August 20, 2007


Caption: Venus, a Latin scholar, says "Sic transit gloria mundi."

El Cabrero is on another ancient Greece jag this week. If this is your first visit, please click on yesterday's post.

While I am officially in favor of world peace at all times and places, one of the more inspiring stories I know from ancient history is that of the diverse Greek city states that were the cradle of science, philosophy, tragedy, and (admittedly limited) democracy uniting to fend off the vast Persian invasions.

The first was in 490 BC when the forces of Darius were defeated by the Athenians at the battle of Marathon. A much larger force invaded ten years later under Xerxes. A small force of 300 Spartans under Leonidas and a few thousand of their allies held off the invaders for three days at Thermopylae before being defeated.

Athens was burned, although the population was mostly evacuated. An oracle from Apollo at Delphi told them that they would be safe behind wooden walls, which turned out to be the walls of their ships. The Greek navies defeated the Persian fleet at the battle of Salamis shortly thereafter. The following year, combined Greek armies again defeated the invading force at Plataea.

In the wake of the victory came a period of great creativity. Athens was rebuilt on a much grander scale. This period saw the full flowering of Greek philosophy and art.

It would have been nice to think that the Greek city states would form some kind of federation which would have enabled their culture to flourish for centuries...but that didn't happen.

One should never underestimate the human capacity for self destruction.

Fifty years after the defeat of the Persian invasion, two of the principle Greek cities, Athens and Sparta, with allies in tow, would begin a fratricidal war that would rage off and on for 27 miserable years and would include imperialism, arrogance (hubris), massacres and mass enslavements, plague, an early concentration camp, civil and class warfare, etc. The war wiped out Athens as a major political power in Greece and permanently damaged the Hellenic world.

It's a (literally) classical example of how easily things can spiral out of control. One would hope it's not too late to learn that lesson.

HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT? We don't know how much wealth the Greeks blew on the Peloponnesian War, but according to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his colleague Linda Bilmes, the Iraq war in its first four years has (or will) cost the U.S. $720 million per day. According to the American Friends Service Committee

For that price, the United States could have provided: 34,904 Four-Year Scholarships for University Students; 1,153,846 Children with Free School Lunches; 6,482 Families with Homes and 163,525 People with Healthcare.

The AFSC has set up a new blog called How Would You Spend It?. You are cordially invited to log in and have your say.

UTAH MINING TRAGEDY. Here's an article from the Washington Post on the Utah mine disaster. Another tragedy is that the reforms passed in the wake of the Sago disaster had been fully implemented, it would at least have been possible to communicate with any survivors.


Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows.

While incomes have been on the rise since 2002, the average income in 2005 was $55,238, still nearly 1 percent less than the $55,714 in 2000, after adjusting for inflation, analysis of new tax statistics show...

Total income listed on tax returns grew every year after World War II, with a single one-year exception, until 2001, making the five-year period of lower average incomes and four years of lower total incomes a new experience for the majority of Americans born since 1945.

Thanks, guys! If you want more evidence of the Bush (mis)administration's class war from above, check out this story on their heroic war...against health care for America's children.


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