Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"The virtue of their victims"

 Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Dr. Hendricks to Dagny Taggart:

“I quit when medicine was placed under State control some years ago,” said Dr. Hendricks. “Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I could not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward.

“I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything — except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the ‘welfare’ of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, but ‘to serve.’ That a man’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards — never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy.

“I have often wondered at the smugness at which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind — yet what is it they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it — and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

What the Obama adminstration really thought about the media

Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. "All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus," he said. "Now they don't. They call us to explain to them what's happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That's a sea change. They literally know nothing." 
Ben Rhodes, advisor to President Obama. From "The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama's Foreign-Policy Guru" by David Samuels. New York Times, May 5, 2016.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The gullibility of the intellectual community

Simon Karlinsky wrote in his introduction to Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya: The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971:

...the groundswell of enthusiasm for Soviet Russia among America’s intellectuals which came just as Stalin was consolidating his power and plunging the country into the worst nightmare in its history. What amazes a person even minimally acquainted with Soviet realities about the intellectual climate of America in the thirties is the almost inconceiv-able gullibility of the intellectual community, its lack of any meaningful criteria for comparing the situations in the two countries.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Muggeridge's Law

From Tom Wolfe's "Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast:  A literary manifesto for the new social novel," Harpers, November, 1989. 
While Malcolm Muggeridge was the editor of Punch, it was announced that Khrushchev and Bulganin were coming to England. Muggeridge hit upon the idea of a mock itinerary, a lineup of the most ludicrous places the two paunchy pear-shaped little Soviet leaders could possibly be paraded through during the solemn process of a state visit. Shortly before press time, half the feature had to be scrapped. It coincided exactly with the official itinerary, just released, prompting Muggeridge to observe: We live in an age in which it is no longer possible to be funny. There is nothing you can imagine, no matter how ludicrous, that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well known.

Friday, September 09, 2016

A full Moon can occur on Easter Sunday.

The rule for finding the date of Easter is usually stated as follows:
  1. Determine the date of first full Moon on or after the first day of Spring.
  2. Easter is the Sunday after that.
This eliminates the possibility of the Moon being full on Easter Sunday.

Except that it doesn't. A lunar eclipse can occur only when the Moon is full, and there was a partial lunar eclipse on Easter Sunday, April 12, 1903.

There are two factors in the rule for Easter that contribute to this situation.
  1. The first day of Spring is always assumed to be March 21. This is not exactly true. The vernal equinox (determined astronomically) can occur on March 19, 20 or 21.
  2. The full Moon used is not the astronomical full Moon, but an ecclesiastical full Moon, i.e., one that is used for ease of determination.
The second factor is what caused Easter Sunday in 1903 to fall on the same date as the astronomical full Moon.

The date of Easter is actually determined by the Roman Catholic Church using tables that were set up when the Gregorian Calendar was established in 1582.

For further information:

Sunday, August 07, 2016

"[We academics are] the most useless people in the world" --Germaine Greer, 2014

Germaine Greer, Femifest 2014 (end of August)

3:34 "So I really think we've gone about as far as we can go with this equality nonsense. It was always a fraud. It always placed women in a position of having to adapt to a pre-existing reality that they didn't approve of anyway."

4:10 "[The corporate world] is a completely sclerotic, phalliform organizational system, and everything travels vertically. All orders come down from the top. Everybody's in authority over everybody else. It's not the way we do things. It's not the way we can go on doing things because we know that those systems depend upon oppression and cruelty, downright cruelty, and--'unmanning people', I almost said. Making people feel inferior, making them apologize for their existence, making them strive to be more like whatever the thing is you want them to be, and I think we have to do something."

6:40 " ...the abominable Guardian, which is probably the most treacherous newspaper the women's movement has ever had...and their treatment of their female staff, with a few exceptions, is usually a pretty good example of what they're like at base level."

8:52 "How do we form ourselves into an activity--a force to improve the situation? I don't have the answers. I'm an academic--[we're] the most useless people in the world."

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Islam and the Nazis

Michael Potemra tells us that in Bernard-Henri Levy’s forthcoming book Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism , there is an interesting line from the journals of Paul Claudel. On May 21, 1935, Claudel wrote, “Hitler’s speech: a kind of Islamism is being created at the center of Europe . . . ”

The Catholic poet and diplomat Claudel wasn’t alone in linking National Socialism to Islam. Karl Barth, the great Swiss theologian who was the principal author (with Bonhoffer) of the Barmen Declaration against the Nazis, had this to say:
Participation in this life, according to it the only worthy and blessed life, is what National Socialism, as a political experiment, promises to those who will of their own accord share in this experiment. And now it becomes understandable why, at the point where it meets with resistance, it can only crush and kill with the might and right which belongs to Divinity! Islam of old as we know proceeded in this way. It is impossible to understand National Socialism unless we see it in fact as a new Islam, its myth as a new Allah, and Hitler as this new Allah’s Prophet
(Church and the Political Problem of Our Day , 1939, p. 43)

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Cato the Elder on women

Woman is a violent and uncontrolled animal, and it is useless to let go the reins and then expect her not to kick over the traces. You must keep her on a tight rein [...] Women want total freedom or rather - to call things by their names - total licence. If you allow them to achieve complete equality with men, do you think they will be easier to live with? Not at all. Once they have achieved equality, they will be your masters ...

I post this quote solely to provide its exact source and the context. It's attributed to Cato the Elder in many places on the Web, and it's composed of excerpts (with some paraphrasing) from a speech of Cato reported in Livy's History of Rome, book 34, sections 2-4:

Give the reins to a headstrong nature, to a creature that has not been tamed, and then hope that they will themselves set bounds to their licence if you do not do it yourselves. This is the smallest of those restrictions which have been imposed upon women by ancestral custom or by laws, and which they submit to with such impatience. What they really want is unrestricted freedom, or to speak the truth, licence, and if they win on this occasion what is there that they will not attempt? 
Call to mind all the regulations respecting women by which our ancestors curbed their licence and made them obedient to their husbands, and yet in spite of all those restrictions you can scarcely hold them in. If you allow them to pull away these restraints and wrench them out one after another, and finally put themselves on an equality with their husbands, do you imagine that you will be able to tolerate them? From the moment that they become your fellows they will become your masters. [...]  
You have often heard me complain of the expensive habits of women and often, too, of those of men, not only private citizens but even magistrates, and I have often said that the community suffers from two opposite vices - avarice and luxury - pestilential diseases which have proved the ruin of all great empires. [...] The very last things to be ashamed of are thriftiness and poverty, but this law relieves you of both since you do not possess what it forbids you to possess. The wealthy woman says, 'This levelling down is just what I do not tolerate. Why am I not to be admired and looked at for my gold and purple? Why is the poverty of others disguised under this appearance of law so that they may be thought to have possessed, had the law allowed it, what it was quite out of their power to possess? 
Do you want, Quirites, to plunge your wives into a rivalry of this nature, where the rich desire to have what no one else can afford, and the poor, that they may not be despised for their poverty, stretch their expenses beyond their means? Depend upon it, as soon as a woman begins to be ashamed of what she ought not to be ashamed of she will cease to feel shame at what she ought to be ashamed of. She who is in a position to do so will get what she wants with her own money, she who cannot do this will ask her husband. The husband is in a pitiable plight whether he yields or refuses; in the latter case he will see another giving what he refused to give. Now they are soliciting other women's husbands, and what is worse they are soliciting votes for the repeal of a law, and are getting them from some, against the interest of you and your property and your children. When once the law has ceased to fix a limit to your wife's expenses, you will never fix one. Do not imagine that things will be the same as they were before the law was made. It is safer for an evil-doer not to be prosecuted than for him to be tried and then acquitted, and luxury and extravagance would have been more tolerable had they never been interfered with than they will be now, just like wild beasts which have been irritated by their chains and then released. 

Edward Gibbon, Charles Martel, and Islam

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter LII.
A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.
In actual fact, today Arabic studies are taught in Oxford.
From such calamities Christendom was delivered by the genius and fortune of one man. Charles, the illegitimate son of the elder Pepin, was content with the titles of mayor or duke of the Franks, but he deserved to become the father of a line of kings.
In 732, around October 10 (exact dates uncertain), Charles battled the Muslim armies between the cities of Tours and Poitiers and finally defeated them.
...the Arabs never resumed the conquest of Gaul, and they were soon driven beyond the Pyrenees by Charles Martel and his valiant race.
Charles Martel was the grandfather of Charlemagne.

Friday, June 03, 2016

"Answer" by Fredric Brown (1954) (complete short-short story)

Dwan Ev ceremoniously soldered the final connection with gold. The eyes of a dozen television cameras watched him and the subether bore throughout the universe a dozen pictures of what he was doing.

He straightened and nodded to Dwar Reyn, then moved to a position beside the switch that would complete the contact when he threw it. The switch that would connect, all at once, all of the monster computing machines of all the populated planets in the universe -- ninety-six billion planets -- into the supercircuit that would connect them all into one supercalculator, one cybernetics machine that would combine all the knowledge of all the galaxies.

Dwar Reyn spoke briefly to the watching and listening trillions. Then after a moment's silence he said, "Now, Dwar Ev."

Dwar Ev threw the switch. There was a mighty hum, the surge of power from ninety-six billion planets. Lights flashed and quieted along the miles-long panel.

Dwar Ev stepped back and drew a deep breath. "The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn."

"Thank you," said Dwar Reyn. "It shall be a question which no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer."

He turned to face the machine. "Is there a God?"

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.

"Yes, now there is a God."

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.