Trump vs Slashing the Deficit

Scene 1: February 15th 2017; White House Oval Office

Vice President Pence (VPP): Good morning Mr. President.  I just got your message.  How can I help you?

President Trump (PT): Pence, we’ve got a big problem.  I’ve been president for weeks now and I haven’t shrunk government much at all.  What the hell is the problem?

VPP: Sir, we’re following all the protocols and directives built into the law.  We’ve replaced all the political appointees and offered severance packages to the middle management aparatchiks that Obama brought in.  But many of them are dyed in the wool communists who have no private sector skills and won’t leave under any circumstances.  I’m afraid sir we’ll have to work around them.

PT: Keep paying these losers to destroy our country?  Are you crazy Pence?  That’s not gonna happen.

VPP: But sir there’s nothing that can be done.

PT: Ha!  Pence you’re hopeless.  All right, get the following things going.  I want a list of all the personnel in the Department of Education in decreasing order of salary.  Then I want a portion of the D of E headquarters to be outfitted with sound proofing, washable paint, fire hoses and floor drains.  I’ll need five of my business suits sent there and about 300 rolls of dental floss.  Oh and you better also send about 300 lbs. of alka-seltzer.

VPP: Mr. President, you can’t do that!  These are American citizens.  They’ll be missed.

PT:  I could probably debate both of those points but instead I’ll remind you that I haven’t had breakfast yet.  So what’s it gonna be?

VPP: I’ll get going on that alka-seltzer right away.

PT: There’s hope for you yet Pence.

 

Scene 2: A week later.  Oval Office.

VPP: Good morning Mr. President.  Welcome back.

PT: Not so loud Pence, I’m a little under the weather.

VPP: Something you ate sir?

PT: You’re a laugh riot Pence.  Look, I need to get all my suits let out a little.  And set up a Presidential Address with the networks tonight.  I want to get things moving.

VPP: Right away Mr. President.

 

Scene 3: That night in the Oval Office with TV crews setting up video equipment.

PT: Okay Billy, show the recording light when you’re ready……….Good evening, my fellow Americans.  As you know I have been in office a few weeks now and the news guys have been hammering me about not fulfilling my campaign promises on the budget.  Well I am here to give you all an update.  As promised I’ve fulfilled my campaign promise to close the Education department.  It is officially gone.  I finished eating the last department personnel at 3 pm yesterday.  I went as far as to include all of the temporary staff to ensure that the budget is all the way down to zero.

But this is just a first step. Numerous branches of the federal government remain untrimmed and as your Werewolf President I intend to attend to these problems one by one.  Now granted, the Department of Education is a small branch and it won’t be possible to finish off something as bloated and fatty as the EPA or the Commerce Department in a week but I’ll do my damnedest.  And it won’t be easy on me.  Already I’m experiencing symptoms of indigestion, high cholesterol and gout.  But I intend to install a treadmill in the White House and run off the extra calories that this budget program will inflict on me.

I know that many will find this budget cutting disturbing and you will hear many in the media describing these measures as brutal and possibly criminal. I will answer these charges right away.  I have sent invitations to all of my heaviest critics to join me in the press room at the White House tomorrow to put these problems to rest.  That should take care of that.

So by the end of my first hundred days in office I vow to have trimmed down the federal government to a lean weight, except of course, for me. At that point I’ll be taking a few days off to allow for a long session of liposuction.  No sacrifice is too great for your Werewolf President when it benefits the American people.  Thank you and good night.  Trump out.

Monday’s Debate without the Fantasy

Watching yesterday’s debate was a fascinating, frustrating informative look at this year’s election dynamic.  The most important fact I observed was that Donald Trump was the first Republican since Ronald Reagan who knew how to stand up to the moderator at a debate and say what he needed to say.

Think of the pathetic image of Mitt Romney being corrected by Candy Crowley on something that he had gotten right.  And that he meekly allowed her to get away with it.  Compare that to Trump.  Not only did he object to many things Hillary said (and while she was still speaking) but when Lester Holt tried to correct him on Stop and Frisk, Trump corrected Holt!  It was a pleasure to hear and see.  Trump may have been rambling and repetitive a lot of the time but at least he wasn’t cowed by the tag team of Clinton and Holt.  He asserted his opinion and it was a breath of fresh air.

Trump was even able to overcome the overtly biased nature of the questions.  Whereas Clinton was given neutral questions about her policy direction, Holt singled out Trump to defend his decision not to release his income tax records.  And to his credit he skillfully turned it right around on Clinton by declaring that he would release his income tax records just as soon as Hillary recovered the 33,000 e-mails that she has deleted.  It is this kind of verbal jiu-jitsu that distinguishes the effective debate performance of Trump from the weak passive performance of the last four or five republican presidential contenders.

Let me be clear.  Trump is no Reagan.  He is not a deep thinker.  He’s a salesman.  But he knows enough about scams to know that all of us are being scammed by the politicians.  He is an American and I think he empathizes with the common man.  Is he trustworthy?  Not if you’re buying steaks or college courses.  But that’s not what he’s selling.  What he’s offering is his expertise in negotiating with sharp operators. Some commentators friendly to Trump believe he avoided overtly attacking Clinton on personal matters (such as Bill’s womanizing and assaults) because it might have seemed overly aggressive. I think they’re right. He came off as a relatively moderate version of Trump which robbed his enemies (i.e., all of the MSM) of their charge that Trump is irrational. No national poll has been issued since the debate but a number of instant polls have appeared and the majority show people believe Trump won.

We’re six weeks out and two more debates to go. Where do I think we are? I’m starting to think Trump is going to pull it off. I fully expect the NYT, WP and NBC will come out with polls showing Hillary up by some enormous amount (6 to 10 points). But if the other polls (LAT, Rasmussen, Reuters, etc.) don’t move much or at all then I think he’ll win. My hope is that in fact some of the polls will even show him ahead by a significant amount (3 – 5 points). But that’s not even necessary yet. Just the fact that he’s right on her tail will be enough.

In short I feel the Trumpocalypse is afoot. Take cover.

Trump vs the Urban Fantasy Debate

Scene 1: Trump Campaign HQ. Two nights before the First Debate.

 

Campaign Manager Steve Bannon (SB):  Mr. Trump, you called for me?

Donald Trump (DT):  Bannon, I need your help preparing for the debate.

SB:  Certainly sir.  Do you need someone to stand in for Mrs. Clinton or the moderator?

DT:  Well sort of.  I need someone who’s the same height and weight as Hillary.

SB:  Uhhhh …… why?

DT:  I need to practice some fighting techniques for when she vamps out and rushes me.

SB:  Mr. Trump, I must assure you that there is absolutely no possibility that Mrs. Clinton is a vampire.  And despite what occurred in Louisiana, you are most definitely not a werewolf.

DT:  Look Bannon, obviously you’re just not as perceptive as I am.  You know, with my werewolf senses and stuff.  Trust me.  It’s completely certain that she is some species of undead and 83% certain to be a vampire.  The science is settled on this point.  You either have to lead, follow or get out of the way.  I intend to lead.  My plan is to replace the drinking water on the stage with holy water and when she drinks it her face and throat will burst into flames.  At that point I intend to stake her and pin her to the podium carpet.  Then I’ll  explain to the Secret Service the importance of decapitating her and stuffing her mouth with garlic as soon as the debate is finished.  My only problem at this point is whether I should go after Bill next or hold off until the full moon.  I believe he is the senior vampire and his strength may be too great for me to take him down without my werewolf power.

SB:  For God’s sake stop this insanity.  You’re running for the most powerful office in the world.  If anyone heard you talking like this you’d be locked up in a nuthouse within an hour.  When I took this job I knew you were goofy but I didn’t think you were bat-shit crazy.  Look I should probably drop a dime on you myself but so help me I need this gig to work.  So come on, snap out of it and try to act sane.

DT:  Bannon, I can’t work with someone so stupid. You’re fired. Now send in Kellyanne so I can get going on this debate prep work.

SB: Goodbye and good riddance you psycho.

Scene 2: First Presidential Debate.

BBC Correspondent (BBCC): Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to the BBC radio coverage of the 2016 First Presidential Debate between Democratic Party candidate, the esteemed former First Lady, United States Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Party candidate, the eccentric failed businessman and reality show personality Donald Trump. The candidates have met for a decidedly tepid handshake and now have taken their places at their podiums. Mrs Clinton is looking decidedly hale and hearty and not at all like the frail elderly person that the Trump campaign has presented her as. As you can now hear Mr. Trump is making some decidedly sophomoric opening remarks about mexican payment for masonry or some such rubbish. Now it is Mrs. Clinton’s turn and as you must hear her diction and elocution is masterful and might I even say delightful. Why it seems entirely possible that Mr. Trump may retreat immediately and vacate the stage in the face of such commanding eloquence. Mrs. Clinton has finished and the studio audience is standing and applauding quite spontaneously. It’s an amazing sight. I think I can be forgiven for saying that a second debate will be completely unnecessary. I feel I must go on the record to congratulate Madam President for this amazing victory. Well done, oh well done.

Trump looks dumbfounded he’s just looking at Hillary as if he expects more punishment from her. Mrs. Clinton is basking in the glow of her still cheering audience. Now she’s reaching for her glass of water for a well deserved beverage. The moderator has asked Trump his first question but the oafish challenger is so overwhelmed by the intellectual beating he’s just taken he hasn’t heard a word of it. He’s still staring at the First Lady as if she will further abuse him while drinking her water. Does he imagine her to be a ventriloquist?

Wait a minute something terrible has just occurred! An enormous flash of light and flames have erupted around the face of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Was the water in the glass actually some kind of incendiary material. A horrible shriek is going up. Oh the poor woman! The secret service is converging on her. They’ve encircled her. Oh help her, help her! She’s on the floor now. But wait the agents are scattering away. All but one. He is holding the First Lady. No she has him. Now he’s screaming. Something unbelievable is occurring. Mrs. Clinton seems to have increased in size and metamorphosed somehow. She is ripping out of the delightful powder blue pantsuit and is taking on a decidedly bat-like appearance. She seems to have exsanguinated the secret service gentleman and is approaching the moderator. This is taking a decidedly unexpected turn and it appears that the moderator feels that Mrs. Clinton has exceeded the already very generous bounds of allowable debating technique at this juncture.

But hold on, Mr. Trump is charging at Mrs. Clinton and appears to have a large pointed wooden implement in his hand. Although this also seems outside the bounds of allowable debating etiquette it appears the moderator is not going to object. Mrs. Clinton must have noticed his approach because she has pivoted away from the moderator and is facing Trump. But alas she is too late. He has implanted the wooden object into Mrs. Clinton’s thoracic region right up to the hilt. And he calls himself a gentleman! Shocking.

Mrs. Clinton has landed on her back and is thrashing about spasmodically. Mr. Trump is standing back. He’s saying something. I can’t make it out. I’m looking at the program feed that we provide for the deaf viewers and it has transcribed his words as “suck on that Bannon.” Well that strikes me as entirely cryptic.

Well Mrs. Clinton appears to have expired and is beginning to deflate down into a dessicated pile of detritus. Mr. Trump is returning to his podium and appears about to speak. Let’s move in for his comments.

DT: Good evening my fellow Americans. Tonight we have witnessed the ultimate proof of the greatness that is Trump. I have saved America from the undead and also higher taxes. Because of the short window of opportunity to select a new democratic candidate I have instructed the Democrats to leave Hillary’s name on the ballot. Let’s face it, anyone they picked at this point is probably also undead and I’ll just have to stake him too. Because of the shocking events of tonight and also because I myself am now a werewolf, I’ve decided to end my campaigning activities and will just wait for your acclamation in November. So go back to your lives and don’t worry about anything. Werewolf Trump has got your back. After my inauguration I’ll be using my special werewolf senses to root out injustice and corruption wherever it exists in the federal government. My summary judgement will be brutal but fair. Also I’ll be taping these events for my new reality series “Vigilante Werewolf President.” It will be hard-hitting but classy. Very little nudity. I predict it will last eight seasons or more. Trump out.

Trump vs the Undead

Donald Trump (DT)  Hey Bannon!  Where’s my Deadpool suit? I left it on this chair five minutes ago and now it’s gone.  We’ve got a thief around here.  Call Christie.  He used to be a cop or a judge or something.

Campaign Chief Executive Stephen Bannon (SB)  No Mr. Trump.  It wasn’t stolen.  I had it put in the closet.

(DT)  You stole my costume?  Whose side are you on?  Even Rosie O’Donnell never stole my stuff.  And she’s the worst person in the world you know.

(SB)  Governor Christie called me about your George Washington Bridge plan.  I told the Secret Service and they stopped all the arrangements you were making.  Mr. Trump you realize how dangerous and irresponsible your plan is don’t you?

(DT)  Relax.  It was gonna be done with CGI.  You know. Green screen (or blue screen or sun screen or something).  Come on Bannon we’re behind in this race.  We’ve gotta shake things up.  Start thinking outside the box.  That’s why I hired you.

(SB)  Well CGI is okay but I think we need to do something a little less uhhh … symbolic and a little more focused.

(DT)  Well then, you come up with something and hurry up.  I hate to be behind that old bag of bones.

(SB)  Bag of bones?  Hmmm.  I think I’ve got an interesting idea. All of Hillary’s recent health problems, the coughing, the spastic tics, the cackle, the slips and falls, could be explained if we found out that she had died years ago during that surgery for her broken elbow back in 2009.

(DT)  But if she died what is she doing walking around?

(SB)  Exactly.  The walking dead.  We’ll locate a doctor who can explain how the Hillary beast could have been re-animated using either black magic or some kind of zombie elixir. Then we’ll get some legal scholars to show that once she died and was revived her age reset to newborn and therefore she’s too young to fulfill the minimum age limit for president.

(DT)  And they say I’m crazy.  Do you seriously believe anyone is gonna buy the idea that Hillary is seven years old.  I mean, come on!  Look at her.  She’s a gargoyle.

(SB)  All right.  If you don’t like zombie how about vampire?  She always seems to be covered with make-up.  That could be to protect her skin from bursting into flames in the sunlight.  It would explain why she couldn’t stay out at the World Trade Center.  And it would account for her new vehicle.  Obviously she’s keeping a coffin full of the dirt of her homeland in the car to revive her after the weakening effects of the sun.  That explains why an hour later she was revived.  How’s that for thinking outside the “box?”

(DT)  Actually, I could believe that one.  But are you sure that will help me?  I hear kids actually empathize with vampires in stories nowadays.

(SB)  Actually more of them sympathize with werewolves than with vampires.  It would be Team Donald versus Team Hillary and we’d mop the floor with them.  We could establish that you were bitten by a werewolf while helping out down in Louisiana and now you sprout thick hair during the full moon and devour illegal aliens you run across.

(DT)  Sprout thick hair?  Hmm.  Maybe this werewolf thing isn’t as bad as it sounds.  Seems like there could be some advantages.  Could I tape some of my campaign commercials during my good hair, I mean werewolf phase?

(SB)  Well Mr. Trump I’m no expert on lycanthropy but once you transform I believe the only thing you’ll be able to do is rip people to shreds.

(DT)  Interesting.  Bannon I have a side job for you to take care of.  I want you to set up a media event.  Hire Rosie O’Donnell to debate me on air during the full, I mean next week.  Offer whatever she wants, but don’t pay upfront.  And take out the usual double indemnity policy on her.  I just have this feeling.

(SB)  Mr. Trump, come on, you’re not a werewolf.

(DT)  Bannon, while I was down in Louisiana we had a little incident with something they call a Loup Garou.  Know what that is?

(SB) Yes.

(DT)  Good.  Go call Rosie.

(SB)  Okay Mr. Trump.  I’m assuming we won’t actually broadcast this meeting.  That might negatively impact the campaign.

(DT)  Definitely not.  Just keep a copy of the video for my private use.  Oh and be sure to leave some floss and a toothbrush at the studio.  She looks like she could be kinda tough.

(SB)  Certainly Mr. Trump.  All will be arranged as you want.

(DT)  See now I know I was right hiring you.  You’re a very reasonable man.

September 11th Election Update

September 11th is too solemn a day for me to publish a Trump comedy. I’ll just sum up the bizarre combination that surrounds the events of this day and the impressions they leave. When September 11th 2001 occurred there was still the semblance of a united country. That has long since dissolved into a hodge podge of leftist grievance groups, disillusioned citizens and ignorant children. Watching as Clinton puts on the clown hat that Trump has momentarily dropped is tragically funny. To see the US presidency contested by two truly awful human beings and realize that in some sense each one is sort of what the country deserves is simultaneously enormously funny and heartbreakingly tragic.

But we have no choice but to see it through. As I’ve said before I look forward to the election’s completion.

If Clinton wins then I can read a eulogy over the United States of America. Hillary intends to appoint leftists to the Supreme Court and gut the 1st and 2nd amendments. That will more or less end the experiment started in 1776. It will also end my concerns with this sinking ship. After that I’ll just concentrate on me and mine and any like minded folks I find. Amen.

If Trump wins I’ll be almost disappointed because I won’t be out of my misery. I’ll still have to bang my head against the wall over the endless foibles of the lunatic asylum that Trump will usher in. But I guess the old saying about life and hope remains. So let’s say that would still be the more favorable outcome.

Anyway after the bizarre occurrences of Hillary’s fainting spell it’s not beyond possibility that the democrats end up with a different candidate. Maybe Fauxcahantas or Crazy Uncle Joe. Either way we are about to see a circus like nothing dreamed of before. Watching Trump berate the democrat candidate and the democrat moderators will be close to a Monty Python skit. After this morose and boring post I’ll try to uphold my plan of mock chronicling the election as a farce with all the mockery and sarcasm that both sides richly deserve. With any luck Trump will prevail and I’ll be able to continue the comedy in the inaugural season. If Hillary wins I’ll have to quit this project. Under her regime this writing would probably be a felony. I’ll move on to something more profitable (and less candid).

So stay tuned for the fun. I predict that Mr Trump will continue his fascination with popular culture and bring great enthusiasm and dignity to all of his endeavors. And since I’m currently fascinated by all things Deadpool I predict more mashups of the two. After all what better metaphor can there be for the current chain reaction pile-up that is our world than the opening scene of Deadpool with a slow motion view of a spinning, tumbling car crash complete with mayhem and bodies ejecting to their deaths all to the tune of Just Call Me Angel In the Morning?

Voigtlander 10mm f\5.6 on A7S, close up shots, flowers

Back in August I took some close-ups of flowers around the yard using the Voigtlander 10mm on the A7S.  I confess it’s an odd combination for that application.  But it produced some interesting (but odd) results.  Here they are.

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Voigtlander 10mm f\5.6 Part 1

Voigtlander 10mm f\5.6 Part 2

Voigtlander 10mm f\5.6 Part 3

Portland Head Light with Voitlander 10mm f\5.6

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The Dragon Awards Results

Well the winners were announced yesterday. You can see the official announcement here:

Winners


I’ll copy the results here:
Winners

Best Science Fiction Novel
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm by John C. Wright

Best Fantasy Novel
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber

Best Alternate History Novel
League of Dragons by Naomi Novak

Best Apocalyptic Novel
Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole

Best Horror Novel
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Best Comic Book
Ms. Marvel

Best Graphic Novel
The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Game of Thrones – HBO

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
The Martian

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC/Console Game
Fallout 4 by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction of Fantasy Mobile Game
Fallout Shelter by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction of Fantasy Board Game
Pandemic: Legacy by ZMan Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures/Collectible Card/Role Playing Game
Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (7th edition) by Chaosium Inc.

So what do I think?  Great!!!

What’s not to love?  Oh sure, I have to disagree with picking The Martian over Deadpool for best movie, but you know, it’s just the movies and movies are for kids anyway.

So good for the Dragon Con folks for finally making SF&F great again

Some people are saying that the Dragons are to the People’s Choice Awards as the Hugos are to the Oscars.  I guess that’s supposed to be a put-down of the Dragons.  But I’ll take that analogy.  Have you seen the Oscars lately?  Every movie they award and most of the movies they nominate suck

You can do a lot worse than let people pick what they like.  At least it gives you a good indication of what they’re willing to spend their money on.  And that’s good news for the winners.  When a Con that musters 60,000 participants runs an award that can really put a lot of eyeballs on the results.  And that’s especially good for the newcomers and the smaller categories.  Excellent.

Congratulations to all of them.

But of course a bonus feature of the Dragons is who hates the results.  All the familiar cast of characters.   The Puppy-kickers one and all.   But happily they’re not gloating.  They’re exhibiting all the familiar characteristics of angry SJWs.  The three laws in full effect.  Their pets didn’t win.  Fraud, ballot box stuffing, skullduggery and possibly even flimflammerry!  Larry Correia!  Vox Day!  Puppies!!!

The administrators must be questioned and found guilty of serious offenses.  Pressure must be brought to bear on them to confess their sins and cleanse the awards of its populist taint.  Special Snowflake Fairy Dust must immediately be power sprayed onto the contest so that next year the requisite number of special categories will fill the winner’s circle with socially just empowerment.  They’re not following The Narrative!  Attention must be paid!!!

Or something like that.  Anyway, bravo Dragon winners.  Well done.   All in all, a nice holiday weekend treat.

Bring on the SFFexit

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How Does a Civilization Die? Part II: The Fall

How Does a Civilization Die? Part I: The Decline

So Part I of this essay shows you how a strong free people transitions into an empire. Its successes and growth eventually channel its development into a complex social construct that requires interdependence and eventually destroys freedom and individuality in exchange for collective security and stability. And with the loss of individuality and initiative there comes a certain passivity and fatalism.

By the 120 A.D. the Roman Empire was said to be at its height. Trajan was a warrior emperor. He conquered what is Romania and defeated the Parthians thereby adding Mesopotamia (Iraq) to the empire. He was enlightened in his choice of successor picking a wise ruler instead of just going with familial loyalty. As far as anyone could tell the empire would last forever and eventually encompass the entire world. But within sixty years the roman world would be plunged into internal and external conflict from which it would never wholly recover. Its vitality quickly diminished and its intellectual, cultural and economic levels would all retreat from the high points they had reached during the republican period.

Many historians attribute this ebb to a plague in the second century A.D. Others say that the various barbarian incursions were responsible. I think they are mistaking effects for the cause. The Germanic tribes and Huns were no more powerful or numerous than the Carthaginians or the Gauls of previous times. In fact under the circumstances of the republican times these same peoples would have been eventually absorbed along the frontier of roman territory and converted into subjects and eventually citizens.

And under normal circumstances, the roman army was still an effective fighting force (although much diminished from its earlier might). So how was it dismantled by illiterate barbarians and who didn’t have the where with all to coin their own money or make their own arms?

The short answer was that the roman people didn’t know what to do. Whether they were the slaves of roman land owners or germanic overlords they were still slaves. And slaves don’t drop their ploughshares and grab swords to fight off invaders. They keep ploughing and hand over the fruits of their labor to the landlord regardless of whether he’s named Romulus Augustus or Odoacer. And long before the end, the lack of martial spirit had become so typical that the roman army took to outsourcing their work to the very barbarian tribes that they were supposed to be defending against.

Now let’s look at the United States.

I can remember hearing that during World War I young American men were hoping that the U.S. would get involved so that they would have the chance to fight. My own grandfather who was under-aged enlisted under the pseudonym of Charlie Young in order not to miss out on the adventure. What about today. Now granted, after the 9-11 attacks thousands of patriotic young men enlisted and did their part proudly. But look at the Millennials. They’ve been brought up to equate assault with saying “mean things.” How does someone who thinks in terms of “micro-aggressions” handle the Hun at the door? He doesn’t.

Economically, the globalist corporations and the last few administrations have dismantled almost all the industries that formerly employed millions of middle class Americans and shipped them to China and Mexico. With the help of Obamacare and the tax code they are now finishing off the small and medium sized companies that are left. Pretty soon the only ones not on welfare will be government emploees.
Socially, the first and second amendments are under attack and eventually we won’t be allowed to say or think anything the government doesn’t like. And without guns we’ll never get to change that situation.

So yeah, that’s sort of where the Romans started on the downward road to medieval serfdom. I think realistically we still have a few more years to change course. But I think it’s hard to be optimistic.

As a sort of exhibit of what the situation looked like in the final days of the Roman Empire I think the following example is instructive.

About 450 A.D. Atilla the Hun, the Scourge of God was sacking and despoiling the cities of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. This almost exactly coincides with when historians mark the end of the Western Empire and the beginning of the Germanic kingdom of Italy.

Anyway, the Eastern Roman Emperor sent a delegation to Atilla’s camp to negotiate tribute to limit the Hunnish incursion. One of the delegates was a Greek named Priscus who wrote a history of his times that has survived. His description of this delegation includes his meeting with a renegade. This was an eastern roman citizen of greek descent who had been captured when the Huns sacked Viminacium (a city on the Danube). He adopted the Hun lifestyle. He was now a full member of Atilla’s court.

Priscus questions the renegade about his life. The renegade defends the Hunnish lifestyle and attacks the Roman institutions. He defends the life of a marauder describing how after battle the warriors can enjoy their spoils in leisure. Even balancing in the hardships and dangers of war the life was good. He compares this to how the Romans in time of war suffer from the poor quality of the army and generals and if their army is defeated the civilians have no arms of their own to defend themselves. In peace time they are burdened with crippling taxation and the laws and the courts are hopelessly rigged against the common man. It was not the life you would choose.

Priscus answers these charges by defending the fairness and well-meaning nature of the roman law and claims that the divisions of society are necessary for the efficient and proper function of life.

The renegade grants that in theory the roman world should be a good place but he concludes by saying that the rulers were corrupt and had ruined the roman world.

Looking at this window into the past it’s hard not to draw parallels to our own time. In theory all the things we do increase fairness and safety but in reality they damage the health of the nation. The government restricts freedom and amasses power into its own hands. The people become less able to improve their own lot and control their own destiny. They become more dependent on an all powerful state and less capable of acting independently in an emergency. Sound familiar?

So this is how a civilization dies. It regiments the populace into castes like insects in a hive and when a catastrophe disrupts the pattern of normal life the whole structure collapses like a deck of cards. The inhabitants lack the flexibility or will to adapt and save themselves and their world by changing.

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How Does a Civilization Die? Part I: The Decline

Lately there has been a lot of talk about civilization and civilizations. You hear people talk about the “clash of civilizations” by which they are describing the tension between “The West” and Islam. And there’s a lot of talk. These are old concepts and they’ve been revived after the failure of “The End of History” which is to say after the 9-11 attacks.

And then there’s talk about the failure of western culture and the Fall of the West. Here the factors are the loss of cultural vitality and native population decrease and the dilution of identity through massive immigration. This is countered by the contention that the global culture is just replacing the outdated local identities. We’re all becoming citizens of the world. After all, we all (or most of us) have an I-phone and a gmail account. We can’t be that different.

So any way there’s a lot of talk.

I’ve been thinking lately about how a civilization dies. So when you do that you have to go back to the great-grand-daddy of all civilizational collapses. That’s right you guessed it.

“THE DECLINE & FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE!!!!!”

At the outset let me paraphrase Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day and say, “Edward Gibbon ain’t got nothing on me.”

That’s the textbook case for all theories and phenomena. And in the example of Rome there are a number of analogies to the United States. And this is not surprising because the Founding Fathers used Rome as one of the sources for their state building project.

In Part I of this post I’ll describe the reason for the decline. In Part II I’ll discuss the results.

Both states depended on the citizen soldier to defend her in her earlier days from more powerful enemies. Both were recognized as exceptional nations that combined practical innovation and great energy. Both states began as highly religious people who honored the family as the basis of its legitimate power and where the pater familias ensured that traditions were maintained and discipline was real. Both states started as a nation of small farmers. Both states began with a conscious intent to eliminate hereditary monarchs.

This similarity extended beyond the conditions at their founding. The other striking similarity was their success at expanding and consolidating their states and incorporating new ideas and things into their lives. Also it would not be an exaggeration to say that they had an almost unshakable belief in their greater destiny.

So what brought down the Roman Republic? It appears that the very success they had in war and their emulation of their more cultured neighbors was the eventual cause of the destruction of the republic. The contact with the greek and near eastern communities led to the adoption of more luxurious standards of living and the breakdown of family authority. The copying of fashionable greek homosexual behavior threatened the continuity of family life and traditions. The changed role of women in society also helped to degrade traditional home life.

The continuous state of war in the later republic and the scope and distance of the wars fought eventually made it impossible for the citizen soldier to exist. A man couldn’t drop his plow, fight a battle and then go back to his fields. He had to be gone for at least several years at a time. This required the need for conscription for very long periods of service. Eventually this produced the professional army that owed its loyalty to the ones paying its salary. Eventually they became very like mercenaries who could deliver the empire to the highest bidder.

Also the wealth amassed by the conquest of the older eastern states made some of the generals wildly wealthy and they used this wealth to build enormous farming estates in Italy to the virtual exclusion of the former small farm owners. As an added problem the wholesale importation of conquered peoples as agricultural slaves further devalued the worth of the small farmer. As the power of the state and the bureaucracy grew the majority of the citizens resembled more and more the medieval serfs, attached to a landed aristocracy and dependent on agricultural labor to remain alive. So by the height of the Imperial Age you had the paradox of a Roman State that had used its highly professional army to conquer all the neighboring states and basically eliminate external threats. But by the same token the majority of the citizens were essentially slaves to a highly oppressive aristocracy. And because of the strength of the army there was no reasonable hope for a revolt.

Now let’s compare the United States.

The traditional lifestyle and roles of Americans have been in flux since around the turn of the Twentieth Century and these changes have been accelerating ever since.
Female Suffrage, sexual freedom and the independence of children from parental authority has reached the point where even traditional family groups live a confused and unsatisfactory existence. With the advent of the homosexual rights movement and its subsequent mainstreaming by the Supreme Court it is fair to say that traditional family life is now viewed as aberrant by the trendsetters of society. The ability of society to protect children is now to be questioned.

Since the end of the Vietnam War the army has become virtually a professional volunteer enterprise. Nothing short of a direct attack on the US homeland (the 9-11 attacks) has been able to galvanize anything like a desire for general mobilization. Moreover, a concerted effort is being made by large segments of the government to discourage the belief in the need for the Second Amendment.

The era of the family farm started to disappear with the increase in manufacturing jobs in the mid-1800s. But these factory jobs were able to sustain a high average income and spawned the middle class. However, since the end of the 1980s automation and globalization have lead to great dislocation of workers and disruption of almost every facet of American life. Family life especially has been negatively impacted. With the advent of wholesale immigration of skilled third world labor by globalist “American” corporations the problem has reached a critical stage. It is easy to see how eventually this will lead to the majority of Americans being reduced to poverty and virtual serfdom. And with the advent of advanced artificial intelligence it begins to look like a very powerful government could use a professional armed forces to suppress any revolt (especially if that population has already been disarmed).

In Part II we’ll discuss how the changes in the Roman state (and modern analogs) made it inevitable that eventually it would collapse.

How Does a Civilization Die? Part-II: The Fall

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