Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Society’

I’m a history nut. To me, history is interesting, informative, compelling, and fun. It’s a gas to come across fascinating nuggets from the past that either add to my understanding of events or introduce me to something new.

Recently, I read that the shortest war in recorded history is the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896. Which, of course, I had never heard of.

I was intrigued and promptly Googled it. What I learned was wonderfully entertaining — and a reminder of why I am a history nut in the first place.

###

In the late 1800s, the nations of Europe finalized their conquest and colonization of the African continent. By 1900, most of Africa was under the colonial rule of either Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, or Italy. Only Ethiopia and Liberia remained independent.

It happened because the European countries wanted Africa’s raw materials and were capable militarily of taking them. It also helped that the nations of Europe were highly competitive, and acquiring new territories was a feather in the cap — an opportunity to one-up the other countries.

Further, the new colonies in Africa gave the Europeans a way to address some of the nagging social problems created by the Industrial Revolution: displacement from rural areas, overcrowding in the cities, poverty, homelessness, unemployment. These issues could be alleviated to some degree by sending problematic people to the African colonies as settlers.

The manner in which the Europeans administered the colonies varied. The British preferred indirect rule, whereby they installed locals who would do as the Brits instructed. The French, Germans, and Belgians preferred direct rule, assigning their own countrymen, either military or civilian, as colonial administrators.

The Africans themselves remained in various stages of revolt, of course, which required a sizable European military presence. Meanwhile, the Europeans also clashed among themselves in every way short of armed conflict. They formed temporary alliances, imposed tariffs on each other, and jockeyed to gain control over waterways and trade routes.

Eventually, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck convened a conference in Berlin that laid down a series of rules and guidelines and brought a degree of order to the continent. Among the colonial powers, that is, not the natives.

Against that backdrop, the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 erupted.

###

For centuries, the island of Zanzibar off the east coast of Africa was a center of the Arab slave trade, enriching a long line of sultans.

But times change, and by the 1870s, the British were able to persuade the Sultan of Zanzibar to end the slave trade for economic reasons; they convinced him that legitimate trade in rubber and ivory was more lucrative.

In 1890, Britain and Germany signed an agreement that gave Germany control of the mainland nation of Tanzania and made the island of Zanzibar a British protectorate. The British soon installed a pro-British Arab, Hamad bin Thuwaini, as Sultan of Zanzibar. Hamad ruled for three years, more or less uneventfully.

Then, on August 25, 1896, Hamad died suddenly in the royal palace in Zanzibar City. The cause was never determined officially, but most believed he was poisoned by his cousin, Khalid bin Barghash.

Lending credence to that belief: within hours of Hamad’s death, Khalid moved into the palace and declared himself Sultan. Khalid, FYI, was pro-German.

The British Consul, Sir Basil Cave, immediately ordered Khalid to vacate the palace. Khalid refused and quickly assembled a defense force of about 3,000 Zanzibaris. They consisted of the palace guard, a few hundred servants and slaves, and a large number of civilians conscripted from Zanzibar City.

The defenders were equipped with assorted small arms, several machine guns, and a few artillery pieces. They were not remotely a match for the British military forces in the region.

By the evening of August 25, three British warships had arrived in the harbor. Hundreds of troops had gone ashore to protect the British Consulate and keep the civilian population in check. The guns of the warships were trained on the royal palace.

Sir Basil asked London by telegram, “Are we authorised in the event of all attempts at a peaceful solution proving useless, to fire on the Palace from the men-of-war?

The reply: “You are authorised to adopt whatever measures you may consider necessary, and will be supported in your action by Her Majesty’s Government. Do not, however, attempt to take any action which you are not certain of being able to accomplish successfully.”

On the morning of August 26, Sir Basil issued a final ultimatum: if Khalid was not out of the palace by August 27 at 9:00 AM, the British ships would commence firing.

Khalid’s response: “We have no intention of hauling down our flag and we do not believe you would open fire on us.

Sir Basil replied that he had no desire to fire upon the palace, “but unless you do as you are told, we shall certainly do so.” That was the last communication between them.

The next morning, the 9:00 AM deadline passed, and the British warships began bombarding the palace with high-explosive shells.

The royal palace stood at the harbor’s edge and consisted of three main buildings: the palace itself, the harem (the part of a Muslim home where females reside), and the “House of Wonders,” a lavish reception hall. The buildings were constructed largely of wood.

Within minutes, Khalid’s machine guns and artillery were eliminated. The damage to the palace by the exploding shells was devastating. Fire quickly spread, and the buildings began to collapse.

Also within minutes, Khalid and a small entourage fled the palace via a rear entrance, leaving the rest of the defenders behind.

When the shelling ended at 9:40 AM, about 500 defenders were dead or wounded. The war had lasted between 38 and 45 minutes, depending on who did the timing.

Britain promptly installed Ali Hamud, another pro-British Zanzibari, as sultan.

As for Khalid, he fled to the German Consulate and was given sanctuary. The British demanded his extradition, but the Germans refused and eventually smuggled him out of Zanzibar and into Tanzania.

Khalid lived under German protection in Tanzania until 1916, when the Brits managed to capture him. He served a term in exile on St. Helena, then was allowed to return to Tanzania. He died there in 1927.

Khalid was the Sultan of Zanzibar for a whopping two days.

Hamad

Hamad bin Thuwaini

Deutsch-Ostafrika, Sultan

Khalid bin Barghash

Cave B

Sir Basil Cave

Palace

The Royal Palace before the war.

Harem

The ruins of the harem building after the bombardment.

###

“Recorded history” is our way of documenting what we consider the important stuff. But the record we keep is only a tiny fraction of literal history.

In the 50,000 years humans have existed, roughly 108 billion of us have been born. That’s 108 billion lifetimes worth of constant interactions within countless societies. In a real sense, 99 percent of history passes quietly, undocumented, known only to the participants.

Hamad, Khalid, and Sir Basil became historical figures. But we know nothing about the lives of the British sailors and soldiers who were ordered to Zanzibar City in August 1896. Nor of the lives of the 3,000 hapless souls who huddled inside the royal palace as British shells rained down.

 

Read Full Post »

Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.

— Benjamin Franklin Wade

###

Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favors you have received.

— Seneca the Younger

###

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too big a burden to bear.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

###

Wisdom is the reward for surviving your own stupidity.

— Brian Rathbone

Wade BF

Wade

Rathbone B

Rathbone

 

Read Full Post »

Let's eat

Quit

Baby

Clown

 

Read Full Post »

Last month, all nine Republican on the House Intelligence Committee signed a letter calling on Democrat Adam Schiff, the new chairman, to resign. They said Schiff made false claims that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, so he ought to quit.

Never mind that we don’t yet know what Mueller uncovered about Trump and the Russians. The letter is just another example of the innate behavior of present-day Republicans. It’s distasteful, inappropriate and low-minded. It scrambles the facts in the classic manner of GOP nastiness. See for yourself.

Intel-1

Intel-2

Schiff’s response to the Republicans, apparently spontaneous, is a thing of beauty. Here is the transcript.

———

My colleagues might think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what’s described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s okay.

My colleagues might think it’s okay that, when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead, that son said he would ‘love’ the help with the Russians.

You might think it was okay that he took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public. You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that, when it was discovered a year later that they had lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the president is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data, to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think it’s okay if that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, if they were listening. You might think it’s okay that, later that day, the Russians in fact attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think that it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back-channel of communication with Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think it’s okay that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU (ed. note: Russian Intelligence) through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.

You might think it’s okay that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI.

You might say that’s all okay. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.

Now, I have always said that whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime was up to the special counsel, and that I would accept his decision, and I do. He is a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor.

But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is okay. And the day we do think that’s okay is the day we will look back and say, that is the day America lost its way.

And I’ll tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today. I don’t think it’s okay that during a presidential campaign, Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune. According to the special counsel, hundreds of millions of dollars.

I don’t think it’s okay that he concealed it from the public. I don’t think it’s okay he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians, even as he was seeking the Russian’s help, the Kremlin’s help, to make money.

I don’t think it’s okay that his attorney lied to our committee. There is a different word for that than collusion and it’s called compromise. And that’s the subject of our hearing today.

Mic drop

———

Schiff seems to be a decent and honorable guy. Unless he has me completely fooled, and I don’t think he does, he has integrity and compassion, wants to play fair, wants to do the right thing.

There was a time when you could say the same about some Republicans.

 

Read Full Post »

The Mueller Report is all over the news these days, mostly in the form of speculation and spin, seeing as how Trump’s Justice Department has managed to keep it secret so far.

The Full Mueller will surface eventually, and the facts will be known. But really, the verdict on Trump came in years ago.

Donald Trump is an all-around awful human being. If you opened his head, crawly things would spill out and skitter away to find the nearest dark place.

He is crude, obnoxious, and vindictive. He is a bully, a blowhard, and a crook. He tells lies for sport. He has no qualifications for the job and no plans to acquire them. His business ties with Russian gangsters go back decades.

I could accept an offensive jerk as president, but not a no-talent gasbag who is in bed with the Russians. He is unfit for office for a thousand reasons and should have been ejected long ago.

Depressingly, plenty of people think otherwise. They seem to believe that our government and political institutions are so screwed up, so rigged to benefit either (a) the rich and powerful or (b) deadbeats and welfare queens, that we need someone like Trump to tear down the system so we can start fresh — in some ill-defined way that came to them in a fever dream.

Well, it’s true that the system is screwed-up and rigged. But if you think Trump is the solution, you’re addled.

The way to get rid of the parasites and, dare I say it, make America great again, is to start using our institutions as they were intended to be used. To play fair. Work together. Use our shared resources to help each other.

Things got off the rails because, over time, the rich and well-connected, including big corporations, have learned to game the system to their own advantage and the detriment of everyone else.

For example, Amazon.com, Inc. made profits of $11 billion in 2018. The company not only paid zero federal income tax, but also qualified for a tax rebate of $129 million. That’s gaming the system like a boss.

It’s undeniable that America has become more and more under the control of modern-day robber barons. Their ascendance in the U.S. has been more subtle than the rise of the Russian oligarchs after the USSR imploded, but the similarities are very real.

Meanwhile, the Republicans connive and cheat to hold down Democratic voter turnout through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

And Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine keep the conservative herd in a lather by invoking inner demons and insecurities, including fear of black and brown people.

And the GOP base keeps voting for Republicans, who make saps out of the faithful by helping the rich get richer and the powerful become more entrenched.

There are plenty of Democrats in office who ought to be shown the door, but, in general, the Left gets it right. The Left hasn’t lost its mind, integrity, and sense of decency. Consider the formal Democratic Party priorities for 2019.

HR 1, the first bill passed by the new House, would institute campaign finance reform, add new restrictions on lobbying, and expand voting rights.

Democrats want to restore provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court shredded in 2013. Democrats want the federal government to build rural broadband systems.

They want to shore up the Affordable Care Act, lower prescription drug prices, pass some overdue restrictions on guns, and act decisively on climate change.

By the way, the Green New Deal, which the conservatives are straining so hard to vilify and belittle, is merely a label for taking climate change seriously. It isn’t a war on cows.

Whatever we do to go green will be insufficient, but if we can snap out of it in the 11th hour and decarbonize the economy to some degree, it might help the planet remain livable a bit longer.

The ideas on the list of Democratic priorities aren’t radical. They’re just common-sense efforts to face reality.

Contrast that to Trump and the Republicans, who say climate change is a hoax, who warn that malevolent forces are poised to storm the southern border, and who rarely favor anything that isn’t cruel, selfish, deceitful, or underhanded.

But that, I’m afraid, is innate right-wing behavior.

More on that subject in my next post.

Mueller et al

Don, Rod, Bob, and Smiling Bill.

 

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper gave rise to two well-known superstitions. One is never seating 13 people at the dinner table. What is the other?

2. Bank of America was founded in 1904. Under what name was it established?

3. What British-born movie producer/director/actor/puppeteer is the voice of Miss Piggy and other Muppet characters, plus the voice of Cookie Monster and other Sesame Street characters, plus the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars films?

4. In 2001, pro football inducted a non-player, George Toma, into the Hall of Fame. Who is Toma?

5. What and where is Null Island?

The Answers…

1. In the painting, Judas is knocking over a container of salt with his arm, which led to the superstition that spilling salt is a bad omen.

2. BofA began as the Bank of Italy in San Francisco’s Little Italy neighborhood. The founder was the son of Italian immigrants who said other banks were freezing out Italians. In 1922, it was renamed the Bank of America and Italy. The Italy part was dropped in 1930.

3. Frank Oz, real name Frank Oznowicz. His parents were Dutch puppeteers who fought the Nazis during WWII before fleeing to England. They came to America when Frank was five.

4. George Toma was the longtime head groundskeeper of the NFL as well as numerous MLB stadiums. He prepared the field for every Super Bowl from the first one in 1967 until he retired in 1999. Now age 90, he is still active as a consultant.

5. Null Island is the fanciful name of the spot on Earth where the Equator (latitude 0°) intersects the Prime Meridian (longitude 0°) off the east coast of Africa. Nothing is there except a NOAA weather buoy.

Last Supper

Null Island

 

Read Full Post »

More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

———

Now We Are Six

By A. A. Milne

Milne AA

Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956)

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

———

Ebb

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

———

I Am the Song

By Charles Causley

Causley C

Charles Stanley Causley (1917-2003)

I am the song that sings the bird.
I am the leaf that grows the land.
I am the tide that moves the moon.
I am the stream that halts the sand.
I am the cloud that drives the storm.
I am the earth that lights the sun.
I am the fire that strikes the stone.
I am the clay that shapes the hand.
I am the word that speaks the man.

———

The Rainbow

By Christina Rossetti

Rossetti C

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Boats sail on the rivers,
And ships sail on the seas;
But clouds that sail across the sky
Are prettier than these.
There are bridges on the rivers,
As pretty as you please;
But the bow that bridges heaven,
And overtops the trees,
And builds a road from earth to sky,
Is prettier far than these.

———

Hug O’ War

By Shel Silverstein

Silverstein S

Sheldon Allan Silverstein (1930-1999)

I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »