Category Archives: Reblogs

A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714 by Mark Kishlansky (1996) 7 – the reign of James II

Books & Boots

Because King Charles II died in February 1685 without a son and heir – without, in fact, any legitimate children from his marriage to Catherine of Braganza – the throne passed automatically to his brother, James Duke of York, who ascended the throne as King James II.

James was a professed Roman Catholic and a zealous reformer. He wished to lift the multiple legal restrictions which had been placed on his fellow Catholics and, as a balancing gesture, to lift legal constraints on the Puritans and non-conforming Protestant sects. However, within three short years he managed to alienate almost every party and profession in the country, and especially the powerful Whig politicians.

The crisis came to a head over two big issues. First James made the error of trying seven Anglican bishops for seditious libel. To be precise, in April 1688, encouraged by the Quaker leader William Penn with whom…

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Favorite words

Why Evolution Is True

Many times I’ve posted about “words and phrases I hate,” but now let’s walk on the sunnier side and list the words we like (phrases would be too onerous). I was inspired by the tweet below that Matthew sent me from Jonathan Eisen, evolutionary biologist and brother of Wormageddon instigator Michael Eisen:

These words seem to be chosen because of their sounds, which, I suppose, is the best criterion for having a favorite word. Mine, however are a mixture of sound and meaning. And I don’t have a list, so I’ll just put a few down off the top of my head:

ratiocination (learned from Hitchens)
rodomontade

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Notes on Nationalism, by George Orwell

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

My next (NF) book was going to be Michael Ackland’s Henry Handel Richardson, A Life, (because I am still peeved by Brenda Niall’s representation of HHR in Friends and Rivals, Four Great Australian Writers, see why, here) but Orwell’s essay in the Penguin Moderns series was on top of the NF pile… I was sure that his thoughts about nationalism were bound to be pertinent for our age… so HHR will have to wait. (But not for long because these mini-books can be read in a day.)

Orwell writes in his usual acerbic way, starting with his definition of nationalism: the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  But more importantly, he says, he means the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or…

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Increased testing does not explain the increase in US COVID cases

The Logic of Science

The US is experiencing another sharp increase in COVID19 cases. This is a simple fact, but as always seems to be the case in today’s world, this fact is being treated as an opinion. Countless people (including prominent politicians and even the president) are claiming that cases are not actually increasing, and the apparent increase is simply the result of increased testing. This claim is dangerous and untrue, but it also offers a good opportunity to teach some lessons in data analysis. Obviously, an increase in testing will result in an increase in the number of cases that are documented, that much is true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the entirety of the increase is from increased testing. So how can we tell whether the true number of cases is increasing? There are multiple ways to examine this, and I’m going to walk through several of them and try…

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Trump retweets a video of deplorables calling for white power

Why Evolution Is True

This morning I retweeted Trump’s own retweeted video of people in Florida yelling at each other, with one screaming “white power” several times, but that tweet been quickly removed by the Prez or his minons:

But you can still see the original on the Rolling Stone site, and I’ve put a version below the screenshot:

The Bad Tweet passed on by tRump. The seniors in their golf carts are feisty (and badly deluded), but there’s also pushback.

From Rolling Stone:

On Sunday morning, the president of the United States once again showed his racist leanings by retweeting a video of one of his supporters chanting “white power.”

“Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe…

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The eclipse photo that made Einstein famous

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Arrival and Departure by Arthur Koestler (1943)

Books & Boots

Warning: This review contains references to rape, torture and the Nazi murder of Jews.

Arthur Koestler, a potted biography

Arthur Koestler was born to a Jewish mother in Budapest, capital of the Hungarian part of the the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1905. So he was 14 when the short-lived Hungarian communist government of Bela Kun seized power in 1919 and Koestler later remembered his teenage high hopes for it and for a better future. The Bela Kun regime was crushed and replaced by the authoritarian rule of Admiral Horthy, but Koestler retained that youthful idealism

Koestler became a journalist and travelled widely in the late 1920s and early 1930s, reporting from the Soviet Union, Palestine and Germany, for a variety of German newspapers. He joined the German Communist Party in 1931.

In 1936, early in the Spanish Civil War, Koestler got access, as an accredited journalist, to General Franco’s headquarters and…

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June 25, 1900: Birth of Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Part I.

European Royal History

Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (born Prince Louis of Battenberg; June 25, 1900 – August 27, 1979), was a British Royal Navy officer and statesman, a Maternal Uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. During the Second World War, he was Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (1943–1946). He was the last Viceroy of India (1947) and the first governor-general of independent India (1947–1948).

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Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma

Lord Mountbatten was known as His Serene Highness Prince Louis of Battenberg from the time of his birth at Frogmore House in the Home Park, Windsor, Berkshire until 1917, when he and several other relations of King George V of the United Kingdom dropped their German styles and titles.

Lord Mountbatten was the youngest child…

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Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (1938)

Books & Boots

Potted biography

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair to a civil servant in India in 1903. The family moved back to England in 1907 and sent young Eric, first to prep school near Eastbourne, then to Eton, where he met other boys who were to be among the literary luminaries of his generation. In other words he was brought up to be the toffiest of the toffs. However, unlike most of his literary contemporaries, Eric decided not to go on to Oxford or Cambridge but instead enlisted in the Indian Imperial Police and returned to Burma. Here he served from 1922 until 1927, wielding great responsibility for large provinces and huge numbers of ‘natives’.

Slowly he lost his faith in the Imperial mission, and came to dislike his role. One contemporary said he had an unusual sympathy for the natives and went to the unprecedented lengths of learning their language…

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Laughter is the best medicine

Paddy’s Blogs in a crazy world

When in Cambridge in 1961 I saw a current British Prime Minister portrayed on stage for the first time in “Beyond the Fringe” I’m not sure that I was aware of the significance of the moment. Later I bought the early copies of “Private Eye” in the streets of the City. And before I left school Ned Sherrin and David Frost had launched the groundbreaking “That Was The Week That Was”. What was happening was Satire.

Beyond the Fringe

The world is absurd, and people lie and cheat. Politicians parody themselves daily and people have prejudices out of ignorance or venality. What satire did was to hold a mirror up to all this – sometimes the mirror enlarged and sometimes it distorted but it always reflected and allowed the viewer or the reader to judge.

Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, David Frost, Barry Humphries, Richard Ingrams and…

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