Link: Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler in 1935.
I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.... Looking back on it, I felt I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.
From Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels:
Respect means at least two different things, I take it. One, it means basic civility, politeness, the right way to treat people; decency, good behavior, not shoving people or spitting on them or calling them rude names. It doesn't require thinking the people are nice people, or interesting, or right about anything - it doesn't require any opinion of them at all. That's not the point. The point is that the default mode for how to treat people, unless they're approaching you at speed with a sharp sword or trying to take your lunch and eat it themselves, is to be civil. That's respect one; respect two is quite different. It's cognitive, and substantive, and involves judgment; it has content, it's about something, it's earned in some way. That means it can't possibly be universal, or automatic, or a default mode for how to treat everyone; or mandated, or expected or demanded.
This gets to the point I think of why we should not and cannot accept the argument that religious sensitivities - of any religion - should dictate how the rest of us behave beyond letting them get on with it in the privacy of their own homes/temples/churches/mosques. When the religious step outside of that and start trying to dictate how we dress, how we behave in our own world, they abuse Respect1 and in so doing forfeit any right to Respect2.
I don't normally have much common ground with Perry de Havilland at Samizdata, but I had to chuckle over his nomination for 'Icons of England' . I had another go myself, with a slightly more oblique version, but I have no more expectation that it will appear.
The CCTV camera is a ubiquitous feature of the street scene in 21st century England. We have more public CCTV than any other country (including much bigger ones such as the US). Walk down the street in any English city or town and you are watched over by dozens of cameras, demonstrating in a very public way the changed nature of our society.
I only caught the
program from the interview with an extremely smug and smarmy evangelical. By
the end though I began to despair that there really are such stupid and
malevolent people in the world. As Dawkins said religion gets good
people doing evil things.
In practice of course it isn't just religion. Any dogma that claims to know the answer before anyone has asked the question is as likely to have the same outcome - which means marxism and many brands of libertarianism as well as Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
By the end I just wanted to nail all those arrogant know-alls behind a big door - preferably the same door.
Robert Heinlein is rightly regarded as one of the giants of Science Fiction. He and a select few others transformed SF from the generally poorly written shockers of the 1920s and 30s to a mature literary genre. His longevity as a writer was borne home to me a few weeks ago when I picked one of my Heinlein novels off the shelf and realised that I have been reading and rereading his books for almost 50 years. Clearly I have continued to find something of value in that period, but reflecting on it, I realised that both what I found in them and my reaction to that has changed significantly since those early days. I think this change began with “I Will Fear No Evil” (see also) which I found rather disappointing. I enjoyed the basic premise, but I didn’t really swallow the metaphysical stuff about the survival of the soul after death and found the treatment of male/female relationships rather silly.
I cannot remember which of his stories I read first. I suspect it was “Starman Jones”, which for some reason I can remember discussing with a school friend in about 1959 . Early on I also read “By His Bootstraps” (online), “Orphans of the Sky” and “Methuselah’s Children”. I can be certain about this because I still have my British Science Fiction Book Club editions of the Robert Conquest/Kingsley Amis anthology “Spectrum” (containing “By his Bootstraps”) and of “Methuselah’s Children” and “Orphans of the Sky”. In passing I must point out that the SFBC published some cracking stuff then, by some giants of SF. In addition to those mentioned, I still have their editions of books by J G Ballard (“Four Dimensional Nightmare”, “Drowned World”, Poul Anderson (“Twilight World”, “Guardians of Time”),Algys Budrys (“The Unexpected Dimension”), John Brunner (“No Future in It”), Arthur Clarke (“Tales of Ten Worlds”, “Fall of Moondust”), Hal Clement (“Needle”), Walter Miller (“Conditionally Human”) and several others.
In my early days reading Science Fiction, and like most teenagers, I would have said if asked that I preferred the ‘hard’ SF – stories based I suppose on whizz-bang technology, with lots of action around gadgets and scientific gimmicks. I hadn’t discovered the ‘Lensman’ series by then but I’m sure I would have loved them. I remember for example reading huge numbers of the ‘Badger’ books, appalling as they were, so stories like those of Heinlein were a revelation, by incorporating technology in a much more sophisticated way than the stuff churned out by Lionel Fanthorpe for Badger Books .
I said that my reaction to Heinlein has changed with time. What that means is that I began to realise that he was more than just a writer of whizz-bang fantasies. As I read more I noticed that he has a number of themes in his stories that he returns to many times. He writes a lot about sex for example – at least in his books after “Stranger in a Strange Land” and it becomes an increasingly large proportion of any given novel as he grows older. That is not intrinsically wrong, but he generally doesn’t do it very well and the odd bit of more explicit stuff is simply embarrassing. I seem to recall he was nominated for the 'Bad Sex Award" but I can't find a link - something to do with nipples crinkling probably! He has also frequently tackled political themes or more specifically he is obsessed with the idea of liberty and personal freedom with the obvious example being “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, although “Farnham’s Freehold” also deals with it explicitly and the concept turns up even in his ‘juveniles’ – “Star Beast” for example where the character ‘Betty’ although a minor has divorced her parents! Time Travel is another favourite represented in my mind by masterpieces like “By His Bootstraps” or “All You Zombies” but also a key element in most of his later work and in earlier novels like “The Door into Summer”.
Professor Philip Stott (who doesn't allow comments on his blog) is encouraging everyone to chime in the debate on climate change at Crooked Timber (which does). Professor Stott (a geographer) also cites approvingly a paper by Professor Ian Plimer (a geologist) which argues that 'global warming is a damp squib' as well as a blog post by Tim Blair (a journalist), the comments on which appear generally to be insults and personal attacks on Professor John Quiggin (an economist and author of the CT post)) for daring to say anything on the issue.
It is unclear to me why a journalist, a geographer or a geologist consider themselves more qualified to pronounce on the issue than an economist. As far as I can see the only clear thing about the climate change question is that the mathematics are fearsome, the causes are still uncertain but the outcomes are pretty much settled.
It seems to have escaped the notice of the likes of Messrs Stott and Blair (and others of that ilk) that the last time we saw this sort of change there were rather fewer people in the world than now. They also seem to assume that because the climate has changed before the present changes cannot be the result of, or even influenced by, human activity.
Actually I can't work out whether Prof Stott even accepts that the climate is changing - he often appears happier criticising those who do than with defining his own position. His support for the likes of David Bellamy (a botanist) who does deny the existence of climate change is a case in point. He also seems to have a bee in his bonnet about wind generated power for some reason.
Regardless of the causes, the evidence seems to be falling firmly on the side of significant changes in climate. With our very crowded world these changes will have significant physical and economic impacts. Kyoto is at least a step towards mitigation. On its own - even if it works, which seems unlikely given the failure of the US to sign and continued growth in emissions from China and India - it won't be enough. We need significantly increased investment in energy conservation (even uranium won't last for ever) and in alternative sources of power. Those who continue to deny that there is even a problem are only making it less likely that this investment will occur.
EDIT - I notice that Prof. Stott has a Poll on his site asking the question "Can Tony Blair control the climate predictably" the answer to which - when I last looked - was 97% No. Quite whay such a stupid question is intended to show I am not sure. It says nothing about climate change or public opinion. As a 'bit of fun' it ranks alongside the utterances of Bernard Manning.
From BBC NEWS
...Nothing is served by having David Irving in a jail cell, except that he has become an international news issue.
Let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement.
Let him fade into obscurity where he belongs.
Prof. Deborah Lipstadt