Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Public discussion on Ukraine is all about confrontation. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.
Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.
Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.
The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia.
The European Union must recognize that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities.
The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 , when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian , became part of Ukraine only in 1954 , when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system…
A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction…Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle. Each has made the situation worse. Russia would not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already precarious. For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one…
Leaders of all sides should return to examining outcomes, not compete in posturing. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction. If some solution based on these or comparable elements is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate. The time for that will come soon enough.
Of course, Kissinger may as well be describing Congress under the misleadership of what passes for a Republican Party, today. He speaks from memories of days when Republicans and Democrats had principled, educated, knowledgeable leaders. Days long gone.
Kissinger is not a diplomat I have a whole boatload of respect for. He rarely challenged the Cold War status quo in his years of service. What positive results attended his efforts resulted from a simple understanding that politics should trump war, trade brings more long-lasting change than imperial bullying.
Frankly, I doubt if anyone in the Confederate Club in Congress will even read his suggested principles. However, they are worth reading at least as a base for your understanding.
A memorial for the victims of Norway’s July 22 terror attack will see a slice of land removed from the Sørbråten headland
The terror attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011 that resulted in 77 people being killed left the country with a sense of abrupt loss. That feeling will be echoed in a memorial designed by artist Jonas Dahlberg, which will see a slice of land removed from the landscape at Sørbråten.
Dahlberg was selected by a panel as the winner of a contest to design memorials at the two sites of the terror attack, the Government Administration Complex in Oslo and Sørbråten, which is opposite Utøya on the mainland. His design will see a 3.5 meter wide excavation running from from one side of the headland at the Sørbråten site to the other, and extending below the waterline. It will appear as though the landscape simply stops and then restarts, and will make it impossible to reach the end of the headland…
…His suggestion for the Sørbråten site is to make a physical incision into the landscape, which can be seen as a symbolic wound. Part of the headland will be removed and visitors will not be able to touch the names of those killed, as these will be engraved into the wall on the other side of the slice out of nature. The void that is created evokes the sense of sudden loss combined with the long-term missing and remembrance of those who perished.”
The earth removed from the excavation at Sørbråten will be transported to Oslo and used to build the foundation of the temporary and subsequent permanent memorials at the Government Administration Complex. The temporary memorial will feature the names of the victims inscribed along the side of a pathway linking the Grubbegata and the Deichmanske Library. The use of excavated land from Sørbråten will provide a poetic link between the two sites. An amphitheater will ultimately be built as the permanent memorial, with trees taken from Sørbråten and replanted as a means of maintaining the link between the memorial sites.
Mass killings and the fascist mindset aren’t sufficiently memorialized. In general, Western culture would rather remember heroes and wars than criminal behavior still rationalized away by the Right Wing of most nations. Even the 9-11 memorials are treated as part of a “War” on Terror.
I wonder if politicians and their sycophants will ever stop treating society as a child’s game?
Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.
The Crimean parliament has voted to join Russia, with the Ukraine region’s deputy prime minister saying the decree was effective immediately and that Russian soldiers are the only legitimate forces in Crimea.
The parliament unanimously adopted a motion on Thursday for the strategic peninsula to join the Russian Federation…
The Crimea parliament also said a referendum on the region’s status was being brought forward to from March 30 to March 16. Temirgaliev said there would be two questions on the ballot.
“The first: Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation. The second: Are you in favor of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution.” According to the 1992 constitution, Crimea is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev.
However, Al Jazeera’s Hoda Hamid, reporting from Sevastopol, said there were serious questions about the legitimacy of the parliament and prime minister.
“The prime minister came to power arguably at gunpoint when the parliament was taken over,” she said. “Then there is a question of legitimacy in the constitution, which says parliament cannot take such a decision…”
As opposed to the democratic thumbs up or thumbs down of insurgents occupying Independence Square in Kiev which validated the current Ukrainian Parliament, eh?
The Crimea parliament, which is afforded some autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 – 0 with eight abstentions in favour of holding the referendum.
The US president, Barack Obama, meanwhile issued an executive order on Thursday saying that Russia’s involvement in Crimea constituted “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.
While Putin has about the same level of moral authority in global politics as, say, Dick Cheney, he foretold occurrences like the Crimean move to regain independence from Ukraine when the UN and the US recognized Kosovo. For, regardless of the historic circumstances leading to the move for independence, the context is much the same, e.g., a single ethnicity being the majority of a region and then taking that region into secession.
Nations, even states, which prate about democracy find themselves with their nickers bunched over this question time and again. The LDS Church, American Mormons, were forced to resettle from state-to-state until they picked up and moved to faraway Utah to live their own lives. The US Constitution was ignored by their Midwestern Christian neighbors who said they had a moral imperative to keep Mormons from voting. Still, the LDS hierarchy had to revise their ideology to join the union of the United States of America. And they had no Mormon next-door neighbor to acquire their new state. Kosovo, for example, has Albania – should they so choose. Crimea has Russia.
Again and again, the motivations for secession are often grounded either in hopes for profit – so many of my nationalist friends in Scotland; freedom from ethnic suppression – La Raza in the American Southwest or the Quebecois in Canada; or truly reactionary hatred – today’s Tea Party Confederates mostly in the American South but anywhere else that harbors militia-level paranoia.
Only the egregious deny the likelihood of Crimea voting to claim full independence from Ukraine, tried previously in 1992, and rejoin Russia. Crimea returned over 70% vote for Janukovych in the last election. Their joining to Ukraine was a welfare check to Kiev, payment from the Soviet Black Sea navy. Uncle Sugar will make up that welfare check and more until – and unless – some future election involving all of Ukraine displeases Washington. When Catholic western Ukraine decides it really is Poland…and Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine prefers independence from the west.
Then, we can play the same game all over again.
In many of these nations, from Scotland to Ukraine, I have old friends and relatives on both sides of the individual questions. Depending a lot on their influence on this old brain, my own position may fluctuate. I try to stick to whatever fits within my understanding of political economy. For a more detailed relation of the history of the Balkans and everything east of the Danube, I’d suggest wandering through Ina Vukic’ blog.
“This is the oldest fortified settlement in the present United States,” said Florida State University alumnus and historian Fletcher Crowe. “This fort is older than St. Augustine, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It’s older than the Lost Colony of Virginia by 21 years; older than the 1607 fort of Jamestown by 45 years; and predates the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 by 56 years.”
Announcement of the discovery of Fort Caroline was made during “La Floride Française: Florida, France, and the Francophone World,” a conference hosted by FSU’s Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies and its Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution. The conference commemorates the cultural relations between France and Florida since the 16th century.
Researchers have been searching for actual remains of Fort Caroline for more than 150 years but had not found the actual site until now, Crowe said. The fort was long thought to be located east of downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on the south bank of the St. Johns River. The Fort Caroline National Memorial is located just east of Jacksonville’s Dames Point Bridge, which spans the river.
However, Crowe and his co-author, Anita Spring, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Florida, say that the legendary fort is actually located near the mouth of the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia…
Crowe was able to match French maps from the 16th to 18th centuries of what is today the southeastern coast of the United States with coastal charts of the United States published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and with maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey…
“The frustrating and often acrimonious quest to find the fort has become a sort of American quest for the Holy Grail by archaeologists, historians and other scholars,” he noted. “The inability to find the fort has made some wonder if it ever existed.”
While studying in the Paris archives, Crowe found a 1685 map of “French Florida” that was accurately surveyed.
Using the known GPS coordinates derived from the English map, Crowe was able to propose the location of dozens of Indian villages that up until now have eluded scholars and archaeologists.
The structure discovered by Crowe and Spring forms an equilateral triangle surrounded by what appear to be moats encompassing walls of about 800 feet in length. The apex of the structure points to the northeast, just as reported for the original Fort Caroline.
“The next step is to do archaeological excavations to confirm this discovery,” Crowe said.
Still lots of productive time to be spent in libraries looking through records not yet digitized.
The hijacking of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 airliner on 17 February has seen the Swiss Air Force subject to widespread ridicule as it was unable to respond due to the incident occurring ‘outside of office hours’, international media has reported.
With Swiss Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Northrop F-5 Tiger II fighters being unavailable due to the timing of the incident at 4am on Monday morning, Italian Eurofighter Typhoon and French Mirage 2000 jets, which had earlier intercepted the airliner as it passed through their respective airspaces were forced to remain on station as the Ethopian Airlines co-pilot diverted his aircraft to Geneva Airport.
“Switzerland [could not] intervene because its air bases are closed at night and on the weekend … It’s a question of budget and staffing,” Swiss Air Force spokesperson Laurent Savary was quoted as telling the AFP…
…The hijacking brings into focus the lack of resources available to the country’s air force at a time when it is looking to procure 22 new Gripen E fighters from Saab.
A national referendum into that procurement is due to go ahead on 18 May, and the air force’s embarrassment at its seeming inability to carry out its core mission to safeguard the national airspace could hardly have come at a worse time. With the government looking to convince the Swiss people of the need to spend US$3.5 billion on new fighter aircraft, many in Switzerland and beyond will be questioning whether that money might be better spent in properly funding the assets it already has.
Or they could spend the money developing a few more resorts to provide income and employment for the few not already making a living off 19th Century idiots who attach more importance to war and belligerence than peacefully going their own way.
Look at the circular reasoning in this event: The co-pilot wanted asylum. He waited till the pilot was off taking a pee and locked him out. Because the whole world has to change procedures because of 9-11 in the US, the air marshall on board [remember 9-11] and the pilot couldn’t break in through the new specially reinforced cockpit door [remember 9-11]. Why were fighter jets from France and Italy scrambled to follow the hijacked plane in to the Swiss border – remember 9-11 and be ready to shoot down the airliner if it looks ready to crash into something.
Multiply that by the thousands of commercial aircraft in the air at any minute around the world.
The Swiss don’t belong to NATO, don’t belong to the military forces of the EU and haven’t invaded another European country since Hector was a pup…BTW. They’re not worried about being invaded except during normal working hours.
Visitors to the ancient city of Teotihuacan—with its pyramidal structures arranged in careful geometric patterns, its temples, and its massive central thoroughfare, dubbed Street of the Dead — in Mexico may have the sensation they’re gazing at the remains of a society profoundly different from their own.
But new research from anthropologists armed with a bevy of recently derived mathematical equations shows that in some fundamental ways, today’s cities and yesterday’s settlements may be more alike than different.
In a new study led by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher and published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists show that the same equations used to describe patterns of development in modern urban areas appear to work equally well to describe cities settled thousands of years ago.
“This study suggests that there is a level at which every human society is actually very similar,” said lead author Scott Ortman, assistant professor of anthropology at CU-Boulder. “This awareness helps break down the barriers between the past and present and allows us to view contemporary cities as lying on a continuum of all human settlements in time and place.”
Over the last several years, Ortman’s colleagues at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), including Professor Luis Bettencourt, a co-author of the study, have developed mathematical models that describe how modern cities change as their populations grow. For example, scientists know that as a population increases, its settlement area becomes denser, while infrastructure needs per capita decrease and economic production per capita rises.
Ortman noticed that the variables used in these equations, such as cost of moving around, the size of the settled area, the population, and the benefits of people interacting, did not depend on any particular modern technology…
To test his idea, Ortman used data that had been collected in the 1960s about 1,500 settlements in central Mexico that spanned from 1,150 years B.C. through the Aztec period, which ended about 500 years ago…
“We started analyzing the data in the ways we were thinking about with modern cities, and it showed that the models worked,” Ortman said…
In the future, the equations may also guide archaeologists in getting an idea of what they’re likely to find within a given settlement based on its size, such as the miles of roads and pathways. The equations could also guide expectations about the number of different activities that took place in a settlement and the division of labor.
I have serious questions; but, no interest in pursuing the answers – right now. They come back to that division of labor and the basis of the economy. Are there no qualitative differences between a slave-based economy, a feudal economy, either the pre-industrial or industrial version of capitalism?
How many slaves were necessary to provide Aztec aristocracy with a satisfactory lifestyle? How many serfs tilling the soil of agrarian feudalism – and how were they housed, where were they housed? Will the current generation of plutocrats maintain their disdain for 21st Century workers and diminishing opportunities, a diminishing middle class?
Even the contrast between European and American concepts of where to enjoy luxurious living – with appropriate servants and service doesn’t seem to be mentioned. Yet, here in the United States once you’re away from the unique environs of Wall Street, the suburbs are the accepted direction of growth for most of the upper class. In Europe, that’s considered exile.
Maybe my questions are as much a reaction to reporting as analysis. There are few intellectual bodies I respect more than SFI.
The Silk Road, land and sea
The rise and fall of empires, the march of armies, the flow of trade routes, the practice of slavery — all these events have led to a mixing of populations around the world. Such episodes have left a record in the human genome, but one that has so far been too complex to decipher on a global scale.
Now, geneticists applying new statistical approaches have taken a first shot at both identifying and dating the major population mixture events of the last 4,000 years, with the goal of providing a new source of information for historians.
Some of the hundred or so major mixing events they describe have plausible historical explanations, while many others remain to be accounted for. For instance, many populations of the southern Mediterranean and Middle East have segments of African origin in their genomes that were inserted at times between A.D. 650 and 1900, according to the geneticists’ calculations. This could reflect the activity of the Arab slave trade, which originated in the seventh century, and the absorption of slaves into their host populations…
Though all humans have the same set of genes, their genomes are studded with mutations, which are differences in the sequence of DNA units in the genome. These mutations occur in patterns because whole sets of mutations are passed down from parent to child and hence will be common in a particular population. Based on these patterns, geneticists can scan a person’s genome and assign the ancestry of each segment to a particular race or population.
The team led by Dr. Simon Myers has developed a statistical technique for identifying the chromosomal segments with particular precision. This enables them to perform a second feat, that of assigning a date to the one or more mixing events that have affected a population…
One of the most widespread events his group has detected is the injection of Mongol ancestry into populations within the Mongol empire, such as the Hazara of Afghanistan and the Uighur Turks of Central Asia. The event occurred 22 generations ago, according to genetic dating, which corresponds to the beginning of the 14th century, fitting well with the period of the Mongol empire.
In another example, the European colonization of America is recorded in the genomes of the Maya and Pima Indians. And Cambodian genomes mark the fall of the Khmer empire in the form of ancestral DNA from the invading Tai people…
Dr. Myers and Dr. Hellenthal said that they hoped historians would find their work useful, but that they had not collaborated with historians.
“In some sense we don’t want to talk to historians,” Dr. Falush said. “There’s a great virtue in being objective: You put the data in and get the history out. We do think this is a way of reconstructing history by just using DNA.”
Hopefully, this weekend, I intend to revisit a favorite topic – cross-pollination of research between varying scientific disciplines. Some universities, research facilities – even traditional engineering firms – have long held this practice to be especially beneficial. Here’s a unique contribution just waiting to be interpolated.
The group led by Myers, Hellenthal and Falush have provided a valuable service to every side of the study of history.
A strong majority of Americans – and an even greater percentage of Floridians – support normalizing relations with Cuba, according to a poll released on Tuesday by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.
In an apparent boost to efforts to end the half-century-old economic embargo against Cuba, the poll found that 56 percent of respondents nationally favored changing U.S. Cuba policy, a number that rose to 63 percent when just counting Florida residents.
Supporters of the embargo said the poll was…blah, blah, blah…and said it was unlikely to have any impact in Washington. They got the last part right.
The poll comes on the back of a series of surprise political announcements in recent days that could challenge longstanding U.S. policy towards the communist-run island.
On Friday, Florida’s former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who is running for the office again in November – this time as a Democrat – said in a TV interview that he supports lifting the embargo.
Also last week, Alfonso Fanjul, a wealthy Cuban American sugar baron in Florida and a major political donor, spoke publicly for the first time about trips he has made to the island in an interview with the Washington Post, and his interest one day in investing there.
The poll, conducted by a Republican and a Democratic pollster, found that only 35 percent of Americans, and 30 percent of Floridians, opposed improving ties with Cuba.
I hope folks don’t presume there’s anything about US foreign policy based on enlightened self-interest. Self-interest, perhaps, for Exxon-Mobil, reactionary politicians stroking their money base, and, of course, participants in the corporate welfare division of the military-industrial complex.
Meanwhile, Europeans, Asians, Latin-Americans spend their own tourist gold in Cuba.