Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas



And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


Luke 2:8-14

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Sobering update on the war on terror


From John Schindler--strategist, scholar, and former intelligence operative:

We’re Losing the War Against Terrorism

Now, however, the SpyWar waged against terrorists in the ether is changing, and not to the West’s benefit. Although it’s normal for the enemy to learn from his mistakes, the changes to jihadist tradecraft that we’re witnessing of late are alarming and unprecedented. A new report in The Wall Street Journal brings to light what spies across the West have been privately fretting about over the last year.

Alarmingly, ISIS terrorists have begun to demonstrate a never-before-seen level of sophistication in communications security and encryption. We’ve known for some time that ISIS has cadres of skilled counterintelligence professionals, some of them holdovers from Saddam Hussein’s nasty secret police, but this new emphasis on security is a major problem for the West.
Schindler notes that the West depends on signals intelligence to dirupt terror cells and to prevent terror attacks. We are good at it, but out edge is eroding.

This emphasis on rapidly improving clandestine tradecraft, particularly in pre-attack communications, is terrifying Western security services, since it bluntly means that we will disrupt fewer atrocities “left of boom” as the counterterrorism pros like to say. “More civilians will die, it’s that simple,” explained a Western European security official who specializes in countering jihadism at home.

Over the last 12 months, ISIS fighters in Europe have demonstrated a clear learning curve in communications security and encryption. They stay offline and keep phones away unless they’re really neededand even then they’re relying on harder-to-track technologies and encrypted apps that make it increasingly difficult for European security agencies to keep tabs on them.
The problem with being really good at one facet of intelligence is that it is easy to become over-reliant on your strength and allow other capabilities atrophy.

In World War Two, British signals intelligence had tremendous success against Germany. The code breakers and analysts at Bletchley Park were vital to the victories in the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic. But as the allied armies swept across France, the German commanders used wireless less and less. This reduced the material Bletchley Park had available to decrypt.

The Allied commanders, however, were confident in their goose that laid golden eggs of intelligence and early warnings. Their intelligence chiefs were not up to the task when the Bletchley mother lode played out.

The consequences were severe: Failure of Operation Market-Garden and near-disastrous strategic surprise when Hitler launched the Battle of the Bulge.

Schindler’s warning is especially concerning given the historical weakness of Western counter-intelligence.

See, for example, the al-Qaeda disinformation game which led to a deadly suicide bombing near Khost, Afghanistan in December 2009. Joby Warrick’s book on this case is highly recommended.

There is also the fact that CIA was repeatedly duped by the KGB and its affiliates during the Cold War: The CIA was fooled by scores of double agents pretending to be working for the agency but secretly loyal to communist spy agencies during the Cold War and beyond, according to a former CIA analyst, operations officer, and historian.

(See here for more)

From this blog in April 2009

One point Tennent Bagley makes in Spy Wars is that the Bolsheviks and the Cheka quickly became adept at counter-intelligence and sophisticated disinformation very quickly. They ran large-scale operations like the Trust that fooled their enemies-even experienced intelligence agencies in Britain and France. Bagley estimates that they ran 25-40 successful deception operations between 1917 and 1940.

Not bad for a raggedy bunch of revolutionaries.

Which makes you wonder: Could al Qaeda or another terrorist group do the same thing?

And if they could, are they doing it now?
It appears we now have our answer.



Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Ain’t gonna work on @Jack’s farm no more


Instapundit is done with Twitter:

But the other problem with Twitter is that it’s the crystal meth of social media: Addictive, but unsatisfying. I’ve been spending a lot of time on it even though it doesn’t make me any money, and even though I kind of doubt it has much of an impact on anything. As I said a while back: “I think Twitter is overrated. It’s a good way to chatter with the chattering classes, but (1) it doesn’t drive traffic; (2) its impact outside the chattering classes is basically nil; and (3) it encourages people to think they’re being ‘activists’ when they’re really just tweeting to a few hundred people.”
The crystal meth point is most apt.

Nicholas Carr:

Would it be too much of a stretch to suggest that solitaire is a perfect microcosm of personal computing, particularly now, in our social media age? In “The Psychology of Games,” a 2000 article in Psychology Review, Mark Griffiths pointed out that games are a “world-building activity.” They offer a respite from the demands of the real. “Freud was one of the first people to concentrate on the functions of playing games,” Griffiths wrote. “He speculated that game playing provided a temporary leave of absence from reality which reduced individual conflict and brought about a change from the passive to the active.” We love games because they “offer the illusion of control over destiny and circumstance.”

Solitaire, a game mixing skill and chance, also provides what psychologists call “intermittent reinforcement.” Every time a card is revealed, there is, for the player, the possibility of a reward. The suspense, and the yearning, is what makes the game so compelling, even addictive. “Basically,” wrote Griffiths, “people keep playing in the absence of a reward hoping that another reward is just around the corner.” Turning over an ace in solitaire is really no different from getting a like on Facebook or a retweet on Twitter. We crave such symbolic tokens of accomplishment, such sweet nothings.
Addicted to Anticipation

The high is in expecting an outcome, desiring it, imagining it, not in its fulfillment.
Related:

Why twitter?

The Twitterverse is dominated by people who refuse to heed Mencken’s warning that “There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong.”
The problem with twitter

Before tweets, bumper stickers, sandwich boards, and peanut-gallery chants advertised shallow conformity. Twitter, to borrow from an ancient aphorism, is old wine in a new bottle
Why do journalists love twitter and hate blogging?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Government sucks and no one cares


Has there ever been a better example of failure laundering?
Why the U.S. Still Can't Track Visitors Who Overstay Their Visas

Five years before 9/11, it passed legislation requiring the government to put this kind of “Entry-Exit” biometric identity-capture system in place by 2001. That was followed by renewed mandates after the attacks. Each congressional directive, which had the force of law, resulted in promises by the government to get the system in place by deadlines that were never met, with each failure followed by an announcement of an entirely new initiative (requiring a new acronym).
Charleton Ogburn understood this problem a half-century ago:

We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.
Sadly, politicians, journalists, and voters still get distracted by the shiny objects which pass as "news" and almost no one cares about what happens after a law is passed.

This same problem can be found lurking behind every big corporate scandal.

One way journalists could win back the public's trust is to actually do the job they claim they do.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The forgotten man who saved the world


First posted 15 September 2015

If the Battle of Britain saved the West, then we should remember the one man, above all others, who won that battle.   Air Chief Marshall Hugh (Lord) Dowding did not win it by himself; he did not shoot down a single plane.  Looking back, however, it seems almost certain that the battle (and perhaps the war) could not have been won without him.

His story is especially poignant because his achievements played out against a background of repeated professional disappointments.  Before the war he was passed over for promotion and slated for retirement.  Then, at the moment of his triumph, he was relieved of command.  Decades would pass before the public came to understand how much they owed the quiet man who inflicted the first strategic defeat on Hitler’s war machine.

Dowding stands out from the other senior commanders of the war because his prewar contributions were as important as his wartime work.  As the senior RAF officer for research and development he pushed for the creation of modern fighters and radar.  These were the crucial tools of the Battle of Britain.  Without Dowding’s efforts, it is almost certain that England would have faced the Luftwaffe with fighters of inferior quality than the Hurricane and Spitfires that took to the skies in 1940.

In 1936, Dowding became the first commander of Fighter Command.  He immediately set to work building a force capable of defending England against threats from the air.  His work here may have been his greatest contribution to the Western victory.  Under his leadership, Fighter Command developed the first thoroughgoing doctrine of air defense.  He also built the revolutionary system of radar, observation posts, and command centers tied together with protected communications that allowed Fighter Command to apply their meager resources for maximum effect.

As Churchill wrote:

All the ascendency of the Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been fruitless but for this system of underground control centers and telephone cables which had been devised and built before the war by the Air Ministry under Dowding’s advice and impulse.

Half a century later historian Williamson Murray was even more effusive in his praise of Dowding’s achievement.  The development of Fighter Command doctrine, he declared, was ‘the only clear-cut case of revolutionary innovation in the twentieth century.’  Dowding ‘built an effective air defense system that altered the entire context within which air forces operated.’

The system was not merely an example of technical innovation.  Instead, it offset technical deficiencies with a quantum leap forward in the theory of air warfare.

While Germans may have possessed better equipment and even tactics, the British operated in a broader framework of contextual change.  By doing so they created a new logic within which the Luftwaffe was incapable of winning.

Dowding’s work is all the more impressive because it flew in the face of the conventional wisdom of professional soldiers and pundits alike.  In the 1930s nearly everyone believed that ‘the bomber will always get through’.
In 1940, British planners estimated that 600,000 people would die in the first two months of a Luftwaffe civilian bombing campaign. ‘We thought of air warfare in 1938,’ recalled Harold Macmillan  ‘rather as people think of nuclear warfare today.’  Beyond the physical destruction, officials worried that strategic bombing would tear apart the social fabric.  Panic, peace strikes or revolution all seemed possible consequences of a sustained bombing campaign.

The only strategic options were appeasement/surrender or deterrence through a countervailing bomber force.  Dowding was the only senior commander willing and able to think through the ‘bomber problem’ in sufficient depth to understand the vulnerabilities of offensive air power and to formulate and develop effective counter-measures.

The evidence suggests that there was no other senior officer in the RAF with the requisite imagination and drive to carry through the contextual innovation that Dowding executed.
Williamson Murray

Britain survived for all the other glorious reasons, but mainly, and quite simply, because Dowding got it right.
Ronald Lewin
Of all the men who commanded the great victories in the war, only Dowding was responsible for significant doctrinal  and technological innovation in the peace that preceded it.  Nimitz, for example, played no role in the development of amphibious doctrine or the design of fleet carriers.  The German generals who invented the tactics of blitzkrieg (like Rommel and Guderian) were fairly junior commanders in the victories of 1939-42.  Most of the men who created the Red Army’s doctrine for modern combined arms warfare died in Stalin’s prisons before the war started.



If Dowding had retired as scheduled in July 1939, his peacetime work would still earn him a place among the most important military leaders of the twentieth century.  All the more remarkable, then, is the fact that his appointment to those posts represented severe professional disappointment.  The R&D section of the RAF was seen as a career dead-end.  This was confirmed in 1937 when he was passed over for the highest command in the RAF

Dowding, then, is a near perfect exemplar of the patriot and the professional soldier.  He did his best at all times because it was his duty.

Fortunately for Britain Dowding did not retire in 1939.  He was in charge of Fighter Command in the crucial weeks when the fate of the nation hung in the balance.  His conduct of that campaign marks him as both a great battlefield commander and a superlative strategist.

Britian could have lost the Battle of Britain before it even began.  As the blitzkrieg drove the Allies back in May 1940, the French insisted that the RAF send more fighter squadrons to the Continent.  Churchill initially supported this transfer.  Dowding refused to deplete his home forces.  He faced down Churchill at a meeting of the War Cabinet and kept the last of his Hurricanes and Spitfires at home.

His resolve hurt his standing with Churchill, but that was of little importance to the air commander.  As Kenneth Macksey noted, he ‘possessed that inner strength of conscience … that enabled him to stand firm in his resolve even at the risk of forfeiture of office.’  What mattered most to Dowding was that Fighter Command preserve its strength for the decisive battle to come.

Courage is of two kinds: courage in the face of personal danger, and courage to accept responsibility, either before the  tribunal of some outside power or before the court of one's own conscience

If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light that leads to truth; and second, the courage  to follow the faint light wherever it  may lead.  The first of these qualities is described by the French term coup d'oeil; the second is determination.
Clausewitz, On War
The whole war may have turned on Dowding’s refusal to send fighters to France.  As Churchill later wrote of the Battle of Britain:

The odds were great; our margins small; the stakes infinite.
The challenge before Dowding was even greater than anyone could have imagined at the beginning of 1940.  The home defense systems were designed to stop German bombers operating from German airfields.  It was assumed that there would be no fighter escorts because no fighter had the range to cover the distances involved.  The French surrender now gave the Luftwaffe bases which put fighters within range of southern England.  Fighter command would be tested in ways no one had foreseen.

Dowding’s conduct of the battle was a masterful orchestration of limited resources.  His strategy was essentially Fabian.  He understood that like Adm. Jellico in the Great War, he was ‘the only man who could lose the war in a day.’  Using radar and Fighter Command’s control centers, the RAF denied the Germans the air superiority they needed for Operation Sea Lion.  Try as it might, the Luftwaffe could not destroy Britian’s last defenders.


The foresight of Air Marshall Dowding in his direction of Fighter Command deserves high praise, but even more remarkable had been the restraint and the exact measurement of formidable stresses which had reserved a fighter force in the North through all these long weeks of mortal conflicts in the South.  We must regard the generalship shown here as an example of genius in the art of war
Churchill, Their Finest Hour

But in the many authoritative analyses of the Battle of Britain now available one salient feature emerges: in this, perhaps the most critical conflict fought in the war, the margin was indeed narrow.  It was a battle fought on a razor's edge.  Many well-recognized factors contributed to the ultimate success-- the pilots' devotion, the quality of British radar, Goring's errors.  But it was in the mind of the Commander-in-Chief Fighter Command-- Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding-- that those delicate, difficult, day-to-day judgments were made which, in the end, drew the fine decisive line between victory and defeat.  Often they were judgments as urgent and taxing as any commander has had to take.
Ronald Lewin  Ultra Goes to War

On 15 September 1940 Goering and Hitler launched their largest raids of the campaign. The Luftwaffe chief expected this to be the decisive battle that finished Fighter Command once and for all.  To his surprise and chagrin, Dowding still had sufficient forces left to inflict disproportionate loses on German bomber formations.  The Luftwaffe still did not hold air superiority over the English Channel.

British intelligence soon picked up indications that Hitler had ordered the indefinite delay of the planned invasion of Britan.  The most dangerous period of the war was over and the RAF had won.

And then, abruptly, Dowding was gone. Dismissed. As Arthur Harris of Bomber Command put it: Dowding became ‘the only commander who won one of the decisive battles of history and got sacked for his pains.’

Dowding’s problem was that his victory was clear-cut  only in retrospect.  The Battle of Britain had elided into the Blitz. Bombers were now getting through and bombing cities nearly every night.  Only a few men at the highest levels knew that this meant that the worst danger had passed.  Others believed that the failure to stop the bombing meant that Dowding and Fighter Command were not doing their job.  Eventually, the latter camp was able to force Dowding out.

The anti-Dowding camp were not gracious winners. When the Air Ministry published a pamphlet history of the Battle of Britain in March 1941, they omitted his name altogether.

Later historians have rectified that grievous error.  Now we can see that he was the indispensible man at a key pivot point in history.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Counter-Terrorism in France


Sobering report here:

Merah: The ‘Untold Story’ of a French Jihadist Icon

The undisputed icon and role model for this new generation of French jihadists is Mohamed Merah. In March 2012, the 23-year-old went on a killing spree in and around his native Toulouse, assassinating three French paratroopers in two separate incidents before pulling up in front of a Jewish school on his signature T-Max motorbike and executing three small children and a teacher at point-blank range. He died in a shootout with police three days later, following a 32-hour siege of his apartment.
It seems that French law enforcement and counter-terrorism may have some problems.

Jordanov’s research provides a unique window onto Merah’s life and crimes, offering important insight into his motives and the unflinching brutality of the ideology to which he subscribed. But it also reveals mind-boggling failings on the part of French counterterrorism. The story of Mohamed Merah is, in effect, that of a train wreck waiting to happen or, to paraphrase his brother Abdelghani, a ticking time bomb waiting to explode—while French intelligence looked on.

Indeed, in conversation with negotiators during the siege of his apartment, Merah himself expressed amazement at the fact that he was able to carry out his attacks unhindered, attributing his success—and the failure of French authorities—to the will of Allah. To coax Merah out of the building, the police had called in none other than Hassan Loubane, the local DCRI officer in charge of Merah’s file. Alluding to his own carelessness in having sent e-mails to his family during a 2011 trip to an al-Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan’s notorious tribal regions, Merah chided Loubane and his colleagues for their failure to react. “Hamdulillah!”—praise God—Merah exclaimed, “Allah made you blind!” Jordanov confirms that French intelligence officials, thanks to their American colleagues at the National Security Agency, were aware of at least some of these e-mails.

...


The blindness of French security services continued even after Merah had begun his killing spree, indeed even after he had been identified as a suspect and located. Jordanov describes Merah casually slipping out of his apartment on the evening of March 20th—this despite a hundred French police and intelligence officers already staking out the premises, who somehow failed to see him go. It is only thanks to the fact that Merah came back a few hours later—on his own account, to retrieve materials that he needed for another planned attack—that a French SWAT team did not end up raiding an empty apartment. His return, incidentally, also appears to have gone unperceived.

Merah told Loubane, his intelligence contact, that a minivan full of French gendarmes drove right past him as he was in the process of committing his first murder: the execution of French paratrooper Imad Ibn Ziaten in a deserted parking lot on March 11, 2012. (The gendarmerie is a national police force.) Merah said that the driver of the van looked him “straight in the eyes.” “Your gendarmes don’t even intervene,” Merah mockingly told Loubane, “They could have arrested me and look [what happened]!”

Monday, September 12, 2016

Siege of Vienna

First posted 12 September 2003


In the summer of 1683 the Ottoman Turks advanced up the Danube, occupied Hungary, and, in July, laid siege to Vienna. They had 200,00 men and over 300 cannon. The defenders of the city numbered less than 22,000 only 6,000 of whom were regular soldiers; the remainder were civilians pressed into service at the start of the siege.

The relief of the city was complicated by European politics. Louis XIV of France hoped to gain German territory on the Rhine while the Hapsburgs were occupied in the east. To that end, he worked to create am anti-Hapsburg alliance with Hungary and Poland which would deny Austria aid against the Turks. (Incidentally, the Ottoman artillery were commanded by a Frenchman, a former Capuchin no less).

By September, conditions were desperate inside the city- low supplies, disease, and weakening defenses. The Hapsburgs had raised a relief army of only 21,000. But, fortunately, Poland had spurned Louis's maneuvers and sent an army of 24,000 under their King John Sobieski.

On September 12, the two relief armies and the forces inside the city attacked the besiegers. The critical moment came in mid-afternoon when Sobieski sent his cavalry into the heart of the Ottoman camp. The battle became a rout. The next day the Polish king wrote his wife: "the Vizer took such hurried flight that he had time to escape with only one horse."

He also noted the Turks "left behind a mass of innocent Austrian people, particularly women; but they butchered as many as they could." Separate from that slaughter, the Ottomans had sent 67,000 Austrians east as slaves and 14,000 girls to the harems of Constantinople.

Sobieski's troops captured the Ottoman battle flag ("The green standard of the Prophet") in the fighting. This he sent to the Pope with the message "Veni, Vidi, Deus Vicit" ("I came, I saw, God conquered").

The lifting of the siege is usually marked as the turning point for the Ottoman empire. For centuries they had advanced against Europe, conquering the Byzantium empire, capturing lands in the Balkans and islands in the Mediterranean. After 1683 they began 250 years of retreat. (Funny how many of these critical turning points find the Poles fighting on the right side).

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Poland: First to Fight


Originally posted 1 September 2010

The popular image of Poland in WWII is of a small nation that became the first victim of the Nazi blitzkrieg and the proximate cause of the war when Great Britain and France rallied to its side.

History records a different story. Poland fought Hitler’s Reich longer than any other nation. Her contributions to the Allied victory were significant and should be reclaimed from the memory hole.

First, about the defeat in September 1939:
The Polish Army-- almost completely unmechanized, almost without air support, almost surrounded by the Germans from the outset and, shortly, completely surrounded when the Red Army joined the aggression-- fought more effectively than it has been given credit for. It sustained resistance from September 1 until October 5, five weeks, which compares highly favorably with the six and a half weeks during which France, Britain, Belgium, and Holland kept up the fight in the west the following year
(John Keegan, The Battle for History)


Despite the defeats of 1939, the Polish nation never stopped fighting. Not only did the Home Army resist the Nazis inside of occupied Poland, but Polish forces fought on every major front of the European war.

The existence of a legitimate government in exile and of a strong army abroad--Poland, even in 1944, had the fourth largest number of men fighting German after the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom-- lent a powerful heart to the Poles, who produced few collaborators and no puppet chief, a unique distinction in the record of European response to German aggression.


Polish airmen filled whole squadrons in the Battle of Britain at a time when Britain barely had enough fighter pilots to hold off the Luftwaffe. (The Kosciuszko Squadron shot down more German planes than any other fighter squadron during the battle). Ground units fought heroically in key battles in Italy and France.

Perhaps the greatest contribution Poland made to the final victory was in the realm of intelligence. They played a vital role in breaking the Enigma cipher system used by the German high command and shared their discoveries with the French and British.


The Poles eventually designed a whole array of mechanical aids -- some of which they passes to the British, some of which the British replicated independently, besides inventing others themselves-- but their original attack, which allowed them to understand the logic of Enigma, eas a workd of pure mathematical reasoning. As it was done without any modern computing machinery, but simply by pencil and paper, it must be regarded as one of the most remarkable mathematical exercises known to history.
(John Keegan, Intelligence in War)

In the first desperate years of the war, Engima/ULTRA intelligence enabled Britain to hold off the Luftwaffe and then the U-boat menace.

The Nazis never discovered the ULTRA secret in five years of war. That is an amazing testament to the Poles and the French still on the Continent who knew the secret but never divulged it, not even under Gestopo torture.


The Polish Underground was the number one source of HUMINT in occupied Europe for the British. They provided vast amounts on information on the German V-1 and V-2 secret weapons, the movements of U-boats, and the German military preparations in advance of D-Day.

Witold Pilecki is a name every student should know. He carried out what the Times of London called “perhaps the bravest act of espionage of the Second World War”: he volunteered to go inside of Auschwitz. His reports documented the Nazi’s extermination campaign against the Jews.



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.

Related:

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 would 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?

Monday, May 23, 2016

We really are ruled by inept experts


Brutally honest takedown of Ben Rhodes:

As Boyish Ben Rhodes Drops Truth Bombs, Obama’s Media Mask Crumbles
Democratic presidents once received foreign policy advice from men like Gen. George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and Henry Stimson. For Obama, we get advisers like Marie Harf, Tommy Vietor, and Ben Rhodes.

Yet almost nothing about Mr. Rhodes is exactly normal. In the first place, as highlighted by the piece’s author, David Samuels, the president’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications has zero background in anything to do with national security. Instead, Mr. Rhodes is a novelist manqué, born into a well-connected family on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (his brother David is president of CBS News), who picked up an MFA in creative writing from NYU with plans to become famous for his novels. However, 9/11 caused him to ponder current affairs and he wound up a speechwriter to Barack Obama during his successful 2008 run for the presidency. Per the cliché, the rest is history.
Something to keep in mind for those in the MSM who worry that Trump lacks foreign policy experience and the right sort of advisors:

Then there’s the awkward fact that White House reporters may be every bit as inexperienced and unworldly as they’ve been described--but so is Ben Rhodes. Before becoming Mr. Obama’s factotum he had done no more in the national security arena than most of the uninformed reporters he’s criticized.
Tom Ricks also minces no words about Rhodes:

A stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president’s foreign policy guru
Ben Rhodes let the cat out of the bag, he destroyed the pretensions of the MSM and the foundations of what Power Line called “mediated democracy.”

We live in a political system that has not yet been adequately described, but one might call it a "mediated democracy." Mediated by a self-appointed, generally ignorant but highly opinionated "elite" that is not elite by any conventional measure--income, intelligence, education, social position--but that successfully dictates the terms of political discourse even though it no longer controls (exclusively, anyway) the means of production of the news.
The MSM, which sees itself as the main enforcers of this corrupt system, failed utterly with Obama and the people around him. They were gullible; they got played. And now they want this story to go away. They have work to do. Some one has to explain why Hillary is the only rational choice for POTUS and preach that Trump is outside the accepted (i.e. MSM defined) bounds of political discourse and experience.


Related:

Making sense of the Age of Obama

How we live now: The rule of the inept experts

Logic only a journalist could love

MSM to public: "Sure we're in the tank for Obama, whatcha' gonna do about it?"

Notes on the current crisis

Friday, May 06, 2016

“An audacious decision can be arrived at by one man only."


Helmuth von Moltke may have been the most important military leader of the nineteenth century. Napoleon was a brilliant shooting star but his ‘methods’ (such as they were) required a genius to make them work. Moltke, in contrast, refined and developed a system and architecture for military leadership that is still used by modern militaries today.

The Prussian system of command was not at all like the stereotype of mindless automatons in spiked helmets. It, instead, combined meticulous pre-war planning with audacious, decentralized leadership when the shooting started.
Hajo Holborn summarized Moltke’s views thusly:

No war counsel could direct an army, and the chief of staff should be the only advisor of the commander with regard to the plan of operations. Even a faulty plan, provided it was executed firmly, was preferable to a synthetic product. On the other hand, not even the best plan of operations could anticipate the vicissitudes of war, and individual tactical decisions that must be made on the spot.. In Moltke's view, a dogmatic enforcement of the plan of operations was a deadly sin and great care was taken to encourage initiative on the part of all commanders, high and low.
On several point Moltke agreed completely with Napoleon. One of the latter’s maxims was “One bad general is worth two good ones.”

Moltke:

If one surrounds the supreme commander with a number of independent men, the situation will worsen both as their numbers increase and the more distinguished and intelligent they are. The commander will hear the counsel of the one, then of the other. He will carry out one proper measure up to a certain point, then a better one in another direction. Then he will recognize the entirely justified objections of a third and the proposals of a fourth advisor. We will wager a hundred to one that with the very best-intentioned measures he will probably lose his campaign.
In business this is the dynamic which helps fuel fad surfing

Another point of agreement.

Napoleon:

In war there is but one favorable moment; the great art is to seize it!
Moltke:

An audacious decision can be arrived at by one man only.
In the decades between Waterloo and Sedan, the telegraph had revolutionized communications. Moltke did not see this as a boon to commanders or a justification for centralized direction on the battlefield:

But the most unfortunate of all supreme commanders is the one is under the most supervision, who has to give an account of his plans and intentions every hour of every day. The supervision may be exercised through a delegate of the highest authority at his headquarters or a telegraph wire attached to his back. In such a case all independence, rapid decision, and audacious risk, without which no war can be conducted, ceases.
In the Prussian system, this independence was expected at all levels of command. Moltke is especially discerning on the temptation of micro-management and its negative consequences.

The advantage, moreover, which the commander believes to achieve through continuous personal intervention, is mostly only an apparent one. He thereby takes over functions for those whose fulfillment other persons are designated. He more or less denigrates their ability and increases his own duties to such a degree that he can no longer fulfill them completely."

Moreover, it must be pointed out that if one orders much, then the important thing that needs to be carried out unconditionally will be carried out only incidentally or not at all because it is obscured by the mass of secondary things.
So we are left with a series of paradoxes: Battlefield audacity depends on leaders with self-control which can look like passivity. Effective leadership requires independence and self-confidence but also the capacity to defer to those lower in the chain of command.

Another Prussian Paradox:

When hard work doesn’t pay




Saturday, April 30, 2016

Europe's terror threat: Beyond self-radicalized lone wolves (UPDATED)


This is an excellent piece of reporting by the BBC

Europe's Terror Networks
It's a little less than a half hour and well worth the listen.

Three items really caught my attention:

1. ISIS has a logistical system set up in Europe. They have found ways to move explosives and firearms and get them into the hands of their operatives.

2. As was the case in Mumbai (2008) the November 2015 attacks in Paris utilized multiple, simultaneous attacks so that police and counter-terror forces would be dispersed and unable to mount a quick, overwhelming response.

3. The killers studied their targets. They obtained detailed floorplans of the theater and set up an ambush in the alley outside one of the main avenues escape.

UPDATE 5/17/2016

An interview with Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal. Harrowing account of the carnage that took place inside the theater. Also, Hughes remains convinced that members of the security/facility staff helped the terrorists.

Surrendering to Death

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reading and liberty


Why the best way to honor Frederick Douglass is to read a good book

Is the Future of Reading at Risk?

Some educators are beginning to worry that the wired generation is going to give up serious reading altogether. Judging from our experience here at St. John’s, the future of reading is not at risk. Our students prove every day that it’s perfectly possible to be fully plugged in and at the same time to be absorbed by the greatest books ever written. And that’s a good thing, because the art of reading is critical to our freedom and our happiness.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gleichschaltung and the erosion of liberty


Ran across this old item by Ed Driscoll. Even more relevant today:

From Gaius Gracchus to the Gleichschaltung

Gleichschaltung is a German word (in case you couldn’t have guessed) borrowed from electrical engineering. It means “coordination.” The German National Socialists (Nazis) used the concept to get every institution to sing from the same hymnal. If a fraternity or business embraced Nazism, it could stay “independent.” If it rejected Nazism, it was crushed or bent to the state’s ideology. Meanwhile, every branch of government was charged with not merely doing its job but advancing the official state ideology.

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil or even fruitfully comparable to Hitlerism. But there is a liberal Gleichschaltung all the same. Every institution must be on the same page. Every agency must advance the liberal agenda.
(The quoted passage is from Jonah Goldberg)

UPDATE:

This is a great article by Robert D. Kaplan:

The Post-Imperial Moment
This seems to fit quite well with the Goldberg quote:

Witness the Islamic State, which does not represent Islam per se, but Islam combusting with the tyrannical conformity and mass hysteria of the Internet and social media.


Halsey and Nimitz: Leadership and loyalty


Chester Nimitz and William Halsey were as different as two admirals could be. Nimitz was a submariner while Halsey was a carrier commander AND a carrier pilot. Where Nimitz was quiet and outwardly serene even in moments of intense stress, Halsey was loud and profane. Yet in the dark days of 1942 they forged a winning partnership in the Pacific. After Pearl Harbor, when Admiral Nimitz took over command of the Pacific Fleet, he quickly realized that the one carrier admiral he could trust with any mission was Bill Halsey
Edwin Hoyt, Closing the Circle
Nimitz gave Halsey perhaps the two toughest mission of the Pacific War: The Doolittle Raid and the defense of Guadalcanal when the issue was truly in doubt. His trust was amply repaid. In the Solomons Halsey bloodied the Japanese Navy, held Guadalcanal, and began the long advance toward Tokyo Bay.

So, of course, Nimitz was on Team Halsey in 1942 and 1943.

I am more impressed with his actions later in the war and in the post-war period. Victory not only has a hundred fathers, it also brings forth a thousand quibblers and scribblers and ankle-biters. Halsey was (and is) a frequent target for that crowd.

We lack eyewitness records of what happened next, but we know that Halsey barged into the CinCPac conference that day or the next and cleared the air by sounding off loudly, and no doubt profanely, against the defeatism he found. He then and there permanently endeared himself to his commander in chief by backing him and the raiding plan to the hilt. Because he was a vice admiral and Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force, and was liked and respected by all, his words carried decisive weight. Long afterward, when Halsey came under criticism, Nimitz recalled this difficult period and refused to participate in the general censure. "Bill Halsey came to my support and offered to lead the attack", he said. "I'll not be a party to any enterprise than can hurt the reputation of a man like that
E. B Potter, Nimitz

Supporting the man who supported you even when you no longer need his support. That’s loyalty. And without reciprocal loyalty, real leadership is impossible.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lessons in Leadership: Admiral William Halsey


Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery noted that there is one acid test for leadership:

A leader must have infectious optimism. The final test of a leader is the feeling you have when you leave his presence after a conference. Have you a feeling of uplift and confidence?
By that measure, Admiral William F Halsey qualifies as one of the greatest military leaders in our history. No matter what else he did, the man could inspire confidence and optimism.

On 13 April 1942 the USS Enterprise and her escorts rendezvoused with the USS Hornet carrying the Doolittle raiders. Bill Halsey took to the ship’s loud speaker and announced: “This force is bound for Tokyo.”

And the men on board cheered.

They had seen the smoking ruins of the US battle fleet in Pearl Harbor. They knew that the Japanese Empire was sweeping across Asia and the Pacific. Singapore had fallen. American forces had just surrendered on Bataan.

Now the old man on the bull horn said that this small task force of two fragile carriers and a dozen light escorts was heading right to the center of the empire.

And the sailors and flyers cheered.

Infectious optimism indeed.

The informality of his approach to command and his carelessness worried his senior staff and led to serious errors, but the air crews and the lower deck would do anything for him and probably gave him more than they gave any other commander. He was always on their side, the very model of a sailor’s admiral.
Dan van der Vat, The Pacific Campaign
One does not become a “sailor’s admiral” overnight. Halsey had earned his men’s trust through a hundred gestures and actions.

One day he won the training squadron emblem for stupidity: the Flying Jackass, a large aluminum likeness of a donkey, awarded to anyone who broke a safety regulation. He wore it for two weeks until another student pilot won it away from him. Beut he insisted on keeping that particular badge. When he took command of the Saratoga, he said, he would hang it on the bulkhead of his cabin. Any time he got ready to raise hell with some pilot for an infraction of rules, he was going to look at that Flying Jackass and think twice.

Such tales began the legend of Bill Halsey, the only really flying commander of a carrier, and the true aviators got to love him. When he took over his carrier, he continued to add to bits to the legend. From the Saratoga he went to the Enterprise, one of the new carriers of the fleet, as commander of Carrier Division Two [COMCARDIV Two] and he was promoted to admiral. One day a young officer made an error that delayed the launch of planes. Admiral King was present at the time, and King was a noted disciplinarian (who put an end to the advancement of one naval captain because he ran a cruiser aground in a fog trying to get King back to Washington to make an appointment).

'Who was responsible for the delay?' King demanded by signal, and on the bridge of the Enterprise souls quaked as the message was taken to Admiral Halsey's bridge.

'COMCARDIVE Two', was the reply.

There was no further word from the flagship. But on board the Enterprise the story went from keel to masthead. Admiral Halsey was the sort of officer who protected his men, it said
Edwin Hoyt, Closing the Circle

The US Navy of 1942 still operated under the Prohibition imposed on it by Woodrow Wilson. Halsey had no time for such nonsense when his flyers were fighting and dying. He ordered gallons of bourbon for his flight surgeons should they wish to ‘prescribe’ it for pilots. Not everyone in Washington was happy with his action but as Hoyt notes, “a fighting admiral was not to be gainsaid in 1942, when there were so few of them, and Halsey had his way."

Halsey also shows us that real leaders also make invaluable subordinates:

Hoyt:

After Pearl Harbor, when Admiral Nimitz took over command of the Pacific Fleet, he quickly realized that the one carrier admiral he could trust with any mission was Bill Halsey
And this:

Bloch pressed his views on Nimitz, both in conference and in private. In effect, he put an avuncular arm around Nimitz's shoulder and proceeded to tell him how to run the war. Nimitz considered himself fully competent to do the job without such tutelage, but he was at a disadvantage because most of the air officers agreed with Bloch, and Nimitz was not an aviator and had never commanded carriers.

On Wednesday, January 7, the Enterprise force returned to Pearl from patrol and its commander, crusty warrior VAdmn Halsey, came ashore. Halsey's ferocious scowl, which announced to all that he hated the enemy like sin, could not conceal a twinkle in his eye that bespoke his affection for his fellow sailor's, particularly those who served under him.

We lack eyewitness records of what happened next, but we know that Halsey barged into the CinCPac conference that day or the next and cleared the air by sounding off loudly, and no doubt profanely, against the defeatism he found. He then and there permanently endeared hismself to his commander in chief by backing him and the raiding plan to the hilt. Because he was a vice admiral and Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force, and was liked and respected by all, his words carried decisive weight.

E. B Potter, Nimitz


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Let's make America great like this again.


I loved this documentary. Learned alot about eastern railroads and urban architecture.

American Experience:The Rise and Fall of Penn Station

One key quote from architecture critic Paul Goldberger:

Pennsylvania Station is one of the greatest symbols of monumental public space that any American city has ever had. It ennobles the acts of daily life. It makes every citizen feel important.
I like the idea that beautiful public spaces and buildings can ennoble small daily tasks and chores.

Somewhere we got the idea that to be egalitarian one also had to be ruthlessly utilitarian or even tawdry.