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

Hand Me My Shank


Joseph Stalin making a face at his bodyguard; ca. 1930

Photo by Lt. G. Nikolai Vlasik

Hobby Lobby SCOTUS Ruling:

The Supreme Court ruling on BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL. v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC. has now opened up the precedent (ignoring how narrowly tailored the ruling was to only contraception) that under the RFRA, even if its a compelling government interest, the state cannot mandate any firm with sincere religious beliefs to carry out a requirement, so long as the government can pick up the slack? It seems like the least restrictive means will always be making the government do it instead and not restrict at all anyone’s religious beliefs.

On page 46 of the opinion, Alito writes: “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.”

This certainly leaves open the possibility that the Court could rule differently on the “least restrictive means” issue in the future, but his language in section V-B, which discusses the “least restrictive means” test, seems to indicate that it is a difficult standard to pass. On page 41 of the opinion, he indicates that “the most straightforward way of [meeting the least restrictive means test] would be for the Government to assume the cost.” He also says that “HHS has not shown … that this is not a viable alternative.” This seems to indicate that if such a challenge were to come up regarding vaccination or blood transfusions, or whatever else, the burden would be on the Department of Health and Human Services to show that it would be impractical for the Government to cover the cost. That would be quite the burden for the Government to prove.

Ginsberg seems to agree with that reading in her dissent. On page 29 on the dissent, she writes, “And where is the stopping point to the ‘let the government pay’ alternative? Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, … or according women equal pay for substantially similar work…? Does it rank as a less restrictive alternative to require the government to provide the money or benefit to which the employer has a religion-based objection?” In addition to indicating that the Court’s logic could prove problematic in the future, she asserts that it is flawed at present, saying, “In sum, in view of what Congress sought to accomplish, i.e., comprehensive preventive care for women furnished through employer-based health plans, none of the proffered alternatives would satisfactorily serve the compelling interests to which Congress responded.”

I agree with Justice Ginsberg on many points here, especially the last few pages of her dissent. Justice Alito attempts to narrow his ruling as much as possible, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered as to the basis for his narrow ruling. To me, the most compelling arguments come from sections III-4 and IV (pages 27-35) of Ginsberg’s dissent. She basically asserts that the Court’s ruling has much broader implications than it intends, and poses quite a few questions about the basis for the narrow ruling.

I am also inclined to agree with her reasoning that the Court should have no business in determining which religious views are legitimate and which are not, and that religious exemptions from generally applicable law should be reserved for groups that are organized “for a religious purpose” and/or “engaged primarily in carrying out that religious purpose”.

The Supreme Court ruling can be found here:

Justice Ginsburg’s dissent here:

What I have learned from studying history:

I think that a lot of people get into military history because of their childhood. Fond memories of plastic army soldiers, and jingoistic, watered down tales of derring-do. I know I certainly was drawn to it for the glory when I was a little kid. War was running around the woods with a stick going “bang”, and the most contentious issues were arguments about who got who. And many people I don’t believe move beyond that.


Military history, for many, still remains a mostly clean affair, with the good ol’GI-citizen soldier going and liberating Europe from the clutches of Nazism. We simply forget the abject horrors of war. The dying cries of “mother” or simply “water”. The smell of shit that permeates a battlefield. Widows, orphans, and parents burying their spouses, parents, or sons. And that, of course, is only in wars that are fought with close attention to the rules.

I was listening to an interview given by Shelby Foote, the author of several Civil War books, and she said something that struck me as so perfect:

“There is a general belief that war books promote a love of war, and that is true about bad war books, but every serious book about a battle or about a war, if it’s serious, is bound to be anti-war. […] Because the truth is, it’s more bloody than it is glorious, and the suffering is a far bigger part of it than the patriotism and the glory, and that will come across with an honest writer. Cheap literature hurts everybody, but decent, honest literature will always carry this anti-war message, it’s bound to be there. No matter how patriotic a man may sound, underlying it, if he has a good eye, everybody is going to see through the phony patriotism and the ephemeral glory, and to the real suffering of it and especially the absurdity of it.”

And I couldn’t agree more. War is absurd, and I now find great distaste in books that don’t present that side of the conflict alongside. It is a disservice to everyone to separate the good parts of war from the bad.

I don’t believe people are either good or bad, and studying war, really, has shown me that anyone is capable of reaching both extremes. So what I can say about how studying conflict has affected my outlook on human nature is that it has sobered it. Sure, I still enjoy reading an uplifting story about some brave soldier saving his buddies, but you can’t shake the images of the terrible human cost.

The “Nixon Madman Theory”

Essentially, a key tenet of Nixon’s foreign policy was to make the leaders of communist countries think that he was unstable and prone to use nuclear force. What ensued in his first year in office in 1969 is one of the most fascinating episodes of the Cold War because it really highlights the growing split between the USSR and China and how Nixon tried to drive a wedge between them in order to strengthen the United States’ relative power and influence.

During the buildup to the Vietnam war after the Cuban missile crisis, and prior to Nixon taking office in 1969, leaders in the US and USSR would generally not explicitly threaten each other for fear of stoking another nuclear crisis. Nixon believed that the only way to end the war in Vietnam was to get North Vietnam and China to back down in the face of nuclear extinction, as the threat of nuclear escalation is what brought about a ceasefire during the Korean War. After secret peace talks in Paris to end the war stalled in the first few months of his presidency, Nixon went full ape. If Teddy Roosevelt believed that the United States should speak softly and carry a big stick, Nixon believed the United States should yell incoherently and flail its stick around.

In October 1969, Nixon issued a secret high level alert to his top military brass. He told them to be on standby to use nuclear force against North Vietnam and possibly the USSR and to scramble planes equipped with nuclear bombs to fly near Soviet airspace. This was kept secret from the American public, but was made loud enough so Soviet intelligence would pick up on it. At the time, Nixon wanted to escalate the war in Vietnam by expanding the bombing campaign into the North, which was not popular with the American public and would have likely resulted in fully-fledged war with China. So Nixon wanted the North Vietnamese, the Chinese and the Soviets to think that he would do anything to win the war in Vietnam without actually having to do anything. It was a huge gamble.

But let’s not forget that in the immediate months prior to Nixon’s secret order, the USSR and China were in an undeclared military conflict with each other over a border dispute. Relations between the two communist powers had soured since 1960, which Nixon sought to capitalize on.

Prior to Nixon issuing the nuclear alert, the USSR was considering a preemptive, possibly nuclear attack on China’s nuclear arsenal. The USSR worried that if the United States escalated the Vietnam war with nuclear force and if China responded with nuclear force too, then they would get dragged into a nuclear war with them as well. When a KGB officer approached an American diplomat about the possibility of the USSR striking China’s arsenal and how the US would respond – and allegedly even asked if the US would collaborate with the USSR to weaken China – Nixon made it very clear that the US would not tolerate an attack on its enemy by its other enemy.

But while Nixon intended the nuclear alert to influence events in Vietnam in his favor, some evidence from recently declassified Cold War documents suggest that the USSR mistakenly believed that the alert was meant to warn the USSR against attacking China’s nuclear arsenal.

Nixon did want to exploit the soured relations between the USSR and China in order to have leverage over the Soviets, and the nuclear alert had the unintentional effect of hinting that the US would side with China should a nuclear conflict arise between them and the USSR. This also unintentionally played into Nixon’s policy of opening up to China. By opening up to China, the US would no longer be dealing with one communist power, but rather two competing communist powers that were at odds with each other.

The nuclear alert issued in October 1969 did nothing to improve the situation in Vietnam (and arguably made things worse). While it did frighten the Soviets, they did ultimately interpret it as a bluff. Still, it indicated to the Chinese that Nixon would give them leverage over the USSR. It set the stage for rapprochement with China, which culminated in Nixon’s monumental 1972 visit to the communist country and the subsequent improvement of Sino-American relations. And of course, the visit laid the foundation for the deepening of economic ties between the two nations.



“Personnel inside the data processing center for COBRA DANE, an intelligence-gathering phased-array system specially constructed to monitor Soviet ballistic missile testing on Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula”, 1977


The headquarters of Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascist party, 1934

When do you start questioning if your national leader is a super villain?

When do you start questioning if your national leader is a super villain?


The secret to their success… subtlety.

Is Polygamy Really So Awful?

A new study shows that despite what you see on reality TV, plural marriage isn’t very good for society.

(Re-posted from here.)

These are boom times for memoirs about growing up inmarrying into or escaping from polygamous families. Sister wives appear as minor celebrities in the pages of People, piggybacking on their popular reality TV show. And oh yes, we have a presidential candidate whose great-grandfather was an actual bona fide polygamist.

Americans are fixated these days on polygamy, and it’s fair to say we don’t know how to feel about it. Polygamy evokes both fascination and revulsion—the former when Chloe Sevigny is involved, and the latter when it is practiced by patently evil men like Osama Bin Laden and Warren Jeffs, the fundamentalist Mormon leader who had a thing for underage wives. At the same time, the practice of plural marriage is so outside mainstream American culture, so far in the past for many Westerners, that it has come to be regarded as almost quaint. What’s so wrong with it, if it works for some people? In counterculture circles, the practice of polyamory, or open partnerships, is supposed to be having some sort of moment. All of which explains why, in response to the argument by conservatives like Rick Santorum and Antonin Scalia that gay marriage could be a slippery slope leading to polygamy, some feminists, lefties, and libertarians have wondered aloud whether plural marriage is really so bad.

History suggests that it is. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. The Canadian researchers are really talking about polygyny, which is the term for one man with multiple wives, and which is by far the most common expression of polygamy. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.


W.H. Auden, I love you.


This is a sad and brave poem about accepting the suffering of unrequited love—an experience that Auden was apparently familiar with. In this poem, he makes his peace with his experience of “stars” whose beauty inspires such passion and longing, but which care nothing for him in return.

Being treated with indifference is not so bad, Auden says, in the first stanza; there are worse things in life. To love, even if one is not loved back, is more than enough, he suggests in the second stanza. And, in the final two stanzas, Auden tells himself that even if that which one loves were to disappear from one’s life, one would survive the grief and the emptiness—even if, as he poignantly understates it in the last line, being reconciled with that loss may “take a little time.”



An uncropped version of the famous Tiananmen Square tank and protester photo, June 1989.


It’s hard to fathom the courage that it would take for one person, alone and carrying only plastic shopping bags, to face down that line of tanks.


Film footage of the Tank Man.

Winston Churchill and his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest leaders.


Firstly a little bit of leadership theory to put Churchill into context, specifically that of Transformational Leadership.

Transformational leaders inspire their followers to achieve more than would normally be expected by a combination of:

  • Looking after followers’ individual needs, acting as a coach or mentor and developing them.
  • Challenging followers intellectually. Asking them to consider complex problems and come up with solutions by conducting their own research.
  • Providing inspirational motivation. Articulating a vision of the future, setting lofty goals and being optimistic about the team’s ability to achieve them.
  • Being a role model. Exemplifying everything they want their followers to be, setting high ethical and behavioral standards thus gaining respect and trust.

f0748c6555d28511ba409ced1c8507eea49a4f3b131f45c9f1dcff6f11539dcdWhenever Churchill took charge of a government department, the work rate would increase considerably. He was a man of energy and ideas who was always keen to understand the latest innovation or cutting edge technology. For example, by the time the neutron had been discovered, he had already written about the potential of nuclear power, especially in the military context.

This energy was most apparent when he became PM in May 1940, coincidentally on the day that the German Invasion of Belgium and France was launched. Thus the first six weeks of his premiership saw one of the worst strategic set backs in British military history as the BEF was defeated and forced to abandon France. In the face of exceptional pressure form the French to stay in France and to commit further reserves, he trusted his commanders and accepted that a withdrawal was the best option. Throughout this period he did as best a job as he could to placate the French (possibly even lying to them) in order to give his commanders the space they needed to effect the withdrawal. He moved between the tactical, operational and strategic levels of command on an almost hour by hour basis in order to understand, support and decide.

Churchill_waves_to_crowdsWhilst all this was going on, he took the time to familiarise himself with Britain’s air defences knowing all too well that this was the next line of defence. He trusted Hugh Dowding and Charles Portal, he trusted the air defence system and he supported Dowding’s recommendation not to send any more spitfires to France, knowing it was a lost cause. He then set about instilling his confidence into the British public. The “finest hour” speech is not simply a masterpiece of rhetoric, it is the cornerstone of a concerted effort to reassure Britain that its Air Force, by this point untested in any major campaign for 22 years, was up to the job of defeating a highly capable, more numerous and more experienced Luftwaffe. Whatever went on behind the scenes, he maintained the high vision of victory and portrayed an almost relentless optimism, whilst reminding everyone of the gravity of the situation.

539wDeep down he knew that the Royal Navy would be the deciding factor in case of invasion, but the opportunity to stop the enemy before he even reached the shores was one he seized upon and a cause he triumphed as if it were his own.

This pattern repeats itself throughout Churchill’s tenure: the frenetic activity surrounding him, the detailed interest in an important area of responsibility, the campaign (supported of course by excellent speeches) to reassure the public that everything would be OK and then exploiting successes. Note too that he took very little credit for himself, instead focusing the public’s attention on the men and women fighting the war and crediting them with success.

So we can see that WSC was highly adept at challenging his followers intellectually and providing inspirational motivation, but what of the other two elements of Transformational Leadership?

Churchill’s weakest suit, in my opinion, was looking after individual followers. He had a terrible habit of befriending people, using them for what he needed and then dropping them. He could even do this to entire organisations and has been heavily criticised for abandoning Bomber Command in the face of criticism about the strategic bombing campaign which he had supported.dK1dn

He was, however, an excellent role model. The pugnacious, stoic face of defiance in adversity, portrayed famously as the archetypal British bulldog, he set the tone for the British public to adopt – he was the archetype for the stereotype of the down-trodden but bloody-minded blitz victim. His military experience, including some remarkable individual heroics as a young subaltern and command of a battalion during the Great War, set him in good stead and enabled him to wear the uniform and rank of a commodore/brigadier/air commodore credibly.

9781533_1He was not, however, perfect. He was a contrary character who wouldn’t ordinarily have become Prime Minister, let alone a successful one. He was prone to flights of fantasy and was prepared to allow incredibly risky activities. He would often be reeled in by the likes of General Hastings Ismay, his chief military assistant for most of the war, who maintained a well-informed, realistic brief and was able to recover him from his more audacious fantasies. He was also prone to depression, his “black dog” and there is immense credit to be found in his ability inspire people as he did despite his own personal demon. These two quotes do a good job of reflecting on WSC:

In 1940 the American journalist Ralph Ingersoll reported:

Everywhere I went in London people admired [Churchill’s] energy, his courage, his singleness of purpose. People said they “didn’t know what Britain would do without him.” He was obviously respected. But no one felt he would be Prime Minister after the war. He was simply the right man in the right job at the right time. The time being the time of a desperate war with Britain’s enemies

Field Marshal Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1941, wrote in his memoirs:

…..And the wonderful thing is that 3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Churchill is one of the Strategists of History, a second Marlborough, and the other 1/4 have no idea what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war ! It is far better that the world should never know, and never suspect the feet of clay of this otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again…….Never have I admired and despised a man simultaneously to the same extent. Never have such opposite extremes been combined in the same human being.

True genius treads a fine line between triumph and disaster. Churchill knew this line all too well.


Further Reading

Bass, B.M. & Avolio, B.J. (1994). Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership

Bungay, S. (2009), The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain

Jenkins, R. (2001), Churchill: A Biography

Storr, A. (1997) Churchill’s Black Dog and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind

Thompson, J. (2009), Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory

Ayn Rand

FUN FACT: Ayn Rand’s original protagonists for her novels (whom her later protagonists were based off of) were based on a psychopath named William Hickman that kidnapped a little girl, demanded ransom, received it, and mutilated her body anyway, returning to her parents a corpse without internal organs.

To be fair, she wasn’t admiring this monster’s horrible acts (what she called his degeneracy). But it seems like she was inspired by how Hickman couldn’t be controlled by the imposing and controlling morality of society. She wanted “A Hickman with a purpose” in Renahan, her protagonist.

“The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the ‘virtuous’ indignation and mass-hatred of the ‘majority.’… It is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal…”

According to the Wikipedia page, Rand liked how Renahan was

“born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness — [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people … Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.”


British Indian Hunting Trophies, ca. 1870.

‘Shikar, or big game hunting, was an immensely popular pastime for the ruling class in India prior to British rule. When the British came into power, elaborate hunting ceremonies were used by Indians and British alike to display their prowess and status to each other. The British influence also brought improvements in hunting technology, which spurred an increase in the capture of game. Dozens of animals were killed in a single day’s hunt and the trophies decorated the halls of the princes’ extravagant hunting lodges. By the late 1870s, the population of many of these rare species had been severely depleted and a government-implemented system for conservation had begun to take hold.’

– The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Nazi rally in the Cathedral of Light c. 1937

Hugo Boss really knew how to do uniforms.

Hugo Boss really knew how to do uniforms.

The sense of pageantry is awe inspiring. I guess that was the whole point. Kinda hard to sell a nation on horrific anti-Semitism and other forms of genocide with a mere town hall meeting.


I don’t think the objectification of women is actually an accurate reflection of women’s sexuality, this is the problem. I feel like this manifestation is a gross exaggeration of men’s sexuality.

I do not think that the objectification of women is an accurate reflection of women’s sexuality, it’s a gross and inaccurate exaggeration of men’s sexuality. I think that it’s male bias that is causing this form of sexuality to be seen as our only option. Women are pretty much only allowed to display sexuality, when they’re behaving passively and submissively, paying more mind to mens’ desires than their own. We expect sexualized images of women to be highlighting women’s youth and naivety. If women are not young or naive, they’re often expected to behave as if they are, and if they can’t “pass”, they’re desexualized completely. Instances where women objectify men or express appreciation for mens’ bodies, for example, are seen as shocking, bold and out of the ordinary. They aren’t expected to ever be lustful, sexually forward or aggressive. Media that displays men in passive, sexually submissive positions is often assumed to be marketed toward gay men, rather than straight women. I think that if women were writing the songs and the music videos more often, we would see them behaving passively, acting as sex objects, fetishizing violence against women much less often. It’s true that women conform to norms and perpetuate these things to a certain degree too, but by nature of capitalism and the pressures of the market, women are forced to conform to male preferences in order to keep their head above water. In a society where women were just as likely to write a song as men were and were just as respected for it, they wouldn’t have to stick to our current “male-approved” topics. We’d see a wider variety of material coming out.

There is a huge difference between the way sexuality is treated in the music of Ani Difranco, Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, who cater to a largely educated female audience, and the way it’s treated in the music of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, who cater to a mainstream “male-dominated” audience. Difranco, Amos and Apple are not prudes. They often sing love songs, songs about sexual desire, raw, emotional break up songs and raunchy odes with detailed descriptions of their partners’ bodies that would make you blush. Check out Fiona Apple’s Hot Knife, or Slow like Honey, or Limp, orPeriphery.

These songs are not that different content-wise from the Rihanna’s bedroom slow jams or Taylor Swift’s “He done me wrong” tunes. But there’s something distinct about them. In the Rihanna and Taylor Swift examples, I get the impression that their sentiments have been filtered and censored to be more palatable to men. In Cyrus’s “wrecking ball”, she’s saying she came in like a wrecking ball, but her body language in the video is the complete opposite of that. She’s laying completely submissively on top of the wrecking ball. She’s allowing the wrecking ball to completely control her. The video isn’t about Miley Cyrus’s experience with the person she’s singing about, it’s about the audience’s relationship with and sexual attraction to Miley Cyrus. Her actual voice is completely secondary.Taylor Swift always expresses anger within these strict confines, she needs to be a certain amount of “feminine” when she’s expressing anger at men. She can’t betoo loud or too violent or too weird or too crazy and emotional. She still has to be pretty, she still has to be pining for the guy on some level. In Fiona Apple’s songs, she talks about sex and having crushes and going through breakups, but it’s her pure voice that’s telling the story. It’s not sugar-coated to be more main-stream. It’s not feeding into an exaggerated corporate driven male fantasy.

They also don’t shy away from the aspects of sex that women have to deal with, that make men uncomfortable to hear. Ani Difranco’s Out of Range and Out of Habit use very graphic, explicit imagery to convey her experiences with men as a musician, and her experiences with the cyclical nature of domestic violence. Tori Amos famously talks about surviving rape, in me and a gun.

I think by virtue of allowing women to be in top, respected positions in mass media, by giving them more of a direct role in the creation of these structures, rather than allowing them to make choices within structures where men still make all the rules, we would break some of this cycle, by expand the material we display and consider to be acceptable, giving people a lot more options and consequentially reducing the amount of “peer pressure” that people face now in regard to objectification.

Eyes of Hate: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1933 of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels


At a League of Nations conference in 1933, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels remains seated while speaking to his interpreter. German-born Alfred Eisenstaedt, later one of the founding photographers of LIFE, recalled that Goebbels smiled at him until he learned that Eisenstaedt was Jewish — a moment Eisenstaedt captured in this photo. Suddenly, “he looked at me with hateful eyes and waited for me to wither,” the photographer recalled. “But I didn’t wither.” Not only didn’t he wither, he managed to take perhaps the most chilling portrait of pure evil to run in LIFE’s pages.

From the 1985 book, ‘Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt: A Self-Portrait

In 1933, I traveled to Lausanne and Geneva for the fifteenth session of the League of Nations. There, sitting in the hotel garden, was Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. He smiles, but not at me. He was looking at someone to my left. . . . Suddenly he spotted me and I snapped him. His expression changed. Here are the eyes of hate. Was I an enemy? Behind him is his private secretary, Walter Naumann, with the goatee, and Hitler’s interpreter, Dr. Paul Schmidt. . . . I have been asked how I felt photographing these men. Naturally, not so good, but when I have a camera in my hand I know no fear.

The Third Punic War:

The Punic Wars were a series of wars between the world’s greatest superpowers of the era, Rome and Carthage.

The Punic Wars were a series of wars between the world’s greatest superpowers of the era, Rome and Carthage.

Now, please note that, obviously, many of our sources are old (Livy, Plutarch, etc), and therefore not considered 100% reliable. It’s our job to read between the lines! Secondly, to understand the third Punic War… you have to understand what lead up to it. So our story actually begins long before the Third Punic War….we’ll start with the end of the Second. Or pretty much what ended up being the end….you get the point. Let’s jump straight in!

So. Hannibal Barca is probably a name you know rather well. You know, that crazy general who led his mercenary army across the Alps, spending the next 15 years ravaging Italy without any significant support from the Carthaginian government…THAT Hannibal Barca! So, small problem with him being in Italy – Rome had literally beaten Carthage back everywhere else. And they had a trump card of their own – who went by the name of Scipio (later) Africanus. This guy had won the war in Sicily, in Spain, and was now in North Africa, kicking Carthaginian ass. So Carthage, panicking a bit because he’s making eyes of “Oh helLO there babe” at her, sent envoys to Scipio, trying to organize a truce until Hannibal could get back. Scipio (probably knowing full well what they were doing), decided to play along. He offered the following terms:

  • The Carthaginians were to hand over all prisoners of war as well as Roman deserters and refugees.
  • They were to withdraw their armies (And their authority with them) from Italy, Gaul, and Spain, as well asall islands between Italy and Africa.
  • They were to surrender their entire navy with the exception of twenty vessels
  • They were to provide HUGE quantities of wheat and barley (More on this later) to the Roman army
  • They were to pay an indemnity of 5,000 talents of silver (Each talent was equivalent to the mass of water required to fill an amphora – a Roman talent was about 72 pounds. 5,000 x 72 = 360,000 pounds of silver. Today, that price comes out to about $101 million USD. Just for perspective!)

Now, Carthage knew that Scipio’s original intent was to completely destroy the city. So they agreed to all the terms – and sent another delegation to Rome to finalize the treaty (Once more, playing for time and trying to shift all the blame onto Hannibal). Hannibal, obviously, didn’t take the news that he was being recalled all that well. Here’s Livy’s description of his reaction (Probably not absolutely accurate, but gives you a good idea):

It is said that he gnashed his teeth, groaned, and almost shed tears when he heard what the delegates had to say. After they had delivered their instructions, he exclaimed, “The men who tried to drag me back by cutting off my supplies of men and money are now recalling me not by crooked means but plainly and openly. So you see, it is not the Roman people who have been so often routed and cut to pieces that have vanquished Hannibal, but the Carthaginian senate by their detraction and envy. It is not Scipio who will pride himself and exult over the disgrace of my return so much as Hanno who has crushed my house, since he could do it in no other way, beneath the ruins for Carthage.” He had divined what would happen, and had got his ships ready in anticipation. The unserviceable portion of his troops he got rid of by distributing them ostensibly as garrisons amongst the few towns which, more out of fear than loyalty, still adhered to him. The main strength of his army he transported to Africa. Many who were natives of Italy refused to follow him, and withdrew into the temple of Juno Lacinia, a shrine which up to that day had remained inviolate. There, actually within the sacred precinct, they were foully murdered. Seldom, according to the accounts, has any one left his native country to go into exile in such gloomy sorrow as Hannibal manifested when quitting the country of his foes. It is stated that he often looked back to the shores of Italy, accusing gods and men and even cursing himself for not having led his soldiers reeking with blood from the victorious field of Cannae straight to Rome. Scipio, he said, who whilst consul had never seen a Carthaginian in Italy, had dared to go to Africa, whereas he who had slain 100,000 men at Thrasymenus and at Cannae had wasted his strength round Casilinum and Cumae and Nola. Amid these accusations and regrets he was borne away from his long occupation of Italy.

Obviously, Livy sees Hannibal in a bit more of a negative light – however, you get the gist of what he was saying.

Needless to say – this treaty with Rome didn’t last long, as the Carthaginians, buoyed by Hannibal’s presence, acted much as if they were still at war. They pirated Roman supply ships, lynched Roman envoys, etc. Well, Rome didn’t take too kindly to that, and they told Scipio (still in North Africa) to engage. Scipio (this part’s important!) summoned his Numidian allies (They generally provided amazing cavalry and flipflopped to whoever had the most money.) to help him out against Carthage.

…from there – Rome beat Hannibal’s army (He only had a small core of veterans, whereas Scipio’s entire army was veteran), forcing Carthage into negotiations. Again. These ones were FAR more severe (obviously). In addition to all the previous terms (scroll up):

  • Carthage was now forbidden from fighting any wars outside Africa. Additionally, if they wanted to fight any wars (read: Fight at all), they had to have permission from Rome first.
  • The indemnity was set at 10,000 talents now (That number from earlier times 2), and they had to pay it over the course of 50 years.
  • Carthage had to hand over ALL its war elephants and the number of ships she was allowed to have was reduced to 10.

So, those are the terms Carthage had to live under. REALLY not all that hot, but hey, the losers have no other choice, eh? Either way. Carthage was in deep shit. Luckily for them, they had the one person who was so amazing that he could dig them out. Hannibal fucking Barca. That guy that the Council of Elders hated to their very cores was the man who would turn Carthage’s fortunes completely around. He remained in charge of the remnants of his army, which he set to planting olive groves. He reorganized the government by making the membership to the Council of One Hundred and Four only last one year, and had that membership decided by popular election. He personally oversaw the audits of public revenues, where he discovered huge amounts of state funds (gasp!) were being lost to embezzlement. So many funds were lost, he found, that if duties were properly collected on property and trade, then there would be plenty of money to pay the yearly indemnity without resorting to higher taxes. Well. Guess who fucking loved Hannibal after this? The people! 😀 Guess who fucking HATED Hannibal after this? The aristocrats! 😀 He also rebuilt the residential quarter, supervised a TON of construction, and in general improved the quality of life in the city. Well, that lasted until Roman envoys headed to the city, saw Hannibal in charge, and were all “OH NO YOU DID NOT.” He was forced to flee into exile, where he remained hiding for the rest of his life from the vengeful arm of Rome.

Well, luckily for Carthage, their hero had put them on the craziest turn around in ancient history. The city which had been devastated by the Second Punic War staged a REMARKABLE comeback, and was even able to pay back that entire indemnity a mere ten years into the 50 year period. Rome, pretty shocked by this, immediately refused. Remember the grain that Carthage had to supply for Rome? Here are some numbers for ya! 😀

  • Immediately after the end of the war, Carthage provided 200,000 modii (8.73 L per modius.) of wheat to Rome.
  • In 191 BCE, Carthage was providing 500,000 modii of wheat and 500,000 modii of barley.
  • In 171, it was 1,000,000 of modii of wheat and 500,000 modii of barley.

Carthage was fucking loaded. They didn’t have to worry about war anymore, just support Roman armies a bit. They didn’t have to worry about administering an empire and the costs that were associated there. What they DID still have were some crazy awesome trade networks – especially with Italy – that were SUPER profitable. On top of the tributes of agricultural products, their merchants ALSO sold a ton, as well as Carthaginian wine and other products. The construction projects continued, the most ambitious of which was a new port complex. Here’s Appian’s description of it (which is supported by archaeological evidence):

The harbors had communication with each other, and a common entrance from the sea seventy feet wide, which could be closed with iron chains. The first port was for merchant vessels, and here were collected all kinds of ships’ tackle. Within the second port was an island which, together with the port itself, was enclosed by high embankments. These embankments were full of shipyards which had capacity for 220 vessels. Above them were magazines for their tackle and furniture. Two Ionic columns stood in front of each dock, giving the appearance of a continuous portico to both the harbor and the island. On the island was built the admiral’s house, from which the trumpeter gave signals, the herald delivered orders, and the admiral himself overlooked everything. The island lay near the entrance to the harbor and rose to a considerable height, so that the admiral could observe what was going on at sea, while those who were approaching by water could not get any clear view of what took place within. Not even the incoming merchants could see the docks, for a double wall enclosed them, and there were gates by which merchant ships could pass from the first port to the city without traversing the dockyards. Such was the appearance of Carthage at that time.

If you head to that source, he also gives a GREAT description of the actual defenses of Carthage – needless to say, the city was grand as SHIT. Here are some pictures that show you what the harbor  actually looked like. The reason this is important is because it factors in later on – besides being a very obvious display of wealth. Notably, that harbor was entirely dug out. Which required about 235,000 cubic meters of earth to be excavated from a swampy marshland (no small feat, even today).

So. Now that we’ve established that Carthage was a rich fucking city (her walls were even lined with plaster, giving the city a magnificent white marble shimmering effect when seen from a distance), what do people do with rich cities that can’t defend themselves? Oh right. They get beaten up. Well, the Numidians (remember them?) started raiding Carthaginian lands (You know, the ones that had been set in that treaty with Rome). So, following the treaty, Carthage complained to Rome. Well, the Numidians sent envoys right along with them. And after much chin-stroking, the Romans (of course), sided with the Numidians. Despite the fact that it was Carthage that had been bent over. Well, of course, you give a man an inch, and he’ll take a mile. Numidia began deeper and deeper incursions into Carthaginian territory, taking over more and more land. Carthage complained and asked Rome for help over and over and over again, and Rome steadily refused, siding with the Numidians time and time again. Desperate, the Carthaginians finally put together an army to fight off the Numidians – an army that was promptly crushed, and the Numidians complained to Rome that the Carthaginians had fought back. DIPLOMACY 8D. Yeah, so guess who the Romans sided with? The Numidians! 😀 And they sent envoys to Carthage telling her to fuck off, forcing them to pay the Numidians 500 talents of silver. The Roman Senate didn’t like Carthage very much (could you tell?) – and the leader of that faction that REALLY hated Carthage was a crotchety old asshole (in his 80s) named Cato the Elder. He led the embassy to Carthage in 152 BCE, and he was terrified in his old man dangly bits over what he found. Here’s a quote from Plutarch about what he found: (A quick note – Plutarch was a biased fuck when it came to Cato.)

The last of his public services is supposed to have been the destruction of Carthage. It was Scipio the Younger who actually brought the task to completion, but it was largely in consequence of the advice and counsel of Cato that the Romans undertook the war. It was on this wise Cato was sent on an embassy to the Carthaginians and Masinissa the Numidian, who were at war with one another, to inquire into the grounds of their quarrel. Masinissa had been a friend of the Roman people from the first, and the Carthaginians had entered into treaty relations with Rome after the defeat which the elder Scipio had given them. The treaty deprived them of their empire, and imposed a grievous money tribute upon them. Cato, however, found the city by no means in a poor and lowly state, as the Romans supposed, but rather teeming with vigorous fighting men, overflowing with enormous wealth, filled with arms of every sort and with military supplies, and not a little puffed up by all this. He therefore thought it no time for the Romans to be ordering and arranging the affairs of Masinissa and the Numidians, but that unless they should repress a city which had always been their malignant foe, now that its power was so incredibly grown, they would be involved again in dangers as great as before. Accordingly, he returned with speed to Rome, and advised the Senate that the former calamitous defeats of the Carthaginians had diminished not so much their power as their foolhardiness, and were likely to render them in the end not weaker, but more expert in war; their present contest with Numidia was but a prelude to a contest with Rome, while peace and treaty were mere names wherewith to cover their postponement of war till a fit occasion offered.

In addition to this, it is said that Cato contrived to drop a Libyan fig in the Senate, as he shook out the folds of his toga, and then, as the senators admired its size and beauty, said that the country where it grew was only three days’ sail from Rome. And in one thing he was even more savage, namely, in adding to his vote on any question whatsoever these words: “In my opinion, Carthage must be destroyed.” Publius Scipio Nasica, on the contrary, when called upon for his vote, always ended his speech with this declaration: “In my opinion, Carthage must be spared.” He saw, probably, that the Roman people, in its wantonness, was already guilty of many excesses, in the pride of its prosperity, spurned the control of the Senate, and forcibly dragged the whole state with it, whithersoever its mad desires inclined it. He wished, therefore, that the fear of Carthage should abide, to curb the boldness of the multitude like a bridle, believing her not strong enough to conquer Rome, nor yet weak enough to be despised. But this was precisely what Cato dreaded, when the Roman people was inebriated and staggering with its power, to have a city which had always been great, and was now but sobered and chastened by its calamities, for ever threatening them. Such external threats to their sovereignty ought to be done away with altogether, he thought, that they might be free to devise a cure for their domestic failings.

Meh, fuck Cato. That’s actually what he was known best for – that one line. “Carthage must be destroyed.” Well, unfortunately, the situation between Carthage and Massinassa (Numidians) had descended into all-out war. And what did Rome say about Carthage going to war? Oh right. That was a no-no. Rome had JUST finished a couple of foreign wars, too, and oh hey, look at that city that’s super fucking rich and pretty much defenseless that’s…in Cato the old fuck’s words… “Only three days hence.” So in 150 BCE, Rome mobilized an army bound for North Africa.

Well, Carthage heard of this, and (obviously), they were preeeeetty worried about it. So they sent envoys to Rome, who were met rather frostily, and were informed that the army was already in Sicily. So they begged for how they could fix the problems…Rome’s response? “You must satisfy the Roman people.” Yeah, cause that’s not ominous at ALL. Cato, of course, was continuing the drumbeat of war – we only have fragments of these speeches, but here’s the climax of one of them:

Who are the people who have often broken their treaties? The Carthaginians. Who are the people who have waged war with the utmost cruelty? The Carthaginians. Who are the people who have disfigured Italy? The Carthaginians. Who are the people who ask to be forgiven? The Carthaginians.

So anyways. Rome started making her demands to Carthage – Terms to make Carthage NOT get destroyed. First off, Carthage, in 149, sent 300 of her noble children to Rome as hostages. That same year, Rome’s army of 80,000 infantry and 4,000 horse landed in Utica (North African city). The next envoys had to walk through the ranks of the legions to speak with the consuls (remember, Roman generals were all politicians, and the top dogs were the consuls – think the presidents – and they generally were the commanders in chief). The next terms were for Carthage to disarm herself – and the Carthaginians complied, sending a train of wagons with armor and weapons for 20,000 men to the Roman camp, as well as 2,000 giant catapults. Then, Rome summoned Carthage’s 30 leading citizens for their final term: All of Carthage had to move inland by at least 16 kilometres. The city itself was slated for destruction.

Yeeeeah, that didn’t go over well. Here’s Appian on that:

Consul Lucius Marcius Censorinus said to the Carthaginian envoys:] “Your ready obedience up to this point, Carthaginians, in the matter of the hostages and the arms, is worthy of all praise. In cases of necessity we must not multiply words. Bear bravely the remaining commands of the Senate. Yield Carthage to us, and betake yourselves where you like within your own territory at a distance of at least fifteen kilometers from the sea, for we are resolved to raze your city to the ground.”

While he was yet speaking, the Carthaginians lifted their hands toward heaven with loud cries, and called on the gods as avengers of violated faith. They heaped reproaches on the Romans, as if willing to die, or insane, or determined to provoke the Romans to sacrilegious violence to ambassadors. They flung themselves on the ground and beat it with their hands and heads. Some of them even tore their clothes and lacerated their flesh as though they were absolutely bereft of their senses. After the first frenzy was past there was great silence and prostration as of men lying dead.

The speech by “Banno, surnamed Tigillas, the most distinguished man among them,” is heartrending to read, and it’s right below that quote in the source. Seriously…the man says everything he possibly could to try to save the city – and it’s possible that that speech may be accurate. Needless to say, however, the Romans were all “Meh, fuck you guys.” Or, if you prefer a more literal quote, “We considered you to be Carthage, not the ground where you live.” Roman diplomacy involved being a huge dick, apparently.

Needless to say, those diplomats were torn limb from limb by an angry mob when they returned – and Carthage prepared for war. Every available space was turned into a workshop (we know this as total war today), in which both men and women worked side by side in shifts. Back to Appian!

The same day the Carthaginian senate declared war and proclaimed freedom to the slaves. They also chose generals and selected Hasdrubal for the outside work, whom they had condemned to death, and who had already collected 30,000 men. They dispatched a messenger to him begging that, in the extreme peril of his country, he would not remember, or lay up against them, the wrong they had done him under the pressure of necessity from fear of the Romans.

Within the walls they chose for general another Hasdrubal, the son of a daughter of Massinissa. They also sent to the consuls asking a truce of thirty days in order to send an embassy to Rome. When this was refused a second time, a wonderful change and determination came over them, to endure everything rather than abandon their city.

Quickly all minds were filled with courage from this transformation. All the sacred places, the temples, and every other unoccupied space, were turned into workshops, where men and women worked together day and night without pause, taking their food by turns on a fixed schedule. Each day they made 100 shields, 300 swords, 1,000 missiles for catapults, 500 darts and javelins, and as many catapults as they could. For strings to bend them the women cut off their hair for want of other fibers.

Total. Fucking. War. The Romans laid siege to the city, but again and again were driven back by the incredibly high and strong triple wall. Meanwhile, one of the Hasdrubals (The outside one) was wreaking havoc behind Roman lines, raiding their supply lines and their communications. Well…Rome wasn’t happy with how this war was being worked out, so they elected a new consul, Lucious Calpurnius Piso, who attempted to force Carthage to surrender by attacking the towns in the region that supported Carthage – hitting their supplies and reinforcements HARD. His second in command led an assault on a weak point in Carthage’s defenses, but was driven back after breaching the wall, and they were saved only because a certain young man had come to save the day with reinforcements….and to take over the campaign. His name was Scipio Aemilianus, who was the adopted grandson of Scipio Africanus. The same guy who had beaten Carthage over 50 years before. Scipio quickly had a mole constructed, blocking off the Carthaginian harbor and providing an avenue for the Roman troops right up to the weaker harbor walls – and that’s where he made his final assault. Interestingly enough, we have an eyewitness account of the final fall of Carthage – and his name is Polybius. Here’s an excerpt from his writings:

Turning round to me at once and grasping my hand Scipio said, “A glorious moment, Polybius; but I have a dread foreboding that some day the same doom will be pronounced on my own country.” It would be difficult to mention an utterance more statesmanlike and more profound. For at the moment of our greatest triumph and of disaster to our enemies to reflect on our own situation and on the possible reversal of circumstances, and generally to bear in mind at the season of success the mutability of Fortune, is like a great and perfect man, a man in short worthy to be remembered.

The desolation of the city lasted for six days. Scipio was forced to rotate his men into killing squads to preserve their sanity, and the only survivors of a city estimated to have anywhere from 400,000-700,000 residents were 50,000 people who begged the Roman general for their lives – and were granted this mercy by being sold into slavery.

“Carthago delenda est, Carthage must be destroyed.”

“Carthago delenda est, Carthage must be destroyed.”

Capitalism: Never Enough?

“How much is enough?” If we as a society are really committed to the notion that “more is always better” and if we believe we can sustain economic growth indefinitely.

“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life … that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption… .We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever accelerating rate.”

But as an engine for humanity, it is not sufficient to simply buy and sell. Many economists today are suggesting we must not rely on growth as our sole criteria for judging a ‘healthy’ economy — that we must find ways to measure the quality of people’s lives and the impacts we are having that are not based on just dollars and cents. We have all heard that money can’t buy happiness. Now we’re having to acknowledge that happiness is not a commodity to be bought and sold, and we can no longer afford to be addicted to consumption.

I am not against the theory of Capitalism as a means for distributing goods and services, just as I am not against alcohol. I am, however, against Capitalism or any economic theory when it becomes an ideology, just as I am against a pervasive culture of drinking and drugs in which individuals lose their capacity to choose (or even question their choices).

When our practices become so pervasive that they ‘take over’ people’s thinking to the extent they self-destruct (for example, through excessive drinking or excessive debt), then we need to stop and ask what is really going on. We need to challenge our most basic beliefs and assumptions about what we want, how we are living and the choices we are making.

Creating any new habit is difficult. And getting beyond an addiction can be extremely challenging. But having the courage to take stock and get clear about what we want is the essence of what makes us who we are. This is exactly what we need to do to create the foundations for whatever possible future we want.

Plague doctors, ca. 1600’s.


Homelessness is fundamentally the result of economic and social systems that do not provide adequate access to affordable housing, decent jobs, health care, and a social safety net.
Think about it, currently American workers are losing their jobs, becoming homeless and destitute, leading to their ultimate death…

Why does America, the self-proclaimed “greatest country in the world” with it’s laissez faire capitalist system have a huge number of homeless people compared to the countries in the world that practice Democratic Socialism…? Hrm.
Because of capitalism, people go hungry, homeless and without healthcare in this country.

Is it acceptable for people to be homeless in 2010, considering the United States is one of the richest countries in the world? Is it conscionable for the sick to be untreated because they lack the money to pay for surgery/medication? Due to the current system in place, those with untreated mental illness are amongst the most vulnerable of our society. Tragically, the mentally afflicted comprise 25% of the homeless population.

Clearly we have a broken system. Bertrand de Jouvenel wrote “A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.” As United States citizens we assign the officials to represent us, we make the government. It starts with the voters…we are not mindless sheep!

” This guy sounds like a pervert.”

sireric86 (10:24:50 PM): i wanna bone you
AliceInIndieLand (10:25:12 PM): Thats nice to know…
AliceInIndieLand (10:25:28 PM): Are you in to anal?
sireric86 (10:26:11 PM): actually
sireric86 (10:26:11 PM): yes
AliceInIndieLand (10:26:28 PM): ME TOO!!!
sireric86 (10:26:39 PM): well then cum over

Michael: u lik bawlzzzzzzzz
Cale: i love bawllsz

Michael: are you, like, anal?
Cale: no
Cale: i like anal

D’arcy: What is he saying?
Michael: He thinks im a Girl.

Michael: I sent him this picture and said it was me and my mom.

Cale: the tities r nicte
Michael: yeah, my mom is HAWWWT!
Michael: but im frumpish, and my face doesn’t match my body.
Michael: that’s what guys say…
Cale: o

D’arcy: This is funny.
Michael: he wants me to send him more porn now.
Michael: lazy ass bitch.

Cale: send more porn
Cale: im horny
Michael: find it yourself
Cale: i cant im dgrunk
Cale: that’s fucking pathetic
Michael: Chris Collumbus discovered America while drunk.
Michael: You can’t even discover