Update on Norway’s sovereign wealth fund

from Wiki user Michael Haferkamp

It’s now at one trillion dollars.

Previous coverage on Norway’s sovereign wealth fund.


New Hampshire

Remember The Old Man Of The Mountain?


More investigation into New Zealand politics

The Economist reports:

A larger-than-life sculpture made of manure that depicts the hapless environment minister, Nick Smith, defecating into a glass of water has been a hit.

Some American politician should steal the New Zealand First party’s idea for the SuperGold card:

SuperGold Card

SuperGold Card, a flagship policy

The SuperGold Card, a discounts and concessions card for senior citizens and veterans, has been a major initiative of the party.

New Zealand First established a research team to design the SuperGold Card, which included public transport benefits like free off-peak travel (funded by the government) and discounts from businesses and companies across thousands of outlets. Winston Peters negotiated with then-Prime Minister Helen Clark, despite widespread opposition to the card on the grounds of high cost. As a condition of the 2005 confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and the Labour Government, Peters launched the SuperGold Card in August 2007.

The card is available to all eligible New Zealanders over the age of 65. The card provides over 600,000 New Zealanders with access to a wide range of government and local authority services, business discounts, entitlements and concessions, such as hearing aid subsidies. A Veterans’ SuperGold Card, also exists for those who have served in the New Zealand Defence Force in a recognised war or emergency.

SuperGold Card came under threat in 2010 when National Minister Steven Joyce tried to terminate free SuperGold transport on some more expensive public transport services, including the Waiheke Island ferry and the Wairarapa Connection train. The Minister retreated when he came under fire from senior citizens.

Give old people a card that gets them free stuff!  They’ll love it!


Hieronymus Bosch

Hard not to conclude something weird up with this guy.

Interested by this essay I saw on AL Daily in Hyperallergic by Forrest Muelrath about ergotism, St. Anthony, apothecaries, and paintings of the Bosch era.  Learned a lot I didn’t know:

The illness is contracted by ingesting ergot fungus, which appears on cereal grains when the growing conditions are right — most commonly on rye. The last known severe outbreak occurred in the French village of Pont-Saint-Espirit in 1951. The outbreak was documented in the British Medical Journal, which describes symptoms such as nausea, depression, agitation, insomnia, a delirium that includes feelings of self-accusation or mysticism, and hallucinations that commonly include animals and fire. A non-fiction book about the 1951 outbreak, written by American author John G. Fuller, titled, The Day of Saint Anthony’s Fire, describes specific ergot-related psychotic episodes. For example, there is the afflicted man who thought he was an airplane and jumped out the asylum’s second floor window with outstretched arms expecting to fly, telescoped both his legs upon landing, and then ran 50 meters at full speed on shattered bones before being wrestled to the ground by eight other men.

(I’d never heard of Hyperallergic and now it’s my favorite magazine?)

First read about erogotism when trying to work out what the hell was going on with the Salem Witch Trials.  Erogitsm is a suggested cause there too.  Maybe it did have something to do with it, as did living in a nightmare war zone where Indians you imagined were demonic could kill you at any second plus an extreme religious ideology plus sexual tension plus whatever pharmacology Tituba was cooking up.

To me, semi-medical explanations of historical art or historical behavior can be very stimulating, but also tend to look for an easy out.  There’s all kinds of reasons and ways why people go insane or make wildly inventive works.  We can’t even sort these questions about people who are alive now.  Imagine declaring an answer to what combo of fame, genius, drugs, talent, mental illness, etc make Kanye West.  Who can say?  How could we hope for answers like that for a 15th-16th century Dutch (?) painter?

Reminded me of a bit from this recent John Cleese interview in Vulture about the influence of drugs on Monty Python:

Not the world’s premiere Bosch expert, but I did read this book about him:

There’s a lot that can never be known about a guy who was dead by 1516.  But what struck me in Bosch reading is that he was in something called the Brotherhood Of Our Lady.  The “austerely devout lay brotherhood,” said Time magazine in 1947.  The other members were like magistrates and stuff.

From the scraps of evidence you could surmise this was a respected citizen who lived a long and productive life and appears to have never bothered anybody.

Is Bosch more interesting if he was essentially freaking out on mushrooms, or if he was a diligent, level-headed craftsman?

Can he be both?

 

 


Reader Catherine in New Hampshire writes

Dear Helytimes,

Have you abandoned your commitment to keeping us informed about public lands under Trump?  I’m baffled by the present situation and would like some help!

Frustrated,

Catherine

Reader,

I get it, I’m sorry.  The truth is I myself am baffled by what’s happening.  I’ve been slowly informing myself by reading:

High Country News.

They’re doing such good reporting on these issues.   Also their classifieds are great:

This roundup of their stories on the latest developments is great:

I found this post on Mojave Desert Land Trust’s Instagram to be a good summary, too:

Trying to make sense of the national monument review process is like trying to avoid stepping on a scorpion in the dark.
In other words, our government is making it really hard for the public to see what is going on.

Here’s what we know so far.

In April, President Trump signed an executive order instructing the Department of the Interior (DOI) to review whether 27 national monuments deserved continued protection.

From May to July, the public was allowed to submit comments about this review. All of you spoke up to defend our Mojave monuments! Nearly three million Americans joined you in submitting public comments, 98% of which were in favor of keeping or expanding protections. 

August 24th, DOI Secretary Zinke submitted his recommendations to the White House…and refused to release them to the public.

Since then, the public has waited for any information. And our Desert Defenders have continued to raise our voices about why our monuments deserve continued protection!

This Sunday, The Washington Post published a leaked version of Secretary Zinke’s report. Although this was supposed to be the DOI’s finalized review, it was titled as a draft and only contained vague recommendations for ten monuments.

It would need further revision by Zinke to become a final report. There was no mention of the other 17 monuments officially under review, including Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow. Nor was there word on Castle Mountains, which Rep. Cook asked Secretary Zinke to cut, although it wasn’t part of the original review.

Ultimately, no monument was declared safe. And the report’s omission of 17 monuments leaves them open to untold threats down the line, like executive orders or management plan reviews.

What the leaked report does make clear is that the Trump administration is preparing for an unparalleled attack on protected public lands that could result in widespread loss of wildlife habitat and economic harm to local businesses.

This entire process is unprecedented — and tomorrow, we’ll let you know what’s next.
#DesertDefenders #StopCadiz#nationalmonuments #mojavetrails #desert#mojavedesert #antiquitiesact 

Seems like — and this may shock some of you – the Trump administration is hindered in executing wrongheaded and malicious policies by stupidity, clumsiness, disorganization and lack of any clear ideas, principles or goals short of being obnoxious and servicing the interests of GOP donors!

Welp, on the plus side, reading High Country News and learning about the Mojave Desert Land Trust has given me faith that lots of good people who care passionately are fighting to steward public land in effective and intelligent ways.


Was the last joke Abe Lincoln heard funny?

I can’t be the first amateur historian / comedy writer to get interested in this question.

It’s presumed that John Wilkes Booth, who knew the play, waited for what he knew would be a big laugh line, which was:

Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.

Let’s back up a bit.

Lincoln, as errbody knows, was watching Our American Cousin at the time of his death.

The plot of Our American Cousin is a coarse but honest American goes to the UK to claim an inheritance and gets involved in the various shenanigans of his snooty distant relatives who are trying to keep up appearances and marry off daughters and so on.  Seems like a pretty good premise.   A Frasier-esque farce satirizing pretension and manners.

good source for these images is BoothieBarn, though not sure how to feel about the name

Our American Cousin was written by Tom Taylor.

He had a career as a lawyer and bureaucrat and magazine editor.

Our American Cousin doesn’t seem to have been his biggest hit, that might’ve been:

which isn’t a comedy. They made that one into a movie a few times, most recently in 1937.

Our American Cousin premiered in New York in 1858 and was a hit.

Stealing the show was Edward Askew Sothern as Lord Dundreary:

Askew Sothern almost hadn’t taken the part:

At first, he was reluctant to accept the role; it was so small and unimportant that he felt it beneath him and feared it might damage his reputation.[7][8] He mentioned his qualms to his friend, Joseph Jefferson, who had been cast in the leading role of Asa Trenchard in the play. Jefferson supposedly responded with the famous line: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”[9]

Huh.

After a couple of unhappy weeks in the small role, Sothern began portraying the role as a lisping, skipping, eccentric, weak-minded fop prone to nonsensical references to sayings of his “bwother” Sam. His ad-libs were a sensation, earning good notices for his physical comedy and spawning much imitation and merry mockery on both sides of the Atlantic. His exaggerated, droopy side-whiskers became known as “Dundrearys”. Sothern gradually expanded the role, adding gags and business until it became the central figure of the play. The most famous scene involved Dundreary reading a letter from his even sillier brother.

Sounds funny enough.  Kind of like this:

I can’t determine if Sothern was in the Ford’s Theater production, or if they got a different Dundreary.  Appears on this night Dundreary may have been played by one E. A. Emerson.

But top bill the Ford’s Theater night went to Laura Keene.

Born Mary Francis Moss, she married a former British Army officer who committed some crime or another and got transported to Australia on a prison ship.  To support herself and her kids she became Laura Keene, a popular actress.

She appeared with Edwin Booth many times, they even toured Australia together.

At this point, she lined up investors, along with an architect who specialized in theaters, and a new theater was constructed to her specifications. Named the Laura Keene’s Theatre, it opened on 18 November 1856. In 1858, Our American Cousin debuted in Laura Keene’s Theater.

A badass, as they say.  A strong female multi-hyphenate.

Some years later they revived the play for a kind of benefit night, and that’s how Lincoln ended up there.

John Wilkes Booth waited for a big laugh line:

Halfway through Act III, Scene 2, the character of Asa Trenchard, played that night by Harry Hawk, utters this line, considered one of the play’s funniest, to Mrs. Mountchessington:

Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.

Harry Hawk in costume:

I found that image through the website for The Persistence of Dreams, this four minute recreation movie of that night at the theater (warning: violence):

Sockdologizing was a made up word, invented in this play.  It seems that around this time people found the word “doxology” to be funny.  It may have been a play on that.

The phrase sounds weird to our ears.  But I bet if you heard it, delivered with solid timing by a charming actor like Harry Hawk, playing into the role of the lovably blunt Asa Trenchard, it was probably amusing.

Anyway, I conclude that yes, the last joke Abe Lincoln heard was pretty funny, even if it may not be exactly hilarious to us these many years later.


Abraham Lincoln: Weird

From a capsule review in The New Yorker heard about this book:

What a cool way to bring Lincoln to life.  Tell the story of six meetings Lincoln had that someone wrote an account of.

The six encounters:

  • Lincoln’s first meeting, in the East Room of the White House, with Army officers, including Robert E. Lee

from that we examine Lincoln’s relationship with the military, and with the guy who’d end up being the leading general trying to defeat him.

  • An odd event where Lincoln tried to raise an American flag on the South Lawn of the White House, but accidentally ripped it

from that we examine how Lincoln used humor and a sort of self-effacing charm

  • Lincoln’s encounter with an abolitionist cavalry sergeant named Lucian Waters

which brings us to discussions of Lincoln’s views on race and slavery

  • Lincoln’s meeting with Cherokee chief John Ross

from which we can examine Lincoln’s relationships with Indians, who got pretty hosed under the Lincoln presidency

  • Lincoln’s meetings the powerful Anna E. Dickenson

which opens us up to Lincoln’s weird relationships with powerful women

and

  • a bizarre encounter with this bro:

Duff Green, who wanted to talk to Lincoln about a scheme to help Southerners with their land via a federal bank or something.

from there we consider how Lincoln intended to begin the postwar process, if he hadn’t’ve gotten got a few days later.

Pryor uses these encounters to bring to life the odd, magnetic, awkward, charming, conflicted, pained, intense human man Abraham Lincoln, full of conflict and contradiction.

Here is the first sentence of the author’s introduction:

To look again with open eyes at a subject we think we know is never straightfoward.

Pryor does a fantastic job of bringing Lincoln into focus.  Some highlights:

Getting the mitten:

“Why am I always getting the mitten?”

Down to the raisins:

His sexuality:

 

A very impressive, dense work of history.  Stunned when I opened the book and learned the author had been tragically killed in a car crash before publication:

Seems like an amazing woman.

Her obituary in the NYT by Margalit Fox speaks also of her work on Lee:

Though Lee is often cast by history as a brilliant general, Ms. Pryor, examining the strategic errors that led to his retreat at Antietam in 1862 and sweeping defeat at Gettysburg the next year, judged him “bright but not brilliant.”

Addressing Lee’s stance on slavery, she acknowledged, with other historians, that he harbored deep misgivings on the subject. However, Ms. Pryor wrote, those misgivings stemmed not from his opposition to the institution itself, but from his resentment of the managerial burdens it could place on white slave owners.

As a slaveholder, Ms. Pryor showed, Lee was a cruel master, once forcing a runaway slave to endure 50 lashes and then have brine poured on the wounds. He routinely sundered slaves’ families if selling a slave was expedient, and by 1860 “he had broken up every family but one” on his Arlington plantation, she wrote.

The Lincoln book my friend the presidential biographer, Lincoln scholar and former rock star Ted Widmer recommends is Herdon’s Informants.

Herndon was Lincoln’s law partner, and after he died he wrote to everyone who’d ever met Lincoln pretty much and asked for what they remembered of him.

Following Lincoln’s assassination, Herndon began to collect stories of Lincoln’s life from those who knew him. Herndon aspired to write a faithful portrait of his friend and law partner, based on his own observations and on hundreds of letters and interviews he had compiled for the purpose. He was determined to present Lincoln as a man, rather than a saint, and to reveal things that the prevailing Victorian era conventions said should be left out of the biography of a great national hero.[17][18][nb 2]

In particular, Herndon said of Lincoln’s “official” biographers, John Nicolay and John Hay: “They are aiming, first, to do a superb piece of literary work; second, to make the story with the classes as against the masses.” He felt that this would represent the “real Lincoln about as well as does a wax figure in the museum.”[19][20]

More:

Particularly damning was the denunciation of the book by Robert Todd Lincoln, whose grudge against Herndon stemmed largely from Herndon’s recounting of Ann Rutledge as the only romantic love of his father’s life.

Herndon didn’t care for Mary Todd, I guess:

Even though she was considered a bit of a catch for a guy like Abe.

 

When you think about the stuff that happened to Mary Todd, it’d be a wonder if she didn’t go insane.  Three of her children died, her husband got assassinated sitting next to her.  Her half-sister was married to a Confederate general who died at Chickamauga.

He was a commander of the Orphan Brigade:

At the Battle of Stones River, the brigade suffered heavy casualties in an assault on January 2, 1863, including General Hanson. Breckinridge—who vehemently disputed the order to charge with the army’s commander, General Braxton Bragg—rode among the survivors, crying out repeatedly, “My poor Orphans! My poor Orphans,”

The stuff people go through!