Ramblings & ephemera

Correcting wrong info reinforces false beliefs

From Jonathan M. Gitlin’s “Does ideology trump facts? Studies say it often does” (Ars Technica: 24 September 2008): We like to think that people will be well informed before making important decisions, such as who to vote for, but the truth is that’s not always the case. Being uninformed is one thing, but having a […]

Talbot describes his son’s valiant death

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (IV: 7): TALBOT: Where is my other life? mine own is gone; O, where’s young Talbot? where is valiant John? Triumphant death, smear’d with captivity, Young Talbot’s valour makes me smile at thee: When he perceived me shrink and on my knee, His bloody sword he brandish’d over […]

1 Henry VI: buckled

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (IV: 4): SOMERSET: It is too late; I cannot send them now: This expedition was by York and Talbot Too rashly plotted: all our general force Might with a sally of the very town Be buckled with … buckled: encountered; To give way; collapse

1 Henry VI: Talbot’s deer metaphor

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (IV: 2): TALBOT: He fables not; I hear the enemy: Out, some light horsemen, and peruse their wings. O, negligent and heedless discipline! How are we park’d and bounded in a pale, A little herd of England’s timorous deer, Mazed with a yelping kennel of French curs! If […]

1 Henry VI: Talbot threatens Bourdeaux with destruction unless it capitulates

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (IV: 2): TALBOT: English John Talbot, captains, calls you forth, Servant in arms to Harry King of England; And thus he would: Open your city gates; Be humble to us; call my sovereign yours, And do him homage as obedient subjects; And I’ll withdraw me and my bloody […]

1 Henry VI: servitor

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 1): First Sentinel: Thus are poor servitors, When others sleep upon their quiet beds, Constrain’d to watch in darkness, rain and cold. servitor: One that performs the duties of a servant to another; an attendant; in this case, soldiers. [Middle English servitour, from Anglo-Norman, from Latin servÄ«tor, […]

Word of the day: Froschmäusekrieg

Froschmäusekrieg: Literally, “war between the frogs and the mice”, a poem attributed to Homer (Batrachomyomachia), a satire about the pointlessness of war or feuding.

Maintaining control in a subdued country

From Louis Menard’s “From the Ashes: A new history of Europe since 1945” (The New Yorker [28 November 2005]: 168): [Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945] notes that France, a country with a population of some forty million, was administered by fifteen hundred Nazis, plus six thousand Germen policemen. A […]

Imagining a future of warring balloons

From Tom Reiss’s “Imagining the Worst: How a literary genre anticipated the modern world” (The New Yorker [28 November 2005]: 108): … the first mini-boom in invasion fiction began in the seventeen-eighties, when the French developed the hot-air balloon. Soon, French poems and plays were depicting hot-air-propelled flying armies destined for England, and an American […]

Why the US toppled Chile’s government

From Robert Sherrill’s “100 (Plus) Years of Regime Change” (The Texas Observer: 14 July 2006): Kissinger, then secretary of state, was certain he detected the odor of communism in the election of Salvador Allende Gossens to the presidency of Chile. … Chile was one of the most stable countries in South America, with a high […]

Why the US toppled Guatamala’s democratic government

From Robert Sherrill’s “100 (Plus) Years of Regime Change” (The Texas Observer: 14 July 2006): At roughly the same time Secretary of State Dulles was destroying democracy in Iran, he was also busy destroying democracy in Central America, and once again it was on behalf of a renegade industry: United Fruit Co. … “Few private […]

Why the US toppled Iran’s government

From Robert Sherrill’s “100 (Plus) Years of Regime Change” (The Texas Observer: 14 July 2006): In 1953 the brutal, venal shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was pushed into exile by Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister. … Iranians loved Mossadegh. He made clear that his two ambitions were to set up a lasting […]

14 governments the US has overthrown in 110 years

From Robert Sherrill’s “100 (Plus) Years of Regime Change” (The Texas Observer: 14 July 2006): [Stephen Kinzer’s] Overthrow is an infuriating recitation of our government’s military bullying over the past 110 years – a century of interventions around the world that resulted in the overthrow of 14 governments – in Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto […]

The neutron bomb as the most moral weapon possible

From Charles Platt’s “The Profits of Fear” (August 2005): Sam Cohen might have remained relatively unknown, troubled by ethical lapses in government and the military but unable to do anything about them, if he had not visited Seoul in 1951, during the Korean war. In the aftermath of bombing sorties he witnessed scenes of intolerable […]

The Cold War as game theory

From Charles Platt’s “The Profits of Fear” (August 2005): Game theory began with the logical proposition that in a strategic two-player game, either player may try to obtain an advantage by bluffing. If the stakes are low, perhaps you can take a chance on trusting your opponent when he makes a seemingly fair and decent […]

Where we are now

From Gary Kamiya’s “License to lie” (Salon: 23 June 2006): We are in a peculiar moment, one in which our politicians seem unable to articulate or even grasp the train wreck unfolding in front of them. Someday in the future, if the Democratic Party manages to transform itself from a cowering shadow to something approaching […]

America the aggressive

From Harold Pinter’s “Nobel Lecture: Art, Truth & Politics” (Nobel Prize: 7 December 2005): Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if […]

America, the failed state

From Noam Chomsky’s “Why It’s Over For America” (The Independent: 30 May 2006): … the fear, which cannot casually be put aside, that, as Gar Alperowitz puts it in America Beyond Capitalism, “the American ‘system’ as a whole is in real trouble – that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of […]

The US is becoming less democratic

From Tony Judt’s “The New World Order” (The New York Review of Books: 14 July 2005): For there is a precedent in modern Western history for a country whose leader exploits national humiliation and fear to restrict public freedoms; for a government that makes permanent war as a tool of state policy and arranges for […]

An empire cannot be created by a republic

From Tony Judt’s “The New World Order” (The New York Review of Books: 14 July 2005): Historians and pundits who leap aboard the bandwagon of American Empire have forgotten a little too quickly that for an empire to be born, a republic has first to die. In the longer run no country can expect to […]