Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hitchens on Jefferson and the Pirates

Christopher Hitchens has written a good piece on Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates. I've spent some time on the Barbary Pirates myself and there are a few things in the Hitchen's piece with which I'd quibble, but not right now. Here's the important point:

Perhaps above all, though, the Barbary Wars gave Americans an inkling of the fact that they were, and always would be, bound up with global affairs. Providence might have seemed to grant them a haven guarded by two oceans, but if they wanted to be anything more than the Chile of North America—a long littoral ribbon caught between the mountains and the sea—they would have to prepare for a maritime struggle as well as a campaign to redeem the unexplored landmass to their west. The U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean squadron has, in one form or another, been on patrol ever since.

And then, finally, there is principle. It would be simplistic to say that something innate in America made it incompatible with slavery and tyranny. But would it be too much to claim that many Americans saw a radical incompatibility between the Barbary system and their own? And is it not pleasant when the interests of free trade and human emancipation can coincide?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quick Spot the Russian Submarine!

Can you find the Russian Submarine in this picture?'s under water! But it wasn't until the recent storm that hit Providence, RI this past week. Here's what the Juliett 484 looks like:

Here's the story:
“The Russian Sunken Sub Museum” is how engineer Damon Ise answered the phone this morning.

Yes, sometime in the evening, the listing submarine laid over on its side and sank, Ise said.

All that’s visible is the submarine’s periscope, sticking up out of the water at an angle, a radio antenna and one of the sub’s orange life buoys, Ise said.

“One of those [buoys] is bouncing and dancing on the surface, and then there’s just a trail of bubbles coming from the front,” he said. “It’s very sad.”

No fuel is leaking from the vessel, Ise said, and crews are working already on a salvage plan with a professional from New York.

Exactly what shape that salvage plan would take is, well, murky at this point, museum officials said today.

The vessel, berthed at Collier Point Park, had been battered by the storm that hit the region early this week. It had been restored as a floating museum after being bought in 2002.

By midday, TV crews and other members of the press joined several Coast Guard officers and staff of the submarine museum at the small, windswept park overlooking Providence Harbor.

Lines ran along the dock, down to the sub, holding it in place on the bottom. The antenna, and a small, pipelike-protusion stuck up from the relatively calm surface of the water.

Off in the distance, only one other vessel could be scene, a tanker.

Nearby, a sign for Cardi's Furniture -- featuring the three Cardi brothers in sailor suits – urged visitors to follow safety tips, some of which were painfully obvious today:

"Be sure to use caution when in the sub" and "Appropriate footwear required; decks may be slippery."

At least they're keeping a sense of humor about it all!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Holy Historiographical Changes, Batman!

Very interesting:

...a new approach [of examining the origin and relationship of the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Luke and Mark]... has been proposed by Richard Bauckham, a scholar who already has an impressive record of research into Christian origins. In a previous book – Gospel Women (2002) – he was able to show, by a close study of personal names both in our texts and in the records of Palestinian culture, that a particular group of individuals in the New Testament, and their relationships with one another, have a striking internal consistency with regard to names and provenance and also reflect accurately the naming and family connections that were customary in their culture. In the face of such evidence, it is hard to believe either that these names could have been fabricated or that there was any serious loss of accuracy in remembering and recording them by the time the Gospels came to be written. In Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Bauckham continues his investigation into named individuals, and shows that the same conclusion holds for all. We have every reason, therefore, to assume a faithful and unbroken link between the original witnesses of Jesus’ life and death and the record of these things in the Gospels.

Following this clue, Bauckham then suggests we should take seriously the testimony of two second-century churchmen, Papias and Irenaeus – the first of whom has usually been dismissed by scholars as unreliable. Carefully examining the relevant texts – including the famous statement of Papias that Mark’s Gospel is derived from anecdotes heard from St Peter – Bauckham concludes that these writers gave absolute priority to eyewitness accounts of Jesus, many of which are likely to have been given by his closest followers; indeed, he argues that the fact that some minor characters in the Gospels are named, while others remain anonymous, strongly suggests that it was the named ones who were consulted for their personal recollections and that the Gospel writers, or those whom they consulted, were drawing on first-hand evidence that was inherently reliable and consistent, though with the inevitable variations and slight lapses which attend the exercise of memory in any age or culture – hence both the close similarities and the sporadic divergences exhibited by the Synoptic Gospels.

{via A&L Daily}