Thursday, January 12, 2006

Richard Brandon

Richard Brandon was an English hangman in the 1600s. It is thought that he hung Charles I, even though he initially said he wouldn't and later denied having done the deed. The truth is unclear.


Mukhabarat is Arabic for intelligence, and is the name for several intelligence agencies in Islamic nations. The most well known is the Iraqi and the Egpytian.

Extraordinary Rendition

Regular rendition is the process of simply returning a prisoner to their home country. Extraordinary rendition is where an enemy combatant is captured and sent straight to another state without setting foot on American soil. The CIA uses extraordinady rendition in order to bypass a US-signed anti-torture treaty. They export prisoners to countries where they know they will be tortured for information.

One senior level CIA man once said that if you want a good interogation, send them to Jordan, if you want them tortured, send them to Syria, and if you want them to just outright dissapear, send them to Egypt. (source: Wikipedia. Ha!)

Privileged presses

Only certain presses in England are authorized to print the Book of Common Prayer, which exists under perpetual Royal Copyright. These presses are the Cambridge and Oxford University presses. Although most presses would need a special letter to print the book, those two presses are allowed to print the book due to their charter, which explicitly states that they have the right to print all manner of books, effectively ignoring any copyright.


Cambyses II was a king of persia who stabbed himself to death when he mounted a horse while armed.


There were two Merlins, and one was a wild man somewhat doomed/fated to live in the forest. The other was the famous Authurian half-demon wizzard.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


SARs are Special Autonomous Regions set up by China that allow those regions a higher degree of autonomy than typical provinces. Hong Kong and one other place are currently the only SARs, although Taiwan has applied for that status, they have been denied. SARs exist under the "One Country, Two Systems" philosophy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

St. Agnes

A saint from Roman times. She was brought up in a Catholic house, and was forced to marry, but she refused. The state ordered her executed, although they couldn't execute her straight away because Roman law prevented the execution of virgins. So she was ordered raped first. Even through that, her womanhood was preserved, and she was tied to a stake to be burnt alive. When the flames refused to burn her they had to resort to simply cutting her head cut off.

She is the patron saint of virginity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Collapse of Soviet Russia

Gorbachev introduced several new policies around 1987, including glasnost (increasing government transparency), and perestroika (a series of economic restructuring). Instead of saving the state, it only showed the holes more clearly, and although a step in the right direction it still didn't prevent an economic collapse. After a failed coup in 1991, Russia democratized.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Scott Peterson

There is remarkably little concrete evidence that Scott Peterson killed his wife, and the jury claimed to have convicted him partially based on his demeanor. If you're ever in court, remember that looking sad is your first and most important defense.

Prediction: the 21st century will be the century that marketing--that inevitable construct of capitalism--finally realizes it's true power in America.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The lost army of Cambyses

Cambyses sent an army of 50,000 men across the deserts in Egypt to the Siwa Oasis, but they were lost in a sandstorm halfway there. Their remains remain found.

Dreyfuss Affair

Albert Dreyfuss was an officer in the French army when he was accused and convicted of treachery. Top officers later learnt that his conviction was based on falsified documents, and attempted to cover the whole mess up, which failed when it was exposed by a reporter. The controversy divided the french people, between the conservative monarchists who thought he was guilty, and the liberals who thought him innocent. Eventually he was proven innocent and returned to the army, and the conservatives were pushed to the fringes of French politics. The whole fracaca is possibly the result of anti-semitism and the large numbers of people who were fighting against it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sick man of Europe

A phrase used to describe the Ottoman Empire, and later, England in the 1970's. Basically it describes a state that is coming apart. In England's case it was thought that it might slip down to a developing country.

Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher was an extremely polarizing leader in the UK, who stringently followed an economic policy of reducing government controls, ending the welfare-state, and increasing home-ownership. She reigned for 3 terms, up until 1980. Her and Ronald Reagan were similarly minded and supposedly friends. During her reign the economy did eventually improve, but it is unknown how much of that was due to her policies.

Lucy Dawidowicz

Fiercely supported a extremely Intentionalist school of thought regarding the holocaust, that the destruction of the Jews was Hitler's end plan that he was carefully planning since 1914, and that Germany's entire history since the Middle Ages had irreversibly led to that moment.

Hannah Arendt

Arendt was a german political theorist who coined the term "banality of evil" in her book on the Adolph Eichmann's trial, "Eichmann in Jerusalem." She claimed that Eichman wasn't particularly anti-semetic or devilish, just rather wanted to advance his career. Arendt herself had fled Germany, and then France, from the Nazis; she eventually landed in America teaching at Princton.