In 1945, eighteen physicians from Hamburg, all of them on the staff of the Rothenburgsort Pediatric Hospital, were brought before the German criminal justice system at the behest of the British Occupying Forces. All eighteen were charged with murdering, or acting as accessories to the murder of, fifty-six children who had been diagnosed as permanently unfit between 1939 and 1945, by means of lethal injection. In 1949, the Langericht (regional court) of Hamburg dismissed the charges. Yes, "it has been objectively verified" that "at least fifty-six children were killed at the Rothenburgsort Pediatric Hospital." Yes, these acts were "against the law." The judges argued, however, that "all of the defendants . . . deny their guilt . . . and contest the charge that they committed any acts in objective violation of the law, explaining that they believed their actions to be permitted under the law." - From The Law of Blood: Thinking and Acting as a Nazi by Johann Chapoutot
Professor Robert George on a common problem in our society and especially on social media. An excerpt:
A critic recognizes that you are entitled to your opinion, even if, in his or her judgment, it is erroneous; a bully insists that “error has no rights” and that those in error must be “re-educated” (via such things as ideologically inflected “training” in “cultural competency,” or “diversity,” or “unconscious bias awareness”) or cancelled.
A bully believes that dissent from his or her opinions is evidence of either stupidity (perhaps even mental illness) or malice (“bigotry”).
The chapters accumulate and they keep changing order. What once seemed like a great Chapter One is now Chapter Six. [What is now Chapter One didn't exist two days ago.] The trunk of the book - the main theme - is growing but the number of branches has not greatly increased. There is a point in writing which I call The Feel. You can write fine material for months and yet sense that you still don't possess The Feel for the ultimate result. You may have a compass but you still lack direction. But when you get The Feel, you know you are onto something very tangible. Something of significance. That is when everything begins to come together and you can get several weeks of writing done in one day. This week, it arrived.
I have some surgery this week followed by recuperation. Will be posting less and reading more. Should be back to normal (make that quasi-normal) by the end of the week. Take care, have a great week, and don't forget to check the great blogs listed to the right. [Photo by Toa Heftiba at Unsplash]
Washington Examiner: Daniel Hannan reviews the current tension in Hong Kong and makes an interesting proposal: Why not, in other words, find some suitable land and give it to Hong Kongers as a charter city? Let them bring their enterprise and global business networks. Let them set their own regulations and taxes. And let the wealth that used to spill into neighboring China instead flow into the new host country?
"In Norway, where I live, May 17 is Constitution Day. In every city, town, and hamlet in this country, the inhabitants celebrate it by dressing in traditional garb (bunad) and congregating downtown, where they wave Norwegian flags and sing the national anthem. Local politicians and high school students give patriotic speeches. Larger communities hold parades with marching bands. In Oslo, the streets are crowded, and schoolchildren march past the Royal Palace, where the king and his family wave at them from a balcony." Read the rest of Bruce Bawer's essay here.
I just got a book in French on Kindle because I like the author, am interested in the topic, and am too impatient to wait for the English edition. Since I last studied French in high school, this should be both rough sledding and fun. I've checked to see if Kindle has any magical translation button but nope. Nice thought though. Full report to follow.
After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee made these remarks to a professor at a faculty meeting: "Sir, if you ever presume again to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever his connection with this university."
I wrote this several years ago and post it each 4th of July:
The document is on the table. Although some of your colleagues are making jokes, each one knows that the signature places the signer's head in a hangman's noose. To sign means you will be regarded as a traitor by the nation that has held your loyalty since birth. Your livelihood may be destroyed and your family doomed to a life of isolation and poverty. Many of your friends and associates will be under suspicion. Others will shun you. Your side, which has feeble and poorly-trained forces, will be fighting the greatest military power in the world. Despite all of the grand talk, the odds of success are small. Even if your side is successful, your new nation will be vulnerable to internal disputes and attacks from predatory powers. This theory of self-government, however attractive, might not work. It's your turn. Will you sign?
I first read this play in college and I'm sure that I failed to grasp much of its power. Since then, I've encountered people who are major fans of The Tempest. I'm giving it another look. Which reminds me of an old joke. A young actor, who is just breaking into the profession, runs into a friend and announces, "Guess what! I've just gotten a part in Hamlet!" The friend replies, "That's fantastic! I know it's regarded as Shakespeare's best play but I have to confess that I've never read it. What's it about?" The actor pauses and then says, "Well, it's about this guy called Gravedigger No. 2."
The worst stuff was what employees would hide for years at a time. Carrying uncollectable debt on Accounts Receivable forever, never quite completing a project until a place needs to be remodeled before it's officially finished, stuff like that. A couple of times project managers went into the hospital for short periods and a casual look over what was hidden under their desk blotter gave me an aneurysm. The passing of an employee out of the building was like the old business saying about the tide going out: It affects everyone the same amount, but you get to see who isn't wearing any swim trunks. It was at the tail end of one of those cathartic employee convulsions that I gazed upon the second most beautiful woman in the world. You don't forget people like that. Read all of Sippican Cottage's post here. [It's great to see he's back.]
The story of a recent document: First draft: 20 paragraphs Second draft: 17 paragraphs Third draft: 16 paragraphs Fourth draft: 12 paragraphs Fifth draft: 9 paragraphs Sixth and final draft: 7 paragraphs Many brilliant sentences made the supreme sacrifice to produce a far better result.
They described it as a minor action, no big deal, and after all, everybody does it so why worry? Only everybody doesn't do it and it was a very big deal and they cannot point to an action over the last twenty years that is bigger. I'll refrain from putting my much stronger feelings into print. A minor action indeed. [Photo by Claire Nolan at Unsplash]
Between 1814 and 1846 a plaster elephant stood on the site of the Bastille. For much of this time it presented a very sorry spectacle. Pilgrims in search of revolutionary inspiration were brought up short at the sight of it, massive and lugubrious, at the southeast end of the square. By 1830, when revolution revisited Paris, the elephant was in an advanced state of decomposition. One tusk had dropped off, and the other was reduced to a powdery stump. Its body was black from rain and soot and its eyes had sunk, beyond all natural resemblance, into the furrows and pockmarks of its large, eroded head. - From Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama
He was privileged because his parents couldn't give him everything and early on he learned the importance of self-discipline and hard work. She was privileged because at a young age her mother got her into the habit of using the public library; a practice that gave her a great love of learning which lasted her entire life. He was privileged because his father provided a powerful example of what it means to be a responsible adult and a good citizen. She was privileged because her parents taught her the values of honesty, thrift, courage, kindness, and self-respect. The most important privileges do not have a price tag.
The elderly passenger sitting on the north-window side of that inexorably moving railway coach, next to an empty seat and facing two empty ones, was none other than Professor Timofey Pnin. Ideally bald, sun-tanned, and clean-shaven, he began rather impressively with that great brown dome of his, tortoise-shell glasses (masking an infantile absence of eyebrows), apish upper lip, thick neck, and strong-man torso in a tightish tweed coat, but ended, somewhat disappointingly, in a pair of spindly legs (now flanneled and crossed) and frail, almost feminine feet. - From Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
friends of mine are starting a new university: admission by written exams only, no US-style bureaucrats ("Deans"), just professors, cleaners & students. No funding for student life, sports, community service etc, just teaching & learning.
Staffed by refugees ex Ivy League
But I think the most disturbing aspect of this episode, which perhaps indicates how deep our societal rot goes, has less to do with the rioters than with those in positions of authority. Rioters and miscreants we will always have, but that is why we have authorities. Ours, however, seem to have utterly abdicated. In city after city, mayors and governors decline to act against vandals, the police stand down, and the devil is allowed to take the hindmost. Corporations fall over themselves to advertise their virtuousness, and give what looks very much like protection money to organizations whose goals are openly subversive of the fundamental American political and social order. University administrators are all too willing to side with those who suppress free inquiry, and routinely cave to protestors rather than defend even the most fundamental tenets of academic freedom.
In the mid-1960s, at a moment of deceptively permanent-looking prosperity, the country's most energetic and ideological leaders made a bid to reform the United States along lines more just and humane. They rallied to various loosely linked moral crusades, of which the civil rights movement, culminating in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, provided the model. Women entered jobs and roles that had been male preserves. Sex came untethered from both tradition and prudery. Immigrants previously unwanted in the United States were welcomed and even recruited. On both sides of the clash over the Vietnam War, thinkers and politicians formulated ambitious plans for the use of American power. - From The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties by Christopher Caldwell
I am working on a book that deals with the attitudes of people working in dictatorships. This builds on research I began many years ago. The work requires extensive study of fascist, Nazi, and communist governments. And yet there are moments when I lean back in my chair, stunned and surprised. Studying history is not just time travel. It can also resemble space travel.