Why do we remember Greek victories but Roman defeats?

5 Possible Explanations

Not everyone knows their Greek and Roman history. To help, I’ve made a list of the 10 most famous Greek and Roman battles, not including any from a civil war or battle between Greek city states. I suspect that most history nerds would agree with about 80% of these lists. Feel free to make your own list and see if the pattern still holds up. The lists are in chronological order rather than how famous they are.

Famous Greek Battles (VictoriesDefeats)

  1. Siege of Troy – The Mycenaeans sack the Hittite city of Troy.
  2. Battle of Thermopylae – 300 Spartans make a last stand to halt a Persian invasion.
  3. Battle of Marathon – The Greeks defeat the Persian army at Marathon, halting an invasion.
  4. Battle of Salamis – The Greek fleet destroys the Persian fleet, halting another invasion.
  5. Battle of Plataea – The Greeks defeat the Persian army, halting the second Persian invasion.
  6. Battle of Issus – Alexander the Great defeats the Persian king Darius, securing Asia Minor.
  7. Siege of Tyre – Alexander the Great connects the island to the mainland to take the city
  8. Battle of Gaugamela – Alexander the Great again defeats Darius against improbable odds and conquers the Persian Empire.
  9. Battle of the Hydaspes River – Alexander the Great defeats the Indian king Porus in the last major battle of his campaign.
  10. Battle of Pydna – The Macedonian Greeks lose to Rome and are added to the expanding republic.

Famous Roman Battles (VictoriesDefeats)

  1. Battle of Heraclea – The Greek general Pyrrhus defeats the invading Roman army at a serious cost, giving birth to the term “Pyrrhic victory.”
  2. Siege of Syracuse – The Romans take the Sicilian city from Carthage after a struggle against Archimedes and his anti-siege inventions.
  3. Battle of the Trebia – The Carthaginian general Hannibal crosses the Alps and defeats the Romans in the first major battle of the Second Punic War.
  4. Battle of Cannae – Hannibal again obliterates a Roman army in his march across the Italian peninsula.
  5. Battle of Zama – Rome defeats Hannibal, ending the Second Punic War
  6. Battle of Carrhae – The Roman consul Crassus attempts to invade the Parthian Empire and is crushed.
  7. Battle of Alesia – Roman consul Julius Caesar defeats the Gauls
  8. Battle of Teutoburg Forest – Germanic tribes ambush a Roman army, destroying it and halting Roman expansion at the Rhine.
  9. Battle of Adrianople – An Eastern Roman army is defeated by the Goths, marking the beginning of the end for the empire.
  10. Sack of Rome – The Goths, under Alaric, capture Rome and loot it.

Continue reading “Why do we remember Greek victories but Roman defeats?”


The totally insane way the GOP can elect Paul Ryan as president

As of right now, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee and will likely face Hillary Clinton in the general election. This has royally pissed off establishment Republicans, some of whom are even considering backing Hillary to avoid a Trump presidency. However, all hope is not lost for the one percent. The dislike for both Trump and Hillary may give them a back door to the presidency and a chance to elect their dream candidate. All they need to do is follow a simple plan, one that they’ve already tried this election cycle.

What’s this magic recipe for GOP success in the fall? It’s one part electoral college, one part Gary Johnson, and one part pure madness.

The Johnson

Johnson looks to be the Libertarian Party candidate this year, and already seems poised to outdo his 2012 performance, which got him 1% of the vote. While he’s not an ideal candidate (he openly admits to getting high on the campaign trail), he has the potential to pull in disaffected Republicans and some anti-war and pro-marijuana Bernie supporters. This might take him up to 5%, although some rare polls that include Johnson have showed him as high as 11% against Trump and Clinton.

The Electoral College

So how does a decent, but non-winning performance by Johnson help the GOP? The GOP doesn’t even want Johnson as their candidate, even if he may be preferable to Trump or Hillary. And even if they did want Johnson, a candidate polling between 5 and 15% means it’s unlikely he’ll be able to win any states, much less a majority of the electoral college against Trump and Clinton. Speaking of which, what happens if nobody gets a majority in the electoral college? Oh, that’s right, the Republican-controlled House chooses the president (you see where this is going?). The voting is a little different, with each state delegation voting en bloc instead of individual members, but with the GOP controlling 32 states, it has a firm grasp.

The House is bound by the Twelfth Amendment to select from the three candidates that received the most electoral votes. A candidate must receive a majority of the House votes, or the vote must take place again. Also, at least two thirds of the states must be present for each vote. In this scenario, they would either choose Trump, Clinton, or Johnson. The Democratic states would vote for Clinton and she’d fall short of a majority. Now, the remaining 32 GOP controlled states have to decide between Trump and Johnson. What if they’re split?

The Madness

If the House cannot decide on the president in time for the inauguration, then things get weird, or um weirder. While the House has been fighting it out, the Senate was also assigned the work of choosing the Vice President. They’re only allowed to choose from the top two candidates, which I assume will be Trump’s choice or Clinton’s choice. If the House can’t decide, then the Senate’s pick for VP becomes president. Since the Senate can only choose from the top two candidates, it’s pretty easy to get a majority. But what if they don’t? What if the Senate declares that they will not vote on a VP until the House chooses the president? What if the GOP decides to simply not vote, as they’ve done with Merrick Garland? Well, why the hell would they do that?

Because if they do that, then the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, becomes president. He then holds that position until either the House or the Senate select a new president or VP-turned-president.

How might this happen?

First, Johnson doesn’t need to win, he just needs to split the electoral votes. Few things seem certain in this election, but I think it’s a safe bet to say that Trump will win the South with some exceptions and Clinton will win the Northeast and West Coast with some exceptions. Johnson might be poised to do well in states that rejected both Trump and Clinton in their party’s process. So far, this includes states like Wisconsin, Utah, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, and Alaska. That’s a simple way of determining competitive states of course. The social conservatism of Utah and Kansas would make for some infertile soil for Johnson’s social liberalism. However, in this masterplan, the pro-Ryan crowd doesn’t need to convince the voters that Johnson is better, only that by voting for him, they can get their dream choice. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same strategy they tried to deny Trump the nomination. Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich all tried to coordinate their voters to deny Trump as many delegates as possible.

Clinton-Trump-Johnson Electoral Map

The above map presents a possible scenario. Johnson could do well in the Bernie bastion of northern New England, his home state of New Mexico, wild Colorado and Nevada, and perhaps the Northwest which may be quicker to embrace Johnson’s quirks. GOP megadonors who dislike Trump, like the Kochs, could also help Johnson by pouring money into competitive states.

A scenario in which everyone falls short of a majority shifts the decision to the House. The Democrats would not have enough votes to get Clinton elected, but if she receives the most electoral votes then they have no reason to capitulate. Similarly, representatives in states that went heavily Trump would be pressured (threatened) into not backing down if Trump receives more votes than Johnson. In this already highly partisan and polarized atmosphere, it’s easy to see no side backing down. So then, all the Senate has to do is wait, and wait, and wait.

Is this plan insane?


In an election cycle with daily complaints about the system being rigged, using the rules this way would inflame society. There would be protests, there would be riots, the US Capitol would be on constant lockdown. Democracy would survive – the Constitution was designed to handle these situations, but the cynical use of the law would drain the faith of the people in the system.

More (less?) importantly, it’s difficult to pull off. Voters don’t like being coordinated, they like using their vote to express an opinion, not as a calculated political maneuver. The efforts against Trump had some success, but ultimately not enough to keep him from the nomination. The GOP would also need to exhibit extreme party discipline within a party that has lately been splitting at the seams. All in all, it requires a lot of planning, luck, and balls to pull off – and thus far, the GOP hasn’t been too good at planning.

Wait! There’s more madness

Remember that Paul Ryan only gets to be president until the House or Senate choose a new one. And when Ryan becomes president there will be a new House and Senate. The House looks like it will stay GOP controlled, and the state makeup looks like it will change even less. The Senate, on the other hand, looks like it might flip to the Democrats. If that happens, all hell breaks loose.

First, the Dems will move to elect Clinton’s VP, who, under the Twentieth Amendment, would serve until the House elects a president, which they would probably do to avoid the Senate’s Democratic pick. But what if the GOP feels risky and threatens to elect Trump if the Senate elects Clinton’s VP, who, let’s say is Julian Castro for the sake of comedy. Maybe threatened with a Trumpocalypse, the Senate Dems would back down. If that happens, then Congress basically just gets to write up its own rules on how to choose a president. From there, they can just pick Ryan or pretty much whoever they want. That person would, again act as president until the House or Senate chose someone else, thus creating a scenario in which the threat of Trump takes on the role of the nuclear arsenal in MAD.

It’s also worth noting that the Supreme Court would probably get involved at some point. I mean, compare the mess I describe here with what happened in 2000. How could the Court possibly stay out of it? Which brings up more madness.

What happens if the Court splits? Thanks to GOP obstruction, there will be a vacancy on the court, making such a split much more likely. It will all depend on the lower courts and issues involved, but it promises to be nothing short of an ergot-fueled Boschian nightmare. And through all that time, guess who gets to act as president? Paul “I don’t want to be president” Ryan. Well played sir. Well played.

The 6 Greatest Ideas Ever Proposed by Young Earth Creationists

This article needs no introduction.

T. Rex was a vegetarian



For reals.

The idea of sharp-toothed vegetarian dinosaurs is actually a remarkably common belief in the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) community and has fairly sound creationist logic behind it. If you take a literal interpretation of the Bible then it’s the only thing to conclude after reading Genesis 1:29-30:

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Before the fall, all creatures were vegetarians. Only after Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden did things become corrupted and animals began eating each other. So, if you believe that man and dinosaur lived side-by-side, as many YECs do, then T. Rex would have to have been a vegetarian. The laughability of this conclusion appears completely lost on some, who write, “With those massive teeth, it’s still a mystery as to exactly what type of vegetation T. rex ate.”

God is just fucking with us

Not all YECs believe that man and dinosaur lived at the same time. Some believe dinosaurs never existed at all. This explanation also makes sense if you look at that T. Rex skull and think “that would definitely eat me,” so there’s no way humans and dinosaurs could have co-existed. And if humans and dinosaurs didn’t live together on a young Earth, then dinosaurs never existed at all.

Continue reading “The 6 Greatest Ideas Ever Proposed by Young Earth Creationists”

There Was No Libertarian Movement

In the 2008 and 2012 elections, GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul emerged as the grassroots hero for libertarian ideas. He was wildly popular online, winning nearly every poll that had his name thanks to rabid youth support, and set daily fundraising records in the form of “money bombs.” Liberals embraced him as the one sane Republican for his non-interventionist foreign policy and staunch defense of civil liberties and while Republicans liked his views on limited government, he was routinely asked why he was running in their party.

Despite the enthusiasm of his supporters, Paul only received 5% of the primary votes in 2008. His criticism of the Iraq War and the growth of surveillance that made him popular in some circles, ultimately proved too much for many Republicans to swallow while Bush was still in office. But then something happened – the global financial system imploded. The bank bailouts, auto bailouts, and stimulus packages that followed resulted in backlash from the right and the left in the forms of The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. With the Democrats controlling the White House and at least one chamber of Congress, the right also became much more distrustful and resentful of government in general. While conservatives praised strong government under Bush, they took a particularly virulent anti-government stance under Obama. The number of state militias drastically increased, the Tea Party was branded as a libertarian movement, and Republican talking heads called the movement the future of the party.

That showed in the 2012 election. While Paul again did not win, he picked up 11% of the vote, doubling his previous performance and setting the stage for his son, Rand, in 2016. Rand took the libertarian standard from his father and made some strong early showings, railing against the country’s targeted assassination program, surveillance authority, and reliance on drones. These gestures put him at the top of polls for the GOP nomination in 2013 and 2014.

It didn’t last. When Rand dropped out of the race in February 2016, he was polling near 3%. How was it that the son of the libertarian stalwart of the past two elections not only didn’t build on his father’s momentum, but polled far below him?

There are a few explanations that might work here. First is that there were simply more GOP candidates (17 at one point) so Paul’s vote share was naturally diluted. Second, Rand Paul ran away from earlier libertarian stances in hopes that his campaign might appeal to a broader base, costing him his core supporters. Third, Ron Paul supporters also liked Tea Party darling Ted Cruz splitting his support between the two and even debating which of them should inherit Ron Paul’s support.

Each of these explanations can account for some lost support that ultimately ended his 2016 bid, but they can also all be explained by one other theory – there were no libertarians. Ron Paul’s supporters were not libertarians, there was no libertarian movement within the GOP, the Tea Party was not libertarian, and there are no libertarians voting in the GOP primaries this election. Continue reading “There Was No Libertarian Movement”

Yoda Speak: Orig Trig vs. Prequels

Something always bothered me about how Yoda speaks in the prequels and I couldn’t put my finger on it until now.

Yoda Speak, for those unawares, is a term to describe the Jedi master’s speech patterns in Star Wars. Like this, it sounds. It’s where instead of using the standard Subject, Verb, Object pattern typical of English (i.e. “I like turtles”), it uses the Object, Subject, Verb pattern (i.e. “Turtles, I like”). But is this really how Yoda spoke? I’ve taken the time to do an analysis, and the results will shock you!

I re-watched all of Yoda’s scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi from the original trilogy and all the Yoda scenes from The Phantom Menace of the prequels. I did not watch Yoda scenes from the other two prequels as YouTube was not as accommodating and there’s no way I’m expending extra effort to be tortured by those disasters. I counted how many times Yoda uses the normal Subject, Verb, Object (SVO) pattern, the “Yoda Speak” Object, Subject, Verb (OSV) pattern, and the irregular Object, Verb, Subject (OVS) which sounds odd (i.e. “Luminous beings are we”) but not as clearly differentiable from regular English as Yoda Speak.

It should also be noted that these three types don’t account for the entirety of Yoda’s dialogue. Sometimes he says things that are grammatically incorrect (“Yoda not far.”), one-word interrogatives or exclamations (“Looking?” “Patience”), or only uses a subject-pair and leaves out any object (“I know”). Yoda also prefers to use “not” in replace of “doesn’t” as in “size matters not,” or “wars not make one great.” I’m not counting those here, even if they might fall into one of the categories, simply because I’m more focused on SVO representing normal speech and OSV representing Yoda Speak. When referring to percentages, these refer to the three-category total, not the entire dialogue.

After counting the three types of sentence structure, I then calculated their percentages to see how representative Yoda Speak really is. Turns out, it depends entirely on which movie and trilogy you’re watching.

Yoda - Empire

This is the first time the audience is introduced to Yoda. At first, we don’t realize that this crazy swamp hermit is a Jedi master, but he eventually reveals himself to Luke. He then trains him for a brief period before Luke leaves to give a hand in Cloud City.

Continue reading “Yoda Speak: Orig Trig vs. Prequels”

We’re Bringing it Back! (Part 2)

We’ve returned with your regularly scheduled programming…Things in history that mankind is resurrecting because the time is right again.

The Age of Sail

In the days before the industrial revolution, sail ships dominated international trade and naval mastkicking. Enormous Spanish galleons carried gold, rum, and tobacco from the Caribbean, while more efficient ships like the Dutch fluyt gave their merchants a competitive edge in  the global economy. As years progressed rigging became ludicrously elaborate to make full use of the wind’s power until the um, wind shifted in favor of coal-powered ships. From there on out it was fossil fuels for life baby. Ok, and maybe a little nuclear power here and there.

But some things never change. Companies still want to get a competitive edge  and have returned to sails to provide it because, like everything else, oil is expensive  and finite.  Several steps have already been made to supplement ships like having kites help tug them along.

Continue reading “We’re Bringing it Back! (Part 2)”

We’re Bringing it Back! (Part 1)

I’ve written here before about how nobody in history is really ahead of their time because ideas in the past must be looked at in their own context, and it’s utterly impossible to separate those ideas from the culture of their generation. However, that doesn’t mean that things that were totally popular in their own time can’t find new uses in the future, so here’s 8 things from history that are making a comeback.


Airships once held the future for aviation. People thought these behemoths would litter cityscapes like floating urban sky-whales.  That’s why skyscrapers like the Empire State Building were designed with docking ports for zeppelins and why Lakehurst, New Jersey used to be a city people have heard of. Then several different high profile disasters put an end to all those dirigible dreams, condemning blimps to cameos at football games and supporting fringe GOP candidates. First the Akron, the US Navy’s signature airship, went down off New Jersey killing all aboard, then the airship that went to look for survivors of the Akron went down, then the Akron’s sister airship crashed, and finally, after the US had all but given up on the ships, the Germans sent the Hindenburg over to get everyone excited again. That didn’t work too well.

Via Wikipedia

With that the era of airships ended and planes took over forever…or did they?  Several companies, both in the US and Germany are not only bringing zeppelins back, but hailing them as the future of transportation. And it’s not just corporate spokespeople hyping their product, truthful folks also see promise in bringing the ships back. They’ve pointed to several advantages they have over planes, like transporting cargo without the need for infrastructure like runways, doing it at a much cheaper fuel cost, and able to take off and land almost anywhere. The only problem appears to be the dwindling global helium supply, which the ships require in massive amounts. And yes, they look all cool and futuristic because steampunk stopped being cool in 2009.


Continue reading “We’re Bringing it Back! (Part 1)”