Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ukraine: In Russia's Shadow

Ukraine is home to almost 8 million ethnic Russians who live mostly in the eastern coal and iron ore rich part of the country and in the Crimea. Their ancestors were settled there to replace the 10 million Ukrainians that Stalin killed off in the 1930s. This is why their sense of Ukrainian nationalism is so weak.
Read full article:

Why do Russians see Ukraine as theirs?
"It’s partly because both nations trace their roots back to the first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus, which stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea from the 9th century to the mid-13th century. This medieval empire was founded, oddly enough, by Vikings—“Rus” is the Slavic word given to the red-haired Scandinavians—who swept down from the north in the 9th century, conquered the local Slavic tribes, and established their capital at Kiev. The kingdom converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 988, laying the foundation of the modern Russian church. A French bishop sent to Ukraine reported, “This land is more unified, happier, stronger, and more civilized than France herself.” But in the 13th century Kiev was devastated by Mongol invaders, and power shifted north to a small Rus trading outpost called Moscow....."

Corruption and Degrees of Kleptocracy

Kleptocracy is a form of government where a country is ruled by thieves and thugs. To the degree that corruptness rules, then to that degree a government is a kleptocracy regardless of the style of government. A democratic republic, a communist government, an autocracy or theocracy are all kleptocracies to the degree of their corruptness. And thus, to the degree that the rule of the law is subjugated to human greed, then to that degree law and justice fails its peoples' human rights.

The only known antidote to kleptocracy is a free press with integrity and high journalistic standards. Pravda and the National Enquirer are just two examples of yellow tabloid journalism that foster untruths that mislead and distort.

It is true that power corrupts. And all governments are corrupt to varying degrees.

"In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is the abuse of bestowed power or position to acquire a personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain."

Another way to look at it is to see it as a form dysfunctionality. The more corrupt a social system is, the more dysfunctional it is. Accepting things the way they are does not change them for the better.

Note: This includes dysfunctionality in families, classrooms, clubs, etcetera.

International Levels of Corruption


Power Can Corrupt Even the Honest

Monday, April 20, 2015

Slaughter of Christians by Islamists Is Old News

Exactly one hundred years ago, Turkey began the systematic mass extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. Turkey today does not deny that the killings occurred so much as they argue that the size of the group slaughtered does not merit the use of the term "genocide". Also, because the despised Armenians were infidels whose holdings the Islamists desired.

It should be noted that the second class citizenship and general abuse prior to the "mass killings" were strikingly similar to what the Jews experienced in Germany just a little later. Interestingly and appropriately, Germany and Turkey were WWI allies.

Crossing the Delaware Revisited

Quote: (imagine that it is George Washington speaking): “A chill wind blows off the Delaware. The Durham boats, which usually ferry cargo, lay waiting at the water’s edge. I survey the soldiers before me this Christmas Day. They are a ragtag bunch with mismatched uniforms. Officers wearing remnants of old military dress. Enlisted men in work or hunting clothes. Many without a coat and some without shoes. A few with handkerchiefs for hats. What sets me apart as commander-in-chief is the light-blue ribband running across my chest, and my blue waistcoat with buff trim to complement my buff breeches. Five months of horrific fighting without a single major victory has decimated the ranks. Nearly 90 percent of the men are gone—killed, wounded or deserted. Now I have just 2,400 soldiers. The terms of the enlisted men expire at the end of the year. Their duty done, they’re sure to return to their homes. The disagreeable weather has hampered our progress; there’s no way we’ll get to the Hessian camp before sunrise. The element of surprise is gone. I step into the Durham boat. It’s 60 feet long and flat-bottomed. I take my position at the bow and order the crew to shove off. Eight men lower their long, iron-tipped setting poles into the muck and push. They keep at it, while more men paddle against the current. An eerie calm comes over the boat. The only noise is the grunting of my men and the slap, slap, slap of paddles in the water. We must make it across the river. After that it’s a nine-mile march to Trenton. And then, battle. If we’re defeated again, our great cause is all but lost."

[ “I’m sure you’ve seen the famous painting of the Delaware crossing by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. But not many know the harrowing details of the events that inspired the artist. The British had soundly defeated the colonists in New York, driving them off Long Island into Brooklyn and eventually to the northernmost tip of Manhattan. From there they fled across the Hudson River to New Jersey. As they marched through Newark, a young officer, Lieutenant James Monroe (yes, that James Monroe) counted the troops. Their number had shrunk from 30,000 men to about 3,000. The British brutally exploited the situation. They imported Hessian mercenaries to solidify their grip on New Jersey, and the colonists fled once again, this time to Pennsylvania. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote in a pamphlet published just seven days earlier. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
“Washington made one last desperate plan: attack the Hessian garrison at Trenton. The troops assembled at McKonkey’s Ferry on Christmas. The plan was for the army and all its supplies and artillery to be on the New Jersey side of the river by midnight. But Nature itself seemed to turn against Washington. A fierce nor’easter swept into the Delaware Valley. Rain, sleet and snow made it impossible to see more than a few feet. The river was clogged with ice. Yet when Washington ordered them to shove off, they did.
“On a calm day, crossing the Delaware at that point by Durham boat takes perhaps five minutes. That night it took more than seven hours to get the boats across. Finally reaching the opposite shore, Washington sat on an old wooden box and gathered his cloak around himself. His plan was in ruins. They really had no chance of reaching Trenton before daylight. Yet Washington couldn’t turn back. There was nowhere left to run. So they had to march on to Trenton.
“Contrary to legend, the Hessian forces were not drunk from celebrating. These were crack troops who slept with their rifles and were constantly alert. It was the weather that Christmas night, not drink, that made them drop their guard. It was a rout: Washington’s men took more than 900 prisoners—about half the Hessian force—and lost not a single man. News of the colonists stunning victory spread like wildfire, reinvigorating the cause. That night turned the tide of the war. There was nothing inevitable about what had happened. Everything that could have gone wrong, did. It only came to pass because of the determination and leadership of George Washington. Following him, a small group of men changed the course of the nation and the world…..” ] by James Gibson

John Smith of Jamestown Fame: not An Ordinary Fellow

QUOTE: “He first left home at the age of 16, after his father died. By 1602, the future hero of Jamestown was a soldier of fortune in Romania hired by Austria to fight the Ottoman Turks. As the Austrians besieged an Ottoman stronghold, the Muslim commander, Lord Turbashaw, issued a challenge. He would come out and meet any Christian foe in a horseman-vs.-horseman duel, one life against another.
With trumpets sounding and ladies cheering, Smith, 22, donned a knight's armor and accepted the challenge. On the first thrust of his lance, he pierced the Turk's armor at its weakest spot, the facemask visor that allowed the rider to see. For a gift to his general, Smith severed the Ottoman's head—a deed that enraged Turbashaw's friend Grualgo.
The next day, Smith did battle with Grualgo. The Englishman won again, this time with a well-placed pistol ball that unhorsed the Turk. Smith collected Grualgo's head, too.
Smith then challenged any other foe. Hence, a duel with a Turk named Mulgro, using battle-axes. Mulgro's ax hit so hard that Smith was left with only a small sword. But "beyond all mens expectation, by Gods assistance," he dodged the next blow and stabbed the Turk in the back. The Ottoman fell and, in Smith's words, "lost his head, as the rest had done."
As a reward, the young captain received an insignia bearing three Turk heads. He was wearing it when a "dismall battell" a few months later left him wounded and prostrate amid thousands of corpses. Pillagers noticed the insignia, judged Smith a man of esteem thus worth money, and sold him into slavery. He ended up on a Turkish farm where his head was shaved and an iron ring put around his neck. One day as he threshed grain, his master rode by to "beat, spurne, and revile" him. Smith clubbed his oppressor to death with a thresher, donned the man's clothes, and—with iron ring still around his neck—rode his horse to friendly Russia.”

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Global Warming: Who's Smarter Than An 8th Grader?

The issue of global warming is all too much an emotional issue that is decided by political alignments. Even some of those who vehemently decry burning fossil fuels because they increase carbon dioxide levels don't understand the 8th grade Earth Science behind it. Even fewer of the 'naysayers' do.

Short definition:
Earth transforms sunlight's visible light energy into infrared light energy, which leaves Earth slowly because it is absorbed by greenhouse gases. As greenhouse gases increase, this radiant energy escapes more slowly. This raises the Earth's overall temperature.

Longer definition:

Short video:

The Greenhouse Effect:
"The exchange of incoming and outgoing radiation that warms the Earth is often referred to as the greenhouse effect because a greenhouse works in much the same way.
"Incoming UV radiation easily passes through the glass walls of a greenhouse and is absorbed by the plants and hard surfaces inside. Weaker IR radiation, however, has difficulty passing through the glass walls and is trapped inside, thus warming the greenhouse. This effect lets tropical plants thrive inside a greenhouse, even during a cold winter.
"A similar phenomenon takes place in a car parked outside on a cold, sunny day. Incoming solar radiation warms the car's interior, but outgoing thermal radiation is trapped inside the car's closed windows."