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  • Archive for June, 2014

    Mike Lotus at the U.S. Army War College 2014 National Security Strategy Seminar

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Army War College

    I had the great good fortune to attend the U.S. Army War College 2014 National Security Strategy Seminar, which ran from June 2-6, 2014.

    The War College runs an annual course for colonels and lieutenant colonels, personnel from the other branches, as well as officers from foreign armies. According to the Army War College website the resident class of 2014 included 385 students including: (1) 216 Army officers: Active, Reserve, Guard, (2) 64 Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard officers, all components, (3) 77 international officers/ fellows, and (4) 28 senior national security civilian professionals.

    The final week of the year, civilians are invited to attend the National Security Strategy Seminar, which consists of lectures and participation in seminar discussions. The NSS is very well organized and professionally run.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Military Affairs, USA | 13 Comments »

    The Great Iraqi Bug Out and the Death of “LOGCAP”

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th June 2014 (All posts by )

    This article from the McClatchy papers makes clear that the collapse of the Shia dominated Iraqi Army was arranged. See: “Iraqi soldier who fought with Americans says decision to flee left him feeling ashamed” By Hannah Allam and Mohammed al Dulaimy.

    While this explains a great deal why the American intelligence community was blindsided by the collapse, it leaves a huge strategic level issue for the Obama Administration. Will they protect American hired private military corporation personnel from torture-murder by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Forces? The failure to do so would be a huge strategic blunder that would cripple American conventional force projection for literally decades.

    Why this is requires explaining “LOGCAP.”

    LOGCAP Explained
    LOGCAP or “Logistics Civil Augmentation Program” was established in 1985 primarily to pre-plan for contingencies and to “leverage existing civilian resources.” It was not really used in a large way until the 1st Gulf War of 1990-1991, to take advantage of the Saudi and Gulf States civil economies to replace uniformed American logistical support. This was as much a political move by the Pres. George H.W. Bush Administration to manage American anti-war, and primarily Democratic anti-war, opposition to retaking Kuwait as it was a logistical exercise. (Hold that thought!)

    LOGCAP was later expanded by the Clinton Administration to cover “operations other than war” in places like Somalia, Southwest Asia, Haiti, the Balkans, and East Timor. This allowed the Clinton Administration to exercise a muscular and multi-lateral foreign policy with the minimum of senior uniformed military opposition. Opposition which balked at “operations other than war” as the American Senior military leadership’s version of the “Vietnam War syndrome,” as the US Army’s deployments during the Kosovo war made clear.

    This Clinton Administration “work around” approach to American military “Flag Rank” opposition was hugely apparent with the Croat “Operation Storm” in Bosnia, where “Military Professional Resources Incorporated” acted as an American military surrogate to plan the Croat Offensive that broke Serbian power in Bosnia.

    Effectively “Private Military Corporation” contractor support has been the keystone of American military power projection since the 2nd Clinton Administration. This fact has been documented in a lot of places. See this July 2000 article from US Army Logistician Magazine — Contingency Contracting in East Timor — or this more recent Defense Industry Daily article that speaks to the most recent LOCGCAP 4 contract — LOGCAP 4: Billions of Dollars Awarded for Army Logistics Support.

    LOGCAP after 9/11/2001
    The two Pres. George W. Bush Administrations further expanded the use of LOGCAP after 9-11-2001, not only to manage public opposition to the “War on Terror” but also as a “Fight the War on the Cheap” exercise because your average logistics/garrison specialist first class (SFC) with government income, free medical care, education benefits, and housing allowances for three dependents earn earns arguably 125-150K in “benefits.” A DynCorp or KBR contractor costs the US government up to twice what a SFC costs in terms of annual income, but it is a known, predictable, fixed cost incurred and gone; whereas the Federal government will pay for the SFC and his dependents for another 20+ years in terms of benefits obligated by service.

    This was in fact one of the reasons Democrats in Congress hated private military corporations doing uniformed military work in the War on Terror. Their extensive use in the 1st Gulf War plus the on-going operations in Iraq and Afghanistan hugely reduced the long term opportunity for graft and corruption via the Congressional administration of uniformed veterans education and medical benefits.

    LOGCAP as a Foreign Policy Disaster
    LOGCAP in Iraq and Afghanistan is only part of the private military corporation portfolio. The DEA uses a number of private military corporations in the Drug wars in Latin America for aerial electronic surveillance and training of local security forces. The American government also uses a number of private military corporations to furnish spares for things like the ATK built AC208B light gunship in Iraq.

    The torture-murder of any of those Iraq private military contractors will utterly cripple current American foreign policy as implemented since the late 1990’s by the Defense Department regional commanders.

    The lack of trust such a mass abandonment of private military contractors by the Obama Administration — a lack of trust that is already bad since the abandonment of both the American Ambassador and his private military contractor bodyguards at Benghazi, Libya — will result in demands for far more money up front in the form of letters of credit in foreign banks not under US Government control to pay for both private pre-paid “go to hell plan” preparations and death benefits.

    That sort of change will increase private military corporation contractor support costs to such a degree that it will require uniformed US military in much larger numbers to replace private military corporations. The functional impact will be the reducing of American military type “hard power” projection world-wide for decades…and increase the amount of graft flowing through Democratic interest groups if the security threat warrants the use of a lot of uniformed military to address an existential foreign threat.

    Isn’t it funny how things work out like that with the Obama Administration?

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Summertime!

    Posted by David Foster on 17th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Gerard has a music video and one of his excellent essays.

    Grim writes about fireflies.

    Posted in Music | 1 Comment »

    Mike Lotus Meeting with Emmanuel Todd in Paris, Discussing Todd’s Current Work and America 3.0, UPDATED

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Emmanuel Todd

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently had the great good fortune to make a presentation in Paris to the AFEA (The French Association for American Studies, Association Française d’Études Américaines, at the invitation of Jérôme Noirot, of the Ecole Centrale, Lyon. My presentation was entitled “America 3.0, Decentralization and the Tenth Amendment.” I have just learned paper of that title, coauthored by myself and James C. Bennett, will be included (in English) in a book to be published later this year. There may also be opportunities for future travel to France, which would be excellent.

    While I was in Paris, I had the opportunity to meet with Emmanuel Todd, whose work was fundamental to the analysis we applied to American life, past present and future, in America 3.0. Our entire discussion in the book is highly “Toddean” as we understood it. (Our other major influence is the work of Alan Macfarlane.) Specifically, we base our understanding of American culture in large measure on Todd’s description of the Absolute Nuclear Family (ANF), which is the main Anglo-American family type.

    I wrote to Todd last Fall, to ask him if he wanted a copy of the America 3.0. He told me he already had it, and planned to read it. However, over six months had gone by and I had heard nothing. Of course, my worry was that we had in some way misapplied or misunderstood his methodology. When I confirmed that I would be traveling to Paris, I contacted him again and asked if we could meet in person, and he agreed.

    When we met, at a cafe near where I was staying, Todd stood up, shook my hand, said “bon jour”, sat down and immediately launched into a rapid fire conversation with no preliminary chit chat. (When the waiter asked us what we wanted, I asked for a café crème, and Todd without looking at him, with a dismissive wave said, “deux café crème!” — as if he was saying: Coffee is not important, we have important matters to discuss!) It was clear that Todd is a man of intense intellectual seriousness. It was as if we had been in the midst of a conversation already and were picking it up in the middle, which in a sense we had been, via our books. This reminded me, in a good way, of the intellectually intense atmosphere at the University of Chicago, where I was an undergraduate.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0 | 2 Comments »

    The Roboticization of Customer Service

    Posted by David Foster on 16th June 2014 (All posts by )

    (Ran into this 2006 post while searching for an old Photon Courier post, and realized it had never been posted on Chicago Boyz.  It is unfortunately still quite relevant.)

    Almost every day, one encounters some business that is attempting to micromanage the interactions between its employees and its customers.

    At lunchtime a couple of weeks ago, I was in the mood for bacon & eggs, so I went to a restaurant (part of a local chain) that has breakfast items all day long. The interaction went something like this:

    Waitperson: Welcome to Snarfers-by-the-Lake, my name is Linda, I’ll be your server today.

    Me: Hi, Linda. I’m kind of in a breakfast mood, so I think I’ll have the bacon & eggs.

    WP (looks confused, as if she’d never heard of this dish before): Bacon & eggs? I don’t think…Oh, that would be our “eggs any style.”

    Me: OK…style I like ’em is over medium, with the bacon pretty crisp.

    WP: Over medium…and would you like bacon or sausage with that?

    Me: Bacon…pretty crisp.

    WP: And our soup today is cream of broccoli.

    Me: Soup with breakfast? That would be something different!

    WP: I know it’s silly, but they make me say it.

    I know it’s silly, but they make me say it. In how many consumer-oriented businesses could employees say the same thing?

    Also a couple of weeks ago, I had to call my local telco, always a dreaded experience. After I had finally gotten through the levels of the voice response menu and got a person, it was:

    CS Agent: Thank you for calling, how may I provide you with exceptional service today?

    How may I provide you with exceptional service today? You can bet the agent didn’t come up with this phrase all by herself. And I doubt if her management came up with it all on their own. No, I detect the fine hand of a consultant here–maybe the pointy-haired guy in Dilbert went into the CS consulting business.

    What imaginable purpose is there in requiring this phrase to be used in thousands of calls per day? Customers will decide if the service is “exceptional” or not based on what gets done or not done. You’re not going to convince them by using the word. And from the standpoint of the CS agents, this kind of thing can only breed cynicism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Management | 32 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Victor Davis Hanson:

    As far as war and peace go, closure for Obama is when the United States is surrounded by war and confronted with looming conflicts, and yet has ended them all by declaring that we choose not to be interested in any of them. Obama is right about one thing: losing is certainly a way of reducing the violence.

    Genteel defeat is the way of the appeaser and comes from cowardice or expediency, sometimes both. The cowardice may be physical though it is often intellectual, a willful cutting of corners for short-term political gain at the expense of foreseeable long-term geopolitical disaster.

    Closure is a pernicious concept. People who use the term sincerely, rather than as cover for some hidden agenda, may have a compulsive aversion to loose ends. Sometimes a loose end or other untidy low-energy equilibrium is the best, least risky, most robust outcome that one can hope for in a bad situation. Obama has achieved closure in Iraq. We could have had a muddy equilibrium stabilized by a few tens of thousands of US troops. Instead we will get closure in the form of a decisive defeat for the USA and its allies following Obama’s principled military withdrawal.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Iraq, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    The Rule of Credentialed “Experts”

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

    Lead and Gold links an article by Noemie Emery:

    They had a dream. For almost a hundred years now, the famed academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex has dreamed of a government run by their kind of people (i.e., nature’s noblemen), whose intelligence, wit, and refined sensibilities would bring us a heaven on earth. Their keen intellects would cut through the clutter as mere mortals’ couldn’t. They would lift up the wretched, oppressed by cruel forces. Above all, they would counter the greed of the merchants, the limited views of the business community, and the ignorance of the conformist and dim middle class…Their stock in trade was their belief in themselves, and their contempt for the way the middle class thought, lived, and made and spent money: Commerce was crude, consumption was vulgar, and industry, which employed millions and improved the lives of many more people, too gross and/or grubby for words.

    These attitudes, Emery notes, explain the passionate attraction that so many academics and journalists felt toward Barack Obama:

    Best of all, he was the person whom the two branches of the liberal kingdom—the academics and journalists—wanted to be, a man who shared their sensibilities and their views of the good and the beautiful. This was the chance of a lifetime to shape the world to their measure. He and they were the ones they were waiting for, and with him, they longed for transcendent achievements. But in the event they were undone by the three things (Fred) Siegel had pegged as their signature weaknesses: They had too much belief in the brilliance of experts, they were completely dismissive of public opinion, and they had a contempt for the great middle class.

    Much of the “expertise” asserted by people in the academic-artistic-and-punditry complex is entirely imaginary, as far as the organization and management of social institutions goes.  L&G cites one of my old posts at Photon Courier:

    In university humanities departments, theory is increasingly dominant–not theory in the traditional scholarly and scientific sense of a tentative conceptual model, always subject to revision, but theory in the sense of an almost religious doctrine, accepted on the basis of assertion and authority. To quote Professor “X” once again: “Graduate “education” in a humanities discipline like English seems to be primarily about indoctrination and self-replication.”… 

    Becoming an alcolyte of some all-encompassing theory can spare you from the effort of learning about anything else. For example: if everything is about (for example) power relationships–all literature, all history, all science, even all mathematics–you don’t need to actually learn much about medieval poetry, or about the Second Law of thermodynamics, or about isolationism in the 1930s. You can look smugly down on those poor drudges who do study such things, while enjoying “that intellectual sweep of comprehension known only to adolescents, psychopaths and college professors” (the phrase is from Andrew Klavan’s unusual novel True Crime.)

    See also L&G’s post How We Live Now: The Rule of Inept Experts.

    I  believe that the overemphasis on educational credentials has played a major part in shifting the power balance between Line and Staff in organizations of all types…here, I am using “Line” to refer to people who have decision-making authority and responsibility, and corresponding accountability for outcomes, while “Staff” refers to people who analyze, study, and advise, but are not themselves decision-makers.  It was once pretty well understood that one should not take a person whose entire experience is in Staff positions (however exalted) and put him in a high-level Line position, where the consequences of failure will be very serious, without first having him gain experience and prove his performance in lower-level Line positions where the consequences of failure will be less-devastating to the entire organization.  This seems to be much less well-understood today, the ultimate example of course being the career path of Barack Obama.

    Fred Siegel, mentioned in Noemie Emery’s article, is the author of the very interesting book The Revolt Against the Masses, which is on my (long) list of books that need reviewing.

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Book Notes, Business, Civil Society, Management, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 17 Comments »

    Saigon in Baghdad — Iraq’s Corruption-Based Collapse

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th June 2014 (All posts by )

    While the media has made much of both the Iraqi government’s request for air strikes on the Al Qaeda aligned fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Obama Administration’s refusal to do so, few people have bothered to look at what airpower was available to the Shia dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In fact, the Iraqi Air Force has had light gunships based on the Cessna C208 Caravan capable of firing Hellfire missiles since 2011 that should have been fully capable of dealing with the ISIS “technicals” — armed light trucks — seen in many photos recently.

    Iraqi AC-208B Fires Hellfire

    This is an Iraqi ATK AC208B Cessna “Combat Caravan” Light Gunship with laser guided Hellfire missiles.

    See this link and text:

    http://www.defenseworld.net/news/3837/ATK_delivers_3rd_AC_208__Combat_Caravan__Aircraft_to_Iraqi_Air_Force

    Alliant Techsystems has announced delivery of a third AC-208B “Combat Caravan” aircraft to the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission in Kirkuk, Iraq. To date, ATK has delivered 11 modified C-208 aircraft in support of U.S. Government contracts for rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force: three reconnaissance aircraft, five trainer aircraft and three AC-208B aircraft. The AC-208B Combat Caravan aircraft is a specially modified Cessna Grand Caravan that incorporates an electro-optical targeting system with integrated laser designator, Hellfire laser guided missiles, an air-to-ground and air-to-air data link and aircraft self-protection equipment.

    See also this link and ATK press release photos:

    http://defensetech.org/2011/10/26/atks-ac-208-combat-caravan-gunship/

    The AC208B “Combat Caravan” light gunship in ATK Press Release Photos.

    Whether the current Iraqi government there has any left in operable condition is a very different question. I very strongly suspect that most of the 30,000 Iraqi Army troops that deserted in the face of the ISIS attack had not been paid in months, with most of their weapons, radios and vehicles either being sold or deadlined from issues of corruption.

    What we are seeing with the Iraqi government is a collapse from corruption. If the CIA had any capable human agents on the ground outside the Green Zone — ones that were paid attention too — none of that would have been a surprise to the Obama Administration.

    Now we have “Saigon in Baghdad,” with a President that has all the bad features of the Nixon Administration and is isolationist to boot.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iraq, National Security, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Mike Lotus Presentation to the French Association for American Studies in Paris, France on May 23, 2014 about “America 3.0, Decentralization and the Tenth Amendment”

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

    I spoke at the AFEA (The French Association for American Studies, Association Française d’Études Américaines) 2014 Conference on May 23, 2014 at the Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle. The title of the conference was The USA: Models, Counter-Models, The End of Models?

    I attended at the invitation of Prof. Jérôme Noirot, of the Ecole Centrale, Lyon. I was initiated due to my coauthorship of America 3.0. My coauthor Jim Bennett was initially invited, but he had a conflict. Fortunately, I was able to attend in his place.

    Heartfelt thanks to Prof. Noirot for the opportunity to participate in the conference.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 7 Comments »

    Caroline Glick speaking about “The Israeli Solution” for the David Horowitz Freedom Center

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick, spoke on June 11, 2014 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

    Her columns for the Jerusalem post are here.

    She is promoting her book The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. I purchased a copy and got it autographed, but I have not read it yet. In the book she advocates Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, a/k/a the West Bank.

    I find her argument entirely convincing.

    A key piece of education for me was the Israeli birth rates versus Palestinian Arab birth rates. Israeli Jewish women are having more babies than anyone else in the developed world.

    Here is a video of the same speech, given recently in Washington, DC.

    Here is the Q&A from that event, which she says is even more important.

    Quote of the evening: “The only thing in the Middle East that works is Israel.” Right.

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Israel, Middle East, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review- Trustee from the Toolroom.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Trustee from the Toolroom By Nevil Shute

    This novel tells of a lifetime adventure by a man whose life had avoided adventure thus far. Keith Stewart spent the Second World War working as a “fitter” or machinist in defense industry. There he met his wife Katie and they bought a home in West Ealing, a suburb of London where Shute the author once lived and which he uses often as a setting. After the War, they settled down and Keith eventually quit his job and began a career as a technical writer for a small magazine that catered to hobbyists who made miniature machinery, like small steam engines. The magazine was called “Miniature Mechanic” and developed a world wide circulation and many devoted fans of Keith’s writing.

    Keith had come from an impoverished childhood in Scotland and had one sister named Jo. Jo had raised herself socially by marrying a Royal Navy officer who came from a noble family that was quite wealthy. They had a daughter, Janice, who, at the time of the novel is nine years old. Jo’s husband, John Dermott, has taken early retirement from the Navy and they want to emigrate to Canada. Post-war England is a dreary place, a theme in several of Shute’s novels. One problem of post-war England is that currency controls severely limit funds that may be taken out of the country even on holidays. As late as the 1960s, I remember friends of my in-laws who were dependent on their American friends for travel to the US. Jo and her husband, John, have decided to smuggle their assets out of the country to Canada by converting them to diamonds and secreting the diamonds in the keel of their small sailboat, which they will sail to Canada. Keith helps them, not knowing the purpose, by setting a jewel case into the keel for them. They tell him that this just contains a few of Jo’s jewels they want to take. While they are gone, a matter of six months or so, they will leave Janice with Keith and Katie who have no children of their own. They don’t like the fast life of John’s relatives even for six months and know that Keith and Katie will always be living in the same house and will provide a quiet place for their daughter until they can send for her.

    They leave England a bit later than they had planned because they had to get Janice settled and they want to visit Tahiti on the way. Small boat sailing does not follow a great circle course like a ship and Shute knows about sailing from his own experience with his sailboat before the war. A course from the Panama Canal to Canada could very well include Hawaii on the way. The side trip to Tahiti should add a month or so but is well within the capability of a small sailboat. The problem with the late departure is that they have gotten into hurricane season in the southern hemisphere. They encounter a hurricane in the vicinity of the The Tuamotus archipelago a very large group of small islands and atolls east of Tahiti. The islands are low, just above sea level and were a terrible hazard before GPS made navigation more exact. The description of the hurricane and how they deal with it is quite good. I have sailed a small boat (38 feet) through a small hurricane off Mexico. The one they encounter is much larger and it forces them down onto the lee shore of one of the Tuamotus islands. As they realize their predicament, they reassure themselves that Keith will take care of their daughter but then they also realize that all her inheritance is in the sailboat with them.

    Keith is notified of their loss by the solicitor who also learns that their assets have been sold. Keith discovers from him about the law banning asset emigration and has some serious thinking to do. He is the trustee and, once he gets more detail about the wreck, suspects that the keel and the diamonds are embedded in the reef that destroyed the sailboat. What can he do ? He has only a small salary and Katie has to work in a shop to support their frugal life. If the diamonds cannot be found and returned, Janice will have to go to the council school and get a job at age 15 like other girls in Keith’s circumstances. He discusses his situation with his publisher who offers a small advance on his salary, an inadequate proposal. He is unable to ask for help because the diamonds were smuggled out of the country and would be confiscated.

    He calls on a man he knows through modeling who works for a freight airline. They offer Keith a free trip to Hawaii as an engineer “under instruction.” That will get him half way to his goal and he decides to try it. Once in Hawaii, he finds there are no commercial passages to Tahiti except airline travel which he could not afford. His only possibility is to sail with an illiterate fisherman who has sailed from Oregon in a boat he built himself. Against all the advice of the people he knows, he decides he must do this. What follows is a sailing adventure as the “pasty faced” man with no sailing experience and in the condition one would expect with a sedentary occupation, must learn to sail and navigate while concealing the true purpose of his quixotic quest for his sister’s resting place. From this point it becomes a sailing adventure and then there is more engineering as others come to his aid. It is a very satisfying novel and has been criticized because the characters are unrealistically good and help each other but I find it reassuring when I think I am getting too cynical.

    Posted in Book Notes, Human Behavior | 11 Comments »

    CANTOR DOWN! — Why the Death of the Tea Party Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 11th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Republican Majority Leader Cantor, and next in line to replace the current House Speaker, lost his Republican primary by 10%. The following voter turn out numbers pretty much say it all as to why.

    In 2012 Majority Leader Cantor won 79% of a total of 47,037 votes cast in his Republican primary election, 37,369 for him.

    Yesterday there were 65,008 votes cast in the VA 7th District Republican primary and Cantor’s opponent got 56% or roughly 36,500 votes.

    College professor David Brat both brought in approximately 18,000 more new grassroots Republican primary voters, while he also pulled a small number of Cantor’s 2012 voters to win.

    This is why Cantor’s pollster was so wrong. With all the modern polling tools that $5 million and a 10-to-1 money advantage can buy, all polls are built upon a “turn out model,” an educated guess really, as to who will show up on election day based on past data. If the guess is wrong, so is the poll…and so is the media coverage based upon those “insider candidate polls.” Cantor’s pollsters, McLaughlin & Associates, just didn’t see the small town’s worth of new primary voters the Tea Party brought to the table in Virginia’s 7th House District primary election coming.

    Establishment Republicans have just been delivered the very stern lesson that when you “do a #2” on your primary base voters in a “safe Republican district,” they can and more importantly *WILL* return the favor…be the issue amnesty or anything else.

    Posted in Conservatism, Elections, Miscellaneous, Politics, Polls, USA | 15 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review “The Shipkiller.”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 10th June 2014 (All posts by )

    The Shipkiller by Justin Scott.

    This is a great adventure novel that is marred only by the fact that it was written 35 years ago when the Shah of Iran was still in power. The story is of Peter Hardin, a doctor who has invented the digital thermometer. He has retired and he and his wife, Carolyn, have decided to sail their ketch across the Atlantic to England. They are relaxing on a sunny afternoon in the Western Approaches to the Channel when their yacht is run down by a monstrous tanker called “Leviathan” which is enormous and is run recklessly because it carries millions of gallons of crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe, which makes it immune to admiralty law. The captain is impervious to criticism because no one else can sail this enormous ship. He and it are above the law.

    Hardin’s wife is lost and he washes up on the beach of southern England where he is found and revived by a beautiful Nigerian woman doctor. He is disconsolate and, after his recovery, decides to try to prosecute the captain for not maintaining a lookout while running his ship too fast in restricted waters. That fails and Hardin eventually tries to physically attack the captain which gets him arrested. He finally comes to the conclusion that he has no alternative but to attack the ship, itself.

    After he has recovered from his injuries he buys a Swan 38, a gorgeous and fast yacht similar to the one I sailed through a hurricane in 1977. It is fast as a witch and will withstand almost any heavy weather. I sailed mine through a small Mexican hurricane, called a “Chubasco.” Wikipedia calls them “violent squalls” but the one we sailed thorough lasted 12 hours and had wind speed above 60 knots where our wind speed indicator pegged.

    He sails it to Europe and buys a Dragon anti-tank missile from an alcoholic soldier in Germany. He conceals the missile in a pod he has constructed and attached to the keel of his yacht. He returns to England where his boat is searched by the authorities who are suspicious of him but the concealment works and it is not found. He plans to follow Leviathan to the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of South Africa where he will kill it with the missile. All ships rounding that Cape must follow the same narrow course and he should be able to find it.

    An Israeli agent learns of his plan and offers to help with the location of the tanker. Hardin has no choice but to accept his help to avoid betrayal. The Nigerian doctor, the daughter of an senior army officer in Nigerian, asks to go with him as far as west Africa and he agrees. They develop a strong attraction during the voyage and she learns of his obsessions with the tanker. His memory of his dead wife prevents him from accepting her love and he goes on with his quest. As they near the point where he must drop her off, she finds the missile and asks to go with him. Again, he is caught between the risks to her and the risk she will turn him in. They continue and she asks him where they are going now. His answer is Winter ! The Cape in winter is a fearsome place, risky even for a ship the size of Leviathan.

    The story is gripping and will hold the attention of anyone familiar with sailing. It is probably the best sailing novel I have read. The detail is excellent and the plot is well done, although dated. The author knows sailing and fast sailboats. It has a bit of the tone of an Alistair MacLean novel where the protagonist overcomes repeated and monumental obstacles. The sailing part is great.

    Posted in Book Notes, Middle East, Nautical Book Project | 6 Comments »

    Secrets and Open Secrets

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th June 2014 (All posts by )

    It has amused me for years, how ordinary civilians, media figures and scriptwriters for movies and TV shows can believe so strongly that the military is one big monolithic secret-keeping machine; something which happens on a base, post, or on the front lines will never, ever see the light of day in the larger world and that the military commands can keep something quiet for years or decades. If it is something tippy-top secret, and known to only a few – well, yes, in that case. But quite often something – a program, a wild idea, a mission—remains unknown largely on account of lack of interest on the part of the larger world or the establishment news media organs. The military is actually far from being the big monolithic secret-keeping machine, once you get away from the deliberately highly-classified, ultra-secret-squirrel stuff.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Media, Military Affairs | 21 Comments »

    IBD: “Child Alien Crisis Obama’s Fault, But GOP Won’t Pounce”

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

    The more than 90,000 children who crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. and were apprehended this year, and the more than 140,000 expected next year, could and should turn the immigration issue into a GOP weapon against Democrats.
     
    Instead of sending them back home to their parents, Attorney General Eric Holder made it a priority to hire taxpayer-funded lawyers for them. Why don’t we hear Cantor, Ryan and other GOP leaders shout that Democrats are exploiting children to further their political agenda?

    Link

    The main thing the Republicans have going for them is that the Democrats are worse.

    Posted in Immigration, Just Unbelievable, Obama, Politics | 5 Comments »

    America 3.0: Request for Amazon Reviews — we need to get up to 50 five star ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ reviews

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Dear Friends:

    I am told by a reliable source that, as soon as a book sold on Amazon reaches 50 five star (★★★★) reviews, Amazon starts touting that book to its customers by pointing out that Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought this five star (★★★★★) rated book.

    Today, America 3.0 has 39 five star (★★★★★) reviews. That’s tantalizingly close to 50 five star (★★★★★) reviews.

    I know several readers who have told me they liked the book very much, but have not yet posted a review on Amazon. So, I hereby request that anyone who likes the book enough to give it five stars (★★★★★) on Amazon to please post a five star (★★★★★) review.

    Note: your five star (★★★★★) review can be whatever length you want, including the minimal length. You can edit your five star (★★★★★) review later if you want to heap on more praise.

    See you at 50.

    Posted in America 3.0 | Comments Off on America 3.0: Request for Amazon Reviews — we need to get up to 50 five star ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ reviews

    Picketty’s Introduction

    Posted by TM Lutas on 9th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Thomas Piketty has written a monster of a book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I find myself in strange agreement with Brad DeLong, that the collective conservative response is weak. I had a patch of time that left me twiddling my thumbs waiting for some pretty long database operations to finish over the past four days. So I went and decided to fisk the book. I just finished the introduction. It took four posts, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and overran the spare time I had available from a database import and indexing task by about 12 hours.

    Now I know why the criticism is so weak. Piketty is a target rich environment and doing a line by line analysis is simply exhausting. But it’s the only way to be sure.

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Economics & Finance, Public Finance, Society, Taxes, USA | 18 Comments »

    Nautical Book Project: Volunteers Needed

    Posted by David Foster on 9th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Who wants to sign up to do a review of:

    1) One or more Joseph Conrad nautically-themed novels?

    2) Moby Dick?

    3) The Aubrey-Maturin series (either the series as a whole, or the early books)?

    4) Other?

    Ones I’m planning to do myself are White Jacket (Melville), The Hornblower Series (at least the early ones), and The Cruel Coast.

    Michael Kennedy, with your considerable sailing experience I hope you’ll sign up to do at least one review for this series.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Nautical Book Project, Transportation, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    The Rise of the American Clerisy

    Posted by David Foster on 9th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Joel Kotkin:

    The very term Clerisy first appeared in 1830 in the work of Samuel Coleridge to described the bearers society’s highest ideals: the intellectuals, pastors, scientists charged with transmitting their privileged knowledge them to the less enlightened orders.  

    The rise of today’s Clerisy stems from the growing power and influence of its three main constituent parts: the creative elite of media and entertainment, the academic community, and the high-level government bureaucracy.

    The Clerisy operates on very different principles than its rival power brokers, the oligarchs of finance, technology or energy. The power of the knowledge elite does not stem primarily from money, but in persuading, instructing and regulating the rest of society. Like the British Clerisy or the old church-centered French First Estate, the contemporary Clerisy increasingly promotes a single increasingly parochial ideology and, when necessary, has the power to marginalize, or excommunicate, miscreants from the public sphere.

    Definitely read the whole thing.

    Via Stuart Schneiderman

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Society, History, Media, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »

    My Books and the End of My Printed Books

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 7th June 2014 (All posts by )

    An important event in my household is the spring planting of everything that is going into our garden on the balcony of our condo. They are grown inside under a grow light (mostly, except for items like lettuce and carrots) and then they get put outside.

    The tomato plants grow by leaps and bounds! So what is used every day to keep up with their vigor? Why my old books, of course.

    There you can see the usual suspects on my nightstand… some WW2 (Van Der Vat is a great author), of course America 3.0 by our good friend Michael Lotus, and “Africa’s World War” on the Congo. Then you have a couple of architecture books and finance books like the classsic “The Myth of the Rational Market”.

    I’ve switched over (mostly) to the kindle now and haven’t been buying new books in hardcover. I bought a book on New Yorker cartoons in hardcover since I figured that would be the type of coffee table book that people might actually pick up and look at. I also might buy an occasional architecture or infographic book in softcover or used, as well. But that’s about it.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Book Notes, Business | 18 Comments »

    Ban Overturned

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 7th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Yesterday here in Wisconsin, a (Jimmy Carter appointed) federal judge here in Dane County struck down the constitutional amendment that did not allow gay marriage. Immediately the clerks offices here in Madison opened up for extended office hours and began the ceremonies. Other counties did not follow suit, waiting for clarification.

    The clarification is for the legal beagles to figure out. Some say you can start the gay weddings now, some say not. Of course the Dane County clerk doesn’t really care and off we go.

    Glad they had extended office hours when conceal carry was decriminalized. Oh.

    Me? Well, gay marriage is something that I never really cared that much about. Personally, I have no clue why the state is even involved in marriage, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. The gay marriage issue seems to me to be about the money. Of course, outside of being married, you can leave your assets to anyone you choose, assign powers of attorney and health care to anyone you choose, etc. etc. So to me, it is just about getting on someone’s insurance? Outside of that, I don’t see why so much time and energy was wasted on the gay marriage deal. In general, gays weren’t persecuted, like most Muslim countries where they are beheaded or stoned or whatever. So it is about insurance = money. Is that really it? Is it all about money?

    That might be a bit cynical. But that’s me.

    The constitutional amendment banning gay marriage passed 60% to 40%. That is pretty overwhelming. Now a judge overturns it. So much for the power of the people. But people need to be careful here. Don’t think that in the future, something else may be overturned. Anyone that can afford a good attorney can play this game.

    It seems that the end game is in sight for gay marriage and honestly, I am somewhat happy. I am very tired of seeing gay pride marches, parades, and all the rest. All of this should now end, no?

    I don’t care if anyone is gay. Just do your deal and live your life like the rest of the non gay people. I don’t go around parading my sexuality for everyone to see. It all seems so childish.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Current Events, Law | 22 Comments »

    History Friday — Books to Read for the D-Day 70th Anniversary

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th June 2014 (All posts by )

    After a hiatus, for the birth of Mindy’s and my third child Clyde, this “History Friday” column returns to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy D-Day landing with reviews of three books that, IMO, shatter many of the myths of June 6th 1944. Myths established in and often repeated from “the big three” Normandy campaign authors Hastings, Ambrose, and Keegan.

    These books, in author alphabetical order, are the following:

    o The 2009 book “Cracking Hitler’s Atlantic Wall: The 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day” by Richard C. Anderson.
     
    o The 1989 book “Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy” by Joseph Balkoski, and
     
    o The 2013 book “The Devil’s Garden: Rommel’s Desperate Defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day,” by Steven Zaloga.

    Each book has important points from original research in primary source material and they can be seen as Anderson, The planned Allied attack; Balkoski, the infantry fighting; and Zaloga, the planned German defense.

    Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, rush toward the shelter of amphibious tanks at the water’s edge of Easy Red sector, Omaha Beach, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Left and right in the foreground are M4 Sherman tanks with wading equipment. The troops in the photo, expecting weak defenses, are loaded down with food and equipment for several days of combat. Most of which was discarded on the beach in their desperate fight for survival. Source: Britannica Online for Kids, http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-40275

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Remembering

    Posted by David Foster on 6th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Today, June 6, is the  70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. See the Wikipedia article for an overview. Arthur Seltzer, who was there, describes his experiences.

    Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured: the pivot day of history.

    Two earlier Photon Courier posts: before D-day, there was Dieppe and transmission ends.

    See Bookworm’s post from 2012, and Michael Kennedy’s photos from 2007

    A collection of D-day color photos from Life Magazine

    Neptunus Lex: The liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.

    The Battle of Midway took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942. Bookworm attended a Battle of Midway commemoration event in 2010 and also in 2011: Our Navy–a sentimental service in a cynical society.

    See also Sgt Mom’s History Friday post today.

    Posted in Britain, France, Germany, History, Photos, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    History Friday – 6 June 1944

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

    (An archive post from 2008, evoking the memories of D-Day.)

    So this is one of those historic dates that seems to be slipping faster and faster out of sight, receding into a past at such a rate that we who were born afterwards, or long afterwards, can just barely see. But it was such an enormous, monumental enterprise – so longed looked for, so carefully planned and involved so many soldiers, sailors and airmen – of course the memory would linger long afterwards.

    Think of looking down from the air, at that great metal armada, spilling out from every harbor, every estuary along England’s coast. Think of the sound of marching footsteps in a thousand encampments, and the silence left as the men marched away, counted out by squad, company and battalion, think of those great parks of tanks and vehicles, slowly emptying out, loaded into the holds of ships and onto the open decks of LSTs. Think of the roar of a thousand airplane engines, the sound of it rattling the china on the shelf, of white contrails scratching straight furrows across the moonless sky.

    Think of the planners and architects of this enormous undertaking, the briefers and the specialists in all sorts of arcane specialties, most of whom would never set foot on Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha or Utah Beach. Many of those in the know would spend the last few days or hours before D-day in guarded lock-down, to preserve security. Think of them pacing up and down, looking out of windows or at blank walls, wondering if there might be one more thing they might have done, or considered, knowing that lives depended upon every tiny minutiae, hoping that they had accounted for everything possible.

    Think of the people in country villages, and port towns, seeing the marching soldiers, the grey ships sliding away from quays and wharves, hearing the airplanes, with their wings boldly striped with black and white paint – and knowing that something was up – But only knowing for a certainty that those men, those ships and those planes were heading towards France, and also knowing just as surely that many of them would not return.

    Think of the commanders, of Eisenhower and his subordinates, as the minutes ticked slowly down to H-Hour, considering all that was at stake, all the lives that they were putting into this grand effort, this gamble that Europe could be liberated through a force landing from the West. Think of all the diversions and practices, the secrecy and the responsibility, the burden of lives which they carried along with the rank on their shoulders. Eisenhower had in his pocket the draft of an announcement, just in case the invasion failed and he had to break off the grand enterprise; a soldier and commander hoping for the best, but already prepared for the worst.

    Think on this day, and how the might of the Nazi Reich was cast down. June 6th was for Hitler the crack of doom, although he would not know for sure for many more months. After this day, his armies only advanced once – everywhere else and at every other time, they fell back upon a Reich in ruins. Think on this while there are still those alive who remember it at first hand.

    (Another D-Day perspective from The DiploMad.)

    Posted in Britain, Diversions, Europe, France, Germany, History | 2 Comments »

    Bergdahl, Father and Son.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th June 2014 (All posts by )

    bergdahl

    The world got a little more bizarre this week. President Obama worked a trade that involved releasing five serious Taliban leaders in return for the freeing of an army deserter from Afghanistan. Bowe Bergdahl was a private who seems to have walked away from an outpost in Afghanistan and ended up with the Taliban. There are a number of stories surfacing from other members of his unit about his departure.

    The handling of the announcement has drawn considerable criticism from conservatives.

    The story of how the Bergdahls ended up at the White House is pure turnip-truck territory. According to Time:

    Their presence at the White House on Saturday was the apparent product of coincidence: the couple had visited the capitol for a Memorial Day event and then stayed in town for meetings in Congress. Had they been at home in Idaho when the deal was announced, they likely would not have flown to Washington to appear with Obama—and a key visual element of the drama, replayed endlessly on television, might not have occurred.

    Does anyone believe that ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Obama | 38 Comments »