Saturday, 31 August 2013

"President Jackass Tries to Wear Big Boy Pants, Fails Miserably"

That is really what this headline should have been:
President Barack Obama announced on Saturday that he has decided to strike the Syrian military in retaliation for its nerve gas attack on civilians — but that he’ll wait for Congressional authorization before launching an attack. 
“I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage,” he said. “Today, I’m asking Congress to send a message to the rest of the world that we are ready to move together.” 
“I have the authority to carry out this military action…. [and] I know the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be more effective” if it is approved by Congress, he said in a short statement delivered in the White House’s Rose Garden. 
Obama said congressional leaders have agreed to hold a debate after Congress returns from its August recess on September 9. 
Obama’s request for congressional approval is unexpected, partly because he has implemented numerous actions in the last few years in the face of congressional opposition. These actions include a partial amnesty for younger illegal immigrants and partial enforcement of drug laws. 
However, congressional approval is important for Obama because he’s facing opposition from the progressive left to any use of force — opposition that could damage Democratic turnout the 2014 mid-term election. 
Obama indirectly acknowledged the opposition from his fellow progressives, saying that the nation is opposed to military campaigns, and that he wants to end “a time of war that I was elected, in part, to end.”
The Daily Caller article correctly notes the irony in the fact that a Nobel Peace Prize winner (the most undeserving "winner" of that frankly utterly useless accolade since Yasser Arafat) is arguing in favour of intervention and war in the Middle East. It does not go nearly far enough in criticising this latest idiotic round of American interventionism, unfortunately.

About the only good thing about this entire farce is the fact that Obarmy decided to go to Congress to ask for authorisation. This is precisely what he is supposed to do under his enumerated powers in the Constitution's Article II. But let's not get carried away here- this poltroon has wiped his arse with the Constitution many, many times before, and he's not about to stop now. The only reason he is suddenly and inexplicably growing a conscience at this particular point in time is that he knows and is fully aware that the majority of the American people have no stomach for yet another pointless and useless war of intervention.

That, unfortunately, is a lesson that the neocons never seem to learn. Yet again, we hear the usual chorus of voices raised in protest at what the Assad regime in Syria has done. And yet again, we hear the foolish and intemperate calls to use America's military might for "the greater good" in order to "bring the dictator to justice", as if there is some urgent and overwhelming moral imperative that justifies the expenditure of yet more blood and treasure on yet another unjust exercise in complete futility. You would think that the ongoing quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan would have shut them up, but no, they still go abroad in search of monsters to slay. Do these people have literally zero understanding of economics? Are they really so utterly and profoundly ignorant of 1) basic sound military strategy; 2) basic economic theory; 3) simple common sense; or is it just my imagination?

My take on military intervention in the Middle East is very simple: there are no good guys out there, so stop pretending that the use of American military power will make the slightest difference. The choice is simply between two different types of monster. What the Assad regime has done in using chemical weapons upon its own people is barbaric and horrifying- but there is not one nanogram of justification for sending American soldiers to their deaths to stop barbarians from killing each other. I say, let them fight it out among themselves, and let their bloody-handed "god" Allah determine who is right. It's their land, let them figure out how best to destroy each other, and let the rest of us get on with living our lives the way we want to.

The American people, it seems, share this view... though not in sufficient numbers to convince me that Americans have actually gotten a handle on this concept of "common sense" yet. The British have been even more emphatic in their utter rejection of David Cameron's insistence on British involvement in another pointless, useless war in a pointless and almost completely useless part of the world. The only people who really seem to want this war are politicians and Israelis- and it looks like even the latter aren't completely crazy (to my immense relief- I actually have a very soft spot for Israel, personally).

Anyone ever seen a movie called "Wag the Dog"? It's a great film, partly because so much of it is so cynical yet so true. In it, Robert De Niro is called upon by a deeply unpopular President in the midst of a massive political scandal (related to certain indiscretions in his personal life- yeah, this sounds very familiar indeed) to manufacture a great excuse to rally the country behind a military intervention in a distant country. He pulls it off too, with the help of an amazing movie producer played brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman, creating the perfect non-existent pretext for the President to "send in the Marines" and rescue a fictitious PoW from a made-up detention centre. Modify the plot somewhat, and you have the exact same situation as the one we face today: a deeply unpopular and completely useless President in way over his head looking for a way out, a way to save face on his failing and inept Administration with some form of grand gesture that will unify the nation and revive his flagging political fortunes.

Just one problem: the American public isn't playing ball. And thank the good Lord for that.

This war might never happen. Obarmy is not the kind of President to whom big decisions come easily- at least not without vast amounts of ass-covering first. His frankly laughable rediscovery of what the Constitution actually says is merely a pretext to let him avoid making a hard decision- which in reality is a very easy decision: tell the Middle East to go f*** itself and get on with the important business of hitting the links for a round of golf.

God Bless Texas

It's always refreshing to travel from the North to the South in this country, particularly if you've been reading The South Was Right! by the Kennedy brothers in the meantime. Right now I'm sitting in a hotel room near San Antonio after seeing a dear friend for the first time in nearly a decade, listening to EDGUY and sipping on some (decidedly uninspiring) red wine. It's times like these that allow one to reflect upon the people and the things that really matter.

I have a particular soft spot for Texas. I've loved this state ever since I first visited it, nearly 6 years ago. I've always loved the courtesy and soft Southern politeness of its people, their stubborn pride and independence, and the beauty of the women (no, seriously, spend 10 minutes walking around in downtown Houston or San Antonio and tell me that there are no hot women in either city, and I'll probably offer to pay for your next eye exam). And that's just urban Texas. Sure, the state is full of rednecks too, and there are plenty of massively oversized, overstuffed corn-fed land whales walking (waddling, really) around here, and it's a little difficult to take the whole "Lone Star" state thing seriously after watching a few episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger", but come on, it's still a great state.

Any Northerner who has ever been to the South knows what I mean when I write that things operate on very different principles down here. Life moves at a very different pace, things are much cheaper (especially food), and the culture is far less materialistic and far more concerned with the things that truly matter: family, faith, and freedom. To those who have lived in the materialistic, hyper-paced Northern states like New York or New Jersey, Texas is a refreshing (though admittedly very very hot) change.

There are two things that I like about Texas more than anything else.

First, this state very sensibly has no income taxes. When you come from a state where 10% of your income disappears every month into the wallets of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians in return for miserable public services and ever-increasing levels of indebtedness (with the PATH train system ranking as one of the very few exceptions to this general rule), and you then arrive in a state where people are expected to figure out how to get around on their own and are generally capable of doing this, then you quickly realise just what a huge difference that makes to the way people act and think. Here, the government is regarded as at best a nuisance and at worst a severe hindrance; where I live, government is regarded almost universally as a Good Thing, which is why so many idiot-liberals live there and why so many cars in my town have "Obama-Biden 2012" bumper stickers on them. I would simply say that as a general rule, stealing less of people's money in return for lousy roads, stinking and often delayed trains, and failing public schools, and instead letting them keep that money to do with as they please, is Rather a Good Thing.

Second, this state believes firmly in the three Fs: Family, Faith, and Firearms. In that order. Ascending order. (OK, OK, Faith is a big deal here. Just so we're clear about that.) Now, I'm a libertarian, so as far as I'm concerned, the more guns in the hands of private citizens, the better. When you come from a state where concealed carry permits are basically impossible to secure, and a basic firearms purchase permit which supposedly takes 30 days to secure, really takes 3-5 months, then you rapidly come to appreciate the fact that in this state, people generally leave each other the hell alone because you never know whether the guy you're talking to is packing heat.

I don't know if I'll ever move down to the South. My firm has a large operations centre down in one of the Southern states, and if it weren't for the fact that I enjoy being near the centre of the action where I am, I might actively consider moving out and heading down here. Still, it's an intriguing thought. Out here, life is meant to be lived for what it is, meat is meant to be eaten by humans, and guns are meant to be wielded in self-defence. Oh, and the weather's better too- none of this "freezing your ass off for 6 months of the year" nonsense that you get up north. It is not without reason that my little sister calls me a redneck, after all...

Xenophobia is a Survival Instinct

I have finally been catching up on my Red Pill reading in my not-exactly-abundant spare time. It was with more than passing interest that I read a rather provocative new post from Crazy Uncle Mitch that will undoubtedly cause the Gamma Rabbits of this world to go into collective meltdown:
You see, Xenophobia is a survival instinct. A survival instinct is an instinct which is responsible for our present survival, thus existence. Let me give you an example, animals prey on other animals right? Animals had to develop Xenophobic tendencies because if they didn’t, they would be eaten and wouldn’t reproduce. Same with humans. Genetically, those animals and early humans which did not have a healthy innate xenophobic instinct had less chance of surviving and reproducing. It worked well for early humans who existed as tribal animals, those who weren’t of the tribe were feared. True, some survival instincts may be outmoded due to changing circumstances.  That is to say, as we have evolved, the need to depend on such instincts may no longer be necessary. For instance, the feast or famine instinct which drives many people who can’t control it to become obese in societies of unlimited food is, for the present, no longer necessary. Such an instinct may even be harmful if left unchecked. As we see from the herds of fatties wandering around, it is. In my humble opinion though, given what we’re seeing with the flash mobs and the huge amount of black on white crime and black on Hispanic gang violence against each other, xenophobia is still very valuable as a survival instinct. That’s why you instinctively cross the street if you see a group of blacks walking towards you on the sidewalk. 
Case in point, this past Saturday night I was making the rounds at the bars in the tourist district of the town I live in with some friends. Just as it was getting totally dark, the blacks started piling in. This was unusual to say the least because I had spent all day there and could’ve counted the blacks I saw there on one hand. I told my friends, “This isn’t going to end well, I’m staying away from anywhere they congregate” and sure enough, before the night was over, there was a huge fight and multiple arrests that took two paddy wagons to transport to jail all the blacks arrested.
I could start with the usual disclaimers that might be expected from someone who is of mixed race and has been to more places in the last 10 years than most people will ever see in their entire lives. I could point out the fact that I have close friends from like 10 different countries as proof that xenophobia is dangerous and unhealthy. I could go on for hours about how bad it is to judge people by generalities and stereotypes.

And if I were a bleeding heart liberal- which for me is code for "infinite degree of idiot"- then I certainly would. But I'm not. So I won't.

Xenophobia, as Bill Powell states so clearly, is a survival mechanism. It is born of the recognition that people are different, no matter how much the world's equalitarians would like to believe otherwise. It is based on the cold, hard truth that different races, nationalities, and tribes react differently to the same pressures and the same stimuli.

Take Asians, for instance- particularly the Chinese. In every single country to which Chinese immigrants have travelled, the immigrant population has proven to be quiet, hardworking, and almost single-minded in its determination to blend in. I come from South Asia, and if you came to my home city, you would be stunned to find people of Chinese origin there who speak the native language every bit as well as the natives, with the same accents and the same idioms. They have even adapted Chinese food to suit the local palate; whenever I go back to my home country, "Chinese" takeout is always featured as part of a big family meal. (To me and my direct family, of course, that is anything but Chinese food- but then, my family lives in Singapore and we've actually been to China, so our experiences inform and colour our tastes.) The Chinese have adapted and adopted as a survival instinct. So have Indian immigrants (not Muslim ones, though, so we're clear). They have done so to survive and even prosper as minorities in nations where the dominant majority culture makes its preferences clearly known.

The same most assuredly cannot be said of other minority races and cultures. Where Mexicans have gone, they have taken the realities of Mexico with them- heavy dependence on the State combined with an almost total lack of belief in family planning (i.e., high time preferences). Where blacks have gone, the outcomes have been even worse. Where Muslims have gone, they have gone not with the mindset of minorities seeking acceptance within the majority culture, but as invaders seeking to subvert their host culture from within as part of Islam's wider strategy to bring the entire world under the dominion of dar al-Islam. And even Chinese and Indian immigrants tend to be far more liberal and willing to tolerate the interference of government in their lives than the Westerners among whom they settle. One would have to be blind, deaf, and probably dead (or an airhead liberal- same thing, if you think about it) to believe that one's society can continuously import large quantities of immigrants without feeling the effects of the different values and beliefs of those immigrants upon the host society.

Xenophobia, in its most direct and literal translation, simply means "fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign". (Wikipedia would go farther and have you believe that such fear is "irrational"; as Bill Powell makes very clear, it is nothing of the sort.) The reality is that the values and dogmas held by minority groups and tribes within the Western world today are often openly hostile towards the very things that made the Western world the greatest and most powerful civilisation in history.

Societies thrive and grow when its members are united by ties of blood, culture, and common belief. Societies die when these ties are loosened and then undone- especially the tie of common belief. The thread of common belief that once bound this country together- the belief that America exemplified and embodied what it meant to be truly free to pursue one's destiny- has long since been sundered. It is no surprise or coincidence that this sundering came at the same time that America decided to open up its borders to millions of illegal immigrants from its poorer and far less competent southern neighbour, and to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from nations without the painstakingly built traditions of rule-of-law and limited government.

A strictly limited flow of immigrants is almost surely a net boon to society. A strictly regulated flow of immigrants that have the skills and abilities that the host society lacks, can be very beneficial to the host society. An unregulated wave of people crashing against the shores of an unprepared nation is a surefire prescription for disaster.

To refuse to acknowledge these facts, and the consequences of these facts, is the height of human stupidity. To refuse to understand what your eyes are telling you every day- that a "diverse" and "multicultural" society is also a weak and confused society- is to beg to be bent over a barrel by reality.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Arm Teachers, Save Students

I am really quite mystified as to why this is even the slightest bit controversial...
A group of Arkansas teachers will carry firearms when the school term resumes this September, in an attempt to deter gunmen who target schools. 
The decision to train and arm staff at Arkansas Christian Academy was made public when a new safety sign was posted in front of the school. 
It reads: 'Staff is armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force.' 
According to ArkansasMatters staff from the private school in Bryant have been trained in firearm safety and will carry guns during the school day. 
The school's controversial policy comes just weeks after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected plans to arm staff in Arkansas' public schools.
I understand that the sight of armed teachers in a place of education is both deeply unsettling and intimidating. I'd call that a Very Good Thing. Am I really the only one who has noticed that every school shooting, ever, has taken place in, well, schools? Where firearms are not allowed? Is it really so difficult to understand that arming potential targets makes them less likely to be targets?

The landmark 1999 Lott-Landes study has yet to be refuted. Its analysis, ideas, and conclusions have shown quite clearly that soft targets are precisely the kinds of targets most likely to be hit by armed lunatics like that bastard Lanza. Disarming potential victims by refusing to let them arm and defend themselves is folly. I'm glad to see that teachers at this one particular school, at least, have refused to cower before potential attackers and will do whatever is necessary to protect the lives of the children that parents have entrusted to them.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Book Review: The Cost of Victory by Jay Allen

Having finished Jay Allan's Crimson Worlds series in what was probably record time considering that we're talking about (at this point) 5 books, each at least 200 pages long, I would be remiss if I did not post my thoughts on the actual books themselves. Put simply, they are both individually and collectively excellent, and I have to say that I am hugely impressed with the way that Jay Allan can maintain such a universally high standard of writing. The Crimson Worlds series is the first hard military sci-fi series that I have been genuinely interested in reading more of since the Starfire/Stars at War series by David Weber and Steve White.

The Cost of Victory continues where Marines left off, with the story of the newly minted Colonel Erik Cain. There are several major changes in the series that start with this book and continue through the rest of the series, beginning with the shift in narrative style. While Marines told the story entirely from the point of view of Erik Cain, in much the same way that Starship Troopers told the story of Johnny Rico through his eyes alone, this book uses third-person narrative exclusively, and this has continued through every subsequent book of the series. I suspect this is because the author realised that his writing was actually quite popular, and he had a bigger story to tell than just the one-off standalone book that Marines seemed to have been intended to become.

This book introduces a large new cast of characters, beginning with Admiral Augustus Garrett, commander of the Western Alliance's space fleet and its greatest naval hero. In many ways this is his story as well as Cain's, focusing as it does on the rapidly escalating Third Frontier War. The book tells the story of how Erik Cain and General Elias Holm defeat enemy after enemy on the ground, while Garrett and his loyal friend and subordinate Terrence Compton fight against overwhelming odds to destroy the military capabilities of their enemies in space.

The action is almost non-stop after the start of this book- you dive straight into ferocious ground battles, brutal space-based actions, and intriguing power politics played behind the scenes. Jay Allan really has an eye for detail, and he clearly understands physics- that is why he has managed to maintain a consistently realistic narrative that never requires you to suspend disbelief. When he describes naval battles, he does so with a gritty realism that makes it very clear that he knows what he's talking about when it comes to the limitations of what the human body can take- which is why he also takes the time to come up with new ideas like drugs that make it possible for the human body to resist massive g-forces during space combat and acceleration couches that allow ships to accelerate at rates of up to 30g without turning their occupants into strawberry jelly.

The book also introduces some sinister new villains into the fold in the form of the Alliance Intelligence Directorate- pretty much referred to as just "The Directorate" throughout the series. Now this is where things begin to go slightly awry, because you get the impression that these guys are basically just a bunch of really ridiculously caricatured Bond villains from the campy 1970s films in the series. I mean, the senior members of the Directorate are literally called by numbers- and their leader, Number One, is a chap named Gavin Stark who is so cold and reptilian that you really have to stop yourself from cracking up a couple of times when you first read about him. Fortunately, Jay Allan recovers nicely from this otherwise somewhat absurd caricature by turning Gavin Stark and his cabal of power-mad creeps into genuinely nasty people. The Directorate's goal- meaning, Stark's goal- is nothing short of ultimate domination over the entirety of human-controlled space, and to achieve this end their long-term goal is nothing less than the wholesale destruction of the Fleet and the Marine Corps. This is of course after both institutions have defeated the official enemies of the Alliance- the combined forces of the Central Asian Combine (all I can say is that Jay Allan has a rather quirky sense of humour- anyone who understands English idiomatic slang knows what I'm talking about) and the Caliphate- in a series of bloody and brutal pitched battles throughout colonial space.

My major criticisms of Marines remain substantially in place with this book- and with the rest of the series, for that matter. It is still basically impossible to understand where the hell everything happens, because Jay Allan has never (yet) bothered to release a star map of the various systems involved in his fiction. This means that it is very difficult to keep track of events, even though the action on the ground and in space is very well written. I do hope the author addresses this issue soon, because he's got two more books due out by December of this year in the series, and judging by the way the fifth one went, he's got pretty big plans to turn this into a very serious universe of fiction.

My praise of this book also substantially mirrors my praise of Marines, and for the same reasons. This book is outstanding value-for-money; you can buy each of the books in the series for like $5 on, and they'll keep you glued to your e-reader with very little effort. I am a huge fan of really good, solidly written hard military sci-fi, but it's not easy to find these days. Jay Allan, though, has managed to create an entire series of hard sci-fi that is engaging, well-written, interesting, and consistently keeps me coming back for more. His talent for writing believable and engaging characters, combined with his ability to prevent the plots of his books from becoming stale or overly predictable, is rare indeed.

Didact's Verdict: 4.5/5, better than the first book and actually the true foundation for the series that Jay Allan is clearly building over time. Absolutely worth reading.

Get The Cost of Victory here.

Help Your Vegetarian Friends Overcome Their Disability

Give them this as a gift!

I first came across this idea on an episode of Top Gear (henceforth known as "the greatest TV show of all time"). I strongly recommend handing this over to your vegetarian (and especially Vegan) friends to help cure them of their unfortunate affliction. This is also a fantastic way of getting rid of those pesky hipster-vegan hitchhikers, which as far as I'm concerned is a public service and should be rewarded with a medal. Preferably one made out of smoked pork ribs.

The past master of curing Vegans of their symptoms, though, is and probably always will be the esteemed Vox Day:
And look, it's time to point out the truth. No straight man has ever been a vegan and very few outside of India are genuine vegetarians. They simply fake it in order to have sex with the sort of mentally unbalanced women who believe crystals possess healing powers. 
If you want to convert a vegan to carnism, take her to Barcelona. I once unwittingly corrupted a woman there. A group of us were out to dinner at a conference, she was sitting next to me, and my plate of pata negra proved too tempting. I simply offered her a piece, not knowing she was a vegetarian, and she scarfed most of the plate in about ten seconds. It was like watching a single piranha skeletonize a cow.
She apologized afterwards and explained it was the first meat she'd ordered in seven years. I congratulated her on her recovery, ordered two more plates, and until they arrived, kept a watchful eye on her and a hand on my steak knife, just in case she went for my shoulder.
Amen, sir.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Give Your Inner Misanthrope a Hug

Turns out that he is right, and that one of the biggest management fads in recent years is, unsurprisingly, completely idiotic:
Large open-plan offices do not improve staff communication, morale or productivity, a study has found. 
Such offices have become common because of the economic benefits – more workers can be fitted into a smaller space – and because they are widely believed to encourage communication and camaraderie. 
But after carrying out a study of 42,000 US office workers in 303 buildings the researchers concluded that open-plan layouts are disruptive due to ‘uncontrollable noise and loss of privacy’ and were ‘clearly outperformed’ by enclosed private offices.

The team, from Sydney University, said the idea that ‘open-plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature’, and their results showed that such offices did not ‘enhance communication between colleagues’ either. 
'Our results categorically contradict the industry-accepted wisdom that open-plan layout enhances communication between colleagues and improves occupants' overall work environmental satisfaction,' the team concluded.
And this is news?

I work in an environment that is heavy on cubicles. We have offices everywhere now that all of our VPs have had to move into cubicles; the idea is that managers will be more effective at overseeing their people. In practice all this means is that the lazy and insipid get more face time with their bosses, while the productive and hard-working now have to deal with people constantly looking over their shoulder at what they're doing.

I personally have never understood this bizarre American obsession with "collaboration" and "teamwork". I have always found that if I am left alone to solve a problem, I figure it out about 10 times faster than by having an endless series of meetings and face-to-face discussions about things. I find that simply leaving people alone to figure things out on their own, and guiding them when they go astray, is a vastly more sensible approach to managing people and projects than any amount of agoraphobia-inducing "collaboration" ever will be.

Then again, I am very much a misanthrope. I dislike being around other people, and most people probably unconsciously feel the same about me- they just don't know why. I suppose there are some folks who thrive in open-plan environments- the kind that make me want to run screaming for the nearest cliff edge.

Embrace "Diversity"...

I was in the gym on Tuesday when I saw a story flash on CNN that a young Australian bloke had been shot and left to die by the side of the road in Oklahoma. My first, instinctive reaction was, "I'll bet he was shot by blacks". This reaction was confirmed when the story had finished playing and CNN had made no mention whatsoever of the ethnicity and race of the perpetrators of the incident- despite making it very clear that the police had suspects in custody and the suspects themselves claimed they shot the guy because they were "bored".

It's a sign of just how badly multiculturalism has failed when a foreigner in this country, of mixed race and ethnicity, can figure out what the mainstream media seems too afraid to understand: diversity beyond a certain point is downright dangerous. When it became clear that there were three perpetrators, and two of them were black and one white, the entire MSM story began to fall apart very quickly indeed.

Now it turns out that the police are refusing to recognise the evidence that is literally right in front of them, stating that a crime in which non-white criminals shot a white guy who had done nothing whatsoever to them did not commit their crime for racial reasons:
Inflammatory, race-based comments on Twitter by the youngest accused, 15-year-old James "Bug" Edwards, before last week's drive-by murder in the city of Duncan led to speculation Mr Lane, 22 from Melbourne, was targeted because of his race.

In one Twitter post Edwards wrote: "90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM".
In another post Edwards, a champion junior wrestler who hoped to represent the US at the Olympics, claimed to have knocked five white people out after July's controversial acquittal in Florida of neighbourhood watch co-ordinator George Zimmerman for the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
"Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!:)," Edwards, using the derogatory word "woods" to describe whites, posted. 
Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks said there was not enough evidence collected so far in the investigation to indicate Mr Lane's killing was motivated by race. 
"At this point, the evidence does not support the theory that Christopher Lane was targeted based upon his race or nationality," Mr Hicks said in a statement. 
"The evidence is insufficient to establish that race was the primary motive in the murder of Christopher Lane."
The only way that any rational man could come to this conclusion, based on all of the evidence before him, would be by lobotomising himself with a rusty spoon.

It is an observable, historical fact that civilisations which embrace too much diversity decay from within- think the ancient Romans, the modern British, and Sri Lanka for the past 40 years. Diversity works only as long as the dominant, civilising power maintains its dominance. This can only happen as long as the influx of other cultures is kept to a steady, minimal flow. The moment it becomes an uncontrolled flood, the dominant civilisation begins to wither under the sustained assault of uncivilised and half-civilised barbarians. The process of civilising barbarians takes a very long time- Vox has noted that based on how long it took Germanic tribes to shed their barbarian habits and become civilised, the process takes the better part of a millennium- and one cannot simply short-circuit it by imposing the stupidity of white-hating multiculturalism upon people.

My guess is that after the Zimmerman trial and the resulting spectacular failure of the prosecution to convince a jury that a Hispanic man had committed a serious racially motivated crime, the people who run this rapidly-declining superpower are absolutely terrified of pinning the blame on blacks. They are terrified of the civilisation-shattering consequences of what they have done by letting blacks off the hook for their own actions, and they know that the deep and latent hostility that many- I would argue most- blacks feel towards whites and other races has the potential to express itself in the most horrific ways imaginable.

I am aware that much if not most of what I am writing will be construed as deeply racist. I can't say I care. I'd like to see a potential critic assail the observable facts and logic of the matter. I would probably fall off my chair laughing if someone accused me of being racist, given that I am of mixed race (and caste) myself, have lived in 6 different countries, and count among my closest friends a white guy from upstate NY, an Italian woman, a British Indian, a Geordie, a vegetarian South Indian, a Chinese guy from Hong Kong, and a Chinese woman from Singapore. I am simply not impressed by accusations of racism any more- and I suspect most people of my age group who have actually lived outside of a liberal bubble for most of their working lives aren't either. When a group of people becomes offended at quite literally anything and everything that it sees, its opinions rapidly become worthless to anyone with a working brain.

Joining hands and singing kumbaya around a fire with your little brown and black brothers and sisters does not change the fact that blacks in this country are observably of lower mean IQ and are vastly more dangerous both to each other and to non-blacks than whites, Hispanics, and Asians. John Derbyshire's "talk" is no longer just common sense written down in an easily accessible format; it is now absolutely mandatory information for any sensible parent to give his or her child.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Three Greatest Paintings

Whenever I go to London, I make a point of visiting the Tate Britain. This, even more than the British Museum, is probably my favourite place in the entire city, not least because of its collection of works by William Blake and J.M.W. Turner. And when I am at the Tate Britain, I always visit a set of three paintings by one John Martin. These paintings never fail to leave me humbled and awestruck by their sheer power, majesty, and vividness. Unsurprisingly, all three are religious in nature.

Here they are, in order of viewing:

The Great Day of His Wrath
The Last Judgement
The Plains of Heaven
These pictures are pretty good, but believe me when I say, they don't do the actual works any justice. The actual paintings themselves are truly spectacular, in ways that I can't even begin to describe.

These three magnificent works are far more than mere paintings. They are a reminder of what Man is capable of doing when his faith in the Lord is strong, when he accepts that there is more to the Universe than he can ever possibly comprehend, and when he believes that the Lord is both just and merciful.

John Martin himself was quite a character, as it happens. Many will argue that others like Da Vinci and Michaelangelo were greater artists, and they will not necessarily be wrong- but to me, these three paintings, and the man who painted them, are always enough to restore my faith in the power and the grace of the Lord. For that alone, I would argue that these are the three greatest paintings I have ever seen.

Ordained by God?

Part of the reason my posts have been even less frequent than usual is that I've been travelling quite a lot of late, entirely for leisure purposes. (Well, in theory anyway; in practice even my holidays tend to be a bit manic.) Last week I took a couple of days off and skipped across the Pond to London, then on to south Wales for a dear friend's wedding. What I saw at that wedding gave me cause for both great joy and some introspective apprehension.

I have written before of my good friend and his fiance (now wife). The more I see of her, in particular, the more impressed I am with my friend's choice in his partner for life. His wife is sweet, amiable, kind-hearted, and very feminine; she might not win any beauty contests (which is not to say that she's ugly- far from it, in fact), but she is quietly confident of herself and her qualities, and her presence is both relaxing and energising in the way that only truly feminine women can manage. When I saw her at her wedding she had perhaps thirty seconds to speak to me before having to greet yet another relative or good friend, but she took the time to make me feel welcome even though I was just one of many guests, and one that she didn't know very well. I had come from 3,000 miles away and had driven up from London to be there for my friends, and she was most gracious in acknowledging this fact. If I am any judge of character, I am certain that my friend and his new wife will be very happy together; they have known each other for over 5 years and were engaged for over 3 before they finally got married, so they've had plenty of time to iron out the kinks in their relationship.

The wedding ceremony itself, though, was very odd indeed. It was in fact a civil ceremony- i.e. a non-denominational, agnostic wedding that acknowledged no faith of any kind whatsoever. There was absolutely no mention of God, holy matrimony, or the sanctity of marriage, yet nonetheless preserved most of the trappings of a Christian, religious wedding (the white dress, the outfits, the witnesses, etc. etc.). The entire language of the ceremony was couched in strictly legal terms- "it gives me great pleasure to declare you legally husband and wife", that sort of thing. One would have to be blind, deaf, and dead to think that my friend and his wife were not crazy about each other and were deeply happy that day; yet the actual ceremony itself left me cold, precisely because of its lack of spirituality.

Now, I am not at all religious personally. I openly, candidly, and humbly acknowledge the existence of the Lord. I accept His dominion over all life; I believe in His power and His wisdom; and I think that the Christians were and remain closer to getting it right when it comes to what exactly God's Will happens to be than anyone else. I don't have much time for Bible-thumpers, though; I find them rather tiresome in the same way that I find High Church atheists to be tiresome (the latter tend to be half-educated nitwits in love with the sounds of their own voices, with some notable exceptions). Yet, as far as I am concerned, marriage is not an institution of government. The State has no power whatsoever to enforce marriage; the State should never be given the right to decide who can and cannot be married; and the State most assuredly has no right whatsoever, whether natural or otherwise, to pretend that it can defend the sanctity of marriage.

Marriage is much more than a simple exchange of legally binding vows. Marriage is an absolute commitment,  held sacrosanct because it is made before the eyes of Almighty God, and the reason why the covenant of marriage was historically considered to be basically unbreakable was because the promises that created that covenant were made with God as an eternal witness to the power of those vows. Once you remove God from the equation, you are left with basically nothing much more than mere words and a piece of paper. There is no sense of perpetuity and no concept of eternal devotion once you remove the idea of an immeasurably powerful and knowledgeable witness to your promise.

Let me put this in the simplest terms possible. Forget about religion and God for a moment; let's just consider an oath made before your father, your King, your blood brother, or any other figure of great and (in your mind anyway) eternal authority. If you enjoy the same relationship with your father that I do with mine, then you know exactly what I mean when I write that to break an oath made with my father as witness is completely unthinkable. To break such an oath is to destroy one's honour beyond repair, to besmirch one's reputation past any hope of redemption. One cannot easily look at oneself in the mirror if one should break one's word when given before a figure that commands such respect from oneself, and that, indeed, is precisely the point. Such is the nature of a vow made before the eyes of the Lord; only the gravest of mistakes could ever possibly justify reneging on those vows, and even then one has to think long and hard before admitting that one made a huge mistake. Such vows can never be broken for light or transient causes.

Now let's say that you swear an oath before some faceless functionary of your local council or town. Never mind going so high as the State or Federal level; let's just say that you remove the Bible from your oath, remove any religious trappings or ideals, and simply promise someone that you will do something in someone else's presence. Suddenly the words that you utter have far less conviction to them, far less weight and consequently far less import and meaning. Should you go back on your word, who is to say that you were wrong to do so? The government? Some faceless and useless functionary? Some piece of paper that claims that you are legally entitled to certain rights because someone else says so?

This is the second marriage that I have been to where there was no mention of the Almighty, of Divine Law and Judgement, and of the consequences of breaking the Word given before the eyes of the Lord. And I do believe that both marriages, though very happy and very enjoyable events, really lost something because of it. There was no sense of permanence to the vows exchanged, even though I know the people involved and- in the most recent case anyway- firmly believe that those vows will be taken with the utmost seriousness.

We as a society have long since abandoned the primacy of God's Law, at least in the West. And I strongly believe that we are very much the poorer for it. The immorality, degeneracy, and decay that we see all around us is a natural consequence of our refusal to understand that certain Truths are indeed eternal, and that God, as the very embodiment of Truth itself, set forth His Laws in order to preserve and protect us. We have ignored those laws for going on three generations now, and it is no coincidence that our decline as a society has accelerated at almost exactly the same time as we have turned away from faith as a source of enlightenment, redemption, and strength. There is something in the human psyche that craves spiritual nourishment- as Whittaker Chambers once put it, "Man without mysticism is a monster", and indeed more truthful words have rarely been written. To deny that spirituality through dry, tedious legal language is to deny our own humanity, our own existence as spirits and not mere animals.

I want the best for my friend and his wife. I care deeply for them both. I pray to the Lord for their safety, their health, and their happiness; and I believe that my prayers will be answered, for I do believe that the Lord, though remote and largely passive, is also both fair and just. But I find myself strongly wishing that they had taken the courageous step of being willing to acknowledge the Truth of God, and submit themselves to His wisdom and grace even as they accept the traditions of marriage and love that, ultimately, bind all of society together.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Book Review: Marines by Jay Allen

The "Space Marine" sub-genre of sci-fi has been done almost to death by now, starting with the all-time classic (and in my opinion, high-water mark) Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein back in the 1950s. It's rare to find a book that takes the basic ideas of the genre and manages to elevate it somehow; it's rarer still to find an entire series of books that maintains a consistent level of quality and keeps you coming back for more. Some authors manage it better than others- Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos, for instance, was a really good but slightly flawed take on the classic space marine book, while the seemingly endless stream of Warhammer 40K novels that actually are about Space Marines are of significantly varying quality due in very large part to the fact that there are so many authors jostling for a place in the Warhammer 40K Black Library. Some of the HALO novels are fantastic- Karen Traviss's Kilo-Five Trilogy comes to mind- while others are just... mediocre at best. And don't even get me started on the steadily declining trough of pig s*** that is the Star Wars Expanded Universe series of novels...

Into this mix comes Jay Allen's Crimson Worlds series, which focuses on a central cast of characters and continues with them throughout the (so-far) 5-book series. These books are some of the best hard military sci-fi that I've read in years- I'd put it right up there with David Weber and Steve White's Stars At War series.

The first book in the series is titled simply Marines, and focuses on the life and exploits of one Erik Cain- the man who plays the same sort of role that Johnny Rico played in Starship Troopers, but basically without the moralising and political commentary. (That gets saved for later in the series.) The book starts out just like any good space marine novel should- in the middle of a hard drop straight into hell. You get to see war through the eyes of the men and women who fight it, on the ground, in the dirt, fighting and bleeding and dying for political masters dozens or even hundreds of light years away.

Reading through this book, it's quite obvious that Jay Allen has taken the best ideas that other writers have come up with and mixed them up into his own writing. Powered armour is, of course, right out of Starship Troopers- I can't think of a single modern space marine novel that doesn't owe its origins to Robert Heinlein, actually. AIs paired with power armour are a hallmark of my beloved HALO series- though in this case, the AIs aren't really hot/steadily-going-crazy naked blue chicks in the helmet. (Seriously, just how the hell does Master Chief concentrate on putting bullets into the brains of Grunts and Elites when he's got Cortana's ample cleavage quite literally in his face? Either he plays for the other team- which is unthinkable- or he's just very very very focused on killing things as quickly as possible.) The concept of "warp gates" or nodes comes straight from the work of David Weber and Steve White in books like In Death Ground and The Shiva Option. The concept of multiple superpowers on Earth fighting over colonies in space is nothing new either- Philip Richards does the same thing with his books. To be clear, this is not a criticism; every good author takes ideas from others and makes them work with his own. And in this regard, Jay Allen is very good- he takes some of the most basic and cherished tropes of the space marine genre and melds them with his own storyline very effectively.

One thing I like about this book is that it really is hard military sci-fi. Other than the science of warp gates never being explained properly- which is fine, you sort of need something like that in order to make sci-fi what it is- the book sticks to thoroughly Newtonian scientific principles. There's none of this reactionless-drive, space-folding, hyperspace/subspace/warp drive stuff that shifts many sci-fi novels into fantasy territory. Ships accelerate and decelerate based on fusion-based thrust reactions, the crews of those ships have to be in cushioned couches and injected with drugs to avoid being turned into strawberry jam by the brutal g-forces of space-based combat, vectoring is done in strict accordance with Newtonian physics, lasers and missiles fire and are guided to target by computers in the same fashion, and humans fight and bleed and get treated with amazing but still believable medical technology. In other words, Jay Allen knows his world, his characters, and his settings, and he sticks to them. That consistency is admirable, and it creates a very believable yet futuristic world for his novel.

Regarding the actual content of the novel, let's put it this way: if you've read Starship Troopers, then you largely get the idea of what this book is all about. The book tells Erik Cain's story, but jumps around a bit in terms of chronology. We start with the fighting, bleeding retreat of Corporal Cain and his Marines on Epsilon Eridani IV; then, the action moves to the "disaster at Achilles", in which Erik Cain and his Marines pull off an incredible victory in the teeth of impossible odds thanks to the strategic and tactical genius of one Colonel Holm (who becomes one of the main and most important characters in the series). It is in this battle that Cain is critically wounded by being caught too close to a massive orbital nuclear bombardment.

We then flash back to Cain's childhood, which is also a device used by the author to build up the politics and setting of Cain's story. Basically there are 8 Superpowers left in the Sol System, one of which is the Western Alliance. The Superpowers are all decayed, economically bankrupt, horribly corrupt parodies of the major powers of our modern world, with the Western Alliance essentially representing today's Anglosphere in space. Earth is a corrupt, overpopulated, tyrannical hellhole, in which the vast majority of people are consigned to a lifetime of misery as cogs in a vast machine- in fact that's literally what they're called, "Cogs". Colonisation of space is the only way that the overstretched, polluted, economically decrepit powers can maintain themselves, so each power expands aggressively into space, sending young men like Cain to fight and die so that the mother system might survive a little bit longer in its own filth and squalor.

We watch as Cain's life goes from relatively comfortable middle-class status to poverty overnight, then watch him become a gangster who commits serious atrocities upon others and lands up on death row. We see him granted a reprieve from execution by a man who offers him a chance to join the Marines and become something greater than what he is. And we see Cain transform himself from a low-life gangster to a military hero, the very epitome of the values of the Marine Corps. Along the way he falls for his doctor (apparently a very attractive strawberry-blonde with a dark secret in her past), comes to hate the Earth-based government for everything it represents, and comes to love the Corps with every fibre of his being.

There is much to like and admire about Cain and about the Corps- his sense of honour, humanity, and absolute, unswerving devotion to the Corps and everything it values is mirrored in the way he fights his battles against the militaries of the other Superpowers and the way in which he treats ordinary colonists simply fighting to survive. In short, if you liked Johnny Rico, you're definitely going to like Erik Cain.

There is a great deal to like about Marines. However, there are two major criticisms I have of this book.

The first is that it kowtows to the usual politically correct nonsense about women fighting in the front lines. Now I'll be the first to admit that powered armour would definitely go a long way towards levelling the playing field between men and women; the powered armour depicted in the Crimson Worlds series is tremendously powerful and resilient, and the part of the book dedicated to showing how Marines adapt to training in it makes it clear that this armour is not to be taken lightly. But, as much as I love HALO and other works like it, I have to be clear about this: I do not find it at all believable that women would be as effective as front-line soldiers as men are under any circumstances, no matter how good their equipment or how well-trained. War is a country of will and blood and death, and that hell should belong to men alone.

The second criticism has more to do with the fact that I can't tell where the hell every major battle location is relative to every other one. This is due in very large part to the author's failure to create a map of any kind that tells you where the battlefronts are relative to each other. For instance, in the first few pages of The Shiva Option, there is a route map clearly showing which star systems are connected by which warp gates, which makes it very easy to figure out where the fighting is going on and therefore make tactical sense of the combat sequences. In this book, that lack of clarity hurts the book's overall delivery, which is otherwise excellent.

In conclusion, if you like good military sci-fi, by all means give the Crimson Worlds series a go. It is well worth the time, and given the prices at which these books sell on Amazon, the skill of the writing, and the unbeatable combination of a great hero and a desperate war in space that seems highly believable given today's geopolitics, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better book of this type out there.

Didact's Verdict: 4/5, a couple of big flaws don't stop this from being a great read and a great introduction to a much longer and clearly very interesting series.

Buy Marines by Jay Allen here.

The Keynesian's Bible

Courtesy of ZeroHedge:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Energy-Sucking Extroverts

Badger's finally poked his head out of his hut, and damn but it's good to have him back. His latest post on the yawning gap in understanding between introverts and extroverts is a fine work in and of itself, but here's the best bit:
My experience with super-extroverted people has been entirely not that they actually want to get to know me. My experience has been more like flirting with a vampire – you can sense quickly that they are seeking to take your energy. The conversation quickly becomes an elaborate dance where the other party desperately tries to bait me into giving them something (a joke, a smile, a personal detail) that stimulates them. Of course, like the first free hit, it just leads to them wanting more and more. It’s been the revolving door of invasive but irrelevant personal questions peppered with their own content-free anecdotes and frat-like infusions of enthusiasm trying to pump up my own emotional state to match theirs.
 It doesn't end there:
The contrast in the two articles’ frames is striking. Rauch’s piece was measured, unapologetic and expository, with a tone of “I don’t operate exactly how you do, I’d appreciate if you could keep that in mind.” Lyons’ response is conversely histrionic – “I have personal problems that I’ve rationalized as an immutable trait. Will you please tell me it’s OK?”
Uber-extroverts are indeed utterly exhausting to be around. And they're not exactly the nicest people to deal with either. I realise that this sounds like I'm taking a sample size of N = 1 and extrapolating from it, but trust me on this- both Badger and I, and plenty of guys like us, have had to deal with many, many super-extroverts in our time, and the results are invariably the same. Introverts, who are for the most part neither shy nor insecure, have to deal with extroverts, who for the most part are largely irritating and superfluous, and find the experience to be extremely taxing.

There was a chap at work who was and is pretty much exactly as Badger describes a super-extrovert: always talking, always rabbiting on about the most inconsequential nonsense, such as the stock price of a certain company or the latest story on the news, in a voice like a foghorn. I held this guy in particular contempt because he was almost as smart as me, and almost as good at fixing problems as I am, yet never bothered to use his God-given skills and talents for anything. In the entire time that I knew him, he never bothered to do a lick of work; instead he focused on his stock portfolio, his part-time B-school assignments, and on playing trip-hop and acid trance music through his headphones so loudly that he could have started up his own nightclub in the office. Fortunately, he left the firm not too long ago- of his own accord, I might add, and all I can say is that his departure was very very long overdue. Dealing with this guy's shenanigans, even as indirectly as I was (he was in a different team, just a few rows over), was severely taxing on morale and on our ability to get things done- whenever we needed to concentrate on doing actual work, this poltroon was constantly yapping about the latest celebrity gossip and news.

In my experience it is a complete myth that the extroverted, hard-charging, get-it-done type is the ideal manager or employee. One of these types is actually in a senior position of responsibility within my firm, and let's just say that I find his leadership style to be at best a distraction and at worst a serious problem, because it gets in the way of the ability of guys like me to do the actual work and analysis that stops the business from imploding under its own weight. It is the quiet guy in the corner, who is nonetheless forceful about standing up for his opinions and ideas and has the cold, hard analysis to support them, that is worth listening to, not the loud and extroverted type in the middle of the room going on about "metrics" and "responsibility" and "teamwork".

Badger's analysis and commentary remind me very much of UncleBob's comment on my post about solitude:
Introverts understand extroverts a lot better than extroverts understand introverts, just the way the smart understand the stupid a lot better than the stupid understand the smart.
Amen, mate. 

What's Holding You Back?

Recent events got me thinking about why so many people have so much trouble getting what they want out of life. I'm sure you've seen this plenty of times- and you're probably guilty of it yourself: someone sets a goal, decides that he wants to do something, and then for whatever reason, fails to achieve and just sort of gives up. The question that you have to ask yourself is not why you failed to achieve your goal- that much should be pretty obvious after you've failed, and the penalties for that failure should be quite clear. The question you need to ask is instead, what stopped you from achieving your goal?

Note that I did not ask you "why did you fail?". Again, you know why you failed. The question I'm asking you is, why did you give up?

Let me give you an example from my own recent experiences to illustrate the difference.

I've written before about the insidious effect that fear can have upon the ability of a man to improve himself. That post was motivated in large part by the fact that I have tried, and failed, with extremely painful consequences, to deadlift 445lbs in the past. Last February, I tried deadlifting that weight and tore up my lower back but good. The pain was excruciating, on a level that I had never felt before and never want to feel again. Somehow I managed to make it to work that day and get through the day, and somehow I managed to keep myself functioning throughout that week, but as the good Lord is my witness, that is something I hope I never go through again. I took a week off from the gym- in hindsight, this was too little time to recover- and tried again a few weeks later. Same result- tore up my lower back. I was out of the gym for nearly a month with only intermittent and very unsatisfactory workouts to show for it.

I then worked out for about 4 months, slowly rebuilding my strength and confidence, to the point where last August or September I tried deadlifting the same weight again. Same result. The problem, of course, was lousy technique- I was rounding my lower back on my heaviest sets and it was seriously screwing up my ability to lift the heavy weights correctly. The injury was far less severe this time, partly because I had spent time strengthening my core and back, and I was able to recover quickly. From then onwards, I resolved to concentrate on sorting out my form, because I could feel that something was seriously wrong with my technique.

Fast forward to last weekend. It took me nearly a year of hard lifting and hard workouts to get back to that point, where I had the strength, the confidence, and the ability to deadlift that kind of weight carefully and in a controlled fashion. Last week, for the first time in a year, I stared at a bar that had 8 45lb weights and 4 10lb weights on it, resting on the floor, and decided that I would no longer live in thrall to fear. It took me a few minutes to get myself ready (I find "I'm Not Afraid" by MASTERPLAN to be very helpful in this regard, by the way), but finally, it was time.

I approached the bar.

I checked my stance and the position of my feet under the bar.

I leaned down and gripped, hard, making sure to get my hips in the right position for the lift.

I cleared my mind, focused, and lifted.

My grunt- roar, really- must have caused every head in the gym to snap around wondering what the hell I was doing. But the bar came up, my back stayed straight, and when my knees locked out and I saw myself in the mirror, I knew I'd done it. There was no pain, no fear, no failure, only elation and the incredible rush that comes from achieving a truly worthy conquest. I had conquered my fear. I was no longer afraid- of the bar, of the weight, of my own weakness. I knew in that instant that if I truly wanted to, almost nothing was impossible. As heavy as that weight was, I knew that with just a little more time and training, I could lift even more. (I should note that this triumph was rather spoiled by the fact that one of the staff came over and asked me immediately after my lift whether I was using the other squat rack, and then engaged me in a 15-minute conversation about heavy metal stemming from the shirt I was wearing, but I won't hold that against the guy.)

It was at that point that I realised that the only thing holding me back had been the man I see in the mirror every morning. I had allowed my fear to define me, to weaken me, to the point where I was reduced to rationalising my decision to load up the bar like that- "well, I'm going to be travelling for the latter half of next week, so I'm taking the week off from lifting, and it really doesn't matter if I f*** up this lift and screw up my back because I'll have a whole week to recover, so it's fine to do it this week but not last week." The reality is, I was probably ready to achieve this weeks ago; I just held myself back because the penalties for failure are so severe.

And this got me thinking about that other great area of modern male failure- masculinity in the game. So many men today are simply incapable of summoning the backbone to be men- to step up, to take charge, to lead. To most men, leadership should in theory come naturally, but it rarely does. (INTJs and our more specialised subset of Sigma males are rather unusual in this regard, in that we do not want to lead and will actively resist any attempts by others to infringe upon our independence of thought and action, but are exceptionally skilled leaders when we have to be. It's just that leadership is a tremendous drain on an INTJ's energy, which is why we generally don't want to do it.) It should be the simplest thing in the world for a guy to approach a girl he likes- whether in a bar, a bookstore, or online. Yet the vast majority of men just don't do it.

Why? What's holding them back? What's the most severe penalty for failure that there is? Social rejection? A bit of humiliation? OK, fine, if that's the very worst that can happen, that's still much less painful than tearing up the muscles in your lower back. If you get rejected by a hot girl in a club, big freakin' deal, she misses out on an opportunity to make out with you and possibly to bang you- which is precisely how you should think about it. It's her loss, not yours. If you deadlift heavy weights incorrectly, you're looking at a week spent lying down and taking it easy, unable to move properly, bend down, or lift things without severe and chronic pain. That's your loss, not the bar's- the bar doesn't give a damn about you, it's simply cold steel and has no feelings. Are you really going to tell me that lower back pain is less painful than social rejection?

Your single greatest enemy isn't the government. It isn't some shadowy cabal looking to take your money and your freedom. It isn't the gangbanger on the street looking to rob you of your wallet and potentially your life. It isn't the HB9 at the bar who thinks she's the hottest woman in the room and yet can't string three intelligent sentences together. It isn't your former colleague who's now a partner at a hedge fund while you're still sitting on your little rung of the corporate ladder trying to play by the rules in the (vain) hope that you'll be rewarded someday. It isn't even time. It's you.

And if you don't take steps to confront your own weaknesses, to train yourself to face hardship and pain, and to push through the barriers that are holding you back, then you've got no one to blame but yourself when you fail to achieve your goals. As I said before, I don't care about why you failed- that much will become obvious with time, just as it did for me. All I care about is whether you're willing to push through that failure and do what it takes to make sure that you don't fail again.

Are you?

Book Review: America's Forgotten History, Part 2: Foundations by Mark David Ledbetter

Continuing on from Part 1 of his envisioned 5-volume series chronicling the less well-known aspects of America's libertarian origins and its deviation from those origins, Mark David Ledbetter's Part 2 examines the long span of events leading up to the American "Civil War"- or, as libertarians like me call it, the War Between the States, or even the War for Southern Independence and the War of Northern Aggression. As stated in my review of Part 1, MDL's greatest strength is that he does not approach America's history with the eyes of a professional historian; he looks at it instead as a libertarian trying to make sense of how America came so far adrift of her original moorings. Part 2, much more so than Part 1, will show you precisely how that drift occurred, and precisely why it is so important to understand the period leading up to the War Between the States.

At the conclusion of Part 1 of the series, the first 4 Presidents- Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison- were examined and weighed, and for the most part were judged to be great and worthy men, despite their own personal failing and shortcomings. Washington, for all of his lack of true strategic skill in battle (it should be noted that General Cornwallis did not surrender to Washington at Yorktown, because he knew damned well that it was the French, and not Washington, who were responsible for his defeat), was nonetheless a great and venerable leader who led by example and honoured his nation through his years of service. He had the opportunity to become a king, and flatly refused, seeking instead nothing more than the soft comforts of his wife and his beloved home in Virginia. John Adams, though an ardent proponent of government action to improve the lives of his people, is revealed to be a man of unbending and absolute principle, a man worthy of admiration for his discipline, his piousness, and his incredible commitment to his people and his country. Jefferson is revealed to have been better at writing about freedom than actually practising what he preached, yet is still judged to be very close to the model of a libertarian President- and indeed, the nation flourished under his Administration, as the coffers of the public fisc swelled due to his insistence on keeping the military small and under control, and his refusal to go abroad seeking demons to slay. James Madison, a small man in physical stature and yet a giant in intellectual terms, is revealed to be fairly inept at negotiating foreign politics- he did, after all, get the country knee-deep in the war of 1812- and yet remarkably astute at domestic politics.

Having dealt with the first generation of American founders and leaders, MDL moves on to subsequent generations, sticking to his previous method of examining America's history by looking at the terms of each President in turn and then looking at the events that defined their time in office. In this regard the book is particularly good at looking at the terms of Presidents that history has quite literally forgotten or written off- Presidents like Martin Van Buren, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. The book ends with a (what I thought was rather perfunctory) examination of the term of one President Abraham Lincoln- perhaps the most hated and reviled President among libertarians, and yet one of the most worshipped and revered by everyone else. The conclusions that MDL comes to regarding "Honest" Abe are... interesting, to say the least.

That, I think, is the greatest value of Ledbetter's writing- he forces you to rethink what you believed you knew about American history. What you have learned thus far probably comes from what you learned in mainstream schools, from various movies and documentaries that everyone else has watched, and from whatever individual reading you have done. I would like to believe that the readers of this blog are rather more intelligent than the average bear- and the comments that I have seen thus far have been gratifyingly supportive of this view- but the fact is that America's history and traditions of freedom have been subsumed and traduced by over 150 years of government-designed propaganda and brainwashing. MDL's books are a most welcome antidote to this poison, but even then, some of the conclusions that he comes to may be hard to digest at first.

For instance, among Misean libertarians, President Andrew Jackson scores very high marks for his insistence on paying off the national debt- indeed, under Old Hickory, for the first and almost surely the last time in American history, the national debt went to basically zero- and for his unyielding refusal to kowtow to the perennially fashionable idea of central, government-run banking. Yet how many among us libertarians are aware that President Jackson, the epitome of libertarian politics and thinking, also refused to countenance the idea that South Carolina might be peacefully allowed to leave the Union? Jackson was so incensed by the idea of one of the Southern states leaving the Union, in fact, that he was willing to use force to preserve the very Union that he fought so long and hard to keep free.

As ever with politics, the players of the game themselves are complex and difficult to understand. MDL does a great job of untangling the complex threads of the various characters behind America's history and presents a refreshing alternative take that will challenge many of your assumptions. And you will be exposed to new ideas that you will never have encountered before. For instance, it is fashionable today- as it was 200 years ago- to claim that the banking system is so riddled with flaws and dangers that the government needs to step in and centrally manage it all, somehow. Yet MDL looks at a little-known firm in American history that, if you studied the subject in school, you would never have heard of- Suffolk Bank. This name is completely unknown outside of hard-money Austrolibertarian circles; in fact the only reason I know anything about it is because I read about it on the website over two years ago. MDL uses this, and many other examples, to prove repeatedly the superiority of the decentralised, free-market, hands-free approach to creating wealth and spreading human happiness over any other possible method. Time and again, the central assumption of mainstream history- that government is somehow and everywhere necessary to maintain order and create prosperity- is challenged and found wanting by presenting the simple facts and realities of America's explosive growth during the time period leading up to the War Between the States.

And this ultimately leads to the central question that this volume attempts to answer: if freedom was so good at creating prosperity, why then did America surrender it so readily? The answer is complex and difficult, and the book's attempts to get to that answer will probably surprise you.

To answer this question, the book looks at the differing perspectives between the Northern and Southern states about how to achieve prosperity. From the beginning of the Union, the Northern states were quick to industrialise, and as industrialists always do, they quickly came to believe that a strong central government was vital to maintaining strong industrial interests. This is not surprising, given that politicians love big, highly visible projects that generate a lot of noise and fury- which is precisely what railroads and factories do. From the beginning, the Northern states valued hard work and the pursuit of material wealth over all else, which is precisely why it was so easy for them to fall prey to the siren song of big government.

The South, by contrast, was always more laid-back, but was also always founded on a gigantic internal contradiction. Its agrarian economy could only thrive under a decentralised, low-tariff, free-market environment; yet, that same economy was sustained on the backs of slaves, and was simply incapable of competing on a free-market basis with the vastly more productive Northern states. Southerners valued leisure and spiritual wealth far more than Northerners did, and this fundamental clash of values led inevitably to a great and terrible rupture that expressed itself most violently in the War Between the States.

MDL uses these conflicting visions of society and the facts of American history to come to some rather unorthodox conclusions, by asking what might have happened if the South had simply left the Union peacefully and the War Between the States had never happened. The answer is very much in line with mainstream libertarian thinking- the South's free-market, low-tariff policies would have forced the North to adopt similar measures in order to prevent the complete and wholesale loss of their cotton and steel trade to the much freer and less bureaucratic Southern ports, while the North's far greater productivity would have eventually forced the South to give up slavery, for as Ludwig von Mises proved beyond any doubt in numerous logical arguments on the subject, slavery is not only a human abomination and a violation of God's Law, but is a spectacularly unproductive economic system. A convergence would have resulted that may well have led to a reunion of the two nations in the future; instead, we got the single bloodiest war in American history, a war in which more than 10% of the population of the nation was slaughtered, most of them by disease and hunger, and in which the South was left so badly crippled economically that it literally did not recover for over a century.

There is much more to this particular book than just an examination of the War Between the States- for instance, there is considerable attention devoted to the plight of the Indians, and quite a bit of scholarship on the Mexican-American War, all of which is great reading and will give you some surprising insights into the nature of both conflicts. What I want to focus on, however, is MDL's examination of President Lincoln.

For libertarians, Lincoln is very often portrayed in language similar to that used to describe the Antichrist. Libertarians like Vox Day hate him with a fiery passion- and the reason is very simple. It was Lincoln who destroyed America's traditions of free enterprise, small government, and individual liberty, by imposing upon them every last stricture of tyranny, in pursuit of a bloody and completely unnecessary war. Anyone who has ever read Thomas DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln- and if you haven't you very much owe it to yourself to do so- will know what I'm talking about when I say that Lincoln was a tyrant, a dictator without equal in American history until the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the greatest betrayer of the founding principles of the nation in all of its long and storied history. Yet MDL's treatment of Lincoln is surprisingly reverential, even though he has clearly read all of the same books that other libertarians have- The Real Lincoln and The South Was Right!, among many others. He concludes that Lincoln was in fact a man of great human decency, even though he waged the most indecent war in this nation's history, and he asserts that Lincoln knew full well the human price of the war that he was waging. He argues, right at the very end of the book, that the knowledge of what Lincoln had forced upon his people was too much for him to endure and remain sane.

I am not sure I agree with these conclusions. Thanks in part to this book I have actually started reading the Kennedy brothers' book, The South Was Right!, and as far as I can tell, Lincoln truly was a megalomaniacal tyrant, without principle or human decency, but with a tremendous talent for uplifting and powerful prose used to disguise the fundamentally immoral nature of his administration. It is entirely appropriate to lay the blame for America's transformation from a free-enterprise champion of human liberty to the globe-spanning, bloody-handed colossus that it is today upon the head of President Lincoln, whose reign of terror and outright tyranny has come to be bizarrely admired and revered even though his own hagiographers admit that he was a tyrant (but a "benevolent" one, or so we are told). I used to be one of those who believed that President Lincoln was responsible for freeing the slaves; of course, he did absolutely nothing of the sort, and his war against the South remains a classic testament to the power of human stupidity and hubris. In this, at least, MDL and I are in complete agreement, even if our opinions about the nature of the man himself differ significantly.

In conclusion, the true value of this book is that, like its predecessor, it will teach you things about America's history that you could never really hope to find out from conventional histories in any way. It will force you to reexamine some of your most closely cherished beliefs about American history. It will require you to rethink some of the more simplistic notions that underpin traditional interpretations of American Presidents and their time in office- I highly recommend the chapter on the Presidency of Martin Van Buren as a classic example of a President that history has written off almost completely, yet was actually worthy of remembrance as a good man and a good President. And like its predecessor, this book is dirt cheap yet contains incredible information and lore that make it an absolute bargain.

Didact's Verdict: 5/5, I may not agree with everything that MDL says, but the price combined with the outstanding prose style and the sheer depth and breadth of the content make this an absolute must-read for any historically aware libertarian.

Buy America's Forgotten History, Part 2 here.