Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Joint Strike Flopter: flying piano edition

It’s the most expensive weapon in history but America's F-35 stealth jet has been outperformed by a 40-year-old F-16 jet in a dogfight. 
A mock air battle was held over the Pacific Ocean between the cutting-edge F-35 - meant to be the most sophisticated jet ever - and an F-16, which was designed in the 1970s. 
But according to the test pilot, the F-35 is still too slow to hit an enemy plane or dodge gunfire. So far it has cost the US military more than $350billion. 
The dogfight, which was staged in January near Edwards Air Force Base, California, was designed to test the F-35’s ability in close-range combat at 10,000 to 30,000 feet. 
Both the F-35 pilot and the F-16 pilot were attempting to ‘shoot down’ the other. 
But, according to the F-35 pilot’s report, which has only recently been made public, the jet performed so appallingly that he deemed it completely inappropriate for fighting other aircraft within visual range. 
He reported that the F-35 – designed by Lockheed Martin – was at a ‘distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement’ despite the F-16 being weighed down by two drop tanks for extra fuel. 
The F-35 pilot reported a number of aerodynamic problems, including ‘insufficient pitch rate’ for the jet’s nose while climbing - resulting in the plane being too cumbersome to dodge enemy fire. 
He said that a half-million-dollar custom-made helmet that gives pilots a 360-degree view outside the plane meant he was unable to comfortably move his head inside the cramped cockpit. This meant the F-16 could approach from behind without him noticing. 
‘The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft,’ he wrote in the five-page brief.
If anything, the Daily Mail rather dramatically underestimates the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter program. The true cost, if you add it all up, comes to over $1 trillion.

Think about that for a moment. The United States Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, along with a number of American allies, have sunk more than THE ENTIRE ANNUAL OUTPUT OF AUSTRALIA into a giant flying piano.

The F-35 looks impressive on paper. It stacks up well in a game of top trumps against third- and fourth-generation jet fighter aircraft. But once you begin looking more closely at its actual capabilities, you realise that in fact, the entire program is one of the biggest boondoggles in recorded human history:
“Even without new problems, the F-35 is a ‘dog.’ If one accepts every performance promise the DoD currently makes for the aircraft, the F-35 will be: “Overweight and underpowered: at 49,500 lb (22,450kg) air-to-air take-off weight with an engine rated at 42,000 lb of thrust, it will be a significant step backward in thrust-to-weight ratio for a new fighter… [F-35A and F-35B variants] will have a ‘wing-loading’ of 108 lb per square foot… less manoeuvrable than the appallingly vulnerable F-105 ‘Lead Sled’ that got wiped out over North Vietnam… payload of only two 2,000 lb bombs in its bomb bay… With more bombs carried under its wings, the F-35 instantly becomes ‘non-stealthy’ and the DoD does not plan to seriously test it in this configuration for years. As a ‘close air support’… too fast to see the tactical targets it is shooting at; too delicate and flammable to withstand ground fire; and it lacks the payload and especially the endurance to loiter usefully over US forces for sustained periods… What the USAF will not tell you is that ‘stealthy’ aircraft are quite detectable by radar; it is simply a question of the type of radar and its angle relative to the aircraft… As for the highly complex electronics to attack targets in the air, the F-35, like the F-22 before it, has mortgaged its success on a hypothetical vision of ultra-long range, radar-based air-to-air combat that has fallen on its face many times in real air war. The F-35’s air-to-ground electronics promise little more than slicker command and control for the use of existing munitions.”
William S. Lind predicted virtually all of this back in 1994 when he wrote his novel Victoria under the pseudonym Thomas Hobbes. (Terrific book, by the way- read it now if you haven't already.) There is a great scene in it where the radical feminist nation of Azania (formerly the once-great state of California) sends up a large flight of F-35s against inferior numbers of F-16s. The women get their clocks cleaned, and not just because they're women flying in combat environments. They lose the furball because the F-35 is literally just a flying piano, while the older, non-stealthy F-16 is more manoeuverable, more nimble, and more reliable in combat.

Moreover, this silly mindset of "stealth uber alles" is actually a very dangerous one to have. Stealth technology, contrary to popular belief, does not make an aircraft or machine invisible. Stealth technology merely absorbs, refracts, and scatters electromagnetic radiation through the use of absorbent materials, oddly-sculpted shapes, and judicious usage of jamming technology.

However, stealth technology is only effective against the kinds of electromagnetic radiation that it is designed to beat. The moment you bring back older forms of radar that modern stealth coatings and designs are not designed to defeat, all of the stealth technology in the world won't save you.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—the jet that the Pentagon is counting on to be the stealthy future of its tactical aircraft—is having all sorts of shortcomings. But the most serious may be that the JSF is not, in fact, stealthy in the eyes of a growing number of Russian and Chinese radars. Nor is it particularly good at jamming enemy radar. Which means the Defense Department is committing hundreds of billions of dollars to a fighter that will need the help of specialized jamming aircraft that protect non-stealthy—“radar-shiny,” as some insiders call them—aircraft today. 
These problems are not secret at all. The F-35 is susceptible to detection by radars operating in the VHF bands of the spectrum. The fighter’s jamming is mostly confined to the X-band, in the sector covered by its APG-81 radar. These are not criticisms of the program but the result of choices by the customer, the Pentagon. 
To suggest that the F-35 is VHF-stealthy is like arguing that the sky is not blue—literally, because both involve the same phenomenon. The late-Victorian physicist Lord Rayleigh gave his name to the way that electromagnetic radiation is scattered by objects that are smaller than its wavelength. This applies to the particles in the air that scatter sunlight, and aircraft stabilizers and wingtips that are about the same meter-class size as VHF waves. 
The counter-stealth attributes of VHF have been public knowledge for decades. They were known at the dawn of stealth, in 1983, when the MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory ordered a 150-foot-wide radar to emulate Russia’s P-14 Oborona VHF early-warning system. Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth division—makers of the F-35—should know about that radar: they built it. 
Making a plane VHF-stealthy starts with removing the target’s tails, as on the B-2 bombers. But we did not know how to do that on a supersonic, agile airplane (like the F-35 is supposed to be) when the JSF specifications were written. 
Neither did the technology to add broadband-active jamming to a stealth aircraft exist in 1995. Not only did stealth advocates expect jamming to fade away, but there was an obvious and (at the time) insoluble problem: To use jamming you have to be certain that the radar has detected you. Otherwise, jamming is going to reveal your presence and identify you as a stealth aircraft, since the adversary can see a signal but not a reflection. 
We can be sure that onboard jamming has not been added to the F-35 since. Had the JSF requirements been tightened by one iota since the program started, its advocates would be blaming that for the delays and overruns.
The problem of making an aircraft "not-too-invisible" has existed ever since the original F-117 was designed in the 1970s. When you combine this with the fact that modern stealth technology is designed to defeat high-frequency radar rather than older, UHF and VHF radar, you run into a real problem.

The F-35 is not particularly stealthy. It can be detected relatively easily by long-wave radar, which, when matched with modern noise-filtering algorithms, can warn higher-frequency intercept-and-destroy systems of incoming targets.

And that brings us to the really big problem with stealth fighters like the F-35- and, for that matter, with its big brother, the F-22.

If long-wave radar can tell your enemy where to look, and you can't really get out of the way, what is the fastest and cheapest and most economical way for your enemy to wipe you out? (Hint: the answer doesn't actually involve missiles.)

The simplest way is to point a very large number of very powerful lasers in the general direction of the attacking aircraft and blind the pilots.

This is not science fiction. This is happening today. In the first volume of the Riding the Red Horse anthology, one of the best non-fiction pieces within that collection concerns the way in which cheap commercial laser pointers can be used to "tag" low-flying aircraft and blind both onboard cameras and the pilots themselves.

And as that article pointed out so effectively, in war, the cheap and effective always wins out over the expensive and flashy.

The reality is that manned fighter aircraft are becoming hugely expensive and unnecessary luxuries. The Cold War is long done, yet the American defence establishment insists on building weapons for fighting 2nd-Generation wars while losing ever 4th-Generation war that comes its way. Hugely expensive boondoggles like the F-35 can be more effectively and cheaply replaced by UAVs and drones, and even those, too, will eventually be superceded as the legitimacy and power of the State continues to erode and degrade.

Remember: in war, cheap and effective always wins. And the day will come when squadrons of shiny beautiful new F-35s will be spanked so badly in combat that even the Pentaloons won't be able to cover it up. 

Christendom, arise!

Normally, I couldn't care less what the so-called "Pope" Francis is up to on any given day; as I've pointed out before, his understanding of the theology of which he is supposedly the arbiter and shepherd is considerably worse than my own.

But the news that the Holy Father might actually meet with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is some of the best news that Christendom has heard in quite some time:
An historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is "getting closer every day," a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on Sunday.
The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054. 
"Now such a meeting is getting closer every day but it must be well prepared," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper. 
He said the meeting between the head of the 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church and the head of Russian Orthodox Church - which counts some 165 million of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians - would take place in a "neutral" country, not in Moscow or the Vatican. Austria or Hungary were possibilities, he said. 
Hilarion, one of the most influential people in world Orthodoxy, said he could not say if the meeting could take place as early as this year, but there was currently "a good dynamic" between the two Churches.
Francis told reporters on the plane returning from a trip to Turkey last year that he had sent word to Kirill that he was willing to meet the Russian patriarch "wherever you want, you call me and I'll come".
The Great Schism of 1054 was one of the worst things that has ever happened to Christendom. Granted, it was the culmination of centuries worth of disagreements over doctrine and Scriptural interpretation. But it was this evennt that dramatically weakened the unity and power of Christendom- and at the worst possible time.

The bans and anathemas of 1054 were instituted in a time of Islamic expansion from the south and east. Three hundred years before, Charles "The Hammer" Martel had stopped the first great wave of Islamic expansion cold and dead at Tours, but the depredations of Seljuk Turks upon Christian and Jewish pilgrims to the Holy Land were to continue until the first Crusade was announced by Pope Urban II.

That Crusade failed. Contrary to what most of you have been taught in school- don't worry, I was taught the same nonsense- the Crusades were not an act of wanton and unprovoked aggression against a peace-loving Muslim kingdom, and the Crusaders were not bloodthirsty barbarians in search of treasure and gold. The Crusades were, in fact, strictly limited wars of self-defence in retaliation for decades of Seljuk provocation.

The First Crusade, and the next several after it, failed because the various kingdoms of Christendom were split asunder, incapable of uniting except under the gravest of threats. The Crusaders were even, at one point, stupid enough during the Fourth Crusade to attack, occupy, and sack Byzantium herself.

The reunification of the various Christian churches may not happen in my lifetime. It will certainly not happen while Jorge Bergoglio is the Pontiff of the one and only Holy Mother Church.

Yet one can dream. To see Christianity- true Christianity- strong, united, and awakened once more, would be a great gift indeed, even for a mere heathen like me. If we are to have any hope of turning back the tide of darkness that is coming, we will need every last resource that God can give us. Through the Church, He gave us the armour of faith and the weapons of righteousness, courage, and truth.

We have, in our folly, forgotten these things. But it is not too late to remember them. And it is certainly not too late to see the various offshoots of the Christian faith reunited once more. Into the hands of such a miracle, we must place the fate of an afflicted Mankind.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Why men need to fight

If you have not yet read Jonathan Gotschall's excellent book, The Professor in the Cage, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I finished it a few days ago, and I'm very pleased to say that I have finally found a book that clearly articulates exactly why it is that men not only want to test themselves against each other in martial combat, but in fact need to do so. I've written about this at some length before, but never before had I come across a more well-formed set of arguments demonstrating just how pervasive that urge is within men.

As Prof. Gottschall points out, the urge to fight is ingrained in men down to practically the genetic level. The reality is that this desire- more properly defined as the urge to compete for status, women, power, material wealth, etc.- is as much a part of a man's psyche and being as is his need to breathe, to live, and to procreate.

And as Prof. Gotschall repeatedly points out, attempts in the last 40 years to weed out male aggression, to neuter it and to render it harmless, have backfired and continue to backfire in truly spectacular fashion.

His own personal journey is chronicled within the book, going from a pudgy, out-of-shape, bored and unhappy adjunct professor who lacks meaning and direction in his career, to a pretty fit, reasonably skilled amateur mixed martial artist. And in the process, he has a very great deal to teach those of us who are willing to listen and learn from him.

Here are some of the most important lessons that I learned from reading through his journey, and contrasting it to my own within martial arts.

1. Martial Arts Is Therapeutic

As the book goes to great lengths to point out, men have always competed against one another in physical combat. Doing so has tremendous benefits- not just for men, but for society as a whole. Men- all men- can and do feel tremendously powerful impulses to do violent things in order to achieve violent ends. By redirecting that energy within the confines of a rules-based environment, by giving men an outlet for that natural energy within a (relatively) safe environment, the martial arts give men like you and me a way of releasing pent-up frustrations and anxieties in ways that do minimal damage to us and those around us.

Think about this. There have doubtless been moments in your life when you have been so full of rage and violence that, if anyone had dared to say or do the wrong thing at that instant, you would have exploded into a whirlwind of fury. You, and those around you, would have suffered terribly if you had lost control.

Yet, if you were given the opportunity to take out that rage upon an inanimate object- or, better yet, in a sparring class with men who are not afraid of you and who can keep up with you, teach you, and make you a better fighter- would you really be able to stay angry?

Certainly I have seen a huge difference within my own life in this regard. Even the Iron God, mighty though he is, cannot bestow the kinds of gifts of self-control and self-knowledge that a truly difficult and challenging martial art can. I love powerlifting, but within the gym there are certain protocols that must be followed. I cannot simply go crazy and throw weights around like an angry gorilla for an hour while screaming at people in the gym- that would be absurd. (Not to mention dangerous to others.)

On the sparring mat, though, it's a totally different story. I can, in fact, go as fast and as hard as I want against higher-ranked belts. As a consequence of this, I have become far more calm, far better at taking things in stride and keeping a good sense of perspective. The reason is simple: if I lose my head on the mat, the punishment is swift and severe. It involves taking a serious beating from men with greater skill, control, and balance than me.

Things that a few years ago would have severely upset me, now are simply obstacles to be overcome. Strangers and business associates who have met me have commented on how I seem to have this odd zen-like calm, even in stressful situations. And that is because I know that I always have a release valve in the form of the sparring mat, the muay thai pads, and the heavy bag.

2. Bonds of Brotherhood

The book goes into some detail about how Prof. Gottschall made some very good and very close friends in his MMA gym, despite the fact that most of the guys there were younger, faster, stronger, and considerably more skilled than he is. Even though he was getting the crap beaten out of him early on, he persisted, and in the process, he forged lifelong bonds with good and decent men- even while those same men were making him squeak and tap out, or pummeling his face into hamburger.

This is an experience that, as far as I can tell, is unique to men. Women do not punch each other in the face and walk away as friends. The very concept is alien to them, because women fight, if they do at all, very differently from men. Women fight using subtle tactics of intimidation and outmanoeuvreing; the concept of head-on collisions designed to quickly and effectively settle scores is not something that they understand.

I started doing martial arts because I wanted to learn how to defend myself. I am achieving that goal- remember, as a paleolibertarian, I regard self-defence as a duty, not merely a right. But that is only part, and a small part at that, of what keeps me coming back- even though I find myself routinely working with guys with more experience and skill than myself, who could easily beat me to a pulp if they wanted to.

What keeps me coming back is the fact that I have met good men who have become good friends.

These men were and are there for me when I need their support. And they know that I am there for them when they need me. These are bonds forged of mutual respect, trust, and platonic affection- the kind that can only be experienced by men who have faced difficult trials together, and come away from those ordeals wiser, stronger, and better able to trust each other.

When you're testing for a higher belt with a training partner, your physical safety is very often going to be in someone else's hands. If you do not share a bond of familiarity, trust, and respect with your training partner, serious injury and public humiliation are almost sure to follow. Full-contact martial arts makes brothers out of the most unlikely men for this precise reason.

These are bonds that are critically important for men, especially young men, to form. Growing up, I never experienced anything like this. I moved around a lot as a kid, and that transient existence affected me deeply. To this day, I find it impossible to make friends with random strangers; it takes a very great deal for someone to get past my standoffish reserve and make friends with me. I have very few real friends, and almost none remain from my childhood. And I am perfectly happy with that state of affairs.

Yet, on the sparring mat, I share a bond of common respect and trust with men that I barely know otherwise. I admire their skill; I treat both higher and lower ranked belts with respect; I work hard to meet the standards that our school sets; and as a result, I have made friends that I will have for life.

And all because we punch and kick each other in the face, put each other in rear-naked chokes, and do our level best to smack each other over the head with sticks (which don't have foam padding at our school, by the way).

3. Honour, Hierarchy, and Dominance

There are many fine qualities to be found within the martial arts. One of the most important- even more important than its ability to make firm friends out of men who might otherwise hate each other in daily life- is the fact that martial competition establishes hierarchy like nothing else can.

Think about it. Which men do you admire, and why? These are men that you admire for any number of reasons, but I'll bet anything you want that a big part of the reason that you admire them is the fact that these men are dominant in their chosen fields.

That dominance is not always easy to establish. In the world of technology, for instance, it's usually the guy with the biggest bank account. But in arenas where fierce competition is encouraged and physical prowess is the yardstick used to measure dominance, there is nothing easier to figure out.

In mixed martial arts, it's really simple: the champion is the man to be. Women want to jump his bones; men in his division want to break them; and men who watch him want to be him.

MMA and contact-based martial arts establish dominance and hierarchy in a way that is easy to understand and fair, insofar as anything can be called such. If you are getting your ass kicked by someone with more skill than you, then you will cede authority, respect, and position to him- because he is measurably and demonstrably better than you. There is no shame or dishonour in this.

There is, however, another side to this that most people don't bother to touch on- even Prof. Gottschall barely mentions it in his book. And that is the concept of honourable combat.

There is a big difference between being an honourable champion and a blood-crazed berserker. The former is worthy of admiration and is to be emulated; the latter is little better than a rabid dog. The difference isn't always that stark; in MMA, the comparison is basically between those fighters who carry themselves well and act as role models for their sport, and those fighters who like to promote themselves while putting down their opponents.

A good example of the former is the current UFC middleweight champion, Chris Weidman. You will rarely come across a more fundamentally decent, hard-working, down-to-earth man than this. He loves his family, his people, and his country. He works insanely hard to be good at what he does. He does not take his success for granted. He respects his opponents and fights cleanly, within the rules of his sport.

Contrast this with former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. There is no question that the man is a supremely talented pugilist. There is also no question that he is a very dirty fighter. And because of his cosmic arrogance and evident belief that the rules just don't apply to him, he has lost his championship belt and forfeited whatever regard that his fans might once have had for his awesome talents.

4. Badassery Versus Bullshido

"No Can Defend"? Then how come this doesn't work in real life?
There is a rather good section of the book that explores the difference between "traditional" martial arts, like karate and tae kwon do, and modern MMA. That section asks just why it is that practitioners of the older arts have such a hard time in MMA.

The answer lies partly in the fact that older arts were designed for entirely different purposes. Karate, for instance, is big on stances and forms and spirituality; you have to go to a truly old-school karate dojo in order to find real full-contact sparring. Traditional styles, like shotokan or kyokushin karate, both encourage and allow full-contact sparring. There are several modern MMA greats who have backgrounds in karate- Lyoto Machida comes to mind, as does Georges St. Pierre. But the key to their success is that they recognised the shortcomings of karate, particularly with regard to its more showy techniques and its utter lack of groundfighting, and compensated for them by incorporating other styles and ideas into their repertoire.

Another older art, aikido, was designed for use on the battlefield against weapons with a long reach. Its emphasis on disarming with minimal contact using small-joint locks and throws is great when you're up against pikemen with long poles, or samurai wielding katana and wakizashi in horizontal, diagonal, and vertical movements.

It is of rather less use against a man with his hands wrapped so tightly as to make his arms into potent 20lb clubs designed to beat you senseless at close range. That is partly why you don't see many aikido practitioners in MMA- the stance that they teach is dangerously out-of-date for the sport, the techniques don't stack up well against BJJ or sambo or wrestling, and the wrist- and finger-locks are ineffective against people with hand-wraps in 4oz gloves.

And aikido is of very little use indeed against people with short, sharp knives that are used to poke holes in you at very close range, rather than slash you open at medium range.

A separate, but related, reality is that a pure stand-up striker is, roughly 80% of the time, going to lose against a skilled ground fighter.

The book tells a rather interesting anecdote about how Prof. Gotschall got into an argument with a friend of his who practises karate. The two of them agree to settle it like gentlemen- by stepping out onto the lawn to beat each other up, subject to certain rules. His friend steps in to kick, hard and fast- and finds himself flat on his back getting choked out. This happens six times in a row. At the end of the episode, his friend still cannot quite believe that karate alone was not sufficient when pitted against a ground-based style.

This mirrors my own experiences. I'm a decent stand-up striker- not great, not very good, just decent. But there are green and blue belts at my school with backgrounds in wrestling and jiu jitsu, who routinely go for takedowns when I spar with them. And if they succeed, then I'm usually SOL.

The ground is a striker's worst enemy. Put a really dangerous muay thai or tae kwon do kicker on his back, turn him turtle, and you've got him. He's out of the fight. You might take a lot of damage in getting him there, but every advantage that a stand-up fighter has is immediately nullified once you get him on his back.

The flip side of this coin is that ground-based styles, especially jiu jitsu, are NOT useful against multiple attackers. The very same things that make BJJ such a potent foundation art for MMA, also make it nearly useless in a fight with multiple assailants.

In fact, BJJ has some rather significant weaknesses even against other ground-based styles, as Kazushi "Gracie Hunter" Sakuraba so ably demonstrated back in his day.

The lessons are clear: don't limit yourself to just striking or just groundwork, or to any one particular style or art. Experiment. Learn. Adapt and cross-pollinate. In the process, you'll build your own style, that works specifically for you and your body, temperament, skills, and preferences.

The Painful Lessons Learned

It's important here that I close with a caveat. Martial arts is, in general, absolutely terrible for you in many ways.

It is a terrific way to get injured, for instance. As I write this, I'm recovering from two nasty injuries picked up in the space of two days. I've got a jammed joint in my left index finger, from checking a kick incorrectly; as a result, I can't really bend that finger properly. While doing groundwork on Saturday, I hyperextended my right elbow and heard a crunching sound as the ligaments popped; that was painful, to say the least. Even now, four days later, I still can't straighten my dominant arm without pain.

My left shoulder has a chronic rotator cuff injury that has never fully healed. My right shoulder acts up from time to time. I have injured both knees by colliding with other people's limbs while sparring. I have bruised my toes and shins and forearms and biceps. I have injured my lower back. I have bled on the mat from taking hard punches to the face. My entire body hurts after a hard session on the muay thai pads in a way that is impossible to describe to anyone who has never experienced that kind of fatigue and pain.

Yet there is also no denying that martial arts is, at the same time, amazingly good for you too.

Full-contact sparring builds character, resilience, tolerance for pain, and endurance like almost nothing else can. Few things in life will ever scare you as much as your first full-contact sparring session. And as you get used to being beaten to a pulp, your confidence will go up. Your skill level will increase- I used to be one of those clueless yellow belts who had no idea how to defend against a punch or kick; now, I beat up on other yellow belts for fun. Your fitness will skyrocket. Your resolve and tenacity and grit will improve.

These are all things that modern men desperately need. As society becomes ever softer and more feminised, men need to rediscover and re-emphasise the martial virtues.

So go find your nearest MMA gym, muay thai school, BJJ training camp, or Krav Maga organisation. (If you're interested in the latter, drop me a line- I can tell you which ones to avoid. There are an awful lot of "cardio-Krav" boxes out there that will BS you into thinking that you're learning "self-defence", when all you're really learning is how to do jumping jacks with kicks.) Learn how to punch and kick and wrestle other people. And become a better man in the process.

It makes an odd kind of sense

Courtesy of Text From Dog, a highly subversive time-waster of a link that my highly subversive colleague sent me while we were both bored out of our gourds on a conference call today:

Oh but wait, there are more:
Two can play this dastardly game
Come to think of it, I don't either
How else do you explain why dogs find drinking out of toilets and sticking their heads out of car windows to be so excellent?

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Selfie-to-English translator

Services provided by a girl, no less- a very cute one:

Irish model Holly Carpenter has created a blog post translating what women actually mean in Snapchats

In each Snapchat she revealed the original on the left and then on the right the hidden message 

Holly has also seen a lot of people tagging their friends in her blog post

This should put paid to any silly notions that uninformed men might have about the purposes of selfies. Women take these stupid things to draw attention to themselves. That is their entire point.

I have never taken a selfie. Actually, I have a considerable aversion to being photographed- my sister once quite memorably sent me a hilarious birthday card pointing out that it's always very easy to figure out who I am in the family photo: I'm the one frantically trying to climb the fence out back to get away. And this is partly because I just don't see the use of solipsistically photographing myself doing... stuff. It's not interesting in any way for anyone else to watch me gurning like an idiot in front of the London Eye or the Statue of Liberty, or in the mosh pit at a concert.

For girls, however, selfies are a form of communication, not a way of preserving memories. And when used correctly, they are a great way of providing a girl with endless validation from equally endless streams of sackless orbiters leaving silly googly-eyed comments on social media forums like Facebook and Instagram.

For example:

Holly came up with the idea after hearing her female friends planning tactile snaps to send to love interests
Okay, I didn't JUST grab this one because it's funny
It's not particularly difficult to figure out what would happen the moment a hot girl posts a picture of herself in evening-wear claiming to be hungover, while still having perfect hair, makeup, and poise. She would get a few hundred comments from guys along the lines of, "OMG you look SOOOOO HAWT even when you're hungover!".

(Or some such. Yes, I know, I sound like an idiot when I try to be "hip", or whatever silly term kids use these days to denote that which is "cool".)

And that, of course, is precisely the point. A girl would post a picture like that one for exactly that purpose- to receive as much validation from men as she could possibly get.

None of this is any kind of news to the red pill, Androsphere, or neomasculine types among us- take your pick of the terminology. We know that women thrive on attention in ways that have absolutely no use to strong, secure and self-aware men. We know that women compete with each other for looks and attention as mate-seeking behaviour. We know that modern women use social media forums as ways of getting validation for their increasingly hedonistic and decreasingly disciplined lifestyles.

No, the lissome and lovely Ms. Carpenter's revelations are not news to any of us. But for the rest of the readership of the Daily Mail, she has done them a considerable service by, unwittingly or otherwise, taking a hammer and chisel straight to the pedestal upon which far too many men elevate women in social media settings.

So, my thanks, Ms. Carpenter, for pointing out the truth, however backhandedly and humourously. You have done your beta orbiters a considerable service.

Oh, and one other thing- being able to assemble a burger is not proof that you can cook. I can do that on my worst day. Make a really good batch of beef chili, though, and I'll be impressed.

A vodka shot too far

So there I was, rocking out to some awesome power metal and generally enjoying life with a decent bottle of alcohol handy, when I stumbled across something that made me sit up and question my own sanity:

After recovering from the initial shock of WTFness, I had another look at whatever it was I was drinking and realised that I might have made a horrible mistake. Yet, as always, one stupid decision deserves to be followed by another:

I have never done hard drugs in my life. But after watching that, I'm pretty sure I know what it feels like to do LDS LSE be tripping balls.

At that point I realised that the alcohol might be hitting my system a little harder than I thought. So I went and looked these guys up. Apparently, these guys play something called "Russian Turbo Polka".

If anyone has a clue what that means, please DON'T let me know- my brain is still going bats**t crazy from that last video.

It was at that point, in my dazed and confused state, that I made the terrible decision to check out their latest single video:

I am so sorry for inflicting this upon you. They're STILL scraping the remains of my mind off the ceiling. I can only imagine what it did to you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the loony bin, to get what's left of my personality pieced back together by a bunch of bloodthirsty switchblade-wielding rabbits in leather trenchcoats.

Oh, you're still here? Well in that case, check THIS out. This is what happens when you take one of the most annoyingly addictive dance-pop tracks ever made and then hand it over to a bunch of crazy Austrians pretending to be Russian:

Just goes to show that EVERYTHING is better with an authentic Russian accent... provided you're completely hammered.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Beer rhymes with...

I know I'm going to piss off something like 98% of all Americans by posting this, but... well, I just don't much like beer. Unless it's a really good India Pale Ale.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Guns are the great equaliser

It's crucial to remember that, no matter how many black belts you have, no matter how skilled you are at street-fighting, no matter how well you can prepare yourself, a bullet to the head is still a bullet to the head:
It's a sad day for Brazilian jiu-jitsu as master blackbelt at martial arts gym Ipanema Fight, Bruno Inacio Nunes, passed away at 37 when he tried to fight back during a mugging on a bus in Rio de Janeiro. Nunes was on his way to a gig where he worked as security and according to Nunes' brother, Leonardo, he tried to choke the assailant, but was shot in the head. 
"The bus wasn't too crowded, one guy was just picking up everyone's belongings. When Bruno was approached, he thought he could apply a rear naked choke. He tried to disarm the robber, he saw the opportunity, but was shot in the head, on his left eyebrow," Leonardo told local newspaper, O Dia, as it was reported by Tatame
Nunes had already been mugged twice before and now leaves behind three kids. One of Ipanema Fight's owners, Marcos Nigri Dana, explained how Bruno's work affected the neighborhood positively. 
"We were surprised. People wouldn't stop texting us. We are all shocked with all this violence. He had both really young and older students. He would bring them all together, he would take them to the tournaments and was always bringing something new to practice. We will pay a tribute to him on Wednesday. We have students of all religions, so we will make something where everyone can participate. All students are asking for it. He was a master, a teacher and an extraordinary person."
No insult is intended at all to Mr. Nunes. The man died trying to protect other people. For that, he deserves the utmost respect. For what little it is worth, I offer my condolences to his family, his students, and his friends. A good man lost his life trying to do what is right.

I use this story simply to point out a cautionary tale.

If you take a martial art of some kind, especially one dedicated to street defence, you'll quickly learn to understand that when you're up against an assailant with a weapon- or, worse, multiple assailants with multiple weapons- your chances of survival rapidly dwindle into the low double digits.

If you're up against someone with a gun, that probability declines into probably the single digits.

There are highly effective techniques for defending against sticks, or more generally, against long blunt objects that work most effectively at long range. To defend against such things, you move to a range that nullifies the effectiveness of that weapon- namely, you move in as close as possible to your attacker and then beat the snot out of him.

There are also highly effective techniques for defending against knives, at both leg and hand ranges. Since knives are (generally) short and sharp weapons, at least in the context of street defence, you want to keep the knife as far away from you as possible, so you do whatever you can to keep the knife from entering your immediate vicinity while striking your assailant as rapidly as possible.

With guns, however, you've got a huge problem.

While knives have killed far more people than guns in human history, it is still possible to use a gun with complete lethality at both short and long ranges. And if you are more than, say, ten feet away from someone with a gun, well, you have very little hope of reaching your attacker before he snuffs out your life.

Your only hope of survival, if any exists, is to let your attacker become overconfident and move to ranges where you can reach the gun, move off the line of attack, and attack him in turn.

And even then, your probability of success is very low.

A gun is a terrific equaliser. If used properly by someone who isn't a complete idiot, a gun nullifies all of the advantages of speed, fitness, endurance, skill, and power that a trained martial artist might possess. A gun is precisely what makes it possible for a 50kg 150cm girl in skinny jeans to successfully stand up to a 100kg 190cm would-be rapist or mugger.

Of course, this also works the other way around. And all too often, decent men find themselves suddenly running out of time, training, and skill in indecent times.

The lesson from this sad story is the same for any man who wishes to learn how to defend himself- which, in this day and age, should be every man, regardless of occupation, fitness level, or ideological persuasion. A man with a gun can snuff out your life with minimal effort, and only a very great fool would think otherwise.

I hope you never have the misfortune to confront an assailant wielding a gun. But if you do, remember that playing the hero is more likely to get you- and more importantly, others around you- killed than not. Even if you have training in disarming people with guns, you will still find it a real challenge to move fast enough to get off the line of fire before your attacker shoots you.

And if you don't succeed, you're going to find out firsthand just how painful an acute case of lead poisoning can be.

With that being said- it is not impossible to defend against guns, at least at close range. It can be done. Here, my teacher and two of his top students demonstrate how:

I have personally witnessed the two brown belts in these videos test to black-belt ranks- one to 1st Dan, the other to 2nd Dan. I have seen them execute these techniques at tremendous speed, with perfect control and accuracy. I have seen them do these things with almost superhuman skill.

Could the average man do the same things, without training, or without at least understanding the nature and purpose of a gun as a weapon when used with lethal intent?


And that is precisely what students of martial arts, especially, need to understand. One should never feel a false sense of confidence due to being a student of a martial art, even a legitimate and great art like jiu jitsu- or, for that matter, Krav Maga.

There is no such thing as a dangerous weapon. There are only dangerous people. But when you combine dangerous people with weapons, and you don't know how to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of those specific weapons, then you're going to find yourself in a world of terrible trouble, very quickly.

Always remember that the best defence against a man with a gun is always going to be another gun, in your hands, aimed at his head or body. That is the simplest and safest way to guarantee your physical well-being.

Don't ever let anyone, or anything, take that right and duty of self-defence away from you, for any reason.

Guest Post: The narrative is wrong

A fellow Vile Faceless Minion commented at some length on my post from the other day regarding the recent shooting in Charleston, SC. I judged his comments to be worthy of their own full-length post. I present those comments here with minimal editing and cleanup on my part. I have also taken the liberty of adding a few links here and there to illustrate his points. There are a lot of good ideas presented below, and I recommend that you take the time to read through and understand them.

After spending a lot of time in the south and looking into the war, it gets pretty obvious that the North cared little for slavery as a cause, despite several notable abolitionists, or a primary goal in the war. 

Slavery was already in many ways on its way out. The Brits were already , if I recall, waging war against slavers on the seas. It was, compared to industrialization and paying a wage, far less efficient (and those who believe that the north was less bigoted REALLY need to look at the history of gun control legislation in places like Chicago and Detroit.... and WHY it was pushed...)

The South really was trying to preserve political power and independence. While I agree insofar as the core ten amendments before some of the other social-utopia bullshit that was pushed through (and some of it later repealed) that - insofar as they are negative rights, the rights guaranteed by the Federal constitution to citizens cannot be abrogated by the states (another reason to make them few), I am conflicted in several ways.

We really NEEDED to become one union - note that the Brits (not allies at the time, and the War of 1812 still in living memory for many) attempted to play games between the Northern and Southern states for decades before that to separate us out.

That being said, in classic overreach then and since, the federal government assumed power far in excess of that allowed to it by the Tenth Amendment, the one to this day still most commonly broken.

Back to the South though. One uncomfortable truth for the narrative was that there were black units in the CSA. Another uncomfortable truth for Southerners was also that they were still dependent on slavery, and one of the things they (the elite - the commoners for the most part could hardly afford slaves, and even black maids/etc. in the South were the province of the upper middle class and wealthy after the war) wanted to preserve was that institution that gave them some semblance of production capability, no matter how short-sighted it was. It was dying out, but nowhere near as quickly as the North.

It's a damn sight more complicated than either side tends to give it credit for, though as you point out, it makes the South out to be far less of the bad guy. 

We now live in an era where Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech is full of racist assumptions and microagression (if taken seriously by whites). By modern standards not only MLK, but Cosby and Rice are white supremacists. Objectivity, as one speaker on race said, is inherently racist and favors white privilege.

So because I take a person as they are - and one of my friends is a black guy who's a good programmer, a better math guy, and a fantastic musician - but dislike people who act like thugs, EVEN if they're black, I am a racist. Though I refuse to conflate cultural issues (where I believe MOST of the problem lies, and not holding people to account doesn't help) with a false belief that race determines a person's overall worthiness as a human in the eyes of god or universe, I am still a racist.

I said elsewhere that Riley inadvertently spoke truth, even if he didn't mean it that way and the media didn't take it that way: a man does not walk into a church to commit a premeditated act of mass murder out of LOVE. It's either hate, regardless of skin colors involved, or someone off - or on - their meds. Despite a meme going around on Facebook that all of these mass shootings are NOT due to insanity it's amazing how many of them have been committed, friends have tried to have them committed, nearly all of them were on psychotropics, all of them had repeated violent offenses but couldn't be locked up for fear of stigmatization of insanity, and were simply out of touch with reality and hated the world.

Despite the apparent race-hatred which motivated the choice in target, even the most recent shooting is not the work of a conservative, but the work of a person who was out of touch with reality and bitterly and deeply hated the world. The vast majority of these shooters were completely apolitical, or anarchist to socialist.

But they try to pin it on conservatives anyway. (Many Leftists bleat conservatives are haters so all the actions of bitter hateful people are OBVIOUSLY those of conservatives, even if they keep a copy of Mao around for inspiration). And the race hucksters are at it. 

So instead of concentrating on justice for this horrible act, we hear about the flag, or streets named for civil war generals, or racism in general. We hear it's an act of terrorism (despite the lack of a political component). Why? Because this time a white person killed black people. 

It isn't news when black people kill black people, or kill white people. (It doesn't help when the races are rarely mentioned when the criminal is black)

I know the black community believes that's not true (especially if you listen to their spokesmen) - that racism is as common and all-pervasive as sin, but the numbers don't lie. Even in cities run by mostly black governments with black police chiefs ("but the institutional racism is so deep that even there they are helpless"), there aren't enough unsolved crimes for the canard of "white people do it just as much but the cops only look at black people". And we're told by officials that we are "privileged" to believe that people should be civilized and to expect to not get attacked for walking our dog down the street.

The cop in Charleston? He deserves to burn. Not because he got caught on video trying to plant evidence, but because he shot a guy he didn't have to and compounded that by violating honor and integrity to plant the evidence instead of taking the consequences. The video is just proof. 

This latest shooter deserves to burn as well. Because he committed an act of mass murder. I actually resent the term "hate crime" being applied to it. That term is also used if someone commits petty vandalism with racial overtones, and I refuse to conflate murder with vandalism. 

Of course there's a motive. There's ALWAYS a motive (manslaughter covers cases where there was negligence, or no motive). The ACT is what is uncivilized. WHO you happened to hate, white to black, or white to black, is fucking irrelevant. If it's not self-defense or a justified act of war, it's murder.

But white on black crimes stand out for their rarity. Sure, "racism is everywhere and systemic" ( I agree racists are everywhere, but it is NOT systemic unless one buys into the recent bullshit at CA schools about believing that America is a land of opportunity being racist). "microagressions" and "contempt" are supposedly constant, but hard numbers on assaults, robberies, rapes, and murders are lacking.

With cops it's grayer. Sure, it's simpler to call all altercations with cops racist if you choose the victim based on skin color or who screams the loudest rather than behavior (sortof like zero violence rules at schools that benefit the bullies by effectively outlawing self-defense). I am neither ally to cops - peacekeepers are necessary, but they are getting far too paramilitary and us vs them - nor foe. So I look at who did what and is it justified regardless of race.

The chokehold incident was one such gray area. Without stupid tyrannical rules over tobacco taxes, the altercation likely never would have happened, and even then is far simpler to explain as two proud men, one of whom was in poor health, not backing down. Even the victim's daughter subscribes to that explanation.

The rest of it? Ferguson and "hands up don't shoot"? That was no gentle giant, just minding his business before going off to college later in the year. Colin Flaherty compiles case after case, video after video, of mob violence. 

It's gotten to the point that , much like reports on criminal activity by politicians where if it's a democrat the party affiliation isn't mentioned on the news, people are figuring out that if the race of the perp isn't mentioned, he's almost guaranteed to be not white. Why? Because they "want to be color blind". Except they aren't when the perp is white. Or when the thing done by [member of ethnic group] is a good thing.

Awakening the World

I discovered this forgotten yet amazing band a few days ago while rocking out to the new track from UNLEASH THE ARCHERS. These guys could have been the next HELLOWEEN or GAMMA RAY, back in the day, but for whatever reason, they stalled and crashed after just two albums.

Fortunately for us, those two albums were some of the finest examples of melodic, aggressive power metal ever crafted.

And this particular album has been playing on loop for me for days now. Have a listen through this classic from LOST HORIZON and you'll see why:

Monday, 22 June 2015

Try to keep calm, everyone...


IRON MAIDEN's eagerly awaited new studio album, "The Book Of Souls", will be released globally on September 4 through Parlophone Records (Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG in the U.S.A.). It was recorded in Paris with their longstanding producer Kevin "Caveman" Shirley in late 2014, with the finishing touches added earlier this year. However, the band decided to delay its release so that vocalist Bruce Dickinson, who was recently given the all-clear from a tumour, would have time to recuperate sufficiently to join in the preparations for the album's launch. 
The stunning cover art was created by Mark Wilkinson, who has worked with the band previously, and because this 11-track album has a total running time of 92 minutes, it is IRON MAIDEN's first-ever double studio album. There's a broader split on the songwriting compared to previous MAIDEN records, with bassist and founder member Steve Harris contributing to seven of the tracks; six of them with MAIDEN's guitarists and one sole composition. This is also the first time since 1984's "Powerslave" that an IRON MAIDEN studio album also features two tracks written solely by Bruce Dickinson, one of which is the longest song MAIDEN has ever recorded! And also two Dickinson/Smith collaborations. 
Steve comments: "We approached this album in a different way to how we've recorded previously. A lot of the songs were actually written while we were there in the studio and we rehearsed and recorded them straight away while they were still fresh, and I think that immediacy really shows in the songs, they have almost a live feel to them, I think. I'm very proud of 'The Book Of Souls', we all are, and we can't wait for our fans to hear it, and especially to take it out on the road next year!" 
Bruce continues: "We're really excited about 'The Book Of Souls' and had a fantastic time creating it. We started working on the album in late summer 2014 and recorded it at Guillame Tell Studios in Paris, where we'd done the 'Brave New World' album back in 2000 so the studio holds special memories for all of us. We were delighted to discover the same magical vibe is still alive and very much kicking there! So we immediately felt at home and the ideas just started flowing. By the time we'd finished we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album, then double its going to be!" 
The full track listing is: 
Disc 1
01. If Eternity Should Fail (Dickinson) 8:28
02. Speed Of Light (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01
03. The Great Unknown (Smith/ Harris) 6:37
04. The Red And The Black (Harris) 13:33
05. When The River Runs Deep (Smith/ Harris) 5:52
06. The Book Of Souls (Gers/ Harris) 10:27 
Disc 2
07. Death Or Glory (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13
08. Shadows Of The Valley (Gers/ Harris) 7:32
09. Tears Of A Clown (Smith/ Harris) 4:59
10. The Man Of Sorrows (Murray/ Harris) 6:28
11. Empire Of The Clouds (Dickinson) 18:01
I can't say I'm all that impressed by the cover artwork. IRON MAIDEN has a legacy of truly spectacular cover art, and when compared to the artwork for, say, The Final Frontier or Fear of the Dark, this just seems... tame. More like the cover art for The X Factor, the album that every MAIDEN fan from the 80s hates to admit that he likes.

It also looks like the very proggy, somewhat slower direction that the band has taken for the last, oh, twenty years is going to be front-and-centre once again. I know that a lot of MAIDEN fans want to go back to the classic thundering sound of the mid-1980s, but the fact is that those days are long done. Think about it- most of the guys in the band are in their mid-to-late-fifties. Nicko McBrain is sixty-three. He's older than Neil Peart. There is simply no way that a bunch of guys that old are going to be playing with the speed and ferocity of a bunch of twenty-something whippernsnappers.

That being said- if you've seen them live (and I have- something like 7 times), you know full well that they make bands one third their age look slow and boring by comparison. They've been doing this for nearly 40 years. And they are, quite simply, the greatest. Ever.

And the fans just keep getting younger every year. Every MAIDEN gig that I've ever been to has always had these teenagers going bonkers in the pits; every year, it seems like more young fans get introduced to the music of one of the very few bands in heavy metal with true staying power.

This year is shaping up to be a truly monumental one for metal. We've already had new material from BLIND GUARDIAN, HELLOWEEN, and NIGHTWISH- all excellent- and we've got new AMON AMARTH, CHILDREN OF BODOM, KREATOR, SYMPHONY X, POWERWOLF, UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, and of course the magnificent IRON MAIDEN to look forward to.

Old farts like me are going to look back on the Year of Our Lord 2015 with great fondness in decades to come.

In the meantime- UP THE IRONS!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Leave the flag alone

My little sister, being considerably more emotional and therefore more liberal than I am, sent me a link to a write-up by a chap named Ta-Nehisi Coates in the wake of the church slaying down in Charleston, demanding the immediate removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolinian state capitol of Columbia:
The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it. That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth...
This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly the manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice. 
Surely the flag’s defenders will proffer other, muddier, interpretations which allow them the luxury of looking away. In this way they honor their ancestors. Cowardice, too, is heritage. When white supremacist John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, Booth’s fellow travelers did all they could to disassociate themselves. “Our disgust for the dastardly wretch can scarcely be uttered,” fumed a former governor of South Carolina, the state where secession began. Robert E. Lee’s armies took special care to enslave free blacks during their Northern campaign. But Lee claimed the assassination of the Great Emancipator was “deplorable.” Jefferson Davis believed that “it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South,” and angrily denied rumors that he had greeted the news with exultation.
As polemics go, it's not a bad one at all. As for Mr. Coates himself, who I am reliably told is a writer on race and politics of some note (read: as radically leftist as they come) among the literati, well, his writing is very much along the usual lines of the narrative taught in this country about the Civil War- more accurately and neutrally called the War Between the States, which is how I refer to it.

Namely, the War Between the States was fought primarily over the issue of slavery, an evil and horrific institution (I agree completely with this latter sentiment), and the equally evil and horrific South, by the morally virtuous and economically superior North. And because of its legacy of evil, the South can and should be punished by having all of the symbols of its past removed and destroyed, so that the people of the South might atone for and expiate their sins against black people.

The problem with this narrative is, of course, that it's complete bunk.

There are several things wrong with Mr. Coates's write-up. First is his insistence that Dylan Roof's crime- and that's exactly what it was- was motivated purely by the young man's hatred of black people, and that the Confederate flag endorses the philosophy of plunder that Mr. Roof represents.

However, this is not clear at all. WND- apparently alone among most media outlets- has pointed out that Mr. Roof was in possession of some rather powerful mind-altering substances when he walked into a church and committed his foul act.

Mr. Roof may well have hated black people. That's his problem- and if that's a crime, then I would argue that quite a large segment of this country's Latino population is "guilty" of it, given what we know of ethnic tensions between Hispanics and blacks.

Mr. Coates's assertion that the Confederacy endorsed and embodied a philosophy of "plunder" is also not supported by the facts. As the Kennedy brothers point out in painstaking detail in The South Was Right!, the War Between the States did not erupt because of a pious and conscientious North taking the evil South to task for its abhorrent way of life. The war erupted because of very clear and quite calculated Northern aggression, mounted through tariffs and measures designed to block Southern representation in Congress.

The fact is that the North industrialised much faster than the South. That industrialisation spurred a population boom that greatly increased the North's representation within the House of Representatives, and the rapidly growing wealth and power of the North also gave it significantly more clout in the Senate over time. The South could see the signs and knew full well that they would lose political power and therefore freedom to the North if things were left unchecked.

So they did the only thing they could in the face of very clear Northern provocations. They seceded.

Given sufficient time and opportunity, I do not doubt that the South would have industrialised, albeit more slowly and less easily than the North. Slavery is, as an economic system, hugely inefficient. Because it strips men of the dignity and freedom that comes with economic opportunity and specialisation, slaves are not motivated to work harder by anything other than brute force and fear. While a slave-based economy is initially considerably cheaper to run than an industrialised one, especially in agriculture and textiles, it loses out fairly quickly due to the rapid development and specialisation that becomes possible through the use of machinery and industrial production methods.

Returning to the content of Mr. Coates's arguments, he then makes the further assertion that Mr. Roof's acts were animated by the belief "that the negro is not equal to the white man"- the very same belief that the Confederacy embraced as one of its core tenets.

Mr. Roof may very well have acted on that belief- though whether he did so entirely of his own free will is not fully answered. However, to argue that the Confederacy alone embraced inequality as one of its core beliefs is simply silly, as the rhetoric of the so-called "Great Emancipator" himself reveals. In fact, the North was every bit as hostile to the idea of "equality between the races" as the South was.

Mr. Coates then quotes John Wilkes Booth, the slayer of the first- and by no means last- dictator in American history, at some length, and concludes:
By 1865, the Civil War had morphed into a war against slavery—the “cornerstone” of Confederate society. Booth absorbed his lesson too well. He did not violate some implicit rule of Confederate chivalry or politesse. He accurately interpreted the cause of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, men who were too weak to truthfully address that cause’s natural end. 
Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. 
Unfortunately, it is Mr. Coates who embraces "the dream over the real". His version of history is not supported by the actual facts. The War Between the States was NOT about slavery. It never was.

General Grant stated plainly at the beginning of the war that he believed the entire issue to be about preservation of the Union. This view was shared by most Northerners at the time. William Tecumseh Sherman's own views on the subject of the causes of the war were clear: he believed the war to be about preserving the Union, and he was willing to do whatever it took, including devastating and destroying the South's economy and people, to do it.

Even the Emancipation Proclamation, that great canard that liberals like Mr. Coates love to pull out to show how the war was indeed about slavery, was nothing more than a very cleverly scripted piece of propaganda. Not one single slave was actually freed by it. Instead, it provided the moral fig leaf cover for an utterly immoral war of devastation inflicted by the prosperous and industrialised North against the poorer and agricultural South.

In conclusion, Mr. Coates's reading of history is utterly wrong. His premises are wrong. His supporting points are wrong. His conclusions, therefore, are wrong. The Confederate flag is inseparable from the odious and unmourned institution of slavery, and all of the evil that it represents, to most modern Americans, but that is simply because they have not been taught the truth about their own history. Those, like me, who have been lucky enough to teach themselves about the true facts of the matter, know full well that the Confederacy was flawed and problematic from the beginning, but that it also represented the true spirit of independence that motivated the Founding and eventually the Union of this country.

A reasonable man would, upon looking at the actual history of the War Between the States, have a very hard time taking seriously the notion that the Confederate flag is somehow the albatross that the entire modern South must bear and eventually relinquish for the sins of its ancestors.

Let the Confederate flag stay put. Let it serve as a reminder of what the old South truly stood for. Let it be a warning from history about the consequences of failing to stand up to tyranny. And let those with the wit and the will and the eys and the ears to see the truth, see it come forth from the hidden facts of the past.

A word about Dylan Roof himself. The fact that he walked into a house of God and massacred worshippers of the Lord in cold blood makes him unworthy of mercy. I personally have only one problem with the death penalty- namely, that giving the state the ability to execute people simply gives that institution unnecessary encouragement to do what it's already very good at doing. However, if indeed he is handed the death penalty... well, let's just say that while I will pray for his soul's salvation, I won't be at all unhappy to see a deranged slayer of innocent people removed from the world.