Friday, October 31, 2014

Leo Strauss on Churchill

Spontaneous Remarks Made by Leo Strauss, on Hearing of the Death of Churchill
"The death of Churchill is a healthy reminder to academic students of political science of their limitations, the limitations of their craft.
The tyrant stood at the pinnacle of his power.
The contrast between the indomitable and magnanimous statesman and the insane tyrant—this spectacle in its clear simplicity was one of the greatest lessons which men can learn, at any time.
No less enlightening is the lesson conveyed by Churchill’s failure which is too great to be called tragedy. I mean the fact that Churchill’s heroic action on behalf of human freedom against Hitler only contributed, through no fault of Churchill’s, to increase the threat to freedom which is posed by Stalin or his successors. Churchill did the utmost that a man could do to counter that threat—publicly and most visibly in Greece and in Fulton, Missouri. Not a whit less important than his deeds and speeches are his writings, above all his Marlborough—the greatest historical work written in our century, an inexhaustible mine of political wisdom and understanding, which should be required reading for every student of political science.
The death of Churchill reminds us of the limitations of our craft, and therewith of our duty. We have no higher duty, and no more pressing duty, than to remind ourselves and our students, of political greatness, human greatness, of the peaks of human excellence. For we are supposed to train ourselves and others in seeing things as they are, and this means above all in seeing their greatness and their misery, their excellence and their vileness, their nobility and their triumphs, and therefore never to mistake mediocrity, however brilliant, for true greatness."
In class, at the University of Chicago
January 25, 1965

First of all, I can't even imagine ever saying anything so brilliant in class, extemporaneously or not. (For more brilliant off-the-cuff remarks, see here for transcript and here for video.) Second, I wonder how many Political Science departments ensure that all of their graduates read Churchill's life of Marlborough. (My guess is none.) If they did, maybe the unemployment rate for political science majors wouldn't be so high? Lastly, "training students to see things as they are, and not how they wish them to be," could serve as an excellent mission statement for a department of psychology. I feel a bit chagrined that students don't hear so much about "human greatness" in my classes -- but we are a bit more focused on the seamy undersides of things in Abnormal and Forensics.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"The Horrible Effectiveness of Flamethrowers"

An M-4 Sherman tank fires its flamethrower on Iwo Jima (National Archives)

Real Clear Defense
"During World War II, all sides used flamethrowers, including the U.S. Marine Corps. During the “island hopping” campaigns of the Pacific Theater, many Marines believed flamethrowers made the difference between their lives and death.
We could not have taken the island without the flamethrower,” said Bill Henderson, a Marine Corps veteran who fought on Iwo Jima, in a Marine Corps oral history of the battle. “It saved lives because it did not require men to go into caves, which were all booby-trapped and promised certain death to all who entered.”
The Marines’ M2 flamethrowers were heavy and cumbersome, making it difficult to run when wearing the device. The unit also made the Marine a high-value target—easy to see and easy to shoot.
One Marine Corps flamethrower unit on Iwo Jima had a 92-percent casualty rate—leading a military statistician to estimate the average lifespan on the battlefield of a Marine flamethrower operator at four minutes.
Later, the Marines adapted flamethrower units to the Sherman tank, reducing the number of times that an individual operator had to expose himself to enemy fire on the battlefield.
When soft-hearted Americans protested the use of flame weapons against the Japanese, Gen. George C. Marshall, then chief of staff of the Army, defended them. “The vehement protests I am receiving against our use of flamethrowers do not indicate an understanding of the meaning of our dead.”
During the Vietnam War, for better or worse flamethrowers and other incendiary weapons became widely regarded as inhumane weapons of war. In 1978, the Defense Department issued a directive that ceased the tactical use of flamethrowers and their further development.
However, no international agreement bans flamethrowers.
From 1999 to 2000, the Russians employed flamethrowers against Chechen rebel forces during the battle for Grozny. Russian tacticians concluded that the flamethrower was effective as much for its psychological effect as its ability to flush insurgents or snipers out of enclosed or fortified positions.
The Russian use of flamethrowers was also one reason why in 2003 the United Nations declared Grozny the most devastated city on the planet."

Grozny, 2003

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Man Goes Missing at Broncos Game -- Update

So...has he seen Gone Girl?

UPDATE: They found him:
The Denver man who disappeared during last week's Broncos game told police he had "his fill of football" and walked and hitchhiked about 130 miles to a city in southern Colorado.
The department posted on its Twitter page that 53-year-old Paul Kitterman, of Kremmling, Colo., had been located in Pueblo, Colo., approximately 110 miles south of Denver. No details were immediately released of how Kitterman was found or how he had managed to travel that distance over the previous five days. 
Denver Police Sgt. Steve Warneke told the Associated Press that no criminal charges are expected.
"All we were trying to do was make sure he was unharmed, and he was," Warneke said. "So at that point, we're finished." Police referred all other questions to Kitterman's family.

Original article from 2 days ago (NESN):
"Family and friends are searching for a Colorado man who hasn’t been seen since he left his seat at halftime of Thursday night’s San Diego Chargers-Denver Broncos game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Paul Kitterman, a 53-year-old from Kremmling, Colo., attended the game with his son, Jarod, and two friends, Tia Bakke and her boyfriend Tim Ust, according to KUSA-TV. The four traveled to the game together, which is about a two-hour drive, but Kitterman did not drive. In addition to not having a car at the stadium, Kitterman was not carrying a cell phone or credit cards, and had just $50 cash on him, Bakke said.
“He’s absolutely nowhere to be found,” Bakke said. “It’s been the longest, (most) miserable three days of our lives.”
Paul and Jarod had seats in a different part of the stadium from Bakke and Ust. They met up at halftime but said that was the last time they saw him, as Jarod said his father never returned to his seat. After the game, friends and family “scoured the stadium and called security and police, in addition to jails and hospitals in the area,” KUSA-TV reported.
Bakke added that Paul doesn’t have any issues with drugs or alcohol, nor any medical problems.
The Kitterman family has filed a missing persons report with the Denver Police Department, but investigators say they have no reason to suspect foul play, according to KDRV-TV."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wittgenstein's Forgotten Lesson -- Ray Monk (1999)

Prospect Magazine
"One of the crucial differences between the method of science and the non-theoretical understanding that is exemplified in music, art, philosophy and ordinary life, is that science aims at a level of generality which necessarily eludes these other forms of understanding. This is why the understanding of people can never be a science. To understand a person is to be able to tell, for example, whether he means what he says or not, whether his expressions of feeling are genuine or feigned. And how does one acquire this sort of understanding? Wittgenstein raises this question at the end of Philosophical Investigations. “Is there,” he asks, “such a thing as ‘expert judgment’ about the genuineness of expressions of feeling?” Yes, he answers, there is.
But the evidence upon which such expert judgments about people are based is “imponderable,” resistant to the general formulation characteristic of science. “Imponderable evidence,” Wittgenstein writes, “includes subtleties of glance, of gesture, of tone. I may recognise a genuine loving look, distinguish it from a pretended one… But I may be quite incapable of describing the difference… If I were a very talented painter I might conceivably represent the genuine and simulated glance in pictures.”
But the fact that we are dealing with imponderables should not mislead us into believing that all claims to understand people are spurious. When Wittgenstein was once discussing his favourite novel, The Brothers Karamazov, with Maurice Drury, Drury said that he found the character of Father Zossima impressive. Of Zossima, Dostoevsky writes: “It was said that… he had absorbed so many secrets, sorrows, and avowals into his soul that in the end he had acquired so fine a perception that he could tell at the first glance from the face of a stranger what he had come for, what he wanted and what kind of torment racked his conscience.” “Yes,” said Wittgenstein, “there really have been people like that, who could see directly into the souls of other people and advise them.”
“An inner process stands in need of outward criteria,” runs one of the most often quoted aphorisms of Philosophical Investigations. It is less often realised what emphasis Wittgenstein placed on the need for sensitive perception of those “outward criteria” in all their imponderability. And where does one find such acute sensitivity? Not, typically, in the works of psychologists, but in those of the great artists, musicians and novelists. “People nowadays,” Wittgenstein writes in Culture and Value, “think that scientists exist to instruct them, poets, musicians, etc. to give them pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them-that does not occur to them.”"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mentally ill visitors to the White House

On September 11, 2014 this fellow jumped the White House fence, holding a Pikachu doll and dressed in Pokémon garb. Good thing the Secret Service got the machine guns and killer dogs out. How long until they kill one of these mentally ill people? On October 24, 2014, Dominic Adesanya was bitten multiple times by these dogs; he was unarmed and apparently is a paranoid schizophrenic. For psychiatric reasons, he was found incompetent to stand trial.

"[In 1835,] Richard Lawrence, an unemployed housepainter who earlier that year had twice visited the White House asking to speak to President Andrew Jackson. On his second visit, he was admitted, met Jackson, and asked him for $1,000. The president said he was busy and Lawrence was sent away. A week later, Lawrence approached Jackson as he was leaving a funeral and fired two pistols at him. Both guns misfired, and the enraged Jackson charged the gunman and began beating him with his cane. Lawrence later told police that the president had killed his father. He also claimed to be King Richard III. At his trial, it took the jury five minutes to find Lawrence not guilty by reason of insanity, and he spent the next 20 years at various asylums before he was eventually transferred to the newly opened Government Hospital for the Insane, now known as St Elizabeth's.
Over the next century and a half, St. Elizabeth’s became a temporary home for thousands of disturbed people who travelled from all over the country to deliver a warning, offer policy advice, or seek redress of grievance with the president, or another high official, in person. To security personnel and psychiatrists alike, they’re known as White House cases. Although they include would-be assassins such as Lawrence and John Hinckley, who shot President Reagan in 1981, the vast majority aren’t armed or violent. In a 1943 study of White House cases, Dr. Jay Hoffman noted, “It is the rule that these patients are, with certain notable exceptions, quiet, pleasant, congenial, cooperative and well-behaved. They accept their enforced hospitalization with a remarkable degree of passivity and frequently without even verbal complaint.”
Typical cases have remained strikingly similar over the years. “People usually go to the White House to tell the president what God is telling them or to warn of some impending disaster,” says psychiatrist David Shore, who worked at St. Elizabeth’s in the 1970s and 80s. “In some cases, they think that they have come up with a great invention or performed some great deed and expect to be rewarded.”
Most are schizophrenic. Some are experiencing a temporary psychotic episode. A few are on drugs. The basic motivation—to accomplish great things or avert great danger by going right to the top—seems to have remained the same throughout the decades, although over the years, specific concerns have shifted. Case studies by a number of researchers provide snapshots both of the historical period in which they occurred, and of the delusions associated with them. Many of Hoffman’s patients came to Washington to complain about pensions owed them from service in the First World War, to advise the president on how to steer the country out of the Depression, or to warn him about Nazi plots. After John F. Kennedy took office, women arrived claiming that they were his wife, and after he was shot, men came announcing that they were Jackie Kennedy’s husband. In a 1965 paper, Dr. Joseph Sebastiani reported that a 44-year-old woman came to the White House in 1963 because “she hoped the president would stop the police persecution that had caused her ears to flop and her body to go out of shape.” After news of President Reagan’s polyp surgery in 1987, one man came to offer him a nutritional cure-all, dressed as Hitler. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

London -- William Blake (1794)

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. 
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear 

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every black'ning Church appalls, 
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls 

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear 
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Loves You Porgy -- Nina Simone (1958)

I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Don't let him handle me
And drive me mad
If you can keep me
I wanna stay here with you forever
And I'll be glad

Yes I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Don't let him handle me
With his hot hands
If you can keep me
I wants to stay here with you forever
I've got my man

I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Don't let him handle me
And drive me mad
If you can keep me
I wanna stay here with you forever
I've got my man

Someday I know he's coming to call me
He's going to handle me and hold me
So, it' going to be like dying, Porgy
When he calls me
But when he comes I know I'll have to go

I loves you, Porgy,
Don't let him take me
Honey, don't let him handle me
and drive me mad
If you can keep me
I wanna stay here with you forever
I've got my man