The Origin of the Word “Palace”

With the Second Triumvirate and Octavian’s growing domination of the political scene, a gradual change could be detected. Politics moved from the noisy open square up to a complex of houses on the fashionable Palatine Hill, where Octavian and Livia lived and worked. From “Palatine” derives the word “palace,” meaning that enclosed space where autocrats make decisions in private.

Anthony Everitt in Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor

Fascinating.

The Nuclear War that Could Have Been

The Soviet side, however, is a different story. One of the lessons learned after the fall of the Berlin Wall was that, although NATO considered nuclear weapons use in an invasion a possibility, to the Soviets, their use was a foregone conclusion. Every Soviet war plan unearthed from Warsaw Pact archives assumed liberal use of nuclear weapons — up to 300 or more.

Kyle Mizokami in The Lovely Little Town That Would Have Been Absolutely Screwed by World War III

It’s amazing how close we truly were to nuclear war for so long, and that we managed to avoid it. The Real Cuban Missile Crisis is well worth reading as well, should you want to drive the point home.

Citizenship in a Republic

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face in marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt in a speech delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

The address can be read in its entirety at the Theodore Roosevelt Association site. It is chock full of amazing and inspiration insight. Here’s another favorite of mine:

Probably the best test of true love of liberty in any country in the way in which minorities are treated in that country. Not only should there be complete liberty in matters of religion and opinion, but complete liberty for each man to lead his life as he desires, provided only that in so he does not wrong his neighbor.

I was reintroduced to this after seeing the first quote on Destraynor’s site.

Democracy and the Cult of Ignorance

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Isaac Asimov

Sadly, painfully true.

Found via Daring Fireball.

China’s Strategy

China’s strategy generally exhibits three characteristics: meticulous analysis of long-term trends, careful study of tactical options, and detached exploration of operational decisions.

On China by Henry Kissinger

An interesting balance there.

Too Busy Killing Nazis

Nancy Wake, Special Agent, Saboteur, World War II’s Most Decorated Woman

Nancy Wake circa 1945

a New Zealander brought up in Australia. She became a nurse, a journalist who interviewed Adolf Hitler, a wealthy French socialite, a British agent and a French resistance leader. She led 7,000 guerrilla fighters in battles against the Nazis in the northern Auvergne, just before the D-Day landings in 1944. On one occasion, she strangled an SS sentry with her bare hands. On another, she cycled 500 miles to replace lost codes. In June 1944, she led her fighters in an attack on the Gestapo headquarters at Montlucon in central France.

John Lichfield – Resistance heroine who led 7,000 men against the Nazis
Ms. Wake stands as an inspiration to step up and get the job done, regardless of the expectations of others. In her case, it extended far beyond the years she served, as noted in John Litchfield’s article, “Ms Wake was also furious the TV series suggested she had had a love affair with one of her fellow fighters. She was too busy killing Nazis for amorous entanglements, she said.”

She was too busy killing Nazis…

The Gestapo’s dubbed her The White Mouse as she continued to evade them, and by 1943 she topped their most-wanted list.

Yeah. The definition of badass.

The tributes from The Independent and The Economist and her Wikipedia entry are engrossing and well worth the few minutes it’ll take you to read them.

I have no doubt that her story will stick with you for years to come. I know it will stay with me.

The American Dream

“We would not have become a global superpower without the contributions of immigrants who built the railroads and canals that opened up the west, who invented ground-breaking products that revolutionized global commerce, and who pioneered scientific, engineering, and medical advances that made America the most innovative country in the world.

“But make no mistake: we will not remain a global superpower if we continue to close our doors to people who want to come here to work hard, start businesses, and pursue the American dream. The American dream cannot survive if we keep telling the dreamers to go elsewhere.

“It’s what I call national suicide – and that’s not hyperbole. Every day that we fail to fix our broken immigration laws is a day that we inflict a wound on our economy. Today, we may have turned away the next Albert Einstein or Sergey Brin. Tomorrow, we may turn away the next Levi Strauss or Jerry Yang.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

This is far too true, and it saddens me to see the growing anti-immigration drive and calls for isolationism. The United States is powerful because of the risk and work of the brave men and women who came to our shores over these last few centuries.

To turn away the next generation only serves to weaken our future on every possible front.

Simply put, it is a betrayal of our core principles as a nation.

It’s a betrayal born of complacency and fear.

We can do better.

Rod Serling on Apathy and Monsters

we have learned to realize that even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters. It is not public exposure that helps these perverters of human dignity. Rather, it is apathy. Laughter and derision might momentarily embarrass them but in the long run prove no deterrents whatsoever

Rod Serling

The letter from which this quote is taken and the entire affair that it applies to is fascinating on many levels.

Many thanks to Letters of Note for highlighting this and in general for adding so much to my daily reading. It’s a tremendous site.

Revealing the Past

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I love history.

I love the stories, the triumphs and the tragedies.

Photos and maps of times long ago draw me in, whether they show momentous events or personal glimpses. I become enamoured with an expression, the tilt of a building or the flow of an army across a landscape. My mind retraces the steps, tries to deconstruct the scene and understand the emotions of the moment.

And then I find myself (re)constructing what likely happened or at times, what I hope happened.

The photos by Sergey Larenkov provide a very interesting connection between the past and the very real present. I love the concept. Even more, I love the creations that he has posted – merging images from World War II with photos he has taken in the present day.

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Simply awesome.

Photos courtesy of Sergey Larenkov