Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category.

Time To Stand Up Against the Morality Police (Once Again)

If there’s any libertarian creed it is this: I don’t know what’s best for you. This statement expresses my honest ignorance that it is impossible for me to understand your situation well enough to offer anything more than advice based on my experiences. Consequently that admission prohibits me from meddling in your affairs, and it is expected that you refrain from meddling in mine.

When I was coming of age in the 1980’s it was the Religious Right as personified in Jerry Falwell and his acolytes in the Moral Majority that claimed to know what is best for me. Today it is the Left that tells me that I should reduce my carbon footprint, lose my guns,  avoid GMO in foods, and in general control every aspect in my life the way the Moral Majority tried and failed to do in Reagan’s America. Back then I was younger and had more hair than money, and while the situation may be reversed today my feelings haven’t changed: whether the Moral Majority or the Regressive/Progressive Left, in the words of the great politically incorrect Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten “f*** off.”

These days are much like the 1980’s with the exception that the music and movies were better then. Both have an atmosphere that I best characterize as humorless. When the few talented comedians left like Amy Schumer are blamed for racist attacks like Dylann Roof’s rampage in Charleston, we’re living in a new Victorian era, and likely one that won’t be subject to endless period pieces on Masterpiece Theater. Amy Schumer’s humor is tepid compared to the greats of the 1980s like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and pre-movie career Robin Williams. Schumer obviously tries to avoid upsetting people, sticking to a lot of sexual humor and often regressing to toilet humor as she searches for laughs. But off-color jokes are to humor what alcohol is to wine. You’re never going to have anything remarkable without it. Schumer seems to instinctively know this which is why she occasionally lets slip a joke that upsets our humorless morality police.

In the Washington Post two Leftist heirs to the mantels of Jerry Falwell and Ed Meese of 3 decades ago, Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard write, “What matters is the costs and consequences of these “jokes” to those being objectified. Invoking the “it’s just a joke” defense denies the social, historic and cultural implications of racial humor. It ignores the ways that disparaging jokes provide a safe vehicle to share stereotypes, release inhibitions and spread racism.” These self-appointed officers of the morality police then lay blame on Schumer for Roof’s actions.

Personally I blame his mother for naming him Dylann. It’s spelled like the name a transsexual would take mid-change. Or perhaps I’ll just blame Dylann himself.

Whereas I don’t know what’s best for Ms. Patton and Mr. Leonard, they clearly claim to know what’s best for us. Just as the Moral Majority sought to control what we watched (no porn) and listened to (no naughty lyrics), the Left seeks to control what we say in the magical belief that if we would all stop saying racist things we would stop being racist, as if that’s all we need to do. Schumer’s success at speaking freely offends them, so they attack her. After all, she’s a relatively easy target. Although a woman she is white, straight and better yet, Jewish. I suppose the next step will be to have her justify her sins in some public forum, the way Dee Snider of Twisted Sister was forced to defend rock music in front of Congress in 1985.

But before then we need to begin to stand up for ourselves, and eventually go all-Ferguson on these self-appointed morality cops. But for now the very least I’ll do is spin up the best album of the Punk era, “Never Mind the Bollocks” and tell Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard to just “f*** off.”

Update: At least we can assume the Ed Meese watched the porn he wanted to ban and Tipper Gore listened to the music she wanted taken off the radio. Debra Kessler writing for Interrobang interviewed Ms. Patton, and Patton admitted she has never watched one of Amy Schumer’s shows or seen one of her stand-up routine (worrisome in itself given how popular Schumer has become).  Kessler notes, “Despite seeing the quotes out of context, and without the benefit of knowing anything about Amy’s comedy, she was comfortable making judgements about whether Schumer’s comedy was or wasn’t racist.  She also was comfortable deciding whether Schumer’s audience was or wasn’t racially diverse (she characterizes Amy’s following as predominately white), and she was comfortable to conclude that Schumer’s comedy breeds racism in others.” Schumer even apologized and said she would try harder to be more sensitive.

But there is no pleasing these people when it comes to humor since they are humorless ideologues whose minds have been filled with the very hate they claim to despise. No, Amy Schumer should have simply said, “F*** off.”

Libertarian vs Conservative vs Liberal

As I state in my bio, I am very much pro-Life but do not believe the government should be given the power to control women. Legislation is a very blunt instrument and no matter how well intentioned, well thought out and well-written the Law of Unintended Consequences make it a certainty that someone somewhere is going to fall afoul the law and suffer needlessly. So I accept the fake right to privacy at the heart of Roe v Wade, believing it is up to us pro-Lifers to make abortion rare and ultimately unnecessary without resorting to the law banning it.

It would be nice if pro-choice people reciprocated with the very real right to bear arms for a similar reason. But they don’t. Instead they want to disarm those of us who choose to protect ourselves, forcing us to suffer at the hands of criminals or a tyrannical government. They are just as blind and ignorant as the pro-Lifers who demand victims of rape carry their babies to term.

 

 

White Privilege

“They’ll talk all the livelong day about how whites accrued tremendous power, but they’ll run away like frightened church mice from pondering how whites were able to achieve this in the first place and why other groups were unable to beat them to it. Obviously, technological and organizational prowess during the right historical moments were not factors—they’ve already ruled out those explanations. Nor have any other groups besides whites ever practiced slavery or ethnic favoritism or territorial aggression. No, it’s all explained by hatred and evil and unfairness and racism and other silly demon words designed to scare four-year-old girls in a horror movie where all the ghosts are white.”Jim Goad, Taki’s Mag


High Entropy

Entropy – 5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Entropy isn’t just a scientific concept. It’s everywhere you look. Relationships have entropy. To maintain a marriage you have to put energy into it otherwise it falls apart. One of the failures newlyweds make is viewing the wedding as the finish line instead of the starting gun of a life-long marathon. You can’t coast on inertia. You have to constantly feed energy into the relationship, whether by arranging the occasional romantic get-away or by keeping the kids away from a worn-out spouse who needs some space to relax.

If you want your children to grow into decent human beings you spend time, money and energy to educate them and build their characters. But you don’t buy all that up front or spend it all at once. It comes from you in the morning when you drag them out of their beds. It comes in the mid-day with calls from school or text messages for various requests. It is a constant feeding of energy into a child and even as they grow older and become independent it does not go away. Instead that energy morphs into worry, and there is no fear in the world like waiting for a child to come after missing her curfew. The seconds stretch into horrifying minutes punctuated by unanswered text messages and phone calls until mercifully ending with a texted response. “Sorry. Fell asleep watching a movie. On my way home now.”

Jobs are by there nature high entropy. We are inevitably graded on our performance and success only raises expectations. If we manage people we have to expend energy to help them become better at what they do and achieve success in their positions. Some of us have to do the same for our bosses as well.

You can’t have friends without tending their relationships either. Expend no energy and the connection withers away until all that is left from time spent sharing heart-to-heart chats and intense experiences are likes on Facebook.

Houses require constant upkeep. My grass is so high I swear I can hear Ride of the Valkyries and chopper blades in the distance. Is that napalm I smell? No it’s the 5 gallon gas can that cracked from sitting in the sun too long where I left it after the lawn tractor threw yet another belt.

Finally there are our own bodies and minds. These usually come last but likely shouldn’t. When healthy our minds take our bodies for granted. We might not be gym-worthy, but we can pick up a 40 lb bag of cat litter and carry it down the stairs without becoming out of breath or feeling pain. The mind doesn’t even think about the wonder of that action. It just takes it for granted until our body fails us. Then the mind slips from its authoritative perch and all it can do is focus on the failure of the body to do what it has done all along without complaint.

If we live in an entropic world, how do we live with entropy without falling apart? How do we keep expending increasing amounts of energy while our own reserves become depleted?

 

Listening Is Still A Virtue

The Telegraph asks,”Why do do many middle-aged men feel so lost?” The answer? “...(R)eject that old, outdated part of the masculine code, which gave a sense of entitlement, a sense that men can go home, rip open our belts, pop open a beer, belch and be loved. We just don’t get away with that anymore.” Meaning become women. “Terry Real, a psychologist and the author of How Can I Get Through to You? Reconnecting Men and Women, thinks the time has come for men to readjust their sights. Our culture’s masculine code, he says, dictates that “men don’t need relationships, men don’t need to be connected, men don’t need to be heartfelt”. ” So put another way, become women.

If 25 years of marriage has taught me anything it’s this: the last thing a woman wants in the house is another woman. For as much as I read about women complaining about men, the only thing they hate more is other women. I’ve seen it in the workplace where men and women work in the same office and sense the office climate in different ways. The men see it like “The Office,” soul-deadening boredom punctuated by arrogant idiots trying to stroke their own egos. But women see the workplace as “Game of Thrones” where each compliment exposes weakness and every mistake becomes an opportunity for advancement.

One interviewee thinks like me. “For House, married and a step-parent, life is quite simple: being a man means to work and provide as well as being supportive to his partner. On the one hand he is a Real Man (very strong on boundaries, earns money); on the other, he is touchy-feely. His wife also works and he is supportive towards her and their daughter.” Damn right. I work full time, always have dinner on the table, clean house as well as the guns, and thawed the house well-head one frosty morning a few weeks ago. I enjoy making quiche almost as much as I enjoy cutting timber using a sharpened chain on my Husqvarna saw. Why limit yourself to outdated gender roles?

Since the 1960s Society has taught men masculinity is bad. I agree it’s not perfect. If I love my kid I’m going to hug or kiss them, and if that makes me look emasculated to other men then so be it. But to criticize men for expressing their masculinity is just as damning as telling women to stay in the kitchen. Society must allow people to express themselves and should not impose sexist codes of behavior. If a guy wants to wear makeup as one of my friends does, he should be allowed to. If a woman wants to rebuild a transmission in her garage in her spare time, then she should come to over and fix my truck.

I don’t think many women want men to express every emotion we feel. If men did I’m sure most women would be surprised at how boring we are. Most men are not seething cauldrons of emotion, and I doubt that women would appreciate living with one who was. Women might say they want that, but my experience finds they prefer to express themselves to someone else and don’t want to listen. That’s okay. I don’t think women and many modern men appreciate the joy of keeping one’s mouth shut, an underrated trait in today’s feminist-dominated culture.

Fifty Shades of Pathetic

My teenage son is being forced by his girlfriend to see Fifty Shades of Grey. I suppose this is payback for him taking her to see American Sniper, a movie that’s much more his speed. Although he’s old enough to see Fifty Shades, I’d rather he didn’t because I have serious issues with the relationship portrayed in the movie, and I know that kids his age are still quite impressionable. When I was his age The Story of O was making the rounds of the art houses and I remember seeing it and finding deep revelations within the movie. I saw it multiple times and it did influence my thinking about relationships.

Unlike The Story of O, I haven’ t read the book Fifty Shades of Grey nor will I see the movie. I am past the age where sex touches upon every waking thought and with age, I hope, comes wisdom. Here is what I am telling my son about Fifty Shades of Grey.

Submission Is Not Empowering; It Is Abuse. One of the aspects of movies like O and Fifty Shades is that I find particularly troubling is the idea that being submissive to someone is somehow good for you. In the fantasies portrayed in these movies the protagonists become submissive to their partners and are toyed with and dominated. Through this state of submissiveness they end up learning  about themselves, becoming better, stronger people in the process.

Half a century of life has taught me this is bullshit. The submission portrayed in these movies would in real life be viewed as a form of psychological and sexual abuse that would result in war crimes if it were practiced on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Everyone I know has suffered in relationships where they have been dominated by a partner at one time in their life, one who cut them off from family and friends, who controlled what they did, what they wore and even what they ate. This goes way beyond kinky sex, and although I’m not personally familiar with the BDSM community I do know people who are, and my understanding is such domination only occurs within the context of  the “dungeon” where it is limited and contained.  Samantha Field who happens to be a part of the BDSM community and sees the movie as abusive writes, “Fifty Shades of Grey does to its audience what Christian does to Ana and what my rapist did to me: it completely resets our expectations and what we believe to be acceptable… The danger in Fifty Shades of Grey is that it does what an abuser does: it makes us think that abuse is normal.”

At a time when young men are being viewed as potential rapists, the last thing I need my son to think is that his girlfriend really wants to be abused, or worse, think it’s normal for her to do the same to him. There are so many mixed messages in our culture, so many competing definitions of what it means to be a man or woman, that a story like Fifty Shades should be seen for what it is: a vehicle to make money by the author and movie studios, and one that will inevitably hurt people.

People are Fragile. It will take the people who suffer in these unhealthy relationships years, and sometimes even decades to recover. It’s almost like the people hurt by the their own personal Christian Greys are poisoned by them, and this poison takes a very long time to dissipate. Before they recover anyone they touch will have to deal with the poison left by the Christian Greys in one way or another. The loved one who come after will be forced to deal with the alcoholism and drug abuse that comes with the destroyed self-esteem. They will spend years, decades even (for the more persistent) rebuilding what their loved one’s Christian Grey did without care or thought long before. At the very least those with a basic level self-preservation will run – not walk – away from the victims of the likes of the Greys, fueling their own guilt.

A Real Man Empowers and has no need to dominate another in order to feel alive. Consider how pathetic it is for a billionaire like Christian Grey to feel compelled to dominate a young nobody like Anastasia Steele (Good grief I can’t believe I’m wasting words on characters named like those in a self-published romance novel.) What, doesn’t he have any flies to pull the wings off of or puppies to kick? In real life a man like Grey would easily become Carl Icahn’s bitch, and would inspire an entire generation of character assassins and short sellers the way Enron’s Ken Lay did.

A real man builds up his partner. Destroying is easy, construction is hard, but just as fleeting as an orgasm is, the love that is built through daily nurturing can endure a lifetime. Imagine if Grey was a real man who helped Steele become a fully actualized human being, helping her define and chase her own dreams. The book would have been completely different and likely wouldn’t have been a best seller.

Real Men are the ones who encourage their spouses to go back to school or to start their own businesses. Real Men are the ones who flood the mail with books from Amazon on the works of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Galen Rowell when their loved ones express an interest in landscape photography. They are the ones who make sure there is endless half and half in the fridge so their loved one’s never miss having their morning coffee the way they like it.

A Real Man encourages without needing his own encouragement because he finds fulfillment in his creation, whether that is his career or his family (hopefully the latter). A Real Man’s character is evident through the success of his creation. Is his partner better off than before in all ways? Are his children well-rounded individuals who can grow outside their father’s shadow? Can his business survive without him at the helm? The answers to these questions are what separate Real Men from poorly written contrivances like Christian Grey.

Don’t Learn How to Live Your Life from Movies.  Movies are created for one reason only: to make money. We watch them for one reason only: to be entertained. Movies can inspire just as good music and good books can, but most movies, music and books are created to pay bills and consumed to keep boredom at bay. As science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once noted “ninety percent of everything is crap.” This is just as true for movies, so it’s likely that his saying will apply to Fifty Shades.

If you want to learn how to live your life, look around you. I learned faithfulness from my parents and from seeing the lives of my friends ripped apart by divorce. There have been times where I thought long and hard about the suffering I witnessed, and from the care expressed by my mother for my father, but in the end I made the right choice. There are all kinds of role models; Hollywood or whatever it produces should not be one of them.

Romance Novels Suck. Men watch porn, women read it. Back in the day I tried to read erotica like Anais Nin and of course Ann Rice, but it didn’t work for me. Writing about sex is like trying to photograph music. I just don’t think writing and sex go together. Maybe it’s because I write for a living, I don’t know.

I’m sure the author could have written a better book by reversing the roles. Why make Grey the dominant? Isn’t the power he wields being a billionaire enough? How much more interesting the story would have been had the relatively poor Steele been the Dominant, the one holding a billionaire’s heart in her cold steel hands (Get it? Ana Steele, steel hands? This is why I write systems requirements) . What would she do with that power? Perhaps she would only come to realize the power she held in a sequel, and then there would be the books exploring her own morality. See? The mommys get their porn, the studios and author get rich, and Fifty Shades has a better chance of beating Sturgeon’s Law. Everybody wins!

It’s a Fantasy. Just because a person might fantasize about being dominated by a man like Christian Grey doesn’t mean they want to be dominated. It’s a fantasy; it’s not real. Truth be told people often do not want fantasies to come true. It’s one thing for their imaginations to run rampant, it’s another thing to have an emotional vampire like Grey appear in their lives.

Oh well. Telling an 18 year old boy about porn is like explaining water to a duck. I’m sure he’ll figure it out on his own…

 

Concensual Incest Puts Progressives on Slippery Slope

I support gay marriage on the principle that the Government should not be in the marriage business. To me marriage combines two unrelated components: a legal contract for asset accumulation/division plus a religious component that creates a moral contract between two people witnessed by the religious community. Marriage is one of the last vestiges where Religion and State are intertwined. The government controls marriage licensing, determining who can and cannot marry, and requires a religious ceremony to finalize the contract. While two atheists can have a completely secular marriage in which the religious ceremony is replaced by a Justice of the Peace witnessing the exchange of vows, the State will not recognize a completely religious ceremony, where vows are exchanged in a religious context but the newlyweds refuse to obtain a marriage license.

While Western countries have removed barriers to the issuing of marriage licenses to homosexuals, movement by religions to recognize such marriages has been glacial by comparison. The Roman Catholic Church, most Protestant sects, mainstream Jewish sects and all of Islam refuse to recognize gay marriage. Part of the success of the Gay Rights movement has been due to the equation of gay marriage to the American Civil Rights movement of the 20th century, particularly the state laws that prevented interracial marriage and the attitudes supporting those laws that the Civil Rights movement overturned through non-violent protest.

One of the arguments employed by supporters of traditional marriage was that by legalizing same-sex unions, Society is placed on a slippery slope whereby other non-traditional practices such as polygamy and incest become the next in line for legitimacy. Samantha Allen confronts this challenge in her piece “Consensual Incest is Rape.” In the article Allen, who supports gay marriage, takes issue with the attempt by those calling for the decriminalizing of incest between consenting adults to hitch their issue to the gay marriage movement in the same way the gay marriage movement attached itself to the civil rights movement. Referring to a pro-incest blogger, Allen writes, “Pullman tries to boost his marriage equality credentials by also promoting the legalization of same-sex marriage but a more apt description of affairs would be that he wants to hitch incest to the same-sex marriage wagon. In his post “Gay Marriage and Incest in the US,” he tries to link same-sex marriage with incestuous marriage by saying that both take place “between consenting adults,” they “don’t hurt anybody,” they are both “subject to discrimination,” and that there is “no rational reason” for their prohibition. “Gays and lesbians do not choose their orientation and people do not choose the parents to whom they are born,” he adds, in a staggering leap of logic.”

Unfortunately Allen’s argumentative skills are lacking in the piece. She is unable to muster a defense against writer Keith Pullman, whom Allen refers to as  “adult incest advocate” except by using the words “staggering leap of logic.” I have not visited Pullman’s website nor do I have any interest in his arguments advocating the legalization of incest, but I find it interesting to see supporters of gay marriage who base their arguments on civil rights squirm when the same arguments they used are turned against them to justify practices which they find as heinous as the religious find gay sex. Allen concludes her piece stating flatly, “Supporters of incest are not part of the marriage equality movement,” but does little to explain why that’s the case.

In her article Allen’s sole weapon that separates gay marriage from incest is power. She quotes incest survivor McKenzie Phillips, ““[T]here really is no such thing as consensual incest due to the inherent power a parent has over a child,” she said. “So I wouldn’t necessarily call it a consensual relationship at this time,” although a year earlier she described sex with her father John Phillips as just that on Oprah. Allen quotes psychotherapist Robi Ludwig on Phillips’ incest, “But you can’t say it’s consensual, because there’s always a power imbalance when it comes to a parent and child,” even when both parent and child are both adults.

It’s no surprise that Samantha Allen resorts to the issue of power, since Leftist thought is based on the assumption that the unequal distribution of power underlies all conflict. In fact the imbalance of power between the sexes is one reason why traditional Feminism has been opposed to marriage. Since men always had more power in our society it was impossible for women to be treated fairly in marriage. It’s only recently that feminism has evolved to accept marriage, and usually only within the context of gay marriage.

But power is a poor choice against incest. It fails to address the issue of incestuous siblings, for example, who lacked the “power imbalance when it comes to a parent and child,” yet I doubt that Allen would support incestuous marriage between adult brothers or a brother/sister pair with equal power. By using power imbalance to ban marriage between parent and child, the usage of the term implies that marriages require a balance of power. Since power can take many forms this opens up a whole new arena for restricting marriage.

Leaving aside the issue of the subjectivity of power (Who defines it? The State? The marrying parties themselves?) this usage of the power c0uld ban marriages between adults of differing financial backgrounds, since the wealthier party in a marriage would have more power than the poorer one. It would ban marriage between adults of different ages, since an older, more experienced partner would conceivably have more power than a younger less experienced one. Alternately the younger person in such a relationship could have more power since youth is valued more highly in our society than age, putting the older spouse at a disadvantage. Finally the imbalance of power would ban all marriages between whites and minorities since white privilege by definition gives the white person more power than the minority.

The result of this would be laws banning marriage between whites and non-whites, between social classes, and between those of different ages. Congratulations Ms. Allen, you’ve recreated the restrictions of Victorian England or the the American South prior to the 1970s.

The only way for a progressive to avoid the slippery slope that ends up undermining her argument supporting gay marriage is to give up on the concept of traditional marriage entirely and take the libertarian view. There any number of adults of varying sexes can have contracts, and the age of consent becomes the line at which a child is recognized as being old enough to be a partner in a binding legal contract. Religions are then free to continue to marry as they see fit. If a Mormon sect wants to marry one man to multiple women, so be it. Similarly if the Catholic Church refuses to marry two women it is free to do so because of religi0us freedom. The role of the State then becomes the enforcer of contracts, a role that it has had throughout history and one that does not come into conflict with religious and personal freedom.

The problem for progressives like Ms. Allen is that they seek to expand the role of the State in people’s lives, the opposite of libertarians. While a libertarian believes the government should be limited and as small as possible, the progressive views government as a tool to create a society based on progressive ideals. There is little difference between progressives on the Left and conservatives on the Right in this regard, since both see the State as a means to their different ends. This is why government ballooned under Reagan in the 1980s and Bush in the 2000s, just as it has grown under Obama over the past 6 years. It also explains why progressives have encouraged censorship and curtailed basic freedoms such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion under Obama just as the conservatives did under Reagan in the 1980s.

But keeping the government in the marriage business will present logical dilemmas such as incestuous marriage or polygamy, making sure the ground beneath the feet of progressives is icy and sloped. Advocates for such unpopular views simply need to follow in the footsteps of the progressives and wait for legal cases and popular opinion to swing their way. In the meantime those on the Right including libertarians such as myself will enjoy watching progressives like Allen rocket down the icy slope.

What I Learned in 2014

1. I’m not immortal, nor am I an accurate assessor of risk. In November I came the closest I’ve knowingly ever come to death or serious injury. There was no foreshadowing of the accident, no supernatural “spider-sense tingling” warning me of the possibility of danger, nothing. Instead the accident happened, my luck held, and I didn’t die nor was I paralyzed. Decades of experience had lead me to believe that I could accurately assess danger, and an instant on my own property proved me wrong.

This incident also taught me that bad medical insurance is worse than no medical insurance at all. If you are currently uninsured and can only take one thing away from your time reading this article, GET INSURED NOW. I estimate that my time in hospital cost $30 a minute. The American health care system is a clusterf**k, but until we fix it everyone should be insuring themselves with catastrophic plans to avoid financial ruin. These are cheap, don’t cover pre-existing conditions or provide Obamacare mandated coverage. But they are there for catastrophes that can wipe out your life savings in a blink of an eye (worth $.05 in a hospital – I’m still gobsmacked at the cost of my care).

2. There is hope for America. This election every candidate I supported won, in contrast to past 4 elections when the opposite occurred. I had been in the wilderness for so long that I had lost all hope for a viable opposition against the juggernaut of the Left’s assault on our rights and freedom.  November 4th and its aftermath renewed my faith that especially in politics Life is like a wheel; wait long enough and it will all come around.

3. I don’t need cable/satellite television. Last year I experimented with online streaming of TV using the PS3. This year I purchased a Roku and subscribed to Netflix and AcornTV. For a fraction of the cost of cable/satellite I now enjoy a broader selection of programming than ever. Cable/Satellite claim to have 200+ channels, as if that number means anything. I’m down to a handful now (AMC, BBC America, History, Discovery, NatGeo) but enjoy content that I choose. If you Doc Martin is your favorite GP, or relish a good Time Team dig, then AcornTV is for you. Need something heavier? There’s Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy on Netflix, playing exactly when you need them. It’s like having my own TV channel. Next stop: Cutting the cord.

4. Speaking of own TV channel, Pandora is soooo 2012, but thanks to my Smartphone and data package, I can stream it in the car and in 2014 it was like having my own radio channel. Instead of being stuck with whatever ClearChannel wants me to hear, I listen to what I want with enough variance thrown in to keep me interested. In a bad mood? There’s always the Skinny Puppy channel to put things right. Need something moving to get the hear moving, there’s DJ Tiesto. 2014 changed the way I consume media, and for someone who used to have to buy records without hearing them, it’s truly sublime.

5. The Ancients Still Have Much to Teach Us. In 2014 I developed an obsession with Ancient Rome (after devouring the HBO series Rome on Netflix). I’ve read all of Julius Caesar and Tacitus. I am now working on The History of Rome by Livy. For most of my life I was told how good the Classics were but I thought “meh, that’s ancient history.” This year I saw them in a completely new way. What truly amazes me is how little the Romans had to start with, but yet how they accomplished so much. Sure they ripped off the Greeks, but the Greeks weren’t the best teachers. Instead the Romans had to make things up as they went along. There was little “history” that they could search for clues on how to handle a new situation. 2000 years ago there was no Free Market economics, no Democracy (at least in the modern sense of the term), no separation of powers. Nevertheless the Romans built first a Republic then an Empire that resonates through Time. In today’s technology obsessed era it’s worth remembering what the Ancients did with just wax tablets, quills, and animal muscle.

6. Rolling Stone magazine should have OD’d on heroin in 1978. Rolling Stone was founded at the height of hippiedom and only stayed relevant during the 1970s thanks to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. It was a counter-culture magazine but when the counter-culture became the culture, it lost its allure. Today’s millennials do not group identify through music the way Hippies, Stoners and Punks did through the 1960s, 70s and 80s. A magazine that started life geared towards the musical taste of their grandparents really has limited interest to them. Lenny Bruce once said “there is nothing sadder than an aging hipster,” and the liberal geriatrics don’t seem to understand that. Rolling Stone’s founder Jann Wenner (who turns 69 on Jan. 7) doesn’t get it either. If he did and had folded the magazine before it became a parody of itself, it wouldn’t have earned Columbia Journalism Reviews’ worst journalism prize for 2014.

7. The Democratic Party is the new Geezer Party. Speaking of aging hipsters, it’s difficult to respect a party whose standard bearer and young upstart – Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren – are both eligible for full social security benefits at the respective ages of 67 and 65. It’s not that I have issues with the elderly. I see the elderly as a valuable but underutilized resource in the US. What I have trouble with is a geriatric who thinks he understands youth culture. Now old people understand children, at least the smart ones do. Having been kids then raised a generation or two of them (in some cases) many old people can relate better than most to the struggles of the younger generations, but that has nothing to do with culture. I’m approaching senescence at full speed myself and I couldn’t tell you who is hip these days, nor would I care to. But when my teenage son has that look in his eye, I know what psycho mind games his girlfriend is playing on him because I remember having that look myself at his age (which is why I ended up marrying an older woman – the girls my age seemed to be all bi-polar schizos).  But that level of maturity, to be old and sympathetic but aware of one’s limitations, is not in evidence in the Democratic Party. Instead we are watching the political equivalent of a 50 year old woman dressing in public like her 20 year old daughter. It’s embarrassing.

8. Crazy Ivan is back. Russia’s bad behavior in Europe and the Middle East proved that 1989 wasn’t the end of Russian authoritarianism after all. The Russian propaganda machine is working overtime extolling the virtues of Vladimir Putin and denigrating everyone else as conspirators all working zealously to undermine Russia. As someone who studied foreign policy during the Cold War, let me just state how happy this makes me. All those papers and books I read about Russian nationalism, culture and paranoia are finally proving their worth. As I have written before, Russia should be America’s natural ally but not when it’s got its pants around its ankles and is pissing on a lamppost while screaming how much it wants to kick America’s ass. We understand Russia the way we understand our crazy ex’s. We know their weaknesses better than they do. The only reason Putin has gotten away with what he has so far is who sits in the Oval Office. Barack Obama makes Jimmy Carter look like Genghis Khan by comparison. Hopefully in two years we will have a balanced leader who will replace him, who sets meaningful red lines and punishes our enemies while rewarding our allies – the opposite of our current commander in chief.

 

Why I Say “Merry Christmas” Even Though I’m not a Christian

For the same reason I wish my Jewish friends a “Happy Hanukkah” during Hanukkah even though I’m not Jewish.
For the same reason I wish my Muslim friends “Eid Mubarak” during Eid al-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha even though I’m not Muslim.
For the same reason I wish my Hindu friends a “Happy Diwali” during Diwali even though I’m not Hindu.

Because I like them and I respect them, and even though I don’t share their beliefs I want to show them that I care about them and value their friendship.

That’s true tolerance, and I don’t need a bullsh*t bumper sticker on my car to proclaim it.

Unwelcome Visitors: Ghosts from the Past

The fact that the older one gets the more history one has is self-evident. As the years pass the distance between the Past and the Present lengthens. Most of what we experience isn’t new, which is why those suffering dementia will forget the face of someone they just met but remember in vivid detail the faces of those they knew in the distant past. Most of the time when the present races into the past it is trapped there forever.

But not always. There are people, places and events that stubbornly refuse to be so consigned. Instead they fight their entrapment even as they lose their physicality and are relegated to the shadows of the present. Yet being mere shadows does not mean they are completely powerless. After all even a shadow can momentarily blind and cause a hunter to miss his quarry. The further in the past they go only seems to strengthen their resolve, and they struggle even harder to achieve relevance. What begins as a single missed shot becomes another and another until finally one is either forced to go home hungry or confront the past.

But how? The world has changed. Everyone and everything is different; only the ghost remains unaffected by the passage of time. It does not belong in the Present which is why it has been stripped of its corporeality and relegated to the shadows. Yet it refuses to accept this punishment.

How does one end the haunting?

I need to know because the ghosts are piling up on one another, and the older I get the more reality flickers with their presence. It becomes more difficult to see the fabric of the present which in turn leads to even more mistakes that then beget even more ghosts. I’m beginning to wonder whether if one lives long enough reality is lost completely behind the misty veils of forgotten dreams, mistakes and the well-intentioned paths not chosen. Perhaps senility is a manifestation of Divine Mercy, allowing the ghosts to embody themselves in the minds of those so stricken so that they are happy and no longer torment their victims.

 

The Razor Celebrates 13 Years

For 13 years I have used this medium as my soapbox, to stand and shout into the Void known as the Internet. 2,352 posts. 6,048 comments. Over that time I have swung from righteous anger in the months following 9-11, to optimism and hope in the years after the Iraqi invasion at a time when I was personally trying to change the world, to disappointment following the economic collapse of 2008 and the election of Barack Obama, to the despair of the Benghazi and IRS scandals, ending finally in the cynicism shrouded nihilism of today.

What can I say, but I’m simply stubborn. While I may no longer wish to change the world and simply want to be left alone in my current libertarian exile, there are still things I need to say and this is the only medium I have found to say them.

I have failed at essay writing, and authoring fiction and non-fiction books. I have failed at numerous small businesses and enterprises. Many of my predictions made in this journal and the positions I have argued have been proven wrong. In 2006 I said Google wouldn’t be around in 2011 and that Lindsay Lohan would die tragically in 2007. 8 years later Google is still my homepage and Lindsay Lohan is still alive, although whether her career is alive is arguable.

But my marriage of 24 years has never been stronger. I have helped raise a child over these 13 years, and while he’s not heading towards a full scholarship at MIT or Harvard, he is a very decent human being whose future in this world concerns me. I have built a writing-based career and nurtured the Wife’s education so that together we are comfortable. We have put money to work in our community, buying local products and hiring local workers whenever possible so that our success is shared with others. Our choices have allowed us to take an active role in animal rescue, saving dozens of unwanted animals from miserable deaths.

I was also right about some things. In 2005 I predicted the real estate bubble was becoming unsustainable. I was right that the soaring oil prices of 2008 would succumb to economic gravity and fall. And I was right in 2011 that removing Khaddafi from power was a bad idea.

The world may be indifferent to my existence yet I am confident I have made it a better place. So I may not be as respected as Charles Krauthammer or popular as Matt Drudge, I do occasionally write something worth reading.

I’ve picked one post from each year that is still worth reading today. Enjoy.

2001 -  Judging News Sources: Truth or Trash

The problem with bias is that it assumes the average reader or listener will believe everything that he or she reads or hears regardless of its source. However for Americans exposed to everything from sightings of Elvis to alien abductions to Clinton scandals, developing a “truth detector” (or its crudely named opposite, the “bullshit detector”) becomes an important skill. Such a skill starts early as children take on the media preferences of their parents, and is refined later in high school and often college when critical thinking skills are emphasized (one purpose of this journal is to save these skills from their demise at the hand of the Politically Correct). (Read the entire post)

2002 – October 2, 2002 – No Prize For Jimmy

President Carter’s crowning achievement was the Camp David Accords which returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for the end of a state of war between Israel and Egypt. While the accords ended a shooting war between the two countries, it is worth noting that the agreement was not even negotiated by the Americans – most of the diplomacy having been done by the King of Morocco and the Ceausescu regime in Rumania. Washington DC was simply the money to fund the deal. (Read the entire post)

2003 – May 25, 2003 – Censorship Today

It is important in a society for people to follow the same code of behavior. Americans are notorious for being more unmannered and direct than many other nationalities. Recent events show the impact a slow-death of civility in our society has. It is why President Ford’s saying that “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” remains a shining example that allows us to protect our rights to free expression. (Read the entire post)

2004 – June 25, 2004 – Cognitive Dissonance and Islam

The Saudi royal family has spread Wahabism around the globe, and now are about to be consumed by it. All the makings are in place for a jihadist overthrow of the kingdom: a corrupt government infiltrated by jihadists, a dying king, a large yet effete royal family containing many supporters of the jihadists, and the cognitive dissonance which prevents the leaders from recognizing the true enemies within their own ranks caused by their own inflexible understanding of their religion. (Read the entire post)

 2005 – April 12, 2005 – Visiting the Funeral Home

“These ceremonies are for the living,” the funeral director said. I commented that her job seemed more like a cruise director or wedding planner. “My job is to…” I almost got her to say it but she didn’t. She wanted to say:

Put the “fun” back into “funeral” but she artfully stopped herself from saying that although I knew deep down she wanted to. What followed was a more politically correct explanation of her duties and how much she enjoyed her job.

Well, I suppose it takes all types. (Read the entire post)

2006 – August 10, 2006 – We Are All Israelis

I stand for Israel because I see it as a desert that has bloomed through the hard work and brilliance of its people. I see a people that has suffered unjustly for thousands of years continue to suffer today. I see a people who refuse to accept the status of victims. I see a people who value peace but aren’t willing to trade it for annihilation.

I stand for Israel because Israel is a nation where Arabs, Jews and Christians live together in peace – next to states where religions and their books are banned outright. I stand for Israel because it values everyone. It holds gay pride rallies next to nations where gays are hung from forklifts. It treats women as equals in all ways, while the women in nearby nations can’t even leave their homes alone.

I stand for Israel because it is at the frontier of civilization, an outpost of honesty in a region mired in corruption. I stand for Israel because in the fight to preserve the light from the darkness, we are all Israelis. (Read the entire post)

2007 – October 7, 2007 – The Kiwi And the Eagle: Anti-Americanism in New Zealand

I recently wrote about my Wife’s experience while serving at a hospital in Tanzania with a 24 year old New Zealander. The girl was well versed in anti-American propaganda and felt compelled to heap abuse on my Wife. The Wife is quite capable of defending herself, but she lacks my background knowledge of American foreign policy and world history. During our brief phone call, I provided her with some basic facts to combat the Kiwi’s propaganda regurgitations. Afterward I decided to dig deeper into the youngster’s bigotry and did some research into New Zealand’s attitudes towards Americans. What I found changed my mind about wanting to visit the place anytime soon. (Read the entire post)

2008 – October 20, 2008 – The Good Daughter

Fenwick Island was different; our family was different. There was nothing left to do but accept these truths.

I took the box containing the ashes and at the Wife’s request I opened them and removed the plastic bag that held them shut with a twist tie. Inside were the mixed remains of both the Father-in-law and the Mother-in-law. The Wife cradled them under her pullover as we climbed the dune and walked to the waterline of the beach. As the Kid took the dog upwind, she undid the twist tie and allowed the bag to billow open. (Read the entire post)

2009 – November 19, 2009 – The Weak Horse Named Obama

A friend who voted for Obama last year (and regrets his decision BTW) asked me why I opposed the civil prosecution of terrorists and supported military tribunals. He thought that treating them as run-of-the-mill criminals was an insult, and that by convicting and sentencing them in a military tribunal elevated their status from terrorist to warrior. Here are the reasons I gave him for why I believe that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision is the worst political decision made since President Ford pardoned Nixon in 1974. (Read the entire post)

 2010 – August 10, 2010 – Riders in the Storm

As with the storms, my instinct tells me that something is seriously wrong with my country. That same paralyzing fear that I had during the storm is with me everyday. The skies are ominous, yet Obama and the Federal Government are driving us deep into the storm and there is nothing much we can do it about it since both are deaf to our concerns. All we can do is listen to our instincts and take every chance we can to limit the danger to ourselves and loved ones the President and the Feds seem determined to visit upon us. (Read the entire post)

2011 – September 6, 2011 – A Short List of Lessons Since 9-11

Islam is Problematic And Our Ruling Elite Doesn’t Understand It
9-11 and the events over the past 10 years have taught us that Islam is different from all other world religions. It is not Christianity with different traditions unless the comparison is made to Christianity prior to the Renaissance. Then Christianity was a political and cultural defining force that determined all aspects of life for the lowliest peasant to the greatest emperor. It determined when each arose, what he did prior to work, his job, how he dressed, how he ate, and his relationship to his superiors (in the case of the emperor, to the Pope). There were no concepts of freedom in thought or deed at that time. The identify of “self” as inviolate would not become accepted until the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Tolerance of other cultures, ethnicities and especially religions simply did not exist at all. (Read the entire post)

2012 – January 17, 2012 – In the Belly of the Swan

Assess the situation. Keep calm. I tend to speak quickly and loudly when I’m nervous so I intentionally slow down the cadence of my words. Keep everyone calm. Crack a bad joke even though no one feels like laughing. Talk about the weather. Whatever it takes to keep everyone – including myself – from panicking. As a writer by instinct I feel myself observing myself, but that is also a task for the future; better to stay in the moment, the now. Time stretches, knees knock, keep scanning the darkness. “Safeties off?” “Yes,” I command. We are locked and loaded. The past is written, the future no longer exists. In the dense fog, in the belly of the swan, waiting for what must happen to happen. (Read the entire post)

2013 – April 3, 2013 – We Are Idiots

The system is corrupt yet we do nothing about it. We are told happy days are here again, that the stockmarket is at record highs, yet those of us who dabbled in the market prior to 2009 have still not recovered from the losses suffered then, leaving us on the sidelines of this rally. Small investors piled into the market and out of the market late back then, proving they were the “greater fools” and some are doing so today as the market skyrockets and smart money looks for the exits. Sure our 401K’s are expanding, but the numbers are meaningless for anyone other than those planning to retire in the coming months before this bubble bursts. Self employed people and contractors like myself don’t have 401K’s, we just have our wits and an ever sharpening skill set that we use to stay employed, but both are slowly being eroded by time as we age and the younger cohorts below us grow hungrier and more competitive. (Read the entire post)

NFL: Not For Long?

I gave up watching American Football last year, although it was too late to cancel my DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket. During the Superbowl I watched Downton Abbey. This year I canceled the subscription in time, telling the African-American guy who tried to convince me to continue the service that I was tired of supporting a bunch of rich white billionaires.

This year the NFL is having an awful year.First the first openly gay player Michael Sams complicated things by being drafted then a few month later cut by the St. Louis Rams. Late round draft picks are always the equivalent of lottery tickets for teams, so it was unlikely Sams would make it onto the playing field this month, but that didn’t stop the politically correct minded commissioner Roger Goodell from making a big deal about his signing. Of course that blew up in his face when he was cut. Only the crazy meddling Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys and alleged assaulter of strippers, could save Goodell’s bacon by mercy-signing Sams to the Cowboys’ practice team.

Then news broke that Ray Rice laid out his girlfriend in an elevator, 6 months ago, but Goodell covered it up until now. And there was a child abuse allegation against Adrian Peterson in Texas. Now there’s another one against him in Minnesota for sending his 4 year old to the hospital after “disciplining him” in the car for swearing at his sister. This led one ESPN commentator to opine that “we need to reprogram how we raise men.” Since most of these men were raised by single mothers, a demographic the PC police have elevated to sainthood after having demonized traditional marriage for decades, I’m not sure how much traction that’s going to get among the progressive faithful especially since few of them actually watch NFL football.

Goodell has been slowly erasing the differences between the NFL and the Legends (formerly Lingerie) Football League for awhile now in an attempt to protect the investments of his paymasters. He dragged his feet researching chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) then did his best to discredit the results of independent research, all the while changing the rules of the game in an attempt to limit injuries. The problem is the research so far suggests even mild hits cause irreversible brain damage, so even wrapping the players in bubble wrap will not prevent fans from seeing their favorite players gradually leaving their brains on the field. Not only has the sport become boring, with yellow flags being thrown like confetti during each play, but it’s tougher for those of us with consciences to watch these men throw away their lives even for millions of dollars. I guess there’s a little bit of a raging liberal in me who doesn’t like seeing men from humble backgrounds destroying their bodies on the field while the bulk of the financial gain goes to a clutch of billionaires in the boxes.

With billions of dollars at stake we can be sure the NFL owners will do everything in their power to protect their income streams. Whether that produces a safer game played by paragons of virtue as well as a more interesting one to watch remains to be seen – just not by me.

On the Writings of Julius Caesar

A few days ago marked the 2000th anniversary of the death of Augustus Caesar. The event passed quietly as far as I can tell which is a shame in my opinion. Augustus as well as his adopted father Julius Caesar shaped the foundation of our society in a way that even they would not have imagined. He should at least be remembered if not celebrated.

Most of us get history shoved down our throats. I remember being forced to read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar freshman year of high school when I was more interested in smoking pot and listening to Blondie than understanding Elizabethan English, even that of the Great Bard. Of course Shakespeare’s take on Caesar was about as factual as Tina Fey’s of Sarah Palin so I suppose I didn’t miss much. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed an interest in and a deep appreciation of ancient works. For this I credit “Black Swan” author and philosopher Naseem Nicholas Taleb, and the crazy frat boy turned project manager who turned me on to him. Taleb is one of the few writers I’d like to meet, and he has written extensively about the stoics and other ancient philosophers. I started reading Seneca because of him, and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve learned that I am weak when it comes to translated works. I need the rhythm and comfort of modern speech to appreciate these ancient writings, and while I’ve struggled with Seneca’s translation, The Complete Works of Julius Caesar as translated by W.A McDevitte and W.S. Bohn has been a good investment of $1.50.

Caesar writes in the 3rd person as if some disembodied narrator which I find somewhat annoying, but once you get past that his story comes alive. You are in the mind of one of history’s greatest generals at a crucial point in our civilization’s history.

One thing becomes quickly clear: Caesar is always at the disadvantage in battle. In Gaul his forces are always out-manned by the tribes arrayed against him, but Caesar understands victory does not rely on numbers alone, and his tactical genius combined with a veteran, well-disciplined force overcomes the numerical advantage of his enemies. But it isn’t easy. Here is a sample of Caesar in battle.

Caesar had everything to do at one time: the standard to be displayed, which was the sign when it was necessary to run to arms; the signal to be given by the trumpet; the soldiers to be called off from the works; those who had proceeded some distance for the purpose of seeking materials for the rampart, to be summoned; the order of battle to be formed; the soldiers to be encouraged; the watchword to be given. A great part of these arrangements was prevented by the shortness of time and the sudden approach and charge of the enemy. (Gallic Wars, Book 2, Chapter 20)

What comes through his narration is the unpredictability of war. One would also expect Caesar to embellish his successes while airbrushing away his failures, yet Caesar’s retelling of events comes through as exceedingly honest. For example, Caesar didn’t win all his battles. In fact at the battle of Dyrrachium he almost lost everything against another one of History’s great generals, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus or Pompey the Great.

Pompey had taken up a position upon some hills with his back to the sea. Unable to assault Pompey directly Caesar set about building fortifications around Pompey’s position with the idea of boxing him and eventually strangling his army. Pompey’s navy controlled the sea so his army could resupply whereas Caesar’s could not, but thousands of horses need a lot of forage Caesar became expert at picking off cavalry in search of food for their horses. A stalemate descended on the battlefield, and it wasn’t until two Gauls defected from Caesar’s camp to Pompey that the stalemate was broken. They informed Pompey about where Caesar’s forces were weakest, and Pompey focused his attack on that point. Caesar’s army turned and fled, and he struggled to figure out what happened, stopping panicked soldiers himself for details of the rout. Learning the circumstances Caesar believed that he had lost the war. Then his luck changed. Caesar writes,

In this calamity, the following favorable circumstances occurred to prevent the ruin of our whole army, that Pompey suspecting an ambush (because, as I suppose, the success had far exceeded his hopes, as he had seen his men a moment before fleeing from the camp), didn’t approach the fortification, and that his horse were retarded from pursuing… By retarding the rapidity of the enemy’s pursuit, preserved our army. (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 72)

Caesar had developed a reputation for daring as a general, but this can only have been abetted by his experienced army. Nowhere was this more apparent then at the Battle of Pharsalus, the climactic battle of the Roman Civil War. Before the battle Pompey had managed to starve Caesar’s army of supplies. Pompey employed this strategy of attrition, waiting for Caesar’s forces to fall apart under the stress of skirmishes and lack of supplies. Caesar in turn sought to provoke Pompey into battle, appreciating for himself the wisdom of Pompey’s strategy but Pompey resisted being drawn into battle. At this point Pompey had the high ground on a hill and had double the number of troops – 45,000 vs Caesar’s 22,000.

The pressure on Pompey to finish off Caesar’s forces was strong. His advisers and lieutenants pushed the old general to destroy Caesar and his army, and they claimed the victory at Dyrrachium proved that Caesar was fatally weakened. Excited at the prospect of ridding themselves of Caesar and returning to Rome as heroes, Caesar quotes one of Pompey’s generals as denigrating Caesar’s forces. “(This is not) the army which conquered Gaul and Germany… a very small part of that army now remains… the flower of the forces perished in the two engagements at Dyrrachium.” Finally Pompey relented, announcing “I have persuaded our cavalry, and they have engaged to execute it… to attack Caesar’s right wing on the flank, and inclosing their army on the rear, throw them into disorder, and put them to the rout, before we shall throw a weapon against the enemy.” (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 87).

Throughout his works Caesar portrays himself as favoring a peaceful resolution to a crisis over war, and when war was necessary, enforcing a just peace on the defeated. The lives of captured soldiers were spared; towns that surrendered to his army did not have their citizens put to the sword. These were uncommon practices by his enemies according to his Caesar, and his concern with his enemy and the Republic showed before battle. Facing double the number of men in his army, a force well supplied and enjoying better ground and lead by a general Caesar himself respected, Caesar exhorted his forces as Pompey  began arranging his men for battle. “He took care to remind them that he could call his soldiers to witness the earnestness with which he had sought peace… he had been always reluctant to shed the blood of his soldiers, and did not wish to deprive the republic of one or other of her armies.” (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 90).

The pivotal battle turned out to be somewhat anti-climatic from a modern point of view, but here again Caesar’s experienced troops were the deciding factor. Charging towards Pompey’s forces required Caesar’s soldiers to cross a vast no-mans-land between the two armies. Pompey under the advice of his adviser Caius Triarius held back his men, waiting for Caesar’s troops to tire and then be easily beaten. But his experienced troops understood what Pompey was doing and changed tactics in the middle of their run. Caesar writes, “(Caesar’s men) perceiving that Pompey’s men did not run to meet their charge, having acquired experience by custom, and being practices in former battles, they of their own accord repressed their speed, and halted almost midway; that they might not come up with the enemy when their strength was exhausted.” (The Civil Wars, Book 3, Chapter 93). Caesar notes that Pompey’s men did not fail in the battle, “for they received our javelins, stood our charge, and maintained their ranks,” but within minutes the tide of the battle changed. Caesar had made up his thin ranks not in the customary three rows but four. This crucial fourth row of men were able to withstand the cavalry charge Pompey had planned; had that fourth row not been there the cavalry would have broken through Caesar’s line and been able to attack his forces from behind. But the fourth line held and pushed back the cavalry, sending it routing. Once that happened the battle was for all intents and purposes over. Pompey left the battlefield and returned to camp, eventually disguising himself and fleeing.

Throughout the books Caesar drops names of those who helped him which reminds me of the way American presidents pepper their speeches with the names of average Americans. I find it fascinating that over 2000 years later these men, or at least their names, are not forgotten thanks to Caesar’s pen. Caesar writes, “There was in Caesar’s army, a volunteer of the name of Crastinus, who the year before had been first centurion of the tenth legion, a man of pre-eminent bravery. .. He looked back at Caesar and said “General, I will act in such a matter today that you will feel grateful to me living or dead.”” Earlier in the Gallic Wars he notes “two very brave men, centurions, who were now approaching the first ranks, T. Pullo and L. Varenus. These used to have continual disputes between them which of them should be preferred, and every year used to to contend for promotion with the utmost animosity.” These two men became the main characters of the HBO series Rome. Caesar sprinkles these names and vignettes throughout this works, betraying what I consider to be a literary sensibility by the writer. Caesar was educated in the Greek classics so he probably understood the importance of supporting characters to help tell a story, and since the Romans themselves were just as interested in their own history as we are in theirs, he no doubt knew that his story would be much more interesting if it wasn’t filled with self-aggrandizing commentary. It’s a lesson our current leader should learn if he was open-minded enough to appreciate the thoughts of a “dead white male.”

I know I’m not the first to realize this, but the epiphany that a long-dead man like Julius Caesar could come alive in my imagination through his writings has been profound and humbling. The Renaissance thinkers believed that the Greeks and Romans had discovered all there was to know about the human condition, and that it was up to them to rediscover that knowledge and refine it. Like them I am simply amazed at how little has changed between Caesar’s era and our own when it comes to the human condition. Caesar is betrayed and lied to just as the EU is today by Vladimir Putin. He experiences fake friends just as the US does in the guise of the Saudis. His men act with honor and cowardice just as our soldiers do today. We may shoot missiles instead of launching javelins but I would bet that if you took one of Caesar’s legionaries and put him in a foxhole in Afghanistan he would get along just fine with American soldiers.

It is readily apparent to me why Caesar has not been forgotten over the millennia. He speaks to us across Time to remind us of that we face the same struggles he did, possessing the same soul-destroying fears as well as our own capacity for courage and greatness. Through his writings he transcends death and serves as an important guide for us as we stumble towards our own future.

 

Hail Caesar! 2000th Anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s Death

Today marks the 2oooth anniversary of the death of Augustus Caesar. Born Gaius Octavius he was the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar and became his heir after his assassination. After consolidating his power and defeating his rival Mark Antony, Rome entered a time of peace and prosperity later known as Pax Romana lasting 200 years. When we think of Roman emperors today we tend to think of madmen like Caligula or Nero, but Augustus was nothing of the sort. He lived a quiet personal life and shied away from extravagance, choosing to live in a modest home in the city’s Palatine. Historian Suetonius wrote, “He lived at first near the Forum Romanum, afterwards on the Palatine in a modest dwelling remarkable neither for size or elegance, having but a short colonnade with columns of local stone and rooms without any marble decorations or handsome pavements. For more than 40 years he used the same bedroom in winter and summer.”

Leftist university professors won’t admit it but our civilization, the one that has dominated the world for 500 years freeing hundreds of millions from slavery and bringing untold wealth and prosperity to every corner of the globe has its roots in Greco-Roman culture, a culture shaped by the brilliant mind of Augustus Caesar.

Rosario Iaconis writing in Investor’s Business Daily notes, “Few leaders in the history of the world can match the statesmanship or success of Caesar Augustus. Rome’s first emperor rescued a nation in the throes of disorder, plus established an enduring polity that would shape the destiny of Western civilization for the next 1,500 years.”

Update: Here’s more on the renovations of Augustus’s tomb, and his living quarters with his wife Livia.

On the Death of Robin Williams

We all have our demons, the voices that seek to confuse us, ruin us, then laugh at our own destruction. For some people these demons are mere shadows, rarely seen and easily ignored, but for others these demons are as real as anything else in the world. Their voices ring in our ears, their touch as cold and painful as plunging a hand in ice water. They are a constant presence, inescapable and a burden carried through life.

To deal with these demons we often medicate ourselves, seeking oblivion to silence their voices, to dull their touch. Whether it’s cocaine, alcohol or gambling the addictions are an irrational attempt to deal with an irrational situation. These vices provide momentary comfort but only make the demons heavier, stronger, perpetuating a cycle that so often leads to the grave.

Those of us who have managed to escape the cycle, usually only temporarily, understand our fate. We see the demons, every horn and wart, smell their fetid breaths with each gasp of our own, but are too damned stubborn to let them beat us at the moment. Each day, each hour, each second when we don’t succumb to the false cures weakens the demons ever so slightly, making the next day, hour or second slightly easier than the last. But we don’t kid ourselves; no matter how long we’ve been sober the demon is still there. Its voice may be weaker, its stench just a little less pungent, but it will never disappear. It will always be with us.

When we witness one of our own overwhelmed by his demons, it saddens us. Rich or poor, famous or not, we are all united through our struggle against powers we never asked to fight in wars we never asked to be part of, and we are left embittered by the fact that so often those overwhelmed by his or demon are the least deserving of the fate. Why do they fall while so many others who have become real demons tormenting real people draw breath? Where are the inner demons of the men executing women and children in ISIS controlled Iraq? Why aren’t the savages launching rockets as they cower behind children in Gaza immobilized by doubt and fear?

It isn’t fair and yes I’m old enough to recognize that Life isn’t fair. But it sure does suck.