Category Archives: BL — Reading 2008

READINGDECEMBER 2008

16974. (Van­ni Bel­tra­mi) Il Sahara cen­tro-ori­en­tale Dal­la Preis­to­ria ai tem­pi dei noma­di Tubu
. . . . . [The Cen­tral-Ori­en­tal Sahara From Pre­his­to­ry to the Times of the Nomadic Tubus]
16975. Hit­tite doc­u­ment: Apol­o­gy of Ḫattušili III [Dona­tion of the Estate of Arma-Tarḫunta to
. . . . . the Cult of Šauš­ga of Šamuḫa]
16976. (Françoise Thibaut) Le cheva­lier Jean Charles de Bor­da, sci­en­tifique et nav­i­ga­teur
. . . . . [arti­cle]
16977. (Doug Saun­ders) This is India’s 9/11? Think Again [arti­cle]
16978. (Ufuk Tavkul) A Good Sam­ple For Cul­tur­al Dif­fu­sion: A Hero Who Car­ries The
. . . . . Char­ac­ter­is­tics Of Prophet David In The Nart Epos Of Karachay-Balkar Peo­ple ―
. . . . . Nart Debet, The Smith [arti­cle]
16979. (Arkady & Boris Stru­gats­ki) Hard to Be a God
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17077. (Debra Hamel) Trying Neaira, the True Story of a Courtesan’s Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece

Using the frag­men­tary evi­dence of a tri­al which took place in Athens c.340 B.C., Debra Hamel cre­ates a vivid pic­ture of the place of women in Clas­si­cal Greek soci­ety. This book is entire­ly free of post-mod­ern plat­i­tudes and jar­gon, and con­cen­trates on help­ing the read­er visu­al­ize and empathize with the past. Along the way, many col­lat­er­al issues, such as just how ancient lit­i­ga­tion worked in real life, and what sex­u­al laws and cus­toms meant for real peo­ple, are illu­mi­nat­ed. I would strong­ly rec­om­mend this book to any­one who wants to dig deep­er than the stan­dard bat­tles-and-big-shots approach to Greek his­to­ry. This was a delight­ful Christ­mas gift from my friend Ruta Muhlberg­er.

17055. (Gene Sharp) From Dictatorship To Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation

It’s odd that I haven’t read Gene Sharp’s work until now. I’ve known about him for years, and I’ve been aware of his ideas at sec­ond hand. He has been pre­oc­cu­pied with the issue of how peo­ple can resist or over­throw dic­ta­tor­ships for longer than I have (and that’s say­ing quite a bit). His ideas are fair­ly close to my own, and come from sim­i­lar influ­ences. So I’m embar­rassed to say that I have neglect­ed read­ing his works, an error that I will hasti­ly cor­rect.

Unlike most aca­d­e­mics, Sharp has a com­mon-sense grasp of what is pos­si­ble and what is not, what is rel­e­vant and what is not, and what works and what does not. This short work, which he keeps in the pub­lic domain and encour­ages to be trans­lat­ed, is an extreme­ly use­ful vade­me­cum for those who want to over­throw dic­ta­tor­ships. He urges the use of what he calls “Polit­i­cal Defi­ance”, a strate­gic form of planned non-vio­lent resis­tance. As he points out, over-reliance on vio­lence, rather than on more sophis­ti­cat­ed tech­niques of resis­tance, does not have a good record of suc­cess. This doc­u­ment has influ­enced democ­ra­cy advo­cates in a num­ber of quar­ters. I strong­ly rec­om­mend it.

17043. (Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat de Condorcet) Condorcet’s Advice to His Daughter [written in hiding, 1794] 17044. (Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat de Condorcet) Condorcet’s Testament [written in hiding, 1794] 17045. (Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat de Condorcet) Vie de Voltaire, par M. le marquis de Condorcet; suivie des mémoires de Voltaire, écrits par lui-mème.

I’ve been read­ing a lot of Con­dorcet, late­ly, in dribs and drabs. He was not a great writer, or par­tic­u­lar­ly enter­tain­ing, but what he had to say is worth pay­ing atten­tion to. He was pri­mar­i­ly a math­e­mati­cian and sci­en­tist, who found him­self con­tin­u­ous­ly caught up in polit­i­cal issues (for which he would ulti­mate­ly pay with his life, in Robespierre’s ter­ror), and he was a shy, social­ly inept man with no tal­ent for cul­ti­vat­ing celebri­ty. Con­dorcet is a much more impor­tant fig­ure than most think. I have else­where com­plained that the actu­al bal­ance of intel­lec­tu­al influ­ences in the Enlight­en­ment and the peri­od of the Amer­i­can and French rev­o­lu­tions is prob­a­bly not much like the image of it that most of us have inher­it­ed from text­books, or old chest­nuts like Rousseau and Rev­o­lu­tion. The small atten­tion paid to Con­dorcet illus­trates this. Recent­ly there has been a mod­est growth of inter­est in him because of his writ­ings on the math­e­mat­i­cal the­o­ry of vot­ing, and its rel­e­vance to mod­ern bal­lot reform. In France, he is bet­ter known as a the­o­rist of pub­lic edu­ca­tion. But, still the inter­est is rel­a­tive­ly small, con­sid­er­ing the degree of his actu­al influ­ence. Read more »

17015. (Luc Laeven & Fabian Valencia) IMF Working Paper: Systemic Banking Crises, A New Database [report]

This a work­ing doc­u­ment issued this week by the IMF. It’s essen­tial­ly an inter­nal report by their sta­tis­ti­cians ana­lyz­ing all nation­al liq­uid­i­ty crises that have occurred since 1970. There are things worth call­ing atten­tion to, in it: There were 124 “sys­temic bank­ing crises” spread across dozens of coun­tries between 1970 and 2007. Almost every nation on Earth is in the list — except Cana­da. We’ve nev­er had one. Read more »

17003. (Günter Hägele & Friedrich Pukelsheim) Llull’s Writings On Electoral Systems [article]

08-12-10 READ 17003. (Günter Hägele & Friedrich Pukelsheim) Llull’s Writings On Electoral Systems [article]

Ramon Lull, Medieval poly­math from the Bal­aer­ic Islands

This impor­tant paper on medieval elec­toral the­o­ry doesn’t come from his­to­ri­ans, but from math­e­mati­cians. Their inter­est is that the medieval Cata­lan schol­ar Ramon Lull (or Llull) (b.1232-d.1315) antic­i­pat­ed the math­e­mat­i­cal the­o­ries of elec­toral sys­tems of the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry known to us through Bor­da and Con­dorcet. Appar­ent­ly, recent­ly dis­cov­ered medieval man­u­scripts reveal that Lull had devel­oped a quite sim­i­lar the­o­ry. This inter­ests me, of course, as the his­to­ry of elec­toral sys­tems is part of what I explore, but more impor­tant than the math­e­mat­i­cal accom­plish­ment is the impli­ca­tion that monas­tic insti­tu­tions in the Mid­dle Ages took elec­tion pro­ce­dures very seri­ous­ly.

17001. (Ethan B. Russo, et al.) Phytochemical and Genetic Analyses of Ancient Cannabis from Central Asia [article]

Cana­dian Press car­ried an item about the pub­li­ca­tion of this paper, which was sub­se­quently picked up by oth­er news agen­cies. The folks at CP appar­ently scan the Jour­nal of Exper­i­men­tal Botany on a reg­u­lar basis. Good on them. The dis­cov­ery of a 2,700 year old mar­i­juana stash, which 18 sci­en­tists sub­jected to thor­ough analy­sis, is a cheer­ful item of news in these gloomy times. Appar­ently, it was potent chron­ic, clear­ly grown for its psy­chotropic qual­i­ties (female only, high in THC) and accom­pa­nied by appro­pri­ate para­pher­na­lia. Read more »

17000. [4] (Walt Whitman) Leaves of Grass: Children of Adam [verse]

If any­thing is sacred the human body is sacred - Whit­man08-12-07 READ 17000. [4] (Walt Whitman) Leaves of Grass Children of Adam [verse]

In today’s prud­ish, pruri­ent and bil­ious North Amer­i­can cul­ture, Walt Whit­man is as sub­ver­sive as he was in the 19th cen­tu­ry. In “I Sing the Body Elec­tric”, prob­a­bly the best poem in the Chil­dren of Adam sec­tion of Leaves of Grass, he pro­claimed his per­son­al man­i­festo: look at the bod­ies of human beings, if you want to see the divine, the sacred, and moral truth. The rant­i­ng, per­verse ped­dlers of pho­ny “val­ues” — the pul­pit screech­ers and Con­ser­v­a­tive haters of life — know noth­ing of truth, beau­ty, or moral­i­ty. There is more moral­i­ty in a sin­gle line of Leaves of Grass than in a mil­lion ser­mons of church­ly bull­shit.

READINGNOVEMBER 2008

16731. (Chief Elec­toral Offi­cer of Cana­da) A His­to­ry of the Vote in Cana­da
16732. (Ter­je Ander­son) [in blog Dai­ly Kos] Why We Stand in Lline to Vote ― A His­tor­i­cal
. . . . . Pho­to Essay [arti­cle]
16733. [4] (Walt Whit­man) Leaves of Grass: Inscrip­tions [verse]
16734. (Jamie Coomarasamy) No Apa­thy on U. S. Elec­tion Day [arti­cle]

16735. (Alas­tair Law­son) Pro­file: Jigme Khe­sar Nam­gyel Wangchuck [arti­cle] Read more »

16967. (Janet Gleeson) Millionaire ― The Philanderer, Gambler, and Duelist Who Invented Modern Finance

In 1720, France suf­fered a bank­ing and cred­it cri­sis, and an eco­nom­ic melt­down, because of a bub­ble in its new­ly con­trived stock mar­ket. The cri­sis spread through the bank­ing and cred­it sys­tems of Europe. The super-rich, who had been spec­u­lat­ing wild­ly and mak­ing mon­ey through spe­cial deals with the State, war finance, and an un-mon­i­tored and un-reg­u­lat­ed stock mar­ket, were quick to get them­selves bailed out and their inter­ests pro­tect­ed, but for mil­lions the cri­sis meant ruin and star­va­tion. At the cen­ter of this sto­ry, which should be strange­ly famil­iar-sound­ing to a read­er in 2008, was the Scot­tish pro­fes­sion­al gam­bler, John Law, who became France’s “Chair­man of the Fed”, as well as the cre­ator of the infa­mous Mis­sis­sip­pi Com­pa­ny, which was at the cen­ter of the mar­ket bub­ble.
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