Brexit

I really do understand the more nuanced, Govian Leave side. As an American, how could I not sympathize with the desire for self-governance and the fight against undemocratic uses of taxpayer money? Ultimately though, that narrative was probably irrelevant, or at least impossible to distinguish amidst the torrent of racism supporting Leave.

Also, those sorts of Liberty and Justice arguments seem outweighed by the absolute crushing weight of reality that is dropping on England. It won’t take long before they find out exactly how irrelevant their little island is; how easy it is for City banks, sadly the only exceptional thing left in the country, to up stakes for Frankfurt and New York; how vindictive Brussels bureaucrats can be when the European project hinges on the relative success or failure of their experiment in departure; and how little interest the United States will have in their problems without the power of the EU.
Very interested to see how Labour deals with this. Blairites are already pivoting to blame anti-capitalist critics of the EU for Leave, which is the same bullshit argument deployed against Nader voters in Florida, and with the same intent to discredit (and then destroy) the Left. They’ll hang Corbyn for this. Labour had it coming, though. When the party of the working class turns neoliberal and spends the next two decades shredding their base constituency, can we really be surprised when those spurned voters turn to Nigel Farage, who might be a worthless cunt but is at least recognizably a human being? It’s a shame that the media are casting this as a morality play of Young Multiethnic Professionals vs. Old White Racists when they should be blaming Thatcher and New Labour, but it’s not a real surprise and the situation of course has no parallels whatsoever with American politics.

Armchair Generaling Game of Thrones

OK. So Jon Snow, hardened general and leader of men, brings like 3500 men to fight Ramsay Bolton’s 6k or so. Snow has little cavalry, and his army relies on a core of elite Wildling light infantry. The Boltons have a classic Alexandrine combined arms force: a strong cavalry contingent, good missile troops, and heavy pikemen.

Against such a daunting army, Snow has few options. The logical move would be to accept aid from Littlefinger in advance of the battle, or at the very least for Sansa to TELL Jon that there’s a few thousand knights riding to their aid. But let’s set that aside for the moment.

Even if we accept Snow’s pre-battle assertion that the Bolton soldiers are demoralized (an assertion for which we see ZERO evidence in the episode), open combat with the above order of battle is suicide. Snow must play to his advantages: wage a guerrilla campaign aimed at drawing the Bolton forces out of Winterfell, lure them into favorable terrain that mitigates the Bolton cavalry advantage (after all, there’s no shortage of forests or badlands in the North), and use the speed and flexibility of his light infantry to spring an ambush.

Instead, of course, Jon Snow the idiot meets the Boltons on OPEN GROUND and JUST FUCKING CHARGES THEM HEAD-ON, playing perfectly to Ramsay’s advantages and completely neutralizing his own. He keeps his cavalry within the main body of infantry without deploying them to the flanks to fend off the Bolton horse or, say, the units of spearmen which he just watches encircle his forces. He bunches up his troops instead of creating a wide, thin line to envelop the Bolton army. He does not hide reserve forces in the woods or deploy them in the flanks. His missile troops JUST STAND AND WATCH instead of advancing to fire on Ramsay’s archers or attacking the rear of the encircling spear troop. Also, hey, you have a FUCKING GIANT, JON, MAYBE THINK ABOUT HOW THAT MIGHT BE USEFUL? Finally, he charges out ahead of his own forces to rescue his mentally handicapped brother, who runs in a straight line away from a man with a bow.

The Knights of the Vale seize victory from the jaws of defeat, admirably rolling up the Bolton flank, but not in time to save Jon Snow from going down as the worst general in the history of premium cable. Kudos to Ramsay for a well-executed battle plan, but really, he could have done whatever he wanted and still out-generaled the Stark bastard and his crack military council of George Custer, Douglas Haig, and Fightin’ Joe Hooker.

Flat Earths

There is a fun article in the Atlantic today on Donald Trump’s evolving views on climate change, which follows the standard e-publication roadmap of taking other people’s reporting (in this case Ben Adler and Rebecca Laber of Grist) and repackaging it into a branded format with some added context or snark or smaller words, depending on the publication in question. Anyway, as we all know Donald Trump believes that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese, but as it turns out, in 2009 he added his name to a list of VIPs on a full-page ad in the New York Times calling on the U.S. government to take action against climate change. The Atlantic article goes on to list other high-profile Trump about-faces.

Buried in this catalogue of historical flip-flops, which is probably already being passed around by shocked former Trump supporters like a Luther bible in Reformation Germany, is a quote from Ted Cruz:

Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-earthers,” Cruz said. “It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.

That stuck out to me, because if I remember correctly, Galileo was persecuted by the Catholic Church because he believed in and propagated a heliocentric view of the solar system. So what was Cruz, who despite his HUAC haircut and regressive views towards established scientific theories actually went to Princeton and presumably learned some history, doing talking about a flat Earth?

In the 6th century BC Pythagoras hypothesized a spherical Earth. This was confirmed by Aristotle in the 4th century BC, and from there an all-star cast of Western and Islamic scientists/philosophers in an unbroken line from Ptolemy to Pliny to St. Augustine to Boethius to Isidore to Bede to Muslim astronomers in Baghdad and Isfahan and Cordoba to Thomas Aquinas and various monks and Christian commentators straight to the present day all accepted that fact. Dante portrayed the Earth as round in The Divine Comedy, Columbus and everyone else knew it was round when he sailed to the Americas, and then in 1519-21 Magellan actually sailed around the goddamn world. In 1615 the Pope didn’t care that Galileo knew the Earth was spherical, because he knew it was too. As a matter of fact, historian Jeffrey Burton Russell writes that “with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.”

The myth that medieval Christians believed in a flat Earth dates from early-modern Protestants who sought to discredit the Catholic Church. This gained credence during the Enlightenment, which (generally incorrectly, historically speaking) viewed Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church, as backwards and anti-science. One leading Enlightenment thinker, Thomas Jefferson, even claimed in his Notes on the State of Virginia:

Government is just as infallible too when it fixes systems in physics. Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the Earth was a sphere: the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error.

One of the more interesting ironies in Cruz’s assertion is that it’s based on the writings of anti-church thinkers like Jefferson. That makes a little more sense, however, if we remember the theory’s roots in anti-Catholic bigotry, which the evangelical Protestant community of which Cruz is such an enthusiastic supporter used to embrace more whole-heartedly than it does today.