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Say What?


I could hardly believe my ears on Greta last night when David Corn said that it was “criminal” that the U.S. had only 100 people working on its weapons teams in Iraq. Now, you can agree that these weapons teams should be beefed up, but “criminal” was a little much coming from Corn. There were only roughly 100 U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground earlier this year in a process that left-wingers defended at the time as totally adequate to deal with Saddam’s weapons. And those inspectors weren’t backed by 150,000-something troops and had to deal with Saddam’s regime and all its monitoring and obstruction. To call the current U.S. effort “criminal” means that the U.N. effort must have been something much worse.

Doesn’t Seem Like News When This Kind of Thing Happens


It’s official. Cuba was reelected to the U.N. human rights commission today in Geneva, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia.


Re: Don’t Know Much Econ


Along those lines, I remember shortly after Bush came into office, a shocking number of liberal C-Span callers believed the economy slowed down because Bush didn’t have a “plan” for the economy as Clinton did. “Clinton focused on the economy! Bush doesn’t care about the economy!” I always liked this sort of formulation because it assumes that economics is actually a settled science and if politicians cared enough about the economy it would grow. After all Clinton not only made “grow” a transitive verb, he grew the economy.

What’s so amusing about this is the confluence of ignorances — about economics and politics — it reveals: First, the idea that if the president keeps his hands on the wheel of the economy and doesn’t get distracted it will go where he wants it to go; Second, the idea that there are presidents who wouldn’t do this if it were so.

Web Briefing: December 17, 2014

Vdh On C-Span Tommorrow At 8am


Well, headline says it all. Can also, as always, be viewed on C-SPAN at C-SPAN’s cool like that. Darn good reason to show up to work late, though, if you ask me.


Evidence Enough


His name is Dr. Missile. Her name is Dr. Germ. Any questions?

Re: Don’t Know Much About Science


Andrew: Never mind science, try economics. Marilyn vos Savant, who does a
syndicated Your-Questions-Answered column for the mewspapers, reported a
year or so ago that she gets regular letters from people baffled to know why
the government does not cure poverty once and for all by just printing up
lots of money and handing it out to poor people.

Don’t Know Much About Science


All this talk about ancient science reminds me of a story I read some years ago in the Economist quoting a report that looked at the level of scientific knowledge held by the UK’s teachers (excluding, I presume, science teachers). The conclusion? Depressing. Significant portions of the scientific wisdom of the late medieval era (Sun goes round the Earth and so on) were still believed by a substantial proportion of the nation’s “educators.”

Nice Story


The Iraqi lawyer who helped free Jessica Lynch is coming to America.



This might offend some. I think it’s very funny.

For The Record


Various techno-types have done the math and concluded that I live in a huge mansion. Why? Because an airport wireless base station beams for 150-200 feet and if I need two in one house….well you get it. Alas, the problem isn’t distance. The kitchen (where many of you must know I do some of my best work) was built as an add-on to the house twenty years ago. That’s where our deck is as well. This means that area is blocked by a thick brick wall. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble.

The Neocon Conspiracy, as Seen From Italy


I link to this because it has lots of familiar names and the author is a fan of NRO (“Splendido il sito internet curato da Kathryn Jean Lopez”). Do know the whole thing is in Italian though.

Talmud and Round Earth


From a reader:

Hi Jonah,

Just to add my little tidbit: in the Talmud there is a throwaway reference to a great Jewish sage who argued with a rabbi about the accuracy of his calculation of the earth’s circumference (this sort of thing was taken very seriously in the diaspora because it was related to the calculation of the new moon, and hence the Jewish calendar and observance of holidays.) Don’t remember when that part was written, but the whole of the Talmud was codified by the 5th century, so there’s a group of people who were in no doubt as to the shape of the earth at least a millennium before Columbus.

Tell Me About Part Deux


From a reader:

I justed wanted to say thanks for posting those readers emails. NRO is by far the best website/blog I’ve ever seen. Where else could a post about D&D become a highly enlightening and far more interesting discussion than I ever had in any history class, about Columbus, the shape of the earth, ancient societies, etc. Thanks. NRO and the Corner rock.

Tell Me About It


From a reader:

Did you happen to see the report about blogs on PBS’ News Hour w/ Jim Leher lastnight? Like a lot of PBS reporting, it was very well done & interesting. However, I kept watching it, calmly waiting for them to mention NRO’s Corner. They never did. They went on & on about Andy Sullivan (which I enjoy) and Instapundit. They also covered about 3 or 4 Left-leaning web logs that I cant remember. All the reporting I’ve seen on the new media of running blogs, always leaves NRO off the list.

“Slick Villy”


Today’s Dallas Morning News comes out in favor
of the United States looking at France not as an ally, but as a
“strategic competitor” — which is how President Bush described communist
China. I wish to draw your attention to a dreadful pun in the edit, christening the oily Dominique de Villepin “Slick Villy.” I
think we should make that stick.

More On Post-Enlightenment Propaganda


From a reader:

Dear Jonah,

I’ll try to be brief, but your corner post raises several interesting points.

First of all, you are correct that for most of European history it was thought that civilization was declining, and the scolarship of the past was looked upon as a golden age. There are however some caveats. First, the gap between the educated, and the uneducated was huge. As early as 200 BC the educated Greeks knew the world was a sphere. It was even measured to a very high degree of accuracy. Atomic theory, the heliocentric solar system, viral disease theory, all these were postulated and debated by the Greeks. The vast majority of the people never had a clue about them. Egyptians laid out the pyramids with incredible precision, but their methods of geometry were wizardry to the common man. Knowledge was power, and was guarded jealously. Look at the Masons. An organization that started as a trade guild to fix employment conditions and membership (the first closed shop) survives to this day as a secret organization. Most people who were “uneducated” however probably knew more about the few acres where they lived and farmed than we can imagine. They would have known every plant species, it’s uses, what it meant to the soil, when it blossomed, etc. Different people needed to know different things for different reasons.

The real arrogance of our time is that we somehow think ourselves more clever than these “uneducated” people of the past. They were genetically the same, with the same brain power that we have. In fact, most of them would probably be far more resourceful, have better memories, be better at problem solving, etc than we, because they relied on their brain power rather than the internet and reference books. My favorite example is the “Ancient Astronaut” theory of the pyramids. That there is no way the Egyptians could have been clever enough to figure out how to make all those straight lines, and move all those huge blocks. One simple question, why not? Since we have machinery and earth movers, we can’t imagine doing without them, so we project our inability to solve these problems onto them.

All Chirac’s Men


The first steps have now been taken towards setting up Chirac’s private army (in other words, the deepened defense coordination between France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg). According to Reuters, plans include a Franco-German brigade “with Belgian commandos and Luxembourg reconnaissance.” Quite why Luxembourg’s legendary commandos were excluded remains a mystery.

Flat Earth: Columbus Propaganda?


I don’t know if he’s right, but I love this sort of stuff. From a reader:

Ah, Jonah. I wonder how many times you’ll hear this today?

Your dragon blog contained the line

Similarly, for millennia, the logical position, given the evidence at the time, was that the earth was flat.”

Actually this is quite untrue.

Eratosthenes calculated the diameter of the globe over 200 years before Christ (he also invented the first brute force method of finding prime numbers, the Sieve of Eratosthenes). He succeeded within about 3% or so,

And before him, others had proved conclusively that the Earth must be a globe.

Here’s one reason why. People who live on coastlines see evidence of the world as a globe all the time. Were the earth flat, a boat leaving would look smaller and smaller, and a boat arriving would look larger and larger, but you’d always see the whole boat. What you actually see is the tips of the masts when it’s first in sight, and as the boat approaches, you see it not just larger but more of it, eventually all the way down to the waterline.

The men on the boat see something similar in mountainous country — the tops of the mountains are visible long before the coastline, even when the shore is much closer than the mountains. The only way to explain this phenomenon is to understand that the earth is a ball.

Lunar eclipses — there’s one this week, I think — also offer proof of a globe.

The “everyone thought the Earth was flat” business seems to come out of popular American lore about Columbus. It is what was used to explain the resistance to his voyage. The actual resistance came from the fact that education people *knew* the Earth was a ball, and new very closely how big a ball. Columbus has recalculated the size and came up with something less than half the size of the real earth., which is why he thought he could reach India and China buy sailing west. People who understood the math knew it was far too long to go that way.

This is why we’re called the Americas — Columbus came back claiming to have made it to the Indies; Vespucci immediately realized he’d found a new landmass or landmasses, and made the map to show so.

In a remarkable irony, I think I recall that during the voyage Columbus kept two logs, one private where he kept his real navigation and the other available to the mates with phonied up numbers to reassure them about the progress of the voyage. If I recall correctly, it turns out his fudged figures were far more accurate than his private logs when it came to recording his position.

Have a fun day with this one….

Us Pulls Out of Saudi Arabia


That’s the good news. The bad news is that the BBC stinks. From their report:

Saudi Arabia is home to some of Islam’s holiest sites and the deployment of US forces there was seen as a historic betrayal by many Islamists, notably Osama Bin Laden.

It is one of the main reasons given by the Saudi-born dissident – blamed by Washington for the 11 September attacks – to justify violence against the United States and its allies.

“Dissident”? “Blamed by Washington”? Sigh.

Gilgamesh Found?


Some German scientists think so.


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