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  • Archive for May, 2014

    Have we lost and is this why ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th May 2014 (All posts by )

    A new book by a retired army general explains that we lost the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Why ?

    I have had reservations about Iraq for years, at least since 2008.

    When President Bush convened a meeting of his National Security Council on May 22, 2003, his special envoy in Iraq made a statement that caught many of the participants by surprise. In a video presentation from Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III informed the president and his aides that he was about to issue an order formally dissolving Iraq’s Army.

    I think that decision probably lost the post-invasion war. The other puzzle that was not explained until the recent book, Days of Fire explained it, was why Bremer was put in place of Jay Garner, who had done well with the Kurds.

    Garner began reconstruction efforts in March 2003 with plans aiming for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. Talabani, a member of Jay Garner’s staff in Kuwait before the war, was consulted on several occasions to help the U.S. select a liberal Iraqi government; this would be the first liberal Government to exist in Iraq. In an interview with Time magazine, Garner stated that “as in any totalitarian regime, there were many people who needed to join the Baath Party in order to get ahead in their careers. We don’t have a problem with most of them. But we do have a problem with those who were part of the thug mechanism under Saddam. Once the U.S. identifies those in the second group, we will get rid of them.

    Had Garner continued with that policy, we might have been out of the cities in a few months instead of years, as was the case with Bremer.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, History, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama, Russia | 70 Comments »

    History Friday Encore – Jack Hays’ Big Fight

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th May 2014 (All posts by )

    (Next weekend, the good people of the Kendall County Historical Commission are observing the 170th anniversary of the Big Fight at the Sisterdale Dance Hall, in bucolic downtown Sisterdale, Texas. There’ll be a number of local and national authors there, including S.C. Gwynne, of Empire of the Summer Moon. My daughter tells me not to get all fan-girly, but it is a fantastic book. This will be the third or fourth time I have been in a book event and met up with an author whose’ books were sources for me in doing my own. So – from last year’s archives, without further ado…)

    Jack Hays holds an outsized place in the history of the Texas Rangers, who began as a sort of heavily-armed and mounted Neighborhood Watch, metamorphosed into frontier protection force, and only much, much later into a law-enforcement body. But he was one of the earliest Ranger commanders; a surveyor by profession, born in Tennessee and raised in Mississippi, who would live to a ripe old age as a politician and lawman in California. Quiet, modest, self-effacing, Jack Hays became the very beau ideal of a captain of Rangers. He came to Texas at the very end of the fight for independence from Mexico in 1836, and worked as a surveyor and alternately as a soldier volunteer. He had been among the Texans in the Plum Creek fight, but made his name in the decade afterwards, astounding people who knew only his reputation upon meeting him for the first time. He was slight, short and refined in appearance and manner, and looked about fourteen years old. But he was also a gifted leader of irregular fighters and possessed an iron constitution. His fearlessness and daring became a byword among his fellow Rangers and his Tonkawa Indian allies and scouts. Chief Placido of the Tonkawa exclaimed admiringly, “Me and Red Wing not afraid to go to hell together. Captain Jack heap brave; not afraid to go to hell by himself.” The Texas historian T.H. Fehrenbach noted, “He mauled Indians from the Nueces to the Llano, and never with more than fifty men.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History | 1 Comment »

    Thoughts on Leadership and Command, From Two Writers and a General

    Posted by David Foster on 27th May 2014 (All posts by )

    In my review of The Caine Mutiny, I mentioned that the happy-go-lucky protagonist, Willie, eventually becomes a captain, and apparently a good one, too:

    Even at anchor, on an idle, forgotten old ship, Willie experienced the strange sensations of the first days of a new captain: a shrinking of his personal identity, and a stretching out of his nerve ends to all the spaces and machinery of his ship.  He developed the apprehensive listening ears of a young mother; the ears listened in on his sleep; he never quite slept, not the way he had before.  He had the sense of having been reduced from an individual to a sort of brain of a composite animal, the crew and ship combined.

    Achieving this sort of “feel” for an organization is of course far simpler when the organization consists of a fairly small number of people, like the crew of a destroyer-minesweeper or a very-early-stage startup.  But it is challenging even in these circumstances, and many leaders of modest-sized organizations never really accomplish “a stretching out of their nerve ends” to all aspects of the organization.  When the organization is very large and complex–too many people to ever meet personally, many geographical locations, a range of activities beyond the detailed comprehension of any one human mind–achieving a true sense of what is going on is much harder–it is to a substantial extent a matter of creating effective organization structures, choosing the right subordinate leaders, and establishing measurement and incentive systems which tend toward encouraging useful behavior rather than useless or damaging behavior…in addition to personal attributes such as curiosity, realistic sense of life, and ability to learn and to listen.

    Whether the organization be large or small, the leader is far more likely to achieve the kind of depth understanding that Wouk describes if he has a strong sense of personal responsibility and interest in the organization, its people, and its mission.  I’m reminded of some thoughts expressed by General William Slim, who commanded British and allied forces in Burma during WWII, following his defeat by the Japanese:

    The only test of generalship is success, and I had succeeded in nothing that I had attempted…Defeat is bitter. Bitter to the common soldier, but trebly bitter to his general. The soldier may comfort himself with the thought that, whatever the result, he has done his duty faithfully and steadfastly, but the commander has failed in his duty if he has not won victory–for that is his duty. He has no other comparable to it. He will go over in his mind the events of the campaign. ‘Here,’ he will think, ‘I went wrong; here I took counsel of my fears when I should have been bold; there I should have waited to gather strength, not struck piecemeal; at such a moment I failed to grasp opportunity when it was presented to me.’ He will remember the soldiers whom he sent into the attack that failed and who did not come back. he will recall the look in the eyes of men who trusted him. ‘I have failed them,’ he will say to himself, ‘and failed my country!’ He will see himself for what he is–a defeated general. In a dark hour he will turn on himself and question the very foundations of his leadership and his manhood. 

    And then he must stop! For, if he is ever to command in battle again, he must shake off these regrets and stamp on them, as they claw at his will and his self-confidence. He must beat off these atacks he delivers against himself, and cast out the doubts born of failure. Forget them, and remember only the lessons to be learnt from defeat–they are more than from victory.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education, Human Behavior, Management, Obama, Politics | 15 Comments »

    Memorial Day 2014

    Posted by David Foster on 26th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Carbon Leaf:  The War Was in Color

    Neptunus Lex, when first posting a link to this music video, remarked:

    They all are.

    Posted in History, Holidays, Music, USA, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    For Memorial Day

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th May 2014 (All posts by )

    American Cemetery at Chateau Thierry (Picture by Sgt, Mom, August, 1985)

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them.

    (from Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen)

    Posted in History, Military Affairs | 5 Comments »

    Baseball’s Chance to Come Back from the Dead

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Baseball is dying. Usually I include a photo of a game with a post on baseball but I haven’t been to a single game yet in 2014, and the season if more than a quarter done. It is poor form to extrapolate from your own experience across the entire population but for the topic of baseball, I think it is appropriate.

    The buzz on baseball here in Chicago is zero. Absolutely zero. I don’t hear people talking about baseball, or even mentioning baseball.

    There are some semi-unique circumstances in Illinois tied to the fact that the Blackhawks are still in the playoffs and there is a lot of excitement about the Bears. On the other hand, NBA basketball suffered with the loss of Derrick Rose (again) and college football here is nothing compared to what you’d see in SEC country (Division Zero as Dan and I refer to it).

    Not only are the games for Chicago mostly terrible (the White Sox are more competitive than expected, and the Cubs’ fate is worse than expected, but neither are close to being contenders), the games usually seem to be very long and on late at night. When I check my mobile in the morning I can see the updates that I get every 3 innings and at the conclusion of the game and they often end after midnight, especially if the games are on the West Coast. There seems to be a lot of bad, slow moving, cold and night baseball being served. As a fan, that’s an awful concoction.

    Some good news for Chicago fans is that Mark Buehrle, a great former pitcher for the White Sox, is now tearing it up for the first place Toronto Blue Jays. He is 8-1 with a great ERA. He had a rough couple years with the disaster down in Miami but Toronto is doing well and so is he. I hope that he makes it to the Hall of Fame in the end, even if it isn’t with the White Sox.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Sports | 17 Comments »

    Calling All Photographers…

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 24th May 2014 (All posts by )

    I am looking for an online site to store and edit photos. I switched one of my main machines from PC to MAC but I still run a 50% PC environment at home and now I’ve given up with the share drive model and am considering the cloud.

    Google+ seems like a strong option. Today I use Picasa for photo editing (it’s free and works on MACS and PC’s) but I think Google is phasing it out and users are being encouraged to move to Google+ for photos. There is an app for IOS so they can be uploaded from phones and iPads too.

    There are other tools out there, too. I used to use Shutterfly but I don’t really like how hard it is to get your photos OUT of there. It is more for making books rather than just storing everything from all your sources.

    I also use Google for some other things like Blogger but don’t want to link the two. Blogger is also pretty crummy (we use at at LITGM) and probably at some point we will just move that over to hosted word press (which is awesome), but that’s a different (boring) story. I’d get another ID.

    Since many, many of the photographers here are probably in the same boat I am looking for advice. I know that the pros will always have photoshop on a hard drive so I am thinking more of the advice for amateurs like me ;)

    This WSJ article discusses photo storage and also likes Google+, but there are other contenders as well.

    Posted in Photos | 9 Comments »

    Geography and Entrepreneurship

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd May 2014 (All posts by )

    …an interesting discussion at Ricochet:

    Imagine a Republican governor slashed Pennsylvania’s regulations and taxes.  Imagine a Republican President and Congress slashed federal regulations and taxes.

    Would that do anything to ensure a tech boom in central Pennsylvania?

    No.

    Why? Go try to convince an Ivy League computer engineer to move to the near suburbs of NYC. No prob. Now try to pitch them on moving 3 hours from NYC to Amish country. Impossible. Charles Murray’s Super Zips win every time.

    Put another way: Rand Paul might be able to solicit Silicon Valley donor dollars to Kentucky, but he’ll never export Kentucky values to the Valley.

    RTWT, and the comments.

    Posted in Business, Human Behavior, Politics, Tech, USA | 45 Comments »

    History Friday: Two Brothers and the Twin Sisters

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd May 2014 (All posts by )

    The two brothers were the McCulloch brothers, Ben and Henry – and the twin sisters were a pair of six-pound cannon, which were sent by the citizens of Cincinnati to Texas at the start of the Texas War for Independence. The good citizens of Cincinnati were persuaded to support the rebellious Texans, and so raised the funds to have a pair of cannon manufactured at a local foundry and shipped down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and from thence by coastal schooner to Galveston, where they were presented to the representatives of the harried and scattered government of the Republic of Texas sometime around early April, 1836. A resolutely determined settler in Texas, Dr. Charles Rice had arrived on the same schooner, accompanied by his family – including a pair of twin daughters. This was too charming a coincidence to pass unnoticed – that the schooner had arrived with two pairs of twins, and so the pair of Cincinnati-cast and paid-for 6-pounders were christened ‘The Twin Sisters.’ By the time that they caught up to Sam Houston’s expeditiously-retreating army, temporarily camped at Groce’s Landing on the Brazos, they would be the only cannon possessed by said army. (All other artillery pieces had been captured at the Alamo or after the defeat of the Goliad garrison at Coleto creek, or dumped in the Guadalupe at Gonzales to lighten the retreat).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Is the United States becoming a corrupt enterprise ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 22nd May 2014 (All posts by )

    The activities of the Obama administration have progressed into Mafia territory the past five years. I never thought things could change this fast but it seems I was wrong. The latest example ?

    Soon after the US Government sold the last of its stake in General Motors, the company began to announce a huge number of recalls. These safety defects were known for years but unreported until the federal government sold its interests, at a huge loss of course.

    Taxpayers, drivers, and investors who assumed the government would never fail to disclose rampant safety problems in a company it owned can rest easy, though. Instead of investigating fatally flawed GM components while the U.S. government was the company’s largest single owner, the NHTSA was busy harassing Toyota — one of GM’s top competitors — for an alleged malfunction that led to “unintended acceleration” in Toyota vehicles. Toyota was fined and eventually bullied into recalling 8 million vehicles over the issue.

    Toyota is probably the safest, highest quality auto maker in the world. I drive one and have bought Toyotas for my daughter.

    And what was the final result of the NHTSA investigation?

    Many drivers may have confused the gas and brake pedals a problem that may account for “the vast majority” of the unintended acceleration incidents the agency investigated, NHTSA deputy administrator Ron Medford said at Tuesday’s NHTSA press briefing.

    “What mostly happened was pedal misapplication where the driver stepped on the gas instead of the brake or in addition to the brake,” Medford said.

    The Toyota cases were always about driver error, not safety of the auto. Only the trial lawyers and a complacent government permitted this raid on a company to proceed.

    Is that the only case ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Health Care, Morality and Philosphy, Obama, Politics | 87 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review: The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk

    Posted by David Foster on 20th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Just about everyone has seen the movie based on this book, featuring Humphrey Bogart’s famous performance as Captain Queeg.  The movie is indeed excellent–the book is even better, and contains a lot that is absent from the film.  And while the film ends basically after the court-martial scene, the book continue to follow the USS Caine and  key characters for the duration of the war.  In this review, I won’t worry about spoilers re plot elements that were included in the movie, but will try to minimize them as far as other aspects of the book are concerned. After summarizing the story, I’ll comment on some of the issue raised by the book. (A recent article, referencing The Caine Mutiny, refers to Wouk as “the first neoconservative.”)

    Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg, a rigid and insecure man, is appointed during WWII to the command of Caine, a decrepit old destroyer-minesweeper…the ship and its slovenly-appearing crew are described as being part of the  “hoodlum navy.”  This is Queeg’s first command, and he is desperately concerned to make it a success, deeply afraid of making a mistake which will lead to his failure.  Ironically, it is specifically this fear of failure and perceived need for perfection which is responsible for many, perhaps most, of his troubles. When Caine runs aground the first time Queeg takes her out, he fails to submit the required grounding report for fear of higher authority’s reaction. When the ship cuts her own towline while assigned to target-towing duty, Queeg cannot make up him mind whether or not to attempt recovery of the drifting target–and radios in for instructions.  Incidents like these do not inspire confidence in Queeg on the part of his superiors.

    The officers and crew of Caine also lose confidence in the captain as his obsessive-compulsive behavior becomes increasingly problematic.  As a result of several incidents during combat, there are also concerns about Queeg’s personal courage. While no one aboard Caine likes Queeg once they get to know him, the captain’s most vocal critic is an officer named Thomas Keefer, an intellectual who is an aspiring novelist. Keefer has a cynical attitude toward the Navy, which he refers to as “a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots,” and advises Willie Keith, a young officer who is his subordinate,  that “If you’re not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one.”

    The ship’s executive officer is Steve Maryk. In civilian life a commercial fisherman, Maryk now hopes to make the Navy his career. Maryk is a fine seaman and a good leader, but not a highly-educated man–he is somewhat in awe of Tom Keefer’s intellectual attainments.

    In repeated conversations, Keefer tells Maryk that the captain must be mentally ill, using psychological jargon and concepts that Maryk does not pretend to understand. Maryk is concerned enough about Queeg’s behavior that he begins keeping a “medical log” on Queeg, with the idea of presenting this to higher authority if necessary and possible. The time seems right when Caine shares an anchorage with the battleship carrying Admiral Halsey:  Maryk takes his log, takes Keefer in tow, and heads over to the New Jersey to see if they can speak with the Admiral.  But Keefer, at the last moment, chickens out, asserting that Halsey, with his experience aboard large well-managed ships, would never be able to understand the state of things aboard a hoodlum-navy ship like Caine, and that raising the issue with him would only get the two of them in trouble.  Feeling unable to make the case without support, Maryk gives up on talking to Halsey and the two officers return to Caine.

    But soon thereafter, the old ship encounters a typhooon. Fleet course is 180 degrees, due south–away from the wind–and Queeg refuses to adopt the safer course of heading into the wind even though communication with other ships, as well as radar contact, has been lost.

    An unbelievably big gray wave loomed on the port side, high over the bridge. It came smashing down. Water spouted into the wheelhouse from the open wing, flooding to Willie’s knees. The water felt surprisingly warm and sticky, like blood. “Sir, we’re shipping water on the goddamn bridge!” said Maryk shrilly. “We’ve got to come around into the wind!”

    “Heading 245, sir.” Stilwell’s voice was sobbing. “She ain’t answering to the engines at all, sir!”

    The Caine rolled almost completely over on its port side.  Everybody in the wheelhouse except Stilwell went sliding across the streaming deck and piled up against the windows.  The sea was under their noses, dashing up against the glass.  “Mr Maryk, the light on this gyro just went out!” screamed Stilwell, clinging desperately to the wheel.  The wind howled and shrieked in Willie’s ears.  He lay on his face on the deck, tumbling around in salt water, flailing for a grip at something solid.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Nautical Book Project, Transportation | 13 Comments »

    Checking Privilege

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Oh, not to worry – I had my privilege topped up last week. Full of privilege I am, and ready to go … I assume that this is the ephemeral white privilege that these undergraduates-of-excruciatingly-top-drawer-non-state-uni muppets are referring to? Is this the female privilege, the veteran privilege, or the mainstream religious privilege, or even the privilege of having been brought up by a relatively well-adjusted heterosexual married couple in those benighted times when it was possible and even laudable for a male to go out and earn a living, while the spouse (usually referred to as a help-mate) stayed at home, raised the children, organized the housekeeping and the meals, the education, clothing and schooling of those children, the social sphere in which she and the pay-check winning spouse moved, and volunteered in the community where they lived … that must be it. (Hey, I’ll swipe my privilege card through the dispenser, just in case I have burned through some of my previously-deposited privilege.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism, Urban Issues | 8 Comments »

    An Unmentioned Fact on the Crimea Situation

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th May 2014 (All posts by )

    As someone who has studied WW2 history for over 40 years (on an amateur basis), as soon as the Crimean situation occurred I went over to my bookshelf and pulled out my favorite book that covered the Crimean campaign – “Stopped at Stalingrad” by Hayward. The book is highly recommended and covers air / ground coordination in that era and has an excellent overview of the ground campaign in the crucial 1942-3 time period.

    The scale of today’s troop movements and activities is so small relative to that era. Only a few thousand troops can decide an entire campaign. The days of millions of soldiers on all sides of the wire have been relegated to the past.

    While this volume focuses on the military aspects of the campaign in WW2, many other books talk about ideological motivations and logistics, notably the horrifying “The Wages of Destruction” by Tooze.

    The contrast between today’s situation and the “total warfare” that existed really from the end of WW1 and through the civil war in Russia as well as the horrors in the Ukraine in the 1930’s and then on both the German advance and Russian re-capturing of the various regions is very instructive on one key dimension – as Putin takes over Crimea, he actually intends to FEED the population.

    It is important to realize how poorly civilians have always been treated in these Eastern campaigns by all sides. To say that people were viewed as an afterthought is a giant understatement. Civilians were second to territory, resources (oil), or ideological objectives.

    Today by most accounts Putin realizes that he needs to actually administer the region and needs to take steps to build up morale, keep the economy functioning (on some level), and that this will be a financial burden on Russia. The days of just stripping off assets, turning locals into slave labor, and siphoning off any agricultural products (I am not just talking about “surplus”, I am talking about everything) are apparently past us. I am no fan of Putin and in no way want to appear to be in favor of his activities, but feel that this is a fact worth mentioning.

    By the abysmally low standards of twentieth century Eastern warfare, the Crimea incident likely had the least impact on civilians.

    Unfortunately the situation in Western Ukraine has the potential to be closer to a “typical” historical Eastern event with mass bloodshed, significant disruption to the economy and population, with civilians caught in the middle and having their needs ignored.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Russia | 28 Comments »

    Announcing the Nautical Book Project

    Posted by David Foster on 14th May 2014 (All posts by )

    The Classical Unities are three principles of drama (derived , or perhaps misderived,  from Aristotle) which, according to certain Italian and French literary critics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, should govern the construction of any drama. They are:

    –unity of action: a single plot line with no sub-plots

    –unity of place: the events should be constrained to a single location

    –unity of time: the events should be limited to the period of a single day

    One of the reasons that nautically-oriented fiction can be so powerful, I think, is that by its nature it often establishes certain unities: the action typically occurs in a single place…albeit a moveable one, the ship…with a consistent cast of characters belonging to that place…and, although unity of time in the strict classical sense of all action occurring within a single day may be rare, another sort of unity of time is often established in that events occur over the course of a single voyage.

    I’m launching an ongoing project to post reviews of worthwhile nautical fiction, recent and not-so-recent, well-known and not-so-well-known. All ChicagoBoyz and ChicagoGrrlz authors are invited to participate. Movies may also be included under this review category, as may some nonfiction books, especially personal memoirs.

    Books/movies I’m planning to review myself, in the not-too-distant future, include: The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk…The Hornblower series, by C S Forester, and White Jacket, by Herman Melville.  Also To the Last Salute, by Captain Georg von Trapp (yes, that Captain von Trapp.)

    Other books definitely deserving of reviews as part of this project include the nautical novels of Joseph Conrad, Melville’s Moby Dick and Billy Budd, and Nicholas Montsarrat’s The Cruel Sea.

    Please post your suggestions for worthwhile books for this project in comments; also, for Chicago Boyz and Grrlz and anyone else who feels especially motivated, any books you would particularly like to sign up to review.  I see this as an ongoing project since the universe of books under this category is vast.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Holidays, Transportation, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    “… a uniquely malignant threat to American exceptionalism”: Sen. Mike Lee Nails It

    Posted by Lexington Green on 13th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Government of course remains the problem, but the nature of that problem has evolved dramatically since Reagan’s first inaugural. If Republicans want to grow their party into a national majority, we must begin, as Reagan did in 1981, by confronting our present crisis: America’s large and growing Opportunity Deficit, namely, immobility among the poor and insecurity in the middle class.
     
    Compounding the shortage of opportunities among the poor and middle class is an unholy union of big government, big business, and big special interests that twists public policy to benefit Washington insiders unfairly at the expense of everyone else.
     
    This is America’s growing crisis of crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and policy privilege, and it represents a uniquely malignant threat to American exceptionalism.

    RTWT

    Posted in Crony Capitalism, Politics | 51 Comments »

    RERUN–a Neglected but Significant Anniversary

    Posted by David Foster on 13th May 2014 (All posts by )

    ‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
    ‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
    When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
    And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
    When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’

    (A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)

    On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:

    The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.

    If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.

    This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.

    First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in France, Germany, History, Military Affairs, Uncategorized, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    Reason #497, #498, and #499 to Love Texas

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Pictorial testimony – from Saturday at the Bulverde Spring Market, in downtown Bulverde, Texas

    Even a Radio Flyer wagon gets the monster-truck treatment!

    …and the wheel-chairs are the ‘all-terrain’ model!

    And the Lions’ Club believes in recycling 50-gallon drums into a kiddie ride.

    All abooooooard!

    Posted in Civil Society, Diversions, Photos, Tech, Transportation, USA | 2 Comments »

    Corporate Culture, George Westinghouse, and Ford’s New CEO

    Posted by David Foster on 10th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Bill Waddell writes about a product-quality decision made by Mark Fields, who will shortly become CEO at Ford…and about the reaction of then-and-current CEO Alan Mulally:

    Early on his tenure at Ford Mulally implemented a process in a weekly review meeting whereby the execs color coded their status reports – green for those on target, yellow for those running behind and red for any project in serious trouble.

    No one had ever brought a red project to the meeting when Fields learned that there was a serious defect in the roll out of the first Edge cars.  Customers and dealers were anxiously waiting for the Edge and it was a critical part of Ford’s strategy.

    According to “Once Upon a Car” – a great book about the crises in the auto industry when the economic bottom fell out in 2008:

    “Fields had two choices, neither one of them good. He could ship the Edges that worked, restart production, and hope the glitch could be found and fixed on the fly. Or he could delay the launch and be the first executive to go into Mulally’s Thursday-morning meeting with a big fat red dot on his weekly progress sheet. He sat down with his team in Dearborn and made the call. “We are not going to ship a vehicle before it is ready,” he said. ‘We just can’t . We have to delay it. I’m going to have to call it a red.’ His staff members looked at him. He could almost feel their pity.

    At the next business review, Fields took his seat, right next to Mulally. As luck would have it, he was the first executive to present. His mind raced. I’m going to get killed here , he thought. Then he took a deep breath and showed everyone the launch page with a large red dot on it. ‘The Edge launch is red,’ he said. ‘And we’re delaying it.’

    Fields thought he felt people moving their chairs away from the table, away from him. Bringing bad news to senior management at Ford was typically avoided at all costs. Nobody wanted to even be near the culprit. The Thunderbird Room got very quiet. Everyone looked at Mulally, waiting for his reaction. A few seconds passed. Then Mulally turned toward Fields, stood up, and started clapping.

    This reminds me of a story about entrepreneur/inventor/industrialist George Westinghouse, which I posted years ago as part of my Leadership Vignettes series, and re-posted more recently:

    The date, sometime during the late 1800s. The scene, a Westinghouse Electric factory complex in Pittsburgh, with an unpaved yard between buildings. A young laborer–a recent immigrant–is trundling a wheelbarrow, filled with heavy copper ingots, over an iron slab which serves as a track across the yard. The wheelbarrow goes off the track and into the mud. As the laborer struggles to get it back on the track, other workers begin mocking him.

    At that moment, a man in formal clothing is crossing the yard. It is George Westinghouse, founder and chief executive of the company. He wades into the mud and helps the man get the wheelbarrow back on the slab.

    Not a word was said, but powerful messages were transmitted: when someone is having problems, you don’t laugh at him–you help him. When things go wrong, no one is too important to dive in and get his hands dirty.

    This is a splendid example of how good organizational cultures are created: through the power of example. Think how much more effective Westinghouse’s action was than the mere posting of a “corporate values statement” containing phrases such as “we must respect our fellow employees at all times.” Not that such things lack value, but they are meaningless unless backed up by action.

    It would have been very easy for Westinghouse to simply ignore the incident and continue on his way. After all, he was heading to a meeting about something–a multi-million-dollar bond issue, say–compared with which a wheelbarrow stuck in the mud would seem to pale in importance. But his instincts were the right ones.

    (The story is from Empires of Light, by Jill Jonnes)

    And similarly, Alan Mulally’s action in applauding Mark Fields’ bad news was far more effective than any poster or e-mail tag line to the effect that “transparency is our highest value,” or some such phrase.

    Disclosure: I’m a Ford shareholder.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Management | 8 Comments »

    New! – Your Florida Driving Tips

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th May 2014 (All posts by )

    -Drive slow in the fast lane? Yes, you can!

    -If you maintain a speed of at least 120 MPH while weaving through highway traffic on your motorcycle, other vehicles will appear to be standing still, making it easier for you to maneuver around them.

    -Hills are rare. Savor them. Slow down to 15 under the limit on any bridge or elevated express lane. The drivers behind you won’t mind as they will now be able to enjoy the view themselves.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Humor | 20 Comments »

    A Fairly Well-Organized Enterprise

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th May 2014 (All posts by )

    The year of 1862 was a perilous one for those residents of Texas who had opposed the institution of chattel slavery, opposed secession, and finally opposed being forcibly drafted into defending the Confederacy with military service. It was especially perilous for those who were leaders in the various German communities in San Antonio, and in the tidy, well-organized hamlets in the Texas Hill country, those men who had not thought it necessary to guard their tongues when it came to discussing matters political and social. After all, many of them had come from the various German duchies and kingdoms during the two decades previous, deliberately shaking off the dust of the old country and embracing the new one with with passionate enthusiasm. They assumed they had left behind repression, censorship, authoritarian rule, required military service and economic stagnation. They had gained political freedom, good farmland, every kind of economic opportunity … even just the freedom to be left alone, to amuse themselves with harmless cultural pursuits such as competitive choral singing, nine-pin bowling, and community theater.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Germany, History, USA | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th May 2014 (All posts by )

    David Horowitz, Why Republicans Need the Tea Party:

    So how do we fight fire with fire? How do we go from a party that is eager to explain to Democrats why their policies won’t work but reluctant to call them out for who they are, to a party that will go toe-to-toe and hammer-and-tongs with them and defeat their politics of personal and political destruction? Another way to put this is: How do we develop a political weapon that matches and neutralizes theirs, in particular the claim that we are waging a war against women, minorities, and the poor?
     
    Actually, it’s not that difficult if you are willing to be aggressive, if you are willing to match their rhetoric and be called extremist for doing so. Every inner city in America of size is run by Democrats and has been for 50 to 100 years. Detroit is a good example. It is 85 percent black. Fifty years ago it was per capita the richest city in America, the industrial jewel of an industrial superpower. Fifty years ago Democrats came to power in Detroit and began implementing their plans for social justice.
     
    Fifty years of progressive policies and Democratic rule has bankrupted Detroit, and ruined it. A third of its population is on welfare. Half its population is unemployed. Its per-capita income has plummeted so far that it is now the poorest large city in America. It has been depopulated. More than half the people who lived there are gone. Everyone has fled who can. It is a giant slum of human misery and despair. And Democrats did it. Democrats are Detroit’s slumlords and the authors of the racist policies that have reduced a once great city to its present squalid state. Democrats are cynical liars and rank hypocrites when they claim to be interested in the well-being of minorities and the poor, whose necks bear the marks of their boot heels.
     
    Fighting fire with fire means throwing the Democrats’ atrocities — their exploitation and devastation of black and brown Americans — in their faces every time they open their mouths. It means accusing them of destroying the lives of millions of poor black and Hispanic children who are trapped in the public schools that don’t educate them — schools the Democrats run as jobs programs for adults and slush funds for their political campaigns. It means taking up the cause of the victims and indicting progressives for their crimes. The one thing it does not mean is business as usual.

    Posted in Conservatism, Elections, Leftism, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Tea Party | 13 Comments »

    Life in the Fully Politicized Society

    Posted by David Foster on 7th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Many will remember Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, in which she said:

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed….You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eight years from now, you will have to be engaged.

    Victor Davis Hanson notes that she also said:

    We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.

    …which is, of course, entirely consistent with the assertion made by Barack Obama himself, shortly before his first inauguration:  “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    It should be clear by now that all aspects of American life and society are rapidly becoming politicized. Obama has greatly accelerated this movement, but he didn’t initiate it.  The “progressive” political movement, which now controls the Democratic Party, has for a long time been driving the politicization of anything and everything.  The assertion “the personal is political” originated in the late 1960s…and, if the personal is political, then everything is political.

    Some people, of course, like the politicization of everything–for some individuals, indeed, their lives would be meaningless without it. In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffner noted divergent reactions from people when the political and economic situation stabilized (temporarily, as we now know) during the Stresemann chancellorship:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But this return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    and

    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    I’m afraid we have quite a few people in America today who like having “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.”  But for most people, especially for creative and emotionally-healthy people, the politicization of everything leads to a dreary and airless existence.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Germany, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Russia, USA | 23 Comments »

    Green Acres is the Place to Be…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Yes – I like this place very much. Although there is probably altogether too much traffic on weekends.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Customer Service, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, North America, Personal Narrative, Photos | 7 Comments »

    On Survivalism

    Posted by T. Greer on 6th May 2014 (All posts by )

    NOTE: This blog post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 2 January 2011. Its contents are relevant to the discussion started by Jay Manifold’s recent posts on national catastrophes and societal resilience. Now seems like a good time to resurrect the original post in its entirety.

    .

    .
    I recently read a book by survivalist blogger James Wesley Rawles called How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. This reading has prompted a few thoughts on the aims and validity of the survivalist movement that may be of interest to readers of the Stage.

    The raison d’etre of survivalism is a subject much discussed on this blog: the proper balance between between resilience and efficiency. Robustness and facility are two virtues fundamentally at odds, and all complex systems, be they organisms, economies, or militaries, are subject to the trade off between them. While the relation between specialization and efficiency was noted by both Xenophon and Ibn Khaldun centuries earlier, widespread acceptance of the “drag” redundancy places on a system’s productivity did not come until publication of Adam Smith‘s The Wealth of Nations. Mr. Smith uses the example of a pin factory to teach the general principle:

    …the trade of the pin-maker; a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them. I have seen a small manufactory of this kind where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day; that is, certainly, not the two hundred and fortieth, perhaps not the four thousand eight hundredth part of what they are at present capable of performing, in consequence of a proper division and combination of their different operations….. The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour.

    Book I, Chapter 1, “Of the Division of Labour” 

    Mr. Smith does not present the primary drawback of this arrangement. With efficiency comes fragility. Ten men working by their lonesome produce a paltry number of pins, but the faults of one man do not destroy the efforts of another.  In contrast, if something happens to one of the ten factory men and; his equipment, no pins get made and the factory must shut down. One bad cog puts a stop to the entire machine.

    For the survivalist this is a problem pervading not only the pin factories, but all of modern society. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Society, Terrorism, Urban Issues | 40 Comments »

    Gary Becker ז״ל

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Gary Becker, one of the greatest living economists and a longstanding member of the University of Chicago faculty, has died. עליו השלום.

    Gary Becker

    (Photo courtesy Nobelprize.org.)

    UPDATE: Gary Becker links follow.

    James J. Heckman (pdf)

    The Godfather of Freakonomics Has Died — Here Are His Most Groundbreaking Theories

    Chicago Tribune

    The Wall Street Journal

    The New York Times

    Chicago Sun-Times

    The New Yorker

    UPDATE 2: University of Chicago Gary Becker Obituary

    (Links via Lex and Joseph Morris.)

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Obits | 3 Comments »