The Worth of Gravel

The Greeks are very unhappy with my opinion on foreigners purchasing gravel. Events have conspired to make my point again.


The Levantine Islamic State is striving to eliminate all memory of competing and antecedent civilizations. Buddhist, Greek, and Roman sites and artwork must be destroyed or defaced. And some of these are big enough to make this a major challenge. Sumerian and Mesopotamian sites are even considered devil worship.


Petra is out of their clutches. Just. But that which is in danger is tear inducing.

Mideast Iraq Islamic State

Some people who value preserving the past over political concerns are buying and smuggling out all they can. If the items are discovered they are returned to the places where the Levantine Islamic State is destroying them. Are the people smuggling out the artifacts they can evil or unethical?


A couple of centuries ago Greece was being run by the Ottoman Turks. The Caliphate of the time was more relaxed. The Greeks were dhimmi; if they would pay extra taxes and submit to laws which were intended as ritual humiliation, they would be otherwise left alone. Mostly. It is hard to humiliate dhimmi when all around them is evidence of their cultural superiority. It is hard to be a dominating overlord sometimes. Wherever the Greeks looked there were statues and architecture the Turks couldn’t match. And the sniggering Greeks could whisper that the Great mosque of Hagia Sophia was built by the Greeks as a Christian church. Can an overlord accept pride from humiliated dhimmi?

An interesting bit of trivia is that marble is made from limestone. It is uneconomical to burn marble in a kiln to make cement and mortar, but it can be done. The Turks started burning statues and artifacts into quicklime. A cultural sacrilege as bad as anything in Iraq today. The Turks had classified the Greek statues as rubble or gravel.

An Englishman named Lord Elgin took advantage of this classification. He bought some rubble which was to be burned into mortar and sent it home to England. This rubble was the statuary on the Parthenon. Some very fine and ancient Greek work. They became known as the Elgin Marbles. There seems to have been a bit of legal wrangling and skulduggery to get the Marbles to England. Perhaps even some bribery.

Since Greece has regained its independence – with a bit of British help – the Greeks have been demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles. Evil things have been said of Lord Elgin. Most of these things are true. He took the Marbles away on barely legal grounds or even illegal grounds. The Marbles deserve to be back on the Parthenon. He was operating as a thief, even if the local Turkish officials were in on the act. The Marbles were not conserved as well as they deserve. These all seem to be true.

But I cannot bring myself to condemn as a thief the man who saved these wonderful things.

I cannot condemn the smugglers today who are sneaking out artifacts from the Levantine Islamic State. Even if their bribery gives a bit of money to barbarians.

I wish some crook had found a way to preserve the Afghan Monumental Buddhas as well.

The Elgin Marble are visitable here.

Way to go Tommy.


Revolution Blues

I’ve been following Mike Duncan’s excellent podcast Revolutions. He is still on the French Revolution, because that is the complicated one.

The French Revolution is like a particularly bad carnival ride. As in the collapse of many nations, the student must make an effort to cease caring and enjoy the ride. If you bleed for these poor people you will learn little. And your anemia will be a thing of horror even to vampires and mosquitoes.

Harvest of Revolution

Macdonough’s Song

     Rudyard Kipling

Whether the State can loose and bind
In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
Before or after the birth–

These are matters of high concern
Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
Or cheaper to die by vote–
These are things we have dealt with once,
(And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
Seeketh to take or give
Power above or beyond the Laws,
Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King–
Or Holy People’s Will–
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
Order the guns and kill!

Saying –after–me:–

Once there was The People–Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, 0 ye slain!
Once there was The People–it shall never be again!

A Thought on Ubiquity

Heath Robinson

Pournelle said something I’d like to expand upon.

I think you have stated your case very well indeed. Any time there is no possibility of dissent from a theory, you will get epicycles: in cosmology we have dark energy, dark matter, and none of it in our local area.

This is the difference between Newton, Einstein, Bohr and the boys, and the Physics of the last four decades. Newton can be demonstrated in a drawing room. The original demonstration of the double slit experiment was shown as a party trick. It is a scandal that it is not done in every High School. Anyone can build a cyclotron in their garage, although I don’t recommend it. The original Princeton cyclotron was something like six inches in the cavity.

The Bragg’s started their Nobel work by playing in tubs of soapy water. It is the reason rather than the fancy toys which makes science. This is a lost secret.

The processes that make up the universe were everywhere and observable everywhere.

Now dark matter and dark energy are only in existence at incomprehensible distances. They are not accessible or testable around here. String Theory is not, as yet, testable anywhere.

This is a philosophical shift from science to theology. This is why science is ill. We need to be able to do human scale experiments again. If a force or principle runs the universe it must be everywhere. Even here.

Positive is Better than Negative

We all know this.

Positive rights are better than negative rights.

Positive attitudes are better than negative ones. Heck, psychic phenomena don’t even work if negative attitudes are present. And if you think that means negative attitudes are powerful, then you are just mean spirited.

Here is some superior positive feedback. Note the positive outcome.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge


Our New Rights



She said that she supported Obamacare because it was a positive right. She said it was better than the Bill of Rights because positive rights were better. In fact, she said, the whole Bill of Rights is stupid because it is a charter of negative liberties.

I hate that way of describing rights. It illuminates nothing and causes simple things to be confused.

Philosophers and political scientists make a distinction between negative and positive rights (not to be confused with the distinction between negative and positive liberties). According to this view, positive rights usually oblige action, whereas negative rights usually oblige inaction. These obligations may be of either a legal or moral character. The notion of positive and negative rights may also be applied to liberty rights.

Pardon me. I bored myself to death for a second. Clear as ink. One would have to be arrogant, though, to think he could improve on the lesson taught in our universities. Am I that arrogant? Of course I am.

Rights come down to two types: Free rights and slave rights.

Free rights are those that cost nothing. All that is required is for no one to interfere with you. As in ‘Congress shall make no law….’ It is the old, independent ‘just get out of my way’ attitude.

Slave rights are the attractive ones. Rights to housing, or health care, or a spouse. Practical things we want.

But in order to get these things we have to enslave others, just a bit. If I have a right to housing, then I can demand somebody build me it. If I demand a doctor help me as is my right, then he must give up part of his life for a demanding petitioner. I don’t have to trade with him. I can demand from him. Beggars can be choosers.

If I buy a cake from a baker, it is a free exchange which he may refuse. If I demand a ‘Chthulu is the Only God’ cake with green tentacles from a Moslem baker lest I have the state put him out of business…. Well, I have just enslaved him a bit for my own pleasure. And there are those who take orgasmic pleasure in using the law to push others around. Legal Bullying. There are those who enjoy law because it gives them power which they don’t possess in themselves.

Do I have the right to demand some one think of me in a particular manner. Can I be required to call Bradley Manning Chelsea? That is an enslavement that the Czar could not enforce. Some of the new rights don’t just enslave the body but also the mind.

Now we come to the wasp in the ointment.

Some people can demand that free rights become slave rights. I have the right to an abortion. I don’t care if you are morally opposed. I don’t care if it’s against your Hippocratic Oath. You must provide it. Those who originally supported homosexual marriage couldn’t understand the resistance. I believe that many people thought that somehow a free right would come to enslave them. They were right. This says nothing about marriage rights. It is about the current political climate and the pushiness of the Left.

Nobody really wants to hire an uninspired artist. Or an ill-inspired artist. Imagine forcing a tattoo artist to make a tattoo which violently insults the artist!  Imagine the uninspired photographs of your long dreamt-of  wedding if you force the photographer. Artistry is inspired. It is occasionally purchased. Art is not bullied.

No this is about punishment. Domination.

In a free society this would not be an issue. We would not be looking for the hidden whip hand.

The Peasants Are Revolting



I am about half convinced the the continued push for H1-B visas and the encouragement of illegal immigration are an attempt to import a more pleasing lower class. The offspring of the old Yanks and Rebels are too independent and not near obsequious to their economic overlords. The free descendants of slaves have been through this before and know how to bear grudges.

Besides these groups are much less colorful and mellifluous than the newly proposed underclass. And less grateful to their prospective lords and ladies.