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Surprise! The Battle for Absolute Power

When the war between Livonia and Russia became grim for Livonia, the leadership was dissolved and various duchies were scooped up by Lithuania as per treaty. At this time Lithuania is massive and includes Poland and most of Ukraine. The hope in becoming part of Lithuania was to become so large that Ivan the Terrible would back off, but instead, he has occupied much of Livonia. (FYI... Livonia had a piece of paper to protect them but not Lithuanian troops.) Now Ivan's armies are attacking cites in Lithuania proper. This is a critical error for Ivan. In a surprise attack, Lithuanian forces hit the Russian forces marching near the Ula River. The Lithuanians are vastly outnumbered but the Russians are totally unprepared for battle. A few days later the Lithuanians hit the second of the two Russian armies. Believing that the main host of the Lithuanian army is upon them, the Russians retreat, relinquishing their conquered cities. It is a resounding defeat for the Russians. [1]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
One of Ivan's advisors defects to Lithuania at this time so Ivan's paranoia is at its height. His mental condition was never too stable under the best of conditions. With this defeat he has come unglued and abdicates his throne. The boyar court begs Ivan to return, and he agrees but only on the condition that he be granted absolute power. The court loves this idea. Centuries of oppression under the Russian secret police have just begun. [2]
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
-- Lord Acton [3]
Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat.
-- Donald T. Regan, Chief of Staff under Ronald Reagan, cracking wise at the Girdiron Dinner. [4] [5]

Rats and the King Rodent of Christmas

Rats are found joined at the tail in a bizarre linkage called a "rat king". This collection of rats is joined in various ways. Sometimes their tails are simply tangled together in some foreign substance such as hair or frozen together in ice. Other times their tails are knotted together, either in a tangle or so damaged that scar tissue forms. The phrase "Rat King" existed before this rat phenomenon was discovered. It usually referred to an elderly man who lived on the efforts of his children. Naturally, these rats are seen as an evil omen and old-man parasites are not well-loved either. [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
This is like a report of "ball lightening." No one believes it until they see it. Some of these rat kings are on display in museums. A rat king appears in a famous ballet that even children of the modern day will know. "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" ballet is performed every Christmas. It is a fantasy battle between a nutcracker given as a Christmas gift and a seven-headed mouse. My memory of the play does not include any multi-headed mouse but in the original play of 1892 the evil omen of a multi-headed rodent would be obvious to all. I'd like to say that people still believe in omens but I don't want to jinx it. [7] [8]

Oh Baby! A Lot of Famous People are Born *

Galileo Galilei

Born in Pisa. Using a telescope, his observations of Jupiter will convince him that the Earth orbits around the Sun. He will come under scrutiny of the Church but he will avoid the worst charges with a lot of CYA memos. [9]

William Shakespeare

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon. He will become one of the greatest poets and playwrights in history. Some people believe he didn't actually write all those plays but this is a fringe hypothesis. [10] [11]

Christopher Marlowe

Born in Canterbury. He will greatly influence Shakespeare and become one of greatest playwrights of the Elizabethan Age. He will also become a spy and die under mysterious circumstances... or perhaps he faked his own death. [12]

Paulo Miki

Born in Japan. He will become a Jesuit and crucified in Nagasaki. He will deliver a sermon from the cross, forgiving his persecutors. The Pope will saint him in 1862 along with several others crucified that day. [13]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Galileo will also conduct experiments in gravity using cannon balls rolled down a ramp. My son recently built a metal forge similar to the one discussed in the TSP forums. He cast a hand-sized cannon ball, ground and polished it to a mirror finish. I suggested that he reproduce Galileo's experiments and his eyes lit up. (He is a geek like his father.) Galileo showed that formulas used to calculate the path of a cannon ball suffered from too much academic theory and not enough experimentation. Air friction errors must be taken into account when calculating where a cannon ball will land. That's called military R&D and that means money. That was probably why Galileo did the experiments. A man has to eat.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1564, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Battle of Ula - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 20 April 2015. “The Lithuanian surprise attack resulted in a decisive defeat of the numerically superior Russian forces.”
  2. Oprichnina - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 23 April 2015. “Ivan IV agreed to return on condition that he may prosecute people for treason outside legal limitations. He demanded that he execute and confiscate the land of traitors without interference from the boyar council or church. To pursue his investigations, Ivan decreed the creation of the oprichnina (originally a term for land left to a noble widow, separate from her children's land). He also raised a levy of 100,000 rubles to pay for the oprichnina”
  3. Lord Acton (in a letter to Mandell Creighton, 5 April 1887) (2015). Power - Wikiquote. en.wikiquote.org. Retrieved on 23 April 2015. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
  4. Quote About absolute power, power, corruption, ambition. PoliticalQuotes.org (2015). Retrieved on 23 April 2015. “Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat.”
  5. Alex Shrugged notes: Many attribute this 'power' quote to John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, but Wikiquotes says that this is erroneous and my sense is that they are correct.
  6. Rat king (folklore) - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 20 April 2015. “Rat kings involve a number of rats intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with, for instance, blood, dirt, ice, horse-hair, or feces—or simply knotted. The animals reputedly grow together while joined at the tails.”
  7. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 22 April 2015. “The grandfather clock begins to chime, and Marie believes she sees Drosselmeyer sitting on top of it, preventing it from striking. Mice begin to come out from beneath the floor boards, including the seven-headed Mouse King. The dolls in the toy cabinet come alive and begin to move, the nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie's ribbon on as a token. The battle at first goes to the dolls, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice.”
  8. Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker New York City Ballet, 1993. YouTube (2015). Retrieved on 22 April 2015.
  9. Dava Sobel. Galileo's Daughter: a Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love. Walker & Co.. ISBN 0802713432. “By accepted practice among established Tuscan families in the mid-sixteenth century, when Galileo was born, the eldest son might well receive a Christian name derived from his parents' surname. Accordingly, Vincenzio Galilei and his new wife, Giulia Ammannati Galilei, attracted no special attention when they gave the name Galileo to their first child, born at Pisa on the fifteenth day of February in the year of our Lord 1564. (The year was actually recorded as 1563 in the chronicles of that period, however, when New Year's Day fell on March 25--The feast of the Annunciation.)” 
  10. William Shakespeare - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 22 April 2015. “Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon.”
  11. Shakespeare authorship question - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 22 April 2015. “Anti-Stratfordians—a collective term for adherents of the various alternative-authorship theories—say that Shakespeare of Stratford was a front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit.”
  12. Christopher Marlowe - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 22 April 2015. “He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe's mysterious early death.”
  13. Paulo Miki - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 22 April 2015. “On arriving in Nagasaki—which today has the largest Catholic population in Japan—Miki was crucified on February 5, 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners, stating that he himself was Japanese. Crucified alongside him were Joan Soan (de Gotó) and Santiago Kisai, also of the Society of Jesus; along with twenty-three other clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.”

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