Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 16, 2015

Collected Links

1. Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead: the Spanish Royal Academy of History will finally designate Franco as a dictator, 40 years after his death.

2. On April 12, Pope Francis referred to the Armenian genocide as, well, a genocide. In response, Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.

3. “What Libertarians Get Wrong About American History.”

4. Anderson on persuasive writing.

5. Megan McArdle: “Seven Reasons We Hate Free Range Parenting.” See also these related thoughts by Freddie deBoer.

6. An interview with Dani Rodrik. (H/T: Chris Blattman.)

7. Rose Woodhouse has this favorable review of the first episode of Wolf Hall. Encouraging.

8. Saga Was One Of The Most Challenged Books In US Libraries Last Year”: “The ALA’s list, released to celebrate National Library Week, documents the 10 books that received the most complaints from the public, asking to have them either removed from public libraries or stricken from reading lists for public school curriculum. For the first time, three comic books were in the top 10…”

9. The best anime and manga for beginners.

10. Given the Internet’s long memory, is this the future of our political life?

We have noted before that one of the jobs of the Tennessee Attorney General is occasionally informing the General Assembly that some harebrained piece of legislation is almost certainly unconstitutional.

I am happy to report that our new attorney general is fulfilling his duty in this area — this time with regards to a bill that would designate the Bible as the “official book” of Tennessee.

From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press: “A bill seeking to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee would violate separation of church and state provisions in the federal and state constitutions, state Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a legal opinion Monday.”

The AG Opinion is here. An excerpt:

Like the Ten Commandments, the Bible is undeniably a sacred text in the Christian faith. Legislative designation of The Holy Bible as the official book — as an official symbol — of the State of Tennessee, when viewed objectively, must presumptively be understood as an endorsement of religion and of a particular religion. Irrespective of the legislation’s actual purpose, common sense compels the conclusion that designation of the Bible as the official state book in practice and effect conveys a message of endorsement. Such an endorsement violates the Establishment Clause of the federal Constitution, regardless of whether the message of endorsement is intentional or unintentional and regardless of whether the message is conveyed in reality or only in the public perception.

Especially precious is the comment of the bill’s sponsor in response to the AG Opinion:

Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown and a lead sponsor of the measure, said he plans to move forward despite the legal opinion: “That’s his opinion. I’ve got a different one.”


So, did the AG Opinion give the members of the House pause and lead them to table this bill? Of course not. The House passed the bill earlier today, 55-38.

Also worth noting (from the Times-Free Press article): “Although Slatery’s legal opinion can’t prevent lawmakers from passing legislation, it means that the attorney general’s office would have to recuse itself from any litigation stemming from the law.”

This bill still might fail in the state Senate. News reports note that similar legislative proposals failed in Mississippi earlier this year and in Louisiana in 2014.

Image Source: Meme Generator.

Update (Friday, Apr. 17, 2015, 10:10 AM): the Senate has sent the bill back to the Senate Judiciary Committee, effectively killing it.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 14, 2015

Poem for the Day, April 14


Herman Melville, “The Martyr” (1865):

Good Friday was the day
Of the prodigy and crime,
When they killed him in his pity,
When they killed him in his prime
Of clemency and calm-
When with yearning he was filled
To redeem the evil-willed,
And, though conqueror, be kind;
But they killed him in his kindness,
In their madness and their blindness,
And they killed him from behind.

There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand;
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand.

He lieth in his blood-
The father in his face;
They have killed him, the Forgiver-
The Avenger takes his place,
The Avenger wisely stern,
Who in righteousness shall do
What the heavens call him to,
And the parricides remand;
For they killed him in his kindness,
In their madness and their blindness,
And his blood is on their hand.

There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand;
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand.

Image Credit: the “Broken Glass Portrait,” taken on February 5, 1865 by Alexander Gardner. One of the last photographs of Lincoln taken during his life. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 9, 2015

April 9, 1865

Appomattox courthouse APCO0569

From Chapter LXVII of Ulysses Grant’s Personal Memoirs, first published in two volumes, 1885-86, about 20 years after the events recounted below (one paragraph break added):

I proceeded at an early hour in the morning, still suffering with the headache, to get to the head of the column. I was not more than two or three miles from Appomattox Court House at the time, but to go direct I would have to pass through Lee’s army, or a portion of it. I had therefore to move south in order to get upon a road coming up from another direction.

When the white flag was put out by Lee, as already described, I was in this way moving towards Appomattox Court House, and consequently could not be communicated with immediately, and be informed of what Lee had done. Lee, therefore, sent a flag to the rear to advise Meade and one to the front to Sheridan, saying that he had sent a message to me for the purpose of having a meeting to consult about the surrender of his army, and asked for a suspension of hostilities until I could be communicated with. As they had heard nothing of this until the fighting had got to be severe and all going against Lee, both of these commanders hesitated very considerably about suspending hostilities at all. They were afraid it was not in good faith, and we had the Army of Northern Virginia where it could not escape except by some deception. They, however, finally consented to a suspension of hostilities for two hours to give an opportunity of communicating with me in that time, if possible. It was found that, from the route I had taken, they would probably not be able to communicate with me and get an answer back within the time fixed unless the messenger should pass through the rebel lines.

Lee, therefore, sent an escort with the officer bearing this message through his lines to me.

April 9, 1865.

GENERAL: I received your note of this morning on the picket-line whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now request an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.

R. E. LEE, General.


When the officer reached me I was still suffering with the sick headache, but the instant I saw the contents of the note I was cured.

Read More…

Posted by: Paul A. Forsyth | April 3, 2015

Quote for the Day, Good Friday Edition

[C]ourage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXIX.

Posted by: Paul A. Forsyth | April 2, 2015

Holy Week Art Blogging

The Last Supper (1886), by Fritz von Uhde

Fritz von Uhde, The Last Supper, 1886.

Wikipedia indicates that Uhde “frequently depicted Jesus Christ as visiting common people, poor people and working class or proletarian families in settings of his country.” This is seen also, for example, in his 1885 painting The Mealtime Prayer.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 2, 2015

Irreverent Quote for the Day

One morning the prisoners entered the yard for work, but the warden was not there. Some, as their manner was, set to work at once; others stood idle and gazed defiantly around. Then one of them strode forward and cried, “Work as much as you will or do nothing, it all comes to the same. Your secret machinations have come to light; the warden has been keeping his eye on you of late, and will cause a terrible judgment to be passed upon you in a few days’ time. You know him; he is of a cruel and resentful disposition. But now, listen: you have mistaken me hitherto. I am not what I seem, but far more: I am the son of the warden, and can get anything I like out of him. I can save you — nay, I will save you. But remember this: I will only save those of you who believe that I am the son of the prison warden. The rest may reap the fruits of their unbelief.” “Well,” said an old prisoner after an interval of silence, “what can it matter to you whether we believe you or not? If you really are the son, and can do what you say, then put in a good word for us all. That would be a real kindness on your part. But have done with all talk of belief and unbelief!”

Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Human, All Too Human, Part II) (1880),
A. 84.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 2, 2015

Game of Thrones

Casco viejo de Dubrovnik, Croacia, 2014-04-14, DD 07

Season 5 of Game of Thrones begins this weekend April 12.

In terms of corresponding material from the books, the new season largely incorporates characters, settings, and plot lines from the fourth and fifth of George R.R. Martin’s books in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. For some characters and plot lines, the TV show has already exhausted the material from the books, and so those parts of the show will be going beyond the books.

We know from previews and other sources that season 5 will include storylines in Dorne, Braavos, King’s Landing, the western part of Essos, and Meereen. And stuff at the Wall and Beyond the Wall. It looks like the whole Iron Islands plot will not be included, which may not be a bad thing. (And I recognize this even though I liked the Kingsmoot in the book.)

I’m excited to see what Jonathan Pryce does with the character of the High Sparrow. Looking over the lists of cast members, I was disappointed to see that the showrunners seem not to have cast anyone for the roles of Septon Meribald and the Elder Brother, which leads me to believe that those roles have been excised from the show. Such excision is a necessary process of adaption to television (especially with such a sprawling fictional world as Martin’s), but the loss of those two characters saddens me because, in AFFC, they have two of my favorite speeches in the series. But then again, long monologues like Septon Meribald’s Broken Men Speech may not translate well to television, in any case.

Meanwhile, Forbes says that Game of Thrones is driving a rise in tourism to Croatia, where much of the series is shot.

Image Credit: View of the old city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, which serves as a setting for many exterior shots on Game of Thrones for scenes set in King’s Landing. Photo by Diego Delso, April 2014, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | March 30, 2015

Monday Link Collection and Assorted Thoughts

Tataouine by night

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must stop ISIS before they get there.”

1. The Tunisian government would like to reassure Star Wars fans that ISIS has not occupied Tatouine.

2. It seems that Idris Elba may be playing a Klingon antagonist in the next Star Trek movie. Cool.

3. Steven Spielberg is “on board” to film an adaptation of Ready Player One.

4. An article on an 1871 expedition that helped decide the location of the Panama Canal.

Ugandan fishing boats

5. In East Africa, too many fishermen are chasing too few fish in Lake Victoria: “In the 1970s there were 50,000 fishermen and 12,000 fishing boats on Lake Victoria. Today, according to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO), the body charged by the East African Community with safeguarding the lake’s future, over 200,000 people fish from 60,000 boats, with more than 2,000 new vessels appearing on the lake every year.”

6. In 1902, Jack London decided to check out the working class slums of the East End of London, England. What he found he described as “a vast shambles,” a “human hellhole,” and “a huge killing-machine.” The book that London wrote about his experience — The People of the Abyss — appeared in 1903. Michael Caines has reviewed the book for the TLS. (H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)

Crater lake oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon. This is not a radioactive lake. But the Chagan Lake is also a crater lake.

7. About American and Soviet attempts to use nuclear weapons for peaceful projects, like building reservoirs:

In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States attempted to improve the image of nuclear bombs by using them for public works. This went about as poorly as you’d suspect.

It was called Operation Plowshare. Nuclear bombs were tested to see if they could excavate large caverns inside mountains, produce steam power, or clear rough terrain to make highways. The vast amount of radiation, and the fact that underground caves would stay boiling hot for months after the explosion, made excavation impracticable. When the government tried boiling underground water for steam power, they got steam, but they didn’t always have a good way to channel it. Random patches of the ground nearby would explode outward, venting radioactive steam.

The Soviet Union was thinking along the same lines as the United States. They designated a nuclear testing site (without regard for nearby cities full of people, of course) and tested various aspects of nuclear bomb. They bombed the Chagan river, for example, as a way of testing whether nuclear bombs would be a good way to make reservoirs. They got a lake, all right, but it was an irradiated lake that is still not safe to swim in.

8. Alice Kaplan on contemporary treatments and evaluations of Albert Camus.
(H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)

9. I think the current (sixth) season of Archer is pretty good — if nothing else, a marked improvement over the somehow strained and largely forgettable fifth season.

10. The Americans continues to be excellent. The pacing, between episodes and even more so within episodes, has been weird — in part, I think, to keep viewers off balance. (I seem to recall The Sopranos doing something similar much of the time.) A few weeks ago, the lead characters watched as one of their allies executed an enemy agent by dousing him in gasoline and setting him on fire — and I remember thinking that the camera stayed on the burning man for several seconds longer than would have been the case in most US TV shows. It was intense, especially for basic cable. I for one applaud the showrunners for being willing to take risks.

~ ~ ~

Programming Note: blogging will be light for the next month or so.

Image Credits: (1) View of Tataouine, Tunisia, by night. Photo by Averater, December 2012, and used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Fishing boats at Ggaba Landing Site, Lake Victoria, Uganda. Photo by sarahemcc, August 2006, used under a CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. (3) Crater Lake, Oregon. Zainubrazvi, July 2006, and used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | March 30, 2015

Random Art Blogging, van Gogh Edition

Vincent Willem van Gogh 113

Vincent van Gogh, Souvenir de Mauve, 1888.

Today is Vincent van Gogh’s birthday! He was born on today’s date in 1853.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 193 other followers