I, and my partner R-------, am in the North of Scotland for this New Year. It took us over twenty hours to drive here through the snow-bound chaos that Britain has become over the last week or so – a journey that usually only takes us ten to twelve hours. It was a drive straight out of ones worst nightmare – sundry pets which are well used to the drive spent the last six hours of the journey wittering at us much as children do: “Are we there yet?” Are we there yet?”
If you have ever had to spend twenty hours in a car with a gaggle of vocalising, self-important Poodles, a discontented, over-affectionate Border Collie bitch, two elderly and incontinent, but only when they’re travelling, cats and more pet rodents than one could decently cram into a pantechnicon then you’ll know exactly what I felt like when we all reached journey’s end. Alternatively, if you’ve ever travelled more than ten yards with children in your motorcar then you’ll also know how I felt when we finally arrived at our destination. Got it? Good! Then I’ll proceed to the meat of this post.
The most important winter celebration for our pre-Christian Celtic ancestors was the hog mani or ‘high moon’ which we now call Hogmanay. This festival was always celebrated on the night of the nearest full moon to the winter solstice (December 21st.) which is when the full moon is at its highest in the winter sky.
By coincidence this year (2009) the full moon nearest the solstice being at its zenith happens to be on the 31st. of December which, as everyone knows, is Hogmanay. This state of celestial affairs doesn’t happen very often. Indeed, one could say that it happens once in a blue moon.
And that’s a phrase from our past, isn’t it? Did you know that Church Calendars used to, and sometimes still do so, indicate the nights when there would be a full moon in red ink – excepting if such a night was the second full moon in a month when they would mark the night in blue ink and that that practice gave rise to the phrase ‘once, in (under) a blue moon’?
There was a full moon on December 2nd. and that would, naturally, be a red moon. There is a full moon tonight (December 31st.) and it is, therefore, a blue moon.
Once in a blue moon all the celestial manoeuvrings come together to remind us of our ancient past, our ancestors and our rich, deep history. Last night was one such blue moon.
Oh, and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to each and every one of you.
In remarks published at this site recently, the Iranian-American exile, Amil Imani, a fearless apostate, and a patriot (who wishes both his former country, Iran, and his new country, America, well), argues that it would be misguided for either the United States or Israel to bomb the nuclear project of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is totally opposed to such an action:
“Bombing the [nuclear weapons] facilities is the worst thing America and Israel can possibly do. By so doing, they throw the Mullahs a lifeline and hugely hurt the Iranian people.” A military attack would also solidify the Islamic world against America, Israel and the West. The best thing to do is to impose the measured but effective sanctions that I have listed above and provide moral and financial support for the Iranian opposition in Iran.”
I think Amil Imani, and other Iranians in exile who may share his views on this, are dead wrong, more>>>
Congratulations to David Towery of Virginia for being the first to correctly finish December's devilishly difficult crossword puzzle. He will receive the NER 2009 Symposium Booklet and Geert Wilders DVD, "Why I Am in America Fighting for Free Speech."
Honorable mention goes to Keith Simmonds of Dartford, England and Travis Williams of Arkansas.
Thanks to Lexcentrics for generously providing our puzzles and a special thank you to all those who responded to our appeal for end-of-the-year donations. You made that donation drive our most successful ever.
A cross, top, and a “Badge for the Crushing Defeat of the Basmatchestvo,” above, are among the medals from Imperial Russia that are on sale
Russian governments have created some unlikely categories of heroes during the last four centuries. Czarist officials handed out medals to citizens who “distinguished themselves in the Census” and performed acts of “blameless police service,” and the Communists gave awards for “excellent cold steel welding” and “saving life from drowning.”
On Thursday some prizewinners and their descendants are auctioning off hundreds of the pins, badges and medallions. The sale, conducted by three American and British auction houses, will be held at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan at 7 p.m., with a preview two hours before. (The catalog, with estimates mostly of a few thousand dollars, also contains hundreds of coins and is posted at russian-coins.net.)
The lots date back to the 17th century, when silhouettes of czars on horseback were embossed on triangular silver rubles. Other Russian currency types for sale, like the poltinas and tympfs, are as obscure, and some came from Russian satellites countries: Moldovans used paras,and Georgians traded in abazis and bistis.
The assortments of medals for sale were minted not only to reward loyal subjects but also to commemorate government events, some as seemingly trivial as the “opening of the new canal joining the Wytegra and Kovzha rivers” and the “visit of the Cossack General M. A. Platov to England.” The auction includes just a few pieces made outside Russian borders, including Napoleon’s 1812 medals that show French tricolor flags briefly flying over the Kremlin.
Most collectors of these relics are Russian or have Russian ancestors, said Dmitry Markov, one of the sale organizers. The material also appeals to “Americans interested in Russian history, in some cases because they worked there for the government, the C.I.A. or whatever,” he said. “It’s memorabilia, artifacts from the former enemy.”
The movement started in 1916 during World War I as an anti-tsarist and anti-Russian revolt and it developed into a long-time civil war against the Soviets.
Soviet sources portrayed it as a movement of the Islamic fundamentalism, together with common thugs and rabble-rousers as well as Islamic radicals. The rebels who started the revolt were called Basmachi, or 'Bandits', a deliberately pejorative term. The term was applied by the Soviets to their Muslim opponents active in Central Asia between the Russian revolution and the 1930s.  Other historians would argue that many ordinary peasants and nomads who opposed the cultural imperialism of Russia, and, perhaps, more importantly objected to Soviet harsh policies and requisitioning of food and livestock, were an important component of the rebel base, also taking into account that Soviet authorities continued the colonization politics of the tsarist regime. However, Muslim traditionalism and Pan-Turanism were two important components of the movement and common bandits were also present.
After the October Revolution, some local leaders, like Faizullah Khojaev, allied with the Soviet Russia and assisted the Red Army in the capture of Bukhara and Khiva; other leaders, like the former Emir of Bukhara, Mohammed Alim Khan, joined the Basmachi movement against the Soviets with two of his generals raising a militia of over 30.000 men. By the summer of 1920, the Basmachi gained popular backing in a sizeable part of the Fergana Valley, a traditional bastion of conservative Islam. The Basmachi had soon spread and multiplied across most of Turkestan. Much of Turkestan at the time was, ironically, not actually under Soviet Russia against which the Basmachi were rebelling, but under other regimes (Khorezm SSR and Bukharan People's Soviet Republic), albeit regimes that were allied with Soviet Russia. The Red Army forces included Tatars and Central Asians, who enabled the invading force to appear at least partly indigenous. It has to be noticed that, unlike the anti-Bolshevik White Army, the Basmachi were not considered as allies by the Western Powers and did not receive any outside help. The Entente saw the Basmachi as potential enemies due to the Pan-Turkist or Pan-Islamist ideologies of some of their leaders. However, some Basmachi groups received support from British and Turkish intelligence services and in order to contrast this outside help, special military detachments of the Red Army were masqueraded as Basmachi forces and successfully intercepted these supplies. By the early 1920s, the Basmachi Revolt had become so widespread that the Soviet government realized they risked losing their Turkestani territory. However, infighting among the Basmachi meanwhile made them weaker compared to the Soviet political establishment (who, by comparison, had a common purpose and single vision, in addition to greater military power). Lenin's government made conciliations to national sentiment in order to quell the Turkestanis' objections to being politically a part of the Soviet Union (conciliatory measures included grants of food, tax relief, the promise of land reform, the reversal of anti-Islamic policies launched during the Civil War and the promise of an end to agricultural controls). Altogether these measures diminished the appeal of the Basmachi movement and enabled the Red Army to overpower the Basmachi led by the former Emir of Bukhara.
The second phase of the Basmachi Revolt, 1921-1923
In November 1921, General ?smail Enver, former Turkish war minister, arrived in the region with the task to conciliate the warring parties but instead of doing so, he joined the Basmachi leaders and rose against his former supporters, the Soviets, under the slogans of pan-Turkism and pan-lslamism with the aim of creating a single Islamic state in the region. He managed to transform the Basmachi militiamen into a professional army of 16000 men; by early 1922, a considerable part of the Bukhara People's Soviet Republic was under Basmachi control.
Again the Soviet authorities adopted a double strategy to crush the rebellion: political and economic reconciliation with the creation of a voluntary militia composed by indigent Muslim peasants called the Red Sticks and the engagement of regular Muslim soldiers to fight the Basmachi. This Soviets strategy was successful once again and when, in May 1922, Enver Pasha rejected a peace offer and issued an ultimatum demanding that all Red Army troops be withdrawn from Turkestan within fifteen days, Moscow was well prepared for a confrontation. In June 1922, Soviet units led by General Kakurin, defeated the Basmachi forces in the Battle of Kafrun where Enver Pasha suffered his first major defeat. The Red Army began to drive the rebels eastwards and took back most of the towns and villages captured by the Basmachi. Enver himself was killed in a failed last-ditch cavalry charge on August 4, 1922, near Baldzhuan in Turkestan (present-day Tajikistan).
Other Basmachi retreated to the Ferghana Valley (1923-1924) and were directed by Sher Muhammad Bek (Kurshermat). British intelligence reported (according to ) Sher Mohammed had forces of 5,000-6,000 men. In addition several thousand Basmachi gradually turned into pure bandits who terrorized countryside (same British report).
Intermittent Basmachi operations and defeat of the revolt, 1923-1931
After losing their best commanders and many men, the Basmachi movement was destroyed as a political and military force and the few rebels remained decided to hide on the mountains and to start a guerrilla warfare that consisted in terrorist acts, hostage taking, sabotage, blackmail and brutal raids. This kind of warfare and the conciliatory measures of the Soviet Government caused them the loss of the support of the local population who began to see the Basmachi as purely criminal elements. The Basmachi revolt had died out in most parts of Central Asia by 1926. However, skirmishes and occasional fighting along the border with Afghanistan continued until the early 1930s. Two of the prominent Basmachi commanders at this time were Faizal Maksum and Ibrahim Beg, who operated out of Afghanistan and conducted a number of raids into the Soviet republic of Tajikistan in 1929. After the Soviets captured and executed Ibrahim Beg in 1931 the movement largely died out. In the area of present-day Kyrgyzstan, the last seats of the Basmachi were destroyed in 1934.
The indigenous leaders started to cooperate with Soviet authorities and large numbers of Central Asians joined the Communist Party, many of them gaining high positions in the government of the Uzbek SSR, a republic established in 1924 that included present-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. During the Soviet period, Islam became a focal point for the antireligious drives of Communist authorities. The government closed most mosques, and religious schools became anti-religion museums. Uzbeks who remained practicing Muslims were deemed nationalist and often targeted for imprisonment or execution. Other developments that took place under the Soviet rule included the sovietization and industrialization. With time a higher standard of living was attained and illiteracy virtually eliminated, even in rural areas. Only a small percentage of the population was literate before 1917; this percentage increased to nearly 100 percent under the Soviets.
The Red Army took 1,441 casualties during its operations against the Basmachi, of which 516 were killed in action or died from wounds.
On the upper right, in Russian, is more about this singer, so famous in pre-Revolutionary Russia and, especially, in the White emigration. Plevitskaya was born, the daughter of peasants, in Vinnikova. She became a Bolshevik supporter but, escaping the chaos of the Civil War, was taken to Turkey or, it may be, was taken by a lover-kidnapper, the White officer General Skoblin himself, who in Constantinople did the handsome thing and married her. The now happily married couple moved to Paris where, it seems, first Plevistskaya and then Skoblin became agents of the GPU (some of those commenting at the YouTube site take issue with this), the predecessor of the NKVD. She is most famous for having been deeply involved in the kidnapping, by Soviet agents, of General Miller, the head of ROVS (roughly, the Union of Tsarist Officers). The story of the kidnapping forms the basis for Nabokov's story "The Assistant Producer," the one that begins:
"Meaning? Well, because life is merely that - an Assistant Producer. Tonight we shall go to the movies. Back to the Thirties, and down the Twenties, and round the corner to the old Europe Picture Palace. She was a celebrated singer...."
Is there any word in modern usage as telling as "hardwired?" We are now bring informed that we are evolutionary machines "hardwired" for religion. See reviews of Nicholas Wade's new book, "The Faith Instinct" here and here. Love is just an evolutionary trick to get us to bond and take care of our children, you see. Religious experience is just an illusion to foster altruism, thus benefitting group selection. Morality must be some kind of evolutionary trick as well.
And this is where modern secularism meets fatalism: I can't help it, I'm just wired that way. We are only our bodies and our bodies are only machines.
this website brought Eight Bells of Dunmow, the head of one maid and two cows. A bit short in the milkmaid department but pub signs are not an equal opportunities employer. Shepherds, sailors, men on horses in plenty, only one Milkmaid Tavern in the whole country to the best of my knowledge, that was in Willingham Cambridge but I am not 100% certain it is still trading as a pub.
I wonder if the Jolie Laitière, the ladies clothing emporium of Paris in Arnold Bennett's novel Imperial Palace, had a sign?
I do not personally know the Eight Bells in Dunmow - that is one of my husband's contributions to the project. It is all wrought metal but so far as he can recall the bells don't ring which is a shame. Again it may be an ecclesiatical connection. St Mary's Church in Dunmow has a peal of eight bells; but in England you can never forget the maritime connections of eight bells and the watch system.
The Maids Head a pub and hotel just outside the Cathedral Close in Norwich. It is several old buildings converted into one hotel. The door beneath the sign bears the date 1595 but I think the sign itself, set in the wall is Victorian mock gothic/neo Tudor.
Cow or something cow is a common pub name, although not as common as bulls (not an equal opportunity employer as I said - bulls are very macho, as are boars). The Brown Cow in York used to be a nice pub but I have not been in there for over 20 years. I will photograph the Spotted Cow in Waltham Abbey when I am there next, probably over the summer.
So bottom left is the Old Red Cow opposite Smithfield meat Market in London, and bottom left the Dun Cow (does lovely food) at Salthouse on the North Norfolk coast, and showing signs of wind and salt damage.
I was in New York when Lehmann Brothers collapsed and I was in Dubai when property prices fell there by fifty per cent in a week. I claim for my presence no causative relationship to these unhappy events, of course, but it did occur to me that I could start an investors’ newsletter, and charge for it, that consisted solely of my travel plans. more>>>
Somali Shot Trying to Break into Kurt Westergaard's Home
Jerry Gordon interviewed Westergaard while he was in America last October. At age 74, he and his wife have been forced to live under 24 hour security and have had to change residences several times. This is from The Telegraph:
The man, a 27-year-old Somalian who was armed with an axe, was caught trying to break into the home of Kurt Westergaard at 10pm local time, police said.
Police shot the man, injuring him in his leg. He was taken into custody and is expected to recover.
Mr Westergaard, 74, was one of 12 cartoonists commissioned by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper to produce caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed five years ago. He has received several death threats since.
Mr Westergaard's cartoon was seen at the time as the most controversial, as it depicted the Prophet with a bomb in his turban.
The cartoons inflamed anti-Danish and anti-Western sentiment among Muslims across the world.
Denmark's cartoon crisis began in September 2005 when the Jyllands-Posten cultural editor Flemming Rose commissioned the satirical drawings as part of a discussion on free speech.
In January 2006, after both the newspaper and the Danish government refused Muslim demands for an apology, a wave of violence ensued during which several Danish embassies were set alight, a boycott of Danish goods was encouraged across the Muslim world and violent anti-Danish demonstrations were held, particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Savage With An Ax Tries To Kill A Civilized Man And His 5-Year-Old Grand-Daughter
Attempt to Kill Danish Cartoonist Fails
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COPENHAGEN (AP) — The police foiled an attempt to kill an artist who drew a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad that sparked outrage in the Muslim world, the head of Denmark’s intelligence service said Saturday.
Jakob Scharf, who heads PET, the Danish intelligence service, said a 28-year-old Somalia man was armed with an ax and a knife when he tried to enter the home of the artist, Kurt Westergaard, in Aarhus on Friday evening.
The attack on Mr. Westergaard, whose rendering was among 12 that led to the burning of Danish diplomatic offices in predominantly Muslim countries in 2006, was “terror related,” Mr. Scharf said in a statement.
“The arrested man has according to PET’s information close relations to the Somali terrorist group, Al Shabab, and Al Qaeda leaders in eastern Africa,” he said.
The man was suspected of having been involved in terror-related activities during a stay in East Africa and had been under PET’s surveillance, but not in connection with Mr. Westergaard, Mr. Scharf said.
The police shot the Somali man in a knee and a hand, authorities said. The police in Aarhus said that the suspect was seriously wounded, but that his life was not in danger.
The man, who had a permit to live in Denmark, was to be charged Saturday with attempted murder for trying to kill Mr. Westergaard and a police officer, Mr. Scharf said. His name was not released.
Mr. Westergaard, 75, who had his 5-year-old granddaughter on a sleepover, called the police and sought shelter in a specially made safe room in the house, the police said.
Officers arrived two minutes later and tried to arrest the suspect, who wielded an ax at a police officer. The officer then shot the man.
Mr. Westergaard could not be reached for comment. According to his employer, the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Mr. Westergaard said the assailant had shouted “revenge” and “blood” when trying to enter the room where he and his grandchild had sought shelter.
Mr. Westergaard remains a potential target for extremists nearly five years after he drew a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. The drawing was printed along with 11 others in Jyllands-Posten in 2005.