Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2008 May 15

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May 15[edit]

Madonna Video With Hot Sweaty Modernist Industrial Men As Cogs / Gears In Factory Setting...[edit]

I know this won't take long to find out, but I cannot for the life of me remember the song/video. I was talking about Diego Rivera's Detroit Murals and Chaplin's "Modern Times" today / the body and the factory, and couldn't for the life of me remember the name of the Madonna video that plays with those themes! Thanks in advance. Saudade7 03:54, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Express Yourself. --Definitely anonymous, 04:00 UTC, May 15.
Thank you so much anonymous person with Madonna information!!Saudade7 04:06, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Medieval painting identifications[edit]

women warriors
Charlemagne & Pope Adrian

Anyone know the source or artists for either of these paintings/illustrations? Currently illustrating Horses in the Middle Ages, and I would like to identify artists in the caption. Thanks. Gwinva (talk) 05:22, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

For the women: A woman with a sword from a medieval manuscript[1]; and for the other,
Pope Adrian Asks for Charlemagne's Help or Plea for Assistance here[2] with the notes, When Charlemagne's brother Carloman died in 771, his widow took her sons to Lombardy. The King of the Lombards attempted to get Pope Adrian I to anoint Carloman's sons as kings of the Franks. Resisting this pressure, Adrian turned to Charlemagne for help. Here he is depicted asking for aid from the king at a meeting near Rome.

Charlemagne did indeed help the pope, invading Lombardy, besieging the capital city of Pavia, and eventually defeating the Lombard king and claiming that title for himself. Julia Rossi (talk) 07:57, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

That doesn't help identify the original source (indeed, the first one is from a copy of our own history of women in the military). The Charlemagne one looks like it is from the Grandes Chroniques de France, but I must admit, that's my answer for everything... Adam Bishop (talk) 08:14, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Charlemagne & Pope Adrian is hosted at Wikipedia Commons where the final note reads "Source: Archivo Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS-BETTMANN". After Googling "Corbis-Bettman" I still can't tell if that is an artist's name, the name of a company that owns image collections, or both. (talk) 08:21, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Nah, that's an image archive, not an artist. Adam Bishop (talk) 12:54, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Actually two credits there: Archivo Iconografico, S.A. and Corbis-Bettmann. I think Archivo Iconografico are the agents for the Bettmann Archive (part of Corbis) in some other country - Spain? Carcharoth (talk) 13:58, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
  • Neither seems indispensible as an illustration, there are good ones in the Commons Categories: Grandes Chroniques de France and Froissart. Both are certainly manuscript illuminations, 15th century Flemish or French, not really from the top of the tree, so very possibly have either no attributed artist, or various names for anons that art historians like to make up. Johnbod (talk) 16:53, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for the comments, and the suggested Commons categories: searching there is always a bit hit and miss, so there were some I hadn't come across elsewhere. Gwinva (talk) 04:36, 19 May 2008 (UTC)

Racists in relationships with people of colour[edit]

Are there any documented cases of prominent white racists/supremacists being exposed as having had sexual relationships with people of colour? --Richardrj talk email 08:46, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

This is an interesting question! The only case I can think of off the top of head is the case of Essie Mae Washington-Williams. Washington-Williams was the illegitimate child of former US Senator Strom Thurmond and a black domestic employee in his household. This all came out after Sen. Thurmond died and was a big story for a week. See the articles linked for more details. BTW, this seems to be the first time I've been the first user to answer a Reference Desk question! - Thanks, Hoshie 09:51, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Also from watching Roots certainly it suggests that the then slave-owners would often use the female slaves. No idea how true roots is, but it was an extremely interesting piece of tv —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:52, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I believe Thomas Jefferson had children with one of his slaves (not that that makes him a racist). Plus there's also Clayton Bigsby. - Akamad (talk) 11:46, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Comparing the skin tone of the average west African to that of the average African American suggests that it was very common. --Sean 13:00, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Well, yes, it is well known that there has long been intermixture between whites and Blacks in the United States (and, as a general rule, there is always a lot of intermixture between any races that live in close proximity). To me that doesn't really get at the question, and I'm not sure I'd call the rape of slaves (when even in cases of presumed "consent" cannot, in that sort of power structure, be considered wholly voluntary) just a "sexual relationship." It is also well known that white slaveowners often purposefully impregnated female slaves in order to make more property. Let us not pretend this was a wonderful crossing of prejudice, even in the case of national heros. -- (talk) 14:52, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I guess that comes down to whether you include ongoing non-consensual sexual interaction in the range of things that "sexual relationship" covers. I personally do, as I think it would be misleading to say that Jefferson did not have a sexual relationship with Sally Hemmings, or that this Fritzl fellow didn't have a sexual relationship with his daughter. --Sean 18:47, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
The BNP candidate for the most recent London Mayrol elections was discovered as having sex with a woman from Poland or some such. As the BNP is in favour of paying them to go home it has been seen as hypocrital and just futher proof of how twisted the BNP are. Quidom (talk) 22:23, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
There was an account I've lost of an Australian pastoralist having sex with an aboriginal servant and the servant's consequent child who turned out to be related to an Aboriginal author but can't find his name and there's no detail in her brief article, Sally Morgan. I think it was a double-barrelled surname. Julia Rossi (talk) 03:14, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

annales history[edit]

what on earth is it about? so confused.

It is a saying isn't it? I.e. "the annales of history" - as in historic records about history, rather than anything in particular it is just a reference to what history will say (perhaps in the future) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:55, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

We often hear "That will go down in the annals of history", or words to the same effect, and it's a cliché used for underlining the significance of some event. You're asking about the origin of the expression, which is that annals were an early form of history (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a good example), in which the important events of each year were listed, the events the chroniclers thought posterity should know about. Xn4 11:56, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Or perhaps they are referencing the Annales School of history. They use social scientific methods when looking at history, favoring such variables over the usual argument-by-example style of other historians. -- (talk) 12:48, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I always thought this was "the anus of history", which, in hindsight, ... But I may be wrong. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 22:05, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Or the anneals of history? which it seems to be in many countries at the moment. Don't be confused by this play with words, 194.221, it's just chit chat to get us thinking, : ) Julia Rossi (talk) 02:55, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

The British economy since 1997[edit]

Listening to the Today show on Radio 4 today, Gordon Brown said that over the last 10 years we have decreased debt from 44% of GDP to 38%. Considering that the economy has grown enormously over those 10 years, is that an actual reduction in debt or an increase? Or am I misunderstanding the economics at work? Michael Clarke, Esq. (talk) 10:48, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Given that it is a % of GDP then as the economy grows so will our GDP, so the % which it takes up will fluctuate as both the amount of debt, and its size in relation to the size of the economy will. At least that's my understanding. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:51, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
In absolute terms (to answer your question) there's been a whopping increase. To be fair to Brown, though, the debt to GDP ratio is a standard measure of national debt: for instance, it's used in fixing the national debt criterion for the admission of a new country to the Euro and also in our very own list of countries by public debt - a list unsurprisingly headed by Zimbabwe, with an estimated debt to GDP ratio in 2007 of 190 per cent. A fall in the UK figure would be happier than an increase in it, which one suspects most British governments have achieved, but I see there's a mismatch between the figure attributed to Brown (38 per cent) and the figure in our own list (43 per cent, barely a reduction).
Compare this picture, though, with Norway, where over the same period the income from North Sea Oil has been used to pay off a large slice of the national debt. Xn4 11:29, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Oh OK. So basically for a government the prioity isn't neccessarily reducing the debt, but keeping the debt in line with growth/fall in GDP? Michael Clarke, Esq. (talk) 17:08, 16 May 2008 (UTC)
I think that's rather too generous. Most of the time, at least in the free world, a government's first priority is keeping enough people happy to win the next general election. If spending is more than revenue, which it usually is, then the national debt goes up. People notice the national debt an awful lot less than they notice the level of taxation, but all debt has a real cost. Xn4 21:29, 16 May 2008 (UTC)
To compare, if you have a $100,000 mortgage and a $10,000 income you are in trouble. If, ten years later, you have a $100,000 mortgage and a $1,000,000 income you are a lot better off, even though you didn't pay off your debt. DJ Clayworth (talk) 20:10, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

A weird thought : "Vegetarians kill plants".[edit]

Very recently we were having a "debate" as to why vegetarianism should be promoted. One of the participants suddenly said that even vegetarians kill plants to eat. Well is that a worthy comment ? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:18, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Well, it would depend on whether plants feel pain or not. I would say it was unlikely that they do, but who knows? As Douglas Adams (I think it was) once said, some people might go around saying "some of my best friends are pebbles". Where do you draw the line? --Richardrj talk email 13:26, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Some people do draw the line at killing or harming living organisms. See, for example, the articles on fruitarianism and ahimsa. ---Sluzzelin talk 13:39, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
It's a worthy comment if you consider killing plants to be morally or ethically equivalent to killing animals, but I don't think people really feel that to be true on the whole. In my opinion it would depend on both the animal and the plant to make that particular comment; I don't think there are too many people who would think that killing krill is the moral equivalent to killing a dog or a pig (much less a human), whereas I think killing an old-growth redwood tree, an organism many hundreds of years old, might be seen as considerably worse than killing many small prey animals.
In any case, it's pretty clear that plants don't suffer when you eat them. They have no nervous systems. Most of the ones we eat have actually evolved to be eaten, by something, as a way of spreading their seeds to the next generation. This cannot be said of any animal I can think of (with the exception of parasites). -- (talk) 14:49, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
A small number of vegetarians will not eat any vegetable which requires the killing of a plant. Picking an apple doesn't kill the apple tree; neither does picking an ear of corn or a pea pod. -FisherQueen (talk · contribs) 14:54, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I know. But in any case, such an argument isn't an argument against vegetarianism, which is sort of what the poster is implying (if killing plants is required for vegetarianism, then you might as well eat meat... which doesn't at all follow). -- (talk) 19:43, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Do people really think it matters whether or not the thing being eaten felt pain? This would seem to allow eating animals if you knew that they were killed quickly and painlessly, and I don't know any vegetarians who do that. I suspect for most people it's not an ethical or moral concern, but rather a simple visceral "ick" factor. Killing a pig is ickier than killing a plant because pigs are sort of like us. They squeal and bleed. The simple fact is, for a lot of organisms, living means you have to kill other things to eat them. There are exceptions, of course, but for a great many life forms, there is no getting around it. And even if you're eating some fruit without killing the plant it came from, you still (sometimes) killed the fruit and prevented it from growing into a new plant. Even if you could choose foods that involve the least killing possible, your body is still killing other organisms inside it all the time, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's not icky because we can't see it, but intellectually we should understand that it's still going on. If you're alive, you have blood on your hands. That's life. Friday (talk) 15:12, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure the argument for vegetarianism is that they will have no blood on their hands, but less. (Along with other arguments in favor of it relating to use of resources, etc.) And technically plants don't have blood to get on one's hands. ;-) -- (talk) 19:43, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Breatharianism.--Goon Noot (talk) 18:55, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Plants not having a nervous system only proves that they don't feel pain the way we do. But if there is a threat that a plant can do something about then it makes sense for the plant to feel some sort of pain, or whatever you want to call it, a negative sensation that needs to be dealt with. Now a plant can't do anything about being cut down by animals, but it can do something about, say, polluted ground, namely grow the roots in the direction where the pollution is smallest. Actually, this is the only example I can think of, but it sounds valid nevertheless. The only other example I can think of is that plants probably like sunbathing. :) In other words, they seek out the sunny spots. Btw, this is similar to the real problem with eating meat. It's not the killing that is a problem, it's the way the animals are kept when they are alive. With plants, however, it seems rather difficult to establish what gives them 'pain'. Maybe too much fertiliser gives them growing pains? :)
Btw, this makes me think of another question: Do the pro-life followers eat? Amrad (talk) 08:43, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

Thank you all of you for your insightful comments - Nikhil. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:52, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

You could also take a look at Atwood's The Edible Woman for a fictional view on, among other things, the pain of vegetables about to be consumed. ៛ Bielle (talk) 14:37, 16 May 2008 (UTC)
Not every vegetarian is one for the purpose of saving animals. Those who choose to be vegetarian because of a belief that it imposes a smaller carbon footprint, or for health reasons, would presumably be less inclined to ponder the death of the plants involved. Confusing Manifestation(Say hi!) 06:38, 19 May 2008 (UTC)

"I am a vegetarian not because I love animals, but rather because I hate plants." - A. Whitney Brown. Matt Deres (talk) 13:48, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

Banking services as a component of GDP[edit]

Since banks provide a service, it seems that loans and savings should increase the GDP. Is there a straightforward way to calculate the component of GDP due to banking services? For a loan, for example, it would be something like the difference between the PDV of the loan and its cost. --MagneticFlux (talk) 13:55, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Country or government without debt[edit]

Is there and has there been a country/government without debt. Is there any benefit from having a national debt other than having more money to spend at the time it is incurred. (I assume "tax break" does not apply :-) --Lisa4edit (talk) 14:27, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Plenty of countries have, at times, ran a surplus and had no debt. The benefit is obviously that their debt is not adding interest, and that they can loan-out to other nations with their surplus/build up wealth for major national spending etc. Well managed-debt is perfectly normal practice and is beneficial because it can provide instant-income, long-term management of resources and can help smooth out peaks and troughs of economic growth/performanc.e I think Norway & Sweden have both ran surplusses and had no debt in the past. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:43, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I thought Monaco would be a good guess, and even found at least one link saying it had none, but the CIA Factobook entry says they do have. I'm guessing the CIA is more reliable than NB for the IP above, having a budget surplus in any given year does not necessarily translate to having no debt; it really depends on how the terms are defined. --LarryMac | Talk 14:47, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Debt enables a country's central bank to conduct open market operations to manage the money supply. ObiterDicta ( pleadingserrataappeals ) 15:20, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Debt also allows the costs of major infrastructure to be spread out over multiple years, and, in theory , to be paid for from the economic growth that the infrastructure enables. Marco polo (talk) 15:23, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
It also provides a long-term low-risk investment for investors with long-term liabilities and with low risk appetites (such as life insurers and pension funds). - Zain Ebrahim (talk) 15:44, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
It must be noted that all these things - finance major infrastructure, bonds or open market operations - can achieved without incurring in debt. A budget surplus doesn't block the government of acting. I personally believe that debt is normally only the result of bad goverment. GoingOnTracks (talk) 18:11, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I kinda disagree with that. Consider, for example, issuing bonds (thus incurring debt) that cost (say) a million dollars in interest, but allow infrastructure development that generate a million and a half dollars in societal value. It would be bad government not to take advantage of the leverage being a government provides. But we're in opinion mode now. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 18:33, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I meant all these things can be done without a negative balance. If you issue bonds your are issuing a debt instrument, it does mean that you are indebted, but the governement doesn't need a negative balance for that. It depends in how you define being in debt. GoingOnTracks (talk) 18:41, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
GoingOnTracks, realistically, what sort of investment would you propose the government hold so that its assets would outweigh its debt? (Hint: don't say equity in private business or precious metals.) Also, what would you propose the Federal Reserve buy and sell to adjust the money supply? ObiterDicta ( pleadingserrataappeals ) 21:32, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
What sort of investment? Oil fields?
Second question: The Federal Reserve can change the money supply with a open market operations, making changes in the reserve ratio, and making changes in the discount rate. Of the three policies the open market is the most common, but not the only one. GoingOnTracks (talk) 23:08, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

The first answer which springs to my mind is Liechtenstein, which has the inverse of a national debt. Its government has to decide (in the words of P. G. Wodehouse) "whether to put the money in the bank or keep it in barrels and roll in it". Xn4 18:40, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Who was it who said "A public debt is a public blessing"? Thomas Jefferson? You might have a look at our article on John Maynard Keynes, whose advocacy of government 'pump-priming' a stalled economy would argue in favor of a national debt as an important stimulus. Rhinoracer (talk) 14:17, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

Thanks everyone. Lots of things to read about. ... and maybe Liechtenstein would be a nice place to retire to. ;-)Lisa4edit (talk) 06:36, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

On a slightly larger scale than Lichtenstein the government of Alberta recently became debt-free. And the answer to the obvious question is, yes, oil. DJ Clayworth (talk) 20:12, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

Prime Minister's Questions - No. 5[edit]

I listen to the Guardian podcast of PMQs every week. I know that "Number One, Mr Speaker" is the formula for asking Brown to list his engagements. Occasionally, tho, I've heard someone ask "Number Five", and Brown has answered as if it been a previously submitted question. Does anyone know what exactly "Number Five" means, and any other such codes in PMQs. Thanks, William Quill (talk) 18:47, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

As I understand it, anyone who wants to ask a question has to submit it some time in advance, and anyone who does ask a question gets a supplementary question after the PM has answered. Some MPs want to be able to ask a question about events or developments that took place after the closing date for submitting questions, or want to surprise the PM by asking him a question he hasn't prepared an answer to, so they submit a "dummy" question about the PM's engagements, and then ask their real question as their supplementary question after the PM has referred them to the reply he gave some moments ago. The numbers are just the running order of questions, I think. --Nicknack009 (talk) 21:02, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. William Quill (talk) 20:30, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

Gambling debts[edit]

Why is Charles Barkley in trouble if gambling debts are unenforceable? Clarityfiend (talk) 18:56, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Under the laws of Nevada, such actions are evidently possible. There was a similar claim against Marshall Sylver. Xn4 19:27, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Those are debts to a legally operating casino. Why would they be unenforcable? Rmhermen (talk) 19:27, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
As I understand it, each of the United States has its own laws on the regulation (or prohibition) of gambling, and in many US states gambling debts aren't enforceable. Indeed, unlawful gambling is a Federal crime, when operated as a business. This whole area of gambling debt is a minefield. For some interesting cases, see Flamingo Resort, Inc. v. United States and Zarin v. Commissioner. Xn4 20:59, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
The articles on those two cases suggest they are about the tax status of debts and say nothing about the legality of gambling debts themselves. Some states may say gambling debts are unenforceable, but those laws wouldn't apply to debts accrued in Nevada or New Jersey in legal casinos. It would defy plausibility if a major corporation like Wynn Resorts would extend $400,000 in credit to an individual without the legal right to recover the debt in court. --D. Monack | talk 21:21, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

Book on geometry in Islamic art[edit]

I recently saw a show that detailed the (re)construction of a minbar. The show was in place to document the event because it had been part of the Prince's Charities, which any UK'er should know relatively well. Now then, the architect behind the minbar cited a book written by an Englishman. In fact, this book was where he was supposed to have discovered many of the secrets to the original construction. What I wish to know is what the book was, and who the author was. Would anyone happen to know? Thank you greatly for your time and help. Scaller (talk) 20:16, 15 May 2008 (UTC)