history

matters at sea

Atlantis… not yours:

‘In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process.

‘Bathymetric (sea-floor) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea-floor.

‘The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.’

Sea Shepherd boarded by Australian police, video footage seized:

After violent clashes with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, the Steve Irwin was met by Australian Federal Police when it docked in Hobart about 5.30pm.

The police, who had search warrants, kept the crew on board as they searched cabins.

Steve Irwin captain Paul Watson said he was not told whether the police action stemmed from a complaint by the Australian Government or from the Japanese.

Nothing to do with anything, but of interest to the naval nerds:

And of course, pirates. The first one has video of pirates shooting at a ship.

Mohammed Mahmud Handule said at a RIA Novosti news conference that the Somali government had already worked out the legal and technical issues involved in opening the corridor.

“The new [Somali] government will rigorously work on this [problem of piracy],” he said. “We want to create a corridor where from Point A all ships will be put in groups of 5-7, and then our friends, including Russia, will escort them to Point B. Vessels not travelling through that corridor will be considered pirates or poachers.”

the dual presidency

One of the curious features of our aging constitution is the long transition between the old president and the new. A new congress waits until January 3 to take office, already a delay of seven weeks. A new president waits seventeen more days, for a total lag time of two and a half months.

In the last two and a half months, Obama has had a tricky balancing act to push ahead his economic plan without exceeding his authority or seeming presumptuous. On foreign affairs he has remained quieter. Everyone knows policy changes are coming on all our wars and conflicts, but is still stuck dealing with the status quo. Obama’s silence on Gaza was more embarrassing, seen by many as tacit support for Israel. Not that we should expect any great changes on that policy front, but his silence may be seen as a lost opportunity.

Meanwhile, Bush has been keeping a low profile. At a time of gathering crisis, there is no clear sense of anyone being in charge.

Presidents used to wait even longer to take office- March 4th, almost four months. This date wasn’t set in the Constitution, nor was the date of the election. The Continental Congress established these dates, operating under the Articles of Confederacy, when preparing to implement the Constitution. Four months seemed quite reasonable when people traveled by horse, canal or sailing ship, and winter travel was very much at the mercy of the elements. News traveled no faster than the fastest ship or horse, and the federal government was not expected to be very energetic.

By 1861, roads and rails and telegraph had sped things up considerably. Lincoln had to rely on state governors in the North raising their own militias throughout the secession crisis, while lame duck President Buchanan took no action to build the federal army. This wasn’t enough to cause any changes, however- it was trivial compared to the larger matters at stake.

Finally, in 1933, when the world had shrunk even further, the transition from Hoover to FDR was the catalyst. FDR had been elected with a huge program to ease the economic crisis, but had to sit on his hands for another four months while Hoover did nothing. The Twentieth Amendment was passed before FDR even took office, moving the inauguration to January 20th, and January 3rd for the new Congress. It didn’t take effect right away, so FDR’s second term was the first one to begin on the new date.

It had to be a constitutional amendment because it shortened the terms of current officeholders. Congress by itself had the power to change the date, but not to shorten any term of office established by the Constitution. So changing the date again has a pretty high hurdle to pass.

Congress does have the power to change the date of elections, of course, to be closer to January 20. But aside from the logistics of pushing elections further into the winter, it’s been the first Tuesday after the first Monday  in November since the Continental Congress, and people cling to traditions like that.

Our constitution is old, and this is one of the smaller problems we have with its aging. I don’t suggest we rewrite it, because I’m afraid we’d lose much more than we’d gain. But it makes any crisis that much more dangerous when our political map doesn’t match up with the territory. It’s one of the indicators that the old regime could be ready to give way. Institutional failure combined with financial disaster is a handy warning sign of collapse.

Oh well. If it all comes apart, maybe we can build something nice on the ruins.

news

Good science, bad history:

Based on chemical signatures in a piece of calcite from a cave near Jerusalem, a team of American and Israeli geologists pieced together a detailed record of the area’s climate from roughly 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D. Their analysis, to be reported in an upcoming issue of the journal Quaternary Research, reveals increasingly dry weather from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D. that coincided with the fall of both Roman and Byzantine rule in the region.

There are lots of people looking at the role of climate in history these days, and it’s generally a good idea. But this one misses the mark. You could just as easily say that the period of dry climate coincided with the rise of Byzantium as the fall. A much more interesting climatic event that relates to the collapse of Rome in the east is the year without summer, around 535.

Now your daily pirate update:

And this one that ties piracy together into the broader crisis over the international order:

The question is: What if anything can outside powers do to bring the rule of law to these troubled lands? In the 19th century, the answer was simple: European imperialists would plant their flag and impose their laws at gunpoint.

Like plenty of neocons, you don’t have to agree with Max Boot’s conclusions to agree that he’s asking some pretty interesting questions. The current international system doesn’t provide a lot of options that were available to the Concert of Europe, and Boot’s examples of Bosnia and Kosovo are hardly reassuring symbols of stability.

I don’t know why I follow this story so closely. It’s kind of morbid:

And this:

Blue Origin is developing New Shepard, a rocket-propelled vehicle that takes off and lands vertically and is designed to routinely fly multiple astronauts into suborbital space at competitive prices.

Flight tests of the suborbital craft have been staged at a private launch site in Texas.

Blue Origin is now noting that, in addition to providing the public with opportunities to experience spaceflight, New Shepard will also provide frequent opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment.

news stories- the usual wars, plus feet

It’s the alleged anniversary of the alleged Gulf of Tonkin incident. You should know about this if you don’t. Even the wikipedia has a little trouble with it.

Little foot, big foot:
Mystery foot sent to Seattle for testing
Is legendary Bigfoot in Kenora? — SEE FOOTPRINT

This is why you oppose wars, even when they seem well-intentioned:
In Korea’s `crying’ cave, 100s died in US attack
The remarkable thing here is that anyone is shocked or surprised. It’s what happens during war, and especially high tech war conducted from the air. More people should think about this before the fact, not 50 years after.

Bush warns Pakistan of ‘serious action’
And again, hard to see why anyone’s surprised:
Ragtag Taliban Show Tenacity in Afghanistan

Canada must prepare for new Arctic age
Norway completes seismic scan in pristine Arctic

Kosovo lives: A mixed village
UN and Kosovo at Odds on Parallel Structures

Georgian region close to ‘large-scale’ conflict, says Russia

headlines- the future is here, and some mayhem on the high seas

Some big birthdays today: NASA, ENIAC and the announcements of both Eris and Makemake. The future is upon us.

Berry-pickers report sasquatch sighting in northern Ontario

Blog of a Vegan Pirate, Post 10: Aftermath
Last in a series documenting this (southern) summer’s Sea Shepherd campaign against Antarctic whaling. I can’t say I’ve been reading too closely since I followed this all when it was news, but if you missed it, this seems like a good recap. Next summer’s campaign is technically underway, although they won’t be sailing until November or so.

South Africa vulnerable to modern-day piracy

Littoral Combat Ship Sets Sail

Intensive Shooting Observed in Georgian and Ossetia Conflict Zone
Tbilisi calls ‘misinformation’ reported attack on military observers
S.Ossetia accuses Georgia of disrupting reconstruction program

Serbia: Govt. plans strategy for return of K. Serbs
“UNMIK reconfiguration to start soon”
UN powerless in Kosovo: official

news stories and a little roman history lesson

Today in history: In 285, Diocletian appointed Maximian his co-ruler with the title of Caesar, taking the first step towards establishing the Tetrarchy and ultimately dividing the empire. This is important. Really. I can see that you care.

In 306, Constantine was acclaimed Emperor by his troops in Britain. He would establish Constantinople and become the first Christian emperor, profoundly altering the flow of Western history. Of course, the Great Man school of history is old school and reactionary, but whatever. It’s the symbolism, people.

Anyway, these days, it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople:

Today is also the Furinalia, a Roman festival honoring the goddess of robbers. Word, son. No furries were harmed in the making of this festival.

In honor of the Furinalia, we’ll kick off today’s news headlines with some crime stories:
Smugglers try to use Dolly for cover, officials say
Voodoo Doll Prompts Extra Security For Commissioners
And thanks to Pope Guilty for this one:
Police: Man Stole Miami-Dade Buses, Drove Them On Routes

According to Miami-Dade police, Harris would take the buses from several Miami-Dade Transit bus depots in the county and drive the buses on their routes, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. He would then return the buses at the end of the day.

Danny Glover’s slavery film lacked “white heroes”, producers said
If you’ve never heard of Toussaint Louverture, then get thee to Wikipedia. I would totally send Danny Glover twenty bucks if it helped him make this movie.

Secret memo shows harsh CIA tactics approved
Hmm, I wonder if there’s a simple word that could be used in place of “harsh interrogations”?

Georgia:
INTERVIEW-U.S. in drive for Georgia-Abkhazia peace talks
Russian railway troops to quit Abkhazia in August
Peacekeepers Claim Georgian Drone Overflight in S.Ossetia

And finally, space:
Buzz Aldrin calls for reevaluation of NASA moon project
At least one of the parachutes works. That’s important, right?
Parachute Test For Ares Successful
And NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a new blog:
JPL Blog

Oh, wait. Here’s your token pirate story for today:
Piracy gets a crackdown from Estonia
Can’t skip the pirates on Furinalia.

OK, it’s the weekend. Likelihood of posts before Monday is inversely proportional to how much mayhem I get into.

the news- post x-day edition

This is the story:
Washington’s Boyhood Home Is Found
But this is the picture and the caption:
The bowl of an 18th-century pipe, darkened from heavy use, was a key discovery at the site of the boyhood home of George Washington. The pipe, found in one of the cellars of the house, bears a Masonic crest.

The bowl of an 18th-century pipe, darkened from heavy use, was a key discovery at the site of the boyhood home of George Washington. The pipe, found in one of the cellars of the house, bears a Masonic crest.

More on Georgia:
South Ossetia comes again under Georgian fire: separatists
And because you don’t see much video footage:
Tense standoff in South Ossetia

Macedonia PM forms coalition with Albanian party
I wonder if this means a crackdown on the Albanian party that got left out.
Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo Photos
NASA Debuts Web Site for First Ares Test Flight

Two days in a row without pirates. Sorry.

news- sea shepherds and hapless dimwitted characters

Today in History: In 251, a Goth-led coalition of barbarians defeated the Romans and killed two emperors at once. And in 1520, Aztecs nearly wiped out Cortes’s men as they tried to escape from Tenochtitlan

I had a story the other day about the Sea Shepherd Society declaring the start of their next Antarctic whaling campaign. Here’s a blog from one of the crew:
Blog of a Vegan Pirate, Post 1: Operation Migaloo

Judges cite nonsense poem in Guantanamo case

A federal appeals court reviewing evidence at Guantanamo Bay compared a Bush administration legal argument to one made by a hapless, dimwitted character in a 19th century nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.

BBC News says it this way:
France plans revolution in space
Financial Times says it like this:
Paris calls for military angle to space strategy

FBI to descend on Denver for Dem event

“We don’t have any information right now about any credible threat to the convention on a terrorist level.”

Notes from the decline:
Midwest floods spotlight decrepit infrastructure
Weather Risks Cloud Promise of Biofuel

And finally, duh…
Study finds long benefit in illegal mushroom drug

She felt like she was taking off. She saw colors. Then it felt like her heart was ripping open.

But she called the experience joyful as well as painful, and says that it has helped her to this day.

“I feel more centered in who I am and what I’m doing,” said Osborn, now 66, of Providence, R.I. “I don’t seem to have those self-doubts like I used to have. I feel much more grounded (and feel that) we are all connected.”