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A New Name for the Blog
A Prescient Moment
A Review of "Stealth"
Adams versus Hydra
An Exercise in Rhetoric
Archive 1
Battleship Chess 2.0
Bias in Hollywood
Braveheart Conservatives
Cartoons rule!
Chess Chatters
Death of the Pope
Democrats and OBL
Do You Suffer from Quixot
Enter the Martial Matrix
Finest of all Wargames
First Astro-photos
Hamemus Papam
Happy Thanksgiving 2005
I Shot Down a Mig Again!
Illuminating Words
Islamic Intolerance
Join the Ranks!
Karl Rove Hits Back
Kingdom of Heaven
Leopards under the Tree
LotR, 40K and Politics
Mark of Chaos Review
Michael Jackson and Satan
More Thoughts on Katrina
My Birthday
My Five Favorite Conserva
Quality TV for a Change
Real War
Religion and the State
Replacing O'Connor
Rosetta Stone of Journal
SameSex marriage is wrong
Sci-Fi News
Silent Hunter 3
Something to ponder
Sumter and States' Rights
Terri and America
The 10 Commandments
The Anti-American IFC
The Bigotry of Da Vinci
The City Dies
The Death of Saruman
The Glory of Shoveling
The Return of "V"
The Return of Copperheads
These Things I Believe
Throw the Bums Out!
Trouble in Mordor
Two Boxers in a China Sho
Two Views of Chess
Vox Populi
War of the Worlds (2005)
Wargaming, WWII, and Evil
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The F.E.B.A.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
A Picture Worth a Thousand Words
Mood:  mischievious
Now Playing: Mark Levin
Topic: Archive 1

I was going to write a blog entry on all the shenanigans going on at the DNC Convention. You know, the bald-faced lies; the radicalism; the Marxist rhetoric; the vicious verbal (and almost physical) assaults on some FOX News correspondents and conservative columnists; the consistent portrayal of America in the worst possible light by leftist demagogues; the Obama cult of personality; the Clinton cult of personality… well, you get the idea. But in keeping with the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided just to post this pic:


What more needs to be said?Tongue out

EDIT:  Glenn Beck just brought this to my attention:


Posted by Wargamer Scott at 12:44 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 June 2010 9:02 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 22 July 2008
My Five Favorite Conservative Games
Mood:  lazy
Now Playing: Bob Grant
Topic: Archive 1

There has been a lot said about the manifest left-wing lunacy of Hollywood, but it has always struck me as very interesting that another portion of modern entertainment media, indeed, a portion that is beginning to eclipse Hollyweird itself, is largely free of preachy left-wing nonsense. No, I’m not referring to television; I’m speaking about gaming. Why is it that the average game is actually quite conservative in its outlook? Perhaps it’s because liberalism is just incompatible with the highly-competitive world of gaming (after all, how do you make a game where no one is allowed to do better than anyone else?)? Or maybe it’s just because gaming is still under the radar of the left (who has time to play a game when there is so much to protest in the world?!?)?

Here are my top five conservative games:

#5: Warhammer 40K: Jeez, how does one quickly explain the complex world of Warhammer 40K? The twenty year’s worth of lore surrounding this game universe makes Middle Earth’s lore seem absolutely superficial by way of comparison! Suffice to say, Warhammer 40K deals with galactic warfare during a dark, brutal time when man is fighting against its own extermination at the hands of implacable alien and deamonic enemies. Begun as a tabletop miniatures game, today 40K has expanded into the world of PC gaming with four (soon to be five) successful RTS games and one MMO currently under development. What is more, the 40K universe has become so popular that the game has spun-off a thriving publishing operation (the so-called Black Library) that has proven popular with both fans of the game and those who have never played it.

Why is it conservative? For me, it has to do with two reasons. First, it is the unrelenting and unabashed way in which the heroes of the Imperium, be it the elite Space Marines or the grunt Imperial Guard, seek the total defeat of their enemies. At a time when America is at war, it can be very refreshing to have a game that abandons the ‘politically correct warfare’ that so many in politics and media seek for us to adopt – no matter how much is harms our cause. I can assure you in the world of 40K, you won’t find the defenders of mankind weeping over a little water boarding or seeking a modus vivendi with their foes. For example, one of my favorite 40K quotes is found in Dawn of War (one of the PC versions of the game) where a Space Marine captain is want to shout “This is the judgment of the righteous!” as he guns down enemy upon enemy. Another great quote from that game is “Victory needs no explanation, defeat allows none.” And we can’t forget the truism “Success is measured in blood; yours or your enemy´s.” True. In a feminized world, 40K is testosterone-laden refuge of larger than life heroes who make it their life work to obliterate evil.

My second reason is the religious faith that binds the Imperium of Man. While some complain that the religiosity found in 40K has fascist overtones (a not inconsiderate point), I like to look on the brighter side (if there is a bright side in 40K!). The faith of mankind in the “Undying Emperor” is what binds a million disparate worlds in common cause against the hellish enemies that come out of the blackness of space (there’s no multiculturalism in 40K!). What is more, it is this faith that serves to inspire men of all walks to life to heroic deeds that faithless men would never be able to achieve. Again, some of my favorite quotes: “Fear denies faith!” It certainly does. And who could forget that “the difference between heresy and treachery is ignorance.” Lastly, “Educate men without faith and you but make them clever devils.” Good stuff!









#4: World in Conflict: Does any conservative not love the movie Red Dawn? Combining the classic virtues of minuteman vigilance and patriotism, Red Dawn is the conservative movie of the 20th Century. Well, now you can play the game too! World in Conflict is Massive Entertainment’s unabashed offspring of Red Dawn and puts the player in charge of commanding American and NATO forces as they fight off a Soviet invasion of Europe and America circa 1989 (sure, you can play the Ruskies too, but who wants to do that?). Combining innovative 16 v 16 multiplayer gameplay along with graphical realism that could almost be mistaken for news videotape, World in Conflict gives every conservative am opportunity to find out that the only good commie is a dead commie.







#3 EVE Online: A conservative sci-fi video game? Yes! EVE Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game where around 40,000 people at a time (out of a base of 240,000 registered members!) play together in a violent future of factional warfare across a virtual galaxy almost as big as the real thing. But while the combat is fun, what makes EVE Online qualify as conservative fun is it’s robust, player-driven capitalist economy. Unlike many other games, everything in EVE is mined, designed, or manufactured by EVE players for EVE players! What this means is that EVE has become one of the most complex and realistic simulations of a supply and demand-based economy. How complex and realistic? CCP, the game’s developer, has needed to hire an economist to help control real-world issues such as inflation and monopolistic practices by player-run corporations (and yes, in EVE, forming and running massive corporations are a big part of the game’s fun).

This capitalist economy has a very real impact on the players. For example, unlike other games where you are just given everything gratis, in EVE, players are forced to make a living and purchase everything they need. This makes for an interesting dynamic where, as in real life, the player is always on the make for a more lucrative job (be it as soldier, smuggler, manufacturer, trader, corporate CEO or any other occupation that a player finds to be profitable) so he can afford to purchase that bigger ship with better guns, a more efficient mining rig (don’t forget the insurance policy!) or those implants that are all the rage. In EVE, you quickly learn the value of a dollar, er…ISK, and the need to work hard to get where you want to be (so much so that you often see a lot of kids quit EVE because, as they put it: “this game is too much like a job!”).

Lastly, another reason why EVE is a conservative game is the story of CCP. A group of scrappy programmers committed to their vision, despite an underwhelming launch and some unfortunate publisher problems, CCP persisted with their dream and have succeeded in creating a landmark of MMO game design.








#2 Chess: Chess will always be the king of games. Over 1400 years old, Chess spans human history with an enduring strength that defies lesser games. But why do I think it’s conservative?

First and foremost, a quick glance at the two opposed chess armies will reveal a very ordered society in which everyone has a place fitting their abilities. You have the pawns, the most common of all the pieces (albeit, technically, a pawn is not a piece in chess lingo), which despite being on the lowest rung of society’s ladder, are nevertheless willing to form the first line of defense. And why shouldn’t they? While they are lowly, they possess the seeds of greatness within them that, after much hard work and bravery, can germinate and elevate the pawn to any other greater role short of the king himself! There’s a classic conservative lesson in that.

Let’s not forget the king and queen either. They stand side by side as they lead their armies, inspiring their soldiers with personal example. Also, they represent the strength of man and wife as one (politic) body, defending each other and the land. In short, the king and queen are the physical manifestation of harmonious civil governance.

Just to their left and right, we have loyal bishops advising the regal pair. Contrary to modern leftist thought, God-given right reason is essential to the functioning of any kingdom and we see that represented by the closeness of the bishops to their betters.

Knights…well, what could possibly be more conservative than the image of the brave knight? Brave warriors sworn to God and King, the knight is the epitome of conservative manliness.

Then we have the Rooks. With the medieval influence upon chess, this former chariot has come to represent the classic medieval architecture of the castle – perhaps the closest the world has ever come to achieving the perfection of form and function. The rook represents the conservative notion that in truth, there is beauty.

Lastly, even the chess board is a reminder of conservative beliefs. Comprised of white and black squares, Chess is reminder that gray has no lasting place in the world of ideas.

And the #1 most conservative game is....








Monopoly: If The Price is Right is the “all American game show,” then Monopoly has to be “the all American board game.”

Created during the Great Depression, Monopoly was the brainchild of Charles B. Darrow. Initially, Mr. Darrow tried to sell the game to Parker Brothers, but they rejected it because of a reputed “52 design errors”. Undeterred like the good entrepreneur he was, Mr. Darrow sold 5,000 copies of the game to a department store soon thereafter. It proved so popular, that Mr. Darrow couldn’t keep up with the subsequent demand! Those initial sales were the beginning of a flood that has not ceased, totaling some 200 million copies to date!

What conservative wouldn’t like a game where you can become a millionaire by buying and selling real estate? Where you start with a modest house but work your way up to hotels and, ultimately, buy the whole neighborhood?!? For all its simplicity, Monopoly manages to capture the essence of American capitalism and entrepreneurship within its elegant confines. Simply, it is the American dream in a box!



Posted by Wargamer Scott at 8:16 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 June 2010 9:02 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 14 May 2008
When Worlds Bump
Mood:  irritated
Now Playing: Mark Levin

What with modern Hollywood hell-bent upon crashing and burning via a stream of thoroughly insipid films, I’ve been attempting to make the most of my NetFlix membership by mining the many forgotten classics of a better time. One film that I recently rented was the George Pal classic, When Worlds Collide. Now, while I have always been a fan of George Pal – I consider his version of War of the Worlds to be a masterpiece not just in terms of interpreting the original H. G. Wells story, but in terms of the totality of cinematic sci-fi as well – I confess that I did not enjoy this film. My complaint is ultimately a familiar one: it suffers from a complete lack of realism.

In case you have never seen it, When Worlds Collide is about the destruction of Earth via a cosmic collision. Specifically, the star Bellus, along with its accompanying planet Zyra, is headed our way and destined to smash into Earth, extinguishing all life on the planet. Ultimately, the movie revolves around an international effort of scientists and businessmen who build a series of rocket ships to save a select group of people and repopulate them on the passing planet Zyra (this story was somewhat revisited with greater realism in Michael Flynn’s Firestar series). Now, in and of itself, the premise of this particular disaster is not at all implausible. The Milky Way galaxy is a violent place and such collisions take place all the time. No, what ticked me off was not the event, but the portrayal of the collision.

To begin with, the close passing of the planet Zyra is depicted as little more than a rough Californian day with some moderate earthquakes, flooding, and, inexplicably, a lot of wind. That’s about it! What a shame! For the truth of the matter is that such an event would wreak solar system chaos. Our solar system is a remarkably delicate clockwork mechanism. With the introduction of a major planetary body - not to mention a star! – that gravitational balance would be terribly upset. It is entirely conceivable (indeed, probable) that the orbits of the inner planets would be disturbed, perhaps even with the result of one or more being ejected from the inner solar system. And, just as likely, the gravitational perturbment caused by Zyra would shake loose the asteroids slumbering quietly in orbit between Mars and Jupiter, causing a deadly shower to fall upon the inner planets. And what about our moon? With the close passage of this new planet, the moon would most definitely be affected, perhaps to the extent of being stripped from Earth and either cast out of the solar system or, much worse, flung into Mars or Venus (talk about fireworks! Surprised). It is even conceivable that it would be captured by its new master, Zyra (for a terrifying look at a lunar calamity, check out Jack McDevitt’s excellent Moonfall). Alas, none of this epic chaos was even suggested in the movie, let alone depicted. We weren’t even treated to a scene that showed the new planet glowing like a malevolent eye our skies – as it most surely would do as it closed in upon us. What a missed opportunity.

Now, if the portrayal of Zyra was disappointing, the depiction of a second star added to dear Sol is downright silly. While the movie provides absolutely no information on the nature or size of Bellus, its uneventful arrival is ridiculous. In fact, there are no perceptible effects until Bellus actually impacts the Earth! Give me a break, we’re talking about a massive fusion engine in the sky here! As Thomas J. Sherrill mentions in his Sky & Telescope article entitled Envisioning the End of the World, even the distant passage of a cool Brown Dwarf would likely result in a “death by freezing scenario” as Earth’s ecliptic orbit becomes distorted and results in rapidly falling temperatures (recall the classic Twilight Zone’s episode, Midnight Sun). That is the best case scenario, mind you. For if a larger or denser star approached our solar system, the surface of the Earth could be literally vacuumed clean by the star’s gravitational field – that is, shortly before the Earth was pulled apart by gravitational tidal forces. And, needless to say, if we had a hot, energetic star intruding in our backyard, the mammoth increase in radiation would probably bake us long before impact (which would be like a flame "impacting" a moth).

Yes, yes, I know…the special effects needed to depict such horrific events did not exist in 1951. However, I don’t entirely buy this excuse as George Pal worked wonders with what he had in his War of the Worlds. I suppose When Worlds Collide is what it is. However, I do hope that when the remake of this film hits the big screen, the new version will be both more scientifically literate as well as containing more eye-popping fun. I am confident in the latter, but as for the former....Frown

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 7:43 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2008 7:47 PM EDT
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Sunday, 20 April 2008
Mood:  happy
Now Playing: Baroque Music
Topic: B16



“Man was not just thrown up into the world by some quirk of evolution.  The underlying truth is that each person is meant to exist. Each person is God’s own idea. Within everything that just for the moment exist factually, a plan and an idea are at work, and this gives meaning to my search for my own ideal self and to my coexistence with the world and with the onward path of history.” - Pope Benedict XVI  


Some quick observations on Pope Benedict’s trip to America:    


What an inspiring week this has been for Roman Catholics and people of all faiths!  Pope Benedict XVI’s (aka B16) visit to America has been simply wonderful.  From President Bush meeting the Holy Father at the airport - an unprecedented departure from official protocol - to the 50,000+ people who crowded into Yankee Stadium to participate in a Sunday Mass led by the pope, never has a foreign dignitary been shown so much hospitality from the American people.

This wonderful outpouring of love and devotion gives me confidence for the future of the world, this nation and the Universal Church.  Contrary to bleak assessment that modernity worships strictly at the altar of fame, fortune and sensuality, B16’s trip has demonstrated the existence of a vibrant culture that begs to differ. People, especially young people, have turned out by the tens of thousands to see a man that has eschewed such false values and has instead embraced a life of “chastity, poverty & obedience,” the very antithesis of “pop” culture.  Remarkable.

Likewise, even the open sewer that is television has participated in this religious rival.  Stations that wouldn’t give the time of day to faith-based programming of any substantive value have donated hours , much of it without commercial interruption, no less!, to the coverage of the many public events held over the last six days.  Clergy – real clergy, not the Hollywood type – were given the limelight and encouraged to discuss matters of deep theological significance.  Dominicans, Franciscans, Crosiers, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta, theologians, parish priests – all and more were on display.   To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, this week the Church was visible in all its glory; as something spread out through time and space and rooted in eternity, resplendent as an army with banners unfurled.  Pride may be a sin, but I confess to experiencing more than a little these past few days.

Isn’t it amazing how one good man grounded not in relativism but in absolute Truth can change everything?

Thank you for inspiring us, B16!    God’s speed home!

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 9:51 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 20 April 2008 9:55 PM EDT
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Saturday, 16 February 2008
Braveheart Conservatives
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing:
Topic: Braveheart Conservatives







So, the worst has come to pass and the Republican Party has decided to nominate John McCain for its presidential candidate. What can I say? Quite frankly, with the nomination of McCain, I suspect the GOP has put a pistol to its collective head and is preparing to pull the trigger.

Despite the furious efforts of the Republican spin machine, McCain is not a conservative leader in any sense whatsoever. And while he likes to tout his “lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 82%,” the fact of the matter is that the last time he was rated by the ACU, in 2006, he came in at a dismal 65%, making him the 39th most conservative senator in a senate not exactly overflowing with conservative leadership. In other words, he really had to work overtime to place so low when the competition is largely comprised of fellow weak-kneed Republicans!

John McCain has authored some of the most harmful legislation in contemporary US history. First there was his unprecedented assault on the First Amendment known as McCain-Feingold, signed into law by often domestically-hapless President Bush. Not content with wrecking political speech, he then attacked our domestic security with McCain-Kennedy, an illegal immigration amnesty bill so outrageous that I have heard tell that even some “migrant workers” were too embarrassed to embrace it. And now, with one eye on the presidency, he has deigned to wreck out economy with McCain-Lieberman, an environmental bill that is the American intellectual heir to the disastrous Kyoto Accords.

Wow, such examples of “conservative leadership”! Who could ask for better bona fides of his “Reagan-revolution foot soldier” status!

If only his sorry record ended there. Let’s not forget his putting together of the “Gang of 14,” whereby he went behind the back of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to link arms with some of the most liberal Senate Democrats and Republicans to ensure that the unconstitutional filibustering of judicial nominees would not be put to a timely death. And who could forget his “Reagan-esque” approach to taxation when he voted against both of President Bush’s tax cuts not because of spending, as he now claims, but because they favored the wealthy? McCain also opposed drilling much needed crude in Alaska, once again siding with his environmental extremist Democrat compatriots.

“But Scott, he will be so much more reliable on the War on Terror than any Dem nominee!” Good point. I did forget the fact that he bravely stood with 97 other senators to support The Surge. Wow! What political courage! Hmm…I wonder how he would have voted if the tally was different, say 50 against The Surge? Perhaps his decision to link arms - yet again - with his Democrat pals (are you sensing a pattern here?) and put forth what Mark Levin has termed “The Al Qaida Bill of Rights” is a clue? I wonder what type of courage it took to grant terrorist thugs legal protection the likes of which have never be enjoyed by illegal combatants anywhere in the world. Not content to stop there, he then also began to vociferously argue for the closing of Gitmo.

On second thought, are you so sure that McCain can be trusted with the war?

Judges! He must be good on conservative judges! Wait…didn’t he remark that he didn’t care for Justice Alito because “he wore his conservatism on his sleeve”? Now, of course, McCain denies he ever said such a thing, but Bob Novak has unearthed what he most definitely did say:

“I found what McCain could not remember: a private, informal chat with conservative Republican lawyers shortly after he announced his candidacy in April 2007. I talked to two lawyers who were present whom I have known for years and who have never misled me….They gave me nearly identical accounts, as follows:
‘Wouldn’t it be great if you get a chance to name somebody like Roberts and Alito?” one lawyer commented. McCain replied, “Well, certainly Roberts.’ Jaws were described as dropping. My sources cannot remember exactly what McCain said next, but their recollection is that he described Alito as too conservative.”

How did we conservatives ever get along without the likes of John McCain?

John McCain is no conservative. In fact, it is an outrageous insult to Conservatives (with a capital ‘C’) everywhere for him to expropriate the hallowed label that real conservatives have labored so long to make a cornerstone of American politics. McCain is the antithesis of conservatism. Contrary to what he and his minions believe, Conservatives are not gullible; we know a hawk from a handsaw whichever way the political winds blow and that is what’s driving his campaign to marginalize the Conservative vote by replacing it with, what else?, moderate Dems, Reps, and confused independents.

“But what are we going to do?” many have asked. Alas, I don’t have an answer. I know some friends who have no intentions of voting for a president this year. Others will vote for McCain in a forlorn hope of an acceptable McCain presidency. I am content to let each search their hearts as to what the best policy is; this is not something that is arguable. Decide for yourself.

Truth be told, this whole situation reminds me of that great Conservative film, Braveheart. In many ways, the modern Republican Party is akin to Fourteenth Century Scotland. The GOP leadership, analogous to the Scottish nobles, is more concerned about squabbling for political power than fighting for their supposed ideals of freedom from big, intrusive government. Their oft-repeated cry of “Pro Libertate!” has proven to be little more than rhetoric that is easily squelched in backroom political strategizing crafted to deliver a political victory at any cost. In Braveheart, William Wallace, facing a similar situation, chastises the Scottish nobles:

“There is a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide the people with freedom. And I go to make sure they have it.”

In many ways, I find Wallace to be the Ronald Reagan or Newt Gingrich of the American Conservative cause - a man of uncompromising principle. He cares not for public adulation or titles; he only cares for promoting his ideals of liberty for his beloved nation. Unfortunately for Wallace, his noble contemporaries find such ideals as little more than an annoyance in their quest to achieve their practical political goals:

Robert the Bruce: This Wallace... he doesn't even have a knighthood. But he fights with passion and he inspires.
Robert's Father: And you wish to charge off and fight as he did, eh? [Robert nods slightly] So would I, eh?

Robert the Bruce: Well, maybe it's time.

Robert's Father: It is time... to survive. You're the seventeenth Robert Bruce. The sixteen before you passed you land and title because they didn't charge in. Call a meeting of the nobles.

Robert the Bruce: They do nothing but talk.

Robert's Father: Rightly so. They're as rich in English titles and lands as they are in Scottish, just as we are. You admire this man, this William Wallace. Uncompromising men are easy to admire. He has courage; so does a dog. But it is exactly the ability to compromise that makes a man noble.

Alas, little has changed. With McCain’s growing momentum, we now hear declarations that Reaganism is no more, that such steadfast Conservative leadership is “once in a lifetime” and hence, little more than a passing fancy. Uncompromising Conservatism is an aberration; the compromising politics of a John McCain is the new standard. Our GOP nobles, rich in Washingtonian titles and lands, have no stomach for a fight of principle, they simply want to survive.

William Wallace warns Robert the Bruce about the unwise pursuit of compromising politics:

“Now tell me, what does that mean to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don't follow titles, they follow courage. Now our people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they'd follow you. And so would I.”

Unfortunately, this year, it looks like Conservatives have no one to follow into battle; no reason to hold our standards high. Regardless of who wins the presidency in November, we will need to follow the “Highlander Way” and continue the fight as small bands of dedicated rebels, achieving what victories we may in the name of Conservatism. Anticipating treason from within and hostility from without, we will nonetheless keep the flame alight for our next William Wallace.

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 11:23 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 17 February 2008 2:01 AM EST
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Friday, 25 January 2008
A Quick Review of Mark of Chaos
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Bob Grant
Topic: Mark of Chaos Review

I just finished reading Mark of Chaos, by Anthony Reynolds.  This book is the novelization tie-in with the Namco game that flopped some time ago.  It was sitting on my shelf for awhile and I decided to finally read it.  Over all, not bad.  Not great, but not bad.

The story is about a captain of Ostermark, Stefan Von Kessel, who finds himself fighting the perfidious forces of Chaos from both within the kingdom as well as from without.  The enemy from within is a treacherous foe that is spreading plague in the name of the Chaos god Nurgle.  His enemy from without is the Norsican Chaos warlord Hroth, along with his wizard ally Subodal. The book doesn’t disappoint on the action front as there a lot of big battles.  The final battle, which involves a siege of Talabheim, was truly epic and quite enjoyable, if reminiscent of the siege of Minis Tirith.  I was also pleasantly surprised at how well Reynolds made Hroth into something more than a cardboard villain.  The narrative ride with Hroth was often just as engaging as the ride with Von Kessel. 

My only real complaint with the story was the somewhat anti-climatic ending.  The final battle ended rather abruptly in my opinion.  Worse, instead of providing a final chapter where the surviving characters get to emote a little and reflect on what they just experienced, the novel ends with a detached ‘where are they now’ epilogue that chronicles the lives of the main characters in the years after the war.  That’s a strangely detached, and thoroughly unsatisfying, way to end any story.  

This was my first Warhammer fantasy novel and my overall reaction is the same as I had with my introduction to the Warhammer fantasy game: I found it nowhere near as compelling as 40K.  Sure, there are some similar elements, such as the deamonic forces of Chaos, but overall it comes across as just another Tolkien-esque / Dungeons & Dragons tribute with the requisite dose of Warhammer brutality.  Again, not bad but not great.

It also lacks the emotional intensity of 40K.  For example, in Warhammer fantasy, the forces of Order worship the ancient warlord Sigmar.  And while everyone invokes his name and protection in battle, it doesn’t approach the fervent religiosity that is found in 40K with the Emperor.  Likewise, the hatred for Chaos is nowhere near as fanatical as found in 40K.  Sure, everyone wants to exterminate the heretics, but you get the impression that if Chaos lost interest and wandered away, the forces of the Empire in Warhammar fantasy would just let them go and get on with their lives.  Can anyone imagine Space Marines doing the same?  Never!  

Anyway, it’s not a bad book.  And while I will be visiting Warhammer fantasy again, it will never be a burning passion as with 40K.   

Next up: Neuromancer by William Gibson.  I’m only ten pages in, but I already am impressed with his use of language:  

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

"By day, the bars down Ninsei were shuttered and featureless, the neon dead, the holograms inert, waiting, under the poisoned silver sky.”



Nice technique!

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 9:02 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008 9:09 PM EST
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Leopards under the Tree
Mood:  happy
Topic: Leopards under the Tree

During World War I, there were a number of ‘Christmas Truces' whereby the European participants of the Great War ceased hostilities in order to celebrate Christmas.  For me, however, Christmas has always represented an opposite inclination:  the opportunity to indulge in a little wargaming!  I think this has everything to do with a boy and his toys.  Let's face it:  on a non-theological level, Christmas is about getting toys.  I don't care if you're fifteen or fifty; if you're a boy you want toys under the tree on Christmas morn!  And for me, the best toys were always soldiers.

    Of course, when I was younger, toy soldiers meant those classic, green plastic "Army Men" that were pretty much a rite of passage for Gen-X'ers.  What fun they were (are?)!  Take a machine-gunner, the guy with the bazooka, a prone marksman and add an officer with a radio and you were set for some great battles!  And if you were lucky enough to get a Sherman tank or two...well, you were in martial paradise.  Let the battle begin!   When I think back to all the Christmas days I spent waging war on carpet, utilizing each new assortment of men and equipment - ah, those were good times! Even better, if no one was looking, I could sneak real close to the Christmas tree and re-enact the Battle of the Ardennes!  Those colored Christmas tree lights added a surreal atmosphere to the whole clash and the fake snow around the tree added just the right winter touch.  When all was said and done, I had wargame terrain fit for the Army War College.  Hah!  It doesn't get any better than that! 

    When I was older, I naturally (unfortunately?) switched to more sophisticated board and miniatures wargaming.  I think one of the best Christmas wargames that I ever received was Frank Chadwick's Combined Arms.  Mr. Chadwick tried something novel with this set of rules; he tried to bring an operation tempo to miniatures wargaming - and he succeeded marvelously.  That game occupied me to the wee hours of post-Christmas morning.  The ability to wage freewheeling, battalion-level battles for the destiny of West Germany was heady stuff!  I recall how I spent the majority of that Christmas fighting a desperate delaying action against Soviet troops that were trying to overrun LANDJUT.  My 6th Panzergrenadier Division lost many a Leopard tank stopping the 2nd Guards Army from achieving its objectives.  It was a fierce battle, but at the end the 6th held its ground with a generous helping of air support.  At the conclusion of the battle, I distinctly recall both sides engaging each other in a convivial X-MAS celebration with the help of some timely UN fruitcake.

    Of course, with the arrival of the computer age, Christmas warfare had found a new home on the silicon chip - which is a good thing as I shudder to think what would have happened if visitors found me on the carpet with my Army Men!  Now with the help of the PC, I can wage war on a scale that would make the Ghost of Christmas Future shudder.  A fast internet connection combined with a solid wargame can quickly become the ultimate Yuletide war toy.  A few years ago, my wargame gift of choice was Dawn of War.  With the gleeful removal of Christmas wrapping paper, I was quickly off to heroic and bloody battles of the 41st Millennium.  Howls of "For the Emperor!" set against staccato gunfire could quickly be heard emanating from my den, providing an odd counterpoint to the litany of Christmas carols on the radio.  I didn't care; I was in my Christmas element, waging war for all that is noble on this majestic day. Bring on the eggnog; I wasn't going anywhere anytime soon!

    Now that I am a few years older, holiday warfare has taken on yet another new guise.  These days, I am more likely to be commanding stately wood Bishops and Rooks on a black and white battlefield as chess has become my Christmas wargame of choice.  All things considered, this is for the best as I can play chess anywhere with anyone; the days of secluded Christmas wargaming are over.  Family and friends are eagerly invited to join this winter battle!  Give me a comfortable chair and a willing opponent and I am truly experiencing the old magic of army men under the Christmas tree once again.

What are some of your fondest holiday gaming memories?  

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 9:24 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 28 December 2007 9:29 PM EST
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Sunday, 14 October 2007
I Need Chess Chatters!
Mood:  loud
Now Playing: Jazz
Topic: Chess Chatters

Hey all,

Sorry this blog has been a little quiet lately, but my second blog, The Rook's Bailey, has been gobbling up the majority of my writing.  Why?  Well, truth be told, I just haven't been writing too much about politics, and since The FEBA is largely a political blog, I  haven't had much to post here.   Never fear, I am sure that once the 2008 presidential elections start to heat up, that will change.  Yell

In the meantime, check out The Rook's Bailey.  While largely concerned with gaming in general, it has started to develop into a chess-centric blog (as the name suggests).  Stop on by and give it a read! 

In other news, I am trying to get an active chess forum going over at, a gaming website I help edit.  You can visit the forum here:

Gamesquad Chess Forum 

The forum has enjoyed some modest growth (we are about to conclude our second tourney).  And, as this chess forum is part of the larger Gamesquad network, there is lots to do and talk about.   Don't feel like talking about chess?  No problem!  Check out the many other forums at Gamesquad!  Or read some of our reviews!  Or start a blog!  It's all there!

So if you like to chat about chess, gaming, politics or culture, stop on by!  And if you like what you see, spread the word.  The more the merrier! Cool

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 7:09 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 October 2007 7:11 PM EDT
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Sunday, 10 June 2007
Do You Suffer from Quixote Syndrome?
Mood:  cheeky
Now Playing:'s Sour Times
Topic: Do You Suffer from Quixot

Do you suffer from Quixote Syndrome? Miguel de Cervantes first diagnosed this little known mental disorder in 1604 with the most well known case involving one Alonso Quixano, a Spaniard who styled himself as one Don Quixote, knight-errant. Fortunately, for many centuries, Quixote Syndrome remained an extremely rare affliction that was often limited to chess players and fantasy novel devotees. However, with the advent of the PC age, this mental disease is on the march with a much wider audience succumbing to its clutches. To determine if you suffer from Quixote Syndrome, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Do you keep "a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing?"

2) When at leisure, do you read books of chivalry with such ardour and avidity that you almost entirely neglect the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of property?

3) Are you fascinated by medieval "enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, agonies, and all sorts of impossible nonsense"?

4) Do you tilt at windmills?

5) Are you obsessed with chess?

6) Are you obsessed with Medieval 2: Total War?

7) Do you spend more than three hours a day playing either chess or M2:TW?

8) When acquaintances show you family photos, do you show them a screenshot of your M2:TW faction's family tree?

9) After a successful battle in M2:TW, do you have an irresistible urge to describe it in painful detail - with a "you are there" perspective - to all your friends / family members?

10) Do you refer to your car / bike as a "warhorse"?

11) Do you find yourself frequently perusing the medieval section of the Design Toscano website?

12) Have you made the Vatican website your homepage?

13) Do you watch all three extended editions of Lord of the Rings in one sitting?

14) Have you demanded that your wife / sister / girlfriend chronicle your conquests in M2:TW by embroidering your own customized version of the Bayeux Tapestry?

15) Do you greet people with a "How now?"

16) When discussing the War on Terror, do you refer to the Western troops as "Crusaders" and the terrorists as "Saracens"?

17) Are you that solitary individual often found perusing through your local bookstore's medieval history section?

18) Do you insult people by calling them a "fox cub of all fox cubs" [actual medieval taunt]?

19) Do you get this joke:

Q: How many Saxons does it take to build a castle?
A: All of them, three days a week, as is my right.

20) Do you find this funny [actual medieval tale]:

Jarl Bjorn returned late one night from a raid on a neighboring village. He was drunk and tired as he crept into his longhouse. Bjorn awakened his servant to help him undress. The servant pulled off Bjorn's left boot, and then tried to pull off the right one, but it was stuck. He pulled and pulled, but even using all his strength he couldn't remove the boot. Bjorn snarled at him and kicked him and told him he was useless, and commanded him to light a lamp so he could see what he was doing. The servant lit the lamp, and Bjorn looked down. "Oh!" he laughed, "There's a spear in my foot!"

21) Have you subscribed to About’s Medieval History newsletter?


22) Have you switched from lagers to ales?


23) Do you spend time creating your own coat of arms in Window's Paint program?

If you answered “yes” to three or more questions, it is quite possible that you are suffering from Quixote Syndrome.  Alas, there is no cure for this condition with the only remedy being to indulge your passion until it burns itself out.  Unfortunately, depending upon the severity of your particular case, this could take many years to happen...if at all.   

“Knight I am, and knight I will die, if such be the pleasure of the Most High….I have redressed injuries, righted wrongs, punished insolences, vanquished giants, and crushed monsters….My intentions are always directed to worthy ends, to do good to all and evil to none; and if he who means this, does this, and makes this his practice deserves to be called a fool, it is for your highnesses to say, O most excellent duke and duchess."   

- Don Quixote          

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 10:56 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007 11:01 PM EDT
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Thursday, 19 April 2007
LotR, 40K and Politics
Mood:  cheeky
Now Playing: The Laura Ingram Show
Topic: LotR, 40K and Politics

"So much death….What can men do against such reckless hate?" asked King Theoden in Peter Jackson’s masterful adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. “Ride out and meet them!” replied Aragon, urging the besieged king to leave his keep and bring the fight to his Orc enemies.

As I watched this little exchange, my mind started ruminating upon the similarities between the troubles of Middle Earth and those of the contemporary world. Would not Theoden’s question be appropriate vis-à-vis the “reckless hate” of our jihadist enemies (this is doubly true in light of the recent use of children by homicide-bombing jihadists)? And would not Aragon’s reply be sage advice for America and her allies (indeed, you could easily argue that President Bush has done just that in Afghanistan and Iraq!)?

Later that day, I engaged in a couple of 40K battles via Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. While shifting my Space Marines here, building a heavy bolter turret there, I listened to a radio news channel that was reporting upon the recent abduction of British sailors by state-sanctioned Iranian pirates and the “restrained” reaction of both Great Britain and America. “Boy,” I thought to myself, “if only we had a modern-day Aragon; someone not afraid to ride out and confront evil at every turn!”

The action upon my computer screen picked up a little with my Space Marines engaging a pack of Chaos cultists. My SM force commander shouted “Cleanse! Purge! Kill!” while massed bolter fire from his steadfast troops shredded the onrushing Chaos horde with bloody abandon.

“Forget Aragon!” I thought as my annoyance over the “restrained” diplomatic reaction to Iranian provocations grew in my belly. “What we could use is a legion of Space Marines to deal the Emperor’s righteous fury to this terrorist state!” I mused to myself, not without a little humor.

My attention was then drawn back to the virtual battlefield as my space marines started to give ground to a large attack led by the Chaos Lord himself. These foul minions of demonic gods always had a trick or two up their sleeve. While managing the battle, my mind continued to play with the idea of 41st Century elements in the contemporary political climate. How would such a merging play out?

“Hmm,” I thought, “this whole Cult of the Emperor thing would have to go.” After all, state-sanctioned worship of the Emperor would be a clear violation of the separation of church and state doctrine (wherever that is in the Constitution). No sir! It would never be allowed. Could you just imagine the apoplectic rantings of the secularists? Their strident demands to remove all priests from the ranks of the IG? The congressional hearings on the activities of the Inquisition? The horror stories leaked to the press concerning the forced indoctrination of space marine recruits into the Cult of the Emperor? Heck, the next time a force commander even utters the word “heretic,” he would, no doubt, be summarily removed from command and court-martialed (and forced to room with Michael Richards at a rehab clinic, no doubt)!

But it wouldn’t stop there. The ACLU would soon bring suit against the Empire, demanding equal rights for those of the Chaos persuasion. ‘Who are we,’ they would argue, ‘to judge the worth of a competing value system? So they engage in a little human sacrifice. Big deal. As long as it is between consenting adults….’ In the interests of tolerance, any preferential treatment of the God-Emperor would soon be eschewed in favor of religious neutrality. Chaos clubs would be sanctioned on college campuses; praying to the God-Emperor would be forbidden in public schools. Eventually, by an act of Congress, the God-Emperor would simply become known as the Emperor.

With the Empire’s newfound tolerance for galactic diversity (which would soon be extended to all the competing galactic races, from Orks to Eldar), the Emperor’s war against his enemies would soon be called into question. “The Emperor lied, the IG died!” would be the chant of college kids everywhere (the inevitable termination of the IG draft would give them loads of free time to march and chant). The New York Times would run editorials detailing the movement of battlefleets, as well as divulging the latest activities of the Inquisition (hobbled as it is by countless congressional oversight committees and Freedom of Information Act lawsuits). Demands would be made to return conquered planets to our (‘alledged’) enemies. After all, what right have we to forcibly occupy another civilization’s land? Just for resources? Or worse, for new converts to the emperor’s silly cult? Did we learn nothing from incessant Arab-Israeli fighting? The Empire of Man would start to shrink as planets were restored to their ‘rightful’ owners….

These increasingly doleful ruminations were interrupted as I started to lose control of the game’s battlefield. A Defiler felled my Landspeeder and a squad of Chaos Marines was pouring through the resultant new breach in my lines.

As I attempted to set things right in my game, my mind reached the conclusion that some sort of ‘Galatic UN’ would need to be set-up to ease tensions amongst the various races. Oh sure, the Empire of Man would be horribly outnumbered in such a gathering (we could probably only count on the occasional support of the mercurial Eldar), but why should that be a stumbling block to such an organization - or our membership in it? Moreover, since humankind possessed the greater material wealth (after all, how much wealth could you expect from such primitive races as Orks and Tyrannids?), we would need to fund much of its operations (despite repeated General Assembly condemnations of the emperor and his foreign policy by the minions of Chaos)….

Darn! Things were going from bad to worse on my screen. Now my base was under a general assault. A Hellhound unleashed a deluge of flame, incinerating another batch of Cultists, buying us a little more time. This brought something else to mind:

Clearly, certain weapons in the Imperial armory would need to be outlawed on humanitarian grounds. Heavy Bolters?!? Do you know how much damage one of those rounds could do if it missed its target (not to mention the environmental damage done by its depleted uranium core!)? Hellhounds to incinerate the enemy (and again, damaging to the environment)?? What about the policy of EXTERMINATUS?!? Unconscionable! All of these would have to go regardless of whether or not our foes followed suit! After all, we would be leading by example, setting a new standard for galactic conduct. That alone would compensate us for any commensurate disadvantage we suffered on the battlefield. With our unilateral disarmament, Mankind could now hold its head up high amongst our ‘galactic neighbors’ – doubly-so if we redirected some of the resultant funds to creating, oh I don’t know, a Tyrannid nature reserve or some college scholarships for Orks. Sure, planets would fall, but we could feel good about ourselves….

My base was now swamped by Chaos scum. My commander was locked in a battle to the death with the Chaos Lord, and my Space Marines were fighting off Horrors from the Warp. Things definitely did not look good for our heroes!

“The poor emperor,” I thought, “what would he make of all this?” Considering the vicious nature of contemporary politics, especially when it involves a political leader with religious convictions, he would probably be fighting to keep his head above water, far to busy answering congressional subpoenas to take effective action against his opponents. (Why did Halliburton get a no-bid contract to administer Mars? Why did the Chief Inquisitor fire eight of his underlings?) Albeit, I suspect he would have a little more free time since he would be ordered to stop projecting the guiding light of the Astronomicon (the galactic EPA would eventually determine that it was proving disorienting to the deamonic inhabitants of the Warp)….

Oh no! My commander lost his fight with the Chaos Lord! Now my ranking leader was a chaplain (er…make that a ‘counselor’ as per my 40K alternate reality). He led his SM squad into battle, attempting to staunch the vile tide as plasma generators and fortified listening posts fell to the enemy around him. The Chapel Barracks (now just ‘barracks’) came under attack….

As my men desperately fought for survival, I realized that, sooner or later, the Undying Emperor would himself come under a very real attack. After all, isn’t ‘undying’ just another way of saying that he is on life-support? What type of life is that? There’s no dignity to be found while entombed in the Golden Throne! Chaos lawyers would file lawsuit after lawsuit to end the ‘artificial means’ that kept the emperor alive (i.e., food and water). After all, he left no living will! Furthermore, an affidavit from his ‘dear friend Khorne’ would state that he made it clear that did not want to exist in such a state. Before long, the plug would be pulled….

The sound of my Stronghold exploding signaled the end of my game…in defeat no less. “No,” I thought as I closed the game, “it would probably be best if we didn’t merge the gallant heroes of the Imperium with the modern world.” In the fictional setting of the 41st Millenium, Good is free to confront Evil with blazing faith and fiery fury. Alas, such a realm seems forever consigned to our dreams and our games.

Maybe John Kerry would join the IG for the votes?


Posted by Wargamer Scott at 10:19 PM EDT
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Saturday, 24 February 2007
The Return of Copperheads
Mood:  irritated
Now Playing:
Topic: The Return of Copperheads

The recent actions of the Democrat-led congress to undermine the troops with their spineless non-binding resolution has brought to mind what I wrote way-back in 2003:

The country regrettably finds itself at war.  Anti-war pundits abound.  Which dilettante said the following:  “Defeat, debt, taxation, sepulchers, these are your trophies.  The war…is a most bloody and costly failure.” 

1)      Al Franken

2)      Michael Moore

3)      Howard Dean

4)      Democrat Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham  

Answer:  Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham. 

Never heard of him?  That’s not surprising as he was an Ohio “Peace Democrat” who served during the Civil War.  In fact, he uttered the above quotation on January 14, 1863 and, soon thereafter, was labeled as a sympathizer of the Confederacy and found himself being deported to the C.S.A. (he later returned north to haunt the Lincoln administration during the 1864 elections)!  

Now why do I mention this? 

My point is simply this:  just as there were Peace Democrats then, we also have them today as well (perhaps ‘Peace Liberals’ would be a better appellation?).  While Franken, Moore, and Dean did not utter the above quote, they have expressed similar "peace at any price" sympathies.  And just like it would have been ill-advised for Lincoln to take politically motivated criticisms of the war effort seriously, it would likewise be a grave mistake for President Bush, or the American people, to heed the remarks of contemporary Vallandighams.  These latter-day Copperheads are nothing more than fifth columnists seeking to derail the war effort for all sorts of reasons, some springing from well-intentioned motivations, others from not so noble origins.  Regardless of the motive, the advice is poison for the well-being of the American and Iraqi people.  As Lincoln himself remarked, “The enemy behind us is more dangerous to the country than the enemy before us.”  

And so it is today. 


Looks like I was right on the money with that one. 

Others have become interested in Copperhead Democrats too.  Once such person is Jennifer L. Webber who has written a book entitled, Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North.  Civil War historian Gary W. Gallagher describes the book as an:

"Excellent study of the most conservative element of the Democratic Party during the Civil War offers a powerful reminder that the North, even as it sought to put down the Confederate rebellion, suffered from deep political divisions. It fruitfully argues that Copperheads more than once threatened the Union war effort before ending the conflict as a group despised only slightly less in the North than the vanquished rebels."

Sound's awfully familiar, doesn't it?  I only hope the last part of the sentence repeats as well....

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 9:38 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 24 February 2007 9:41 PM EST
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Thursday, 8 February 2007
These Things I Believe
Mood:  bright
Now Playing: Classical Music
Topic: These Things I Believe


Everyone must have their own set of core beliefs.  Why?  To lack a set of principles to guide oneself in today's chaotic world is to flirt with disaster.  You see, there are many harmful ideas and beliefs that are promulgated in contemporary culture - many of which will surely lead to corruption if one is not forever on guard against them.  As the best defense is often a good offense, the most successful course of action is to draft your own set of guiding values as a handy compass in times of stormy cultural weather. 

Now, this does not mean you need to reinvent the wheel; indeed, to engage in some ‘creatio ex nihilo' is to invite disaster.  Why?  The average human only enjoys a meager few years of life - not nearly enough time to develop the deep wisdom necessary to craft a set of values that can faithfully serve as moral bedrock.  As such, when formulating your own set of values, I highly recommend taping in the "wisdom of the ages." 

With that in mind, here is my (ever expanding) list of core values/beliefs (as they occur to me):

1)  Tremendous wisdom can be found in antiquity:  I am often shocked at how many historians are scornful of those who lived during the ancient and medieval eras!  To listen to these ignorant pundits of higher learning, denizens of antiquity were mere superstitious savages who wiled away their time waging war and warding off evil spirits (this is a particularly popular view of the medieval era).  Nothing is farther from the truth!  Some of the greatest minds that ever lived existed long before the so-called "modern" era.  Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Saint Augustine, and Saint Thomas Aquinas to name just an obvious few.  Government, science, theology, sociology, even the study of history were all tremendously influenced by these individuals.  Indeed, you could easily argue that the world as we know it would not exist if it were not for the intellectual bedrock established by these great minds!  To ignore the distant past is to ignore a treasure-trove of learning - learning of a superior nature to that found in the modern era.

2)  The Ancients were correct - actors are fools:  One specific bit of ancient wisdom is the idea that the profession of acting is a mere step above that of prostitution.  Indeed, Aristotle considered it quite likely that successful actors were insane individuals.  This inferior position of the thespian class continued well into the medieval ages where actors were routinely labeled as unreliable vagabonds or social outcasts.  It is only a relatively recent phenomenon (by the 17th Century) whereby actors and actresses were accorded a respected position within society. 

Why do I bring this up?  Because of modern Holly-weird.  I am often amused by the exasperation of right-thinking Americans at the antics of the contemporary acting class.  Adultery, drugs, murder, intellectual idiocy and general moral degeneracy...none of this surprises me.  Indeed, if one places any value in the wisdom of the ancients, it is to be expected.  The historical record is clear: don't look to thespians for wisdom and morality. 

3)  It is "gender" not "sex" and there are two of them:  "Gender" denotes the characteristics of the male or female member of the species, while "sex" specifies the act of reproduction.  Get it straight, the terms are not interchangeable.   Likewise, there are only two genders and it is not a crime to recognize that distinction (despite MS Word constantly nudging me to replace "mankind" with "humankind" and "actress" with "actor").  Quite simple, if you are not prepared to address every woman you meet as "Mister," then don't try to neuter the English language! 

4)  The United States of America is a "Republic" and not a "Democracy":  If I hear one more political pundit describe America as a democracy, I will smash my television!  We are NOT a democracy, we are a republic!  Indeed, the Founding Fathers had nothing but contempt for the mob-politics of democracies (an idea stretching all the way back to the ancient world).   If people would take the time to read the US constitution, they would see that the term "democracy" is never once mentioned, but "republic" is mentioned numerous times. 

Why not democracy?   As Plato demonstrated in The Republic, democracy is one step above anarchy.  When you give the masses the reigns of government, it is only a matter of time before the people start treating the government as little more than Santa Claus, an institution primarily charged with providing people with "bread and circuses."  A republic, on the other hand, established a firebreak of sorts between the appetites of the people and the legitimate duties of a government via an elected body of representatives (that is the theory anyway; Plato was skeptical about the long-term viability of republics due to corruption via popular pandering).  It was with this in mind that the Founding Fathers established our American republic, one based heavily upon the structure of the Roman republic. 

So the next time you hear someone refer to America as a "democracy," feel free to slap them for their ignorance!

5)  It is about Liberty and not Freedom:  Similar to the confusion between democracies and republics is the confusion concerning liberty and freedom.  If man existed in a "state of nature" (as Hobbs' termed it), where life was "nasty, brutal and short," then we would be enjoying a state of freedom.  However, since ours is a society based upon a written code of laws that govern our behavior (positive law), we enjoy a state of liberty.  As you can see, there is an important distinction.  Freedom is action without responsibility, while liberty is action governed by responsibility.  That is why the Declaration of Independence states that men are “endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (which is borrowed from John Locke).

Animals are fit for freedom, man is fit for liberty!

6)  Natural Law governs all:  Did you notice that Jefferson mentioned that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights (see above)?  That is a declaration of Natural Law or "God-given law," a code that is eternal, immutable, and "written on the hearts of all men" (St. Thomas Aquinas).  In short, Natural Law puts the lie to moral relativism, the idea that there is no absolute code of moral conduct.  For the vast majority of history, some form of Natural Law has governed human society (particularly Western society).  It is only in the foolish "modern era" that such a basic and obvious fact of existence has been called into question...with disastrous results.  Some wonder why the 20th Century was so epically bloody.  The answer is clear.  It was during the last century that political movements divorced from Natural Law (i.e., Marxism, National Socialism, Maoism, and etcetera) rose to powerful prominence.  After all, what restraint is there on human action when Natural Law (and, by extension, God) is removed from the equation?  The results were predictable:  human life became devalued and mass-murder and human subjugation became the order of the day. 

You reject Natural Law at your own peril. 

7)  The West is superior to the East:  I have become increasingly concerned about the infiltration of Eastern cultural motifs into Western life.  The television is filled with samurai flicks, and Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam are making inroads into the Judeo-Christian spiritual life of the West.  Some of this can be dismissed as a passing fancy with Eastern exoticism.  Nonetheless, I am concerned that the grand culture and history of the West will soon be hopelessly lost in an Oriental flood.   

Again, I turn to the Ancients.  Throughout antiquity, the East represented an inscrutable realm of unceasing menace.  Such a bias is quite understandable when one examines the numerous Eastern barbarian invasions that have threatened to overwhelm the West:  Persians, Goths, Huns, Mongols and the rampaging armies of Islam, to name but a few.   The East, with its penchant for tyrannical regimes fueled by esoteric and arbitrary religiosity, will forever be associated with looming doom and destruction...and rightly so.

Can we honestly say things are different today?  It is startling to observe that the East still represents a grave danger to the West.  Plundering Islamic armies march on, China is as unpredictable and inscrutable as ever, Iran (Persia) seeks nuclear weapons and sponsors terrorism, and North Korea is the ultimate "Hermit State."  And was it not Japan that so recently ran amok and slaughtered millions during World War II? 

But there are other reasons that the West is manifestly superior to the East.  Have you ever noticed how the great centers of learning are always located in the West?  How the most remarkable advances in science and medicine spring from Western universities and research centers?  Likewise, when was the last time you heard of widely accepted cultural phenomenon that originated in the East?  For example, can you name any world-class Middle Eastern artists on par with Monet?  Any Asian composers on the same level as a Bach or Beethoven? 

Of course not.

The reason why the West has produced such intellectual excellence is largely due to a heritage that places a premium upon the application of Reason.  From Aristotle to Aquinas, the West has always believed that the universe is inherently rationale, and, as such, understandable.  Not so for the East as, in those far off lands, the world is often viewed as inscrutable and, therefore, not worthy of investigation (at least not beyond the purposes of idle amusement).  This is why the West has always had such a tremendous advantage when it came to the disciplines of learning and their practical applications.

Likewise, it is the Judeo-Christianity of the West that motivated the culture of Western man to tremendous heights.  For much of the West's culture has been driven by the Christian concepts of a God manifested as absolute Beauty and Truth.  No such tradition existed in the East, largely due to that realm's contempt for the material world and its embrace of philosophical relativism.  As such, the West has always thrived while the East has intellectually and culturally lurched with distressing randomness, a record that continues unabated to this day. 

8) War is not an absolute evil:   I defer to the wisdom of John Stuart Mill:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Some where along the line, the great warriors of antiquity, from Achilles to Richard the Lionhearted, have been reduced to senseless warmongers.  Are we to assume that these men were mad butchers?  That they were indifferent to the horrors of war?  Or that these men of were driven to war because they were incapable of assuming some other occupation?  Of course not!  War was just as horrible in ages past as it is now (in fact, I would argue that modern warfare is far more humane).   The reason why many of these men (but not all, to be certain!) led men in battle and risked life and limb was due to an adherence of a principle greater than themselves, be it nationalism or religious doctrine.  This is not a sin!  As Mill himself pointed out, sometimes you need to defend what you hold dear, be it your home or your honor.  To shrink from such a duty, to retreat from such a fight, is the greater crime.  That is why those brave warriors of times past are so honored to this very day.  Despite the requisite denunciation of armed conflict, somewhere deep within our souls we recognize the necessity and, dare I say it, glory of those men who fought and died for a principle greater than themselves.  Don't believe me?  Take a tour of Gettysburg and try to tell me that those many marvelous monuments are mere testaments to human bloodlust and not to the tremendous self-sacrifice of those who died to set other men free.  Men fight because they want to affirm sacred truths, not denounce their humanity.

Evil is on the prowl in this fallen world, and to not confront it, to not risk life and limb to make the world a better place, would be to surrender, and not champion, our morality.  War, while not pleasant, is a necessary tool. 


This is just a partial list of what I believe.  How would yours compare?  It can be both instructive and amusing to discover just what beliefs matter to you when you try to set them to paper.  Try it today (and feel free to post them here).

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 10:02 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007 10:05 PM EST
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Sunday, 28 January 2007
Throw the Bums Out!
Mood:  irritated
Now Playing: Accuradio's 80s Channel
Topic: Throw the Bums Out!



I know, I know, I promised to continue updating my blog despite the increased responsibilities of life.  Unfortunately, this has not happened.  I have been crafting some blog entries, but many of these, being of a gaming nature, have found a home at my gaming blog and not here.  However, as I currently find myself severed from the internet due to a cable outage, I thought now would be a very good time to rectify this paucity of FEBA entries.

    The issue at the top of my list is politics.  A lot has happened since my last few entries and I think now is a good time to catch up.  

    Despite Democrat posturing, the recent election results were not a mandate for left-wing politics, but a protest vote against Republican spinelessness.  Mid-term elections historically work against the party in power and this election was typical in its outcome.  Democrat gains were pretty average and long overdue (Republicans dodged the bullet with their counter-historic gains during the 2002 midterm election) – which is remarkable considering how the GOP dropped the ball in almost every category.   In fact, I will go so far as to say that if…

A) President Bush hadn’t been hiding under his desk for the last three years and had actually provided some leadership to congress


B) Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist were competent leaders less interested in getting along with their Democrat counterparts and more interested in opposing their left-wing agenda

…then I believe it was quite probable that the GOP would have dodged the midterm bullet yet again.  Alas, that did not happen.  

    Dick Morris, the used car salesman of the political world, said something clever not too long ago (and don’t underestimate how difficult that is for him).  He remarked that President Bush is “a one term president well into his second term.”  Exactly right.  At the close of his first term, I believed, as did many other conservatives, that President Bush would finish his second term on a level with the great Ronald Reagan.  After all, his first term was not just marked by a long-overdue steel-spined foreign policy, but was also characterized by innovative domestic ideas (reforming Social Security, doing away with the current tax code, and implementing healthcare savings accounts).  Regrettable, shortly after being sworn into office for the second term, President Bush & Co. seemed to have promptly gone to sleep.  Social Security reform was surrendered without a fight.  Doing away with the IRS in favor of a flat tax or national sales tax was quietly killed when a special committee (of questionable pedigree) concluded that the IRS was doing a fine job (!).  Even the all-important issue of Supreme Court nominees was nearly botched when, in a fit of remarkable stupidity, President Bush nominates Harriet Miers, his own attorney, to the highest court in the land (!!).  I sometimes think that the real President Bush, the courageous Bush of 2000-2004, is being held captive somewhere….

    To this sorry presidential record, we can add the outright incompetence of congress.  Due to the lack of leadership in the Senate (Bill Frist, at best, was a hapless majority leader), the “gang of 14,” those feckless renegade Republicans lead by John McCain, wielded the true power in the Senate.  Countless important legislative items, from border security to domestic spending reform, were sidelined, mangled, or outright killed by this unholy alliance of RINOs and DemoRats.  And while the House displayed more conservative gusto, Dennis Hastert (the great stealth Speaker of the House) was often more interested in linking arms with Nancy Pelosi than he was in actually passing conservative legislation (it still boggles my mind when I think of him rallying to the defense of William Jefferson, a corrupt Democrat congressman found with marked FBI money in his freezer!).  What a disgrace.

    Add to this a number of ridiculous spectacles.  For example, who can forget Tom Delay’s epic stand when, after being indicted on trumped-up charges and vowing to fight to the bitter end to prove his innocence, promptly resigned with nary a whimper (I still snicker when I think of GOP sycophant Fred Barns claiming that Delay’s resignation was a victory for the Republican party!)? It really is no wonder why the GOP lost control of both chambers.  Heck, even a stalwart conservative Republican such as me felt a tinge of satisfaction with the electoral results (I don’t tolerate treachery well).  After all, I voted for conservativism, not a bunch of political clowns in business attire selling out their principles at every opportunity.  What a shame and sham….

So now the Dems are in charge...but don’t worry, these are “conservative democrats” (as Fred Barnes constantly assures us).   Really now.  I guess that is why a San Francisco liberal is running the House, Harry Reid is running the Senate, and Rangle, Kennedy, Murtha et alia are chairing committees, eh?  Give me a break.  While there are some DINOs (Democrats in Name Only), the “bi-partisan” spirit is usually limited to weak-kneed Republicans.  A Dem is a Dem is a Dem.  In short order, the House has passed an increase in the minimum wage, reinstated funding for embryonic research, and called into question (yet again) the entire War on Terror.  Where are all these “conservative Democrats”?  

    Sorry to break the news, but America is back on the left-wing express for the next two years, perhaps for even longer.  Why?  Because the GOP has not figured out why it lost the trust of the American people.  Since the elections, all I have heard from the new Republican minority leadership is insipid rhetoric to the effect that a) it was overly conservative (i.e., “divisive”) legislation that cost them congress, or b) the way back to power is with conservatively fiscal legislation (i.e., tax cuts), but not conservative social and domestic legislation (pro-life, anti-illegal immigration, etcetera).  In short, the new GOP congressional leadership (led by the unreliable House minority leader John Boehner and assistant senatorial retread Trent “I apologize” Lott in the Senate) has not gotten the real message of the American people.  What cost Republicans Congress was a failure to deliver on the conservative promises of the last twelve years, a problem extending all the way up to the president himself.  If the GOP wants to have any chance at winning in 2008, the party needs to grow a spine (a tough proposition for most Republicans) and exhibit the conservative leadership of a Reagan or a Gingrich.

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 1:58 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 31 January 2007 12:02 AM EST
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Monday, 18 September 2006
What Needs to be Said
Mood:  loud
Now Playing: Accuradio's Flock of '80s
Topic: Islamic Intolerance


"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
 ---Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus

Pope Benedict XVI has said something that, thus far, has gone unsaid for too long.   What is this, you might ask?  Simply a truism: that Islam is the underlying cause for the world’s recent spat of international bloodletting.  Now, to be accurate, his address at the University of Regensburg ( only tangentially tackled the issue of violence as a component of organized religion; the lecture was primarily concerned with Reason (with a capital “R”) as something that transcends simple, modern empiricism and quantification.    However, in those few sentences that are not devoted to the larger issue of reason as a component of theology, the pope’s message is clear:  God is inherently rational and logical.  Therefore, any religion that embraces a God that is portrayed as being either irrational or capricious is inherently flawed.   With this precept in mind, Pope Benedict is clearly implying that Islam’s history of violent, forced conversion of non-Muslims clearly fails this fundamental test of belief in a rational God.  

What amazes me is that, despite the deaths of countless thousands of people due to Islamic violence, Pope Benedict is the first official willing to attempt to expose the oft-repeated absurdity that “Islam is a religion of peace.”  Conservative or liberal; Muslim or non-Muslim; pundit or politician---all bend over backwards to assure the world that Islam is not the problem but just another victim of “fascists” that have “hijacked a great religion.” 

I have often found that the easiest way to disprove a fallacy is with simple research.  With that in mind, I set out to find out whether or not Islam has ever demonstrated a propensity towards peace.  I was not startled to discover that this idea is demonstrably false, but I was startled at how it took me less than five minutes to do so!    All I had to do was enter the search term “crusades” into my 2002 edition of MS Encarta to get the following entry:

"But the greatest threat came from the forces of Islam, militant and victorious in the centuries following the death of their leader, Muhammad, in 632. By the 8th century, Islamic forces had conquered North Africa, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and most of Spain. Islamic armies established bases in Italy, greatly reduced the size and power of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire) and besieged its capital, Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire, which had preserved much of the classical civilization of the Greeks and had defended the eastern Mediterranean from assaults from all sides, was barely able to hold off the enemy. Islam posed the threat of a rival culture and religion, which neither the Vikings nor the Magyars had done." 

Now, mind you, this did not come from some “Christian extremist” site (you know, one of those apparently numerous sites Rosie O’Donnell so fears is undermining the American way of life), but from a completely impartial encyclopedia produced by a liberal, Seattle-based corporation. 

 So what are we to conclude from this selection of text?  If, as many claim, Islam had been hijacked by “extremists,” then this process of usurpation must have begun mere moments after its inception.  After all, as early as the 8th Century, Islam had already been slashing and burning its way across the non-Muslim world, establishing dominion over lands long under the sway of rival religions.  I find this very strange as, if you listen to the apologists for Islam, America and Israel are the cause for the recent phenomenon of Islamic violence. Of course, neither America nor Israel yet existed when the Saracens started their conquest of non-Muslim peoples (nor, for that matter, had the Crusades yet occurred---another popular excuse for the Muslim propensity towards violence). 

 Speaking of the Crusades, in the light of the above passage, it can easily be seen why Pope Urban II felt the necessity to call the first Crusade---it was not because of a sudden lust for land on the part of the pontiff, but rather a reaction to Islamic conquests. As Pope Urban remarked:

“For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them.”

It is also interesting to note that some decades after the last Crusade was called, the bloody march of Islam resumed, terminating (fortunately) with the 1526 defeat of Sultan Suleiman I at the gates of Vienna.   Historically speaking, Islam is all about conquest, and not at all about peaceful coexistence with its non-Muslim neighbors---such a record simply does not exist. 

 With this in mind, I quickly concluded that the problem must reside within the credo of Islam itself.  But how could this be?  After all, I have seen many Muslim clerics assure the world that the Koran prohibits violence toward non-believers.  Hmm…better look into this one, I thought.

 The Koran does state "There is no compulsion in religion..." (Surah 2:256) However, that was written at a time when Muhammad was the one being prosecuted by non-believers.  Once the tide had turned in his favor, the tone of the Koran became much more intolerant:

“Those who deny Allah and His Messengers, ... strike at their necks; at length, when you have thoroughly subdued them….( Surah 4:150-152)


"Tell the unbelievers that if they abandon their ways He will forgive them what is past, but, if they return, that was indeed the way of their forefathers who have passed away. Fight them until persecution is no more and the Religion of Allah reigns supreme." (Surah 8:39-40)


"...O Prophet, urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty patient men among you, you shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred, they shall overcome a thousand, for they are a nation who do not understand."  (Surah 8:65)


"Fight those who neither believe in Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, and do not embrace the religion of the truth, being among those who have been given the Book (Bible and the Torah), until they pay tribute out of hand and have been humiliated." (Surah 9:29)

That does not sound very tolerant and peaceful, does it?  Now, now, I know some of you are probably protesting that while the Koran does include such inflammatory declarations, no Muslim of the modern age actually adheres to such a strict interpretation.  Really?  Why do you think we are currently engaged in a War on Terror (a term which belies this nation’s continued reluctance to name the enemy)?  Why do you think 9-11 occurred?  The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center?  The bombing of USS Cole?  The Marine barracks in Beirut?  The Middle East obsession with the destruction of Israel (the Arab press often refers to Israel as a “crusader state”)?  You have better believe that Islam is still at war with the non-Muslim world. But don’t take my word for it, take the world of Syrian-born Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed:

"We don't make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. It has no sanctity. We will use your democracy to destroy your democracy."

 I could go on and on with this topic---indeed there are many fine websites out there that do just that (see  But I think my point is manifestly clear:  Islam and intolerance goes hand and hand; it is this very nature that has caused so much bloodshed.  And, instead of learning from its unfortunate past, such intolerance continues---sometimes expressed in bizarre ways.  For example, shortly after Pope Benedict’s recent address (see above), Muslim leaders denounced his comments as creating an unfair depiction of Islam as a violent and intolerant religion.  To prove their point, Muslims around the world rioted and firebombed Christian churches throughout the Middle East, with one Somali cleric demanding the death of the pope(!).  You can’t make this stuff up….

In response to ever more Muslim outrage, Father Raymond J. de Souza wrote the following:

"In response to this historical excursus in an academic lecture by one of the world's most erudite theologians, we are witnessing a wave of madness and malice, no doubt an embarrassment to millions of Muslims....

It is not only the obscenity of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist terrorist band suppressed in several Muslim states, demanding an apology from anyone, let alone the Holy Father.

It is not only the grandstanding Pakistani politicians passing resolutions condemning a papal speech few read, and even fewer understood. It is not only the extraneous charges about the Holocaust and Hitler by the agitated and excited.

It is that we have seen this before.

When Pope John Paul II made his epic pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Palestinian Muslim representatives jostled him on the Temple Mount, shouted at him, and, in one episode of maximum rudeness, abandoned him on stage during an interfaith meeting. Bashir Assad, the Syrian President, treated him to an anti-Semitic rant when the late pope visited Syria.

And it is well past time that the maltreatment of history ceased too.

Catholics have for quite some time now confessed the sinful and wicked shadows that marked the Crusades, but any suggestion the whole affair was about rapacious Christians setting upon irenic Muslims must be rejected.
After all, the formerly Christian lands of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia Minor were not converted to Islam by Muslim missionary martyrs. Those lands were conquered by the sword.

In most countries with Muslim majorities, Christians do not have the full freedom to practise their faith without fear.
Whether private harassment or state-sanctioned torture, Christians the world over know all too well that the sword of Islam has not been sheathed. No doubt the extreme reaction to Benedict's address will serve the purpose of keeping local Christians in their place throughout the Islamic world."

Let us hope that this is the straw which broke the camel’s back.  Let us hope that the world is, at long last, prepared to honestly face the Islamic menace that has, yet again, reared its ugly, intolerant, and violent head from the pages of history.  I’ll leave you with the words of G. K. Chesterton summing up the difference between Christian West and Islamic East:

"Now a man preaching what he thinks is a platitude is far more intolerant than a man preaching what he admits is a paradox. It was exactly because it seemed self-evident, to Moslems as to Bolshevists, that their simple creed was suited to everybody, that they wished in that particular sweeping fashion to impose it on everybody. It was because Islam was broad that Moslems were narrow. And because it was not a hard religion it was a heavy rule. Because it was without a self-correcting complexity, it allowed of those simple and masculine but mostly rather dangerous appetites that show themselves in a chieftain or a lord. As it had the simplest sort of religion, monotheism, so it had the simplest sort of government, monarchy. There was exactly the same direct spirit in its despotism as in its deism. The Code, the Common Law, the give and take of charters and chivalric vows, did not grow in that golden desert. The great sun was in the sky and the great Saladin was in his tent, and he must be obeyed unless he were assassinated. Those who complain of our creeds as elaborate often forget that the elaborate Western creeds have produced the elaborate Western constitutions; and that they are elaborate because they are emancipated."

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 12:10 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006 12:32 AM EDT
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Monday, 24 July 2006
Two Views of Chess
Mood:  chatty
Now Playing:
Topic: Two Views of Chess


The following are two interesting and opposing views of chess.  The first is taken from Dykstra’s War by Jeffrey D. Kooistra, an entertaining look at mankind’s first war with spider-like space aliens known as the Phinons.  The following quote is from a character by the name of Colonel Knoedler, the man who is responsible for planning our first engagement with the beasties from beyond….

“Whenever Colonel Knoedler needed to think real hard, he found it necessary to put himself in the proper mood, and this was most easily accomplished by reading the right book.  Since most of the things his position demanded he think about involved strategy and tactics, the two books he most often turned to were Herman Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War, a classic from the middle of the last century, and Potapov’s Kasparov vs. the Computers: The Complete Games….
Knoedler put down the Kahn book and picked up the chess one.

The colonel’s rooms at the High Command were efficiently furnished….The only genuine decorations he had were his chess sets.  Three out of his collection of more than a hundred were on display: one of gold and silver on a shelf; one of precious stones on a side table; one of pewter spaceship pieces on a gaming table, the only one that he’d actually play games with.  Dykstra had had a collection of chess sets, until the Belt blew up his house.

The Phinons had him in one hell of a chess match right now.  The raids happening on the trans-Hague Limit assets were little pawn thrusts.  The ships congregating out in deep space, leaving hyperspace but not reentering---that had to be where the real strategy was shaping up….

What kind of chess game is this?  They can see my pieces, but theirs are invisible.  They can see my possible moves, but theirs I can’t consider until after they made them.
Colonel Knoedler was a marvelous chess player.  Against weaker opponents, he’d readily exchange pieces, simplifying things until he could put together an elegant checkmate.  The few times he played someone of equal caliber…he’d play for complications, trusting that his wit and skill would ultimately carry him through if he just had time enough to pick away at his competiton.

In this situation, I most definitely need to play for complications….

Knoedler put down the chess book finally and went to his bookshelf.  He took an old Bible out....And then, several times, he read the story of David and Goliath.”

Chess has often been, and continues to be, used as a metaphor for war.  It is always an entertaining experience to read how authors weave the Royal Game into their tales of warfare.
The next passage is from a non-fiction piece by The National Review’s John Derbyshire.  His essay, entitled War Games, is, at first, a tribute to the classic game of Stratego.  However, as is often the case with articles that deal with a specific board game, chess is inevitably drawn into the discussion.  

“Most of these strategy games (I am not sure about Go) were originally spin-offs from the military arts.  You can, in fact, graduate from them to full-scale war games.  I have an acquaintance whose hobby is the re-fighting of great naval engagements on a large table in his basement.  However, he has a great deal more spare time than I have.  Stratego will do for me.
The essence of Stratego is, of course, strategy.  As an introduction to those aspects of life that involve the weighing of strategies, the game is excellent.  I have always thought chess unsatisfactory in this regard, being devoid of the element of chance.  Meritocracy is a very fine thing, but not much of the world is meritocratic, and a child may as well get acquainted with the Fickle Finger of Fate early on in life.  In any case, I am a duffer at chess, being too lazy-minded and insufficiently competitive.  For a while, in my teens, I gave the game some serious attention, working through championship contests that I found in books or newspapers.  Time and again, though, I would have the very disconcerting experience of following the logic of the moves quite happily until, right in the middle of what seemed to me like a promising development — “White resigns.”  Why had he resigned?  I had no clue.  White had been looking just fine to me.
I left chess for other people to play.  I had grasped, in any case, that skill at playing chess correlates with nothing else at all — certainly not with geniality, as is illustrated by the personalities of numerous great chess champions.  (Nor even with the ability to design chess-playing computers.  Taiwanese genius Feng-hsiung Hsu, co-designer of the ‘Deep Blue’ machine that defeated Gary Kasparov in 1997, confesses wryly in his book Behind Deep Blue that he is himself a mediocre chess player, and that Kasparov gave up trying to talk chess with him after a few minutes ‘sensing that I was not seeing the game on the same level as he and Deep Blue...’)”

Quite unlike our sage colonel, Mr. Derbyshire has a far lower opinion of the Royal Game, even going so far as to suggest that to be skilled at chess is to be skilled at nothing; chess is so removed from the real world that mastery of the game has no practical real-world benefits.  Rising to dear Caissa’s defense, I would argue that much of Mr. Derbyshire’s complaints are little more than the venting of a frustrated patzer who has since sought easier pastures.  After all, did not the great Benjamin Franklin himself argue that:

“The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it.”

Alas, I suppose we will have to leave this dispute for another time and another essay because I want to make a more important point.  What might that be, you ask?  This: that despite the fact that chess is some 1300 years old, it still continues to captivate both supporters and detractors alike.  Needless to say, any game which can do that after so many centuries is truly a special game, a game well worth a reserved spot on even the most crowded game shelf.  If you play chess, keep on playing.  And if you do not, start today.  I do not promise you will love it, or even like it, but I do promise that you will not soon forget it.   As Donald McLean once remarked, “Take these pieces, set them in their rank and file upon an 8 x 8 magic square and you have the recipe for endless centuries of romance and intrigue.”

Recommended Reading:

Dykstra's War by  Jeffery D. Kooistra
ISBN: 0671319582
Thinking about the Unthinkable by Herman Kahn
ISBN: 067160449X

Kasparov Versus Deep Blue: Computer Chess Comes of Age
by Monroe Newborn
ISBN: 0387948201

Posted by Wargamer Scott at 1:53 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006 2:01 AM EDT
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