Badass diplomacy

I’m reading a terrific book about ancient Rome. I hope to discuss it more in the future, once I’m finished reading it. In the meantime, this nicely self-contained passage astonished me.

The style of this imperium is vividly summed up in the story of the last encounter between Antiochus Epiphanes and the Romans. The king was invading Egypt for the second time, and the Egyptians had asked the Romans for help. A Roman envoy, Gaius Popilius Laenas, was dispatched and met Antiochus outside Alexandria. After his long familiarity with the Romans, the king no doubt expected a rather civil meeting. Instead, Laenas handed him a decree of the senate instructing him to withdraw from Egypt immediately. When Antiochus asked for time to consult his advisors, Laenas picked up a stick and drew a circle in the dust around him. There was to be no stepping out of that circle before he had given his answer. Stunned, Antiochus meekly agreed to the senate’s demands. This was an empire of obedience.

Mary Beard
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, 2015

Rome had an empire and an army of such size and efficiency that the mere written demand, delivered by a no-nonsense envoy, that this Greek king and his army go home succeeded with no fuss. And having occurred in 168 BCE, Rome was still a republic. There was not yet a single leader with a Caesar-sized personality and reputation to cow Epiphanes.

Posted in books, history, war | Leave a comment

Iceland’s got it going on!

A tourist still in Iceland wanted to mail a letter, but he didn’t know the address. You’d think that would nix the concept of mailing the letter, but no!

The sender wrote the Country, the name of the village, added “A horse farm with an Icelandic/Danish couple and three kids and a lot of sheep,”1 and then drew a map on the front of the envelope. The letter was delivered to the intended recipient.

I especially like the note explaining that the wife works in a supermarket.


  1. Xeni Jardin, “Letter sent to Iceland farm with hand-drawn map instead of address gets there anyway,” Boing Boing, 2016-08-30
  • Photo by Skessuhornið/Steina Matt
Posted in consumer life | Leave a comment

Mom and the scammers

You’ll recall that earlier this year, I had the misfortune of receiving a call from people impersonating Canada Revenue.

Since that time, I’ve seen a number of news stories about this scam. One even detailed the case of a woman who they tricked into buying $12 000 worth of iTunes gift cards! They had her read the numbers on the cards to them over the phone. By the time she realized that she’d been had, the cards were redeemed.

The other day my mother received a call from these jokers. I was downstairs but I heard her side of it. She later filled me in on the other half of the conversation. The call went like this:

Mom: Hello?
Guy: This is Canada Revenue and you are under surveillance.
Mom: You’re bullshit.
Guy: Excuse me?
Mom: You’re a big bullshit, go away!

And then she hung up.

Mom makes me proud!

Posted in consumer life, crime | 1 Response

Tennessee Bible veto

In April, Tennessee Governor Bill Hallam vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible the official state book of Tennessee.

Even though he believes in the Bible, Hallam gave a number of reasons for his veto:

  • Official endorsement of the Bible would violate state and federal constitutions, according to the governor and Attorney General Herbert Slatery.
  • The governor worries that passage of the bill “trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text.”1
  • He also said, “If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance.”2

That last item is particularly poignant as supporters of the bill have “tried to argue the move would highlight the economic and historical impact the Bible has had on Tennessee, saying printing the Bible is a ‘multimillion-dollar industry’ for the state.”3 Talk about trivializing the Holy!

In my opinion, the first issue invalidates consideration of the next two.

Of course, with a story of this nature, it was all over Facebook, both the facts from news outlets and opinion from individuals. Among those opinions is this gem:

What a mess. Who cares about civil liberties, indeed. Religious fundamentalism concerns me a great deal, and I make no distinction between Islamic and Christian fundamentalists, the latter of which certainly includes Ms. Snider.

Replace every instance of God with Allah, and Jesus Christ with Mohammad, and the message reads true, like some screed in which ISIL is taking credit for a bombing.


  1. Joshua Barajas, “Tennessee governor vetoes bill to make Bible the official state book,” The Rundown (PBS Newshour blog), 2016-04-15.
  2. Dave Boucher, Holly Meyer and Joel Ebert, “Gov. Bill Haslam vetoes Bible bill,” The Tennessean, 2016-04-14.
  3. ibid.
Posted in idiocy, politics, religion | Leave a comment

Brexit

What is a country, exactly? A group of like-minded individuals living together? I think this is increasingly untrue. Part of my own definition would involve a recognized border the inhabitants control. After all, if the people living in the country can’t control who leaves, and especially who enters, it’s not a sovereign country at all.

To me, this is exactly why the European Union’s unimpeded flow of goods and people sounds great until you really think about it. Goods can come and go within the Union, which is terrific for trade. People can come and go within the Union, but they can also stay, and you have no control over who chooses to exercise this option. That may not be so good.

It’s got nothing at all to do with racism, or xenophobia. Does locking your door any only allowing the people you choose inside make you a xenophobe? I should hope not, and the same goes for your country. It is for this reason alone that I would have likely voted leave if I were living in the UK.

Last Sunday on The National, Jonathan Kay was a part of the panel discussion regarding the Brexit and he described how proud he was that Canada has no significant movement that is so racist and xenophobic as some other countries. That’s so easy to say since we do have control of our borders and our country. I’d heartily suggest the situation would be very different if all of the borders were open within North America and the rules over much of what goes on in our country were handed down to us from an unelected group outside of Canada.

The more I think about it, the less I can conceive how the countries that comprise the European Union ever sold the loss of their sovereignty to their citizens to join the Union in the first place. If you agree to give up jurisdiction on trade, agriculture, fisheries, regional development, environment, treaties and international agreements, defense and security, and monetary policy (for those countries that have adopted the Euro), why not just agree to become a single pan-European country and be done with it? At least citizens could then elect the people making these policies…which they currently cannot.

Entitlement is alive and well. I saw a young English man interviewed regarding the Brexit results and he stated that the exit is the fault of the older folks and pensioners and they need to figure some way around it. Translation: we don’t care for democracy when it doesn’t go our way so we need to get around this vote somehow. Pesky democracy!

In the same spirit, we have this petition that showed up on the UK Parliamentary web site:

We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.

This would conveniently force another referendum…so as long as the two conditions are not met, the population would be facing referendum after referendum. That also makes staying or leaving more difficult than the simple majority required to become part of the E.U. in the first place, and that’s supposed to be fair?

Even worse are all the demonstrations. Tens of thousands of young people are out wanting their voices to be heard. This is laughable because only 28% of young people voted. The ballot box was the place to voice their opinion, but almost three-quarters of them couldn’t be bothered. Now that things didn’t go their way, they’re not happy. Even worse, some blame the older folks. You know what? The older folks were smart enough to get off their asses and vote!

Posted in consequences, freedom, int'l affairs | Leave a comment