Archive for August, 2008

Obama As Liberal

August 28, 2008

Regardless of where you perceive yourself to be on the political spectrum (or spectra), and regardless of your current perception of the respective merits of the candidates nominated (or soon to be nominated) by the two major parties, you should quickly peruse the cogent and candid discussion of Barack Obama’s rating as “most liberal Senator” by the editor of the National Journal, Charles Green. It clearly explains what is — and, more importantly, what is not – at issue with respect to this particular controversy.


Novarupta & Yellowstone

August 28, 2008

Over at the HCL blog we’ve discussed Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded and the rapid emergence of Anak Krakatoa, as well as a handful of interesting supplementary websites for those captivated by the great volcano’s destructive explosion 125 years ago yesterday.

Those intrigued by the topic may also be interested in’s recent description of Novarupta: The Most Powerful Volcanic Eruption of the Twentieth Century.

Also of interest is Yellowstone’s Ancient Supervolcano, today’s Science Daily report on recent scientific measurements of the temperature of the “Yellowstone hotspot”, the volcanic plume responsible for the famous geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, and for at least 142 huge eruptions over the last sixteen and a half million years. “The cataclysmic explosions — known as ‘caldera eruptions’ — typically generated 250 to 600 times as much volcanic ash as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State, and some were up to 2,500 times larger, covering as much as half the continental United States with inches to feet of volcanic ash.”

Lost Treasure

August 28, 2008

The GeoZone offers a collection of intriguing, entertaining and illuminating stories about the elusive lost treasures of the American Southwest – tales of lost mines and the evanescence of riches from the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah:

“During the course of the past five hundred years, countless explorers, prospectors, traders, trappers, settlers, and the legendary Mountain Men spent their lives in the vast wilderness of the American Southwest. Enduring the hardships, and exploring the extremes from over 14,000 feet of altitude along the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies to the desert hardpan below sea level in Death Valley, they discovered gold, silver, and other mineral riches, sometimes literally stumbling across their finds.

“Arguably, the more fortunate of these discoverers worked their finds and reaped the benefits until a natural death took their secret to the grave. Among the less fortunate, an equal number are reputed to have lost their lives to a variety of causes both accidental and otherwise.

“But beyond this, there are the others … perhaps the majority, upon which neither of these fates could be served, for many of these riches were just as quickly lost when their discoverers next discovered that they could not relocate their finds in the vast wilderness!

“Despite their best efforts, often spanning a lifetime, the location of these elusive treasures remains hidden yet today. They remain there to this day — for you to find!”

China Games – Rings or Shackles?

August 24, 2008

Writing in today’s Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby appraises China’s Totalitarian Games: According to Reporters Without Borders, 22 foreign journalists were attacked or arrested during the Games. At least 50 human-rights activists were arrested, harassed, or forced to leave Beijing. As in 1936 and 1980, the 2008 Games were a showcase for a dictatorship.

Elephantine Arithmetic

August 22, 2008

Elephants Count

Slave Trade Abolition Commemorated

August 22, 2008
Slaves on the run in the Sudan - CSI.

Slaves on the run in the Sudan - CSI.

Tomorrow, Saturday August 23rd, is the United Nations’ annual International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition. Moreover, this year the annual commemoration coincides with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade by the United States of America in 1808. As UNESCO’s Director General explains, “although this historic piece of legislation and similar abolition acts proclaimed in the early nineteenth century did not end the institution of slavery, they greatly contributed to dismantling the most long-lasting and widespread system of domination and oppression in human history.” (Incidentally, earlier this year the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared a separate first annual International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on March 25th, in accord with a UN General Assembly passed in December of this last year. One wonders at the wisdom of two such commemorations in the course of each year.)

For those who are interested in understanding more about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Hugh Thomas has written an excellent, voluminous and comprehensive history, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870. For an excellent work on the institution of slavery in America, there is still no better work than Kenneth M. Stampp’s forty-two year old classic, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. (The library also has a copy of Mannix and Cowley’s Black Cargoes: A History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, which I have not yet read.)

For an introduction to the controversial question of continuing slavery in the Sudan, see the BBC’s brief May 2003 report on Thousands of Slaves in the Sudan, and Christian Solidarity International’s most recent CSI Field Trip Report January 2007. CSI also offers a Petition to establish a Slavery Commission in the Sudan to monitor the eradication of slavery.

Iraqi Looting Update

August 21, 2008

Almost exactly a month ago we briefly discussed an article appearing in the Art Newspaper, and later echoed in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, that addressed the persistent reports of “widespread looting and massive damage . . . at the archaeological sites of southern Iraq.” The report of a recent visit to certain targeted sites by an international team of experts implied more cause for optimism than previous estimates of damage had suggested. Subsequent evidence and discussion, however, particularly this article on “The Devastation of Iraq’s Past” appearing in the New York Review of Books for August 14th, indicates that any such optimism must be tempered.

Changing Realities in American Politics

August 8, 2008

In a preview for this upcoming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, reporter Matt Bai offers an extraordinarily interesting exploration of the broader implications of Barack Obama’s candidacy and generational change in American politics. Whatever your political persuasion, and however you may intend to vote this November, it’s well worth a read.