Cover photo
Edward Morbius
Attends Krell Independent Study


Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
A.H.M. Jones, Augustus, The Breakdown of the Republic

The following is the introduction to Jones' 1970 biography of the Roman emperor Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire and ruling from 27 BC to 14 AD. I chanced on a copy at a friend's house during recent travels, and finally tracked down a copy (it does remain in print as a print-on-demand book, but is otherwise surprisingly difficult to locate for sale). Though short, the book is quite densely written. This introductory chapter is among the better and more accessible within it.

What struck me most was the description of the political situation which begins the work -- what follows are quite literally the first few paragraphs of the book, which I typed out a couple of days ago.

The parties -- a plutonomic obligates, the proletarian populares, and the swing-voting equites, and the fundamental platforms: strong property rights and absolute honoring of debt by the obligates, land reform (democratising the means of production) and grain subsidies (one way to accomplishing what a living wage would provide), and the interests of each in either securing more power for themselves, or of weakening the power of the opposition. Oh, and complete with extrajudicial executions of the unfortunate. It all sound stunningly contemporary. Frighteningly so.

The book itself is brief, 167 pages. I'm going to try to force myself to a strict online diet to plow through it. It's Jones' final work, he died prior to its publication, though all but the index was complete at the time. Pithy, expert, and compelling, from the first bits.

I've been meaning to share this for a while, +John Poteet​​​ got a highly misquoted preview some weeks ago.

But yeah: it's all about power, my droogs.


The breakdown of the Roman Republic has been called Hannibal's legacy, and there is some truth in the epigram. The long years (218-201 B.C.) of fighting and ravaging up and down Italy, and the long years of military service at home and abroad, impoverished the peasantry and brought many of them to ruin. In the years that followed, the Spanish provinces acquired during the war meant more long-term service abroad, while the Eastern wars brought in a flood of money, most of which found its way into the pockets of the upper classes, particularly senators. Their invevitable reaction was to invest this money in land and, since the wars produced a glut of slaves, to stock their new estates with slaves. The peasant proprietors began to be squeezed out, and a rural proletariat of landless peasants began to form. These were the origins of the agrarian problem which was to dog the Roman Republic for the rest of its existence.

The second Punic War, and still more the wars overseas which followed it, also embittered relations betwen Rome and her Italian allies. The cities and tribes of Italy, as they had one by one been subdued, had been given treaties, under which they were obliged to supply troops to fight in Rome's wars. As long as these wars were in Italy, against such common enemies as the Gauls, the allies felt no particular grievance. But now that they had to fight to win provinces or indemnities for the sole benefit of Rome, they began to be restive. Roman magistrates and the Senate had, moreover, in the period of the second Punic War grown used to ordering the allies about in an arbitrary fashion, and continued to do so in peace time.

It was the agrarian problem that sparked off the violence that was ultimately to destroy the Republic. Tiberius Gracchus' bill, enacted in 133 B.C. for distributing the public land, after leaving a generous allowance to the occupiers, in small lots to poor citizens, excited such furious resistance among the senatorial landowners that a group of them lynchded Gracchus. This was the first in a series of violent clashes between two groups who called themselves the optimates and the populares. The nucleus of the optimates was the small clique of nobles (men whose fathers, grandfathers, or more remote ancesters had been consuls) who more or less monopolized the highest offices and dominated the Senate, but they had wide support among the propertied class, even, as Cicero says, propserous freedman; otherwise they could not have maintained their unbroken hold on the higher magistracies. They were conservatives, who regarded the rights of property as sacred, and therefore resisted bitterly any attempts to redistribute land or cancel debt. They were upholders of the constitution and of religion, which could be used to block any revolutionary legislation. Though at times they had to yield to popular pressure, they always remained the government.

The populares were a much less well defined group. Their leaders were individual politicians or very small groups of politicians, who at intervals attempted to legislate in the interests of the people, by which they meant the common people. Most of them were also nobles, and their usual weapon was the tribunate of the plebs, which was the normal legislative office --- when the Senate wanted a law passed it normally requested the tribunes to put it to the plebeian assembly, and a tribune could pass a law without the assent of the Senate --- and possessed other formidable powers, such as an all embracing veto and the right of impeaching the most senior magistrates (after their year of office) before the people: it was also an office to which it was easy to be elected, since there were ten tribunes a year. The populares developed a regular programme of legislation. First came the distribution of smallholdings to landless citizens. These were at first offered to all. Later, when Marius began to recruit landless peasants into the army, the distribution was limited to time-served soldiers, who obviously had a superior claim. The next point in the programme was the provision by the state of corn for the proletariat of Rome at a price that they could afford. From time to time the populares were interested in the problem of debt, which frequently meant agricultural indebtedness. They were early successful in introducing the secret ballot into voting in the assembly, for legislation, elections and trials. They also stood up against the execution of Roman citizens without a lawful trial; the Senate was very prone to ignore this elementary right of the citizen in what it deemed to be political crises. Most populares advocated the grant of citizenship to the Italian allies. They were generally interested in the welfare of the provincials; most of the extortion laws were promoted by populares. Finally, they substituted equites (citizens owning 400,000 sesterces who were not senators) for senators as jurors in the criminal courts.

Support came to the populares from different sections of the population according to the measures that they advocated from time to time. The landless peasants flocked to Rome to vote for land allotments, but the urban poor were more interested in distribution of corn. It was the peasant proprietors who clamoured for abolition of debt. The equites were uncertain in their allegiance. They would support a popular leader who championed their control of the criminal courts, but the thought of distribution of land or abolition of debt promptly sent them into the camp of the optimates. Apart from the allies themselves, who having no votes were politically valueless, no one favoured their enfranchisement; for one reason or another optimates, the equites, the urban proletariat and the peasantry were opposed to it. We know the fact but we can only infer the reasons. In general there was a reluctance to extend and therby dilute the privileges of citizenship. The nobles no doubt feared that the aristocratic families in the Italian cities would break their monopoly of high office at Rome. The equites may have feared that wealthy Italian groups would outbid them for the tax contracts and compete for the equestrian militiae, the offer-posts of prefect and tribune in the army. The urban proletariat may have feared that poor Italians would migrate to Rome and compete for the wheat ration, the peasants that they would apply for land allotments.


Title: Augustus
Author: A. H. M. Jones
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York
(c) 1970
SBN 393 04328 2
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 70-128042

Table of Contents:

Geonealogical Table of the Julian Family
Main Events of Augustus' Live and Reign
Preface and Note
1. The Breakdown of the Republic
2. Caesar's Heir
3. Triumvir
4. The Restoration of the Republic
5. The Principate
6. The Constitutional Position
7. The Magistrates and the Senate
8. The Provinces.
9. The Armed Forces
10. Finance
11. Justice
12. Social Policy
13. Religion
14. Literature and the Arts
15. Augustus
16. The Sources

Select Bibliography

(Repurposed from an earlier private share.)
Hartmut Noack's profile photoChris Merle's profile photoDonald Petersen's profile photoMarc Herbert's profile photo
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".
BTW: USA = Rome, Europe = Greece?
 ·  Translate

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
"Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better. "

-- Edsger Wybe Dijkstra 896
Is it a coincidence that both of you almost quoted Edsger Wybe Dijkstra? "Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better. " (EWD 896) ...

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
The Algorithm is an Idiot: Paypal Edition

"Isis" is a river flowing into the Thames, and running through the town of Oxford, somewhat known for colleges. As is typical of rivers, the name is further lent to other landmarks and establishments in the neighbourhood. With all-to-predictable results given the intersection of geopolitical events and electronically mediated interactions:

An Isis street resident ran into some unexpected difficulties when attempting to purchase a small quantity of haberdashery on the internet with the aid of a PayPal account. The transaction would not process. In puzzlement she eventually got irritated enough to brave the 24/7 customer support telephone tag labyrinth. The short version of the response from the eventual real person she managed to get through to was that PayPal have blacklisted addresses which include the name "Isis". They will not process payments for goods to be delivered to an Isis related address, whatever state of privileged respectability the residents of such properties may have earned or inherited in their lifetimes to this point.

Who knows if the "avoid Isis" algorithm was added by a low level techie, a policy decision within PayPal driven by risk averse lawyers or some other process. Whatever the process, the result is that people with an Isis address have been tagged with a "do not touch" label on the internet.

The Algorithm is an Idiot.
Daniel Estrada's profile photoPeter van der Linden's profile photoJoerg Fliege's profile photoEric Mintz's profile photo
Slander, perhaps?

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
Sadly, I know products which would be improved by using this.

G+ comes to mind.
universal.css - The only CSS you will ever need

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
"There is certainly a limit to what an organized movement of people who share a mutual dream can do, but we haven’t found it yet."

Re-reading Quinn Norton's excellent "Everything is Broken" and noting some particular elements. The idea that coordinated public action is an exceptionally powerful force probably needs reinforcing.

The more so as it can be applied strategically to desired ends.

The problem with the normals and tech is the same as the problem with the normals and politics, or society in general. People believe they are powerless and alone, but the only thing that keeps people powerless and alone is that same belief. People, working together, are immensely and terrifyingly powerful.

Facebook and Google seem very powerful, but they live about a week from total ruin all the time. They know the cost of leaving social networks individually is high, but en masse, becomes next to nothing. Windows could be replaced with something better written. The US government would fall to a general revolt in a matter of days. It wouldn’t take a total defection or a general revolt to change everything, because corporations and governments would rather bend to demands than die. These entities do everything they can get away with — but we’ve forgotten that we’re the ones that are letting them get away with things.

This applies far beyond tech companies.
Once upon a time, a friend of mine accidentally took over thousands of computers. He had found a vulnerability in a piec…
Marc Herbert's profile photoEdward Morbius's profile photo
So, a question arises: what objectives might you seek to accomplish?
What pressure or control points might you use to achieve them?

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
In which we review the recent Charlie Chaplin theatrical release

In Modern Times Chaplin proves again what the whole world already acknowledges - that he is the greatest artist of the silent screen as apart from the half-theatrical talking screen, the most eloquent master of mime, and the simplest, most essential, and most touching of comedians. Unless recent impressions have unbalanced the judgment this would certainly appear to be one of his very best films....

Et. cetera.

Postcards from 1936.
1936 Chaplin proves again what the whole world already acknowledges - that he is the greatest artist of the silent screen as apart from the half-theatrical talking screen, the most eloquent master of mime, and the simplest, most essential, and most touching of comedians

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
Supposing you wanted to install hardware compromises on a maximum set of devices? Would robotising your assembly ops be on your strategy list?

Foxconn is probably a consortium of international spy agencies into various central locations so that the build outs could be controlled and the proper chipsets with the proper spywear could be more easily installed, depending on the PO's country of origin..

-- +Doug Senko​​ commenting on +Woozle Hypertwin​​'s post here.

You'd have 60k fewer potential whistleblowers.

NB: "You" need not be the notional owner of the automation plant. It could be the pwner instead.
60,000 jobs in one go, more than half the workforce of this Foxconn factory have been terminated thanks to robotics becoming cheap enough to implement. … - Woozle Hypertwin - Google+
Edward Morbius's profile photoWoozle Hypertwin's profile photo
+Edward Morbius  Mine was the bumper-sticker version; yours is probably more accurate.

I'd suggest that the cost of the power which gets multiplied is so minimal that it tends towards 0% (of the total power wielded) as automation increases, making my statement almost as accurate.

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
Gresham's Law, Steel version -- high vs. low sulfer steel, reality vs. perception

Brearley knew that, as far as physical properties of steel go, there’s no difference between an axle with 0.035 percent sulfur and one with 0.05 percent sulfur. But he missed the point: the difference, a manager told him, was £2 a ton. It was a lesson in politics as much as commerce; it didn’t matter if the steel was no better. It only mattered that people thought it was better, and were willing to pay more for it.

The story as a whole concerns innovation, technology, industry, metallurgy, and in particular steelmaking.

This paragraph though highlights again the distinction between a perceived distinction and a meaningful one. That a market informational asymmetry will persist for a £2 price differential over an irrelevant distinction among product.
Sometime in 1882, a skinny, dark-haired, 11-year-old boy named Harry Brearley entered a steelworks for the first time. A shy kid—he…

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
How the Media are Influenced: James O'Keefe's blunder with the Open Society Foundation

A low-level staffer with a foundation backed by George Soros gets an odd, and long, voicemail message. Its full length and content aren't intentional by the caller:

She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything . . . before I hang up the phone.”

“That piqued my interest,” Geraghty recalls. Other aspects of the message puzzled her: “Who says they’re with a foundation without saying which one? He sounded scattered. And usually people call to get funding, not to offer it.” Victor Kesh, she suspected, was “someone passing as someone else.”

The audio of the call is on The New Yorker Radio Hour Episode 31, starting at 17m2s and continuing for about 9 minutes.

Larry Wilmore on Presidential Comedians, and James O’Keefe’s Blunder.

If you're curious about how the sausage is made, this is an impressive reveal.

h/t +The New Yorker​​
O’Keefe’s signature method is to entrap targets into breaking the law. Credit Illustration by Mike McQuade; Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty (man)

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
The question here ultimately becomes The Great Unknown of Economics: Why did the modern Industrial Revolution occur where and when it did, in England, starting about 1750?

Not earlier elsewhere in Europe.
Not in China, which had all the technology.
Not in the Americas at all.
Not in the Arabian Peninsula, which had an epic wealth of oil then as now.

How many parameters could be tweaked to obtain the same result.

For my own selfish reasons I'd like to keep the discussion to the original post, but if you missed this earlier, hop on in.
What are the economy's inputs?

(What are an ecosystem's inputs?)

A Kropotkin meme that passed by earlier today claims it's surplus labour value captured by capitalists as capital.

I've been tending strongly to the premise that it's a surplus of cheap and abundant fungible energy.

Others, Douglass C. North would be one, credit institutions. Throughout much of orthodox economics it's, variously "the free market" or "technology". Much of the P2P crowd (see +Michel Bauwens​ particularly) seem obsessed with "the commons". Various identity-group political fronts credit their various identity groups.

Some of these seem more credible than others.

The candidates as I see them: Land. Labour. Capital. Energy. Raw materials. Knowledge. Processes. Infrastructure. Community. Communications. Commerce. Laws. Predictability. Exchange media. Fair valuation. Commons. Specific identity groups.
46 comments on original post
Edward Morbius's profile photo
Comments disabled, reply to original.

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
Everyone watches the watchmen

Nothing else works.
Lev Osherovich's profile photoSteve Yuan's profile photoEdward Morbius's profile photo
+Lev Osherovich​ Somewhat. This is close to +David Brin​​'s formulation. Which I've criticised as it's not a total solution.

But answering "who watches": everyone.

At the very least you'd want opposing interests involved (e.g., members of all parties observing election results).

Edward Morbius

Shared publicly  - 
1980 browser tabs. Plus 34 in a secondary browser

My questions:

1. Why are people opening so many tabs?

2. What alternatives aren't working? Why?

3. What makes tabs preferable to the alternatives?

4. What would an ideal system look like?

(And while this isn't me, it very well could be.)
Woozle Hypertwin's profile photoAlexander Bochmann's profile photomathew's profile photo
Check out open source Evernote alternatives, they'll generally handle the same use cases.

I've been thinking of writing my own bookmark manager with full text search, maybe some day I'll feel like doing that...
Edward's Collections
Technological Archaeologist
I'm strongly reconsidering participation in G+ following the YouTube Anschluss, November 2013.  Content subject to deletion at any time.

Comments privileges on my posts are limited.  Email me if you cannot comment and would like to be added.

Google have time and again violated several key principles:

Respect.  Of my time, my attention, my expressly stated desires, and most of all, my intelligence by repeating these and other insults time and again.

Trust. I will share very limited slices of me online.  Time and again Google reached for more, and time and again I had to push back.  This last violation (which, had I not already gone fully pseudonymous would have fully outed me as it did others) was one step too far.  I extend trust once, not twice.

Privacy.  This is the immediate concern here, and I've tried to create a walled space within which I can act.  I no longer feel safe to act there.

This incident again has made painfully clear that Google don't understand the fundamental nature of privacy, of social norms, and of spaces.  Of the desire for individuals to keep different aspects of their life and online activity, even within a single pseudonymous identity, separate.  Yes, there are some smart people at the Plex, but socially, you're collectively beyond retarded.  And I no longer care.

I'm actively looking for alternative platforms to use.  
For the time being I'm retaining the Gmail account associated with this ID ( though I'll be migrating that as well (and am accepting recommendations).  Correspondents are strongly encouraged to use my GPG key:  C210 9883 FFB4 3AC1 DEBF  9A2C AC6F 1E84 420A B7BD

I may be found:

As "dredmoribus" on Reddit:  

Primary content and engagement on "the dreddit", a/k/a Dr. Edward Morbius's lair of the Id.

On the subreddit   My primary publishing point for now.

Blogging on DreamWidth: (presently inactive)

All of which is subject to change, of course (though Reddit's likely to be a good contact).

RSS/Atom feeds for the above are:
Feel free to drop those in your newsreader of choice.  It's a bit clunky, but notably less so than G+ itself is.

I do plan on leaving a tombstone account on G+ with forwarding information and last details, though I'll be removing most or all of my content eventually.

G+ was to an extent an experiment to see if I could participate on terms I was comfortable with in a large commercial social networking space.  The answer to that question has been found, and it is "no".

░░░░░███████ ]▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄              Bob is building an army
   ▂▄▅█████████▅▄▃▂             ☻/  against Google Plus
Il███████████████████].      /▌    Copy and Paste this all over 
  ◥⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙◤..     / \    Youtube if you are with us!


I don't do IM / Google Chat / Hangouts.
They're horribly intrusive and annoying.

I've blocked them in the G+ UI.  I don't check them. 
I've disabled all access / invite privileges.  
I'm not ignoring you, I simply don't see you.

If you want to reach me directly, either send a private G+ post, or email me (
I may respond to one or the other of those.

I thought I had a comments moderation policy here.  Apparently I don't.  Apologies for the oversight.

 See my /r/dredmorbius subreddit policy for the general parameters.

In particular, if you're requested to provide references, or context for naked links (particularly multimedia Audio / Video), do so.

I don't mind opposing viewpoints.  Viewpoints must be substantiated on request.  Failure to substantiate, or engaging in disruptive tactics, is grounds for deletion and/or banning.

The arbitration policy for moderation disputes is:  Moderation battles are short and boring: the moderator wins.


"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."  
 - Cardinal Richelieu (a/k/a  Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac)

E pluribus unum


You can #Quack that:

Nature abhors a maximum.
 - William Ophuls

"Pseudonyms and anonymity are also an established part of many cultures -- for  good reason."
  - Alma Whitten, former Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering, Google

I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use.

Somewhere, there are two kids in a garage building a company whose motto will be "Don't be Google".
Bragging rights
I don't exist. I'm not here.
  • Krell Independent Study
    1610 - present
  • Timelord University
    (Date of coursework irrelevant.)
Technological Archaeologist
Basic Information
Other names