29 September 2006

A Step at a Time: From the Baltic to the Caspian

One of the best compilers and translators of multilingual sources on strategic developments in areas near the Baltic, Black, and Caspian Seas is David McDuff's A Step at a Time, with multiple posts on the escalation of tensions between Georgia and Russia (scroll down), conflict in Chechnya, elections in Estonia, Karelian refugees in Finland, and long-term developments in the former Soviet Union. For example, here's an excerpt he quotes from a keynote speech (pdf) by former US State Department and CIA analyst Paul Goble at the Jamestown Foundation's recent North Caucasus Conference.
If the Russian Federation is at a turning point, and I believe that it is and I believe that the borders will change in a variety of ways, and I think they will change largely due to the actions of the Russians and Russian desires, as we’ll see. And this leads me to my one good piece of advice for today: don’t buy any maps. Buy stock in companies that print maps and you’ll make money.

But it’s equally important that Islam, too, is at a turning point. Indeed, if you understand the Muslim view of what happened in the Soviet Union in 1991, you can see a direct line from there to September 11th and you can understand why Muslims who were ethnic Muslims who didn’t know very much about their identity and what their faith was about turned to Islam in the ways that they did.

The collapse of the Muslim project after the French Revolution and the colonization of the Muslim world, which was more or less complete except for Egypt and Afghanistan by 1922, left the Muslim world with the question: if we’re right, how come we’re losing? And there were three answers. God’s time isn’t our time so we wait it out. The second answer was, we are wrong; we’ve got to be radical secularists. And the third is, back to basics: Allah, Sharia – the people who become the fundamentalists.

As long as there was a Soviet Union supporting the radical secularists, and please remember it was the Soviets who were doing that, the third category were in jail. Once the Soviet Union could not do that, those people emerged. And with the Muslim reading, or some Muslim reading anyway, of 1991 you saw a very different set of messages for people who were Muslims. These were in many ways – and this is another argument, different, but just to point it out for you – I believe that Central Asia and parts of the Caucasus will be over time the prime recruiting area for a radical fundamentalist Islam. Why? Because people there know they are Muslims, but don’t know exactly what it means and therefore they are prepared to listen to people who tell them exactly what it means.

I remember a conversation I had with Dzhokhar Dudaev, the first president of Chechen Ichkeria. And Mr. Dudaev said to me, Mr. Goble, I’m a good Muslim I pray three times a day. Well I was very polite and deferential [to] the senior official and didn’t point out that a good Muslim prays five times a day, but he didn’t know. He had been in the Communist Party since the age of 18 and was a major general in the Soviet Air force.

New Orleans in the 1920s

In the mid-1920s, the Vieux Carré, or French Quarter, was mostly a gritty working-class slum where people spoke French as often as English. Women lowered baskets to the street to grocers who loaded them with food and added a pint of gin. Artists and writers had taken to the area, seduced by its cheap rents. Oliver Lafarge wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning Laughing Boy there; Faulkner began writing there, encouraged by Sherwood Anderson, who entertained visitors like Theodore Dreiser, Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein, and Bertrand Russell. One of Anderson's friends even wrote a book about Paris without ever having visited it, instead using New Orleans as his model; Parisians read it, Anderson reported, with "delight." The smells of the docks hung over the whole area: sickly sweet rotting bananas—the United Fruit Company was the single largest user of the port—and the more intimate smell of the dozens of bakeries making bread. The finest restaurants—Antoine's, Galatoire's, Arnaud's, Broussard's—were there, and so were working-class cafés. In Jackson Square at Billy Cabildo's, for 50 cents one got an enormous bowl of homemade soup, boiled beef, an entree, dessert, and coffee. The square itself was surrounded by hedges where prostitutes took clients.

Downriver from the French Quarter lived working-class whites. They made their living from the port, from sugar and timber mills, from great slaughterhouses.

The social elite ... lived upriver in the great homes on St. Charles and in the Garden District. There maids waxed the grand ballrooms by sitting on towels and sliding across the floor.... On Canal Street at Katz & Besthoff drugstore, soda jerks delivered ice-cream sodas to cars parked on the street. Well-dressed doormen at Maison Blanche and Holmes department stores knew all the chauffeurs and called for them by name as their employers came out....

Only recently, jazz had been born from deep in the bowels of the city; its beat emerging from the African jungle into Congo Square, then spreading to the whorehouses of Storyville, where Jelly Roll Morton and the Spasm band, possibly the original jazz combination, and a little later Louis Armstrong, played. At its peak, Storyville had had two newspapers and its own Carnival ball, and the best houses had advertising brochures....

From the city's earliest days New Orleans had close ties to the money centers of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, London, Paris. English bankers began living full-time in New Orleans in the early 1800s.

As a result, before the Civil War, on a per capita basis New Orleans was the wealthiest city in America. In the 1920s it remained—by far—the wealthiest city in the South. Its Cotton Exchange was one of the three most important in the world. Its port was second only to New York. Its banks were the largest and most important in the South. According to a Federal Reserve study, New Orleans had nearly twice the economic activity of Dallas, the South's second-wealthiest city, and between double and triple that of Houston, Atlanta, Memphis, Louisville, Richmond, or Birmingham.
SOURCE: Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry (Touchstone, 1998), pp. 213-215, 219

27 September 2006

The Thai Coup and the Jihadist Insurgency

The milblogger who authors The Adventures of Chester has compiled an interesting take on what the Thai military coup might portend for dealing with the jihadist insurgency in the south of Thailand.
News reports indicate that there were a number of reasons why Thailand's military decided to overthrow Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last week, but the most interesting among them was a disappointment with his strategy toward the Muslim insurgency in the south. From The Australian:
THE Royal Thai Army will adopt new tactics against a militant Islamic uprising, following the coup that sent Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister, into exile in London last week.

According to sources briefed by the army high command, Mr Thaksin's bungled response to the insurgency in southern Thailand, which has claimed 1700 lives in two years, was a critical factor in the generals' decision to get rid of him.

Military intelligence officers intend to negotiate with separatists and to use psychological warfare to isolate the most violent extremists, in contrast to Mr Thaksin's heavy-handed methods and harsh rhetoric....

When Mr Thaksin, a former policeman who made his fortune from telecommunications, came to power in 2001, he broke with the old order. He put police cronies in charge of the southern border and shut down two intelligence clearing centres.

Soon, reports in the media alleged that corruption, smuggling and racketeering were rife.

In January 2004, militants raided an armoury and started a killing spree. They have murdered Buddhist monks, teachers, hospital staff and civil servants - anyone seen as representing the Thai state. The army has seemed powerless to halt the chaos.
But at the same time Zachary Abuza, a political science professor at Simmons College in the US, and author of a forthcoming book about the Thai insurgency, offers a more nuanced take:
Will the CDR [Council for Democratic Reform] and interim administration be better equipped to deal with [it]? At the very least, there will be less political interference in counter-insurgent operations and fewer personnel reshuffles and policy initiatives from an impatient “CEO prime minister.” Second, the CDR is likely to implement many of the recommendations of the National Reconciliation Council that Thaksin had blatantly ignored. Though the NRC’s recommendations alone will not quell the insurgency, they will have an important impact in regaining the trust of the Muslim community. Third, [coup commander-in-chief Gen.] Sonthi [Boonyaratglin] has expressed a willingness to talk with insurgents, though to date only PULO has offered to talk and the aged leaders in Europe have no control over the insurgents. And many in the military establishment including Sonthi, himself a Muslim, have publicly refused to see the insurgency for what it is, denying it any religious overtones or secessionist goals. Nor is the political situation likely to alter the campaign of the insurgents. If anything they may step up attacks in an attempt to provoke a heavy-handed government response. The Muslim provinces have been under martial law for over two and a half years, with little to show for it but an alienated and angry populace.
UPDATE: The Head Heeb has a characteristically thorough and comparative analysis of what he headlines The Bertolt Brecht coup.
All this leads to some concern about what the new constitution might contain. Boonyaratglin has promised that it will make the government more accountable, which is a good thing on its face; the former constitutional framework allowed Thaksin to accrue far too much personal power and was often ineffective in providing institutional checks and balances. The trouble is that it isn't clear who will hold future governments to account. If the early signs are any indication, the military may impose a paternalistic, royalist-praetorian constitution in which unelected oversight agencies and councils hold the balance of power and the army and the throne are the final arbiters of political acceptability. Thailand may come out looking, at least in the near term, like Turkey up to the 1980s or Fiji today.

The Thai coup, in other words, carries more than a hint of Bertolt Brecht's "Solution - that, the people having forfeited the military's confidence, Boonyaratglin decided to dissolve it and elect another. Granted, he is unlikely to do so as literally as Stalin did, but he has evidently concluded that the people - who, after all, elected Thaksin - can't entirely be trusted with democracy for the time being. Therefore, politics will be banned until the people - or, more specifically, institutions like the legislature and media through which the people expresses its will - are reordered to the military's satisfaction and the balance between representative and non-representative organs is adjusted. As in Turkey or Fiji, the military doesn't intend to dissolve the people very often, but it will ensure that their institutions are established in such a way that they don't risk losing their guardians' confidence.

26 September 2006

Rise, Spread, and Fall of State Sovereignty

The classic state system is said to have emerged with the treaties of the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years War. In these treaties the secular claims of German princelings were recognised above the religious claims of the Papacy. There was no secular right of external power above the sovereign. This formal recognition of the principle of territorial sovereignty became the basis of an interstate system of international relations. Although there was the beginning of an interstate system, there was no international law in the modern sense as the rights of sovereignty were restricted to the European powers. While interstate relations were regulated between mutually recognised sovereign states in the West, there was no explicit framework of international society, which formally limited the exercise of state sovereignty. The regulation of interstate relations could not go beyond voluntary agreements between a select group of sovereign states. These treaty agreements were based upon interests of preserving state power through strategic alliances and the limited geo-political stability of a balance of power.

The age of the classic 'anarchical' state system, with no limits to the sovereignty of the major powers, was also the era of colonialism. The states included in this interstate system were those that could exercise power in the international arena through ruling over their territory and defending it from the claims of other sovereign states. It was, therefore, also quite logical and consistent to see that in those areas outside Europe, which could not demonstrate 'empirical statehood', sovereignty could not apply. Under this system the right of intervention in the affairs of other states was granted to states which were capable of acting on, and enforcing, this right: the Great Powers....

The Westphalian model of state sovereignty had its critics throughout the modern era, particularly as the leading non-Western states modernised and grew in importance. The fear of Western decline and the need to stabilise growing international society led to new experiments in international relations. The first Hague Conference, in 1899, saw the attendance of China, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Persia and Siam. Japan's defeat of Russia in 1905 was a powerful shock to European imperial confidence, because this confidence was closely bound up with a notion of racial superiority. The second Hague Conference, in 1907, was the first international gathering of modern states at which non-Europeans outnumbered the Europeans. The descent of European powers into the barbarism of the First World War did much to undermine the idea of Great Power international security. The fear of imperial decline and the expectation of resistance from the colonies led Western policy-makers to speed the process of transformation away from 'might is right' towards international law in an attempt to contain the threat of war between the Great Powers as well as anticipated anticolonial revolt.

The First World War settlement began the process of developing a legal concept of sovereignty as opposed to the Westphalian concept of sovereignty based on power. At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, US President Woodrow Wilson affirmed the principle of national self-determination for the newly created states of Central Europe. The attempt to legalise or formalise international relations was a direct consequence of the collapse of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires during the war and the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The Soviet leader Lenin's declaration of the right of nations to self-determination and the Soviet Union's propaganda linkage of war with the imperialist outlook of the Great Powers put the Western policy-makers on the defensive. Instead of the discredited system of international power politics, post-First World War international relations became legitimised on the basis of formal equality between states....

The League of Nations initiated the process of formally restricting the sovereignty of the Great Powers. For example, colonial powers were no longer entitled to act as they liked but were mandated to advance the interests of their subject peoples. The mandate system, which implied that colonial rule could only be temporary, was the first open admission that empire was no longer a legitimate political form. However, the concept of sovereign equality was still a heavily restricted one, and the West rejected Japan's attempt to include a clause on racial equality in the League of Nations' Charter. The major European imperial powers were not in a position to consistently uphold the rights of sovereign equality....

After the Second World War, the United States' dominance of the world economy enabled the construction of a new system of international regulation.... The discrediting of international regulation based on power and colonial domination led, through the two World Wars, to one based on sovereign equality. The Nazi experience and the rise of non-European powers had undermined the elitist ideologies of race and empire and led to the defensive acceptance of a law-bound international system.... The political pressure on the leading world powers meant that the 1945 settlement preserved in the principles of the UN Charter, was a decisive moment in the transformation of the Westphalian system. The sovereignty of the Great Powers was restricted, while the right of sovereignty was granted to new states which would have failed the Westphalian test of 'empirical statehood', and hence have been dismissed as 'quasi-states'.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2006), pp. 123-126 [reference citations removed]
Since the early 1990s, international relations have been transformed through the development of new norms and practices established with the intention of protecting human rights by extending the reach of 'international justice'. Justice and rights protection no longer stop at the borders of the nation-state.... The establishment of The Hague tribunals, dealing with crimes committed during the Bosnian war and the civil conflict in Rwanda, the House of Lords judgment against Pinochet, and the international indictment against a sitting head of state, Slobodan Milosevic, are all held up to indicate the trend towards 'international justice' and the prioritisation of human rights.

The extension of 'international justice' has reflected a widely welcomed decline in the legal weight attached to state sovereignty as a barrier to external judgement and intervention in a state's affairs. State sovereignty, the recognition of self-government and autonomy, is perceived to be increasingly dangerous or inadequate for many states and peoples. International intervention in Iraq, the decision to extend international regulation in Bosnia, and the establishment of protectorates in Kosovo and East Timor are seen to herald a new set of precedents that suggest a modified approach to state sovereignty. De facto rule over a territory is no longer held to legitimise the denial of justice or the abuse of human rights.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond, p. 120

25 September 2006

Of River Horses and the Sea Pigs of Tonga

Christian Science Monitor reporter Nick Squire recently filed a quirky story headlined In Tonga, pigs fish but don't fly - yet.
TALAFO'OU, TONGA – Travelers who think they have seen it all should head to the island kingdom of Tonga for one of the Pacific's strangest tourist attractions: "fishing pigs."

Hogs on the archipelago's main island, Tongatapu, have conquered their fear of the ocean and now forage at low tide for crabs, mussels, seaweed, and fish marooned in rock pools.

While piglets snuffle around a few yards from the beach, fully grown porkers wade into the turquoise sea up to their waists....

In the coastal village of Talafo'ou, what looks like a miniature hippo is half-submerged in the sea, 100 yards from the beach. In fact it is a huge black sow, that bears closer resemblance to a wild boar than any farm breed, rooting around the reef.

Although the pigs don't swim, they do plunge their heads beneath the water for a few minutes at a time.
I wonder how long it would take for these swine to evolve into hippos--or porpoises. According to Wikipedia:
As indicated by the name, ancient Greeks considered the hippopotamus to be related to the horse. Until 1985, naturalists grouped hippos with pigs, based on molar patterns. However evidence, first from blood proteins, then from molecular systematics, and more recently from the fossil record, show that their closest living relatives are cetaceans – whales, porpoises and the like. Hippopotami have more in common with whales than they do with other artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates), such as pigs. Thus, the common ancestor of hippos and whales existed after the branch-off from ruminants, which occurred after the divergence from the rest of the even-toed ungulates, including pigs. While the whale and hippo are each other's closest living relatives, their lineages split very soon after their divergence from the rest of the even-toed ungulates.
How would one render in taxonomic Greek the 'sea pig' equivalent of hippopotamus 'river horse'? Hyenathalassa?

This reminds me of an article about the initial failures of machine translation that I remember from grad school in linguistics. The example I've never forgotten was translating the Russian for 'guinea pigs' a bit too literally as 'maritime piglets' (or 'sea SVINKI').

23 September 2006

Mississippi River Flood, 1543

IN 1543, GARCILASO DE LA VEGA, a member of Hernando de Soto's expedition, was one of the first white men to see the Mississippi River. He recorded its power: "Then God, our Lord, hindered the work with a mighty flood of the great river, which ... came down with an enormous increase of water, which in the beginning overflowed the wide level ground between the river and the cliffs"—meaning the river's banks, which towered above the river at low water—"then little by little it rose to the top of the cliffs. Soon it began to flow over the fields in an immense flood, and as the land was level, without any hills, there was nothing to stop the inundation. On the 18th of March, 1543, ... the river entered with ferocity through the gates of the town of Aminoya [an Indian village near the present site of Greenville, Mississippi]. It was a beautiful thing to look upon the sea that had been fields, for on each side of the river the water extended over twenty leagues"—nearly 60 miles—"of land, and [within] all of this area ... nothing was seen but the tops of the tallest trees.... These floods occur every fourteen years, according to what an old Indian woman told us, which can be verified if the country is conquered, as I hope it will be."
SOURCE: Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry (Touchstone, 1998), p. 173

22 September 2006

Comfy-chair Fieldwork on a Japanese Cinema Dialect

I recently saw for the first time (via Netflix) a Japanese film from 2002 entitled Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei). It's a wonderfully restrained and down-to-earth portait (reviewed here and here) of a dutiful but impoverished petty samurai aching to live as a plain farmer (not—like Tom Cruise—aching to die with The Last Samurai).

But an added attraction for me was the combination of English subtitles and a Japanese regional dialect, Yamagata-ben, or at least a Shochiku Film rendition of some of its key features. The dialects of the northern (Tohoku, lit. 'northeast') part of Honshu are collectively known as Tohoku-ben, or somewhat less diplomatically as zuzu-ben for their failure to distinguish /i/ and /u/, rendering both as a high central unrounded vowel [ɨ], which then of course fails to palatalize /s/ and /t/, so that sushi, shishi 'lion', and susu 'soot' all sound something like [sɨsɨ], which can be spelled susu, since /u/ is not rounded in standard Japanese either.

I haven't been able to find much online in English about Tohoku-ben except for a few sketchy accounts, the most extensive being a sketch of Miyagi-ben by a former JET volunteer. (Yamagata prefecture is on the Japan Sea side of Miyagi prefecture in southern Tohoku.) So I thought I'd offer a few general impressions of (Shochiku emblematic) Yamagata-ben from my second viewing of the film.

/s/ > /h/ in suffixes – I noted the kin terms otohan 'father', okahan 'mother', and babahan 'grandmother', the names Tomoe-han, Naota-han, and the polite expressions gokurou-han 'thank you', oboete-naharu 'do you remember?', and oyu wakasute kumahen 'can you boil some water for me?'. This lends a Kansai flavor to the dialect.

/ai/, /ae/ > /ee/ – This is not uncommon elsewhere, but it generally signals plain—even rough—talk. In Yamagata, it also occurs in polite speech. In the film I noted omee 'you', deekiree 'really don't like', and nee 'not' (as in sabusukunee 'not sad').

/-masu/ vs. /-masunee/ – Polite negatives in Yamagata-ben sound like affirmative confirmations in standard Japanese. I noted ikimasunee 'won't go', mattaku arimasunee 'absolutely don't have'.

/ne/ = /no/ tag – Yamagata no(u) performs the functions of the standard Japanese tag particle ne(e). In the film, I noted yoi ko da nou '(you're a) good girl, aren't you?'. (My usage tends toward /na/, thanks to my high school days in Kansai.)

/e/ > [i] – The backing of the high front vowel /i/ to [ɨ] (and its merger with /u/) leaves room for the mid front vowel /e/ to migrate upward. I noted sinko 'joss stick' and madi, madi! 'wait, wait!'. However, there were plenty of unraised /e/ as well, so I suspect the actors were pulling their punches to maintain intelligibility and relying instead on just a few emblematic raisings to give a flavor of the dialect. (This is true of most, if not all, renditions of "dialect" on stage and screen.)

de gozaimasu > de gansu 'the polite copula' – This remapping was so strikingly regular and transparent that I suspect it was not just one of the more salient emblems of Yamagata polite speech, but one of the easiest for dialog coaches to teach: owasure de gansho ka 'had you forgotten?'; sou de gansuta 'yes, it was'; omoe-dasu no wa iya de gansu 'I don't want to think about it'; ayamaru no wa ante ho de gansho 'I'm not the one who should apologize' (I'm not too sure whether my ante ho should be anta no hou 'your side' or hantee hou 'the opposite side'). However, I did catch one instance of de gozeemasunee 'is not' (= de gozaimasen).

/-t-/ > [d], /-d-/ > [nd] – Unvoiced obstruents tend to get voiced medially, while voiced obstruents get prenasalized. I didn't hear a lot of this. Maybe it would reduce intelligibility too much for the audience. Among the examples I noted were: odohan 'father', todemo suzuree 'very rude', and madi, madi 'wait, wait'.

Finally, the grammatical construction mou ii de ba (= mo ii deshou) 'that's enough, isn't it?'

21 September 2006

Sumo's Female Executives: Okamisan

Among the long list of expectations Yokozuna Akebono faced were that he become a Japanese citizen and that, believe it or not, he get married. Japanese citizenship is a requirement for oyakata ['stable bosses'], which as a yokozuna ['grand champion'] he was almost certain to become. While marriage is not an actual Kyōkai ['Association'] requirement for its oyakata, tradition dictates that one must be married; it is understood that a heya ['stable'] cannot be run by an oyakata alone. An oyakata's okamisan ['headmistress'] does far more than act as a kind of mom away from mom for the heya's deshi ['apprentices'], many of whom are still kids. In many cases, the okamisan is a sumo-beya's primary administrator. She organizes kōenkai ['fan club'] functions and dinners with other friends and supporters. She can also be involved in recruitment. If the heya has a sekitori ['paid professional'], she organizes everything related to his promotion parties and his wedding—sometimes right down to introducing prospective brides. In many cases, she handles all of the money coming through the heya. Hers is the only position of importance and respect for any woman in the Nihon Sumo Kyōkai.
SOURCE: Gaijin Yokozuna: A Biography of Chad Rowan, by Mark Panek (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), p. 230

20 September 2006

Bhumibol vs. Thaksin in Thailand

Shawn W. Crispin at Asia Times Online sees the coup in Thailand as an effort by the royalists to take power back from Thaksin, who had waged a long battle to wrest power away from the constitutional monarchy and concentrate it in the executive branch.
The mainstream media have widely misinterpreted the potent but peaceful protests as being galvanized by the Thaksin family's controversial US$1.9 billion tax-free sale of its 49% holdings in the Shin Corporation to Singapore's Temasek Holdings. To the contrary, the protests, which were later co-opted by various special-interest groups aligned against the government, were first galvanized and primarily sustained by the explosive claims first made by firebrand media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul that Thaksin was on particular occasions disloyal to the throne....

According to sources familiar with the matter, Thaksin had attempted to elevate Major-General Prin Suwanthat to commander of the 1st Army Division, which crucially is charged with overseeing security in Bangkok. Thaksin also reportedly pushed to promote Prin's ally, Major-General Daopong Ratanasuwan, to take over the 1st Infantry. With assistant army commander Pornchai Kranlert in place, the reshuffle, if accomplished, would have given Thaksin an unbroken chain of command over crack troops responsible for Bangkok's security.

Notably, without his allies in the top posts, Thaksin's order from New York to impose a "severe state of emergency" and remove Sonthi from his position as army commander went unheeded.

Meanwhile, the military has promised to return power to the people as soon as possible, and judging by past royally orchestrated extra-constitutional interventions, it will honor that vow.

Thaksin's ouster will pave the way for important democratic reforms, which under the military's and monarchy's watch will broadly aim to dilute the power of the executive branch, limit the power of large political parties, and strengthen the independent checking and balancing institutions that Thaksin stands accused of undermining.
via LaurenceJarvikOnline

Bernard Lewis on the End of the Old Order in the Middle East

In July 2006, Bernard Lewis delivered a lecture on board the Crystal Serenity, during a Hillsdale College cruise in the British Isles. He attributes the eclipse of democracy in the Middle East to two major factors:
Modernization and Nazi and Soviet Influence

The first of these changes is what one might call modernization. This was undertaken not by imperialists, for the most part, but by Middle Eastern rulers who had become painfully aware that their societies were undeveloped compared with the advanced Western world. These rulers decided that what they had to do was to modernize or Westernize. Their intentions were good, but the consequences were often disastrous. What they did was to increase the power of the state and the ruler enormously by placing at his disposal the whole modern apparatus of control, repression and indoctrination. At the same time, which was even worse, they limited or destroyed those forces in the traditional society that had previously limited the autocracy of the ruler. In the traditional society there were established orders—the bazaar merchants, the scribes, the guilds, the country gentry, the military establishment, the religious establishment, and so on. These were powerful groups in society, whose heads were not appointed by the ruler but arose from within the groups. And no sultan, however powerful, could do much without maintaining some relationship with these different orders in society. This is not democracy as we currently use that word, but it is certainly limited, responsible government. And the system worked. Modernization ended that. A new ruling class emerged, ruling from the center and using the apparatus of the state for its purposes.

That was the first stage in the destruction of the old order. The second stage we can date with precision. In the year 1940, the government of France surrendered to the Axis and formed a collaborationist government in a place called Vichy. The French colonial empire was, for the most part, beyond the reach of the Nazis, which meant that the governors of the French colonies had a free choice: To stay with Vichy or to join Charles de Gaulle, who had set up a Free French Committee in London. The overwhelming majority chose Vichy, which meant that Syria-Lebanon—a French-mandated territory in the heart of the Arab East—was now wide open to the Nazis. The governor and his high officials in the administration in Syria-Lebanon took their orders from Vichy, which in turn took orders from Berlin. The Nazis moved in, made a tremendous propaganda effort, and were even able to move from Syria eastwards into Iraq and for a while set up a pro-Nazi, fascist regime. It was in this period that political parties were formed that were the nucleus of what later became the Baath Party [emphasis added]. The Western Allies eventually drove the Nazis out of the Middle East and suppressed these organizations. But the war ended in 1945, and the Allies left. A few years later the Soviets moved in, established an immensely powerful presence in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and various other countries, and introduced Soviet-style political practice. The adaptation from the Nazi model to the communist model was very simple and easy, requiring only a few minor adjustments, and it proceeded pretty well. That is the origin of the Baath Party and of the kind of governments that we have been confronting in the Middle East in recent years. That, as I would again repeat and emphasize, has nothing whatever to do with the traditional Arab or Islamic past.
Read the whole thing. He also has a lot to say about the rise of Wahhabism and the West's witting and unwitting promotion of it.
Let me illustrate the significance of this with one example: Germany has constitutional separation of church and state, but in the German school system they provide time for religious instruction. The state, however, does not provide teachers or textbooks. They allow time in the school curriculum for the various churches and other religious communities—if they wish—to provide religious instruction to their children, which is entirely optional. The Muslims in Germany are mostly Turks. When they reached sufficient numbers, they applied to the German government for permission to teach Islam in German schools. The German authorities agreed, but said they—the Muslims—had to provide the teachers and the textbooks. The Turks said that they had excellent textbooks, which are used in Turkey and Turkish schools, but the German authorities said no, those are government-produced textbooks; under the principle of separation of church and state, these Muslims had to produce their own. As a result, whereas in Turkish schools in Turkey, students get a modern, moderate version of Islam, in German schools, in general, they get the full Wahhabi blast. The last time I looked, twelve Turks have been arrested as members of Al-Qaeda—all twelve of them born and educated in Germany.
Copyright © 2006. Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.

via RealClearPolitics

UPDATE: Several commenters object that the Vichy regime didn't last long enough to have much lasting effect on the Middle East, but I think they're missing the larger currents that preceded the crucial formation during Vichy times of European-style fascist parties in Damascus that later provided the vehicles for building secular nationalist, totalitarian police states. I feel a bit silly citing Wikipedia to support a well-known scholar like Lewis, but here's the section on the origins of the Baath Party and its founders. I've also gone back and emphasized Lewis's point that party formation was the key event of lasting consequence during the Vichy era.
The Baath party originated with two separate nationalist groups in Syria. The first of these, initially known as harakat al-ihyaa al-'arabi (the Arab Resurrection Movement), was set up by Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar in 1940s. It was a relatively small group of intellectuals and students, and Aflaq was its main theoretician. His ideology was essentially a form of romantic nationalism coupled with a vague socialism which rejected, however, the idea of class struggle. The second group formed around Zaki al-Arsuzi, a prominent figure in the resistance to French plans to annex the Syrian province of Iskandarun to Turkey. Al-Arsuzi's conception of the Arab nation was essentially a linguistic one, and historian Hanna Batatu also charges him with racialism and a mystical tendency influenced by his Alawite religion. According to some sources, in 1940 Arsuzi founded a group known as al-Baath al-'arabi (the Arab Resurrection); in other sources, he only used this as the name of a bookshop he opened in Damascus. In any case, he seems to have been the first to adopt the name.

Al-Bitar and Aflaq were from middle-class Damascus families, the former a Sunni Muslim and the latter a Greek Orthodox Christian. Both had studied in Paris, coming under the influence of European nationalist and Marxist ideas, as well as the secular historicism of leading 19th century French thinkers such as Ernest Renan and Auguste Comte. The two men, along with al-Arsuzi and another major proponent of early Baathist ideology, Shakeeb Dallal, had careers as middle-class educators.

These groups had formed in opposition to both French colonial rule and to the older generation of Syrian Arab nationalists, and advocated instead Pan-Arab unity and Arab nationalism. Their ideology blended non-Marxist socialism and nationalism. The early Syrian Baathists opposed the influence of Europe in their country's affairs, and used nationalism and the notion of unifying the Arab world as a platform.
Aflaq (b. 1910), Al-Bitar (b. 1912), and Al-Arsuzi (b. 1899) all studied at the Sorbonne during the late 1920s and 1930s.

18 September 2006

Wordcatcher Tales: Poi-sute

For all the sign-deciphering I did during my months in Japan earlier this year, I'm surprised how long it took me to notice "No littering" signs, which are often rendered in a katakana + kanji combination: ポイ捨て禁止 poi-sute kinshi 'casual-discard forbidden'. The verb 捨てる suteru means 'to throw away, discard' as in the famous legend of Obasuteyama, a mountain where old women were left to die after outliving their usefulness. (I'm not sure if the men were left on a separate Ojisuteyama.) And ぽいと poi-to means 'casually throwing or discarding something' (according to my electronic Super Daijirin).

The photo above shows a set of four bilingual anti-smoking signs that can be found in many train stations in Japan. The English version of the sign on the bottom right says, Posters saying "Don't litter with cigarette butts" are like children scolding adults with paintbrushes. It must be a Zen koan of an advanced type that exceeds my level of enlightenment, because I don't quite get the point.

17 September 2006

The Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s

The Klan of the 1920s represented something frightening in America, frightening because it ran so close to the mainstream. Across the country, lawyers, doctors, and ministers—successful men, ambitious men, middle-class men—supported the Klan.

The Klan's target was not really blacks. No politician was proclaiming racial equality. Even Calvin Coolidge, raised in Vermont, stated, "Biological laws shows us that Nordics deteriorate when mixed with other races." The Klan's target was change. Out of fear, the Klan enforced a populist conformity. In addition, as in Greenville [Mississippi], Klansmen generally tried to pry power out of the hands of the strongest and wealthiest men in a community, the men who had always run things. [MS Senator LeRoy] Percy was tired of fighting this battle. He even blocked plans to locate the new Delta State College, a normal school, in Greenville because he expected it to attract poor whites who would strengthen his enemies. Instead, in 1925 the school went to Cleveland, in neighboring Bolivar County.

In the larger sense, Percy sarcastically compared "the Klan virus" to "the good old days when [William Jennings] Bryan was the demagogue" and the Klan of the 1920s does fit uncomfortably close to America's populist tradition.

American populism has always been a complex phenomenon containing an ugly element, an element of exclusivity and divisiveness. It has always had an "us" against a "them." The "them" has often included not only an enemy above but also an enemy below. The enemy above was whoever was viewed as the boss, whether a man like Percy, or Wall Street, or Jews, or Washington; in the 1920s the enemy below was Catholics, immigrants, blacks, and political radicals.

The Klan continued to run strong nationally after Percy's rare victory over it [in Washington County, MS]. It was in 1924 that it elected the mayors of Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine. That same year Percy tried to address the 1924 state Democratic convention; after complex parliamentary maneuvers finally gained him recognition, the convention erupted in tumult and he was shouted down.

He turned his attention to "mak[ing] it more difficult for the Democrats to evade the Klan proposition" at their national convention. The Democrats had hoped to avoid the issue, as the Republicans had. But William Pattangall, attorney general of Maine, proposed a platform plank condemning the Klan. His proposal lost by a vote of 542-3/20 to 541-3/20. The fight split the party and made the Democratic presidential nomination worthless. It took 103 ballots to nominate John Davis, who was crushed by Coolidge. Pattangall himself lost reelection.

A year later the Klan remained strong. In 1925, Colorado Judge Ben Lindsay wrote Percy, who was advising him on anti-Klan tactics: "I really believe there is nothing in the entire history of the South that shows such sudden and devastating sweep as [the Klan] has achieved in Colorado. This secret order has functioned as almost the entire state government from state militia to the last constable."

Yet the 1920s Klan did collapse. It did so because it was not conceived as a political movement but as a scheme to make money selling memberships and regalia. It brought terrible forces together, like a magnifying glass concentrating the sun's rays, but no leader with a political vision emerged to focus that power and make it explode into flame. Instead, its leaders wrestled scandalously over profits, embarrassing its members. Then David Stephenson, Indiana's Klan leader who had amassed $3 million, was convicted of rape and murder; expecting a pardon and not receiving it, he revenged himself by revealing the corruption of dozens of Klan-backed politicians, including the governor and the mayor of Indianapolis, several of whom were also jailed. The Klan faded away.
SOURCE: Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry (Touchstone, 1998), pp. 154-155

16 September 2006

Greenville, Mississippi, in the 1920s

At the outbreak of World War I the [Mississippi] Delta was still the Wild West of the South. More than 60 percent of the land remained wilderness, with bears still invading cornfields and wolves devouring livestock. Like the West, and unlike the already settled South, it had few churches, few schools, much drinking (despite statewide prohibition), and violence....

Incongruously, cotton had simultaneously created an elite whose sons went to Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell and traveled the world; in 1914 several Greenville planters attending the annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany, were stranded by the outbreak of the war. After the war, with cotton prices soaring, the best Delta land brought $1,000 an acre .... Even the social elite of New Orleans considered Greenville exceptional....

By the 1920s, Greenville had become "The Queen City of the Delta," with twelve miles of paved streets. Its population reached 15,000 souls, all nestled close to the river. Downtown teemed with life. Barges piled with goods docked at the concrete wharf, warehouses burst with cotton, trucks and spavined mules pulled supplies. The city had one French and two Italian restaurants, twenty-four-hour coffee shops, bowling alleys and pool halls and movie theaters. The biggest entertainers, including Enrico Caruso and Al Jolson, regularly stopped at the Opera House or the even larger People's Theater. Enough Chinese lived in Greenville that a tong war erupted. The four-story Cowan Hotel was the state's finest. The Armour Packing Company, the largest meatpacker between Memphis and New Orleans, distributed fresh meat throughout the Delta and into the hill country. Three cotton exchanges each had a wire to Liverpool, New Orleans, New York, and Chicago. The Greenville Cotton Compress, a huge operation owned by [Senator LeRoy] Percy, baled cotton and sold it directly to international buyers. Fourteen trains a day arrived in Greenville at the Y&MV [Yazoo & Mississippi Valley] railroad station; six more trains arrived daily at the Columbus & Greenville station. Four oil mills, the smallest covering two city blocks, crushed cotton seed. Half a dozen sawmills worked the great masses of logs floated to them; the two largest each made 150,000 board feet of lumber a day.

The city's most exclusive gathering place was the Swan Lake Club, a shooting club outside the city. Since anyone in the Delta acceptable for membership already belonged, no guests were allowed who lived within a hundred miles. The Greenville Country Club was new; it and the Mississippi Club were for the fine families, and unlike other cities—including nearby Greenwood—both had Jewish members. (Only the Garden Club excluded Jews.) The Elysian Club, a two-storied yellow brick building with a vast porch, held dances renowned throughout the Delta; fans were placed behind a 300-pound block of ice to blow air over it and cool the room, and a hedge in front was used to hide corn whiskey. W. C. Handy, one of the fathers of the blues, frequently played there....

More than half of Greenville's population was black, and there were two black neighborhoods. If young men from one entered the other, trouble followed. Newtown lay north of downtown; there "blacks tried to be citified, uppity," according to one black man. Southside was more working-class. Most blacks worked on the river, or in the sawmills, or as servants for whites. By 6 A.M. the streets were alive with maids and cooks and chauffeurs heading to white folks' homes. Several black doctors and dentists had offices in two buildings on the edge of downtown. There was a black printer, a black-owned newsstand serving whites, several black funeral home operators, black shoe repairmen. A black bank was nurtured largely by money from black prostitutes who serviced white men only. Their brothels flourished just east of downtown, near Broadway and Nelson, across from the pride of the black community, Mt. Horeb Church, a small but magnificent stone structure. A block away, there were black juke joints and pool halls and gambling joints. There was liquor, and women, and the blues. And there were knives, razors, and pistols....

In the 1920s, Greenville was a thriving small metropolis, and, like most ports, more cosmopolitan than neighboring communities. But what set Greenville apart was the imprint that [Senator] Percy and those few who allied themselves with him had imposed.

GREENVILLE'S SCHOOLS epitomized the difference. In 1920 the city spent $85 per white pupil, double the state's second-most-generous locality; five Mississippi counties in the hills spent less than $5 per white child, while one spent only $2.75. The teachers and facilities were outstanding, and for its size Greenville produced an extraordinary number of writers, including LeRoy's son William Alexander Percy and great-nephew Walker Percy, David Cohn, Ellen Douglas, Beverly Lowry, Charles Bell, and Shelby Foote.

For blacks, Greenville schools were, relatively, even more special. The city spent $17 per black child, compared to 68 cents in another district. At the same time that many Mississippi politicians opposed teaching blacks arithmetic and reading, Greenville public schools offered blacks Latin. Lizzie Coleman, principal of the black high school, intimidated students and teachers into excelling. She made each teacher raise $150 a year for the school, and also said, "I don't believe in the melting pot." But she knew how to survive. During the week she bought groceries from two black men; on Saturdays she bought steaks from Will Reed, a white man, on Washington Avenue. The steak was more expensive, but that did not matter. Because of her good relationships with whites, when black teachers asked school superintendent E. E. Bass to stop calling them by their first names in front of their students, he agreed to address them in school as "Mr.," "Mrs.," or "Miss." Greenville was also state headquarters for several black fraternal organizations, including the Pythians and the Masons, and Percy had even sued a white fraternal organization on their behalf and won.
SOURCE: Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry (Touchstone, 1998), pp. 132-135

15 September 2006

WHO Endorses DDT Use Indoors

Saturday's Washington Post reports:
The World Health Organization reversed a 30-year-old policy yesterday and declared its support for indoor use of the pesticide DDT to control mosquitoes in regions where malaria is a major health problem.

The Geneva-based WHO, which provides advice to many developing countries, believes the benefits of the long-acting pesticide far outweigh any health or environmental risk it may pose....

The endorsement is only for once- or twice-yearly spraying of the pesticide on the inside walls of dwellings, especially mud and thatched huts. Used that way, DDT functions as both an insect repellent and -- when a blood-engorged female mosquito lands on the wall to digest its meal -- an insecticide.

One application costs about $5. Most of that cost is labor, as it is sprayed on by professional applicators, and each packet of the pesticide must be strictly accounted for.

About 1 million people die each year of malaria, most of them African children under age 5. ...

Numerous countries in southern Africa use DDT, but the compound is generally not used in central and west Africa, which have more intense malaria transmission, said Shiva Murugasampillay, a physician at WHO in Geneva.

DDT was the chief chemical villain of Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," whose publication in 1962 helped nurture the modern environmental movement. The chemical was banned in the United States in 1972, and its use worldwide fell steeply after that. It is no longer used in agriculture.

A study in Zambia in 2000 found that when all houses in a neighborhood were sprayed, malaria incidence fell 35 percent compared with years when none was sprayed.

Swaziland and Madagascar each had malaria epidemics after suspending DDT spraying, the latter's outbreak killing more than 100,000 people from 1986 to 1988. Both epidemics were stopped when DDT spraying resumed.

Escherichia coli O157:H7

Human stomachs are naturally full of E. coli bacteria. That's something that gets lost in most news reports about the current outbreak.
A majority of the infections have occurred in Wisconsin, where 29 people so far have contracted the disease. Utah had 11 cases, and New York and Ohio each had seven, Acheson said.

Other states where the infection has occurred are California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, Acheson said.

The outbreak is part of a problem in the U.S. food supply that affects about 100,000 to 150,000 people each year. The bacteria can be spread by insufficiently cooked meat, sprouts, lettuce, unpasteurized milk and juice or contact with sewage-contaminated water. The last outbreak involving spinach was in California in 2003.

The bacteria can cause low-grade fever, vomiting and diarrhea, often with bloody stool, the FDA said. Most healthy adults recover within a week, though some people develop serious kidney damage.
The subspecific strain that is now causing problems is O157:H7, the same one that affected thousands of schoolchildren in Japan ten years ago.
To determine the cause of a July 1996 outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 among factory workers in Kyoto, Japan, we conducted cohort and case-control studies. Eating radish sprout salad during lunch at the factory cafeteria had been linked to illness. The sprouts were traced to four growers in Japan; one had been associated with an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 among 6,000 schoolchildren in Sakai earlier in July.
UPDATE: See the story behind the killer spinach on Carl Zimmer's science blog The Loom.

14 September 2006

Asia Watch on "Sea of Japan" vs. "East Sea"

Asia Watch presents a 27-point rebuttal to a Korea.net video that argues for renaming the Sea of Japan as the East Sea.
In summary: This video ignores the claim that “Sea of Japan” came into widespread usage in the early 19th century. Instead, it presents studies of pre-19th century maps, none of which discredit the findings of Japanese researchers with regard to the 19th century. After failing to discredit Japanese claims, it shows that the name “East Sea” has been used by Koreans for 2000 years. It then claims that the entire world is obligated to print foreign terms for seas alongside their traditionally-established native language terms, in accordance with a recommendation of a UN organization (but only in the case of the “East Sea”). The video attempts to disguise the anti-Japanese Korean ultranationalist agenda behind a thin veil of academic arguments, and does a remarkable horrible job. If this is the best argument the Korean government can produce, I doubt they’ll be winning over many converts through the spread of this video.
via Japundit

Why stop at the Sea of Japan? How about the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Tonkin, the Marianas Trench, the Gulf of Siam/Thailand, and the Gulf of Mexico? Who gave the Coral Sea to the coral? Don't the sea cucumbers have as valid a claim, or the moray eels? I say let's restore the proper name for the English Channel: The Sleeve.

UPDATE: I was going to ask who gave the Bay of Pigs to the porkers, but its Spanish name is Bahía de Cochinos 'Bay of Triggerfish'. Cochinos are only metaphorically disgusting in behavior or appearance—like pigs, though nowhere near as intelligent. Also:
Some species of triggerfish are known to make a sound akin to a grunt or snarl when taken out of the water.

Origins of Sharecropping in Mississippi

THE DELTA had always been too wild for one man or one family to subdue, and from the first, settlers had brought slaves and organization with them. Immediately after the Civil War, Mississippi and other southern states tried to resolve labor and racial questions by passing a "Black Code" that effectively reestablished slavery. One Mississippi provision required blacks to sign annual labor contracts or be arrested for vagrancy; the local government would then sell their services to contractors. Congress reacted to such laws with anger and instituted "Radical Reconstruction," setting up new state governments that threw out those laws and putting a buffer of federal power between southern whites and blacks.

[MS Senator Charles] Percy recognized both the economic problems and the need to accept a new order, and advocated a solution. Planters had land but no cash. Blacks had labor but no land; they also resisted working in gangs under a foreman, which smacked of slavery and overseers. So Percy, who understood both the capital shortage and the importance of making labor content in order to maximize efficiency, advocated sharecropping. One man even credited Percy with inventing the system, and contemporaneous reports in other southern states did attribute the system's beginnings to Mississippi. Planters supplied land; blacks supplied labor and gained some independence. Profits were theoretically split fifty-fifty (the cropper got more if he had his own mules), making blacks and whites partners and by implication comparable if not equal. However abusive sharecropping later became, because of the system's implied partnership of white and black, initially whites resisted it while blacks welcomed it.

Sharecropping may have helped alleviate the Delta's desperate shortage of labor in another way. Planters and their labor agents were scouring the rest of the state and the South recruiting former slaves, promising—and delivering—better pay and treatment than elsewhere. The new system may have helped attract blacks, for in a steady stream they came. From one Mississippi county outside the Delta, a single Delta plantation recruited 500 workers. From Columbus, Mississippi, near the Alabama line, 100 black workers left for the Delta in a single week. From Uniontown, Alabama, 250 blacks boarded a single train, heading for the Delta. From Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia as well, thousands of blacks came.
SOURCE: Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry (Touchstone, 1998), pp. 102-103 (reviewed here)

My paternal grandfather was a (white) tenant farmer in southeastern Virginia. He sometimes managed the farms of landowning relatives, but never owned a farm himself. Not one of his children remained a farmer.

Sumo's Appeal for the Waka/Taka Brothers and Others

THE NAMES "WAKAHANADA" and "Takahanada" meant little of poetic significance. The "waka" and "taka" parts merely evoked their father and uncle, while "hanada" was their real last name. But among those watching in February 1988, it was understood that the boys would one day earn the right to take on the great names "Wakanohana" and "Takanohana."

Why a young Japanese would want to take up the severe life associated with the national sport, while far less bizarre than when applied to an American, is a question that deserves attention. The total number of the [Sumo] Kyokai's competitors usually hovers around only 800 in a country of some 120 million people, while baseball and soccer attract a far greater number of Japan's promising athletes. Some join sumo, believe it or not, because the sumo world is a place where big guys can exist honorably without being teased. Teasing and bullying go on far past adolescence in Japan. Much is made in cultural definitions of Japan as a place of social conformity, and pressure to conform is indeed very real there. But rather than through some kind of Orwellian fear tactics, in practice the social pressure comes in the form of people being relentlessly annoying any time they see something even slightly out of the ordinary. A bigger-than-aver-age Japanese man looks different from most people, and thus becomes the object of constant ridicule, both from those he knows (in the form of obligatory fat jokes at absolutely every social encounter) and those he doesn't ("Ah, Mr. Tanaka! It's nice to meet you. Wow, you sure are big. How much do you weigh, anyway?"). For many overweight Japanese teenage boys who may never have had an interest in sport and who find themselves at the age when teasing is at its fiercest, sumo is a way out of mainstream Japan. The saddest part may be that the middle of the banzuke ['rankings'] is clogged with nonathletic types with no hope of ever reaching the salaried ranks who've committed themselves to sumo as an alternative way of life: their topknots turn their size from points of obligatory ridicule to points of honor.

Other Japanese rikishi are recruited from rural areas with little economic opportunity. A former sekitori ['professional wrestler'] explained, "Some kids, they come to the stable, but the ones the oyakata ['stablemaster'] scout, they go to their house, they go to their parents, they give 'em a million yen. 'Give me your boy for sumo.' These boys are fifteen years old, and their parents are like, 'A million yen!' These guys are from the mountains; they don't see that much money. 'Oh, okay, okay! You go do sumo!'" They join sumo as a means of support and often toil for years in the lower ranks with no hope of making it, fortunate to be fed and housed. Other Japanese join in a rare show of national pride: "Because it is kokugi," the national sport, one boy in the jonokuchi [lowest] division told me. Still others join as Jesse Kuhaulua [raised on Maui] had, as a natural progression of their junior high, high school, and/or college sumo careers.

Masaru and Koji Hanada joined because they were born into the sport. Sons of the great Ozeki Takanohana (the first) and nephews of the great Yokozuna Wakanohana (the first), they had sumo in their blood. While Chad Rowan had not known the meaning of the term "sumo-beya" ['sumo stable'] until he was eighteen, the Hanadas had been raised in one. Young Koji Hanada entered his first sumo tournament when he was in third grade—and won. Six years after setting up his own Fujishima-Beya upon retiring in 1982, Fujishima Oyakata gave in to the relentless pleas from his boys by letting them formally become his deshi. Masaru Hanada's 2000 autobiography offers a poignant account of the boys declaring themselves no longer Fujishima Oyakata's sons, upon moving out of Fujishima-Beya's top-floor apartment and down into a big shared room below, but rikishi under his charge.

By official registration day, Takahanada weighed a healthy 258 pounds, bigger than most of the other boys and a full 40 pounds heavier and nearly an inch taller than his older brother. And unlike the rest of the shin-deshi ['new apprentices'] registering that day, Waka and Taka had already proved themselves on the dohyo [= 'in the ring']. Competing in high school, Masaru (Waka) had taken the All-Japan Senior High School yusho [tournament championship], while his younger brother had easily taken the Kanto District Junior High School yusho. Where Chad Rowan had come from nowhere into a sport as foreign to him as the language, these boys were sumo's Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds.
SOURCE: Gaijin Yokozuna: A Biography of Chad Rowan, by Mark Panek (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), pp. 122-123

Well, the money must hold considerable appeal for the foreign wrestlers. At the end of Day 5 in the September Basho: two Mongolians, yokozuna Asashoryu and maegashira-6 Ama, are 5-0. Just one loss behind, at 4-1, are Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu, Japanese ozeki Chiyotaikai, Mongolian ozeki Hakuho, Japanese sekiwake Kotomitsuki, Russian maegashira-1 Roho, Japanese maegashira-11 Homasho, and Korean maegashira-15 Kasugao. I would dearly love to see tiny Ama win the tournament.

UPDATE, Day 6: Asashoryu lost, leaving Ama (now 6-0) in sole possession of the lead!

UPDATE, Day 7: Ama lost, so now two Mongolians (Asa and Ama), one Russian (Roho), and one Japanese (Kotomitsuki) are tied for the lead at 6-1.

UPDATE, Day 8: Kotomitsuki loses, leaving the other three at 7-1.

UPDATE, Day 9: Tiny Ama (185 cm, 115 kg) went up against the giant Estonian Baruto (197 cm, 174 kg) and won! Well, technically, Baruto defeated himself by fumidashi, stepping backwards out of the ring while facing Ama. Asa beat Roho in the hard-fought final bout, so the two Mongolians still share the lead at 8-1.

UPDATE, Day 10: Asa and Ama now share the lead at 9-1, with Roho and Ama's Ajigawa stablemate Aminishiki one loss behind, at 8-2.

UPDATE, Day 11: Asa and Ama now share the lead at 10-1, while Roho and Aminishiki have both dropped back to 8-3, alongside Chiyotaikai, Futeno, and Hokutoriki. Unbelievable. Ama will certainly regain komusubi rank after this basho.

UPDATE, Day 12: Fellow Mongolian Hakuho lifted Ama up and out of the ring, leaving him at 10-2, one loss behind Asashoryu (11-1), who won his bout against Tochiazuma.

UPDATE, Day 13: Ama had the chance to get back into a tie for the lead if he managed to defeat Asashoryu, but he had no such luck, so Ama stands at 10-3, while Asashoryu lengthens his lead to 12-1.

Topix.net has two sumo photos of interest from a Sadogatake-beya tour of Israel in June: Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu in yukata and yarmulke at the Western Wall and stablemates Kotomitsuki and Kotoshogiku floating in the Dead Sea.

12 September 2006

Percy/Daiki on Chad/Akebono

When I met Chad [Rowan = Akebono], he wasn't that nice of a person, I guess 'cause all of the stress and stuff, but when I got to know him, he was one nice guy. Real humble. But mean personalities. I'll tell you how he is. I been over there seven and a half years. The jungyo tournaments, comes in the morning. Doesn't say one word. Sits down. Lies down. Rests a while. Gets up: "Mawashi!" Put on his belt, put on his yukata, walk straight to the dohyo. After he practice, he comes back, take a shower, then he start talking. "Oh, my back sore." He neva like joking around. After that, then he jumps out of the shower, then he goes to eat. Different attitude. Quiet again, eating. Then he go back to his room. Joking around, talking story, listening to the radio, talking on the phone. Time for wrestle: pau. Attitude again. That's why I used to watch his moods. I used to just practice with that. I know how he act already. I know what pisses him off. After practice, he go back to the shower; nobody bother him. Come back from the shower, eat, nobody bother him. After he pau eat, then you can talk story with him. You gotta catch him one perfect time. You don't catch him one perfect time, he's a bitch. Nobody can talk to him at all. —PERCY KIPAPA (DAIKI), 12/98
SOURCE: Gaijin Yokozuna: A Biography of Chad Rowan, by Mark Panek (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), p. 161

Percy Kipapa was found dead in a truck from multiple stab wounds on 16 May 2005 in Honolulu. —Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 19 May 2005

His friend, Kealiiokalani Meheula, was found guilty of second-degree murder in June 2006, and was sentenced to the mandatory life imprisonment with the possibility of parole on 6 September 2006. —Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 September 2006
"Percy Kipapa -- he was my friend," Meheula said yesterday, breaking down as he asked Kipapa's family for forgiveness. "I loved him with my heart, and I have to live with this for the rest of my life."

George Kipapa said he did not know how much love Percy, the youngest of the Kipapas' three children, had shared with the people here and in Japan until his funeral.

"I'm not only proud that he had a career in sumo; most of all, I'm proud he learned the word love," Kipapa said.

As for Meheula, Kipapa said he hoped God would have mercy on him and that in the future he would learn to let go of his anger and embrace others, not hurt them. "Today we gotta learn to love, not to hate," Kipapa said.
The Honolulu Advertiser account on 7 September adds another pertinent detail.
Also speaking in court was Mark Panek, a friend of Percy Kipapa and author of a biography on sumo champion Chad Rowan. Panek said he met Percy Kipapa in Japan and said the other sumo wrestlers from Hawai'i miss him.
It looks as if Panek's next biography has just been assigned to him. A biography with less triumph and more tragedy.

11 September 2006

Auden on Yeats in 1939 Inspires Somali in Canada in 2003

W. H. Auden seems a favorite poet to quote in these dark times. Google returns over 500 links to the memorable line "Each sequestered in its hate" from Auden's poem "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," who died in 1939. The poem begins:
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
But the most oft-cited verses seem to be the following.
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from each human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Now compare Auden's words with a eulogy for the Somali exile Hussein Afrah Sheengiyale (d. Jan 2003):
Hussein Afrah Sheengiyaale died in the dead of winter
Earth, receive an honored Somali guest
Hussein Afrah Sheengiyaale is laid to rest
In this alien snow
In this old cold exile
In this old cold Canada ...

All the crazy clans cower & wait
Each sequestered in its hate
Woefully arrogant
Willfully ignorant
That today
An important Son of Somalia died
In old cold Canadian exile
That every day
Thousands of Somalia’s best & the brightest
In anguish
In this old cold Canadian exile
According to banadir.com, Norway (another cold country) is now forcing Somalis to return to their homeland.
The authorities in Norway, which has about 17000 Somali refugees and asylum seekers, have decided to return 400 whose asylum applications have been rejected. In fact, after a long period when Somalis were not returned to Southern Somalia, the changed situation in Mogadishu, including the opening of the airport, has given them the idea that it is now safe to return people there.

UNHCR has strongly advised against it, and other Scandinavian countries are not doing the same, preferring to wait and see.

Norway, which likes to be seen as a humanitarian nation, with peace- keepers and conflict solvers in many countries, is now practising a very strict policy in the case of Somalis.

This has caused a lot of debate and uproar. One party in the coalition government, the Socialist Left party, has condemned it, the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers, NOAS, is protesting, as is the Norwegian Refugee Council, and all major newspapers are daily writing about the situation. In fact, since this became known, the UNHCR has made a special appeal to the government, warning of the dangers of returning people to Somalia at the moment, as it is “a threat to the right to life”.

New Directions in Reading after 11 September 2001

I was home sick on 11 September 2001, and my sister called to tell me to turn on the TV. It took me a longish while to absorb what was happening and to begin reprocessing the events of the decades leading up to that day. My background reading began to expand in new directions, starting with a book that my historian brother had received in the mail just before I arrived for a visit. The book was The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism, by Simon Reeve (Northeastern, 1999), a well-told account of the first attack on the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the Bojinka plot in 1994–1995.

The next three books I bought for myself were:
  • Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid (Yale, 2000);
  • Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, by Elaine Sciolino (Touchstone, 2000); and
  • The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey, by Fouad Ajami (Vintage Books, 1998).
Each presented perspectives that were fresh and thought-provoking for me. Ajami, in particular, offered an eloquent requiem for so many dreams that turned to dust during the last half of the 20th century. Now I see he has a new book out, The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq and it sounds as if it contains a provisional requiem for another set of dreams that may be turning to dust. The following passage is from a review by Victor Davis Hanson (via Laurence Jarvik Online).
In general, according to Ajami, the pathologies of today’s Middle East originate with the mostly Sunni autocracies that threaten, cajole, and flatter Western governments even as they exploit terrorists to deflect popular discontent away from their own failures onto the United States and Israel. Precisely because we have ushered in a long-overdue correction that threatens not only the old order of Saddam’s clique but surrounding governments from Jordan to Saudi Arabia, we can expect more violence in Iraq. What then to do? Ajami counsels us to ignore the cries of victimhood from yesterday’s victimizers, always to keep in mind the ghosts of Saddam’s genocidal regime, to be sensitive to the loss of native pride entailed in accepting our “foreigner’s gift,” and to let the Iraqis follow their own path as we eventually recede into the shadows.

Along with this advice, he offers a series of first-hand portraits, often brilliantly subtle, of some fascinating players in contemporary Iraq. His meeting in Najaf with Ali al-Sistani discloses a Gandhi-like figure who urges: “Do everything you can to bring our Sunni Arab brothers into the fold.” General David Petraeus, the man charged with rebuilding Iraq’s security forces, lives up to his reputation as part diplomat, part drillmaster, and part sage as he conducts Ajami on one of his dangerous tours of the city of Mosul. On a C-130 transport plane, Ajami is so impressed by the bookish earnestness of a nineteen-year-old American soldier that he hands over his personal copy of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American (“I had always loved a passage in it about American innocence roaming the world like a leper without a bell, meaning no harm”).
“Like a leper without a bell, meaning no harm” describes so well not just American innocence, but the entire edifice of UN efforts around the globe. When the working partner of willful innocence is cynical manipulation, malignant results are sure to follow. Especially when the willfully innocent couple their self-professed moral purity with a steady stream of jeremiads against the enemies of their manipulative partners.

10 September 2006

A Foreign Sumo Recruit's Big Mistake

When the television crew left, Boss went upstairs to his third-floor apartment, leaving Chad in the big room with twelve other boys ranging in age from fifteen to twenty-one. They also ranged in size, from surprisingly scrawny younger kids to the imposing, four-hundred-pound Samoans from Hawai‘i, Taylor Wylie and John [Feleunga]. Chad looked from one to the next as they stared at him, sizing him up like a battle-seasoned army platoon eyeing an unlikely recruit. Each had his hair tied into a single knot that was folded over, looking like a samurai in the movies Chad had watched on TV. Purple welts and bruises covered most of their faces. Many of them had their arms folded so that the fabric of their robes stretched tight enough to display bulging biceps. Chad understood the energy he was sensing from them: testosterone. These guys fought for a living, day after day. They fought. As of yet, he did not.

Some of the younger Japanese boys began barking at him in words he could not understand, as if to order him around. Their guttural commands were more reminders of those samurai movies he and his brothers used to mimic in exaggerated grunts and mumbles. He turned to John and said, "Excuse me, John-san, what they wen' say to me?"

"What I look like?" the Samoan glared at him. "Your fuckin' interpreter?"

The blast of cold wind back at the airport had shocked him less. He stood motionless, trying to figure out the reaction somehow. It made no sense to him. While he might have expected trouble from the Japanese, John had been through exactly what he was now dealing with. He could have made things smoother for Chad with a few simple words: "they wen' tell you for layout your futon," or "they like know why you so tall." Support from John did not have to last forever, Chad thought, but he had only been in the country a matter of hours. Instead it was, more or less, "just 'cause I local no mean I going help you—you're on your own, Hawaiian."

Confined now to silence, Chad continued to look around and take in the complex web of power surrounding him, one based on age, time served, and strength. In the last and most important of these, it was immediately clear that Taylor was The Man. Only eighteen as well, Taylor had come to Japan the year before and now ran the heya, as Chad could already tell, based on the obvious fact that he could kick anybody's ass in the room. The big Samoan ordered two of the boys to set out a futon for Chad in the corner of the room, which they did immediately. They then showed Chad where he was to lay his futon out in the evenings and store it in the mornings, and finally, a personal storage area much too large for his small bag.

All of the boys, as it happened, shared the big room. As far as he could tell, they spoke more or less freely with each other, laughing occasionally from one corner to the other as much as the boundaries he had noticed permitted. But beyond Taylor's initial gesture, no one made any effort to include him, including the other boys from Hawai‘i, who bantered fluently in Japanese. Chad realized as he lay on the cold, hard floor that his time in the spotlight was over. This was not the sumo he had seen on television. Konishiki's limo, stardom, big money—it all may as well have been another ten-day-long flight away from this hard, cold floor. They'll take care of everything. Right. All he could think about as he drifted off to sleep was home, and what a huge mistake he had just made by leaving.
SOURCE: Gaijin Yokozuna: A Biography of Chad Rowan, by Mark Panek (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), pp. 16-17

The 2006 Aki Basho (Fall Tournament) is now underway, with one gaijin yokozuna at the top of the banzuke, two gaijin ozeki, one gaijin komusubi, and seven gaijin maegashira: from Mongolia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Estonia, and Russia. But not a single Polynesian, I'm sad to say. I'm rooting for the Okinawan rookie Ryuho (Ryukyu Roc/Phoenix), who just made his major league (makuuchi) debut.

Takasago-beya as Both the Yankees and the Dodgers

While Azumazeki-Beya had been open for only two years, Takasago-Beya was steeped in sumo history. Of the fifty-odd sumo-beya [sumo stables] currently housing rikishi [professional sumo wrestlers] in various parts of the surrounding neighborhood, Takasago ranked fifth in years of operation, dating back to 1878—by no means the beginning of sumo, but an age when the sport began to take on its present structure. In addition to Azumazeki-Beya, Takasago spawned Takadagawa-Beya, Nakamura-Beya, Wakamatsu-Beya, and Kokonoe-Beya. Takasago Oyakata had risen to yokozuna [grand champion] back in 1959, competing as Asashio [one of my childhood favorites—J.]. The fifth Takasago Oyakata, he had taken over in 1971 when the previous Takasago Oyakata, who had also risen to yokozuna competing as Maedayama, died. The line of oyakata stretched back to Takasago Uragoro, who oversaw two yokozuna and three ozeki [champions] of his own. Over the years, nearly one-tenth of the yokozuna promoted since the inception of the rank in the mid-nineteenth century (six of sixty-two, by this time) stomped their first shiko [raise one leg, stomp it, squat] into the Takasago-Beya keikoba [practice room]. If American Major League Baseball were a hundred years older (and if baseball players shared this unforgiving, monastic lifestyle), Takasago-Beya might be comparable to Yankee Stadium.

Takasago-Beya was perhaps more notable in a Brooklyn Dodger way than in a way befitting Yankee pinstripes. In addition to Taylor [Wylie], John [Feleunga], Konishiki [Saleva'a Atisano'e], and Nankairyu, Chad [Rowan] saw two other foreigners in the room, members of Takasago-Beya. While other sumo-beya had recruited rikishi from Brazil and Argentina, and would later look to Mongolia, the only foreigners yet to have really impacted the national sport were limited to this room. Twenty-four years earlier on a demonstration tour to Hawai‘i, the fourth Takasago Oyakata had taken a chance on Jesse Kuhaulua, the beginning of Hawai‘i's connection with Japan's national sport. Kuhaulua had trained and competed for more than twenty years at Takasago-Beya as Takamiyama. He now presided over asa-geiko [morning practice] next to the present Takasago Oyakata, on nearly equal terms, as Azumazeki Oyakata.
SOURCE: Gaijin Yokozuna: A Biography of Chad Rowan, by Mark Panek (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), pp. 38-39

In looking for links for this post, I came across an interview with Hawai‘i-raised amateur sumotori Kena Heffernan, Yale ’96, Sumo cum laude.

09 September 2006

Wordcatcher Tales: Nakayama > Zhongshan

In 1987–88, the Far Outliers spent a year teaching English at newly founded Sunwen College in Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China, about an hour by car north of Macao, which at that time was still a Portuguese colony. Our daughter, who was two at the time, learned to recognize the Chinese characters 中山市 (Zhongshanshi), which were ubiquitous on vehicles and signs around the city. (The photo shows her with the principal of her preschool, who was also the auntie of one of our students—otherwise they wouldn't have taken her. They didn't realize until too late that she was a year younger than the others in her class.)

We soon came to realize that hardly anyone in China recognized the Cantonese name Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), whose famous bearer is known throughout China as Sun Zhongshan (孙中山). The name of the college, Sunwen (孙文) was the same man's "school name" (学名 xuémíng, informally 大名 dàmíng 'big name'), the name he signed on official documents. The man had a lot of names.

What I didn't realize until just recently was that the name by which he is known in China derives from the alias he used in Japan—and not vice versa—at least according to Wikipedia:
In 1897, Sun Yat-sen arrived in Japan, and when he went to a hotel he had to register his name. Desiring to remain hidden from Japanese authorities, his friend wrote down the Japanese family name Nakayama (中山) on the register for him, and Sun Yat-sen chose the given name Shō (樵).

Allegedly, on their way to the hotel they had passed by the Palace of Marquis Nakayama (family home of the Meiji Emperor's mother) near Hibiya Park in central Tokyo, and so his friend chose the family name which they had seen hanging at the door of the palace.

For the most part of his stay in Japan, he was known as Nakayama Shō (中山樵). The kanji for Nakayama can be read in Chinese as Zhōngshān.
And now you can find universities, roads, and parks named for Zhongshan all over China and Taiwan (thanks to the imperialism of Japanese aliases, or the anti-imperialism of the alias holder, or something).

PS: Our daughter, whose first preschool was Zhongshan No. 2 Preschool (中山第二幼儿园) in Sun Yat-sen's hometown, later graduated from Sun Yat-sen's alma mater in Honolulu.

Inuit and Viking Settlement in the Far North

Prolific book reviewer Danny Yee posted a longish review last month of John Hoffecker's A Prehistory of the North (Rutgers U. Press, 2004).
The Vikings reached Greenland before the Inuit, but unlike the latter they were unable to cope when temperatures dropped after the Medieval Warm Period; their basically European economy and technology was not readily adapted to northern latitudes. A Prehistory of the North begins with this recent episode, but is otherwise a chronological account of early human settlement of the Arctic and sub-Arctic.

This is a story not of steady northward progress, but of successive movements — including some retreats — constrained by climate change and enabled by anatomical changes and technological innovation. Hoffecker covers the paleoanthropological and archaeological record, but sets it in the context of changing climates and broader ecological trends....

The final chapter surveys later developments, moving from Europe eastwards: the Late Stone Age in northern Scandinavia, the Siberian Neolithic and movements to the northeast, the Paleo-Eskimo world in North America, and the expansion of the Inuit.
"The modern Inuit are the direct descendants of what archaeologists have termed the Thule culture. Thule culture was the product of a number of interrelated technological and organizational developments that began in the Bering Sea region slightly more than 2,000 years ago. These developments enabled the Alaskan ancestors of the Inuit to expand rapidly across the central and eastern Arctic after AD 1000, creating the remarkable uniformity of culture encountered by the Europeans."
There were numerous technological innovations, including maritime technology, sleds and dogs, and the use of mammal fat in lamps.