to say, "thank you for saving me before it was too late."

'Who denounced you?' said Winston.

'It was my little daughter,' said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride. 'She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? I don't bear her any grudge for it. In fact I'm proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway.'

He made a few more jerky movements up and down, several times, casting a longing glance at the lavatory pan. Then he suddenly ripped down his shorts.

'Excuse me, old man,' he said. 'I can't help it. It's the waiting.'

He plumped his large posterior into the lavatory pan. Winston covered his face with his hands.

'Smith!' yelled the voice from the telescreen. '6079 Smith W! Uncover your face. No faces covered in the cells.'

Winston uncovered his face. Parsons used the lavatory, loudly and abundantly. It then turned out that the plug was defective and the cell stank abominably for hours afterwards.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Yaaaay! Yay yay!

Here's one for the "something you don't see every day" department* -- an ad with bubbly Japanese school girls hopping about and pretending to cut their wrists with color-coordinated toy suicide knifes. I must say the bubbles add a nice touch of zaniness to the whole thing, as if it were in need of more zaniness.

*Then again, maybe you do see it every day if you watch a lot of TV in Japan.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Way back at the end of November, 2005, I put up a post here at Flares titled "The Captain and The Sarge - Carpetbaggers".  It was about a memorial I'd discovered while out walking in Malmo, Sweden.

There reason I mention it now is that the daughter I was out strolling with that fine day is once again in Malmo, this time for an extended stay.  She'd come upon the memorial again and makes a point of going to see it with anyone she strolls with but had forgotten the story behind it.  So I went and searched out this post to send her so she'd know the story.

It turns out that nearly three years after that post had long since been forgotten a friend of one of the widows of the crew somehow found it and was kind enough to leave the link to Flygmonumentet vid Anten.  I just discovered this today and thought some of you may enjoy it.   Be sure to click the "In English" link at the bottom and wander around.  More info there than I was able to provide.  And mystery.