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Category Archives: history

An American Mercenary Who Invaded Mexico With An Army of 45 Men

Back in the 1850s, a Tennessean named William Walker and his band of mercs launched an offensive on Baja California and successfully captured the Baja del Sur capital City, La Paz.
He proceeded to declare a Republic of the Sonora complete with territorial boundaries and its own flag.

Republic of Sonora Flag

Republic of Sonora map

More amazing still, he and his men managed to get out of there alive again after the Mexican government started sending armies into the region.

Walker was a real filibuster. Not one of our modern gerontocrats deadlocking sessions of congress. No he was a filibuster in the original sense of the word. A freebooter trying to conquer a sovereign state without permission from any state.
The age of manifest destiny in America fostered an entire generation of filibuster mercs who tried to take over countries and found their own colonies.

For Walker, his personal war with Mexico was just the beginning of his career.

Next, he showed up in Nicaragua with a private army of 60 men and tried to take over the country. He actually succeeded and declared the foundation of (another) new country complete with (another) new flag.

Walker's Nicaraguan Flag

As if taking on one country wasn’t enough, Walker soon found himself at war with Costa Rica as well.
He held on for awhile despite the odds and still managed to escape with the help of the US Navy.

Still not discouraged, Walker next tried to invade Honduras but this time he was caught by the British Navy, who had no intentions of allowing an American to mess around in a zone of influence so close to where they were already planning a canal.

The British simply turned Walker over to the Hondurans, who lost little time in putting him in front of a firing squad.

Walker had no military experience and little grasp of strategy, achieving many of his impressive victories with superior firepower. Both in Mexico and Nicaragua his campaigns were ended by disastrous incidents that led to his forces being cut off from their supply lines.
An impulsive fool, he actually seized steamships from Vanderbilt, the Robber Baron sponsor who was supplying him with food, arms, and transport.
Vanderbilt retaliated by giving gold and guns to Walker’s enemies instead to get revenge and to recover his steamships.
Predictably, Walker found himself suddenly stranded in a foreign country and would have gotten himself and his men killed then if the US Navy hadn’t picked them up.

Walker got his way as a crazily charismatic dreamer in spite of his ineptitude. Newspaper articles about his crazy exploits always got him new followers no matter how badly he screwed up…until his luck finally ran out.

William Walker picture

William Walker, a 5″2 120 pound dynamo of reckless ambition that got himself and lots of his followers killed while trying to found a private Latin American empire.

LINK

Scandinavians Invented the American Log Cabin

Swedish and Finnish settlers in the colony of New Sweden, near modern day Wilmington, Delaware introduced log cabins to the states in the 1640s.

The design was later adopted by the Scots-Irish frontiersmen who became known for bourbon whiskey, long rifles, and clan feuds.

LINK

Why Splitting the Atom Split the Traditional Society

By the Middle of WWII most the world was starting to look less politically diverse than the Risk gameboard.

The world was centralizing rapidly as a few winner states with the most resources, biggest guns, best scientists, and most ardent nationalism were curb stomping the remaining minor players out of existence.

At the conclusion of WWII an all powerful US found itself at the top of the world followed by a gigantic Soviet Union in a distant 2nd place.

Eventually even the Soviet Union disappeared and for a decade or so, one clearly dominant state remained seemingly unopposed…for the first time ever.

A historian named Francis Fukuyama hailed the collapse of the USSR as the “end of history.”

He was right to recognize a critically important milestone, but it did not mean what he thought it meant.

History as it had been known had ended in 1945.

Before the industrial revolution and modern science, warring states felt sufficiently secure that their root stock civilian population and critical infrastructure was too numerous and too widely spread to be easily destroyed all at once.
The stakes were not quite as high for rulers, so wars were frequently deemed a worthwhile risk.

From the mid-19th century onwards, methods of destruction became so effective as to make mass wars on open battlefields impracticable, excessively costly, and excessively risky for States and Societies themselves.

The invention of an ultimate weapon was just the decisive and logical culmination of the trend.

The atomic bomb changed everything.

Before there was a doomsday weapon, every man was very likely sometime in his life to be needed as a soldier.

Societies that wanted to survive had to make sure their men could hope for sufficient wealth and a woman who would bear his kids.
Thus he was given the necessary status and esteem by society to accomplish these goals.

Before there was a doomsday weapon, societies could ill afford internal dissent. It was a paradise on earth for the robber parasites of each respective society.

For thousands of years, even if you hated the duke who sent armed men to collect the rent, life and society itself could be wiped out by a conquering army. If your family was to have any chance of survival…long live the King.

The collective standard of life, like wages, could be forced downward according to a collective iron law to the lowest people could be persuaded to accept. The alternative was annihilation at the hands of invaders living in as desperate a poverty as themselves.

No beast on the Savanna ever has a chance to optimize its lifestyle or treat itself for worms because it must constantly be watching out for predators instead…

To survive, the state, society had to function in certain ways so implicit and obvious, that one might as well be defining the nature of the atom. Both the peasant and the King were crammed together in a society’s nucleus. However strong the forces of self-interest pushing them apart, even stronger external forces held them together as allies in the struggle for scarce resources and the mere privilege of existence.

As the nucleus of the atom has been split, much the same has happened to societies.

Doomsday weapons did much to alleviate the ever present external threat that held it all together.

Ever since, people have been discovering that without the fear of immediate extinction, their best interests lie beyond any arbitrary State. Like is free to ally with like. Every breed knows its own.

First, the Kings themselves with their superior access to information freely multiplied their wealth by unchaining themselves from any particular population of subjects.
The previous order had already been good to them but competition had been fierce. Now they could cooperate better with one another while the masses of the world were still ostensibly locked in the ancient competition.

With the expiration of the USSR the last excuse for a world defined by competition between states had vanished.

For a decade or so, things seemed to coast along smoothly as a recognizable traditional system, but the centralized society had been steadily unraveling for decades, a trend that was suddenly and exponentially accelerated by the eruption of personal computing, the internet, and wireless communications.

There is no going back now because all the pieces that composed the old social nuclei have recombined in countless new associations. Associations more strongly governed by innate attraction than mere fear and reaction to immediate danger.

Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama: The man who proclaimed the end of history.

The Worldwide Trend of Political Centralization Is Past High Tide

Ever since gunpowder, most inventions have served to centralize more power in the hands of the state.
This trend culminated in the 20th century with technologies such as mass media, mass surveillance, airplanes, and tanks.

Now, with social media, smartphones, and the internet, power is moving back into the hands of ordinary people.
The printing press ushered in political strife across Europe as people suddenly had better access to information.
The same is now happening with new technologies and we see decades long, stable regimes suddenly toppling as the availability of information reaches a tipping point.

Monolithic governments full of bureaucrats are continuing to decrease in effectiveness and importance. These large bodies are now too slow and unwieldly to keep up with commercial enterprises or even the ordinary man on the street.
Events now breeze past these governments before they can even begin to react. The governments haven’t changed…since ancient China bureaucracies have been all about trading speed and flexibility for dependability and security. The world has changed and old school government ministries can no longer keep up.

Culture at large is moving away from the control of a few sources towards a great age of fracture.

Though the traditional culture has died out, new, vital cultures are coming into existence and they will make populations ever more difficult to control from a centralized source.

Here’s to cultural Balkanization:

What Water Purification and Asian Glow Have In Common

“As population density and travel increased, fermented beverages such as beer became a way to transport a nutritional food stuff as well as a source of safe liquid refreshment. There was an old adage “…the water can kill you but the beer won’t.” People in the West did not realize that boiling water could purify it…

But what about people in Asia?…all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. One summer day while visiting a distant region of his realm, he and the court stopped to rest. In accordance with his ruling, the servants began to boil water for the court to drink. Dried leaves from the near by bush fell into the boiling water, and a brown liquid resulted…

Thus, two vastly different cultures separated by thousands of miles developed distinctly different ways to deal with polluted water for consumption…

It has been found that approximately half of the Pacific Rim Asian population (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans) possess an atypical alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) known as ADH2*2 that leads to unusually rapid conversion of ethanol to acetaldehyde … After consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, they may experience symptoms which include dizziness, nausea, headaches, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that would lead to further intoxication…

Could it be that a culture rich in an alcohol tradition evolved in the West to deal with the problem of poor potable water quality; while in the East, to deal with the same problem, a culture evolved centered around tea because of the presence of a mutation in a gene?”

LINK

Or more likely and way too non-PC for the New York Times, Europeans started out like Asians and evolved a higher tolerance to alcohol. Those who could tolerate alcohol better avoided intestinal parasites and had the vitality to sire more children.

According to the PC narrative of course, human evolution came to a halt a few tens of thousands of years when “modern humans” emerged completely formed and have stayed static ever since.

Also, some have supposed that the burst of productivity that came with the industrial revolution was in part a result of Westerners trading alcohol for tea as the drink of choice.

No Longer A Superpower: Why Venice Went Into Decline

“IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.”

LINK

Then and Now: 1st 1960 Presidential Debate vs. 1st 2012 Presidential Debate

What do you think?

Because the guys in 1960 had spent years speaking on the radio, it seems to me they really keep their sentences tight and their rhythm unbroken while speaking. They’re pretty impressive.

On the other hand, neither candidate seems to be orchestrating their body language as we’d see now. Nixon is constantly licking his lips nervously and crossing his legs while JFK has to be told by the moderators to go up to the podium.

Many of you may know that Nixon was ill and exhausted before the 1st 1960 debate. He had also recently injured his leg.

Not realizing the significance of television (this was the first ever televised debate), Nixon didn’t bother with makeup or having his appearance manicured.

Sick and tired as he was, Nixon was visibly sweating under the stage lights. You can especially see the shininess on his chin making it kind of look like he’s drooling.

Most history books now opine that this debate lost the election for Nixon.

Obviously, one might wonder if television made short or unimposing candidates unelectable, gradually turning elections into a battle over personality and superficial appearances.

Fun With Historical Figures: A General Haig Meme

Having recently done some reading on WWI, I felt compelled to make a meme of General Douglas Haig, a man in charge of the British forces who stubbornly insisted that cavalry had a role in countering machine guns and who earned himself the warm fuzzy title, “butcher of the Somme” when he sent his men marching in orderly rank and file towards the enemy’s machine guns.

As if his other operations weren’t bad enough, Haig decided on an offensive on Passchendaele(Passion Valley, my what a pretty name) also known as Third Ypres, at exactly the time of year everyone warned him the ground would be muddy and impassable, especially with all the soil getting torn up by high explosives.
It has been estimated that Third Ypres saw the greatest number of deaths by drowning ever seen in a land batle.

 

 

haig meme

 

 

haig meme

 

 

Haig meme

When Imperial China’s College Bubble Popped…

“In 605 CE, a year after murdering his father and seizing the throne, the Chinese emperor Yang Guang established the world’s first meritocracy. Weary of making bureaucratic appointments solely on the basis of letters of recommendation, Yang set aside a number of posts for applicants who performed well on a new system of imperial examinations. In theory, any peasant who took the trouble to memorize 400,000 characters — which is to say, anyone who conducted six years of study with an expensive tutor — could join the country’s political elite…

As time went on, more and more people took — and passed — the exam’s first round. Test prep academies proliferated. Imperial officials started to worry: there were now more degree-holders than there were positions, which threatened to create an underclass of young men with thwarted ambitions. When the Ming dynasty fell in 1644, their successors, the Qing, resolved to make the test more difficult. By the middle of the 19th century, 2 million people sat the exam, but just over 1 percent passed its first round; only 300 candidates — .016 percent — passed all three.

Failure could be discouraging. In 1837, after botching the exam’s second round for a second time, Hong Xiuquan, an ambitious 23-year-old from a village near Guangzhou, suffered a nervous breakdown. The precocious Hong had come in first on the county-level test, but after he turned 15 his family could no longer afford the customary tutor. Nor could Hong afford to bribe the examiners, as many test-takers did. The notional possibility that anyone could pass the test concealed a bitter truth: for a poor countryman like Hong, making it past the second round was all but impossible.

Eventually he convinced himself and a band of other young men defeated by the test that he was Christ’s younger brother. A consensus emerged among the converts that it was Hong’s destiny to build a heavenly kingdom purged of sexual depravity. He assembled an army and began the work of conquering China…

So began the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest conflict of the 19th century. By the time Hong’s forces were defeated in 1864, 20 million people had died.”

The Taiping rebellion seriously ranks among the top 10 ten most destructive wars ever fought.  There were clashes between massive armies numbering well into the hundreds of thousands. It lasted a full decade.   The Taipings effectively had their own empire with its own government and capital city.  The state religion was an odd hybrid of Christianity and Chinese philosophy.

They were popular with ethnic minorities such as the Hakka and regularly sent regiments of female warriors into combat.

A lesson here: Elites can be lulled into complacency by ruling over proles who will accept domination and oppression without complaint so long as just enough of them have just enough food in their stomachs.

Problems arise when society fails to incorporate educated young men:

French revolution: an urban phenomenon started by disaffected “overeducated” and “entitled” types.  Not only did rural peasants not participate, they were typically loyal to the King and were even brought into the cities during riots to beat up urbanite hippy protesters.

Russian revolution: started up by an odd mix of urban Jewish intellectuals, Caucasian gangsters, lead by a man who was part Tatar.  They were outsiders from the fringes of society.  Hardly a grassroots movement arising from downtrodden ethnic Russian peasants!

Taiping rebellion: same as the other two.  “Entitled” guys lose patience and try to take matters into their own hands.

A critical mass of precocious young men who haven’t been cut into the game end up causing trouble sooner or later.

I certainly don’t mean to predict armed revolution in our own time because there are a thousand more effective, less risky means for disillusioned men to quietly express their displeasure.

And of course outright revolution typically makes things even worse, especially if it succeeds.

Indeed, I would hope these current generations of bright, outcast men choose to focus on making something better than what came before.  To create something that can gradually, peacefully displace a decrepit old system by inherent superiority instead of trying to conquer by mere superior force.

The single most important thing that can be done right now:  For groups of disaffected men to cultivate asset bases that free them from the conventional wealth system controlled by women and “successful” men.  Without a basic amount of wealth that frees men from pressing financial necessity, nothing of significance can be done.

Step 1:  Escape our Sisyphean dilemma of hating the system but being too broke to escape.  To be full of ideas but never have time to develop them in full, to want to reach out to the like-minded but be bound to the land by wage slavery…

LINK

Credit to: Captain Capitalism

How the French Became “Surrender Monkeys”

For centuries, the French had one of the largest and most effective militaries on the Continent.

Yet script writers give us this moment of comedy gold in Last of the Mohicans

“the French haven’t the nature for war. They would rather eat and make love with their faces than fight. *officers in the room all chuckle smugly*”

In 1753, when the movie takes place, this sentiment would have been absurd.

If anything, the British army was pathetically small and weak compared to the great armies of the Continent.

Over a century later Bismarck would say:

“If the British Army landed in Europe, I’d get the Belgian police to arrest them.”

Bismarck on the other hand certainly saw France as a real threat. As a German statesman, his ultimate nightmare was being crushed between a Franco-Russian alliance.
And, of course, he knew all too well the Prussian army had been crushed by Napoleon.

The French were a world class terror. So what the hell happened to the Anglo-American image of the French?

Our story begins when France lost Alsace and Lorraine to the Prussians thanks to the machinations of none other than Bismarck.

Though many people in that region were culturally German and spoke German anyway, this loss became an intolerable affront to France’s long military tradition and fanatically nationalist spirit.
From that point on, the French were determined to regain their losses and take their revenge, whatever the cost.

This atmosphere resulted in the rise of a breed of generals and officers who were haunted by the French defeat by the Prussians and were determined to learn the lessons of history.
At the decisive battle of Sedan, the French had lost the initiative and had been on the defensive until forced to agree to humiliating peace terms.

The solution: Never lose the initiative in the first place. Always attack.

It was with this attitude that the French military establishment approached WWI.

Far from being effete or absorbed in luxurious pleasures, the French were hyper-aggressive, often suffering twice the casualties as the Germans.
Hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions were killed often for no strategic gain whatsoever.

The generals on both sides ended up consciously designing strategies so that the other side would run out of men first rather than trying to achieve decisive strategic objectives.
It was Mutually Assured Destruction without nukes.

And guess what? The French won. Their political and military leaders got Alsace and Lorraine back. French National spirit had been avenged! Hooray!

Naturally, the belligerence that had characterized French sentiment seemed less of a good idea than it used to.

When the Great War promptly started up again after everyone took a 20 year break to grow more soldiers, the French were for some reason less than enthusiastic.
For nearly a year after war was declared there was “phoney war” where life pretty much went on as it had before. For some odd reason, no one, least of all the French, really felt like fighting.

When French defenses collapsed underneath the first German assault France promptly made its separate peace with Germany.

From this moment they’ve been characterized as effete “surrender monkeys” in the anglosphere.

The French however, truly had learned from history this time.

They could maybe still have spent years throwing away millions of lives defending abstractions such as national pride or lines on a map.

Instead they made their peace and consequently suffered very little compared to most nations in WWII.
Their cities and land stayed largely intact and they even got their own region of home rule under the Nazis.

The Vichy government was of course a puppet state, but the Nazis generally had other stuff to deal with. They preferred to let the French take care of their own internal affairs rather than having to waste their own energy on administration. For the most part the partnership worked great.

Our Surrender Monkey in chief who signed the surrender terms and headed the Vichy state was Marshal Petain.
A total wimp and a pushover, he routinely had seen more men die in a single day than the Americans lost in all of WWII.

Petain had been one of the few WWI French generals who seemed to actually give a shit about his men. He made sure his troops got rotated in and out of the trenches rather than being stuck there for months until being driven insane or having their feet rotted off.
Unmanly as he was, he was hesitant to throw away lives on suicide charges.

Given a treaty that could save millions of French lives, he signed it and then worked to sustain the peace as head of government.

His reward?
Petain was sentenced to death as a traitor after the war when he was almost 90 years old. Only on account of his age and service in WWI was he given a life sentence instead. He still managed to serve a surprising amount of his sentence dying at age 95.

After WWII, a humiliated French military establishment wasn’t satisfied with peace. They were anxious to re-establish French grandeur through more fighting.

Europe was broke many times over after the two world wars.

To even begin to put it in perspective:
The British had spent a quarter of their national wealth by the end of the war.
If the US did the same thing, that would be the equivalent of 50 trillion dollars or 10 Iraqs a year for 5 years straight.

Yet the French military tradition was old and it wasn’t going to die easy. They ended up spending huge amounts of American money trying to re-assert authority in their colonies.

The French military elites started where they had left off after WWI making notoriously disastrous moves such as parachuting an entire army into a hopelessly indefensible and unsuppliable position at Dien Bien Phu that was surrounded by Vietnamese artillery.

The average French person hadn’t too much reason to care any more about distant colonies that had never benefited them or about the military brass who were pretty thoroughly discredited by this point.

After even DeGaulle, himself a general, realized trying to hold on to the colonies was not going to work and that it didn’t have sufficient public support, he finally started to pull the plug.
Ancient militaristic strains in French culture decided they were going to go down kicking and screaming, especially after French colonists were expelled from Algeria.
DeGaulle had to survive multiple assassination attempts after finally calling it quits.

Thus, the development of the concept of the militarily inept, surrender loving French that we see in modern American culture and entertainment was a work in development not quite complete until at least the 1960s.

What High School Marching Bands and Joseph Stalin Have In Common

This is a song you’ve probably heard before:

In Hollywood, on TV, in advertisements and previews, from marching bands it signifies pandemonium, imbalance, frenetic energy, catastrophe, albeit in a fun or humorous(to the viewer) way.

Oddly there was a sabre dance in real life and there was nothing funny about it.
To use this piece as a sound track would be even worse than the cliche of playing “It’s a Wonderful World” while the characters are subjected to tragedy and physical anguish in a slow motion montage.

We can make an additional leap if we consider that F-100 Sabres were used to combat MiGs.

MiG is short for Mikoyan Gurevitch.
The Gurevitch part was dropped but the planes made by Mikoyan aerospace were forever after known as MiGs nonetheless.

Artem Mikoyan was an Armenian, brother of Anastas Mikoyan who was among Stalin’s top ministers.

Khachaturian as it turns out was a Soviet(yes one of the best known pieces of all time in American popular entertainment came from the USSR) composer who happened to be prominent while Stalin was in power and he also happened to be Armenian.
As it happened, Anastas Mikoyan would have seen Khachaturian’s ballets premiere at the Bolshoi theatre. He would almost certainly have seen Sabre Dance, part of a ballet, Gayane, first performed in 1942.(While the USSR was being invaded by Nazi Germany.)

Indeed while google gives me no definite answer, we must consider it very likely that the two men must have known each other.

Indeed, Stalin, Mikoyan’s boss paid lavish attention to his artists and sure enough, Khachaturian was forced to compose odes to Stalin’s greatness.
The ballet, Gayane, that contains Sabre Dance was awarded with the Stalin Prize 1st Class in 1943.

Small world isn’t it?

Rockefeller: Oh the Joys of Deregulation

Railroads, factories, refineries…In the 19th century it became possible for a few people to control a few critical chokepoints of commerce and exploit them for all they were worth.

To some, these people were “captains of industry” to the worker on the street they were often known as “robber barons.”
Once one of them dominated a key commodity or transport system they could wield monopolistic powers with impunity.

Many people believed that “free” markets would naturally lead to the optimal public good, the regulations that could have stopped the near destruction of competition in the economy didn’t yet exist.

John D. Rockefeller grew up poor in rural America, his father absent most of the time womanizing and plying money-making schemes, his mother overworked at home on the farm.
Because they never knew when people would come calling to collect debts incurred by the father, they always had money in reserve and kept close track of finances.

When Rockefeller got his first job in Cleveland he started keeping a personal ledger poetically named “Ledger A” that he used to keep track of every penny that passed through his hands.
To put this worship of order and precision in perspective, Ledger A became Rockefeller’s personal Rosebud, a sacred artifact he later had locked away in one of his private vaults.

It was with this methodical spirit that Rockefeller continued to accumulate wealth and assets. He saw commerce itself and the accumulation of capital as a sacred mission.

Realizing that drilling for oil itself tended towards booms and busts, Rockefeller had the brains to focus on refineries that could bring in steady profits whether or not there were localized surges or shortages.

He also leveraged his growing economy of scale to get discount rates from the railroads which allowed him to sell his product cheaper than the competition. Soon everyone had to push for these discounts or go out of business. To a few victors who could push the railroad transport prices lowest went the spoils.

This price war over the railways is why today we have interstate commerce laws. Because Rockefeller could use railroads to help him sell more cheaply than the competition wherever he went, no one else stood a chance.

State governments and the feds tried to make regulations to prevent companies like Standard Oil from operating across state borders without having to answer to any set of local laws. Soon,companies had to operate under the laws of a single state.

Standard Oil simply split up into nominally separate companies, one for each state and all were governed from a seemingly innocuous holding company.

As government continued to try to restrict the reach of robber barons, men like Rockefeller kept finding ways to honor the letter of the law while circumventing its spirit.

Rockefeller responded to concern over the growing size of his company by maintaining every appearance of competition.
Companies he bought out would keep their old names and management. No one would even know anything had changed except for a few people at the top of the hierarchy.
He also allowed an insignificant sliver of the industry to remain somewhat independent so he could always make the claim that some competition existed.

Because of these stealthy tactics, few people realized just how big Standard Oil had become until it was too late. Whereas other Robber Barons liked to behave like celebrities, Rockefeller kept quiet operating largely behind the scenes. He didn’t truly become a household name until long after he had taken over.

Perhaps more than anyone, Rockefeller invented the modern corporation with its precisely organized state-sized bureacracies.
Because Rockefeller found himself in charge of so much, much of his effort was spent simply figuring out how to delegate tasks.

He also invented much of the modern corporate culture even becoming one of the first executives to organize much of his social life around holes of golf.

Like many magnates of his time, Rockefeller seemed to feel a certain tie to a homeland and people that today’s borderless tycoons would be hard-pressed to understand.

That Rockefeller retained some kind of moral vision and notion of a higher purpose even as he gained absolute power seems unthinkable after all the horrors of the 20th century and the dominance of disconnected kleptocrats in the 21st century.

It truly is amazing in retrospect that he actually tried to build things and give back to the society that gave him his wealth rather than relentlessly hoarding everything he had by running his operations out of multiple countries.

Indeed in the 21st century, today’s Robber Barons have transcended obsolete nation states.
They play the laws of one zone against the other for their gain much as Rockefeller once did with the laws of different U.S. states.

As unpopular as the notion of some kind of world governing system is, some kind of international commerce system may become necessary to stem the depredations of billionaires who reap all the benefits of playing a game of arbitrage within the current decrepit and outdated international system: If one nation objects to being exploited by them, they simply take their money somewhere else with a government more amenable to their desires.
If particular countries try to enforce regulations, elites can simply split different operations into different countries all under different names just like Rockefeller used to do in the states with bits and pieces of Standard Oil.

In our age of multi-national corporate entities effectively acting outside of the laws of nation states, we would do well to pay attention to the lessons we can learn from men like John D. Rockefeller.

Source:
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.

Did the USSR Defeat Germany Because of or In Spite of Stalin?

Averroes: An Islamic Philosopher Who Influenced Christian Theology

“Averroes is generally regarded as the greatest of the Islamic philosophers of the Medieval period and indeed one of the greatest Medieval philosophers. Nicknamed ‘The Commentator’ (because of his incisive commentaries on Aristotle), Averroes’ thought has two main strands…
Christian Averroists represented the most radical assimilation of Muslim Aristotelianism, adhering to Averroes’ supremacy of reason over revelation and the theory of the eternity of the world. Such heterodox views brought Siger and the Averroists into conflict with the Established Church and many of their propositions were rejected in the Condemnation of 1277…
The influence of Averroes (and also of Avicenna) on the development of Later Medieval Christian thought is therefore unequivocal. But this intellectual debt to Islam is very rarely mentioned in our times. When one considers the further development of the modern West, based on a paradigm of rational enquiry, it is Averroes who seems to best anticipate this model within the medieval epoch.”

LINK

Averroes

Averroes

What The Hanseatic League Tells Us About The Present

When governments grow weak, commercial organizations tend to fill the void.

Across a vast region along the Baltic Sea with few strong central authorities in the middle ages, merchant guilds banded together for strength and security until they were effectively their own state with their own military.

Indeed, they clashed with actual kings and princes and because they monopolized trade through the entire region, they usually won.

It was only when centralized government became strong again and the modern concept of a nation-state began to form that the Hanseatic league went into decline.

In our own time:

If I were to ask “Who is the most powerful man in this room?” The answer is not necessarily obvious.

Jobs obama zuckerberg silicon valley dinnger

Presently, we see a weakening of both the physical powers and legitimacy of the state. And predictably, we see a corresponding rise of commercial entities as they increasingly exert control over the state itself or take over functions (i.e. space exploration, education) that were previously the preserves of central state power.

Wasn’t Hegel A Nazi?

Pre-Politically Correct History: Traditional Hindu Marriage vs. Western ‘Romantic’ Marriage

“The child was hardly born when the parents began to think of its marriage. For marriage, in the Hindusystem, was compulsory; an unmarried man was an outcast, without social status or consideration, and prolonged virginity was a disgrace. Nor was marriage to be left to the whim of individual choice or romantic love; it was a vital concern of society and the race, and could not safely be entrusted to the myopia of passion of the accidents of proximity; it must be arranged by the parents before the fever of sex should have time to precipitate a union doomed, in the Hindu view, to disillusionment and bitterness…

Should marriage be arranged to coincide with sexual maturity, or should it be postponed, as in America, until the male arrives at economic maturity? The first solution apparently weakens the national physique, unduly accelerates the growth of population, and sacrifices the woman almost completely to reproduction; the second solution leaves the problems of unnatural delay, sexual frustration, prostitution, and venereal disease. The Hindus chose child marriage as the lesser evil and tried to mitigate its dangers by establishing, between the marriage and its consummation, a period in which the bride should remain with her parents until the coming of puberty. The institution was old…it had been rooted in the desire to prevent intercaste marriage through casual sexual attraction…”

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 1935

Classic Tropes: The Red Shirt

“He’s dead, Jim.”

Never injured or even critically injured. Always dead outright. This has been the sorry fate of red-uniformed security officers in the Star Trek Universe. Even when the actual red shirts went out of style, you’d always know in shows such as Voyager: A new crew member shows up who we’ve never seen before on a ship that supposedly only contains 150 people. We know this character will either die on an away team or from an exploding control panel.

Red Shirt Pieta

Red Shirt Pieta

TV Tropes has long proven a favorite site of mine for ironic humor.
Some other fun entries.
Space Jews
Black Dude Dies First

You can look up favorite movies, games, books, and graphic novels to see a long list of all the tropes that apply.
Even better, you can find all kinds of stories about how the tropes have been ‘averted’ or ‘played straight’ in real life.

For every trope there are aversions.

Here’s a Red Shirt from real life.

Mr. Garibaldi

Mr. Garibaldi

Instead of getting instantly killed, he helped create the modern nation of Italy; a nation without precedent since the Roman Empire.

Even in the time of Rome’s power, a unified Italian peninsula was largely held together by force.
The Southern portion was distinct because much of the area had been populated by Greek settlements.
Indeed, modern day Southern Italy was known as ‘Greater Greece’ and Republican Rome had to fight a series of bitter wars against the Greek city states that held sway there.

It’s from these wars that we get the term, ‘Pyrrhic Victory.’

Pre-Politically Correct History: Eugenics and Hindu Caste

“The caste system had the eugenic value of keeping the presumably finer strains from dilution and disappearance through indiscriminate mixture; it established certain habits of diet and cleanliness as a rule of honor which all might observe and emulate; it gaver order to the chaotic inequalities and differences of men, and spared the soul the modern fever of climbing and gain; it gave order to every life by prescribing for each man a dharma, or code of conduct for his caste; it gave order to every trade and profession, elevated every occupation into a vocation not lightly to be changed, and, by making every industry a caste, provided its member with a means of united action against exploitation and tyranny. It offered an escape from the plutocracy or the military dictatorship which are apparently the only alternatives to aristocracy; it gave to a country shorn of political stability by a hundred invasions and revolutions a social, moral and cultural order and continuity rivaled only by the Chinese.”

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 1935

Despite all the flaws and cruelty we’ve seen come from the Hindu caste system there’s something to be said for making sure people spend more time getting things done rather than putting all their energy into competing for status.
Also, compared to the constant uncertainty of existence in our own society there is something to be said for being born into a trade union that has real leverage.

Though we must be mindful of the sort of strife that is typical in Indian society, surely there are important lessons to learn from them as well. Lessons that can put the barbarous excesses of our own system in perspective.

Finally, results matter. Hindu society has proven far more stable for far longer than our own.

Another Excerpt on Hindu Caste and Eugenics from 1927

Hazaras: Afghanistan’s Outsiders

This post is inspired by a commenter who added some insight to a post about the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban. A major motive may have been ethnic reprisals.

“At the heart of Afghanistan is an empty space, a striking absence, where the larger of the colossal Bamian Buddhas once stood.
Hazaras, residents of an isolated region in Afghanistan’s central highlands known as Hazarajat—their heartland, if not entirely by choice. Accounting for up to one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population, Hazaras have long been branded outsiders. They are largely Shiite Muslims in an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country. They have a reputation for industriousness yet work the least desirable jobs. Their Asian features—narrow eyes, flat noses, broad cheeks—have set them apart in a de facto lower caste, reminded so often of their inferiority that some accept it as truth.”
LINK

Hazarajat Map

Hazarajat Region Shown Within Afghanistan

Hazaras

Mullah Mohammed Omar On Why He Ordered Bamiyan Buddha Statues Destroyed

I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. In fact, some foreigners came to me and said they would like to conduct the repair work of the Bamiyan Buddha that had been slightly damaged due to rains. This shocked me. I thought, these callous people have no regard for thousands of living human beings — the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha. This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddha’s destruction.  — Mullah Mohammed Omar

A prime example of the kinds of talking points these groups make up after the fact. It was a Japanese organization that wanted to restore the statue. They had nothing to do with the UN embargo, which was started because the Taliban were thought to be harboring fugitives wanted for the Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings.

In fact, they could of just as easily of gotten paid for having the statues moved out of the country, they could of just as easily of created a win-win situation while feeding the hungry. Win-win situations are never taken by these kinds of groups, there is always an evil antagonist forcing their hand to commit more destruction and violence. Officials around the world had been trying to get them moved after locals defaced the Budhha’s and drilled holes for explosives in the statues:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan

Abdul Wahed, a Taliban commander operating in the area, announced his intention to blow up the Buddhas in 1997 even before he had taken control of the valley. Once he was in control of Bamiyan in 1998, Wahed drilled holes in the Buddhas’ heads for explosives. He was prevented from taking further action by the local governor and direct order of Mullah Omar, although tyres were burnt on the head of the great Buddha.[18] In July 1999, Mullah Mohammed Omar issued a decree in favor of the preservation of the Bamiyan Buddha’s statue. Because Afghanistan’s Buddhist population no longer exists, which removed the possibility of the statues being worshiped, he added: “The government considers the Bamiyan statues as an example of a potential major source of income for Afghanistan from international visitors. The Taliban states that Bamiyan shall not be destroyed but protected.”[19] In early 2000, local Taliban authorities asked for UN assistance to rebuild drainage ditches around tops of the alcoves in which the Buddhas were set.[20]

However, Afghanistan’s radical clerics began a campaign to crack down on “un-Islamic” segments of Afghan society. The Taliban soon banned all forms of imagery, music and sports, including television, in accordance with what they considered a strict interpretation of Sharia.[21]

Information and Culture Minister Qadratullah Jamal told Associated Press of a decision by 400 religious clerics from across Afghanistan declaring the Buddhist statues against the tenets of Islam. “They came out with a consensus that the statues were against Islam,” said Jamal.

According to UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, a meeting of ambassadors from the 54 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was conducted. All OIC states – including PakistanSaudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, three countries that officially recognised the Taliban government – joined the protest to spare the monuments.[22] Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates later condemned the destruction as “savage”.[23] Although India never recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, New Delhi offered to arrange for the transfer of all the artifacts in question to India, “where they would be kept safely and preserved for all mankind.”, but these overtures were rejected by the Taliban.[24] Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf sent Moinuddin Haider to Kabul to try to prevent the destruction, by arguing that it was un-Islamic and unprecedented.[25] According to Taliban minister, Abdul Salam Zaeef, UNESCO sent the Taliban government 36 letters objecting to the proposed destruction. He asserted that the Chinese, Japanese and Sri Lankan delegates were the most strident advocates for preserving the Buddhas. The Japanese in particular proposed a variety of different solutions to the issue, these included removing the statues to Japan, covering the statues from view and the payment of money.[26]

A statement issued by the ministry of religious affairs of Taliban regime justified the destruction as being in accordance with Islamic law.[27] Abdul Salam Zaeef held that the destruction of the Buddhas was finally ordered by Abdul Wali, the Minister for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.[28]

Again, we see that political concessions have very little effect. If you want to deal with them, become the biggest tribe and negotiate from a position of strength. Terrorism is slightly different in poorer countries like Afghanistan versus the 1st world, in many cases local militias will recruit young men who are poor because their family was widowed. The target is not the political structure, instead dissolve the social and the economic bonds beneath them. The same approach should be taken with other irrationally militant groups. Whatever political platform is in fashion does not dictate the actions of these groups, the underlying psychology must be understood.

For example, several of the 9/11 hijackers planned to fight in Chechnya, but they didn’t have the right paperwork so they attacked America instead. The mujahedeen had no idea whom they would attack after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, so they sat around until they came up with a new enemy: America. Pakistani terrorists regularly defect to another terrorist group with a totally different political platform. Link

There will never be a shortage of talking points to inspire outrage, always look deeper and strike the root of the problem.

See previous article:

https://colonyofcommodus.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/salafist-sect-wants-to-blow-up-egyptian-pyramids-throw-out-shiites-bahai/

Mohism: One of the Major Philosophies in Chinese History

A major force in Chinese society for centuries but now pretty much long extinct, Mohism looked to ‘universal love’ as its cardinal guiding principle.
In many ways it seems to have been just about the polar opposite of Confucianism:

“A ruler may have strategies in war, but courage is the fundamental value. A funeral may have many rituals but mourning is the fundamental value. Scholars may have knowledge, but applying the knowledge or practicality is the fundamental value. If the fundamentals are not strong, good works cannot be done. Mozi taught that a good man must discipline himself: he should avoid listening to malicious gossip, avoid cursing, avoid murderous thoughts. Mozi taught that the poor should display purity, the rich should show benevolence, to the living show love, to the dead show mourning. The foundation of all human motives should be immeasurable love.”
LINK

Its influence undoubtedly never completely faded from Chinese culture as with any of the ancient Greek philosophies in ours. And I suppose we could not call it a failure unless we were prepared to call Ancient Egypt or Rome the same.

Democracy At Its Worst: Why Athens Fell

For years, Athens had two dominant men, the conservative Nicias and the flamboyant Alcibiades who countered each other’s designs at every turn.

Nicias wanted to mostly focus on defending Athenian territories and ending war with the Spartan alliance if possible.

Alcibiades wanted to take the fight to the Spartans.

Had either of these men gotten their way, it seems likely that Athens would have survived.

The combination of both fighting for power at every turn destroyed Athens.

When Nicias succeeded in making peace with the Spartans, Alcibiades sabotaged the peace.

When Alcibiades wanted to fight in Sicily, Nicias tried to sabotage him.

The ultimate worst case scenario of democracy followed:

Nicias made a public speech in which he proposed an absurd force both in size and composition that would be required to invade Sicily.
His intent was to discourage the public from supporting the expedition.

Instead: the masses loved his idea. They loved it so much that his absurd proposition became the actual Athenian force.
Nicias, who wanted to halt the entire operation was elected to be one of the generals commanding the expedition against his will.

Things could still have turned out alright.

But even as the invasion fleet was headed for Sicily, Alcibiades was recalled to Athens for accusations of treason and sacrilege.

They were still arguing over who was in command and sabotaging one another while on the way to battle!

Alcibiades had to go back home to stand trial: he was the guy who had wanted a Sicilian Expedition in the first place!
And Nicias was now commanding an expedition he had actively opposed!!

Knowing he would likely face death and disgrace back at home, Alcibiades escaped and actually defected to the Spartans.

Now not only was the huge Athenian invasion force already a confused mess, Alcibiades was in Sparta giving the Spartans valuable military intelligence and advising them to send their own expedition to counter the Athenians in Sicily.

Even now things might not have been a total disaster but bad decisions continued to combine to create the perfect storm.

Not only did the Athenian invasion force fail: it was wiped out.

And so an enormous amount of wealth and a large portion of the entire male population of Athens had just been flushed down the toilet.

Athens was doomed.

LINK

Also most of what I’ve written here I got from reading Donald Kagan’s Peloponnesian War.

Nicias

alcibiades

Alcibiades

Pre-Politically Correct History: Primitive Languages Lack Abstraction

“The languages of nature peoples are not necessarily primitive in any sense of simplicity; many of them are as complex and wordy as our own, and more highly organized than Chinese. Nearly all primitive tongues, however, limit themselves to the sensual and particular, and are uniformly poor in general or abstract terms.

So the Australian natives had a name for a dog’s tail, and another name for a cow’s tail, but they had no name for tail in general. The Tasmanians had separate names for specific trees, but no general name for tree; the Choctaw Indians had names for the black oak, the white oak the white oak and the red oak, but no name for oak, much less for tree.

Doubtless many generations passeed before the proper noun ended in the common noun. In many tribes there are no separate words for the color as distint from the colored object; no words for such abstractions as tone, sex, species, space, spirit, instinct, reason, quantity, hope, fear, matter, consciousness, etc.

Such abstract terms seem to grow in a reciprocal relation of cause and effet with the development of thought; they become the tools of subtlety and the symbols of civilization.”

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 1935

Reconstructing Ancient Irish Musical Instruments

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