Sunday, October 17, 2021

Plague in the Renaissance: plus ca change...

Found while researching for a fantasy novel:

Much of the dread generated by epidemics was caused by the rigid restrictions on daily life, the threats and bullying of officials charged with enforcing them, and the abuses that inevitably resulted. The merchant Romolo Amaseo, writing from Bologna in September 1527, reported that the proclamations against the pestilence were “grandissima—very extreme” and that most of the citizens had tried to flee, “if they were not already dead or gravely ill.” 

Not surprisingly, people resented the restrictions. Even as a child, Leonardo would have looked on, terrified, as the health police rapped on people’s doors and demanded entry, burned their belongings in gigantic bonfires, and marched the infected off to the lazzaretto...

"The remedy they found for relieving the pestilence was this: they ended all those restrictions and let people live in their own way. They ordered the physicians to visit the people in their houses and the pharmacists to give them medicines. After this decree went out, the epidemic didn’t have as much force, and all of a sudden a great gladness grew in the hearts of the people and thus the plague was completely eradicated."

William Eamon: The Professor of Secrets (Scribd): Mystery, Medicine, and Alchemy in Renaissance Italy (Scribd)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Why is it always the hard stuff?

 Yeah, yeah, I'm really trying to stay away from politics, but the latest dispatch from the cancel culture wars has me rolling my eyes so far I can see the inside of my forehead. Some goofballs at Oxford have decided that sheet music is inherently racist. 


Well, it is predominantly white and sprinkled with little black dots. And as an untalented, very amateurish musician, I used to avoid pieces of music that had too high a proportion of black dots... What? That's not what they mean? 

It's not, I gather, about the physical appearance of the page. Rather, there are some inchoate word salads - they don't rise to the level of 'argument' - about how dead white males like Beethoven used sheet music, and therefore... oh, whatever. 

The same article mentioned that Middle English and Old English literature are also being tipped into the racist dumpster. 

And for quite some time now I've been seeing the "Math is racist" cry. 

So, just asking: why is it always the hard stuff that gets labeled racist and canceled? 

An uncharitable sort just might begin to suspect that "It's racist!" is the excuse du jour for people who don't want to turn their brains on.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Etymology takes away the magic

 There was something about the word condottiere. It didn't conjure up a romantic image exactly - I do understand that the condottieri were not, by and large, nice people - but it seemed, oh, exotic? Dashing? Like this statue of Bartolmmeo Colleoni in Venice? 

So, the first book I picked up on the subject pointed out that etymologically, condottiere derives from condotta, which means "contract." Yeah. A condottiere was somebody who had a condotta. In short - a contractor. 

It just doesn't have the same exotic aura, does it?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021


 I'm taking a vacation from current events, because the daily onslaught on liberty, history and common sense has begun to depress me. Reading the news these days makes me feel as if I'm repeatedly hitting myself on the head with a hammer.

So... following a bit of reading on 15th century Florence in the interests of keeping up with my online book club's study of Machiavelli, this magically talented condottiere strolled into my head and started talking about his career. 

I've decided to shove the current work-not-really-in-process onto a back burner; it was stalled out in a scene where the new office manager tries to push the dictates of Critical Race Theory onto the paranormal working group, and you know what? That's not funny any more. Not in the current atmosphere, anyway. Instead I'm listening to what Gian Galleazo No-last-name-yet has to say. And instead of waking myself up with coffee and the news, I'm starting the day with coffee and more reading on Renaissance Italy - not just Florentine politics in the time of Machiavelli, but everything from housewives' "books of secrets" to studies of arms, armor and warfare styles of the condittori. 

Because, you know, I have to read something over the coffee.

Friday, February 12, 2021

A Modest Proposal

 I'm disturbed to find that in the current debate over transgender athletes, even right-leaning news organizations seem to be adopting what I find to be a completely false framing of the issue. Case in point: I just saw the headline "North Dakota House Passes Bill Banning Transgender Athletes from High School Sports Teams."

But when I clicked over, the first sentence in the Daily Wire article read:

The North Dakota state House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that requires school athletes to participate on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex.

 Does this ban transgender athletes from anything? I don't see it. It appears to me to be saying that if Jim wants to wear a skirt and call himself Jean, fine, but he's still eligible for the boys' team. Does not say that Jim can't participate. 

It's known that post-pubescent males have significant athletic advantages over females - lung capacity, upper body strength, overall muscle mass, etc., etc. They might conceivably have a problem with gymnastics, but there is no case for allowing people with male bodies to "compete" with females in weightlifting.

It's known that in most athletic fields, female athletes' best records are well below those of male athletes. That's the reason for women's sports to begin with! We want our young women to compete with each other in an arena where dedication and hard work make a difference, not to form a permanent underclass who will never "win" while there's a "transgender" man who wants to scoop up the trophies. Don't we? 

If certain scolds in our population are offended by the very concept of "boys" and "girls" I can think of two solutions.

1) Do what North Dakota has just very sensibly done, but tweak the nomenclature. We will no longer have boys' and girls' or mens' and womens' teams, just Teams of People Who Happen to Have XY Chromosomes and other Teams of People Who Happen to Have XX Chromosomes. Sure, it's awkward to say, but it's not nearly as silly as being required to call certain people ze/zir or other manufactured pronouns.

2) Scrap the division of teams by sex entirely and let each sport be represented by just one team whose members are the best-performing athletes in the school. Sure, this destroys women's sports in one blow, but that may be better than the death by a thousand cuts in which each young woman's athletic record is held hostage for the first boy in her school sport who decides he'd like to compete as a girl. At least it makes clear up front that women are now to be sacrificed to the pretense that men can become women simply be saying so. 

Oh, but the people who do this don't want to make that clear, do they?

And that's why I find headlines such as the one on the Daily Wire article so irritating.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Simplifying history

 My online book club is reading The Prince. I rather wish we'd picked Discourses on Livy instead, because I find Machiavelli's thoughts on republics more interesting and more relevant to the present day than his (possibly ironic; there's a lot of debate on that) comments on principalities. Oh well, c'est la vie. Anyway, his references in The Prince have made me realize how ignorant I am of Renaissance Italian history, so I've been doing some background reading and have come to the following "conclusions":

1. Given any two Italian states X and Y that border one another, X attacked Y (or vice versa) at some time.

2. Any prominent figure apart from Girolamo Savonarola betrayed somebody else to the Borgias at some time, and I'm not sure about Savonarola. (Good only to the date of Cesare Borgia's death.)

3. Somebody invited France in to support their claim to somewhere. Somebody else invited Spain in.

and finally, the only one relevant to the present day:

4. Our current situation could be worse. If our Republic fails, it will be.

I realize all this is something of an oversimplification, but honestly, the shifting alliances and wars make my head hurt. Anyway, I've already simplified my "understanding" of history by deciding:

5. All kings of France were named Louis.

6. All prominent medieval figures were named William, unless they were named Matilda/Maud. (You haven't lived until you've written a scene featuring three historical characters all of whom were named William or some variant thereof.)

It's not much of a stretch to extend this system to early Renaissance Italy. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Sarah Hoyt nails it: this occupation is set to fail

 I've been slowed down by the lovely muscle relaxants the doc prescribed for my pulled back muscles, which he warned "might make you slightly drowsy." Ha. Make me fall asleep sitting up, is more like it. But while I've been dozing, others are paying attention. Today Sarah Hoyt described a fascinating parallel to current events... in the 17th century Spanish occupation of Portugal. (Me: What? The Spanish occupied Portugal? Nobody told me about this!) 

She writes:

The funny thing — stop me when this sounds familiar — that Spain would probably have won the battle, long term, almost certainly, if they’d come in and governed with Portuguese best interests at heart, and let the cultures and families merge.

Portugal didn’t even have a very strong sense of national identity at the time, and noble families had property in both families.

But they came in set on “reducing” the Portuguese. It involves a program of destroying the statues of the conquered people, and the stories of their heroes. It involves giving away prized possessions that brought in wealth (in Portugal’s case various colonies given away in the dowry of Spanish princesses) for the glory of the invaders. It involves forbidding the mother-tongue and replacing it with the invaders’s speech (A-men and A-women!) and it involves in general making the invaded country feel its humiliation, in the hopes of making it want to die.

 Remind you of anything? Yeah, me too. And she predicts Americans will react to the current regime as badly as the Portuguese did to this ham-handed attempt to flatten them.

My prediction is a crash of internationalism, a revival of a love of nationality and each nation’s character and heroes, and a glorious upraised middle finger to those who’d be global masters, Winnie the Xi and the UN included, and possibly with petards.

 Click through and read the whole thing: Reducing An Occupied Country

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Fine Art of Projection

I’m so old that I can remember the hysterical convulsions of the Left following Trump’s election, and especially the hysterical predictions that gays, Muslims, [insert group of your choice here] were about to be rounded up and put into camps, if not exterminated outright.

At the time I thought, “Ok, these people are so over the top it’s not funny. But as time goes on and nobody is persecuted at all, let alone being sent to re-education camps, they’ll calm down.”

Remember all the Republicans advocating that people they disagreed with should be silenced, ostracized, punished? No? Me neither. Not only did this imagined persecution never happen, but nobody so much as suggested it. And yet the screeching continued unabated for the entirety of Trump’s presidency.

Now, considering the actions already taken by the victorious Left and those they’re already advocating for, I think I understand their fear.

They were afraid we’d behave like them.

They want their opposition not only censored but punished for daring to differ, and they’re not shy about telling us so.

This is a longish post because I wanted to provide the supporting evidence for this contention. Please read what they are telling us, in their own words. When they tell you who they are… believe them.

Forbes threatens any business that dares hire Trump supporters

“Let it be known to the business world: Hire any of Trump’s fellow fabulists above, and Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie. We’re going to scrutinize, double-check, investigate with the same skepticism we’d approach a Trump tweet. Want to ensure the world’s biggest business media brand approaches you as a potential funnel of disinformation? Then hire away.”

Hilary Clinton: New criminal laws should target anyone we call a “white supremacist.”

Removing Trump from office is essential, and I believe he should be impeached. Members of Congress who joined him in subverting our democracy should resign, and those who conspired with the domestic terrorists should be expelled immediately. But that alone won’t remove white supremacy and extremism from America. There are changes elected leaders should pursue immediately, including advocating new criminal laws at the state and federal levels that hold white supremacists accountable and tracking the activities of extremists such as those who breached the Capitol. Twitter and other companies made the right decision to stop Trump from using their platforms, but they will have to do more to stop the spread of violent speech and conspiracy theories.

PBS counsel wants to put our children into camps

“Even if Biden wins, we go for all the Republican voters, and Homeland Security will take their children away, and we’ll put [Trump supporters’ children] into re-education camps,” the man, identified as Beller [Michael Beller, then principal counsel at PBS] in the undated video, says. [Beller has been fired now… for saying the quiet part out loud. But does anyone think he was the only one at PBS with this idea?]

MSNBC’s Reid and Wallace call for all public-sector workers associated with the Republican party to be stripped of their jobs. And questioning the election results is now criminal sedition.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid, joined by her colleague Nicolle Wallace, called for the de-Baathification and scouring of the current Republican Party following four years of leadership under President Donald Trump.

“I wonder if you have thought through kind of how Republicans begin what someone on my team earlier today called de-Baathification of the Republican Party?” Reid asked Wallace on Wednesday night, likening the GOP to Iraq’s Ba’ath Party and suggesting Republican influence and ideology needs to be eradicated from American society the same way Iraq sought to remove the Ba’ath Party influence from its own politics.

During de-Baathification in 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq ordered that all public-sector workers associated with the party were to be stripped of their jobs and banned from future public-sector employment. That transition government also offered rewards for information leading to “the capture of senior members of the Baath party and individuals complicit in the crimes of the former regime.”

Wallace agreed, echoing Reid’s points about Cheney and saying the Republican Party needs to be reevaluated because it is “top to the bottom corrupted by Trumpism.”

“I think the challenge is that the rot is from the grassroots all the way to the presidency. So the rot is at every layer,” Wallace said. “You can call it rot because it’s now criminal sedition. But there are people that supported it from the grassroots all the way up through to the White House.”

-Jordan Davidson

How is all this different from the Soviet Union?

For all of the solemn praise of democracy by Biden and the rest of the assembled VIPs, the imagery was more reminiscent of the Soviet Union, including the absence of ordinary citizens and the prominent display of military power. The Soviet Union, of course, also purported to be a democracy, and it also had elections. But their elections had many of the features now familiar at home: vetting of candidates by the state bureaucracy, the use of intelligence agencies to investigate and defame dissenters, restrictions on free speech aimed at “saboteurs” and other troublemakers, a compliant media subordinate to the party, and largely preordained results to elections.

-Christopher Roach


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Yesterday's inauguration was a dreary non-spectacle. I saw some clips where FICUS shuffled on stage, put his hand on a Bible and mouthed the relevant words to an audience overwhelmingly - well, let's put it this way: if they'd sent the National Guard home and put reporters and cabinet members on a bus, I betcha Scooby-Doo's van would have held the remainder of the audience. Comfortably.

I'm trying to squeeze a tiny bit of optimism out of this grey day by reminding myself that Hitler and Stalin could draw large crowds. If Biden*  is ever to draw a crowd, he or his handlers will have to employ North Korean techniques. Somebody will have to punish everyone who dares stay home when their Precious is speaking. Somebody will have to make everyone in the sullenly assembled crowd very much afraid of being the first person to quit clapping after the Precious finishes spewing hate-laced drivel.

We're not there yet. 

This would be more cheering if the handbasket didn't seem to be zipping downhill at ever-increasing rates of speed. They* (henceforth used, with the asterisk, to mean "Our soi-disant moral, intellectual and political superiors" because that's too long to type over and over) - well, in the past week They* have gone from deplatforming the tallest of the dissident poppies to discussing what they'd like to do to the rest of us. Destruction of broadcasters who allow any news destructive of the Narrative, "deprogramming" for more than 75 million Trump voters, separation from our children who will henceforth be raised in ruling-party-approved camps - these have been among the fantasies of last week. And does anybody doubt that those fantasies would be a reality if they could just figure out how to implement them?

So... we may not be having the Nuremberg Rallies quite yet... but I do wish somebody would figure out how to put a brake on this handbasket.

(Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-004055 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Monday, January 18, 2021

Remembering remembering MLK

No, that's not a typo; one of my strongest memories concerning MLK is about the memorial service that was held at UT. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of students sitting on the ground in front of the Tower to listen to the speakers, and I was in the middle of that crowd. 

When a speaker announced, "We are ALL guilty of Martin Luther King's death," I stood up and made my way out of the audience. 

For years I felt modestly proud that I had stood up to groupthink and collective guilt. But recently I've been thinking that the important part of that memory is: Nobody else walked out.

My generation has not served freedom well.  

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A different interpretation of the recent putsch

 Over at Sarah Hoyt's place, there's been a bit of debate over whether the orgy of silencing actions represents fear on the part of the left (her view) or the cruelty of petty, cowardly bullies who suddenly think themselves safe from retaliation (mine). I don't intend to continue the debate here; there are arguments to support both sides, let's leave it at that. But I just read a third view over at American Greatness: it's an extinction burst.

“An extinction what,” you ask?

“Extinction burst” is the term behavioral scientists use to explain the angry, escalating, often violent response you get when you say “No” after having said “Yes” in the past.

An extinction burst is what your toddler does when he screams and drops to the floor kicking wildly because you won’t let him race down the store aisle after he knocked things off a shelf. It’s what teens do when their curfew is finally enforced. It’s what office gossipers do when coworkers signal they don’t want to hear it any more."

And as anybody who's raised children knows, the worst thing you can do when your toddler throws that tantrum is to let yourself be intimidated into giving in to it. Famous last words include:

"It's just this one time" 

"I'll let it pass this once because of the circumstances"

"Ok, but don't ever do it again"

The author has some suggestions for how to say "No," and make it stick. 


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Aslan at the Stone Table


This morning I was reading this list of companies that have moved to cut off President Trump and/or his supporters and donors and feeling mildly puzzled. Their complaints against the President seem no different from the ones they've been voicing for the last four years, and he's almost out of office. Why now?

Without for a moment comparing President Trump to Aslan, I am reminded of a scene near the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. After Aslan has surrendered to the White Witch and she has him securely bound on the Stone Table, her followers crowd up to the table to taunt and jeer in a way they'd never had the courage to do earlier. 

That's what it is, I think. These nasty, cowardly little bullies feel safe now. In six days Biden* will be anointed as FICUS (Fraud in Chief of the United States - thank you, Sarah Hoyt). They will control the White House and both branches of Congress. What better time to stand up bravely and spit in your enemy's face than when he's bound and powerless?

Monday, January 11, 2021

This doesn't violate Twitter's standards against violence because shut up

 Once again for the morning crowd: Hawley deserves to be skinned alive and rolled in salt.

— Jonathan Gitlin (@drgitlin) January 7, 2021

What he said


 (h/t: AoS)

A matter of principle

Larry Correia aptly summarizes the cost of sticking to the principle of letting businesses do their own thing in the face of Big Tech's current censorship spree:

"In principle, I'm usually in favor of letting businesses do whatever they want. You know what else I'm usually against in principle? Bombing Japan. Yet strangely, after Pearl Harbor, circumstances changed, and things which were previously disagreeable became necessary. Go figure."


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Dear Professor Turley: It's not a bug, it's a feature

 Law professor Jonathan Turley, no fan of the January 6 invasion of Congress, published an op-ed in The Hill yesterday warning Democrats of the danger of trying Impeachment 2.0 over Trump's remarks on Wednesday. 

Turley writes:

"With seeking his removal for incitement, Democrats would gut not only the impeachment standard but also free speech, all in a mad rush to remove Trump just days before his term ends."

You may or may not agree with Turley's view that Trump's address does not meet the definition for incitement under the criminal code. You might want to read his argument, linked above. (In support of this view, another liberal lawyer, Ann Althouse, has gone over the entire speech in detail and finds little that could be considered incitement to violence.) But my question is on a slightly different matter:

What makes Professor Turley think that Democrats have any objection to destroying free speech? After the putsches of the last few days to shut down any speech they disagree with, this seems wilfully naive.

He goes on to predict: "In this new system, guilt is not doubted and innocence is not deliberated. This would do to the Constitution what the violent rioters did to the Capitol and leave it in tatters."

Yes. They've been shredding the Constitution for some time. If Impeachment 2.0 is the coup de grace, why wouldn't they be all for it?

It took 36 years for them to turn into their own nightmare

 Consider the transformation of Apple in just under two generations.


Apple smashes Big Brother


Apple, Amazon and Google ban Parler

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Losing our freedom: gradually, then suddenly

 I've been watching the gradual part for many years, only occasionally poking my head up to scream, "Stop! This is insane!" at the people who wanted to force us all to mouth their politically correct platitudes. 

The pace has accelerated over the past year, as we've seen how many petty tyrants leapt on the "public health emergency" of a virus that was hardly more than a bad flu, as an excuse for arbitrary and confusing orders banning all that they did not understand or approve while ignoring the rules for themselves. 

It went into freefall this week with the sudden and arbitrary deplatforming of so many conservative sites and voices. I'm not going to repeat the list of suspensions, from Trump's banning from Twitter, to the disappearance of the #WalkAway Facebook page, to the mysterious loss of followers from many conservative Twitter accounts, to Google's and Apple's attacks on the Twitter alternative Parler. For those who want more details, and especially for those who may deny this is happening, I recommend Scott Johnson's excellent summary for Powerline, Shapes of Things.

For most of the last year I haven't been posting because I wasn't writing much, wasn't doing any art work, and had an outlet at Liberty's Torch for my occasional political thoughts. But this latest move, combined with threats to redefine "domestic terrorism" as "saying anything we the masters don't like" has roused me to shout into the wind once more. I don't use Twitter or Facebook, so I can't register my disapproval by canceling my nonexistent accounts. And I doubt anybody is bothering to read this blog after it's been quiescent so long. But it's all the platform I have, and I'm going to use it. 

I plan to post one short article each day about the ongoing loss of freedom. 

I'll know somebody's reading it when I get banned. 

To adapt a meme that's been going around: Dear censors, just so you know, I am typing this with my two middle fingers.

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