August 23, 2007


El Cabrero is on another ancient Greek jag this week, with a special focus on the tragic Peloponnesian War that ended the "Golden Age" of Athens (there's also lots of stuff on current events).

If this is your first visit, please click on earlier entries.

The two principle powers that collided in that 27 year long war provided a huge contrast. Sparta was a warlike, aristocratic,conservative, fairly closed society. To their credit, they were not particularly acquisitive after wealth or a large empire. Athens was creative, chaotic, democratic, and imperialist. As mentioned yesterday, Athenian imperialism was the main cause of the war, although the Spartans were the first to invade their rival's territory.

Early on in Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War, a Corinthian ambassador describes the contrast to the Spartans:

The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you never go far enough. Again, they are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine: your wont is to attempt less than is justified by your power, to mistrust even what is sanctioned by your judgment, and to fancy that from danger then is no release. Further, there is promptitude on their side against procrastination on yours; they an never at home, you are never from it: for they hope by their absence to extend their acquisitions,you fear by your advance to endanger what you have left behind.

The Athenians were bold, even reckless:

They are swift to follow up a success, and slow to recoil from a reverse. Their bodies they spend ungrudgingly in their country’s cause; their intellect they jealously husband to be employed in her service. A scheme unexecuted is with them a positive loss... they toil on in trouble and danger all the days of their lives, with little opportunity for enjoying, being ever engaged in getting: their only idea of a holiday is to do what the occasion demands, and to them laborious occupation is less of a misfortune than the peace of a quiet life. To describe their character in a word, one might truly say that they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.

In a word, they could be dangerous not only to their enemies but to themselves.

(Uhhh, do they sound like anybody we know? I didn't think so.)

AFSC CALLS FOR STRONGER MINE SAFETY LAWS. In the wake of the Utah mine disaster, the American Friends Service Committee calls for stronger mine safety rules:

Congress should move swiftly to pass recently introduced legislation that, among other things, immediately requires mining companies to use systems that can track and communicate with miners," says Rick Wilson, director of the American Friends Service Committee West Virginia Economic Justice Project. "The law would also require companies to upgrade to better communications systems as they become available."

That legislation, HR 2768 and 2769 and S. 1655, introduced in June of this year by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Patty Murray (D-WA), would improve health and safety in U.S. mines and immediately require companies to use the best available technology to stay in contact with miners.

THE COAL INDUSTRY'S BEST FRIEND. The NY Times reports that the Bush administration is about to issue a regulation expanding mountaintop removal mining, a practice that literally blows their tops off and fills in valleys with debris. El Cabrero is of the opinion that this is not what Isaiah was talking about when he said that every mountain should be brought down and every valley exalted.

CHILDREN'S HEALTH SMACKDOWN. This post from the AFLCIO blog asks a pertinent question: "If Stomping on Children’s Health Care Is OK, Why Do Bushies Bury News on Weekend?"

INEQUALITY GONE WILD. Does this sound good?

The top 10 percent of income earners in the United States now owns 70 percent of the wealth, and the wealthiest one percent owns more than the bottom 95 percent, according to the Federal Reserve. In 2005, the top 300,000 Americans enjoyed about the same share of the nation's income -- 21.8 percent -- as the bottom 150 million.


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