Dazzled by Earlier Successes

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

To glorify Hitler as an infallible genius, whose gigantic designs were frustrated by treachery, or to condemn him as the greatest criminal of all time, would be equally irresponsible and superficial, von Mellenthin (Panzer Battles) says:

It is an undeniable fact that Hitler was an incredibly clever man, with a memory far beyond the average. He had terrific will power and was utterly ruthless; he was an orator of outstanding quality, able to exercise an hypnotic influence on those in his immediate surroundings. In politics and diplomacy he had an extraordinary flair for sensing the weakness of his adversaries, and for exploiting their failings to the full. He used to be a healthy man, a vegetarian who neither smoked nor drank, but he undermined his constitution by taking sleeping powders and pep pills, chiefly during the later years of the war. Although his health deteriorated, his mind remained amazingly alert an active until the very end. It is beyond the scope of this book to discuss the reasons for his political triumphs in the prewar period; his success was made possible by the misguided and wrongful policy adopted by the Allies after World War I; they committed every possible blunder from the Versailles Treaty and the occupation of the Ruhr to the incomprehensible weakness and lack of foresight in the Munich period. Extraordinary political victories completely upset Hitler’s balance and judgment; he never remembered Bismarck’s maxim: “History teaches how far one may safely go.”

In 1939 Hitler decided on war with Poland because he was convinced that the conflict could be localized. The guarantee given by Great Britain to Polands was underestimated; indeed it was never taken seriously. Dr. Paul Schmidt has described Hitler’s reaction to the British declaration of war: “Hiterl was petrified and utterly disconcerted. After a while he turned to Ribbentrop and asked ‘What now?’” Before the declaration of war there were no serious conversations with our one and only ally. Dr. Schmidt quotes a letter from Mussolini to Hitler written on 25 August 1939, in which the Duce pointed out that Italy was not ready for war. The Italian Air Force only had fuel for three months.

Thus the war was started, conceived, and born by the decision of a moment; Hitler had been dazzled by earlier successes and was given a misleading picture of the external situation by his amateur diplomatists. From every point of view — military, naval and economic — Germany was far from ready for total war.

The New “Right Stuff”

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

In the early days of the space program, an astronaut was said to have the right stuff if he was brave and competent. What’s the new right stuff?

Now, you not only need to be a self-sufficient individual, you need to be able to work with astronauts from other cultures on the International Space Station. People from the same culture often take for granted a certain way of doing things, but another culture will probably have a different way of doing it.

If you’re an American astronaut, very often you’ll be working with people who don’t put as high an emphasis on individualism as the United States does. So, beyond the need for autonomy and independence, there is a greater need for interpersonal and intercultural sensitivity among astronauts.


Army without Baggage

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

The Russians were, from a German perspective, an army without baggage:

It is characteristic of the Russians that even their armored divisions have far fewer vehicles than those of Western Powers. It would be wrong to attribute this to lack of productivity in the Russian motor industry, for even infantry division with horse-drawn transport have a low complement of animals and wagons. Moreover, the strength returns of any Russian regiment or division are much lower than those of Western armies. But in any Russian formation the strength returns of the actual fighting troops are relatively the same as in the West, for they have far fewer men in their supply columns and administrative units.
Similarly the supply columns of the Red Army do not have to worry about clothing, thents, blankets and many other itesm regarded as essential in the WEst; during an advacne they can afford to forget about rations, for the troops “live on the country.” the chief task of teh supply columns is the movement of gasoline and ammunition, and even these items are frequently packed on what a Western army calls “fighting vehicles.” In a Russian motorized division, the soldier has no luggage apart from what he carries on his person. Somehow or other he squeezes on to a vehicle packed with gasoline or ammunition.

The scarcity of vehicles has a dual effect, tactical, and psychological. Because the number of vehicles in a motorized division is much lower than in the West, the division is far more mobile; it is easier to handle, to camouflage, or to move by rail. the psychological aspect is also interesting. Every Western soldier is linked somehow or other with his rearward services; they bring him the sustenance and comforts which make his hard life bearable. When a unit is “rubbed out” in battle, the survivors usually cluster around the field kitchen or baggage train to seek refuge and solace. Even the shirker or the shell-shocked usually reappears at this focus on one pretext or another. There is nothing like that for a Russian. He has only his weapons, and there are no attractions for him in the rear. There is no field kitchen and no baggage train; his refuge is his gun, his tank, or his machine gun. If he loses them he has lost his home; if he wanders into the rear he will be rounded up sooner or later by the patrols of the MVD.

(From Panzer Battles.)

The Origin of the Phoenix Saga

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Jim Shooter describes the origin of the Phoenix Saga, which goes back to a lunch meeting at the local Chinese restaurant to discuss a new story arc for the X-Men:

Freewheeling, I pointed out that while Marvel had many heroes who started out as villains — the Black Widow, Hawkeye, several others — we’d never had a hero who went bad. I suggested that Chris evolve Phoenix into a villain, permanently and irrevocably, the new “Doctor Doom” for the X-Men.  Salicrup and Chris liked the idea and Chris began work on what eventually became the ”Dark Phoenix” saga.

In those days, I had so much to deal with besides the comics–the change in the copyright law, schedule problems, two or three lawsuits against Marvel, domestic licensing, international licensing, fighting with the board of directors re: royalties and incentives, trying to teach the writers to write, the pencilers to tell stories, the inkers to ink, the colorists to color (the letterers were basically okay) that I often didn’t read the comics until they were in the “make-ready” stage. Make-readies were, essentially, printer’s proofs.

When I read the X-Men make-ready that included the scene in which Phoenix destroyed a Shi’ar starship, killing hundreds, and an inhabited planet, killing billions, curious, I asked Jim Salicrup to show me whatever else was done on the storyline. Because Claremont and Byrne were very efficient, on time and professional, the next several issues were well along. The climactic issue was still in the plot stage, I think. I think Byrne had not yet begun to pencil it. At any rate, I discovered that Chris (and John) had backed down from the idea of Phoenix becoming the X-Men’s Doctor Doom. The plot indicated that Phoenix would somehow be mind-wiped and let go. Back to living at the Mansion, hanging around with Storm and company, sitting at the same table for lunch, etc.

That, to me, would be like taking the German army away from from Hitler and letting him go back to governing Germany.

Did I have a “moral” issue with that? Yes. More than that, it was a character issue. Would Storm sit comfortably at a dinner table with someone who had killed billions as if nothing had ever happened? Nah.

I don’t know whether most people grok this idea, but the Editor in Chief is charged with governing, managing and protecting all of the characters. It was my job to make sure the characters were in character, and I was the final word on what “in character” was. Not Chris, not John, not any freelancer. The company relied upon me to manage and protect the company’s intellectual properties.


I told Chris that the ending proposed in his plot didn’t work. It wasn’t workable with the characters, and in fact was a totally lame cop-out, storywise. I demanded a different ending. Chris–enraged–asked me just what that might be. I suggested that Phoenix be sent to some super-security interstellar prison as punishment for her crimes. Chris said that the X-Men would never stop trying to rescue (?!) her and that the story would become a loop. I said that then he should come up with an ending.

I wasn’t privy to Chris and John’s conversations that night, but whatever.

The next morning, Chris stormed into my office and said that there was only one answer–they’d have to kill Phoenix. I said fine.

I don’t think he expected me to say that, since killing characters just wasn’t done in those days. Chris waffled a bit, but then I became insistent! She’s dying. That’s it.

Chris left my office, obviously found a phone somewhere and, a few minutes later, I got a call from John that started with him asking me if I was insane.

I insisted on the “solution.” It was done — brilliantly, if reluctantly — by Chris and John. And that’s was the issue that propelled the X-Men to the top for, what, two decades?

The Extraordinary Development of the Russian Tank Arm

Friday, July 29th, 2011

The extraordinary development of the Russian tank arm, von Mellenthin says, deserves the very careful attention of students of war:

Nobody doubts that Russia can produce a Seidlitz, a Murat, or a Rommel — several of their generals in 1941–45 were certainly on that level. But this was more than the development of a few gifted individuals. In this case an apathetic and ignorant crowd, without training or natural aptitude, was endowed with brain and nerves. In the fiery furnace of war the tank crews of the Red Army were elevated far above their original level. Such a development must have required organization and planning of the highest order; it may be repeated in other spheres — for instance in their air force or submarine fleet, whose progress is furthered by the Russian High Command by every available means.

From the days of Peter the Great to the revolution of 1917, the armies of the Tsar were massive, cumbersome, and slow. In the campaign in Finland, and during the operations of 1941–42, the same criticisms could be made of the Red Army. The rise of the Russian tank arm has changed all that. Today, any realistic plan for European defense must visualize that the air fleets and tank armies of the Soviet Union will throw themselves upon us with a velocity and fury far eclipsing any Blitzkrieg of World War II. Europe is threatened by a torrent of steel, controlled by men whose spiritual outlook is not far removed from that of Attila or Genghiz Khan.

That’s from Panzer Battles, published in 1956 — and written from the safety of South Africa.

Professors don’t train writers the way coaches train athletes

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Professors don’t train writers the way coaches train athletes, James Somers notes:

In a typical semester-long university English class there might be three opportunities to showcase your writing, each one a standard one-to-three-thousand-word expository essay, each one born, for the most part, in a few miserable halfday blasts.

Whatever you produce joins dozens of other efforts in a stack whose growing thickness doesn’t exactly thrill your professor. But still he’ll soldier on and read, and maybe re-read, and mark up and grade each one. Along the way he might leave short contextual notes in the margin; he might write one long critique at the end; he might do both; or he might do neither and let your grade do all the talking.

Trouble is, no matter how detailed and incisive the feedback, by the time it gets back to you it’s already too late — and, in a way, too early. Too late because your paper has already been written, and what you really needed help with was its composition, with the micromechanics of style, with all the small decisions that led you to say whatever it is you said. And too early because even if the professor’s ex post pointers make every bit of sense, a whole month might go by before you next get to use them.

This is not the way to develop a complicated skill. It would be like trying to master the violin, say, by going blind to a recital, having an expert tell you all the ways you’ve failed, and letting that gestate for a few weeks before your next recital.

It’s no wonder that so many students struggle with writing: you’re never really shown how to do it. Your practice is sporadic and undirected. You’re expected to pick it up, basically, perhaps by reading, perhaps by winging an essay here and there. Which is like expecting a kid to pick up tennis by watching lots of Wimbledon and losing in the early rounds of the occasional junior tournament.

John Whittier-Ferguson, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, has been using email to give his students instant feedback throughout the writing process:

If in 1976 you wanted to see a student’s work in progress, you needed a printer and an appointment. The student had to take notes while you talked, walk home, remember what exactly you said, and work up a new draft. If he came to another impasse he’d probably keep it to himself — nobody is going to office hours five times in three days. (Nobody is holding office hours five times in three days.)

Today each of these transactions — copy, paste, send; receive, annotate, reply — might take a few minutes. Emails can be composed and consumed anywhere, privately, quietly, at one’s convenience. It is the free ubiquitous highway for words. It is exactly the tool you’d invent if you were a teacher of writing who wanted a better way to teach people to write.

Of course that may be the answer: the practice might be uncommon because professors just don’t want to see that much student writing or spend that much time critiquing it.

So Close to Nature

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Despite their uninspired tactics, von Mellenthin says, the Russian infantry fully maintained the great traditions of Suworov and Skobeleff:

In spite of tremendous technical changes in warfare the Russian infantryman is still one of the most important military factors in the world; he is so formidable because he is so close to nature. Natural obstacles simple do not exist for him; he is at home in the densest forest, in swamps and marshes as much as the roadless steppe. He crosses broad rivers by the most primitive means; he can make roads anywhere. In a few days he will lay miles of corduroy road across impenetrable marshland; in winter, columns ten men abreast and a hundred deep will be sent into forest deeply covered in snow; in half an hour these thousand men will stamp out a path, and another thousand will take their place; within a few hours a road will exist across ground deemed inaccessible by any Western standard. Unlimited numbers of men are available to haul heavy guns and weapons across any sort of terrain; moreover, Russian equipment is admirably adapted to their needs. Their motor vehicles are of the lightest pattern and are reduced to the indispensable minimum; their horses are tough and need very little care. They are not encumbered with the impedimenta which clogs the movements of all Western armies.

Despite the fact that they’re born scouts, von Mellenthin says, Russian soldiers lack the inquisitive nature and initiative for proper reconnaissance.

Heavy Armor Gave Knights a Workout

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

It should come as no surprise that heavy armor gave knights a workout:

Researchers have found that the steel plate-mail armor worn during the 15th century, which weighed 30 to 50 kilograms, required its wearers to expend more than twice the usual amount of energy when they walked or ran.

Four historical interpreters at the Royal Armouries — who could perform cartwheels in the armor — ran on treadmills for the study, which monitored their oxygen consumption, heart and respiration rates, and stride length:

The interpreters expended about 2.3 times the amount of energy usually required to walk and 1.9 times the energy usually required to run while wearing armor than when they weren’t, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This energy expenditure is much greater than the energy that a person wearing a backpack of an equivalent weight would use.

The problem is the legs. The pseudo-knights wore heavy leg protection: cuisses on their thighs, greaves on their calves, and pointed shoes called sabatons on their feet. Together, these weighed 7 or 8 kilograms, Askew says, and having to swing that weight with each step really weighed them down. The farther the weight was from the center of the body, the more energetically expensive it was.

The researchers also measured the interpreters’ breathing patterns, which normally increase in both rate and volume when a person works out. But the volume of oxygen consumed by the armored runners stayed the same — presumably, Askew says, because the torso was compressed by a chest plate — so they were forced to take many rapid, shallow breaths.

Throughout history, soldiers have armored first their heads, then their torsos, then their arms, and then their legs, because armoring the arms and legs hurts mobility.

Doubling the energy expenditure from walking would roughly halve daily march distances, which would prove terribly limiting for foot soldiers.

Steve Sailer on Anders Behring Breivik

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Steve Sailer offers his thoughts on Anders Behring Breivik:

This evil bastard is one cold-blooded, rational Northern European. I’m reminded of an underlying tragic theme of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that stems from Tolkien’s combat experience on the Somme in the Great War: all of this Northern European efficiency can go terribly wrong when it turns to organized killing, at which Northern Europeans are the champs. This terrorist is the kind of rationalist who estimates the probability of failure of the various steps in his planning, like a 30% chance of getting caught while buying fertilizer to make his bomb. (It’s a good thing that Finnish sniper Simho Hayha who killed, one at a time, 505 armed Russian soldiers in 1939-1940 wasn’t an evil bastard or there could have been thousands of dead children.)

For example, throughout his lengthy planning phase, he maintained a public persona online of being anti-Islamic but non-violent and, indeed, rather philosophical. Psychologically, that must be very hard to do. For the rest of us, this guy’s ability to play a double game of being reasonable on the surface while homicidal underneath is of course going to be incredibly destructive of all anti-multicultural online dissent.

Russian Tactics

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

In Panzer Battles, von Mellenthin describes the Russian tactics he faced on the Eastern Front:

The Russian form of fighting — particularly in the attack — is characterized by the employment of masses of men and material, often thrown in unintelligently and without variations, but been so frequently effective. Russians have always been renowned for their contempt for death; the Communist regime has exploited this quality and Russian mass attacks are now more effective than ever before. An attack delivered twice will be repeated a third and a fourth time irrespective of losses, and the third or fourth attack will come in with the same stolid coolness as the first or second. Such ruthless methods represent the most inhuman and at the same time the most expensive way of fighting.

Right up to the end of the war the Russians did not bother to loosen up their attacking waves and sent them forward almost shoulder to shoulder. The herd instinct and the inability of lower commanders to act for themselves always resulted in densely packed attacks. Thanks to superiority in numbers, many great and important successes were achieved by this method. However, experience shows that it is quite possible to smash these massed attacks if they are faced by adequate weapons handled by trained men under determined commanders.

The Russians attacked with divisions, very strong numerically and on very narrow sectors. In no time the terrain in front of the defenders was teeming with Russians; they appeared to spring from the soil, it seemed impossible to stem the oncoming tide, and huge gaps made by our fire were closed automatically.

It sounds a lot like the Red Chinese storming American positions in the Korean War.

Once Russian industry ramped up, the Russians added masses of tanks to their masses of infantry:

Such onslaughts were of course far more difficult to stop, and nervous strain was proportionally increased.

The way the Russians could replace whole units simply by conscripting another whole town amazed von Mellenthin. Less backhanded are his compliments for their genius for infiltration and their passion for bridgeheads. He ends though with a tactical error they never gave up:

I mean their almost religious belief in the importance of high ground. They made for any height and fought for it with the utmost stubbornness, quite regardless of it tactical importance. It frequently happens that the occupation of high ground is not tactically desirable, but the Russians never understood this and suffered accordingly.

We’re All Morlocks Now

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

White folks living at northern latitudes used to get enough sun exposure in the sunny months to synthesize vitamin D, which they would store in their muscles and fat for winter:

But starting a century ago, everything changed. First, the United States and Europe went from a mostly outdoors agrarian society to a mostly indoors manufacturing one. Then people started driving around in vehicles surrounded by windows. Glass prevents any vitamin D production because it blocks the Sun’s UV. When air-conditioning became widely available starting in the late 1950s and then got cheaper in the 1970s, people stopped keeping their windows open. Fixed- pane units became increasingly popular. The only sunlight that reached us in our homes and workplaces came through UV-stopping glass.

The last straw was sunblock. It did not even exist until thirty years ago. The initial UV- reducing creams, which cut exposure only in half, were marketed in the 1950s to promote tanning, not totally screen out ultraviolet rays. Then, in the 1980s, a new product came on the market: sunblock. With SPF (sun protection factor) numbers such as 30 and 45, sunblock essentially stops the body’s vitamin D production cold. At the same time, people were advised to cover themselves with these lotions throughout the summer months. Even the medical establishment urged hiding from the Sun as a way to counter skin cancer.

Vitamin D might be the only important vitamin to supplement:

The March 2010 Reader’s Digest calls vitamins in general “a scam” and urges people to take no daily supplements whatsoever – with the single exception of 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3, the form most recommended as a supplement.

This sudden interest has been sparked by a spate of studies strongly indicating that vitamin D is the most powerful anticancer agent ever known. Robert Heaney, MD, of Creighton University, a vitamin D researcher, points to thirty-two randomized trials, the majority of which were strongly positive. For example, in a big study of women whose average age was sixty-two, subjects who were given a large daily vitamin D supplement enjoyed a whopping 60 percent reduction in all kinds of cancers after just four years of treatment compared to a control group.

The skeptical might well wonder how, when cancer typically takes decades to develop, such a huge drop can be detected after just a few years. Heaney believes it’s because vitamin D prevents tiny predetectable tumors from growing or spreading. “That’s the kind of cancer I’d want to have — one that never grows,” he told me in June 2010.

The Canadian Cancer Society raised its vitamin D intake recommendations to 1,000 IU daily in 2009. But Cannell, Heaney, and others think that even this is still way too low.

“I went to a conference and asked all the researchers what they themselves take daily and give to their families,” Heaney said. “The average was 5,500 IU daily. There is certainly no danger in doing this, since toxicity cannot arise in under 30,000 IU a day.”
Spending just ten minutes in strong sunlight — the kind you get from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM between April and August — will allow your body to make as much vitamin D as you would get from drinking two hundred glasses of milk.

Psychology of the Russian Soldier

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

In Panzer Battles, von Mellenthin has plenty to say about the psychology of the Russian soldier:

No one belonging to the cultural circle of the West is ever likely to fathom the character and soul of these Asiatics, born and bred on the other side of the European frontiers.

(I am of course aware that the Slavs migrated into Russia from the west, and were originally a European people. But the Mongol invasion of 1241, and the two centuries of domination which followed, gave an Asiatic twist in the Russian outlook and character, a development accentuated by the policy of the Tsars.)

Yet the Russian character must contain the key to an understanding of their soldierly qualities, their achievements, and their way of fighting. The human heart, and the psychology of the individual fighting man, have always been the ruling factors in warfare, transcending the importance of numbers and equipment. This old maxim held good during World War II, and I think it will always to so.

Of course, he also cites Russian numbers — of men and tanks — as the key to their victory, and later he cites the Americans’ overwhelming advantages in air power and artillery as the key to their victory, not superior fighting spirit.

Anyway, he continues his description of the Russian soldier as very, very foreign:

There is no way of telling what the Russian will do next; he will tumble from one extreme to the other. With experience it is quite easy to foretell what a soldier from any other country will do, but never with a Russian. His qualities are as unusual and many-sided as those of his vast and rambling country. He is patient and enduring beyond imagination, incredibly brave and courageous — yet at times he can be a contemptible coward. There were occasions when Russian units, which had driven back German attacks with ferocious courage, suddenly fled in panic before a small assault group. Battalions lost their nerve when the first shot was fired, and yet the same battalions fought with fanatical stubbornness on the following day. The Russian is quite unpredictable; today he does not care whether his flanks or threatened or not, tomorrow he trembles at the idea of having his flanks exposed. He disregards accepted tactical principles but sticks to the letter of his field manuals. Perhaps the key to this attitude lies in the fact that the Russian is not a conscious soldier, thinking on independent lines, but is the victim of moods which a Westerner cannot analyze. He is essentially a primitive being, innately courageous, and dominated by certain emotions and instincts. His individuality is easily swallowed up in the mass, while his powers of endurance are derived from long centuries of suffering and privation. Thanks to the innate strength of these qualities, the Russian is superior in many way to the more conscious soldier of the West, who can only make good his deficiencies by superior mental and moral training.

He reiterates their contempt for life or death, their fondness for “Little Mother Russia,” but not for the Communist regime, their indifference to seasons, and their independence from food supplies — which are offset by dullness, mental rigidity, and indolence.

Closing Loops

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Brothers Jesse Edwin Evans and Samuel Evans plan to turn their New Chicago Brewing Company into a zero-waste facility:

The heat for brewing New Chicago’s beer will come from an anaerobic digester, which uses bacteria to convert organic waste — produced in the building and by neighboring food businesses — to biogas (and sludge, which becomes fertilizer).

The gas is then cleaned, compressed, and run through a high-pressure turbine (repurposed from a military fighter jet engine) to create electricity and 850-degree steam.

The brewery, in turn, will produce spent grains—which can be used to feed the tilapia, grow mushrooms, and feed the digester — and carbon dioxide — which will be piped to the plants in the building to make them grow faster.

“The project is about closing loops,” Edel says. For that reason, he’s looking carefully at the energy needs and waste outputs of each potential occupant. He wants to demonstrate that even the most energy-intensive businesses can operate at net zero in a sustainable way.

That’s part of the reason brewing is important to the Plant: “It’s an energy-intensive activity, it’s a waste-intensive activity, and it’s a food activity. There are no toxins; it’s pure, clean stuff, and 100 percent of the waste from brewing is useful.”

Once the digester’s up and running, he says, they’ll be selling some power back to ComEd — but “they don’t let you sell them much, because you get classed as a power plant pretty quickly.”

Vertical farms and aquaponics facilities already exist in the U.S., though they’re still relatively rare, but the Plant could very well be the first place to create a series of loops that includes an anaerobic digester, food businesses, brewing, fish farming, and plant growing. Most anaerobic digesters are used on large farms to manage animal waste, though some breweries are also implementing them for wastewater.

Anheuser-Busch began using one at its New Jersey facility in 1985 to turn wastewater into biogas and now has digesters at ten of its 12 breweries in the U.S; Sierra Nevada and New Belgium both installed similar digesters around 2002 because their wastewater was overwhelming the municipal water treatment facilities in their respective cities.

Magic Hat Brewing Company began using a digester last year that, like the one the Plant will have, breaks down spent grains as well as wastewater and converts them to natural gas that becomes fuel for the brewing process. Steve Hill, the social networking manager of Magic Hat’s parent company North American Breweries, says that the digester will save the brewery, which produces an annual 155,000 barrels, about $200,000 per year.

Anheuser-Busch’s digesters cost $5 to $10 million apiece to build, according to Gene Bocis, who oversees utility and wastewater systems for A-B’s North American zone; Magic Hat’s was $4 million (though an outside company owns it, so the brewery didn’t have to front the money). The costs are scalable to some extent — Edel estimates that the Plant’s medium-size digester will cost $2.1 million — but even a small digester is likely to be out of the price range of most new breweries. Doug Hurst, who opened Metropolitan Brewing in Ravenswood three years ago, says he thinks most craft breweries are fairly green-minded, but “this isn’t a huge moneymaking business so it’s hard to justify a large initial outlay as a small start-up.”

Placating Stalin

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Germany’s only real hope in WWII was for a rift to form between the Soviets and the Anglo-Americans, von Mellenthin (Panzer Battles) notes — which they more-or-less expected, because it was perfectly obvious that annihilating Germany would destroy the balance of power in Europe:

In his way, however, Roosevelt was as single-minded as Hitler, and was prepared to go to extraordinary lengths in order to placate Stalin. The political consequences of his policy lie beyond the scope of this book, but the military aid he extended to Russia had an effect on operations on the Eastern Front which even now is insufficiently appreciated.

In 1941 and even in 1942 the flow of Anglo-American supplies to Russia was relatively small and cannot be said to have had a material effect on events. In 1943, however, great quantities of arms and equipment were poured into Russia, and in the last twelve months of the war the flow of war material became a veritable flood.
From the Russian point of view the most important items were the aircraft and motor vehicles. These greatly increased the striking power of the Red Army, and enabled the Russian to speed up the whole tempo of their operations.


Monday, July 25th, 2011

Norwegian geek Tore Sinding Bekkedal was at the Labour Youth event on Utøya when Anders B. Breivik’s terrorist-attack plans unfolded:

Our former Prime Minister and current labour movement demigod Gro Harlem Brundtland had recently left the island. I had been the cameraman for a video interview of her talking about Utøya, and I was in the media group room encoding the video into a file suitable for YouTube, when someone else in the room startled and said that Twitter was full of messages about a loud explosion in Oslo. As the newspapers brought us information about the extent of the damages, a consensus arose that an informational meeting was in order. As soon as the current round of talks finished, we were gathered into the main hall.

The meeting was duly held, and after the statement was made that a TV feed would be made available, I took it upon myself as the local alpha geek to make it happen. Of course, the situation caused both the wireless network and the GPRS networks to become totally unusable. As I was waiting for someone to set up a password, I took the opportunity to face the consequences of having eaten two bits of a microwavable dish called “Hold-It” — the local equivalent of a Hot Pocket — and went to the toilet.

As I was in there, I first heard agitated shouting, then screams, then gunshots coming from just outside the toilets. More than anything else, it sounded like a toy gun. I was convinced that someone was making a joke in incredibly bad taste and I stormed out of the booth with the intent of halting it. As I tore the door open, I saw two of my comrades hiding in a recessed corner. Their facial expressions left absolutely no doubt that this was no toy. They signalled for me to get back in the booth. I closed the door, did a mental double-take in utter, complete confusion, and opened it again. They were still signalling. Had they not stood there, I would have run straight into the gunman; they saved my life. I looked out into the hallway, and I made eye contact with a young boy lying in a pool of blood. He was motioning for me to help him. I heard more gunshots from inside the building and retreated back inside.

As I was trying to think through my next move, I realized that the decidedly insubstantial wood-fiber door would not resist any kind of bullets. I made my way out into the hallway, with the intent of escaping outside. At that point, I was of course not aware that there was an intention to kill as many as possible, so I thought that the open spaces outside would be a place of relative safety. Of course, this proved to be wrong — and my life was probably saved a second time by one of the café volunteers taking me into a hard-to-spot employee’s bathroom.

We sat there for ninety minutes. Always ready to make a run for it, ready for just about anything. A peculiar group dynamic arose with these two people with whom I had barely previously spoken. We came to share a strange sense of common destiny and gallows humour. One of them had seen the shooter and described the police uniform. I perceived it to be realistic that we were the only ones aware of the wounded outside the toilet. I tried to reach the emergency services, but all their lines were busy; the terror attack in Oslo had probably clogged their lines. I finally got through to the fire services, who could inform me that the police did know about the situation and were on their way. This was to take 90 minutes — and by the time we evacuated, the young boy outside my door had perished. The despair I first saw in his eyes as I passed him, fleeing from one room to the other — and the empty, blank stare as we left, are burned into me and they are images I will never in my life forget.

Finally, the real police arrived. We walked out. I chose the path through the minor conference hall  something I now regret. The sight was simply beyond my capacity to describe fully, and so terrifying that I barely remember the sight  only the terror it struck in me. There were several people bunched up in a corner, a big amorphous heap of bodies. Some were conscious and yelled at me not to do anything that could startle the police, others lay still. Their bodies were all covered in blood, and a thick pool of blood extended at least a half-metre in all directions around them. The policeman across the hall was screaming orders at me, but he was screaming so loudly that I couldn’t make out his words at first.

We were first moved into the camp newspaper’s offices. There were about eight of us there, I think, in addition to one girl who lay wounded. Towards the end she was drifting in and out of consciousness. We covered her with sweaters to keep her warm and one of us tried to at least temper her bleeding. The bullet had missed her heart, but by the entry wound it was clear that it was not by far. I do not know who this girl was or how she is now. I sat behind and never saw her face. The wounded were evacuated first. I don’t remember how long we remained; I had lost all concept of time.