Saturday, February 28, 2009
It seems that if despotism came to be established in the democratic nations of our day, it would have other characteristics: it would be more extensive and milder, and it would degrade men without tormenting them. . . .
When I think of the small passions of men of our day, the softness of their mores, the extent of their enlightenment, the purity of their religion, the mildness of their morality, their laborious and steady habits, the restraint that almost all preserve in vice as in virtue, I do not fear that in their chiefs they will find tyrants, but rather schoolmasters. . . .
I want to imagine with what new features despotism could be produced in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. . . .
Above these an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?
So it is that every day it renders the employment of free will less useful and more rare; it confines the action of the will in a smaller space and little by little steals the very use of it from each citizen. . . .
Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd. . . .
I have always believed that this sort of regulated, mild, and peaceful servitude, whose picture I have just painted, could be combined better than one imagines with some of the external forms of freedom, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.
--Alexis de Tocqueville
From Democracy in America, volume two, part four, chapter six: "What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear" (translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop)
Thursday, February 26, 2009
A spectacular "cosmic eye" has been photographed in space by a telescope in Chile, showing a distant nebula in which sunlike stars are burning themselves out.
The image of the Helix nebula, which lies 700 light years away in the constellation Aquarius, was captured with the Wide Field Imager instrument at the La Silla Observatory high above the Atacama Desert.
The Helix is a planetary nebula — a kind of stellar old people's home, in which stars at the end of their lives shed clouds of gas, often creating intricate patterns that shine with great beauty.
The Helix nebula is one of the closest planetary nebulae to Earth, but it is hard to see visually because its light is spread thinly over a large area of sky, a quarter of the size of the full Moon.
The main ring of the Helix nebula is about two light-years across, or half the distance between the Sun and the nearest star.
Around the inside of the ring, it is possible to see small blobs that resemble droplets of water, known as "cometary knots," which have faint tails that extend away from the central star.
(Now I could have sworn this Helix Nebula had been photographed before as
I have had it as my wallpaper on my computer for well over a year now. It is
commonly known as "the Eye of God" (I think you can see why). My students are
always asking me what it is. (NASA is so unimaginative with their naming!).
Anyway it is a very lovely image and I wanted to blog it.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Oldest 'Footprints' on Earth Found
By LiveScience Staff
posted: 05 October 2008 10:20 am ET
The oldest-known tracks of a creature apparently using legs have been discovered in rock dated to 570 million years ago in what was once a shallow sea in Nevada.
Scientists think land beasts evolved from ancient creatures that left the sea and evolved lungs and legs. If the new finding is real — the discoverer anticipates skepticism — it pushes the advent of walking back 30 million years earlier than any previous solid finding.
The aquatic creature left its "footprints" as two parallel rows of small dots, each about 2 millimeters in diameter. Scientists said today that the animal must have stepped lightly onto the soft marine sediment, because its legs only pressed shallow pinpoints into that long-ago sea bed.
The tracks were made during what is called the Ediacaran period, which preceded the Cambrian period, the time when most major groups of animals first evolved. Scientists had once thought only microbes and simple multicellular animals existed prior to the Cambrian, but that notion is changing, said Ohio State University Professor Loren Babcock.
"We keep talking about the possibility of more complex animals in the Ediacaran — soft corals, some arthropods, and flatworms — but the evidence has not been totally convincing," Babcock said. "But if you find evidence, like we did, of an animal with legs — an animal walking around — then that makes the possibility much more likely."
Soo-Yeun Ahn, a doctoral student at Ohio State, presented the discovery today at a meeting of the Geological Society of America.
Babcock was surveying rocks in the mountains near Goldfield, Nevada, with Hollingsworth in 2000 when he found the tracks.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
2. Make it "impossible" for Congressmen to slip in pork barrel projects.
3. Meetings where laws are written will be more open to the public.
4. No more secrecy.
5. Public will have 5 days to look at a bill.
6. You’ll know what’s in it.
7. We will put every pork barrel project online.
Hum? Wonder what happened?
Friday, February 13, 2009
Somehow these headlines tonight make me worry a bit.
I suppose they vote on things they have not read all the time.
But if it's going to cost 1 trillion dollars shouldn't they read it
Anyone in the Shelby County (Birmingham, AL) area interested in a Bible Study can email me
at firstname.lastname@example.org - I love to start and guide these studies. Put Bible Study in the
For more information on Stonecroft go to http://www.stonecroft.org