Wednesday, February 26, 2014

7401 - So Moving

This article moved me so much I just had to share it:

As a child growing up in the Bronx, the last four digits of Terry Noble's phone number were 7401. Coincidence: When Terry was assigned a social security number, the last four digits were 7401. And years later, when he found himself as a volunteer on a kibbutz in Israel - where he now called himself Tuvia Ariel - he worked with a carpenter whom he respected.

The carpenter was a wiry, solid man, dedicated, the silent type. Ariel learned that he was one of the few who had escaped Auschwitz and survived, that he then joined the Polish partisans, then the British Army. It sent him to Palestine, where he deserted to join the Palmach, the Jewish fighting force, and helped Israel win her independence in 1948.
Quite a history.

But more than awe piqued Ariel's curiosity about this survivor's experiences in the Holocaust. Ariel had read the number tattooed on his arm. The last four digits were 7401.

"Don't talk about it!" Ariel recalls the carpenter telling him forcefully, painfully. "I lost my whole family, my mother, my father; there was a brother in back of me, a brother in front of me - I'm the only one left. Don't bring it up again!"

Ariel didn't.

Except once.

Tuvia Ariel is a man with many stories. In fact, he is a story: the man who was once a famous musician's adviser and arranged for kaddish to be recited for an estranged Jewish radical; the man who put in a stint at Yale Law School and was a soldier in the U.S. Army in Israel during the 1956 Sinai war. He tore the "USA" from his uniform and, looking like an Israeli, hitched his way down to the Sinai Peninsula, ready to fight, only to find that the war had ended two hours before.

I was told in advance how colorful Ariel was, but nothing prepared me for the likes of a comment he made one hour after I met him on Friday afternoon. I knew he had a new leg. I knew it was breakthrough for him. But who gives thought to such things? Who wonders what it is like to be without a leg, or with a new one?

Praying in the synagogue on Friday, I sensed nothing unusual as Mincha came to an end. Suddenly, Ariel approached me, almost in tears. "This is the first time in my life I prayed the Shemoneh Esrei standing up. I have never been able to address God like any other Jew, beginning the prayer by taking three steps forward, ending it with three steps backward..."

As follows:

Ariel was raised in a non-observant home, in which the Shemoneh Esrei was not recited. Then he went to Israel to volunteer. In 1967, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, he saved his life by cutting off his own leg as it got caught in a machine he operated on a kibbutz - a machine that sucked his leg into its grinder and from which the rest of his body escaped only by his quick and gruesome self-amputation. A little over ten years later he became a religiously observant Jew. By then he was rotating between a wheelchair, crutches, and artificial legs, which, however, could never keep him standing still long enough to pray the Shemoneh Esrei.

Then, that Friday, he did it. After walking home (only three blocks), he choked up again, "That's the longest I've walked in 22 years."

He was fitted with a new leg only shortly before - the day the Berlin Wall crumbled. He found his new leg innocently enough. Ariel was in the United States at the beginning of 1989 on a business trip.

He saw an advertisement, featuring a new kind of plastic developed for spacecraft, also used for artificial limbs. The ad featured amputees engaged in vigorous basketball, not from wheelchairs, but standing up, running, passing, even jump-shooting. A regular game.
Not with people amputated below the knee, but above the knee.

Ariel thought to himself that seeing this was like seeing a grandmother, who had died long ago, suddenly walking down the street. When he lost his leg 22 years earlier, he never thought he would see himself live normally again - and here were people just like he was, playing basketball.

He inquired and was directed to an advanced prosthetic clinic in Oklahoma City. For above-the-knee amputees the old system had the stump rest on the prosthesis, which caused pain and circulatory problems and often did not work well, sometimes not at all. Using the new, flexible, rubber-like plastic, the new prosthesis grips the stump, which not only relieves pain and circulatory problems, but also better channels the energy and movement of the stump into natural, leg-like movements.

Even in advance of receiving his own leg, Ariel was not satisfied to give himself new life. He wanted it for all the above-the-knee amputees in Israel. So he had a long talk with the prosthetists in Oklahoma City about bringing this technology to the Holy Land. They agreed to train Israeli prosthetists in Oklahoma City and to travel to Israel to train Israeli prosthetists there, provided only that Ariel supply the plane tickets.

Ariel's goal reached even beyond making the technology available in Israel. He aspired to establish a "Hebrew Free Limb Society" to provide a limb to the amputee as a loan, until - only a person like Ariel has the right to make this pun - "the amputee gets back on his feet."

Strictly speaking, it is not idealism that motivates Ariel. It is something more - his sense that he has been designated as an angel of God before. He has reason to think this, and the way he sees it, his years of suffering now make him a messenger again - to help those whom the world forgets. Why is he certain he has been an angel once before, thus able to be so once again?

Ariel volunteered on two kibbutzim. The one where he lost his leg preferred that he leave the country. He was an embarrassment to the kibbutz. But Ariel would not leave Israel, no matter what. It took him about five years of various struggles to get into tourism schools; and somehow, between cars, crutches and artificial limbs, which kept him in pain and then went bad altogether, he remained a tour guide for 15 years.

Toward the beginning of his career, when he was low man on the totem pole, he was assigned to pick up tourists at the international airport in Lod and to bring them to the main office, whereupon an experienced guide would take over.

One day he picked up an American, ostentatiously wealthy, ostentatiously dressed and mannered. Even crude. Ariel could not bring himself to be friendly, so he was formal. Halfway from Lod to Jerusalem, the tourist, a perceptive man, yelled, "Pull over!" Ariel pulled over. The man barked, "You think I'm just a materialistic American tourist, don't you? Well, I've paid my dues!" He yanked up his sleeve to show Ariel a number tattooed on his arm. Ariel looked, almost went into shock, and before he knew what was happening the tourist was saying, "I lost my whole family ... a brother in front of me, a brother in back of me..." Ariel's mind burned.

The man's face was florid. Ariel calmed himself, saying simply, "Was your brother's name Shimon?" The red face turned white. "We're turning around, I'm not taking you to Jerusalem."

Ariel made a U-turn and drove one-and-a-half hours to the kibbutz where he had worked with the wiry carpenter, near Afula. The psychic noise in the car was palpable. Finally Ariel reached the kibbutz and then the carpenter shed. He saw his former supervisor for the first time in ten years. Without introduction, he said simply: "Was your brother's name Reuven?"

The carpenter's face turned white.

Ariel returned to the taxi, unloaded it, told his American tourist, "Come. I am bringing you to your brother."

He led him to the carpenter shed, did not enter - did not want to infringe on the privacy of the moment - then made a U-turn and drove to the entrance of the kibbutz. He stopped, and wept.


When he had seen the number tattooed on the tourist's arm, the last four digits were 7-4-0-2.
Source: Virtual Jerusalem



Monday, February 24, 2014

Food For Thought

Okay, I don't actually have astonishing news, but I did watch a pretty standard video that blew my socks off.
What's Cooking? with Jamie Oliver
What's Cooking? with Jamie Oliver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jamie Oliver is a British chef who grew up as the son of a landlord, near where I grew up, in Essex (yay!), England. 'Pub grub' is common fare in the UK, always nice for a spot of Sunday lunch or for a family meal midweek. but Jamie has always tried to make it healthier.

Part of that change is from the 'carrot' of having good healthy food and thus, over a period of time, being fitter, happier people.
The 'stick' part of his process is to show just what is in the food you are currently eating. Mix the two aspects together and you have a food revolution.

Or do you?

Quite scary how they have literally seen what goes into their food and still choose what they did.

Mind blowing!

Its an uphill battle folks...


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Friday, February 21, 2014

Frosty Bum!

The Olympics are here, well, the winter ones anyway, and its time for me to reminisce about some great times I spent with some simply marvelous people. Whats the connection? Well, one of them couldn't come to my wedding on Valentine's day many moons ago as he was in charge of the ice skating at the Olympics that year!

Oh yeah, I'm connected.

English: Ice skating in the Canada Centre, Met...
English: Ice skating in the Canada Centre, Metulla, Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to travel in connection with ice-skating. Memories abound of traveling to the middle of nowhere, normally off-season, to spend weeks in empty hotels watching angry parents push their kids to be the next Torvill & Dean, or Michele Kwan.

English: Kim during her free skating competiti...

 Many a cry of 'frosty bum' as a young lady fell over during her sequence, and probably half a flask of 'medicinal' rum was most afternoon's menu. But it was fun, and the people were great.

Admittedly, similar to dressage, the discus and the 200m hurdles, and unlike the biathlon, figure skating is of absolutely no use in the real world. It is however, very pretty, concise, artistic and I for one am very happy that I get to see Olympic quality skaters every 2 years, as opposed to a summer Olympics every 4 years.


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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Pomplamoose Magic

Back in November (yeah 2013, that seems so long ago doesn't it?) I wrote about Pomplamoose's latest  music video so imagine my surprise when hi-tech guru site Mashable blogged about Pomplamoose's next video which I hadn't even seen yet!

English: logo as of late 2008

Pomplamoose + Mashable = awesome

pomplamoose (Photo credit: reidspice)


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Coke, No Ice Please

Nothing personal, I just don;t think this coke needs any ice.

I always like watching fire, its what we men do so well! Watching rocks so hot that they melt just blows my mind.



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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson From Auschwitz

It has always shocked me when people say that we 'know' science,  we 'know' how man was created, we 'know' where we're going. First of all, it is a very arrogant thing to 'know' anything, but more importantly, in the 15th century they 'knew' hat the earth was flat, that dragons existed and of course they 'knew' all there was to know about medicine.

Jacob Bronowski
Jacob Bronowski (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I recently read an excellent article by Simon Critchley about this very issue. Yes, science is amazing and shocking and stunning and fabulous, but it is man who directs where we go with this science. Critchley obviously puts this together much more coherently than I ever could, here is the link and here is the article:

The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson From Auschwitz
As a kid in England, I watched a lot of television. There weren’t any books in our house,  not even the Bible. TV was therefore pretty important, omnipresent actually. Of course, most of what it delivered was garbage. But in 1973, the BBC aired an extraordinary documentary series called “The Ascent of Man,” hosted by one Dr. Jacob Bronowski in 13 hour-long episodes. Each episode was what he called an “essay” and involved some exotic and elaborate locations, but the presentation was never flashy and consisted mostly of Dr. Bronowski speaking directly and deliberately to the camera.

Dr. Bronowski (he was always referred to as “Dr.” and I can’t think of him with any other, more familiar, moniker) died 40 years ago this year, at the relatively young age of 66. He was a Polish-born British mathematician who wrote a number of highly-regarded books on science, but who was equally at home in the world of literature. He wrote his own poetry as well as a book on William Blake.
He was a slight, lively, lovely man. Because it was the early ’70s, some of his fashion choices were bewilderingly pastel, especially his socks, though on some occasions he sported a racy leather box jacket. He often smiled as he spoke, not out of conceit or because he lived in California (which, incidentally, he did, working at the Salk Institute in San Diego), but out of a sheer, greedy joy at explaining what he thought was important. But there was a genuine humility in his demeanor that made him utterly likeable.
“The Ascent of Man” (admittedly a little sexist now – great men abound, but there are apparently few great women), deliberately inverted the title of Darwin’s 1871 book. It was not an account of human biological evolution, but cultural evolution — from the origins of human life in the Rift Valley to the shifts from hunter/gatherer societies,  to nomadism and then settlement and civilization, from agriculture and metallurgy to the rise and fall of empires: Assyria, Egypt, Rome.
Bronowski presented everything with great gusto, but with a depth that never sacrificed clarity and which was never condescending. The tone of the programs was rigorous yet permissive, playful yet precise, and always urgent, open and exploratory. I remember in particular the programs on the trial of Galileo, Darwin’s hesitancy about publishing his theory of evolution and the dizzying consequences of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Some of it was difficult for a 13-year-old to understand, but I remember being absolutely riveted.
The ascent of man was secured through scientific creativity. But unlike many of his more glossy and glib contemporary epigones, Dr. Bronowski was never reductive in his commitment to science. Scientific activity was always linked to artistic creation. For Bronowski, science and art were two neighboring mighty rivers that flowed from a common source: the human imagination. Newton and Shakespeare, Darwin and Coleridge, Einstein and Braque: all were interdependent facets of the human mind and constituted what was best and most noble about the human adventure.
For most of the series, Dr. Bronowski’s account of human development was a relentlessly optimistic one. Then, in the 11th episode, called “Knowledge or Certainty,” the mood changed to something more somber. Let me try and recount what has stuck in my memory for all these years.
He began the show with the words, “One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an actual picture of the material world. One achievement of physics in the 20th century has been to show that such an aim is unattainable.” For Dr. Bronowski, there was no absolute knowledge and anyone who claims it — whether a scientist, a politician or a religious believer — opens the door to tragedy. All scientific information is imperfect and we have to treat it with humility. Such, for him, was the human condition.
This is the condition for what we can know, but it is also, crucially, a moral lesson. It is the lesson of 20th-century painting from Cubism onwards, but also that of quantum physics. All we can do is to push deeper and deeper into better approximations of an ever-evasive reality. The goal of complete understanding seems to recede as we approach it.
There is no God’s eye view, Dr. Bronowski insisted, and the people who claim that there is and that they possess it are not just wrong, they are morally pernicious. Errors are inextricably bound up with pursuit of human knowledge, which requires not just mathematical calculation but insight, interpretation and a personal act of judgment for which we are responsible. The emphasis on the moral responsibility of knowledge was essential for all of Dr. Bronowski’s work. The acquisition of knowledge entails a responsibility for the integrity of what we are as ethical creatures. All knowledge, all information that passes between human beings, can be exchanged only within what we might call ‘a play of tolerance.’
Dr. Bronowski’s 11th essay took him to the ancient university city of Göttingen in Germany, to explain the genesis of Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in the hugely creative milieu that surrounded the physicist Max Born in the 1920s. Dr. Bronowski insisted that the principle of uncertainty was a misnomer, because it gives the impression that in science (and outside of it) we are always uncertain. But this is wrong. Knowledge is precise, but that precision is confined within a certain toleration of uncertainty. Heisenberg’s insight is that the electron is a particle that yields only limited information; its speed and position are confined by the tolerance of Max Planck’s quantum, the basic element of matter.
Dr. Bronowski thought that the uncertainty principle should therefore be called the principle of tolerance. Pursuing knowledge means accepting uncertainty. Heisenberg’s principle has the consequence that no physical events can ultimately be described with absolute certainty or with “zero tolerance,” as it were. The more we know, the less certain we are.
In the everyday world, we do not just accept a lack of ultimate exactitude with a melancholic shrug, but we constantly employ such inexactitude in our relations with other people. Our relations with others also require a principle of tolerance. We encounter other people across a gray area of negotiation and approximation. Such is the business of listening and the back and forth of conversation and social interaction.
For Dr. Bronowski, the moral consequence of knowledge is that we must never judge others on the basis of some absolute, God-like conception of certainty. All knowledge, all information that passes between human beings, can be exchanged only within what we might call “a play of tolerance,” whether in science, literature, politics or religion. As he eloquently put it, “Human knowledge is personal and responsible, an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.”
The relationship between humans and nature and humans and other humans can take place only within a certain play of tolerance. Insisting on certainty, by contrast, leads ineluctably to arrogance and dogma based on ignorance.
At this point, in the final minutes of the show, the scene suddenly shifts to Auschwitz, where many members of Bronowski’s family were murdered. Then this happened. Please stay with it. This short video from the show lasts only four minutes or so.

It is, I am sure you agree, an extraordinary and moving moment. Bronowski dips his hand into the muddy water of a pond which contained the remains of his family members and the members of countless other families. All victims of the same hatred: the hatred of the other human being. By contrast, he says — just before the camera hauntingly cuts to slow motion — “We have to touch people.”
The play of tolerance opposes the principle of monstrous certainty that is endemic to fascism and, sadly, not just fascism but all the various faces of fundamentalism. When we think we have certainty, when we aspire to the knowledge of the gods, then Auschwitz can happen and can repeat itself. Arguably, it has repeated itself in the genocidal certainties of past decades.
The pursuit of scientific knowledge is as personal an act as lifting a paintbrush or writing a poem, and they are both profoundly human. If the human condition is defined by limitedness, then this is a glorious fact because it is a moral limitedness rooted in a faith in the power of the imagination, our sense of responsibility and our acceptance of our fallibility. We always have to acknowledge that we might be mistaken. When we forget that, then we forget ourselves and the worst can happen.
In 1945, nearly three decades before “The Ascent of Man,” Dr. Bronowski  — who was a close friend of the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, the reluctant father of the atomic bomb — visited Nagasaki to help assess the damage there. It convinced him to discontinue his work for British military research with which he had been engaged extensively during the Second World War. From that time onward, he focused on the relations between science and human values. When someone said to Szilard in Bronowski’s company that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was science’s tragedy, Szilard replied firmly that this was wrong: It was a human tragedy.
Such was Dr. Bronowski’s lesson for a 13-year-old boy some 40 years ago. Being slightly old-school, I treated myself last Christmas to a DVD deluxe boxed set of “The Ascent of Man.” I am currently watching it with my 10-year-old son. Admittedly, it is not really much competition for “Candy Crush” and his sundry other video games, but he is showing an interest. Or at least he is tolerating my enthusiasm. And of course beginning to learn such toleration is the whole point.

Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York and the author of several books, including “The Faith of the Faithless,” and, with Jamieson Webster, “Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine.” He is the moderator of this series. 


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Monday, February 10, 2014

That Is Several Kinds Of Crazy

I'm not some crazed loon who likes to jump off bridges with a bungee cord wrapped to my ankle, or hurtling down a hilly road on a skeleton board.

Even I can understand what kind of high these guys get though, as they fly down a valley, not float on a parachute or hover in a helicopter, but properly fly down at an incredibly bloody fast pace

But I still think he is a complete and utter nutter!!


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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kano: A Lego Computer

I'm more of a computer user than a computer maker, but I do wish that I could get more into the coding of programs, and not be dependent on those people in IT to help me with all of my computer based issues.

Until now I hadn't heard of any way of building a bare-bones computer yourself. No doubt these have existed, but really, the website for Kano is just out of this world ~ is a great way of finding new products and personally I have been interested enough in the product to put my hard earned money into funding the following:

99% Invisible, an incredibly interesting podcast that needed funding to create season 4
Monster Hunter International: Challenge Coins. Think challenge coins + vampires and werewolves
God Hates Astronauts - an insane comic book that, if I explained it to you, would have me incarcerated
The Monster Hunter International Employee's Handbook and RPG - a book load of artwork about MHI
And finally, ringbow, that was meant to be a finger based mouse, but turned into a rage infested tornado!

Anyhoo, Kano is a make it yourself computer;

What you get from Kano 

What you can make


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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

J'accuse! By Robert Harris

Georges Picquart died 100 years ago this month. To which the response from most quarters is likely to be “Georges who?” Even in his native France, his centenary is passing largely unremarked. Yet in the days of Queen Victoria and Theodore Roosevelt, Picquart was a figure of global controversy, revered and reviled in equal measure as the world’s most famous whistle-blower.

Unlike his 21st-century counterparts Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, Picquart was neither a disaffected nor a junior figure in the organization he was to expose. On the contrary: In October 1894 he was a brilliant, rising army officer. One of his steppingstones to advancement had been a professorship at the École Supérieure de Guerre, and one of the officer-cadets he had taught there was a Jewish artillery captain, Alfred Dreyfus.
Photo du colonel Piquart - Affaire Dreyfus
Photo du colonel Piquart - Affaire Dreyfus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picquart, like many of his contemporaries, was casually anti-Semitic. It came as no surprise to him when Dreyfus — the only Jew on the general staff — was suspected of passing secret intelligence to the Germans. It was Picquart who provided a sample of Dreyfus’s handwriting to the investigators. And when expert analysis seemed to confirm Dreyfus’s guilt, it was Picquart who met his unsuspecting former pupil in the Ministry of War so he could be quietly bundled off to prison.

Alfred Dreyfus
Alfred Dreyfus (Photo credit: George  Eastman House)

In December, Picquart attended Dreyfus’s court-martial as an official observer. For reasons of national security it was held behind closed doors. When told that a file of intelligence evidence existed, conclusively proving Dreyfus’s guilt, Picquart supported the decision to show it in secret to the judges.

The file clinched the conviction. Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment. On Jan. 5, 1895, before a crowd of 20,000 shouting, “Death to the Jew!” Dreyfus had his sword broken and the insignia of his rank torn from his uniform. Observing the spectacle, Picquart remarked laconically to a fellow officer: “He’s a Jew, don’t forget that. He’s thinking of the weight of the gold braid and how much it’s worth.” In March, Dreyfus was transported to Devil’s Island, off the coast of South America, where he was denied all human contact, including conversation with his guards.

Picquart, meanwhile, prospered. Six months later, at age 40, he was made the youngest colonel in the French Army and put in charge of the tiny intelligence unit, known as the Statistical Section, that had compiled the evidence against Dreyfus.

The section’s prize agent was a cleaner at the German Embassy, Marie Bastian, who supplied the contents of the wastepaper basket of the military attaché, Col. Maximilian von Schwartzkoppen. It was she who was the source of the “bordereau” — the note that an expert had concluded was in Dreyfus’s hand.

Nine months into Picquart’s tenure, Bastian passed on a pneumatic telegram card — a “petit bleu” — that von Schwartzkoppen had torn into 40 fragments. Glued together, the telegram revealed that the German attaché was receiving intelligence from a serving French officer, Maj. Charles Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. Picquart immediately put Esterhazy under surveillance. He turned out to have the classic profile of a spy: a drunkard, a gambler, heavily indebted, and leading a double life with a prostitute in Montmartre. Moreover, he was dangerously active: He had recently applied for a job in the general staff.

Sitting in his office, Picquart compared Esterhazy’s letters with the bordereau. “I was terrified,” he testified later. “The two writings were not similar; they were identical.” The next day he showed them to the handwriting expert, Alphonse Bertillon, whose evidence had helped convict Dreyfus. Bertillon confirmed Esterhazy’s writing was a perfect match, but saw no reason to revise his original judgment: “It merely shows that the Jews have trained someone else to write using the Dreyfus system.”

Picquart’s next step was to inspect the intelligence that had been passed to Dreyfus’s judges. “I took possession of the secret file for the first time since my entry into the service. I confess that my amazement was profound. I was expecting overwhelming evidence. I found nothing.” Indeed, such scant evidence as there was had plainly been fabricated.

Drawing "a family supper" from Caran...
Drawing "a family supper" from Caran d'Ache in le Figaro on February 14, 1898. The drawing depicts the divisions of French society during the Dreyfus Affair. At the top, somebody says "above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!". At the bottom, the whole family is fighting, and the caption says "they have discussed it". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Picquart took his discoveries to the chief of the French general staff, Gen. Raoul de Boisdeffre, and to the overall head of military intelligence, Gen. Charles-Arthur Gonse. Their reaction appalled him. He was told to avoid any avenues of inquiry that might lead to a reopening of the Dreyfus case. “What does it matter to you,” demanded Gonse, “if one Jew stays on Devil’s Island?”

“Well,” replied Picquart, “because he’s innocent ...”

He pressed on with his investigation, to the irritation of his superiors. Two months later, he was relieved of his duties. By the spring of 1897, he was an exile, transferred to a native regiment in Tunisia on what amounted to a near-suicidal mission into the southern Sahara.

It was then that Picquart, after 25 years’ army service, realized he had no alternative but to break ranks. He passed his evidence against Esterhazy to a senior politician, the vice president of the senate, Auguste Scheurer-Kestner. Then, at the end of 1897, he provided Émile Zola with the information that enabled the novelist to write his celebrated exposé of the affair, “J’Accuse ...!” Picquart’s reward was to be dismissed from the army, framed as a forger and locked up in solitary confinement for more than a year.

It was not until 1906 that justice was finally done; Dreyfus’s conviction was quashed, and Picquart was restored to the army with the rank of brigadier general. That fall, when his friend and fellow Dreyfusard, Georges Clemenceau — the owner of the newspaper that published “J’Accuse ...!” became prime minister, he made Picquart minister of war, a post he held for three years.

Front page cover of the newspaper L’Aurore of ...
Front page cover of the newspaper L’Aurore of Thursday 13 January 1898, with the letter J’accuse...!, written by Émile Zola about the Dreyfus affair. The headline reads "I accuse! Letter to the President of the Republic". See J'accuse...!, the whole text on Wikisource. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Jan. 18, 1914, six months before the outbreak of the First World War, while in command of the Second Army Corps at Amiens, Picquart died of edema of the face — effectively, suffocation — following a riding accident. He was 59.

He had no family to preserve his memory: A bachelor with a succession of married mistresses, he left no children. A large section of the army never forgave him for betraying his comrades. And some of Dreyfus’s supporters continued to accuse him of anti-Semitism. An awkward figure in death as well as life, he slipped through the cracks of history.

And yet the injustices against which he fought so courageously — the inherent unreliability of secret courts and secret evidence, the dangers of rogue intelligence agencies becoming laws unto themselves, the instinctive response of governments and national security organizations to cover up their mistakes, the easy flourishing of “national security” to stifle democratic scrutiny — all these continue. “Dreyfus was the victim,” Clemenceau observed, “but Picquart was the hero.” On this day, he deserves to be remembered.

Robert Harris is the author of a forthcoming novel about Georges Picquart, “An Officer and a Spy.”

 kthanxbai! Jumblerant
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