The Myth of Small Government

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This really may be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen

In American politics, one of the more tedious arguments that continues to pop up is the claim that the fascism is a left-wing ideology. Now, you may protest that Benito Mussolini specifically wrote that “Granted that the XIXth century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ‘right’, a Fascist century.” in his Doctrine of Fascism and that virtually every fascist regime rose to power on the backs of dead socialists. But, the elite of the conservative intelligentsia would beg to differ, and who are we to argue with them?

Usually, I have dismissed these claims as the desperate whining of people too immature  to accept that their political philosophy might be less then perfect. But I came to a realization recently: I understand why someone might make that mistake. In the U.S, if you asked an ordinary person what the biggest political divide in our country was, they would almost certainly tell you is was between Democrats who want ‘Big Government’ and Republicans who want ‘Small Government’. The Left wants a large, powerful federal government that can intervene in people’s lives to make them better, while the Right believes that the government can only make things worse, and should leave people alone. This, I would say, is a fairly uncontroversial statement, whichever It is also completely incorrect. Or rather, while it may be correct on narrow technical grounds, it fails to fully describe the actual philosophical differences between Right and Left. True, conservatives generally distrust the Federal government and wish to destroy it. But they do not hate it because it exercises power over humans, but rather because of the way it does so.

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The Bonapartes: Where Are They Now? (Part One)

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Napoleon Doesn’t Like Being Reminded He Lost

Hey, does anyone remember that bright young Bonaparte kid? Showed up out of nowhere, shot across Europe like a shooting star, had a great career ahead of him, and then BAM! Vanished. Anybody know what he’s up to these days?

Well, he died of stomach cancer on a small South Atlantic island in 1821, and good riddance too, but his family is still around. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing. Napoleon was a dominant presence in European politics for less than two decades,  and during that time virtually every member of his family managed to marry someone important. And while the family lost it’s political importance after 1871, its members remain embedded throughout the world. They’re like kudzu. Turn over any leaf or rock in the world and you’re likely to find a member of the House of Bonaparte or one of it’s associated families. There have been Bonaparte politicians and generals and Kings and scientists and artists and revolutionaries, in virtually every country in Europe and quite a few beyond. In this article, I’d like to begin the truly mammoth task of tracing these lines. Going through Napoleon himself and each of his siblings and children, I’ll trace the lines of descent to the present day (to the best of my ability) and note people of interest. Please note this is a non-exhaustive list. Many people are not important enough for any information to be available about them, and many of the one’s who do are so boring that I couldn’t read their Wikipedia page for more than a minute before falling asleep. So think of this as a highlights tour.

Let’s begin.

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BOOK REVIEW: Sparrow Hill Road

 

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TITLE: Sparrow Hill Road

AUTHOR: Seanan McGuire

PUBLISHER: DAW Books

DATE: 2014

There are some books that I like more each time I reread them; others that I like less. There are some books that I enjoy rereading for years until one day I realize I have no interest in them left; there are others that I’ve been regularly revisiting since I was a child that still reliably bring me joy. Sparrow Hill Road may be the only book that I enjoy exponentially more each time I read. Last night before I went to bed I picked up the book and began reading the first chapter, intending to go to sleep in ten or fifteen minutes. Instead, I found myself so engrossed I stayed up all night reading, finishing the book as dawn broke. This has happened to me before, but never with a book that I’ve read multiple times. Almost despite myself, I find myself realizing that this may be one of my all-time favorite books. Why is that? This blog post will be an attempt to articulate just why I love it so much. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but fair warning, I guarantee nothing.

BACKGROUND:

Sparrow Hill Road is a book fairly light on actual plot, but I’ll attempt to summarize. In 1952, a sixteen year old girl named Rose Marshall died in a small town in Michigan, murdered by an immortal man named Bobby Cross. Since then, she has ridden the highways and byways of North America, hitchhiking from Alaska to Yucatan and from California to Carolina. She’s become an urban legend, the subject of stories and songs and tales. Some believe her to be a benevolent figure, a spirit that helps truck drivers and motorists avoid accidents and escape harm. Other stories tell of a frightful phantom that lures drivers to their deaths. Nobody knows the true story. Nobody knows that Bobby Cross still cruises the highways, searching for victims, and that Rose cannot rest until he is stopped.

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Reevaluating The Treaty Of Versailles

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Signing Of The Treaty Of Versailles

For a long time, one of the truisms of history as told in America was the story of St. Woodrow and the Treaty of Versailles. In this morality play, the kindly and naive President Wilson travels to Paris with his wonderful Fourteen Points in order to bring about a lasting peace. Alas, the devious and cruel Prime Minister Lloyd George and President Georges Clemenceau conspire to outwit poor Wilson and impose the extraordinarily unfair Treaty of Versailles upon Germany, dooming us to fight the Second World War two decades later. If only we’d made a lenient peace, like in 1945! It goes without saying, I think, that this version of events is a tad bit simple, and to be fair, historians have been questioning this narrative for decades. But it still remains the default story for most people, and I hate that.

I hate it because it gives far too much credit to Wilson, and because it dramatically misstates the actual dynamics of Versailles. I have already made the argument on this blog before that Woodrow Wilson is objectively terrible. But today I’d like to go more in depth into the Paris Peace Conference. Though undoubtedly a harsh peace, I would like to argue that the Treaty was much more lenient than is commonly realized, especially in the context of Great Power Wars. In fact, rather than being oppositional to the Fourteen Points, much of it was in accordance with them.

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Is The Best

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SO GOOD YOU GUYS

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in a theater. It’s been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it when I was ten, but seeing it on the big screen really blew me away. It’s such a stunning, powerful movie, and it reminded me of why I love it so much. That’s what I want to talk about to y’all today. Nausicaä was one of Miyazaki’s first movies, and in some ways you can tell. It’s clunkier than some of his later movies, the music is sometimes very dated, there’s the occasional plot hole, the animation is simpler. But it all works so well, both stylistically and thematically.

So, I mentioned that I saw and loved this movie when I was a kid and I did. But I will confess that about 70% of my initial enthusiasm boiled down to “AIRSHIPS!”. I liked airships a lot when I was young. Still do for that matter. And the airships in this movie are just so amazingly designed. They have this ramshackle look, like they’ve been bolted together from scrap metal, and it works so well for the post-apocalyptic setting. Really, all the designs are great. The Tolmekian army is this bizarre mix of tanks and knights and soldiers armed with guns that look they’ve been taped together that doesn’t really make any sense but, once again, reinforces this view of a world running off the scraps of industrialized civilization. The giant warriors have this amazingly minimalist, stripped down look that emphasizes their terror, and I’ve always liked that even the castle in the Valley of the Wind has windmills built into it. It’s such a good visual signifier of how everything and everyone in this kingdom is devoted to the precarious maintenance of human life. We don’t really see much of the word of Nausicaä, and yet you feel like you know it so well by the end of the movie.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Chosen

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The Subject Of Discussion

 

TITLE: The Chosen

AUTHORS: David Drake, S.M Stirling

SERIES: Raj Whitehall Series

PUBLISHER: Baen

DATE: 1996

The Chosen is a book that I like much, much more than it probably deserves. Objectively speaking,  it’s a perfectly-decent science fiction book, with all the strengths and flaws of both authors present. But personally? I love this book. I have found myself returning to it time and time again. I’ve owned it for less than a year and I’ve probably reread it at least three times by now. This blog post is an attempt by me to work exactly what it is that makes this book such a good fit for me. Fair warning, I’m calling it a ‘Book Review’  because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want but this is going to be a deeply self-indulgent article. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, come back next month. We’ll have something about Napoleon up. Probably.

(BTW: SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING)

BACKGROUND:

The actual plot of The Chosen is simple. On the planet Visager, two brothers with preternatural abilities must help rally the Free World to fight against the Chosen, a nation of basically just-straight up Nazis. The context for this, however, is…….complicated. The Chosen sits at the intersection of two very weird series. First is the Raj Whitehall Series (also known as the General Series), also by S.M Stirling and David Drake. The plot of the General Series is that on the planet Bellevue, long after the collapse of the Generic Space Federation, civilization is slowly collapsing.

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The American Légitimistes

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American Democracy

What Ever Happened To Bipartisanship?

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that there’s a shameful lack of cooperation in Washington right now. Sure, Democrats and Republicans have some disagreements, but there’s no reason they can’t come together to work for the betterment of the country, right? Since Mitch ‘I Broke America’ McConnell first decided on a policy of total and absolute obstruction of President Obama’s agenda in 2009, the “gridlock in Washington!” has become almost a cliche, taken for granted by everyone, a subject of jokes and gentle admonishments. “Hyper-partisanship” is talked about as if it in itself is the problem, with stubborn politicians refusing to cross the aisle out of nothing but irrational prejudice. Anyways, as well all know, politicians are really all the same, amirite?

A few months so ago, during the height of the Obamacare repeal debate, Josh Marshall of Talking Point Memo excellently illustrated the failure of this trope when it came to health care policy, noting that “Pretending that both parties just have very different approaches to solving a commonly agreed upon problem is really just a lie. It’s not true. One side is looking for ways to increase the number of people who have real health insurance and thus reasonable access to health care and the other is trying to get the government out of the health care provision business with the inevitable result that the opposite will be the case. If you’re not clear on this fundamentally point, the whole thing does get really confusing.” Consistently, the media presented the debate over health care as two groups refusing to cooperate out of partisanship. This is true, in the narrowest sense, but the reason there was such high partisanship was because the two parties fundamentally disagreed on how health care should work. And this isn’t just true on healthcare, but on virtually every issue of discussion.

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How I Would Fix America

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Move Over Washington! It’s my turn!

You know, I talk a good game about how “the American experiment in federal democracy is collapsing under it’s own weight” and “we live in the beginning of the collapse of the American Empire”, but maybe it’s time for me to walk the walk. What do I know anyway? If I’m so smart, why don’t I fix it, huh? Well, I can’t Make America Even A Little Bit Functional Again, but I can talk about how I would do it. I’m going to run through what I see as the major flaws in the current American governmental structure and lay out two plans to correct them, one a minimalist reform and one a maximalist. Please note that I’ll be discussing only constitutional and governmental structures, not the policies I would wish the government to implement once established. Now, let’s begin.

America is a country screwed up in many, many ways, but I believe most of our current governmental dysfunction can be traced to Federalism Run Amuck. Everyone knows the story of our Glorious Founding Fathers and how they compromised between states rights and federal power to protect the sovereignty of the smaller states, yadda, yadda, yadda, etc, etc. All well and good. But what made sense once as the compact between a group of semi-independent states has become increasingly untenable as state population disparities grow larger and larger due to the growth of urbanization. For example: “By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states, which are also home to the overwhelming majority of the 30 largest cities in the country. By extension, 30 percent of Americans will live in the other 35 states. That means that the 70 percent of Americans get all of 30 Senators and 30 percent of Americans get 70 Senators.” (Source). Rural states are also especially privileged by the Electoral College and the artificially-restricted number of Representatives.

This dynamic of disenfranchised cities plays out internally as well, with states like North Carolina and Texas designing their legislative and congressional maps specifically the break the power of the urban majorities, rendering them impotent.

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Napoleon Bonaparte Is History’s Only True Supervillain

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Napoleon Escapes Justice On His Super-Horse Of Evil

Napoleon Bonaparte is history’s only true supervillian. This may seem like a controversial statement, but it is one that I can prove with enumerable facts, a number of which I shall enumerate below. Before I present my proof, however, I would like to clarify something: I am not attempting to argue that Napoleon is the most evil man in history. There are at least half a dozen people who committed more evil acts, killed more people, burned more cities, etc, etc than Emperor Napoleon I. This, however, has no bearing on my claim. My argument is that, alone out of history’s great villains and vagrants, Bonaparte possesses a certain set of attributes that set him apart. Rather than a monster or a demon, he is clearly a supervillain.

Napoleon Bonaparte Makes No Sense (Historically Speaking)

Generally speaking, even the most evil of acts can be aligned properly with their historical context. This does not excuse them, but it does serve to explain them. Take Hitler for example. The antisemitism of the National Socialists is derivative of the philosophy pioneered by the Viennese mayor Karl Lueger  and his Christian Socialist Party, and in a broader sense, a tradition of German political antisemitism going back to Martin Luther. Hitler’s short-term aims were the reversal of the Treaty of Versailles and the restoration of German Great Power status. His long-term aims in the East were part of a tradition of German longing for an Eastern Empire that can be traced back the Imperial German policy in the Great War and even further, to the Northern Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries and the Teutonic Knights colonization of what would become Prussia and the Baltic States.

None of this holds true for Napoleon. Napoleon Bonaparte came from a minor Corsican noble family, one who had been committed to the cause of Corsican independence. As a young man, Bonaparte was a fierce adherent of this cause. He abandoned this in favor of Radical French Republicanism, then dropped that in favor of dreams of Oriental Sultandom, then returned to Earth and became a vaguely classical Military Dictator, and then finally settled on Absolute Divine-Sanctioned Monarchy. All of this would make sense if Napoleon was rapidly acceding to the whims of popular opinion, but this sensible hypothesis is disproved by the facts. When Napoleon was bouncing around Egypt dreaming of converting to Islam and forging an Oriental Empire, this was not a plan supported by either his army, the people of France, the people of Egypt, or any recognized intellectual or political faction. And as for his decision to convert Republican France to a monarchy predicated on an absolutism that most actual kings didn’t believe in! Words escape me.

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Abraham Lincoln Was Not A Third Party President

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Honest Abe Is Deeply Disappointed In You

WHY IS THIS MEME BACK?

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

Ugh.

I can actually understand where this idea comes from. Our current political system did not fully arise until after the Civil War, and was not fully ossified until after the Second World War, and politics in the 19th century could be much more fluid than today. Still, the sometimes-expressed idea that it was a paradise for Third Parties and Alternative Parties is extremely anachronistic, and comes from historically-illiterate people projecting today’s politics backwards.

Let’s take this from the top, shall we?

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