Althouse | category: history



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"[T]he Hyksos had a custom known as the Gold of Valor, which involved taking the hands of enemy combatants as war trophies...."

"'The amputations were a safe means to count slain enemies,' said Manfred Bietak, an archaeologist.... 'They also made the dead enemy incapable of raising his hand again against Egypt in the Netherworld.'... 'Dismemberment was anathema to the ancient Egyptians, who wanted their bodies whole for a materialized afterlife existence,' Dr. Cooney said. A relief in the mortuary temple of Rameses III, at Medinet Habu, shows the pharaoh standing on a balcony after a victory not far from heaps of his enemies’ severed phalluses (12,312, according to one translation of zealous army scribes) and hands (24,625). In the temple of Amun at Karnak, a chronicle of a 13th century B.C. battle details prisoners being brought back to the pharaoh Merneptah with 'donkeys before them, laden with uncircumcised penises of the Land of Libya, with the hands of [every] foreign land that was with them, as fish in baskets.' If the tally of fatalities is to be believed, the Egyptians collected the penises of 6,359 uncircumcised enemy dead and the hands of 2,362 circumcised enemies. 'The stink must have been awful, and thus the "fish in baskets" comment,' Dr. Cooney said."

"If you look at the Minsk accords, which the Russians offered to settle for, that looks like a really good deal today."

"Let’s be honest: it’s a US war against Russia... to essentially sacrifice the flower of Ukrainian youth in an abattoir of death and destruction for the geopolitical ambition of the neocons, oft-stated, of regime change for Vladimir Putin and exhausting the Russian military so that they can’t fight anywhere else in the world. President Biden has said that was his intention — to get rid of Vladimir Putin. His Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, in April 2022, said that our purpose here is to exhaust the Russian army. What does that mean, 'exhaust'? It means throwing Ukrainians at them. My son fought over there, side-by-side with the Ukrainians and we’ve sacrificed 300,000 Ukrainians. The commander of the special forces unit in the Ukraine, which is probably the most elite fighting force in Europe, has said 80% of his troops are dead or are wounded and they cannot rebuild the unit. Right now, the Russians are killing Ukrainians at a ratio of either 1:5 or 1:8, depending on what data you believe...."
Said Bobby Kennedy, quoted at RCP. I've made small edits to the transcript based on the video that's also at that link. The transcript continues. Excerpts:
This was supposed to be a humanitarian mission — that’s how they sold it to us in the United States. But that would imply that the purpose of the mission was to reduce bloodshed and to shorten the conflict, and every step that we’ve taken has been to enlarge the conflict and to maximise bloodshed. That’s not what we should be doing.

If you look at the Minsk accords, it sets the groundwork for a final settlement. The Donbas region, which is 80% ethnic Russian — and Russians that were being systematically killed by the Ukrainian government — would become autonomous within Ukraine and would be protected. Let’s protect those populations with a United Nations force or whatever we have to do to make sure the bloodshed stops. In addition to that, we need to remove our Aegis missile systems, which house the Tomahawk missiles — nuclear missiles — from 70 miles from the Russian border. When the Russians put nuclear missiles on Cuba, 1,500 miles from Washington DC, we were ready to invade them, and we would have invaded them if they hadn’t removed them. The way they got removed ultimately is: my uncle and father made a deal with Ambassador Brennan and Khrushchev, who they had a close relationship with and they could talk directly to at that point. The deal was: we will remove our Jupiter missiles from Turkey, on your border, because we know that’s intolerable to you.

Russia has been invaded twice in the previous 100 years. One could see why they wouldn’t want nuclear missile systems in hostile countries on their border. We should also agree to keep Nato out of Ukraine, which is what the Russians have asked. I think based upon those three points, somebody like me could settle this war. I don’t think the neocons are capable of settling it, nor the people who surround President Biden — because they were the ones who created the problem. I don’t think they’ll ever recognise that. I think part of a settlement is to recognise that, with some of the history that went into this war, there were geopolitical machinations on both sides. And by the way, I am not excusing or justifying Vladimir Putin’s barbaric and illegal invasion of the Ukraine. But my uncle always said, if you want to actually achieve peace, you’ve got to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes and you’ve got to figure out the local pressures on him too.

INTERVIEWER: You mention the Cuban Missile Crisis and your uncle’s strategy: you could argue that’s an example of the opposite approach. He stared them down. He played chicken and he won, in a sense. He took a firm stand. And there are lots of people who feel that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is just such a moment and that somehow a stand needs to be taken and Putin can’t be rewarded for invading. What do you say to those people?

KENNEDY: You can argue the history of it. My uncle was surrounded by joint chiefs of staff, by an intelligence apparatus that was trying to get him to go to war. And the fact that there was one confrontation, where the Russian ship that was carrying supplies to Cuba stopped before it hit the embargo wall of US ships, that wasn’t the end of the crisis. That was just a midpoint, and it could have gone anywhere from there. The end of the crisis happened because my uncle reached out to Khrushchev directly, and said: “Let’s settle this between ourselves.” And their settlement was secret, and it remained secret for many years. But my uncle wanted to settle it, and he understood that he had to put himself in Khrushchev’s position and that Khrushchev didn’t want war, and neither did he, but they were both surrounded by people who did want to go to war.

INTERVIEWER:  So what is the wise, equivalent action that the US president should have taken when Russian tanks started rolling across Ukrainian borders from three directions, headed for the capital?

KENNEDY: We should have listened to Putin over many years. We made a commitment to Russia, to Gorbachev, that we would not move Nato one inch to the east. Then we went in, and we lied. We went into 13 Nato countries, we put missile systems in with nuclear capacity; we did joint exercises with Ukraine and these others for Nato. What is the purpose of Nato? This is what George Kennan asked; this is what Jack Matlock asked. All of the doyens of US foreign policy were saying: “Russia lost the Cold War. Let’s do to Russia what we did in Europe when we gave them the Marshall Plan. We’re the victors — let’s lift them up. Let’s integrate them into European society.”

INTERVIEWER: So you would have had Russia inside Nato?

KENNEDY: I think that that’s something we should have considered. What is the purpose of Nato other than to oppose Russia? If you’re addressing Russia in a hostile way from the beginning, of course their reaction is going to be hostile back. And if you’re slowly moving in all of these states, who we said would never become part of Nato. What happened in the Ukraine is that the US supported essentially a coup d’etat in 2014, against the democratically-elected government of Ukraine. We have telephone call transcripts of Victoria Nuland, one of the neocons in the White House, handpicking the new cabinet that was hostile to the Soviet Union. If you look at that, and you put yourself in Russia’s position, and you say: “Okay, the United States, our biggest enemy, is treating us as an enemy, has now taken over the government of a nation and made them hostile to us, and then started passing laws that are prejudicial to this giant Russian population.” If Mexico did that and then started killing — they killed 14,000 Russians in Donbas, the Ukrainian government — if Mexico did that to expatriate Americans, we’d invade in a second. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of our opponents. And it doesn’t mean saying that Vladimir Putin is not a gangster — he is. Or he’s not a thug — he is. Or he’s not a bully — he is. But going to war is not in his interest, either. And he repeatedly told us: these are red lines, you’re crossing. 
INTERVIEWER: Day by day, we hear news of atrocities taking place within the Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine. The idea that a peaceful settlement will be reached seems very distant at this point. Should we take it from what you’re saying that your support for Nato as president would be different? 
KENNEDY: That is something that I’m going to look at as President. I’m going to look at how we de-escalate tensions between the great powers: between China, between the United States and Russia. How do we let these countries deal with their neighbours without pressure from the United States that makes them feel like they’re going to have to go into a military mode. I’m not saying that’s what happened here. I’m saying that’s something that we need to look at, and the reason that we need to look at that is we have institutional problems in our country. 
This is something my uncle discovered in 1960/61. He realised during the Bay of Pigs crisis that the CIA had devolved into an agency whose function was to provide the military-industrial complex with a constant pipeline of new wars. And my uncle came out of one of those meetings as the Bay of Pigs invasion collapsed, and he realised the CIA had lied to him, and he fired Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA, Charles Cabell, Richard Bissell, the three top people in the CIA, for lying to him. And he said at that time: “I want to take the CIA and shatter it into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind.” We have to recognise that it’s not just our civilian agencies that have been captured by industry — the military agencies, the Pentagon, and particularly the intelligence agencies have been captured by the military-industrial complex. We have to recognise that and we have to say, “We don’t want constant wars in our country; we can’t afford them.”

"A base knowledge in history and civics is critical for students to become engaged, informed citizens, particularly amid misinformation on social media platforms..."

"... said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of... an organization focused on youth civic engagement. She cited a recent TikTok campaign against an Alaska oil project, which resulted in a misguided petition urging President Biden not to sell Alaska. 'You need some basics to understand what’s even verifiable: Does it even jibe loosely with what I learned?' she said, noting that the president does not have executive power to sell a state."

I think it's interesting that the NYT thought its readers needed that explanatory phrase, "noting that the president does not have executive power to sell a state."

It's hard to believe in the future of democracy in American when you realize how little grip voters have on even the most basic facts and concepts. Why are we asking ourselves who should govern us? We're idiots.

I was deeply puzzled by "Here’s the real reason the Vikings left Greenland/A new study found some Viking settlements experienced up to 10.8 feet of sea level rise over four centuries."

By Kasha Patel in The Washington Post.

The sea rose 10.8 feet? How could that have happened? Maybe it's already obvious to you, but I didn't have a clue — because of the way this is written — until the 10th paragraph. The first 9 paragraphs say speak in terms of the sea level rising — which I presume is intended to resonate with today's fears of climate change. To collect all the references in a compact block of elided text:
... a new study points to a key factor that may have prompted Vikings to flee their settlements: rising seas and subsequent flooding. The waters around some settlements may have risen by more than 10 feet over four centuries. “The Vikings were experiencing pervasive sea level rise... now we have a better understanding of the impact sea level change had on their society.” Sea level rise has previously been considered...  nearby ocean rose by a few feet during their centuries of occupation.... But the new study pinpoints the extent of sea level rise more concretely.... advanced sea level models... up to 10.8 feet (3.3 meters) of sea level rise... about two to six times the rate of the 20th-century average.... “They’re stuck in these little places... and they’re losing them because the sea is rising on them.” ... evidence of the rising seas....

I was entirely puzzled because if the sea rose so much back then, wouldn't there have been extreme effects all over the world? And where could all that water have come from? It doesn't seem possible. What was I missing? Finally, in paragraph 10:

[T]he Greenland ice sheet near the Vikings was changing, and their land was sinking under the weight of the ice....

The land was sinking! All that talk of the seas rising, rising, rising, and that was how it subjectively appeared, but the land was sinking

[T]he southern Greenland ice sheet advanced and grew larger [during the climatic shift from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age]. Cooler temperatures and the development of ice would intuitively suggest that sea levels would decrease... the opposite happened. Think of Earth as a very, very slow air mattress.... When you sit in one spot, the mattress sinks near you and bulges elsewhere. In this case, added ice on the surface caused the land near the ice to sink....

There was also some localized rising of the sea, according to this study, caused by gravity from the ice sheet.

"Unless I am in unbearable pain, I should be able to live right up to the last moments."

"Here is an inspiring (although slightly gruesome) example: Under bloody Queen Mary, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the author of the lovely Anglican prayer book, was burned at the stake for his protestant views despite signing false confessions of faith in Catholic doctrine. Even as the flames licked up around him, and his death was moments away, he was very much living (not dying) when he put his right hand into the heart of the fire to punish it for signing false confessions. I know I will die soon. But must I be miserable about it? Why not find a cause for joy in each day?... There’s nothing wrong with dying. All the best people in history have done it. Let foolish philosophers see themselves as dying every day. Thinking of death, I choose life."

"Just as Teddy Kennedy’s challenge to Carter came at a time of national 'malaise,' now Bobby Kennedy, Jr.’s challenge to Biden comes at a time of national demoralization."

"According to an NBC News poll in January, 71 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, with four in five believing that we’re either in a recession or about to be in one. So, it’s little wonder that Biden’s approval rating is a steady ten points underwater. And another poll found that 56 percent of Americans have doubts about Biden’s 'fitness' for his job. According to an April 19 poll, Kennedy already has the votes of 14 percent of those who say they voted for Biden in 2020. Just as interestingly, Biden has the backing of just 67 percent of those who voted for him; that’s soft support. In fact, primary challenges against an incumbent president are never a good sign for the incumbent—or for the party trying to hold the White House. As we have seen, Teddy Kennedy’s challenge to Carter presaged the Democrats’ loss of the White House in 1980. In 1992, pundit Pat Buchanan challenged George H.W. Bush in the Republican primaries, giving the incumbent a scare in New Hampshire. Bush was renominated, but later lost badly to Democrat Bill Clinton."

"I think it’s a political hit job... this ProPublica group in particular, funded by leftists, has an agenda to destabilize the [Supreme] Court."

"What they’ve done is not truthful. It lacks integrity. They’ve done a pretty good job in the last week or two of unfairly slamming me and more importantly than that, unfairly slamming Justice Thomas."

“A lot of people that have opinions about this seem to think that there’s something wrong with this friendship. You know, it’s possible that people are just really friends. It blows my mind that people assume that because Clarence Thomas has friends, that those friends have an angle.”... 
“You know, I can’t talk to Clarence without him asking all about the kids. ‘What are they doing?’ We have a dog named Otis that Clarence particularly likes. We talk about dogs a lot.” Crow remembered Thomas supporting his son’s wrestling team at St. Mark’s School of Texas. “Friends do stuff like that.”... 
“Every single relationship — a baby’s relationship to his mom — has some kind of reciprocity,“ he said....

Crow is asked why he bought Thomas’ mother’s house:

ProPublica reported that Crow bought a single-story home and two vacant lots down the road for $133,363 from three co-owners — Thomas, his mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother. 
“I assumed his mother owned the home,” Crow said. “His life story is an amazing American life story: born into deep poverty. Father gone. Mother — the lady whom we’re talking about — really not able to do a lot to help raise her two sons. Ultimately raised by his grandparents, who were illiterate. Growing up in Jim Crow Georgia. So I approached him with the idea that I might purchase that home for the purpose that in due course it could be the boyhood home of a great American.”  The thought that it was more than that “kind of drives me crazy.” 
As for the improvements? “She works as a greeter in the local hospital — a 94-year-old lady,” Crow said. “When we made this purchase, she was just an 84-year-old lady, or something like that. I built a carport, so that she can park her car. It’s not an enclosed garage. That’s what I did. Now, you said improvements to the house. I don’t remember any other rooms. However, if there was a commode that was terrible, I might have fixed it. I don’t know.”...

 Crow expresses a desire to be understood in terms of his love for America:

“I think America is one of the greatest things that’s happened in world history. Here we are governing ourselves, or trying to govern ourselves,” Crow said. “There are other times in world history in which that’s happened, but nothing like this. I love the American experiment in self-governance.... 
“I decided that I like American historical manuscripts and books that relate to American history.... It’s a big collection. But it’s many thousands of documents, and books.... We have a small number of things here that are about bad guys.... You can’t have a library and talk about that without including the bad.... We’ve got Jesse James and Al Capone and Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth... So yeah, World War II was a fairly big event in American history. We have a bunch of stuff about World War II, including some of our enemies."... 
“It really, really bothers me that — what I’m going to call yellow journalism — has decided to say that I like some of that stuff. That’s exactly the opposite of what the truth is.... My mom was on a ship that was sunk by Germans during World War II. If you try to kill my mom, I don’t like you. I mean, that’s reasonably obvious. And so the idea that I could have sympathy for Nazism is insane.”...

"It was a very valuable experience to me, and a lesson that ideas, no matter how vile, should be argued, defended, and defeated in public."

Writes Vesuviano in the most-liked comment at the NYT on the article "At Stanford Law School, the Dean Takes a Stand for Free Speech. Will It Work?" 

The article is the subject of my first post of the day, but I wanted to give this fantastic comment its own post:
"In 1969 I was a student at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Members of the American Nazi Party were allowed to visit the school and present their point of view that the Holocaust had not happened. The event was held after school in the cafeteria, and expectations for students who chose to attend were made absolutely clear to us by the principal. We were to be respectful at all times; we were not to interrupt the speakers; anything we had to say could be said in the Q & A afterwards. Those of us who attended prepared ourselves extremely well and did as we had been directed. During the presentation we took notes, sat on our hands, kept our mouths shut, and did not interrupt the speakers in any way. Then afterwards in the Q & A we absolutely shredded them. When they left, they knew they had been soundly trounced by a bunch of high school history geeks. It was a very valuable experience to me, and a lesson that ideas, no matter how vile, should be argued, defended, and defeated in public."

Today, there's this notion that the young people would be injured by having to hear bad speech, but these kids had an energizing, uplifting, sublimely memorable experience. 

"9 Surprising Moments in the History of Sunglasses."

At Science Museum.

#1 is "Emperor Nero's Emerald":

In his work Natural History, Pliny the Elder described how the Roman Emperor Nero would watch gladiator matches through an emerald. This has been considered by some as a rather opulent, if a bit ambiguous, account of a precursor to sunglasses. Some speculate that this was because Nero was near-sighted or that it was meant to shield the Sun’s glare....

You might think I'm reading this because of my own surprising moment having to do with sunglasses, a few posts down, here. But no, Nero's emerald came up in the "Car Tongs" episode of "The Frank Skinner Show" podcast, which I've been bingeing on lately. 

"Did you send this because it's like DeSantis with Trump's head?"

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