Wednesday, November 26, 2008

November 26

1922, archeologist Howard Carter and his financial backer, Lord Carnarvon, opened the tomb of Tutankhamen (Pharaoh of Egypt 1333–1324 BC.) This was preceded by uncovering a stairway near the tomb of Ramses VI by Carter on November 4, 1922. Excavation of the tomb was continued on November 23 when the excavators encountered the first doorway inscribed with the cartouches of Tutankhamen. A second door was reached on November 26, when Carter peered through a small hole and had the first glimpse of the treasures of Tutankhamen... As he put it later, "When Lord Carnarvon said to me,'Can you see anything?' I replied to him, 'Yes, it is wonderful.'"

Tutankhamen's burial chamber amazingly was left intact for thousands of years-- unusual for similar treasures...

For more on this and Ancient Egypt, read "When the Sun was God" by Zenon Kosidowski...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

David and Goliath

There is a constant problem in the criminal justice system. The tension between law enforcement and enforcement of whatever civil liberties we have got left... Sometimes I get the fear that these rights are imaginary and have already slipped away because of governmental overreaching and abuse of power... What is left of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures when police routinely stop and frisk people in the streets under the auspices of so-called 'consensual encounters' and 'consent?' What is left of Miranda v. Arizona when officers question first, obtain a confession under submission of authority and under excuse of preliminary investigation and then advise of Miranda once the person has already incriminiated himself? What is left of the notion of 'custodial interrogation' when officers think they can ask any questions they want until they place the person under formal arrest? Obviously, they are procuring arrest by means of violating someone's Fifth Amendment rights... My mouth is tired of saying that 'custodial interrogation' is a functional test. Someone may be in 'custody' of the police even without handcuffs and without formal arrest.

Well, on the other side of the pendulum are crime rates, victim's rights and public safety... Of course, most people are intensely afraid of crime and criminals without realizing that we are the ones creating both the crime rate and the criminals. We criminalize everything, our penal code is so outdated that it scares me. Poverty and misery are equated with 'criminal behavior'. Protecting oneself and surviving in ghettoes, for example walking with a knife in a pocket, is equivalent to criminal behavior. Everyone forgets that poverty breeds crime, miserable human existence breeds crime... Who are these imaginary 'criminals?'-- mostly people in dire circumstances, miserable, unhappy, abused, and lonely... Fix the causes, stop obsessing over the effects... Fix the sociological, cultural and political ailments that cause the behavior we have coined 'criminal.' Realize, most of these crimes are not malum in se (innately/morally wrong), but malum prohibitum (statutorily designed to be wrong).

But, most importantly, why do we constantly have to compromise civil liberties in the quest for public safety, crime investigation and justice for victims? Why can't law enforcement work within the parameters and in consort with the rules set up to protect individual's liberties. Are law enforcement needs and protection of civil liberties mutually exclusive and not co-extensive? I portray law enforcement needs as a circle within another circle of individual rights... So, desire to further law enforcement goals cannot take precedence or overshed individual rights because of this scheme of things. Unfortunately, that is far from the case in reality. On a daily basis, individuals have to endure constant overreaching by law enforcement and government in the streets... Once they end up in the court system, this continues because of judges who have an agenda to be 'tough' on crime and who believe their role is to further law enforcement goals and not protect individual's liberty interests...

As a rule, many people who have never been charged with a crime, think that this scheme of things does not affect them whatsoever... I get jurors' blank gazes when I question them about individual liberties during jury selection... They think a 'criminal' is an unusual type of a person, different from them, and therefore, this problem I am describing has no relevance in their lives.... But one thing they do not comprehend: these rights of little mythical David are contra to Goliath, the State, and if the government is allowed to step over these rights protecting this 'criminal', then it will also one day similarly step over other rights, not necessarily involving crime, such as freedom of speech, right to privacy, etc. If you do not push back the government at some point, it will enclose the individual with a wall into a space smaller and smaller with each passing day, month, year, decade... The grip will only get tighter and tigther!

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17

1558, Queen Mary I, known as Bloody Mary for persecution of Protestants, died of influenza at the age of 42. Elizabeth I became Queen of England.

1917, Auguste Rodin, a great sculptor died...

He reportedly said:

The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.

I invent nothing, I rediscover.

There are unknown forces in nature; when we give ourselves wholly to her, without reserve, she lends them to us; she shows us these forms, which our watching eyes do not see, which our intelligence does not understand or suspect.

Above Rodin's famous 'Citizens of Calais', 'Balzac' and 'Thinker'...

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 24

1945, the United Nations Charter-- the constitution of the United Nations-- was ratified by the five founding members: China, France, Soviet Union, Great Britain and the USA. The United Nations Charter was earlier signed by 50 original member countries, on June 26, 1945.

October 24 came to be known as the United Nations Day.

The United Nation's predecessor, the League of Nations, was formed in 1919... World War II was a major impetus towards further development of the U.N. as a necessary organization for global security and peace...

While many have criticized the U.N. left and right for various reasons, it has played a crucial role in the world arena... Many should remember that international law and international organizations often play a symbolic and 'expressive' role without which there can be no hope for any action or practice... If we can formulate the right aspirations for humanity, then we can also act out on those!

Like every other organization, the U.N. has to rely on its members' willingness and commitment in furthering global goals... Therefore, it is simply wrong to criticize it for any perceived shortcomings when its members fall short in their level of commitment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Whose policies have worked really?

I posted below on the theories of John Maynard Keynes in juxtaposition to those of Adam Smith... Today if we break down and simplify the Democratic and Republican parties' economic/fiscal policies, we can see the followers of Keynes in Democrats and followers of Smith in Republicans... But it is very instructive to view the history and find out more whose policies really worked... The Gilded Age in America that was completely and fully energized by Smith's policies lead to the destruction and the Great Depression... and it was only John Maynard Keynes' policies implemented by Roosevelt that took the country out of that disaster... And this is only one of the many examples in history... Just take a moment to look back... Bill Clinton following the general ethos of liberal Democratic fiscal policies left the Office with a thriving economy, unprecedented budget surplus and the lowest unemployment and inflation rates ever in the U.S. history. How this success story was thrown out of the board in these last 8 years is lamentable...

When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease ... But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

[John Maynard Keynes]

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October 9

1967, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), Cuban guerilla leader and left-wing revolutionary, was executed by Bolivian soldiers. Albert Korda took his most famous photograph: that of 'Che' in 1960. The picture, called Guerrillero Heroico above, was not published until 1967, after 'Che's death. It is one of the most reproduced photos in the 20th century. "I remember it as if it were today ... seeing him framed in the viewfinder, with that expression. I am still startled by the impact ... it shakes me so powerfully." [Korda]

1930, pioneer pilot Laura Ingalls (1901 – January 10, 1967) was the first woman to fly across the U.S. with nine stops. The same year she performed 344 loops, setting a women's record...

1989, a Soviet Union newspaper officially confirmed the landing of a UFO in Voronezh... From 1985 thru 1990 the newspapers proliferated with similar stories.

"Many will call me an adventurer-- and that I am, only one of a different sort: one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes." ['Che' Guevara]

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rehearsed lines and eye winks...

I suppose, nowadays, rehearsed lines, eye winks and a charming smile will get you to the VP post... Was comparing Hillary Clinton with Sarah Palin and it was the difference between day and night. Palin came to the debate with a script and answered not the questions posed to her but what she planned to answer... Ditched so many important questions with a charming smile, absolute lack of genuineness... Showed remarkable confidence despite remarkable lack of knowledge about important political issues. She has got no clue, that is all I can say! While she is passionate, her passion is translated into stubbornness too many times and her face sometimes shows inner insecurity and hysteria... It is simply inconceivable and absurd that she could in fact be the second to the President, so close to the highest post! Huh.

Very sad and pathetic... Try to compare her with Hillary... for women out there who are upset with Hillary-Obama race, do not make the mistake if you know what I mean...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October 1

1964, Japanese high-speed passenger train Shinkansen went into service, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The exciting train carried passengers from Tokyo to Osaka in a record of 4 hours, traveling at a speed of 200 miles per hour. The line was extended and now the network serves all of Japan's major cities. The Japanese developed an even faster one, known today as Maglev. The train reaches up to speed of 361 miles per hour!

Talk about public transportation and lack thereof in California! Amtrak and Metrolink are falling apart. Recently out of real curiosity I took Greyhound for a 100 mile travel-- what was a 2 hour ride turned into a whole day travail, waiting in line to get on the bus, and then being in a bus that traveled at a snail's pace! My goodness, we have come so far as to travel in outer space, but not far enough to have decent means of transportation, besides our oil-driven trash box cars. When I moved to California from Moscow, I was appalled with the fact that the buses and trains were used by the poorest of the poor and not having a car was equivalent to a major disability because public transportation was not reliable...

And no one will dare to deny the effects of this on air quality and global warming...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

'No way, no how, no McCain'

November, 2004... The American people made a mistake, reelecting Bush to the second term by a popular vote. The politics of fear prevailed. I gasped for air and wanted to scream in pain. A dear friend said, 'Never lose hope.' But the 4 long years went by very slowly and in great agony... The 8 years left an irremediable mark on the American history and world politics. Things that the next generations will be paying a heavy price for years and decades to come.

Yet, now we have McCain as the messenger of Bush, propagating continuation of those same 8 years, same mentality, same policies and politics of fear. Watching the debate the other night, lost all and any respect for John McCain. Insulting Obama, came with an indolent and arrogant behavior. Constantly boasting about his record and looking at Obama as a 'child' who does not understand or know anything... So rude and disrespectful. Sounded and acted very much like Bush debating with Gore and Kerry. Most importantly, all his ideology and vision have been proven wrong, wrong, wrong all these 8 years and even before...

Meanwhile, Obama displayed great self-control, self-reserve and statesmanship. Displayed enormous hidden power with his calm behavior. We, Hillary supporters, were so reckless in 'attacking' him so much and finding 'perceived' weaknesses in him... He has got none. This is a man with great power and decency. First and foremost, he has got the answer for all troublesome questions besieging this country... Will people be able to set aside their racial prejudices and judge him by the content of his character, and not by the color of his skin? Can America stand by its liberal principles and give a chance to this man who deserves it all? That is the question.

Do you love your country? Set aside your fears, open your eyes, and see the reality... We cannot afford repeating the mistakes of the past! Simply cannot! 'No way, no how, no McCain!'

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cycles of history and historian's puzzles

I have posted on my blog about how history gets repeated with amazing regularity here.

March 5, 1946, Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill made his historic speech "Iron Curtain", a precursor of the ensuing Cold War. here

September 18, 2008, Washington DC, German Marshall Fund, Condoleezza Rice has made her speech on US-Russian Relations, a precursor of yet another open 'War' between the two countries. here

Puzzling and disconcerting...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 24

1996, the U.S., Russia and other nuclear powers signed a treaty to stop testing and development of nuclear weapons, including underground blasts. America had conducted 1,030 tests since 1945.

At the signing, then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali said, "This treaty should reinforce international resolve to achieve a world free of the nuclear arms race, a world free of all nuclear weapons." here

Still an aspiration when those who have them are clinging to them even stronger and are improving their capabilities, and those who do not have them work hard to get them!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time for change...

When you go to the polls this November, think not about yourself, but about all those others that your decision may affect today and tomorrow... Look at those at the bottom of the economic ladder and whose livelihood has sunk to the lowest. The vast numbers of the poor and homeless, destitute and desolate, those who have become beggars and are surviving on the margins... Forgotten and unheard of... Invisible and oppressed. Disadvantaged and in misery...

It reminds me of the Great Depression era. In his wonderful book that encapsulated that era, "Grapes of Wrath" John Steinbeck wrote:

In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
Chapter 25

How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him--he has known a fear beyond every other. Chapter 19

And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.
Chapter 19

They's a time of change, an' when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an' bearin' an' dyin' is two pieces of the same thing. An' then things ain't so lonely anymore. An' then a hurt don't hurt so bad. Chapter 18

Time for change?!

How much more we do not know...

In the post below, referencing the BBC radio show, Professor Sunder has pointed her finger to the lack of attention to non-Western cultural and artistic heritage. Her criticism is really on point, because in the world-known famous art museums all we see is Western art... Many other problems flow from this, including lack of knowledge in the West as to how people in other parts of the world live and breathe. Then when it comes to analyzing the 'clash of civilizations' people in the West have a very limited and constricted empirical framework to begin with.

Here are some modern Indian art paintings by Archana Santra.

When Desireless went to India, her impressions lead her to the hit 'Voyage Voyage'.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Internet, globalization and harmonization

How has the world Internet changed the power dynamics between the state and the society? How did the traditional control of the state over the communication slowly give in? What does this mean? Is the ever-expanding global communication system threatening to take over the traditional knowledge and mode of thinking? Relatedly, is the globalization and ensuing clash of civilizations, necessarily washing away the traditional cultural footprints? Is modernity diametrically opposed to culture and tradition?

This process is affecting how people think, interact with the world and build their pathways of survival... The information flow is however faster than people can absorb or reflect over. Does that make us as humans of 'shallow' and 'superficial' thinking... Time-management is a major problem in light of competitive demands and obligations. How can we manage our time in light of this information blast? For example, as an average American citizen can you keep up with everything that is happening in the presidential elections every day? Don't you feel overwhelmed? Don't you sometimes want to shut off the TV? I have decided to minimize my use of TV as much as possible. I can't promise the same about the Internet though.

In answer to some of these questions, I highly recommend to listen to the recent program Forum of BBC World Service with my own Professor Madhavi Sunder here. Professor Sunder is my favorite professor who influenced me to a great degree as a law student. Her scholarship crisscrosses many subjects, including Law and Modernity, Intellectual Property, International Human Rights, Women and culture...

Text-message for peace...

In 1981 the UN General Assembly declared, in a resolution sponsored by Costa Rica, the third Tuesday of September (the opening day of regular sessions of the General Assembly) as the International Day of Peace devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace. Later September 21 became to be known as the day for global cease-fire and peace.

The Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called to text-message for peace around the globe. "I use electronic communications all the time, but honestly – this is a little embarrassing – I have zero friends online. But you – collectively – can reach tens of thousands of people in an instant. You can mobilize way beyond your clique, beyond your community, even beyond the borders of your own country. That is the power you have and I count on it – your power to make this world different when you become leaders, and even before.” (here)

If our technological sophistication has allowed us to destroy the world by one push of a button, we should also be able to ensure for long-lasting peace...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Memoriam of 9/11

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

[Martin Luther King Jr.]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September 10

1797, Mary Wollstonecraft, an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and feminist died (1759-1797). During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book. Her best known book is "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She reportedly said, "Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience." At that time her thoughts seemed revolutionary...

Well, today in the 21st century women are still treated as inferior to men. Still there is great amount of bitter, subtle and disgusting sexism creeping into the atmosphere, political or social... Is it just a problem of lack of englightenment in the public or is it just a means of oppressing a potential group and beating them up to the corner, 'out of the game.' The glass ceiling is still there and women still are viewed as 'liabilities' in terms of maternity leave, family obligations, etc. Even the most educated women are treated with ridicule and sarcasm, and not only by men, but also by women... Look at the attacks mounted towards Hillary Clinton not while ago, and currently at Palin... It makes me feel like throwing up!

Unfortunately, feminist critique of this is not very effective either... The code 'pink' and all the associated entourage does little to diminish this unhealthy and quite dangerous situation... Plus, there is a problem with code designation 'pink' sometimes. If you constantly say, 'I am a woman', aren't you inviting different treatment? But I thought, we want equal treatment... Can we ask for special treatment as women, and yet also demand equality? Am I just walking a fine line here?

Monday, September 8, 2008

September 8

1504, Michelangelo's sculpture David was unveiled in Florence. Among his famous works are Pieta (below) and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo along with Leonardo da Vinci are among the most crucial torch-bearers of the Renaissance... Rejecting the tenets of the Medieval Ages (Dark Ages), they postulated that earthly life and dignity of the human being take priority over the heavenly life and God. Pico della Mirandola has expressed it well in his "Oration on the Dignity of Man,"
"We have placed you at the world's center so that you may survey everything else in the world. We have made you neither of heavenly nor of earthly stuff, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with free choice and dignity, you may fashion yourself into whatever form you choose. To you is granted the power of degrading yourself into the lower forms of life, the beasts, and to you is granted the power, contained in your intellect and judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, the divine."

Some of Michelangelo's quotes deserve to be placed here:

I am a poor man and of little worth, who is laboring in that art that God has given me in order to extend my life as long as possible.

I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.

Genius is eternal patience

Reading Michelangelo's biography is very instructive, especially with regard to what gigantic, almost inhuman efforts he put into painting the Sistine Chapel. That is not just hard work. It is a level of physical and mental exertion that is reached only through unimaginable passion and sacrifice...

Click here for Vivaldi 'Four Seasons'

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why you and I should vote for Barack Obama!

I am a loyal Hillary supporter and I am still in great sorrow that she did not get the nomination she deserved the most! The race was all about dice-rolling, hair-splitting (and a great degree of sexism), and Obama got lucky... I have been angry and critical of him trying to support Hillary in the heated race... But now looking forward, we have to-- absolutely have to-- vote for Barack Obama! Why?

He does not have whole lot of experience, but he has what many American Presidents did not have: intelligence, great power to inspire, energy, optimism, ability to dream big... Most of all, he has the rare ability to think 'new', defy settled conventions, and take a whole fresh look at things... That is what I like in him the most... Most of the time, success depends not on gray hair or experience, but on vision and ideology... He does have the ideals, the vision and power, power to implement it... In specific policies, his entire platform is 'centrist.' In his quest to unify this divided country he has come to the 'vital center' (like Bill Clinton) and has tapped into the feelings of most Americans, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat... I have seen stickers on cars 'Republicans for Obama'-- that is a wonderful sign... In foreign policy, he will be the smartest President we have not seen for a long time. The very fact that he was against the war in Iraq tells me how smart he is and how well he can assess the interests of our country... Is use of force always in the interests of this country?! I think, by now most should know the answer... The anti-Americanism is at its highest in the world... This is exactly the type of a President we need...

While I respect John McCain and do not really want to attack him like many Democrats, he has got the experience, but no vision in how to take our country out of the present crisis! He also does not have the right way of thinking and settles for the conventional ways... It is time for us to look forward and approach new horizons with someone like Obama and not to look back, feel sorry for ourselves and settle for little-- with John McCain...

Vote for Barack Obama! We would be fortunate to have him as our leader for the next 8 years...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

September 4

1781, the city of Los Angeles-- my favorite-- is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula-- the City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion-- by a group of 44 Spanish settlers. Having lived in Los Angeles most of my adult life, I have to say, despite its horrendous traffic, smog and overcrowded/dirty streets, it has an irresistible charm and appeal to it, and partly because of its enormous cosmopolitanism. You will meet the world right here... When I set my foot on this land as an 18 year old, I had very far-fetched dreams that came true in this very city. One of these dreams materialized at UCLA, which has been engrafted in my heart with golden letters since then... That dream was made possible by a Democratic President then in power who ensured that people of minorities could attend a public University and get affordable education to enrich this nation for forthcoming generations... And that dream has become impossible for many other kids recently. Can we reverse the trend in this election by choosing a Democrat?! Yes, we can! Vote for Barack Obama!

1907, Edvard Grieg, one of the greatest composers of all times died. Click here for his famous Piano Concerto.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September 3

2004, the Beslan school massacre in Russia came to an end after a terrifying two-day siege, when Chechen militants took more than 1,100 people hostage. Most of the victims were children, many of whom died after long torture... Bodies were found burnt beyond recognition... and many more were missing... It was just one more reminder that the war on terror is everyone's war and terrorism cannot disappear without consolidated efforts. [Of course, how you fight that war is a subject for another day and another post]

1783, the American War of Independence ended after eight years of fighting with the signing of the Treaty of Paris by the U.S., Spain, France, and Great Britain. The British recognized the independence of the U.S.

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." [Mother Theresa]

Friday, August 29, 2008


A wise man once said, "All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth." [Nietzsche]

When I ponder over the irremediable mess that the world is in, I wonder, who is given the responsibility to interpret the events... Because the interpretation will dictate further development of events and ultimate chance for arrival at truth... But if power is the driving engine behind this interpretation, what chance for truth to resurface any time soon?

And power and truth are quite often not co-extensive...

Search for truth high above?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August 26

1920, American women were given the long-awaited and hard-fought right to vote upon the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and others remained crucial historic figures leading the struggle.

Today, at the Democratic National Convention, another woman, as influential and historically crucial, will make her speech, bidding farewell (only temporary) to the idea of a woman U.S. President.... Other women will follow, they will, and will make her dreams come true! She only made it easier for those others, while never succumbed to the pressures of the journey and came-- exhausted but stronger-- covered with mud and dust to the end! Our eternal gratitude to these brave women...

Say goodbye to Hillary

Friday, August 22, 2008

August 22

1864, 16 European states adopted the First Geneva Convention, formally known as the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field . It covers the treatment of the wounded in the battlefield.

The convention was inspired by the experiences of a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, who witnessed the sufferings of 40,000 soldiers wounded during a bloody conflict in 1859 between French-Piedmontese and Austrian armies after the Battle of Solferino. There was no mechanism in place to arrange truces to retrieve the wounded, who were typically left to perish of their wounds or of thirst.

Dunant rallied nearby villagers to render what relief they could, insisting on impartiality between the sides. He later wrote a book, 'A Memory of Solferino,' that described the horrors he had seen and called for the establishment of civilian volunteer relief corps to care for the wounded in battle.

In 1863, the Geneva Society for Public Welfare took up his cause and created a committee of five, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross. On August 22, 1864, this committee brought together the representatives of 16 European states who adopted the first Geneva Convention. The conference also established the red cross on a white field (the reverse of the Swiss flag) as the protective emblem for those serving the wounded. (Courtesy of the Encyclopedia)

For more on the series of Geneva Conventions see on this blog below under Labels.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

August 20

1940, in Mexico an assassin fatally wounded Leon Trotsky with an ice pick. He died the next day. The mastermind behind the murder was Stalin.

Trotsky was a crucial figure in the Great October Revolution. He, along with Lenin, had foreseen the gloomy and tragic consequences of emerging Stalinism. When Lenin was told at his deathbed that Stalin's people were going to 'throw out' Trotsky, he exclaimed, "Throwing Trotsky overboard - surely you are hinting at that, it is impossible to interpret it otherwise - is the height of stupidity. If you do not consider me already hopelessly foolish, how can you think of that????" For this and many other reasons Lenin wrote his last 'Letter' to the party, warning of Stalin as the biggest danger...

A staunch socialist and Marxist, Trotsky could not have foreseen at that point in time that the very idea of Communism (an extreme manifestation of socialism) was deeply flawed. The Party was gaining enormous power and eventually ruled over the people-- in the name of the people-- like no other king or monarch. If that was going to cure the ills of monarchies, it was only a temporary pseudo-cure. Perhaps Marx and Engels had failed to take account of the deep-seated attributes of human nature, including the tendency to abuse power... Focused on the 'whole', the 'communa', they overlooked the little person, the 'individual'... What protections were they going to ensure to this little person against the abuses of governmental power?

"The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end." [Trotsky]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Solzhenitsyn and history

Everyone by now is familiar with the work of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. But for decades we, children in the Soviet Union, were growing up not having the opportunity to even know about him, or even have a chance to get his printed work. Then in the early 90s his famous 'Archipelago Gulag' was published and shook the conscience of many in our former country. The West in contrast had long been familiar with his work.

Today Vladimyr Putin has made a call to encourage more coverage of Solzhenitsyn's work in schools for children. This is highly complimentary on part of Putin and dispels many attacks by opponents. He reportedly said, "это человек, который вместе с народом пережил великую трагедию и репрессии, своей жизнью и работой А.Солженицын сделал обществу значимую прививку против любых видов тирании". ("this is a man who lived through a great tragedy and repression along with his nation and whose life and work has significantly inoculated the society against all types of oppressions." translated by NM). here

Enough said. If only this acknowledgement came a few decades earlier...

The painting above, Burlaki, is by Ilya Repin, 1873. It does give a very good idea of the reality behind Archipelago Gulag even though it reflects a different historic time period. I can imagine how this painting could have inspired Solzhenitsyn...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Glance at history

As a result of World War I and the Armenian genocide, the forceful exodus and extermination of Armenians from their historic lands brought up the issue of demarcation of Armenian-Turkish borders. From 1918 to 1923 five treaties determined the Armenian-Turkish border. The Sevr Treaty was signed on 10 August, 1920. It was followed by the Alexandropol Treaty (3 December, 1920), the Moscow Treaty (16 March, 1921), the Kars Treaty (13 October, 1921), and finally, the Lousanne Treaty (24 July, 1923). More notably are the Sevr Treaty and the Lousanne Treaty.

The most important point is that the Armenian-Turkish border was determined by the arbitration award of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Armenia was among the winners of World War I and put its signature under the Sevres Treaty. Wilsonian Armenia refers to the boundary configuration for a proposed Armenian state drawn up by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for the Treaty of Sèvres.

The proposed state incorporated Erzurum, Bitlis, and Van Provinces, which were parts of the region referred to as Ottoman Armenia (also referred to as Western Armenia). This region was extended to the north, up to the west side of Trabzon Province to provide the Democratic Republic of Armenia with an outlet to the Black Sea at the port of Trabzon.

The Turkish War of Independence forced the former wartime Allies to return to the negotiating table prior to ratification of the Treaty. The parties signed and ratified the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which annulled the Sèvres Treaty, and also established the current borders of Turkey. This included the previously established eastern borders obtained by the Treaty of Alexandropol, signed on November 2, 1920, and the Treaty of Kars, signed on October 23, 1921 and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922, the Treaty of Lausanne confirming them.

While the Sevres Treaty was not ratified, it remains valid. Today, the Republic of Armenia is still claiming that the Wilsonian Armenia as it is mapped out above is more reflective (still not fully) of historic Armenia than what was established by the Lousanne Treaty. In fact, the Lousanne Treaty was a political compromise among allies with no attention to the real grievances of Armenians against Turkey. Turkey's denial of the Armenian Genocide carries two-fold policy: reject the very occurrence of the genocide, and close any avenues for renegotiation of the border.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On July 20...

1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon. The Apollo 11 launched onto space in Florida at 9:32am on July 16, 1969. On board were Commander Neil Armstrong, Colonel Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Collins. On July 20, Apollo 11 began to orbit the Moon. Armstrong overrode computer controls and guided the Eagle, the landing module, to a more suitable spot with less than a minute's fuel remaining. The mission was accomplished.

1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Prime Minister of Ceylon, the world's first elected female head of government. She entered politics when her husband, Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, was assassinated in 1959. A socialist, she focused all her efforts in nationalizing key sectors in the economy.

1989, after political protests in Burma (Myanmar), military rulers placed the opposition leader and human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.

1973, Bruce Lee, the greatest martial arts professional died. "Be like water. When needed you can freeze, but when necessary you may spill out of the glass and join the river," (paraphrase) was his advice, touching upon the wisdom of flexibility and ability to function in all situations. In his opinion, you must be able to transform from a tiger to a monkey, from a dragon to a cat, when needed and when you wish to regain control of your existence. He also advised, "The key to immortality is to live a life worth remembering."

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." (Benjamin Franklin)

Click here for all-time favorite Valeriy Leontiev

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Global 'suicide'

Al Gore has just made an inspiring speech, calling again and again to stop and think over the reality of what we are facing not only as a nation, but as a member of this Earth. 'Wake up from slumber and do something!' is his message. Can we appreciate his call and act upon it?! Or are we just going to sit there, self-oblivious and lethargically suicidal, and watch it all happen... Will the Earth slip into a fireball, like Venus and Mars?

A portion of his speech:
On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy’s challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.
I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket’s engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed, the sound was deafening. We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race.
We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind.

For the full speech here.