Saturday, May 27, 2023

I have spoken Ukrainian more in the last year or so than I have in my entire life.

And definitely in the last month.

I often wonder how long it would have taken me to get up to speed linguistically if I had been allowed to join the international legion. I know I could drive a truck and free up a space, but I am too old. Anyway, I find I am talking to people in Ukraine and helping in the ways that I can. I don't feel too useful, which is incredibly frustrating for me. 

I just had a conversation with someone in Lv'iv, which is in the west and "away" from the heavy fighting in the east. It's an area close to the Polish border. Still, they are having a hard time.

I wish this would end.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Ukraine and Russia are not the same country.

My family is firmly in the "Here they beat you up for the Russian language" territory. Nationalist relations prevented my gaining Polish citizenship. Amusingly, I am not sure if I qualify for Ukrainian citizenship, which would be analogous to denying one of the Kennedy clan (ya know, JFK, RFK, etc.) Irish citizenship. I saw an interesting comparison of Ukraine and Ireland, which I sort of agree with. And why I compare myself to the Kennedys.


That sounds like Russian, but I can't understand it...

This is pretty good on the differences between the two languages. 

Or Just because a language belongs to a particular family doesn't mean that they will sound alike since English is a Germanic language. It shares a lot of similarities with Dutch, but most English speakers can't understand spoken Dutch.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Cyrillic Alphabet

I'm reposting this here since Wordpress stinks for editing. There's a quote in here which it doesn't do. I also wanted to add a video. That said:

I made a comment about how people in Europe kill each other over what religion they practise or language they speak. Slavic languages have the added factor of varying alphabets, which is interesting when you deal with the pan-Slavic crowd. They sort of have a point in that the languages are similar enough that you can be understood about the way most Scandanavians can understand each other. Then you get to the Alphabets. The former Yugoslavia was torn apart by religion and differences in Alphabets. Likewise, Polish and Ukrainian are fairly similar until you get to the Alphabet.

This is the Polish alphabet.

The Ł is pronounced like Elmer Fudd saying the letter "W". So, Wrocław is pronounced like Vroswav. In my opinion, the German transliteration of Breslaw (with a German accent) works better for non-Poles. The alphabet is a romanised version of Ukrainian/cyrillic.

Ukrainian and Russian both use the Cyrillic alphabet, but slightly different versions. There are four letters in Ukrainian missing from Russian (ґ, є, і, ї), and four letters in Russian missing from Ukrainian (ё, ъ, ы, э). Also:

One frequently cited figure is that Ukrainian and Russian share about 62% of their vocabulary. This is about the same amount of shared vocabulary that English has with Dutch, according to the same calculations. If you expand your sample by scraping internet data to compare a broader range of words than just those 200 ancient “core” words, the proportion of shared words declines. One computational model suggests that Russian and Ukrainian share about 55% of their vocabulary.

Using that higher figure of 62%, though, a Russian with no knowledge of Ukrainian (or vice versa) would understand roughly five in eight words. To understand this, have a friend cross out three out of every eight words in a newspaper and see how much of the text you can follow.

from Ukrainian and Russian: how similar are the two languages?

Anyway, the Cyrillic alphabet also was a force which prevented Russians from invading a good part of Western Europe. I mean, can most people read Cyrillic? Now, turn it around to the Roman alphabet for the average Slavic language speaker. You don't need guns to prevent a Russian invasion--Road signs work quite well.

On the other hand, these nations have different enough cultures that it require a certain amount of sensitivity toward that fact which gets into how one transliterates Kyiv (or pronounces it for that matter).


More like Kew, or the "ł" in Polish, which I learned from my Ukrainian cousin.

My "slavic" heritage is more western (Ukraine, Poland, "Czechoslovakia"{1}, etc.) with my ancestors being definitely Austro-Hungarian. This is why I was musing on this topic: way more variation in Slavic languages outside of Russia.


{1} this saves listing a bunch of former and current countries due to European cartographical changes.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Fear of a "militarised police" is a cultural issue

I used a picture of a costume Gendarme the last time I did this post on this subject. This time I am using actual material from the French Gendarmerie Nationale. Those who do not understand French can turn on autotranslated English subtitles.

The Maréchaussée, a precursor to the Gendarmerie Nationale dates back to the Middle Ages. Some historians tracing it back to the early 12th century around the commencement of the Hundred Years War.. The Current version of the Genarmerie dates to when Maréchaussée was organised in 1536, or, formally, the Constabulary and Marshalcy of France (connétablie et maréchaussée de France).  Gens d'Armes (men at arms) is a term used in even older sources. That's why I included "Second Amendment History" as a subject here. The Gendarmerie is a force of the nation for the protection and security of the people. It has been a military force since its inception. This is different from the Anglo-American sense of the police, and military, as being subordinate to the citizenry.

 The basics:

The National Gendarmerie is one of two national law enforcement forces of France, along with the National Police. The Gendarmerie is a branch of the French Armed Forces placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior, with additional duties from the Ministry of Armed Forces.

In short, it is an internal army, which is a no-no in Anglo-American, especially American, tradition.

The first video is a short video on the history of the Gendarmerie Nationale:

The next clip requires some explanation since there are two different branches of the Gendarmerie Nationale: the Gendarmerie Départementale and the Gendarmerie Mobile (OK, three if you count the Garde Républicaine).  The next video has more than you ever wanted to know about the organisation of the Gendarmerie Nationale. It does a lot of things.

Now, let's get specific as to the two main groups

The Gendarmerie Départementale is best explained by comparing it to US state police forces. It is in charge of policing small towns and rural areas. The Departmental Gendarmerie carries out the general public order duties in municipalities with a population of up to 20,000 citizens. When that limit is exceeded, the jurisdiction over the municipality is turned over to the National Police. 

The Gendarmerie Mobile is an internal military force organized into the seven regions of the Mobile Gendarmerie (one for each of the seven military regions of metropolitan France, called (Zones de Défense). It comprises 18 Groups (Groupements de Gendarmerie mobile) featuring 109 squadrons for a total of approximately 11,300 personnel.  Its main responsibilities are:

  • crowd and riot control
  • general security in support of the Departmental Gendarmerie
  • military and defense missions
  • missions that require large amounts of personnel (Vigipirate counter-terrorism patrols, searches in the countryside...) 

Nearly 20% of the Mobile Gendarmerie squadrons are permanently deployed on a rotational basis in the French overseas territories. Other units deploy occasionally abroad alongside French troops engaged in military operations (OPEX or external operations). 

The Mobile Gendarmerie includes GBGM (Groupement Blindé de la Gendarmerie Nationale), an armored grouping composed of seven squadrons equipped with VXB armoured personnel carriers, better known in the Gendarmerie as VBRG (Véhicule Blindé à Roues de la Gendarmerie, "Gendarmerie armoured wheeled vehicle"). It is based at Versailles-Satory. This unit also specializes in Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) defense.

This system is unlike the US, which has the Posse Comitatus Act  a United States law which limits the powers of the federal government in the use of federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies within the United States, France has a professional military which works internally with no issues to that. To some extent, the British also use their military for civil defence. The Militia in the United States, which is now the National Guard, and has the powers to enforce internal order given to it under Article I, Section 8, Clauses 15 & 16:

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

The founders' intent was to have a civilian force, instead of a professional military one, to handle the tasks which are delegated to the Gendarmerie Mobile in France. This is due to a cultural difference where the Anglo-American tendency is to dislike large standing military forces. Or as the Virginia Constitution of 1776 states in its Bill of Rights:

Sec. 13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

I should add that modern police forces are a new thing in Anglo-American tradition dating back to the early to mid 19th Century. There were night watches and other non-professional forms of law enforcement early on.  Modern policing only began to emerge in the U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century, influenced by the British model of policing established in 1829 based on the principles of Sir Robert Peel.

Sir Robert Peel created what is termed an ethical police force. The approach expressed in these principles is commonly known as policing by consent in the United Kingdom and other countries such as Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

In this model of policing, police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of those fellow citizens. "Policing by consent" indicates that the legitimacy of policing in the eyes of the public is based upon a consensus of support that follows from transparency about their powers, their integrity in exercising those powers and their accountability for doing so.

The first organized, publicly-funded professional full-time police services were established in Boston in 1838, New York in 1844, and Philadelphia in 1854.

As I said, the difference in attitude is based upon cultural differences.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Russell Brand on Tucker Declares WAR On Fox News

This is interesting. I wouldn't say that I am a total Tucker Carlson fan, but I did start watching him during the Covid. This is an interesting take on him and his show. I have to agree with this since I feel the same way as Russell Brand does and he makes a lot of very interesting points.

Meanwhile as you are panicking about Robots and AI...

I found this article which pretty much confirms my suspicions:


This pretty much sums up the current situation:

These videos are more press release than research paper, designed to show the subject in the best possible light. I doubt we’ll see Atlas running cross-country races any time soon, and there are a whole host of limitations, from battery life to noisiness, which would need to be overcome for success in the wild, or even a warehouse. Still, if you’re in any doubt as to what its creators have accomplished, or how hard this is to do, I’ll leave you with a compilation of some of its peers.

 This one is pretty good too!