Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cajun Navy

Sometimes, you just can't leave it up to the 'professionals.'

Inundated By Floods, Overlooked By Media, Louisianans Help Themselves

Let’s appreciate the amazing mettle of Louisianans, who pulled together to weather an apocalyptic storm while being overlooked by their fellow countrymen.
Reminder: the "Little Ships" at Dunkirk helped change the course of World War Two.

1940: A season of miracles: Dunkirk

Reminder: There is nothing good that politicians won't try to screw up.

Leviathan Vs. The Cajun Navy

This is why our politics sucks

How We Killed the Tea Party

Greedy super PACs drained the movement with endless pleas for money to support “conservative” candidates—while instead using the money to enrich themselves. I should know. I worked for one of them.

As we watch the Republican Party tear itself to shreds over Donald Trump, perhaps it’s time to take note of another conservative political phenomenon that the GOP nominee has utterly eclipsed: the Tea Party. The Tea Party movement is pretty much dead now, but it didn’t die a natural death. It was murdered—and it was an inside job. In a half decade, the spontaneous uprising that shook official Washington degenerated into a form of pyramid scheme that transferred tens of millions of dollars from rural, poorer Southerners and Midwesterners to bicoastal political operatives.
Scammers are always gonna scam. One of the reasons they get away with it is most of the media either ignores the hustle or is complicit.

These sort of schemes depend on cranking up the outrage in order to raise money. The people who are good at that often make good guests on cable TV. They generate plenty of heat and provide cheap content for Fox, MSNBC, CNN, etc.

In the end we all end up dumber and more ignorant.


Cable news, vox populi, and professional sleaze

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Useful read

Surviving a Mass Killing Rampage

Read a review from self-defense trainer Greg Ellifritz here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ellison on Hemingway and literary 'families'

While one can do nothing about choosing one's relatives, one can, as an artist, choose one's 'ancestors'. Wright was, in this sense. 'a relative'; Hemingway 'an ancestor.' Langston Hughes, whose work I knew in grade school and whom I knew before I knew Wright, was a 'relative'; Eliot whom I was to meet only many years later, and Malraux and Dostoevsky and Faulkner, were 'ancestors' -- if you please or don't please!


Do you ask why Hemingway was more important to me than Wright? Not because he was white, or more 'accepted'. But because he appreciated the things of this earth which I love and which Wright was too driven or deprived or inexperienced to know: weather, guns, dogs, hoses, love and hate, and impossible circumstances which to the courageous and dedicated could be turned into benefits and victories.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stanley Crouch on Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison, alone of the world famous Afro-American novelists, never denied his American identity, his American birthright, his complex responsibilities as a participant in the analyzing of American meaning, which is the job of the intellectual, and the remaking of American meaning, in the hopefully immortal rhythms and tunes of art, which is the job of our aesthetically creative

Monday, August 15, 2016

In honor of a goofy dog

I had never met a dog like Snoopy. Technically he was a Rottweiler- Giant Schnauzer mix. What he really looked like was Grover from Sesame Street--big round head, long skinny legs, huge floppy ears.

He had had a rough first year of life before my mother-in-law got him. He was timid with a coat so thin you could see his skin through the fur. He was supposed to be a watch dog, but he was too frightened to bark at anything. When Snoopy first met our uber-friendly Elkhound-Shelty he was terrified. He whizzed all over the floor and cowered behind my 80-year old mother-in-law.

That soon changed. The dogs quickly became fast friends. He could handle almost anything--vet visits, stays at the kennel, thunderstorms or blizzards--as long as Belle was nearby. He learned about barking and watching and the eternal war against all things feline.

It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Chesterton:

Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one

The Man Who Was Thursday
He took his new found courage back home with him when the visit ended. He became a real watchdog. He grew into a strong and amazingly agile mutt with incredible jumping ability.

He was a fierce protector of my mother-in-law and actually prevented a break-in when someone once tried to force their way into her house in the middle of the night.

When my mother-in-law died, he became a permanent member of our household. As goofy as he looked and acted, I slept better knowing he was watching the house. No one came into our yard or driveway without Snoopy alerting the whole neighborhood.

Last Monday morning he became terribly sick. By noon he could barely stand, We had to carry him to the car in a blanket for that forlorn trip to the vet. This was one trip he would have to take alone, without Belle.

It’s been a week and the house seems terribly empty.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

“The Great Training Robbery”

According to this, 90% of corporate training efforts fail.

Who is to Blame for 'The Great Training Robbery'?
One key point:

Too often CEOs turn to HR to create a training program when faced with a problem. The CEO avoids opening a Pandora’s box of larger organizational flaws, and HR is happy to comply because it puts the function more at the center of things and avoids a risky conversation with the CEO about why training might not solve the problem.

“It is threatening, which is why most people don’t want to go through what we call an honest collective and public conversation about what’s really going on here,” Beer says. “So training becomes an easy way to try to fix the problem, even though it doesn’t fix it.”
So, the training problem is a symptom of a leadership problem like corralled rebellion and fad-surfing.

I discussed leadership abdication and corralled rebellion here:

Dig a little bit and you can see the denial hiding behind the radicalism. Executives realized that their company needed to change. They sense that real change, fundamental change, is hard. So they opted for something softer. They would do something that appeared radical, but they would fence it off from the rest of the company. Or they would make dramatic changes but only in superficial matters like desk arrangement.

In short, they would corral the rebellion while they talked of revolution. That way, they never had to change much of anything that really mattered. All the while they could reassure each other that they were bold, and innovative, and cutting edge.
See also this post on Clausewitz, will, and moral courage

Back in the last Ice Age I wrote about an education system that actually works:

Military Schools and Business Education

Monday, August 01, 2016

People this brave deserve to be remembered

First posted 1 August 2008

On 1 August 1944 the Polish Home Army launched a uprising in Warsaw against the German occupiers. They had few weapons but possessed an abundance of courage. The time was right: the Red Army was at the gates of Warsaw and Allied armies were advancing against the Germans in France. Wehrmacht officers had nearly killed Hitler on 20 July. It seemed that end of the Nazi state was at hand,

Moscow radio had even broadcast a call to arms to the Poles on 29 July.

In the first days, the uprising had success. The Home Army gained control of central Warsaw. Then they were betrayed by their allies and their allies ally.

The Red Army took no steps to aid the Poles. They even refused to allow British and American planes to use Soviet airfields in airlift and bombing operations. Churchill and Roosevelt had no military options and only a few diplomatic ones. Churchill wanted to put pressure on Stalin but FDR refused. The Warsaw Uprising was a potential embarrassment to a man running for his fourth term. He had already acquiesced to Stalin’s plans for Poland but dared not admit it for fear of losing the votes of Polish-Americans and other Catholics. The Uprising threatened to make Poland an issue in his last campaign.

Many in the West believed the Uprising was hopeless and tragic from the very beginning. The Home Army disagreed. They sent this message to London on 24 August:

Hello.. here is the heart of Poland! Hear Warsaw speaking!
Throw the dirges out of your broadcasts;
Our spirit is strong it will support even you!
We don’t need your applause!
We demand ammunition!!!

They did not get their ammunition but still the Poles fought on. They held out for 63 days-- fighting house to house and hand to hand against tanks and professional soldiers while under continuous bombardment from artillery and the Luftwaffe. Over 200,000 Poles died. It was the equivalent of a 9/11 a day for over two months.

Just before the end, Warsaw radio broadcast a searing message:

This is the stark truth. We were treated worse than Hitler’s satellites, worse than Italy, Rumania, Finland. May God Who is just, pass judgment on the terrible injustice suffered by the Polish nation, and may He punish accordingly all those who are guilty.

Your heroes are the soldiers whose only weapons against tanks, planes, and guns were their revolvers and bottles filled with petrol. Your heroes are the women who tended the wounded and carried messages under fire, who cooked in bombed and ruined cellars to feed children and adults, and who soothed and comforted the dying. Your heroes are the children who went on quietly playing among the smoldering ruins. These are the people of Warsaw.

Immortal is the nation that can muster such universal heroism. For those who have died have conquered, and those who live on will fight on, will conquer and again bear witness that Poland lives when the Poles live

It is a sad fact that the only party to behave honorably toward the Home Army was the Wehrmacht. After 63 days the Poles were still fighting though they had no hope of success. They agreed to surrender to the regular army on the condition that they be treated as POWs. Those terms were granted and, amazingly, the Germans upheld their end of the bargain.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Finding big ideas

A valuable post on innovation and the mind-set of discovery:

Where to Look for the Next Big Thing
This is a key point:

Great innovators are not just smart, they are curious. They are rarely purists or polemicists, but are courageous enough to venture outside their domain.
Howard Gardner touched on this in his book Changing Minds.
[Gardner] is especially pessimistic on our capacity to change our own minds. We do not, on the whole, accept new facts and revise our theories. Rather, we interpret or disregard the new information to make it fit our theories. This is not a matter of IQ or lack of education. He points out that intellectuals are "particularly susceptible" to removing cognitive dissonance by "reinterpreting" the facts.

Among the forces that exacerbate this tendency to lock-in a theory are emotional commitment, public commitment (pride makes it hard to climb down when everyone is watching), and an absolutist personality. (Source)
(Further discussion of this problem here)

Also relevant is David Gelernter's ideas about the mind and creativity.

Gelernter argues in The Muse in the Machine that creativity has three distinctive traits:

1. At base it "is the linking of ideas that are seemingly unrelated."

2. It is not an incremental process, rather inspiration comes as a bolt from the blue."

3. It occurs "in a state of unconcentration." Hence, "hard work does not pay. You can't achieve inspiration by concentrating hard, by putting your mind to it."
I've always liked David Ogilvy's advice on finding big ideas:

Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.

Monday, June 06, 2016

"If we can’t capture a port, we must take one with us.”

Both the Allies and the German army understood that the key to the Battle of France was logistics. It did not matter how many men Britain and the US landed on the beach; to defeat the Germans they had to land tanks, heavy equipment, and an unfathomable quantity of ammunition, fuel, and other necessities. To accomplish that, the Allies woulld need ports and harbors.

After the raid on Dieppe in 1942, the allies also recognized a direct assault on a port was almost certainly impossible.

The German General Staff, a body governed in its military thinking solely by logic, had early figured the problem out to its one logical conclusion—cold logic showed a successful invasion to be impossible. Their advice to Hitler consequently had been, “Hold the ports and we hold everything.” And thus ran their reasoning (which no one, whether on the German side or on ours, could refute): A large, mechanized army, such as von Rundstedt and Rommel had, covering the Atlantic Coast from Denmark to Spain, could be defeated (if at all) only by a larger, better mechanized army—an invading army of a million men, at least, formidably equipped. Conceded that the Allies might, with their superior sea power, somehow land somewhere on the open European coast the larger army needed, they still could not land the heavy tanks, the big guns, the mechanized equipment and continuously disembark the immense quantity of supplies required to make that army an effective fighting force, without the wharfs, the harbor cranes, and the huge protected harbors necessary in all kinds of weather to handle ashore heavy equipment and supplies in such vast quantity.


The only possible conclusion? An invasion, yes, if the Allies are so mad as to be willing to offer up a million ill-equipped men to be massacred by Field Marshal Rommel’s mechanized forces. But a successful invasion? Obviously an impossibility! To that conclusion, the German General Staff, the British War Office, the American strategists, including Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, General Walter Bedell Smith, ultimately all subscribed without dissent.
And this is why GB Shaw was correct: "All progress depends on the unreasonable man."

But the British are a most illogical and stubborn race. Had they been more logical and less stubborn, they would swiftly have surrendered to Hitler after the Fall of France, and the question later of how successfully to stage an invasion impossible of success would never have risen to plague them. But running true to British doggedness even in the face of inevitable defeat, they neither accepted defeat after Dunkirk nor the impossibility of landing once again in Europe, even after their disastrous attempt at Dieppe. Doggedly the British planners continued to butt their heads against the stone wall of that impossibility. They continued to get nothing for their efforts except more headaches.
And then the pay-off:

The embattled planners, stymied, could only glare ferociously at each other across the conference table, blood-pressures rising dangerously. At this juncture, when it seemed most likely that British officers and gentlemen were about to forget that they were either, Commodore John Hughes-Hallet, senior Royal Navy planner, rose, stood a moment rolling his pencil briskly between his palms, then with mock solemnity tossed in his solution for the impasse.

“Well, gentlemen, all I can say is this—if we can’t capture a port, we must take one with us.”

All hands—soldiers, sailors, airmen alike—roared heartily at this merry conceit—fancy that, a whole seaport afloat, being towed across the Channel. A good joke, Commodore, worthy of more wine! They had it. Tensions relaxed. With everyone still laughing, the meeting broke up, with any solution to the port problem no nearer than before.

But by morning, the uproarious jest of the night before had begun to haunt both the jester himself and the most important of his hearers—Lieut. General Sir Frederick Morgan, Chief of the Planning Staff. That silly idea—floating a seaport across the Channel—was the only alternative. Silly then or not, might not that sole alternative, taken seriously somehow be made a reality? Morgan and Hughes-Hallett, looking hopefully at each other next morning, agreed that possibly it might. Hughes-Hallett was assigned to develop it. And so in June of 1943 was conceived what was to become Operation Mulberry.
The Mulberry harbors performed wonders. When combined with Allied air power, which strangled German resupply efforts, they gave the West the crucial edge in the build-up which set the stage for victory in the West.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Whatever they are, they aren’t ‘strategists’

One of my pet peeves with cable news is the way they’ve completely devalued the word ‘strategist’ and stripped it of meaning.

PR flunkies, advertising hustlers, fast-talking pollsters, and fund-raising scammers-- they all become “strategists” when they are introduced at the start of a “news” segment.

Meaning-free titles for the cynical players on fact-deficient news shows.

And we wonder why Trump won?