"YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS ARE AS DAZZLING AS YOUR SUBJECTS"

Saturday, December 31, 2011

LUIS GIAMPIETRI TURNS SEVENTY-ONE


LUIS GIAMPIETRI ROJAS
b. December 31, 1940


RETIRED ADMIRAL LUIS GIAMPIETRI
AS VICE-PRESIDENT OF PERU

WITH HONOR GUARD FOR THE 2008 APEC SUMMIT
GOVERNOR'S PALACE, LIMA, PERU

Admiral Giampietri was in the news recently in connection with the Lori Berenson case (discussion here). As a Navy admiral he had, in his own words, for twelve years "led navy, marine and army commandos in a vicious war against two terrorist groups intent on forcing a Marxist regime on Peru" (the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA). In 1986, in charge of naval special operations, he was "ordered" by then President Alan Garcia to "put down a prison riot, resulting in the death of more than 300 Shining Path inmates," and leading to a 2000 ruling by the Inter-American Court that the Garcia government "had violated the American Convention on Human Rights" (see here).

Giampietri himself was among those taken hostage by the MRTA during the Japanese Embassy crisis, from December 17, 1996, until April 22, 1997, while Alberto Fujimori was president. The by-then retired Admiral gives his account here.

When Garcia successfully ran for a second, non-consecutive presidential term, Giampietri was his vice-president (2006-2011).

More on (now former-) President Garcia here and here and here and here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

SADDAM HUSSEIN HANGED, FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY


DEATH COMES
TO THE
DICTATOR-PRESIDENT

SADDAM HUSSEIN ABD AL-MAJID AL-TIKRITI

April 28, 1937-December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein is hanged, five years ago today, and cell-phone video of his hanging gets quickly passed around (right). John F. Burns of the New York Times comments (left).

DUELING TVs #7

Thursday, December 29, 2011

WHAT IS IN THE CARDS? ALMOST THE NEW YEAR


WHAT DO
THE CARDS
HOLD?


TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
BEIJING, OCTOBER 1992

After the 14th Party Congress
Next year, same time: the 18th
Scheduled: Leadership changes

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BILL LEE TURNS SIXTY-FIVE


"THE SPACEMAN"
NOTCHES
SIXTY-FIVE YEARS
b. December 28, 1946


WILLIAM FRANCIS ("BILL") LEE III

Bill Lee pitched left-handed for the Boston Red Sox (1969-1978) and then the Montreal Expos (1979-1982). He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, but apparently had his major-league career cut short after 1982 for reasons that had less to do with his pitching and more to do with his personality ("The Spaceman"). Still, last year, on September 5, 2010, he became the oldest pitcher to win a professional game, playing for the minor league Brockton (Massachusetts) Rox. Lee was sixty-three; details can be found here and here and here.

Besides having written four books himself (with co-authors), Bill Lee seems to have inspired some interesting writing; samples can be found here and here and here. There is also a film, "Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey" (information here and here).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE RUSSIAN WINTER I


WHITE HOUSE
KREMLIN
KREMLIN
GOVERNMENT HOUSE


GOVERNMENT HOUSE ("THE WHITE HOUSE")
MOSCOW (right), AT TWILIGHT

The beginnings of some musings re Prime Minister, President, President, Prime Minister, Russia/The USSR:

Once upon a time, just a bit over two decades ago now, when there still was a Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin got himself elected first (in 1990) to chair the Russian parliament, and then (in 1991) to occupy the newly established office of President of a "Russia" still a constituent republic of the USSR. The white marble building above came already with the first post, and soon it was being called "The White House." After winning a popular election for President, Yeltsin finagled an office in the Kremlin too. Twenty years ago yesterday, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was deprived of both his Office and his office in the Kremlin.

The White House went back to being the Government House, home of the Russian government, headed by the prime minister, while the Kremlin was the bailiwick of the Russian, rather than the Soviet, president.

Vladimir Putin has been both, twice (prime minister both before and after he was president). The trouble seems to have started when he decided he preferred the latter to the former, the Kremlin to the "White House" which was not the president's house.

For the last almost four years, his man, Dmitry Medvedev, has been president. Strange how quickly commentators have accepted the rationale for Putin's giving up the presidency after two terms: because the constitution forbade it! This is not some ancient document; it was only a decade old when the time came to set up the Tandem, and surely has been otherwise honored in the breach.

Nonetheless, we catch a glimpse of the value of the presidency, the name and not just the power he was thought to have anyway, to Vladimir Putin. For it seems to have been the announcement on September 24 of this year that Putin and not Medvedev would run for president this coming March 4 that really tore it -- tore away the strategic ambiguity of the Tandem, and tore away any possible chance of projecting "modernizing" desires on Medvedev. An earlier change of the length of the term of president contributed to the sense of "Enough!" -- for now there lay in prospect not just two more four-year terms, but two more six-year terms for President Putin.

The Duma elections which had helped make Putin in 1999 backfired this December 4 -- too much fraud findable by an already motivated part of the populace, and -- just in time for the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union -- a massing of some sizable numbers of the citizenry in real mitings again, protest mitings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

KIDS & PHONES

ON THE LINE 

BACK WHEN 

With all the discussion about when (is if still in question?) children should be allowed their first phone -- cell phone, of course; do any kids agitate for a landline? -- in the midst of scares about the possible deleterious effects on developing tissues, and developing social skills, pray spare a moment for a bit of whimsy (above). 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FROM ANOTHER TIME OF WAR (VIETNAM/IRAQ)


IRAQ IS OVER
OFFICIALLY
FOR THE AMERICANS
FOR THE AMERICAN MILITARY


A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FROM
ANOTHER TIME OF WAR
ANOTHER "LONG WAR"
VIETNAM

Thursday, December 15, 2011

GUSTAVE EIFFEL b. December 15, 1832


ALEXANDRE GUSTAVE EIFFEL
December 15, 1832-December 27, 1923


THE EIFFEL TOWER, PARIS, FRANCE
GUSTAVE EIFFEL'S MASTERPIECE

COMPLETED 1889
Kid's Eye View
PHOTOGRAPHED SEVENTY YEARS LATER

Gustave Eiffel, an engineer and "constructor," specialized in metallic structures. He designed the iron skeleton frame for the Statue of Liberty for the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition (see here and here). He built the Eiffel Tower -- the tallest structure in the world at the time -- for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris -- 1889 being the centenary of the French Revolution. Eiffel's work also seems to have been revolutionary; he is said to have been "one of the first engineers to recognize the importance of wind forces on tall structures. He designed the surface of his Tower to be so minimal that the wind has virtually nothing to grab onto."

Now a French firm, Ginger, wants to turn the Eiffel Tower into a "green jungle" or a "something akin to a very tall, and growing, Christmas tree" -- the world's largest tree. It would be covered by six hundred thousand plants -- and all the infrastructure needed to keep them growing.

There is a incredible three-part visualization of what the Eiffel Tower would come to look like if the scheme went through, here. The proposal's authors are touting this as a visionary ecological project. See for yourselves.

JUVENILIA

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

THE EURO-CRISIS GIVES JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO HIS MOMENT IN THE SPOTLIGHT


"NOT SEVENTEEN PLUS,
BUT TWENTY-SEVEN MINUS."
OR NOT.


JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSA &
HIS WIFE MARGARIDA SOUSA UVA

On December 13, 2011, European Commission President José Manuel Barrosa rose to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg and dished some dirt on British Prime Minister David Cameron. What ruined the harmonious working of last week's Eurozone crisis summit? The British veto, and why? As The Guardian put it, "In comments which appeared to show exasperation with David Cameron's negotiating tactics, Barroso told MEPs that talks dragged on into the early hours not because of any dispute over the content of the new 'fiscal compact' for the eurozone but because Britain would not accept amendments to the Lisbon Treaty." Not too clear on the purpose -- and urgency -- of the summit, apparently. "The United Kingdom," The Independent reported Barroso as saying, "in exchange for giving its agreement, asked for a specific protocol on financial services which, as presented, was a risk to the integrity of the internal market." As der Spiegel puts it more plainly, Cameron "wanted the British financial sector not to be subject to European supervision." Barroso tried suggesting a compromise, but Cameron was not having any.

Still, as the BBC reported, Barroso "said the 'greatest' risk of the summit, a split between the 17 euro states and the other 10, had been avoided." To wit, according to the EC president, "This is not an agreement at 17-plus, but an agreement at 27-minus."

The commentators piled on. The Tory prime minister, Cameron, was seeking to protect the City of London. The European Commission president, Barroso, aimed at aggrandizing Brussels, his power base, or even dreamed being part of a ruling troika with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy. But then there is the quote from the man of the hour himself: According to Barroso, it is said, "Merkel and Sarkozy are trying to impose their views on everyone else, even though they themselves can hardly agree on any issue."


Monday, December 12, 2011

U.S.-IRAQ, IRAQ-U.S.: December 12, 2000-December 12, 2011


U.S. SUPREME COURT
HANDS GEORGE W. BUSH
THE PRESIDENCY
December 12, 2000

GEORGE W. BUSH
TAKES THE U.S.
INTO WAR WITH IRAQ

George W. Bush makes his last trip to Iraq as President; holds a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, December 14, 2008.


Al-Baghdadia TV Correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi throws first one shoe, then the other, at the American president, shouting, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is a farewell kiss." The president ducks; both shoes miss him; the reporter is instantly apprehended.

IRAQI PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI MEETS WITH
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT THE WHITE HOUSE
December 12, 2011
THE U.S. MILITARY IS OFFICIALLY ON ITS WAY OUT

DUELING TVs #6

Sunday, December 11, 2011

BIG MAMA THORNTON b. December 11, 1926


WILLIE MAE
("BIG MAMA") THORNTON
December 11, 1926-July 25, 1984)


BIG MAMA THORNTON
Back in the Day

Big Mama Thornton was a "blues queen" who had a career more than four decades long, from her start as a teenager until a heart attack took her in 1984, the same year she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. She has been called "a big, brawny belter," with a "robust, powerful voice." She also wrote songs and played multiple instruments.

As the BILLBOARD biography has it, "Willie Mae 'Big Mama' Thornton only notched one national hit in her lifetime, but it was a true monster," to wit, "Hound Dog," which went to No. 1 on the R&B charts for her. (Elvis Presley "made an even bigger hit of it in 1956.") Her version sold two million copies; "Thornton received only $500."

One of Big Mama's own compositions, "Ball and Chain," was covered by Janis Joplin, who was a "great admirer."

There is a well-packed short-long biography in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ALABAMA, here. I have a photograph of Big Mama Thornton and Buddy Guy performing together here, and one of Janis Joplin which has a bit about a lesson learned by Joplin from Thornton, here.

Finally, you can hear Thornton's "Hound Dog" here, and her "Ball and Chain" here, in what is said to have been her last performance.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

WILLIAM McGOWAN b. December 10, 1927


WILLIAM G. McGOWAN
December 10, 1927-June 8, 1992


WILLIAM McGOWAN
on the roof of the then MCI Building
Washington, D.C.

Two items in the news this year have particularly brought the late MCI Chair William McGowan back to public attention. One was AT&T's attempt to purchase T-Mobile, and the other was the broadcast of the film about McGowan, LONG DISTANCE WARRIOR. MCI took on the telephone monopoly -- successfully -- and McGowan was called the "man who beat AT&T" (see here). LONG DISTANCE WARRIOR curiously bills its subject "the most famous business leader you’ve never heard of" -- curiously for those of us who remember when McGowan was a real mover and shaker in Washington and in the communications industry. It is good to see him back in the spotlight, as here.

The photograph above is featured in the film.

Much more about Bill McGowan and the upstart MCI can be found here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

TIP O'NEILL b. December 9, 1912


THOMAS P. ("TIP") O'NEILL, Jr.
December 9, 1912-January 5, 1994


SPEAKER TIP O'NEILL
WORKS THE MICROPHONE
AND THE ROOM

For more on the longest continuously-serving Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, born ninety-nine years ago today, see here and here and here and here and here and here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

TWENTY YEARS SINCE THE COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES WAS FOUNDED, AND THE SOVIET UNION DOOMED


THE COMMONWEALTH
OF INDEPENDENT STATES
(CIS) FOUNDED
December 8, 1991


THE LEADERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF
INDEPENDENT STATES MEET IN MOSCOW
A COUPLE OF YEARS AFTER THE FOUNDING

On December 8, 1991, the leaders of the three Slavic republics of the Soviet Union -- Boris Yeltsin of Russia, Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, and Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus -- met in the Belavezha Woods government retreat to sign the USSR out of existence. The independence of the three Baltic republics had already been internationally recognized after the failed August coup. That left nine of the fifteen republics in limbo. Eight of the nine -- all but Georgia -- signed on to the new "Commonwealth of Independent States" (CIS) on December 21; and on December 25 Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, bowed to the inevitable. A contemporary account can be found here. A retrospective with video footage of the December 8 signing can be found here.

By the time of the Moscow CIS leaders meeting photograph above, there had been two noticeable developments. Georgia had joined; its president, Eduard Shevardnadze, is fourth from the right. One of the original signers of the Belavezha Accords, Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus, had already been replaced by Alexander Lukashenko (he is fifth from the left, turning towards Boris Yeltsin). Yeltsin is seated in the middle of the table. Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, the third member of the Belavezha troika, is first on the left.

All of the original three have left their posts, and Yeltsin has died. Lukashenko is still president of Belarus.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RICHARD GOODWIN TURNS EIGHTY


RICHARD N. GOODWIN
b. December 7, 1931


RICHARD GOODWIN
Back in the Day

-- about a decade after his work as first a speechwriter and special counsel to President John F. Kennedy and then special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, and a few years after his speechwriting for Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was cut short by RFK's assassination (more on Goodwin's career here) --

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

IN HONOR OF HELEN ELIZABETH STEWART

for
HELEN ELIZABETH STEWART
whose birthday was December 6


ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

Lord, I told the undertaker,
"Undertaker please drive slow
For this body you are hauling,
Lord I hate to see her go"


Monday, December 5, 2011

STROM THURMOND b. December 5, 1902

JAMES STROM THURMOND
December 5, 1902-June 26, 2003


SENATOR STROM THURMOND
(R-South Carolina)

At age one hundred in 2002, Strom Thurmond was the oldest person ever to serve in the U.S. Senate. First appointed (in 1954), and then elected, Senator from South Carolina as a Democrat, he switched to the Republican party on September 16, 1964. As Governor of South Carolina (1947-1951), he had run against the Democratic President Harry S Truman in 1948 as a segregationist States Rights ("Dixiecrat") candidate. In August 1957 he conducted a record 24-hour, 18-minute filibuster against a civil rights bill. (Information about his congressional career can be found here.)

After his death, a new detail of Thurmond's personal history was revealed: at twenty-two, he became a father for the first time. His daughter's mother was a sixteen-year-old maid in the Thurmond family home, and his daughter, ultimately named Essie Mae Washington-Williams, is, as some put it, "bi-racial" (as Barack Obama is "bi-racial"); her mother was African-American.

Ms. Washington-Williams has been officially recognized as the Senator's eldest. As his official biography at the Strom Thurmond Institute (Clemson University) states: "Thurmond's first and oldest child, Essie Mae Washington-Williams (1925- ), was the daughter of Carrie Butler (1909-1947) who worked as a maid in the Thurmond family home in Edgefield, SC. Butler's aunt and uncle, Mr. & Mrs. Washington, adopted Essie Mae and took her to live with them in Pennsylvania when she was six months old." She tells her own story here.

Senator Thurmond did have four more children with his second wife, Nancy Janice Moore (Miss South Carolina of 1965), whom he married when he was sixty-five and she twenty-two: Nancy Moore (1971-1993), James Strom II (1972- ), Juliana 'Julie' Gertrude (1974- ) and Paul Reynolds (1976- ).

Sometimes the personal is political.