Sunday, 5 February 2023

spy in the sky (10. 524)

Hitting a bit like the Evergreen saga with geopolitical consequence being reduced to, incapsulated in a few albeit funny memes, the US has shot down a Chinese surveillance dirigible, scrambling a pair of F-22 fighter jets and downing the balloon over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The high-altitude craft was detected in American and Canadian airspace—which was characterised by the Chinese as a meteorological station blown off course, just on the eve of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s diplomatic mission to China, one months in planning and would represent the first constructive contact between the two nations in three years and was subsequently called off due to this blatant provocation. A second balloon was detected over Central America. President Biden, even before rabid hysterics by Republican accusing him of dereliction of duty and urging patriots to take matters into their own hands and shoot rifles at the balloon some fifteen kilometres in the sky and the size of a sports stadium, issued orders for its destruction when it was safe to do so. Having already jammed its ability to relay telemetry back to its operators and neutralised it as a threat, Biden probably, exasperated, had it brought down to placate mobs irresponsibly encouraged to fire bullets in the air and presenting more of a danger to the public with their return trajectories. The Department of Defence casually adds that there were three known incidents of similar violations of US airspace during the Trump administration, with nothing done about it.

Friday, 27 January 2023

paris peace accords (10. 500)

Negotiations finalised between Lรช ฤแปฉc Thแป and Henry Kissinger on 24 January and nearly derailed the day before by the Battle of Cแปญa Viแป‡t, the treaty officially known as the Agreement of Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam (Hiแป‡p ฤ‘แป‹nh vแป chแบฅm dแปฉt chiแบฟn tranh, lแบญp lแบกi hรฒa bรฌnh แปŸ Viแป‡t Nam) was signed on this day in 1973 at the Hรดtel Majestic on Avenue Klรฉber in the XVIe arrondissement by representatives of the governments of the United States, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the Republic of South Vietnam (the Provisional Revolutionary Government, representing South Vietnamese communists). All US and allied forces agreed to complete withdrawal in exchange for the release of prisoners-of-war, with all parties acceding to an immediate cease-fire, the establishment of council of national reconciliation, a peaceful reunification free of foreign interference, withdrawal of foreign troops from Cambodia and Laos and financial aid from the US for war-ravaged Indochina. Despite also securing a commitment from America to replace materiel and armaments on a one-by-one basis, congressional support for further appropriations evaporated and lapsing during the Watergate scandal, North Vietnam made their final offensive operations in April of 1975, precipitating the fall of Saigon and the capitulation of the Republic of Vietnam.

Sunday, 8 January 2023

fourteen points (10. 398)

Delivered in an address to Congress, outlining his administrations aims for the war and negotiated settlement, US president Woodrow Wilson on this day in 1918 enumerated his principles for peace, having rather reluctantly joining the Triple Entente against the Central Powers the spring prior due to Germany’s disruption of transatlantic shipping and trade (II) with France and Britain and the interception of a secret diplomatic communication proposing an alliance between Mรฉxico and Germany. Adopting progressive, domestic practises as foreign policy goals—though regarded by allies as a touch naive and idealistic—Wilson derided secret treaties (I) and championed free trade (III), public agreements, democratic hallmarks and above all self-determination, decolonisation (V) and recognition of national ambitions as a preventative measure of realising those aspirations through violence. Other bullet points covered arms reduction (IV), sovereignty for constituent Soviet republics (VI), restoration of Belgium, Balkan and French territories (VII, XI, VIII), redrawing Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman borders along lines of nationality (IX,X, XII), an independent Poland (XIII) and supranational organisation to enforce political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike (XIV), a covenant that would eventually lead to the establishment of the League of Nations and its successors.

Friday, 6 January 2023

the four freedoms (10. 390)

On this day in 1941, US president Franklin D Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union Address, articulating four fundamental and universal guarantees vouch-saved for all of humanity. Breaking with the long-standing tradition of non-interventionism with foreign wars and nearly a year before the attack of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, FDR pressed for a greater role in aiding allied forces already under siege through the lens of national security and self-interest.
Enumerating the benefits of the democratic system, the speech highlights the importance of economic security in the face of precarity as a counter-balance to the regression towards nationalism and belligerence.

Friday, 30 December 2022

cccp/cpcp (10. 371)

While recognised as a union of soviet republics since 1919 with a federated, central government based in Moscow, the Soviet Union as it existed (though borders were not static during the seventy-two year period) until its dissolution in 1991 came into being effective this day in 1922 after the signing of the Treaty on the Creation of the Union Soviet Socialist Republics (ะ”ะตะบะปะฐั€ะฐั†ะธั ะธ ะดะพะณะพะฒะพั€ ะพะฑ ะพะฑั€ะฐะทะพะฒะฐะฝะธะธ ะกะพัŽะทะฐ ะกะพะฒะตั‚ัะบะธั… ะกะพั†ะธะฐะปะธัั‚ะธั‡ะตัะบะธั… ะ ะตัะฟัƒะฑะปะธะบ), negotiated and approved by delegations from the Russian, Byelorussian, Transcauscasian (containing Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia) and Ukrainian SSRs. The preamble and twenty-six articles outlines the imperative of forging a union as a counterweight to the political ideology of responsible for the Great War through exploitative capitalism, colonialism cultural hegemony with a transnational society based on mutual trust, solidarity and cooperation.

mmxxii (10. 369)

As this calendar year draws to a close and we look forward with anticipation to 2023, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the events that took place in 2022. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together, and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

january: Violent protests erupt in Almaty in response to the Kazakh government ending fuel subsidies and lift price caps on petrol and heating oil, prompting a coalition of former-Soviet military forces to intervene. The US reflects on the one year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection and the fragile state of democracy.

Legendary actor Sidney Portier passed away, aged 94, as did singer Ronnie Spector (*1943). Tragically, seventeen individuals are killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx. Disturbingly the US Supreme Court blocks vaccination mandates for private companies-upholding the requirement for public sector workers. Two Democratic senators-who derailed president Biden’s Build Back Better plan-are also opposed to changing legislative rules to overturn the filibuster, allowing Republicans to block the enactment of a voter-rights protection bill. There are widespread calls for the resignation of Boris Johnson over revelations of work-dos during strict lockdown. The Queen strips Prince Andrew of his titles and military leadership roles over his association with sex pest Jeffrey Epstein and allegations of sexual assault. Russia seems poised to re-invade Ukraine, first undermining their cyber capabilities.  The Pacific island group volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haสปapai erupted violently, triggering tsunami waves halfway across the world in California and Nova Scotia. Performer Meatloaf has passed away, aged seventy-four as did comedian and actor Louie Anderson at sixty-eight.  Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who protested the Vietnam War and introduced mindfulness to the West dies aged ninety-five.

february: The leader of a defeated though resurgent ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quarshi, is killed in a US airstrike in Syria.

Tensions continue to mount in Ukraine over the spectre of an Russian invasion, with the US suggesting that Russia will stage a false-flag operation as a pretext to advance.   Truckers in Canada protesting COVID restrictions, mandatory passports blockade Ottawa; separately Justin Treudeu, Jacinda Arden and Keir Starmer need police intervention to be rescued from rioters.  The Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee with seventy years on the throne.  So called Canadian Freedom Convoys of big rig truckers shut down three key border crossings into the US, causing knock-on effects including factory shut-downs.  Provocatively, Russia begins military exercises in Belarus and on the Black Sea. 
Two powerful, successive windstorms, Ylenia and Zeynep, cause damage through a corridor in German after wreaking havoc in England and Wales (as Dudley and Eunice).  The Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen (previously) passes away, aged 101.  As the UK announces the relaxation of legal measures to combat the spread of the COVID virus, the palace announced that the Queen has contracted a mild case of it.  Putin recognises the sovereignty of break-away Ukrainian territories Donetsk and Luhansk and deploys peace-keepers to the regions nearly eight years to the day after applying a similar tactics to Crimea. 

march: Numerous Western companies suspend operations in Russia as sanctions intensify.  Shelling of civilian targets across Ukraine shows no signs of abating though the invasion has not been the easy and instant take-over that was apparently expected. 

Inflation surges as the price for everything spikes with the price of oil.  Many news outlets suspend reporting from Russia following passage of legislation that threatened individuals with fifteen-year sentences for spreading “fake news.” Sustaining a minor infection, US supreme court justice Clarence Thomas was discharged from hospital, a week after he was admitted. The news comes as the congressional panel investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol sought testimony from his wife and conservative activist, Virginia Thomas, after the revelation of a text message exchange between her and the White House chief of staff, urging him to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.  People Power Party candidate is narrowly elected president of South Korea.

april:  The US Senate, after much acrimony, confirms Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Though vice president Harris would have been the tie-breaker in the case of a fifty-fifty split, no Black woman in this forum had the chance to vote.  Viktor Orbรกn with fourth consecutive term as leader of Hungary. 

North Korea appears to be on the verge of resuming nuclear tests after a pause of five years, escalating regional tensions, after demolishing a symbolic hotel that held out the possibility of reconciliation. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was ejected by a vote of no confidence.  Hundreds die from mudslides in the Philippines and flash floods in South Africa.  Russia retaliates to the destruction of its flagship of the Black Sea fleet with renewed shelling in Kyiv and Lviv, having shifted focused to the southeastern part of Ukraine to create a corridor through rebel-held areas to Crimea and the sea.  Emmanuel Macron holds his presidency against Marine Le Pen.  Twitter agrees to sell itself to Elon Musk.  Moscow confirms Russia assault on Kyiv during visit by UN secretary-general Antรณnio Guterres, meeting with the Ukrainian leader just after a summit with Putin.

may: A leaked draft opinion from US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito suggests that the court is poised to over-turn the 1973 precedent that affords women access to abortion. 

The remaining contingent of soldiers holding Mariupol’s bulwark of resistance in the Azov steel plant have surrendered to Russian forces.   Australia’s conservative coalition government is defeated for the first time in a decade and the Labour party takes control.  A gunman espousing the Great Replacement Theory, tying into all the regressive, racist social movements in the United States, murdered ten individuals in Buffalo, New York.  A shooting at an elementary school in Texas takes twenty-one lives.  A dire shortage of baby formula in the US is on-going.  Monkeypox is spreading rampantly.  

june: the UK and the Commonwealth celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. 

Prompted by the publication of the Partygate investigation, Boris Johnson weathers a confidence vote by fellow party members but with more negative ballots than the votes that ended the ministries of Thatcher or more recently May. Portions of the January 6 select committee hearings are being televised.  The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, prohibiting access to abortion in more than half of America and putting at risk same-sex marriage, gay rights and access to contraceptives. 

july: Russia takes control of the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine.  Yet another mass shooting occurs in the US, this time at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb. 

Compelled by the resignation of over fifty chief ministers and secretaries (including those appointed a day and a half earlier) ultimately, cumulatively over the Chris Pincher scandal, Boris Johnson announces he will step down as leader of the Conservative Party but plans to hold on to his prime ministership until the party conference in the autumn.  Former Japanese prime minister Shinzล Abe is fatally wounded in an assassination attempt.  Actor James Caan passes away, aged 82. After massive unrest and protesters storming the presidential palace, Sri Lankan leader Gotabaya Rajapaska steps down.  After reaching a deal brokered by Turkey, the first Ukranian grain transport vessel sails into the Bosporus, bound for Lebanon.  Pioneering actor Nichelle Nichols passed away, aged eighty-nine.

august: In the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and intensifying incursions from mainland China, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan.  Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is killed by a blade-wielding drone in Afghanistan.  The conservative state of Kansas rejects a referendum to outlaw all abortions.  The FBI conducts a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate for mishandled government documents.  The US congress passes Joe Biden’s Build Back Better act. 

Taking a cue from Belarus, the governors of Texas and Florida are bussing migrants to New York and California.  Olivia Newton-John passes away after a long battle with cancer.  Fashion designer Issey Miyake (ไธ‰ๅฎ… ไธ€็”Ÿ) has also died, aged eighty-four.  Actor Anne Heche died after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident.  Salman Rushdie was stabbed by an assailant whilst delivering a lecture in Chautauqua, New York.  Joe Biden announces a jubilee on student debt that will positively impact millions of borrowers.  A redacted affidavit shows that over one hundred eighty classified documents were being sought at Mar-A-Lago, which Trump illegally removed when he left office.  Pakistan is devastated by heavy monsoons.  Ukraine begins a counter-insurgency to retake Kherson.  Mikhail Gorbachev passes away, aged 91.  

september: Liz Truss is chosen as new Prime Minister to replace Boris Johnson.  Queen Elizabeth II passes away, aged 96, with London Bridge protocols enacted.  Ukraine is seen to make major incursions into Russian held territories as municipal officials in Moscow and St Petersburg call for Vladimir Putin’s resignation. 

Charles III is proclaimed as new monarch as UK and Commonwealth enter a period of remembrance and mourning.  A Florida federal judge appoints a Special Master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.  The UK economy tanks after Truss chancellor Kwarteng borrow more to reduce tax on business, garnering rebukes from Germany, the US and the IMF as the Pound Stirling approaches parity with the US dollar.  Iranians rage against their government after a young girl dies in custody of the morality police.  Russia appears to have sabotaged the Nordstream pipelines, rendering them unusable even if the gas is turned back on.

october: A hurricane batters Puerto Rico and Cuba, Florida and South Carolina.  Putin annexes four more regions in Ukraine though the hold is tenuous.  Coolio and Loretta Lynn pass away.  A mass shooting, knife attack takes place at a nursery in Thailand with two dozen children killed.  Joseph Biden pardons all of some six-thousand individuals charged with marijuana possession on the federal level.  Rhetoric over the use of tactical nuclear weapons by Russia is increasing. 

Ukraine damages the twenty kilometre bridge linking the annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland, a key supply route, across the Kerch strait.  In retribution, Russian attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure increase markedly.  Kwasi Kwarteng is dismissed, giving the UK four chancellors in as many months amid wide-spread calls for Liz Truss to resign.  Accomplished actor Robbie Coltrane passes away, aged 72, as does Angela Lansbury, aged 96.  Rishi Sunak becomes prime minister of the UK after being voted leader of the Tory Party. The husband of senior congressional member Nancy Pelosi is attacked by a man with a past of espousing fringe right wing theories with a hammer, the target intended to be the Speaker of the House.  Twitter is delisted from the stock exchange as Elon Musk takes over the platform.  Over one hundred and fifty individuals in Seoul are crushed in a stampede during a Halloween party in a narrow alleyway.  Citing continued Ukrainian drone attacks on its Black Sea fleet, Russia pulls out of a UN brokered arrangement to facilitate grain-shipment.

november: World leaders gather in Sharm el-Sheikh for COP27.   Ukrainian cities contend with power blackouts after Russia targets the country’s infrastructure.  Founding father of election science Sir David Butler passes away, aged 98. The anticipated repudiation of the US Democratic party failed to materialize, counter to polling and pundits’ expectations with those Republican candidates aligned with Donald Trump underperforming and falling short in the broad sense, holding the GOP bastions of Florida and Texas.  The UN announces the world population is at eight billion. 

At a ceremony at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump announces his third candidacy for the presidency, much to the dismay of a Republican party whom cannot challenge his bid.  Artemis I launches on its way to the Moon.  Speaker Pelosi steps down as party leader in the House of Representatives.  In response to Trump announcing his intent to run for president, a move in part calculated to frustrate legal action against him, Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints a special counsel to investigate the insurrection that Trump instigated and the US Supreme Court rules that Trump must turn over years of tax returns to Congress.   Mired in controversy, the World Cup hosted by Qatar commences.  Continued Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and utilities have caused a near total blackout in neighbouring Moldova.  Earthquakes cause mass destruction in West Java and Turkey.   The UK Supreme Court blocks a second referendum for Scottish independence.  Fame and Flash Dance singer Irene Cara passes away, aged 63.  Demonstrations against the government and the ruling party not seen in China since Tienanmen Square erupt in China over COVID lockdown protocols and after the emergency response to an apartment fire is apparently delayed due to restrictions and added barriers to restrict movement. Fleetwood Mac singer Christine McVie dies, aged 79. 

december: Chinese authorities begin relaxing COVID prevention measures in response to protests.  The G7 nations and the European Union try to enforce further sanctions against Russia by banning oil shipments by sea and placing an upwards price cap per barrel. In response to massive protests, Iran disbands its morality police.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs announce a breakthrough in harnessing the power of nuclear fusion for energy production.  During its final session before dissolving, the January Sixth Committee recommends to the Justice Department to bring four criminal charges, including inciting insurrection, against Trump.  The Specials lead singer Terry Hall passes away, aged 63.  In his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion, Zelenskiy speaks before a joint-session of Congress in Washington, DC––appealing for continued aid from the United States.  Much of the US is pummelled by a bomb-cyclone, a monstrous winter storm that forces the cancellation of holiday travel. Bolivian police detain opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho for his role in the 2019 protests that prompted then-president Evo Morales to resign. Putin issues a decree prohibiting the export of Russian oil to countries and organizations that adhere to the US$60-per-barrel price cap that Australia, the European Union, and the G7 member states agreed upon earlier this month. The decree will be in effect from February through the summer.  Legendary footballer who made soccer the beautiful game, Pelรฉ, passes away, aged 82, as well as fashion icon Vivienne Westwood.


Wednesday, 28 December 2022

4-f (10. 367)

Conscription into the in the US military effectively ended on this day in 1972 when Richard Nixon declared a national day of mourning due to the death of President Harry S Truman, shuttering most federal offices and preventing the on-boarding of draftees. The policy lapsed and was not renewed. Still all male citizens and residents between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five are required to register and be subject (deferments and exemptions notwithstanding) to induction into the armed forces.

Friday, 2 December 2022

samdt (10. 354)

Signed on this day in Washington, DC and in effect through New Year's Eve 1979 the protection pact known as the Sino-American Mutual Defence Treaty obliged the United States to defend the Republic of China should the island be invaded by the Peoples’ Republic of China. Primarily to extend military assistance with US troops stationed in Taiwan, the arrangement also promoted political, economic and social welfare and was unilaterally annulled by President Carter on New Year’s 1980, one year after the US diplomatic recognition of the mainland, superseded with the Taiwan Relations Act—preserving some of the treaty’s provisions but falling short of the commitment for military intervention.

8x8 (10. 352)

fomites: turns out that COVID virus can stay of some grocery items for days—see previously    

fabulous fakes: an engrossing documentary about a Chinese painter whose specialty is creating pictures in the style of Van Gogh (see also) and travels to see the originals  

baguettes, bell-ringing and bee-keeping: UNESCO inscribes more human treasures  

foghorn: a celebration the floating lighthouses called lightvessels  

geopolitics is for losers: the infectious idea was concocted to account for defeat and hold influence  

gen-x studs terkel: the death of boredom is the biggest loss of a generation—a conversation with Joe Hagan  

viva magenta: Pantone announces its colour for the coming year—previously here and here 

such freedom: social network drops policies in place to limit the spread of misinformation on COVID

Saturday, 26 November 2022

everybody comes to rick’s (10. 336)

Based on an unproduced stage play, prolific Hungarian-American filmmaker Michael Curtiz’ vision of the war time romantic drama starring Ingrid Berman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and Dooley Wilson had its premiere in the Hollywood Theatre in Manhattan on this day in 1942, the release rushed to capitalise on publicity of the Allied invasion of North Africa. Telling the story of an expatriate night club owner, a crossroads for refugees as well as enemy officers, who is forced to choose between the woman he is in love with or helping her husband, a Czechoslovakian resistance fighter escape Moroccan city controlled by the Vichy-government and continue his fight against Nazi Germany, the reception and estimation of the iconic work has grown over the decades to secure it a solid spot amongst the greatest films of all time. Much of the emotional impact for contemporary audiences was attributed to the number of exiles and refugees in principal and lesser roles—particularly in the below “duelling anthems” that elicited genuine tears with the realisation that they were all displaced. The singer, who also played guitar to “Tango de la Rosa” earlier in the movie is the uncredited Corinna Mura.

Tuesday, 11 October 2022

four-minute warning (10. 214)

The always excellent Maps Mania directs our attention to comprehensive map of eleven hundred declassified US nuclear targets in Eastern Europe and the USSR (see also) from a circa 1956 study of the Strategic Air Command. Clicking on any push-pin allows one to explore the potential damage done by the warhead of one’s choice–I could not press denotate even out of curiousity. The Soviets and confederates have not reciprocated with the same sort of list.

Sunday, 2 October 2022

casus foederis (10. 190)

Foundational to the treaty and only invoked once, thankfully, on this day—confirmed by the body two days later—in 2001 by member the United States after the September 11 Terror Attacks. Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation pledge to consider an attack against one to be affront to all. Operations Eagle Assist and Active Endeavour, air and shipping lane patrols, commenced once NATO determined that attacks met the threshold. Articles 7 and 8, concerned with international trade and commitments have been invoked several times, including in the Cod Wars, but have never risen to the point of a militarised dispute.

Friday, 30 September 2022

accession treaties (10. 182)

In a wide-ranging address that included the annexation of the regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donestsk and Luhansk (newly-appointed governors pictured) in addition to Crimea as well as the concession that his partial mobilisation was an unpopular imposition for many, Vladimir Putin delivered one of his most combative speeches yet, threatening to use all forces at his disposal to ensure the protection of his ill-begotten new territory. In response, the West, which Putin characterises as ‘satanic’ and determined to undermine Russia with Kleinstaaterei, responded with condemnation and more targeted sanctions and Zelenskiy announced his formal application for NATO membership.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

s1:e1 (10. 140)

On this day in 1972, the CBS television network first aired its dark-comedy series—based on the 1970 feature film—about a team of doctors and ancillary staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu during the Korean War. The first episodes, set in 1950, were broadcast while the US was still mired in the Vietnam War and were presented as the most careful kind of allegory, detached yet openly questioning the proxy wars of the Cold War and the value of offensive ideology. The ensemble cast included (by rank) Henry Blake McLean Stevenson (thanks, Dad), Loretta Swit, Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff and Jamie Farr and the show became less political and more character-driven after 1975 and the withdrawal of US troops—also removing the controversial laugh-track of earlier seasons.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

peace, little girl (10. 113)

Although airing only once--on this day in 1964 (Labour Day and shown at a time when children would not be watching) as part of the US presidential campaign for incumbent Lyndon B Johnson—“Daisy” played an outsized role in his victory over the Republican party’s candidate Barry Goldwater as well as signaling a point of departure in political messaging. Aimed to emphasise Goldwater’s inclination to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam and stance against disarmament and re-enforce Johnson’s pacifist approach, the advertisement depicts child model and actor Monique Corzililus picking flowers in a meadow and counting, out of order, from one to nine, triggering a booming narrator to start a countdown, cutting to footage of a mushroom count and ending “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” Corzililus, who also appeared in commercials for Velveeta, Kool-Aid and Prudential Life Insurance, was recruited in 2016 by Hilary Clinton for an advertisement against Donald Trump. Johnson’s voiceover that precedes the final exhortation “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die” echoes the line of the W H Auden poem “September 1, 1939”—Hunger allows no choice / To the citizen or the police; / We must love one another or die.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

gefahren warten nur auf jene, die nicht auf das leben reagieren (10. 099)

Hailed as a visionary abroad but with a bit more complicated legacy domestically, the former Soviet leader whose political quiver included perestroika and glasnost has passed away, aged 91 after a protracted bout of sickness, effectively ending the Cold War by trying to salvage what was beyond saving. His decisions not to use force to hold power or prevent the toppling of the Berlin Wall or against waves of declarations of independence ushered in a peaceful revolution, though Gorbachev survived long enough to see those reforms undermined and undone by the invasion of Ukraine and attempts to reestablish Russia’s former sphere of influence. Thank you Mister Gorbachev–we hope your outlook for the world ultimately holds and we regain our senses.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

tube alloys (10. 097)

Commencing before the Manhattan Project (which ultimately subsumed their efforts) and with the intentionally misleading codename, the joint United Kingdom and Canadian programme to develop nuclear weapons was approved in secret by Winston Churchill on this day in 1941—the first national leader to do so—the scientific consensus acknowledging the potential explosiveness of nuclear fission and the “atom bomb” was firmly ensconced in the popular imagination thanks to the 1913 novel by H G Wells, The World Set Free. Researchers working on Tube Alloys made the crucial discovery that just a few kilogrammes (rather than a quantity of several tonnes) of uranium isotope was sufficient to sustain the chain-reaction and propelled the race for armaments. The preceding working group, the MAUD committee, formed to study the feasibility of making a nuclear weapon and nuclear-generated power, was named after a strange last line in a telegram from Niels Bohr to Otto Robert Frisch (credited with discovery of fission along with Lise Meitner) then working at the University of Birmingham just after the Nazi invasion of Denmark, “Tell Cockcroft and Maud Ray Kent.” The recipient believed it might have been a coded message regarding the imminent development of atomic weapons—an anagram for “radyum taken.” Although it turned out that the physicist was wanting to get in touch with his housekeeper, Maud Ray from Kent, the enigmatic name stuck. Subsequent transatlantic cooperation and pooling of resources forged the Special Relationship (often tested and contentious) between the UK and the US.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

6x6 (10. 068)

two trees of valinor: an assortment of keyboards in the languages of Middle Earth 

i have, may it please the court, a few words to say: the final address from abolitionist John Brown  

flexi disc: a profile on the mass-market vinyl alternative that bypassed sanctions (see also)  

wimps, pbh: primordial black holes may account for the missing mass of dark matter in the Cosmos 

tribal sovereignty: Irish customs accepts Native American, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) passports—rejected elsewhere  

misty mountains: LOTR: The Rings of Power prequel to preview

Saturday, 6 August 2022

sacrum romanum imperium (10. 042)

Neither holy, Roman nor an empire in the cohesive sense yet in existence for more than a thousand years, the Heiliges Rรถmisches Reiches was defacto dissolved on this day in 1806 as an outcome of the Napoleonic Wars and the abdication of Francis II (dispatch to the royal ambassadors pictured) the House of Hapsburg who repaired to Austria and released all tenets and subjects from their oath and obligation. Regarded as the successor state to Rome because its emperors were also legitimised through the papacy, the decentralised empire without a coherent monetary system and unusual government of elected monarchs rather than hereditary rulers was on the decline for centuries and experienced its finally death knells after interfering in Revolutionary France, fearful that republicanism might spread, and the success of Napoleon in recruiting more client states into the sphere of influence of the Empire of France. The Peace of Pressburg (Bratislava) geographically cordoned extraterritorial claims and allowed some pocket principalities and city-states to be absorbed, effectively dividing the old Holy Roman Empire into Germany and Austro-Hungary.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

xxii olympiad (10. 003)

Beginning on this day and running through 1980 Summer Games hosted by the Soviet capital was the first such event held in a communist country until 2008 Beijing Games, with quite low participation—the US leading a boycott by sixty-six countries over the Russo-Afghan War. A few countries took part but competed under the Olympic banner rather than as a national team, and Philadelphia hosted an alternate Liberty Bell Classic for those not participating in the other venue. The Soviet and Eastern Bloc athletes reciprocated by staying out of the 1984 games hosted in Los Angeles with the closing ceremony absent conspicuous elements of the handover.