Monday, September 26, 2011

Politically Correct Racism

While most US academics strongly deny that racial discrimination against anybody other than Jews ever existed as an official policy in the USSR it is hard to reconcile that opinion with empirical data. During the Great Terror the Communist Party Secretary of Krasnoyarsk Kray, Sobolev had the following eloquent words to say about people who really were victims of racial discrimination in the USSR.

Stop playing internationalism, all these Poles, Koreans, Latvians, Germans, etc. should be beaten, these are all mercenary nations, subject to termination...all nationals should be caught, forced to their knees, and exterminated like mad dogs. (1)

Claiming that Poles, Koreans, Latvians, and Germans are not racialized groups in this context is pure sophistry. American academics would never accept similar excuses for the persecution of minorities in the US or Germany. So why does the USSR under Stalin still get a free pass in the US today?

(1) Marc Jansen and Nikita Petrov, Stalin's Loyal Executioner: People's Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895-1940 (Stanford, CA, 2002) , 60.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today's events

This morning the power went out a little after 8 am. This gave me about five minutes to check my e-mail. The power did not come back on until about 6:30 pm. In the meantime I discovered that I had about 1000 more US dollars in my bank account then I thought I did. That is always nice. I also finished grading the last 20 midterms for Aspects of World History 1914-1945. I couldn't get much else work related done without electricity. But, I did finally buy a flashlight right before the power came back on. So the next time the power is out after dark I will be ready.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I have now graded 46 midterm exams for my Aspects of World History 1914-1945 class. I have 20 left to grade. I am going to go home soon and then find some dinner.


I have a whole bunch of midterms to grade right now. I also have to make the final revisions before the conference on my cotton paper. The conference is this Thursday.

The Running of the Vandals

This morning as I left to go to work I witnessed a large and noisy parade of Vandals go down the street. Vandals is the popular name of residents of Commonwealth Hall, the University of Ghana's only all male dormitory. Half of them were wearing the traditional red colors of the Vandals and the other half had no shirts on. They were chanting, singing, banging on drums, and lighting off cherry bombs. They also waved a number of flags, one of which had a rather large phallic symbol drawn on it. I am told they do this every Saturday. But, I must have already been at work during the previous weeks. I will have to make sure to stay at home until around 8:00 am on Saturdays from now on so I can watch the parade.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is anything good happening in the US?

The news I am getting from the homeland on the Internet has not been real good recently. It looks like things in the US are just getting worse everyday. But, I have to account for the fact that negative news always gets priority over positive news. This is the primary reason most Americans think Africa is a land of nothing but famine, civil war, and corruption. None of the good things about Africa ever make it to American television screens. So if you know of any good news from the US please note it in the comments below, thank you. Although realistically I expect I will get exactly zero comments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

For their freedom and ours

Yesterday, Ghana celebrated Founders' Day. At the departmental party there were a couple of things done to mark the event. One was to replay Nkrumah's speech on 6 March 1957. Another was to have us foreign guests reenact the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 and the carving up of Africa. But, it is clear that Ghana today is a free country. Palestine is still not free from colonialism and looking at the recent speeches by Obama and Perry it appears the US is no longer independent as well. The complete surrender by almost all US politicians to the most extreme elements of the Zionist movement is almost enough to make me lose my fufu.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ghanaian Thanksgiving

Evidently Founders' Day is the Ghanaian equivalent of Thanksgiving. You eat until it hurts in order to give thanks to Kwame Nkrumah for making Ghana free forever. I also learned that Ghanaians find the spectacle of white people eating fufu to be a celebratory event in itself. No sooner had I dipped my hand in the palm nut soup to start eating the fufu then a half a dozen people broke out their cameras to photograph me.

Happy Founders' Day

Today is a new holiday in the Republic of Ghana. It is Founders' Day. I am not sure exactly what it entails, but the history department is going out to lunch to celebrate. Any free lunch is a good lunch.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review of The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria 1552-1740

I just finished reading Alton S. Donnelly, The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria 1552-1740: A Case Study in Imperialism (New Haven: CT, Yale University Press, 1968). It is a pretty good and concise history of the Russian subjugation of the Bashkirs during the 16th to the 18th centuries. At parts it is a bit difficult to follow as there are lots of personal and place names thrown out as part of the description of various military actions. I wish he had taken more time to make these parts clearer to people without an extensive knowledge of the history of inner Asia before the 19th century. His conclusion has some interesting parallels with colonial expansion in North America and the book would have definitely benefited from a greater exploration of these similarities and differences. He notes that the Russians conquered Bashkiria primarily by co-opting natives into their military forces, something that the British and Americans largely failed to do in North America. I did like the fact that he did not pull in any punches in describing the Russian annexation of Bashkiria as an act of conquest and colonialism. The book also notes that the violence entailed in this expansion led to the deaths of about 30,000 Bashkirs out of a total population of around 100,000. Too many books written by American academics on Russian history tend to take an openly pro-Russian line excusing Russian colonialism and genocide.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When statistical information is worthless

I still can not figure out why I get so few comments on this blog compared to the number of people my site meter says visit here. I know that the vast majority of people active on blogs strongly disagree with just about everything I write on here. But, I do not even get trolls. I am starting to think that the number of people that actually read my blog is much, much smaller than the numbers indicated by the site meter. I am guessing I have maybe six regular readers that are real people. I am not sure about the composition of all the remaining hits. Some are undoubtedly from various intelligence agencies doing key word searches. Others are probably commercial bots doing the same thing to collect marketing data. I have no idea how to account for the remaining visits.


Yesterday was my busy day. I teach a class at Legon and then have to go to Accra to teach the same class again. If I am lucky I can get home before 9:30 pm. On the bright side I do not have to teach any classes on Fridays.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cotton paper finished

It is a couple days later than I initially planned but, I finally finished a draft of my paper on cotton in German Togoland. I also got the official program for the conference today. I am looking forward to going to Winneba, Cape Coast, and Elmina. I have not been outside the greater Accra area and it is time I saw some more of Ghana.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I wish Nkrumah had built a subway

I had to teach in Accra today. The class went well, but traffic as always was awful. There is not a day that goes by that I do not wish that Nkrumah had built a subway. Maybe if the clowns in the military had not overthrown him in 1966 he would have gotten around to building one. Then Ghana would be pretty close to a utopia.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts on Palestine

The  Palestinians have an inalienable right to resist military occupation, colonialism, and apartheid. They have the right to use violent armed struggle against the agents enforcing this oppression. The lives of Israeli soldiers, Shin Bet torturers, and the armed thugs that have illegally settled in the West Bank are not sacrosanct. I know this opinion is only held by a very small number of Americans and that the vast majority of politicians, academics, and journalists in the US support Israel in everything it does. But, Israel's war against the civilian population of Palestine is not my war. I don't care if I am the only person with US citizenship with this opinion. I do not care if people think I am an anti-Semite because I oppose Israeli racism and brutality. It has become a meaningless term. I do care that I can say to myself that I am not a hypocrite supporting human rights for some groups of people and opposing it for others because their oppressors consider themselves to be "The Chosen People."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Year On

I have spent most of the ten years since 11 September 2001 living outside the US. Much of the time I did live in the US since this time I was literally on the most extreme geographical edge of the US. I was just a few miles north of the Mexican border in the small town of Arivaca, AZ. So my first hand knowledge of the US during the last decade is more limited than most other American citizens. However, what I have surmised is that life today in America is not better than it was ten years ago. I wish I could say that the terrorist attack on this day ten years ago ultimately resulted in a recovery to make the US a better place to live for the vast majority of Americans for the foreseeable future. But, I can not say that the US economy, culture, or political climate are better today than they were on 10 September 2001. My impression is that they are all significantly worse. I do not know went wrong, how it went wrong, or why it went wrong. I do know that life for a very large number of Americans is worse today than it was ten years ago and it should have gotten better for them.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My week

The week went pretty well. I taught two classes in Legon and the same two classes again in Accra. I made a little bit of progress on my Cotton in German Togoland paper. I hope to have rough draft finished by Monday. Finally, I got to reconnect with some people I have not communicated with in a long time.

This is the type of thing I am talking about

Okay I got a message today asking who these academics were that supported ethnic cleansing of Germans. Well this guy teaches at some university in New York. If somebody wrote something similar about Jews they would be banned from teaching at any university in the US forever. They would probably be banned from working anywhere at all including McDonald's or Starbucks.

Friday, September 09, 2011

"Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, Gott helfe mir, Amen."

Appropriately enough I covered Martin Luther in class yesterday. Because evidently my conviction that ethnic cleansing is morally wrong is not shared by a very large number of American academics. In fact it appears that supporting ethnic cleansing against ethnic Germans might be a requirement to get hired at many US universities. Those arguing that these victims deserved their fate appear to be the overwhelming majority of American academics active on blogs. Of course it is hard to know for sure since most of them hide under pseudonyms.  Still I am not wavering from my position which Luther expressed so well with the words, "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, Gott helfe mir, Amen." It is far better to have a clear conscience in Africa than to be an apologist for murder, rape, and theft in America.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

She had it coming

The continued justification and support of the brutal ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans from Central Europe by people who would never condone such crimes against other white people such as Jews is just unbelievable. Their claim is that most Germans supported Hitler therefore all ethnic Germans in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic including anti-Nazis, women, children, the infirm without exception deserved to be forcibly expelled from their ancestral homelands and die of material deprivation. I know that I am an extremely small minority in thinking that the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Central Europe after World War II had no moral justification what so ever and that collective punishment is always wrong. I am well aware that most American academics in the blogosphere think that caring about the human rights of ethnic Germans in 1945 is "perverse." But, I still maintain that human rights should be for everyone regardless of ethnicity, race or religion and that includes stigmatized groups such as Germans, Arabs, and Muslims not just groups that have powerful political lobbies in the US.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Another Reason I am Happy to Work in Africa

The constant refrain by American Academics that some victims of ethnic cleansing such as the Germans expelled from Central Europe in 1945 or the Palestinians in 1948 deserved their fate is really irritating. Imagine if they applied the same logic to other ethnic groups such as Jews or Hispanics? No you can not imagine it because it is an inconceivable idea. But, certain forms of bigotry are still perfectly acceptable in the US academy.


I think I am going to try and update my wardrobe soon. I think I need some Ghana themed t-shirts. I am thinking of getting one with a portrait of Kwame Nkrumah on it and if I can find them one of the "MAKE FUFU NOT WAR" shirts. Two shirts should be enough.

City Campus

Yesterday I finally got everything straightened out to teach at City campus in Accra. I think I can make up for the lost time by condensing the information in the first couple of lectures. The fact that they provide me with a car and driver is a great benefit. Otherwise I do not think I could make it into Accra twice a week to teach. On the way to the campus we passed a huge mural that was an Indomie ramen noodle advertisement. It had the various nutrients depicted as superheros.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Random scenes from the life of an Obruni in Ghana

Obruni is the Twi word for White man, but it is sometimes applied to African Americans as well. At any rate it is the standard greeting you will receive in the market place if you have white skin. Unlike most racially specific terms it does not seem to have any derogatory connotations.

Today Wiltex finally had tilapia. So I had tilapia, banku, and pepper for lunch. I figure I need the calories because later today I have to go to Accra to teach at the City campus. I also now have a TA for each of my classes. So I will no longer fret about any technical problems.

Yesterday's experience with technology

I got the projector to work. Or rather I found somebody with the technical skills to make the projector work. I do not do well with technology. Young people here in Legon on the other hand are very adept with modern electronics. But, the acoustics of the rooms in JQB are very bad. To make matters worse, about a half an hour into the film, a huge crowd of loud students gathered outside my class room for about forty minutes, making it very difficult to hear anything. I think it went okay, however. The film only took up part of the class and I used the rest for lecture and questions.

Monday, September 05, 2011


I am going to try and show Through the Red Gate to my class this afternoon. But, I am worried about the technical aspects of getting all the equipment to work. Last semester I had a TA take care of all of this for me. This time it looks like I am going to have to find a student to assist me with this task. I have enough to talk about if I can not get the movie to work. But, it never looks good to fail in front of an audience.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A controversial observation

I have noticed that a lot of American pundits, politicians, and academics who spend a lot of time denouncing Palestinian "terrorism" which they define as any and all resistance to the Israelis are fervent supporters of the earlier terrorism of the Irgun and Stern Gang. Which further reinforces my belief that these people actually have no principles what so ever. It is purely a matter of identity politics.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Teaching or Transfering Knowledge to Young Minds

The semester is now underway and I am enjoying teaching classes. The students here in Ghana are very good. They are much better than American students if the information posted on academic blogs is to be believed.  Next week I am having the students in my Aspects of World History 1914-1945 class read the article I co-wrote with Eric Schmaltz and Ron Vossler, "'In Our Hearts We Felt the Sentence of Death': Ethnic German Recollections of Mass Violence in the USSR, 1928-1948," Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 11, nos. 2-3 (June-September 2009), pp. 323-354. This is the first time I have assigned my own work to students at the University of Ghana. I am hoping that it works out well.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Lost Relatives?

I noticed that Memorial's list of Victims of Political Terror in the USSR has 75 people listed with the surname of Pohl. Since the Pohl side of my family came from Ukraine I am wondering if any of them are related to me. My now deceased grandmother used to work on genealogy , but she had very little on the Pohls that remained in Ukraine, especially after 1917. To be honest it would not surprise me if some on the list were indeed related to me.

New publication on Kalmyks

It is not a very big publication. But, I wrote the entry on Kalmyks for Jeffrey E. Cole, ed., Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2011). Go check it out.