Friday, November 11, 2022

Links 11 November 2022

Paulus von Somer, Portrait of Elizabeth Wriothesley, née Vernon, Countess of Southampton, c 1620

Some of the fake websites created by the CIA to communicate with agents in Iran. Love the Johnny Carson fan site.

A Roman-looking sandal melted out of Norway's Horse Ice Patch, a very flimsy shoe for hiking over mountain passes. But you know how people are about fashion.

Two dozen bronze statues found at Roman-period thermal bath site in Tuscany.

CBS news video asking whether clear-cutting forests to make pelletized wood fuel is really "green." Despite the silly nationalism ("ravaging the American South" for foreign energy), they come to the correct conclusion, which is that this makes zero environmental sense.

The intense competition to be Texas' best high school mariachi band. (NY Times) Some easterners imagine that conservatism is about whiteness, so diversity will make America more liberal, but Texas has always been both a diverse state and a conservative state.

Ogham inscription found on Pictish carved stone, one of only thirty known from Scotland.

They're fighting again over what is a real Rembrandt, this time over a painted sketch of Christ on the cross. I find it baffling that "experts" make these bold pronouncements about being able to recognize somebody's brush strokes, when we have a century of evidence that such pronouncements are completely unreliable.

Weird article at the New Republic on the dismal economics of crossword puzzles. With the NY Times paying only $750 for a puzzle, and their top contributor landing 11 puzzles last year, it's no way to earn a living. But does everything have to be a way to earn a living? And is recruiting a more diverse group of puzzle writers really important? This is a hobby mostly persued by retirees, not a career.

Fabulous version of Far over Misty Mountains Cold by the Wellermen.

Levon Bliss, photographs of butterfly chrysalises.

Interesting article on Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj and the history of Sufism.

Depressing little essay by William Deresiewicz on the impossibility of art in a woke age. He says the correct parallel for today's art scene is not the 1960s but the 1930s, when to operate on the left meant kowtowing to the commisars.

A girl buried in England around 625 AD had about 33% west African ancestry. She was buried in a cemetery with people who were probably related to her. This points to the old Roman connections between Britain and North Africa enduring into the early medieval period. 

In case you wanted to know, Matt Levine will explain to you how cryptocurrency exchange FTX went spectacularly bankrupt this week.

Ukraine Links

Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of the European Commission: "Nobody should ever forget that Ukraine is the only country on the European continent where people were shot and killed because they were waving European flags. In Maidan, eight years ago. This creates a huge moral, political, and geopolitical stake for Europe. We cannot tell these people, or the families of these people: you know, sorry, you were waving the wrong flags. They were waving the right flags. And they are suffering a war precisely because of that."

Terrific Catch-22 of life under the Russian dictatorship.

Interesting speculations about murky goings-on in Russian politics.

Short video showing a Ukrainian soldier ambushing a Russian tank at close range.

As of November 4, at least 458 Russian prisoners who had been released to fight with Wagner in Ukraine had been killed; Wagner sends out numbered letters to the families of slain soldiers with their death bonus checks, and examples shared by the families online show the numbers are up to 458. There are also noises about battles in which hundreds of recent conscripts were killed, and accounts that soldiers were told to leave their dead comrades behind so they would not show up as KIA in official statistics. And more here. Hard to know what to make of this, but it seems likely that Russia stablilized its lines in October by a great expenditure of human lives.

Soldiers of Russia's 155th Marine Brigade actually sent a letter to higher-ups protesting terrible handling by their generals that led (they say) to the loss of half their vehicles and 300 men in four days. This generated a lot of chatter on Russian telegram, enough to confirm that something like this actually happened. But here is an official Russian reponse saying losses at Pavlovka were not that bad. Which I suppose depends on what you think is "bad;" I never believe these "90% losses" claims, but for a brigade with an elite reputation to lose even 20% of its men in four days of indecisive fighting is bad enough, and not really sustainable.

Some numbers on the Russian air offensive in the first days of the war, quite a few medium-altitude sorties aimed at Ukrainian air defenses. This is presented as new information but it matches what I remember from the time: that the Russians started out making many deep sorties at medium altitude but gave it up because their losses were too high. This is from a report on Russia's air war by the Royal United Services Institute.

A Russian SAM system was destroyed well behind their lines while moving down a road; some think this means it was hit by a missile or rocket-propelled grenade fired by partisans. There is a lot of partisan activity in southern Ukraine but they have not usually gone for important military targets.

As of November 10, at least 1444 Russian officers had been killed in Ukraine, confirmed by memorial notices: 2 lieutenant generals, 8 major generals, 44 colonels, 98 lieutenant colonels, 195 majors, 288 captains, 478 senior lieutenants and 250 lieutenants. That's more than five officers killed every day of the 250-day war. When I checked the site the latest addition was a Spetsnaz lieutenant colonel, commander of a special forces battalion. 

One interesting point about the list of Russian officers killed is that some retired Russian officers have gone back to the fight as employees of Wagner, which leaves the keepers of the list with the problem of how to count them. I guess life isn't so great for retired Russian officers.

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