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Monday: May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Texts

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:58 AM GMT-0500

(This is a rewrite of a previous Memorial Day post.)

1. Simonides’ epitaph on the 300 Spartans who died at Thermopylae:

o xeîn’, aggéllein Lakedaimoníois hóti têide
    keímetha toîs keínon peithómenoi nomímois.

Stranger, tell the Lacedemonians that we lie here, obedient to their laws/customs.

(I’ve underlined the etas and omegas to distinguish them from epsilon and omicron.) The epitaph appeals to the passerby to deliver the message because these men died and were buried far from Sparta: with no post offices or telephones in the ancient world, epitaphs for those who died away from home were often in the form “If you are ever in the town of X, tell Y the son of Z that his son is buried here, far from home”. The only way to send the message was to have it ‘hitchhike’ with someone who happened to be headed in the right direction. In this case, specific names are unnecessary.

Simonides was one of the greatest Greek poets, though little of his work survives — just enough to show us what we’re missing. He was particularly known for his elegies, epitaphs, and threnodies — all the gloomier genres — which were simple and moving. His epitaphs were written for the actual monuments, not as literary exercises. This is Simonides XXIIb in the Oxford Classical Text of Epigrammata Graeca and (with commentary) Further Greek Epigrams, both edited by D. L. Page. The meter is elegiac couplet. Other sources give the last two words as rhémasi peithómenoi, “obedient to their words”. However, whether he said that the Spartans were “obedient to the words” (= commands) of their kings or “obedient to the customs” of their country, it means that they were willing to follow orders without question even when there was no chance of survival. The word I have translated “obedient to” also means “persuaded by” — a nice example of small-d democracy in the very structure of the Greek language. The movie Go Tell The Spartans takes its title from Simonides’ epitaph, either directly or (perhaps through Cicero) indirectly.

2. Cicero’s paraphrase, from Tusculan Disputations 1.101:

Dic, hospes, Spartae, nos te hic vidisse iacentes
    dum sanctis patriae legibus obsequimur.

Stranger, tell Sparta that you saw us lying here, as we obey the sacred laws of our fatherland.

3. A. E. Housman, More Poems XXXVI:

Here dead we lie because we did not choose
    To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
    But young men think it is, and we were young.

The first two lines are a paraphrase of Simonides, generalized for all nations. The last two are Housman’s own addition, though the thought is very pagan and very Greek. Housman’s little poem achieves an impressive degree of Simonidean simplicity. Every word but two is monosyllabic, and even the exceptions hardly count, since ‘nothing’ was originally ‘no thing’ and ‘because’ originally (I think) ‘by cause’. It’s odd that a professional Latinist should write such a thoroughly unLatin poem: just about every word is pure Anglo-Saxon.

Friday: May 26, 2006

A Cretinous ‘Human Rights’ Advocate

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:00 PM GMT-0500

Rantburg links to a newspaper article in the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard about allegations that U. S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, went on a rampage and killed two dozen civilians after one of their own was killed by a bomb. Horrible, if true, and I certainly hope that anyone found guilty of such a crime does not get off as lightly as Lt. Calley. The last paragraph struck me as odd:

“If the accounts as they have been alleged are true, the Haditha incident is likely the most serious war crime reported in Iraq since the beginning of the war,” said John Sifton, of Human Rights Watch. “Here we have two dozen civilians being killed – apparently intentionally. This isn’t a gray area. This is a massacre.”

What’s cretinous about Sifton’s statement? It’s missing three words. If true, this would indeed be “the most serious war crime” by our side “reported in Iraq since the beginning of the war”, but it wouldn’t even be in the top 20 war crimes committed in Iraq in that time period. The ‘insurgents’ routinely kill civilians in larger numbers, and in cold blood. Of course, that does not in any way justify massacres by our side, but it’s amazing that anyone could write such an obviously false statement. Apparently, to some people, massacres by Islamist fanatics, leftover Ba’athists, and their foreign allies don’t really count as massacres.

Wednesday: May 24, 2006

Aphorism of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:46 PM GMT-0500

El paganismo es el otro Antiguo Testamento de la Iglesia.

Paganism is the other Old Testament of the Church.

(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.206)

Monday: May 22, 2006

Under Construction

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:47 PM GMT-0500

I’ve decided to ditch the old format and modify one of the WordPress templates to make it my own. Step 1: The weevils are back. Step 2: The blogroll will be back tomorrow. Step 3: I haven’t decided yet. Comments are welcome.

Sunday: May 21, 2006

Fun with Chemistry

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:32 AM GMT-0500

Some of you may be wondering what I wrote on The Volokh Conspiracy yesterday that EV himself described as follows:

(The one worthwhile comment was Dr. Weevil’s, which, while skating close to or over the edge as to civility, was at least kind of funny and on-topic, for a change.)

Since he deleted it anyway, along with a stack of idiotic comments from a certain ‘Just’ and others, here it is, as best as I can recall it:

Looks like ‘Just’ is made out of Praseodymium, Iodine, Carbon, and Potassium.

You’ll have to follow the link to see the context.

Here’s another joke. What is this the chemical formula of?

Yes, I know it’s physically impossible: it’s a joke. Suggestions may be placed in the comments, now that they are working again.

Saturday: May 20, 2006

What’s Going On?

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:07 PM GMT-0500

I knew I hadn’t gotten a real (non-spam) comment in a while, but Scott Chaffin (The Fat Guy) has just informed me that my comments were somehow turned off. I don’t know how that happened, but switching to one of the WordPress default themes seems to have fixed it, at least for the moment. If someone would actually leave me a test comment, just to make sure, I’d appreciate it. What to say? I’ve always liked Beavis & Butt-Head’s “Testes, testes, one, two, . . . three?!?”

The fact that the flood of spam comments was undeterred by the lack of a comment form is particularly disgusting.

Until I figure out how to fix the problem, the visual appearance of this site will be highly unstable, and sometimes quite ugly.

Speaking of ugly, the company (apparently an Earthlink subsidiary) that is holding my original domain name hostage hasn’t replied to the letter of complaint I sent them by certified mail six weeks ago. Nor have I received the delivery confirmation I paid the Post Office for. I would have thought that they would let me know if they were unable to deliver the letter in six weeks of trying, but apparently not.

Thanks, Scott!

Thursday: May 18, 2006

Crooked Timber, Missing Comment

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:24 PM GMT-0500

Over the last year or two, I’ve wasted far too many hours arguing in the comment sections of other blogs when I should be posting here. For instance, for the last couple of days I have tried to argue with the trolls infesting the comments in this thread at Crooked Timber, to little avail. Since my last comment there has been “in moderation” for over 24 hours now, I’m posting it here verbatim.

Please do not comment on it here unless you have actually read the entire thread over there: my comment is not so intemperate as it looks when read in context. And don’t miss the irony of comment 96, where someone calling himself ‘Space’ extols the “respect” I have been given to “air [my] opinions” (he means my arguments) on Crooked Timber, alleges (falsely) that I once banned him here for no good reason, and confidently asserts that I “would never tolerate a thread like this” on my blog. That can easily be tested. Please note that comments are moderated, so they may take up to 8 hours to appear (I have to sleep). I generally delete only for obscenity, rudeness, and bald-faced lies. Let’s see if ‘Space’ and his friends can meet that minimal standard. Here is what I tried to post last night: the “eight comments” in the first sentence are numbers 95-102:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Another day, another eight comments. Let’s see how the monkeys are doing:

Lemuel Pitkin (101) “do[es]n’t wish harm on anyone serving in Iraq”, but does hope that the military “cracks up and melts”. That’s like not wishing anyone will lose his job while hoping that GM or MicroSoft or AT&T goes bankrupt. You can’t have one without the other, and your pious wish is obviously insincere. The fact is that the military will not and cannot “meltdown” or “crack” without losing the current war, which is to say without the deaths of thousands more soldiers and tens or hundreds of thousands more civilians (I mean the Iraqis that would be left to the mercies of Zarqawi and the Ba’athist holdouts).

PBG (95) asks “who decided that you wouldn’t go to Iraq? What branch of the military assigned you this duty?” That would be all of them. I’m 53, and was far over the age-limit for military service on 9/11/01. Not that I expect anyone here to apologize for calling me a ‘chickenhawk’. PBG might want to try rereading the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of comment 44: unless you have put your life on the line for something you believe in, you have no moral right to criticize anyone else for not doing so. Most of the left claims to have supported the liberation of Afghanistan. In October 2001 it looked like that would take hundreds of thousands of troops, 5+ years, and thousands of dead American soldiers to accomplish. (That’s certainly what the Russian experience suggested.) I was as surprised as everyone else at how quickly the Taliban collapsed. So how many lefties joined the service in October 2001? I believe the answer is zero.

Jade (100) doesn’t seem to realize that ‘neoconservative’ has more than one meaning, and that she can’t just pick the one that makes her look right and me look wrong. Just as ‘classical music’ sometimes covers only Haydn, Mozart, and their contemporaries, and sometimes includes everything from Monteverdi to John Adams, ‘neoconservatism’ sometimes refers to a small but influential group of former Trotskyists like Irving Kristol, and sometimes refers to what I like to call ‘paleoliberals’, the people who were called liberals back when today’s liberals were still called socialists, and who now comprise the bulk of the Republican party along with a Democrat or two. She insists on the broader meaning, though Bruce Baugh and Dr. Righteous clearly meant the narrower one. It’s easy to tell which is which: when people mention roots in the “Communist left” or use the adjective “Straussian”, they’re talking about the ex-Trotskyists, who, as I said, have nothing to do with this thread.

Space (96) claims that I banned him from my site for some inoffensive comments, though he can’t seem to recall whether there were one or two, what subject they were on, what year this happened, or anything at all about them. Perhaps he has me confused to with some other blogger. Or perhaps he is a liar. I’ve only banned a dozen commenters in all the years I’ve blogged, all but one for either repeated lies or gross obscenities. (The other one posted 16 pages of Chomsky blather as a single comment.) I don’t believe any of them called himself ‘space’.

Space also sneers at those who refuse to make any sacrifice for the war, giving as one example “buying smaller cars”, as if that were a devastating retort that I couldn’t possibly answer. I’ve only owned two cars in my life, an ’83 2-door Sentra with a manual transmission and no radio or a/c (not very pleasant for 6 1/2 years in Tuscaloosa), and a ’95 2-door Tercel, also manual, bought used in 1997 when the Sentra died. I think I’m doing my share on the mileage front, even if Space feels entitled to assume that anyone right of center must own multiple gas-guzzlers.

Finally, Space insists that Roger’s wish for an Army “meltdown” is extremely rare on the left. On this thread, the score is now three in favor (Roger, abb1, Lemuel Pitkin), two opposed (Nin and myself), one waffling (Jade), and a dozen or more abstentions. Not a bad score for such an “uncommon” viewpoint.

By the way, I’m curious if anyone here is even capable of admitting that I might be partially correct on even a single point of the dozens I’ve made. It’s not really possible for one person to be totally wrong on every detail of every issue as judged by a dozen people who don’t entirely agree with each other, so those who pretend that I am are obviously using something other than rational argument to reach their conveniently similar conclusions.

Anyway, keep trying, monkeys. I’ll check in tomorrow to see if your aim has improved. Now I have to go to the liquor store to spend the check Karl Rove just sent me.

Sunday: May 14, 2006

Gluttony and Self-Knowledge

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:47 PM GMT-0500

A link from Martin Kramer led me to two CHE articles by the pseudonymous ‘Thomas H. Benton’, The 7 Deadly Sins of Students and The 7 Deadly Sins of Professors. Here’s a bit from the first:

Gluttony: It hardly needs saying that most colleges struggle to control alcohol consumption by students and the embarrassing incidents and tragedies that result from it. But there are other manifestations of gluttony these days. For example, when did it become acceptable for students to eat and drink in class as if they were sitting in a cafeteria? Nowadays, I occasionally encounter a student who thinks it’s OK to consume a large, messy, and odorous meal in class. I once saw a student eat an entire rotisserie chicken, a tub of mashed potatoes with gravy, several biscuits, and an enormous soft drink during the first 10 minutes of a lecture. I felt like a jester in the court of Henry VIII. It seems hard these days to find a student in class whose mouth is not stuffed with food. Such students will often say that they have no other time to eat, but previous generations — who were no less busy — managed to consume small snacks between classes. That is why colleges have vending machines.

I don’t know when it became acceptable, but eating in class was not unheard of even thirty years ago. That was when I took a class on Aristotle’s Ethics at the supposedly-ascetic University of Chicago. One day, as we were discussing a chapter on one of the Greek virtues, we watched the fattest student in the class scarf down three hot dogs and a 20-ounce soda in under 10 minutes, while doing most of the talking. He had some difficulty making himself understood, since his mouth was full the whole time. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who had to stifle the urge to say “what the Hell do you know about sophrosyne, you disgusting pig?”

Aphorism of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:08 PM GMT-0500

Las escuelas filosóficas fueron las órdenes monásticas de la antigüedad.
El pitagorismo, por ejemplo, se parece más a la reforma cluniacense que al idealismo alemán.

The philosophical schools were the monastic orders of antiquity.
Pythagoreanism, for example, has more resemblance to the Cluniac reform than to German idealism.

(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.218)

Saturday: May 13, 2006

An Unrequited Passion

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:42 PM GMT-0500

I see from Protein Wisdom that Tbogg (no link for him) has been bragging about his “passion” for books. That kind of thing makes me think of this bit from A Fish Called Wanda:

Otto: Don’t call me stupid.
Wanda: Oh, right, to call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs. I’ve known sheep that could outwit you, but you think you’re an intellectual don’t you, ape?
Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes, they do Otto, they just don’t understand it.

Wheels Within Wheels?

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:30 PM GMT-0500

By now, everyone knows that Qwest is the only major telephone company not cooperating with the NSA’s effort to track terrorists by data mining telephone records. Betsy Newmark and others have noted the legal troubles of the Qwest CEO who made the decision, which ought (one would think) to have made the company more likely to cooperate with the federal government.

Perhaps there is more to the story than we have been told. Perhaps Qwest is cooperating, and the NSA asked them to say that they weren’t to lull present and future suspects into careless mistakes.

Or perhaps the news is technically correct, but Qwest is cooperating in some other way. Even more useful than a list of all calls made through Qwest would be the much shorter list of telephone customers who suddenly switched from other carriers to Qwest just this week, particularly if they seemed very eager to switch and lost money by prematurely ending contracts with their previous carriers. No doubt such a list would sweep up a fair number of kneejerk libertarians, deranged Kossaks, uncharacteristically-alert druggies, cautious adulterers, apolitical criminals, and simple paranoids,* but there would likely be some homicidal Islamists in the mix. I would think the NSA would find such a list very useful.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

*Not all categories are mutually exclusive.

Thursday: May 11, 2006

Aphorism of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:13 AM GMT-0500

El léxico del verdadero escritor no está en ningún diccionario.

The lexicon of the true writer is not in any dictionary.

(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.137)

Wednesday: May 10, 2006

Aphorism of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:11 PM GMT-0500

No hay tanto opiniones estúpidas como estúpidos que opinan.

It is not so much that there are stupid opinions as that there are stupid people who have opinions.

(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.133)

Monday: May 8, 2006

Aphorism of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:37 PM GMT-0500

Al pensador progresista no le importan ni el camino, ni la meta, sólo la velocidad del viaje.

To the progressive thinker what matters is neither the road nor the destination, only the speed of the journey.

(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.153)

How Devious Is This Plot?

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:22 PM GMT-0500

It seems to be generally agreed that Porter Goss was put in charge of the CIA to clean out all the weasels, snakes, toads, and cuckoos, and that his task is far from complete. Perhaps his unexpected resignation is part of the assignment, and he’s just seeing which of his subordinates can’t stop grinning when they think he’s not watching.