27 February 2006 - Monday

Vita excolatur

I'll be spending the next few days visiting the University of Chicago. I'm excited by the opportunity, which presented itself quite unexpectedly at the end of last week.

In related news, I find myself reading this comic fairly often. Call it morbid curiosity.

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25 February 2006 - Saturday


I've just discovered an online version of The Founders' Constitution. It's a joint project of Liberty Fund and the University of Chicago Press. All five volumes seem to be available and searchable for free.

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22 February 2006 - Wednesday

Reading list

Francis Fukuyama presents an intellectual history of neoconservatism, explaining where he thinks the movement went wrong.

For the sake of the new arrivals in academia, Michael Drout provides some fun guidelines for academic reading and writing.

Richard Nokes thinks he's found the reason medievalists are such avid bloggers. They're lonely.

Hugo Holbling describes the philosophy of Dutch soccer, "the most beautiful football in the world."

At The New Pantagruel, Dan Knauss discusses "Christian Humanism, Past and Present," arguing that humanism and modernism are not such close kinsfolk as often believed. Naturally, Erasmus gets a lot of play.

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20 February 2006 - Monday

Criminal opinions

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, on the imprisonment of David Irving:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center commended the Austrian government for its commitment to fighting Holocaust denial by sentencing British historian David Irving to three years in prison on charges of denying the Holocaust.
I nearly laughed aloud. Parsing the sentence, I find that the Austrian government has a commitment to sentencing David Irving to three years in prison. (Or else, I suppose, the Simon Wiesenthal Center commended the Austrian government by sentencing David Irving to three years in prison.) The wording is poor.

Either way, the Wiesenthal Center's agenda is clear: it wants this man imprisoned for his beliefs. Not because he intentionally harmed someone, but because he refused to affirm what the center wants to be compulsory to affirm.

How can a group devoted to tolerance and human dignity advocate compulsory belief or silence?

I read further and was amused even more:

"Today's sentencing confirms David Irving as a bigot and an antisemite and also serves a direct challenge to the Iranian regime's embrace of Holocaust denial," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.
I suppose he thinks Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to fly to Vienna to turn himself in, or something.
"While Irving's rants would not have led to legal action in the United States, it is important that we recognize and respect Austria's commitment to fighting Holocaust denial, the most odious form of hatred, as part of its historic responsibility to its Nazi past," Rabbi Cooper concluded.
Your parents did evil things. Therefore, you must punish people who disagree with us. It almost makes sense until you think about it.

Clarification: The author of this post believes David Irving is a wicked man who thinks wicked things and teaches wicked false history. But he still has a right to speak. Freedom of expression means nothing if it only applies to the innocuous.

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18 February 2006 - Saturday

Reading list

Ken Ristau and Tyler F. Williams present their lists of movies essential for theologians.

I'm not sure, but Callimachus may be trying to offend everyone on earth with this list of racial insult etymologies.

Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik mentions a study detailing the angst and disenfranchisement of 9,000 graduate students. Who would have thought?

Jonathan Rowe challenges Claremont and David Barton on the significance of the Christian foundations of Western law.

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16 February 2006 - Thursday

UN states the obvious about Gitmo

From a report made yesterday by five investigators to the Commission on Human Rights (PDF from the BBC):

Many of the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay were captured in places where there was -- at the time of their arrest -- no armed conflict involving the United States. The case of the six men of Algerian origin detained in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 2001 is a well-known and well-documented example, but also numerous other detainees have been arrested under similar circumstances where international humanitarian law did not apply. The legal provision allowing the United States to hold belligerents without charges or access to counsel for the duration of hostilities can therefore not be invoked to justify their detention.

This does not of course mean that none of the persons held at Guantánamo Bay should have been deprived of their liberty. Indeed, international obligations regarding the struggle against terrorism might make the apprehension and detention of some of these persons a duty for all States. Such deprivation of liberty is, however, governed by human rights law, and specifically articles 9 and 14 of ICCPR [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the USA is a party]. This includes the right to challenge the legality of detention before a court in proceedings affording fundamental due process rights, such as guarantees of independence and impartiality, the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest, the right to be informed about the evidence underlying these reasons, the right to assistance by counsel and the right to a trial within a reasonable time or to release. Any person deprived of his or her liberty must enjoy continued and effective access to habeas corpus proceedings, and any limitations to this right should be viewed with utmost concern.

Let me summarize:

(a) some of the people held by the US were not captured during combat at all, yet have spent years in prison because of the legal fiction that they were;

(b) captured combatants may be held for the duration of hostilities in order to keep them from fighting, but non-combatants have a right under treaty [as well as the United States Constitution] not to be imprisoned without a fair trial;

(c) therefore some of the Guantánamo Bay detentions are illegal under international law [and the Constitution]. Seems a simple enough deduction.

Please see also the report's discussion of abusive treatment, culminating in this:

The interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense, particularly if used simultaneously, amount to degrading treatment in violation of article 7 of ICCPR and article 16 of the Convention against Torture. If in individual cases, which were described in interviews, the victim experienced severe pain or suffering, these acts amounted to torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention. Furthermore, the general conditions of detention, in particular the uncertainty about the length of detention and prolonged solitary confinement, amount to inhuman treatment and to a violation of the right to health as well as a violation of the right of detainees under article 10 (1) of ICCPR to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
In other words, torture has been reported by some detainees, but even if these stories are discounted, the conditions at Guantánamo Bay are illegal because they amount to "degrading punishment."

To be fair, of course, these UN investigators declined to visit the prison because the US government refused to allow them to interview prisoners in private.

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15 February 2006 - Wednesday

Belated Valentine's Day post

THE CAST: Sir Gawain; a snow-white damsel; and two horses

"Maiden," said my lord Gawain, "may you be blessed by God! Tell me now, dear friend, what you were thinking when you, without reason, cautioned me to slow down?"

"I do have one, I swear, sir knight, for I know just what you are thinking."

"What then?" he asked.

"You want to grab me and carry me down this hill across your horse's neck."

"That's right, damsel."

"I knew it well," said she. "Cursed be any man who thinks that! Be careful never to try to put me on your horse! I'm not one of those silly girls the knights sport with and carry away on their horses when they go out seeking adventure. You'll never carry me on your horse! However, if you dared, you could take me with you. If you are willing to take the trouble to fetch me my palfrey from this garden plot, I'll go along with you until you encounter in my company misfortune and grief and trials and shame and woe."

Chrétien de Troyes, The Story of the Grail (written c. 1180s; trans. William W. Kibler)

I would have excerpted that yesterday, but I only read it this evening.

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If I ever assign true/false questions to my students, I hope I may die the death of a thousand tiny paper cuts.

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History Carnival XXIVa

The latest History Carnival is up at Philobiblon.

Alun ponders the meaning and future of gender archaeology. >>

Tony presents two recipes from 1923's The Stage Favourites’ Cook Book. >>

Misteraitch provides some scanned illustrations from the early days of natural history. >>

Nouri Lumendifi elaborates a theory of nationalism that contrasts Western and Eastern forms. >>

Lots more where those came from!

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Four things

Having been tagged by Tinfoil + Raccoon ....

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. Fast-food cashier
2. Political party volunteer
3. English tutor
4. History grader

Four movies I can (and do) watch over and over:

1. Casablanca
2. The Lion in Winter
3. Dr. Strangelove
4. The Godfather

Four places I’ve lived:

1. South Texas
2. Central Texas
3. East Texas
4. Schijndel, The Netherlands

Four TV shows I love:

1. Masterpiece Theatre
2. American Experience
3. Frontline
4. Charlie Rose

Four places I’ve vacationed:

1. Kent, UK
2. Corpus Christi, TX
3. Washington, DC
4. Mount Vernon, VA

Four of my favorite dishes:

1. Beef enchiladas
2. Beef broccoli
3. Anything with pesto
4. Goldfish crackers

Four sites I visit daily:

1. Cliopatria
2. Yahoo News
3. BBC News
4. Google Reader

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. London
2. Leiden
3. Grad school
4. Austin

Four books (or series) I love:

1. The four Gospels
2. T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950
3. Sholem Aleichem, Tevye the Dairyman
4. David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed

Four video games I can (and do) play over and over:

1. That would require me to play a video game.

Four bloggers I am tagging:

1. Has anybody else not done this one yet? Feel free.

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12 February 2006 - Sunday

Reading list

In the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, Michael Herzog (brigadier general in the Israeli Defense Forces) says the chances that democracy will moderate Hamas are slim.

In the same issue, Paul R. Pillar (former CIA official) claims the Bush administration used intelligence "not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made" in the days before the Iraq invasion.

Jonathan Edelstein is hosting an Old Bailey proceedings blog symposium. Sharon Howard's contribution is a two-part entry on arson in 18th-century London.

Thanks to this, I think this should be my new search engine.

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11 February 2006 - Saturday

Today's tomorrow

I've heard back from two graduate schools so far. One, citing the universally high credentials of its 8,000 applicants, politely declined to admit me. The other, however, had already promised a very comfortable financial award. The details I have been given so far make the offer sound luxurious; my academic advisor assured me that I have his permission to spend the rest of this semester daydreaming.

Actually, I am trying to decide whether I want to spend this summer studying German or Latin. On the one hand, I plan to focus on modern intellectual history, so German makes a lot of sense. On the other, I am getting more and more interested in the premodern foundations of modern thought, so Latin could be more valuable. Also, there's something inherently cooler about dead languages.

Speaking of coolness, my graduate school picks are located in the northern regions of the country -- more specifically, near large lakes. I think this native Texan is finally going to get to deal with snow.

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1 February 2006 - Wednesday

History Carnival XXIV

He found matter of study to fill a hundred years, and his education spread over chaos. Indeed, it seemed to him as though, this year, education went mad. -- The Education of Henry Adams

The Official Souvenir Guidebook of the
World's Cliovian Exposition of 2006

The Arts Palace, Columbian Exposition of 1893

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Twenty-Fourth History Carnival! History bloggers (historians, students, and amateurs) have come here from all corners of the world to display their work. This self-guided tour will help you find the best our exposition has to offer.

To enter the exposition complex, please head toward the statue of Clio Trampling the Masses, which rises triumphalistically above the main gates. This intriguing sculpture sets the perfect mood for the many exhibits to follow. Once you pass through the gates, please keep to the right of the Reflecting Pool in order to enter the Narrative and Historiography Building.

Continue reading "History Carnival XXIV" below the fold . . .

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