Das Rabblemeister

Veni, Vidi, Scripsi

Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union

Thursday, November 4 — King Tut’s tomb found (1922), Hungary invaded by USSR (1956)

leave a comment »

The solid gold, exquisitely decorated burial mask of King Tutankhamun. He became Pharaoh at age nine, died at nineteen, cause still disputed. Click on the image for more about King Tut.

  • King Tut’s tomb was discovered by famed archaeologist Howard Carter on this day in 1922. Carter was working under the employ of Lord Carnarvon and waited until Lord Carnarvon arrived before entering the tomb together on November 26. Much excavation followed and it wasn’t until February 16 that the burial chamber was officially opened. On April 5, 50 days later, Lord Carnarvon died, giving a grand start to all the stories of “King Tut’s Curse.” After the opening of the burial chamber there was more excavation, not a few disputes, and Carter left the project. He returned in January 1925, but it still wasn’t until October 28, 1925 that the lid of the inner sarcophagus was removed and the mummy was first seen, almost three years after the entrance to the tomb was first discovered, more than 3000 years after the mummy had been placed in the tomb.
  • The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a popular Hungarian revolt against the Communist government that had been forcibly imposed by the USSR at the end of World War II. It was a spontaneous revolt that started on October 23 with student demonstrations. On October 24 Soviet troops and tanks stationed in Hungary moved into Budapest. But in daring street fighting by Hungarians often armed with no more than Molotov cocktails, Hungarian civilians were able to push back the Soviets troops and destroy, disable, and even take over some of the Soviet tanks. By October 28 the fighting was largely over and by October 30 a new popular government was being put in place. Political prisoners were freed and plans were laid for an open, multi-party democracy. A Hungarian delegation started negotiations for withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary and Soviet ambassador Yuri Andropov (later head of the KGB and Soviet prime minister) promised the USSR would not invade.
    On the night of November 3 the Hungarian delegation was invited to Soviet Military Command near Budapest to discuss withdrawal of Soviet troops. But around midnight the delegation was arrested and very early on the morning of November 4 the Soviets launched a massive invasion with 22 Army divisions, including the Soviet 8th Mechanized Army. They encircled Budapest and moved in, firing indiscriminately at both civilians and military targets. The Hungarian free government pleaded for help from other countries, but none came. The free republic was crushed within hours.
    Afterward the Soviets and Hungarian Communists conducted mass trials of over 22 000 Hungarians, many thousands were imprisoned, hundreds executed. Some of the leaders of the revolution sought asylum in the Yugoslavian embassy, were granted safe passage out of the country by the Soviets, but were then captured as soon as they left the embassy and taken out of the country. Several were later returned to Hungary, executed, and buried in unmarked graves.
    In 1991, after the fall of the USSR, the Russian government under Mikhail Gorbachev apologized to the Hungarian people for the brutal invasion of 1956. Boris Yeltsin repeated this apology in 1992, speaking before the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest.
  • Does Star Trek represent a fascist society? Perhaps Communist? Well, think about it:
    • There doesn’t seem to be a civilian government, politics, or free elections. All the top-level decisions seem to come from Star Fleet Command, so the United Federation of Planets looks to be an Earth-centered military oligarchy.
    • There’s never any discussion of money or finance, as if free enterprise were irrelevant or non-existent.
    • There’s a lot of racial conflict: Klingons vs. Romulans vs. humans vs. all kinds of other freaky species, almost all of which seem to prefer their own kind over others.
    • In the original series, at least, almost everyone in Star Fleet looks to be white. There’s a token Asian (Sulu), a token black (Uhura), a token eastern European (Chekhov), a token Vulcan (Spock), and that’s about it most of the time. In Star Trek: The Next Generation there was a greater variety of tokens, but by far the most common were still plain-vanilla white people, and even some of the token aliens (like Counselor Troi and all the Vulcans) looked remarkably just like plain vanilla white people with no more than maybe a weird ear or nose. Apparently Star Fleet is mostly a huge horde of of WASPy-looking white people. There’s more diversity in Iowa than there is in Star Fleet.
    • The Prime Directive appears to be inherently paternalistic, preferring to keep less-advanced people as quaint cultural exhibits rather than share with them potential labor- and life-saving technologies, thereby also preserving Federation supremacy of technology and power.
    • All the Star Trek series, more so the later ones, seem to assume lefty-chic ideology, in fact in all but the original series it goes largely unquestioned. On the other hand, religion is either banished or ridiculed (a conscious decision by series creator Gene Roddenberry).

Is it a silly discussion? Of course it is, but it’s fun and lots of people have put lots of energy into it — see here and here, for example. (For some other viewpoints, see here and here.) I mean, the whole point of Trekkie-ism is to pretend this stuff is serious, just as among devotees of Sherlock Holmes there’s a universal convention that it’s all to be treated as real history, even though they all know it’s not. FYI: There are similar debates about Star Wars society, with many arguing that the Empire is actually in the right. Great topic for endless over-the-net debate.

Some pictures are hard to explain. For more hard-to-explain pictures, click on the image. (A tip o'the hat to the blog MyPointless, linked from the photo.)

Advertisements

Wednesday, November 3 – First canine astronaut (1957)

leave a comment »

  • Also on this day:
    • 1838: The largest-circulation English-language daily newspaper is founded. USA Today? No, though it’s #3. The Wall Street Journal? Nope, it’s #5. The New York Times? Ya gotta be kidding — it’s been bleeding circulation for more than a decade and close to being broke. It’s now down to #10 and falling, with circulation now below 1 million.  And it’s not one of the British papers, though The Sun is close at #2 and the Daily Mail comes in at #4.
      It’s the Times of India. With a circulation over 3 million and readership over 7 million, it’s the largest-selling and most widely read English-language newspaper in the world. Its web site is also the most-visited newspaper site in the world.
      The Times of India, however, is only the eighth most popular newspaper in the world. The top honor goes to the Yomiuri Shimbun of Japan with a circulation of over 14 million, almost five times that of the Times of India. In fact the Japanese are by far the top newspaper consumers in the world and the world’s top five newspapers in circulation are all Japanese. Rounding out the top 10 are the German Bild (#6), the Reference News of China (#7), the Times of India (#8), the U.K. Sun at #9, and the China People’s Daily at #10. On the world any-language list USA Today comes in at #13, the Wall Street Journal at #19, and the New York Times at #48. 

      Laika, the first living creature in orbit, wearing her flight harness. Laika paid a high price for being a pioneer.

    • 1957: Sputnik 2 was launched, carrying aboard the first living creature to go into orbit, an 11-lb stray female mutt named Laika, who had been found wandering the streets of Moscow. (The scientists involved deliberately chose Moscow strays because they figured they would already be accustomed to extreme cold and hunger. Seriously.) The Soviets had previously launched several dogs into up-and-back sub-orbital flights, but Laika was the first into orbit, an achievement hurriedly timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.
      Unfortunately for Laika, technology did not yet exist to recover an orbiting spacecraft, so Laika was never intended to survive the trip. Telemetry indicated that she was highly agitated during launch; it took three hours for her pulse to settle back to normal but she was later detected to be eating (a special gel she’d been trained to eat). The plan was to eventually euthanize her with a poisoned food serving, but she didn’t live that long. By her fourth orbit, somewhere around the sixth hour in space, not more life signs were detected.
      The Soviets originally stated she had been euthanized, but that was widely disbelieved and many concluded she probably died of lack of oxygen. In 2002 a Russian scientist revealed that she had probably died of overheating due to a spacecraft malfunction which allowed the temperature inside the capsule to rise over 104F (40C).
      In 1998 one of the scientists involved, Oleg Gazenko, expressed regret at Laika’s death, stating that “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it… We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.” At the time her death sparked outrage and protests by animal lovers, but of course none within the USSR, where no protests were allowed and nothing was mentioned of them.
  • Well, the U.S. mid-term elections are over, so across the land robotic calls have stopped jamming everyone’s phones and television stations are mourning the end of all that juicy ad revenue. A few interesting things happened:
    • There’s no gentle way to say this: Democrats got their butts kicked at the national, state, and local levels. It was massive and it wasn’t pretty.
      And, perhaps not coincidentally, President Obama is leaving the country tomorrow. To the regret of approximately half the country, he will be returning nine days later, having completed a tour of India, South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia. He is conspicuously skipping China despite the fact he is so loved there, as shown by this — a rare privilege indeed and something one just won’t see in the U.S.
      Despite some news reports, Obama’s travel and entourage will not cost $200 million a day, but he and his retinue will be renting the entire Taj Mahal hotel and part of another luxury hotel. It’s a tough job, but it does have its perks.
    • One of the Republican winners was Lt. Col. Allen West (U.S. Army, ret.), who won Florida’s 22nd Congressional district. Congressman-elect West has never before held office, but remember his name — he’s already being touted as one with rare star quality. See why.
    • With the Democrats having lost the House of Representatives, controversial House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will of course lose her job as Speaker. And in one of the coldest, cruelest tweets of the year, humorist Andy Levy tweeted this question.
    • Strategically timed to disappear in yesterday’s news cycle: ACORN has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, apparently done in by being caught red-handed in sting videos which led to multiple investigations, being found guilty of voter registration fraud in several states, and finally a Congressional cut-off of Federal funds.
  • Liberal genetics? Why does one person turn out as a left-wing liberal while another, even a brother or sister brought up in the same home, turns out conservative? It’s been famously said that anyone who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart, but anyone who’s still a liberal at 40 has no brain, likewise that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, while a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested. But maybe there’s a much simpler explanation: It’s genetic. A just-published study from Harvard and the University of California on 2000 American adults found a high correlation between the presence of a certain strain of the DRD4 gene and “an inherent bias against conservative thinking.”  This correlation of bias holds independent of education or upbringing. Perhaps those genetics explain the Kennedys?
  • In another study, this time in the U.K., analysis of data in the British Household Panel Survey revealed “evidence that daughters make people more Left-wing, while having sons, by contrast, makes them more Right-wing.” The effect is statistically significant but not huge: Of families with three sons and no daughters, 67 percent voted for Labour or Liberal Democrats, while for families with three daughters and no sons that rose to 77 percent. Not landslide material, then.
     

    Yes, this Lamborghini is very cool and does 200+ mph. But is it as cool as a Prius with the Plus Performance Package? (Click on the image for more on the awesome Lamborghini Diablo.)

  • For those of you who crave a Ferrari, Maserati, or Lamborghini, hold your checkbooks: Toyota is coming out with the Prius Plus Performance Package. Yessirree, for only a few grand spent at your Toyota dealer you can get a seven-piece kit of plastic body parts that make the stodgy Prius no faster (the engine and drive train remain unmodified) but does claim to improve aerodynamics and look racier. Part of the full performance package are new springs that lower the ride height, a rear anti-sway bar, and wider wheels and tires to make it stick a bit better in turns and under braking. The wider tires would seem to increase rolling resistance and therefore reduce gas mileage, but Toyota claims fuel economy is unaffected. It does look cool with the full kit. As cool as that gorgeous V-12, 200-mph Lamborghini? Well, you decide.