Category: History

Maps that explain the United States better than any textbook

Years ago, famed historian E.H. Carr made an apt point that one cannot separate the historian from history and that what we see in history books is not necessarily pure fact–it has been made and presented as such due to the judgments of a very fallible and selective person. All of this is to say that when it comes to getting to the reasons why the United States looks the way it does today, “truth”–if we can find it–is quite hard to come by.

For every historian who disputes the reasons why a certain war broke out or how a particular president’s decision changed the fate of America, there’s a map which lays hard data bare and allows for the viewer’s own interpretation. Maps aren’t as immediately exciting as a good story, which is why we tend to overlook them when trying to understand our present. We’d like to change that. Without further ado, here are thirty-three fascinating maps that explain the United States…

highest paid public employees
Click to reach this first map – and the rest

Erdoğan, Turkey’s ruling party lose votes to pro-Kurdish, progressive HDP


HDP Co-Chairman Selahattin Demirtas voting

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has suffered his biggest setback in 13 years of amassing power as voters denied his ruling party a parliamentary majority for the first time since 2002 and gave the country’s large Kurdish minority its biggest voice ever in national politics.

The election result on Sunday, with almost all votes counted, appeared to wreck Erdoğan’s ambition of rewriting the constitution to establish himself as an all-powerful executive president. Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development party, or AKP, won the election comfortably for the fourth time in a row, with around 41% of the vote, but that represented a steep fall in support from 49% in 2011, throwing the government of the country into great uncertainty.

The vote was the first time in four general elections that support for Erdoğan decreased. The fall coupled with an election triumph for a new pro-Kurdish party meant it was unlikely that the AKP would be able to form a majority government, forcing it to negotiate a coalition, probably with extreme nationalists, or to call a fresh election if no parliamentary majority can be secured within six weeks.

The new party, the HDP or Peoples’ Democratic party, largely representing the Kurds but also encompassing leftwing liberals, surpassed the steep 10% threshold for entering parliament to take more than 12% of the vote and around 80 seats in the 550-strong chamber.

The HDP victory denied Erdoğan’s party its majority.

RTFA for a long, detailed description and discussion of all the main factors in the election. Unlike, many journalists, many politicians outside of Turkey, I am not confident in continued democratic progress. I think there is a possibility of a power-hungry opportunist like Erdoğan forming a fascist alliance with the military and throwing out elections altogether.

I think he would count upon promises to wreck what’s left of the original secular constitution of Turkey, to install something he’d characterize as an Islamist state to pacify conservative rural voters. I think the United States would continue to treat him as their ace player in the Muslim Middle East.

I ain’t alone.

Eight out of ten in Malala attack plot acquitted in secret trial

Eight of the 10 men reportedly jailed for the attempted assassination of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai were acquitted, it has emerged.

In April, officials in Pakistan said that 10 Taliban fighters had been found guilty and received 25-year jail terms.
But sources have now confirmed to the BBC that only two of the men who stood trial were convicted.

The secrecy surrounding the trial, which was held behind closed doors, raised suspicions over its validity.

The court judgement – seen for the first time on Friday more than a month after the trial – claims that the two men convicted were those who shot Ms Yousafzai in 2012.

It was previously thought that both the gunmen and the man who ordered the attack had fled to Afghanistan…

Sayed Naeem, a public prosecutor in Swat, told the Associated Press news agency after the trial: “Each militant got 25 years in jail. It is life in prison for the 10 militants who were tried by an anti-terrorist court.” In Pakistan, a life sentence is 25 years.

The acquittals emerged after reporters from the London-based Daily Mirror attempted to locate the 10 convicted men in prisons in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Prize in December, adding to pressure on Pakistan to bring her attackers to justice

The trial was held at a military facility rather than a court and was shrouded in secrecy, a Pakistani security source told the BBC…

The announcement of the convictions in April took many by surprise. No journalists had been made aware that the trial was taking place.

Secret trials, secret treaties, secret courts are worthless to any democratic nation. Decisions are made – and broken – without ever seeing the light of day. Rulers, elected or otherwise, face no oversight.

From Czarist Russia through the secret chapters of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War 2, free citizens have only been able to guess at the rules governing strange political decisions and even stranger reversals.

Fickle client-states like Pakistan have had a range of masters along history’s march. Unreliable, unethical, they offer little or no opportunity for a better life to their people.

Yes, there are limits to German guilt


“Never Forget!” is a slogan that cuts more than one way

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. The bilateral relationship, born in the wake of the Nazis’ annihilation of European Jewry, has developed into a solid one. But fading memories of the Holocaust among younger Germans, together with Israel’s declining international standing, have lately challenged the official discourse about “special” ties between the two countries…

…Over the last half-century, the bilateral relationship has become a formidable one. Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe, and its third-largest overall, after the United States and China. Moreover, Germany has been among Israel’s most reliable allies, exemplified by its role as a major arms supplier. Chancellor Angela Merkel has emerged as a staunch defender of the country, exemplified in a 2008 address to the Knesset…in which she identified Israel’s security as an essential feature of Germany’s Staatsraison.

But Germany also appears to be increasingly uneasy about having to continue supporting Israel even when its policies are clearly reproachable. Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, can the bilateral relationship withstand the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiment in Europe?

History has its ironies. Post-war Germany could regain international legitimacy only through reconciliation with the Jewish people. Today, it is Israel’s legitimacy that is being challenged in international institutions and Western public opinion for its mistreatment of the Palestinians.

The role reversal has been remarkable. Both Jews and Germans emerged from WWII as defeated and crippled peoples, but the Jews had the moral high ground, while the Germans very much did not. Yet, in a global opinion poll conducted in 2013 by the BBC World Service, Israel ranked as one of the least popular countries – just above North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran – whereas Germany emerged as the most popular.

…The extent of this inversion is best exemplified in the increasing prevalence of obscene comparisons between Israel’s policies toward Palestine and the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. A study conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation in January showed that 35% of Germans have no problem making that connection. In what might presage a shift in the bilateral relationship, the poll also revealed that 58% of Germans believe that the past should be consigned to history, and 62% disapprove of Israel’s policies today.

RTFA for details and nuances. Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister. The sort of statesman that held sway in Israel before that nation’s capture by the most reactionary class of nationalist sentiment. Not unlike what has happened to the Republican Party here in the United States.

His conclusions suggest thoughtful reflection might add some sophistication in Israel – and affirmation for the change in attitudes in today’s Germany.

Will the woman who recycled late hubbie’s junk please pick up her check for $100K

A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm.

CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died.

The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist.

We thought it was fake. It was real,” CleanBayArea Vice president Victor Gichun told NBC news. He said he remembers what the donor looked like and all she had to do is show up.

“Tell this lady to please come over to our warehouse in Milpitas again,” Gichun said. “And we’ll give her a check for $100,000.”

Nothing leftover from my life will ever be worth $100K. And that’s OK.

Remember also – the origins of Memorial Day

The purpose of Memorial day [nowadays] focuses on those who lost their lives while serving in the US armed forces.

And that cost has been enormous over the past century. Inspired by Poppy Field, a data visualization of all war deaths since 1900, we built this chart showing the death toll of the seven biggest American conflicts since 1914, along with total military deaths resulting from the conflicts:

The human cost of the Civil War was beyond anybody’s expectations. The young nation experienced bloodshed of a magnitude that has not been equaled since by any other American conflict. The cost of eliminating the tragic and inhuman greed of slavery took more lives on and off the battlefield than any war since.

That memory is the foundation of Memorial Day.

kwc-totals

Same-sex marriage wins in Ireland referendum 62% to 38%

This would have been “Pic of the day” except that I wanted to make the point this beautiful mural was an effort in support of the YES vote in Ireland for same-sex marriage. Good news all round.

Joe-Caslin-Girl-Mural
Click to enlarge

Artist Joe Caslin completed the 45ft tall installation over the weekend after stirring debate in Dublin with a similar work showing a gay couple hugging.

Republicans now control the cemetery vote

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It turns out that one of the Grand Old Party’s biggest—and least discussed—challenges going into 2016 is lying in plain sight, written right into the party’s own nickname. The Republican Party voter is old—and getting older, and as the adage goes, there are two certainties in life: Death and taxes. Right now, both are enemies of the GOP and they might want to worry more about the former than the latter.

There’s been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there’s been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: Hundreds of thousands of their traditional core supporters won’t be able to turn out to vote at all.

The party’s core is dying off by the day.

Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear, but just how much of a problem for the GOP is this?…

By combining presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group from the U.S. Census Bureau, I calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election. President Barack Obama’s voters, of course, will have died too—about 2.3 million of the 66 million who voted for the president won’t make it to 2016 either. That leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats…

“I’ve never seen anyone doing any studies on how many dead people can’t vote,” laughs William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic studies. “I’ve seen studies on how many dead people do vote. The old Daley Administration in Chicago was very good at that.”

RTFA for details and especially variables critical to both of the two parties if anyone is to take advantage of demographics.

One thing is certain. Dead people don’t vote, at least not as much as they did in Chicago in 1960. Core Republican voters not only oppose change, they fear progress. Core Democrats not only support change broadly, they welcome progress and equal opportunity.

Republicans hope for a narrow discussion of anything but the foolishness that actually guides their decision-making.

Thanks to my favorite recovering Republican

Dogs have been man’s best friend longer than we thought

The bond between humans and dogs can feel very strong, deep and profound. It may also be much older than we once thought.

A group of researchers discovered an ancient wolf bone and say its DNA suggests dogs diverged from wolves 27,000 to 40,000 years ago — not 11,000 to 16,000 years ago, as previous research has suggested. The researchers published their findings Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

In this latest study, researchers radiocarbon-dated a Taimyr wolf bone they found in Siberia and concluded it to be about 35,000 years old. Researchers point to the ancient wolf as possibly the most recent common relative of modern wolves and dogs.

That means two things could have happened about 40,000 years ago, with the simplest scenario being that dogs became domesticated.

“The only other explanation is that there was a major divergence between two wolf populations at that time, and one of these populations subsequently gave rise to all modern wolves,” study co-author Love Dalén of the Swedish Museum of Natural History said in a release.

Under that theory, the second wolf population would had to have gone extinct…

“The difference between the earlier genetic studies and ours is that we can calibrate the rate of evolutionary change in dog and wolf genomes directly, and we find that the first separation of dog ancestors must have been in the older range,” Skoglund told Reuters.

Another implication of this study: re-imagining how dogs became an important part of human society. As the BBC notes, a prevalent theory is that dogs became domestic creatures once humans settled into agricultural-based communities.

Humans could have also “caught wolf cubs and kept them as pets and this gradually led to these wild wolves being domesticated,” Dalen told BBC. “If this model is correct, then dogs were domesticated by hunter gatherers that led a fairly nomadic lifestyle.”

Being a longterm dog family, we’ve always felt that some extra smart dogs figured out we were a soft touch and moved in.