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The Dream of Scipio

The Dream of Scipio is a curious book, tying together a late antique author who is not - quite - Macrobius; a mediaeval poet who is not quite Petrarch; and a twentieth-century scholar who is definitely not Marc Bloch.

One of its most curious pages  is here; it has three quotes from the  Protagoras, Cicero, and Theophrastus. The Theophrastus is real; from Aulus Gellius. The other two are
  • No one can have wisdom when consumed by intemperance
  • You cannot act rightly by taking up arms against your father or your fatherland.


Another idiot heard from

The Financial Times has published an op-ed saying that we need a new post-Keynesian economics, need to cut spending now, and need to concentrate on investment not stimulus. I applaud the libertarian commenter who pointed out that the difference between "investment" and "stimulus" here is largely that "investment" is what the author  wants, and stimulus is what somebody else  wants.  

Yes, I know: it is not news for the FT to publish articles against Keynes and for deflation and collapse.  And this would be as much news as the Christian Identity people opposing Obama were it nof for the author: Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute of Columbia University. Some people would claim that this proves that the Greens do stand for permanent depression, as the only way to keep mankind in check; I will merely ask if it is - in this case - a way to be an Old Guard Republican on the Upper West Side?

Corporate courage

Other British investors are puzzled why   (free subscription required) t he (American equivalent of) BP shares should be going down  (I can't imagine any reason why Americans would not want them; can you?) and worried that the evil American politicians are calling it British     Petroleum when that hasn't been its name since 1998 (who Knew?)  After all, it would be unfair to think of it as British; in other news, David Cameron is arranging a bailout.

What are the Republicans talking about?

Let us set aside the fact that the real terrorists want to be recognized as combatants, at war with the United States; I don't suppose the Republicans read anything so recondite as "Br'er Rabbit and the Briarpatch".

Let us also set aside the mere words of the Constitution: Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury. (For those who care, and Bond may be one, that is one of the many passages copied directly into the Constitution of the so-called Confederate States of America.)

What I want to know is: what history has he been living in - and how do we send him back there? There have been few enough trials of terrorists, and which of them has "compromised sources and methods? 

Salisbury's Law

As the third  Marquess of Salisbury, as  Prime Minister, wrote to the Viceroy of India:
The Viceroy ignored this advice, and  continued with a firm line, to make Afghanistan safe; this provoked a massacre of the British Resident in Kabool, Napoleon Cavagnari (no I'm not making this up, and - this time -  neither is Wikipedia. )  and thereafter the Second Afghan War -  and the wounding of John Watson MD in one of its -well - less than successes.

As an example of Lord Salisbury's law, one of our American soldiers (retired, perhaps fortunately) wants to strip-search all male Muslim airline passengers from 18 to 28; even Fox was boggled.  Hat-tip to Glenn Greenwald, who also links to this post, by my Congressman ,<gloat. who points out, correctly, that purposeful intelligence gathering (the sort encouraged by requiring warrants) yields better intelligence than fishing expeditions.

Computerized fishing expeditions come up with enormous samples of the ocean of data out there, without sieving. They flood the analysts, with the result that they don't have time to see the actual fish.

I also commend this effort at quantitative reasoning, even if it does lead me to expect knife fights in the aisles, and this reminder that  false positves are costs.
Addend: And speaking of (very) false positives, consider this story, in which Slovak police planted explosives on an Irish tourist - to test their own security, and then forgot to recover them.



Apparently someone tried to have Guantanamo shut on the basis of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the district court decided that "enemy combatants" are not persons; the Supreme Court upheld. This may be the usual nonsense of the Insular Cases, or it may be serious; does anybody know?