Oct 27th, 2008 by ravi
WWII: the backstory on the Soviet pact with Hitler

Stalin ‘planned to send a million troops to stop Hitler if Britain and France agreed pact’ – Telegraph

Papers which were kept secret for almost 70 years show that the Soviet Union proposed sending a powerful military force in an effort to entice Britain and France into an anti-Nazi alliance.
Such an agreement could have changed the course of 20th century history, preventing Hitler’s pact with Stalin which gave him free rein to go to war with Germany’s other neighbours.
The offer of a military force to help contain Hitler was made by a senior Soviet military delegation at a Kremlin meeting with senior British and French officers, two weeks before war broke out in 1939.
The new documents, copies of which have been seen by The Sunday Telegraph, show the vast numbers of infantry, artillery and airborne forces which Stalin’s generals said could be dispatched, if Polish objections to the Red Army crossing its territory could first be overcome.
But the British and French side – briefed by their governments to talk, but not authorised to commit to binding deals – did not respond to the Soviet offer, made on August 15, 1939. Instead, Stalin turned to Germany, signing the notorious non-aggression treaty with Hitler barely a week later.

[ Link ]

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Oct 14th, 2008 by ravi
Hari Kondabolu on the Queen of England

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Oct 7th, 2008 by ravi
Don’t vote!

This a “PSA” from various movie and sports personalities (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen Degeneres, Dustin Hoffman… even Sarah Silverman who otherwise has built a career out of anti-establishment behaviour, albeit with obligatory “radical” bra removal tricks and reference to herpes):

It is split into two parts. The first part has the personalities urging you to not vote, since it doesn’t matter. The second and longer part turns this around: well, if you care about [insert issue here] then may be you should vote?

This advertisement highlights the danger and possible self-defeating nature of this sort of cleverness, for unfortunately, the first part, taken seriously, makes its argument much better than the second one does. During the first part, the actor Leonardo DiCaprio exclaims “This is one of the greatest financial disasters in American history” closely followed by, I believe, the tennis player Andy Roddick asking us, “Why would you vote?”. Then come a range of voices:

Who cares? The economy is in the toilet!
Who cares about your children’s education?
Reading? Literacy?
Global warming?

Well played (if unintentionally)! Indeed we are in the midst of one of the biggest financial disasters in history. How do your representatives and candidates for PotUS act? They ignore the majority of you who were against this bailout and support it and pass it, including in it such wonderful measures as waiving federal acquisition regulations favouring minority and women owned businesses. Would your vote for McCain or Obama matter? Not really, since they both support the same action in response to the “one of the greatest financial disasters in American history”. Global warming? Both men support “clean” coal and off-shore drilling for oil. Children? McCain has battled all his congressional life against “quotas” and affirmative action, while Obama is worried about the excesses of 70s civil rights and is more interested in lecturing to black fathers.

Where the PSA shines (in the first part, that is) is in pinpointing exactly why your vote doesn’t matter: Who cares? Certainly not most of the candidates you will be permitted to choose from.

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Oct 1st, 2008 by ravi
Seed: Turning a Blind Eye

Photograph by Ho New / Reuters

Seed: Turning a Blind Eye

The photos of grass-roofed shelters and hostile, body-painted Indians brandishing bows and arrows spread like brushfire around the globe. Survival International, an indigenous rights advocacy group, described the group as “uncontacted,” summoning celluloid fantasies of lost savages who had never seen civilization. Reporters began to describe them as “Earth’s last uncontacted tribe” who reacted violently to the “bird god” in the sky. But then the story collapsed. Meirelles stated in an interview that he had been following the group for two decades. The tribe was neither lost nor undiscovered — the outside world had known of them since 1910. It should have been clear from the beginning; the initial Portuguese reports never claimed the group was “uncontacted.” Introduced by sloppy reporting, this error fanned suspicions that the photos were just a hoax.

The crucial issue raised by these photos of a remote group isolated from our society is not whether, in an age of worldwide connectivity, surveillance satellites, and explosive population growth, we might still have undiscovered neighbors on a shrinking globe — we don’t. In fact, one of Meirelles’s friends first noticed the clearing where the tribe was found while browsing Google Earth. In truth, our reactions to and perceptions of these people reveal far more about us than about them. We easily believe that a band of hostile Indians confronting an airplane from a clearing do so out of ignorance and fear. But the likely truth is harder to face: The tribe might have threatened the observers precisely because they had encountered some of the worst aspects of our culture before, and suffered grievously. These images of a people courageously standing against us are not symbols of their ignorance, but of ours.


What we really offer to groups like those in the picture is not a utopia. Rather, we offer them the same poverty, anxiety, and health problems suffered by other poor populations in their region. Life expectancies among indigenous groups lag far below mainstream populations, even in countries with adequate health care. A billion people on the planet, already part of our global economy, have no potable water, cannot read, and live on $1 a day or less. Given the choice, they might also choose withdrawal from a system that has failed them.

For now the photos of belligerent Indians, robust and confident enough to stand their ground, suggest that the policy of noncontact is working. But as we begin to see that their aggression is a product of their familiarity with our society’s most abusive and rapacious tendencies, are we learning to restrain our desires and respect their choice to live apart? Can we leave them alone, or are we so thirsty for petroleum, so enamored of mahogany, so resentful of their decision to live differently, that we will destroy the fragments of their world rather than place some limit on our own? Their extinction — and the persistence of our Western way of life — is not inevitable. They’ve asked us nicely — now they’re willing to fight about it.

[ Link ]

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Oct 1st, 2008 by ravi
Olmert: Israel withdrawal needed

BBC NEWS | Olmert: Israel withdrawal needed

Outgoing PM Ehud Olmert says Israel must withdraw from almost all the land it occupied in 1967 if it wants peace with Syria and the Palestinians.

He said this would include parts of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

Mr Olmert also said any peace deal with Syria would require an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

He gave few further details, but said he was prepared to go beyond previous Israeli leaders to achieve peace.

“We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories,” Mr Olmert said.

“We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace,” he added.
He said the withdrawals would include Jerusalem, the eastern part of which Israel occupied and annexed after the 1967 war, but which it has long proclaimed as its “eternal, undivided capital”.

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Oct 1st, 2008 by ravi
Dean Baker’s free book: The Conservative Nanny State

[found via a post to PEN-L by Jim Devine]

Also available for download.

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