Monthly Archives: March 2014
Even as Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s outgoing president, continues to refuse to sign a crucial Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S., claiming that the Afghan military protects 93 percent of the country and therefore is more than prepared to take over from the U.S. military come January 2015, the ten candidates to take his place at Afghanistan’s helm have all pledged to sign the agreement. But in spite of the fact that I readily appreciate Washington’s insistence to secure a long-term military partnership with Kabul––to abandon Afghanistan now would reverse any gains made by the U.S. in its twelve-and-a-half-year struggle against the Taliban, and render futile the sacrifices of all American servicemen and women ever deployed to the region––I am likewise convinced that Karzai’s recalcitrance, however frustrating and seemingly undue, has some merit. Afghanistan does, after all, get the short end of the stick in this bargain. Read the rest of this entry
Abstract: Paracelsus––whose unorthodox beliefs and volatile temperament caused him to be ostracized from his contemporaries in the tightly knit academic and medical communities, where gossip and scandal circulated with relative ease in spite of the spacial limitations under which mail couriers then operated––was thought of as an agent of the Devil. Though history has been kinder to him, his association with the black arts remains irrevocable––for in a 1942 speech before the Royal Society of Medicine, H. P. Bayon described Paracelsus as “not a harbinger of light.” This paper seeks to uncover the man beneath the myth, and then, hopefully, to set at rest the idea that Paracelsus was anything but an ordinary (and godly) man with ideas and ideals ahead of his time, ideas and ideals that, unfortunately for his reputation, were unsettling to his contemporaries. On a separate note, this paper also attempts to demonstrate the folly of basing one’s opinion of someone or something off of a reputation that, more often than not, is fabricated from half-baked rumors and ill-conceived exaggerations. Read the rest of this entry
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. By Steven Johnson. New York: Riverhead Books, 2006. Print. Pp. xviii+302. $16.00.
This tightly-written triumph of historical nonfiction, written by Steven Johnson, author of seven other books including the national bestseller Everything Bad Is Good for You, follows two eminently prolific individuals––the taciturn yet brilliant Dr. John Snow, and the genial and equally perceptive Rev. Henry Whitehead––as their lives briefly intertwine when an unprecedentedly intense outbreak of cholera devastates a swathe of Victorian London. Johnson describes how, in the span of a few weeks during the summer and fall of 1854, these two tenacious men join forces to propose a pioneering solution to what then was medicine’s most befuddling conundrum: a waterborne theory of cholera. The implications of their explanation for cholera’s spread, though not immediately realized––Snow and Whitehead’s seminal achievement is recognized only shortly after the Great Stink of 1858, posthumously in Snow’s case––are unfavorable for the continued survival of the then-preponderant miasmatic theory of disease. Read the rest of this entry
Over a century ago, a new breed of journalist, derogatorily referred to as the muckraker, made its mark in an America beset by so-called captains of industry (or robber barons) who, single-minded as they were in their pursuit of unbounded wealth, went to any lengths to achieve their wildest dreams. The muckraker was a champion of the underprivileged and underserved, a purveyor of truth who, at great personal and professional risk, kept the public abreast of important events, and thereby forestalled the government from exploiting its citizens’ ignorance and cheating them of their constitutionally-mandated inalienable rights. The muckraker was courageously un-conformist and anti-Establishment, someone who, by being unstintingly blunt in depicting the misdeeds perpetrated by the corporate giants that presided over America’s ‘gilded age’, served as a catalyst for reform and improved the lives of millions. Read the rest of this entry
Perhaps in a mockery of former President George W. Bush’s now-infamous assessment of what he saw in Vladimir V. Putin’s eyes, Senator and then-presidential hopeful John McCain had this to say in a 2007 speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition: “I looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and I saw three things––a K and a G and a B.” Read the rest of this entry