Photo of the Day

Lee reads several newspapers daily. She especially likes the funnies, and always does the Word Scramble puzzles. © Jessica Eve Rattner

Lee reads several newspapers daily. She especially likes the funnies, and always does the Word Scramble puzzles. © Jessica Eve Rattner

House of Charm

House of Charm is the ongoing portrait of Lee, a woman whose eccentricities conceal a beauty and intelligence that most people do not easily see

In 2003, the photographer Jessica Eve Rattner moved into a house in Berkeley, California, around the corner from an old woman named Lee.

At first, Rattner knew Lee as a shopping-cart pushing raider of recycling bins, a dishevelled old woman with foot-tall dreadlocked hair. But a quick exchange in the driveway, while Lee scoured for recycled cans, changed everything. Instead of dismissing her outright, Rattner became smitten by her intelligence and quirky charm. She asked Lee if it was okay to photograph her, and to her surprise, she agreed.

At first, like others, I knew her as the neighbourhood “bag lady,” a dread-locked raider of recycling bins who pushed her shopping cart through the early morning streets. Lee’s dilapidated home stood out in a neighbourhood where even the most modest homes were valued at half a million dollars. She had neither heat nor running water. The roof and floors were rotting; many windows were broken; and the rooms were choked with recycling, found objects, and cat feces. The condition of her house was — and continues to be — what most would consider uninhabitable.

Most people perceive Lee as “crazy,” someone to be avoided. Few get close enough to learn that while she is eccentric, she is also intelligent, charming, and self-assured. And perhaps most remarkably, that she leads the life she chooses to — one for which she is neither apologetic or ashamed.

Rattner has long been interested in ideas of beauty, happiness, and mental health — especially as they relate to women. In a culture obsessed with youth, materialism, and physical appearance, Lee’s apparent indifference to these things sets her apart. Lee will soon turn eighty. Is Lee crazy to be happy in conditions others could not tolerate? Is something wrong with her? Who decides?

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A lesson for Auckland on rail, from California

Politicians, mostly of the left, love train sets. They must have been deprived as children with their parents refusing them Thomas the Tank Engine toys.

In California the state has been funding a massive boondoggle, a high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

California’s high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?

Sold to the public in 2008 as a visionary plan to whisk riders along at 220 miles an hour, making the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a little over two and a half hours, the project promised to attract most of the necessary billions from private investors, to operate without ongoing subsidies and to charge fares low enough to make it competitive with cheap flights. With those assurances, 53.7 percent of voters said yes to a $9.95 billion bond referendum to get the project started. But the assurances were at best wishful thinking, at worst an elaborate con.

Like all train proposals it is a massive con.   Read more »

Photo Of The Day

illustration: Michael Tunk.

illustration: Michael Tunk.

What Happened To ‘The Most Liberated Woman in America’?

Barbara Williamson Co-Founded One Of the Most Famous Radical Sex Experiments of the 1970s.

Then She Got Wild

Barbara Williamson, was “the most liberated woman in America.” As cofounder with her husband John, “the messiah of sex,” of the highly successful and controversial Sandstone Retreat in Malibu, California, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, the couple started what became known as the hub of the sexual revolution.

The clothing-optional, alternate-lifestyle Sandstone Retreat was outrageously popular, with a membership reaching 500 and nearly 8,000 visitors. Long before today’s reality television inundated the airwaves with its media “personalities,” Barbara and John Williamson were the darlings of the media, with newspapers, magazines, books, movies, and television shows clamoring for interviews.

Sandstone Retreat quickly became outrageously popular with membership reaching over five hundred, and numerous newspapers, magazines, books, movies, and television shows clamoring for interviews.

It became known as the hub of the sexual revolution. John was branded as “The Messiah of Sex” and Barbara as the most liberated woman in America. Based on mutual trust and friendship, the bond between John and her grew so strong that they were inseparable for forty-seven years until his death.

University professors nationwide rushed to visit this new kind of unstructured free love community to view and study members joyously living an alternate lifestyle. The dress code was optional but most everyone preferred nudity.

 John and Barbara Williamson always insisted that Sandstone Retreat was about more than sex. By all means, help yourselves to each other, they would say. But the goal was larger than spouse-swapping or fulfilling forbidden lust.

They said that their 15 unconventionally inhabited acres in the Topanga Canyon area near Los Angeles, formally known as the Sandstone Foundation for Community Systems Research, was about understanding society — and setting it free.

“We believe in the sexual self as being at the core of organized social behavior,” Mr. Williamson told The Los Angeles Times in 1972, three years after Sandstone was formed. “When sexuality is distorted, it leads to a distortion of the basic self.”

Mr. Williamson, whose death in March, 2013, in Reno, Nev., was not widely reported, had spent most of the last two decades running a non-profit sanctuary for tigers and other big cats rescued from neglect or abandonment. Mr. Williamson was 80, more than four decades removed from his bold moment at the forefront of the sexual revolution.

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Photo Of The Day

Elizabeth Short was known by various names: "Betty" (or "Bette"), "Beth" and, at least to some of her friends, "The Black Dahlia."

Elizabeth Short was known by various names: “Betty” (or “Bette”), “Beth” and, at least to some of her friends, “The Black Dahlia.”

She Was A Good Girl

She Was A Good Girl!

Phoebe Short

After identifying the remains of her daughter, Elizabeth (“Betty”) Short

Los Angeles, California

Jan. 15, 1947: The mutilated remains of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short are found in Los Angeles. Her murder remains unsolved.

There’s never been a shortage of suspects in the Black Dahlia murder — but police have never been able to pin the crime on any of them.

After the mutilated body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short — cut in half at the waist and drained of blood — was found in a vacant Los Angeles lot on this day, Jan. 15, in 1947, dozens of people confessed to killing the woman who newspapers dubbed “the Black Dahlia.”

It became the most sensational murder story in a city rife with sensational murders, and fame-seekers all over town wanted to play a part. Over the years, the number of people claiming responsibility grew to hundreds, most of whom detectives ruled out almost immediately.

One promising admission came a few weeks after the murder, from an Army corporal who said he had been drinking with Short in San Francisco a few days before her body was discovered — then blacked out, with no memory of his activity until he came to again in a cab outside New York’s Penn Station. (Short, an aspiring movie star, had a fondness for servicemen, according to The Black Dahlia, the James Ellroy novel based on her murder.)

Asked if he thought he had committed the murder, the corporal said yes, and became a prime suspect until evidence emerged that he had actually been on his military base the day of Short’s death.

Then there was the woman who became convinced — in 1991, after therapy chipped away at 40-year-old repressed memories — that her late father was the murderer. Police dug up the yard of her childhood home, where she believed they’d find his weapons or the remains of other victims. They did find a rusty knife, farm tools, and costume jewelry — but no evidence to tie him to the Black Dahlia case or any other murders.

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Photo Of The Day

Joshua A. Miele, here in Berkeley, Calif., was 4 when a next-door neighbor came to the gate of his family’s home in Brooklyn and tossed sulfuric acid into his face, blinding him. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times.

Joshua A. Miele, here in Berkeley, Calif., was 4 when a next-door neighbor came to the gate of his family’s home in Brooklyn and tossed sulfuric acid into his face, blinding him. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times.

Joshua Miele‘s Sight Was Stolen From Him When He Was A Child

Forty Something Years Later, He’s Giving the Blind a Bright Future

A neighbourhood boy remembers hearing of a little boy blinded by a schizophrenic man who threw acid on him at the age of 4. Decades later he looks up the man that little boy has become and writes an article about him.

The subject of the article, Josh Miele, is the President of the LightHouse Board. In addition to heading the LightHouse with leadership and vision, Josh is an associate scientist at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, where he has partnered with the LightHouse to create tactile-Braille maps of every station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART). The New York Times called the maps, “exquisite things with raised lines of plastic and Braille labels. They elegantly lay out information that can be heard by using an audio smart pen”.

On an October afternoon 43 years ago, on a beautiful block in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a crime occurred in a split second that was as permanent as it was cruel. Grown-ups tried to make sense of it, even use it as a cautionary tale for their children, but in the end, many just put it out of their minds. How could they not? It was just too awful, its lessons too hard to fathom.

The victim was named Josh Miele. He was 4. On that day, Oct. 5, 1973, he was playing in the backyard of his family’s house on President Street while his mother, Isabella, cooked in the kitchen. The doorbell rang, and Josh sprinted to get it.

Standing on the other side of the heavy iron gate beneath the stoop was Basilio Bousa, 24, who lived next door. Josh unlocked it. Then he slipped his two feet into the gate’s lowest rung and grabbed hold with his hands so his weight would pull it open. But Basilio just stood there. Basilio didn’t move or speak. So Josh stepped out, into the open. And then, he couldn’t see. He didn’t know why. He felt around with his hands, grasping for the walls. He forced his eyes open and glimpsed the wood paneling in the vestibule. It was the last thing he ever saw.

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Photo Of The Day

From left, prosecutor Earl (sometimes spelled Earle) Redwine, Loyal Kelley, A.H. de Tremaudan (sometimes spelled Tremandon), J. McKinley Cameron, David Sokol, Gordon Northcott and Norbert Savay. (Los Angeles Times file photo).

From left, prosecutor Earl (sometimes spelled Earle) Redwine, Loyal Kelley, A.H. de Tremaudan (sometimes spelled Tremandon), J. McKinley Cameron, David Sokol, Gordon Northcott and Norbert Savay. (Los Angeles Times file photo).

Road Out of Hell

And you wonder: How the hell did this guy go on to be a loving father and grandfather? How did he bury all that crap?

That’s a story in itself.

As a child of thirteen, Sanford Clark was sent from his home in Canada to live with his uncle, Gordon Stewart Northcott, on a chicken ranch in Wineville, California. It was there that Sanford discovered that his uncle was evil and a rapist and murderer.

During the two years that Sanford was held captive at the murder ranch in the late 1920s, he endured psychological and sexual torture and terrible beatings. Kept in a battered and dazed condition, Sanford was forced to participate in the murders of three young boys and to dispose of the other victims’ bodies according to Northcott’s instructions.

Ultimately, this is a story of redemption. Sanford Clark was exonerated of responsibility for his forced role in the crimes due to what is now known as Stockholm syndrome. This was just a regular young boy who had the misfortune of being captured by an evil being. That evil rained down upon him day and night for two years, in what was for him nothing less than a personal holocaust.

The thing that captured my utter fascination was the question of how young Sanford was able to live with the horrors in his memory for the next sixty-three years. And then there is the fact that in spite of his inner life, he won over everyone who got to know him, including people who knew him intimately over many years.

From 1926 to 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott committed at least 20 murders on a chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. His thirteen- year-old nephew, Sanford Clark, was the sole surviving victim of the killing spree. Forced to take part in the murders, Sanford carried tremendous guilt all his life. Yet despite his youth and the trauma, he helped gain some justice for the dead and their families by testifying at Northcott’s trial-which led to his conviction and execution. It was a shocking story, but perhaps the most shocking part of all is the extraordinarily ordinary life Sanford went on to live as a decorated WWII vet, a devoted husband of 55 years, a loving father, and a productive citizen.

Jerry Clark, (Sanford’s son) 17, was on his way to a hockey game when his father, Sanford, pulled the car over and revealed a shocking past.

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For his last year in office Obama is going to try to sell even more guns

The World’s Greatest Gun Salesman is going to go for the record…his own record in his final year in power.

President Obama said Friday that he would meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday “to discuss our options” on executive action for stricter gun regulation.

The president said in his weekly radio address that his New Year’s resolution is “to move forward on our unfinished business as much as I can.” He asked citizens to help him fight an “epidemic of gun violence” and a “gun lobby [that] is loud and well organized.”

“I get too many letters from parents and teachers and kids to sit around and do nothing,” Obama said. “I get letters from responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time these tragedies happen.”   Read more »

Media party excuse #4573 for terrorism: ‘Postpartum Psychosis’

I’ve heard it all now.

The Media Party are trying to explain away the terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California without mentioning the dreaded Islam word.

The latest excuse is post-natal depression…no I’m not kidding.

Newsbusters reports perhaps the desperate leftist media’s most ludicrous explanation yet for the Islamic terror attack in San Bernardino Wednesday that left 14 dead: postpartum psychosis.

CNN anchor Erin Burnett, interviewing a pair of former FBI agents about the radicalization of Tashfeen Malik, the female half of the murdering couple who both went down in a shootout with cops, struggled to come up with some explanation, any explanation that might keep the left’s narrative afloat in the face of stubborn facts.

Newsbusters helpfully provides the transcript of the relevant portion of Burnett’s discussion with the FBI’s former profiler Jim Clemente and former special agent Robert Chacon:

BURNETT: And she’s the mother of a six- month-old. It’s unnatural for her to do what she did. I mean, what could explain that, to leave a new baby, drop it off with someone else in the morning and then go, knowing that you would at the least never see that baby again?   Read more »

I’m perplexed…why no joint statement on California from Devoy and FIANZ?

I am really confused.

Within hours of the tragedy in Paris we saw Susan Devoy in conjunction with her Islamic friends rush to press with a statement telling us all not to pick on Muslims because a Muslim jihadist group slaughtered “innocents” in Paris.

But we have complete and utter silence over the massacre of a bunch of handicapped Christians who were having a ‘holiday’ party, by a couple of nutter Islamists.

This was her statement about Paris:

The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand issued a joint statement tonight with the NZ Human Rights Commission in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in France and Lebanon.

“We stand alongside all innocent victims of terrorism in peace, solidarity and humanity,” said Hazim Arafeh, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.   Read more »


Photo Of The Day

Photo: Stanford Prison Experiment.

Photo: Stanford Prison Experiment.

Stanford Prison Experiment

In one of the most notorious ethically questionable studies in history, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo had volunteers pretend to be prisoners or guards. The experiment was designed to last for two weeks, but it was halted after just six days, when the guards became increasingly hostile and the prisoners rebelled, acted out, or became passive and withdrawn.

The experiment showed how prisons quickly dehumanize people, and how good-natured people can be turned evil in a short period of time.

The aim of the study was to investigate the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The researchers wanted to investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life. Zimbardo (1973) was interested in finding out whether the brutality reported among guards in American prisons was due to the sadistic personalities of the guards or had more to do with the prison environment.

The experiment also answers the question, “What happens when you put good people in an evil place” – does humanity win over evil or is it the other way around? Are some people inherently evil or they become evil due to the circumstances?

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