Sunday, 24 February 2013

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Boiling Frogs

A popular analogy for the public in many formerly-democratic states is a frog in a pot of boiling water. If the pot is heated too fast, the frog jumps out. But if the temperature is gradually raised, the frog will remain unaware as it is cooked alive. A wise evil overlord, therefore, does not start off with obvious displays of power. They start off maintaining the status quo, and gradually introducing more insidious bills, laws, and extra-legal practices. Ideally, their predecessor(s) may have started these programs, so continuing them is expected of them. 

This is nothing historically novel. One hallmark of such practices, however, is they often occur in states rapidly centralizing power. Such centralization is often a desperate, last-ditch maneuver. The Roman Emperors gradually assumed more and more power, until the Empire collapsed on its own weight. It appears that the US government is hell-bent on repeating this, independently of the legal justifications (or lack therefore of) for each program. The drone assassination program is a perfect example of one, as detailed elsewhere. 

Take, for instance, the contempt of public wishes by politicians. Last year, CISPA was a “cybersecurity” bill that gutted online privacy (amongst other things). An internet outcry caused it to be dropped. Recently, the President has issued an executive order that essentially does the same thing. The icing on the cake is that CISPA has been regurgitated, copied word-for-word from its original incarnation. Worse than that, this comes as the government clamps down on the few rights that are left. 

The metaphor of the boiling frogs is even more appropriate when you consider climate change. The methane clathrates rising from the ocean floor like a Great Old One threaten to deep fry the world and turn the oceans to acidic stew. Whether the world economy, environmental factors, or political structures will collapse first is uncertain. Far more important is to find a way out of the pot.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Historical Supervillainy: The Borgia

When one thinks of the Borgia, the extreme decadence and wealth of Renaissance Italy’s most infamous family springs to mind. Whether they were any more ruthless than many of their peers is a matter for debate, but suffice to say, they fulfill many of the stereotypical criteria for supervillainy. Just consider some of the traditional accounts. 

Rodrigo Borgia (AKA Pope Alexander VI) was the Blofeld of Renaissance Italy. He had a son, Cesare, with more ambition than common sense. His daughter Lucrezia was synonymous with femme fatales for centuries. He employed an advisor renowned for schemes, Machiavelli himself. He employed a mad scientist, Leonardo da Vinci. He led a major religion, the Catholic Church, and had his own elite troops, the Swiss mercenaries (the forerunners of the Swiss Guard). He had his own personal hitman, Micheletto. 

However, there is some controversy over the extent of some of the Borgia deeds. Despite this, there it still influences media today. From novels to videogames to TV series, the legacy of the Borgia lives on. Even firearms have a bit of the Borgia legacy. An amusing bit of Borgia-related trivia is that "Buffalo Bill" Cody named a Springfield rifle after Lucrezia Borgia due to its deadliness.