Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for November 15, 2013


There are several reasons, lack of education, racial intolerance, racial resentment, and a gullibility that borders on arrogance, I know this will probably piss off some people, but there are truths that are self evident, these folks have been sold an illusion called the American dream, and they buy it because they can see how wealthy their GOP masters have become, and they lack the education to work out that this dream can only work for the few and not the many. This ties into the bullshit notion of American exceptional-ism which only reinforces feelings of superiority over what they regard as not real Americans. Generations of these folks have been brought up on a diet of fear and lies about illegal immigrants and lazy colored people living on government handouts which will come out of their taxes if the ever reach that threshold. To these people modern democracy and progressive social policies are interpreted as welfare for non white Americans, so it is no surprise that every time the government tries to introduce things like social security, medicare, etc, the right wing screams communist, and the gullible echo, it is also a sad and regrettable fact that a lot of these people resent the passing of the civil rights act. Therefore instead of showing gratitude to the party that has ensured them some quality of life, they blindly vote GOP and dream of Beverley hillbillies and that elusive American dream.

Is there a Morality of Profit? Hrm. I dont think so!

“A society is moral if it both allows man to fulfill his potential and, in utilitarian terms, creates the most good. Fortunately, a society based on the profit motive can achieve both of these factors. By acknowledging the fundamentals of human nature — that man is intrinsically self-interested — and channeling it towards productivity through a system based on such an understanding, both individuals and societies will develop and grow.”

I beg to differ. Under this logic, the unbridled application of the profit motive would create the most moral society — and history shows us instead the Gilded Age. Unrestrained capitalism may produce the most wealth, but the wildly unequal distribution of that wealth guarantees that some will have more opportunity to fulfill their potential than others. The reality is that the more the profit motive rules, the less moral the resulting society.

I would have to be a blithering idiot to ascribe no good to the profit motive, nor acknowledge the multitude of positive human endeavors in which it plays an indispensable part. The transcontinental railroad, for example, allowed for the wholesale destruction of the buffalo, sealing the fate of the Plains Indians. But it also linked two sides of the continent — the epitome of an inevitable development. I would not be writing this without the internet and 10,000 inventions that preceded it — many motivated by the desire to make money. Societies in which there is no profit motive mostly do not work — witness North Korea. (I say “mostly” because many small communitarian societies in which there is no profit motive have worked very well. Native American tribes are a prime example.)

Without the profit motive we wouldn’t have much in the way of mining, oil and gas, skyscrapers, bridges, food production, housing, biotech, retail, fashion, banking and air travel — in short, all the elements of modern industrial society. It is also an indispensable part of any realistic solution to third world poverty — though ironically so, as this poverty is almost always inextricably linked to the legacy of rapacious colonialism.

But the fact is that the best things we do as human beings are never motivated by the desire for profit. Not one poem is written, symphony composed, or masterpiece painted. Miep Gies did not hide the Frank family for money, nor was it the reason Mother Teresa tended the sick of Calcutta. It’s not why 99.9 percent of all athletes pick up a football, swim a mile, or run a marathon. It’s not why you read to your kids at night, tend to an aging parent, or stage an intervention for a drug-addicted friend.

Here are two lists. One denotes 10 things done solely with profit as an overriding motive; the other, 10 things in which the desire for profit plays little or no part. (If there is a related consequence, I put it in parentheses.)


1. The Slave Trade (Civil War)
2. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
3. The Iraq War
4. Sex trafficking
5. Blood diamonds
6. The arms trade
7. The drug trade
8. The genocide of Native Americans
9. The destruction of rain forests
10. Off-shore drilling (The BP Disaster)

Little or No Profit Motive

1. Motherhood
2. Affection
3. Volunteering
4. The Arts
5. Play
6. Twelve-step Programs
7. National parks
8. Exploration
9. The Olympics
10. Education

The profit motive may be necessary, but “moral” hardly seems like the right adjective for it. Loan-sharking is not moral. Strip mining is not moral. Sweatshops are not moral. A world in which making money reigns as a supreme expression of morality would be a sorry utopia indeed. Greed may be inevitable, but the urge to accumulate as much as possible should be far down on the list of traits a society should ever want to anoint as one of its highest values.


The Lost Cosmonauts:

During the late 1950′s and early 1960′s, the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was hot. People around the world watched and listened.

Some, most notably amateur radio operators, listened more closely than others. And of these, a pair of young brothers from Italy, Achille and Giovanni Judica-Cordiglia, reigned supreme. The brothers used home-made equipment to listen in on the Soviet launches.

They recorded the heartbeat of the dog Laika who was launched in the one way Sputnik 2 voyage. But then, in 1961, they recorded something eerie. It was the sound of a woman who appeared to be a woman who may have been involved in testing of the ability for humans to cope with space.

The audio (in Russian) says: “Isn’t this dangerous? Talk to me! Our transmission begins now. I feel hot. I can see a flame. Am I going to crash? Yes. I feel hot, I will re-enter…” The audio stopped at that point.


Last public execution in USA, 1936

Last public execution in USA, 1936

Basically mistakes in how it was run and the public perception they received from it – for example the public was expecting to see the first time a woman [the Sheriff] executed a man, instead they got a drunk man basically falling over activating the gallows. The press wrote bad things about the mostly underwhelming (from their expectations) event, and so those in charge were embarrassed and decided to have non-public executions from then on.

Among the hundreds of letters that Sheriff Thompson received after it came to public attention she would perform the hanging was one from Arthur L. Hash, a former Louisville police officer, who offered his services free of charge to perform the execution. Thompson quickly decided to accept this offer. He only asked that she not make his name public.

…Hash arrived at the site intoxicated, wearing a white suit and a white Panama hat. At this time, no one but he and Thompson knew he would be pulling the trigger.

…Hanna placed the noose around Bethea’s neck, adjusted it, and then signaled to Hash to pull the trigger. Instead, Hash, who was drunk, did nothing. Hanna shouted at Hash, “Do it!” and a deputy leaned onto the trigger which sprang the trap door. Throughout all of this, the crowd was hushed. Bethea fell eight feet, and his neck was instantly broken.

The Praetorian Guard:


The Praetorian Guard

The Praetorians were the imperial guard of the Roman Empire. Created by Augustus to act as a special, elite force for his protection, they became a lasting influence upon Rome and its emperors.


The term Praetorian came from the tent of the legate of a legion in the field—the praetorium. It was the habit of many Roman generals to choose from the ranks a private force of soldiers to act as bodyguards of the tent or the person. In time, this cohort came to be known as the cohors praetoria, and various notable figures possessed one, including Julius CaesarMarc Antony, and Octavian (Augustus). As Caesar discovered with the X Legion, a powerful unit more dangerous than its fellow legions was desirable in the field. When Augustus became the first ruler of the empire in 27 BCE, he decided such a formation was useful not only in war but also in politics. Thus, from the ranks of legions throughout the provinces, Augustus recruited the Praetorian Guard.

The group that was formed initially differed greatly from the later Guard, which would murder emperors. While Augustus understood the need to have a protector in the maelstrom of Rome, he was careful to uphold the Republican veneer of his regime. Thus he allowed only nine cohorts to be formed, each of 500 to 1,000 men, and only three were kept on duty at any given time in the capital. While they patrolled inconspicuously, in the palace and major buildings, the others were stationed in the towns surrounding Rome; no threats were possible from these individual cohorts. This system was not radically changed with the arrival of two Praetorian prefects in 2 BCEQ. Ostorius Scapula and Salvius Aper, although organization and command were improved.

Augustus’s death in 14 CE marked the end of Praetorian calm. Through the machinations of their ambitious prefect, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the Guard was brought from the Italian barracks into Rome itself. In 23 CESejanus convinced Tiberius to have the Castra Praetoria (the Camp of the Praetorians) built just outside of Rome. Henceforth the entire Guard was at the disposal of the emperors, but the rulers were now equally at the mercy of the Praetorians. The reality of this was seen in 31 when Tiberius was forced to rely upon his owncohors praetoria against partisans of Sejanus. Though the Praetorian Guard proved faithful to the aging Tiberius, their potential political power had been made clear.

On campaign, the Praetorians were the equal of any formation in the Roman army. Seldom used in the early reigns, they were quite active by 69 CE. They fought well at the first battle of Bedriacum for Otho. UnderDomitian and Trajan, the Guard took part in wars from Dacia to Mesopotamia, while with Marcus Aurelius, years were spent on the Danubian frontier. Throughout the third century CE, the Praetorians assisted the emperors in various crises.

From the death of Sejanus, who was sacrificed for the donativum (imperial gift) promised by Tiberius, the Guards began playing an increasingly ambitious and bloody game. At will, or for the right amount of money, they assassinated emperors, bullied their own prefects or turned on the people of Rome. In 41, Gaius Caligulawas killed by conspirators from the senatorial class and from the Guard. And the Praetorians placed Claudiuson the throne, daring the Senate to oppose their decision.

It is important, however, not to overestimate the place of the Praetorians in the imperial government. They could slaughter emperors but played no role in administration, as did the personnel of the palace, Senate and bureaucracy. Further, it was often the case that, after outrageous acts of violence, revenge by the new ruler was forthcoming. For example, in 193 CE Didius Julianus purchased the empire from the Guard for a vast sum. Later that year Septimius Severus marched into Rome, disbanded the Praetorians and founded a new formation from his Pannonian legions. Even Vespasian in 69, who had relied upon the disgruntled cohorts dismissed by Vitellius, reduced their ranks in number when ascending the throne. Unruly mobs in Rome fought often with the Praetorians in Maximinus‘s reign (ca. 235–236) in vicious street battles.

Diocletian, in 284, reduced the status of the Praetorians; they were no longer to be a part of palace life, as Diocletian lived in Nicomedia. A new corps of guards, the Jovians and Herculians, replaced the Praetorians as the personal protectors of the emperors, a practice that remained intact with the tetrarchy. By the time Diocletian retired in 305, the Castra Praetoria seems to have housed only a minor garrison of Rome.

In 306, when Maxentius, son of the retired emperor Maximian, was passed over as a successor, the troops took matters into their own hands and elevated him to the position of emperor in Italy on October 28. When Constantine the Great, launching an invasion of Italy in 312, forced a final collision at the Milvian Bridge, the Praetorian cohorts made up most of Maxentius’s army. Later, in Rome, the victorious Constantine abolished the Guard. The soldiers were sent out to various corners of the empire, and the Castra Praetoria was pulled down. For over 300 years they had served, and the extirpation of the Praetorians was a grand gesture, inaugurating a new age of imperial history.

The following list indicates the relationships between various emperors and their Guard.


Augustus 27 BCE–14 CE created the Praetorian Guard
Tiberius 14–37 CE allowed Sejanus to gain power as prefect
Caligula 37–41 CE murdered by the Guard
Claudius 41–54 CE proclaimed emperor by the Guard
Nero 54–68 CE deserted by the Guard
Galba 68–69 CE murdered by the Guard
Otho 69 CE elevated by the Guard
Vitellius 69 CE deposed by the Guard and then killed
Vespasian 69–79 CE reduced the size of Guard after victory in 69
Titus 79–81 CE served as Praetorian prefect, then as emperor
Domitian 81–96 CE murdered by his prefects
Nerva 96–98 CE humiliated by Guard and died
Hadrian 117–138 CE founded the frumentarii
Commodus 180–192 CE murdered by his prefect in a plot
Pertinax 193 CE murdered by the Guard
Didius Julianus 193 CE purchased empire from the Guard
Septimius Severus 193–211 CE disbanded Guard and created a new one from the Pannonian Legions
Caracalla 211–217 CE murdered in a plot by his Prefect Macrinus
Macrinus 217–218 CE first prefect since Titus to become emperor
Elagabalus 218–222 CE murdered in the Castra Praetoria by the Guard
Balbinus 238 CE murdered by the Guard
Pupienus 238 CE murdered by the Guard
Gordian III 238–244 CE proclaimed emperor by the Guard but killed by his prefect, Philip the Arab
Philip 244–249 CE another prefect to become emperor
Aurelian 270–275 CE murdered by the Guard
Florian 276 CE prefect who became emperor
Probus 276–282 CE killed by Praetorian troops after a revolt
Carus 282–283 CE probably poisoned by Prefect Aper
Numerian 283–284 CE poisoned by Aper
Diocletian 284–305 CE effectively broke the power of the Praetorians
Maxentius 306–312 CE last emperor to command the Guard
Constantine 306–337 CE disbanded the Guard and destroyed the Castra Praetoria



Although there were obvious similarities, the Praetorian Guard was unlike any of the other legions in the Roman army. Its cohorts were larger, the pay and benefits better, and its military abilities were reliable. As conceived by Augustus, the Praetorian cohorts totaled around 9,000 men, recruited from the legions in the regular army or drawn from the most deserving youths in Etruria, Umbria, and Latium. In time, the pool of recruits expanded to Macedonia, the Spanish provinces and Illyricum. Vitellius formed a new Guard out of the German legions, while Septimius Severus did the same with the Pannonian legions. He also chose replacements for the units’ ranks from across the Roman Empire, undermining once more the primacy of Italy.

Around the time of Augustus (ca. 5 CE) each cohort of the Praetorians numbered 1,000 men, increasing to 1,500 at the time of Severus—a highwater mark. As with the normal legions, the body of troops actually ready for service was much smaller. The ranks of the Praetorians were, in ascending order:

Miles regular soldier

Immunes After five years, these soldiers were allowed to serve in the Equite singulares (cavalry branch) or asSpeculatores (special agents).

Principales legionary administrators

Evocati after 16 years of service, retirement was possible but most soldiers chose to stay in this honorary unit.

Centurions soldiers transferred to the Guard after service in the legions, the vigiles or the urban cohort.

Tribunes officers, also from the legions and usually of the Equestrian class, who commanded a cohort. Centurions could (rarely) be promoted to the tribuneship.

Procurators a rank of the Equestrians

Prefects available to Vigiles and urban cohorts; the highest rank of the Praetorian Guard.

The training of Guardsmen was more intense than in the legions because of the amount of free time available, when a cohort was not posted or traveling with the emperor. It followed the same lines as those elsewhere. Equipment and armor were also the same, with one notable exception—specially decorated breastplates, excellent for parades and state functions. Thus, each Guardsman probably possessed two suits of armor, one for Roman duty and one for the field.

For what was expected of them, the Praetorians were given substantially higher pay. They were paid by a system known as sesquiplex stipendum, or by pay-and-a-half. Thus, while the legionaries might receive 225 denarii, the Guards received 375. Domitian and Severus increased the stipendum (payment) to 1,500 denarii distributed three times a year, in January, May, and September. Upon retiring, a soldier of the Praetorians was granted 20,000 sesterces (5,000 denarii), a gift of land and a diplomata reading “to the warrior who bravely and faithfully completed his service.” Many chose to enter the honorary evocati, while others reenlisted in the hopes of gaining promotion and possible high positions in the Roman state.


From: Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire, Revised Edition.


A large Swastika neon light shines in the night atop the branch of the Russian Fascist Party in Manzhouli, Manchouko, 3 km from the Soviet Border in 1934

Can't get any more evil looking like that. This looks like goddamn Mordor, complete with sinister Cyrillic sign in the front.

I am so glad that Nazi Disco Parties are over with.

The sign says: “Russian Club”; Is it just me, or did the original Nazis usually have a much better sense of aesthetics than this? I mean this is pretty gaudy. The Russian Nazis must have been as bad as the neo-Nazis when it comes to aesthetics.