Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ranking I - Greatest British Monarchs

These would be my Top Ten. Key Criteria - contribution and impact on the success of the Nation and its defining culture.

1. Elizabeth I
2. Alfred the Great
3. Henry VIII
4. Henry VII
5. Henry V
6. William the Conqueror
7. Victoria
8. Edward I
9. William and Mary of Orange
10. Edward III

Of course this is up to debate. This does not imply that said figures were great human beings - Edward I and Henry VIII were certainly not.

Personal Reflection XII - Evolution vs Interventionism

Question - asked on facebook. How do traits based on instinct develop through random processes?

My Answer.

It occurs in stages and cannot be looked at simply through the lens of irreducible complexity. Certain protein structures (driving behavior) in the brain are selected for as they provide adaptive advantage.Later changes that provide for even more selective advantage are selected for on top of these so that the gene pool moves in a specific direction. Add to this Epigentic drivers that influence phenotype expression and you have the basis of the non-interventionist model. Having said this there are still a number of questions that remain unanswered - Foremost amongst these is the role of mutation. If they are indeed random and impact sequence reading (mostly negatively) how are they maintained in a system? For example...adding random letters to a book such as Moby Dick should the book worse not better. Yet this is an analogous process to the role of Random Mutation in ensuring variation. I suspect so-called "Junk DNA' may offer some protection in this regard.

Personal Reflection XI - How has the world changed since 1990?

Question asked on Quora
In a number of ways. Here are a few off the top of my head (not in any order).
  1. The global economy is several times larger with nations such as China and India playing a more important role.
  2. Large Western Cities such as London and Paris are much more multicultural than they used to be.
  3. There is a strong consensus among the center-left and center-right that Free Trade works. This wasn’t the case necessarily in 1990.
  4. Islamism is far more of a global threat than it used to be.
  5. Unions don’t enjoy the level of power in the West today that they had in and around 1990 (although their decline in power in the US was becoming evident).
  6. Identity politics play a more important role domestically. LGBTQI issues are much more prominent.
  7. Technology…The Internet was a sideshow in 1990…Hell the World Wide web was not even around. Now it dominates almost every facet of our lives including our social interactions.
  8. Growth of the Blogging culture and the fall of traditional media.
  9. The GOP have moved more to the Right on political issues while the Dems have gravitated further to the left.
  10. The Gramscian walk through the universities has turned many a university department into an ideological camp rather than an institute for free an open inquiry.
  11. Women have greater representation in the professions.
  12. Information is much more easily available…The challenge now is to distinguish the quality from the drek.
  13. People are much more easily offended. Culture of victimhood is strong.
  14. A greater percent of graduates are more likely to have to find jobs outside their field of study.
  15. Birth rates in Europe have continued to plummet with the continent looking more Post-Christian than ever.
  16. The Arab Gulf States have significantly expanded their international business outreach.
  17. Russia has replaced the Communist Oligarch with a new Cult of Personality.
  18. The Hispanic Population of the US has grown to become a very important player in California and several other South-Western US States.
  19. Over 2 billion people have been added to the World population.
  20. The EU has grown into a giant bureaucracy.
  21. Viral Memes are everywhere.
  22. Modern music is more likely to be contrived and derivative.
  23. Cultural and moral relativism has a much greater footprint in the modern discourse.
  24. While a global full out nuclear war between superpowers is considerably less of a threat the odds of a rogue nation (such as Iraq) acquiring nuclear weapons technology is much higher.
  25. The US Debt total debt was only 55.5% of the GNP in 1990. Today it is 106% and widening.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 46 - The Early Emperors

The Emperors that immediately followed Augustus offered a mixed bag of colourful characters, tyrannical rulers, incompetents, intermixed with the occasional strong leader.
Tiberius (14-37 CE) and Caligula (37-41 CE) ruled over courts known for their decadence and suppression of dissent. Both are believed to have been murdered by the Praetorian Guard (Bodyguard of the Roman Empire) when their ostentatious behaviour threatened the integrity of the Imperial office. Claudius an uncle of Caligula, was declared Emperor by the Praetorians in 41 CE and although he wasn’t a brilliant ruler did initiate the Invasion of Britain. His forces captured the British warlord Caractacus, established a colony on the Island and dedicated a Temple in his honour.

Claudius’ successor Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty succeeded Claudius (who also died under suspicious circumstances) and ruled from 54-68 CE. Once again court intrigue dominated with Nero’s reign continuing the low points reached during the Age of Caligula. Anger at a loss of power drove the Pisonian conspiracy (65 CE) which followed on from the Great Fire of 64 CE. Nevertheless he the Emperor did claim victory following a successful peace treaty with the Parthians (62 CE) and the suppression of the Boudica rebellion in Britain a year earlier. The rebellion itself cost upwards of 70,000 British and Roman lives.

In 69 CE Rome had four Emperors – Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian – in a brief period of unprecedented instability. Vespasian, a general favoured by the Eastern Legions would eventually dominate establishing the Flavian dynasty. In his ten year long reign he captured Jerusalem (c. 70 CE) bringing an end to the Jewish revolt (with much brutality), ventured northwards to defeat the Gallo-Germans and increased training for civil servants, doctors and teachers. Unlike the Julio-Claudians he was not an extravagant man  and would be succeeded by his son Titus as Emperor.
Titus’ two year reign was noted for the competition of the Colosseum  and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE (an event that destroyed the settlements of Pompeii and Herculaneum). A very competent military commander he died early as a result of a fever and was followed as Emperor by his younger brother Domitian.

Initially an outsider Domitian was intend on rivaling the Military escapades of his brother. He waged war in the Rhine land and introduced policies in Rome that were designed to reduce corruption. However he appears to have been a petty individual who cut short the advances of the General Agricola in Britain (who was fighting in the Picts in Caledonia – Modern Day Scotland).Domitian taxed the population heavily and was subsumed by a type of religious zealotry. An uneasy peace was signed with the Dacians but his unpopularity grew and in 96 CE Domitian was assassinated by an ex-slave, ending the Flavian Dynasty.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 45 - The Second Triumvirate and the Rise of Augustus (First Emperor)

The forces of Brutus and Cassius were defeated at Philippi by those of Marc Antony (a friend and ally of Caesar) and Octavian (Caesar’s adopted heir). A Second Triumvirate was born that dominated power politics in Rome. The Triumvirate consisted of Antony, Octavian and Marcus Lepidus (who would later drop off the political landscape). A point to note is that the First Triumvirate was the earlier post-Sulla alliance that consisted of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus (all of whom were now dead).

Antony, would then join forces with the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra but his forces would be smashed at the sea battle of Actium by a fleet led by Octavian’s loyal general Agrippa. Both Antony and Cleopatra would commit suicide shortly afterward leaving Octavian as the sole source of power in Rome

Octavian rule as the first Emperor of Rome taking the title of Augustus. The Roman Republic was officially dead with the Empire emerging in its place. Augustus would be venerated as a deity.

Augustus was a very competent ruler who reigned as Emperor from 27 BCE to 14 CE. He made peace with the Parthian enemy in the East, reformed the taxation system, improved road building, established a standing army and created the elite Praetorian Guard (a future player in Roman politics). Police and fire-fighting services were established and Rome expanded its territory into Hispania, Africa and Germania.

However the Romans did suffer some setbacks including a horrendous defeat at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD The three legions of Varus were ambushed and annihilated by the Cherusci, a Gothic tribe and former Roman ally. Rome would eventually vanquish Arminius (the leader of Cherusci) but the defeat at Teutoburg put a halt on Roman expansion into what is now modern day Germany

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Personal Reflection X - The Commonality between the Alt Right and Alt Left

This is based on an answer I gave in Quora.

Having read considerably about each. Here is my take on the commonalities.
  1. A rejection of the Mainstream medium narrative when it suits them.
  2. The driving force of alienation
  3. Focus on Grievance Politics
  4. A general disdain for liberal democracy
  5. Emphasis on Identity Politics
  6. Effective use of the Internet as a means to promote the ideology
  7. Absolute loathing of the other
  8. Preference for Protectionist Economics
  9. Reliance on Alternative News
  10. Strong undercurrents of antisemitism
  11. Presence of a violent element
  12. Utopic view of what ought to be
  13. Presence of a significant number of mentally unhinged individuals within the rank-and-file
  14. A notable hostility towards Scientific Rationalism
  15. Insistence on seeing themselves as victims.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 44 - Julius Caesar and the Transition to Empire

Julius Caesar was a patrician Roman whose family was allied with the faction of Marius. In his younger days he had fallen foul of the Sulla and was forced to flee Rome but he returned following the death of the dictator. Like Pompey he waged war against the Mediterranean pirates and later worked his way up the Roman hierarchy by holding at different times the ranks of quaestor and praetor. 

However his greatest victories were achieved in the Gallic War that resulted in the annexation of Gaul, the great victory at Alesia (52 BCE) and victories over a host of tribes that included the Arverni, Belgae, Suebi, and Veneti amongst others. Casear also made inroads into the Rhine region and included in his campaigns two invasions of Britannia (the first was unsuccessful and the second achieved only nominal gains). The events of the Gallic War were chronicled in Caesar’s book Commentarii de Bello Gallico - a great work of Latin prose

Caesar’s successes threatened the Roman elite. In 50 BCE the Senate directed by Pompey ordered Caesar to lay down his arms and return to Rome. The Great Roman General refused and immortalized his position with the phrase Alea iacta est (the die is cast). Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and led his army into Northern Italy. Pompey and his senate support fled south. Although they outnumbered Caesar in military strength they chose not to fight. Caesar pursued Pompey forces in Spain and then chased them to Illyria defeating them at the Battle of Dyrrachium in 48 BCE before finally vanquishing his rival at Pharsalus in Greece. Pompey fled to Egypt and was assassinated. His head was given to Caesar as a reward.

The great general’s grip on power was at its height. He defeated the force’s of the Egyptian Pharaoh at the Battle of the Nile (47 BCE) and installed Cleopatra as that nation’s ruler (he would have a son with Cleopatra named Caesarion). Opposition to Caesar came from Pompey’s sons but Caesar defeated their forces at the Battle of Munda in 45 BCE.

Caesar proved to be a competent ruler whose prestige was upped by the triumphs granted to him by the Roman Senate. He reformed the army, lessened the power of the elites, introduced the Julian Calendar and ordered the rebuilding of Carthage and Corinthia. He attempted to deal with the problems that were particular to the Italian peninsula (the causes of the Social War).

In March of 44 BCE, a month after being appointed dictator-for-life, he was however assassinated by a cabal of senators that included the Cassius brothers, Brutus and Casca. Rome was immediately plunged into Civil War.