(Kilroy was there–in the Federal Complex 10 miles from Oklahoma City center–when the bomb went off. Our building shook as though in an earthquake–the explosion sound reached us just as we emerged from the building–a cloud (dust from concrete and debri) began to form as we watched.
Though McVeigh had scouted the building previously, including the location of the daycare center adjacent to the epicenter of the blast, he lost his way piloting the bomb-laden truck to the site, and was given directions to the Murrah Building by the kind people of the city.)
There’s been a lot of agonizing about what is going on in America lately — why are mass-shootings becoming so common, what’s going on?
Timothy McVeigh, the right-wing terrorist who killed 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, cared about one issue above all others: guns. To him, guns were synonymous with freedom, and any government attempt to regulate them meant incipient tyranny.
“When it came to guns,” writes Jeffrey Toobin in “Homegrown,” his compelling new book about the Oklahoma City attack, “McVeigh did more than simply advocate for his own right to own and use firearms; he joined an ascendant political crusade, which grew more extreme over the course of his lifetime and beyond.”
Reading Toobin’s book, it’s startling to realize how much McVeigh’s cause has advanced in the decades since his 2001 execution. McVeigh, who was a member of the K.K.K. and harbored a deep resentment of women, hoped that blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building would inspire an army of followers to make war on the government. This didn’t happen immediately, although, as the historian Kathleen Belew has written, there was a wave of militia and white supremacist violence in the bombing’s aftermath. But today, an often-inchoate movement of people who share many of McVeigh’s views is waging what increasingly looks like a low-level insurgency against the rest of us.
Early indoctrination into the “insurgency”, as in the picture below, bears “fruit” in Texas (recent example below)
On the 14th of May 2023 in the 6000+ population town of Keene Texas, a 12 year old murdered an employee of a fast food restaurant with an AR15—–6 shots which typically would have torn the body of the targeted person apart.
Preference for the AR15 lies in, among other things, the nearly complete absence of recoil—-which explains the ability of a 12 year old child to repeatedly aim and fire. Bullets launched from the weapon leave a 3 inch diameter wound, literally disintegrating bone, flesh and organs on their way through the body.
He built 19 custom caskets for all the children who were killed in the Uvalde school shooting without charging a fee. He spoke with every single set of parents and made sure he could make a coffin that was customized to tell the story of their child if they wanted.
He is one of the only child coffin manufacturers in the United States and he ate the $3400 cost that it required to make each of them.
There are many jobs like this: not easy, but necessary. Trey, I salute you.
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?
Well, because that’s the way they built them in England, and English engineers designed the first US railroads. Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the wagon tramways, and that’s the gauge they used. So, why did ‘they’ use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that same wheel spacing. Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break more often on some of the old, long distance roads in England . You see, that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads?
Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.
And what about the ruts in the roads?
Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or run the risk of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.
So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’, you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ asses.)
Now, the twist to the story:
When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.
So, a major Space Shuttle design feature, of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.
And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important? Ancient horse’s asses control almost everything.
A singer entertains new Russian conscripts moments before being shipped to Kherson Oblast that not one of them would be able to find on the map. Approximately half of them will be killed within a month, and another quarter wounded. There’re no medics, no blood transfusion, no bandages at the battlefront – many of them will just bleed to death.
In Russia, Squid Game plays you.
Enlistment centres have sent out millions of summons including to Dmitry Klyukvin, a Moscow resident born blind.
“Do they want me to be a sniper? At least they could’ve sent a summons in Braille,” jokes Dmitry.
Summons are cold calls for participation in Squid Game. There is no obligation to come to the enlistment centre, and the punishment is an administrative fine 3,000 rubles ($50).
It’s evolution in action, weeding out the dumbest and most docile who turn up at the enlistment centres anyways with HIMARS and howitzers waiting for blood harvest impatiently.
Sweet innocence of youth: high school students in Kurgan school at arts and craft lesson sew pagan sun god talismans to protect fighters from imminent death at the battle front. Orthodox Church redeems fighters of their sins if they die in Ukraine. Better be pagan in Russia.
Trans-Baikal deputy Andrei Gurulev drew the shortest straw to break the news that 1.5 million sets of uniforms have “disappeared” from MoD.
Translation: not a single set of uniform has been sewn as the money has been used to build country houses for the generals. The Squid Game volunteers are welcome to buy army uniform at the local flea market.
Governor of Omsk Oblast Alexander Burkov said the region is bankrupt with 13 billion rubles in the red, so there’re no funds to pay the new conscripts. Conscripts are required to buy their own uniform, their own first aid kit, stick their wives’ tampons into the gun wounds, feed and train themselves.
Then they get hastily dispatched in COVID-infected overcrowded trains and dumped at the border to fight Banderas, Ukronazis, NATO, Americans. Well, you know, nazis come in all kinds of forms. Putin wouldn’t lie.
35-year old conscript Alexander Koltun from Bratsk called his mom from the recruitment camp in Novosibirsk, “it’s total chaos here; they did’t give us any uniforms, don’t feed us, everyone’s drunk stumbling about.”
Next day, Alexander died. This was tenth proven death of a mobilised conscript in Russia. In the meantime, 1,600 new conscripts have already died or missing in action in Ukraine.
Governor of Belgorod Oblast also confessed that the region on the border with Ukraine has no money in the coffers to pay the conscripts because Putin bankrupted their agriculture and chicken coop business with his war (of course he didn’t say that since Kremlin appointed him for this job, and he answers to Kremlin, not to local residents). “Tell us about your family’s debts. We’ll do our best to pay them back.”
President’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was caught off guard with a tricky question, “Where’re Russia’s self-declared international borders are located?”
“You should ask people in Russia’s new territories,” Peskov answered.
Imagine Joe Biden at a press conference. “Mr. President, can you clarify where are the United States’ northern international borders at?”
“Don’t ask me. Ask people in Manitoba and Ontario of that fake country Canada that we’ve been trying to invade for seven months. They know better.”
FSB ordered propagandists to pile up pressure on army generals and blame them for failures in Ukraine. FSB’s talking head Strelkov-Girkin floods Internet with the conspiracy theory that Ukraine was a trap set by America. Translation: we provided excellent intel to the president, it’s the army generals who have screwed it up.
Russian conscripts use foot wraps like in World War Two.
To add insult to injury, Putin awarded Ramsan Kadyrov with the rank Colonel General (three stars). He received Lt. General just seven months ago. Ramsan Kadyrov fought only once, for the Chechens against Russian Army!
The Col. General rank is given to district, front and army commanders, deputy minister of defence, deputy head of the general staff. This is a calculated spit in the faces of the MoD top brass, to avoid their sworn enemy with the high rank in their armed forces.
Kadyrov has 30,000 bayonets of his private army that he deliberately has spared from fighting in Ukraine (they shot TikTok videos). The head of PMC Wagner Progozhin has been recruiting inmates from penal colonies and swore “to whack that f—- St. Petersburg governor” as he wants to have monopoly on the mobilised “meat.”
Their combined forces have over 100,000 bayonets of the private armies whose fighters swore to personally serve them. They might block what’s left of the 1st Taman Tank Division in Naro-Fominsk and try to grab power in Moscow and St. Petersburg after Putin’s dead.
Why are America’s plutocrats funding efforts to weaken our democracy and replace it with plutocracy and oligarchy? Is it just about money? Or is there something much deeper that most Americans rarely even consider?
An extraordinary investigative report from documented.net tells how morbidly rich families, their companies, and their personal foundations are funding efforts to limit or restrict democracy across the United States.
In an article co-published with The Guardian, they noted:
“The advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, the powerful conservative think tank based in Washington, spent more than $5m on lobbying in 2021 as it worked to block federal voting rights legislation and advance an ambitious plan to spread its far-right agenda calling for aggressive voter suppression measures in battleground states.”
Their efforts have had substantial success, as you can read in Documented’s article.
This effort, of course, is not unique to the one think tank they called out. From Donald Trump all the way down to the lowest Republican county official, efforts to make it harder for what John Adams called “the rabble” to vote and otherwise participate in democracy are in full swing across America.
But why? Why are some wealthy people so opposed to expanding democracy in America?
Most Americans — and lots of editorial writers — are convinced it’s simply because rich folks want to influence legislation to benefit themselves and keep their regulations and taxes down. I proposed a motive like that in yesterday’s Daily Take.
And surely, for some, that’s the largest part of it. But that’s not the entire story.
I can’t claim (nor would I) to know the exact motives driving the various wealthy individuals funding efforts to reduce the Black, Hispanic, senior, and youth vote. But history does suggest that many are trying to “stabilize” America rather than just pillage her.
They are worried that America is suffering from too much democracy.
The modern-day backstory to this starts in the early 1950s when conservative thinker Russell Kirk proposed a startling hypothesis that would fundamentally change our nation and the world.
The American middle-class at that time was growing more rapidly than any middle-class had ever grown in the history of the world, both in terms of the number of people in the middle class, the income of those people, and the overall wealth that those people were accumulating.
The middle-class was growing in wealth and income back then, in fact, faster than were the top 1%.
Kirk and colleagues like William F. Buckley postulated that if the middle-class and minorities became too wealthy, they’d feel the safety and freedom to throw themselves actively into our political processes, as rich people had historically done.
That expansion of democracy, they believed, would produce an absolute collapse of our nation’s social order — producing chaos, riots, and possibly even the end of the republic.
The first chapter of Kirk’s 1951 book, The Conservative Mind, is devoted to Edmund Burke, the British conservative who Thomas Paine visited for two weeks in 1793 on his way to get arrested in the French revolution. Paine was so outraged by Burke’s arguments that he wrote an entire book rebutting them titled The Rights of Man. It’s still in print (as is Burke).
Burke was defending, among other things, Britain’s restrictions on democracy, including limits on who could vote or run for office, and the British maximum wage.
Burke and his contemporaries in the late 1700s believed that if working-class people made too much money, they’d have enough spare time to use democratic processes to challenge the social order and collapse the British kingdom.
Too much democracy, Burke believed, was a dangerous thing: deadly to nations and a violation of evolution and nature itself.
Summarizing his debate with Paine about the French Revolution, Burke wrote:
“The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler [candle maker], cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively are permitted to rule [by voting]. In this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.”
That was why Parliament passed a law making it illegal for employers to pay people over a certain amount, so as to keep wage-earners right at the edge of poverty throughout their lives.
It was explicitly to avoid too much democracy and preserve the stability of the kingdom. (For the outcome of this policy, read pretty much any Dickens novel.)
Picking up on this, Kirk’s followers argued that if the American middle-class became wealthy enough to have time for political activism, there would be similarly dire consequences.
Young people would cease to respect their elders, they warned. Women would stop respecting (and depending on) their husbands. Minorities would begin making outrageous demands and set the country on fire.
When Kirk laid this out in 1951, only a few conservative intellectuals took him seriously.
Skeptics of multiracial egalitarian democracy like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater were electrified by his writings and line of thinking, but Republicans like then-President Dwight Eisenhower said of people like Kirk and his wealthy supporters:
— In 1961, the birth control pill was legalized and by 1964 was in widespread use; this helped kick off the Women’s Liberation Movement, as women, now in control of their reproductive capacity, demanded equality in the workplace. Bra burning became a thing, at least in pop culture lore.
— By 1967, young people on college campuses were also in revolt; the object of their anger was an illegal war in Vietnam. Along with national protest, draft card burning was also a thing.
— The labor movement was feeling it’s oats: strikes spread across America throughout the 1960s from farm workers in California to steel workers in Pennsylvania. In the one year of 1970 alone, over 3 million workers walked out in 5,716 strikes.
— And throughout that decade African Americans were demanding an end to police violence and an expansion of Civil and Voting Rights. In response to several brutal and well-publicized instances of police violence against Black people in the late 1960s, riots broke out and several of our cities were on fire.
These four movements all hitting America at the same time got the attention of Republicans who had previously ignored or even ridiculed Kirk’s 1950s warnings about the dangers of the middle class and minorities embracing democracy.
Suddenly, he seemed like a prophet. And the GOP turned on a dime.
The Republican/Conservative “solution” to the “national crisis” these movements represented was put into place with the election of 1980: the project of the Reagan Revolution was to dial back democracy while taking the middle class down a peg, and thus end the protests and social instability.
Their goal was, at its core, to save America from itself.
The plan was to declare war on labor unions so wages could slide down or at least remain frozen for a few decades; end free college across the nation so students would study in fear rather than be willing to protest; and increase the penalties Nixon had already put on drugs so they could use those laws against hippy antiwar protesters and Black people demanding participation in democracy.
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. Do you understand what I’m saying?
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
While it looks from the outside like the singular mission of the Reagan Revolution was simply to help rich people and giant corporations get richer and more powerful (and that’s certainly been the effect), the ideologues driving the movement also thought they were restoring stability to the United States, both socially, economically, and — most important — politically.
The middle class was out of control by the late 1960s, they believed, and something had to be done. There was too much democracy, and it was tearing America apart.
Looking back at the “solutions” England used around the time of the American Revolution (and for 1000 years before) and advocated by Edmund Burke and other conservative thinkers throughout history, Republicans saw a remedy to the crisis. As a bonus, it had the side effect of helping their biggest donors and thus boosting their political war-chests.
If working people, women, minorities, and students were a bit more desperate about their economic situations, these conservative thinkers asserted, then they’d be less likely to organize, protest, strike, or even vote. The unevenness, the instability, the turbulence of democracy in the 1960s would be calmed.
— To accomplish this, Reagan massively cut taxes on rich people and raised taxes on working-class people 11 times.
— He put a tax on Social Security income and unemployment benefits and put in a mechanism to track and tax tips income, all of which had previously been tax-free but were exclusively needed and used by working-class people.
— He ended the deductibility of credit-card, car-loan and student-debt interest, overwhelmingly claimed by working-class people. At the same time, he cut the top tax bracket for millionaires and multimillionaires from 74% to 27%. (There were no billionaires in America then, in large part because of FDR’s previous tax policies; the modern explosion of billionaires followed Reagan’s massive tax cuts for the rich.)
— He declared war on labor unions, crushed PATCO in less than a week, and over the next decade the result of his war on labor was that union membership went from about a third of the American non-government workforce when he came into office to around 10% today.
— He brought a young lawyer named John Roberts into the White House to work out ways to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. His VP brought in his son, George W., to build bridges between the GOP and the most fanatical branches of evangelical Christianity, who opposed both women’s rights and the Civil Rights movement.
— He and Bush also husbanded the moribund 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT, which let Clinton help create the WTO) and NAFTA, which opened a floodgate for American companies to move manufacturing overseas, leaving American workers underemployed while cutting corporate donor’s labor costs and union membership.
And, sure enough, it worked.
— Reagan’s doubling-down on the War on Drugs shattered Black communities and our prison population became the largest in the world, both as a percentage of our population and in absolute numbers.
— His War on Labor cut average inflation-adjusted minimum and median wages by more over a couple of decades than anybody had seen since the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s.
— And his War on Students jacked up the cost of education so high that an entire generation is today so saddled with more than $1.7 trillion in student debt that many aren’t willing to jeopardize their future by “acting up” on campuses.
The key to selling all this to the American people was the idea that the US shouldn’t protect the rights of workers, subsidize education, or enforce Civil Rights laws because, Republicans said, government itself is a remote, dangerous and incompetent power that can legally use guns to enforce its will.
As Reagan told us in his first inaugural, democracy was not the solution to our problems, but democracy — government — instead was the problem itself.
He ridiculed the once-noble idea of service to one’s country and joked that there were really no good people left in government because if they were smart or competent they’d be working in the private sector for a lot more money.
He told us that the nine most frightening words in the English language were:
“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, wealthy people associated with Kirk’s and Reagan’s Republicans built a massive infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets to promote and amplify this message about the dangers of too much democracy.
As the reporting from documented.net indicates, they’re working at it with as much enthusiasm today as ever.
It so completely swept America that by the 1990s even President Bill Clinton was repeating things like, “The era of big government is over,” and “This is the end of welfare as we know it.” Limbaugh, Hannity and other right-wing radio talkers were getting millions a year in subsidies from groups like the Heritage Foundation, the group documented.net wrote about yesterday.
Fox News today carries on the tradition, warning almost daily about the danger of “people in the streets” or political movements like anti-fascism and BLM.
When you look at the long arc of post-Agricultural Revolution human history you discover that Burke was right when he claimed that oligarchy — rule by the rich — has been the norm, not the exception.
And it’s generally provided at least a modicum of stability: feudal Europe changed so little for over a thousand years that we simply refer to that era as the Dark Ages followed by the Middle Ages without detail. It’s all kind of black-and-white fuzzy in our mind’s eye.
Popes, kings, queens, pharaohs, emperors: none allowed democracy because all knew it was both a threat to their wealth and power but also because, they asserted, it would render their nations unstable.
These historic leaders — and their modern day “strongman” versions emerging in former democracies like Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, The Philippines, and Russia — are the model for many of today’s conservatives. And not just because they were rich.
Understanding this history gives us clues to how we can revive democracy in America. Step one is to help people realize that instability, like labor pains before birth, is not a bad thing for a democracy but most frequently is a sign of emerging and positive political and social advances.
Hopefully one day soon our vision of an all-inclusive democracy — the original promise of America, to quote historian Harvey Kaye — will be realized. But first we’re going to have to get past the millions of dollars mobilized by democracy’s skeptics.
I believe it’s possible. But it’s going to take all of us getting involved to make it happen. As both Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama were fond of saying: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine was meant to be his crowning achievement, a demonstration of how far Russia had come since the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991. Annexing Ukraine was supposed to be a first step in reconstructing a Russian empire. Putin intended to expose the United States as a paper tiger outside Western Europe and to demonstrate that Russia, along with China, was destined for a leadership role in a new, multipolar international order.
It hasn’t turned out that way. Kyiv held strong, and the Ukrainian military has been transformed into a juggernaut, thanks in part to a close partnership with the United States and Western allies. The Russian military, in contrast, has demonstrated poor strategic thinking and organization. The political system behind it has proved unable to learn from its mistakes. With little prospect of dictating Putin’s actions, the West will have to prepare for the next stage of Russia’s disastrous war of choice.
War is inherently unpredictable. Indeed, the course of the conflict has served to invalidate widespread early prognostications that Ukraine would quickly fall; a reversal of fortunes is impossible to discount. It nevertheless appears that Russia is headed for defeat. Less certain is what form this defeat will take. Three basic scenarios exist, and each one would have different ramifications for policymakers in the West and Ukraine.
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The first and least likely scenario is that Russia will agree to its defeat by accepting a negotiated settlement on Ukraine’s terms. A great deal would have to change for this scenario to materialize because any semblance of diplomatic dialogue among Russia, Ukraine, and the West has vanished. The scope of Russian aggression and the extent of Russian war crimes would make it difficult for Ukraine to accept any diplomatic settlement that amounted to anything less than a total Russian surrender.
That said, a Russian government—under Putin or a successor—could try to retain Crimea and sue for peace elsewhere. To save face domestically, the Kremlin could claim it is preparing for the long game in Ukraine, leaving open the possibility of additional military incursions. It could blame its underperformance on NATO, arguing that the alliance’s weapon deliveries, not Ukraine’s strength, impeded a Russian victory. For this approach to pass muster within the regime, hard-liners—possibly including Putin himself—would have to be marginalized. This would be difficult but not impossible. Still, under Putin this outcome is highly improbable, given that his approach to the war has been maximalist from the beginning.
A second scenario for Russian defeat would involve failure amid escalation. The Kremlin would nihilistically seek to prolong the war in Ukraine while launching a campaign of unacknowledged acts of sabotage in countries that support Kyiv and in Ukraine itself. In the worst case, Russia could opt for a nuclear attack on Ukraine. The war would then edge toward a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia. Russia would transform from a revisionist state into a rogue one, a transition that is already underway, and that would harden the West’s conviction that Russia poses a unique and unacceptable threat. Crossing the nuclear threshold could lead to NATO’s conventional involvement in the war, accelerating Russia’s defeat on the ground.
The final scenario for the war’s end would be defeat through regime collapse, with the decisive battles taking place not in Ukraine but rather in the halls of the Kremlin or in the streets of Moscow. Putin has concentrated power rigidly in his own hands, and his obstinacy in pursuing a losing war has placed his regime on shaky ground. Russians will continue marching behind their inept tsar only to a certain point. Although Putin has brought political stability to Russia—a prized state of affairs given the ruptures of the post-Soviet years—his citizens could turn on him if the war leads to general privation. The collapse of his regime could mean an immediate end to the war, which Russia would be unable to wage amid the ensuing domestic chaos. A coup d’état followed by civil war would echo what happened after the Bolshevik takeover in 1917, which precipitated Russia’s withdrawal from World War I.
No matter how it comes about, a Russian defeat would of course be welcomed. It would free Ukraine from the terrors it has suffered since the invasion. It would reinforce the principle that an attack on another country cannot go unpunished. It might open up new opportunities for Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova, and for the West to finish ordering Europe in its image. For Belarus, a path could emerge toward the end of dictatorship and toward free and fair elections. Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine could strive together for eventual integration into the European Union and possibly NATO, following the model of Central and Eastern European governments after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Though Russia’s defeat would have many benefits, the United States and Europe should prepare for the regional and global disorder it would produce. Since 2008, Russia has been a revisionist power. It has redrawn borders, annexed territory, meddled in elections, inserted itself into various African conflicts, and altered the geopolitical dynamic of the Middle East by propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Were Russia to pursue radical escalation or splinter into chaos instead of accepting a defeat through negotiation, the repercussions would be felt in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Disorder could take the form of separatism and renewed conflicts in and around Russia, the world’s largest country in landmass. The transformation of Russia into a failed state riven by civil war would revive questions that Western policymakers had to grapple with in 1991: for example, who would gain control of Russia’s nuclear weapons? A disorderly Russian defeat would leave a dangerous hole in the international system.
CAN’T TALK YOUR WAY OUT
Trying to sell Putin on defeat through negotiation would be difficult, perhaps impossible. (It would be much likelier under a successor.) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would demand that Moscow abandon its claim on the nominally Russian-controlled territories in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia. Putin has already celebrated the annexation of these areas with pomp and circumstance. It is doubtful he would do an about-face after this patriotic display despite Russia’s tenuous hold on this territory. Any Russian leader, whether Putin or someone else, would resist relinquishing Crimea, the part of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014.
Conditions on the ground in Russia would have to be conducive to compromise. A new Russian leadership would have to contend with a demoralized military and gamble on a complacent public acceding to capitulation. Russians could eventually become indifferent if the war grinds on with no clear resolution. But fighting would likely continue in parts of eastern Ukraine, and tensions between the two countries would remain high.
Still, an agreement with Ukraine could bring normalization of relations with the West. That would be a powerful incentive for a less militaristic Russian leader than Putin, and it would appeal to many Russians. Western leaders could also be enticed to push for negotiations in the interest of ending the war. The hitch here is timing. In the first two months after the February 2022 invasion, Russia had the chance to negotiate with Zelensky and capitalize on its battlefield leverage. After Ukraine’s successful counteroffensives, however, Kyiv has little reason to concede anything at all. Since invading, Russia has upped the ante and escalated hostilities instead of showing a willingness to compromise. A less intransigent leader than Putin might lead Ukraine to consider negotiating. In the face of defeat, Putin could resort to lashing out on the global stage. He has steadily expanded his framing of the war, claiming that the West is waging a proxy battle against Russia with the goal of destroying the country. His 2022 speeches were more megalomaniacal versions of his address at the Munich Security Conference 15 years earlier, in which he denounced American exceptionalism, arguing that the United States “has overstepped its national borders in every way.”
Part bluster, part nonsense, part trial balloon, Putin’s rhetoric is meant to mobilize Russians emotionally. But there is also a tactical logic behind it: although expanding the war beyond Ukraine will obviously not win Putin the territory he craves, it could prevent Ukraine and the West from winning the conflict. His bellicose language is laying the groundwork for escalation and a twenty-first-century confrontation with the West in which Russia would seek to exploit its asymmetric advantages as a rogue or terrorist state.
The consequences of a Russian nuclear attack would be catastrophic, and not just for Ukraine.
Russia’s tools for confrontation could include the use of chemical or biological weapons in or outside Ukraine. Putin could destroy energy pipelines or seabed infrastructure or mount cyberattacks on the West’s financial institutions. The use of tactical nuclear weapons could be his last resort. In a speech on September 30, Putin brought up Hiroshima and Nagasaki, offering jumbled interpretations of World War II’s end phase. The analogy is imperfect, to put it mildly. If Russia were to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, Kyiv would not surrender. For one thing, Ukrainians know that Russian occupation would equal the extinction of their country, which was not the case for Japan in 1945. In addition, Japan was losing the war at the time. As of late 2022, it was Russia, the nuclear power, that was losing.
The consequences of a nuclear attack would be catastrophic, and not just for the Ukrainian population. Yet war would go on, and nuclear weapons would not do much to assist Russian soldiers on the ground. Instead, Russia would face international outrage. For now, Brazil, China, and India have not condemned Russia’s invasion, but no country is truly supporting Moscow in its horrific war, and none would support the use of nuclear weapons. Chinese President Xi Jinping made this publicly explicit in November: after he met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, he issued a statement declaring that the leaders “jointly oppose the use or threat of the use of nuclear weapons.” If Putin did defy this warning, he would be an isolated pariah, punished economically and perhaps militarily by a global coalition.
For Russia, then, threatening to use nuclear weapons is of greater utility than actually doing so. But Putin may still go down this path: after all, launching the invasion was a spectacularly ill-conceived move, and yet he did it. If he does opt for breaking the nuclear taboo, NATO is unlikely to respond in kind, so as to avoid risking an apocalyptic nuclear exchange. The alliance, however, would in all likelihood respond with conventional force to weaken Russia’s military and to prevent further nuclear attacks, risking an escalatory spiral should Russia launch conventional attacks on NATO in return.
Even if this scenario could be avoided, a Russian defeat after nuclear use would still have dangerous repercussions. It would create a world without the imperfect nuclear equilibrium of the Cold War and the 30-year post–Cold War era. It would encourage leaders around the globe to go nuclear because it would appear that their safety could only be assured by acquiring nuclear weapons and showing a willingness to use them. A helter-skelter age of proliferation would ensue, to the immense detriment of global security.
HEAVY IS THE HEAD
At this point, the Russian public has not risen up to oppose the war. Russians may be skeptical of Putin and may not trust his government. But they also do not want their sons, fathers, and brothers in uniform to lose on the battlefield. Accustomed to Russia’s great-power status through the centuries and isolated from the West, most Russians would not want their country to be without any power and influence in Europe. That would be a natural consequence of a Russian defeat in Ukraine.
Still, a long war would commit Russians to a bleak future and would probably spark a revolutionary flame in the country. Russian casualties have been high, and as the Ukrainian military grows in strength, it can inflict still greater losses. The exodus of hundreds of thousands of young Russians, many of them highly skilled, has been astonishing. Over time, the combination of war, sanctions, and brain drain will take a massive toll—and Russians may eventually blame Putin, who began his presidential career as a self-proclaimed modernizer. Most Russians were insulated from his previous wars because they generally occurred far from the home front and didn’t require a mass mobilization to replenish troops. That’s not the case with the war in Ukraine.
Russia has a history of regime change in the aftermath of unsuccessful wars. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5 and World War I helped lead to the Bolshevik Revolution. The collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, came two years after the end of the Soviet military’s misadventure in Afghanistan. Revolutions have occurred in Russia when the government has failed in its economic and political objectives and has been unresponsive to crises. Generally, the coup de grâce has been the puncturing of the government’s underlying ideology, such as the loss of legitimacy of Russia’s monarchy and tsardom in the midst of hunger, poverty, and a faltering war effort in 1917.
Putin is at risk in all these categories. His management of the war has been awful, and the Russian economy is contracting. In the face of these dismal trends, Putin has doubled down on his errors, all the while insisting that the war is going “according to plan.” Repression can solve some of his problems: the arrest and prosecution of dissidents can quell protest at first. But Putin’s heavy hand also runs the risk of spurring more dissatisfaction.
If Putin were deposed, it is unclear who would succeed him. For the first time since coming to power in 1999, Putin’s “power vertical”—a highly centralized government hierarchy based on loyalty to the Russian president—has been losing a degree of its verticality. Two possible contenders outside the traditional elite structures are Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, a private military contractor that has furnished mercenaries for the war on Ukraine, and Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic. They might be tempted to chip away at the remains of Putin’s power vertical, encouraging infighting in the regime in hopes of securing a position in the center of Russia’s new power structure after Putin’s departure. They could also try to claim power themselves. They have already put pressure on the leadership of the Russian army and the Defense Ministry in response to failures in the war and attempted to broaden their own power bases with the backing of loyal paramilitary forces. Other contenders could come from traditional elite circles, such as the presidential administration, the cabinet, or military and security forces. To suppress palace intrigue, Putin has surrounded himself with mediocrities for the past 20 years. But his unsuccessful war threatens his hold on power. If he truly believes his recent speeches, he may have convinced his subordinates that he is living in a fantasy world.
The chances that a pro-Western democrat would become Russia’s next president are vanishingly small. Far more likely is an authoritarian leader in the Putinist mold. A leader from outside the power vertical could end the war and contemplate better relations with the West. But a leader who comes from within Putin’s Kremlin would not have this option because he would be trailed by a public record of supporting the war. The challenge of being a Putinist after Putin would be formidable.
One challenge would be the war, which would be no easier to manage for a successor, especially one who shared Putin’s dream of restoring Russia’s great-power status. Another challenge would be building legitimacy in a political system without any of its traditional sources. Russia has no constitution to speak of and no monarchy. Anyone who followed Putin would lack popular support and find it difficult to personify the neo-Soviet, neoimperial ideology that Putin has come to embody.
In the worst case, Putin’s fall could translate into civil war and Russia’s disintegration. Power would be contested at the top, and state control would fragment throughout the country. This period could be an echo of the Time of Troubles, or smuta, a 15-year crisis of succession in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries marked by rebellion, lawlessness, and foreign invasion. Russians regard that era as a period of humiliation to be avoided at all costs. Russia’s twenty-first-century troubles could see the emergence of warlords from the security services and violent separatists in the country’s economically distressed regions, many of which are home to large numbers of ethnic minorities. Although a Russia in turmoil might not formally end the war in Ukraine, it might simply be unable to conduct it, in which case Ukraine would have regained its peace and independence while Russia descended into anarchy.
AGENT OF CHAOS
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a first step in refashioning a Russian empire has had the opposite effect. The war has diminished his ability to strong-arm Russia’s neighbors. When Azerbaijan fought a border skirmish with Armenia last year, Russia refused to intervene on Armenia’s behalf, even though it is Armenia’s formal ally.
A similar dynamic is at play in Kazakhstan. Had Kyiv capitulated, Putin might have decided to invade Kazakhstan next: the former Soviet republic has a large ethnic Russian population, and Putin has no respect for international borders. A different possibility now looms: if the Kremlin were to undergo regime change, it might free Kazakhstan from Russia’s grasp entirely, allowing the country to serve as a safe haven for Russians in exile. That would be far from the only change in the region. In the South Caucasus and in Moldova, old conflicts could revive and intensify. Ankara could continue to support its partner Azerbaijan against Armenia. Were Turkey to lose its fear of Russian opprobrium, it might urge Azerbaijan to press forward with further attacks on Armenia. In Syria, Turkey would have reason to step up its military presence if Russia were to fall back.
If Russia descended into chaos, Georgia could operate with greater latitude. The shadow of Russia’s military force, which has loomed over the country since the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, would be removed. Georgia could continue its quest to eventually become a member of the European Union, although it was bypassed as a candidate last year because of inner turmoil and a lack of domestic reforms. If the Russian military were to withdraw from the region, conflicts might again break out between Georgia and South Ossetia on the one hand and between Georgia and Abkhazia on the other. That dynamic could also emerge in Moldova and its breakaway region Transnistria, where Russian soldiers have been stationed since 1992. Moldova’s candidacy for European Union membership, announced in June 2022, might be its escape from this long-standing conflict. The European Union would surely be willing to help Moldova with conflict resolution.
Putin’s fall could translate into civil war and Russia’s disintegration.
Leadership changes in Russia would shake Belarus, where the dictator Alexander Lukashenko is propped up by Russian money and military might. Were Putin to fall, Lukashenko would in all likelihood be next. A Belarusian government in exile already exists: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who lives in Lithuania, became the country’s opposition leader in 2020 after her husband was jailed for trying to run against Lukashenko. Free and fair elections could be held, allowing the country to rescue itself from dictatorship, if it managed to insulate itself from Russia. If Belarus could not secure its independence, Russia’s potential internal strife could spill over there, which would in turn affect neighbors such as Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine.
If Russia were to truly disintegrate and lose its influence in Eurasia, other actors, such as China, would move in. Before the war, China mostly exerted economic rather than military influence in the region. That is changing. China is on the advance in Central Asia. The South Caucasus and the Middle East could be its next areas of encroachment.
A defeated and internally destabilized Russia would demand a new paradigm of global order. The reigning liberal international order revolves around the legal management of power. It emphasizes rules and multilateral institutions. The great-power-competition model, a favorite of former U.S. President Donald Trump, was about the balance of power, tacitly or explicitly viewing spheres of influence as the source of international order. If Russia were to suffer a defeat in Ukraine, policymakers would have to take into account the presence and the absence of power, in particular the absence or severe decline of Russian power. A diminished Russia would have an impact on conflicts around the globe, including those in Africa and the Middle East, not to mention in Europe. Yet a reduced or broken Russia would not necessarily usher in a golden age of order and stability.
A defeated Russia would mark a change from the past two decades, when the country was an ascendant power. Throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of this century, Russia haphazardly aspired to integrate into Europe and partner with the United States. Russia joined the G-8 and the World Trade Organization. It assisted with U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan. In the four years when Dmitry Medvedev was Russia’s president, from 2008 to 2012, Russia appeared to be playing along with the rules-based international order, if one did not look too closely behind the curtain.
A Russia amenable to peaceful coexistence with the West may have been an illusion from the beginning. Putin projected a conciliatory air early in his presidency, although he may have harbored hatred of the West, contempt for the rules-based order, and an eagerness to dominate Ukraine all along. In any case, once he retook the presidency in 2012, Russia dropped out of the rules-based order. Putin derided the system as nothing more than camouflage for a domineering United States. Russia violently encroached on Ukraine’s sovereignty by annexing Crimea, reinserted itself in the Middle East by supporting Assad in Syria’s civil war, and erected networks of Russian military and security influence in Africa. An assertive Russia and an ascendant China contributed to a paradigm of great-power competition in Beijing, Moscow, and even a post-Trump Washington.
If Russia were to disintegrate and lose its influence in Eurasia, China would move in.
Despite its acts of aggression and its substantial nuclear arsenal, Russia is in no way a peer competitor of China or the United States. Putin’s overreach in Ukraine suggests that he has not grasped this important point. But because Putin has intervened in regions around the world, a defeat in Ukraine that tore apart Russia would be a resounding shock to the international system.
The defeat could, to be sure, have positive consequences for many countries in Russia’s neighborhood. Look no further than the end of the Cold War, when the demise of the Soviet Union allowed for the emergence of more than a dozen free and prosperous countries in Europe. A Russia turned inward might help foster a “Europe whole and free,” to borrow the phrase used by U.S. President George H. W. Bush to describe American ambitions for the continent after the Cold War ended. At the same time, disarray in Russia could create a vortex of instability: less great-power competition than great-power anarchy, leading to a cascade of regional wars, migrant flows, and economic uncertainty.
Russia’s collapse could also be contagious or the start of a chain reaction, in which case neither the United States nor China would profit because both would struggle to contain the fallout. In that case, the West would need to establish strategic priorities. It would be impossible to try to fill the vacuum that a disorderly Russian defeat might leave. In Central Asia and the South Caucasus, the United States and Europe would have little chance of preventing China and Turkey from moving into the void. Instead of attempting to shut them out, a more realistic U.S. strategy would be to attempt to restrain their influence and offer an alternative, especially to China’s dominance.
Whatever form Russia’s defeat took, stabilizing eastern and southeastern Europe, including the Balkans, would be a herculean task. Across Europe, the West would have to find a creative answer to the questions that were never resolved after 1991: Is Russia a part of Europe? If not, how high should the wall between Russia and Europe be, and around which countries should it run? If Russia is a part of Europe, where and how does it fit in? Where does Europe itself start and end? The incorporation of Finland and Sweden into NATO would be only the beginning of this project. Belarus and Ukraine demonstrate the difficulties of protecting Europe’s eastern flank: those countries are the last place where Russia would give up on its great-power aspirations. And even a ruined Russia would not lose all its nuclear and conventional military capacity.
Twice in the last 106 years—in 1917 and in 1991—versions of Russia have broken apart. Twice, versions of Russia have reconstituted themselves. If Russian power recedes, the West should capitalize on that opportunity to shape an environment in Europe that serves to protect NATO members, allies, and partners. A Russian defeat would furnish many opportunities and many temptations. One of these temptations would be to expect that a defeated Russia would essentially disappear from Europe. But a defeated Russia will one day reassert itself and pursue its interests on its terms. The West should be politically and intellectually equipped both for Russia’s defeat and for Russia’s return.
MICHAEL KIMMAGE is Professor of History at the Catholic University of America and a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. From 2014 to 2016, he served on the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State.
Christine Granville, ripped from her country by the Nazis, an avenging angel–weighed down by medals and honors after WWII, but unable to adapt to a postwar world. 3 videos:https://vimeo.com/78836231 and a summary of her career below–
The most incredible spy of the war was a woman called Krystyna Skarbek. She was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s female spy, Vesper Lynd. However, Skarbek’s exploits were even more incredible than any Bond story.
An aristocratic Pole with a Jewish mother, she later took on the name Christine Granville. As well as being a beauty queen, Skarbek was a champion skier. She used her prowess in skiing to cross the snow covered Tatra mountains with information for the Allies from the Polish underground about the Nazis. She was credited with passing on the first piece of intelligence about the impending German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Skarbek was cool and calm under pressure. On one occasion when her false papers were discovered by the Germans at a checkpoint, she broke the thread connecting her glass necklace together. As the glass pieces fell to the floor, she cried out ‘my diamonds, my diamonds!’ While the guards dived for the fake jewellery she and her partner quickly ran for the trees and escaped.
On another occasion she was arrested and imprisoned by the Germans. She bit her tongue so hard that it bled and then started to cough up the blood. The guards, terrified of catching TB, transferred her to the infirmary where again she escaped. She eventually made her way to Britain via the Middle East. As a fluent French speaker she was quickly recruited by Special operations Executive (SOE), the secret organisation tasked by Churchill with ‘setting occupied Europe ablaze’ .
She became the first woman to win her parachute wings and was dropped into France to join the Jockey network to work with another British SOE agent, Francis Cammaerts.
I met Francis Cammaerts. He was the Principal of the College I attended and was a brilliant man. He began the war as a pacifist but had a change of heart when his RAF pilot brother was shot down and killed. While in France, Cammaerts and Skarbek became lovers. They both took part in the ill-fated attempt by the Maquis, a French resistance group, to liberate the whole of the Vercor Plateau. The uprising was crushed when German paratroopers landed on the Massif and the Maquis were decimated. Fortunately both Skarbek and Cammaerts managed to break out of the encirclement and got away.
However by August 1944 Cammaerts’ luck ran out. He was arrested by the Gestapo at a checkpoint when they discovered the money he was carrying all had consecutive serial numbers.
Skarbek was distraught. She first tried to persuade the British to launch an air attack on Gestapo headquarters. She then tried to talk the French Maquis into launching a ground assault on the building. Neither would come to her aid. However Skarbek was a force to be reckoned with. Taking matters into her own hands she just walked into Gestapo headquarters armed only with a suitcase stuffed full of cash and claimed to be General Montgomery’s niece. Using her infinite charm she offered even more money and the written guarantee of a pardon for any war crimes committed if Cammaerts was freed.
Amazingly her bravado and nerve paid off and Cammaerts was released.
There is much more to this story, so I won’t spoil it all by telling you how it ends. Much of what I have written here comes from Clare Mulley’s brilliant biography of Skarbek called “The Spy who Loved”. The story of the Gestapo headquarters I heard directly from Francis Cammaerts.
Jailed municipal deputy Alexei Gorinov holds placard “I’m against war” in a courthouse in Moscow.
The Meshchansky District Court of Moscow sentenced Alexei Gorinov, a municipal deputy of the Krasnoselsky District, to 7 years in penal colony. He is also deprived of the right to hold positions in state bodies and local governments.
Mr. Gorinov was found guilty of disseminating deliberately false information about the actions of the Russian armed forces.
The reason for starting the criminal prosecution of the deputy was his public speech at a meeting of deputies on March 15, 2022 when he said that the organisation of leisure for Muscovites is unacceptable when “military operations are being conducted on the territory of a neighboring sovereign state.”
Alexei Gorinov’s last words at the trial on July 7, 2022 were about “unlearned lessons of history.” Below is the full text in English:
“I think, or it always seemed to me, that our country’s common past teaches us several important lessons.
My father returned from World War II disabled. As did his brother. They were the lucky ones. His sacred duty was to protect the Fatherland from the enemy.
I also remember Moscow in the 1960s: WW2 veterans without arms, without legs, blind. There were many of those in our home. I grew up among them.
The survivors of that war were tongue-tied with stories about it. As I got older, I understood why. Because war in itself, as a human occupation, no matter what synonym you call it, is the most vile and dirty thing. A matter unworthy of the title of a person who is entrusted by the Universe and evolution with the care of preserving and increasing all life on our planet.
I am convinced of this: war is the fastest means of dehumanization, when the line between good and evil is blurred. War is always violence and blood, torn bodies and severed limbs. It is always death. I don’t accept it and reject it.
Our common past taught me this. And, probably, not only me – in the Criminal Code of Russia there are articles 353 and 354, which provide for severe punishment for the preparation, conduct and propaganda of an aggressive war. And I erroneously believed that Russia exhausted its limit on wars back in the twentieth century.
However, our present condition is Bucha, Irpen, Gostomel… Do the names of these cities tell you anything? Find out what happened there. And don’t say later that you didn’t know anything.
For five months, Russia has been conducting hostilities on the territory of a neighboring state, bashfully calling it ‘special military operation.’
We are promised victory and glory. Why, then, do so many of my fellow citizens feel shame and guilt? Why did many people leave Russia and continue to leave? And why did our country suddenly have so many enemies?
Maybe there is something wrong with us? Let’s think! Give us a chance to at least talk about what’s going on. Let us exchange opinions. This is, after all, our constitutional right!
In fact this is what I did it. At a meeting of the municipal council, I expressed my opinion, my human attitude to that subject. I based this opinion, this attitude, on my convictions. And I was supported by the majority of those present!
And now I’m in court.
It seems, this is another unlearned lesson lesson from our past. Persecution for the spoken and written word, fabricated cases, a speedy trial, a belated insight: ‘How could it be? We didn’t know!’
During the years of Stalinist terror, my grandfather was accused of calling for the overthrow of the Soviet system, in the creation and strengthening of which he participated in the most direct way. Grandfather lived to see see his rehabilitation, after half a century.
I hope my rehabilitation will take much less time.
But for now, I’m here in the courtroom.
My criminal case is one of the first to be heard, but hundreds of such criminal cases have been initiated in Russia against my fellow citizens who think and speak out about what is happening. You destroy families. You break the young people’s lives.
And being here first, I speak for all of them who have not yet been brought to justice.
Several phrases I uttered at an everyday meeting of the Council of Deputies were examined under a microscope.
An investigative group of nine investigators has been formed, six of which are of ‘particularly important cases.’ The five experts are linguists and psychologists. They delved into my thoughts, trying to understand: what is really behind the opinion expressed by me to my fellow deputies on one of the issues on the agenda of the meeting. What was my secret meaning and hidden message? What is really behind these phrases of mine? They have compiled 120 pages of examinations.
Meanwhile, Article 29 of the Russian Constitution guarantees everyone the freedom of thought and speech – if we are not talking about the propaganda of hatred, enmity, superiority. Everyone has the right to freely seek, receive, transmit, produce and distribute information in any lawful manner. Freedom of the media is guaranteed. Censorship is prohibited. By Constitution.
In the days of the August putsch in 1991, I was also a councillor.
Together with other defenders, I was at the building of the Supreme Council of the Republic, the “White House”. We protected our future. Our right to live freely – which means to speak freely, to express our thoughts, to collect information and share it.
If they had said then that in thirty years I would be tried by a criminal court for my words, for my opinion, I would not have believed it.
The reasons for such a sad outcome, to which our society has succumbed, will require careful study and reflection by historians. They will require not only reflection, but also conclusions. It won’t be easy, but we will have to accept that war is war. We must rehabilitate the victims and try the perpetrators. We must restore the good name of our people, our country.
In the meantime, I wish our government prudence.
Wisdom to judges.
To all who are subjected to a new wave of repression: steadfastness, as well as to the Ukrainian people.
To myself, to become in the future Russian ambassador to Ukraine.
To everyone who supported me directly or at a distance, do not lose heart! I’m with you!”
Russia is said to have built a new 100-megaton underwater nuclear doomsday device, and it has threatened the US with it.
The device goes beyond traditional ideas of nuclear warfighting and poses a direct threat to the future of humanity or life on Earth.
Nobody has ever built a weapon like this before, because there’s almost no military utility in so badly destroying the world.
But an expert on nuclear strategy told Business Insider the weapon might have a larger role in helping Russian President Vladimir Putin break down NATO with the threat of nuclear destruction.
Since 2015, when images of a Russian nuclear torpedo first leaked on state television, the world has asked itself why Moscow would build a weapon that could end all life on Earth.
While all nuclear weapons can kill thousands in the blink of an eye and leave radiation poisoning the environment for years to come, Russia’s new doomsday device, called “Poseidon,” takes steps to maximize this effect.
If the US fired one of its Minutemen III nuclear weapons at a target, it would detonate in the air above the target and rely on the blast’s incredible downward pressure to crush it. The fireball from the nuke may not even touch the ground, and the only radiation would come from the bomb itself and any dust particles swept up in the explosion, Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit,” previously told Business Insider.
But Russia’s Poseidon is said to use a warhead many times as strong, perhaps even as strong as the largest bomb ever detonated. Additionally, it’s designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea and render it uninhabitable for decades.
In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.
Even in the mania at the height of the Cold War, nobody took seriously the idea of building such a world-ender, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider.
So why build one now?
Davis called the Poseidon a “third-strike vengeance weapon” — meaning Russia would attack a NATO member, the US would respond, and a devastated Russia would flip the switch on a hidden nuke that would lay waste to an entire US seaboard.
According to Davis, the Poseidon would give Russia a “coercive power” to discourage a NATO response to a Russian first strike.
Russia here would seek to not only reoccupy Eastern Europe “but coerce NATO to not act upon an Article 5 declaration and thus lose credibility,” he said, referring to the alliance’s key clause that guarantees a collective response to an attack on a member state.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it clear he seeks the collapse of NATO,” Davis continued. “If NATO doesn’t come to the aid of a member state, it’s pretty much finished as a defense alliance.”
Essentially, Russia could use the Poseidon as an insurance policy while it picks apart NATO. The US, for fear that its coastlines could become irradiated for decades by a stealthy underwater torpedo it has no defenses against, might seriously question how badly it needs to save Estonia from Moscow’s clutches.
“Putin may calculate that NATO will blink first rather than risk escalation to a nuclear exchange,” Davis said. “Poseidon accentuates the risks to NATO in responding to any Russian threat greatly, dramatically increasing Russia’s coercive power.”
Davis also suggested the Poseidon would make a capable but heavy-handed naval weapon, which he said could most likely take out an entire carrier strike group in one shot.
But Russia has frequently engaged in nuclear saber-rattling when it feels encircled by NATO forces, and so far it has steered clear of confronting NATO with kinetic forces.
“Whether that will involve actual use or just the threat of use is the uncertainty,” Davis said.
While it’s hard to imagine a good reason for laying the kind of destruction the Poseidon promises, Davis warned that we shouldn’t assume the Russians think about nuclear warfare the same way the US does.
A still from “The Mongol,” 2007Sergey Bodrov Sn./STV production, 2007
It is wrong to think that Mongol-Tatars invaded Russia as a single state, because the state actually formed as a response to the invasion, to resist and overthrow it. It was Peter the Great who formally ended Russia’s tributes to the Khans.
Knyaz’ Yaroslav II of Vladimir was poisoned by Güyük Khan’s wife. At the age of 67, Knyaz’ Mikhail of Chernigov was executed in the capital of the Golden Horde (Mongol khaganate) for refusing to worship Mongol idols. Knyaz’ Mikhail of Tver had his heart ripped out in the same capital, the chronicle says. The Russian population was forced to pay substantial tributes, and Russian princes were only allowed to rule their duchies by the permission of the Khan of the Golden Horde. That’s how it was under the Mongol rule, or, as we call it in Russia, the Tatar-Mongol Igo (Yoke).
Prince Alexander Nevsky begging Batu Khan for mercy for Russia, End of the 19th century. Found in the collection of Russian State Library, MoscowGetty Images
It’s hard to believe that events such as these were instrumental in the formation of the Russian state. But it was opposition to these actions that united the Russian princes – unfortunately, not with friendship, but under the iron fist of the strongest of them. “Moscow owes its greatness to the Khans,” wrote the great Russian historian Nikolay Karamzin (1766-1826).
At the time of the Mongol invasion of Rus’, the Mongols were advanced both in the military and in the systems of governance. Only unity could help the Russians to overthrow Mongol rule. How did it begin in the first place?
1. What prompted the Mongol Invasion?
Genghis KhanPublic domain
It all started when Genghis Khan (1155-1227), the founder of the Mongol Empire, sent his son Jochi (1182-1227) to conquer the lands of what is now Siberia, Central Russia, and Eastern Europe. Giant armies of Mongol warriors (clearly over 100,000, an enormous number in the 13th century) easily defeated the weak and ill-numbered forces of the Russian princes, who were at war with each other before the invasion.
In 1237, the Mongols, led by Batu Khan, invaded Rus’. They took, ravaged and burned Ryazan’, Kolomna, Moscow, Vladimir, Tver – all the main Russian cities. The invasion continued until 1242 and was a terrible blow for the Russian lands – it took almost 100 years to fully recover from the damage the Mongol army did. Also, the lands and cities of the South – Kiev, Chernigov, Halych were burned to the ground. The North-Eastern lands, most notably Tver, Moscow, Vladimir, and Suzdal became the main cities after the invasion.
However, the Mongols didn’t want to conquer the land fully – they just wanted stable tributes. And they knew how to get what they wanted.
2. How did Mongol rule work?
Batu Khan as seen on a Middle Ages Chinese etchingPublic domain
In 1243, Yaroslav II of Vladimir (1191-1246) was the first Russian prince to receive permission to rule – he was summoned to Batu Khan, swore his allegiance to him and was named the “biggest knyaz’ of all Russians.”
The ceremony of swearing allegiance to Mongols was very similar to the French ceremony of homage, where the liege kneeled on one knee at the feet of his seated sovereign. But in the Horde’s capital Saray, Russian princes were sometimes forced to walk on their knees to the Khan’s throne and overall treated like inferiors. It was this same Yaroslav II, by the way, who received the first jarlik and later was poisoned.
Jarlik (a shout-out, an announcement in the ancient Mongol language) was how Mongols called diplomatic credentials – protective charters they wrote and handed over to the Russian princes and priests. The important part of the Mongols’ policy was that they protected the Russian Orthodox churches, never ravaged them, and kept the clergy safe. For protection, the church was obliged to preach allegiance to the Mongol Tatars to their parishioners.
A typical Mongol jarlik dating back to 1397Лапоть (CC0 1.0)
The tributes were controlled and collected at first by the baskaks, the Mongol taxmen, who lived in Russian cities with their suite and security guards. To collect the tributes, the Mongols performed a census of the population of the subdued duchies. The tributes went to the Mongol Empire, and after 1266, when the Tatar-Mongol state of Golden Horde divided itself from the Mongols, tributes went to the Golden Horde’s capital Saray. Later, after multiple local revolts and following the Russian princes’ pleas, the tribute collection was handed over to the princes themselves. Otherwise, the Russians were left to live their life.
3. How did the Russians USE the Mongols to their benefit?
“The Baskaks”Sergey Ivanov
There was never any constant military presence of the Mongols, but if the Russians revolted against their rule, they could send armies. However, the cunning and politically sophisticated Mongol khans manipulated Russians, incited hatred and wars among them to better control the weak, divided states. Soon, the princes learned this tactic and started applying it against the Mongols.
For a century, there were innumerable military campaigns between Mongols and Russians. In 1328, Tver duchy revolted against the Mongols, killing the Uzbek Khan’s cousin. Tver was burned and destroyed by the Horde, and Moscow and Suzdal princes helped the Mongols. Why? How could they?
In a war between the duchies, the Moscow princes understood that somebody has to take the lead against the Mongols by subduing others to his rule. After Tver’s demise, Ivan I “Kalita” of Moscow became the first prince to collect the tributes from the Russian lands instead of the baskaks – that’s what he got for helping the Mongols to murder his compatriots – and at the same time, his enemies. However, this helped bring the famous “40-year peace” when Mongols didn’t attack the lands of Moscow (but ravaged other duchies). Meanwhile, Moscow used the defeats of other princes for their own means.
The sacking of Suzdal by Batu Khan in February 1238. Mongol Invasion of Russia. A miniature from the sixteenth-century chroniclePublic domain
Russians also quickly learned from the Mongols to use written contracts, sign acts, enact laws; Russians used the system of yams – road stations, employed first by Genghis Khan for multiple purposes: shelter for travelers, places to hold spare horses for army messengers, and so on. This system was installed in the Russian lands by the Mongols for their purposes but eventually started being used by Russians for their own good – to connect their lands.
4. How did the Mongol rule end?
The Tver uprising of 1328 as seen in a Russian chronicle of the 16th centuryPublic domain
What Moscow princes learned from the ruthless Mongols was that you either kill your enemy or disable him so he can’t take revenge. Simultaneously with the strengthening of Moscow princes, the Golden Horde fell into a political crisis. In 1378, Dmitry of Moscow, known as Donskoy (1350-1389) for the first time in a long while, crushed one of the Horde’s armies.
In 1380, Dmitry Donskoy, who had earlier stopped paying tributes to the Horde, defeated the 60,000-110,000-strong army of Khan Mamay in the Battle of Kulikovo, a great moment of high spirits for all the Russian lands. However, in 1382, Moscow was burned by Tokhtamysh, a Khan of another part of the dismantled Horde.
For the next hundred years or so, Russian lands on and off paid tributes to different Khans of the Horde, but in 1472, Ivan the Great of Moscow (1440-1505) refused again to pay tributes to the Tatar Mongols. This time, the Great Duchy of Moscow was really great. Ivan and his father Vasily II the Blind had collected lands and princes and subdued them to Moscow.
Ahmed bin Küchük, Khan of the Golden Horde, tried to wage war against Ivan, but after the famous standoff at the Ugra river in 1480, he returned home. This battle marked the end of the Mongol rule and control – but not the tributes. Russia continued sending money and valuable goods to different parts of the Horde just to make peace with militant Tatars. This was called “pominki” (appr. ‘memorables’) in Russian.
Dmitry Donskoy, an image from a Russian chroniclePublic domain
Russia paid pominki to different former Horde dynasties until 1685. Formally, the tributes were banned by Peter the Great only in 1700, according to the Treaty of Constantinople between the Russian Tsardom and the Ottoman Empire. The Khan of Crimea, one of the last of the Khans at the time, and the Ottoman Empire’s vassal, was also the last to whom Russia paid. The treaty said:
“…Because the State of Moscow is autonomous and free – the tribute that annually was given to the Crimean Khans until now, henceforward shall not be given from His Holy Greatness of the Tsar of Moscow, nor from his descendants…”
It is very symbolic that Peter, the last great tsar of Moscow and the future first Emperor of Russia, signed this treaty in 1700, the first year that began in Russia not from the 1st of September, like in ancient Russia, but from January 1st – just like in Europe.
Interesting, but after applying Occam’s Razor (the simplest explanation is very probably the correct one) I’m inclined to stick wth my OWN theory, that Russia and many of its people are as they are thanks to conquest by the Mongols. The Mongol invaders treated their enemies with abolutely no mercy, and the penalty for defiance was extermination. The wisest course of action when it even LOOKED like you might be attacked was…. Immediate surrender. And the Mongols, curously, didn’t even bother to leave behind a garrison in their conquests, which remained free to administer themselves. BUT, as a conquered posession, the man task of that admniistration was to gather “tribute” to send to the Khanate. Fail to deliver, and… they’d be back – and you would be dead. So would your family, your friends, your neighbours, your livestock and your pets… So you DIDN’T provoke them. And faced with collective punishment, you didn’t allow anyone else to do so. And the level of “tribute” demanded left the starving people in absolute poverty. Not very different from being a prisoner in Auschwitz. Except Russia’s experience of being prisoners in their OWN COUNTRY lasted for generations. No surprise that it influenced the culture at a VERY basic level. And what makes that “character change” plausible is what happened when the Mongol Empire imploded… Which is basically… NOTHING. Generations of children who had been carefully taught by their parents how to avoid getting the whole family killed had in turn taught THEIR children, who taught their children lessons on how to behave in a totally warped reality. It had become their “Normal”.And the laws that they passed in their newly freed country reflected that. “Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing, and your parents did, and their parents and grandparents…” The rationale for the behaviour was lost. You no longer behaved like that BECAUSE “otherwise the Mongols will come back and kill us all”, but because NOW it had just become the NORMAL way to behave. And for things to become as warped a THAT takes many generations.. ALL of the peculiarities listed above are explained by that MUCH simpler cause. When a tiger, or a lion is kept in caged captivity or long enough, pacing the limits of their cage… when the physical bars are taken away, the tiger may continue to pace the limits of a cage that exist only in its mind. Same basic idea. A Russian named Trofim Lysenko managed to convince the leaders (under Stalin) that it is possible, through controling the environment, to bring about permanent genetic changes. Complete BS of course.That’s NOT how genetics works!!
The Grand Mosque of Paris was built between 1922 and 1926 to symbolize the eternal friendship between France and Islam. It was also meant to express gratitude to the half-million Muslims of the French Empire’s North African colonies who had fought against the Germans in World War I. A hundred thousand Muslims died for France; without their sacrifice, it is said, the victory of Verdun would not have happened. The Mosque was particularly meant to honor the fallen Muslim tirailleurs (sharpshooters) from Algeria.
Si Kaddour Benghabrit. Image is in the public domain via
After the war many Algerians relocated to France, working in factories and on construction jobs mostly, sending money home to their families. Known as Kabyles—Berbers from Kabylia, the treacherous Atlas Mountains and impoverished villages of Algeria that Albert Camus wrote about — the Kabyles became the dominant Muslim population in Paris. Many lived in slum housing in Belleville in northeastern Paris, forming bonds with their other immigrant neighbors and coworkers: Chinese and Vietnamese, Tunisians, Moroccans, Jews from North Africa, Russia, eastern Europe.
When the Nazis invaded in 1940 and began rounding up Jews for deportation, many Kabyles joined the French Resistance. (It is also true that like Christians, many Arabs in North Africa and Paris collaborated with the anti-Semitic Vichy and German authorities.)
Benghabrit saves Jews from the Gestapo
The successes of the Kabyle Resistance were intimately connected with the clandestine antifascist operations in daily progress in the cellars of the Grand Mosque where the Kabyles worshipped. Thanks to the heroism of the Mosque’s rector, Si Kaddour Benghabrit (1868–1954), the Kabyles were free to bring their Jewish friends and coworkers to the Mosque for safe haven.
The first prayer offered at the Paris Mosque in 1926, in the presence of the president of France, was given by this rector who was also the Mosque’s founder. Benghabrit, born in Algeria, a cultured diplomat in Paris and North Africa who wrote books, enjoyed Parisian salon culture, and loved music became the most important Muslim in Paris and the most influential Arab in Europe. Benghabrit has now become a figure of historical interest and some acclaim because of his actions during the Holocaust.
When the Nazis and the Vichy government began arresting and deporting the Jews of Paris, Benghabrit committed himself and his congregation to making the Grand Mosque a sanctuary for endangered Jews. He devised a threefold rescue operation: first, he offered European and Algerian Jews shelter in the same apartments inhabited by Muslim families; second, he gave them fake identity certificates, to prove they were Muslims, not Jews; finally, he initiated the use of the cellars and tunnels beneath the Mosque as escape routes.
The Jews-in-hiding crawled and dug their way through the sewers and tunnels (souterrains) under the Mosque to the banks of the Seine where empty wine barges and boats operated by Kabyles were waiting to smuggle them out of Occupied Paris. Benghabrit was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo a number of times as rumors of the Mosque’s resistance inevitably got out. A higher German command, however, ordered him released each time: The Germans could not risk Algerian riots in North Africa or Paris if the Reich was to hold North Africa against the allies. It was important that the Muslims on both fronts stayed submissive.
Salim Halali, a Berber Jew from Algeria, popular singer of North African songs and friend of Benghabrit, sought and found safety in the Mosque. The rector not only made him a Certificate of Conversion to show—falsely—that Salim’s grandfather had converted to Islam; he also had an unmarked tombstone in the Muslim cemetery in Bobigny inscribed with the family name of Halali’s grandfather.
After the Nazis checked it out, they left Halali alone. He lived out the war in the Mosque, passing as a Muslim when the Nazis, responding to rumors of a Mosque underground, barged in regularly on a search-and- deport mission. (Benghabrit had a warning bell hidden in the floor under his desk that alerted everyone of another Nazi raid in progress.) After the Liberation, Halali went on to become the most popular “oriental” singer in Europe. He and Benghabrit remained good friends.
Albert Assouline, a North African Jew who with a Muslim friend escaped from a POW camp in Germany, surfaced in Paris without identity papers. The Mosque welcomed him and his friend. While hiding out in the basement, Assouline saw many other Jews in hiding: the children lived in the upstairs apartments with Muslim families, the adults in the basement. Because North African Jews and Muslims looked alike, had similar surnames, were circumcised, and spoke Arabic, the Jews, with their fake Muslim identity certificates, were able to pass as Muslim when the Gestapo came searching for evidence of a Jewish sanctuary movement. After the war, Assouline gave testimony that he witnessed 1,600 Jews passing through the basements and sub-basements of the Mosque and descending into the dark labyrinthine tunnels, eventually making it out onto the boats waiting at the Halles aux Vins on the Seine to carry them to safety in the Maghreb and Spain. In addition to Jewish refugees, the Kabyle boatmen also carried messages between the French Resistance in Paris and the Free French Army in Algeria.
The Grand Mosque of Paris: Place du Puits de l’Ermite. Image is taken from the book The Streets of Paris
Some sources dispute Assouline’s estimate, claiming that at most five hundred Jews were given a home and then safe passage by Benghabrit and the Mosque. One Israeli scholar dismisses the story as exaggerated from start to finish. There is not much data available to provide the actual numbers of Jews rescued by the Mosque. But what there is—old newspapers, scholarly research,* and personal testimonies from Jews who after the war told of hiding for its duration in the Mosque’s basements—supports the details of this hidden history.
Benghabrit was given the Grand Croix de la Légion d’Honneur after the war. But Eva Wiesel has noted in The New York Times that getting Yad Vashem in Israel to grant the honorific of “Righteous Among Nations” to a Muslim, even the Oskar Schindler–like Benghabrit, is and will remain very difficult. This heroic unsung leader of the Paris Mosque Resistance died in 1954 in the early stages of the war of Algerian independence.
He is buried in the Mosque, facing in the direction of Mecca, as are all Muslims.
SUSAN CAHILL has published several travel books on France, Italy, and Ireland, including Hidden Gardens of Paris and The Streets of Paris. She is the editor of the bestselling Women and Fiction series and author of the novel Earth Angels. She spends a few months in Paris every year.
The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine is a reckoning that has been 30 years in the making. It is about much more than Ukraine and its possible NATO membership. It is about the future of the European order crafted after the Soviet Union’s collapse. During the 1990s, the United States and its allies designed a Euro-Atlantic security architecture in which Russia had no clear commitment or stake, and since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia has been challenging that system. Putin has routinely complained that the global order ignores Russia’s security concerns, and he has demanded that the West recognize Moscow’s right to a sphere of privileged interests in the post-Soviet space. He has staged incursions into neighboring states, such as Georgia, that have moved out of Russia’s orbit in order to prevent them from fully reorienting.
Putin has now taken this approach one step further. He is threatening a far more comprehensive invasion of Ukraine than the annexation of Crimea and the intervention in the Donbas that Russia carried out in 2014, an invasion that would undermine the current order and potentially reassert Russia’s preeminence in what he insists is its “rightful” place on the European continent and in world affairs. He sees this as a good time to act. In his view, the United States is weak, divided, and less able to pursue a coherent foreign policy. His decades in office have made him more cynical about the United States’ staying power. Putin is now dealing with his fifth U.S. president, and he has come to see Washington as an unreliable interlocutor. The new German government is still finding its political feet, Europe on the whole is focused on its domestic challenges, and the tight energy market gives Russia more leverage over the continent. The Kremlin believes that it can bank on Beijing’s support, just as China supported Russia after the West tried to isolate it in 2014.
Putin may still decide not to invade. But whether he does or not, the Russian president’s behavior is being driven by an interlocking set of foreign policy principles that suggest Moscow will be disruptive in the years to come. Call it “the Putin doctrine.” The core element of this doctrine is getting the West to treat Russia as if it were the Soviet Union, a power to be respected and feared, with special rights in its neighborhood and a voice in every serious international matter. The doctrine holds that only a few states should have this kind of authority, along with complete sovereignty, and that others must bow to their wishes. It entails defending incumbent authoritarian regimes and undermining democracies. And the doctrine is tied together by Putin’s overarching aim: reversing the consequences of the Soviet collapse, splitting the transatlantic alliance, and renegotiating the geographic settlement that ended the Cold War.
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BLAST FROM THE PAST
Russia, according to Putin, has an absolute right to a seat at the table on all major international decisions. The West should recognize that Russia belongs to the global board of directors. After what Putin portrays as the humiliation of the 1990s, when a greatly weakened Russia was forced to accede to an agenda set by the United States and its European allies, he has largely achieved this goal. Even though Moscow was ejected from the G-8 after its annexation of Crimea, its veto on the United Nations Security Council and role as an energy, nuclear, and geographic superpower ensure that the rest of the world must take its views into account. Russia successfully rebuilt its military after the 2008 war with Georgia, and it is now the preeminent regional military power, with the capability to project power globally. Moscow’s ability to threaten its neighbors enables it to force the West to the negotiating table, as has been so evident in the past few weeks.
As far as Putin is concerned, the use of force is perfectly appropriate if Russia believes that its security is threatened: Russia’s interests are as legitimate as those of the West, and Putin asserts that the United States and Europe have been disregarding them. For the most part, the United States and Europe have rejected the Kremlin’s narrative of grievance, which centers most notably on the breakup of the Soviet Union and especially the separation of Ukraine from Russia. When Putin described the Soviet collapse as a “great geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century,” he was lamenting the fact that 25 million Russians found themselves outside of Russia, and he particularly criticized the fact that 12 million Russians found themselves in the new Ukrainian state. As he wrote in a 5,000-word treatise published last summer and titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” in 1991, “people found themselves abroad overnight, taken away, this time indeed, from their historical motherland.” His essay has recently been distributed to Russian troops.
In an essay last year, Putin wrote that Ukraine was being turned into “a springboard against Russia.”
This narrative of loss to the West is tied in to a particular obsession of Putin’s: the idea that NATO, not content to merely admit or aid post-Soviet states, might threaten Russia itself. The Kremlin insists that this preoccupation is based on real concerns. Russia, after all, has been repeatedly invaded from the West. In the twentieth century, it was invaded by anti-Bolshevik allied forces, including some from the United States, during its civil war from 1917 to 1922. Germany invaded twice, leading to the loss of 26 million Soviet citizens in World War II. Putin has explicitly linked this history to Russia’s current concerns about NATO infrastructure nearing Russia’s borders and Moscow’s resulting demands for security guarantees.
Today, however, Russia is a nuclear superpower brandishing new, hypersonic missiles. No country—least of all its smaller, weaker neighbors—has any intention of invading Russia. Indeed, the country’s neighbors to its west have a different narrative and stress their vulnerability over the centuries to invasion from Russia. The United States would also never attack, although Putin has accused it of seeking to “cut a juicy piece of our pie.” Nevertheless, the historical self-perception of Russia’s vulnerability resonates with the country’s population. Government-controlled media are filled with claims that Ukraine could be a launching pad for NATO aggression. Indeed, in his essay last year, Putin wrote that Ukraine was being turned into “a springboard against Russia.”
Putin also believes that Russia has an absolute right to a sphere of privileged interests in the post-Soviet space. This means its former Soviet neighbors should not join any alliances that are deemed hostile to Moscow, particularly NATO or the European Union. Putin has made this demand clear in the two treaties proposed by the Kremlin on December 17, which require that Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries—as well as Sweden and Finland—commit to permanent neutrality and eschew seeking NATO membership. NATO would also have to retreat to its 1997 military posture, before its first enlargement, by removing all troops and equipment in central and eastern Europe. (This would reduce NATO’s military presence to what it was when the Soviet Union disintegrated.) Russia would also have veto power over the foreign policy choices of its non-NATO neighbors. This would ensure that pro-Russian governments are in power in countries bordering Russia—including, foremost, Ukraine.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
So far, no Western government has been prepared to accept these extraordinary demands. The United States and Europe widely embrace the premise that nations are free to determine both their domestic systems and their foreign policy affiliations. From 1945 to 1989, the Soviet Union denied self-determination to central and eastern Europe and exercised control over both the domestic and foreign policies of Warsaw Pact members through local communist parties, the secret police, and the Red Army. When a country strayed too far from the Soviet model—Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968—its leaders were ousted by force. The Warsaw Pact was an alliance that had a unique track record: it invaded only its own members.
The modern Kremlin’s interpretation of sovereignty has notable parallels to that of the Soviet Union. It holds, to paraphrase George Orwell, that some states are more sovereign than others. Putin has said that only a few great powers—Russia, China, India, and the United States—enjoy absolute sovereignty, free to choose which alliances they join or reject. Smaller countries such as Ukraine or Georgia are not fully sovereign and must respect Russia’s strictures, just as Central America and South America, according to Putin, must heed their large northern neighbor. Russia also does not seek allies in the Western sense of the word but instead looks for mutually beneficial instrumental and transactional partnerships with countries, such as China, that do not restrict Russia’s freedom to act or pass judgment on its internal politics.
Such authoritarian partnerships are an element of the Putin doctrine. The president presents Russia as a supporter of the status quo, an advocate of conservative values, and an international player that respects established leaders, especially autocrats. As recent events in Belarus and Kazakhstan have shown, Russia is the go-to power to support embattled authoritarian rulers. It has defended autocrats both in its neighborhood and far beyond—including in Cuba, Libya, Syria, and Venezuela. The West, according to the Kremlin, instead supports chaos and regime change, as happened during the 2003 Iraq war and the Arab Spring in 2011.
The Warsaw Pact was an alliance that had a unique track record: it invaded only its own members.
But in its own “sphere of privileged interests,” Russia can act as a revisionist power when it considers its interests threatened or when it wants to advance its interests, as the annexation of Crimea and the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine demonstrated. Russia’s drive to be acknowledged as a leader and backer of strongmen regimes has been increasingly successful in recent years as Kremlin-backed mercenary groups have acted on behalf of Russia in many parts of the world, as is the case in Ukraine.
Moscow’s revisionist interference also isn’t limited to what it considers its privileged domain. Putin believes Russia’s interests are best served by a fractured transatlantic alliance. Accordingly, he has supported anti-American and Euroskeptic groups in Europe; backed populist movements of the left and right on both sides of the Atlantic; engaged in election interference; and generally worked to exacerbate discord within Western societies. One of his major goals is to get the United States to withdraw from Europe. U.S. President Donald Trump was contemptuous of the NATO alliance and dismissive of some of the United States’ key European allies—notably then German Chancellor Angela Merkel—and spoke openly of pulling the United States out of the organization. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has assiduously sought to repair the alliance, and indeed Putin’s manufactured crisis over Ukraine has reinforced alliance unity. But there is enough doubt within Europe about the durability of U.S. commitment after 2024 that Russia has found some success reinforcing skepticism, particularly through social media.
Weakening the transatlantic alliance could pave the way for Putin to realize his ultimate aim: jettisoning the post–Cold War, liberal, rules-based international order promoted by Europe, Japan, and the United States in favor of one more amenable to Russia. For Moscow, this new system might resemble the nineteenth-century concert of powers. It could also turn into a new incarnation of the Yalta system, where Russia, the United States, and now China divide the world into tripolar spheres of influence. Moscow’s growing rapprochement with Beijing has indeed reinforced Russia’s call for a post-West order. Both Russia and China demand a new system in which they exercise more influence in a multipolar world.
The nineteenth- and twentieth-century systems both recognized certain rules of the game. After all, during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union mostly respected each other’s spheres of influence. The two most dangerous crises of that era—Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1958 Berlin ultimatum and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis—were defused before military conflict broke out. But if the present is any indication, it looks as if Putin’s post-West “order” would be a disordered Hobbesian world with few rules of the game. In pursuit of his new system, Putin’s modus operandi is to keep the West off balance, guessing about his true intentions, and then surprising it when he acts.
THE RUSSIAN RESET
Given Putin’s ultimate goal, and given his belief that now is the time to force the West to respond to his ultimatums, can Russia be deterred from launching another military incursion into Ukraine? No one knows what Putin will ultimately decide. But his conviction that the West has ignored what he deems Russia’s legitimate interests for three decades continues to drive his actions. He is determined to reassert Russia’s right to limit the sovereign choices of its neighbors and its former Warsaw Pact allies and to force the West to accept these limits—be that by diplomacy or military force.
That doesn’t mean the West is powerless. The United States should continue to pursue diplomacy with Russia and seek to craft a modus vivendi that is acceptable to both sides without compromising the sovereignty of its allies and partners. At the same time, it should keep coordinating with the Europeans to respond and impose costs on Russia. But it is clear that even if Europe avoids war, there is no going back to the situation as it was before Russia began massing its troops in March 2021. The ultimate result of this crisis could be the third reorganization of Euro-Atlantic security since the late 1940s. The first came with the consolidation of the Yalta system into two rival blocs in Europe after World War II. The second emerged from 1989 to 1991, with the collapse of the communist bloc and then the Soviet Union itself, followed by the West’s subsequent drive to create a Europe “whole and free.” Putin now directly challenges that order with his moves against Ukraine.
As the United States and its allies await Russia’s next move and try to deter an invasion with diplomacy and the threat of heavy sanctions, they need to understand Putin’s motives and what they portend. The current crisis is ultimately about Russia redrawing the post–Cold War map and seeking to reassert its influence over half of Europe, based on the claim that it is guaranteeing its own security. It may be possible to avert a military conflict this time. But as long as Putin remains in power, so will his doctrine.
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(Note from Kilroy–contrary to the title of the book quoted, I have fond memories of my teachers, who worked for little and were themselves enslaved by the edicts of the state board of education–in my case the State of Missouri–which selected the textbooks used in all schools in the state which, as the following points out, were permeated by myths and mis-information typical of the age)
Hero-making, Christopher Columbus
excerpted from the book
Lies My Teacher Told Me
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
by James W. Loewen
Touchstone Books, 1995, paper
p18 James Baldwin What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors.
p18 W E B Du Bois [American] history … paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.
p20 Teachers have held up Helen Keller, the blind and deaf girl who overcame her physical handicaps, as an inspiration to generations of schoolchildren. Every fifth-grader knows the scene in which Anne Sullivan spells water into young Helen’s hand at the pump. At least a dozen movies and filmstrips have been made on Keller’s life. Each yields its version of the same cliché. A McGraw-Hill educational film concludes: “The gift of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to the world is to constantly remind us of the wonder of the world around us and how much we owe those who taught us what it means, for there is no person that is unworthy or incapable of being helped, and the greatest service any person can make us is to help another reach true potential.”
To draw such a bland maxim from the life of Helen Keller, historians and filmmakers have disregarded her actual biography and left out the lessons she specifically asked us to learn from it. Keller, who struggled so valiantly to learn to speak, has been made mute by history. The result
… Keller, who was born in 1880, graduated from Radcliffe in 1904 and died in 1968. To ignore the sixty-four years of her adult life or to encapsulate them with the single word humanitarian is to lie by omission.
The truth is that Helen Keller was a radical socialist. She joined the Socialist party of Massachusetts in 1909. She had become a social radical even before she graduated from Radcliffe, and not, she emphasized, because of any teachings available there. After the Russian Revolution, she sang the praises of the new communist nation: “In the East a new star is risen! With pain and anguish the old order has given birth to the new, and behold in the East a man-child is born! Onward, comrades, all together! Onward to the campfires of Russia! Onward to the coming dawn!” ~ Keller hung a red flag over the desk in her study. Gradually she moved to the left of the Socialist party and became a Wobbly, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) the syndicalist union persecuted by Woodrow Wilson.
p22 At the time Keller became a socialist, she was one of the most famous women on the planet. She soon became the most notorious. Her conversion to socialism caused a new storm of publicity-this time outraged. Newspapers that had extolled her courage and intelligence now emphasized her handicap. Columnists charged that she had no independent sensory input and was in thrall to those who fed her information. Typical was the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle> who wrote that Keller’s “mistakes spring out of the manifest limitations of her development.”
Keller recalled having met this editor: “At that time the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him.” She went on, “Oh, ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness which we are trying to prevent.” 8
Keller, who devoted much of her later life to raising funds for the American Foundation for the Blind, never wavered in her belief that our society needed radical change. Having herself fought so hard to speak, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union to fight for the free speech of others. She sent $100 to the NAACP with a letter of support that appeared in its magazine The Crisis-a radical act for a white person from Alabama in the 1920s. She supported Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate, in each of his campaigns for the presidency. She composed essays on the women’s movement, on politics, on economics. Near the end of her life, she wrote to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, leader of the American Communist party, who was then languishing in jail, a victim of the McCarthy era: “Loving birthday greetings, dear Elizabeth Flynn! May the sense of serving mankind bring strength and peace into your brave heart!”
One may not agree with Helen Keller’s positions. Her praise of the USSR now seems naive, embarrassing, to some even treasonous. But she was a radical-a fact few Americans know, because our schooling and our mass media left it out.
p23 Under [President Woodrow] Wilson, the United States intervened in Latin America more often than at any other time in our history. We landed troops in Mexico in 1914, Haiti in 1915, the Dominican Republic in 1916, Mexico again in 1916 (and nine more times before the end of Wilson’s presidency), Cuba in 1917, and Panama in 1918. Throughout his administration Wilson maintained forces in Nicaragua, using them to determine Nicaragua’s president and to force passage of a treaty preferential to the United States.
In 1917 Woodrow Wilson took on a major power when he started sending secret monetary aid to the “White” side of the Russian civil war. In the summer of 1918 he authorized a naval blockade of the Soviet Union and sent expeditionary forces to Murmansk, Archangel, and Vladivostok to help overthrow the Russian Revolution. With the blessing of Britain and France, and in a joint command with Japanese soldiers, American forces penetrated westward from Vladivostok to Lake Baikal, supporting Czech and White Russian forces that had declared an anticommunist government headquartered at Omsk. After briefly maintaining front lines as far west as the Volga, the White Russian forces disintegrated by the end of 1919, and our troops finally left Vladivostok on April 1, 1920.~’
Few Americans who were not alive at the time know anything about our “unknown war with Russia,” to quote the title of Robert Maddox’s book on this fiasco. Not one of the twelve American history textbooks in my sample even mentions it. Russian history textbooks, on the other hand, give the episode considerable coverage. According to Maddox: “The immediate effect of the intervention was to prolong a bloody civil war, thereby costing thousands of additional lives and wreaking enormous destruction on an already battered society. And there were longer-range implications. Bolshevik leaders had clear proof . . . that the Western powers meant to destroy the Soviet government if given the chance.”
This aggression fueled the suspicions that motivated the Soviets during the Cold War, and until its breakup the Soviet Union continued to claim damages for the invasion.
Wilson’s invasions of Latin America are better known than his Russian adventure. Textbooks do cover some of them, and it is fascinating to watch textbook authors attempt to justify these episodes. Any accurate portrayal of the invasions could not possibly show Wilson or the United States in a favorable light. With hindsight we know that Wilson’s interventions in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua set the stage for the dictators Batista, Trujillo, the Duvaliers, and the Somozas, whose legacies still reverberate. Even in the 1910s, most of the invasions were unpopular in this country and provoked a torrent of j criticism abroad.
p25 After U.S. marines invaded [Haiti] country in 1915, they forced the Haitian legislature to select our preferred candidate as president. When Haiti refused to declare war on Germany after the United States did, we dissolved the Haitian legislature. Then the United States supervised a pseudo-referendum to approve a new Haitian constitution, less democratic than the constitution it replaced; the referendum passed by a hilarious 98,225 to 768. As Piero Gleijesus has noted, “It is not that Wilson failed in his earnest efforts to bring democracy to these little countries. He never tried. He intervened to impose hegemony, not democracy.” The United States also attacked Haiti’s proud tradition of individual ownership of small tracts of land, which dated back to the Haitian Revolution, in favor of the establishment of large plantations. American troops forced peasants in shackles to work on road construction crews. In 1919 Haitian citizens rose up and resisted U.S. occupation troops in a guerrilla war that cost more than 3,000 lives, most of them Haitian. Students who read Triumph of the American Nation learn this about Wilson’s intervention in Haiti: “Neither the treaty nor the continued presence of American troops restored order completely. During the next four or five years, nearly 2,000 Haitians were killed in riots and other outbreaks of violence.” This passive construction veils the circumstances about which George Barnett, a U.S. marine general, complained to his commander in Haiti: “Practically indiscriminate killing of natives has gone on for some time.” Barnett termed this violent episode “the most startling thing of its kind that has ever taken place in the Marine Corps.”
During the first two decades of this century, the United States effectively made colonies of Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and several other countries. Wilson’s reaction to the Russian Revolution solidified the alignment of the United States with Europe’s colonial powers. His was the first administration to be obsessed with the specter of communism, abroad and at home. Wilson was blunt about it. In Billings, Montana, stumping the West to seek support for the League of Nations, he warned, “There are apostles of Lenin in our own midst. I can not imagine what it means to be an apostle of Lenin. It means to be an apostle of the night, of chaos, of disorder.” Even after the White Russian alternative collapsed, Wilson refused to extend diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union. He participated in barring Russia from the peace negotiations after World War I and helped oust Bela Kun, the communist leader who had risen to power in Hungary. Wilson’s sentiment for self-determination and democracy never had a chance against his three bedrock “ism”s: colonialism, racism, and anticommunism. A young Ho Chi Minh appealed to Woodrow Wilson at Versailles for self-determination for Vietnam, but Ho had all three strikes against him. Wilson refused to listen, and France retained control of Indochina. It seems that Wilson regarded self-determination as all right for, say, Belgium, but not for the likes of Latin America or Southeast Asia.
At home, Wilson’s racial policies disgraced the office he held. His Republican predecessors had routinely appointed blacks to important offices, including those of port collector for New Orleans and the District of Columbia and register of the treasury. Presidents sometimes appointed African Americans as postmasters, particularly in southern towns with large black populations. African Americans took part in the Republican Party’s national conventions and enjoyed some access to the White House. Woodrow Wilson, for whom many African Americans voted in 1912, changed all that. A southerner, Wilson n had been president of Princeton, the only major northern university that refused to admit blacks. He was an outspoken white supremacist-his wife was even worse-and told “darky” stories in cabinet meetings. His administration submitted a legislative program intended to curtail the civil rights of African Americans, but Congress would not pass it. Unfazed, Wilson used his power as chief executive to segregate the federal government. He appointed southern whites to offices traditionally reserved for blacks. Wilson personally vetoed a clause on racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations. The one occasion on which Wilson met with African American leaders in the White House ended in a fiasco as the president virtually threw the visitors out of his office. Wilson’s legacy was extensive: he effectively closed the Democratic Party to African Americans for another two decades, and parts of the federal government remained segregated into the 1950s and beyond. In 1916 the Colored Advisory Committee of the Republican National Committee issued a statement on Wilson that, though partisan, was accurate: “No sooner had the Democratic Administration come into power than Mr. Wilson and his advisors entered upon a policy to eliminate all colored citizens from representation in the Federal Government.”
p28 Omitting or absolving Wilson’s racism goes beyond concealing a character blemish. It is overtly racist. No black person could ever consider Woodrow Wilson a hero. Textbooks that present him as a hero are written from a white perspective. The cover-up denies all students the chance to learn something important about the interrelationship between the leader and the led. White Americans engaged in a new burst of racial violence during and immediately after Wilson’s presidency. The tone set by the administration was one cause. Another was the release of America’s first epic motion picture.
The filmmaker David W. Griffith quoted Wilson’s two-volume history of the United States, now notorious for its racist view of Reconstruction, in his infamous masterpiece The Clansman, a paean to the Ku Klux Klan for its role in putting down “black-dominated” Republican state governments during Reconstruction. Griffith based the movie on a book by Wilson’s former classmate, Thomas Dixon, whose obsession with race was “unrivaled until Mein Kampf” At a private White House showing, Wilson saw the movie, now retitled Birth of a Nation, and returned Griffith’s compliment: “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so true.” Griffith would go on to use this quotation in successfully defending his film against NAACP charges that it was racially inflammatory.
This landmark of American cinema was not only the best technical production of its time but also probably the most racist major movie of all time. Dixon intended “to revolutionize northern sentiment by a presentation of history that would transform every man in my audience into a good Democrat! . . . And make no mistake about it-we are doing just that. Dixon did not overstate by much. Spurred by Birth of a Nation, William Simmons of Georgia reestablished the Ku Klux Klan. The racism seeping down from the White House encouraged this Klan, distinguishing it from its Reconstruction predecessor, which President Grant had succeeded in virtually eliminating in one state (South Carolina) and discouraging nationally for a time. The new KKK quickly became a national phenomenon. It grew to dominate the Democratic Party in many southern states, as well as in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Oregon. During Wilson’s second term, a wave of antiblack race riots swept the country. Whites Iynched blacks as far north as Duluth.
p29 Wilson displayed little regard for the rights of anyone whose opinions differed from his own. But textbooks take pains to insulate him from wrongdoing. “Congress,” not Wilson, is credited with having passed the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of the following year, probably the most serious attacks on the civil liberties of Americans since the short-lived Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. In fact, Wilson tried to strengthen the Espionage Act with a provision giving broad censorship powers directly to the president. Moreover, with Wilson’s approval, his postmaster general used his new censorship powers to suppress all mail that was socialist, anti-British, pro-Irish, or that in any other way might, in his view, have threatened the war effort. Robert Goldstein served ten years in prison for producing The Spirit of ’76, a film about the Revolutionary War that depicted the British, who were now our allies, unfavorably. Textbook authors suggest that wartime pressures excuse Wilson’s suppression of civil liberties, but in 1920, when World War I was long over, Wilson vetoed a bill that would have abolished the Espionage and Sedition acts. Textbook authors blame the anticommunist and anti-labor union witch hunts of Wilson’s second term on his illness and on an attorney general run amok. No evidence supports this view. Indeed, Attorney General Palmer asked Wilson in his last days as president to pardon Eugene V. Debs, who was serving time for a speech attributing World War I to economic interests and denouncing the Espionage Act as undemocratic. The president replied, “Never!” and Debs languished in prison until Warren Harding pardoned him. The American Way adopts perhaps the most innovative approach to absolving Wilson of wrongdoing: Way simply moves the “red scare” to the 1920s, after Wilson had left office!
Because heroification prevents textbooks from showing Wilson’s shortcomings, textbooks are hard pressed to explain the results of the 1920 election. James Cox, the Democratic candidate who was Wilson’s would-be successor, was crushed by the nonentity Warren G. Harding, who never even campaigned. In the biggest landslide in the history of American presidential politics, Harding got almost 64 percent of the major-party votes. The people were “tired,” textbooks suggest, and just wanted a “return to normalcy.” The possibility that the electorate knew what it was doing in rejecting Wilson never occurs to our authors. It occurred to Helen Keller, however. She called Wilson “the greatest individual disappointment the world has ever known!”
p38 Bartolome de las Casas What we committed in the Indies stands out among the most unpardonable offenses ever committed against God and mankind and this trade [in Indian slaves] as one of the most unjust, evil, and cruel among them.
p60 Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass.
Columbus’s initial impression of the Arawaks, who inhabited most of the islands in the Caribbean, was quite favorable. He wrote in his journal on October 13, 1492: “At daybreak great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes, and very handsome. Their hair was not curly but loose and coarse like horse-hair. All have foreheads much broader than any people I had hitherto seen. Their eyes are large and very beautiful. They are not black, but the color of the inhabitants of the Canaries.” (This reference to the Canaries was ominous, for Spain was then in the process of exterminating the aboriginal people of those islands.) Columbus went on to describe the Arawaks’ canoes, “some large enough to contain 40 or 45 men.” Finally, he got down to business: “I was very attentive to them, and strove to learn if they had any gold. Seeing some of them with little bits of metal hanging at their noses, I gathered from them by signs that by going southward or steering round the island in that direction, there would be found a king who possessed great cups full of gold.” At dawn the next day, Columbus sailed to the other side of the island, probably one of the Bahamas, and saw two or three villages. He ended his description of them with these menacing words: “I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased.”
On his first voyage, Columbus kidnapped some ten to twenty-five Indians and took them back with him to Spain. Only seven or eight of the Indians arrived alive, but along with the parrots, gold trinkets, and other exotica, they caused quite a stir in Seville. Ferdinand and Isabella provided Columbus with seventeen ships, 1,200 to 1,500 men, cannons, crossbows, guns, cavalry, and attack dogs for a second voyage.
One way to visualize what happened next is with the help of the famous science fiction story War of the Worlds. H. G. Wells intended his tale of earthlings’ encounter with technologically advanced aliens as an allegory. His frightened British commoners (New Jerseyites in Orson Welles’s radio adaptation) were analogous to the “primitive” peoples of the Canaries or America, and his terrifying aliens represented the technologically advanced Europeans. As we identify with the helpless earthlings, Wells wanted us also to sympathize with the natives on Haiti in 1493, or on Australia in 1788, or in the upper Amazon jungle in the 1990s.
When Columbus and his men returned to Haiti in 1493, they demanded food, gold, spun cotton-whatever the Indians had that they wanted, including sex with their women. To ensure cooperation, Columbus used punishment by example. When an Indian committed even a minor offense, the Spanish cut off his ears or nose. Disfigured, the person was sent back to his village as living evidence of the brutality the Spaniards were capable of.
After a while, the Indians had had enough. At first their resistance was mostly passive. They refused to plant food for the Spanish to take. They abandoned towns near the Spanish settlements. Finally, the Arawaks fought back. Their sticks and stones were no more effective against the armed and clothed Spanish, however, than the earthlings’ rifles against the aliens’ death rays in War of the Worlds.
The attempts at resistance gave Columbus an excuse to make war. On March 24, 1495, he set out to conquer the Arawaks. Bartolome de Las Casas described the force Columbus assembled to put down the rebellion. “Since the Admiral perceived that daily the people of the land were taking up arms, ridiculous weapons in reality . . . he hastened to proceed to the country and disperse and subdue, by force of arms, the people of the entire island . . . For this he chose 200 foot soldiers and 20 cavalry, with many crossbows and small cannon, lances, and swords, and a still more terrible weapon against the Indians, in addition to the horses: this was 20 hunting dogs, who were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart.” Naturally, the Spanish won. According to Kirkpatrick Sale, who quotes Ferdinand Columbus’s biography of his father: “The soldiers mowed down dozens with point-blank volleys, loosed the dogs to rip open limbs and bellies, chased fleeing Indians into the bush to skewer them on sword and pike, and ‘with God’s aid soon gained a complete victory, killing many Indians and capturing others who were also killed.’ “
Having as yet found no fields of gold, Columbus had to return some kind of dividend to Spain. In 1495 the Spanish on Haiti initiated a great slave raid. They rounded up 1,500 Arawaks, then selected the 500 best specimens (of whom 200 would die en route to Spain). Another 500 were chosen as slaves for the Spaniards staying on the island. The rest were released. A Spanish eyewitness described the event: “Among them were many women who had infants at the breast. They, in order the better to escape us, since they were afraid we would turn to catch them again, left their infants anywhere on the ground and started to flee like desperate people; and some fled so far that they were removed from our settlement of Isabela seven or eight days beyond mountains and across huge rivers; wherefore from now on scarcely any will be had.” Columbus was excited. “In the name of the Holy Trinity, we can send from here all the slaves and brazil-wood which could be sold,” he wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1496. “In Castile, Portugal, Aragon,.. . and the Canary Islands they need many slaves, and I do not think they get enough from Guinea.” He viewed the Indian death rate optimistically: “Although they die now, they will not always die. The Negroes and Canary Islanders died at first.”
In the words of Hans Koning, “There now began a reign of terror in Hispaniola.” Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus, upset because he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system. Ferdinand Columbus described how it worked: “[The Indians] all promised to pay tribute to the Catholic Sovereigns every three months, as follows: In the Cibao, where the gold mines were, every person of 14 years of age or upward was to pay a large hawk’s bell of gold dust; all others were each to pay 25 pounds of cotton. Whenever an Indian delivered his tribute, he was to receive a brass or copper token which he must wear about his neck as proof that he had made his payment. Any Indian found without such a token was to be punished.” With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which time would be devoted to collecting more gold. Columbus’s son neglected to mention how the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired: they cut off their hands.
All of these gruesome facts are available in primary source material- letters by Columbus and by other members of his expeditions-and in the work of Las Casas, the first great historian of the Americas, who relied on primary materials and helped preserve them. I have quoted a few primary sources in this chapter. Most textbooks make no use of primary sources. A few incorporate brief extracts that have been carefully selected or edited to reveal nothing unseemly about the Great Navigator.
The tribute system eventually broke down because what it demanded was impossible. To replace it, Columbus installed the encomienda system, in which he granted or “commended” entire Indian villages to individual colonists or groups of colonists. Since it was not called slavery, this forced-labor system escaped the moral censure that slavery received. Following Columbus’s example, Spain made the encomienda system official policy on Haiti in 1502; other conquistadors subsequently introduced it to Mexico, Peru, and Florida.
The tribute and encomienda systems caused incredible depopulation. On Haiti the colonists made the Indians mine gold for them, raise Spanish food, and even carry them everywhere they went. The Indians couldn’t stand it. Pedro de Cordoba wrote in a letter to King Ferdinand in 1517, “As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth . . . Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”
Beyond acts of individual cruelty, the Spanish disrupted the Indian ecosystem and culture. Forcing Indians to work in mines rather than in their gardens led to widespread malnutrition. The intrusion of rabbits and livestock caused further ecological disaster. Diseases new to the Indians played a role, although smallpox, usually the big killer, did not appear on the island until after 1516. Some of the Indians tried fleeing to Cuba, but the Spanish soon followed them there. Estimates of Haiti’s pre-Columbian population range as high as 8,000,000 people. When Christopher Columbus returned to Spain, he left his brother Bartholomew in charge of the island. Bartholomew took a census of Indian adults in 1496 and came up with 1,100,000. The Spanish did not count children under fourteen and could not count Arawaks who had escaped into the mountains. Kirkpatrick Sale estimates that a more accurate total would probably be in the neighborhood of 3,000,000. “By 1516,” according to Benjamin Keen, “thanks to the sinister Indian slave trade and labor policies initiated by Columbus, only some 12,000 remained.” Las Casas tells us that fewer than 200 Indians were alive in 1542. By 1555, they were all gone.
Thus nasty details like cutting off hands have somewhat greater historical importance than nice touches like “Tierra!” Haiti under the Spanish is one of the primary instances of genocide in all human history. Yet only one of the twelve textbooks, The American Pageant, mentions the extermination. None mentions Columbus’s role in it.
Columbus not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he probably sent more slaves-about five thousand-than any other individual. To her credit, Queen Isabella opposed outright enslavement and returned some Indians to the Caribbean. But other nations rushed to emulate Columbus. In 1501 the Portuguese began to depopulate Labrador, transporting the now extinct Beothuk Indians to Europe and Cape Verde as slaves. After the British established beachheads on the Atlantic coast of North America, they encouraged coastal Indian tribes to capture and sell members of more distant tribes. Charleston, South Carolina, became a major port for exporting Indian slaves. The Pilgrims and Puritans sold the survivors of the Pequot War into slavery in Bermuda in 1637. The French shipped virtually the entire Natchez nation in chains to the West Indies in 1731
A particularly repellent aspect of the slave trade was sexual. As soon as the 1493 expedition got to the Caribbean, before it even reached Haiti, Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape. On Haiti, sex slaves were one more perquisite that the Spaniards enjoyed. Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”
The slave trade destroyed whole Indian nations. Enslaved Indians died. To replace the dying Haitians, the Spanish imported tens of thousands more Indians from the Bahamas, which “are now deserted,” in the words of the Spanish historian Peter Martyr, reporting in 1516. Packed in below deck, with hatchways closed to prevent their escape, so many slaves died on the trip that “a ship without a compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola.” Puerto Rico and Cuba were next.
Because the Indians died, Indian slavery then led to the massive slave trade the other way across the Atlantic, from Africa. This trade also began on Haiti, initiated by Columbus’s son in 1505. Predictably, Haiti then became the site of the first large-scale slave revolt, when blacks and Indians banded together in 1519. The uprising lasted more than a decade and was finally brought to an end by the Spanish in the 1530s.
Of the twelve textbooks, only six mention that the Spanish enslaved or exploited the Indians anywhere in the Americas. Of these only four verge on mentioning that Columbus was involved. The United States- A History of the Republic places the following passage about the fate of the Indians under the heading “The Fate of Columbus”: “Some Spaniards who had come to the Americas had begun to enslave and kill the original Americans. Authorities in Spain held Columbus responsible for the atrocities.” Note that A History takes pains to isolate Columbus from the enslavement charge-others were misbehaving. Life and Liberty implies that Columbus might have participated: “Slavery began in the New World almost as soon as Columbus got off the boat.” Only The American Adventure clearly associates Columbus with slavery. American History levels a vague charge: “Columbus was a great sailor and a brave and determined man. But he was not good at politics or business.” That’s it. The other books simply adore him.
As Kirkpatrick Sale poetically sums up, Columbus’s “second voyage marks the first extended encounter of European and Indian societies, the clash of cultures that was to echo down through five centuries.” The seeds of that five-century battle were sown in Haiti between 1493 and 1500. These are not mere details that our textbooks omit. They are facts crucial to understanding American and European history. Capt. John Smith, for example, used Columbus as a role model in proposing a get-tough policy for the Virginia Indians in 1624: “The manner how to suppress them is so often related and approved, I omit it here: And you have twenty examples of the Spaniards how they got the West Indies, and forced the treacherous and rebellious infidels to do all manner of drudgery work and slavery for them, themselves living like soldiers upon the fruits of their labors.” 70 The methods unleashed by Columbus are, in fact, the larger part of his legacy. After all, they worked. The island was so well pacified that Spanish convicts, given a second chance on Haiti, could “go anywhere, take any woman or girl, take anything, and have the Indians carry him on their backs as if they were mules.” In 1499, when Columbus finally found gold on Haiti in significant amounts, Spain became the envy of Europe. After 1500 Portugal, France, Holland, and Britain joined in conquering the Americas. These nations were at least as brutal as Spain. The British, for example, unlike the Spanish, did not colonize by making use of Indian labor but simply forced the Indians out of the way. Many Indians fled British colonies to ,, Spanish territories (Florida, Mexico) in search of more humane treatment.
Columbus’s voyages caused almost as much change in Europe as in the Americas. This is the other half of the vast process historians now call the Columbian exchange. Crops, animals, ideas, and diseases began to cross the oceans regularly. Perhaps the most far-reaching impact of Columbus’s findings was on European Christianity. In 1492 all of Europe was in the grip of the Catholic Church. As Larousse puts it, before America, “Europe was virtually incapable of self-criticism.” After America, Europe’s religious uniformity was ruptured. For how were these new peoples to be explained? They were not mentioned in the Bible. The Indians simply did not fit within orthodox Christianity’s explanation of the moral universe. Moreover, unlike the Muslims, who might be written off as “damned infidels,” Indians had not rejected Christianity, they had just never encountered it. Were they doomed to hell? Even the animals of America posed a religious challenge. According to the Bible, at the dawn of creation all animals lived in the Garden of Eden. Later, two of each species entered Noah’s ark and ended up on Mt. Ararat. Since Eden and Mt. Ararat were both in the Middle East, where could these new American species have come from? Such questions shook orthodox Catholicism and contributed to the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517.
Politically, nations like the Arawaks-without monarchs, without much hierarchy-stunned Europeans. In 1516 Thomas More’s Utopia, based on an account of the Incan empire in Peru, challenged European social organization by suggesting a radically different and superior alternative. Other social philosophers seized upon the Indians as living examples of Europe’s primordial past, which is what John Locke meant by the phrase “In the beginning, all the world was America.” Depending upon their political persuasion, some Europeans glorified Indian nations as examples of simpler, better societies, from which European civilization had devolved, while others maligned the Indian societies as primitive and underdeveloped. In either case, from Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau down to Marx and Engels, European philosophers’ concepts of the good society were transformed by ideas from America.
America fascinated the masses as well as the elite. In The Tempest, Shakespeare noted this universal curiosity: “They will not give a doit to relieve a lambe beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.” Europe’s fascination with the Americas was directly responsible, in fact, for a rise in European self-consciousness. From the beginning America was perceived as an “opposite” to Europe in ways that even Africa never had been. In a sense, there was no “Europe” before 1492. People were simply Tuscan, French, and the like. Now Europeans began to see similarities among themselves, at least as contrasted with Native Americans. For that matter, there were no “white” people in Europe before 1492. With the transatlantic slave trade, first Indian, then African, Europeans increasingly saw “white” as a race and race as an important human characteristic.
Columbus’s own writings reflect this increasing racism. When Columbus was selling Queen Isabella on the wonders of the Americas, the Indians were “well built” and “of quick intelligence.” “They have very good customs,” he wrote, “and the king maintains a very marvelous state, of a style so orderly that it is a pleasure to see it, and they have good memories and they wish to see everything and ask what it is and for what it is used.” Later, when Columbus was justifying his wars and his enslavement of the Indians, they became “cruel” and “stupid,” “a people warlike and numerous, whose customs and religion are very different from ours.”
It is always useful to think badly about people one has exploited or plans to exploit. Modifying one’s opinions to bring them into line with one’s actions or planned actions is the most common outcome of the process known as “cognitive dissonance,” according to the social psychologist Leon Festinger. No one likes to think of himself or herself as a bad person. To treat badly another person whom we consider a reasonable human being creates a tension between act and attitude that demands resolution. We cannot erase what we have done, and to alter our future behavior may not be in our interest. To change our attitude is easier.
Columbus gives us the first recorded example of cognitive dissonance in the Americas, for although the Indians may have changed from hospitable to angry, they could hardly have evolved from intelligent to stupid so quickly. The change had to be in Columbus.
Launch And Landing Sites Of The First V-2 On London
I was in the Hague for my last post, and before leaving I wanted to visit a site in a suburb of the Hague that has a very direct and tragic connection with London.
London had been under fire from V-1 flying bombs starting in June 1944 until October 1944 when the launch sites were captured as the allied forces progressed through France and Belgium.
In September 1944 a new weapon was first used against London. This was the V-2 rocket which had a much more flexible launch method than the V-1 and also longer range so launching against London was possible from the areas still held by German forces.
Although Allied forces were pressing up from the Belgium border, through Eindhoven and Nijmegen, the coastal west of the Netherlands was still under German control and the area around the Hague offered the ideal location to launch against London. The Hague had the rail connections to bring in the rockets and their fuel, and the suburbs of the Hague offered a large wooded area, crisscrossed by small roads which provided the perfect cover for mobile launches.
The V-2 was a highly sophisticated weapon. The supporting infrastructure allowed the rocket to be launched from a mobile launcher with fueling carried out on site along with final setting of the gyros that would guide the rocket to its destination. The speed of the rocket meant that it was almost impossible to destroy whilst in flight. The trajectory for the rocket was a parabola from the launch site up to the edge of space before descending at up to three times the speed of sound to the weapon’s target.
The following photo shows a V-2 rocket on a launch platform. Most photos of the V-2 show the black and white painted rocket, these were the test versions and the painted colour scheme ensured that any rotation of the rocket could be identified during flight. In use, the rockets did not have a colour scheme.
Wassenaar is a suburb of the Hague, located to the north east of the city. It is a wooded area with small roads crossing the area, concealed under trees which also line the roads. Wassenaar was one of the main launch sites for V-2s and the first rockets against London were launched from Wassenaar’s roads.
Before leaving the Hague, I wanted to find the location of the first V-2 launch against London, so headed out on the short drive to Wassenaar.
The following map shows the city of the Hague. Follow the orange road (the N44) that runs from the Hague to the north east and you will find Wassenaar.
The following map extract shows Wassenaar in detail. The first launches against London took place on the evening of the 8th September 1944. There were two simultaneous launches at two different road junctions. These were ideal locations as road junctions offered a larger space for the rocket launcher and supporting vehicles as the rocket was fueled onsite. The map also shows the wooded nature of the site and that these were side roads – good concealment for the time needed to prepare and launch.
At around 6:35 pm on the evening of the 8th September 1944, the residents of Wassenaar heard a loud roaring noise and saw two objects rising above the trees, slowly at first before quickly gathering speed, then rushing skyward.
One was from the junction of three roads shown as point 1 in the above map. This is the junction of Lijsterlaan, Konijnenlaan and Koekoekslaan. This is the view of the junction as I walked up to the site:
Looking down one of the roads leading of from the junction shows the narrowness of the roads and the tree cover. It has not changed that much since the rockets were being launched here and shows how good the area was for concealment.
The original V-1 had to be launched from a fixed launching ramp. As well as the technological development of the rocket, other innovations with the V-2 were mobility where the complete system comprising a mobile launcher, fuel tankers (including liquid oxygen), launch and control system could drive up to a new location and launch within about two hours.
The following illustration shows a V-2 rocket in launch position on its mobile transport and launch platform:
The following photo shows a V-2 just after the initial launch. Two of these being launched almost simultaneously from the wooded side roads of Wassenaar must have been a frightening sight for the local residents.
This part of Wassenaar is occupied by large houses and grounds. Reports from immediately after the launch tell of the road surface been scorched and melted, with trees being burnt for a few feet above ground level where flame from the rockets engines must have bounced of the road and been deflected onto the adjacent trees.
On the next day, the 9th September, the RAF started bombing Wassenaar. A cat and mouse game ensued with rockets, fuel and launch equipment being stored across the area and mobile launches taking place on a regular basis, and the RAF trying to locate and bomb any V-2 related infrastructure that could be found.
Another view of the road junction.
If you look at the patch of grass on the right, there is a white painted stone. Look to the upper right of the white stone, and just to the left of the tree is a small, wooden pillar.
The pillar records the junction as being the site of the first launch of a V-2 rocket on the 8th September 1944:
Soon after returning from the Netherlands, and on the 8th September 2018, I visited the site where the V-2 launched from Wassenaar landed – in Staveley Road, Chiswick where another pillar can be found recording that the first V-2 fell here. It had taken the rocket around 5 minutes to get from Wassenaar to Chiswick.
The view looking along the street from in front of the memorial pillar:
The memorial pillar is in front of a small electrical substation:
To the right of the pillar, mounted on the fence is an information panel which was unveiled by the Battlefields Trust and the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society, on the same day that the pillar in Wassenaar was also unveiled.
The V-2 on Chiswick resulted in three deaths. Three year old Rosemary Clarke who lived at number 1 Staveley Road, Ada Harrison aged 68 of 3 Staveley Road and Sapper Bernard Browning, who was on leave, and on his way to Chiswick Station.
Destruction was considerable. The V-2 blew a crater 30 ft wide and 8 ft deep at the point of impact. The following panoramic photo from the Imperial War Museum archive shows the damage that a V-2 could inflict.
There was a second V-2 rocket launched at the same time, a very short distance from the location described above. This V-2 was launched from the point marked 2 in the map, at the junction of Lijsterlaan and Schouwweg. This V-2 would land minutes later at Parndon Wood, near Epping. Due to the rural nature of this location there were no casualties.
The following photo shows the junction from where this second V-2 was launched:
From the 8th September onward, there was a continuous series of V-2 launches from Wassenaar and the Hague. The area was also used for storage of rockets and fuel, launching equipment and the German forces and command structure that would launch the rockets were also housed in the surroundings of Wassenaar and the Hague.
Allied planes flew many missions over the area trying to locate and destroy V-2 infrastructure. On the 3rd March 1945 a large force of bombers mounted an attack on the forested regions of the Hague, but due to navigation errors many of the bombs fell on the Bezuidenhout suburb resulting in a large loss of life in the Dutch population.
The Dutch population also suffered when rockets misfired, and also the disruption and treatment they suffered from living in and around a place that was used to store, transport, prepare and launch such an intensive rocket programme.
One of the locations where V-2 rockets were checked and prepared was the tram depot in Scheveningen, the coastal suburb of the Hague.
This is the view of the tram depot today:
There are historical posters around the streets commemorating the 200th anniversary of Scheveingen as a seaside resort. One of these posters shows the state of the tram depot in 1945:
The text states that after the liberation, it took some time for trams from the Hofplein line to return to Scheveningen-Kurhaus station and that the tram connection was finally reestablished in 1953.
On the 27th March 1945 the last V-2 was launched against London. It fell on Orpington in Kent resulting in the deaths of 23 people. Whilst the west of the Netherlands was still occupied, rail connection with the rest of Germany had been cut and the German rocket forces had already been withdrawn from the Hague in order to avoid capture of the personnel and their equipment.
From the first V-2 on the 8th of September to the last on the 27th March, a total of 3172 V-2 rockets were launched. Of these around 1358 fell on the greater London area.
London did not suffer as badly as Antwerp, An important port for the Allied forces allowing supplies to be delivered into Belgium rather than the French ports further south, around 1610 V-2 rockets were launched against Antwerp.
Other rockets landed in France, Maastricht in Holland and even in Remagen, Germany where the use of rockets were an attempt to try and disrupt US forces by targeting the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine. This was the first time that rockets had been used to attack a very specific target. Eleven rockets were fired at the bridge, however none hit their target, but American soldiers and German civilians were killed.
The V-2 campaign against London killed more than 6,000 people.
The rockets were constructed by slave labour and many tens of thousands died due to the appalling conditions in which they were held and laboured.
The impact of the V-1 and V-2 weapons was considerable on those forced to build them, the areas where they were launched and their targets.
Two pillars in two countries, roughly 205 miles apart provide a reminder of the devastation that these weapons would cause.
13 thoughts on “Launch And Landing Sites Of The First V-2 On London”
Mike Kaythis is really fascinating research. Very interesting diversion – and fascinating to see the old photos of The Netherlands.Reply ↓
Paul in GlasgowExcellent research and a fascinating story. Thanks.Reply ↓
Vic FlinthamMany thanks for this. I wonder how many people realise that for the Dutch resistance Scheveningen was a shibboleth to identify German infiltrators? Also, I have understood that Sheringham in Norfolk is derived from Scheveningen named by Dutch fen drainers.Reply ↓
Caroline Greenwellfascinating I’m going with my daughter and granddaughter to Duinrell holiday park next month – will put a different perspective on the place thinking of V2 rockets.Reply ↓
Dennis R. HallExcellent document. Professional. Even better, yes even better. Prompts our minds never to forget the poor souls whose very dear lives were sacrificed. The simple heart would cry out but in vain if only the gyros had been set by mistake or by intention to the damned lair where the hideous being who was the cause of all such misery lay.Reply ↓
Edward RutherfoordVery interesting post. If you search “chiswick V2” on Alamy.com you will see a number of detailed photographs of the Staveley Road explosion. My mother lived in Staveley Road a few doors away and often told of the event. How they had to remove body parts from their garden. And how it was initially reported as a gas explosion (part propaganda and partly because it was the first V2 on London and nobody was sure what had happened).Reply ↓
David CooperThank you for this reminder on how cruel and devastating war can beReply ↓
MickFascinating stuff, especially for someone born in London, interested in WWII history, living in the Netherlands, working close to Wassenaar on occation, with a daughter working in Antwerp. You got all the angles covered there 🙂Reply ↓
Kevin KitsonThanks so much for this very interesting item, helping to keep alive just what it meant to have lived through those times. I will now be researching the Chiswick link.Reply ↓
ColinIn 1944 my (future) father, at age 15, was blown up by a V1. Scarred his left cheek and shattered one of his legs. He was in hospital for weeks and then had to wear calipers for about a year. When they came off his first question was if he could play football. “No” said the doctor, “your leg is too weak. You need physical therapy”. Well that apparently got my future grandmother going because she was worried about the cost. “So what kind of therapy?” she asked. “Ballroom dancing would be perfect” replied the doctor. So ballroom dancing it was. Happy ending…young ladies do take a shine to young men that can dance which is how may parents met when doing their National Service in the RAF in 1948.Oh, and one story from the hospital period. My dad was in a ward with injured servicemen. Every Friday a local publican sent them a crate of ale (the ward sister was like Sgt Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes…”I see nothing. Nothing!”) One period there was a German POW in the ward. He’d been doing farm work, fallen off a truck and broke an arm so that was in a cast. (The men used to get him to demonstrate the goose-step; that did annoy the ward sister). The first time the ale arrived after the POW had, the sergeant offered the German a bottle. “But sarge” came a voice, “he’s the enemy”. “In here my lad he’s a wounded soldier. One of us. He gets to drink too.”Reply ↓
Kathryn WolstencroftVery, very interesting, My Paternal forebears came from the East End/Isle of Dogs and gravitated to Chiswick and then to Brentford. I recall my Aunt telling me about the war when I was about 8/9/10 years old. Seemingly The Great West Road was hit. One Saturday morning she said she’d just freshen up the contents of a box which held my Grandmother’s Wedding China. I couldn’t think how this ‘sugar’ had got so stuck in this cup! Alas it wasn’t what I’d assumed ….something called shrapnel !Reply ↓
Denis SharpThe other one of the pair you have written about fell near Epping Essex at the same time as the Chiswick one, some say a split second before making the Epping V2 the first to fall on the UK. The water filled crater still exists today deep in a secluded prohibited nature reserve at Parndon, now in the new town of Harlow . I have photos and a partial copy of newspaper clipping you can have if you are still interested.Reply ↓
Craig BeyersI just finished the book “V2” by Robert Harris (ISBN 978-0-525-65671-5, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2020). This fiction book broadly describes the Scheveningen area as the V2 launch sites and a UK Army facility in Mechelen that computed the trajectory of V2 launches to identify the launch site. Using this article and Google maps, I was able to locate the two intersections. I appreciate the photos, maps, and descriptions. Thanks. ↓
Dr. Sara Blakeslee Chase was a little known sex radical who was trained in homeopathic medicine and touted the benefits of voluntary motherhood, or small families. After her lectures she often sold contraceptive syringes. Vaginal syringes were commonly used by Victorian-era women, who filled them with substances ranging from acids to water, and douched with them after sex to reduce the chance of pregnancy. They could also be used to try to end pregnancies, with some doctors even recommending them for this purpose. They were still available even after the Comstock law’s passage because they were cheap, easy to find, and not explicitly contraception—druggists and doctors recommended them for hygiene and health.
In the spring of 1878, Anthony Comstock received word that a young woman who had attended one of Sara’s lectures in a church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had used a vaginal syringe that she bought from Sara, and then ulcerated her uterus. A doctor took care of her and she recovered. Anthony’s accounts of what happened are convoluted. The most important man in the lives of 19th-century women, he did not understand the difference between contraception and abortion and frequently conflated them in his arrest logbook accounts.
Together his accounts indicate that the young woman used a syringe as a contraceptive, got pregnant anyway, and then went to an abortionist—not Sara—who botched the procedure. Sara maintained for decades that she did not perform abortions and was opposed to them, even calling them “foeticide.”https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.478.1_en.html#goog_519447238Nana Nkweti in Conversation with Novuyo Rosa Tshuma00:18/56:54
Infuriated by the story of the Williamsburg girl, Anthony went to Sara’s home. Calling himself “Mr. Farnsworth,” he bought a syringe for five dollars. He returned on another day, revealed himself as Anthony Comstock, and brought in a cop and a New York Tribune reporter who were waiting across the street. He locked Sara’s boarders and patients in their rooms, ransacked the house, and found six syringes.
She was arrested and held on $1,500 bail and charged with selling articles for a criminal purpose under the New York state, or “little” Comstock law. The grand jury decided to dismiss the case because the district attorney felt that it was not “for the public good.”
After her case was dismissed she sued Anthony for false arrest, seeking $10,000—or around $275,000 in today’s dollars. She charged that he had injured her reputation and profession as a physician, causing the loss of clients and inflicting financial damage.
Anthony’s arrest was only the beginning of Sara’s campaign against him. In the pages of her health and progressive journal, The Physiologist & Family Physician, she wrote anti-Comstock screeds. She called his mind “vile” and his judgment “perverted,” and said he did not grasp “the difference between obscenity and science.”The most important man in the lives of 19th-century women, he did not understand the difference between contraception and abortion and frequently conflated them in his arrest logbook accounts.
In the June/July 1878 issue, she ran a notice for a new item to be sold to Physiologist readers. It was called the “‘Comstock’ Syringe.” The ad stated that it was the same one Sara had sold Comstock himself. It was “especially adapted to purposes of cleanliness, and the cure and prevention of disease.” Sara concluded, “We trust that the sudden popularity brought to this valuable syringe by the benevolent agency of the enterprising Mr. Comstock, will prove to suffering womanhood the most beneficent act of his illustrious life.”
A later “Comstock syringe” ad mentioned her lawsuit as a selling point, to let purchasers know that to buy a douche named after Comstock was a form of political action. It said the syringe was used by married women for the “judicious and healthy regulation of the female functions” (ode for preventing pregnancy) and was “a Blessing to Womankind.”
Comstock was so furious to see a vaginal douche being advertised under his name that he got a different grand jury to indict her, without informing them that her case had previously been dismissed. The assistant district attorney secured a nolle prosequi, declining to prosecute, and admonished him for withholding information and not going through the proper channels.
Furious that he could not get Sara locked up, Anthony vowed to ban the syringe, raid the Physiologist offices, and put Sara and her managing editor, Samuel Preston, behind bars. The duo secured bail and a lawyer. After Samuel wrote an article calling Anthony “a loathsome moral leper” and a fraud, the journal was banned by the post office. The duo and their supporters succeeded in getting mailing privileges restored. In celebration, Sara and Samuel filled their entire back page with an ad for the Comstock syringe, with testimonials from doctors, editors, and customers. “Anthony Comstock has at least been of some service to humanity in calling public attention to such a blessing as your Syringe,” read one.
Though Sara and Samuel managed to put out only a few more issues of the Physiologist before they had to fold it due to lack of money, the Comstock syringe lived on. Two prominent Massachusetts free lovers, the married couple Angela and Ezra Heywood, were so taken by Sara’s story and writing that they advertised a Comstock syringe in their free love journal, The Word. The first ad said, “If Comstock’s mother had had a syringe and known how to use it, what a world of woe it would have saved us!”
Though they probably didn’t know it, Comstock’s mother, Polly Comstock, had died at age 37 after hemorrhaging following the birth of her sixth child (a different account claimed that it was her tenth). The Heywood’s ad was cheeky, implying that the world would have been better if Anthony had never been born. But if Polly Comstock really had had a syringe and chosen to use it, it might have saved her from death. Rather than become a champion of women’s reproductive rights when he came home from school at the age of ten to find his mother dead, he became emboldened in his quest to make all women more like his mother, a pure, saintly, Christian wife and mother whose mission was to be fruitful and multiply—the Victorian ideal.
Another Comstock syringe ad in The Word said, “Comstock tried to imprison Sarah [sic] Chase for selling a syringe; she had him arrested and held for trial, while the syringe goes ‘marching on’ to hunt down and slay Comstock himself! Woman’s natural right to prevent conception is unquestionable; to enable her to protect herself against invasive male use of her person the celebrated Comstock Syringe, designed to prevent disease, promote personal purity and health, is coming into general use.”
But soon the Heywoods realized that they might be crediting Anthony with too much by naming a vaginal douche after him. In an issue several months after their first ad ran, they proclaimed that the product would thereafter be named “The Vaginal Syringe,” so that “its intelligent, humane and worthy mission should no longer be libelled by forced association with the pious scamp who thinks Congress gives him legal right of way to and control over every American Woman’s Womb.”Comstock was so furious to see a vaginal douche being advertised under his name that he got a different grand jury to indict her.
In October 1882 Anthony arrested Ezra, who had previously served six months in Dedham Jail for obscenity, on four counts of sending obscene matter. One count was for publishing an edition of The Word that contained two Walt Whitman poems, “A Woman Waits for Me” and “To a Common Prostitute.” Two were for issues that contained Comstock syringe ads.
Angela Heywood, who had a looser, more discursive, and provocative writing style than her husband, argued in The Word that the charges were unjust. To her, syringes were symbolic. In an 1883 essay she wrote, “Not books merely but a Syringe is in the fight; the will of man to impose vs. the Right of Woman to prevent conception is the issue… Does not Nature give to woman and install her in the right of way to & from her own womb? Shall Heism continue to be imperatively absolute in coition? Should not Sheism have her way also? Shall we submit to the loathsome impertinence which makes Anthony Comstock inspector and supervisor of American women’s wombs? This womb-syringe question is to the North what the Negro question was to the South.” She and Ezra had met in New England abolitionist circles and she frequently described women as enslaved by marriage, sexism, and economic inequality.
She proposed a satirical alternative to the Comstock law: a man would “flow semen” only when a woman said he could. She suggested other rules. A man had to keep his penis tied up with what she called “‘continent’ twine,” which he would have to keep nearby to assure his virtue. If he were found without the twine, he would be “liable, on conviction by twelve women, to ten years imprisonment and $5000 fine.” She then proposed “that a feminine Comstock shall go about to examine men’s penises and drag them to jail” if they dared break the semen-twine law.
The trial began in April 1883, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Ultimately, the judge threw out all charges except those related to the syringe. Ezra, representing himself, told the jury that women had a right to control conception. He said, “The man who would legislate to choke a woman’s vagina with semen, who would force a woman to retain his seed, bear children when her own reason and conscience oppose it, would way lay her, seize her by the throat and rape her person. I do not prescribe vaginal syringes; that is woman’s affair not mine; but her right to limit the number of children she will bear is unquestionable as her right to walk, eat, breathe or be still.” He called the charges “an effort to supervise maternal function by act of Congress.”
The judge told the jurymen that the government had to demonstrate that the syringe advertised in The Word was manufactured for the purpose of preventing conception. The men wanted to acquit from the beginning but also wanted lunch on the government’s tab. After eating their meal, they waited until three o’clock to give the verdict: not guilty of obscenity on the remaining charges. Ezra and Angela’s supporters burst into applause. In a speech before the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice, Anthony said that the court had “turned into a free-love meeting.”
Ezra was acquitted, but a month later, he was arrested under Massachusetts law for mailing a reprint of several Word articles that included the “Syringe is in the fight” essay. Though Angela’s words had led to his indictment, Ezra was charged for mailing the reprint. Angela was pregnant with their fourth child, and Ezra thought it would send a strong sympathetic message if she were put on the stand. She, in turn, wanted to be charged for her writing when Ezra had repeatedly been charged for mailing the offending issues. She felt that he was being prosecuted because women were too sympathetic on the stand. Proudly, she wrote in The Word that the trial was one in which a woman had “persistently kept the words Penis and Womb traveling in the U.S. Mails.”Rather than become a champion of women’s reproductive rights, he became emboldened in his quest to make all women more like his mother.
The trial was postponed four times due to her pregnancy. The judge ruled that the prosecutors had to charge and prove a willful intent to corrupt the morals of youth, which he did not believe they did, and dismissed the charges.
In The Word, Angela began to use even franker language, writing in 1887 that “Cock is a fowl but not a foul word; upright, integral, insisting truth is the soul of it, sex-wise.” In 1889 she wrote, “Such graceful terms as hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, fucking, throbbing, kissing, and kin words, are telephone expressions, lighthouses of intercourse centrally immutable to the situation.”
But none of these strongly-worded pieces led to indictments. Instead, it was Angela’s “Syringe is in the fight” essay that landed Ezra in court for the third and final time. In the spring of 1890, more than 12 years after his first arrest, Ezra was indicted by a federal jury in Boston on three counts of obscenity published in The Word. One was for an April 1889 reprint of Angela’s syringe essay. Throughout the trial, Angela, who sat with one of the children on her lap, kept her gaze fixed on Ezra’s face. The jury found Ezra guilty on two charges, one involving the essay. He was sentenced to two years’ hard labor in Charlestown State Prison.
He was released in May 1892 and about a year later, died of an illness most likely contracted in prison. Angela was unable to keep printing The Word, and its last issue appeared the following April, after a 21-year run. She died in Brookline, Massachusetts, at the age of 94, having outlived her beloved husband by more than four decades.
As for Sara Chase, in June 1893, she was convicted of manslaughter in New York, in relation to a young woman patient named Margaret Manzoni. The woman had gotten a botched abortion from an abortionist and was transferred to Sara when it appeared she might die. Sara tried to save her but Manzoni died, and Sara was sentenced to nine years and eight months in the State Prison for Women in Auburn, New York. She was released in the fall of 1899, with time off for good behavior.
She was 62.
She kept giving sex lectures, and supported herself with needlework. After relocating to Pennsylvania, she mailed a syringe in response to a decoy letter sent by an associate of a deputy marshal. Comstock helped him track her to Elmora, New Jersey. In June 1900 she was arrested, and held in Newark on $2,500 bail, charged with being a fugitive from justice and sending improper medical advertisements. The case never went to trial.
Sara moved to Kansas City, Missouri, along with her daughter and son-in-law. She abandoned contraceptive sales, and died in Kansas City at age 73. While in prison she wrote a letter that was published in a prominent free love journal: “The need of reform is to be seen on every hand, yet all do not see it, and those who do are unable to resist the innate hatred of injustice and wrong that impels them to try to remedy the evils that lie in their way. They do not stop to count the cost. They only say, ‘This work must be done and I must help.’”
Below example is from Norfolk Virginia——————————Clearly, the “leakage” of firearms into challenged neighborhoods is the principal driver of gun violence. Perpetrators of gun crimes may have been “set up” by lead in their environment as children——shouldn’t we do something about this?
UWM study finds over half of gun violence perpetrators and victims had elevated blood lead levels as children
More than half of the people who were perpetrators or victims of gun violence in Milwaukee in recent years had elevated blood lead levels as children, according to a study released Friday by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The study of nearly 90,000 residents, conducted at the University’s Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, suggests a link between early childhood lead exposure and gun violence in later years.
Lindsay R. Emer, the study’s lead author, said it was conducted using public health, education and criminal justice data.
After reviewing the records of 89,129 people who were born in Milwaukee between June 1, 1986, and Dec. 31, 2003, and given blood lead tests before the age of 6, Emer and other researchers found a correlation between elevated blood lead levels and the risk of being involved in gun violence.
Emer said that while the study was not able to definitively prove cause and effect, the link is striking:
According to their findings, 56% of the shooters and 51% of the victims were found to have blood lead levels equal to or greater than the recommended limit of lead exposure of 5 micrograms per deciliter.
The study originated from a dissertation Emer started she while still a doctoral student at UWM.
Since then, she has earned and defended her Ph.D., worked with the Medical College of Wisconsin and is currently a senior research consultant at the National Center for State Court.
The publication of her study, “Association of childhood blood lead levels with firearm violence perpetration and victimization in Milwaukee,” is a culmination of years of work.
Emer said she and other researchers gathered their sample size from people who had consistent Milwaukee addresses for their lead test(s) and were documented in the Milwaukee Public Schools system.
They then compared that group with those who were listed as gun violence victims or perpetrators in Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission data. The commission — created by Mallory O’Brien, also listed as an author in this study — gathered data only between 2005 and 2015.
Because of that, Emer said, she chose birth years from 1986 to 2003 because that would make her sample size young adults by the time the review commission was active.
During those years, deteriorating lead paint and household dust were contaminating children, many of whom were more likely to be poor and/or African American.
Those same racial and socioeconomic disparities were reflected in the racial and socioeconomic disparity of people overrepresented in the review commission as perpetrators or victims of gun violence.
The study follows a consistent vein of prior research connecting lead exposure and violence:
Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California Berkeley published a study in 2016 that concluded that cities that used lead water pipes had homicide rates that were 24% higher than cities that did not.
Two researchers published a paper in 2017 for the National Bureau of Economic Research that studied the link between lead exposure and juvenile delinquency and found that as blood lead levels increased, so did the probability of suspension from school.
That trend is highlighted by this latest study, which concluded, “In Milwaukee, during a period of high lead exposures, childhood levels may have substantially contributed to adult firearm violence.”
This more localized study comes as Milwaukee children continue to experience elevated blood lead levels; an average of 3,000 of the 25,000 Milwaukee children tested for lead each year have elevated levels, the Journal Sentinel has reported.
Childhood lead exposure has been proven to reduce IQ scores and increase attention disorders, both of which put children at risk for increased delinquency.
Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, described lead exposure in children as insidious.
“If it’s not overt poison, one of the challenges is you don’t really see acute symptoms,” he said. “You do see symptoms more like acting-out type behaviors: ADHD type behaviors, problems with schoolwork, risk-taking behaviors, impulsive behaviors in kids, delinquency in kids.”
Those behavioral challenges, he noted, don’t just disappear once someone turns 18.
“Conduct disorder in children matures into delinquent and sometimes even criminal behavior,” he said.
Robert Miranda, a spokesperson for the Freshwater for Life Act Coalition, said the study confirms a long line of research that has several implications.
For example, he said the city should consider testing prisoners’ blood lead levels and seeing if certain treatments targeting the effects of lead exposure can help reduce recidivism.
Moreover, he said more conclusive evidence of what lead poisoning can do should encourage the city to move urgently — more urgently, he said, than what its current plan calls for.
“Replacing 1,000 lead service lines a year isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The damage done by lead poisoning is irreversible. So those children who have been harmed today are pretty much damaged for the rest of their lives.
“What we need to get focused on is treating those children who have been harmed today, but to remove this toxic poison from our environment completely so more children can be saved.”
LET’S START WITH THE ORIGIN OF A MADMAN OF RECENT MEMORY———–
THE COMING RACE (a Victorian novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton) and its attendant barmy mysticism would have sunk into obscurity if it hadn’t been for the First World War. At the end of the war, Germany was plunged into violent anarchy and a host of extremist politicians and cult leaders stepped into the breach and battled for power. Chief of these was the occult Thule Society – and its inner sect, the Vril Society.
The Vril Society was noted for it’s use of orgies to summon up occult energies – and to father a ‘master race’ of children to repopulate a devastated Germany. It is said that women in such orgies would become possessed by spirits and begin speaking in tongues. And their prophesies were treated with deadly seriousness.
“But the darkest side of the Vril was their propensity for sacrificing young children,” says Michael Fitzgerald, author of Stormtroopers of Satan. “They would stab them in the chest and cut their throats.
“At the height of their power in 1920s Munich, hundreds of children disappeared. Many are presumed to have been killed by the cult to summon up Vril energy. This may seem like an outlandish claim but when you consider what these people went on to do in the Third Reich, it seems almost tame.”
Central to the Vril Society was the search for a German Messiah who would lead the Aryan’s to world domination and exterminate all other races – especially the Jews. And his rise was predicted by a spirit calling itself the “Beast of the Book of Revelation.”
In a séance attended by the cult followers Alfred Rosenberg and Dietrich Eckart, the Beast is said to have proclaimed that a man named “Hitler” would seize the “Spear of Destiny” and lead the Aryans to power.
And within a few weeks, a fiery young man of shabby appearance began attending Thule Society meetings. His name was Adolf Hitler. Below may be his final claim to infamy.
Updated Thu · Upvoted by Gary Schuster, M.S. Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering & History, University of North Dakota (2017)
On 10 July 1945, a German submarine, U-530, a Type IXC/40 boat, appeared in the Argentine port of Plata del Mar and surrendered to the Armada de la República Argentina, an officially belligerent but Nazi-sympathetic navy, more than two months after the formal surrender of Nazi Germany and the direct order of Admiral Karl Dönitz to all u-boats at sea to surface and immediately surrender to the nearest Allied authority.
Not only were the actions of U-530’s commander a direct contravention of the surrender terms formalized on 8 May 1945 between the Allied Powers and the German government and military, but the circumstances of the last voyage of the U-530 were also very mysterious, and remain so to this day. When taken over by the Argentines, U-530 was completely devoid of ships papers — the logbook, manifest, written orders, dockyard papers, etc. The personal identity documents of the crew, their soldbuchs and ID disks, were also missing. There was virtually nothing on board to account for the movements and mission of the vessel since leaving Horten Naval Base in Norway shortly before the war ended except for the personal testimony of the commander and his crew, and they weren’t very talkative.
When asked to explain why he had not followed Admiral Dönitz’s surrender directives, Oberleutnant zur See Otto Wermuth, would only say he was under orders “from Berlin”, which could only mean direct orders from Hitler himself, since in the German submarine service in WWII there was no one with higher authority than Dönitz except Hitler as commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht.
The condition of the submarine itself was highly suspicious. The casing (the outer superstructure built over the pressure hull) and the conning tower were extremely rusty, and much of the paint was missing, having been either scraped or burned off. Her 10.5cm SK C/32 deck gun and mount were missing along with its ammunition, apparently having been jettisoned at sea. Also, there were no torpedoes or torpedo racks in her torpedo spaces fore and aft. No explanation of the vessel’s condition was offered by Wermuth or his subordinates.
After the sub and its crew were turned over to the Americans, the crew were further interrogated by ONI officers, but nothing more was learned (or more precisely, nothing more was learned that was published.) Wermuth and his men were eventually released and repatriated to Germany, because the only viable war crime charge that could be preferred against Wermuth or the crew, the postwar sinking of the Brazilian cruiser Bahia on 4 July 1945, was shown to be false. The submarine itself was sunk as a torpedo training target by USS Toro on 28 November 1947.
There are many theories offered to explain the voyage of the U-530. The most outlandish ones suggest that the sub was transporting high-ranking Nazi military and political figures, perhaps even Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun themselves, to a secret landing somewhere on the coast of Argentina or Uruguay. These speculations account for the large empty spaces fore and aft (i.e. accommodation for passengers) and her surrender to Argentina but do not account for the delay. U-530 was a schnorkel-equipped vessel and could have sustained 6 knots submerged all the way from Norway, about 48 days. U-530 was at sea 63 days after the surrender.
Another theory is both more plausible and more sinister. There is reason to believe that after the firebombing of Dresden (13–15 February 1945) Hitler ordered a revenge attack on the United States in the form of a nerve gas assault on New York City by submarine. By 1945 Germany had invented and stockpiled at least two nerve agents able to be deployed by explosive ordnance, Sarin and Tabun, which could have been made into shells capable of being fired by U-530’s 10.5cm deck gun. Surfacing at night in the East River would have made a catastrophic nerve gas bombardment of Manhatten and Brooklyn possible, but almost certainly suicidal. Hitler was talked out of this gas attack by his most trusted underlings, including Albert Speer, as self-defeating because it would give the Americans a justification of using its chemical warfare agents on Germany or so says the tale. However, it may be that Hitler resurrected his submarine-launched gas attack plan as a final gesture of defiance.
The gas attack on NYC theory explains much of the known facts about U-530’s last patrol. First, there is the absence of torpedoes and torpedo racks. Both the forward and after torpedo rooms had watertight (and therefore airtight) interior hatches and torpedo loading hatches leading to the weather deck. Without torpedos or torpedo racks these spaces could be used as chemical ammunitions handling rooms for the deck mount that would not endanger the rest of the crew spaces should there be an accident.
Secondly, it explains the absence of ship and crew documents. Wermuth and his men would rightly fear prosecution for war crimes if their participation in a gas attack scheme were ever exposed.
Thirdly, the poor physical condition of the boat can be explained as a consequence of a mutiny aboard U-530. Consider the following scenario: After putting to sea under sealed orders and having been supplied with a huge load of “special” shells for the deck gun in lieu of torpedoes, the crew discovers the true nature of their mission. Not wanting to be hanged by the Allies or to give the Americans an excuse to attack Germany in kind they hatch a mutiny plot. While running on the surface the lookouts seize Oblt.z.S. Wermuth or his first officer. They also gain control of the conning tower and foredeck hatches to prevent U-530 submerging to drown the mutineers. After gaining at least partial control of the boat the mutinous crewmen proceed to foil the gas attack plot by detaching the deck mount and throwing it overboard. Further suppose, that while laboring to jettison the deck gun or fighting with loyal crew members the mutineers somehow set fire to the weather deck, which burns off the much of the paint. This would explain the severely rusted appearance of U-530’supperworks.
With his deck gun jettisoned, Wermuth has no means to use the deadly shells stored in the torpedos spaces. Consequently, he agrees to the mutineers’ demands: He must take the u-boat to some deserted stretch of deep water where the nerve gas shells can be safely thrown overboard without significant risk of encountering a witness. Next, he must agree to destroy all documents that could be used to link the ship and its crew to the gas attack plot.
To dispose of their deadly cargo there could hardly be a better spot than the Scotia Sea.
In June and July 1945 the Scotia Sea was among the most deserted waters on the planet. June and July are winter months in the Southern Hemisphere, and in the 1940s much of the ship traffic in the Scotia Sea consisted of fishing and whaling vessels. In winter the whales are gone, and the sea is generally too rough for fishing assuming there is much fish to catch. Furthermore, the waters there are very deep — 19,000 feet and more. In other words, perfect for the mutineers’ purpose. This putative voyage to the Scotia Sea accounts fairly well for the 63 days delay in surrendering.
Soldbuch (literally pay book). When a young German presented himself for active duty, he received an Erkennungsmarke (dog tag) and a Soldbuch, which was the basic identity document that the soldier or sailor would carry on his person for the rest of his active military career. The title “pay book” is somewhat misleading, because little or no pay is actually recorded in the document. Instead, the book gave the serviceman the authority to draw pay, and in fact, the original intent of the document was to allow individuals to draw pay from a unit other than their own. In practice, the Soldbuch was the identity document that most concerned active duty personnel. Inside its tan leather cover, the 24 pages contained an array of information that included the serviceman’s current and past assigned units (former units were crossed out but legible), pay rate, awards, equipment/weapons issued, clothing, Erkennungsmarke number, and some medical history.
On the matter of Argentine and Urugyuan belligerence in WWII.Both countries had, and have to this day, a large German-speaking population who often celebrated their Germanic culture and expressed sympathy for Germany during the war. Both nations tried to maintain a neutral stance during the whole course of the conflict and failed. Under economic and political pressure from the United States, both Argentina and Uruguay declared war on the Axis powers, Uruguay in February 1945 and Argentina about five weeks later.
The sinking of cruiser Bahia. U-530 was suspected of having destroyed the Bahia because the u-boat could have been nearby when the Brazilian warship sank on 4 July 1945. However, survivor testimony revealed that the sinking was accidental. Bahia was scheduled to escort aircraft supply ships to the Pacific. In preparation for deployment to areas where Japanese attacks could occur Bahia’s crew drilled with her AA suite by firing at a kite. One of the anti-aircraft guns aimed too low and hit one or more depth charges on the stern racks. The resultant explosion tore the stern off Bahia, which sank in three minutes.
Sailing time to Argentina. My estimate of 48 days assumes a steady pace of six knots, which is about the maximum sustained speed of Type IX boat using a schnorkel. However, the actual speed would likely be faster. Though the schnorkel allowed the diesel motors to operate while submerged there was still a need to surface every two days to ventilate the breathing air which would otherwise be polluted with toxic levels of CO₂ and CO. During those ventilation runs the boat could dash ahead at her best speed of about 18 knots. U-530 was equipped with the FuMO 61 Hohentwiel radar transmitter and theFuMB 26 Tunis radar detection system. Using these sensors the vessel could operate on the surface at night with greater safety than most u-boats. Maintaining an average speed of 8 knots U-530 could reach the Scotia Sea and return as far as Plata del Mar in almost exactly 63 days.
The lesson here is how mad rulers take revenge on those driving them from power. Should we be concerned about this in the United States of 2019?
Note also the blame despots place upon their most loyal followers when the end of their regime looms. Here is an example from Hitler: “The German people has not fought heroically, it deserves to perish. It is not I who have lost the war, but the German people”.’
Consider the encounter between Rand Paul (Senator?) and Dr. Anthony Fauci–“If anyone is lying here, Senator, it is you!” July 20, 2021.
1954, June 9, the Army McCarthy Hearings
“Have you no sense of decency?” Sen. Joseph McCarthy is asked in hearing.
JOSEPH N. WELCH
In a dramatic confrontation, Joseph Welch, special counsel for the U.S. Army, lashes out at Senator Joseph McCarthy during hearings on whether communism has infiltrated the U.S. armed forces. Welch’s verbal assault marked the end of McCarthy’s power during the anticommunist hysteria of the Red Scare in America.
Senator McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) experienced a meteoric rise to fame and power in the U.S. Senate when he charged in February 1950 that “hundreds” of “known communists” were in the Department of State. In the years that followed, McCarthy became the acknowledged leader of the so-called Red Scare, a time when millions of Americans became convinced that communists had infiltrated every aspect of American life. Behind closed-door hearings, McCarthy bullied, lied, and smeared his way to power, destroying many careers and lives in the process. Prior to 1953, the Republican Party tolerated his antics because his attacks were directed against the Democratic administration of Harry S. Truman. When Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the White House in 1953, however, McCarthy’s recklessness and increasingly erratic behavior became unacceptable and the senator saw his clout slowly ebbing away. In a last-ditch effort to revitalize his anticommunist crusade, McCarthy made a crucial mistake. He charged in early 1954 that the U.S. Army was “soft” on communism. As Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, McCarthy opened hearings into the Army.
Joseph N. Welch, a soft-spoken lawyer with an incisive wit and intelligence, represented the Army. During the course of weeks of hearings, Welch blunted every one of McCarthy’s charges. The senator, in turn, became increasingly enraged, bellowing “point of order, point of order,” screaming at witnesses, and declaring that one highly decorated general was a “disgrace” to his uniform. On June 9, 1954, McCarthy again became agitated at Welch’s steady destruction of each of his arguments and witnesses. In response, McCarthy charged that Frederick G. Fisher, a young associate in Welch’s law firm, had been a long-time member of an organization that was a “legal arm of the Communist Party.” Welch was stunned. As he struggled to maintain his composure, he looked at McCarthy and declared, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” It was then McCarthy’s turn to be stunned into silence, as Welch asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” The audience of citizens and newspaper and television reporters burst into wild applause. Just a week later, the hearings into the Army came to a close. McCarthy, exposed as a reckless bully, was officially condemned by the U.S. Senate for contempt against his colleagues in December 1954. During the next two-and-a-half years McCarthy spiraled into alcoholism. Still in office, he died 4 years later.
The Europe of 1940 witnessed the rapid victory of German troops over Western allies, much to the surprise of military observers. The fighting continued with a strong air offensive on England, a very costly form of confrontation with fuel consumption and the loss of quality aircraft. Adolf Hitler needed strategic resources and found them with the support of the Soviet Union, to be more exact, with the help of Comrade Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.
The Soviet Union’s demands
The relations between these great powers were resolved by meetings at the highest level, and in November 1940, Commissioner Veaceslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Comrade Stalin’s right-hand man, visited Berlin. Only oil and grain should have flowed, but Adolf Hitler was shocked to learn of the Kremlin’s wishes. Moscow demanded, among other things, points of support for the Soviet fleet in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, as well as in Thessaloniki, Greece being a coveted space by the Italian ally. Adolf Hitler had to agree with Soviet rule in Iran and communist bases in the Persian Gulf. It would have been a huge step towards achieving the ideological goal they called the ‘world revolution’ by capturing British oil reserves.
The strategic bombers would have controlled the entire Arab region and the paratroopers would have occupied everything that was essential to maintain control of communist Moscow. The BT series fast tanks would have been perfect for large space operations. Points of support on the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia were not forgotten, and Bulgaria had to be included in the communist world. Sofia’s entry into the communist sphere would have had a special geostrategic impact.
The presence of Soviet troops south of the Danube would have brought the red-star tanks only 60 km from Bucharest, and the Prahova region, with the Wehrmacht’s essential refineries, was not too far away. As Romania did not have enough anti-tank weapons, the defense of the Carpatho-Danubian-Pontic country was impossible to achieve. In addition, the Soviet ground forces were approaching the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, the two straits being interesting for a future outflow of the Red Fleet into the Mediterranean. It was a perfect indirect strategy action by the Kremlin.
The hosts were shocked when they heard about Soviet bases on the coast of Denmark, in order to have access to the North Sea and, implicitly, to the Atlantic Ocean. Soviet units were allegedly introduced into territory occupied in April 1940 by German troops. No other claim by the Kremlin went down well with those in Berlin. Romania had lost, in June 1940, the territories of Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and Herta County, following an ultimatum issued by Commissioner Molotov.
Romania caught between two powers
The Romanian army, lacking anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, was forced to withdraw without a fight and abandon the population to a new communist experiment, with deportations and exterminations. At the time, Moscow was also demanding the sovereignty of Southern Bukovina, which would have meant that the city of Suceava would have fallen beyond possible future borders.
Adolf Hitler did not have a high degree in the military arts, but he could not help but notice the critical situation in which Romania found itself. The army of Bucharest would have had its flank uncovered and the defense of the city of Iasi would have been impossible. The capital of Romania went from 429 km starting from Chernivtsi to 358 km departing by air from Suceava. Berlin was interested in defending the oil-rich Prahova region, which was essential for the operation of the tank-aircraft binomial needed for large-scale offensive operations such as operation Barbarosa, which would follow two years later. The Soviet armies were approaching from the north and the one from the east was about 200 km away.
Although official relations remained seemingly good and trade continued, both sides moved onto military training for supremacy in Europe and, implicitly, in the world. The German chancellor ordered the Barbarossa Plan to be drawn up, and the path of war was seen as the only solution to the problems in the socialist camp.
The reason as to why it is imperative to mention Romania so much in this agreement is due to the important role they played during the war. Despite its small army, as well as its small territory, Romania always gave everything it had towards winning the war. This includes their most valuable resource at the time, oil. As the Soviet Union had an abundance of oil at the time, they weren’t interested in Romania for this exact reason. However, Germany could not get enough oil to power its mechanic military power.
Romania was not only located in the epicenter of the Second World War but also, it had a very important geographical location, as it allowed the Axis powers from the west to move in their troops through Bessarabia into the Soviet Union.
Even if this agreement had worked, it would not have lasted for a long time, as we are talking about two of the biggest military powers of the 20th century showing their hunger for more and more power. They were deeply influenced by both fascism and communism. Germany would end up declaring war, taking over most of Europe, and starting Operation Barbarossa on the 5th of December 1941. This operation consisted of a plan to use the Blitzkrieg tactic (Lighting War) to take over the whole of the Soviet Union.
Moses never got his passport or drivers license, so we can’t be certain. Neither did White Wolf, the Chippewa Indian Chief, sometimes called by his Anglo name of John Smith.
Just looking at the picture, I’d say that his tombstone is probably right.
White Wolf had eight wives, fought many battles with the Lakota/Sioux Indians and remembered the War of 1812. At the age of 116, he got hit by a locomotive; that would normally be the ticket to the Other Side, but White Wolf had a full recovery in three weeks. And living in Minnesota, he would occasionally encounter bears on his long treks to no place in particular. When they got in attack mode, standing high on their rear paws, White Wolf would point his cane at the predator and give it a stern warning to go away; at the age of 138, he couldn’t be bothered.
RIP John Smith, also known as White Wolf, also known as Kaa-be-naag-wii-wlss
I believe you.
Was healthy outdoor living his secret? Notice the ancient Mississipian culture symbol, the swastika,
appropriated by a certain criminal gang in Germany in 1920. Below is another version of this symbol, with
eagle associations and imagery. Referred to as the Feathered Serpent symbol.
Isaac Newton, Professor at Trinity College, London, fled London to escape the twin catastrophies of a recurrent Bubonic Plague outbreak and the later “Fire of London”. Both of which occurred during a 2 year period, 1665-66, during which a third of London’s population died.
To occupy himself during his self-imposed “lockdown”, he compiled his reflections on gravity and related physical phenomena, in a classic work entitled: PRINCIPIA, the foundation of modern physics.
Gravity and light were key parts of his research interests and speculations. It was two centuries and a fraction later that Albert Einstein proposed that both light and gravity were “wave” phenomena and that both were “bent” as they moved through space. Light had been observed to bend and break up into primary colors and wavelengths long before, but gravity was, and is, a continuing mystery in many aspects, even to Einstein.
Suppose, during the Covid 19 imposed lockdown, we could focus on phenomena such as gravity, and engage in thought experiments which sometimes lead to breakthroughs in science and understanding of our world.
Like most of us, I’m afraid that human nature during this 2020 pandemic and related political opportunism and disfunction have clouded our minds to the point that distraction would be helpful.
Suppose that, instead of the usual energy hogging metal boxes we move ourselves around in, we used gravity to gently lift our metal boxes off the surface just enough to eliminate the need for wheels or tracks.
Many of you will recognize that this describes an already studied method of doing this, known as “magnetic levitation”. However, this technology requires enormous amounts of electrical energy and infrastructure to implement and operate, so seems to have receded into the archive of brilliant but impractical schemes. Battery-electric vehicles and gyroscopic power systems have their own well-known obstacles to overcome, and neither can function without specific infrastructure and abundant fixed energy suppliers.
All that would be needed for gravity fueled levitation is a means, attached to the “metal box, something like car with no wheels or engine” which needed to be moved around, to reflect the energy already existing between the box and the earth–up to now securing the box to the earth–back to the earth such that the box is lifted sufficiently to enable frictionless movement.
The beauty of harnessing gravity via reflection/deflection is that, exactly as the gravity field between heavy masses and light ones automatically adjusts to whatever the “metal box” earlier mentioned weighs, sufficient spacing to achieve frictionless travel would depend on how it was focussed rather than a need for external power input. Remember Newton’s determination that, absent air resistance, light bodies fall at the same speed as heavy ones.
Of course, any human inside the box would have in mind a destination, rather than some random amusement ride which could turn into something truly terrifying.
Frictionless movement over a level surface could be enabled by nothing more than, say, the cooling fan or turbine used to displace heat from onboard air conditioning for passengers, for example. Of course, some sort of battery or power source would be needed, since vehicle AC compressors typically require 3 to 5 horsepower to operate. Some type of vane or rudder system would be needed to provide directional control as well.
Braking and wind effects on a frictionless land vehicle would be significant engineering challenges once the forward motion systems are sorted out, but if we were able to harness gravity to lift such a vehicle, perhaps we could use the same force to maintain direction despite wind effects and control momentum (braking).
Most urban travel, except for cities like Pittsburg and San Francisco, is typically on fairly level ground. Hills would obviously be a challenge for frictionless vehicles, so summoning up imaginative solutions for that problem would be additional brain teasers.
My speculation on the “ascent” (hill) challenge is to imagine that harnessed gravity to lift “metal boxes” to enable frictionless movement could possibly be finessed to enable ascent of such a frictionless body, since ascent is a similar challenge to gravity with an added horizontal component.
Have you forgotten about pandemics and politics yet?
Note from Kilroy: President Lincoln and Czar Alexander II, cited below, were assassinated because of their efforts to free, in the case of the U.S., slaves, and in Russia, serfs. Both men enjoyed a long, friendly correspondence, but never met.
Has Russia ever been there for any ally other than ethnic Russians? Note about the author pictured below.
Leonardo Morán, I was born in Cuba, studied and worked in Europe, and live in California.
“…Who was our friend when the world was our foe?”
Never question Russian resolve. If you’re ever in a fight you’d better hope you’ve got them on your side.
The Imperial Russian fleet in New York harbor, October 1863, Harper’s Weekly
In 1863 the United States was being torn apart by a great Civil War. It would take more American life than any other war before or since; more would die in the Civil War than in the First and Second World Wars combined.
With the issue still in the balance, Britain and France conspired (as great powers do) for political advantage. In their perception, a divided America would strengthen Anglo-French power. But a unified America might one day wield greater power than all of Europe combined. Before the future was taken by the upstart young nation, they would seize the moment and destroy a potential rival.
Paris and London plotted intervention on the side of the Confederacy. They claimed to be moved by purely “humanitarian” motives. Enough blood has been shed, they declared; the wiser, older European powers, masters of civilization, would put an end to the barbaric bloodletting. In fact, claimed motives were cynical and false. Great nations do not go to war out of charitable instinct.
They saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. France could recover territories lost in the Louisiana Purchase. England knew that, without access to the port of New Orleans, the North could not long survive economically. A bankrupt Union might even reverse the outcome of the American Revolution, and England would (at the very least) enlist a new ally in the Confederacy. Both England and France tried to enlist the Russian Empire in their ploy. The Russian reply was unexpected and immediate.
The Czar rejected Anglo-French overtures. A capable and intelligent man, he did not trust the British any more than he did the French. Countering their cynical scheme, Czar Alexander mobilized the formidable Russian Navy. In America’s weakest moment, it came to her aid:
On September 24, 1863, the Russian Baltic fleet began to arrive in New York harbor. On October 12, the Russian Far East fleet began to arrive in San Francisco. …The Russian admirals had been told that, if the US and Russia were to find themselves at war with Britain and France, the Russian ships should place themselves under Lincoln’s command and operate in synergy with the US Navy against the common enemies.
Coming on the heels of the bloody Union reverse at Chickamauga, news of the Russian fleet unleashed an immense wave of euphoria in the North. It was this moment that inspired the verses of Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most popular writers in America, for the 1871 friendship visit of the Russian Grand Duke Alexis:
“Bleak are our shores with the blasts of December,
Fettered and chill is the rivulet’s flow;
Thrilling and warm are the hearts that remember,
Who was our friend when the world was our foe.
Fires of the North in eternal communion,
Blend your broad flashes with evening’s bright star;
God bless the Empire that loves the Great Union;
Strength to her people! Long life to the Czar!”
The Russian Brig Merkury in battle (Tkachenko, Mikhail Stepanovich)
When an attack on San Francisco by the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah appeared imminent, the Russian admiral ordered his ships to defend the city, by any means necessary. With no Union warships on the scene, Russia was ready to fight for the vulnerable United States.
Could a divided United States of America have successfully fought the British, and the French, and the Confederacy, and won? It seems unlikely. But for our Russian friends we might not be here to ask the question. Luckily, Lincoln never had to find out. As Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles put it: “…God bless the Russians.”
(Not everyone agrees with the foregoing—here is an example–what do you think?
MA (Oxon) in History, University of Oxford (Graduated 1981)
If the British had the most powerful navy in the world in the 1800s how come they were afraid of the Russian Navy during the American Civil War which had dispatched to the American coasts to deter the British away from possible interference?
This is one of those questions that people are having difficulty taking seriously, but it is actually another one of those strange corners of history that it may be worth shining a little light on.
The OP is talking about the arrival, in September 1863, of a Russian squadron of six warships in New York. At the same time another six Russian warships arrived in San Francisco.
The New York squadron, commanded by Real Admiral Lessofsky, consisted of the frigates Alexander Nevsky, Peresvet, and Osliaba, the corvettes Variag and Vitiaz and the clipper Almaz.
The San Francisco squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Popoff, consisted of the corvettes Rynda, Kalevala, Bogatyr, and Novyk, and the clippers Abrek and Gaydamak.
These squadrons patrolled off the US coast for seven months and may, or may not, have had some effect in protecting these ports, and their shipping, from Southern raids.
Crew of the frigate Osliaba in Alexandria, Virginia, 1863
At the time, the Czar, Alexander II, expressed his support for the North, possibly through fellow feeling (after all, he had emancipated the serfs in 1861) but more likely because after losing the Crimean War (1853-1856) to the alliance of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire, he was concerned about Russia’s relative isolation in the international community.
At the time, Russia was facing a rebellion in Poland and Lithuania, the January Uprising. The signing of the Alvensleben Convention between Russia and Prussia in February 1863, risked dragging Britain and France into the conflict but, in the event, this did not happen and the Russians dealt with insurrection with extreme brutality.
Russian warships in New York harbour, 1863
However, at the time, the Russian thinking was probably more to the effect that by sending elements of their fleet to the USA they couldn’t be trapped in Kronstadt in the case of a war breaking out in Europe and they might have had some use as commerce raiders. This was certainly the opinion of Frank A. Golder, the American (born in the Ukraine) historian and Russia expert.
However, the assertion in the question that the Russian fleet was dispatched to the USA in order to deter the British from becoming involved in the American Civil War is far from the mark – although it might have had some currency in US newspapers at the time – as is the assertion that the Royal Navy was in any way afraid of these squadrons – or the Russian Navy as a whole.
These squadrons were composed of minor warships and the disparity, in both force and quality, was so great that they would never have been more than a trivial speed-bump had the British or French actually decided to intervene in the American Civil War.
Although the Antonine Plague would have little influence over the arts or Roman culture, its social and political effects have left an indelible mark on the pages of history. With it, the plague brought the death knell of the Roman Empire, and would herald in a time of constant upheaval, betrayal, and—some would argue—insanity at the hands of a capricious dictator.
But, perhaps what we should also remember is the effect the plague had on Roman society. Amid the terror and confusion, Romans gave in to believing falsehoods, behaving badly, and acting without true understanding and honour.
Marcus’ thoughts had been plagued by another pestilence, and according to his writings in the Meditations, he was deeply troubled by what he observed. His beloved Rome was descending into chaos, wanton acts, denying fact in favour of fiction, and choosing lies over truth and justice. Perhaps we have something to learn from the following reflection of his,
“Real good luck would be to abandon life without ever encountering dishonesty, or hypocrisy, or self-indulgence, or pride. But the ‘next best voyage’ is to die when you’ve had enough. Or are you determined to lie down with evil? Hasn’t experience even taught you that—to avoid it like the plague? Because it is a plague—a mental cancer—worse than anything caused by tainted air or an unhealthy climate. Disease like that can only threaten your life; this one attacks your humanity.” Meditations, IX.2
Marcus died in 180 CE, likely of the plague mentioned which started in 165 CE and claimed 2000 Romans a day. Smallpox was the likely cause.
Are forces unleashed in today’s U.S. (with help from Putin’s Russia) behind attacks on Jews and Blacks related to the origin story related below? How does this relate to Trump and his collaborators today?
The waves of anti-Semitism emanating from Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany and the prospects of American involvement in the war in Europe convinced the Christian Americans to tone down their anti-Semitic rhetoric by the early 1940s. As Vance Muse’s co-worker and wife, Maria, confessed in 1943, “Christian Americans can’t afford to be anti-Semitic outwardly, but we know where we stand on the Jews, all right.”
The Origins of Right-to-Work. Vance Muse, Anti-Semitism, and the Maintenance of Jim Crow Labor Relations
Michael Pierce, associate professor at University of Arkansas, is working on a book project examining the rise and fall of New Deal-style liberalism in Arkansas. He is the author of Striking with the Ballot: Ohio Labor and the Populist Party
As Kentucky legislators pass a measure outlawing the union shop and Missouri’s General Assembly contemplates doing the same, it is worth remembering that so-called Right-to-Work laws originated as means to maintain Jim Crow labor relations and to beat back what was seen as a Jewish cabal to foment a revolution. No one was more important in placing Right-to-Work on the conservatives’ political agenda than Vance Muse of the Christian American Association, a larger-than-life Texan whose own grandson described him as “a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter, a man who beat on labor unions not on behalf of working people, as he said, but because he was paid to do so.”
The idea for Right-to-Work laws did not originate with Muse. Rather it came from Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles, who on Labor Day 1941 called for the passage of a United States Constitution amendment prohibiting the closed or union shop. Muse visited Ruggles soon thereafter and secured the writer’s blessing for the Christian American Association’s campaign to outlaw contracts that required employees to belong to unions. Ruggles even suggested to Muse the name for such legislation—Right-to-Work.
But Muse first attracted national attention through his work with Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby in the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution, which sought to deny Roosevelt’s re-nomination in 1936 on grounds that the New Deal threatened the South’s racial order. Despite its name, the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution received funding from prominent northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers including John Jacob Raskob, Alfred P. Sloan, and brothers Lammot, Irénée, and Pierre du Pont. Among Muse’s activities on behalf of the Southern Committee was the distribution of what Time called “cheap pamphlets containing blurred photographs of the Roosevelts consorting with Negroes” accompanied by “blatant text proclaiming them ardent Negrophiles.” Muse later defended the action and the use of its most provocative photograph: “I am a Southerner and for white supremacy . . . . It was a picture of Mrs. Roosevelt going to some nigger meeting with two escorts, niggers, on each arm.”
In 1936, on the heels of the Southern Committee’s failure to deny Roosevelt’s nomination, Muse incorporated the Christian American Association to continue the fight against the New Deal, offering up a toxic mix of anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Communism, and anti-unionism. The Christian Americans considered the New Deal to be part of the broader assault of “Jewish Marxism” upon Christian free enterprise. The organization’s titular head, Lewis Valentine Ulrey, explained that after their success in Russia the “Talmudists” had determined to conquer the rest of the world and that “by 1935 they had such open success with the New Deal in the United States, that they decided to openly restore the Sanhedrin,” that is, both the council of Jewish leaders who oversaw a community and the Jewish elders who, according to the Bible, plotted to kill Christ. This “modern Jewish Sanhedrin”—which included people like Justice Frankfurter and NAACP board member Rabbi Stephen Wise—served as the guiding force of the Roosevelt Administration and the New Deal state. Vance Muse voiced the same anti-Semitic ideas in much simpler terms: “That crazy man in the White House will Sovietize America with the federal hand-outs of the Bum Deal—sorry, New Deal. Or is it the Jew Deal?”
By the early 1940s, Muse and the Christian Americans, like many southern conservatives, focused much of their wrath on the labor movement, especially the unions associated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The Christian Americans solicited wealthy southern planters and industrialists for funds to help break the “strangle hold radical labor has on our government” through the enactment of anti-union laws. Muse and his allies continued to claim that Marxist Jews were pulling the national government’s strings, but the membership of this cabal shifted from the likes of Wise and Frankfurter to CIO leaders like Lee Pressman and Sidney Hillman. The Christian Americans, like other southern conservatives, insisted that the CIO—which had become shorthand for Jewish Marxist unions—was sending organizers to the rural South to inflame the contented but gullible African-American population as the first step in a plot to Sovietize the nation.
The waves of anti-Semitism emanating from Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany and the prospects of American involvement in the war in Europe convinced the Christian Americans to tone down their anti-Semitic rhetoric by the early 1940s. As Vance Muse’s co-worker and wife, Maria, confessed in 1943, “Christian Americans can’t afford to be anti-Semitic outwardly, but we know where we stand on the Jews, all right.”
Muse and the Christian Americans initially had little luck selling their Right-to-Work amendment but did have success peddling a pre-packaged anti-strike law to planters and industrialists first in Texas and then later in Mississippi and Arkansas. This law made strikers, but not strikebreakers or management, criminally libel for any violence that occurred on the picket line. For a fee, Muse and his organization would lobby legislators and mobilize public support through newspaper advertisements, direct mail campaigns, and a speakers’ bureau. In Arkansas, Muse and the Christian Americans portrayed the anti-strike measure as a means to allow “peace officers to quell disturbances and keep the color line drawn in our social affairs” and promised that it would “protect the Southern Negro from communistic propaganda and influences.”
The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation and allied industrialists were so pleased with the Christian American Association’s success in passing the anti-strike measure that they agreed to underwrite a campaign in 1944 to secure a Right-to-Work amendment for the Arkansas constitution. This placed Arkansas alongside Florida and California as the first states where voters could cast ballots for Right-to-Work laws. While Muse and the Christian Americans consulted with the campaigns in California and Florida, they led the one in Arkansas.
During the Arkansas campaign, the Christian Americans insisted that right-to-work was essential for the maintenance of the color line in labor relations. One piece of literature warned that if the amendment failed “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes . . . whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” Similarly, the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation justified its support of Right-to-Work by citing organized labor’s threat to Jim Crow. It accused the CIO of “trying to pit tenant against landlord and black against white.”
In November 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first states to enact Right-to-Work laws (California voters rejected the measure). In both states, few blacks could cast free ballots, election fraud was rampant, and political power was concentrated in the hands of an elite. Right-to-Work laws sought to make it stay that way, to deprive the least powerful of a voice, and to make sure that workers remained divided along racial lines. The current push for Right-to-Work in Kentucky and Missouri (along with the fueling of nativism) does something similar—it is an attempt to persuade white working people that unions and racialized others are more responsible for their plight than the choices made by capital.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to take his place with French President Emmanuel Macron, Brigitte Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Donald Trump, and first lady Melania Trump at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
Republicans were once proud of claiming that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall” was the moment often cited as the key point of challenge in a war that threatened more than once to end life on the planet as it waxed and waned from 1946 to 1991. When the wall came down in 1989 and the USSR unraveled until it collapsed in 1991, Republicans stood as the party that took the firmest defense of America’s interests abroad. That stance of confronting any and all threats, both real and imagined, to the US backed global order continued throughout the Bush I and Bush II regimes. Republicans, including Trump, frequently attacked the Clinton and Obama administrations for their supposedly weak defense of American interests abroad.
But when the Russians attacked us in the citadel of our democracy, our elections, Republicans actively cooperated with Russia to cover up and deny that attack, and even took money from organizations such as the NRA that appear to have been turned into laundromats for Russian money. Meanwhile, Republican Supreme Court nominees in the Citizens United decision threw the door open to dark money and ensured that this dark money would be untraceable. In effect the Republican majority on the Supreme Court turned the Constitution, with its protections of fundamental rights and democratic processes, into a suicide pact in which dark money from whatever sources could be used to turn us against ourselves.
Now, Republicans defend a president who seems determined to aid former spy, current Russian dictator Vladmir Putin, to reverse that Cold War victory. Moscow Mitch may be an epithet, but it accurately reflects the core of compromise and accommodation that now characterizes what was once described as the party of Ronald Reagan, the man who won the Cold War. Now, Republicans stand firmly behind, and beside, and in front in defending Trump, a man who appears determined to leave the United States without allies, without alliances, and surrounded on all sides by enemies determined to redraw the maps of the post WWII/post Cold War world.
This is not an imagined fear. It is all too real, and very far along in its progress. Yet no Democratic debate yet has really probed this threat to our freedoms and even our existence as a nation. This must be recified in the coming debate. Make no mistake about it, as Bill Taylor’s 15 pages of opening testimony attests, NATO and the European Alliance are in deep peril. Russia has already and continues to use force to redraw the post Cold War European map. American allies in Ukraine and Syria are dying as a result of Trump’s treachery. Russia has the center of the NATO line already weakened. With Turkey’s connaivance, Russia has now weakened the southern flank. And Trump is doing all he can to wreck America’s Pacific alliances and the China Card Reagan played that was crucial in ending the Cold War.
I spent the final years of the Cold War between the USSR and USA living and working in Hong Kong, which was then described as the window on China and a hotbed of agents of all sides on the prowl for intel. Reagan was in his final two years as President. As China reformed and opened up during the 1980s, the peril and isolation of the USSR grew. This was readily discernible from Hong Kong, where I continued to live until late 2015, teaching in a department of government and international studies. When the West, in no uncertain terms, punished China for the mid-1989 Tiananmen Square massacre with sanctions and with effectively siphoning off many of the most promising Chinese students abroad, Soviet leaders knew that their shaky economy could not withstand a similar response. And this played a role in the hesitancy they exhibited as demonstrations grew throughout the Soviet bloc and eventually spread to the USSR “republics” themselves.
The unity of the West, led by the United States, and buttressed by our ringing affirmations of democracy and freedom in defensive alliances such as the UN and NATO, as well as in agencies of economic cooperation and freedom such as the World Bank and WTO (then the GATT), constrained and then collapsed the dictatorships that ruled the majority of humanity during the Cold War. The Ukraine, as a result, broke free.
Russia has never accepted Ukraine’s independence and it appears it still covets its lost global influence. Putin appears determined to resurrect Russian global power and simultaneously destroy America’s.
This Cold War victory is thus in very real danger of being reversed. If Putin can break up the EU and NATO, the United States loses access and assistance from what is currently the largest economic bloc on the planet. Technically, the US and EU together command about 40% of the global economy. With the Asian alliance with Japan and our strong relations with China, well over half the global economy was strongly influenced by the United States as of 2016. But America alone is about 16-18% of the global economy, and shrinking. In purchasing power parity terms, China is already larger economically than the US according to the World Bank. A Russia-China bloc would have immense global influence without a US-EU-Japan and other allies block to counter it. If the US is weakend enough, you can be certain China will move to secure its hold over the entire South China Sea and over Taiwan. Japan, alone, would have no choice but to secure its vital trade routes through the South China Sea by alliance with China instead of the US. Other Pacific allies such as Australia and NZ, much of South America and Central Asia would shift orbit from the US to China.
Without our global alliances, the United States would be isolated in a world very much increasingly imperiled by global threats such as climate change and the rampant spread of nuclear weaponry. Even a “small” nuclear war between Pakistan and India would, as recent studies show, kill hundreds of millions globally. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently noted the world is in as much or even more danger of nuclear war now than during the Cold War.
The global threats are growing. Our alliances and influence are weakening. This is a recipe for disaster, both to the US and our planet.
In attacking our democratic system and rule of law, Putin is attacking the very core of the global security and trade system that reflects and protects those values. There is no question Trump shares that hatred of democracy and rule of law with his master, Putin. With Trump disrupting and neglecting the UN, NATO, and the WTO—attacking all those agencies that globalized American democratic and legal values and systems, he proves himself a positive, present danger to the American Republic. His actions are wholly traitorous.
Yes, all these agencies need to better reflect our democratic values and better protect us as human beings, but they cannot be made better if they are destroyed. We cannot advance the global cooperation needed to address climate change and nuclear weapons without them. We cannot defend ourselves, our climate, our values, or our trade and hence prosperity alone. But Trump and Republicans today appear determined to strip us defenseless and to render us impotent.
Trump must be impeached and removed from office. And all those who defend this traitor must similarly be investigated for any criminality that may be found and/or voted from office. That includes Moscow Mitch, who may actually be a witting agent of Beijing, not Moscow, or perhaps of both. Assuredly, he is no patriot. Further, the “good behavior” of US Supreme Court justices who opened the door for Russian intervention and the destruction of our democracy must be fully, carefully investigated by Congress. If questionable associations (Deutschebank and a particular former justice come to mind) led to the majority forming this disastrous decision, the decision itself must be reconsidered. And if the “majority” do not reverse the decision, steps must be taken to impeach and remove justices who insist on forcing the United States to commit suicide. It cannot be considered “good behavior” to actively assist those who aim to destroy the nation.
As was said long ago, Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country. We are clearly under attack from foes both foreign and domestic. Remember your oaths. Read the many diaries laying out how to assist in the coming election, and do your part, and do your part now in supporting our Congressional representatives who are standing up for us and our nation against those who want nothing less than to become rich by assisting the dismantling of this country.
Multiple actors in the United States, Russia, and Ukraine have been promoting the idea of investigating Ukraine’s alleged election meddling, as well as the inquiry about the Bidens. The calls for such measures have been promoted especially by Ukrainian lawmakers known for their pro-Russian views, including Yuri Boyko, the co-chairman of Ukraine’s biggest pro-Russian party.
“Russia’s influence over its largest European neighbor can be restored only by undermining the American involvement.”
According to the English-language Ukrainian newspaperKyiv Post, three other Ukrainian lawmakers—Oleg Voloshyn, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, and Andriy Derkach—are also “doing Trump’s dirty work” to try to prompt the investigations he demanded from the Ukrainian president.
The Kyiv Post pointed out the lawmakers’ links to the oligarch Dmytro Firtash, discredited former Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, and President Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort.
Voloshyn, who calls Manafort his friend, authored a flattering opinion piece about him in December 2017. At the time, Robert Mueller’s prosecutors argued that Manafort violated a gag order by heavily editing Voloshyn’s op-ed that attempted to whitewash Manafort’s work in Ukraine.
The politically motivated investigations of the Bidens and Ukraine’s alleged interference in the U.S. elections would play right into President Vladimir Putin’s hands by jeopardizing bipartisan U.S. support for Kyiv. The Kremlin, which seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, sees Ukraine as the highly coveted jewel of the post-Soviet region. But Russia’s influence over its largest European neighbor can be restored only by undermining the American involvement. Putin personally pitched in to paint a negative picture of Ukraine, when President Trump inexplicably sought his “guidance” on how to deal with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Kremlin has strived continually to drive a wedge between the United States and Ukraine in order to get the country back firmly into Russia’s sphere of influence. Russian state media repeatedly urge the Ukrainian government to go along with Trump’s demands, no matter how humiliating, or else lose any hope of continued U.S. support.
The host of Russian news talk show 60 Minutes, Evgeny Popov, warned: “If Trump gets re-elected, and you don’t investigate Biden… [Ukraine] won’t get anything from America. Not a thing.” The co-host of 60 Minutes, Olga Skabeeva, scoffed: “With respect to mutual American-Ukrainian love, as we know, nothing lasts forever,” adding, “Trump could spit on Ukraine.”
The leader of a pro-Russian group of Ukrainians, Yuriy Kot, picked up that refrain: “Trump could spit on Ukraine!” Kot added that if Trump is re-elected, Ukraine can expect “four more years of hell from the United States of America. You don’t even understand the horror that is coming your way.” Skabeeva summed up: “For Ukraine, this is a catastrophe… Americans are directly telling you they’re sick of you. Nobody needs you.”
“Trump could spit on Ukraine.”
— Olga Skabeeva, co-hose of Russia’s “60 Minutes”
Such demoralizing drivel from Russian state media is, of course, designed to push the fledgling democracy away from the U.S. and back into Russia’s orbit.
Trump, for his part, has been in the “blame Ukraine” camp for years as a way to diminish or discredit the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community and many of its Western allies that, as Fiona Hill pointed out, Putin had waged a systematic effort to undermine U.S. democracy, with support for Trump a part of that strategy.
Putin and Trump reportedly have discussed allegations of Ukrainian interference in U.S. elections. In a 2017 Oval Office meeting, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s election interference. At the G20 in June of this year, Trump grinned and playfully wagged his finger as he told Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election.”
One month later, during Trump’s now infamous July 25 call with Ukraine’s Zelensky, Trump urged him to investigate Ukraine’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections—and the lesson drawn from all this by Putin? Appearing at the economic forum Russia Calling, he smirked: “Thank God no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”
But here’s the fact of the matter. Russia’s unprecedented interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been described, with reason, as “the most successful influence campaign in history, one that will be studied globally for decades,” and it is far from over.
Instead of counteracting Russia’s malign influence, American foreign policy under Trump is seemingly being guided by it and leaders of the Republican Party are doing their best to aid and abet that program.
The wave of Kremlin disinformation started with faceless workers at the St. Petersburg “troll factory” banging away at their keyboards, striving to reach everyday not-very-well-informed Americans who would in turn misinform others within their sphere of influence.
The operation surpassed Putin’s wildest dreams when ripples of disinformation surged into a tsunami as Candidate Trump and then President Trump started openly to recite Russia’s fictive talking points. The range of dissemination was then magnified by Trump’s Republican supporters, along with his 67 million Twitter followers, and media outlets hanging on to every word uttered by the leader of the mightiest country in the world.
Russia Can’t Get Enough of Impeachment Hearings
In sum, there’s no question the presidency of Donald J. Trump has proved to be enormously beneficial for the Kremlin, and supporters of the Russian president are openly rooting for Trump’s re-election.
Russian state television channel Rossiya-1 has dispatched its reporter Denis Davydov to broadcast directly from the impeachment hearings and, probably this should not be a surprise, Russian state-media coverage sounded eerily like much of Fox News, echoing the disingenuous claims by Trump supporters that there was no pressure against Ukraine and no “quid pro quo.”
For the first time in modern history, in the era of Trump, Russian state television is more than happy to support the Republicans—and for a good reason.
Anxious to seize control of Germany’s faltering economy from Socialists and independent Labor organizations, its industrialists lavishly funded the Nazi party and its bid to enter and control parliament.
Having accomplished this via two elections in 1932, and to signal its primacy to the German population, barrels of fuel were rolled through a utility tunnel connecting the building containing Herman Goering’s (Hitler’s Deputy) office and the basement of the Reichstag, Germany’s historic seat of parliament. Ample excuse to dismiss the existing parliament, substituting a “rump” parliament functioning as a cheering section for Hitler.
Upon ignition, the results below, a hapless Dutch fellow was spotted near the scene, arrested, convicted in a sham trial and promptly executed for the crime.
Today (2019) in the U.S., a version, much more subtle, is playing out, as a launching pad for the Trump Imperial Dynasty is being constructed. It started earlier, when Senator Mike McConnell made the decision to populate our Federal judiciary with robotic Russian dolls united in their zeal to dismantle guarantees provided in the Constitution and its amendments to insure equality of opportunity and access to redress.
The opportunistic candidacy of Donald Trump for the Presidency of the United States, and the intervention of astute entities under the control of Russian President Vladimir Putin presented McConnell and other actors with unprecedented opportunities to fulfill their vision of totalitarian rule to suppress shared prosperity initiatives and inclusive political participation.
Key to this conundrum is something described as Trump’s “base”, committed to massive traffic and commerce in military style firearms, narrowly defined fundamentalist “Christian” criteria applying to every aspect of existence, and exclusion of all “others” from civil, academic, scientific and political life.
Artist: Joseph Qiu, 2018
EMPERORS OF ANY AGE HAVE THEIR HANGERS-ON AND ___ LICKERS. HOLD YOUR NOSE!
On a related issue, demagogues always coarsen societies, as in the example below, recorded by the Roman writer Juvenal: “These men once were horn-blowers, who went the round of every provincial show, and whose puffed-out cheeks were known in every village; today they hold shows of their own, and win applause by slaying
whomsoever the mob with a turn of the thumb bids them slay.”(the emperor’s thumb down, his subjects slavishly copy him–a choice driven by fear of the emperor’s wrath, or a place at the hog trough?)
Jean-Leon Gerome 1872
Thumbs down, all must die! Hurry up–an orgy awaits!
DJT’s choice in Imperial amusements 2019–no swords or bludgeons, but lethal fists and kicks in a cage–do we need a whip and a chair to make the spectacle complete?
Humans are the only species that will act out fantasies putting themselves and others in danger out of pure paranoia. Paranoia is strictly a human condition.It is, when you think about it, extraordinary that we are not prey for most apex predators, including orcas and sperm whales, the largest predator who has ever lived on earth. The book:
Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (1996)
(By Richard W. Wrangham and Dale Peterson) points out that, in only two mammal species in the world do males live in social groups with their relatives and occasionally make journeys into neighboring territories to stalk, hunt and kill members of neighboring groups. Those two species are chimpanzees and humans. He also notes that fighting adults of almost all species normally stop at winning: Only humans will fight on, even when there is nothing defensive to be gained by the killing.
But are we really “man the hunter,” as was believed in the 1960s? Donna Hart, in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Humans as Prey,” points out that humans were hardly “the toughest kids on the block” for the vast majority of their time on earth. Quite the contrary-we were more like the 90-pound weakling, she says. She and others believe, and I agree, that an urge to cooperate with one another, even if only to help avoid predators, is built in: “Deadly competition among individuals or nations may be highly aberrant behavior, not hard-wired survival techniques.”
Does “FEAR”, promoted by toxic propaganda in concert with corrupt politicians stimulate the “highly aberrant behavior” referenced? Is this a threat to our survival as a species?
Cognitive Impairments Can Promote Religious Fundamentalism (and political extremism?)
Scientists have found a link between religious fundamentalism and brain damage.
A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has revealed a connection between a functional impairment in the brain region known as the prefrontal cortex and an inclination toward religious fundamentalism. The findings suggest that brain damage to this particular area indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait that involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.
Religious beliefs can typically be thought of as socially-transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. These kinds of religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are generally fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.
Religious fundamentalism refers to an ideology that emphasizes traditional religious texts and rituals and discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues. Fundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or challenges their beliefs or way of life. For this reason, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.
Since religious beliefs play a massive role in driving and influencing human behavior throughout the world, it is important to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism from a psychological and neurological perspective.
To investigate the cognitive and neural systems involved in religious fundamentalism, a team of researchers—led by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University—conducted a study that utilized data from Vietnam War veterans that had been gathered previously. The vets were specifically chosen because a large number of them had damage to brain areas suspected of playing a critical role in functions related to religious fundamentalism. CT scans were analyzed comparing 119 vets with brain trauma to 30 healthy vets with no damage, and a survey that assessed religious fundamentalism was administered. While the majority of participants were Christians of some kind, 32.5% did not specify a particular religion.
Based on previous research, the experimenters predicted that the prefrontal cortex would play a role in religious fundamentalism since this region is known to be associated with something called “cognitive flexibility.” This term refers to the brain’s ability to easily switch from thinking about one concept to another, and to think about multiple things simultaneously. Cognitive flexibility allows organisms to update beliefs in light of new evidence, and this trait likely emerged because of the obvious survival advantage such a skill provides. It is a crucial mental characteristic for adapting to new environments because it allows individuals to make more accurate predictions about the world under new and changing conditions.
Brain imaging research has shown that a major neural region associated with cognitive flexibility is the prefrontal cortex—specifically two areas known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Additionally, the vmPFC was of interest to the researchers because past studies have revealed its connection to fundamentalist-type beliefs.
For example, one study showed individuals with vmPFC lesions rated radical political statements as more moderate than people with normal brains, while another showed a direct connection between vmPFC damage and religious fundamentalism. For these reasons, in the present study, researchers looked at patients with lesions in both the vmPFC and the dlPFC, and searched for correlations between damage in these areas and responses to religious fundamentalism questionnaires.
According to Dr. Grafman and his team, since religious fundamentalism involves strict adherence to a rigid set of beliefs, cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness present a challenge for fundamentalists. As such, they predicted that participants with lesions to either the vmPFC or the dlPFC would score low on measures of cognitive flexibility and trait openness and high on measures of religious fundamentalism.
The results showed that, as expected, damage to the vmPFC and dlPFC was associated with religious fundamentalism. Further tests revealed that this increase in religious fundamentalism was caused by a reduction in cognitive flexibility and openness resulting from the prefrontal cortex impairment. Cognitive flexibility was assessed using a standard psychological card sorting test that involved categorizing cards with words and images according to rules. Openness was measured using a widely-used personality survey known as the NEO Personality Inventory. The data suggests that damage to the vmPFC indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by suppressing both cognitive flexibility and openness.
These findings are important because they suggest that impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcoholaddiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness
The authors emphasize that cognitive flexibility and openness aren’t the only things that make brains vulnerable to religious fundamentalism. In fact, their analyses showed that these factors only accounted for a fifth of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Uncovering those additional causes, which could be anything from genetic predispositions to social influences, is a future research project that the researchers believe will occupy investigators for many decades to come, given how complex and widespread religious fundamentalism is and will likely continue to be for some time.
By investigating the cognitive and neural underpinnings of religious fundamentalism, we can better understand how the phenomenon is represented in the connectivity of the brain, which could allow us to someday inoculate against rigid or radical belief systems through various kinds of mental and cognitive exercises.
How “fundamentalism” in its various forms-political and ideological, is exploited:
“The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” ~ Adolf Hitler
“How fortunate for leaders that men do not think (also, What luck for rulers that men do not think).” ~ Adolf Hitler
Around 95 per cent of marine species and 70 per cent of life on land was wiped out in the event often referred to as “The Great Dying”, which struck 252 million years ago
Previous studies have linked it with a series of massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.
But precisely what made the oceans so inhospitable to life has remained an unanswered question until now.
The new study, reported in the journal Science, suggests as temperatures soared the warmer water could not hold enough oxygen for most marine creatures to survive.
Lessons from the Great Dying have major implications for the fate of today’s warming world, say the US scientists.
If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, ocean warming could reach 20 per cent of the level experienced in the late Permian by 2100, they point out.
By the year 2300 it could reach between 35 and 50 per cent of the Great Dying extreme.
“This study highlights the potential for a mass extinction arising from a similar mechanism under anthropogenic [human caused] climate change,” said lead researcher Justin Penn, a doctoral student at the University of Washington.
Before the Siberian eruptions created a greenhouse-gas planet, the Earth’s oceans had temperatures and oxygen levels similar to those present today.
In a series of computer simulations, the scientists raised greenhouse gases to match conditions during the Great Dying, causing surface ocean temperatures to increase by around 10C.
The model triggered dramatic changes in the oceans, which lost around 80 per cent of their oxygen.
Roughly half the ocean floor, mostly at deeper depths, became completely devoid of the life-sustaining gas.
The researchers studied published data on 61 modern marine species including crustaceans, fish, shellfish, corals and sharks, to see how well they could tolerate such conditions.
These findings were incorporated into the model to produce an extinction “map”.
“Very few marine organisms stayed in the same habitats they were living in – it was either flee or perish,” said co-author Dr Curtis Deutsch, also from the University of Washington.
The simulation showed the hardest hit species were those found far from the tropics and most sensitive to oxygen loss.
Data from the fossil record confirmed a similar extinction pattern was seen during The Great Dying.
Tropical species already adapted to warm, low-oxygen conditions were better able to find a new home elsewhere. But no such escape route existed for those adapted to cold, oxygen-rich environments.
Previously, experts were undecided about whether lack of oxygen, heat stress, high acidity or poisoning chemicals wiped out life in the oceans at the end of the Permian period.
“This is the first time that we have made a mechanistic prediction about what caused the extinction that can be directly tested with the fossil record, which then allows us to make predictions about the causes of extinction in the future,” said Mr Penn.
Experts think the Earth is currently going through the sixth mass extinction in its history, an event triggered by humans.
Over-exploitation of the planet’s resources, pollution and climate changes as a result of spiking greenhouse gas emissions have all caused an increase in species extinctions in recent years.
A new book: The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace Wells, has a few points to share on the subject. A sample, text or audio, offers an introduction. (click below)
Missing from the above are measures to slow or at least survive, for some, the apocalyptic future described. The impression given by some authors is that humanity will not rise to the challenge. Are they right? I suppose future generations will find out. Kilroy
The “germs” part of GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL (the PBS series and book by Professor Jared Diamond)
4 December 2018
Alexander Koch a, *, Chris Brierley a, Mark M. Maslin a, Simon L. Lewis a, b
a Geography, University College London, London, WC1E6BT, United Kingdom
b School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS29JT, United Kingdom
Abs t r a c t
Human impacts prior to the Industrial Revolution are not well constrained. We investigate whether the
decline in global atmospheric CO2 concentration by 7e10 ppm in the late 1500s and early 1600s which
globally lowered surface air temperatures by 0.15+C, were generated by natural forcing or were a result of the large-scale depopulation of the Americas after European arrival, subsequent land use change and secondary succession. We quantitatively review the evidence for (i) the pre-Columbian population size,
(ii) their per capita land use, (iii) the post-1492 population loss, (iv) the resulting carbon uptake of the
abandoned anthropogenic landscapes, and then compare these to potential natural drivers of global
carbon declines of 7e10 ppm. From 119 published regional population estimates we calculate a
pre-1492 CE population of 60.5 million
(interquartile range, IQR 44.8e78.2 million), utilizing 1.04 ha land per
capita (IQR 0.98e1.11).
European epidemics removed 90% (IQR 87e92%) of the indigenous population over the next century.
This resulted in secondary succession of 55.8 Mha (IQR 39.0e78.4 Mha) of
abandoned land, sequestering 7.4 Pg C (IQR 4.9e10.8 Pg C), equivalent to a decline in atmospheric CO2 of
3.5 ppm (IQR 2.3e5.1 ppm CO2). Accounting for carbon cycle feedbacks plus LUC outside the Americas
gives a total 5 ppm CO2 additional uptake into the land surface in the 1500s compared to the 1400s, 47
e67% of the atmospheric CO2 decline. Furthermore, we show that the global carbon budget of the 1500s
cannot be balanced until large-scale vegetation regeneration in the Americas is included.
YELLOW BOX IS THE “GREAT DYING” TIMESPAN, BLACK IS “CARBON UPTAKE” due to reforestation, BLUE and GREY are ice cores showing atmospheric CO2 levels
THE GREAT DYING OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE AMERICAS RESULTED IN A HUMAN-DRIVEN GLOBAL IMPACT ON THE EARTH SYSTEM IN THE TWO CENTURIES PRIOR TO THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.
Amerindians in North America
Once, North America was full of Amerindian nations, populations of people ancestrally indigenous to the continent. Researchers estimate population numbers in the millions prior to the arrival of Europeans, but today Amerindians make up only about 1% of the total population. So, what happened? Well, the arrival of Europeans introduced many new things to North America. Some of those things were invisible bacteria and viruses that caused pandemic-level outbreaks amongst Amerindian populations. Now, off the bat it should be acknowledged that diseases did not single-handedly destroy Amerindian civilizations. However, when coupled with slavery, oppression and forced dietary/social changes that came from colonialism, these diseases did have an absolutely lethal impact. One of the most notorious of these diseases was smallpox, a vicious virus that even today cannot be treated except to manage its symptoms and prevent its spread. Of all the colonial empires to touch Amerindian nations, smallpox may have been the most aggressive.
Introduction of Smallpox
Smallpox found its way into the Americas basically in tandem with the first major colonial expeditions. The Spanish started setting up colonies in the Caribbean in the late 15th century, and by the first decade of the 16th century the region was already experiencing widespread mortality amongst Amerindian populations. Now, the obvious question here is why smallpox affected Amerindians so harshly. Smallpox as a disease first transferred to humans around 10,000 BCE. It appeared first in agricultural societies as humans were exposed to diseases carried by animals, and spread across Africa and Europe. But, over thousands of years they built up immunities. This doesn’t mean they were completely safe; a smallpox outbreak in Rome is believed to have killed roughly 7 million people in 108 CE. However, when smallpox appeared in the Caribbean, it encountered a people with absolutely no previous exposure, and therefore no genetic immunities to the disease.
Europeans landing in the Caribbean unknowingly introduced new diseases
The people of the Caribbean, called the Taíno, were the first to really have to deal with smallpox, and they were entirely wiped out. When Europeans first arrived in the Caribbean, they often enslaved the Taíno and forced them into hard labor. Exhaustion and starvation weakened their immune systems, reducing the little ability they had to fight off new diseases like smallpox. Of the many populations to be decimated by smallpox, the Taíno are amongst the only ones considered to have experienced nearly a 100% mortality rate. In fact, it was because the Taíno had all succumbed to the disease that Europeans started importing new slaves from Africa. This actually made the smallpox problem worse, as African slaves unknowingly carried new strains of the disease.
Impact on European Colonialism
Smallpox ended up being one of the most dramatic factors in the colonial wars that would emerge between Amerindians and European empires across the next several centuries. When Hernán Cortés and the Spanish Conquistadores took on the Aztec Empire, many parts of that empire had already been ravaged by smallpox. Since the virus passes from person-to-person and can hide within a host for almost two weeks before that person shows any symptoms, smallpox worked its way into the continental Americas long before the Europeans got there. In fact, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán was ravaged by smallpox while the Spanish weren’t in the city, and the Aztec emperor himself was killed.
The disease likely reached Tenochtitlan when Cortés returned from the coast in June 1520, and by September it had killed perhaps half of the city’s 250,000 residents, including Montezuma’s successor, Cuitláhuac.
The loss of warriors and political disunity caused by the disease was part of the reasons the Aztec Empire fell.
Smallpox depicted in Aztec illustrations
This trend would continue across the Americas. When European traders first made it to what is now Oregon and Washington, they noted that there were already members of the tribal nations there who were sick with smallpox. Researchers estimate that a smallpox outbreak in a community who has never seen the disease before can impact their population for 100 to 150 years. Those who survive are still carriers of the disease, and with each generation the virus can reappear, wreaking havoc.
In 1517 the Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernán Cortés, arrived in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The ruler of the Aztecs, Montezuma II, made the Spanish welcome and things were initially friendly (but obviously wary) between the Spanish and the Aztecs initially.
Tenochtitlan before Cortes–250,000 people, compulsory public education for all
CORTES’ SOLDIERS ENCOUNTERING THE SMALLPOX VICTIMS OF TENOCHTITLAN
Notice the sophisticated boats based on Cortez’ imaginative reports to Spain, though Cortez burned his ships because he knew that his band would be unable to fashion boats to desert him. Armoured soldiers in the water would drown immediately, along with their panicked mounts.
Two years later the conquistadors began their conquest of Mexico, and by August 1521 Tenochtitlan had been destroyed. The Spanish colony of New Spain was established and the Aztec Empire had ended. The reasons for this rapid and dramatic destruction of such a mighty Empire were multi-factorial. The superior weaponry and more sophisticated military tactics of the Spanish, the religious beliefs of the Aztecs, and the long history of ritual sacrifice and persecution of the other peoples living in Mexico all played essential roles. There are a large number of detailed resources available on this subject, and I highly recommend the History on Fire podcast series by Daniele Bolleli if you are interested in the topic.
Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492-1650 (The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Authored by: Miguel Leon Portilla. Located at: http://legacy.fordham.edu/Halsall/mod/aztecs1.asp. Project: Internet Modern History Sourcebook.)
Primary Source Reading: Aztec Accounts of the Conquest
Introduction to the Source
In 1517 Hernan Cortés sailed from Cuba, landed in Mexico and made his way to the Aztec capital. Miguel Leon Portilla, a Mexican anthropologist, gathered accounts by the Aztecs, some of which were written shortly after the conquest. Note that references to the “Sun” refers to Aztec beliefs regarding the commandment of their Sun god to honor a future light-skinned visitor, a representative of the Sun god. Armored uniforms, shining in the sun, and the European light skin of Cortez’ entourage, reinforced this perception. Hostilities erupted when Spanish soldiers, with no translators among them (Malinche, Cortez’ concubine and translator, accompanied Cortez in his trek to the Veracruz to deal with soldiers sent to arrest him for defying the orders of the Spanish Governor in Cuba.)
These soldiers perceived the celebration as somehow threatening to them because of their ignorance of Aztec language and custom, and commenced slaughter of celebrants and eventually much of Aztec leadership. Cortez returned to find a war between the Spanish and Aztecs already in progress.
Speeches of Motecuhzoma and Cortés
When Motecuhzoma [Montezuma] had given necklaces to each one, Cortés asked him: “Are you Motecuhzoma? Are you the king? Is it true that you are the king Motecuhzoma?”
And the king said: “Yes, I am Motecuhzoma.” Then he stood up to welcome Cortés; he came forward, bowed his head low and addressed him in these words: “Our lord, you are weary. The journey has tired you, but now you have arrived on the earth. You have come to your city, Mexico. You have come here to sit on your throne, to sit under its canopy.
“The kings who have gone before, your representatives, guarded it and preserved it for your coming. The kings Itzcoatl, Motecuhzoma the Elder, Axayacatl, Tizoc and Ahuitzol ruled for you in the City of Mexico. The people were protected by their swords and sheltered by their shields.
“Do the kings know the destiny of those they left behind, their posterity? If only they are watching! If only they can see what I see!
No, it is not a dream. I am not walking in my sleep. I am not seeing you in my dreams…. I have seen you at last! I have met you face to face! I was in agony for five days, for ten days, with my eyes fixed on the Region of the Mystery. And now you have come out of the clouds and mists to sit on your throne again.
This was foretold by the kings who governed your city, and now it has taken place. You have come back to us; you have come down from the sky. Rest now, and take possession of your royal houses. Welcome to your land, my lords!”
When Motecuhzoma had finished, La Malinche translated his address into Spanish so that the Captain could understand it. Cortés replied in his strange and savage tongue, speaking first to La Malinche: “Tell Motecuhzoma that we are his friends. There is nothing to fear. We have wanted to see him for a long time, and now we have seen his face and heard his words. Tell him that we love him well and that our hearts are contented.”
Then he said to Motecuhzoma: “We have come to your house in Mexico as friends. There is nothing to fear.”
La Malinche translated this speech and the Spaniards grasped Motecuhzoma’s hands and patted his back to show their affection for him….
Massacre in the Main Temple
During this time, the people asked Motecuhzoma how they should celebrate their god’s fiesta. He said: “Dress him in all his finery, in all his sacred ornaments.”
During this same time, The Sun commanded that Motecuhzoma and Itzcohuatzin, the military chief of Tlatelolco, be made prisoners. The Spaniards hanged a chief from Acolhuacan named Nezahualquentzin. They also murdered the king of Nauhtla, Cohualpopocatzin, by wounding him with arrows and then burning him alive.
For this reason, our warriors were on guard at the Eagle Gate. The sentries from Tenochtitlan stood at one side of the gate, and the sentries from Tlatelolco at the other. But messengers came to tell them to dress the figure of Huitzilopochtli. They left their posts and went to dress him in his sacred finery: his ornaments and his paper clothing.
When this had been done, the celebrants began to sing their songs. That is how they celebrated the first day of the fiesta. On the second day they began to sing again, but without warning they were all put to death. The dancers and singers were completely unarmed. They brought only their embroidered cloaks, their turquoises, their lip plugs, their necklaces, their clusters of heron feathers, their trinkets made of deer hooves. Those who played the drums, the old men, had brought their gourds of snuff and their timbrels.
The Spaniards attacked the musicians first, slashing at their hands and faces until they had killed all of them. The singers-and even the spectators- were also killed. This slaughter in the Sacred Patio went on for three hours. Then the Spaniards burst into the rooms of the temple to kill the others: those who were carrying water, or bringing fodder for the horses, or grinding meal, or sweeping, or standing watch over this work.
The king Motecuhzoma, who was accompanied by Itzcohuatzin and by those who had brought food for the Spaniards, protested: “Our lords, that is enough! What are you doing? These people are not carrying shields or macanas. Our lords, they are completely unarmed!”
The Sun had treacherously murdered our people on the twentieth day after the captain left for the coast. We allowed the Captain to return to the city in peace. But on the following day we attacked him with all our might, and that was the beginning of the war.
In addition to these factors, smallpox undoubtedly played a huge part in the fall of the Aztec Empire. When Cortés and his army began their campaign against the Aztecs in 1519, over 30 million people were living in Mexico. One hundred years later, after a series of smallpox epidemics had decimated the local population, it is estimated only around 1.5-3 million natives had survived.
Native Americans Helped the Europeans when they Suffered Disease
Updated on May 9, 2013
Native Americans became exposed to many new diseases when the Europeans arrived in North America. Native American communities were isolated from disease until the arrival of the Europeans. The Europeans had built up immunity to many diseases while living in the Old World. Native Americans had never been exposed to these diseases before and their traditional cures did not work. The transmission of the diseases caused more devastation in the New World than the Black Death had done in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Natives died from these diseases. Well established trade routes helped spread the diseases very quickly. Diseases that the Europeans brought over were smallpox, measles, malaria, yellow fever, influenza, chicken pox, and many others. Diseases that were spread to the Europeans from the Natives were syphilis, polio, hepatitis, and encephalitis.
Christopher Columbus and his crew landed in Hispaniola, an island in the Caribbean Sea, in the year 1492, and by the year 1600 most of the Natives were dead from disease. The reason they died so quickly is because the Europeans brought over livestock with them. The Natives were hunters and gatherers. The Europeans lived in tight settlements with their livestock, which helped diseases spread faster. Cattle pass measles, tuberculosis, and smallpox to people. Pigs pass influenza and pertussis to people. Chickens pass malaria to people. The Natives did not have these animals until the Europeans arrived, and did not have the antibodies to fight the diseases as well as the Europeans had. Trading with one another helped spread the diseases quickly. Alfred Crosby writes about some of these diseases in his article The Columbian Exchange, “Smallpox was the worst and the most spectacular of the infectious diseases mowing down the Native Americans. The first recorded pandemic of that disease in British North America detonated among the Algonquin of Massachusetts in the early 1630s: William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation wrote that the victims “fell down so generally of this disease as they were in the end not able to help one another, no not to make a fire nor fetch a little water to drink, nor any to bury the dead.” European explorers encountered distinctively American illnesses such as Chagas Disease, but these did not have much effect on Old World populations. Venereal syphilis has also been called American, but that accusation is far from proven. Even if we add all the Old World deaths blamed on American diseases together, including those ascribed to syphilis, the total is insignificant compared to Native American losses to smallpox alone.”
The Europeans not only brought disease to the New World, but also brought disease with them back to the Old World. European sailors on their way back to Europe brought syphilis with them. “The origin of venereal syphilis is referred to as the “Columbian hypothesis”, it asserts that the disease causing agent Treponema pallidum originated in the New World and was spread in 1493 by Christopher Columbus and his crew, who acquired it from the Natives of Hispaniola through sexual contact. Upon return to Spain, some of these men joined the military campaign of Charles VIII of France and laid siege to Naples in 1495. Encamped soldiers exposed the local populations of prostitutes, which amplified disease transmission. Infected and disbanding mercenaries then spread the disease throughout Europe when they returned home. Within five years of its arrival, the disease was an epidemic in Europe. Syphilis reached Hungary and Russia by 1497; Africa, the Middle East and India by 1498; China by 1505; Australia by 1515; and Japan by 1569.” The most common remedies for syphilis were mercury and guaiacum.
The Native Americans did help the Europeans when they suffered disease. One example is when the French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew were trapped in the St. Lawrence River near Montreal. The ships were frozen in the ice from November to March during the winter of 1535 to 1536. As a result, disease broke out on the ships and twenty-five men died. (The disease is what we now call scurvy.) The local Natives saw the Frenchmen’s plight and showed them how to take bark and leaves of a certain tree (either white pine or hemlock) boil them down and drink it every other day. Native American healers, many of them women, knew where to find natural plant remedies. Europeans would have rather received natural healing then the alternative European healing, such as purging and bleeding. Natives would treat wounds with crushed bark of Chionanthus; use Spirea as a purgative like ipecac; apply the pulverized roots and leaves of Dracontium (skunk or polecat-weed) after attacks of asthma; use a decoction of Aralia spinosa to treat rheumatic pains; apply the bark of witch hazel to tumors and inflammations and make a poultice from the inside bark as a remedy for burning eyes; relieve coughs with a decoction of Adiantum; and use the resin from the buds of the tacamahac tree for various illnesses. They also used bayberry roots for toothaches and petroleum to relieve rheumatism and aches and pains.
The Europeans also helped the Native Americans when they were suffering. Traditional Native healing practices, such as fasting, taking sweat baths, and plunging into an icy river, did not help them fight the diseases, but made it worse. The Europeans had sought the aid of the Natives for cures for snakebites and other ailments, now the Natives were seeking help from the Europeans. The Huron Natives accepted Baptism from Jesuit priests in hopes that they would be healed. The Europeans had some medical knowledge and supplies and helped them the best they could. Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca writes in Relacions how he helped cure Natives of illnesses. “We remained with the Avavares Indians for eight months, according to our reckoning of the moons. During that time they came for us from many places and said that verily we were children of the sun. Until then Dorantes and the negro had not made any cures, but we found ourselves so pressed by the Indians coming from all sides, that all of us had to become medicine men. I was the most daring and reckless of all in undertaking cures. We never treated anyone that did not afterwards say he was well, and they had such confidence in our skill as to believe that none of them would die as long as we were among them.” In his writings, Cabeza de Vaca tells that the only thing that they did for the Indians was to pray for them. “Every one of the patients offered him his bow and arrows, which he accepted, and by sunset he made the sign of the cross over each of the sick, recommending them to God, Our Lord, and we all prayed to Him as well as we could to restore them to health.”
IMBALANCE IN THE SPIRIT WORLD
Native American cultures saw illness as a sign of imbalance in the spirit world. They did not believe that disease was spread person to person. Staying in harmony with others through rituals was very important for a good mind in the natural and spirit world. Illnesses could be caused by violated taboos, witchcraft, or unfulfilled dreams, but could be cured by rituals. Some tribes believe that there are three kinds of diseases. Some are natural and can be cured with natural remedies. Some are caused by the soul of the sick person and are cured by giving what the soul desires. And then some are caused by a spell that a sorcerer has cast upon the person and is cured by drawing out the spell that is making the person sick.
Interestingly, the Europeans thought that the illnesses that were killing the Native Americans were a divine act of God. “According to John Winthrop, God was killing Indians and their supporters to ensure “our title to this place.” And as the “instruments of Providence, divinely appointed to claim the New World from its ‘godless’ peoples,” the colonists felt it was their duty to destroy the “godless savage.” In the words of Captain John Underhill, “We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings” — he refers to the massacre of five hundred Pequot men, women, and children at a village along the Mystic River.”
Helped Modern Medicine
The diseases that affected early American people are very extensive. The treatments varied depending on what part of the country and what culture lived there. As you can see in my research, there are many differences on who helped who and what treatment they received. The Native Americans were natural healers and the Europeans used advanced medical technology. The two groups did not always get along and work together, but when they did it was very advantageous for all involved. The Natives specialized in ways that the Europeans did not, and vice versa. The diseases helped modern medicine and doctors gain more knowledge as time went on.
THE “LITTLE ICE AGE”
Hence, the carbon uptake that is thought to have occurred following the arrival of epidemics in the Americas may have reduced atmospheric CO2 levels and led to a decline in radiative forcing that may then have contributed to the coldest part of the Little Ice Age
The Little Ice Age changed New England history in ways that historians are only beginning to understand.
Though scientists don’t agree on what caused the Little Ice Age, most agree the climate cooled from the 15th century to the middle of the 19th century, with the greatest intensity between 1550 and 1700. Some scientists peg the coldest period even more narrowly, between 1645 and 1715. During that period the average winter temperatures in North America fell two degrees Celsius.
Historians, on the other hand, agree that the Little Ice Age altered the course of history. It froze rivers and canals in Northern Europe, wiped out cereal production in Iceland and caused famine in France, Norway and Sweden. Colder winters meant denser wood, which contributed to the superior tone of the Stradivarius violin.
The Little Ice Age brought cool summers and bitterly cold winters to New England. During the Great Snow of 1717, for example, a series of snowstorms buried houses and got search parties lost looking for them.
The Cold Friday of 1810 also belonged to the Little Ice Age. People died in their homes when the temperature suddenly plummeted more than 60 degrees in less than a day. Years later, Henry David Thoreau’s mother remembered how dishes froze as fast as they were washed – right next to the fire
In conclusion, a pre-industrial event such as the “Great Dying”, which was thought to trigger both the reduction in CO2 and increase in carboniferous plant residues captured in ice cores inverts the usual understanding of global climate change due to human activities which, when you think about it, provides unique confirmation of the hypothesis.
How about a new approach to gaining control of the lethal weapons trade. “Swords to Plowshares” moving on to “AR15s to guitars”. Or, instead of tracer bullets sprayed on concert goers (remember Las Vegas) recycled weapons on stage backing up the soloists.
Pedro Reyes with guitar and harp built of gun parts.
A new use for the 700+ guns arriving in Mexico daily (via the drug trade return trips) from the U.S. Finally, paraphrasing the NRA mantra:”Guns don’t kill people”, etc., these guns actually don’t kill–(unless you are a music critic).
Pedro’s “raw material” for this project involved some 6700 seized guns, about 10 days worth of guns arriving in Mexico–that authorities know about–. What about the Rumsfeld quote re: “known unknowns”?
(click on the following links for various sound adventures)
Supposing that we in the U.S. managed to walk back from our suicidal gun worship, what kind of music we could make with the toxic residue before it found its way into smelting furnaces to make, say, new infrastructure for American cities.
Pandemics, Personnel, and Politics: How the Trump Administration is Leaving Us Vulnerable to the Next Outbreak
Thanks to Global Biodefense.com
Bill Gates warning of future pandemics killing 30 millions in 2018 essay
“The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu.Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year—and they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10 to 15 years,” Gates said.
(quote from an article by Gates in the New England Journal of Medicine, 2018)
Within months of President Barack Obama taking the oath of office in January 2009, he was confronted by a novel strain of H1N1 influenza spreading throughout North America and then the world. At the same time that the United States was mobilizing to respond to the first flu pandemic of the 21st century, the Obama administration was attempting to fill senior positions within key Federal agencies with qualified, knowledgeable individuals. Although the United States is not currently facing a pandemic, this situation could change quickly and dramatically. China is currently experiencing its fifth and largest outbreak of Asian lineage avian influenza A (H7N9) virus (“Asian H7N9”). According to the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT), Asian H7N9 is the influenza strain with the greatest potential to cause a global pandemic. Based on the ten criteria measured by the IRAT, Asian H7N9 presents a moderate to high risk of developing the potential to be transmitted from person-to-person and having a severe public health impact. In February, Bill Gates, the richest man in the world and a leading global health philanthropist, warned that the next pandemic could claim 30 million lives worldwide and cost the global economy $570 billion.
Despite this heightened risk of a global pandemic, the Trump Administration has dragged its feet in appointing senior officials to key Federal agencies responsible for preparing and responding to a pandemic or bioterrorist attack. These agencies are also subject to steep budget cuts under Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The delays in installing senior leaders at these agencies and pending budget cuts puts U.S. and global health security at risk.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and US Agency for International Development (USAID) ) are four crucial agencies responsible for preparing for the next pandemic. Within HHS, Trump has yet to nominate anyone to fill the position of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), who is responsible for building Federal emergency medical operational capabilities, developing medical countermeasures, and providing grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals to cope with medical disasters. The CDC, which is tasked with detecting and containing disease outbreaks in the United States and provides grants to state and local health departments to help them prepare for public health emergencies, has played a vital role in responding to major outbreaks at home and abroad. While the agency is currently being led by acting director Dr. Ann Schuchat, a well-respected, 30-year veteran of the agency, her ability to mobilize the resources needed to respond to a pandemic or other health crisis may be stymied by her interim status. Although President Trump wisely asked Francis Collins to stay on as director of NIH, he has also proposed cutting the biomedical research agency’s budget by $5.8 billion, or about 18%. In the event of a pandemic, the NIH will play a crucial role in characterizing the pathogen responsible for the outbreak and supporting research to develop diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics to contain the outbreak. And yet Trump’s budget eliminates the NIH’s Fogarty International Center which supports international health research. Finally, the Trump Administration has failed to nominated anyone to fill any of the 11 Senate-confirmed posts at USAID, which plays a key role in helping developing countries improve their public health systems to detect and respond to emerging infectious disease threats. USAID, together with the State Department, is also poised to take a 31% budget reduction under Trump’s proposed budget. USAID’s $72 million Global Health Security fund is slated for elimination, which would dramatically affect the ability of the U.S. to work with international partners to combat the spread of infectious diseases like H7N9. The only positive element of the budget related to health security is Trump’s proposal to create a Federal Emergency Response Fund to enable more rapid responses to public health emergencies. Although the size of the fund has not yet been disclosed, given the Trump Administration’s stated priorities the funds will likely come from other parts of the health security budget.
These funding cuts combined with numerous vacancies in influential positions in agencies responsible for health security is a dangerous combination. Having confident, informed leaders running these organizations with sufficient resources is necessary to ensure that these agencies can effectively produce vaccines and diagnostics and implement preventative measures to control an outbreak of H7N9 or another strain with pandemic potential. If a major influenza pandemic were to occur, no wall would be high enough to stop the virus from entering the United States. The best defense against pandemics and other disease threats are Federal, state, and local health agencies and international partners with strong leadership and the necessary resources to fund vital surveillance, preparedness, response, and research activities Mother Nature doesn’t play politics; Trump shouldn’t play politics with global health security.
Gregory D. Koblentz is an Associate Professor and Director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. Nathaniel M. Morra is a graduate student in the Biodefense Program at George Mason.
No statue commemorates the life and career of Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.
Though his (mentally tortured) assassin cared nothing about Perceval’s role in launching the end of the slave trade throughout the British Empire, this British politician certainly belongs alongside Abraham Lincoln, author of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Czar Alexander II (who ended serfdom, a form of slavery, throughout the Russian Empire), both of whom were victims of assassination by political fanatics.
The Forgotten Prime Minister
Spencer Perceval is the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated. He deserves to be remembered for much more than that.
On the 11th May 1812, Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, entered the House of Commons. He was on his way to attend an inquiry into a set of Orders of Council he had issued. Perceval was, at the time, the leader of the most powerful democracy on Earth, one whose empire was already beginning to spread across the globe, despite the loss of the American colonies and repeated wars with France. Despite this, he was surprisingly approachable, rarely accompanied by any kind of guard. This was very much the case that afternoon and as Perceval walked through the lobby he passed through a large crowd of petitioners and civil servants, something that he had done many times before without incident.
That day, however, was different. In the crowd of petitioners was John Bellingham. Bellingham was a failed merchant from Liverpool, burdened by debt. This had led, in part, to a period of imprisonment in Russia, from which he had returned just a month before. In the time since he had become convinced that his imprisonment was somehow the government’s fault and that Perceval in particular was to blame.
As the Prime Minister moved through the crowd Bellingham stepped out in front of him. Before anyone could react, Bellingham pulled a pistol from his pocket and fired a single shot from close range into Perceval’s chest.
The wounded Prime Minister collapsed to the ground and confusion and fear rippled through the crowd. Bellingham calmly walked over to a nearby bench and sat down. Seconds later he was restrained by Isaac Gascoigne, Member of Parliament (MP) for Liverpool. Bellingham made no effort to resist. Meanwhile bystanders carried Perceval into a nearby office. His pulse was weak and fading and he was placed on a table. A doctor was frantically sought, but it was too late. The shot had taken Perceval in the heart and the wound was fatal. Mere minutes after the shot had been fired he was dead.
In that moment Spencer Perceval became (and remains) the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated.
The forgotten man
History has not been kind to Spencer Perceval. Not because it has judged him harshly, but because it has forgotten really to judge him at all. For most people, if they know the name, it is as the answer to a pub quiz question about his unique death.
A short man (even by the standards of the time), Perceval was blessed with boyish features well into later life. He was born into a well-connected family, but as the second son of his father’s second marriage his prospects (and finances) were not great. As a result, Perceval was largely forced to look to his own resources. He trained as a lawyer and swiftly began to make a name for himself as he embarked on both a legal and a political career.
Perceval’s harmless exterior concealed a fiercely conservative outlook and an almost fanatical commitment to his beliefs. This was a major contributor to his increasing reputation, but it ensured he made many enemies along the way. As a lawyer he participated in the successful prosecution of the publisher of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man in 1792. His reputation as a fierce opponent of social change grew further.
In 1796 Perceval became the MP for Northampton. He soon began ruthlessly and doggedly attacking the liberal cause in Parliament, becoming a key conservative attack dog for Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. So much so that when opposition MP George Tierney, challenged the Prime Minister to a duel in 1798, it was Perceval that Pitt suggested should succeed him in office if he lost. Luckily the need did not arise. Pitt and Tierney did indeed duel, firing pistols at twelve paces, but Tierney’s first shot missed and Pitt elected to fire into the air.
A country on the verge of great change
Perceval’s conservatism and extreme anti-liberal stance came at a time when Britain (and indeed the world) faced enormous social upheaval. France was in a state of revolution and the call for reform at home was increasing day by day. Abolitionism — the quest to end slavery — had also begun to make some headway in Britain, although its supporters knew they faced an up-hill battle to bring it to pass.
Slavery stood at the heart of British conservatism. It was a trade that earned enormous wealth for the country, particularly in ports such as Liverpool which played a crucial role in the world slave trade. Manufactured goods would be loaded there onto ships bound for Africa, where they were traded for slaves. The slaves would then be taken by those same ships to America, where they (or at least those that survived the journey) would be traded for goods such as sugar, coffee or tobacco. These would be brought back to Liverpool, where enormous profits would be made and this horrific triangular trade would begin again.
Abolutionists faced a situation similar to that faced by those battling the Tobacco industry over lung cancer, or energy companies over environmental issues, today. They may have had the moral high ground but slavery’s supporters had the money, and they could call on many powerful, political supporters on both sides of the benches in Parliament.
In this environment you could be forgiven for thinking that Spencer Perceval, Pitt the Younger’s conservative attack dog, would be at the heart of the fight to preserve this shameful institution. Remarkably, the truth was the exact opposite.
Refusing to look away
William Wilberforce, one of the prime architects of abolition, was a man who firmly believed that the practice of slavery could never survive the exposure of what it truly involved. Once a person knew what was involved then they faced a stark moral choice.
“You may choose to look the other way,” Wilberforce once explained, “but you can never say again that you did not know.”
In the early 1800s Perceval was one of several politicians on whom Wilberforce and his supporters tested this theory. On the MP for Northampton, it worked. Having seen the horrible reality of the trade, Perceval became convinced that it had no place in modern society. Whatever his feelings on reform or liberalism in general, he soon became convinced that slavery was an absolute wrong. As a man for whom convictions were more important than politics, he soon became determined to do what he could to bring it to an end, regardless of the conflicts this might cause him within his own political party.
Finding a loop-hole
By the time he converted Perceval to the cause, Wilberforce had been trying, and failing, to get Parliament to ban the slave trade for over ten years. The brutal truth was the votes weren’t there. Plenty of politicians privately professed their opposition to slavery, but few would commit to its end publicly for fear of angering the wealthy and powerful pro-slavery lobby. That reluctance extended to Pitt the Younger himself. The Prime Minister told Wilberforce that he was personally against the trade, but that his hands were tied. He would not publicly support the cause or trigger a vote for fear of alienating his support or losing in Parliament.
The abolitionists knew that what they needed was some kind of win — anything that would put the first crack into the legal and political armour that surrounded the institution of slavery. In the end it was Perceval, determined to do the right thing despite the overwhelming pressure to do nothing, who finally found a way to strike that first blow.
In 1805 Britain was locked in conflict with France, and this had resulted in the occupation of Dutch Guiana. Ever the lawyer, Perceval quickly spotted an unexpected opportunity. The occupation had been carried out under Crown rather than Parliamentary authority. It was a subtle difference, but an important one as it meant that the way in which it was governed was subtly different to the rest of British territory. Most importantly, Perceval spotted, it meant that with a bit of legal hand-waving, a ban on the import of slaves to the new colony could go into the Orders-in-Council being enacted to prevent neutral countries from trading with France. And of course, Perceval quietly pointed out to Pitt, thanks to the vagaries of the British Parliamentary system Orders-in-Council didn’t need Parliamentary approval.
It was a masterful piece of political manouevring. Perceval had recognised that Wiberforce’s head-on approach could only take things so far. Certainly it had worked on Perceval himself, but the MP for Northampton knew that Pitt would never stand in front of the House of Commons and publicly commit to a cause which many of his friends and supporters still fervently opposed. So rather than try and force Pitt to do so, Perceval had simply engineered a way round it. Very quickly, the Prime Minister agreed to make the change.
The Dutch Guianan ban represented a key victory for the abolitionist cause. At a stroke, a trade that had consumed 6,000 human lives a year in Guiana had been ended, It also set a huge precedent. It opened a crack in slavery’s legal armour that could never be closed. Perceval remained determined to widen it further.
Seeing things through
In 1807 Parliament finally passed the Slave Trade Act. As the name implies, the Act banned the practice of the slave trade throughout the entirety of the British Empire and also committed Great Britain to press other European nations to do the same.
The passing of the Act represented a public triumph for the abolitionist cause and for Wilberforce himself, but neither Wilberforce nor Perceval believed that it represented the end of the fight. Its opponents were not beaten by its passing, and remained determined to use their power to weaken its impact. Over the next few years, some of the most tumultuous in British Parliamentary history, Perceval worked hard to ensure that the ideals of the Act became the reality. When the government Pitt had formed fell as the Bill was passing through Parliament, it was Perceval that carefully shepherded it through the change of government. Later, during his own tenure as Prime Minister, Perceval worked hard to give it teeth. This would ultimately lead to the founding of the West Africa Squadron, the Royal Navy’s first dedicated anti-slavery force, backed up by the full legal and political force of Perceval’s government.
Ultimately, by the time of his assassination, Perceval had done more than almost any man in Britain to ensure that not only would the slave trade be banned, but that the ban would not be a paper tiger. He was determined to ensure it would have a real impact both in Britain and anywhere British power projected.
Perceval’s strange combination of anti-liberalism and reform to be found Perceval ensured that he was never short of enemies. His arch-conservatism earned him the vitriol of liberals, whilst at the same time his commitment to eradicating the slave trade provoked the same reaction among many on his own side of the political fence.
In 1806 he even added the Prince Regent (yes that one) to his ever-growing list of enemies. The Prince‘s marriage to his wife, Charlotte was an unhappy one. Their marriage had been arranged against his will, and within a year of their nuptuals they were already living separately. When rumours began to circulate that the Princess might have had an affair, George stoked the flames and organised an investigation into her behaviour through his political connections.
Appalled at the smear campaign being enacted against Charlotte, Perceval became a key player in her defence. He wrote what became known infamously as “The Book” (which you can read here). It was a brutal, legal takedown of the Prince’s case, one that Perceval told the future George IV he would publish if the Prince didn’t back down and allow Charlotte to resume her public life. Brow-beaten and blackmailed, the Prince did so, although not before bombarding Perceval with what one observer described as “the most offensive personal abuse, and an oath that cannot be recited.”
An un-expected Prime Minister
To many Perceval’s ascension to the position of Prime Minister in 1809 seemed doomed to failure. Certainly it could not have happened at any other time. Although, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was a senior figure in the government, he arguably only really got the job because George Canning and Lord Castlereagh, the two leading political lights of the day, were locked a personal political rivalry that ruined their own chances of taking the top job (they too had been caught duelling). Both men initially refused to serve under Perceval. Various other Tory politicians refused to serve in his government as well, believing that the increasing economic hardships at home and the conflict with France abroad would make it unpopular and likely to fall. In the end, Perceval was unable even to find anyone willing to take on the office of Chancellor was forced to shoulder both roles.
Despite this inauspicious start, somehow Perceval made it work. Over the next two years his personality seemed to hold everything together — even his enemies in Parliament respected him, if not his politics — and perhaps most crucially few doubted his personal integrity. As a politician he was practically unique at the time — not only because he refused to treat politics as an opportunity to make money from the public purse (and gave much of what he could spare to charity) but also because he had married for love.
The family man
Perceval’s marriage to Jane Wilson had taken place while he was a poor junior lawyer, and though her father approved of his character he disapproved of Perceval’s poverty. The two lovers were forced to elope in order to seal their marriage, living for several years in a small flat above a carpet shop. A devoted husband, Perceval never took a mistress, something which caused much confusion amongst his political peers. So too did the fact that he adored his children. The couple had thirteen, twelve of whom survived into adulthood and Perceval delighted not only in helping raise them, but also in playing games with them.
“He was beloved without sensation of fear,” wrote one bemused contemporary on seeing Perceval with his children, “and never so happy as when playing in the midst of them.”
The stable statesman
Perceval’s integrity and talent for holding things together turned out to be exactly what the times required. Alongside ensuring that the Slavery Act was enforced he also worked hard to prosecute the war against Napoleon’s France in the face of successive defeats.
After the disastrous Walcheren campaign in the Netherlands and setbacks on the Iberian Peninsular, Perceval came under enormous pressure to withdraw all British troops from the continent. The small British force in Portugal under Sir Arthur Wellesley, however, continued to cling on. Napoleon had dismissed Wellesley as a “Sepoy General,” a derogatory reference to the fact that his experience had, until the Peninsular, largely come from fighting in India. It was a view that some in the upper echelons of British politics and the military shared and they began to advocate the army — or at least Wellesey’s — removal.
Perceval’s support for the General and his army, however, was unwavering. This gave Wellesley the time to prove his detractors wrong. By the end of the war with France, Wellesley’s victory over both the French and his detractors was complete, and as Viscount (later Duke of) Wellington he rightly cemented his place in the pantheon of great generals, and ultimately beat Napoleon himself at Waterloo.
Perceval’s commitment to prosecuting the war would have consequences beyond the battlefield though and beyond his own life. It brought economic hardship at home, to the point where in some cities — including London itself — news of his assassination was greeted with cheers. His refusal as Prime Minister to lessen the trade restrictions on neutral powers would also help set Britain and the United States on a path to war — the War of 1812, in which the White House would burn.
By 1812, however, there were few in Parliament — on either bench — who would dispute that Perceval was the right man for the Premiership. His cabinet colleagues referred to his as the ‘Supreme Commander’. As a politician he was at the height of his power when Bellingham’s bullet struck, and he was almost universally mourned by his peers after his death.
More than a piece of trivia
Given his unique place in history, it is perhaps inevitable that whenever the anniversary of Perceval’s death comes about, such coverage as there is nearly always focuses only on his assassination. Do spare a thought though for the man behind the pub quiz question.
Even the Prince Regent had come to begrudgingly respect him, and on realising that Perceval’s early death had robbed his wife and children of their sole source of income. Immediately requested that Parliament vote them a lump sum and an annuity for life.
Lord Castlereagh, once Perceval’s opponent but by then his Foreign Secretary, was unable to finish reading the Regent’s request in Parliament. Breaking down with emotion, he was forced to sit down and let others finish the reading.
“In most faces,” wrote one Parliamentary observer, “there was an agony of tears.”
Parliament wanted to bury Perceval in Westminster Abbey, but his widow Jane refused. He would not have wanted it, she insisted. He was buried in a quiet, private ceremony by his family in St Lukes, Charlton. Perceval’s journey into anonymity had begun.
That anonymity is unfair. There is no doubting that he was a man of contrasts. He was a conservative attack dog, a staunch anti-reformist and a blackmailer. He was also a loving husband and father, a man of integrity and an abolitionist. Indeed after Perceval’s death, William Wilberforce said that the abolitionist movement owed more to Perceval than it ever did to him.
In fact, possibly the least interesting thing Perceval ever did was get assassinated.
Confronting Climate Change: Critical Issues for New Zealand, Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2006.
(author), Peter Barrett:
The most recent period of the Earth’s history, the Cenozoic era, began 65 million years ago with a bang: a meteorite impact that ended the rule of the dinosaurs, but disturbed only briefly the super-warm climate of the times. However, for the past 50 million years, the Earth has been cooling and it is now becoming clear that this long-term cooling trend may be reversing in the last few decades (IPCC, 2001). In this chapter, I outline the evidence for this view, which is becoming widely accepted by those who study the Earth’s climate system and its past history. Although geologists have been learning about the Earth’s history for hundreds of years, a real understanding has developed merely in the last four decades through deep-sea drilling and analytical chemistry. Thousands of cores have been extracted from the seabed, and analysed by tens of thousands of scientists in hundreds of laboratories. They have increased our understanding of many aspects of the Earth’s history, but I intend to focus on just two: the Earth’s surface temperature, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere.
Until 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, the planet’s geography was somewhat different from now in several respects. The Atlantic Ocean was much narrower to both the north and south, Australia was still joined to Antarctica, and New Zealand was under the sea off the coast of Australia. However, the Earth’s temperature was very different. This was a warmer planet by between 6°C and 10°C, and CO2 levels were between two and eight times higher than pre-industrial values (Bice et al. 2006). It was what scientists now call a ‘greenhouse world’. Life on Earth was severely challenged on that day 65 million years ago when a meteorite 10 km wide hit the Yucatan Peninsula, leaving a 200 km crater and sending many cubic kilometres of shattered debris and dust into the stratosphere. As a consequence, not only the dinosaurs but around sixty percent of all species on Earth died out. There was undoubtedly a major impact on the Earth’s climate for decades or even longer. Cooling effects from the dust of the explosion gave way to warming as the dust settled out, and increased CO2 from the fires that followed.
About The Chicxulub Crater (left by the meteorite referred to above)
The Chicxulub crater on the Yucatan peninsula is believed to be the most likely site of the asteroid impact responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs.
The crater measures between 180 and 240 kilometres across, indicating an impactor of colossal size, the biggest impact confirmed on Earth.
The collision at Chicxulub sent vaporized rocks, cracked mineral grains and molten rock flying around the world.
The Chicxulub crater represents the most recent major impact on the Earth, and despite its geologically young age, it is already an extremely well- hidden structure that has taken teams of geologists and geophysicists many years to unravel.
In fact it is so hidden, that nowadays the crater is not noticeable when walking across it, as the crater is merely 3-4 meters deep. At the time of the impact though, the crater probably was over 900 meters deep.
Chicxulub Impact – location map
The crater was just recently discovered. In 1978, geophysicists Glen Penfield and Antonio Camargo worked for the Mexican state oil company Pemex, as part of an aerial magnetic survey of the Gulf of Mexico, just north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Their job was to use geophysical data to study possible locations to extract oil. During their investigation, they found a big symmetrical underground arc that measured around 70 kilometers.
But this wasn’t the first map Pemex had of that area. Another Pemex contractor, Robert Baltosser made similar discoveries earlier, but was forbid to publish them because of Pemex corporate policy. Consulting the maps made by Baltosser, Penfield found another arc on the peninsula itself. Comparing the two maps, he found that the two arcs formed a circle 180 km in diameter, with its central point near the town of Chicxulub , in the Yucatan. Based on this data, he was sure that the site was a spot of some cataclysmic event in geological history.
Although Pemex forbid them to publish certain data, Penfield and Camargo presented their findings in 1981 at a conference of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). At that moment his report attracted little attention because although they had lots of geophysical data, they had no rock samples, or any other physical evidence of the collision.
Concomitantly, American physicist, Luis Walter Alvarez published a paper in which he theorized that the Earth was stuck by a foreign object around the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K-T boundary). After data about the Chicxulub crater was gathered, it was linked to Alvarez’s theory, providing support for it.
Environmental and geological effects of the impact
It is believed that after the impact, some of the biggest tsunamis in Earth’s history were formed.
The emission of dust and particles could have covered the entire surface of the Earth for several years, possibly a decade, making life difficult for many terrestrial animals.
For some years after the impact, sunlight would have been prevented to reach the surface of the Earth, cooling it down abruptly.
Besides the cooling effect, plants wouldn’t have been able to develop, causing devastating effects for the entire food chain.
There are also speculations that the vaporized material might have blown away part of Earth’s atmosphere or that the impact would have resulted worldwide forest fires, but these speculations need to be challenged.
Chicxulub Crater Yutacan
Chicxulub inner crater at the same scale as the Los Angeles – San Diego area
Scientists detect carbon dioxide accumulation at the edge of space (Update)
by Naval Research Laboratory
(Phys.org)—A team of scientists from the Naval Research Laboratory, Old Dominion University, and the University of Waterloo reports the first direct evidence that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by human activity are propagating upward to the highest regions of the atmosphere. The observed CO2 increase is expected to gradually result in a cooler, more contracted upper atmosphere and a consequent reduction in the atmospheric drag experienced by satellites. The team published its findings in Nature Geoscience on November 11, 2012.
The team of Dr. John Emmert, Dr. Michael Stevens, and Dr. Douglas Drob from NRL’s Space Science Division; Dr. Peter Bernath from Old Dominion University; and Dr. Chris Boone from the University of Waterloo in Canada studied eight years of CO2 measurements made by the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE), a scientific satellite mission funded primarily by the Canadian Space Agency. ACE determines vertical profiles of CO2 and many other atmospheric gases by measuring how the atmosphere absorbs sunlight at different wavelengths as the Sun rises and sets relative to the spacecraft.
CO2 occurs naturally throughout Earth’s atmosphere and is the primary radiative cooling agent in the energy balance of the mesosphere (~50-90 km altitude) and thermosphere (>90 km). The same properties of CO2 that cause it to trap heat in the troposphere (<15 km) make it an efficient cooler at higher altitudes. The difference is that at high altitudes, the density of CO2 is too thin to recapture the infrared radiation (heat) that it emits. “In the upper atmosphere,” explains Emmert, “thermal energy is transferred via collisions from other atmospheric constituents to CO2, which then emits the energy as heat that escapes to outer space.”
The enhanced cooling produced by the increasing CO2 should result in a more contracted thermosphere, where many satellites, including the International Space Station, operate. The contraction of the thermosphere will reduce atmospheric drag on satellites and may have adverse consequences for the already unstable orbital debris environment, because it will slow the rate at which debris ( asteroids and meteorites) burn up in the atmosphere.
It has been expected that anthropogenic CO2 increases are propagating upward throughout the entire atmosphere. Before the study of ACE data, CO2 trends had been measured only up to 35 km altitude, although indirect evidence from satellite drag studies indicates that the thermosphere is indeed slowly contracting. The scientists estimate that the concentration of carbon near 100 km altitude is increasing at a rate of 23.5 ± 6.3 parts per million (ppm) per decade, which is about 10 ppm/decade faster than predicted by upper atmospheric model simulations. In comparison, tropospheric CO2 concentrations are increasing at a rate of about 20 ppm/decade (the current concentration of CO2 near the ground is ~390 ppm). The authors speculate that the larger than expected upper atmospheric trend may be caused by changes in upper atmospheric circulation and mixing.
Tuesday July 10, 2018·10:36 AM Central Daylight Time
Fundamentalist Christians and [the KKK] are pretty close, fighting for God and country. Someday we may all be in the trenches together in the fight against the slaughter of unborn children. — John Burt, 1994 New York Timesinterview
Reversing Roe v. Wade goes against the will of the people. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that a clear majority support the Supreme Court ruling ensuring a patient’s access to abortion care. That, of course, won’t stop opponents to the measure from ruling by minority; it’s exactly what the so-called “pro-lifers” want.
Rule by minority has increasingly become the Republican’s modus operandi; gerrymandering, voter suppression, and congressional loopholes show they are not shy about staying in power by any means necessary. Now we’re seeing what’s possible when a man like Donald Trump embraces it as the leader of the power. Trump has not hesitated to embrace white nationalists and give racists power—just look at Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Jeff Sessions—which is exactly why it’s prime time for Roe v. Wade to come up on the chopping block.
It’s no coincidence that the biggest national threat to abortion rights since Roe is happening under such a racist government. Have you ever wondered why the “pro-life” movement is so … white? Or perhaps you’ve noticed that they seem incapable of not being racist whenever they pretend to care about Black people to further their extreme agenda.
You’re not alone. It turns out that the pro-life movement has been very good about hiding its racist origins. That’s not just because white people tend to be uncomfortable and avoidant when talking about race. It’s because it also exposes the true goal of the movement, which makes their initially confusing hypocrisy incredibly clear.
Abortion restrictions have always been political—and about race
During much of the 19th century, abortion was unregulated and business was booming. The industry was doing so well that one famous provider, Madame Restell, invested in one of New York City’s first luxury apartment buildings with her husband. The white, middle-class women who could afford abortions were having more control of their bodies and thus having fewer children. This was all happening while the United States was also getting more Catholic and Jewish immigrants.
The fears of white women increasingly turning away from doing their “duty” to bear children coupled with xenophobia compelled powerful white men to spring into action. Under the guise of wanting to require a medical license to perform abortions, the American Medical Association (AMA) ran a successful campaign to ban abortion care and put the decision to make exceptions completely in their hands. How did they succeed? They appealed to the racist little hearts of Anglo-Saxon politicians.
Back then, “pro-life” racism wasn’t as subtle. The authors of “Abortion, Race, and Gender in Nineteenth-Century America” in the American Sociological Review wrote that “physicians argued that middle-class, Anglo-Saxon married women were those obtaining abortions, and that their use of abortion to curtail childbearing threatened the Anglo-Saxon race.” Take this excerpt from a book by Dr. Augustus K. Gardner from 1870, for example:
Infanticide is no new crime. Savages have existed in all times, and abortions and destruction of children at and subsequent to birth have been practiced among all barbarous nations of antiquity … The savages of past ages were not better than the women who commit such infamous murders to-day, to avoid the cares, the expense or the duty of nursing and tending a child.
Here we see how framing abortion as murder came from racist propaganda. Dr. Gardner talked about barbaric peoples—Indians, Greeks, and Chinese, for example—that supposedly partook in infanticide. He uses this in an attempt to shame women from seeking abortions, calling them no better than these “savages.” Political anti-abortion rhetoric began with this message: abortion is for other people. Non-white people.
Yet even back then, there was no consensus among conservatives or Christians about abortion’s morality. However, the disproportionate amount of power that rich white men had in the country—as doctors and politicians—allowed this minority to execute its will on the people (sound familiar?).
The truth about conservative hate of Margaret Sanger—and contraception
While the 19th century racists succeeded in getting a nationwide abortion ban, that pesky desire from women for autonomy kept rearing its head. It’s almost as if you keep oppressing people, they will eventually want more rights—no matter how hard you try!
No wonder they hated Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. She published a feminist magazine in 1914 that advocated for reproductive freedom—exactly what racist white men didn’t want embraced by women. The smears and attacks against her continue today as conservatives try to paint her as the racist. The truth is that she was a proponent of eugenics, but was staunchly against its use for racist means. At the Jewish Woman’s Archive, Open Society Institute fellow Ellen Chasler explains:
She distinguished between individual applications of eugenic principles and cultural ones and spoke out against immigration prohibitions that promoted ethnic or racial stereotypes with a biological rationale. She saw birth control as an instrument of social justice, not of social control.”
While there’s no excuse for Sanger’s support of the eugenics movement, it does show that the fact was distorted by a white racist movement that undoubtedly has people who would agree with her eugenic statements today.
Even in Sanger’s time, white supremacists still couldn’t agree on whether to support birth control or not. Some saw it as a possible means to keep “undesirables” from reproducing, while other had fears that Anglo-Saxon white women would embrace it too much and significantly lower their birth rate.
Tools of white supremacy: from school segregation to abortion
Abortion became a political tool of racist white evangelicals as a response to the Black civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Displeased with forced school integration and other signs of Black people being treated like human beings, the founders of the modern anti-choice movement sought to find an issue to mobilize the conservative base. With enough grassroots support, white evangelical leaders could get people who’d Make America Explicitly Racist again in power and protect its white people as they saw fit.
One of these leaders is preacher Jerry Falwell, the founder of Liberty University: he hatedDr. King and all this civil rights expansion. In response to Brown v. Board of Education, he created private, white-only Christian schools to try and preserve segregation. It worked for a while, but the government started cracking down on the schools explicitly made just for white children.
In hopes of reversing this wave, evangelicals had thrown their weight behind President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and fellow evangelical Christian, for the 1976 election. Unfortunately for Falwell and friends, Carter wasn’t also a racist. Under Carter’s watch, the crackdown on white schools continued.
Activist Paul Weyrich had long suggested using abortion as their political issue. Now that school segregation had failed, leaders like Falwell and Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson agreed to join forces to usher in a new era in white supremacist political activism: the pro-life movement.
While Roe v. Wade was already years old, they tested using the “pro-life” political stance as a way to get candidates who’d do their racist bidding in office during the midterm elections—and it worked. They won three Senate seats and a governorship thanks, in part, to low turnout from Democrats and high energy from the white evangelicals. They found a winning issue and took it to the national stage next.
How racism brought Republicans and white evangelicals together
Evangelical leaders tried to influence Carter to seek a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. He refused, so they looked to the other party. The Republican Party’s sexism dovetailed nicely with racist anti-abortion policies and support for such an amendment was made a part of the party’s platform. And thus, the GOP officially adopted the language proposed by the power-hungry white evangelicals and officially became the “pro-life” party with candidate Ronald Reagan as the leader.
Reagan was a good bet. He had name recognition with his acting career before entering politics. And, like Falwell and friends, Reagan lamented the advancement of the civil rights for Black people. Reagan had no problem catering to racists, pushing the “welfare queen” myth and calling the Voting Rights Act “humiliating to the South.” Oh, and he was endorsed by the KKK—twice.
At first glance, Reagan seemed to be the least likely ally for the anti-choice movement. When he was California’s governor, he signed the country’s least restrictive abortion access bill in the country. Carter had a documented history of being anti-abortion, both in his personal and political life. However, it’s Carter’s refusal to bend to the political will of the powerful white evangelical men that was seen as the biggest liability.
Reagan’s landslide win solidified the religious right’s political strength. Falwell, Dobson, and Weyrich had succeeded in making their racist political goals viable enough to get millions to vote for their preferred candidate who’d get rid of abortion and keep the brown and Black people from taking over. Since then, the political power of white evangelicals in the United States has only gotten stronger.
Today’s political mess in perspective
There’s a reason why the pro-life advocates and #alllivesmatter crowd has been silent at best about the mistreatment of children at the border at the hands of the administration. They’re not the members of a human rights movement; it’s just what they say to convince clueless white people. The pro-life movement is white nationalist campaign that will use any messaging or backward logic necessary to achieve their genocidal goals.
This puts white evangelicals’ nearly unwavering support of Trump into perspective. They put up with his very un-Christian behavior because he’s a very effective vessel for their racist political goals. It is increasingly clear that the goal of the pro-life leaders is to dominate our politics; they don’t want true democracy. Instead, a few white men want to exploit the system as much as possible until they can once again live in a country where women don’t control their bodies, immigration doesn’t happen, and people of color are not truly citizens.
Thoughts from Greg Metcalf, an excerpt from MY FREE SENTENCES, WordPress
(if Roe vs. Wade is overturned) We would return to the days of women getting risky procedures from unqualified doctors in horrid conditions. Some of them would die. We’d have an increase of babies from women whose own judgment was that they weren’t prepared to have a child and care for it. In many cases, this would be financial, and we would simultaneously have a hypocritical extremist GOP government pulling back on programs to help the poor, a reduction in the SNAPs program, cuts to Medicaid, fewer opportunities for aid in childcare. Suicide rates among women would go up.
Sanctimoniously, some on the far right, Mike Pence, and others, would blame these problems on the women, falling back on their dogma that they shouldn’t have been having sex. What about rape? We couldn’t make an exception for rape cases, at least not one that would mean much, because rape statistics are clear. Rape is rarely proven in a court of law, not because it doesn’t occur, it’s just difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the legal standard. Would we create a lower standard of proof that would allow for rape exceptions? Where would we draw THAT line to prevent women from abusing the new system of law that is abusing them?
HISTORY MATTERS–is “Pro-Life” really “Pro-Death” in disguise?
In 1936, before legal abortions, a group of experts determined that there were about 681,600 illegal abortions resulting in the death of 8,179 women in that year alone. American hospitals have kept a list of devices and toxic fluids that have been used to abort fetuses. This is only a partial list: coat hangers, curtain rods, garden hoses, glass cocktail stirrers, telephone wires, nut picks, knitting needles, chopsticks, bicycle pumps, phonograph needles, Lysol, bleach, glycerine, kerosene, vinegar, and potassium permanganate corrosive tablets. Women have also tried swallowing massive doses of castor oil, quinine, and turpentine. Do we really want to go back to amateur hour in the clinic?
Below is an example of the medieval “Chastity Belt”, another alternative?
From China, liquid mercury was ingested to produce an abortion, with certain after effects documented.
Mother, without resources to feed her child, placing it in a “Depository” in mid-19th century Paris. Though such children were spared untended lives on the street, later they were “rented out” to mines and factories to repay their keep.
Nature provides myriad examples of species where males attempt to control who females mate with and when. Among primates, male coercion of females has evolved many times and is expressed in many different ways.
Over the course of human history, Hrdy continued,
some of these ancient impulses have become enshrined in patriarchal ideologies. This helps explain why the most extreme efforts to curtail female reproductive autonomy today are primarily funded by groups linked to Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Islamic and other belief systems with deep patriarchal roots.
If, as Hrdy argues, anti-abortion legislation is part of the male “attempt to control who females mate with and when,” why are roughly equal numbers of men and women opposed to abortion? Her answer:
From Ancient Greece, Ching dynasty China, Victorian England to the American South, the trick has been to convince women that conforming to patriarchal ideals, being chaste, or modest, veiling one’s face, whatever, are in her interests in terms of her security, marriageability, and especially in the interest of her children, particularly sons. When the social status of their families and especially that of their offspring, depends on their “virtue,” women have an obvious stake in complying as well as in advertising their compliance. Supporting the “right” political candidates can be just one more way of doing that.
Deprived of her “virtue”, unwed mother and child abandoned to their fate, revealed as spring melted the mound of snow–their final resting place in 1840s England.
Measles virus, (Rubeola), like its cousin German Measles, (Rubella) can cause pregnancy complications, swelling of the brain, pneumonia. Extremely contagious.
BY MARK LYNAS
AUGUST 24, 2018 (Thanks to Cornell University Alliance for Science)
A new study showing that Russian-linked trolls and social media bots have been heavily promoting misinformation on vaccines shows just how far Putin’s government is prepared to go in its worldwide effort to sow mistrust and division.
Both anti-vaccine and anti-GMO groups appeal to prejudices against modern science and conspiracy thinking to spread fear and misinformation. Like the tobacco lobby of old, doubt itself is their product.
Anti-vaccine myths have already led to a resurgence in preventable diseases such as measles, and increased numbers of child deaths in many countries. Many anti-GMO groups and anti-vaxxers are closely linked, such as US Right to Know (USRTK), which is funded by the Organic Consumers Association – whose anti-vaccine campaign in Minnesota has been linked with renewed disease outbreaks there in immigrant communities.
The Russian government is clearly determined to spread anti-scientific memes and conspiracy theories in order to help its objective of sowing distrust of “Western” science and democratic systems. But why would Putin support these anti-science campaigns?
Russia’s strategy is utterly cynical as well as being unabashedly authoritarian. Putin knows that people are not inclined to believe his untruths – so his main aim is to undermine the whole concept of truth more broadly.
The rationale goes as follows: “No, you can’t believe me. But you can’t believe anyone – everyone lies!” The idea is to undermine trust throughout democratic societies in order to justify resurgent authoritarianism in Russia and elsewhere.
Unfortunately, this misinformation seems to go with the populist tide of the times. Populist movements of both far left and far right have been supported by Russia, and often tend to spout anti-scientific views.
Italy’s new populist, anti-immigrant government has backed away from mandatory vaccination of children, while Russia itself has made great play of being “GMO-free”and banning genetically modified crops and products throughout the country.
Populists often rage against “elites” and dismiss the idea of expertise in preference for “man on the street” common wisdom. This is fertile ground for anti-science campaigns, because scientific consensus depends on the informed views of experts.
President Trump, Vladimir Putin’s number one fan, has staked his whole approach on using notions of “fake news” and attacks on the freedom of the press in order to justify his own constant lies and distortions.
Trump has also tweeted misinformed notions about vaccines causing autism, and – along with much of the Republican party – denies the reality of human-caused climate change, on the basis of a conspiracy theory that global warming is a “hoax” invented by China.
All these memes depend on the cavalier dismissal of scientific evidence on the basis that it is the view of “intellectual elites” and therefore of no value. This wider cultural and political climate is perhaps why Russia’s efforts to sow further discord and mistrust seem to have been so successful.
So what can the pro-science community do? Speaking up and getting out on the streets is important, as the March for Science has shown. But in my view it is equally important to bear the wider context in mind: the fight against misinformation on vaccines, GMOs and climate change is part of a wider battle for truth and for democracy — battles that we cannot afford to lose.
The child separation policy now in effect (2018) for those families who, for whatever reason, entered the United States illegally, has an interesting precedent.
Not exactly surprising, since President 45 seems curiously enamored with Putin’s Russia. Vladimir Putin’s path to power started on the bottom rung of the promotion track of the old Soviet KGB, renamed the FSB, but retaining most features of its predecessor as well as its first incarnation, the NKVD under first Lenin, then Stalin/Beria.
The text of official orders of the NKVD regarding children of “class enemy” prisoners, some 18 million of which either died in “concentration camps” known as Gulags, or were released eventually to miserable settlements in Mongolia and Siberia which they were forbidden to leave on penalty of death, are quoted below.
The novel and film: “Dr. Zhivago” was based on experiences of those caught up in the coils of the Soviet system, and featured a young mother losing her child when attracting the attention of the NKVD.
First, they were almost all arrested for the alleged crimes of their husbands or fathers. Communist officials saw women as just another means of punishing men, rather than as individuals with distinct identities. One of the few ways for a woman to avoid arrest alongside her husband was, perversely, to accuse him of treason before anyone else did.
Signed by the head of the NKVD on August 14, 1937, Operational Order of the Secret Police No. 00486, “About the Repression of Wives of Traitors of the Motherland and the Placement of Their Children,” stated:
Women married to husbands at the time of their arrest are to be arrested with the exception of … wives who provide information that leads to their husband’s arrest… The wives of traitors are to be imprisoned… no less than five to eight years. Children… are to be placed in orphanages of the ministry of health in other locations.
That brings us to the second horror unique to women’s persecution. Upon a mother’s arrest, the Soviet system declared her children orphans and sent them as far away as possible. After regaining freedom a woman would often never learn of their fate. In the state-run orphanages, children of traitors and class enemies faced social stigma. They were taught to feel shame and loathing for their parents.
Despite the scrubbed faces of the children pictured, probably assembled for the Soviet version of Catherine (the “Great’s”) “Potemkin Village” presentations of the starved and miserable serfs of Czarist Russia to the Empress and her retinue, mortality as the years went by approached 95% among separated children.
The cause was that apparently no resources were made available to the program, forcing the barely clad, filthy and starving children out to forage for themselves. Abuse by the barely paid staff (where there was any) was horrendous.
The situation of “Anna”, love child of Lara and Dr. Zhivago in the novel and film, in which she was discovered in adulthood as a laundry worker, would have been exceptional.
In 1935, Nazi Germany passed two radically discriminatory pieces of legislation: the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. Together, these were known as the Nuremberg Laws, and they laid the legal groundwork for the persecution of Jewish people during the Holocaust and World War II.
When the Nazis set out to legally disenfranchise and discriminate against Jewish citizens, they weren’t just coming up with ideas out of thin air. They closely studied the laws of another country. According to James Q. Whitman, author of Hitler’s American Model, that country was the United States.
“America in the early 20th century was the leading racist jurisdiction in the world,” says Whitman, who is a professor at Yale Law School. “Nazi lawyers, as a result, were interested in, looked very closely at, [and] were ultimately influenced by American race law.”
In particular, Nazis admired the Jim Crow-era laws that discriminated against black Americans and segregated them from white Americans, and they debated whether to introduce similar segregation in Germany.
Yet they ultimately decided that it wouldn’t go far enough.
“One of the most striking Nazi views was that Jim Crow was a suitable racist program in the United States because American blacks were already oppressed and poor,” he says. “But then in Germany, by contrast, where the Jews (as the Nazis imagined it) were rich and powerful, it was necessary to take more severe measures.”
Because of this, Nazis were more interested in how the U.S. had designated Native Americans, Filipinos and other groups as non-citizens even though they lived in the U.S. or its territories. These models influenced the citizenship portion of the Nuremberg Laws, which stripped Jewish Germans of their citizenship and classified them as “nationals.”
But a component of the Jim Crow era that Nazis did think they could translate into Germany were anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited interracial marriages in 30 of 48 states.
“America had, by a wide margin, the harshest law of this kind,” Whitman says. “In particular, some of the state laws threatened severe criminal punishment for interracial marriage. That was something radical Nazis were very eager to do in Germany as well.”
The idea of banning Jewish and Aryan marriages presented the Nazis with a dilemma: How would they tell who was Jewish and who was not? After all, race and ethnic categories are socially constructed, and interracial relationships produce offspring who don’t fall neatly into one box.
Again, the Nazis looked to America.
“Connected with these anti-miscegenation laws was a great deal of American jurisprudence on how to classify who belonged to which race,” he says.
Controversial “one-drop” rules stipulated that anyone with any black ancestry was legally black and could not marry a white person. Laws also defined what made a person Asian or Native American, in order to prevent these groups from marrying whites (notably, Virginia had a “Pocahontas Exception” for prominent white families who claimed to be descended from Pocahontas).
The Nuremberg Laws, too, came up with a system of determining who belonged to what group, allowing the Nazis to criminalize marriage and sex between Jewish and Aryan people. Rather than adopting a “one-drop rule,” the Nazis decreed that a Jewish person was anyone who had three or more Jewish grandparents.
Which means, as Whitman notes, “that American racial classification law was much harsher than anything the Nazis themselves were willing to introduce in Germany.”
It should come as no surprise then, that the Nazis weren’t uniformly condemned in the U.S. before the country entered the war. In the early 1930s, American eugenicists welcomed Nazi ideas about racial purity and republished their propaganda. American aviator Charles Lindbergh, a public admirer of Adolf Hitler’s, received a swastika medal (pictured below) from Nazi leader in 1938.
Once the U.S. entered the war, it took a decidedly anti-Nazi stance. But black American troops noticed the similarities between the two countries, and confronted them head-on with a “Double V Campaign.” It’s goal? Victory abroad against the Axis powers—and victory at home against Jim Crow
It may seem scarcely believable today, but the British foreign secretary then (1939, before Britain formally entered WWII) personally met the cartoonist and told him to tone it down on Hitler. Low, a staunch socialist with a liberal humanitarian ideal, refused. His reply was: ‘..it’s my duty as a journalist to report matters faithfully and in my own medium I have to speak the truth. And I think this man is awful. ‘
He continued to skewer the Fuehrer. After Hitler’s defeat it came to be known that he had put the cartoonist’s name high on his kill list, should Germany have defeated and occupied Britain, a nearly realized ambition of Hitler.
But what was it about his cartoons that got to Hitler?
This is what Low himself felt:
“No dictator is inconvenienced or even displeased by cartoons showing his terrible person stalking through blood and mud. That is the kind of idea about himself that a power-seeking world-beater would want to propagate. It not only feeds his vanity, but unfortunately it shows profitable returns in an awed world.
What he does not want to get around is the idea that he is an ass, which is really damaging.I shall always remember Hitler.. not as the majestic, monstrous myth of his propaganda build-up, but as the sissy who whined to the British Foreign Office about his dignity when I ran him for a while as a comic strip.”
He portrayed Hitler no as a villain but as a buffoon, and that really hurt the man’s vanity.
‘Very Well, Alone’: Sir David Low’s Evening Standard cartoon from June 1940, after the German invasion of France. Because of the “America First” movement and Hitler/Mussolini enthusiasts in the U.S., it took until December 7, 1941 for our country to enter the war against Hitler. Delay cost millions of lives on every side.
Researcher and biographer Michael D’Antonio walked through the decades of bungled “deals,” that President Donald Trump had while negotiating in New York. To make matters worse, he thinks this might be the first time Trump has had to go up against a powerful woman.
“There’s a huge difference between the deals that Donald Trump used to be involved with and deals involving national security and federal employees and hundreds of thousands of people,” remarked CNN reporter and sometimes host Dana Bash.
D’Antonio agreed, noting that Trump came up with this “walk away” negotiation tactic, but it hasn’t actually worked in the past.
“I think in his past, the president actually lost a billion dollar deal on the Upper West Side when he made Ed Koch angry at him,” the biographer told Anderson Cooper Wednesday. “And the mayor wasn’t going to go along with this television city project that had real potential. He did this also with the United States Football League where all the other owners wound up being really angry. Because he pushed something beyond what was constructive.”
When it came to Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, D’Antonio thinks Trump is in over his head.
“As I’ve been watching this, I’ve been thinking about the fact that this is a man who has been having tantrums for 72 years,” he continued. “You know, and what Nancy Pelosi is doing is what a good mother does. She doesn’t give in to the kid having a tantrum. Chuck Schumer may not have that impulse because maybe he wasn’t as active a parent as Nancy Pelosi has been. But the last thing you do is give a who’s having a tantrum what he wants. I think this is perplexing the president. I think he’s met his match in Mrs. Pelosi.”
Indeed, Pelosi is the mother to five children and grandmother. Dealing with children isn’t a foreign concept to her.
“It doesn’t matter what people are saying to him,” Dana Bash, CNN’s chief congressional correspondent said. “It’s what he believes and he is firmly confident that this is the right thing to do for him politically. And that’s what a Republican senator who was in the private meeting with him told me today. It’s not that he is necessarily arguing that it’s the right thing to do for national security although he has said that. That he is in a good place politically and that is what is really rankling a lot of people and helping to entrench the Democrats because they see believes this is a political interrogative for him.”
D’Antonio also noted that this is the first time that he can think of where Trump has been forced to go up against a powerful woman and it’s likely difficult for him. He said that people should probably be looking more to Trump’s emotions and personality rather than strategy.
As we enter the 2018 Christmas season, it is worth noting that something like a quarter of a billion persons around the world have nothing which can be described as a “home”, no matter how humble.
Queen Victoria, when advised that a large part of the urban population of India, then a part of the British Empire, was homeless, responded by ordering colonial authorities to provide a blanket to each person so identified. Britain’s industrial cities, along with London, also had thousands of homeless persons overwhelming the charities tasked with serving them. They didn’t get blankets supplied by royal edict, despite Britain’s brutal weather, press reports on their plight and conspicuous presence, walking distance from Buckingham Palace.
John Quincy Adams, President from 1824-1828, was ambassador to Britain from 1815-1817. He was mortified by the extremes of opulence and want he encountered there. He recorded in his diaries the sight of starving beggars who appeared by night at the doors of country estates, who had to be carted away, dead or alive, by the groundskeepers in the morning.
The Bible story which forms the foundation of the Christmas observance is based on the plight of humble travelers seeking refuge. One innkeeper, taking pity on them, offered them his establishment’s stable for the night with the explanation that there was “no room at the inn”.
It’s hard to imagine that persons can celebrate Christmas while ignoring the key element in the foundation story. Besides our own resident homeless population, another group whose plight is hard to ignore presses itself against our southern border. Not even a stable to shelter them.
It’s not surprising that migrants piling up at our borders are, because of the actions of Trump, finding themselves unwelcome in Mexican border cities ill-equipped to host them.
The Trump and Kushner real estate empires were created by clever strategies to force low-income tenants and homeowners out in order to free up space for luxury developments. Similar tactics, for the same reason, are used by Russian Oligarchs to force tenants from basic, but cheap, Soviet era housing, spiced up in Russia with occasional “unsolved” murders of stubborn occupants.
Above, an example of Trump’s portrait on his “wall”.
It is clear to our southern neighbors that a “wall” high enough to display Trump’s portrait to viewers miles away on both sides is the eventual goal of our President, forever sealing contact with families already in the U.S. It’s no wonder then that many in Central America rushed to try to plead their cases at our borders before the “wall” in its various iterations, was in place.
Having been a part of the international back-packing mob of young people testing their limits in the 1950s and 60s around the world, there were plenty of times when “you can’t stay here” cropped up in the various languages encountered along the way. Countering that were vastly more greeting us, especially when we pitched in to harvest and fill needs unfilled due to the deaths of millions just a few years before in WWII, in exchange for a dry place to sleep and a seat at a humble table.
Those gleefully, in pursuit of profit, evicting, excluding and consigning to lifetime misery the poor among us and beyond our borders will no doubt enjoy their holiday bounty in the coming season. I pity them, don’t you?
“A land without people for a people without land.” At the turn of the 20th century, that slogan promoted Jewish migration to Palestine. It could be recycled today, justifying a Chinese takeover of Siberia. Of course, Russia’s Asian hinterland isn’t really empty (and neither was Palestine). But Siberia is as resource-rich and people-poor as China is the opposite. The weight of that logic scares the Kremlin.
Moscow recently restored the Imperial Arch in the Far Eastern frontier town of Blagoveshchensk, declaring: “The earth along the Amur was, is and always will be Russian.” But Russia’s title to all of the land is only about 150 years old. And the sprawl of highrises in Heihe, the Chinese boomtown on the south bank of the Amur, right across from Blagoveshchensk, casts doubt on the “always will be” part of the old czarist slogan.
Like love, a border is real only if both sides believe in it. And on both sides of the Sino-Russian border, that belief is wavering.
Siberia – the Asian part of Russia, east of the Ural Mountains – is immense. It takes up three-quarters of Russia’s land mass, the equivalent of the entire U.S. and India put together. It’s hard to imagine such a vast area changing hands. But like love, a border is real only if both sides believe in it. And on both sides of the Sino-Russian border, that belief is wavering.
The border, all 2,738 miles of it, is the legacy of the Convention of Peking of 1860 and other unequal pacts between a strong, expanding Russia and a weakened China after the Second Opium War. (Other European powers similarly encroached upon China, but from the south. Hence the former British foothold in Hong Kong, for example.)
The 1.35 billion Chinese people south of the border outnumber Russia’s 144 million almost 10 to 1. The discrepancy is even starker for Siberia on its own, home to barely 38 million people, and especially the border area, where only 6 million Russians face over 90 million Chinese. With intermarriage, trade and investment across that border, Siberians have realized that, for better or for worse, Beijing is a lot closer than Moscow.
The vast expanses of Siberia would provide not just room for China’s huddled masses, now squeezed into the coastal half of their country by the mountains and deserts of western China. The land is already providing China, “the factory of the world,” with much of its raw materials, especially oil, gas and timber. Increasingly, Chinese-owned factories in Siberia churn out finished goods, as if the region already were a part of the Middle Kingdom’s economy.
One day, China might want the globe to match the reality. In fact, Beijing could use Russia’s own strategy: hand out passports to sympathizers in contested areas, then move in militarily to “protect its citizens.” The Kremlin has tried that in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and most recently the Crimea, all formally part of other post-Soviet states, but controlled by Moscow. And if Beijing chose to take Siberia by force, the only way Moscow could stop would be using nuclear weapons.
There is another path: Under Vladimir Putin, Russia is increasingly looking east for its future – building a Eurasian Union even wider than the one inaugurated recently in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, a staunch Moscow ally. Perhaps two existing blocs – the Eurasian one encompassing Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – could unite China, Russia and most of the ‘stans. Putin’s critics fear that this economic integration would reduce Russia, especially Siberia, to a raw materials exporter beholden to Greater China. And as the Chinese learned from the humiliation of 1860, facts on the ground can become lines on the map.
Sometime in the fourth century B.C.E, an Athenian woman by the name of Agnodice was brought before a jury full of incredibly angry men—and she responded by calmly taking off her clothes.
Before I make it seem as if this is an article about ancient prostitution (or plain mental instability) let me clarify: Agnodice had been dressed as a man, and was brought before the jury under charges of having seduced the women of Athens—in taking off her clothing she not only proved her true gender and the charges false, but also made medical and gynecological history.
Before we can really dive into Agnodice’s story however, it’s important to point out that it is one of those tales which has always been, and will probably always be, a historical mystery. Some scholars adamantly believe that it is historical fact, while others place it in the realm of myth and legend. We may never know the real answer—but it is, without a doubt, a good story.
According to legend, Agnodice, also called Agnodike, was born into a wealthy Athenian family around the fourth century B.C.E. As she grew up, Agnodice was appalled by the high mortality rate of infants and mothers during childbirth, a traumatizing factor of female life that inspired Agnodice to study medicine—or at least to desire it. She had unfortunately been born into a time during which women were prohibited from studying or practicing any form of medicine, especially gynecology—in fact, it was considered a crime punishable by death.
Ironically, not long before Agnodice was born, women had had something of a monopoly on female medical treatment. Before the advent of Hippocratic medicine, childbirth was overseen by close female relatives or friends of the expectant mother, all of whom would have undergone labor themselves, and could therefore draw from their own experience as they coached other women through the process. Women who had a particular knack for this position slowly came to be known as maia, or midwives.
This practice was widely accepted for several years, and over time it truly began to flourish. Midwives began to accumulate an impressive breadth of lore and talent, learning enough to perform abortions, teach women about contraception and supposedly (though this is more unlikely) help women practice gender determination when attempting to become pregnant.
As men began to realize the capabilities of midwives, however, they began to feel extremely uncomfortable—even intimidated. In a world in which anxiety over lineage and heirs dominated much of the culture, the sheer amount of sexual independence offered to women by midwives and their reproductive knowledge posed a seemingly enormous threat. Men no longer wanted midwives to practice their medicine. Instead, they themselves attempted to dominate the medical field—a goal that, by the end of the fifth century B.C.E, was made more attainable with the help of Hippocrates (known today as the “Father of Medicine”) and his teaching facilities, which only admitted men. It is at this point that midwifery became punishable by death.
This proved to be a terrible blow to women—not just the women who suddenly had to give up their livelihoods, but also to the women whose labors and deliveries, without the guidance of a midwife, often ended in disaster. If you’re wondering why male doctors didn’t just take over and prevent these deadly deliveries, they certainly tried; but, in a society that highly valued female modesty, the transition from female midwives to male doctors did not prove easy.
Despite the advances of medicine ushered in by Hippocrates, and despite the willingness of newly trained men to take over the gynecological profession, women adamantly refused to let male physicians perform examinations or help with deliveries. This shyness earned women an extremely poor reputation with doctors, who began to see women as stubborn creatures with no interest in their own treatment or health. Many Hippocratic treatises that survive today describe this problem, though none admit that it could have been avoided if men had not outlawed midwifery.
Worse still than this unnecessarily poor reputation was the skyrocketing number of deaths related to childbirth.
Enter Agnodice. Determined to do something about the deaths and excruciatingly difficult deliveries that so appalled her, but legally prohibited from helping, Agnodice cut off all her hair, dressed in male clothing, and traveled to Alexandria to study medicine under Herophilos of Chalcedon (335-280 B.C.E.).
Under Herophilos, who was a follower of Hippocrates and a co-founder of the famous medical school at Alexandria, Agnodice—always in the guise of a man—learned a great deal of medicine. She then traveled back to her native Athens, where, legend has it, she heard the agonized screams of a woman in labor as she walked down the street. When she rushed in to help—still looking like a man—the mistrustful women in the room tried to force Agnodice out. Frustrated, Agnodice pulled aside her robes and revealed herself as a woman. The amazed and relieved expectant mother then accepted help from Agnodice, whose medical knowledge resulted in a safe delivery.
After this first success, news of Agnodice—who continued to dress as a man in order to practice medicine—spread throughout the female community. Suddenly, it seemed as if the services of a “male” doctor were constantly in demand.
This was immediately suspicious to the men of Athens, who believed that Agnodice was somehow seducing their wives, sisters, and daughters. Some men even claimed that the women of Athens were faking illnesses in order to be seen by Agnodice. It is because of these accusations that she was first brought before a jury.
Clearly, Agnodice could do nothing to disprove these charges other than to display the most obvious (and perhaps most scandalous) proof: and so, the legend goes, without hesitation she pulled open her robes and exposed herself to the jury.
This, of course, only made things worse for Agnodice. The revelation of her secret pushed the men of the jury from angry to livid. Furious that a woman had been practicing medicine openly, right under their noses, they immediately sentenced Agnodice to death and set a date for her execution.
Things were not looking good for this courageous cross-dresser—that is, until her patients realized what had happened.
A massive group of Athenian women (including a few very highborn wives of the men who wanted Agnodice dead) stormed the assembly, demanding that Agnodice be released. “You men are not spouses,” they said, “but enemies, since you are condemning her who discovered health for us.”
Faced with the wrath of their wives, the men relented and—amazingly—decided to change the law. Thanks to Agnodice, freeborn women could legally study and practice medicine, as long as they treated only female patients.
Agnodice’s story has earned her the title of “first female physician” or “first female gynecologist” in many circles, particularly in the medical world, and she herself has become a symbol of female equality, determination, and ingenuity. The big question here is, of course, did she really exist?
The only surviving record of Agnodice’s story is attributed to a Latin author named Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 B.C.E.—C.E. 17), most of whose many treatises have been lost. What now survives are two abbreviated texts—Fabulae and Poetical Astronomy—which are so poorly written that most scholars believe them to be a novice schoolboy’s notes on Hyginus’ treatises. The story of Agnodice’s cross-dressing and medical practice can be found in Fabulae, and comprises no more than a single paragraph in a section called “Inventors and their Inventions” (Section CCLXXIV).
While some scholars believe that this short record represents historical fact, or at least a legend built up around a real, historical personage, there are many factors that would seem to disprove this theory.
For example, Agnodice’s story contains key tropes which were often present in ancient legends and stories. Her bold decision to remove her garments in order to display her true gender, for instance, is a relatively frequent occurrence in ancient myths—so much so that archeologists have unearthed a number of terracotta figures which appear to be dramatically disrobing.
Agnodice’s name itself also makes her story seem less realistic. When literally translated, the name means “chaste before justice.” This practice of endowing a character with a name that points to some aspect of their story was very common in Greek myth and literature.
And, of course, there is the fact that her story appears at all in Hyginus’ Fabulae. After all, “fabulae” means “stories”—the text describes close to three hundred myths and divine blood lines, many of them extremely recognizable. It is essentially a collection of the Greek myths that any well-bred and cultured Roman student was expected to know. The very fact that Agnodice’s tale is included in such a text places her more in the realm of legend than of fact.
Myth or not, however, there is a lot to be learned from a story like Agnodice’s. In the end, Agnodice not only represents the (to this day slightly contentious) desire for women to control their own bodies, but also the underdog’s determination in the face of impossible odds or deadly threats. Her story also teaches us the importance of banding together as a community. Agnodice alone could never have changed the law in Athens—it was only with the help and support of her community that she was able to really effect any change. It is for these reasons that she remains an inspiration to women and men alike today.