flashback

‘The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.’ —Nietzsche

29.jpg

The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, “Extermination by hunger”) was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1932 and 1933 that killed an estimated 2.5-7.5 million Ukrainians, with millions more counted in demographic estimates. It was part of the wider disaster, the Soviet famine of 1932–33, which affected the major grain-producing areas of the country.

During the Holodomor, which is also known as the “Terror-Famine in Ukraine” and “Famine-Genocide in Ukraine,” millions of citizens of the Ukrainian SSR, the majority of whom were ethnic Ukrainians, died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by the independent Ukraine and many other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Soviet Union.

Scholars disagree on the relative importance of natural factors and bad economic policies as causes of the famine but believe it was a long term plan of Joseph Stalin, an attempt to eliminate the Ukrainian independence movement.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Territorial expansion of the 1933 famine is a matter of dispute between Ukrainian and Russian history scientists. The former regard the famine to be localized within Ukraine, while the latter adopt the position that vast regions of Russia, in particular the Volga River region and Central Chernozemic region, were affected with the famine too. To solve this matter, the author has the data engaged which concern nutrition survey conducted by Gosplan (State Planning Committee) of the USSR in 1933. These data show that the situation in Ukraine was the most disastrous. The Volga River and Central Chernozemic regions, although suffered from the famine too, were featured with consumption of food products about 1.5 times higher than that in Odessa or Kiev regions. The average daily consumption of 1070 kcal which was recorded in Odessa region in early 1933 allowed life- sustaining activity of a human being for three months only

{ Economics & Sociology | PDF }

What one refuses in a minute, no eternity will return

36.jpg

8,000 Years Ago, 17 Women Reproduced for Every One Man

[A] member of the research team, a biological anthropologist, hypothesizes that somehow, only a few men accumulated lots of wealth and power, leaving nothing for others. These men could then pass their wealth on to their sons, perpetuating this pattern of elitist reproductive success. Then, as more thousands of years passed, the numbers of men reproducing, compared to women, rose again. “Maybe more and more people started being successful,” Wilson Sayres says. In more recent history, as a global average, about four or five women reproduced for every one man.

{ Pacific Standard | Continue reading }

everything is stooopid

215.jpg

Every 250m years the sun, with its entourage of planets, completes a circuit of the Milky Way. Its journey around its home galaxy, though, is no stately peregrination. Rather, its orbit oscillates up and down through the galactic disc. It passes through that disc, the place where most of the galaxy’s matter is concentrated, once every 30m years or so.

This fact has long interested Michael Rampino of New York University. He speculates that it could explain the mass extinctions, such as that of the dinosaurs and many other species 66m years ago, which life on Earth undergoes from time to time. Palaeontologists recognise five such humongous events, during each of which up to 90% of species have disappeared. But the fossil record is also littered with smaller but still significant blips in the continuity of life.

Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain these extinctions (and the events may, of course, not all have the same explanation). The two that have most support are collisions between Earth and an asteroid or comet, and extended periods of massive volcanic activity. Dr Rampino observed some time ago that cometary collisions might be triggered by gravitational disruptions of the Oort cloud, a repository of comets in the outermost part of the solar system. That would send a rain of them into the part of space occupied by Earth. This has come to be known as the Shiva hypothesis, after the Hindu god of destruction. […]

In his latest paper, Dr Rampino speculates that the real culprit may be not stars, but dark matter—and that this might explain the volcanism as well.

{ The Economist | Continue reading }

‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.’ —Mike Tyson

233.jpg

The asteroid landed in the ocean and would have caused megatsunamis, for which evidence has been found in several locations in the Caribbean and eastern United States—marine sand in locations that were then inland, and vegetation debris and terrestrial rocks in marine sediments dated to the time of the impact. […]

The asteroid landed in a bed of gypsum (calcium sulfate), which would have produced a vast sulfur dioxide aerosol. This would have further reduced the sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface and then precipitated as acid rain, killing vegetation, plankton, and organisms that build shells from calcium carbonate (coccolithophores and molluscs). […]

The impact may also have produced acid rain, depending on what type of rock the asteroid struck. However, recent research suggests this effect was relatively minor, lasting for approximately 12 years. […]

Such an impact would have inhibited photosynthesis by creating a dust cloud that blocked sunlight for up to a year, and by injecting sulfuric acid aerosols into the stratosphere, which might have reduced sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface by 10–20%. It has been argued that it would take at least ten years for such aerosols to dissipate, which would account for the extinction of plants and phytoplankton, and of organisms dependent on them (including predatory animals as well as herbivores). […]

The event appears to have hit all continents at the same time. […]

The event eliminated a vast number of species. Based on marine fossils, it is estimated that 75% or more of all species were wiped out by the K–Pg extinction. In terrestrial ecosystems all animals weighing more than a kilo disappeared.

The most well-known victims are the non-avian dinosaurs. […]

The fact that the extinctions occur at the same time as the Chicxulub asteroid impact strongly supports the impact hypothesis of extinction. […]

The Chicxulub crater is more than 180 kilometres (110 mi) in diameter and 20 km (12 mi) in depth, making the feature one of the largest confirmed impact structures on Earth; the impacting bolide that formed the crater was at least 10 km (6 mi) in diameter. […] Researchers dated rock and ash samples from the impact to roughly 66 million years ago. […]

Some scientists maintain the extinction was caused or exacerbated by other factors, such as volcanic eruptions, climate change, or sea level change, separately or together.

{ The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event | Chicxulub crater }

related { Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals }

related { Rising Sea Levels Are Already Making Miami’s Floods Worse }

related { 12 ways researchers think human civilisation is most likely to end }

People always ask me who had the funniest name in ancient Rome. It was Pliny the Elder.

212.jpg

{ Chart of short-term and long-term interest rates all the way back to 3000 B.C., presented by Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist. Shakespeare may have missed a historic opportunity in the bond market. | WSJ | full story }

‘You’re blind baby, you’re blind from the facts on who you are, cause you’re watching that garbage.’ –Public Enemy

341.jpg

The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his lifetime (469–399 B.C.E.), an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. […]

The extant sources agree that Socrates was profoundly ugly, resembling a satyr more than a man—and resembling not at all the statues that turned up later in ancient times and now grace Internet sites and the covers of books. He had wide-set, bulging eyes that darted sideways and enabled him, like a crab, to see not only what was straight ahead, but what was beside him as well; a flat, upturned nose with flaring nostrils; and large fleshy lips like an ass. Socrates let his hair grow long, Spartan-style (even while Athens and Sparta were at war), and went about barefoot and unwashed, carrying a stick and looking arrogant. […] Something was peculiar about his gait as well, sometimes described as a swagger so intimidating that enemy soldiers kept their distance. He was impervious to the effects of alcohol and cold, but this made him an object of suspicion to his fellow soldiers on campaign. […]

What seemed strange about Socrates is that he neither labored to earn a living, nor participated voluntarily in affairs of state. Rather, he embraced poverty and, although youths of the city kept company with him and imitated him, Socrates adamantly insisted he was not a teacher and refused all his life to take money for what he did. […] Because Socrates was no transmitter of information that others were passively to receive, he resists the comparison to teachers. Rather, he helped others recognize on their own what is real, true, and good—a new, and thus suspect, approach to education. He was known for confusing, stinging and stunning his conversation partners into the unpleasant experience of realizing their own ignorance, a state sometimes superseded by genuine intellectual curiosity. […] Socrates was usually to be found in the marketplace and other public areas, conversing with a variety of different people—young and old, male and female, slave and free, rich and poor—that is, with virtually anyone he could persuade to join with him in his question-and-answer mode of probing serious matters. […]

It did not help matters that Socrates seemed to have a higher opinion of women than most of his companions had, speaking of “men and women,” “priests and priestesses,” and naming foreign women as his teachers: Socrates claimed to have learned rhetoric from Aspasia of Miletus, the lover of Pericles; and to have learned erotics from the priestess Diotima of Mantinea. […]

Athenian citizen males of the upper social classes did not marry until they were at least thirty, and Athenian females were poorly educated and kept sequestered until puberty, when they were given in marriage by their fathers. Thus the socialization and education of males often involved a relationship for which the English word ‘pederasty’ (though often used) is misleading, in which a youth approaching manhood, fifteen to seventeen, became the beloved of a male lover a few years older, under whose tutelage and through whose influence and gifts, the younger man would be guided and improved. It was assumed among Athenians that mature men would find youths sexually attractive, and such relationships were conventionally viewed as beneficial to both parties by family and friends alike. A degree of hypocrisy (or denial), however, was implied by the arrangement: “officially” it did not involve sexual relations between the lovers and, if it did, then the beloved was not supposed to derive pleasure from the act—but ancient evidence (comedies, vase paintings, et al.) shows that both restrictions were often violated. What was odd about Socrates is that, although he was no exception to the rule of finding youths attractive, he refused the physical advances of even his favorite.

{ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy | Continue reading }

‘War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.’ —Thucydides

210.jpg

On January 2, 1977, the Shah of Iran made a painful admission about his country’s economy. “We’re broke,” he confided bluntly to his closest aide, court minister Asadollah Alam, in a private meeting. Alam predicted still more dangers to come: “We have squandered every cent we had only to find ourselves checkmated by a single move from Saudi Arabia,” he later wrote in a letter to the shah. “[W]e are now in dire financial peril and must tighten our belts if we are to survive.”

The two men were reacting to recent turmoil in the oil markets. A few weeks prior, at an OPEC meeting in Doha, the Saudis had announced they would resist an Iran-led majority vote to increase petroleum prices by 15 percent. (The shah needed the boost to pay for billions in new spending commitments.) King Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud argued that a price hike wasn’t justified when Western economies were still mired in a recession — but he was also eager to place economic constraints on Iran at a time when the shah was ordering nuclear power plants and projecting influence throughout the Middle East. So the Saudis “flooded the markets,” ramping up oil production from 8 million to 11.8 million barrels per day and slashing crude prices. Unable to compete, Iran was quickly driven from the market: The country’s oil production plunged 38 percent in a month. Billions of dollars in anticipated oil revenues vanished, and Iran was forced to abandon its five-year budget estimates.

A damaging ripple effect persisted: Over the summer of 1977, industrial manufacturing in Iran fell by 50 percent. Inflation ran between 30 and 40 percent. The government made deep cuts to domestic spending to balance the books, but austerity only made matters worse when thousands of young, unskilled men lost their jobs. Before long, economic distress had eroded middle-class support for the shah’s monarchy — which collapsed two years later in the Iranian Revolution.

[…]

In November 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security consultant connected to Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post noting that if “[i]f Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half … it would be devastating to Iran … [and] limit Tehran’s ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.” Two years later, at the height of the global financial crisis, the Saudis acted: They flooded the market, and within six months, oil prices had fallen from their record high of $147 per barrel to just $33. Thus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began 2009, an election year, struggling with the sudden collapse in government oil revenues and forced to slash popular subsidies and social programs. The election’s contested outcome was accompanied by economic contraction and the worst political violence in Iran since the fall of the shah.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

image { Evander Batson }

previously { The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong }

Doomed for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confined to fast in fires

25.jpg

via { Paul Soulellis }

‘When I don’t have red, I use blue.’ –Picasso

shex10-imp-kerr.jpg

Ivan Pavlov is best known as a founding figure of behaviorism who trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. […] Pavlov didn’t use a bell, and for his real scientific purposes, couldn’t. English-speakers think he did because of a mistranslation of the Russian word for zvonok (buzzer). […]

Although one would expect that this investigator of reflexive reactions would think otherwise, he believed in free will. […]

He didn’t win his Nobel Prize (1904) for research on conditional reflexes, but rather for his studies of digestive physiology.

{ Oxford University Press | Continue reading | More: New Yorker }

‘The possible ranks higher than the actual.’ –Heidegger

21.jpg

Women first entered Russian universities as early as in 1859. Four university centres, including in St. Petersburg and Kiev, expressed their support for women’s education, allowing them to attend classes as external ‘free students’, i.e. not officially enrolled. While these changes did not lead to equal rights for men and women in the area of education—a right which women activists would continue struggle for throughout subsequent decades—they constituted a first step in the formation of the multi-layered system of women’s education which was in place prior to the 1917 revolution. […]

Russian women became one of the first to achieve full voting rights, and the Soviet Constitution of 1918 fully and finally confirmed women’s rights to study at all levels of the educational system. The Labour Code of 1918 guaranteed women a 16-week maternity leave and a premium for breast- feeding, but most important of all it guaranteed equal wages for equal work. […]

These and other events which occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century led Irina Yukina to posit the thesis that the pre-revolutionary activities of women were fully successful. […]

The rebirth of feminism in the conditions of Soviet reality began in 1979. […] This article presents a short history of the origin and creation of the Almanac “Women and Russia,” which began as a samizdat underground publication devoted to the problem of women and childrearing in the USSR. […] The women writers featured in the first edition of the Almanac […] exposed the consequences for women living and functioning in a patriarchal social order, and ironically one where all the questions concerning ‘women’s rights’ were deemed to have been resolved in a progressive fashion much earlier.

{ de Gruyter | Continue reading }

photo { Paul Kwiatkowski }

‘Good habits are here more effectual than good laws elsewhere.’ —Tacitus

551.jpg

Who will guard the guards?

In posing the famous question, the Roman poet Juvenal was suggesting that wives cannot be trusted, and keeping them under guard is not a solution—because the guards cannot be trusted either.

Half a millennium or so earlier, Plato in The Republic expressed a more optimistic view regarding the guardians or rulers of the city-state, namely that one should be able to trust them to behave properly; that it was absurd to suppose that they should require oversight.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Come and play with us, Danny. Forever, and ever, and ever.

212.jpg

To understand how a state acquires legal capacity, we need to study a state that lacked it. France, at the end of the sixteenth century did not possess a centralized legal or tax system. This reflected the way French monarchs had gradually added territories to their growing kingdom since the middle ages. Moreover, as more and more territories were added, the king was forced to concede old, and sometimes new, privileges to the regions so as to ensure their loyalty. In the words of one economic historian, the complexities of the resulting fiscal and legal system almost ‘defy description.’

Legal and fiscal fragmentation reflected the underlying political equilibrium of the French monarchy. This was based on a time-tested and simple quid pro quo: The ruler used his military power to protect local privileges, and in exchange, local elites gave the king their political and fiscal support. France was a ‘natural state’ and control over local courts was a source of rents for the provincial nobility. The disbursement of these revenue streams helped to ensure domestic peace.

The legal authority of the Crown was weak in many parts of the country as well. In some regions the provincial nobility still reigned as semi-independent rulers. Even in those areas where the authority of the monarchy was strong, local families dominated the regional parlements and elections.3 As a result, there was ‘a lack of a coherent and common set of laws,’ and ‘the absence of unified laws even within each governmental region.’ […]

Historians have noted that judges of local or ‘inferior’ jurisdictions usually demonstrated much more zeal in prosecuting witches than did the central authorities, and when left to their own de- vices they generally executed more witches than when they were closely supervised by their judicial superiors.’ […]

The crime of witchcraft had two components: ‘maleficia’, or harm through supernatural means, and ‘diabolism’, or crimes relating to the devil. Maleficia could range from harming cattle or causing a blight on grain to actually committing homicide. For example, in 1611 Jacques Jean Thiébaud in Montbéliard was accused of killing the livestock of neighbors and making them sick. […] Diabolism was defined as having dealings with the Devil or his agents. Attendance at a ‘Devil’s Sabbath’, flying through the air, the use of magic powders or unguents, were identified as common behavior among witches.

Witchcraft was difficult to prosecute under conventional legal procedures and standards of proof. Maleficia may have sometimes actually occurred and, in rare cases, may even have left evidence. However, diabolism was, by its nature, beyond the pale of rational legal procedure. Since dealings with the devil existed only in the fantasies of accusers and (rarely) the accused, it was a thought crime. In order to get around the difficulty of prosecuting a suspected witch according to traditional standards of legal proof, local judges turned to the theories of the demonologists. […]

The unobservable nature of the crime combined with the use of torture created a self-replicating logic to witchcraft trials. Accusation led to torture, which led to further accusations. This logic is illustrated by the following example which took place in 1599 in the area of Bazuel which lies in the North of France. A widow named Reine Perceval was accused of sorcery and brought to the local abbey for interrogation. Initially, she denied the accusa- tions, despite the attempts of her interrogator to coerce her confession by pointing to another recently accused woman who, by admitting to the crimes, was released. […] Later, under torture, the widow Perceval did confess to being a witch and named several ‘accomplices.’ […]

It was costly in a purely financial sense to try an individual witch. Furthermore, fear of witchcraft could get out of control and result in lynchings and murders or in devastating mass trials in which large numbers of individuals who would not usually be suspected of witchcraft came under suspicion. […]

We establish that witchcraft trials were more likely to take place where the central state had weak legal institutions. Combining data on the geographic distribution of witchcraft trials with unique panel data on tax receipts across 21 French regions, we find that the rise of the tax state can account for much of the decline in witch trials during this period. Further historical evidence supports our hypothesis that higher taxes led to better legal institutions.

{ Johnson and Koyama | Continue reading }