The Birth of Classical Europe


The Birth of Classical Europe, by Simon Price and Peter Thronemann is the first book in a series, The Penguin History of Europe. This first book covers the beginnings of Western Civilization from the Trojan War to the time of Augustine of Hippo. That is a lot of ground to cover in only four hundred pages, and The Birth of Classical Europe barely skims the centuries of history. Still, these are appropriate endpoints.


The Birth of Classical Europe is really not so much a narrative history as a study on how history was used by the Greeks, Romans, and others to establish their place in the world. For the people of classical Europe, the Trojan War was, in many respects the beginning of history, as the first event of consequence that they could date and had any information about. The fact that their information was filtered through the legends memorialized in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and that they did not, in fact, have any real knowledge of the events centuries before their time was irrelevant. Greek cities and families traced their origins to heroes and events in Homer and other myths and any new custom or institution was invariably held to have had its actual origins in the legendary past. Thus, Athenian democracy, which was only fully established in the fifth century, was believed to have been started by Theseus. The Persian invasion was another chapter in the long struggle between East and West. The Romans got into the act too. They believed themselves to be descended from the Trojan prince Aeneas and placed themselves firmly in the mythological history of the Greeks. Even unrelated peoples such as the Gauls and inhabitants of Asia came to view themselves in this context.

If the Trojan War is a good point to begin this survey, than Augustine is the natural endpoint. For by Augustine’s time the rising faith of Christianity had begun to create a new historical context for the people of the West. While the Romans hardly abandoned their classical heritage, they did begin to draw more on the history in the Bible to understand their place in the history and the world. This tendency perhaps reached its climax with Augustine’s greatest work, The City of God, and it may well be said that after him we find the habits of thought we associate with the medieval period.

The Birth of Classical Europe is worth reading in order to get a good bird’s eye view of the formation of our civilization and if it has a fault, it is simply that there is not enough space in the book to give every cultural and historical development its full attention.




I don’t know how I managed to miss it, but yesterday happened to be the sixty-seventh anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I read about the commemoration ceremony they had in Fox News, this morning. This year was special, it seems, because Harry Truman‘s grandson attended.

 Japan marked the 67th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bomb attack with a ceremony Monday that was attended by a grandson of Harry Truman, the U.S. president who ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

About 50,000 people gathered in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 blast that destroyed most of the city and killed as many as 140,000 people. A second atomic bombing Aug. 9 that year in Nagasaki killed tens of thousands more and prompted Japan to surrender to the World War II Allies.

The ceremony, attended by representatives of about 70 countries, began with the ringing of a temple bell and a moment of silence. Flowers were placed before Hiroshima’s eternal flame, which is the park’s centerpiece.

Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, and the grandson of a radar operator who was on both of the planes that dropped the atomic bombs, joined in the memorial. Ari Beser’s grandfather, Jacob Beser, was the only person who directly took part in both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

In a news conference after the memorial, Daniel declined to comment on whether his grandfather’s decision was the right one.

“I’m two generations down the line. It’s now my responsibility to do all I can to make sure we never use nuclear weapons again,” he said, according to Japan’s Kyodo news service.

Daniel, 55, said earlier that he decided to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he needed to know the consequences of his grandfather’s decision as part of his own efforts to help achieve a nuclear-free world.

I dislike how the Japanese how somehow managed to convert themselves into the victims here. I dislike even more this idea that our use of the atomic bomb was an atrocity that we should be ashamed of. I think we should consider a few factors that put the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into the proper historical context.

First, the simple fact is that dropping the atomic bomb quite probably saved many thousands of lives. The Japanese islands had never been successfully invaded. The Mongols tried when their empire was at the height of its power, and they were defeated. This was one of the few defeats the Mongols suffered.

It is true that the Japanese Empire was in a difficult situation by the summer of 1945. Their navy was destroyed. American forces had captured Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and an invasion of the home islands was imminent. Allied bombing had destroying most Japanese industry. But, the situation was not hopeless. The military leaders of Japan believed, with good reason, that if allied forces became bogged down in Japan, taking massive casualties, they might choose to negotiate an armistice. They were arming and preparing the civilian population to this end. At any rate, the military leaders who ordered pilots to crash their planes into American ships had no problem sacrificing a good portion of the population of Japan rather than facing the shame of surrendering.

I have read that it is possible that an invasion of Japan might have resulted in more than a million US deaths. I am not sure about that. I think that we would have kept bombing Japan night and day, and used incendiary and chemical weapons until there was nothing standing in Japan. I think that once we were finished invading Japan, there wouldn’t be much  left. I believe, therefore that using the atomic bomb was far preferable, especially in lives saved, than any alternative.

I would also like to mention here that the nuclear bomb is the one thing that kept the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union cold. Without the nuclear weapons possessed by both sides, there is a good chance that there would have been an actual war, with millions of casualties. Strange as it might seem, there might well be hundreds of millions of people alive today thanks to the atom bomb. I am not so sure that a nuclear-free world is something desirable, even if it were possible. Since it is not possible to uninvent the technology, I doubt it is possible have a nuclear free world.

The other point to consider is that the Japanese military government before and during World War II was a truly evil regime. They were the aggressors in China, in Korea, and at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese who ruled Japan at the time were every bit as nasty as the Nazis, and perhaps even worse, at least in terms of atrocities inflected on the people they conquered. If you have any doubts about that look up Asian Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking. And, unlike the Germans, the Japanese have never seriously examined the history of the horrors the Japanese army committed, nor have they ever given the impression that they are particularly sorry for anything that happened.

I don’t want to give the impression that I hate the Japanese or hold contemporary Japanese responsible for the deeds of the earlier generations. I actually rather admire the Japanese. They were not the victims at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, however.



The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

First the good. The rover Curiosity landed safely on Mars. Perhaps that doesn’t seem so big a deal, but each time a Mars probe succeeds in landing safely is a technological miracle. Reaching Mars is easy enough, but landing on a planetary surface is difficult, especially when you have no control over the spacecraft and there is about an eighteen minute delay in communications. Here is more from Foxnews.

 In a show of technological wizardry, the robotic explorer Curiosity blazed through the pink skies of Mars, steering itself to a gentle landing inside a giant crater for the most ambitious dig yet into the red planet’s past.

Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere.

“Touchdown confirmed,” said engineer Allen Chen. “We’re safe on Mars.”

Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

“We landed in a nice flat spot. Beautiful, really beautiful,” said engineer Adam Steltzner, who led the team that devised the tricky landing routine.

It was NASA’s seventh landing on Earth’s neighbor; many other attempts by the U.S. and other countries to zip past, circle or set down on Mars have gone awry.

The arrival was an engineering tour de force, debuting never-before-tried acrobatics packed into “seven minutes of terror” as Curiosity sliced through the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph.

President Barack Obama lauded the landing in a statement, calling it “an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future.”

Over the next two years, Curiosity will drive over to a mountain rising from the crater floor, poke into rocks and scoop up rust-tinted soil to see if the region ever had the right environment for microscopic organisms to thrive. It’s the latest chapter in the long-running quest to find out whether primitive life arose early in the planet’s history.

The voyage to Mars took more than eight months and spanned 352 million miles. The trickiest part of the journey? The landing. Because Curiosity weighs nearly a ton, engineers drummed up a new and more controlled way to set the rover down. The last Mars rovers, twin Spirit and Opportunity, were cocooned in air bags and bounced to a stop in 2004.

Right after that, President Obama reminded the engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that they didn’t build Curiosity all on their own. Someone else made it happen.
This is exciting and the only thing that would have made it perfect would be if it had been a manned mission. I would really like to see a human on Mars in my lifetime.
Now the bad. Yesterday,  a man named Michael Page shot and killed 6 people at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee. The motive is unclear since Page himself was killed by the police. He appears to have been involved with white-supremacist groups.

The children were downstairs, in Sunday school.

The women were in the kitchen nearby, cooking the weekly meal that is free to all.

And the gunman was striding into the wide-open Sikh Temple, bent on killing as many people as he could.

Then came the shots, ripped off, according to a weapons instructor who lives nearby, “as fast as you can pull the trigger.”

By the time the shooter was done, six people lay dead or mortally wounded in what Oak Creek police said was being treated as a domestic terrorist incident – if so, one without precedent in Wisconsin.

Counting the gunman – fatally shot by an Oak Creek police officer – the death count stands at seven.

“This,” a temple leader said later, “is insanity.”

It is also the most deadly U.S. attack on Sikhs – who often have been mistaken for Muslims and targeted in hate crimes – in recent memory.

Within three hours of the mass slaying at the five-year-old temple, built on S. Howell Ave. to accommodate the Milwaukee area’s growing Sikh community, a task force of federal, state and local law enforcement officers was gathering on the scene.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, which is, in some ways, a blend of Islamic and Hindu traditions. It was founded by Guru Nanak in the Punjab about 500 years ago. Although Sikhism has spread throughout the world, the majority of Sikhs still live in the Punjab. People in in that region are generally considered to be Caucasians or white, so I am not sure why a white supremacist would target them, unless they weren’t white enough for him. Then again, a lot of those people hate Jews, who look as white as anyone. Maybe he meant to kill Muslims. Sikhs have been targets for hate crimes by the ignorant since 9/11. His motivation will have to remain as something of a mystery since he apparently didn’t leave behind any notes or manifestos.

And now the ugly. As one might expect, much of the ugliness in today’s discourse comes from the tolerant Left, the ones who incessantly lecture the rest of us about civility. I won’t bother to mention some of the vandalism directed at Chick-fil-A, this past week. Here are two stories I read today. First, Anti-hunting mob urges Team USA shooter Corey Cogdell to shoot herself

Corey Cogdell is a Trap Shooter who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

She also participates in trophy hunting (hunting of wild game animals).

After Cogdell published photos on Facebook of herself posing alongside animals she killed, anti-hunting activists took to Twitter to express their strong displeasure.

Natascha Bracale @TaschaB13

@CoreyCogdell pity the bus didn’t crash. You are a waste of oxygen and an embarassment to the human race.Karma is a bitch.

Konejira @Konejira

@CoreyCogdell please go shoot yourself in the knees. YOU ANIMAL MURDERER!! you’re a disgusting human being.

@CoreyCogdell I hope that someone someday shoot your whole familly just practicing.—
Pablo Honney (@pablito_honas) August 02, 2012

Nice people.

Then there is the latest action by the tolerant Atheist community.

26-foot tall cross emblazoned with the message “Jesus Saves” has become the center for more First Amendment debate in Indiana.

The cross stands on a public plot of land in the small Hoosier State community of Dugger, and has Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatening to sue.

“It’s a pretty flagrant display of the government saying ‘this is a Christian town,'” Gregory Lipper, the group’s senior counsel, told “Everyone gets freedom of religion …just because Christianity is this country’s religious majority doesn’t mean that they get to put their thumb on the scale and use taxpayer dollars.

“It doesn’t matter what religion the government is endorsing … it’s a clear violation of the Constitution.”

The land that the cross sits on is valued at about $3,000, and the little 955-person town cannot afford legal fees to save such a small spot of land.

“We’ve given the church 60 days to make a decision,” Dwight Nielsen, Dugger Town Board president, told “We may sell the land to a group of [churches].”

The cross was erected two years ago on behalf of the town’s Faith Community Church. The fixture sits on town-owned property near a high school baseball field, but the town approved the build.

“We wanted people to be able to see what the message of the cross represents and get it out to the world in need,” Shawn Farris, head pastor at the Faith Community Church, told

Farris does not believe that the town made a religious endorsement by letting the church put up the cross:

“We knew it was okay because when you look at the separation between church and state, it’s just a fact that the government couldn’t tell people how to worship … it would be the same if they allowed a crescent moon to be put up,” he continued.

The town will soon hold a meeting to discuss and finalize the future plans of the cross, officials said.

Religious freedom means they cannot put up a cross? How is anyone hurt by this? Would anyone object if some other religious symbol were erected? Why don’t the people at the Americans United for Separation of Church and State get a life, and stop harassing people?


You Didn’t Lift That

English: Kim Jong-il, North Korean leader
He did the lifting

Somebody else made that happen.

Not that I am comparing President Obama to a crazy North Korean dictator, but I think this is an extreme example of the kind of thinking he showed when he made that famous statement.

North Korean Olympian Om Yun Chol joined an elite list of weightlifters to have lifted three times their weight during the men’s 56-kg, group B, clean and jerk weightlifting competition at the London Olympics, and he has credited his world-record feat to late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Om won the gold medal in the process, and according to him, it was all thanks due to their late ‘great leader’.

The 20-year-old Om, who stands just a shade under 5 feet, also set an Olympic record when he cleared 168 kilograms (about 370 pounds) in the clean and jerk in the men’s 56-kilogram (about 123 pounds) category.

“How can any man possibly lift 168kg? I believe the great Kim Jong Il looked over me,” CBS quoted Om, as saying.

Double world champion and pre-competition favorite Wu Jiangbiao of China had to settle for the silver medal while European Champion Valentin Hristov of Azerbaijan got the bronze.

Om cleared 160 and 165 kilograms in his first two attempts and got the crowd even more riled up when it was announced he would go for the Olympic mark.

Om then confidently bent to grab the bar and, after securing it at his shoulders on the clean, executed a powerful and steady jerk above his head.

“I am very happy and give thanks to our Great Leader for giving me the strength to lift this weight. I believe Kim Jong Il gave me the record and all my achievements. It is all because of him,” Om said.

North Korean athletes habitually heap praise on their former leader, Kim, and when weightlifter Pak Hyon Suk won the women’s 63-kilogram division in Beijing four years ago, she said she was ‘overjoyed’ by the fact that she had brought joy to Kim.

If you are not responsible for your own successes, than the state must be, and since the Dear Leader is the embodiment of the state it is only right to credit him.

Tax Hollywood

Here is an interesting idea on how to decrease the deficit, raise taxes on Hollywood. This seems appropriate since entertainers are always talking about the need to make the 1% pay their fair share. Since many actors are part of the 1% it’s only fair that they pay more, right? No doubt they will be happy to do so.

Today, Hollywood is a playground for Democratic fundraisers and Obama has found that Hollywood remains loyal to his vision and re-election. While those on Wall Street are having second thought about the guy they helped put in the White House, there are no second thoughts among Hollywood elites.

Instapundit Glen Reynolds made the suggestion that if we are going to raise taxes to cut the deficits, why not start with a 20% excise tax on the film industry? Since many of these Hollywood stars and producers are forever telling us how we need tax increases to help close the deficits, why not let Hollywood lead the way? The tax, which was imposed on the gross income and not the net, took a 20% hit off any Hollywood bottom line and can you imagine how much a major star can contribute with a 20% tax on a gross income on one of those 10 to 20 million dollar salaries for a single movie?

Let face it, much of Hollywood may talk of the down trodden, but the reality is Hollywood is the home of the 1%. So if the Hollywood 1% are going to help elect the most leftist President, then let them lead by sacrificing the first 20% of their gross income!. As Glen Reynolds argued, tax the Hollywood 1%. Or at least let them squirm. Who knows, maybe George Lucas or Steven Spielberg might just produce their own film defending supply side economics if they are faced with the idea that the first 20% of their income will go to the government even before they even cash that big eight or nine figure check!

Well, Jon Lovitz criticized Obama over his plans to raise taxes on the rich. He is even not so sure he is a Liberal. Maybe an excise tax might turn some of the people in Hollywood into Conservatives, or at least Libertarians.

Famous Last Words


In this case, “I need to quit texting…”. A man sent this text right before driving off a cliff. Luckily, he survived. I got this story from off of the Drudge Report.

A college student from Texas believes he is lucky to be alive after a terrible crash. He was texting and driving when his truck flew off of a cliff.

Chance Bothe’s truck plunged off of a bridge and into a ravine. One of the last things he typed indicated what almost happened to him.

He wrote, “I need to quit texting, because I could die in a car accident.”

After the crash, Chance had a broken neck, a crushed face, a fractured skull, and traumatic brain injuries. Doctors had to bring him back to life three times . Now, 6 months later, he’s finally able to talk about what happened.

“They just need to understand, don’t do it. Don’t do it. It’s not worth losing your life,” he said. “I went to my grandmother’s funeral not long ago, and I kept thinking, it kept jumping into my head, I’m surprised that’s not me up in that casket. I came very close to that, to being gone forever.”

Chance’s father said, if he had a child just learning to drive, he would disable texting and Internet on their phone.

As of August 1st, drivers in Alabama will face a $25 fine the first time they are caught texting behind the wheel.

Since he survived, he does not qualify for a coveted Darwin Award, but maybe he can get an honorable mention.


Why I Went

I would like to say a few words about why my family and I went to eat at Chick-fil-A yesterday. It was not because of the statements that CEO Dan Cathy made concerning same-sex marriage. I am opposed to same-sex marriage, but that was not the reason we went. This wasn’t about same-sex marriage, or being anti-gay, or anything of the sort. Nor was it about the controversy or threats of boycotts that some activists were threatening. If they do not wish to patronize a certain business because of the beliefs of the CEO, that’s their business. I would have to say though, that if I started boycotting shows by actors who make idiotic statements, I could never watch television or see a movie at all.

What upset me is the way which Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston mayor Thomas Menino announced that Chick-fil-A would not be welcome to do business in their cities. This sort of bullying is wrong and simply un-American. A public official threatening  a person’s business simply because they don’t conform to a certain political ideology is a huge step on the road to tyranny. That was why we were there. Also, I am getting very tired of the Left deciding what opinions are correct and what are not, and then vilifying people who hold the wrong ideas as racists or homophobes, etc.

I think that this was true of most of the other person who stood in line to eat at Chick-fil-A yesterday. I think that a lot of people are tired of having a political and social elite that despises them and their values and insists on shoving their ideology down people’s throats. It might be tolerable if this elite were actually capable of running the country, but as anyone who has paid any attention to what’s going on in Washington knows that they are not.

I imagine that the mainstream media will depict these people as hateful bigots, if they bother to report on it at all. But these people were not hateful or bigoted. They were simply tired and frustrated. This is the same mood that gave rise to the TEA Party and I would not be surprised if there were considerable overlap between tea partiers and Chick-fil-A customers. This is also why the TEA party is now about to fade away.


At Chick-fil-A



I stopped by Chick-fil-A this afternoon. The place was full of intolerant, hate filled, homophobes.


The person who took our order at the drive through said, “God bless you”, a clear example of the worst kind of religious hatred and bigotry.

We had to wait a bit at the window. Some hater had bought 55 regular chicken sandwiches. The girl at the window was very friendly, as we’re all of the staff. They probably would have spit in our sandwiches if we were gay .

You know, I’m just kidding here, but judging from the comments that I have read on Facebook and elsewhere, there are people that really think like this. The odd thing is that all the hateful comments seem to come from the tolerant, inclusive Left and quite a few of them wish harm on Chick-fil-A and its Companies. I wonder who the real haters are.

There sure are a lot of bigoted haters around. On the other have here is where the real hate is.

Note the name calling.