Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Smithsonian Folklife honors Basque region of Spain and France

I’ve covered the music and dance portion of the Smithsonian Folklife exhibit today in Washington on Basque culture.

There were exhibits of native sports (rowing and a kind of curling) and crafts with sewing and woodwork.  There is also an odd pre-Christian costumed dance called "joaldunak".

There were photographs of countryside homes with their own communal garden plots, and of one city, whose name I forgot (it may be Getxo).  One of the panels mentioned a past whaling industry.

I visited Bilbao myself from April 29-30, 2001, and Donastia (San Sebastian) on May 1.  I visited the Guggenheim museum on a Sunday afternoon and had a hotel suite for $100 a night, not far from where the ETA was located.   I didn’t see photos of the cities I had visited in the exhibits.

By Andrea Bocchino - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Chess grandmaster goes after dictators; DPRK's latest threat

I wanted to point out an article in this weekend’s “Epoch Times” by Eyal Levinter, “Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov fights the world’s dictators”, link.  There is a certain focus on Vladimir Putin. He makes an analogy to chess positions where one side (White usually) has a positional advantage or initiative, which will turn against him if he doesn’t press his advantage properly.


On CNN, Brian Todd reports that North Korea claims its mid range missiles can reach the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, where the US has military bases.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit: England? Whoops?

What to make of the Brexit vote to leave the EU? (A friend -- Ramsay -- from Australia tweeted "England? Whoops".

Jim Cramer of Mad Money says, don’t make too much of it.

Pundits are saying this is class warfare:  the working class against the rentier elite.  The working class was protectionism.  But then why were the voters who decided to leave mainly seniors, older Brits? (NBC story)

The vote will make it harder for companies exporting to both Britain and the rest of the UK to make as much money, because of the likelihood of two sets of regulations.  That leads to lower earnings, but the $600+ drop in the Dow was largely predicated on emotion (and part of that just canceled a pre-vote rally).

But it’s inexcusable that Wall Street was caught flat-footed and is so surprised by the result. But it has also been surprised by the success of Trump and Sanders.  Some people do want revolution.

Vox has a piece by Libby Nelsom about the prevailing British culture of "anti-intellectualism", and how the old booted their young with their debt and their contempt.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Is the Geneva Convention relevant to terrorism?

I’ve written a lot lately (on my main and Wordpress blogs) that the distinction between civilians and military is getting blurred by enemies, who leverage asymmetry and do not follow the “Geneva Convention” as we learned it in Army Basic. Enemies, especially associated with radical Islam (ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as those in tHe Israeli-Palestinian conflicts) view civilians as bearing personal moral responsibility for what their countries do (and this may even figure into religious notions).  The idea that military service should be voluntary is obviously contradicted.

I thought I would list some references about the Geneva convention and asymmetry warfare, at Middle East Forum, Foreign Policy, Juris, Quora, and Wikipedia

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Afghanistan is one of the most homophobic countries in the world

A lot has been made of the possibility that US born Omar Mateen had been gay himself, and that his relationship with his father, from Afghanistan, had contributed to his personality disorders, leading up to his rampage on an Orlando FL gay club.

Newspapers have called Afghanistan, even post-Taliban, one of the most homophobic countries in the world, despite a subculture in Pashtun that practice homosexuality with very young men (as reported in French sources), behavior that would violate laws against sex with minors in the US.   It’s a little surprising, as most of us hear the worst from Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, and Uganda – and Russia with its anti-gay propaganda law.

Surprises on the Newsweek list of shame include Lithuania and Senegal (which Anthony Bourdain covered favorably without mentioning the anit-gay culture).
Extreme homophobia is often associated with the belief that allowing homosexuality will lead to fewer babies and weaken family lineage, an idea very important in poorer regions of the world.  The idea seems to drive Russian policy. (Fareed Zakaria interviews Vladimir Putin from St. Petersburg today – more on that later.)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Virtual trip to Ethiopia for an hour?; a Vietnam combat vet recalls what it was like to fight there, and has the scars to show for it

Interesting day in Old Town Alexandria, VA (not Egypt).

On a circulator bus, a Vietnam era veteran talks about jump training at Ft. Benning GA and then actual combat in Vietnam, resulting in shrapnel scars on arms and legs. I recall from BCT stories that infantry went on patrol every third night.

Then I got to the St. George Interior Decoration and Art Gallery of Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, supplement of Alexandria VA, on Alfred St.

I wound up at the Torpedo Factory Art Center on the Alexandria Waterfront, which had a small portion of the Ethiopia exhibit, second Thursday exhibit.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture, San Effron, of Addis Ababa city center, near St George museum there, CCSA 2.0.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

DPRK missiles could reach Michigan some day (Economist)

The May 28-June 3 issue of The Economist has a couple of disturbing stories,

One of them concerns North Korea’s missiles.   A KN-08 in development would have a range of 9000 KM and could reach the US mainland northwest.  An enhance version could, along the great circle, reach as far east as Detroit, and as far as New Mexico on the southern US border.

There is also a 14-page report on the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe (and Kenya), but it tends to stress problems only on a macro level, as to how governments can house and try to train huge numbers of people, many of whom will not be allowed to stay if they don’t assimilate. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Overseas, non-western countries suppress Internet speech just to maintain authority and political order

Burma, Thailand, Russia and Turkey all joined the Washington Post’s own hall of shame for absurd prosecutions of journalists and bloggers for critical or satirical speech, as in this Editorial.
Burma, well Myanmar, we expect that.  But Turkey is a moderate country.  Russia will prosecute bloggers for challenging its grab of Crimea or its “territorial integrity” (let alone promote homosexuality and threaten the birth rate). And Thailand will prosecute for mocking the king’s pooch.
Why isn’t this just an admission of vulnerability?  Their reasoning is flip-side.  They do things “just for authority”, as I used to complain to my own father.  They see maintenance of social and political hierarchy (which they pimp as national solidarity) as an end in itself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Amnesty International fund-raises at Metro stops, emphasis on Syria-Iraq and Central America

I generally don’t respond much to people raising money for organizations on the streets, but I did speak very briefly to Amnesty International today in Ballston, near the Metro.

Here is a PDF that gives their arguments regarding the Syrian and Central American refugee crises.  It’s called an “Activist Toolkit for People on the Move”.  That’s an interesting (and demanding) title.  The paper answers the argument regarding Trojan horse terrorists.

Two young men (white) wore substantial yellow plastic wrist cuffs identifying them.  (I’m not cool personally about putting anything on my body, or I wasn’t when I was young.)

It is getting harder for organizations to raise money on the street or door-to-door than it used to be, partly (at home at least out of security fears as well as a culture of personal insularity.