Posted by: Paul A. Forsyth | February 10, 2015

Quote for the Day

Mural Oscar Romero UES

Brothers, you come from our own people, you are killing your own brother farmers, and when you receive an order to kill from a man, then the law of God must prevail, which says: “Thou shalt not kill.” No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is time that you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The Church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!

– Archbishop Oscar Romero
March 23, 1980 *

Last week, Pope Francis declared Romero a martyr.

About. Damned. Time.

Read More…

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | February 6, 2015

On Vaccination, Tennis, and Other Assorted Links for Friday

1. Jessica Flanigan lays out a libertarian case for mandatory vaccination:

Vaccine refusal, I argue, is morally similar to firing a weapon into the air and endangering innocent bystanders. By re-framing vaccine refusal as harmful and reckless conduct my aim is to shift the focus of the vaccine debate from non-vaccinators’ religious and refusal rights to everyone else’s rights against being infected with contagious illnesses. Religious freedom and rights of informed consent do not entitle non-vaccinators to harm innocent bystanders, and so coercive vaccination requirements are permissible for the sake of the potential victims of the anti-vaccine movement.

(See also this paper.)

2. Thoreau nails it: “There’s a certain sort of Republican who likes to talk about the problems of big government. The basic problem with these guys is that when you ask them for examples of how we could reduce the size of government, the best they can think of is hand-washing. Not the drug war, not mass surveillance, not the prison system, not police abusing suspects, not the bloated defense budget, but hand-washing.”

3. There is no “officer safety” exception to the Constitution.

4. On the recent history of men’s tennis: “Between July 2003, when Roger Federer won his first major title, and September 2013, when Rafa Nadal won his 13th, men’s tennis contested 42 Grand Slam tournaments. Thirty-eight of them were won by the same four players.”

5. Straightforward rules for being a courteous and responsible borrower of library books.

6. What really went wrong with the third season of the original series Star Trek.

7. Werner Herzog inspirational posters.

8. Why Gandhi is a trigger-happy nuclear maniac in Civilization.

9. One of the reasons RadioShack is going out of business: contemporary consumer electronics devices are not conducive to tinkering: “During RadioShack’s heyday in the 1980s, consumer electronics were still things you could fix with the right parts and some free time. Today? Good luck. Home-built radios might figure prominently in All the Light We Cannot See, but they’re far from a typical purchase. More complicated gadgets have also become harder to fidget with. Since 2008, Apple in particular has marketed high-end devices that are practically impossible to repair yourself.”

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | January 30, 2015

Friday Art Blogging

Distant View of Niagara Falls 1830 Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole, Distant View of Niagara Falls, 1830.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Matt Yglesias, at Vox, in discussing a number of counter-factual maps (with a telling emphasis on New York, I note), mentions War Plan Red, a 1920s US Army war plan for use in the event of a general conflict with the British Empire (emphasis added):

War Plan Red…assumed that Britain would start the war with a slightly larger navy and much larger army than the United States, so the key to American strategy was to start an essentially defensive effort until greater US industrial might could be brought to bear to construct a navy capable of blockading Britain. But the best way to defend the United States from a British invasion was to launch a preemptive invasion of Canada (code named Crimson), then still part of the British Empire. The first target was to be a quick amphibious assault on Halifax, Nova Scotia, which would deny Britain a convenient Canadian port and make it difficult for it to support Canada’s military. Then two parallel invasion forces would head north from North Dakota and Vermont aimed at captured Winnipeg (a key rail junction) and Québec City (thus preventing the use of the St. Lawrence River as an alternate port) respectively.

(H/T: Will Truman.)

Image Source: CIA via Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | January 29, 2015

Miscellaneous Links

1. I liked last night’s season 3 premiere of The Americans. There are some decent pieces on the show (speaking generally, not just about last night’s episode) at Grantland and Slate.

2. The Saudi monarchy as a family firm.

3. An interview with Gene Hackman at 85.

4. And an interview with Amber Benson.

5. I would not have though that the time had come to reboot Ghostbusters, but what do I know?

6. Luke Plunkett says that Knights of Sidonia is “the best anime on Netflix.” (Have not seen the show myself, yet.)

7. How much do you have to earn to be in your state’s top 1%?

8. Where are Bill Belichick’s horcruxes? (H/T: Steve Saideman.)

9. Tyler Cowen says that American Sniper is an anti-war movie — “one of the best anti-war movies I have seen, ever.” I am not sure that most of the other people in this country seeing that movie have interpreted the movie in that way.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | January 28, 2015

Books and Bookish Linkage

1. Robert Paul Wolff has assembled a list of “25 must-read books” for philosophy grad students. (H/T: Howl at Pluto.) Lot’s of good reading in there. Interesting that Plato’s Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito make the list, but Phaedo does not. I suppose I tend to think of those four as a set. I would recommend Suarez to provide an overview and taste of Medieval philosophy, including the scholastics. (Suarez himself is after the Middle Ages, but he was looking back over the Medieval period and still working within a Medieval, essentially Thomistic framework, iirc.) And see the comments here. I agree with Anderson that Spinoza probably should make the list.

If one were to expand the list, who else would be in a list of 30 or 40? Schopenhauer? Machiavelli?

2. Justin McCurry, in the Guardian, has a review of a 12,000-page biography of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito; the bio, 24 years in the making, came out in 2014. (Noah Smith references this work in the comments on this post: “Five reasons Japan could never have won WW2.”)

3. Jeet Heer on John Updike and comics: “Updike: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Fan”: “The teenage Updike mailed off a steady stream of cartoons in the hopes of breaking into the visual-humor market. He would continue cartooning as an undergraduate at Harvard, where he sprinkled the pages of the Lampoon with his drawings, but Updike’s undergraduate years also marked the end of his cartooning career and his transformation into a writer. He felt that the other artists at the Lampoon were simply much more talented than he was, and he’d also discovered his facility for light verse and narrative prose.” (H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)

4. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda reviews Michael Mewshaw’s Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal: “Vidal was, in short, brilliantly provocative, often right and completely insufferable. As Mewshaw observes, ‘he adopted an air of aristocratic self­possession. Acknowledging no doubts, no insecurity, never any shame or guilt, he appeared to view everyone and everything with gimlet-eyed imperturbability.’ Nevertheless, Mewshaw also insists, the man was far more human than his screen appearances might suggest.” (H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)

5. The NYRB on the CIA’s use of Doctor Zhivago in the propaganda battles of the Cold War. (H/T: Elena Holodny at Slate.)

6. In The American Conservative, Lee Congdon reviews Daniel J. Mahoney’s The Other Solzhenitsyn: Telling the Truth About a Misunderstood Writer and Thinker:

One of the reasons for Mahoney’s insistence upon his subject’s commitment to democracy is his fear that the Russian might be classed as an authoritarian. In his Letter to the Soviet Leaders, Solzhenitsyn had, after all, written that “it is not authoritarianism itself that is intolerable, but the ideological lies that are daily foisted upon us.” Mahoney insists, however, that “Solzhenitsyn nowhere endorsed authoritarianism as choice-worthy in itself.”

Nor, however, did he rule authoritarianism out as a legitimate form of government, as long as it was neither ideological nor tyrannical in nature. Mahoney is so determined to deny this that he plays down Solzhenitsyn’s oft-stated support of Vladimir Putin, a leader who exercises greater authority than that belonging to his office and who, like Stolypin (whom Putin admires), does not always insist upon strict adherence to the law.

(H/T: Andrew Sullivan.)

7. Chris Blattman has high praise for Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book 2: A Man in Love: “This is possibly the most brutally honest and powerful book about fatherhood ever written. It’s also a book about ideas. Really big ideas. … What really struck while reading this: Knausgaard describes his daily life as a mainly selfish artist in a staggering amount of detail. Staggeringly minute details. So minute you think the book would be unreadable. Yet it is the opposite. The man is an incredible writer and storyteller.”

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | January 25, 2015

Sunday Link Collection

1. A letter that Ayn Rand wrote to her teenaged niece in response to a request to borrow $25 to buy a dress. The letter is…everything you expect from Ayn Rand. (Says Mallowry Ortberg: “This letter so perfectly encapsulates everything I find deeply endearing about this bloviating monster. It is 30% very good advice, 50% unnecessary yelling, and 20% nonsense.”)

2. Leann Davis Alspaugh on how museums are tracking and data-mining patrons: “In addition to what we volunteer by visiting websites and completing surveys, many museums are learning more about us through a new form of data mining technology: digital beacons. These small wireless transmitters, now at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, for example, can track how fast visitors move through the galleries and which pieces draw the greatest crowds.” (H/T: Andrew Sullivan.)

3. Have I mentioned how cool it is that Amazon is producing a TV adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle? (H/T: Jim Henley.)

4. Where Disney’s money comes from, broken down by source.

5. Michael Munger on the recent past in Cuba.

6. At Slate, Dan Kois on the Oscar nominations:

As is true many years, most of the actors nominated for Best Actor appear in movies the academy deemed worth a Best Picture nod. And there among the Best Actress nominees is Reese Witherspoon, one of this year’s crop of great actresses giving performances good enough to be nominated for Best Actress, but not telling stories important enough, as far as the academy is concerned, to be nominated for Best Picture. (This despite the fact that Witherspoon’s costar, Laura Dern, also earned a nomination, for Best Supporting Actress.) Only one Best Actress nominee is in a Best Picture nominee; needless to say, it’s Felicity Jones, who’s playing the wife of a famous scientist.

7. Women rejecting marriage proposals in Western art history.

8. On fantasy, realism, and the three recent Hobbit movies: “For fantasy to work, it has to be based on reality. And ultimately, these Hobbit films do not feel real.”

9. A blog devoted to the fashion and costumes of Star Trek: TNG. You’re welcome.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | January 24, 2015

Fifty Years Ago Today

Churchill HU 90973

Winston Churchill passed away on January 24, 1965.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | January 24, 2015

The Wall and the Kingdom

So, one Middle Eastern fundamentalist Muslim despotism is building a 600-mile wall to keep out the forces of a different Middle Eastern fundamentalist Muslim despotism. (Oh, and the one building the wall is our ally.) That’s cool, I guess. NPR:

ISIS isn’t just a threat to Iraq and Syria. As the group spread across Iraq last summer and fall, neighboring Saudi Arabia started building a 600 mile fence aimed at keeping militants out. The Saudis are adding chain link razor wire fencing, silent alarms, watchtowers armed with video, along with thermal and night vision surveillance.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Saudis began construction on the wall back in September. Strange that we’re only hearing about it now.

Meanwhile, Jacob Bacharach has composed a sonnet in tribute to the departed King Abdullah. Please do read.

And Glenn Greenwald is not impressed with the praise for Abdullah from official quarters. See also Murtaza Hussain. (H/T for both: Andrew Sullivan.)

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | January 23, 2015

Friday Art Blogging

La havre muma sisley pont moret

Alfred Sisley, Le pont de Moret, 1887.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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