Tuesday, 17 March 2020


Captured by Pulitzer Prize winning Associated Press photographer Slava “Sal” Veder on this day in 1973, the moment of reunion on the tarmac at Travis Air Force Base in California between a just released US prisoner of war, held for five and half years in Hanoi, and his family—captioned Burst of Joy—came to symbolize the beginning of the end of the US aggression in Vietnam and signaled the time for healing and reconciliation to start.
Among the first soldiers to be redeployed in Operation Homecoming, the spontaneous, happy image belies a grim reality, like the war itself (see previously)—there being nothing redemptive to the latter tragedy even in terms of good optics, with the marriage on the verge of collapse due to the stress of the soldier’s confinement and infidelities and reflects its opposite side as well with all the lives of Vietnamese and Americans that were beyond restoration. The couple reunited under orders, it was later revealed.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

el gaucho goofy

As problematic and painful as past, back catalogue portrayals depicting racist and stereotyped can be and deserving of being called out, discussed and carrying warning labels, it is unsettling how versions offered as unadulterated can yet be revisionistic and casting a positive pall on iconic characters, Paleofuture’s take down of Disney’s cleaning up a scene of one of their old guard personalities smoking in its 1942 live-action and animated featurette Saludos Amigos mentions a foot-note behind the cartoon’s existence in the first place that bears investigation as well.
The US State Department commissioned Walt Disney and others to peddle the soft diplomacy of Mickey Mouse and company to counteract ties that Central and South America was forming with Nazi Germany—a job that Disney and much of Hollywood readily accepted since European markets were closed off to them due to the war. The propaganda film by most estimates was well received by audiences in both Latin America and domestically, instilling a sense of continental cohesion and giving US cinema-goers a taste of some the refinement of the culture and scenery that they’d been previously ignorant of—and was enough of a commercial success to inspire a sequel The Three Caballeros two years later. Curiously the version of the film currently on offer contains a warning about tobacco-use being depicted—despite the smoke rings being edited out—and we can only surmise that refers exclusively to parrot Josรฉ Carioca chomping on a cigar. Addicted to the habit and eventually succumbing to lung cancer, like Disney, himself, the voice actor Vance DeBar “Pinto” Colvig Sr (*1892 – †1967) whom played Goofy was a vocal anti-smoking campaigner whose efforts were instrumental in getting Surgeon General warnings on packs of cigarettes in the US. Past behavior, judged through the lens of the present, is less than model in a lot of ways but it cannot be discussed and condemned if it’s not visible and addressing the off-colour and antiquated can be productive in establishing an enduring change in attitudes.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

splendid isolation

Having heard the phrase I suppose outside of geopolitical contexts, I wasn’t sure what meaning to attach to it until discovering that it referred to British reluctance in entering permanent alliances with outside powers from around the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814 that helped establish and more or less maintain the European balance of power through 1902 and the Boer War and the eventual Entente Cordiale with France that helped both colonial powers retain their grip in the Far East.
The formative Victorian policy of avoidance in world affairs was extoled and lamented by George Eulas Foster in January 1896, Canadian political scientist and long-serving parliamentarian, in the waning years of the policy—though no one could have predicted the end and what was to follow: “In these somewhat troublesome days when the Great Mother Empire stands splendidly isolated in Europe.” Generally it is now understood as a naรฏve belief that power dynamics are largely self-regulating and will correct themselves (like laisse-faire economics) despite or because of one’s lack of involvement and that allies are unnecessary for settling disputes with a third party.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

it was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative

Calculated and scheduled surely by his minders as counter-programming to the outcome of the Iowa caucuses to diminish and attack his forerunning rival (though due to technical difficulties and a regrettable failure to scale, there was no clear winner and support has only been partially tallied) and on the eve of what's expected to be a hollow acquittal by his cowering party allies in the Senate, Trump’s dreadful and hopefully ultimate State of the Union address.

Nauseatingly what spare moments were not outright fabrications or empty platitudes were straight from a game show—Wheel of Fortune and not Jeopardy! and if the United States was as economically robust and security as Trump touts than there's surely enough to go around and provide affordable health care, education and meaningful employment for all and not just for consoling the few. The strength of the economy, what is attributable to Trump’s pandering decisions and crony-capitalism, comes at a very high cost to the poor, disadvantaged and to most of all the environment and our future well beyond US borders.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

argonaut conference

Following on from the Tehran Conference held in November of 1943 under the above code-name, the leaders of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union—with the conspicuous absence of French and other Allied Forces, convened near the Black Sea resort of Yalta in a palatial ensemble on the city’s outskirts beginning on this day in 1945 to address the reorganisation and self-determination Europe and Germany post-war. Though the ostensible objectives were to promote peace and reestablish invaded and annexed nations status quo all parties to the talk came with their own agendas and shortly after peace was achieved with liberation from Nazi Germany declared the Cold War erupted.

Churchill wanted to extend Western style democracies through central and eastern Europe. Roosevelt wanted the Soviet Union to join the United Nations and pressed Stalin for his support in fighting Imperial Japan in the Pacific. Stalin, having accomplished and sacrificed the most militarily and had a domineering presence in comparison to the other negotiators, insisted that the Soviet Union retain a sphere of influence in eastern Europe and the Balkans. After some rigorous debate, it was settled that Germany would be split into four occupied zones (with the French concession carved out of the British and American zones, with an exploratory committee examining further dismemberment of Germany into six nations) and undergo war crimes trials and de-militarisation, a reparations council would be established, and Stalin pledged free elections in a restored Poland and allowed American bombers to pre-position in its Far East. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the Crimean and the later Potsdam summit and growing wise to the voting system of the UN and the veto powers that the USSR would have, Churchill commissioned (in secret) the first Cold War contingency plans—Operation Unthinkable—to dislodge Soviet troops in Germany and liberate Poland should Stalin not uphold his end of the bargain, but such actions were deemed too risky from a geopolitical standpoint and were abandoned.

Monday, 3 February 2020


Since 1944, the governments in exile of the Kingdom of the Belgium and the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg had agreed to a customs union until superseded on this day in 1958 when the three nations ratified the Treaty of Brussels that integrated further the signatories both economically and politically.
This bolstering of cooperation and transparency ran parallel to the European Communities (all of whom were also founding members—the so called Inner Six along with West Germany, France and Italy) created by the Treaty of Paris of 1952 that established the pooling of industrial resources and would eventually serve as the model for the successor European Union. The tight group considered opening membership in 1960 to the Outer Seven—Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal (Spain still under dictatorship) Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom—the latter being particularly keen on joining as the Suez Crisis of 1956 (see previously here, here and here) with its intervention efforts undercut by the USA had shown Britain that it was no longer all-powerful and could not thrive without allies. Fearing that UK membership would become a Trojan Horse for American interests, France vetoed Britain joining for seven years until Georges Pompidou succeeded Charles de Gaulle as French president—with reassurances—accepted their application and began negotiations, the community finally expanding in 1972.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

all the president’s sophists

Though eventual acquittal of Trump by the jury of the Senate was a foregone conclusion with a super-majority needed to remove him from office and not by the narrowest of margins by which the high house abrogated its ethical and constitution charge to conduct a fair, complete and impartial trial yet refused to hear any further witness testimony—meaning that Trump will feel vindicated and act with the imperial abandon after the outcome of the Mueller Report feel short of an indictment, which Trump took as a full exoneration and celebrated by asking the newly-elected Ukrainian president to dig up some dirt on his political opponent’s son if he wants to receive military aid—the anti-democratic over-reach that brought us to impeachment in the first place.
Arguments propped up by the cowardice of incumbents wanting to retain their seats at any cost, Trump’s counsel’s latest specious rebuttal amongst a tranche of prevarication, hypocrisy and double-standards has atrophied into essentially that any president believes his re-election is in the best interest of the American people (whether or not it’s the case is not for the office holder to decide but rather the constituency that he or she represents) and it is therefore permissible for the president to pursue his campaign. Perhaps, as some maintain, calling witnesses would only prolong the process and net no change in the end but I suspect that the Republican members’ intransigent loyalty will backfire as the trial exits the well of the Senate and once again returns (those parallel proceedings never stopped) to the court of public opinion where the legal process falls short and America relies on the precious precarity of voting and enfranchisement.

Thursday, 30 January 2020


solar max: amazing high-resolution imagery of the surface of the Sun

holyrood: the Edinburgh parliament will continue to fly the EU flag post-Brexit (plus votes for a second referendum for independence)

birth tourism: a woman planning to visit US territory of Saipan forced to prove that she was not pregnant

commonly known as the pipewort family: the stunning paepalanthus flowering plants

part of the troop: robotic gorilla infiltrates a family in the wild

bmc: a large cache of art and artefacts, largely never before seen, from Black Mountain College (adjacently)—staffed by among others Anni and Joseph Albers after they fled Nazi Germany—is being put on-line

Friday, 24 January 2020

les domains franรงais ร  l’รฉstranger

Though we cannot say for sure but a minor scuffle during a visit to Jerusalem by the French head of state that echoed a pointed altercation by a popular predecessor—whether a stunt or not—did nonetheless afford a fascinating, convoluted look into the small territorial claims, property-holdings (see also here and here) that the country has beyond metropolitan France.
The Church of Saint Anne—the mother of Mary and erected in the twelfth century during the regency of Queen Melisende under Crusader rule, at the site of a grotto that was believed to be a play spot of her young daughter, was reportedly gifted to Napoleon III by the Ottoman sultan in gratitude for his intervention in the Crimean War. In addition to this medieval structure at the head of Via Dolorosa, France lays claim (all disputed) to three other sites in the Holy Land, the Villa Mรฉdici in Rome, seven churches and crypts in the Vatican and the historical home of Victor Hugo on the UK dependency of Guernsey and the ensemble of buildings on Saint Helena where the disposed Napoleon (see previously) was confined.

Monday, 20 January 2020

unearthly delights

From the nonpareil Everlasting Blรถrt and the site’s ever growing Stable Genius archives we are acquainted with another rendition (see previously) of Trump world executed in the style of Old Dutch Master Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych from Cold War Steve. As repulsive as this fevered depiction of Hell is, it is worthwhile dissecting the details nonetheless—like the sheet music branded on the backside of the tortured soul that Junior is gleefully pointing out is actually a coherent and playable melody. Be sure to click through for many more modern and medieval Easter eggs.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

witness for the prosecution

The US House of Representatives transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate yesterday and announced the appointment of seven members of Congress that were dispatched to the other chamber to formally exhibit, present their case.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was earlier criticised for her timing by detractors and snapped back that her decision to start the trial now was beyond reproach, since she had resisted calls for impeachment for months until Trump’s behaviour made them irresistible (Republicans were noisily sharpening their knives for the impeachment and imprisonment of Hillary Clinton before election night)—and that exchange was itself overshadowed by the number of writing implements Pelosi used to sign the articles of impeachment (an established tradition) as a trigger for the GOP. Though the Republican majority in the Senate will almost assuredly deliver a swift show-trial, there’s also a calculated and accepted risk insofar as the every senator is on jury duty—and they’re to sit in silence and contemplation in the well of chamber whilst the court proceedings continue—and that means that a good number of the Democratic party candidates, other than the former vice-president and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, will be off of the campaign trail.

interbellum or roaring twenties

Framed during the Paris Peace Conference six days earlier, the League of Nations (Sociรฉtรฉ des Nations, previously) held its first council meeting on this day in 1920. With an executive body comprised of Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan and France (the victors of World War I) and charged with not only maintaining peace but also championing social justice for native inhabitants of colonial holdings, fair labour standards, global health and combatting human trafficking, the organisation lacked the authority and means to enforce its mandate through sanctions or military interventions.

With the outbreak of World War II, it became clear that the supranational body had not been invested with the powers it required to prevent the revanchment of hostilities, and though unable to carry on with its functions except in a wholly nominal sense with the headquarters in Geneva unoccupied for nearly six years after the onset of war, the League of Nation was not formally dissolved until 19 April 1946, the Tehran Conference three years prior recommending it being disbanded and reconstituted into a new, stronger institution. The finally assembly was mostly a housekeeping session, transferring assets to its successor organisation, the United Nations, and the remittance of reserve funds that member nations had furnished. Chaired by the Right Honourable Viscount Cecil of Chelwood (*1864 – †1958), Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, one of the chief architects of the League of Nations and ardent adherent to its ideals and concept it stood for, he concluded the meeting:

“Let us boldly state that aggression wherever it occurs and however it may be defended, is an international crime, that is the duty of every peace-loving state to resent it and employ whatever force is necessary to crush it, that the machinery if the Charter, no less than the machinery of the Covenant, is sufficient for this purpose if properly used, and that every well-disposed citizen of every state should be ready to undergo any sacrifice in order to maintain peace … I venture to impress upon my hearers that the great work of peace is resting not only on the narrow interests of our own nations, but even more on those great principles of right and wrong which nations, like individuals, depend.

The League is dead. Long live the United Nations.”

Tuesday, 14 January 2020


While the Iranian military committed an unforgivable act in its accidental downing of a passenger aircraft and the loss of one hundred and forty-seven individuals and neglecting to close its airspace, it certainly was provoked by Trump with his order to assassinate Major General Soleimani as a rash distraction from his own domestic problems, the throughline is not impeachment or even pulling out of the nuclear deal but the Trump administration’s racist and xenophobic policies that has severely restricted travel for people with an other than white ethnic-background and put fifty-seven Canadians on that particular flight-manifest, forcing them to take a circuitous route via Kyiv to avoid American border and customs checks. Iran’s admission of this grave error and realisation of the gravity of its actions are in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s lack of contriteness, candor and continued obfuscation.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

resolution 678

On this day in 1991 Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and US Secretary of State James Baker held a conference in Geneva lasting some seven hours to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the invasion and annexation of Kuwait (August 1990).
Though the dialogue was overshadowed by the respective parties’ messaging, that George HW Bush was willing to continue talks and privileged peace and regional stability over any exercise of power—and that Saddam Hussain would not agree to an unconditional withdrawal, arguing that the region was put in turmoil over Palestine issue well before the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and targeting their advances with the backing of the UN and the US-backed coalition was hypocrisy and an injustice. Both sides lost their leverage and no progress was made in finding a mutually acceptable solution, and the failure of the Geneva Peace Conference precipitated Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Monday, 6 January 2020

some at a very high level

As an encore to his threat to bomb fifty-two undisclosed Iranian targets (one for each American hostage detained from 1979 – 1981), some of which are cultural sites (Iran hosts twenty-four places on the UNESCO World Heritage registry) and whose willful destruction, putting US might on the level of the Cosplay Caliphate and al Qaeda, constitutes a war crime, should the Iranian government or actors retaliate in response to the unprovoked murder of its top paramilitary commanders, Trump threatened further punishing sanctions on Iraq should its parliament pursue the expulsion of foreign troops (including thousands of US soldiers, materiel and installations).
Committing to remaining entrenched until a return on investment materializes, Trump conditioned any decision that led to redeployment or eviction with repaying the US billions on the new air base being built there, much in the same manner than Mexico is reimbursing the US for its racist folly of the border wall or the suggestion that host nations pay more for the privilege of quartering the US military. “If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” Meanwhile, the Iranian parliament decided to drop its commitments to the 2015 brokered nuclear deal, from which the US withdrew unilaterally in May 2018 much to global consternation, conditional on America relieving its tariffs and trade restrictions. All sides, I think, are running short of capital to leverage but America especially so.

Friday, 20 December 2019

backstop, full-stop

Retaining a comfortable majority of votes in favour on the bill’s second reading, the newly constituted Parliament of Boris Johnson (previously) has passed a Brexit arrangement, essentially the same framework (albeit with a few key adjustments) as the one rejected numerous times proposed by Teresa May, just with the comfort of couching this disaster with mansplaining, which looks to guarantee that the UK will leave the EU by 31 January 2020.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

systemic isomorphic mimicry

Credit once again to Kottke for directing us to a reflective and objectively true set of observations about the self-inflicted wounds of Anglo-Saxon society and how that results in failed states in this excellent essay by Umair Haque (previously, ibidem).

Nothing I can add or augment I think could improve upon his diagnosis and prognosis of the self-destructive and uniquely self-perpetuating behaviours of which the United Kingdom has been the chief net-exporter and the pitiable impoverishment that follows. Those poles apart in a polarised milieu (from geopolitics down to the most granular levels) despise each other because their ideological foes-partners in sanctimoniousness-reflect back to them the worst traits in themselves that they’d rather go unacknowledged, but don’t over-emphasise how fraught tribalism is and the forces that would whip it into a frenzy, because that focus (that cannot be remedied through consensus or something called bi-partisanship or else anything aspirational) distracts from the fact that contempt transforms to hate once collectively society grows too marginalised to look after anything save its own self-preservation and fails to thrive. Though the United States and Britain may be oblivious of their trajectory towards oblivion, maybe their hubris and hegemony will present a cautionary tale for the rest of the world and the world is paying attention.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

general election

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

article i, section 2, clause 5

It is somewhat ironic—though we leave it to the adults in the room to recognise the separate natures of both pieces of legislation and as much as we’d rather shirk the duty and onus, recognise that we’re adults as well—that essentially in the same breath as the Democrats of the House of Representatives carefully and assiduously proceeded with introducing articles of impeachment against Trump, only happening three times before in US history with Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton acquitted by the Senate trial and Richard Nixon resigning in lieu of being fired, Congress also approved one of the Trump’s campaign promises—overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement. Seen as unfavourable to American industry by some creatures of his court, the newly negotiated NAFTA is couched in language of work standards which will probably prove beneficial to all parties. While the issues are distinct, the passage of the arrangement denies Trump his counter-programming (limited to an impromptu meeting with the Russian foreign secretary and reportedly warning Russia off about election meddling—that and superimposing his head on the body of Thanos, the comic book super-villain who eradicated half of all life in the Cosmos, that half apparently being the sixty-two percent of the electorate who didn’t vote for him) and tethered to the limited scope and scale of the charges, obstruction of Congress and rank hypocrisy in dealing with Ukraine, perhaps will mean he is the first to be removed from office through the process, delicately diffused and with solemn respect for the democratic process, knowing that failure to censure Trump would further erode norms and the checks-and-balances on executive power.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

resolution 217

The United Nations’ first major legislative achievement came on this day in 1948 with the General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, later each article committed to these stone pillars in Nuremberg, StraรŸe der Menschenrechte.

The annual commemoration coincides with signatory and founding member state Sweden’s Nobeldagen, the date established in 1901 on the fifth anniversary of the death of the benefactor Alfred Nobel and first award ceremony (see previously) took place. All laureates, other than the recipient (including organisations) of the Peace Prize, are banqueted at Stockholm City Hall—with the exception, usually on the same day, presented in Oslo.