Archive for the ‘History’ Category

There is No Lawful Order


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

Should the US military launch nuclear weapons, if Donald Trump orders a first strike?


Now, let’s flesh out that answer a bit. The premise of the way the US’ National Command Authority (NCA) is set up, is to centralize control of the US nuclear arsenal, ostensibly for defensive reasons. Recent discussions about Donald Trump’s unsuitable command temperament – did I put that delicately enough? – have swirled around the idea that Trump might order a strike, and the military might ignore NCA’s directive as “not lawful.”

Of course none of that is how it ever happens. There is no perceptible shortage of people in the military who are comfortable (indeed, gleeful) with orbiting a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kandahar and raining 155mm high explosive shells onto it for an hour, in spite of radioed please for help. There is also no perceptible shortage of people in the military who would pop the cork on a nuclear war; the reason is simple: decent human beings with any sense of empathy at all, are not placed in command of nuclear missile batteries.

stderr 2017/12/16 no-lawful-order

David Hoffman: The Dead Hand, Eric Schlosser: Command and Control

Penguin: David Hoffman: The Dead Hand

Wikipedia: Eric Schlosser: Command and Control


Christianity Is Not Dead


(FTB Pharyngula) – PZ Myers:

An evangelical Christian declares the death of Christianity in the U.S.

I wish Christianity were dying. It’s not. It’s merely reverting to its roots. The Christianity he’s pining for – a beautiful faith of “love, of peace and of fraternity” – only existed briefly in the minds of a tiny fraction of wishful thinkers. It’s as if he thinks that benign Christianity is the eternal truth of the religion, and that this recent controlling, selfish, faith of indignant sanctimony is a recent innovation. …

pharyngula 2017/12/09 christianity

Ku Klux Klan

Voltaire vs. Rousseau


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

There is an aspect to Rousseau, Voltaire, and many other enlightenment thinkers’ politics regarding democracies and oligarchies. Peter Gay tells it:

Like most educated Europeans, Voltaire had been misled by the Genevan genius for self-advertisement. Even Rousseau, then the Republic’s most illustrious son, had lent himself to the comedy; in 1754 he had dedicated his Discours sur L’inegalite to the Republic of Geneva. In that country, he wrote, equality and inequality were happily combined in conformity with natural law; it was neither too large nor too small for good government; the interest of sovereign and citizen were the same, everyone was subject to the rule of law, and all citizens had the right to make the laws: “May a Republic, so wisely and happily constituted, last forever, as an example to other nations, and for the happiness of its own citizens!”

Rousseau, of course, should have known better. Events soon compelled Voltaire to learn: in July 1755 the Genevan government repressed Voltaire’s hymn to its liberty (an act of poetic injustice) and in the same year the Genevan Consistory pointedly reminded him that theatrical performances were not permitted in Calvin’s republic. …

Voltaire was beginning to understand that, whatever people said, Geneva was an oligarchy.

stderr 2017/12/01 vendredi-voltaire

Peter Gay: Voltaire's Politics: The Poet as Realist

A Strategic View


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

Usually I read military history in an attempt to extract a big picture of events from the details.

Victor Davis Hanson’s new book The Second World Wars is a strategic view of WWII treating the war as a set of overlapping strategic problems that are discussed individually. To put it mildly, I find this fascinating. At first I felt a bit put off because some aspects of the war appear to be viewed repetitively – I was wondering “is this a bunch of articles that have been bound together?” before I realized that the intent was to make his arguments stand on their own, in each area. …

stderr 2017/11/13 strategic-view

Victor Davis Hanson: The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won

The JFK Files and Emergent Conspiracy


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

The JFK assassination archive has been scheduled to be opened since 1992, when George H. W. Bush established a deadline for declassifying them. That is supposed to happen this Thursday. Various people are speculating that it will drive conspiracy theorists wild, so I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity to be very wrong, by making some guesses what we’ll learn. …

stderr 2017/10/22 emergent-conspiracy

Moorman photo of JFK assassination

Talking Corpses


(National Geographic) – Erika Engelhaupt:

From unreliable hair analysis to mishandled DNA samples, modern forensic science has seen its share of troubles. But there’s still plenty to be thankful for in the ways courts today gather evidence of a crime: Just a few centuries ago, people were convicted of murder based on the idea that a corpse would spontaneously bleed in its killer’s presence. …

nationalgeographic 2017/10 cruentation

Skull of Richard III

1491 and 1493


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

It is essential to the American myth that North America was wilderness when the European colonists began to arrive. Sure, there were people, but they weren’t ‘civilized’ and therefore didn’t count; they could be brushed aside.

Charles C. Mann’s 1491 and its sequel 1493 oppose that myth. He can only hint at the complexity of the politics of the era but it’s overwhelming. …

stderr 1491-and-1493

Charles C. Mann: 1491+1493

Playing the national anthem in professional sports is a political act


(FTB) – Mano Singham:

The protests during the playing of the national anthem before professional sports events has caused some controversy with Donald Trump, as usual, inflaming the situation. In an earlier post, I asked why this practice even existed since it seemed to me to be so silly. Many people have criticized the protesting players for injecting politics into sports but as Justin Levin, the author of a “history thesis on sports as instruments of domestic mobilization during the Vietnam War”, writes, it was the introduction of the national anthem into these events that was an overtly political act to serve an overtly political purpose, to stifle dissent that was erupting during the Vietnam war.

So players now using the occasion as an act of protest is perfectly appropriate. The anthem was introduced to serve a political purpose and they are merely continuing the practice. …

singham 2017/10/02 anthem

NFL players kneeling protest

Trigonometry Before the Greeks


(Telegraph Science) – Sarah Knapton:

A 3,700-year-old clay tablet has proven that the Babylonians developed trigonometry 1,500 years before the Greeks and were using a sophisticated method of mathematics which could change how we calculate today. …

telegraph 2017/08/24 babylonian

Plimpton 332 tablet

Who Ate Republicans’ Brains?


(NY Times) – Paul Krugman:

A key moment came in the 1970s, when Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, embraced supply-side economics — the claim, refuted by all available evidence and experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Writing years later, he actually boasted about valuing political expediency over intellectual integrity: “I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities.” In another essay, he cheerfully conceded to having had a “cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit,” because it was all about creating a Republican majority — so “political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.” …

nytimes 2017/07/31 republicans

Irving Kristol