An important tradition for Gotham’s inner city in these hard times

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The Wayne Manor Holiday Food Drive has become an important tradition for Gotham’s inner city in these hard times:

A classical historian assesses World War II

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Thomas Ricks picked up Victor Davis Hanson’s The Second World Wars with some trepidation, because the subject was outside Hanson’s area of expertise:

To my surprise, I found it lively and provocative, full of the kind of novel perceptions that can make a familiar subject interesting again. It wouldn’t make a good introduction to World War II, but it may win readers already familiar with the conflict’s events.

Much of the book is written at the level of the strategic overview. Hanson notes, for instance, that both Germany and Japan probably would have won the war had they stopped early in 1941 and consolidated their gains in Europe and the western Pacific, without Germany attacking Russia and Japan pulling the United States into the conflict.

One of Hanson’s running themes is that the Allied victors mainly killed German and Japanese soldiers, while the Axis focused more on killing civilians. Over all, in its accounting of the global carnage, this book amounts to an ode in praise of deterrence and against appeasement and isolationism.

Hanson is most original and enjoyable when he uses his professional background in ancient history to illuminate 20th-century war. He writes, for example, that, “like Spartans, Wehrmacht soldiers were effused with militarist doctrine, chronically short of men, brilliantly led on the battlefield — and often deployed for imbecilic strategic ends.” The Red Army’s powerful new T-34 tanks “shocked the Germans, not unlike the manner in which unfamiliar Parthian mounted archers flummoxed supposedly superior Roman Republican legions.” The Allied landings on D-Day in 1944 amounted to “the largest combined land and sea operation conducted since the invasion of Greece by King Xerxes of Persia in spring 480 B.C.” In fact, the book might have been better called “A Classical Historian Assesses World War II.”

Good guys with guns saving lives

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

John R. Lott shares some recent stories of good guys with guns saving lives:

It is only too bad that someone with a concealed handgun permit wasn’t already at the [First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas]. We may never have heard of the shooting — national news stories are virtually never done on permit holders stopping mass public shootings.

An article at Fox News this past week mentions four such cases. It talks about a 1997 shooting at a high school in Pearl, Mississippi; a 2007 church attack in Colorado Springs; and a Chicago Uber driver who in 2015 shot and wounded a man who opened fire on a crowd. The most recent case was a 2017 church shooting in Antioch, Tennessee. But those cases just skim the surface.


There are countless examples of people using guns in self-defense at their homes or workplaces. But I want to focus on a much narrower set of cases where permit holders stopped public shootings. Here are 10 additional recent cases.

Arlington, Texas, May 3, 2017: A police spokesman stated that the concealed handgun permit holder “prevented further loss of life.” A Dallas Morning News headline read: “‘Hero’ stopped mass murder by crazed bar patron who was armed to the teeth, police say.”

Lyman, South Carolina, June 30, 2016: Just a couple of weeks after the Orlando massacre, 32-year-old Jody Ray Thompson opened fire on another nightclub. Fortunately, permitted concealed handguns were allowed in South Carolina bars. Thompson was able to shoot three people before the permit holder fired back and wounded Thompson in the leg. Fox 5 in Atlanta reports: “At least one South Carolina sheriff are crediting a man with a concealed carry permit with preventing further violence at a nightclub this past Sunday.”

Winton, Ohio, July 26, 2015: A man started shooting at four people who were walking outside on a summer’s evening. Fortunately, a concealed handgun permit holder fired at the attacker, giving the four people a chance to escape into their home.

Conyers, Georgia, May 31, 2015: A man killed two people at a liquor store and continued shooting at others until a permit holder ran inside and exchanged fire. The killer then fled the store. “I believe that if Mr. Scott did not return fire at the suspect then more of those customers would have [been] hit by a gun,” said Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett. “So in my opinion he saved other lives in that store.”

New Holland, South Carolina, May 5, 2015: New Holland Fire Department volunteers were hosting a children’s day event with ice cream and fire truck rides, when a man started shooting. Fortunately, two firemen were permit holders and were able to stop the attack.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 22, 2015: A 40-year-old man started shooting at people in a barber shop. A permit holder who heard the gunfire ran inside and shot the attacker. “The person who responded was a legal gun permit carrier. He responded and I guess he saved a lot of people in there,” said Philadelphia Police Captain Frank Llewellyn.

Darby, Pennsylvania, July 24, 2014: Convicted felon Richard Plotts killed a caseworker at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and started shooting at Dr. Lee Silverman. Fortunately, the doctor had his own gun and returned fire, critically wounding Plotts, who still had 39 bullets on him. “Without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives,” said Yeadon police chief Donald Molineux.

Chicago, Illinois, July 7, 2014: Gang members started firing at four people who had just left a party. The attack started because one of the four people removed a cup of liquor that had been placed on top of her vehicle. Luckily, one of the four people — a military member — had a permitted concealed handgun and was able to wound the primary attacker.

Portland, Oregon, January 11, 2014: Convicted criminal Thomas Eliot Hjelmeland was ejected from a nightclub but returned 30 minutes later wearing a mask and carrying a gun. He shot the bouncer who had ejected him, and shot at others. Two others were wounded, and Hjelmeland was shooting all around the club. A concealed handgun permit holder who worked at the nightclub then fatally shot Hjelmeland.

And here are just two more cases from 2000 to 2013 — the same period that the FBI claims only had one instance of a permit holder stopping a public shooting. Again, law enforcement say that permit holders saved lives in both of these cases.

Plymouth, Pennsylvania, September 9, 2012: William Allabaugh shot at people as he walked down the street in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. He wounded one and killed another. Permit holder Mark Ktytor fatally shot Allabaugh. “Mr. [Ktytor] then acted, taking him [Allabaugh] down. We believe that it could have been much worse that night,” said Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino.

Spartanburg, South Carolina, March 2012: Jesse Gates kicked open a door to a church and pointed a shotgun at the pastor and congregation. Parishioner Aaron Guyton, a concealed weapons permit holder, got the drop on Gates and held him at gunpoint. Sheriff Chuck Wright called Aaron and others at the church “everyday heroes.”

Permit holders haven’t just stopped public shootings. They have stopped everything from public knife attacks to vehicle attacks.

I haven’t found a single case where gun control advocates’ fears were borne out by the facts. In not one of these cases did a permit holder accidentally shoot a bystander, or a police officer accidentally harm a permit holder.

There are many more of these cases.

False-flag operations plainly exist

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

False Flags plainly exist, John Schindler notes:

In recent years, I’ve exposed several such cases, including how East German intelligence was behind a notorious “right-wing” assassination in Cold War Berlin, how Yugoslav intelligence masterminded a False Flag bombing in New York in 1975, how a still-unidentified third party was really behind the destruction of a Swiss airliner in 1970, and most notoriously, how the Algerian military regime in the 1990s bloodily defeated jihadists with a massive deception operation employing numerous False Flags.


Therefore, [the La Penca bombing] was a False Flag terrorist attack — yet the exact opposite of what left-wing activists claimed. Thirty-three years ago, at La Penca, the Sandinistas blew up 22 people, killing seven, to blame it on the Americans and the CIA — not the other way around. Given that Sandinista intelligence was trained by the KGB in provocation and deception, this does not surprise the initiated.

Runaway national fragmentation is inevitable

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

One of the strongest and most consistent geopolitical trends of the past 200 years has been an explosion in national entities, Anatoly Karlin notes:

But it wasn’t always like this. I don’t know if anybody has quantified this precisely, but the number of states or state-like entities in the world must have constituted many thousands during the medieval and Early Modern periods.


Just the territories of the Holy Roman Empire at times accounted for more than a thousand!


Then the rise of the great gunpowder empires and European colonialism rapidly whittled down the numbers of independent states to a few dozens, with even the Latin American independence movements of the 19th century making nary a blimp at the global level.

But then the 20th century saw the collapse of the European monarchic empires, the emergence of national self-determination as a legitimate consideration in international law, the decolonization of the Third World, and the collapse of Communist federative states such as Yugoslavia and the USSR. The number of independent states, including unrecognized de facto polities, now numbers over 200.


Consequently, under a liberal globalism that is true to its ideals, that is, one free of authoritarian coercion or Malthusian selection for big strong states, it appears that runaway national fragmentation is inevitable.

The fascist that Germany’s baby boomers loathed

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

What if everything you know is wrong?, John Schindler asks:

Back in the spring of 1967, West Germany was enjoying a wave of student protests of the sort then causing annoyance across much of the Western world as the baby boomers came of age, crankily, and acted out in public. On the evening of June 2, a big demo in West Berlin protesting the visit of the Shah of Iran, who was in town that night seeing an opera, got out of hand. Police were jumpy and soon the demo was verging on something ugly. Then a twenty-six year old student named Benno Ohnesorg was shot in the back of the head by a policeman — for no reason, according to his friends. Ohnesorg died at this, his first demo, leaving behind a pregnant young wife.

Outrage ensued, not least because the protestors claimed that the unarmed Ohnesorg had been murdered by the police without cause; no one under thirty believed the policeman when he said that he had seen a knife and had to defend himself. For a generation, the murder became “the shot that changed Germany.” It didn’t help matters that the killer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was a middle-aged cop of thuggish inclinations who had served in Hitler’s army in the Second World War, and was almost a caricature of the “fascist mentality” that West German baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s so detested about their parents. Kurras was an ideal stand-in for the so-called “Auschwitz generation” that younger leftists reviled and wanted to junk on the ash heap of history as soon as possible.

For the hard Left, Ohnesorg was a welcome martyr, since his death confirmed all their dark fears about West Germany, which they asserted was objectively a fascist state, despite actually being a high-functioning democracy, not to mention a quite prosperous one, with exceptionally stringent protection of civil liberties and dissent. There soon arose the June 2 Movement, a terrorist group dedicated to Ohnesorg’s martyrdom. Next came the far more dangerous Red Army Faction, popularly known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, a terrorist movement dedicated to Ohnesorg’s memory that claimed to be fighting fascism, but whose leaders seemed mostly into fast cars, turgid ideological dissertations, and murder-as-self-actualization. It took the West German intelligence and police agencies over a decade to stamp out the RAF, even though the gang was small and not very adept, a longevity that, it turned out, had a lot to do with the RAF’s close relationship with the Stasi, East Germany’s notorious Ministry for State Security (MfS). The Stasi offered RAF fighters sanctuary, logistical support, training, even weaponry. (The support by East Bloc intelligence services for terrorist groups in the West was another issue dismissed as a “conspiracy theory” by mainstream thinkers in the 1970s and 1980s, but with the collapse of the Soviet empire and access to secret files — whoops — turned out to be quite true.)

Plenty of West Germans to the right of the Baader Meinhof thugs were troubled by the conduct of the German police. Kurras was never seriously punished for the Ohnesorg killing. Twice he was acquitted of major charges and was suspended from the force for four years, working in private security, but after that suspension he was back with the Berlin police and was actually promoted. Kurras continued a normal career, retiring to a pension at age sixty, remaining defiant and unrepentant: “Anyone who attacks me is destroyed,” he explained to a reporter who asked him about the shooting of Benno Ohnesorg.

By 2009, Karl-Heinz Kurras was an elderly pensioner and a mostly forgotten minor hate figure, yet that May he returned to the front pages in a sensational fashion when it was revealed that he had been for years a highly valued agent of the Stasi. Information from the files of the MfS, which German authorities have combed through carefully for over twenty years, revealed that Kurras had volunteered to work for East German intelligence in 1955. He wanted to move to the DDR, but Stasi handlers convinced him to stay where he was and to serve as an agent-in-place inside the West Berlin police. Files indicate that Kurras was a loyal and effective Stasi source, handing over reams of documents and all the information he could find to the MfS. He was decorated several times and was allowed to secretly join the SED, the East German ruling Communist Party, in 1964, a rare honor for a foreign agent. He helped the Stasi and the KGB expose double agents, reported regularly on U.S. and NATO military developments, and during the 1961 Berlin Crisis was informing the Stasi about critical events at Checkpoint Charlie, the heart of the East-West confrontation.

The revelation that Kurras was a long-term and highly valued agent of East German intelligence exploded like a bombshell, turning a generation’s worldview on its head. The man that Germany’s baby boomers loathed as the archetype of fascism, a living symbol of the evil Nazi-ish past, actually was a Stasi hero, a loyal servant of Communism.

Systems demand analysis as systems

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Techniques of Systems Analysis closes with an appendix on The Essence of Systems Analysis:

An item of equipment cannot be fully analyzed in isolation; frequently; its interaction with the entire environment, including other equipment, has to be considered. The art of systems analysis is born of this fact; systems demand analysis as systems.

Systems are analyzed with the intention of evaluating, improving, and comparing them with other systems. In the early days many people naively thought this meant picking a single definitive quantitative measure of effectiveness, finding a best set of assumptions and then using modern mathematics and high speed computers to carry out the computations. Often, their professional bias led them to believe that the central issues revolved around what kind of mathematics to use and how to use the computer.

With some exceptions, the early picture was illusory. First, there is the trivial point that even modern techniques are not usually powerful enough to treat een simple practical problems without great simplification and idealization. The ability and knowledge necessary to do this simplification and idealization is not always standard equipment of scientists and mathematicians or even of their practical military collaborators.

Much more important, the concept of a simple optimizing calculation ignores the central role of uncertainty. The uncertainty arises not only because we do not actually know what we have (much less what the enemy has) or what is going to happen, but also because we cannot agree on what we are trying to do.

In practice, three kinds of uncertainty can be distinguished.

  1. Statistical Uncertainty
  2. Real Uncertainty
  3. Uncertainty about the Enemy’s Actions.

We will mention each of these uncertainties in turn.

Statistical Uncertainty. This is the kind of uncertainty that pertains to fluctuation phenomena and random variables. It is the uncertainty associated with “honest” gambling devices. There are almost no conceptual difficulties in treating it — it merely makes the problem computationally more complicated.

Real Uncertainty. This is the uncertainty that arises from the fact that people believe different assumptions, have different tastes (and therefore objectives), and are (more often than not) ignorant. It has been argued by scholars that any single individual can, perhaps, treat this uncertainty as being identical t the statistical uncertainty mentioned above, but it is in general impossible for a group to do this in any satisfactory way. For example it is possible for individuals to assign subjectively evaluated numbers to such things as the probability of war or the probability of success of a research program, but there is typically no way of getting a useful consensus on these numbers. Usually, the best that can be done is to set limits between which most reasonable people agree the probabilities lie.

The fact that people have different objectives has almost the same conceptual effect on the design of a socially satisfactory system as the disagreement about empirical assumptions. People value differently, for example, deterring a war as opposed to winning it or alleviating its consequences, if deterrence fails; they ascribe different values to human lives (some even differentiate between different categories of human lives, such as civilian and military, or friendly, neutral, and enemy), future preparedness vs. present, preparedness vs. current standard of living, aggressive vs. defensive policies, etc. Our category, “Real Uncertainty,” covers differences in objectives as well as differences in assumptions.

The treatment of real uncertainty is somewhat controversial, but we believe actually fairly well understood practically. It is handled mainly by what we call Contingency Design.

Uncertainty Due to Enemy Reaction. This uncertainty is a curious and baffling mixture of statistical and real uncertainty, complicated by the fact that we are playing a non-zero sum game. It is often very difficult to treat satisfactorily. A reasonable guiding principle seems to be (at least for a rich country), to compromise designes so as to be prepared for the possibility that the enemy is bright, knowledgeable, and malevolent, and yet be able to exploit the situation if the enemy fails in any of these qualities.

To be specific:

Assuming that the enemy is bright means giving him the freedom (for the purpose of analysis) to use the resources he has in the way that is best for him, even if you don’t think he is smart enough to do so.

Assuming that he is knowledgeable means giving the enemy credit for knowing your weaknesses if he could have found out about them by using reasonable effort. You should be willing to do this even though you yourself have just learned about these weaknesses.

Assuming that the enemy is malevolent means that you will at least look at the case where the enemy does what is worst for you — even though it may not be rational for him to do this. This is sometimes an awful prospect and, in addition, plainly pessimistic, as one may wish to design against a “rational” rather than a malevolent enemy; but as much as possible, one should carry some insurance against the latter possibility.

An ingenious analyst can often discover exciting and brilliant but “obvious” things

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Most important of all, Techniques of Systems Analysis says, a study that attempts to influence policy should have a convincing comparison of all the relevant alternatives:

The kind of curves that we draw in our study are sometimes not directly to the point. Usually either with the aid of such curves or by some simple-minded consideration one succeeds in designing what he thinks is a reasonable system. The task is then to show (if possible) that, under any reasonable assumptions, the system designed by the analyst is to be preferred to any alternative systems which are being considered.


It often happens in practice that people think they disagree on recommendations because they disagree on details of performance, when, in fact, one of the contenders could accept the other contender’s assumptions on performance and still prove his case; that is, the analyst can use an a fortiori argument. It is essential for the Systems Analyst to see if he can do this.


In other words, in making preliminary expository comparisons, we bend over backwards to hurt our system and to help the alternative system. If it turns out after we have done this that we can still say we prefer our system then we are in a superb position to make recommendations.

One reason the above program can so often be carried through successfully is that many of the most successful and exciting analyses have about them a large element of “the Emperor has no clothes.” (For those who have had no childhood: the phrase refers to Andersen’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”) In such cases it is not surprising that one can go t extraordinary lengths in accepting the assumptions of one’s opponents and still prove his point. In other cases people may think of the problem as being a choice between two alternatives when a clever analyst may be able to make recommendations that in effectiv put him in the position of being able to “eat his cake and have it too.” Possibly because our moralistic culture tends to overlook and deny this possibility an ingenious analyst can often discover exciting and brilliant but “obvious” things.

Sometimes we cannot go all the way in satisfying the B, C, or D enthusiasts. If we concede their presumably exaggerated performance claims for the gadgets they like and slo concede their presumably undue pessimism for the gadgets we recommend, then in fact one or more of their systems may look better. Under these circumstances we have two alternatives. We can see how far we can go along with the opposition and conduct a so-called “break-even” analysis. In such an analysis we find just what assumptions we have to make about the important values in order to make the performance of the two systems the same. We can then simply ask people to judge whether these assumptions are unduly optimistic or pessimistic. Or we can try to make a more convincing case on what are reasonable assumptions. The best approach is generally to use both of the above measures.


More than any other single thing, the skilled use of a-fortiori and break-even analysis separate the professionals from the amateurs. A good analyst should clearly separate the parameters (assumptions) into two parts; those to which he can afford to give quite pessimistic values and those to which he has to give “reasonable” or breakeven values. The analyst can then point out that all one needs to believe in order to accept his recommendations is these few crucial assumptions. If the audience accepts that assumed values of these crucial parameters as being reasonable or at least in the break-even region, then they must accept the recommendations. If the whole briefing is built around this idea, it is very surprising how even extremely unpalatable conclusions can be brought home.

In order to carry through the above program most analyses should (conceptually) be done in two stages: a first stage to find out what one wants to recommend, and a second stage that generates the kind of information that makes the recommendations convincing even to a hostile and disbelieving, but intelligent audience.

It is not a sign of weakness but of strength to hold certain conclusions tentatively

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

It is not a sign of weakness but of strength to hold certain conclusions tentatively, Techniques of Systems Analysis argues, particularly if one had indicated a program designed to settle them — insofar as they can be settled:

It is important, of course, to take as firm a position as can be justified in a reasonable way and not to overemphasize the uncertainties. (One of the most common excuses for doing nothing is to say that nothing can be done until more information has been obtained. Sometimes the excuse-maker adds insult to injury by acting as a roadblock to getting more information.) But if a question is really open, then one should say so. While there is always an obligation to set up a program which will answer open questions or indicate that they are unanwerable, there is no obligation for the Systems Analyst to have a policy position in advance of the investigation. After all, he is not an executive.

In addition, most studies have a continuing existence and it is often wise to consider their interaction with the past and the future and to leave room for future development. Some of the recommendations that are made may well be made for the sake of future studies.

Pykrete and Habakkuk

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

When commenter Sam J. mentioned building ships out of concrete, I went searching for an old post on Pykrete, only to find that I hadn’t ever posted anything on Project Habakkuk:

Project Habakkuk or Habbakuk (spelling varies; see below) was a plan by the British during the Second World War to construct an aircraft carrier out of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice) for use against German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic, which were beyond the flight range of land-based planes at that time. The idea came from Geoffrey Pyke, who worked for Combined Operations Headquarters. After promising scale tests and the creation of a prototype on a lake in Alberta, Canada, the project was shelved due to rising costs, added requirements, and the availability of longer-range aircraft and escort carriers which closed the Mid-Atlantic gap the project was intended to address.


Pyke conceived the idea of Habbakuk while he was in the United States organising the production of M29 Weasels for Project Plough, a scheme to assemble an elite unit for winter operations in Norway, Romania and the Italian Alps. He had been considering the problem of how to protect seaborne landings and Atlantic convoys out of reach of aircraft cover. The problem was that steel and aluminium were in short supply, and were required for other purposes. Pyke realized that the answer was ice, which could be manufactured for only 1 percent of the energy needed to make an equivalent mass of steel. He proposed that an iceberg, natural or artificial, be levelled to provide a runway and hollowed out to shelter aircraft.


The project’s code name seems to have been consistently (mis)spelled Habbakuk in official documents at the time. This may in fact have been Pyke’s own error, as at least one early document apparently written by him (though unsigned) spells it that way. (However, post-war publications by people concerned with the project, such as Perutz and Goodeve, all restore the proper spelling, with one “b” and three “k”s.) The name is a reference to the project’s ambitious goal: “… be utterly amazed, for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV)


In early 1942 Pyke and Bernal called in Max Perutz to determine whether an icefloe large enough to withstand Atlantic conditions could be built up fast enough. Perutz pointed out that natural icebergs have too small a surface above water for an airstrip, and are prone to suddenly rolling over. The project would have been abandoned if it had not been for the invention of pykrete, a mixture of water and woodpulp that when frozen was stronger than plain ice, was slower-melting and would not sink. Developed by his government group and named after Pyke, It has been suggested that Pyke was inspired by Inuit sleds reinforced with moss. This is probably apocryphal, as the material was originally described in a paper by Mark and Hohenstein in Brooklyn.

Pykrete could be machined like wood and cast into shapes like metal, and when immersed in water formed an insulating shell of wet wood pulp on its surface that protected its interior from further melting. However, Perutz found a problem: ice flows slowly, in what is known as plastic flow, and his tests showed that a pykrete ship would slowly sag unless it was cooled to –16°C (3°F). To accomplish this the ship’s surface would have to be protected by insulation, and it would need a refrigeration plant and a complicated system of ducts.

Perutz proceeded to conduct experiments on the viability of pykrete and its optimum composition in a secret location underneath Smithfield Meat Market in the City of London. The research took place in a refrigerated meat locker behind a protective screen of frozen animal carcasses.

The decision was made to build a large-scale model at Jasper National Park in Canada to examine insulation and refrigeration techniques, and to see how pykrete would stand up to artillery and explosives. Large ice blocks were constructed at Lake Louise, Alberta, and a small prototype was constructed at Patricia Lake, Alberta, measuring only 60 by 30 feet (18 metres by 9 metres), weighing 1,000 tons and kept frozen by a one-horsepower motor. The work was done by conscientious objectors who did alternative service of various kinds instead of military service. They were never told what they were building. Bernal informed COHQ that the Canadians were building a 1,000-ton model, and that it was expected to take eight men fourteen days to build it. The Chief of Combined Operations (CCO) responded that Churchill had invited the Chiefs of Staff Committee to arrange for an order to be placed for one complete ship at once, with the highest priority, and that further ships were to be ordered immediately if it appeared that the scheme was certain of success.

The Canadians were confident about constructing a vessel for 1944. The necessary materials were available to them in the form of 300,000 tons of wood pulp, 25,000 tons of fibreboard insulation, 35,000 tons of timber and 10,000 tons of steel. The cost was estimated at £700,000.

Meanwhile Perutz had determined via his experiments at Smithfield Market that the optimum structural properties were given by a mixture of 14 per cent wood pulp and 86 per cent water. He wrote to Pyke in early April 1943 and pointed out that if certain tests were not completed in May, there would be no chance of delivering a completed ship in 1944.

By May the problem of cold flow had become serious and it was obvious that more steel reinforcement would be needed, as well as a more effective insulating skin around the vessel’s hull. This caused the cost estimate to increase to £2.5 million. In addition, the Canadians had decided that it was impractical to attempt the project “this coming season”. Bernal and Pyke were forced to conclude that no Habbakuk vessel would be ready in 1944.

Pyke was excluded from the planning for Habbakuk in an effort to secure American participation, a decision that Bernal supported. Pyke’s earlier disagreements with American personnel on Project Plough, which had caused his removal from that project, were the main factor in this decision.

Naval architects and engineers continued to work on Habbakuk with Bernal and Perutz during the summer of 1943. The requirements for the vessel became more demanding: it had to have a range of 7,000 miles (11,000 km) and be able to withstand the largest waves recorded, and the Admiralty wanted it to be torpedo-proof, which meant that the hull had to be at least 40 ft (12 m) thick. The Fleet Air Arm decided that heavy bombers should be able to take off from it, which meant that the deck had to be 2,000 ft (610 m) long. Steering also raised problems; it was initially projected that the ship would be steered by varying the speed of the motors on either side, but the Royal Navy decided that a rudder was essential. However, the problem of mounting and controlling a rudder over 100 ft (30 m) high was never solved.

The first job of the analyst is to get a reasonably accurate idea of what the facts really are

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Most studies which have an impact start with a sort of re-examination stageTechniques of Systems Analysis notes, where they investigate the current prejudices and concepts:

It often turns out that a system designed for perfectly sound historical reasons is no longer effective because conditions have changed. However, the historical reasons for designing the system are embodied in the planning factors and tactics used in official studies. Therefore, the first job of the analyst is to get a reasonably accurate idea of what the facts really are. These cannot be obtained solely from official sources because it should be one of the major purposes of the study to review these numbers. It is also important for the study to generate on its own the numbers which previously have been ignored or treated in an offhand way.

It is essential to take into account what one already has

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Techniques of Systems Analysis gives some advice about time phasing:

If it is the purpose of the study to recommend procurement and operation changes, it is often essential to take into account what one already has, and important to consider what one may want to have in the distant future. The recommended system should, therefore, consider the possibility of exploiting those things which one has and of having a salvage value for future systems. Also it sometimes makes a real difference exactly how the funds are to be disbursed on a year by year basis. While the Systems Analyst should not get into all the headaches of the executive, he should explicitly consider, if at all possible, everything which is important to his recommendations rather than make vague remarks about using or deferring to military or executive judgment.

A picket is just a metaphorical fence

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

I just got the first volume of Shelby Foote’s Civil War, at Audible’s latest 2-for-1 sale, and it reminded me of a word that comes up all the time in Civil War writings — picket. When I first came across the Civil-War use of picket years ago, I was confused. They obviously didn’t mean a white picket fence. Did they mean a metaphorical fence? Or did the men carry stakes, like medieval archers, to build up anti-cavalry defenses?

Reading military history can be frustrating this way, because it’s almost always written for an audience that already knows quite a bit about the subject, rather than for curious boys. Anyway, it turns out a picket is just a metaphorical fence, with no stakes involved. It also turns out that the word was really, really popular during the Civil War, and not before:

Picket Use Over Time

Give him all the freedom that physics, engineering, and economics will allow

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Techniques of Systems Analysis briefly considers unconventional tactics:

There are two parts to this, the enemy’s and your own. For the enemy, you are very interested in examining whether in plugging up one hole you have forced him to another hold which may be equally disastrous to you. That is, you have to examine the recommended system and ask, “What can the enemy do to circumvent it?” In doing this examination one must give him all the freedom that physics, engineering and economics will allow.

(We have deliberately left out social and political restraints. In the first pass at a problem one looks at capabilities and not intentions. While one may wish or need to modify his results to take account of such constraints on the enemy’s behavior, it is often very hard to do this in a reasonable fashion. Usually, trying to exploit such constraints mean dealing in Low Confidence measures. These of course can be useful. It is, however usually much more important to consider possible social and political restraints on one’s own behavior than on the enemy’s. Unless he explicitly and carefully considers such limitations, the analyst may find again that he is really dealing in Low Confidence measures even though from the viewpoint of technical capabilities it may look like a High Confidence measure.)

All too often one finds studies which are designed against a specific enemy tactic rather than against the enemy himself.

There are strong psychological reasons for this. As long as a system has obvious holes, there is no reason for the enemy or us to consider subtle tactics. However, by eliminating these holes one has, in effect, forced the enemy to try to be clever. Under these circumstances he may consider tactics which once seemed far-fetched and improbable. Unfortunately, one may have to overcome a great deal of mental inertia (one’s own as well as others) before one can take unaccustomed threats seriously, early enough to take effective action.

For our own side, as we mentioned before, the major objective of the Systems Analyst is not to analyze a given system but to design a system which will fulfill certain objectives satisfactorily. In doing this, he may also have to consider unorthodox or unconventional tactics in addition to recommending the development or procurement of new types of equipment.

It is desirable that this limiting be done intelligently and not arbitrarily

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

The toy problem presented in Techniques of Systems Analysis couldn’t carefully examine mixed forces:

One of the most serious and common errors is that of arbitrarily concentrating the study on only one kind of bomb, one kind of plane, one kind of airfield, etc. Actually, of course, very few large organizations ever use only one type of equipment for all of their purposes. There is always a tendency to use specialized equipment for specialized problems. For the military too, it turns out that only by using a large number of different types of equipment and tactics can one really have the flexibility to meet effectively the many different objectives and circumstances. It is also very important either to consider a large variety of measures simultaneously or not to try to make one single measure handle all cases. While it is almost always necessary to limit the parts of the study that receive detailed treatment, it is desirable that this limiting be done intelligently and not arbitrarily.