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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘poland

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that stars commonly ingest hot Jupiters.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the spread of robots.
  • Far Outliers shares terms for making shoyu.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Ashley Madison nearly bought Grindr.
  • Language Log notes the changing usage of “hemp” as a political term.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the plan to save New Orleans by abandoning the Mississippi delta.
  • The Russian Demographics blog notes the genetic distinctiveness of the Denisovans.
  • Towleroad notes the pulling-down of a Warsaw rainbow monument.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the American debate over birthright citizenship.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO notes that this year, the Canadian National Exhibition will host more high-calorie culinary atrocities.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the final pass of Cassini around Saturn’s Dione.
  • Crooked Timber considers the opportunity costs of war.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at the war in Donbas.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the Chinese-led revival of the Silk Road as a trans-Eurasian rail route from Poland.
  • Spacing describes the funiculars of Portugal.
  • Torontoist celebrates Summerworks.
  • Towleroad reports on Zachary Quinto’s arguments about safer sex techniques.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy advances an argument against immigration restrictions.
  • Why I Love Toronto shares more local Toronto craftsmakers.

[OBSCURA] On an unidentified girl overlooking the remains of the Warsaw Ghetto, 1946

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Mikołaj Gliński’s Culture.pl post “Search for Missing Woman from 1946 Photograph of the Warsaw Ghetto” looks at the search to identify a young girl photographed in 1946 by Reginald Kenny, looking at the remains of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Until recently this was not a very well-known picture in Poland. But over the last month thanks to the efforts of a couple people and a Facebook profile, the image has gone viral and is now on the path to becoming one of the most iconic images of destroyed Warsaw. Still, while the Internet was able to establish a lot of important facts, including the exact location of the place, the main goal of the whole effort has not yet been achieved, which is finding the girl in the picture and getting to know her story.

[. . .]

The black-and-white image shows a girl (approximately 10 years old) looking at the sea of ruins of the Warsaw ghetto. She is standing on a roof of a building which in the course of a private investigation by Marek Kossakowski (follow here) has been identified as a building at 5/7 Stawki Street – which is one of the very few buildings in the area to have survived the war. The building still stands today at four stories tall, which is not so obvious when you look at the picture – it seems that the flattened background of razed rubble somehow distorts the perspective and proportions.

In the left top corner one can discern the silouette of the Saint Augustine’s Church, well known from other pictures of the destroyed ghetto. The T-shaped cross-road on the left has been identified as the intersection of Muranowska and Zamenhofa, the streets that had formed the heart of the Warsaw’s Jewish district before WW2.

The girl on the roof is smartly dressed, the only thing which is out of sync are the shoes – too big and probably belonging to a man, they make one wonder how she made it all the way up here. The girl is caught in the act of touching her hair (the wind must have blown furiously at this altitude). [. . .]

This is what the image tells us, and it is not much. But we know also that the iconic photograph was taken on April 3, 1946 by Reginald Kenny who was a photographer accompanying former US president Herbert Hoover on the so-called Food Mission in Europe. In 1946 and 1947 Hoover visited around 40 countries struck by the war in an effort to estimate losses and provide the best relief for war victims. One of the places he visited was Warsaw.

I hope this goes viral; I hope that the girl in the photograph, now a woman in her 80s if she is still alive, is identified.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 14, 2015 at 3:08 pm

[BLOG] Some politics and economic links

  • 3 Quarks Daily had a roundup of reactions to the PEN/Charlie Hebdo controversy.
  • City of Brass notes the role of the Nation of Islam in keeping the peace in Baltimore.
  • Crooked Timber considers if the British Labour Party might gain by creating a separate Scottish Party, and wonders what British Euroskepticism means for Ireland.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the new importance of immigration from China and India for the United States, looks at China’s negotiating of a naval base with Djibouti, wonders if Russia while buy Chinese naval vessels, and notes the Ukrainian capture of two Russian soldiers.
  • A Fistful of Euros argues that Greece, for all of its faults, is facing doom in order to consolidate the Eurozone.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis examines the Latin American political spectrum.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders what a Korean war might look like, examines the risks faced by Indonesian migrants, and looks at the India-Bangladesh border.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe shares an unduly controversial map of shrinking sea ice in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that immigration does not undermine institutions, wonders about the need for Scottish separatism, examines the myth of abandoned British austerity, wonders how to fix Ukraine, and suggests urbanization can boost economic growth.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflected on the Indonesian executions.
  • Registan predicts political crisis in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Towleroad notes</a that a European court has ordered the compensation of LGBT activists attacked in Georgia in 2012.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers Iranian attacks on a ship registered to the American protectorate of the Marshall Islands and Libyan attacks on a ship registered to New Zealand’s Cook Islanders.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that the European Union’s Eastern Partnership has failed, looks at Ukrainian hostility to Russians fighting in the Donbas, argues Russian cannot hold the Baltic States, looks at Russian Muslim demographic boosterism, notes the decline of Russian in southern Kazakhstan, looks at Armenia’s alignment of its Muslim institutions with Iran, notes the plight of Ukrainian refugees and returning Donbas fighters in Russia, and notes Russia’s loss of influence in Ukraine.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World notes Polish concern over the Night Wolves, a Russian motorocycle gang.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell argues that British Labour should rebuild by opposing things and not working on the more difficult task of finding new policies.
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[LINK] “Putin’s Tanks Draw Cheers in Russian City Jammed Between NATO Nations”

Bloomberg’s Leonid Ragozin visits Kaliningrad during the celebrations of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany to find a population that is cautiously accepting official mythology.

Tanks and ballistic missiles lumbered past thousands of spectators gathered in Kaliningrad on Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe, an historic triumph for Russia that the Kremlin has used to whip up a new nationalist fervor.

“We need to show our enemies, who deem us guilty just because we exist, that Russia is a very peculiar woman—she can knock you down without a second thought,” said Aleksandr Sapenko, a 64-year-old history teacher, citing the U.S. and European Union as Russia’s main enemies. “Soviet soldiers saved them from the Nazi gas chambers, but they are barking at Russia like a pack of stray dogs.”

This Russian enclave was once the German province of East Prussia; the city’s Victory Square was known for centuries as Hansa Platz and briefly as Adolf Hitler Platz. On Saturday, when Russia and the former Soviet republics marked the anniversary of Hitler’s defeat in World War II, the square was awash in Russian and Soviet flags. Many people brought their children, whom soldiers encouraged to climb tanks and pose for photographs while wearing garrison caps and clutching tank-shaped balloons. Similar parades were held all over Russia, notably in Moscow, the capital, where more than 16,500 troops marched in Red Square.

In the postwar settlement, East Prussia was incorporated into the Russian republic of the USSR, its entire population deported to Germany and the province repopulated with Soviet citizens, primarily ethnic Russians. Nearly flattened by British bombers and Soviet artillery, the East Prussian capital, Koenigsberg, was rebuilt as a drab Soviet city and renamed Kaliningrad, after Mikhail Kalinin, a Stalin functionary who held the largely ceremonial post of Soviet president during the war.

[. . .]

At the rally, Nikita, a 21-year-old student sporting a red Soviet flag on his bicycle, complained about the hardware. “Why couldn’t they show the new T-90 tanks instead of the old T-72s?” he said, more satisfied with the state-of-the-art Platforma-M robot tanks. Nikita said such parades were necessary so that no one forgets Russia’s war sacrifice. “It is also important to show our military might, but it’s not to scare the neighbors,” he said. “They are not our enemies, and we should all be united.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 11:34 pm

[LINK] “Death in Venice: Eighteenth Century Critiques of Republicanism”

Barry Stocket at New APPS Blog has an interesting piece noting how the decadence of the republics known to late 18th century Europeans discouraged them from considering the republic as a suitable form of political organization for those interested in implementing Enlightenment thought.

The idea of democracy was even more anachronistic looking before [the late 18th century revolutions, which in any case did not lead to full implementation of democracy and certainly not its normalisation, but did take steps in that direction. Earlier in the eighteenth century, even Rousseau did not think of democracy as the ideal. Even allowing that his advocacy of elective aristocracy is in accord with representative democracy, it does not look as if he expected republicanism to sweep through Europe. His text on a constitution for Poland was for an aristocratic state on the verge of extinction as Prussia, Russia, and Austria arranged its complete partition between 1772 and 1795. It was not a model for European republics, nor was it any more democratic than the existing aristocratic commonwealth with a limited monarchy. Montesquieu, Smith and Hume looked upon republicanism as a form of government appropriate to liberty, but not as necessarily superior to monarchy, and maybe less desirable than monarchy in the circumstances of most modern states.

What was wrong with the republican model for eighteenth century thinkers about liberty, if they themselves have sometimes been taken up as republican, or at least partly republican, thinkers? The answer can be summarised with reference to a city state where Rousseau himself spent time as a secretary to the French ambassador, Venice. Those looking for an example of a modern republic in the eighteenth century were likely to look at Venice. Another possible example was the Dutch Republic, but at least for Montesquieu (who I will take it was not deviating far from any prevailing judgement) it was a more a confederation of city republics which struggled to achieve unity in times of danger. By the eighteenth century the glory of the Golden Age, of Rembrandt and Spinoza, of recent independence after a long war from Spain, of a model of financial and commercial progress, was in the past, and no one thought of the Dutch Republic as a major European power.

Furthermore its relative youth, going back no further than the 1560s, mattered to eighteenth century thinkers who though that successful model states are states that maintain themselves over centuries, preferably with a largely unchanged constitution. That Athens had only a couple of centuries maybe as an independent and democratic republic was important compared with the much longer life of Sparta’s oligarchic republic. That Roman republicanism gave way to a thinly disguised version of monarchy in the Emperor system after five centuries mattered, as did the apparent weakening of republicanism and democratic life after the defeat of Carthage.

Two centuries of republican life in the United Provinces was small compared with about one thousand years of the Venetian Republic, which like the Dutch Republic was past its greatest period of influence, but could be taken as more of a model with an apparently little changed constitution over a long life by the standard of any European state. By the tine of Enlightenment political writing Venice was a museum of a glorious past as a dominant commercial and naval power, with an eastern Mediterranean empire. Montesquieu comments unfavourably on a constitution which he thought allowed the aristocracy to act as government executive, legislator, and judiciary, with the special powers of secret committees to defend the state undermining liberty.

His criticism is more than justified by the greatest Italian witness of the time, Giambattista Vico (whose thought anticipates much in Rousseau and Montesquieu). Vico thought of Venice as the model of aristocratic republic in which the aristocracy regards itself as more than human and the common people as less than human. It precedes the situation in which democracy encourages the spread of an idea of a common humanity, an idea that Vico thought could only maintain itself through democracy giving way to a human monarchy, legislating and judging with regard to the welfare of all.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “Euro Debate Ignites in East EU in Face of Public Skepticism”

Bloomberg’s Lenka Ponikelska writes about the continued appeal to some in non-Eurozone central Europe of membership in the single currency.

In the Czech Republic, the prime minister said on Wednesday that joining the euro soon would help the economy after the president challenged the central bank’s long-standing resistance with a vow to appoint policy makers who favor the common currency. In Poland, the main divide between the top two candidates in the May 10 presidential election is whether the region’s biggest economy should ditch the zloty.

“It’s quite interesting how the sentiment has shifted — I’m slightly surprised by this,” William Jackson, London-based senior economist at Capital Economics Ltd., said by phone on Wednesday. “As the story coming from the euro zone in recent years has been negative, it’s very hard to imagine how the euro case for the public would be made now.”

The obstacles are many. Romania, which has set 2019 as a potential target date, and Hungary don’t meet all the economic criteria. Poland faces legal hurdles and the Czech government has said it won’t set a date during its four-year term. As a standoff between Greece and euro-area leaders threatens to push the country into insolvency and potential exit, opinion polls show most Czechs and Poles oppose a switch.

The appeal of the euro, which all European Union members save Britain and Denmark are technically obliged to join, suffered when the area had to provide emergency loans to ailing members during the economic crisis. While five ex-communist countries that joined the trading bloc in 2004 — Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — have acceded, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary don’t have road maps.

The region’s three biggest economies argued that floating currencies and control over monetary policy helps shield themselves against shocks like the euro crisis even if smaller countries may benefit from lower exchange-rate volatility and reduced trade costs. Facing weakening in their korunas, zlotys, and forints, some politicians in eastern Europe are questioning that logic.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 2, 2015 at 7:51 pm


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