Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Picture Credit - Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat Photo Gallery

Times Square - New Year's Eve 1938.

Picture credit and information about the history of New Year's Day.

Shrimp Mango Razzmataz Salad!

"Like I was saying, shrimp is the fruit of the sea....You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it....There's shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried, pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger and a shrimp sandwich."---Bubba in Forrest Gump
Picture Credit to Shrimp News International

Snapple's Party-Size Shrimp Mango Razzmataz Salad


Shrimp—two large bags/4 pounds large peeled boiled shrimp
Mango—4-5 peeled and cut up
Jicama---one very large, peeled and cut up (looks like a round potato)
Red onion—about half minced; don’t overdo this
Dried Cranberries—1/2-1 cup (orange flavored ones are good)
Fresh red peppers—two large cut up
Several stalks of chopped celery

Limejuice—fresh, about 3-4 large limes
Pineapple—one fresh cut up
Large box of tiny “grape shaped” tomatoes
2 large cans mandarin oranges, drained
Fresh cilantro minced—to taste; use enough, but don’t overdo it
McCormick Brand Seasoned Pepper Blend


Squirt on lime juice from fresh limes to taste. Perhaps about 4 limes

Mix a dressing of 1/3 parts Heinz Premium Chili sauce and 2/3 parts Caroline’s Sweet Razzmataz Dressing (raspberry and lime dressing). Don’t overdo the dressing because you already have strong flavors. Only put dressing and shrimp on individual salads as they are served so the salad won’t be spoiled if you don’t eat it all in one meal.

Other possibilities:

Barbeque shrimp
Garnish of raspberries on top

Internet Cooking Sites

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Great Dictator of Fairy Tales Taken to the Gallows!

The book cover of Zabeebah and the King, a historical romance written by Saddam Hussein, was plagiarized from a painting by a Canadian artist.

Picture credit and information about Saddam's ghostwritten historical epic, Be Gone Demons! This is a superb article by the Telegraph.

Picture credit and information about Saddam's last novel, Devil's Dance.

Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq, was executed after a long public trial. According to FOX News, Saddam reportedly told his executioners, "Iraq is nothing without me." Here is a good CNN report about his crimes and his execution.

In my opinion, the televised testimony of women who had been abused, tortured, and humiliated in Saddam's prisons for no reason was the most moving aspect of the trial.

Hussein was executed for his complicity in the 1982 Dujail massacre. The "crimes against humanity" occurred after some people attempted to assassinate Saddam.

Saddam wrote a number of historical novels. His first novel was reportedly Zabeebah and the King (See also "Zabeiba" and "Zabibah"). According to the Telegraph, Saddam may have killed one of his ghostwriters:

[D]istinguished writers were asked to improve Saddam's yarns. Mujiba al-Anizi, whose husband, Sami, contributed to his first novel, Zabibah and the King, recalled how he was summoned from his job one morning and told he had three days to produce a book from the president's notes.

"Sami normally came home and kissed his children goodnight," recalled Mrs al-Azizi. "But that evening he just stood in the hallway sweating. He said 'our uncle' had given him a special task."

Two months later, just as 250,000 copies of Zabibah and the King were being anonymously distributed, Mr al-Anizi came home, walked into the kitchen, drank a jug of water and fell down dead. His widow believes he was killed on the president's orders to hush up his role in the book.

Zabeebah and the King was followed by The Impregnable Fortress, and Get Out, Damned One! (Be Gone Demons!).

A Canadian artist, Jonathon Earl Bowser, claims that the cover of Zabeebah and the King was plagiarized from a painting called The Awakening that he did in 1998. The cover of Zabeebah and the King and Bowser's painting The Awakening do look exactly the same. Here is Bowser's website.

The best article I have ever read about Saddam's psychology was published in the Telegraph and is titled "Saddam: The Great Dictator of Fairy Tales."

The article describes Saddam's historical epic Be Gone Demons! A Baghdad shopkeeper told the Telegraph reporter: "Everyone bought [Saddam's book] just to see what was on the president's mind. Most people concluded he was mad."

I think a lot of Iraqis are saying "Be gone demons!" about Saddam and his Baathist regime.

Maoist MIM on United Front Tactics

The Maoist organization known as MIM often defends the pseudo-Indian Plagiarist of Ethnic Studies Ward Churchill. Sometimes, it even seems that Churchill might be writing for the MIM, but it is hard to be positive.

Churchill claims that he is an advocate for Indians, but really the Maoists who support Churchill are only interested in using the Indians as human shields to advance their utopian communist cause.

Here is a very telling MIM quote about united front tactics. MIM advocates using the Indians to advance the anti-imperialist (anti-American) agenda. That's always been the communist nationalities policy--but here MIM admits it:

"MIM would only see importance in ...a struggle to resuscitate [First Nations] culture if it opposed imperialism........A national struggle that advances the fight against imperialism is positive. Preserving culture for its own sake is not part of the Marxist agenda. Whatever resources the tribes can wrest away from imperialism they should take." ["Resolutions on Cross-Cultural Breeding" 2004]

Churchill's cheerleaders at the Maoist MIM also says that Maoists should make a united front with religious forces (ie Islamists) who oppose "imperialism" (ie the USA) since the USA is a more serious opponent than the Islamists:

"Currently, the principal contradiction that we face in trying to move towards a better world is that between imperialism and the oppressed. In that respect we can ally with anti-imperialist forces that hold religious beliefs, even if those beliefs serve to prop up other power structures such as the patriarchy. We can ally against imperialism..." ["Boricuan Jihadists Drop Anti-Imperialist Album" 2005].

It sure does seem that Churchill is toeing the MIM party line on these two points.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Make Way for Ducklings!

Picture Credit
Picture Credit

Picture Credit

Since 1941, children all over the world have loved Robert McClosley's famous picture book Make Way for Ducklings.

Since 1978, each spring Boston has celebrated Duckling Day (first picture). Boston tots dress as ducklings and retrace the path taken by Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings from the Charles River to the Boston Public Gardens.

In the second picture, a mom has tied a bonnet on Mrs. Mallard and has taken a picture of her baby feeding this famous mother of eight!

The bronze statues of Mrs Mallard and her brood, seen in the third picture after a Boston snowstorm, were crafted by the artist Nancy Schön in 1987 and are a popular attraction in Boston Public Garden.

In 1991, the artist also made a replica of her Boston bronzes for Moscow's Novodevichy park, but uncultured hooligans sawed them off at the legs and stole them for scrapmetal! Luckily, the statues were restored in 2000. Russian children enjoy petting and sitting on the bronze ducklings.

One suspects that residents of St. Petersburg---home of Peter the Great's famous equestrian statue, The Bronze Horseman, which inspired Pushkin's poem of the same name---may be brooding darkly over the implications of Muscovy's fledgling ascendancy; still the Bronze Horseman seems to be taking the situation in stride.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald R. Ford July 14, 1913 - December 26, 2006

Picture Credit

Former President Gerald R. Ford Died on December 26, 2006. Here is the link to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Here is a good AP article about his life and achievements. Here is the Washington Post account of his life and achievements.

Ford is being remembered for pardoning President Nixon and allowing the nation to heal from Watergate.

For me, President Ford's greatest achievement is that he signed the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. Soviet and East European dissidents were able to use the civil rights provisions of this agreement as a legal basis for mounting a non-violent, dissident movement that challenged the one-party dictatorship in the USSR. These organizations included the Moscow Helsinki Group and Charter 77.

Wikipedia observes:

"The document was seen both as a significant step toward reducing Cold War tensions and as a major diplomatic boost for the Soviet Union at the time, due to its clauses on the inviolability of national borders and respect for territorial integrity, which were seen to consolidate the USSR's territorial gains of the Second World War.

However, the civil rights portion of the agreement provided the basis for the work of the Moscow Helsinki Group, an independent non-governmental organization created to monitor compliance to the Helsinki Accords (which evolved into several regional committees, eventually forming the International Helsinki Federation and Human Rights Watch). While these provisions applied to all signatories, the focus of attention was on their application to the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

NORAD Tracks Santa!

Picture credit and complete transcript of the 1964 Christmas Eve NORAD Tracks Santa. This site is a lot of fun!

NORAD stands for North American Air Defense Command.

"The "NORAD Tracks Santa" tradition goes back to the late 1950s when a young boy accidentally dialed the unlisted number of the Director of Combat Operations at NORAD Headquarters in Colorado Springs. The boy was actually trying to phone a department store Santa Claus whose extension was only one digit removed from the phone at the NORAD center.

The Combat Operations Center Director was quick to realize that a mistake had been made, and carried on a long conversation with the boy assuring him that the forces of NORAD would indeed guarantee Santa a safe trip from the North Pole." [Full text]

Norad has been tracking Santa on Christmas Eve for more than 50 years! Here is the NORAD Tracks Santa 2006 site.

Childermas Day (December 28)

Picture Credit: Giotto's "Slaughter of the Innocents" (c. 1305) Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Childermas Day is observed on December 27, 28, or 29 in various Christian traditions and commemorates the babies killed by King Herod at Bethlehem in an attempt to destroy Jesus. The event is described in Matthew, Chapter 2 verses 16-18 and in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

"According to Matthew, when the Magi (popularly known as the "Three Wise Men") sought out the birth of Jesus, they first visited Herod the Great to ask if he knew the correct location. On hearing the Magi ask for He that is born King of the Jews, Herod, the Roman client-king in Judea, felt his throne was in jeopardy, and so ordered the slaughter of all male children who were two years old and under...Fortunately...according to Matthew, Joseph, Mary and Jesus had fled to Egypt after they had been warned by an angel." []

You can read and listen to the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and how Herod slaughtered the babies in Bethlehem here. Scroll down to Matthew, Chapter 2.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Nativity of Christ

Picture credit and paintings of the Nativity by various artists.

Luke 2:1-20 Here is a text and audio reading. You can start the audio and then return and look at all the paintings of the Nativity. Click on the thumbnails to see the full picture.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus!

Picture Credit and the story about Virginia O'Hanlon, a little girl who wrote a Letter to the Editor of the New York Sun in 1897 asking if there was really a Santa Claus.

Editor Francis Church answered her letter, and his beautiful response was republished every Christmas until the paper went out of business. Telling this story every Christmas has become an American tradition because it helps people restore their shaken faith.

Virginia: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? -- Virginia O'Hanlon

Francis Church: Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Here are some sites that tell about this correspondance:

Is There a Santa Claus? (Illustrated and set to music)

Christmas Poems and Stories (Many favorite stories and poems)

The National Christmas Center (Background about Virginia and Editor Francis Church)

"The Night Before Christmas" (1822) by Clement Moore

Picture credit

Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!

This site has Clement Moore's famous poem, "The Night Before Christmas" and other wonderful links.

This site has Clement Moore's poem, illustrations, and the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Notes from the Underground (1864) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don't consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can't explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot "pay out" the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well--let it get worse!
[Picture credit and full text of Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground]

According to Wikipedia, Notes from the Underground "is considered the world's first existentialist work. It presents itself as an excerpt from the rambling memoirs of a bitter, isolated, unnamed narrator (generally referred to by critics as the Underground Man) who is a retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg."

Some commentary and literary criticism about this novel is listed here:

Full text, author information, commentaries at Online Literature Network
Classicnotes literary criticism and text
More to come.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"The Littlest Angel" (1946) by Charles Tazewell

Picture Credit

"Of all the gifts of all the angels, I find that this small box pleases Me most. Its contents are of the Earth and of men, and My Son is born to be King of both. These are the things My Son, too, will know and love and cherish and then, regretful, will leave behind Him when His task is done. I accept this gift in the Name of the Child, Jesus, born of Mary this night in Bethlehem."

"The Littlest Angel" by Charles Tazewell is a classic children's Christmas story about sharing one's gifts. When Tazewell died on June 26, 1972, "The Littlest Angel" was in its 38th printing.

"The story is simple and inspiring. A little boy, who has become the littlest angel in heaven, is unhappy and homesick. When the Understanding Angel responds to the littlest angel's request for the box of treasures he left at home, the littlest angel is happy. When he decides to give his box of treasures to the Christ Child, it is a great act of love. However, he fears that his gift is not good enough and experiences great sorrow until God tells him, 'I find this small box pleases me most.'" [Children's Books]

Once upon a time...

Oh, many, many years ago as time is calculated by men--but which was only Yesterday in the Celestial Calendar of Heaven--there was, in Paradise, a most miserable, thoroughly unhappy, and utterly dejected cherub who was known throughout Heaven as The Littlest Angel. [Full Text]

Monday, December 18, 2006

Vladimir Visotsky (1938-1980)

Picture credit and original translations of Vladimir Semeonovich Visotsky's songs at

Here is another link at "Little Russia in US" devoted to the famous but unofficial Russian balladeer, Vladimir Visotsky.

Officially, Visotsky worked as an actor and was most famous for his role as Hamlet. His songs were performed unofficially in the former USSR, but they were not published in his lifetime.

This site is called "Visotsky in Different Tongues." The site has the texts of his songs in different languages. You can click on musical notes to hear the songs while reading in your own language.

This site is called "All About Visotsky: The Official Site of the Visotsky Fund." Here is their English link.

Here is the Wikipedia entry for Visotsky which has extensive links.

Here are his famous songs "I hate" and "Wolf Hunting." in English and Russian. Click on the musical note to hear the songs in Russian and read the text in English or Russian.

At "Visotsky in Different Tongues" the songs are listed in English and Russian so that you can easily click on a song in Russian and English and listen to the original Russian.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Picture credit to Gulag: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Struggle for Freedom

Here is an English on-line version of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The translation is by H.T. Willets.

Here is the Russian version.

Here is the English and Russian text side by side.

Here is the Wikipedia entry about Solzhenitsyn and about the novel.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The hammer banged reveille on the rail outside camp HQ at five o'clock as always. Time to get up. The ragged noise was muffled by ice two fingers thick on the windows and soon died away. Too cold for the warder to go on hammering.

The jangling stopped. Outside, it was still as dark as when Shukhov had gotten up in the night to use the latrine bucket — pitch-black, except for three yellow lights visible from the window, two in the perimeter, one inside the camp.

For some reason they were slow unlocking the hut, and he couldn't hear the usual sound of the orderlies mounting the latrine bucket on poles to carry it out.

Shukhov never overslept. He was always up at the call. That way he had an hour and a half all to himself before work parade — time for a man who knew his way around to earn a bit on the side. He could stitch covers for somebody's mittens from a piece of old lining. Take some rich foreman his felt boots while he was still in his bunk (save him hopping around barefoot, fishing them out of the heap after drying). Rush round the storerooms looking for odd jobs — sweeping up or running errands. Go to the mess to stack bowls and carry them to the washers-up. You'd get something to eat, but there were too many volunteers, swarms of them. And the worst of it was that if there was anything left in a bowl, you couldn't help licking it. Shukhov never for a moment forgot what his first foreman, Kuzyomin, had told him. An old camp wolf, twelve years inside by 1943. One day around the campfire in a forest clearing he told the reinforcements fresh from the front, "It's the law of the taiga here, men. But a man can live here, just like anywhere else. Know who croaks first? The guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the sick bay, or squeals to godfather." [Full text]

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Snapple's Nuts

Snapple's Nuts


1 stick butter or margarine
1 Cup graham cracker crumbs
1 Cup shredded coconut (perhaps 1/3 Cup more for topping)
6 oz package butterscotch chips
6 oz package chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts or pecans (perhaps 1/3 Cup more for topping)
1 small can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk!)
Melt butter/margarine in 13X9 inch pan

Spread graham cracker crumbs over butter/margarine

Sprinkle on coconut (save a little for topping)

Sprinkle on butterscotch chips
Sprinkle on chocolate chips

Sprinkle on walnuts/pecans (save a little for topping)

Drizzle Eagle Brand milk over all
Sprinkle a small amount of coconut and nuts on the top

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, possibly longer. Edges should be brown.

Cut in squares

Roll in/ sprinkle on powdered sugar

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Ghost of Christmas Past

On December 26, 2006, it will be ten years since JonBenet Ramsey was murdered in the basement of her Boulder, Colorado home. If she were alive today, she would be sixteen years old.

I read a sweet story about JonBenet that I want to share. Her teacher told this story.

One day, a kindergarten classmate of Jonbenet's brought in some cupcakes to share for her birthday.

Unfortunately, after she gave out all the treats, there was no cupcake left for the birthday girl. JonBenet said that she would cut her cupcake in half and that the girls would share.

Most kindergarten children would not volunteer to share a cupcake.

JonBenet's killer, of course, was only capable of inflicting pain on an innocent child. All this coward could share was his hatred. He enjoyed writing the long, cruel, anonymous ransom note that inflicted even more pain on the family and friends of this child.

This animal gets gratification from tormenting people. He loves to hurt people, so that's what he does.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"The Nose" (1835-6) by Nikolai Gogol


"The Nose" is a famous short story by the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852). Wikipedia has an article about the story here. The story is about a "St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and starts living a life of its own."

The Russian site Internet Library has a collection of classic stories in Russian.

Project Gutenberg has Gogol stories here.

Professor Gary Saul Morson has an article about "The Nose" here.

Bibliomania has a full text of the story in English, but is sometimes off line, so here is another link to the story.

On March 25th there took place, in Petersburg, an extraordinarily strange occurrence. The barber Ivan Yakovlevich, who lives on Voznesensky Avenue (his family name has been lost and even on his signboard, where a gentleman is depicted with a lathered cheek and the inscription “Also bloodletting,” there is nothing else)—the barber Ivan Yakovlevich woke up rather early and smelled fresh bread. Raising himself slightly in bed he saw his spouse, a rather respectable lady who was very fond of drinking coffee, take some newly baked loaves out of the oven. [Full Bibliomania text]

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Something to Hide, Stirlitz?


"Stirlitz went into Müller's office and said, "Herr Müller, how would you like to work as an agent for Soviet Intelligence? The pay is good." Müller, shocked, gives an angry rebuff, then eyes Stirlitz suspiciously. Stirlitz starts to leave, but then stops and asks, "Gruppenfuhrer, do you have any aspirin?" Stirlitz knew that people always remember only the end of a conversation."----Russian joke that mocks the fictional Soviet secret agent, Stirlitz, and the braintrusts at the KGB

It is beginning to look more and more like the Polonium Fairy may have come out of the Chekist's overcoat. Earlier posts about the perils of polonium can be found on this blog by searching "polonium." The first post is here.

The real Putin is beginning to revert to type. He looks more and more like the drab, mendacious, thuggish, cookie-cutter KGB bungler with feet of clay that he is and less and less like the brilliant, glamorous, cognac-sipping, but fictional, Chekist Stirlitz, the Soviet James Bond.

Putin is no Stirlitz. Stirlitz, after all, preferred an intellectual approach to secret work and killed only one man in his long career. In any case, Russians tell "Stirlitz jokes" which suggest that, despite the KGB's spit-and-shine agitprop efforts, Russians are under no illusions that their secret policemen are Einsteins:

Stirlitz went into Müller's empty office. He walked up to the safe and pulled on the handle. It wouldn't open. After making sure that he was alone, he took out his gun and blasted away. Still, the safe wouldn't open. Next, he put a hand grenade under the safe and removed the pin. After the smoke cleared, Stirlitz once again tried to open the safe. Again, however, he was unsuccessful. "Hmmm..." the experienced intelligence officer at last concluded, "must be locked."

The columnist Charles Krauthammer believes that Putin himself was responsible for the murder of the KGB-turncoat Alexander Litvinenko.

On December 5, the Times said that "Intelligence services in Britain are convinced that the [polonium] poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko was authorised by the Russian Federal Security Service."

The Times (12-9-06) now reports that the Russian authorities are backtracking on their promise to cooperate with the British in the investigation of the polonium poisoning:

Having promised last week to co-operate fully with the British investigation, the Russian Prosecutor-General has thrown four separate obstacles in its way. He has told the visiting detectives that they may request interviews but only observe them, and then only if the interviews are granted. He has ruled out extraditing any Russian citizen for trial in Britain. He has announced his own investigation into the alleged attempted murder of two of Mr Litvinenko’s associates — who, as Russian citizens, provide a pretext for giving the Russian inquiry priority over the British one. And he has twice postponed interviews with the man Scotland Yard most wants to question.

That man is Andrei Lugovoy, the former KGB colonel, who not only met Mr Litvinenko on the day he appears to have been poisoned but also allegedly occupied a hotel room where traces of polonium-210 have been found. Mr Lugovoy has told The Times that he has nothing to hide. Even so, he has been unavailable since the Scotland Yard team’s arrival: they have been denied access to him at a clinic where a third figure in the affair is said to be suffering from acute radiation sickness.

It would be wrong to take entirely at face value Mr Litvinenko’s self-assessment as a persecuted crusader for justice. His loyalties and business dealings were complex and possibly compromised. That he was a strange man does not make his murder any less sinister. The Kremlin had at least three compelling reasons to wish to silence him. First, he claimed before his death to have evidence linking the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist and outspoken critic of Russian policy in the Caucasus, to state security forces. Secondly, he had written a book accusing the FSB of planning to blow up an apartment building to bolster President Putin’s case for invading Chechnya in 1999. A new and heavily annotated edition of the book is due to be published next month. Thirdly, as we report today, he claimed to have uncovered a Kremlin-backed plan to blackmail or eliminate foreign-based Russian citizens holding assets salvaged from Yukos, the oil company founded by the jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

....Mr Putin should remember that power corrupts, and centralised power corrupts the figure at the centre. [Full text]

Alas, Putin is just one more thuggish, uncreative, flat-footed, KGB gumshoe---not a Stirlitz:

"Stirlitz and Kathe are walking through the park. A gunshot rings out. Kathe falls. Blood flows. Stirlitz, relying on his keen instincts, immediately gets suspicious."


A flower pot fell off the window sill of the secret apartment and smashed Stirlitz on the head. This was the signal that his wife had just given birth to a son. Stirlitz shed a single manly tear. He hadn't been home for seven years.


On May Day, Stirlitz put on his Red Army cap, grabbed a red banner and marched up and down the corridors of the Reich Security Office singing the Internationale and other revolutionary songs. Never before had Stirlitz been so close to failure.


In the Reich Security Office, Müller, Himmler, and Bormann are all standing in the cafeteria line, patiently waiting their turn. Stirlitz enters and passes everyone as he strides directly to the head of the queue. He is served immediately. Müller, Himmler and Bormann are baffled. What they didn't know is that a Hero of the Soviet Union has the right to receive service without having to stand in line. [All Stirlitz jokes]

More Stirlitz jokes here.

Stirlitz opened a door. The lights went on. Stirlitz closed the door. The lights went out. Stirlitz opened the door again. The light went back on. Stirlitz closed the door. The light went out again. "It's a fridge," concluded Stirlitz.

Here is a Wikipedia entry on Russian Political jokes.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

If I Did It!


On December 5, the Times said that "Intelligence services in Britain are convinced that the [polonium] poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko was authorised by the Russian Federal Security Service."

The columnist Charles Krauthammer believes that Putin was responsible for the murder of the KGB-turncoat Alexander Litvinenko. We will probably never know the truth, but Putin's most damning critics do have a way of dying off. Some of them say some pretty fantastic things, but they are dead; so maybe Americans should become familiar with what Putin's critics said instead of just accepting unsupported claims that Putin's dead critics were crazy people. Here is Litvinenko's BBC obituary.

Mr Litvinenko wrote a book called Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within. The book alleges that the Federal Security Service (FSB), not Chechen rebels, coordinated the 1999 apartment block bombings that killed more than 300 people in Russia. In 2003, the Russian authorities confiscated Litvinenko's book when it was en route to Moscow from the publisher in Latvia.

Litvinenko claimed that Putin had the reporter Anna Politkovskaya killed. Politkovskaya had written books critical of Putin and of the Russian regime's policies in Chechnya. Here is Politkovskaya's BBC obituary.

Litvinenko most famously claimed that "al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri was trained by the FSB in Dagestan in the years before the 9/11 attacks." Here is a 7-18-05 article in Moscow News that gives some background about this allegation that the FSB trained al-Zawahiri. Litvinenko was the source of this story which was first reported in a Polish paper called Rzeczpospolita, according to Litvinenko's Wikipedia entry.

Another critic of the war in Chechnya, Galina Starovoitova, a Russian politician and ethnographer, was shot in her home on November 20, 1998. Two days before her death, "Litvinenko and seven other FSB officers asserted at a press conference in Moscow that FSB leadership had decided to return to the practice of political assassinations."

Some writers have dismissed Livitenko as crazy; some allege that he was a nuclear smuggler for al-Qaeda-affiliated Chechens. Maybe. Or maybe these writers are just disseminating old-fashioned KGB/FSB smears.

The Russian propaganda apparatus has tried to depict its war in Chechnya as part of the War on Terrorism. In fact, the Chechens were nationalist, not Muslim extremist, opponents of Russian rule. The late President of Chechnya, Maskhadov, was a former Soviet military officer who even supported the U.S. war to topple Saddam. Bin Laden did not.

Wikipedia has some background about Litvinenko's charges against Putin and about the fate of other Putin critics.

According to Litvinenko's Wikipedia entry, Litvinenko also claimed that the terrorists who took over the House of Culture, a Moscow theater, were working for the FSB.

Yuri Shchekochikhin, a journalist and lawmaker, also died of a mysterious poisoning that was said to be thallium, although the Russians tried to prevent his family from having an independent autopsy. He also published articles critical of Moscow's Chechen policies.

Shchekochikhin's Wikipedia entry notes that "Shchekochikhin was a member of the Sergei Kovalev Commission, which investigated allegations that the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings had been orchestrated by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to generate support for the war.

I think that we should listen to people who were murdered for their outspokenness in Putin's Russia.

Here are some excerpts from Krauthammer's 12-8-06 article in the Washington Post:

The poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, renegade Russian spy and fierce critic of Vladimir Putin's government, is everywhere being called a mystery. There is dark speculation about unnamed "rogue elements" either in the Russian secret services or among ultranationalists acting independently of the government. There are whispers about the indeterminacy of things in the shadowy netherworld of Russian exile politics, crime and espionage.

...Do you think Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who was investigating the war in Chechnya, was shot dead in her elevator by rogue elements? What about Viktor Yushchenko, the presidential candidate in Ukraine and eventual winner, poisoned with dioxin during the campaign, leaving him alive but disfigured? Ultranationalist Russians?

Opponents of Putin have been falling like flies. Some jailed, some exiled, some killed. True, Litvinenko's murder will never be traced directly to Putin...Too many cutouts. Too many layers of protection between the don and the hit man.

Moreover, Russia has a long and distinguished history of state-sponsored assassination, of which the ice-pick murder of Leon Trotsky was but the most notorious. Does anyone believe that Pope John Paul II, then shaking the foundations of the Soviet empire, was shot by a crazed Turk acting on behalf of only Bulgaria?

If we were not mourning a brave man who has just died a horrible death, one would almost have to admire the Russians, not just for audacity but for technique in Litvinenko's polonium-210 murder. Assassination by poisoning evokes the great classical era of raison d'etat rub-outs by the Borgias and the Medicis. But the futurist twist of (to paraphrase Peter D. Zimmerman in the Wall Street Journal) the first reported radiological assassination in history adds an element of the baroque of which a world-class thug outfit such as the KGB (now given new initials) should be proud.

Some say that the Litvinenko murder was so obvious, so bold, so messy -- five airplanes contaminated, 30,000 people alerted, dozens of places in London radioactive -- that it could not possibly have been the KGB.
But that's the beauty of it. Do it obvious, do it brazen, and count on those too-clever-by-half Westerners to find that exonerating. As the president of the Central Anarchist Council (in G.K. Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday") advised: "You want a safe disguise, do you? . . . A dress in which no one would ever look for a bomb? Why, then, dress up as an anarchist, you fool!"

The other reason for making it obvious and brazen is to send a message. This is a warning to all the future Litvinenkos of what awaits them if they continue to go after the Russian government. They'll get you even in London, where there is the rule of law. And they'll get you even if it makes negative headlines for a month.

Some people say that the KGB would not have gone to such great lengths to get so small a fry as Litvinenko. Well, he might have been a small fry, but his investigations were not. He was looking into the Kremlin roots of Politkovskaya's shooting. And Litvinenko claimed that the Russian government itself blew up apartment buildings in Moscow and elsewhere in 1999, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, in order to blame it on the Chechens and provoke the second Chechen war. Pretty damning stuff.

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1819) by John Keats

The Museum Store has this reproduction of the Townley Urn (ca. 2nd century AD). According to the Museum Store, the Townley Urn "was excavated by Sir Gavin Hamilton and restored in the 18th century. It was made famous by the inspired poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, by John Keats (1795-1821). The figures on the vase are followers of the wine god, Bacchus, and are shown dancing in revelry."

The real Townley Vase is actually Roman, and is in the British Museum.

Here is Keat's famous poem by Great Books Online.

Wikipedia has some background and links about Keats and about the poem.

Ode on a Grecian Urn (1819)

THOU still unravish’d bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

Of deities or mortals, or of both,

In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? [Full text]

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats (1795-1821)


Ode to a Nightingale
MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,—

That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,

In some melodious plot

Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease. [Full text]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Say Cheese!

Official White House Christmas Picture, 2006

Christmas Cheeseball Recipe

1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
1 package crumbled blue cheese (4 oz)
1cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1cup chopped or crushed walnuts
½ cup finely chopped, fresh parsley (optional)

Set cheese out until it almost reaches room temperature.
In large mixing bowl, combine cheese, onion and Worcestershire sauce and mix by hand.
Shape into ball.
Cover bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until cheeseball becomes firm.
Mix walnuts and parsley and spread on plate.
Roll cheeseball in this mixture until it is completely covered.
Serve with Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or any other firm cracker.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Putin's Fairy Dust?


The Times (12-5-06) reports that Russian President Putin's Federal Security Service may be the Polonium Fairy:

"Intelligence services in Britain are convinced that the [polonium] poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko was authorised by the Russian Federal Security Service.

Security sources have told The Times that the FSB orchestrated a 'highly sophisticated plot' and was likely to have used some of its former agents to carry out the operation on the streets of London.

'We know how the FSB operates abroad and, based on the circumstances behind the death of Mr Litvinenko, the FSB has to be the prime suspect,' a source said yesterday....

MI5 and MI6 are working closely with Scotland Yard on the investigation. A senior police source told The Times yesterday that the method used to kill the 43-year-old dissident was intended to send a message to his friends and allies....

Intelligence officials believe that a sizeable team was sent from Moscow to smuggle radioactive polonium-210 into Britain and to shadow Mr Litvinenko.

The judgment by British Intelligence has been strengthened by the knowledge that the FSB has legislative approval for eliminating terrorists and enemies of the state abroad, after the passing of a controversial anti-terrorism law in the summer." [Full text]

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Polonium Tango!


The Sidney Morning Herald (12-2-06) reports:

"A suddenly notorious name is paying off for a Polish restaurant in northern England.

The Polonium Restaurant in Sheffield, 260 kilometres north of London, has had to order extra deliveries and turn people away some days since news broke that a former Russian spy died of poisoning from radioactive polonium-210, manager Boguslaw J Sidorowicz said today."

No, this girl is not collapsing from a lethal dose of polonium-laced sushi! This is a
picture in an article about Poland's newest yuppie craze---tango lessons in the former digs of the communist militia and secret police:

"Bored with rock and roll, [Polish yuppies] have grasped at another trendy pastime. Some hope to meet the big love of their life, though they wouldn't care to admit it. The first sessions took place in the former club of the hated communist militia, right next to their notorious headquarters in the Mostowski Palace. Every Wednesday more and more bored young hopefuls congregated in this dark, socialist-realistic environment to experience the double thrill of tango and former danger.

The venue became too crowded and, overwhelmed with success, the Academy had to organise extra sessions every Monday in the former casino of the equally feared secret police. This place lacks the heavy atmosphere of socialist architecture but is much more appropriate for teaching the tango."
[Polish Tango]

Actually, the popularity of the tango in Poland is not really new at all.
The grandparents of these Polish yuppies also danced the tango.

A nostalgic Polish tango called "Ta ostatnia niedziela" (This is our Last Sunday; 1935), recounts the final meeting of former lovers who broke up.

"Ta ostatnia niedziela," also nicknamed the "Suicide Tango," became popular as a background music for young, disillusioned Polish officers who shot themselves in the head.

A Russian version was written during WWII under the title of "Weary Sun" (Утомлённое солнце, Utomlyennoye solntse) and is also the title of the 1994 Russian film Burnt by the Sun.

In the Russian film, a Soviet officer of state security shoots himself in the bathtub after destroying a Soviet general and revolutionary hero. See earlier articles about this film
here and here.

An article on European big bands
reports that this song, also known as "The Death Tango" had a tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis:

"'The Last Sunday' was often played by a small brass orchestra while Jewish prisoners were led to the gas chambers and ovens to be executed. Later, the song was often used in polish movies about the Nazi concentration camps. It was also played in the Treblinka concentration camp by a Jewish orchestra and a choir, which Artur Gold [who performed the song professionally] - one of the camp prisoners before he himself was killed -was forced to organize and also to lead while other Jewish prisoners were marching to the gas chambers. Each musician was dressed in a clown-like shining blue frock and an enormous bow-tie."

Here are the lyrics and a Short sound clip of Ta ostatnia niedziela (WMA format) of this song from Wikipedia:

This is our last Sunday

This is our last Sunday, today we will part,
Today we will go our own ways, forever
This is our last Sunday, so give it only to me
Look tenderly in my eyes for the eternal while.

Now's not the time for excuses, everything has been said,
Today one richer and better than me came
And with you, stole my happiness.

I have one last wish, this one and only in many years.
Give me this last hope,
And then let the world collapse

You ask me what will I do and where will I go
Where should I go - do I know?
Today there's only one ending which is-
well, never mind

One thing is important, you must be happy
and don't worry about me.
But before everything ends,
Before fate parts us
Give me this one last hope

This is our last Sunday....