Archive for the 'History' Category

In memoriam

Long excerpts on Democracy Now of the late, great Martin Luther King’s incredibly moving speeches — in particular the one he delivered on April 4, 1967, exactly a year to the day he was assassinated. Not just a civil rights leader … a revolutionary.

Barack Obama, America’s 44th president

I had to pinch myself and go out on the terrace for some bracing cold air, I couldn’t believe it. My mom called me at 5:25 in the morning with the news, the very moment McCain was giving his concession speech. Right now I’m watching President-elect Obama give his victory speech in Chicago. After eight years, the Iraq invasion, a destroyed economy, Guantanamo, Abu Graieb, the Patriot Act, the neocons, Rove, Cheney and BUSH, my kneejerk reaction is to write something cynical or ironic, but no, this is just a great thing. Finally, we’re back!

The Weather Underground

A great documentary by Sam Green and Bill Siegel about the rise and fall of the Weathermen, the radical activist group that operated in the U.S. from the late 60s to the mid-70s.

This documentary gives an even-handed depiction of the incendiary atmosphere of that era, with the demented ideology of the Vietnam War hawks countered by the misguided ideology of violent radical activists. It shows how a twisted ideology on the right led to another twisted ideology on the left, and how they both played into each other’s hands.

I like how voices from all sides are heard, and how this documentary manages to be objective without romanticizing the Weathermen or demonizing them. There is so much cognitive dissonance on both sides of the issue, and this documentary manages to steer clear of it.

A brief history of English

From Words in English, by Suzanne Kemmer, a professor of linguistics:

The language we call English was first brought to the north sea coasts of England in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D., by seafaring people from Denmark and the northwestern coasts of present-day Germany and the Netherlands. These immigrants spoke a cluster of related dialects falling within the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Their language began to develop its own distinctive features in isolation from the continental Germanic languages, and by 600 A.D. had developed into what we call Old English or Anglo-Saxon, covering the territory of most of modern England.

Read the rest here.

This page also has a ginormous list of neoligisms that even a buttmunch could appreciate.

The 10 most decadent dictators

The Times has another great Top 10 List.  This time it’s the most decadent dictators, and topping the list is dear leader Kim Jong-il:

1. Kim Jong-il, “Dear Leader” of North Korea since 1994. The son of the communist state’s “Great Leader”, Kim Jong-il has super-expensive tastes, with 17 palaces and collections of hundreds of cars and about 20,000 video tapes. On one state visit to Russia, he reportedly had live lobsters airlifted daily to his armoured private train. He is believed to spend around $650,000 a year on Hennessy VSOP cognac and maintains an entourage of young lovelies known as the “Pleasure Brigade”


History repeating, the eternal return. No wise man in history has ever denied it. Here’s an interesting article from the late Christopher Meyer, an Ambassador to Washington from 1997-2003, and ex-Cold War diplomat.

It is useless to say that nationalism and ethnic tribalism have no place in the international relations of the 21st century. If anything the spread of Western-style democracy has amplified their appeal and resonance. The supreme fallacy in foreign policy is to take the world as we would wish it to be and not as it actually is.

Link to the article in the Times UK.

George Orwell, the blogger

If there was ever a writer whose opinions chimed almost perfectly with my own, it was George Orwell. Peter Davidson has resurrected him on a blog called The Orwell Diaries in the form of his actual diary entries from 70 years ago, in the days leading up to the Second World War. The blog format is a great idea:

In a curious way, reading what Orwell jotted down so informally as events occurred, domestically and internationally, seventy years ago will be far more intriguing for readers than when they are faced with slabs of print.

Today’s entry, for August 22nd, describing a “warmish day, with showers” perfectly describes the afternoon here in Berlin.