Calling Paul Rahe, Or, What’s So Great About Our Fellow Citizens, Anyway?

shutterstock_163755116Below, a bigthink question for that finest of bigthinkers, Ricochet’s own Paul Rahe. First, though, a couple of words of background.

In his post below, Paul Rahe notices something peculiar—but, I think, terribly important: All the arguments against restricting travel to the United States from countries such as Nigeria and Liberia, where Ebola is already rampant, note that such restrictions would interfere with treating the disease in Africa. Those making these arguments thus display the same implicit assumption, placing all humans on the same moral plane. They ignore or treat as irrelevant the distinction between their fellow Americans and everyone else.

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Saturday Night Science: The King of Infinite Space

The King of Infinite SpaceMathematics is often said to be a game for the young. The Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics, is restricted to candidates 40 years or younger. While many older mathematicians continue to make important contributions in writing books, teaching, administration, and organising and systematising topics, most work on the cutting edge is done by those in their twenties and thirties. The life and career of Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter (he usually went by the name “Donald”) (1907–2003), the subject of this superb biography, is a stunning and inspiring counter-example. Coxeter’s publications (all of which are listed in an appendix to this book) span a period of eighty years, with the last, a novel proof of Beecroft’s theorem, completed just a few days before his death.

Coxeter was one of the last generation to be trained in classical geometry, and he continued to do original work and make striking discoveries in that field for decades after most other mathematicians had abandoned it as mined out or insufficiently rigorous, and it had disappeared from the curriculum not only at the university level but, to a great extent, in secondary schools as well. Coxeter worked in an intuitive, visual style, frequently making models, kaleidoscopes, and enriching his publications with numerous diagrams. Over the many decades his career spanned, mathematical research (at least in the West) seemed to be climbing an endless stairway toward ever greater abstraction and formalism, epitomised in the work of the Bourbaki group. (When the unthinkable happened and a diagram was included in a Bourbaki book, fittingly it was a Coxeter diagram.) Coxeter inspired an increasingly fervent group of followers who preferred to discover new structures and symmetry using the mind’s powers of visualisation. Some, including Douglas Hofstadter (who contributed the foreword to this work) and John Horton Conway (who figures prominently in the text) were inspired by Coxeter to carry on his legacy. Coxeter’s interactions with M. C. Escher and Buckminster Fuller are explored in two chapters, and illustrate how the purest of mathematics can both inspire and be enriched by art and architecture (or whatever it was that Fuller did, which Coxeter himself wasn’t too sure about—on one occasion he walked out of a new-agey Fuller lecture, noting in his diary “Out, disgusted, after ¾ hour” [p. 178]).

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Ebola: Preventing Its Spread Here

There is a piece  on the website Politico entitled “Travel Ban, Visa Ban, Either Way It Won’t Work.” It is written by Tara C. Smith, who is an associate professor of epidemiology at Kent State University.

In arguing against keeping out or quarantining abroad those who have been in the countries in which Ebola has been rampant — Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — she has two points to make. First, she points out, there are no direct flights between the US and the affected countries — which is true, but irrelevant. Her real argument can be found in this paragraph:

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You Could, in Fact, Make this Up–But this Time I Didn’t

I’d say, “You couldn’t make this up,” but I suppose I proved otherwise just yesterday. This, however—I swear to you—is real:

Chrissy Teigen: ‘Stop Ebola-Shaming’

It’s official: Ebola panic has gone viral—on the Internet, that is. And while the fear is somewhat justified (it’s scary!), Chrissy Teigen would like to point out that our use of social media is proooobably [sic] only making things worse—especially for the victims involved.

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Pandemic Preparations at the Department of Homeland Security?

If the scandals involving the VA hospitals and what we have recently learned concerning the incompetence of the CDC under the direction of political appointee Thomas Frieden have not caused you to wonder whether there is anyone in the Obama Administration whom you can trust, you might want to read about the latest Inspector General’s report concerning mismanagement in the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Department of Homeland Security’s independent government watchdog told a House panel on Friday that the Health and Human Services Department has “mismanaged” money and efforts to address a possible Ebola outbreak.

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Let’s Talk About Sex Again

The efforts to redefine rape on campuses would be amusing if they weren’t so dangerous. But I think we need to ask ourselves why the sex-with-no-consequences-ever crowd is suddenly a champion of sex-with-hyperbolic-consequences unless it is accompanied by lots and lots of yeses. I’m wondering, do both participants have to constantly say “yes” or only the females involved? Life is so confusing these days.

It doesn’t, however, need to be confusing. The truth is that “casual sex” has always been a myth, because men and women do not approach sex in the same way, which makes it a minefield. Two “consenting adults” probably have, in other words, wildly different ideas about what is going on and what it means. It turns out that sex is not just a powerful drive and a pleasurable physical sensation, it has social, emotional, mental and spiritual consequences that complicate what the kids have been told. All that extra baggage makes it possible — even likely — that without some mores, restrictions and good old-fashioned truth-telling, men and women will use and abuse one another through sex. Who woulda thunk it?

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Democrats Continue to Step on Rakes

I take you to Georgia — the Peach State and ancestral homeland of Nipsey Russell — for a video of Republican Senate candidate David Perdue that will shock you to your very core:

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Cashing In…

Here is a tidbit from Ferguson, Missouri:

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – In a recent statement, Michael Brown’s mother asked that her son not be part of self-serving business or political actions as she pleaded that he be remembered for the good.  A reported assault and theft this past weekend may dramatically underscore that sentiment.

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Need To Know with Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger
Name Rec

NTK FeatureJay reports from his annual trip to the Oslo Freedom Forum this week, where he met, among other extraordinarily brave and inspiring figures, 21- year-old Yeonmi Park, an escapee from North Korea. Her story – of starvation, and rape, and terror — is the kind that makes you feel guilty for the ample meal you just consumed and the comfortable life you enjoy.

But we do live in the comfortable west, and as Jay and Mona next discuss, it may be about to become a little more palatable – at least politically. The absurd “war on women” trope that succeeded in 2012 and 2013 is falling flat this year – along with the gender gap among women. They analyze and relish the demise of this most insulting of appeals.

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Even Blue States Get the Blahs

KeepCalmForget about cats being the epitome of indifference (it’s not my line — I stole it from The Big Bang Theory). In 2014, it’s the American voter who, given the choice between red and blue, seems to be trending blasé.

Consider this rundown by Gallup’s Frank Newport, who notes that, compared to the 2010 midterm election, we should be adding Prozac to the list of Obamacare’s giveaways — a 13-point drop in voter thought given to the election, an 18-point falloff in motivation, a 9-point drop in enthusiasm.

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Could New England Turn Red?

Maybe. Purple is more likely. Let’s start at the top.

Paul LePage, Maine’s eccentric GOP governor, is in a tight fight for reelection in a three-way race with Democratic congressman Mike Michaud and independent conservative Eliot Cutler. If Cutler drops out, LePage coasts to victory.

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Carol Costello, CNN’s Vicious Misogynist

Carol Costello is some kind of talking head at CNN. The open glee she exhibits upon playing tape of a women being beaten up has to be seen to be believed.

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A National Pastime No More?

shutterstock_97905992It’s a testimony to the traditionalist bent that runs through Ricochet — and our shameless attempts to lure George Will over — that some of the most prolonged discussions in the site’s history have involved baseball (I recall at least one discussion of the designated hitter that resulted in casualties). Increasingly, however, we seem to be the outliers. We may still call the game “the national pastime,” but the title is largely vestigial. These days, baseball is more of a regional interest than a national obsession. From Jonathan Mahler in the New York Times:

On Tuesday night, the first game of the 2014 World Series drew just 12.2 million viewers to Fox, making it the lowest-rated Game 1 on record. Game 2 on Wednesday night fared somewhat better, with 12.9 million people tuning in.

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Sweeping Ebola Under the Carpet?

In 11 days, the midterm elections will take place. They are not apt to go well for the Democrats, but the results would be much, much worse if we were to learn that in a variety of places within the country, thanks to the fecklessness of Barack Obama’s minions, people have come down with Ebola. We already know of such a case in New York. What if there were a slew of others?

It is with this in mind that one should perhaps read the report that a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri is busying suppressing information of this very sort. Kit Daniels of Info-Wars cites family physician James Lawrenzi who claims that “hospital workers are being told not to use the word ‘Ebola’ if they treat patients who may have the disease.”

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Theseus’s Corvette

IMG_0722The great Greek hero Theseus sailed to Crete to slay the Minotaur. Upon his safe return, his ship was preserved as a memorial. By ancient accounts, it was preserved for centuries, though the wear of wind and water began to rot the ship at its moorings. The citizens of Athens replaced the planks of the deck, the mast, the rigging, even the pieces of the hull as time ravaged the old vessel. This led philosophers to ponder a question: was the ship still the one Theseus sailed, even though nothing remained of the original vessel but its shape and memory?

I recently purchased a 1973 Corvette in Blue-Green, and the legend came sharply to mind as I probed its workings. I’m not sure how original this car is, much less how original it will be. I knew its previous owner had replaced the engine and the exhaust system, re-plumbed the radiator, rebuilt the steering mechanism, and replaced all of the shocks and springs in the rear end. He also replaced the differential cover, which – on this car — also holds up the rear leaf spring. But that was only the beginning.

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We need to talk about Ebola-shaming.

It is past time someone speaks up about our insidious and malignant cultural tendency to police, judge, and condemn people who projectile-vomit a virus that might melt your internal organs; a perfectly natural virus that occurs naturally in nature and is thus natural.

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From A Cop: Thank You, Jay Nordlinger

There is never enough time to read everything one wants. Pages are dog-eared as magazines are thumbed through, all with the intent for them to be read as soon as time allows. The magazine is set aside, soon to be covered by others, similarly dog-eared and thumbed-through. Eventually the pile grows large and is thrown into the bin with a wistful sigh.

But once in great while, you reach into that pile and extract a treasure, which is exactly what happened to me when I came across a piece by Jay Nordlinger in an about-to-be-discarded issue of National Review. The Ricochetti of course know Jay as the co-host, with Mona Charen, of the weekly Need to Know podcast. But if you don’t subscribe to National Review magazine — the one printed on good old-fashioned paper, or its digital equivalent — and have it delivered every other week, you are denying yourself some of the best writing available anywhere.

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The CDC Strikes Again

Here is a story, dated 23 October 2014, from The New York Daily News:

The Harlem doctor who was rushed to a hospital Thursday with suspected Ebola symptoms had gone bowling in Brooklyn the night before.

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All You Really Need to Know about Franklin Delano Roosevelt

There’s been a lot of talk about FDR lately: on the flagship podcast, on PBS, and on the short list of presidential corpses more attractive to have at your midterm election rally than the one currently in office.

But all you really need to know about this man is indeed contained here in this once popular television special of yesteryear. (Note: One not-CoC compliant term about a minute in.)

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From the Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia.

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Of Sergeants-at-Arms and Honour Guards

You know, until yesterday, I though the position of Sergeant-At-Arms in Canada’s House of Commons was largely ceremonial – a retirement perk to the politically connected; that the man who wears antiquated costumes and carries a golden mace into Parliament is little more than an actor. One of the gratifying thinks I learned yesterday, in that otherwise horrible day, is that I was wrong: that it is a serious job, held by a serious man, with long experience as a peace officer, who is also properly armed to face real trouble. He is far more than just a play-actor.

On the other hand, pictures taken at the War Memorial immediately prior to the shooting showed two Canadian soldiers, both real soldiers – not actors, and both armed with serious weapons – the C-7 assault rifle. When the Islamofascist murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, his fellow guardsman could not retaliate. He was helpless in the face of the enemy. The magazines of their C-7’s were empty, no doubt for reasons of safety.

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Perception vs. Reality

Here’s a headline you probably weren’t expecting: “Most Expect GOP Victory In November”. It goes with this week’s poll by Associated Press-GfK, which included the following stats:

  • 55% of likely voters are now assuming Republicans will take over the Senate, an 8-point gain from September.
  • 25% of Democrats think it’s going to happen, a 7-point gain in the past month.
  • 47% of likely voters favor a Republican-controlled Congress versus 39% who want Democrats in charge. A month ago, it was an even divide.
  • 44% of women prefer Republicans, versus 42% for Democrats. A month ago, women favored Democrats by a 47%-40% edge.

It’s a reverse from the 2012 campaign, when most voters expected President Obama to win a second term and Mitt Romney’s supporters were more pessimistic than those on the Democratic side.

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“Assumptions” and the Canadian Shooter

Do you know what happens when you assume? Well, you’re generally correct. Despite nursery rhymes to the contrary, assumptions are a wonderful and necessary tool in life. Without them, one can do hardly anything but stand in place.

When you drive through an intersection with a green light, you make an assumption that the cross street has a red light.  You make this assumption despite the fact that traffic lights can and do fail, causing hundreds of traffic accidents every year.

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Obama’s Iran End Run May Finally Stir Congressional Action

Word inside the Beltway is that President Obama intends to reach any deal involving Iranian nuclear weapons without involving Congress. Defenders of the Constitution may just sigh and throw up their hands (again). Obama’s plan only adds to the long list of unconstitutional executive actions taken by this administration: refusal to enforce federal laws on health care, immigration, welfare, and crime; refusal to defend federal laws in the courts; appointment of rump officers to federal bodies without Senate advice and consent; targeting of groups by ideology for tax or criminal investigation, and so on.

For the most part, President Obama has gotten away with it. He has been aided and abetted by his supporters in the Congress, the media, and the academy (who went ballistic over far more plausible claims of executive power by George W. Bush in the context of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq). This, however, might be the final straw that breaks Congress’s back.

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