Quotulatiousness

September 14, 2017

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War Is the Key to Understanding America

Filed under: Asia, History, Media, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 13 Sep 2017

Nick Gillespie interviews Ken Burns and Lynn Novick about their new documentary series: The Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War led to more than 1.3 million deaths and it’s one of the most divisive, painful, and poorly understood episodes in American history.

Documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have spent the past decade making a film that aims to exhume the war’s buried history. Their 10-part series, which premieres on PBS next week, is a comprehensive look at the secrecy, disinformation, and spin surrounding Vietnam, and its lasting impact on two nations. The 18-hour film combines never-before-seen historical footage, with testimonies from nearly 80 witnesses, including soldiers on both sides of the conflict, leaders of the protest movement, and civilians from North and South Vietnam.

A two-time Academy Award winner, Burns is among the most celebrated documentary filmmakers of our time, best-known for the 1990 PBS miniseries The Civil War, which drew a television viewership of 40 million. He and Novick are longtime collaborators, and in 2011 she co-directed and produced Prohibition with Burns. In 2011, Reason’s Nick Gillespie interviewed Burns that film and the role of public television in underwriting his work.

With the release of The Vietnam War, Gillespie sat down with Burns and Novick to talk about the decade-long process of making their new film, and why understanding what happened in Vietnam is essential to interpreting American life today.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg, Mark McDaniel, and Krainin.

Full interview transcript available at http://bit.ly/2x0e5U4

August 11, 2017

QotD: The plight of Hindu widows

Filed under: India, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Some of the most conservative Hindus in India believe that a woman whose husband has died should no longer live because she failed to retain his soul. Rejected by their communities and abandoned by their loved ones, thousands of destitute women make their way to Vrindavan, a pilgrimage city about 100km south of Delhi that is home to more than 20,000 widows.

These women have no choice but to live in a vidhwa ashram (ashrams for widows) run by the government, private enterprises and NGOs. Clad in white, they know they will never return home and that this is where they’ll end their days.

Pascal Mannaerts, “Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide”, BBC Travel, 2016-09-13.

August 7, 2017

Dutee Chand and the international sporting dilemma

Filed under: India, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Dutee Chand is a woman who competes for India in track and field events. Dutee Chand has elevated levels of testosterone in her body … this creates a problem for those who determine who is allowed to compete as a woman in international sporting events:

Dutee Chand won the bronze medal in 22nd Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, 8 July 2017. (via Wikimedia)

For the past two years, Dutee Chand could be herself.

She could run and train and even compete in the Rio Olympics. She didn’t have to constantly remind people that, yes, of course, she is a woman and that, yes, of course, she qualifies to compete with other women despite her naturally high level of testosterone.

She didn’t have to feel pressure to change her body so it conformed to rules or contemplate quitting her sport — pressure placed on her after doctors subjected her to gender testing in 2013, humiliating her by doing so, when she was only 17.

For two years, she could just be Dutee Chand. That’s because, two years ago last month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is the supreme court for global sports, temporarily suspended an international track and field rule that had barred her from competing as a woman.

Chand, a sprinter from India, and women like her were excluded because their bodies produced a high amount of testosterone. It was often so high it was classified as being within the male range, a situation the authorities considered an unfair advantage. The only way these women could compete, track and field officials ruled, was if they took hormone-suppressing drugs or had surgery to limit the amount of testosterone their bodies produced.

The problem for international sporting bodies is that they’re still stuck in the binary — only two genders — model of competition, which leaves them unable to cope with situations like this. They can either prevent athletes like Dutee Chand from competing against other women or accept that the old standards no longer apply. Pushed to the limit, this means there can no longer be any kind of binary division of sporting activities into the old “male” and “female” categories … which will, in all likelihood, be devastating to women hoping to compete internationally, nationally, or even regionally. There’s no easy answer, and any Solomonic decision is going to make the situation worse, not better.

At its core, the sports world — rigidly separating men and women — will perpetually struggle to adapt to increasingly nuanced gender distinctions. In June, the District of Columbia became the first jurisdiction in the United States to offer an “X” gender, signifying a neutral gender, on its driver’s licenses. In March, a transgender New Zealand woman crushed her competition in her first international weight-lifting meet, and a transgender boy won a Texas state championship in girls’ wrestling.

Not every governing body is equipped to rule on these kind of eligibility questions. Not every athlete fits into this box, or that one.

To Chand, though, the issue of hyperandrogenism in sports is clear cut. She grew up as a girl. At 21, she is a proud young woman. She wants to race as one.

On Saturday, she did. But in the coming months, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide whether letting her continue to do so is fair.

What if it gets it wrong?

July 30, 2017

“… sooner or later, and usually sooner, the British will be blamed”

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, India — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

In Pragati, Alex Tabarrok reviews Shashi Tharoor’s 2016 book history of the British Raj, An Era Of Darkness:

“Political Map of the Indian Empire” from Constable’s Hand Atlas of India, 1893.
(via Wikimedia)

At sophisticated dinner parties in Delhi, Calcutta, or Chennai, whenever the discussion turns to politics, one can be sure that sooner or later, and usually sooner, the British will be blamed. It’s a fine parlor game, and clever players can usually find a way to cast blame for whichever side of the debate they favor. Is India’s traditional family falling apart due to internet porn? Blame the British! Are the laws against homosexuality too strong? Blame the British! The British are an easy target because much of what they did was reprehensible. But blaming British imperialism for contemporary Indian problems is also an easy way to let India’s political class off the hook.

An excellent case against the British comes from Shashi Tharoor, bestselling author, former Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations, and current member of the Indian parliament, in his 2016 book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India (also published this year under the title Inglorious Empire[UK title]).

Tharoor makes three claims:

  1. The British empire in India, from the seizure of Bengal by the East India Company in 1757 until the end of British government rule in 1947, was cruel, rapacious, and racist.
  2. India would be much better off today had it not been for British rule.
  3. Britain’s success and the Industrial Revolution were due to British depredation of India.

The first claim is true, the second uncertain, the third false.

The first claim is the heart of Tharoor’s book: the British empire in India was cruel, rapacious and racist. All true. But who would expect otherwise? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The theft, the famines, the massacres, the formal and casual racism, the utter hypocrisy of suppressing independence while using hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers to fight for democracy and freedom in two World Wars — on all this Tharoor stands on solid ground. The ground is solid in part because it has been well-trod. Tharoor brings the case against the East India Company and Britain, initiated by Edmund Burke (1774-1785) and continued by the likes of Indian nationalist Dadabhai Naoroji [PDF] (1901) and American historian Will Durant (1930), to its conclusion and climax with the Indian independence movement. In this, Tharoor is entirely successful and his work deserves to be widely read.

In his eagerness to blame Britain, however, Tharoor reaches for every possible argument in ways that are sometimes misleading and sometimes absurd.

July 18, 2017

The upcoming Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War

Filed under: Asia, History, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Stephen Sherman discusses some of the things that may or may not be given appropriate treatment in the new PBS documentary series to air this fall, covering American involvement in the former French colonies:

Indochina in 1954. Map prepared for the US Military Acadamy’s military atlas series. (Via Wikimedia).

Ken Burns correctly identifies the Vietnam War as being the point at which our society split into two diametrically opposed camps. He is also correct in identifying a need for us to discuss this aspect of our history in a civil and reflective manner. The problem is that the radical political and cultural divisions of that war have created alternate perceptions of reality, if not alternate universes of discourse. The myths and propaganda of each side make rational discourse based on intellectual honesty and goodwill difficult or impossible. The smoothly impressive visual story Burns will undoubtedly deliver will likely increase that difficulty. He has done many popular works in the past, some of which have been seriously criticized for inaccuracies and significant omissions, but we welcome the chance of a balanced treatment of the full history of that conflict. We can only wait and watch closely when it goes public.

The term “Vietnam War” itself, although accepted in common parlance, would more accurately be called “The American Phase of the Second Indochina War” (1965 to 1973). The U.S. strategic objectives in Vietnam must also be accurately defined. There were two inter-related goals: 1) to counter the Soviet and Red Chinese strategy of fostering and supporting “Wars of National Liberation” (i.e., violent Communist takeovers) in third-world nations, and 2) to defend the government of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from the military aggression directed by its Communist neighbor, the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam.

Arguments offered by the so-called “anti-war” movement in the United States were predominantly derived from Communist propaganda. Most of them have been discredited by subsequent information, but they still influence the debate. They include the nonfactual claims that:

1) the war in South Vietnam was an indigenous civil war,

2) the U.S. effort in South Vietnam was a form of neo-colonialism, and

3) the real U.S. objective in South Vietnam was the economic exploitation of the region.

The antiwar movement was not at all monolithic. Supporters covered a wide range, from total pacifist Quakers at one end to passionate supporters of Communism at the other. There were many idealists in it who thought the war was unjust and our conduct of it objectionable, as well as students who were terrified of the draft, and some who just found it the cause of the day. But some of the primary figures leading the movement were not so much opposed to the war as they were in favor of Hanoi succeeding in the war it had started.

The key question is whether the U.S. opposition to Communism during the Cold War (1947 to 1989) was justifiable. The answer is that Communism (Marxism) on a national level is a utopian ideal that can function only with the enforcement of a police state (Leninism) or a genocidal criminal regime (Stalinism). It always requires an external enemy to justify the continuous hardships and repression of its population and always claims that its international duty is to spread Communism. When Ho Chi Minh established the Vietnam Communist Party in 1930, there was no intention of limiting its expansionist ambitions to Vietnam, and he subsequently changed the name to the Indochinese Communist Party at the request of the Comintern in Moscow.

From George L. MacGarrigle, The United States Army in Vietnam: Combat Operations, Taking the Offensive, October 1966-October 1967. Washington DC: Center of Military History, 1998. (Via Wikimedia)

July 15, 2017

The MOST DANGEROUS and EXTREME RAILWAYS in the World!! Compilation of Incredible Train Journeys!!

Filed under: Americas, Asia, Europe, India, Railways — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 31 Mar 2017

This list consists 12 of the most dangerous and extreme railways in the world!!From railways That deep gorges and near vertical descents, to a 100 year old railway bridge built on sea. These are some of the most amazing, unbelievable and incredible railway routes around the world. These Railways offer daring experience to those who ride them.The Trains needs to pass through the most dangerous railroads along their journey. However, one can enjoy the scenic beauty while travelling on them.
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The Most Dangerous Railways featured in this list are :

Maeklong Railway, Thailand: This Railways passes through the congested maeklong market in Thailand.

Nariz del diablo, Ecuador : Considered most difficult train journey, the railway passed through tight cliffs and climbs steep altitudes.

Pamban Bridge, India : the trains has to pass through this breathtaking 100 year old sea bridge still operating.

Bangladesh Railways : Considered most overcrowded railways in the world where roof riding is a common sight.

Burma Railway : Constructed during world war II using forced labor, Many workers (prisoners of war) died due to rough conditions thus earning nickname ‘Death Railway’

Ferro carril Central Andino, Peru : Second Highest Railway in the World Running through the Andes.

Indian railways : World’s most busiest Railway, more than 25,000 people die annually on India’s railways

White pass & Yokon Route, Alaska : Built during Klondike Gold rush. This route boasts incredible sceneries.

Gokteik Viaduct, Myanmar : Highest railway trestle in the world.

Pilatus Railway, Switzerland : This Most steepest cogway railway offers incredible Sceneries.

Tren a las nubes, Argentina : The train Passes through dangerous curves and high bridges.

Gelmerbahn Funicular, Switzerland : Almost feels like a roller-coaster ride!

H/T to CT for the link.

July 10, 2017

The end of the British Empire

Filed under: Britain, History, India, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kai Melling takes an unusually anti-American stand in this quick explanation of the decline and fall of the British Empire:

The common narrative is that the USA inherited the British Empire as an aftermath of World War 2. But this phrasing is misleading, because the USA actively designed and exploited the political, mental and military framework of WW2 to Britain’s disadvantage.

Churchill believed that Britain and the USA would be eternal partners, with British statesmen playing Greeks to America’s Romans. But when Britain was in her darkest hour, Roosevelt shook her down for every dime. Poring over a list of British assets in the Western Hemisphere, FDR “reacted with the coolness of a WASP patrician: ‘Well, they aren’t bust — there’s lots of money there.’” (Alan Clark)

Looking back, Alan Clark was appalled by Churchill’s groveling to the Americans: “Churchill’s abasement of Britain before the United States has its origins in the same obsession (with Hitler). The West Indian bases were handed over; the closed markets for British exports were to be dismantled; the entire portfolio of (largely private) holdings in America was liquidated. “A very nice little list,” was Roosevelt’s comment when the British ambassador offered it. “You guys aren’t broken yet.”

Before Lend-Lease aid could begin, Britain was forced to sell all her commercial assets in the United States and turn over all her gold. FDR sent his own ship to pick up the last $50 million in British gold reserves.

“We are not only to be skinned but flayed to the bone,” Churchill wailed to his colleagues, and he was not far off. Churchill drafted a letter to FDR saying that if America continued along this line, she would “wear the aspect of a sheriff collecting the last assets of a helpless debtor.” It was, said the prime minister, “not fitting that any nation should put itself wholly in the hands of another.” But dependent as Britain was on America, Churchill reconsidered, and rewrote his note in more conciliatory tones.

FDR knew exactly what he was doing. “We have been milking the British financial cow, which had plenty of milk at one time, but which has now about become dry,” Roosevelt confided to one Cabinet member. “Great Britain became a poor, though deserving cousin—not to Roosevelt’s regret. So far as it is possible to read his devious mind, it appears that he expected the British to wear down both Germany and themselves. When all independent powers had ceased to exist, the United States would step in and run the world.” (A.J.P. Taylor)

H/T to Sean Gabb for the link.

June 28, 2017

Handsaw comparison – Japanese pull-cut versus Western push-cut

Filed under: Japan, Technology, Woodworking — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

On Facebook, Paul Sellers posted a couple of photos showing the differences between some traditional western hand saws, which cut on the push stroke, and traditional Japanese hand saws, which cut on the pull stroke:

When you hear people say Japanese saws cut better, cut cleaner, cut faster, cut easier, usually it’s not necessarily true. In reality the Japanese saws cut on a pull stroke and the western saw on a push. When sharpened properly both cut very well. The difference for me is that one is a throwaway, the other a keeper for a lifetime. I own saws made in England and the USA that are totally functional and range in age from between the early 1800s 1860s and some up to date that I use daily. You can make any saw any thickness you like and it will work well.
Just saying.

The main difference nowadays is you throw away the Japanese saws because you can’t sharpen them whereas a decent western saw can be sharpened, well, for 200 years when you learn how. Most people can master saw sharpening with an hour of practice.


June 25, 2017

Fort Drum – America’s concrete battleship

Filed under: Asia, History, Japan, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Sep 2016

After the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain, the U.S. Board of Fortifications recommended that important harbors be fortified. This led to the development of defenses on several islands at the mouth of Manila and Subic Bays. One of these was El Fraile Island which would later become Fort Drum, America’s concrete battleship.

Read more about America’s concrete battleship, Fort Drum, here: http://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/americas-concrete-battleship-defended-manila-bay-until-the-very-end

June 12, 2017

Tank Chats #10 Crossley Chevrolet Armoured Car

Filed under: History, India, Military, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 19 Oct 2015

Armoured cars had proved so successful in India during the First World War, that shortly after its end the Indian Government ordered 16 Rolls-Royce cars. However, these proved so expensive that subsequent orders were placed with Crossley Motors in Manchester who made a tough but cheap 50hp IAG1 chassis. Substantial numbers of these cars were supplied between 1923 and 1925.

The car shown in this film was presented to The Tank Museum by the Government of Pakistan in 1951.

June 4, 2017

The Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942

Filed under: History, Japan, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last month, Victor Davis Hanson recounted the American side of the Battle of Midway, which many historians see as the turning point of the Pacific War:

Battle of Midway deployment map, according to Seeschlachten der Weltgeschichte by William Koenig (German version of Epic Sea Battles) via Wikimedia

Seventy-five years ago (June 4-7, 1942), the astonishing American victory at the Battle of Midway changed the course of the Pacific War.

Just six months after the catastrophic Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. crushed the Imperial Japanese Navy off Midway Island (about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu), sinking four of its aircraft carriers.

“Midway” referred to the small atoll roughly halfway between North America and Asia. But to Americans, “Midway” became a barometer of military progress. Just half a year after being surprised at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy had already destroyed almost half of Japan’s existing carrier strength (after achieving a standoff at the Battle of the Coral Sea a month earlier).

The odds at the June 1942 battle favored the Japanese. The imperial fleet had four carriers to the Americans’ three, backed up by scores of battleships, cruisers and light carriers as part of the largest armada that had ever steamed from Japan.

No military had ever won more territory in six months than had Japan. Its Pacific Empire ranged from the Indian Ocean to the coast of the Aleutian Islands, and from the Russian-Manchurian border to Wake Island in the Pacific.

Yet the Japanese Navy was roundly defeated by an outnumbered and inexperienced American fleet at Midway. Why and how?

Intro to the Solow Model of Economic Growth

Filed under: China, Economics, Germany, Japan — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 28 Mar 2016

Here’s a quick growth conundrum, to get you thinking.

Consider two countries at the close of World War II — Germany and Japan. At that point, they’ve both suffered heavy population losses. Both countries have had their infrastructure devastated. So logically, the losing countries should’ve been in a post-war economic quagmire.

So why wasn’t that the case at all?

Following WWII, Germany and Japan were growing twice, sometimes three times, the rate of the winning countries, such as the United States.

Similarly, think of this quandary: in past videos, we explained to you that one of the keys to economic growth is a country’s institutions. With that in mind, think of China’s growth rate. China’s been growing at a breakneck pace — reported at 7 to 10% per year.

On the other hand, countries like the United States, Canada, and France have been growing at about 2% per year. Aside from their advantages in physical and human capital, there’s no question that the institutions in these countries are better than those in China.

So, just as we said about Germany and Japan — why the growth?

To answer that, we turn to today’s video on the Solow model of economic growth.

The Solow model was named after Robert Solow, the 1987 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Among other things, the Solow model helps us understand the nuances and dynamics of growth. The model also lets us distinguish between two types of growth: catching up growth and cutting edge growth. As you’ll soon see, a country can grow much faster when it’s catching up, as opposed to when it’s already growing at the cutting edge.

That said, this video will allow you to see a simplified version of the model. It’ll describe growth as a function of a few specific variables: labor, education, physical capital, and ideas.

So watch this new installment, get your feet wet with the Solow model, and next time, we’ll drill down into one of its variables: physical capital.

Helpful links:
Puzzle of Growth: http://bit.ly/1T5yq18
Importance of Institutions: http://bit.ly/25kbzne
Rise and Fall of the Chinese Economy: http://bit.ly/1SfRpDL

May 30, 2017

The Disgusting Contents of Worcestershire Sauce (and Why It s Called That)

Filed under: Britain, Business, History, India — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Mar 2017

In this video:

Worcestershire sauce, sometimes known as “Worcester sauce” is a savoury sauce that is often added to meat and fish dishes or, if you like your alcoholic beverages, the Bloody Mary cocktail. It may (or may not depending on how much you research your sauce choices) surprise you to learn that it’s literally made from fermented fish and spices.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/10/worcestershire-sauce-called/

May 26, 2017

Puzzle of Growth: Rich Countries and Poor Countries

Filed under: China, Economics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 16 Feb 2016

Throughout this section of the course, we’ve been trying to solve a complicated economic puzzle — why are some countries rich and others poor?

There are various factors at play, interacting in a dynamic, and changing environment. And the final answer to the puzzle differs depending on the perspective you’re looking from. In this video, you’ll examine different pieces of the wealth puzzle, and learn about how they fit.

The first piece of the puzzle, is about productivity.

You’ll learn how physical capital, human capital, technological knowledge, and entrepreneurs all fit together to spur higher productivity in a population. From this perspective, you’ll see economic growth as a function of a country’s factors of production. You’ll also learn what investments can be made to improve and increase these production factors.

Still, even that is too simplistic to explain everything.

So we’ll also introduce you to another piece of the puzzle: incentives.

In previous videos, you learned about the incentives presented by different economic, cultural, and political models. In this video, we’ll stay on that track, showing how different incentives produce different results.

As an example, you’ll learn why something as simple as agriculture isn’t nearly so simple at all. We’ll put you in the shoes of a hypothetical farmer, for a bit. In those shoes, you’ll see how incentives can mean the difference between getting to keep a whole bag of potatoes from your farm, or just a hundredth of a bag from a collective farm.

(Trust us, the potatoes explain a lot.)

Potatoes aside, you’re also going to see how different incentives shaped China’s economic landscape during the “Great Leap Forward” of the 1950s and 60s. With incentives as a lens, you’ll see why China’s supposed leap forward ended in starvation for tens of millions.

Hold on — incentives still aren’t the end of it. After all, incentives have to come from somewhere.

That “somewhere” is institutions.

As we showed you before, institutions dictate incentives. Things like property rights, cultural norms, honest governments, dependable laws, and political stability, all create incentives of different kinds. Remember our hypothetical farmer? Through that farmer, you’ll learn how different institutions affect all of us. You’ll see how institutions help dictate how hard a person works, and how likely he or she is to invest in the economy, beyond that work.

Then, once you understand the full effect of institutions, you’ll go beyond that, to the final piece of the wealth puzzle. And it’s the most mysterious piece, too.

Why?

Because the final piece of the puzzle is the amorphous combination of a country’s history, ideas, culture, geography, and even a little luck. These things aren’t as direct as the previous pieces, but they matter all the same.

You’ll see why the US constitution is the way it is, and you’ll learn about people like Adam Smith and John Locke, whose ideas helped inform it.

And if all this talk of pieces makes you think that the wealth puzzle is a complex one, you’d be right.

Because the truth is, the question of “what creates wealth?” really is complex. Even the puzzle pieces you’ll learn about don’t constitute every variable at play. And as we mentioned earlier, not only are the factors complex, but they’re also constantly changing as they bump against each other.

Luckily, while the quest to finish the wealth puzzle isn’t over, at least we have some of the pieces in hand.

So take the time to dive in and listen to this video and let us know if you have questions along the way. After that, we’ll soon head into a new section of the course: we’ll tackle the factors of production so we can further explore what leads to economic growth.

May 23, 2017

The Ally From The Far East – Japan in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Asia, China, History, Japan, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 22 May 2017

Japan’s participation in World War 1 is an often overlooked part of their history – even in Japan itself. Their service as one of the members of the Entente marked the climax of a development that started with the Meiji Restoration, a way out of isolation and into the global alliance system. This brought Japan more power and was also very lucrative. And after fighting in the Pacific Theatre of World War 1, the Siege of Tsingtao and contributing the Japanese Navy to the war effort, Japan had a seat at the table of the Versailles peace negotiations.

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