Financial Stupidity

This article just begged for a commentary: Scraping By On $500,000 A Year: Why It’s So Hard For High Income Earners To Escape The Rat Race.

Bask in the glorious title of this piece, and distill it down to its essentials: how to earn half a million a year and still be broke. Now, the author himself is not complaining about the situation, per se. Rather, he is merely documenting how it happens. But the collected financial ignorance in this piece is staggering to contemplate.

Look at the balance sheet:

FS-500K-Student-Loan

Let’s point out some obvious ones, shall we? If you make half a million a year, why do you have car payments to the tune of $10,000/year? If you’re complaining about not saving, not feeling “above average” why are you taking $18,000 worth of vacations every year? If your earnings are $500,000/year, what are you doing buying a $1.5 million home? $18,000 to the college alumni? What? And $32,000/yearly in student loan debt (this presumes near to $300k balance)? That’s nuts.

But let’s imagine someone is in this pickle. What do you do to get out of the rat race?

Easy. Sell the home, if you’ve some decent equity (the scenario above presumes $300k equity). Roll down to a cheaper place, rent for a while. Yes, if this is New York, that means Manhattan is off the table. Too bad. Roll the equity straight into the student loans. Now, no more student loans. $32k yearly savings. Stop taking the vacations for a couple years. $18k savings. Pay off the cars, or drive cheaper cars. $10k/savings. Kill donations to the alumni until you’re in a better situation. $18k/savings. That’s +$78k/year straight into the bank, plus whatever this family saved by dropping down a bit in their home (let’s give them 1/3 savings of $20k yearly). Take some smaller slices off of food spending and other smaller stuff, and this family is then easily banking over $100,000 per year.

Do that for around 10 years, and they have over $1 million in the bank, plus accumulated retirement savings. They can move to any less-expensive part of the country, buy a mansion in cash, continue to practice law (at, perhaps, a slightly lower pay scale) and live like kings.

This is one reason why I don’t trust a lot of these so-called experts, because they are so incredibly stupid in very basic life matters. What I posted above is not rocket science, it is not something beyond the reach of a man with pretty average intelligence and education.

Why, then, are so many highly-paid people so financially illiterate?

It boggles the mind. There was a time in my 20s when I was relatively stupid with money. I say relatively because, I think, even at my worst I was less stupid than most. But for a time, I had car payments, and occasionally carried modest credit card balances (never do this, by the way, but it was at least less than $1,500), and I got myself into a mortgage when I shouldn’t have, which ended rather badly due in part to Florida’s ongoing insurance nightmares.

Eventually, I realized all of this was stupid. I got rid of the bad house, sold the nice car and bought a shitbox for a while, paid off all credit card debt, partly by selling off some valuables, and then started working on the one remaining mortgage (the one that didn’t have a flood insurance nightmare chasing after it).

In the meantime, I took a daytime contracting job in addition to my consulting business and my DJ business. I effectively work 2 1/2 jobs these days. I’ve taken exactly one vacation in my entire adult life, and that was on the cheap. My wife’s family had accumulated a boatload of airline miles, and we cashed them in for a free trip to Germany, where my wife had a number of friends we were able to stay with for a little over a week. The whole thing, for both of us, cost less than $2,500.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live entirely spartan either. Eventually the shitbox I kept for a few years, while I was paying down debt, became rather unserviceable. That was okay. For a $4,000 crappy car, it gave me three years of life. And I still got $2,500 when I sold the thing. For $500/year, I could get to where I needed to go. Once in a better situation, I allowed myself the modest luxury of a newer Ford Mustang with the 5.0 V8 motor in it. Still an inexpensive vehicle compared to what most folks in my line of work are driving around. But fun.

Have fun and enjoy luxuries now and then. But don’t live beyond your means. I have the title to that Mustang. No payments. No interest. No loans.

In a few years, the last remaining mortgage will be paid off, if things hold true a little longer. And then I can probably relax a little, and go back to working two sources of income, instead of three.

I’m no special genius or anything. It’s not really hard to do. It’s very basic math, and a little bit of self control, nothing more. And it’s really disturbing that so many folks have neither.

Here is some wisdom:

This is the goal: a position of “fuck you.”

If you make half a million dollars a year, this position is absurdly easy to achieve. If you’re like the rest of us working stiffs, it’s not as easy, but with some self discipline and working some multiple streams of income, you can still make it happen. And believe me, every bit of debt that you shed feels better than anything you could buy with that money. Your nice new car? It doesn’t feel as good as not having the payments.

Trust me on that. I’ve been in both places.

New PC Build

Browsing around Liberty’s Torch, as I often do, I am reminded of something in my own life. Francis discusses those who don’t look very far and those who do. And he references Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Oddly enough, this is a book I’ve never read, something I ought to rectify one of these days. My reading list is always long, and always growing faster than I can read. But perhaps this merits skipping a few, because I am told that my view of computing is much like the view expressed in the book.

I like to understand things, and get into the nitty-gritty. Nothing frustrates me more than being helpless, not understanding what is going on, having to rely on someone else not merely to do a thing, but to understand that thing.

You see, when you know something well enough, but contract it out to another because you do not have the time to deal with it, you know what a fair price for the work might be. You are not ripped off or taken advantage of.

For example, I know how to change the oil in my car, but I often pay someone else to do it, because I don’t have the time. Nonetheless, knowing how to do it means I am not ripped off, and if I do have the time, I can do it myself.

Although I must say, I find working with machines to be quite therapeutic most of the time. Even when they frustrate me, I am, paradoxically, enjoying myself. My wife would say that when I am cursing at the machine the most, I am also the happiest.

Lately, I decided to build a new computer. It’s about time, as the last new build was back in 2011, and for me, that is a very long time. I’ve been building my own machines since the mid-90s, when I put together a bizarre 486-based system out of leftover parts from my father’s computers.

Since then, I’d usually do a new build every 2 or 3 years, with small refreshes in between (usually a GPU or RAM upgrade). Recently, the release of AMD’s Ryzen CPU gave me the motivation to finally upgrade again, the prospect of building a relatively inexpensive, well-performing 8 core/16 thread machine finally making it worth the price.

Only this time, the build was smooth as butter. No problems. In a way, it was almost disappointing. I say almost, in case the computing gods are in a mischievous mood. There were no logic problems to solve. The build was easy, the OS installed with the first attempt (that’s a rarity), and given how fast SSDs are these days, the whole machine was fully up and running in a couple of hours.

Still, it was fun, and I enjoyed it. I often wonder why so many people seem almost afraid of learning how things work, how to work on them, or understand them. I see people afraid of changing a tire, or utterly flabbergasted by the simplest of computer issues. They don’t know how to wire an outlet in their home, or install a ceiling fan.

They’ve no clue how to do much of anything, really, and many of them are, paradoxically, proud of their ignorance. I’ve met people who laugh about being unable to balance their checkbooks. It’s utterly bizarre. Fixing things, building things, doing things… these are not the tasks of the anointed, I suppose.

They are romantics, I guess. The world is just supposed to work they way they want it to… because.

Either way, I had fun. Enjoy some pics of the build, if you like computer pr0n:

boxesryzenheatsinkvideo1videofin2

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Competitive Morality Explained

In one of the shares on Facebook, I discovered this little gem:

This is a great refutation of the idea that the person holding the gun to someone’s head, and demanding that the wealth be redistributed from one person to another, is somehow morally superior to everyone else.

Charity is something that most people realize has an intrinsic moral character to it. But when the government uses coercion to redistributed from Peter to Paul, the charitable character of the transaction is utterly lost.

Peter has no choice. He must pay Paul. And without the choice, how can Peter claim he has done charitable works? And the agent who holds the gun cannot claim to be charitable either, for it is not his wealth that is being given. He is taking from someone else.

The government sucks the charity out of everything. It deprives us of the satisfaction of having helped another out of our free will. And, furthermore, the government doesn’t like us freely giving without their interference. The government wants a monopoly on this. Why else would they trumpet moral superiority while simultaneously screwing the poor?

When a BBQ event wanted to donate their leftover food, excellent first class BBQ cooking, to the poor, what did hte government do?

It demanded that the food be destroyed.

Similar things happen all the time. Churches are fined for allowing the homeless to sleep on church property. Soup kitchens are kicked out of parks in Miami, because the locals (mostly Democrats!) don’t like the poor hanging around the park to get a bowl of soup.

No. The only charity that is to be allowed is the kind that isn’t charity in the first place. All they want is your wealth, so they can grab a slice of the redistribution for themselves. Graft, bribes, selling off baby parts for Lamborghinis, whatever.

And the Left calls this charity. They call this helping their fellow man.

Pull the other one.

Competitive Morality

Virtue signalling is a topic that both fascinates and horrifies. We all know how this game is played by now, and if for some reason any of my readers do not, let me assure you that you won’t remain in the dark for long.

Moral trumpeters are legion.

For them, it is an arcane ritual, designed to alleviate them of guilt, of a peculiar form of original political sin. It also gives them hierarchy to compete against. The person who takes the most wealth from one person and gives it to another is the pinnacle of proper Progressivism, the greatest of their moral agents.

Who the wealth is taken from, and who it is given to, doesn’t really matter from any moral perspective (it matters in other ways), so long as the wealth is taken. You might take millions from a man who cured cancer, and give it to a bunch of barbarian slavers in the Third World, but all is good because the millions were taken.

The middleman gets all the credit, of course. Lesser Progressives must bow to his superior morality, that he managed to steal more from one to bribe another to do his political bidding. The taxpayer is insulted for not giving more of his wealth to the government. There is no gratitude. The media is most moral, and the guy living in the sticks least moral, for no matter what he might do for the poor, no one is there to see it, therefore it isn’t moral.

If a person helps another, and the cameras aren’t there to record it, it is as if it never happened.

Competitive morality requires that you trumpet your moral achievements to the world. Stephen Colbert shows us how it is to be done:

colbert

 

Here Stephen Colbert is telling us that we are not Christians, and do not follow Christ, if we don’t want to give our earnings to the government. This is designed to wound a genuine Christian, by calling him a poor follower of Christ, and elevate himself as a superior agent of morality at the same time.

Mr. Colbert would be well-advised to read Matthew 6:2:

Therefore when you give your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Stephen Colbert and his ilk are revealed for what they are: hypocritical trumpeters of their charity.

So long as one man in the world has less than another, men like Stephen Colbert will find cause to call us selfish and uncharitable for not giving all of our wealth to the government, to spend as it sees fit.

Those same people say that churches don’t do enough to help the poor. This meme is a great illustration:

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Give all your money to government, and not churches, because it is better at helping people. Right.

These people know that charity and taxation are not the same thing, and yet they continue to make these insinuations, continue to trumpet their moral superiority. “I’m better than you,” says the liberal. Sometimes they imply that they are more moral in sarcastic, passive-aggressive fashion. “I worked for Greenpeace, did you?”

My first instinct would be to say “no, I prefer to donate my time and money to the parents of kids with cancer in my hometown, because charity starts at home.” But that’s actually a bad reply. It’s a form of trumpeting your own charity right back at them. More importantly, it doesn’t work.

That is their heresy, not ours. We’ve no need for that sort of thing. Instead, explain how their charity really isn’t charity. If you’re taking someone else’s money, grabbing a cut for yourself, and passing along some of it to another in exchange for his vote, you’re no Mother Theresa. You’re an asshole.

The Clinton Foundation was more interested in ensuring Chelsea Clinton’s dress fit right than whatever was going on in Haiti. Whenever massive amounts of money are moved from place to place, these people get a slice of it. They can also determine who it goes to, and under what conditions.

Obama, for example, was very dead set against securing the border or stopping illegal Mexican immigration. But he was all for ending the Cuban refugee wet foot-dry foot policy. Why? Cubans didn’t get the “Hispanics have to vote Democrat” memo. If Cubans were reliable Democrats, Obama would have taken the whole damned country, if he could’ve gotten away with it.

The Leftist motto is rob from everyone who makes money, and give to the most gullible poor slobs they can con into voting for them.

They are King John, not Robin Hood.

And they want to con the Christian man into going along with it by working at his conscience. If we could translate their insinuations, their passive-aggression, it would result in something like this:

Just look at you. I bet you have a car and a nice home. I bet you have savings and valuables. I bet you sometimes spend money on things you want rather than things you need.

 

You haven’t given every last cent to the poor. You prioritize your own family, friends, and community over the people I want to give money to, and that’s selfish.

 

You are a bad Christian, and a bad man. You are immoral. I am better than you. And because I am better than you, you must obey me. You must give me your wealth, to dispense to whomever I see fit to give it to.

 

Because if you don’t, I will continue to make you feel bad for being successful. I will make you look selfish in front of your friends. I will chip away at the foundations of your faith. I will insult you and make fun of you. I will turn the media against you. You will be the butt of all jokes.

This is the message people like Stephen Colbert are sending to us. They presume themselves to be your moral superiors, your intellectual superiors, your betters in all things. They look down upon you while ripping you off for all they can steal.

So the next time one of them calls you immoral, or trumpets their own morality, you must answer as Rhett Butler did: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.

Tyranny from the Bench

Francis at Liberty’s Torch provides us with some illumination: The Anarcho-Tyranny Chronicles.

Judicial Tyranny is, of course, nothing new. The courts have long found excuses to rule on things which the Constitution grants them no power over. The most recent, of course, being gay marriage. Now, wherever you stand on the matter of gays getting married, it is factual to say that the Constitution is absolutely silent on the matter. There is nothing in it which grants or denies the act.

Therefore the Supreme Court should not be able to rule on it.

There have been many other such instances, such as abortion, education, etc… and always, it seems, the courts rule on these matters anyway. But Francis explains how this can lead to a sort of twisted judicial tyranny, or, as he puts it, anarcho-tyranny.

If you’ve been a Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch for a goodly while now, you’re probably familiar with the late Sam Francis’s coinage anarcho-tyranny. For those who haven’t yet made the acquaintance of this useful term, here’s the original formulation:

 

“What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny – the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent through exorbitant taxation, bureaucratic regulation, the invasion of privacy, and the engineering of social institutions, such as the family and local schools; the imposition of thought control through “sensitivity training” and multiculturalist curricula, “hate crime” laws, gun-control laws that punish or disarm otherwise law-abiding citizens but have no impact on violent criminals who get guns illegally, and a vast labyrinth of other measures. In a word, anarcho-tyranny. [From the essay Synthesizing Tyranny, written shortly before Francis’s death.]”

The longer I live, the more I come to view anarcho-tyranny as the terminal state toward which all governments tend as they mature and degenerate.

This is essentially the state in which we live today. Think about it, the state will tax you, the state will regulate you, the state even consider disarming you. You are punished by being lawful. You may utter a word that offends someone, and for this you may be fired, or your privileges taken away from you, or otherwise ostracized for this. No laws have been broken, but this is allowed because it is deemed private.

Yet the criminal may get away with less punishment from the state because of his race, or religion, or because someone makes an excuse for his behavior. Consider that each state has arcane and difficult-to-navigate firearm restrictions. I’ve a 32 round magazine for my Ruger P95. That mag is perfectly legal in my home state of Florida. If I were to cross into New York bearing it with me, I could be arrested for a felony even if I didn’t know better.

Meanwhile, the guy who stole my friend’s car and drove it into a ditch didn’t even serve jail time for the offense.

Now, consider the concept of justice here. What society-at-large is telling us, regardless of the source of justice, is that carrying a 32 round mag, even if you don’t have the firearm it goes with on your person, is objectively worse than stealing a car and crashing it into a ditch. It is saying that the person who says a bad word should suffer more than the person who breaks into your home.

Just as Leftists dream of redistributing the wealth, they also want to redistribute the justice. The law-abiding white guy in the suburbs must pay the price of his entire livelihood for, say, calling a woman fat. The criminal with a record as long as my arm, meanwhile, must be forgiven his crimes — even if he charges a police officer and tries to kill him.

It’s okay for Black Lives Matter protesters to set their own city on fire. It’s not okay for me to own a means of defending myself.

But I digress. Francis was talking about a much more specific miscarriage of justice, a case where the courts have divorced themselves utterly from the purpose of their existence:

James Madison, often called “the father of the Constitution,” regarded the courts as “the least dangerous branch” of government. The widespread belief is that that was because the courts were allowed no enforcement arm, apart from the bailiffs allowed for keeping order during a court proceeding. However, this reverses cause and effect. The courts were allowed no enforcement arm because of the danger they would otherwise pose, as is well established by English history.

 

The great majority of judges in pre-Industrial Revolution England, from which much of our legal tradition derives, were not government employees, neither elected nor appointed nor hired. They commanded deference on the basis of their personal qualities and their willingness to sit as judges; in other words, from popular respect for their wisdom and diligence. If you’ve heard the term “circuit judge” and have wondered about its provenance, it comes from the time when a judge would routinely “ride a circuit:” i.e., he would regularly travel a known route from place to place, hearing such cases as were presented to him in each place and ruling on them according to the “common law,” another American inheritance from England.

 

To make this a workable living, a judge needed to be known and respected in each of the stops along his circuit. A judge’s enforcement arm was the willingness of the commoners whose cases he heard to enforce his rulings. Thus, he had to have a reputation for fairly and consistently applying both the common law and what precedents might exist for its enforcement. For a judge to become known as capricious or arbitrary – e.g., for promoting his personal views over the common law as English commoners knew it – would spell the end of his career.

Amazing to think of, right? A judge who rode from town to town, dealing justice based primarily on his own reputation, not any appointment from up on high. The king did not command him thusly, he did the thing on his own.

Ironically, an equivalent does exist in modern American jurisprudence: arbitration. Have you ever seen those bizarre court shows on TV? You know, Judge Judy and the like? Before entering the “courtroom”, the parties sign an agreement to abide by Judy’s arbitration. She’s not really a judge anymore (she used to be).

But she is, in essence, a circuit judge of the old style, albeit with a heavy does of entertainment to go along with it. I imagine, however, it may have been similar in old England. Perhaps that was a form of entertainment for the villagers as well, their equivalent of Jerry Springer, or something. The circuit judge would ride into town, and people would line up to hear the arbitration, and perhaps laugh at the loser if he was particularly stupid.

Point being, though, that Americans are accustomed to thinking of judges in a sort of top-down manner. As deriving authority from the government, and not from popular reputation. Thus can a miscarriage of justice happen. What the King wants is usually not what the commoner wants, regardless of what is actually just.

England’s problems with “star chambers” and the like came about because of courts whose authority descended from the Crown – i.e., whose enforcement arm was the force commanded by the King. Common-law judges posed no such problems, precisely because they had no enforcement power of their own. Indeed, it was often the role of a common-law judge to prevent a lynching or other variety of mob “justice:” something only a very well known, well respected jurist could do by force of character.

 

Even though American judges are government employees, the essence of the English common-law judicial system – that the court have no enforcement arm of its own – was largely preserved by the Founding Fathers. The courts’ authority is essentially one of popular consensus concerning the probity and wisdom of the courts: i.e., that the courts are assessing the laws faithfully rather than whimsically or capriciously.

 

But by innumerable capricious judgments: both failures to uphold the black-letter law and usurpations of jurisdiction that in no way belong to them, the courts have destroyed that consensus. Where, then, do we stand?

Today, we stand in a strange place. I remember some time ago that a woman was on the news for having ordered a coffee from McDonalds, and then spilling all of it over ah… shall we say, a very sensitive area.

There were lawsuits, and media talking heads discussing it. At a high level, the assumption was that the woman would gain a respectable settlement, at least several hundred thousand dollars, for her pain and suffering.

The consensus on the street was that this woman was a fucking idiot, pardon my French, and that if you order hot coffee, putting it between your legs is the height of folly. This was common sense, as distinguished from the sensibility of the aristocracy. The working stiffs were irritated, because everyone thought McDonalds would lower the temperature of their coffee, and that now their drinks would be cold by the time they got to work, the extra temperature being useful for keeping it warm long enough to get to the office.

High courts and commoners can no longer even agree on what justice is, much less how it might best be applied.

The term “court of public opinion” is interesting here, too. For these days, there’s an entirely different court which may preside over you. Not the respected justice, travelling from place-to-place, ruling on matters according to the will of the people. No. This is different. This is government, media, and entertainment celebrities agreeing on what justice is, and what it ought to be, and then telling you that if you do not comply with it, they will sic their hordes of Social Justice Warriors on you. They call it a court of public opinion, but it’s really a court of aristocratic opinion.

We don’t have much of a lower court anymore, for even the lower courts are starting to act like high courts.

This is, as Francis put it, part of a much larger cycle:

Why, right where we are today, of course: enmeshed in a steadily deteriorating, ever more anarcho-tyrannical context. At the moment, the only escape is to even less desirable places. That might change; developments in space flight and workable space habitats are ongoing, and it’s impossible to say if or when they’ll mature. But the cycle itself appears to be embedded in human nature. If that’s the case, then no matter where men go, the cycle will go with them.

And there you have it. I wish there were viable starships and space habitats today. I’d be off this rock in a heartbeat. Let the Communists and Islamists eat each other. I want out.

But, failing an escape route… we will have to fight.

Interesting Material on Byzantium & Persia

Occasionally, I go through the stats in WordPress to see who is backlinking The Declination. Doing so can be pretty eye opening. I’ve found more than a few detractors this way, and some very amusing social justice warriors. But I’ve also discovered fascinating intellectual material this way.

In the course of perusing my backlinks, I discovered a little-known blog call the House of DavidThis one is fascinating because the author delves deeply into a topic which has bothered me for most my life: just how was it that Islam conquered Sassanian Persia and most of Byzantium more or less simultaneously? Normally this question is answered in the West, at least, by primarily Greek sources. Those are useful, yes, but only paint part of the picture. The proprietor of House of David seeks to answer the question from Persian and Arabic sources, also.

The strangeness of this event cannot be overstated. As successors to the Romans (or as Romans themselves, depending on how you account them), the Byzantines were masters of siege craft. Certainly the Theodosian walls impress well enough. Being consummate engineers of fortifications, Roman forts and walled cities dotted the empire, and for the most part, the Romans were excellent at defending them. The Byzantines continued the tradition of effective defense throughout most of their history, as they were under near-constant assault from all sides.

Hannibal himself found the Romans impossible to conquer, even when winning most of the important field battles. And when much of the Western Empire fell apart, it was due not to siege warfare, but to what might be called a refugee migration situation gone to pot. Modern Europe, it should be noted, ought to be paying very close attention to that portion of their history.

Now, one might say the Persians were able to do it, at least temporarily during the Sassanian war of the early 7th century. And that is true enough, though the Romans still emerged triumphant even then. But the Persians had long experience fighting Romans. They were no strangers to dealing with Roman fortifications and siege craft. Despite the feudal nature of their army (think of dehgans like predecessors to medieval feudal nobility), it was powerful and well organized.

The Arabs, on the other hand, had little organization along those lines. Neither, it should be noted, did they have experience storming Roman forts and cities.

In some cases, of course, there was treachery from some of the Byzantines themselves, most notably in Egypt. But in other cases, such as the Exarchate of Africa, local Byzantine resistance was absolutely fierce. The wars in North Africa absolutely devastated the place. It never recovered after this. So complete was this devastation and desolation that Carthage, which bounced back even after the Romans razed it, never recovered from it. Even conquest by the Vandals had not been so terrible.

And still, after the Byzantines themselves lost much of North Africa, the native Christian Berbers continued to resist for some time under a supposed witch-queen named Kahina. And Byzantine resistance remained for a time around Cueta even after Carthage was destroyed, where the possibly-apocryphal Count Julian was said to have finally thrown in with the Muslims in order to avenge himself upon the Visigoths.

Yet the Arab steamroller moved on.

The final triumph of Byzantine siege craft could be seen in the twin Arab sieges of Constantinople, both beaten back effectively by the Byzantines. So why did they lose so completely everywhere else?

It’s a mystery that has defied satisfactory explanation. Some would say that the Persian war exhausted both countries, and that is true to some extent. Persia spiraled into internecine warfare, and was ruined by Heraclius. But Persia never had the defensive depth that Rome did. Persia was more reliant upon the land-holding nobility, and they were a better offensive force than a defensive one. The Byzantines, meanwhile, had won the war, and Heraclius was (at least according to Greek sources on the matter) still able to field massive armies who, ostensibly, had great experience in the Persian war.

Byzantium was weakened economically by the war, at least to some extent. But militarily, it may have actually been stronger.

So how did a bunch of relatively disorganized Arabs, with little experience, overrun Byzantium and Persia in a way that even Alexander the Great would have gawked at?

The purveyor of House of David has more then a few theories and ideas about how this could have been done, and what may have been going on. And there’s a ring of truth to a lot of it. It ties in well with what is going on today in the West, namely that the bureaucracy and the nobility may have, in effect, sold out their own country for personal profit. That in Byzantium, at least, the bureaucracy may have deliberately sacrificed Rome’s old empire for the sake of what we might call proto-globalization of trade.

The idea of globalists selling out nations for profit, of course, has a long tradition. To them, nations are collections of people, they are arbitrary social constructs (like gender is an arbitrary social construct to them, also). So for them, selling out a country is more or less the same thing as selling your pizza shop. It’s just a pizza shop. Who cares? If you can make more money closing your business and selling off the assets, no big deal, right?

Except countries are not pizza shops. And the things you wind up selling off are people. Sometimes very literally, in the case of Islam.

I don’t want to go on a long lecture on that topic, though. I’ll save that for another day. As to whether or not I believe this theory, I don’t know. It has a ring of plausibility to it, but I’m not familiar enough with the primary sources to say. However, it is interesting, at the very least.

Suffice it to say I have been reading more of this man’s musings on Islamic and Persian history, and they are fascinating. It’s a very different perspective than reading all this from the translated Greek sources. There are a great many posts worth reading on there. Here are a few more.

Enjoy.

Erdogan Strikes Again

Naturally, as one with Armenian family members, Turkey is not exactly high on my list of favorite countries in the world. But Erdogan has managed to lower my opinion of Turkey even further.

Now he has the unmitigated gall to call the Dutch Nazis. There’s a bit of pot, kettle, black irony in this, as Turkey still remains defiant in its assertion that the Armenian genocide never happened. Tell that to my ancestors who fled the place just ahead of Ottoman advance.

What prompted Erdogan to do this?

The Netherlands wasn’t pleased with Turks within their borders holding rallies to call for more power for Erdogan. The Turks responded with this little stunt:

Police clashed with pro-Erdogan demonstrators in the Netherlands overnight while in Istanbul on Sunday a man climbed onto the roof of the Dutch consulate and replaced the Dutch flag with a Turkish flag.

Finally, after a long time kow-towing to any Islamic country that asked, both the Netherlands and Germany took a harder line.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Sunday he was against Turkish ministers holding political rallies in Germany.

“A Turkish campaign has no business being here in Germany,” he told public broadcaster ARD.

Separately, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he hoped Turkey “would return to its senses”.

Before Leftists come to The Declination with accusations about free speech, let’s be very clear. These are Turkish citizens conducting large-scale “rallies” in a foreign country, in support of an authoritarian, who has been playing both sides against the middle where this refugee and migrant situation is concerned.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want that kind of activity in my country either. If European countries were smart, they’d expel the ones that didn’t have citizenship immediately. If you’re not a citizen, you are a guest, you are in the country on the sufferance of its citizens. If you want to stir up trouble, they’ve every right to boot you out.

“The West has clearly shown its true face in the last couple of days,” Erdogan said.

“What we have seen is a clear manifestation of Islamophobia,” he added.

Turkey used to have a reputation for being at least somewhat secular, at least compared to their more radical Islamic counterparts. I would not go so far as to say Turkey was good, but certainly Erdogan has made things worse.

By making the Islamophobia argument, Erdogan is de facto admitting something I’ve long suspected: Turkey is back to being a fundamentally Islamic nation, not a secular one. The Kemalists are done. And insofar as Erdogan is looking at this from an Islamic angle, these rallies, and the massive number of Turks in the EU, must be looked at from that angle also. This is part of a bid for more control and power in Europe.

In other words, Erdogan seems to fancy himself an Ottoman Sultan, or something closely approximating that. He ought to be treated likewise. He’s no friend of the West, nor is he a secularist. He’s an Islamist with pretensions of restoring the Ottoman Empire under his own banner.

And, quite frankly, nobody should put any stock in the mutterings of some tinpot Islamist would-be dictator.

Technology Post: AMD Ryzen Launch

Occasionally, I feel the need to discuss technology, as my day business does depend on it. Actually, my DJing does also, to some extent. But still, I really abuse computers with my work, everything from running local virtual machines for development, to Photoshop, video editing in After Effects, and 3D Rendering. Then, of course, I still game on occasion.

Now, it used to be that I would build a new computer every 2 or 3 years. That was about the time when a build would start to have some issues, mainly because it was so heavily abused, and also the point at which performance increases would justify the cost. Every 2 or 3 years, I could double performance with a new build.

That hasn’t been the case for a long time. The current machine I’m running was built in 2011, and since then, the only component that’s seen an upgrade is the graphics card. Back when Bitcoin mining was a thing, I picked up a pair of Radeon 7950s and swapped them in, and made a nice tidy profit from that.

The reason I haven’t upgraded can basically be laid on the doorstep of Intel. AMD stopped competing in the high end CPU space sometime around 2008 or so. The company had decided that competition with Intel was too expensive, and relegated future designs to the low end market. This, in turn, made Intel very lazy. The i7-2600k in this build remained a competitive processor for a very long time. Even today’s i7-7700k is, perhaps, 40% faster. For 6 years of CPU development, that is really poor.

Meanwhile, my old build has been brutalized for nearly 6 years, and components are starting to fail. I used to have 24GB of RAM in this machine. Two DIMMs died a few months back, so I’m down to 16GB. The power supply is… twitchy, the system itself just feels less stable in almost all metrics, for which blame can probably be laid upon the motherboard. This system is giving me indications that I’ve a time limit on how much longer I can beat it to death.

Meanwhile, the only Intel options that looked interesting were completely unaffordable. The i7-7700k is pretty well priced, of course, but it’s a 4 core/8 thread CPU like my 2600k, and the IPC and clock speed improvements are not very impressive. Meanwhile, Intel released the 6900k 8 core/16 thread CPU, and the 6950k 10 core/20 thread monster. At least in development and content creation, these would be more than twice as fast as my 2600k. But these cost around $1100 and $1600, respectively, and require a much more expensive motherboard to boot.

Intel has enjoyed the fruits of being an effective monopoly in the high-end CPU space. High prices, and unimpressive performance gains were the order of the day. Monopolies really do stink. On the other hand, I have to think that even as a monopoly, this behavior was kind of stupid on Intel’s part. After all, they could have sold me a CPU or two in the last few years if they hadn’t acted this way. How many sales were lost because people didn’t see any persuasive reason to upgrade?

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About time, AMD. Where were you for the last decade?

 

Fortunately, for whatever reason, AMD has decided to reenter the high-end CPU market with the Ryzen 7 series. I won’t go into too much detail on the benchmarks, as others have done a much better job of that, but the verdict is really fascinating. The Ryzen 1800x is nearly as fast as the high-end Intel 6900k and 6950k chips. In content creation, it appears to be slightly ahead of the 6900k, and somewhat behind the 6950k, which makes sense given that the latter is a 10 core part, and the Ryzen 7 line is merely 8 core/16 thread.

Nonetheless, this is very impressive, because even the most expensive Ryzen CPU is $499. The 1700 and 1700x are, of course, even less expensive. The 1700x may be the sweet spot, in that a modest overclock will grant performance on par with the 1800x.

In gaming, the verdict is more mixed. The Ryzen is competitive with the Intel 8 core chips in gaming, but not as competitive with the i7-7700k 4 core part. The reason for this is, of course, that games are less optimized for multi-threading. So the higher-clocked 7700k actually beats out its 8 core siblings and the Ryzen lineup by around 10% or so, across the board. There is a lot of speculation surrounding Ryzen performance in gaming, however. Brad Wardell, the CEO of Stardock, had this to say on the matter:

“Oxide games is incredibly excited with what we are seeing from the Ryzen CPU. Using our Nitrous game engine, we are working to scale our existing and future game title performance to take full advantage of Ryzen and its 8-core, 16-thread architecture, and the results thus far are impressive. These optimizations are not yet available for Ryzen benchmarking. However, expect updates soon to enhance the performance of games like Ashes of the Singularity on Ryzen CPUs, as well as our future game releases.”

The Ryzen may actually be able to gain some low hanging performance in this area. Its spectacular content creation benchmarks, and synthetic benchmarks show that AMD is not bullshitting about the CPU’s performance, as they’ve done in the past with the utterly garbage Bulldozer and Piledriver lineups. So in this case, the fact that developers have been optimizing more or less exclusively for Intel’s chips for nearly a decade — because AMD’s offerings were crappy — may have given Ryzen a handicap in those benchmarks. If so, we should expect to see a modest increase in gaming performance in the coming year.

There were two other teething problems for Ryzen. First, the Windows 10 scheduler incorrectly identifies physical CPUs (cores) with logical threads, and attempts to provide both with a similar workload. In workstation applications, this is a more or less a non-issue. In games, however, it has become a handicap for Ryzen. AMD claims to be working with Microsoft to provide updates to the Windows 10 scheduler to fix this problem. Ironically enough, Windows 7 does not have this issue (it’s also not officially supported anymore — thank Microsoft for that idiot decision). Gaming benchmarks in Windows 7 appear to be significantly better as a result, with early adopters seeing a roughly 8% improvement with the Windows 7 scheduler, over the Windows 10 scheduler. So if Microsoft deigns to fix this, which is by no means a guarantee, we should see Ryzen gaming performance jump to within a percent or two of the 7700k.

The last hiccup is the memory controller. Unusually for a CPU that is otherwise very fast and competitive with the Intel parts, the memory controller is rather weak. It is dual-channel only, and getting maximum memory bandwidth, at the moment, requires using only two DIMMs, and single rank memory. Using two DIMMs is generally not an issue at the moment, but the single rank memory issue is a major problem. It takes a lot of research to find out which memory kits are single rank, as this is not commonly listed in the specifications. The usual method is to visually inspect the memory. If the chips are on one side only, you can be about 99% certain it is a single rank part. But this is hard to do when shopping online, as the heatspreaders cover the chips, and the spec sheet doesn’t list whether it’s single rank or not. This is explained in great detail at Legit Reviews.

This will likely change in the near future, as more UEFI code comes out of AMD, and they optimize the memory controller somewhat. For now, if you are building a Ryzen box, be sure to check the motherboard maker’s QVL (Qualified Vendor List) for compatible memory. Asus, at least, has done a lot of research on this, and has even specified which memory kits are single rank, and thus best for Ryzen. The memory manufacturers themselves often don’t even do this, or bother to specify it, so kudos to Asus for taking the time to do that right.

Take careful notice of the memory speeds and latencies available to you, as Ryzen’s weaker memory controller and lack of quad-channel support make it much more sensitive to RAM speeds than Intel’s chips. Maximize memory performance to avoid a bottleneck here.

What we have here is a part from AMD that occupies a unique market position. It was a brilliant move from them. If you want the fastest gaming-only chip, the i7-7700k is still your best bet, as its higher clock speed gives it an unbeatable advantage here, and having 8 cores doesn’t do much for you in gaming (yet, anyway). Four is enough there, for now at least. If you want the absolute fastest workstation chip, the i7-6950k is still the fastest thing out there… if you have $1600 to pay for it.

But what if you’re like me, and your primary computer is a mixed-use machine? Something that sees use as a graphics and video workstation, a gaming box, and even, on occasion, a testing and development server? There the Ryzen shines. It’s cheaper than the Intel workstation chips by a huge margin, while offering broadly similar performance, and it handles games just fine, even if it’s not quite the fastest there either. It won’t double the performance of my 2600k in gaming, but it will more than double it in workstation and dev duty. And it will dominate the 7700k in workstation and dev duty.

So you sacrifice maybe 10% of gaming performance, and even then, only in situations where you are not GPU bound, and gain 50%+ in productivity and content creation compared to the 7700k. That’s a trade I’d make all day long. I suspect a lot of folks will be thinking similarly.

AMD created what’s probably the best general-use CPU on the market today.

So I’ll be building a Ryzen box this time around. But even if you don’t want to roll the dice with AMD, I imagine Intel will feel some competitive pressure again, and maybe we can get back to the market working like it ought to.

Ironically, however, where my last build used an Intel CPU and an AMD GPU, my new build will be a reverse. An AMD CPU, and Nvidia GPU (the Geforce 1080 Ti is the king right now). Maybe AMD should apply the same level of dedication they did with their Ryzen project to their next Radeon release (they claim the Vega release will be good — but we’ll have to see). Either way, though, folks ought to be thanking them for giving us an alternative to Intel that doesn’t require sacrificing your first-born son to buy.

Update: A great explanation of what’s going on with the mixed gaming performance from Ryzen. As it turns out, the decision by AMD to split the CPU into two CCXs (Core Complexes) created a latency issue between the two core complexes when there is a lot of thread-to-thread communication. It looks like this is actually a pretty easy fix, overall. Windows 10’s scheduler needs to treat them almost like two quad-core chips, rather than a single octa-core chip, which ought to distribute the workload better. I remember this was an issue for early Intel quad-core chips, which similarly split into two complexes of two cores each.

This video explains it:

This means a Windows update should fix most of the bizarre, split-personality of Ryzen. Let’s hope Microsoft actually bothers.

Marxism: the Bug Wearing an Edgar Suit

In the movie Men In Black, there’s a scene where an abusive farmer gets killed by the villain, some kind of giant alien cockroach. The alien then possesses his body and walks around in comic fashion, like some kind of rotting zombie. The farmer’s wife exclaims “like an Edgar suit.”

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This is pretty much what Worldcon looks like, these days.

Social Justice Marxists operate in the same manner. They take over institutions, groups, corporations, movements, whatever… and kill them. They then wear the skin of the destroyed, rotting institution like an Edgar suit, ambling around in comic fashion, expecting to be treated as if they were still the institution itself.

Only unlike the movie, there are a great many of these alien bugs on Earth. They are legion. And the thing is, most rightists suspect this is true, because the Edgar suit doesn’t act like Edgar. He acts like an alien cockroach. But they nonetheless give the benefit of the doubt, because they aren’t sure.

It is in that space of uncertainty that Marxism is permitted to spread, and infest every sizable organization. Once infected, forget bringing the organization back to life. It’s a rotting husk. It’s dead. You aren’t going to take it back, and even supposing you did, it’d still be a rotting sack of skin.

I think this is the greatest weakness of the political right. We permit Marxism to spread because we are not confident in our assessment that the people in question are Marxists. Most of them deny it, of course.

I remember when one leftist kept posting about how the border wall was racist, and how illegal immigrants ought to be able to come over, and how stopping them was bad. When I asked him why he was for open borders he denied it. Yet, his chosen policy would result in a de facto open border! Was he really that delusional… or was he a Marxist trying to say “I’m not a Marxist”?

One of the ways to tell if it’s really Edgar, or just an Edgar suit, is to prod the person with absolutes. Marxists are absolutists. A case in point. Another individual explained to me that healthcare ought to be a human right. Every human should have it upon need. I pointed out the usual inefficiencies of government bureaucracy, the long waiting lists, the poor quality of VA care, and the general lack of innovation and creativity in government-run healthcare.

The thing is, the guy agreed with me on many of those things. But he countered with “but if you don’t make it a right, somebody might not get the care they need, and I just can’t support that.” It doesn’t matter if the care would be better for 99.9% of everyone else. If one single person went without needed care, he would judge it a failure.

You see this kind of argument from Marxists all the time. You could destroy entire countries with mass immigration, but if one refugee child suffered, then too bad, too sad. You must do it. Get used to British citizens speaking Arabic, you racist.

It’s the same kind of argument you hear from gun control advocates.”If it saves the life of just one child,” they will say, “it will all be worth it.” Or, “even one shooting is too many.” Marxist absolutism, again. Somebody is wearing an Edgar suit.

MADD is a great case in point. Originally founded to combat drunk driving, an honorable pursuit, the founder wound up leaving a few years later, because the organization had become a group of tyrannical neo-prohibitionists, not merely a group concerned with reducing drunk driving offenses. Soon it was receiving government money, advocating for Traffic Safety Funds (more government cash), and arguing for everything from a rash of checkpoints, to mandatory interlock devices on all automobiles — not just those owned by those convicted of alcohol-related offenses.

MADD is an Edgar suit. Scratch the surface, and you’ll find a bunch of Marxists.

The thing is, if Marxists were open about their Marxism, that is to say if the giant alien cockroach were seen as a giant alien cockroach, every normie on the planet would be trying to squash it. It you saw the bodies of the Stalin regime, the starvation of Mao’s regime, the killings of Pol Pot… you would want to stamp this thing out with every fiber of your being.

Bug

Charming fellow, right?

But when attacked, when someone starts to suspect an organization is full of Marxists, they retreat into the Edgar suit. Hi. I’m Edgar. Nice to meet you. And my goal is just to try and help reduce drunk driving deaths!

Do you know why Marxists like absolutism so much? Why even a 99.9% success rate is not good enough for them? Because it gives them an excuse to continue to exist. No human society will ever reach 100% of anything. There will always be people who are poor, people who don’t get the care they need, people who die senselessly, idiots who get drunk and wreck someone’s life. Always.

Reducing the incidence of those things is a good and noble pursuit. But they can never be stopped completely. By saying that nothing is good enough unless it has a 100% success rate, the Marxist is giving himself power for life, and his organization power forever. Because so long as one person slips through the cracks, he can say “my work is not done yet.”

But the single-minded focus of Marxists on power politics is a good tell. Absolutism can tell you if someone is a Marxist, but so can an over-reliance on the language of political power. Normal people might talk politics for a while, even rant about it as I do here, but there are also times when they just don’t care about politics at all.

Marxists want to bring politics into everything. Are you eating a plate of Chinese takeout? Cultural Appropriation. Do you drive a nice car? Privilege! Do you like your hair a certain way? Racism! Everything must involve politics with them. They cannot stop thinking about their obsession for even the briefest of moments. At some point, a normie is likely to talk about his dog, or his kid, or how much he likes beer, or something totally unrelated to politics. The Marxist, on the other hand, will find a way to steer that back.

Another Edgar Suit tell is an obsession with personal bias. Like the 100% success rate demands, the Marxist demands absolute objectivity on the part of others (while displaying none himself). Unless you can demonstrate proof of moral perfection and a completely unbiased, objective viewpoint, you can be dismissed because you’re biased. The data underlying it is irrelevant, because the collector is biased. For instance, if you said that black people in the United States committed a greater per capita share of violent crimes than white people, that is a true statement. The Marxist would say that you are biased against black people, thus your conclusion (whatever it may be) can be dismissed on that basis. Forget the facts.

The same standard, of course, is never applied to them. But again, it makes an impossible demand so that a permanent political bludgeon is created, which they can beat you over the head with constantly.

There are probably many more such tells (if you’ve got one, drop it in the comments), but those are the ones I’ve seen most frequently, and most obviously. And it’s very important to identify which groups and institutions are SJW-converged, which ones are Edgar suits filled with Marxist cockroaches, and which ones are not. Rightists have permitted bad actors to continue to be treated like good actors merely because they skinned an organization of good actors alive, and wore them like a suit. It’s both stupid, and disservice to the memory of those who created the original, non-converged organization.

Women’s Day Lunacy

Just a quickie for today. Over at Sarah’s place, I read this little gem:

Look, it’s not my fault.  I was bit by International Socialism as a child and it’s the sort of thing that causes an allergy for life.  Oh, yeah, and International ANYTHING day is a socialist thing, because they never fully realized that they didn’t control the whole world.  Or they didn’t care and just wanted to make their rubes believe they were worldwide.  The Happy People of Brutopia celebrated whatever day they were ordered, and they marched in orderly ranks past the red draped stands, and Socialism would Conquer the WORLD.

Right.  So that was part of why I blew up.  I hate “International” this and that, and the idea behind it.  Whatever good it is supposed to do never actually works where needed, and it does very bad things everywhere else.

It’s true. International (insert thing here) is almost invariably a Socialism thing. If there was an International Shoe Shiner’s Day, I’d presume the shoe shiners in question were probably Commies. Workers of the World Unite! That’s the rallying cry. Only, since the Frankfurt school popularized the idea of scapegoating various demographic groups as privileged, or whatever, they now have more flexibility in slogan generation.

Women of the world unite! Not-white people of the world unite (white people go away)! Transgendered people of the world unite! Muslim lesbian genderqueer androgynous robot anime furries of the world unite!

Whatever. Leftist agitprop has become functionally retarded. I can’t believe people still legitimately fall for this bullshit. But RadFems are full of contradictions. Observe:

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Yeah… I got nothing.

RadFems are all up in arms when a man holds open a door, or for whatever reason (probably blindness), when he shows any kind of sexual interest in them. But they are silent about Islamic oppression of women. Yes, I know, it’s a tired cliche. Us rightists always talk about Islam when RadFems start complaining about this or that. But it’s true.

I’ve spoken at length about the darker side of the feminist psyche, how they actually crave oppression. Just not, it should be noted, from you. The barbarian bad boys outside the gate are much more interesting, I suppose. That’s why Islam gets a pass, and why the nastiest, most violent assholes in the club walk away with swooning feminists, arm-in-arm, dedicated fighters of the patriarchy taking a break by letting some thug have his way with them.

In essence, the woman above is asking for it. Just not, it should be noted, from you. Where’s her romantic migrant-in-whatever-jihadis-wear to enslave her and honor-kill her?

International Socialism is full of such contradictions. The Progressive stack is confused about who is the greater victim, the white woman, or the black gay man? What if the woman is a Muslim, or the black man of Hispanic descent? These are the great conundrums of the left, the questions that burn in their psyches, underneath layers of pink pussy hats.

A Day Without Women, they said. No, no. There are plenty of women. I imagine Sarah Hoyt kept on writing, and, of course, my wife cooked up some good buffalo wings for dinner yesterday. My friend, who is an MD, went to work, same as always, caring for her patients (I imagine many of them were women, also). No, it wasn’t a day without women. It was a day without Socialist RadFems. Society did not crumble, we didn’t lose power, starve to death, or suffer great tragedy. The bulk of America hardly even noticed their absence. And, to be frank, I wish we had more days like that.

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