Good and Bad Emperors

Last week when I was railing against Joe Biden’s regime, I compared him to the Roman Emperor Tiberius.  Now this wasn’t meant to indicate a great similarity between these two politicians.  It was only to indicate that at a certain point in their careers each one was a debauched old man in charge of a great empire whose heir was a lunatic.  Honestly, the comparison is grossly unfair to Tiberius.  In his younger days Tiberius was a highly skilled and successful general who conquered several important provinces along the periphery of the empire.  By comparison, Joe Biden’s greatest achievement was getting hair plugs.

But it does bring up once again the comparison of the period at the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire with our own time.  The end of the Roman Republic was a tumultuous century of greater and greater outrages against the Roman citizenry.  By the time the Caesars ended the farce all that remained was a plutocratic oligarchy harvesting the Roman citizens as legionnaires to conquer the rest of the world for use as slaves on Roman plantations.

But those legions were successful enough that they allowed the corrupt, mismanaged, Empire to expand for another two hundred years and after that to at least survive for another three hundred years.

And how about us?  Will the corpse of the American Republic, hijacked by the managerial mandarins of the federal government in association with the corporate oligarchs continue to rule the Global American Empire for its own half a millennium?

I guess that’s the quadrillion dollar question.  Based on the looks of Joe Biden you might say that five hundred days might be more realistic than five hundred years.  But let’s not be too hasty.  Currently our government is still masquerading as a representative republic where elections decide who is in charge.  A place holder like Joe Biden whose name is still familiar to those who remember him as a senator and vice president might be a very good way to begin the transition to the imperial model.

And after all most emperors aren’t necessarily “good emperors.”  You got Augustus and (arguably) Tiberius in the good column.  Then you get Caligula.  With the right public relations team even Caligula can last a few years.  So, with the right press secretary and national press Joe can survive.  Kamala, on the other hand is more in the Incitatus category.  Like Caligula’s horse, she is just a bridge too far and cannot pass the smell test.

And right in line with this common-sense limit no one is speaking of Kamala Harris as a realistic successor to Joe Biden, either in 2024 or afterwards.  The powers that be are respecting the instinct for self-preservation that still exists in the American populace.

But we could end up with an actor like Gavin Newsome or Elizabeth Warren or even AOC (God forbid.)  So, it’s well within the bounds of possibility that this empire could sputter along almost indefinitely with cretinous puppets in charge.  But what could shorten the span of time of the empire is military disaster.  All the way up to around 180 AD the legions provided a reliable bulwark against the incursions of the external enemies of Rome.  Germanic tribesmen and Persian armies alike still had to reckon with a relatively well-trained and professional army that could be brought to bear against an enemy.

Unfortunately for us this same military preparedness doesn’t seem to be available any longer.  But at the same time, the bluff is still being used to attempt to intimidate the other powerful regimes.  So, the spectacle of the Middle Eastern retreats (especially the rout from Afghanistan) is a recent indicator.  And now the bluster toward Russia and China rings quite hollow.

A true military debacle would be the catalyst for a much quicker loss of prestige and possibly the destabilization of the oligarchy that currently calls the shots in America.  After all, if we can’t even hold off medieval goat herders like the Taliban then why exactly would we allow the IRS and the FBI to treat us like slaves?

So, I guess my thought is that the American Empire can last practically indefinitely as long as it retains the competency that maintains it as a great power.  But if its military prowess declines then so does its ability to coerce the American people to knuckle under to its tyrannical demands.  The outcome of Biden’s saber rattling against Russia and China may be very instructive concerning the future of our oligarchs and their junta.

And by the way, where is our Caesar?

Master And Commander – The Far Side of the World (2003) – A Movie Review

I’d heard a good deal about this movie from a friend of mine who was of old Yankee blood and a sailor.  I finally got a chance to see it last week.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

The story follows the adventures of the crew of the HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic Wars as its captain, Jack Aubrey, (played by Russell Crowe) chases a French privateer, the heavy frigate Acheron, from the coastal waters of Brazil, around the Cape Horn and into the tropical waters of the Pacific.

Because the Acheron has a much more substantial hull the Surprise is heavily damaged during their first engagement off Brazil while the Acheron is virtually undamaged.  Aubrey foregoes a lengthy refitting in port and instead makes hasty repairs at sea while doing his best to pursue the Acheron.  But because of the Acheron’s superior battle capability it becomes a cat and mouse game where the Surprise is sometimes the pursued.

And while all this goes on, we meet the rest of the crew.  The ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin is played by Paul Bettany.  The doctor not only can saw off a midshipman’s arm as needed but he’s also the captain’s accompanist in their musical string duo.  I kid you not.  The crew and the officers have a complicated relationship with strict discipline and primitive superstition both playing a part.

Eventually through luck and guile Aubrey engineers the attack on the Acheron and we get an epic sea battle with the Surprise’s crew boarding the Acheron.  And the Surprise is victorious and captain and crew prepare for the business of bringing the captured Acheron to port.

So, what’s the story with this movie?  Why do some people rave about it?  The first thing I noticed was that the movie successfully captured the claustrophobic crowdedness of these sailing ships.  You can feel the lack of air in the hold where the crew sleeps cheek to jowl.  It feels real.  Less like Hollywood’s version of the 19th century English navy.  Right down to some of the midshipman being essentially boys of twelve years or so.  Then there’s Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Aubrey.  Crowe is a damn good actor.  He makes the captain a real figure.  You can believe in him.  And Aubrey and Maturin’s friendship and clashes also ring true.  The man of action and the man of science confronting their conflicting priorities as best they can.  And lastly, the battle scenes are very well done and highly exciting.  The only part of the story that I had trouble with was the final battle.  The boarding scene was intentionally chaotic.  Such an event would have to be.  But honestly at many points I couldn’t tell which side was doing what to whom.  It didn’t ruin the film but I thought it could have been a little less indecipherable.  I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to lovers of adventure and students of history.

Guest Contributor – ArthurinCali – 17FEB2023 – Civil War Battlefield Musings

We took a family vacation in the early 90s and drove from East Texas all the way to Nashville. At the time, it felt like we stopped at every Civil War battlefield (twice) along the way. Seeing the meadows and rolling hills with cannons and other historical relics was a powerful sight. Imagining the sounds and smells of gunfire, the bravery and fear of the battles is a humbling moment. I recall a story about a Union guard talking to a Confederate soldier from a Tennessee unit who had been captured and noticing the young man’s ill-fitted clothes and general state of shoddy equipment. He (paraphrasing) asked, “Why are you fighting? You don’t appear to have a major stake in this war.” The young man replied, “Because you’re here.” A few years ago I took an interest in researching my family ancestry and found cousins from Tennessee who served in the CSA. They were mountain folk who didn’t have slaves, a plantation, or much of anything else to their name, but I can imagine them giving the Union soldier the same reasoning for taking up arms.

While the current age we live in likes to take American history and ‘Disneyfy’ it into simplistic caricatures of a good/evil binary, the complexities and nuance remains, especially for the War of Northern Aggression. The current charge that history is not being fully taught is correct, but for different reasons than the detractors point out. All they want is history taught in a manner to ensure those who have been deemed the personification of evil stay that way. This isn’t relegated to only American history, but Western Civilization overall. This is how society has arrived to the asinine conclusions that only Europeans conquered and enslaved other peoples throughout world history. It doesn’t acknowledge the reality that human nature hasn’t aged – that all of humanity contains the ability for committing depravities against their fellow man, while also being able to show empathy and compassion at other times.

Putting Things in Perspective – Part 2 – Civil War Analogy

After discussing the Revolutionary War last time, the next major historical comparison I’d like to look at is the one comparing our situation to the mid-nineteenth century American Civil War.  In this comparison the Left is equated with the historical “North” and the Right with the “South.”

We’ll start with things that do align in this comparison.  The cultural and intellectual elites of the Abolitionist Movement do line up well with the modern Left.  In fact, there is probably a decent number among today’s Woke Left that are direct descendants from the Abolitionists themselves.  And certain historians believe that the culture of New England and its exports to areas like the Great Lakes area and the Pacific Coast states have preserved the viewpoint and authority of the nineteenth century elites from that region of the country.  From that point of view there is a certain direct analogy between the Northern Abolitionist Leadership and the Modern Left.

But let’s look at some of the other factors.  First of all, let’s look at the driving force of the cause.  The Abolitionists wanted to end slavery.  It’s hard to over stress just how popular this cause was.  It was evident to even many Southerners that slavery was an evil that could not be justified by its benefits to the economy.  For a country whose whole existence is expressed in the single word freedom, slavery is anathema.  Therefore, the moral underpinnings of the Civil War were very powerful.  Certainly, the Southern States were able to muster a justification for the practice of slavery but at no time did this justification convince anyone outside of the South and not even everyone inside.  So, the abolition of slavery was a cause that resonated broadly around the United States outside of the Deep South.

But look at the current agenda of the Woke Left.  It is a rag tag grab bag of radical ideas and identity politics grievances that isn’t even rationally self-consistent.  Feminism and even lesbian feminism are at odds with transgender “rights.”  And the BLM agenda of eliminating the police won’t stand scrutiny by other communities like Asians and Hispanics now that they see that it equates to wholesale criminal anarchy.  It is far from certain that even in the “Blue States” that the whole agenda of the radical Left is entirely acceptable.  This is a major difference between the Civil War situation.  The Left’s agenda today is far less popular than the abolition of slavery was back then.

The next consideration is the location of each “side.”  The Confederacy was never able to convince even some of the slave states to join in its revolt.  The border states Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland never seceded.  And even an area of Virginia refused to join and “seceded” from Virginia to become West Virginia and remain with the Union.  Inside the free states there weren’t any large areas that would have joined the South or opposed the abolition of slavery for the most part.

But look at today.  Instead, the Red and Blue States are only an indicator of the majority status of each side in a state.  But geographically we can see that this is really a city versus countryside polarization.  The cities in the Red States are full of Leftists for the most part and even deep Blue States like California and New York have rural areas that are completely red.  This definitely helps our side.  These concentrated populations of Leftists work well when you want to cheat during an election but it doesn’t help much when you are trying to control a population that is diffused over thousands of square miles in some cases.  Controlling the back country especially when it is adjacent to a Red State may turn out to be an impossible job.

And finally in the 1860’s the slave states were so afraid of a Republican holding the White House that they seceded before Lincoln could even assemble his government.  We’ve seen two truly woke administration already.  Obama and now Biden.  And Biden is using all the force of the federal government to destroy our way of life.  But what it seems to show is that determined state leaders can use the state laws to combat these Woke orders and possibly nullify their effects without having to leave the Union.  This is still a preliminary evaluation but I think it is worth seeing if the lessons learned from Sanctuary Cities can be applied to other issues like Second Amendment Rights and First Amendment Freedoms.

So, from the point of view comparison, it seems to me that our side is significantly better off in the present situation than the South was during the Civil War.  And that is definitely a thing to be happy about.

White Shoe: How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century by John Oller – Book Review

Tyler over at the Portly Politico sent me this recommendation. I read the review and it sounded interesting for you history buffs.  Here’s his message followed by the link to the original book review at the bottom of the post.
A buddy of mine wrote a great book review for his blog, Corporate History International, that I thought might be of interest to you.  It’s a review of John Oller’s White Shoe:  How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century.  He touches upon some of the historical parallels between the Progressive Era and our current times, albeit subtly.


White Shoe: How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century by John Oller

New White Shoe Review for You


The Father of History / The Father of Lies / Summer Reading Fun!

My Professor of Ionic Greek was a very funny guy.  He said that the charm of reading Herodotus is that his prose reminds you of your Great Aunt telling family history.  The whole story is one big run-on sentence meandering back and forth and including everything from news of the great war to gossip about somebody’s wife cheating with the milkman.  And sometimes it’s difficult to tell which part she feels is more important.

In the same way, Herodotus starts off the history of the Persian War by claiming its origin was the kidnapping of Helen by the Trojans!  From there we get a family history of the first Asian ruler to conquer the Greeks living in Asia Minor.  Apparently, the origin of this dynasty involves a King allowing his wife to be seen naked by a commoner.  This triggers his wife’s anger so severely that she conspires with the commoner to kill her husband and usurp the throne.  All of these stories are given with either a tongue in cheek or a storyteller’s desire to be complete.

But in between all this chatter you get some stories that are told nowhere else and that record the (mostly) accurate exploits of the ancient world’s greatest generation.  You’ll hear about Marathon and Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea.  You’ll meet Leonidas and the Spartans, Themistocles and the Athenians and Xerxes and the Persians.  And mixed in with that you’ll hear unlikely stories of the origins of historical nations based on the amorous adventures of Heracles and other demigods.  And you’ll feel that you’re in the midst of a tumultuous time full of heroes and villains.  And you’ll discover the ancient dichotomy of the East vs. the West.  It’s freedom versus slavery.  It’s nation versus empire.  It’s intelligence versus brute force.

There are places where the story bogs down.  You see Herodotus was a world traveler and he relates all the tales he was told in his various travels.  During his time in Egypt he collected much material on the rulers and doings in Egypt.  Sometimes it gets to be a little much.  But mixed in with this minutia will be stories that sound like they came out of the Tales of the Arabian Nights.

In terms of historical accuracy Herodotus was far inferior to his successor at Athens, Thucydides.  His history chronicles the aftermath of the Persian War.  This was a sort of Cold War between Athens and Sparta that eventually went hot.  Thucydides provides precise details of the military and political actions and forgoes all mythical and religious causes.  But the content is basically the story of Athens committing suicide.  I much prefer reading the story of its finest hour.

Every summer I read from two greek classics.  I read the Odyssey and I browse Herodotus.  Those two books give me hope that the legacy of the West isn’t a myth.  Odysseus tells me that the value of the brave man and the faithful wife can overcome the chaos and nihilism of the world.  And Herodotus tells me that freedom reappears in this world from time to time and that it is the most valuable substance in the universe.

In future installments, I’ll select some of the stories that I think make the case that the gossip Herodotus is still relevant and interesting 2,400 years later.