Goth on Ice: Turn, Turn, Turn

One of the main things I’ve been working on the last few sessions is the forward outside three-turn. You start with a forward outside edge. Shift arm position (like we do with the outside edges). “Check” body and shoulder position. Then twist the lower body around, so that instead of skating forward, you’re skating backward on a backward inside edge.

Last time, I described some of the mistakes I was making. This week, I seem to have been able to finally bring it together.

I had actually recorded a practice set early on, but the results were quite foggy–probably condensation on the lens of my phone’s camera. So I went back out onto the ice specifically to do a couple to record.

I’m still working on the edges (“turning” by making a swooping curve across the ice to keep with the title theme–going “forward” but changing what direction forward happens to be). Forward outside edges are giving me a bit of problem, usually having to put a foot down before I complete the half-circle. Part of that is that I’m getting my weight too far forward on the blade. That forward tilt of my body (a perennial problem I have) is part of that. (Note: As of this posting the next two videos are still uploading. They should be up later.)

Finally, we have the backward crossovers. They are coming along nicely. My instructor pointed out a couple of mistakes I’m making: not bending the rear leg enough during the cross (which will help get a deeper cross and more power) and having my feet too close to parallel during the cross. I could have them “toe out”. To clarify what I mean by “toe out” (since having my legs crossed might confuse the matter my right leg (even when it’s on the left side because crossed) needs to have the toe angled to the right and left leg (even when on the right because crossed) needs to have the toe angled to the left. This, also, will give more power and speed in the cross but more importantly will reduce the chance of having the blades collide, tripping me up.

In class, after the practice session that I was able to record, my instructor had me doing another turn: Forward inside Mohawk. I’m finding it particularly challenging to begin with but, on top of that, he had me doing an exercise where I do one forward crossover, an inside Mohawk, which supposedly now has me going backward (if I can actually do it right) then a backward crossover, followed by a “step out” into forward inside edge. The idea is that we then repeat this, going front to back then back to front over and over along a curved path.

I think it’s supposed to look something like this:

Gas Issues

Well this is just ducky. Got home from afternoon skating session and found a notice on my door that there had been an emergency/maintenance or outage on my gas. They left the gas turned off. I presume that was for safety not knowing the status of any gas-using appliances in the house and fair enough. Only this happened yesterday and I did not know until I went over to look at what appeared to be the results of some digging in my yard. (I was figuring burrowing animals.) Saw the notice on my door and “Call to have gas turned on. Must be home when we turn on gas and light appliances.”

Well, okay, fair enough. I call the number which says “24 hours” and the message is “this is after our regular business hours”. Options to continue (besides waiting for Monday and regular business hours) is report an emergency and several account info options (presumably automated responses). Report emergency has “report a gas leak” and several water/sewer related issues. Nothing about “you guys turned off my gas and I need it back on”. I ended up going with “report a gas leak” as the closest.

The young lady on the other end was very nice. Apparently a contractor hit the gas line (call before you dig!) which was why they had to turn off my gas. She apologized for the trouble and they are going to get someone out tonight. Took my number to call when the guy’s on his way.

Chances are, though, I’m not going to be able to go to tonight’s evening ice skating session.

I could live without the furnace for a couple of days. That wouldn’t bother me. But hot water? That was kind of important. It appears that I had enough hot water in the tank that I didn’t notice when I took my shower this morning. I may have had the spigot biased more toward the hot than usual, hard to say with its design, but there was enough for me to take my shower without getting chilled. And the back of the house is snug enough that internal temperature hadn’t dropped much.

What bothers me most about this is that I won’t get to do my evening skating session. That’s an hour and a half or exercise and practice that I won’t be able to make up. I had planned on a good six and a half hours total skating/training time this weekend but…not going to happen.

This is just…annoying.

Thought for the Day

Each of you (mostly, there are the occasional exceptions) have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell of your body. For each pair, you got one chromosome from your father and one from your mother. Have you ever considered what that actually means? How many possibilities there are for children from those two parents?

During Meiosis, there’s a stage where segments of chromosomes in a pair can be swapped, but let’s ignore that and just look at whole chromosomes.

For the first of those 23 pairs, doesn’t matter which one we count as first, any will do for this purpose. you could have the first of the pair from your mother (call that 1a) and the first from your father (1a) or the first from your mother (1a) and the second from your father (1b) or the second from your mother (1b) and the first from your father (1a) or the second from your mother (1b) and the second from your father (1b). Four possibilities: 1a1a, 1a1b, 1b1a, and 1b1b.

Now, looking at the second chromosome (again, any will do, just so long as it’s not the first one). For each of those first four, there are again four so: 1a1a2a2a, 1a1a2a2b, 1a1a2b2a, and so on. Sixteen possible children from just the first two chromosomes.

The third, produces four more possibilities for each of that sixteen for a total of 64 possible children. The fourth, four more for each of the 64 or 256. And so on, through 23 pairs of chromosomes.

The number of possible children from a single pair of parents, with 23 pairs of chromosomes each is 70,368,744,177,664.

More. Than. Seventy. Trillion. Possible. People.

Estimates of how many people have ever lived on the Earth, from the first time something recognizeable as Homo Sapiens walked the savannah of Africa to today is about 100 billion. The number of possible people, from a single pair of parents, is about seven hundred times that.

On top of that, official figures claim there are over seven billion people on the Earth today. That’s three and a half billion mother-father pairs, give or take. (Some folk won’t pair at all. Others will pair with more than one other individual.) Seventy trillion possible offspring from each of those three and a half billion pairs? That’s a simply staggering number. That’s nearly two hundred and fifty times as many possible people than all the stars in the visible universe.

And out of all of that, only one of you.

Socialism Means Central Control of the Means of Production

BREAKING NEWS, PASS THIS ON BY EVERY CHANNEL AVAILABLE TO YOU: Emails: Top Ukrainian Exec Asked Hunter How to ‘Use Your Influence’ on Burisma’s Behalf AND Facebook, Twitter ‘Reducing’ the Distribution of New York Post Story on Hunter Biden Emails (And by reducing the distribution, read “banning.”) Pass it on: email, phone, your blogs. Just pass it on. Show them they can’t silence AMERICANS!

Now onto the regular post.

Let us be clear on one thing. “Socialism” whatever form it takes: International, National, “Democratic”, “Market” (whatever that’s supposed to mean, but it was apparently a thing back in the 1940’s), whatever, cannot escape from the definition of socialism itself: an economic system where the economy is centrally planned and where the means of production are owned or controlled by the state. “Control” is the key element that makes it socialism. That is the core element of ownership. If one remains an owner “on paper” but the decisions about use are dictated by the state then it’s socialism. Because the real ownership is by those who make the decisions, whatever some piece of paper says about ownership.

Now, this is the important part. Tattoo it on your eyelids, add it as the welcome screen on your computer, whatever it takes to get you to learn it and remember it deep down in your gut:

YOU are a “means of production.” And that means that _you_ need to be “controlled/owned” by the state. You. Not just your neighbor. Not just “the wealthy”, the “1?”, “cishet white males”, or whatever other group you want to bring down. You.

In socialism, the state decides what use you will be put to. Not you, yourself, not the nice party leader in your neighborhood, some bureaucrat a thousand miles away who doesn’t know the first thing about you personally except as a number in his spreadsheet…and cares even less.

Totalitarianism isn’t the result of socialism gone wrong. It’s the very core of socialism, following from the simple fact that the most important means of production, the most important capital, that needs to be centrally controlled by the very definition of socialism, is human capital.

And human capital means you.

Fisking “Anti-Indigenous Things to Quit Saying/Doing”

BREAKING NEWS, PASS THIS ON BY EVERY CHANNEL AVAILABLE TO YOU: Emails: Top Ukrainian Exec Asked Hunter How to ‘Use Your Influence’ on Burisma’s Behalf AND Facebook, Twitter ‘Reducing’ the Distribution of New York Post Story on Hunter Biden Emails (And by reducing the distribution, read “banning.”) Pass it on: email, phone, your blogs. Just pass it on. Show them they can’t silence AMERICANS!

So there was this:

As usual, their text is Bold, my response is Italics.

“Stop saying ‘off the reservation’. It’s a reference to the pass system that was in place restricting Native people from leaving without permission.”

Actually, it was a reference to Natives arming up in groups and attacking folk.

“Stop making ‘1/16th, ‘great-great grandmother’, etc. jokes. All of these reference blood quantum, a system designed to ‘breed out the Natives’. Indigeneity isn’t defined by a percentage, fraction, etc. Quit policing Indigenous identities and quit joking about genocidal tactics.”

First off, citation needed on any kind of declared “system” to “breed out the Natives”. Second, percentages? My initial DNA tests declared that I was 2% sub-Saharan African. So do I get to declare myself African American? Did you look at my profile pic to determine if I could? Okay, later revision of the results removed that (and it seems that someone at 23&Me was just sticking that into people’s results to “mess with racists”, which itself calls into question the accuracy of results), but it still says 0.2% “broadly Western Asian & North African”, which would appear to be people of Arabic ancestry (derived from the Islamic conquest of those areas back in the Middle Ages). So, can I claim to be Arabic American or is that not a “quantum.”

Upshot is, who cares? I am me. These various background things that went into making me who I am are background. I am who I am. Tell the people… (Okay, Bible joke.)

Stop Calling things your “Spirit Animal.” You don’t have one. Only Indigenous people from specific nations have spirit animals.

Now this, right here, is highly insulting to my ancestors. My (Father’s side) Germanic/Norse forebears certainly had Totem (spirit) animals. Likewise, on my mother’s side, my Celtic forebears had an animistic religion where folk could share rapport with the spirits of animals.

Just because you are only familiar with American Indigene beliefs in spirit animals does not mean that that is all that there was.

Stop making dreamcatchers. They are sacred Anishinaabe culture and are not cute trinkets, crafts, etc. Buy them from Anishinaabe artists.

That’s nice. Shall we go into the many things that were sacred and cultural to my ancestors that have become trivialized in modern society? How about the Fighting Irish and their logo? All the iconography and trite decorations around St. Patrick’s Day? Or maybe Oktoberfest? And maybe, just maybe, some of the practices centered around a little holiday known as Yule?

Since the dawn of time people have looked at things produced by other cultures and thought “hey, that’s neat” and made copies. Archaeologists trace contact between cultures by noting the spread of cultural styles–pottery, art, religious iconography, all sorts of things. This widening of cultural horizons is a good thing because insular cultures that neither adopt from others or are adopted by others tend to stagnate and die.

Stop buying those little cloth ‘teepees’ for your kids/pets/whatever. Also stuff with tipi prints.

See above about dreamcatchers. Same thing applies here. Also, note that conical tents with an opening at the top is not unique to American Indigenes (specifically to “Plains Indian” cultures). They don’t get to declare sole ownership of something that has been independently used by multiple societies.

And maybe you can pick a spelling? “Teepee” or “Tipi.”

Quit referring to your “tribe”. Enough with the “Bride tribe” nonsense and all the rest. Stop trivializing tribal affiliations.

“Tribe” is a word that existed long before the European encounters with American indigenes. That the word for groupings of related peoples was used for such groupings among indigenes does not give them exclusive ownership of the term.

Humans are tribal. It’s in our very nature. We divide into “tribes”. The wonder of Western Civilization is not how much tribalism remains, but that we’ve been able to overcome it to such an extent, or rather, that we have been able to expand so broadly as to what counts as “our tribe.” Indeed, the wonder of American civilization in particular is that we have been able to define our “tribe” in terms of a core set of beliefs–individual liberty, the supremacy of the individual over the state, self rule and self responsibility–which, of course, certain groups (and I’m pretty sure you are among them) are trying to undermine.

Same thing, by the way, with “chief.”

Don’t wear “War paint”. Don’t put a feather in your hair. Don’t dress up as Native people or characters.

And, again, American Indigenes aren’t the only ones who painted themselves for going into combat. Look up “woad” as one example. American Indigenes aren’t the only ones who wore feathers as hair ornaments. Feathers were common personal adornment through most of history for most of the world. American Indigenes do not get to claim sole ownership of these historically common things.

As for dressing up as Native people or characters, do you apply that to others? Do you object to Viking costumes? Leprechauns? Toga parties? Dressing up as a “jester” (parti-colored tunic and hose, which was actually a fairly common 13th and 14th century Century English dress)? How about that costume I saw of a pregnant nun? Is it your contention that only Native people are too weak to be able to deal with folk taking enough interest in them to actually dress, however imperfectly, like them, even if it’s deliberate mockery (see “pregnant nun”)? Or do you extend that to other POC’s as well? Is it only European people you consider strong enough to deal with people dressing up like their ancestors and cultural icons–even in deliberately mocking fashion (again see “pregnant nun” as one example).

Stop referring to your meetings/side discussions/parties as a “pow wow.”

Languages borrow words from other languages all the time. English is, at root, a Germanic language and yet something like 70% of its vocabulary derives from Latin (largely by way of medieval French, thanks to Duke William of Normandy) but also with Greek, Spanish, Slavic, and a host of other languages thrown in. Why should American Indigenes be excluded from the mix? Why single them out that words cannot be borrowed into English? The meaning changes from what the Natives used it for you say? You mean like “Sanguine” has shifted from “bloody”/”bloodthirsty” to “cheerfully optimistic”?

Languages have always borrowed from other languages, and shifted both meaning and pronunciation over time. That’s just the way language is. You might as well object to the river running out of Pittsburgh being called the “Ohio” which is a word “taken” from the Natives and mispronounced in the bargain “Oyo”.

Or perhaps you do.

Stop supporting sports teams that use racist terms and logos and caricatures of Indigenous people.

Sigh. Vikings. Patriots. Fighting Irish. Pirates. Buccaneers. Saints. 49ers. Brewers. Padres. Yankees. Canadians. Senators. Canucks. Golden Knights. Cavaliers. Warriors.

People don’t name sports teams after things they disrespect. When they name it after a group of people it’s because they represent courage, honor, and fighting spirit, or it’s about some kind of local connection. Sometimes that’s more about the mythology than the reality (“Pirates,” and “Buccaneers” for example) but the idea is there. And, yes, the imagery tends to be stereotypical to the point of caricature. That’s because the point is to be instantly recognizable. That doesn’t make it “racist”. It makes it effective. No real Viking would wear a helmet with grab handles on it and yet the Vikings logo has a horned helmet because that’s what people associate with Vikings. It’s not the sports team’s job to educate people in the true history and culture of Scandinavia but to give people a recognizable image to cheer for.

And I’ll simply note that it was an American Indigene who designed the former logo for the “Washington Sports Team.” It was white folk, like you, who demanded they get rid of it.

Which, then, were truly “anti-indigenous”?

If You Give a Man a Fish: A Blast from the Past

As we go into the election season, this seems relevant. Of the two major party candidates, one wants to make you wealthier in real terms, the other wants to impoverish you. They are not, however, the ones you might think they are (unless you know a thing or two about economics–something I try to address from time to time on this blog).

This is going to ramble a bit.  I ended up going a completely different direction from what I had in mind when I started.

If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, the old saw goes.  And if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

As someone who has come home empty handed often enough from a day of fishing, I’m not so sure it quite works that way, but it’s close enough to be a reasonable metaphor.

Benjamin Franklin put it this way: “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

The truth is, there are some people–not everyone, perhaps not even most, but some–who, if you provide them enough for even a basic living without their having to earn it, will accept that and make no attempt to improve their lot through their own efforts.  Oh, they may complain about how hard they have it, but that complaint doesn’t motivate them to go work their way out of their situation.  If anything, it’s intended to influence you to provide more of that “basic living” they’re not having to work for.

This is not to say that there aren’t people who legitimately cannot provide for themselves but how often is that really the case?

The problem is two-fold.  Three-fold, actually.  The first is the “making them easy in poverty”.  Yeah, I can hear the howls now of how hard the poor have it.  Want to try again?  I grew up with an outhouse–having to go outside in the dead of winter to an unheated, drafty wooden building to do my business through a hole in a board.  A wood stove heated the kitchen.  Steam radiators heated the rest of the house.  Air conditioning?  What’s that?  I packed sandwiches for my lunch at school because we couldn’t afford the hot lunch.  We did have electricity–when it worked.  And we weren’t even particularly poor.  So, please, tell me again how “hard” most of the “poor” in the US have it today.   I can use the laugh.

And, no, I don’t begrudge the poor having a better life than I did.  That’s progress.  But, dammit, is it too much to ask that they appreciate what they have?  Apparently so.  Somebody else has more and that’s just too much to bear.

The second and thirds problems are closely related.  The second is that sometimes you just have more people than jobs, at least jobs that one could make a living at.  And the third is mismatch of skills required for the jobs available and skills people seeking work possess.  It doesn’t matter how great a typist you are if the job requires a welder.

So what to do?

First thing, impose the old dictate “if any of you would not work, neither shall he eat.” (And before you start “but what about…” note that word “would”.  It’s a matter of will, not ability.  If a person truly is incapable of doing anything of value that would qualify as work, then that’s a separate story.  But how many of those are there really?)

Personally, I’d like to see government welfare done away with entirely and let helping those who can’t work, or those who’ve temporarily fallen on hard times, devolve to private, mostly local charities.  I realize that such changes do not happen in an instant without causing their own problems.  Still, there’s a lot that can be done to move in that direction and the most important is a work requirement for anybody drawing any kind of government assistance.  Take away the incentive not to work to get off welfare.  You can work for your government assistance or you can work for your own money, but you’re going to work.

A related issue is that even for a person who, for whatever reason got on government assistance and now wants to get off it, can find the prospect daunting.  You find a job that pays more than that welfare check, well, and good, but now you also lose SNAP, oh, and while before you could stay home with the children, now you need to find daycare.  That costs money.  You’re actually worse off than you started.  Another perverse incentive.  Some people will push through that anyway but not everyone will.  And if our goal is to get people off welfare and on their own feet then shouldn’t the incentives work that way?  Say, reduce their total benefits from all sources one dollar for every two dollars they earn?

But in addition to removing the incentives for people to remain on welfare, we need the other side:  to make sure that there are jobs for them to take.  And to do that there’s one thing that so many people have trouble wrapping their heads around.

We.  Need.  A.  Political.  Climate.  Favorable.  To.  Business.

Whether it’s small businesses and people employing themselves, or big businesses employing thousands or even in some cases millions, businesses provide jobs.  Politicians do not provide jobs.  Governments do not provide jobs (except the jobs of government).  Businesses provide jobs.  And basic laws of economics apply.  If you make it more expensive for businesses to hire people, they will hire fewer people, or they will go where it isn’t so expensive (like, say, overseas).  If you cut off their ability to go where it isn’t so expensive, then foreign firms will take advantage of that opportunity to undercut our own businesses.  If you try to use tariffs or other trade restrictions to try to penalize the foreign companies in favor of our own, then they respond in kind and, again, our people suffer.

“But, but…big Megacorporation makes billions in profits!” And has trillions in sales.  The profits are a small fraction of the total amount of the business.  Most of that money goes to people working for the company, or people working for suppliers to the company.  Oh, and much of that profit is paid out to things like pension funds and retirement accounts that invest in things like big Megacorporation, not just to millionaires and billionaires.

“But, but…CEO compensation!” Do the math.  A company has one CEO.  Big ones, the ones where people complain about CEO compensation, employ hundreds of thousands to millions of people.  What the CEO makes is a drop in the bucket compared to the total labor costs.

For any large company, labor costs are their biggest expense.  Increase the cost of hiring people and they hire fewer people.  That’s not just Economics 101.  That falls right out of the first day‘s lecture in Economics 101.  Practically the second thing taught (right after “wants are unlimited, resources at any given time are limited, so it’s not possible for everyone to get everything they want”):  increase the cost of “buying” something and people buy less of it.

Now labor costs are at least something that produces value to the company.  So long as the value of the labor is higher than the cost of the labor it’s possible to come to an agreement.  But there’s another factor, the regulatory cost.  Almost a quarter of our economy is eaten up in regulatory costs.  If those costs were the GDP of a country, it would be larger than Germany’s.  That’s four trillion dollars spent making sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed.

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations had the great insight that the wealth of a nation was not in specie, in gold, silver, and precious gems, it was not in paper money, and if he’d had to foresight to predict the modern age he would certainly have said it was not in electronic banking records.  It was in the amount of goods and services available to a nation.  It is not the money in my wallet and my bank account that is my wealth (such as it is).  It’s what that money can buy.  Produce and trade for more goods and services and you are wealthier as a nation, and the people within the nation are wealthier.

And everyone, rich and poor alike, benefits.  That cheap “prepaid minutes” smartphone you can pick up for $50 at Walmart?  A portable phone alone would have been a mark of wealth and prestige just 30 years ago–and one so small, unheard of.  And one with more computing power than supercomputers of the day?  With instant access to a wealth (note that word.  It has meaning) of music, movies and TV shows, to more information than all the libraries in the world held then?   How many millions would somebody have paid for that capability back then?

And it’s cheap.  A device that the wealthy of a generation past would have mortgaged their first three children for and it’s cheap.

You want to teach people to fish?  Economic growth.  And we’re wasting 25%  of our GDP not on developing and growing the economy but on regulatory burden.  Is some regulatory oversight necessary?  Probably.  But 25% of our economy?  That’s resources that could be used to make life better for all of us, frittered away on some government bureaucrats.

Goth on Ice: By George I Think He’s Got It.

The technique I’ve wanted really, really badly to successfully master is the Backward Crossover. I simply think it’s the most elegant and beautiful technique taught in the entire basic and adult progressions. Well, the two foot and one foot spins might compete for that position, but for my money a well-done backward crossover is just pure magic.

You can see how far I’ve come in the video above. I can’t say I’ve mastered it exactly, but I seem to have the basics nailed down.

My Three-turn (specifically forward outside three-turn), however? That’s a whole other ballgame and a frustrating one at that.

During class after this practice session, my instructor made several suggestions how I could improve. The first was to keep the non-gliding foot behind the gliding foot in a “T” (not on the ice, of course, otherwise you’re braking) and keeping that knee turned outward. The second was, once I switched arms from the position for a forward outside edge to that for the turn, I should have both arms up, about shoulder height and not let either one droop. This helps enforce a body posture that helps keep your balance coming out. Finally, he said once switching the arms to hold that position and glide a bit before turning. The turn should be totally the lower body, the upper body is already in place for coming out of the turn. This latter one is also part of my problem with the two-foot-turn back to front (seen in my stumbling direction changes in the backward crossover video).

You can see in the video that the closer I get to getting those elements right, the better the turn works.

Other things my instructor has me working on are my forward outside edges, forward inside edges and backward outside edges as formal figure skating techniques. I am making progress, slowly but surely in those. Right now, as I showed in earlier videos, I’m still just riding the backward edges around and holding them as long as I can. When I reach the point where I can consistently ride the backward edge in a half circle, I’ll start worrying about the arm switching and other things to continue in an “S” curve.

One more technique the instructor introduced me to last week was the forward inside Mohawk turn. The three-turn stays on the same foot but changes direction and changes edge–you start with a left forward outside edge, an end up in a left backward inside edge. For the Mohawk, you change direction, change foot, and keep the same edge. So you start with, a right forward inside edge and end up in a left backward inside edge. It works something like this:

In class I brought up the subject of the Learn to Skate USA “Adult” level progression. I noted it seemed geared more toward recreational skating and not actual figure skating–there are things not covered in the adult level progression that serve as foundational skills for figure skating: back to front two-foot-turn, and a variety of other techniques (described previously). The techniques included in adult that aren’t included in basic (for the young people) appear to be ice dancing moves: Swing rolls and outside to inside changes of edge on a line.

I told my instructor that I intend to continue in figure skating as long as I am physically able. He was quite pleased about that and said that he did try to work those other techniques in when working with adults.

All in all, nice little milestone met and progress made in other things.

The Battle of Tours: An Annual Tradition.

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On this date, in AD732, Charles Martel led the Franks against Muslim invaders near the city of Tours and turned back the tide of Islamic advance at the Battle of Tours (sometimes called the Battle of Poitiers).

In the preceding 110 years, Islam, thanks to the diligent efforts of polite young men in white shirts and neckties on bicycles going out two-by-two, had spread from its origins in the Arabian peninsula through south-central Asia and across the north of Africa, and up into the Iberian peninsula.

Did I say polite young men in white shirts and ties on bicycles going out two-by-two?  Just kidding.  That’s Mormons.  The Muslims did it by going out conquering and to conquer, slaughtering everyone who would not submit, in a tide of blood across all their conquered lands.

It seemed that Muhammed and his successors did not understand that “Jihad” meant internal struggle over oneself and that “Islam” meant “peace” and the meaning of “submission” was one’s own submission to Allah.  They apparently thought “Jihad” meant real war against unbelievers, using real swords and spears, leaving real dead and mutilated bodies in its wake and the “submission” was forcing those not in Islam to submit to it.  But what did they know?  They only founded the religion or followed in the footsteps of the founder.

Muslims of the Umayyad dynasty, chiefly Berbers, invaded the Iberian peninsula (really, it was a military invasion, not a lot of missionaries on bicycles.  Besides, the bicycle hadn’t been invented yet).  Within a decade they had essentially conquered the Iberian peninsula and were expanding across the Pyrenees into what would eventually be part of southern France.

In the spring of 732, these Umayyad Muslims defeated Duke Odo at the Battle of the River Garonne, thus setting the stage for what was to come.

Odo, surviving the battle, asked the Franks for help.  Charles Martel, “Mayor of the Palace” (Ruler in all but name but it would wait for his son, Pepin the Short, for his line to officially claim the throne) would only promise aid in return for Odo submitting to Frankish authority.

While this was going on, the Umayyads, in apparent unconcern about possible Frankish might, advanced toward the Loire river.  Lax in scouting and unconcerned, they did not note the power massing to oppose them.

The Umayyads were mostly cavalry.  Charles, according to accounts, was mostly infantry, but heavily armed and armored infantry.  One of the Franks main weapons was the Francisca, a heavy-headed, short-handled throwing axe.  The Byzantine historian Procopius (c. 500–565) described the axes and their use thus:

…each man carried a sword and shield and an axe. Now the iron head of this weapon was thick and exceedingly sharp on both sides while the wooden handle was very short. And they are accustomed always to throw these axes at one signal in the first charge and thus shatter the shields of the enemy and kill the men.

And at the time of Charles Martel, the axes were still in common use.  It would be some time yet before the Frankish forces converted to being primarily cavalry under the successors to Charles Martel.

When the Umayyads reached the Franks and their allies, they faced off with skirmishes while waiting for their full force to arrive.

Finally, the forces were all ready and the day of battle arrived.  Abd-al-Raḥmân, the leader of the Umayyad forces, trusted to the strength of his cavalry and had them charge repeatedly at the Frankish infantry lines.  The incredibly disciplined infantry stood its ground staunchly despite (according to Arab sources) Umayyad cavalry breaking into their formation several times.

A charge of Umayyad broke through, attempting to reach Charles reasoning, probably correctly, that if they could kill Charles the Frankish army would break.  However Charles’ liege men surrounded him and held off the attack.

While the battle still raged, rumors went through the Umayyad forces that Frankish scouts were threatening the Umayyad baggage train and threatening to carry off the loot they’d already gathered in their march northward.  Arab reports indeed claim that this was the case (in a second day of battle where Frankish reports say it only lasted one day).

This, apparently was too much for many of the Umayyads.  Fight them on the field of battle.  Throw axes at them.  Stab at them with spears and slash at them with swords.  All good.  But threaten their loot?  No way.

However, they didn’t appear to make clear to their compatriots what exactly they were doing and why.  The others saw them heading back the way they’d come and thought they were in retreat.  And “if he’s retreating, maybe I should be too” is a thought soldiers have shared many a time throughout history.  The result was the Umayyads went into full-fledged retreat.  Abd-al-Raḥmân tried to stop the retreat and, as a result, was surrounded and killed.

The next day, Charles, fearing the possibility of an ambush, kept his troops in formation in their relatively secure position.  He did, however, send out extensive reconnaissance which discovered that the Umayyads had abandoned not only the field of battle but their own camp so fast that they’d left their tents behind, heading back to Iberia as fast as their horses and wagons could carry them taking what loot they could carry with them.

Had to protect that loot.

The Umayyads retreated south back over the Pyrenees and that remained the end of Muslim advance into Europe.  Further attempts into the European heartland were made but they came to naught in the end.  Charles Martel and his forces had broken the back of the Muslim conquest of Europe for many centuries to come.

How Charles Martel would weep to see Europe inviting in a new generation of invaders with open arms.

The Uniparty?

A lot of people, usually those of a more conservative or libertarian bent, claim that the Republican and Democrat parties are really the same. They’re both pretty big on State Control They’re both all “tax and spend.” They both talk about how they oppose things the “other side” has done (Republicans on Obamacare and gun control, Democrats on things like Immigration reform) but when they’re in power to the extent of having the Presidency and both houses of Congress, they don’t do anything about it.

Is there a lot of similarity between the two parties? Of course there is because, get this, they are trying to appeal to a lot of the same voters. Whichever party “loses”, if it wants to win, has to get the votes of people who voted for the other party last time. That’s going to create a lot of similarity. (Example: “coverage for pre-existing conditions”, doesn’t matter how much you explain how economically unviable that is, people want it. They don’t understand, or ignore, the economics, and any politician, “R” or “D” saying “you can’t have it” is going to lose a lot of votes, more than they can afford to lose, for doing so.)

But by focusing on the similarities one blithely ignores the differences. Would Hillary, would _any_ Democrat, have issued an executive order requiring two regulations to be repealed before any new one could be enacted? Would we have 300 new miles of border wall under a Democrat president? Would we have renegotiated NAFTA under a Democrat? Trump may have proposed the tax cuts which boosted the economy, but they had to pass Congress and who voted for them…and who voted against them? And Trump may have negotiated the new trade agreements, but it took “the advice and consent of the Senate” to ratify them. And again, who voted for them, and who voted against them?

At root, however, the problem isn’t the politicians or the parties. They are the symptom. They are doing what is politically profitable for them and most people…well there’s an “Aragorn” meme I created but don’t know how to post easily here. The text is “The day may come when low-information voters do not decide elections; but it is not this day.”

Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the major parties because they are trying to attract a lot of the same voters. But there are also differences because they are also appealing to different segments of the population.

But there’s more. We are winning the cultural war. Why do you think the Dems are full on “all vote fraud, all the time?” Fraud is the only hope they’ve got. What do you think is behind Pelosi’s “establish a commission for 25th Amendment removal of the President”? Seriously, even if she were able to get such a thing passed, by the time it went through both the House and Senate and Trump (for reasons of his own) signed it, or they overrode a veto (yeah, right), It would likely be close to inauguration day and a moot point…unless Trump won. The only reason it can possibly be an issue is that their internal polls are showing that, yeah, Trump’s probably going to win.

They’re losing, and they know it. The culture is shifting. Part of that is freedom-loving people realizing they are not alone. And part of it is that a lot more of us are willing to speak out and what we say (if I may claim some small influence there) is making sense to others. Remember, four million brand new people who have not settled on one position or another enter the arena every year. And we have more ability to reach and influence those people than ever before.

No longer is Walter Cronkite able to put on his fake-sincere “trust me” voice and lie to the American people with impunity, with no-one to call him on it.

We’re winning a battle we were barely in until recently.

A lot of the old guard politicians are still in that “we’re losing so make the best deal we can and hope to at least slow and soften the fall” mode but the key there is “old guard.” They’re being replaced by a generation of Ted Cruzes, Mike Lees and others. Sooner or later the remaining “old guard” will see the tide change or they’ll be swallowed up by it and replaced by folk who will.

On the flip side, the Democrats are going full socialist. Truth to tell, they’ve been that way most of my life, but now the masks are coming off. And they’re doing this because we’re winning. They’ve positioned themselves into a corner. They can’t come out for small government, for lower taxes, for the things that actually do help the economy grow (as opposed to their pseudo-Keynesian magical thinking) because they’re too committed to their “government will take care of you” message. To do so would shred any vestige of credibility among their base, the ones that aren’t the same pool of voters that both Democrats and Republicans have been fighting over for generations. And so they see those voters slipping away and their only response is to get even more extreme in appealing to their socialist base and to double down on enabling fraud.

Because we’re winning.

Drazi Politics: A Blast from the Recent Past (Slightly updated)

With the elections season rolling around this is, once again, relevant.

DraziPurpleGreen01

An episode of Babylon 5 focused on a cultural practice of the alien species the Drazi.  Every so often they had a big battle between Drazi wearing green scarves and Drazi wearing purple scarves.

There was no philosophical or economic dispute between the two sides.  There was no matter of class or status or race that stood between them.  No, they had a big box of mixed scarves and whoever drew out a purple one was on the purple side, and whoever drew out a green one was on the green side.

American politics has long born entirely too much resemblance to that conflict.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are differences of principle between the major parties, and between various minor ones.  However, those differences in principle get forgotten when it comes to actions by the party representative in office.

Republican implements gun control by executive fiat?  That’s unimportant, his supporters say. “Who cares about…” or worse. “4-D Chess.” Democrat proposes gun control?  High dudgeon from the Republican’s supporters.

Democrat says “we must enforce our immigration laws”? Cheers, or at least silence from Democrat pundits and voters.  Republican says the same thing, and continues policies started under a previous, Democrat, office holder? Screams of “concentration camps”, “never again!” and “war crime” (one wonders with whom we are supposed to be at war).

And the excuses made by Libertarians for “Bake the Cake” Johnson and “Ban the Guns” weld in 2016 and for “BLM (even though explicitly socialist) is Great” Jorgenson in 2020 don’t bear thinking too hard about. You’re likely to be caught into a mobius strip of rationalization that leads to a singularity of logical double think causing one to collapse into a black hole and wink out of anything that resembles rational thought.

For entirely too many people, principle takes a back seat to supporting “their team.” Unlike the Drazi, they may have chosen a side based on principle rather than simply pulling a scarf out of a box but when it comes to actual political action it’s “Green!” “Purple!”

Or “Red!” “Blue!”