Archive for the ‘Remarks’ Category

Openness goes both ways

October 1, 2006

No one who looks upon disagreement as an occasion for teaching another should forget that it is also an occasion for being taught.

— Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (1972 ed.), ch. 10.


From Erie to Ontario

July 24, 2006

Charles Mackay finds an analogy for the life of John Law during the Mississippi scheme:

His fate was like that which may be supposed to have overtaken the first adventurous boatman who rowed from Erie to Ontario. Broad and smooth was the river on which he embarked; rapid and pleasant was his progress; and who was to stay him in his career? Alas for him! the cataract was nigh. He saw, when it was too late, that the tide which wafted him so joyously along was a tide of destruction; and when he endeavoured to retrace his way, he found that the current was too strong for his weak efforts to stem, and that he drew nearer every instant to the tremendous falls. Down he went over the sharp rocks, and the waters with him. He was dashed to pieces with his bark, but the waters, maddened and turned to foam by the rough descent, only boiled and bubbled for a time, and then flowed on again as smoothly as ever. Just so it was with Law and the French people. He was the boatman and they were the waters.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of the Crowds, “The Mississippi Scheme”.

Words to remember

July 16, 2006

I’m sure I am wrong about many things, although I’m not sure exactly which things I’m wrong about.

— Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, pgs. 19-20.

The first warblogger

April 11, 2006

Tertullian considers flight from persecution as an imperfect, but very criminal, apostasy, as an impious attempt to elude the will of God, etc. etc. He has written a treatise on this subject, which is filled with the wildest fanaticism and the most incoherent declamation. It is, however, somewhat remarkable that Tertullian did not suffer martyrdom himself.

— Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XVI.


April 10, 2006

If the empire had been afflicted by any recent calamity, by a plague, a famine, or an unsuccessful war; if the Tiber had, or if the Nile had not, risen beyond its banks; if the earth had shaken, or if the temperate order of the seasons had been interrupted, the superstitious Pagans were convinced that the crimes and the impiety of the Christians, who were spared by the excessive leniety of the government, had at length provoked the Divine justice.

— Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XVI.

Conscientious objectors

April 1, 2006

[Christians] refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. […] This indolent, or even criminal disregard to the public welfare, exposed them to the contempt and reproaches of the Pagans, who very frequently asked, what must be the fate of the empire, attacked on every side by barbarians, if all mankind should adopt the pusillanimous sentiments of the new sect?

— Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XV.

The emperor is blind when his eyes are closed

April 1, 2006

How often is it the interest of four or five ministers to combine together to deceive their sovereign! Secluded from mankind by his exalted dignity, the truth is concealed from his knowledge; he can see only with their eyes, he hears nothing but their misrepresentations. He confers the most important offices upon vice and weakness, and disgraces the most virtuous and deserving among his subjects.

— attributed to the Roman Emperor Diocletian by Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XIII.

Closed minds, sealed fates

December 11, 2005

The distortion of Soviet intelligence analysis derived, at root, from the nature of the one-party state and its inherent distrust of all opposing views. The Soviet Union thus found it more difficult than its Western rivals to understand, and therefore to use, the political intelligence it collected. Though the Soviet leadership never really understood the West until the closing years of the Cold War, it would have been outraged to have its misunderstandings challenged by intelligence reports. Heterodox opinions within the Soviet system always ran the risk of being condemned as subversive. […] [O]ne-party states have an inherent disadvantage when it comes to intelligence analysis, since analysts usually fear to tell the Party hierarch what it does not want to hear.

— Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, pg. 555.

They would be greeted as liberators

December 4, 2005

At the time of the October Revolution, it had never occurred to Lenin that he and the Bolshevik leadership would be responsible for the rebirth of the [Czarist secret police] in a new and far more terrible form. In The State and Revolution, which he had almost completed in the summer of 1917, he had claimed that there would be no need for a police force, let alone a political police, after the Revolution. Though it would be necessary to arrange for “the suppression of the minority of exploiters by the majority of wage slaves of yesterday,” such suppression would be “comparatively easy.” The “proletarian dictatorship” which would preside over the rapid destruction of the bourgeois order would require a minimum of rules, regulation and bureaucracy. Lenin had never foreseen the possibility of mass opposition to a revolution carried out in the name of the people.

— Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, pg. 29.

Why they called him “Tricky Dick”

October 29, 2005

The 1952 [presidential] campaign also saw what [Earl] Warren considered his “betrayal” by Richard M. Nixon. [Nixon] had, like all the California delegates, signed a pledge to support [Warren] at the [Republican National] Convention. Despite this, Nixon worked, both in and outside the delegation, to obtain support for Eisenhower. Nixon joined the Warren campaign train in Denver, on July 4, the night before it was due in Chicago for the Convention. The train was in a festive mood, as the delegates had been celebrating in orange baseball caps, with the letter “W.” Nixon and his supporters went through the train, shaking hands, and whispering that Warren did not have a chance and they should jump on the Eisenhower bandwagon.

— Bernard Schwartz, Super Chief: Earl Warren and His Supreme Court — A Judicial Biography, pg. 21.