Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter

January 10th, 2017

A new series from Studio Ghibli, Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter — based on the Astrid Lindgren novel — is coming to Amazon Prime Video.

It’s directed by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son, and narrated by Gillian Anderson.

The original trailer for Sanzoku no Musume Ronja feels rather different from Amazon’s English trailer:

Mossad does not play nice

January 10th, 2017

When it comes to protecting Israel’s national security, Mossad does not play nice:

The death of Mohammed al Zoari in a hail of gunfire in the coastal city of Sfax came at the zenith of a complex operation involving as many as eight Tunisian nationals and an unknown number of others, who Tunisian officials said were foreign agents. Although the hit carried the hallmarks of other Mossad operations, Israel has hinted at, but not acknowledged, its involvement.

“If someone was killed in Tunisia, he’s not likely to be a peace activist or a Nobel Prize candidate,” said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. “We will continue to do in the best possible way what we know how to do — that is to protect our interests.”

From the streets of Europe to the Middle East, Israel’s agents time and again have found their mark, with their victims dispatched in novel ways, from bombs under beds to lone figures targeted on dark streets with silenced Beretta .22s. I’ve often wondered if somewhere inside the Mossad there is a secret office that mulls over plots from fiction novels and uses them to plan real-world missions.

The operation aimed at al Zoari was a little less byzantine than ones found in a spy novel, despite the number of Tunisians under investigation for their roles in it. Reports have surfaced that al Zoari, known as “The Engineer” by his Hamas brethren because of his expertise in building unmanned aerial vehicles, was working to develop an armed underwater drone that would have targeted Israeli oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean Sea. His murder as he sat in his car in front of his home set off waves of protest in Tunisia, whose citizens have been witness to Israeli justice before.

In 1988, Fatah operative Khalil al-Wazir, aka Abu Jihad, was assassinated in his home in Tunis in a spectacular Israeli commando raid. I was an agent with the U.S. State Department at the time, and the hit, which came without warning from Israel, took us by surprise. This was a vivid example of one of many occasions that confirmed that there really are no friendly intelligence services and that nation-states will do whatever they think is necessary to protect themselves. On a practical level, the Israelis would not have jeopardized the lives of their agents by sharing their tactical plans with another country, because too many things could go wrong. This was no different than the U.S. decision to carry out its operation in Abbottabad to kill Osama Bin Laden without prior warning to the Pakistanis.

In 1996, the Israelis killed a Hamas bombmaker, also called “The Engineer.” We got into a fair amount of trouble when we fulfilled the Palestinian Authority’s request for help in investigating the murder, which included examining the crime scene. Neither the State Department’s foreign service officers nor the Israelis cared for that decision. But from my perspective as a counterterrorism agent, I figured we would learn something by our involvement, and we did. In the aftermath of the hit, we discovered that an informant for the Israelis had given a cell phone to the bombmaker. When he answered the phone, an explosive hidden inside detonated, blowing off his hand and half of his head, killing him instantly. The gruesome crime scene photos are still vivid in my memory.

How to Predict Gentrification

January 9th, 2017

Everyone has theories for why well-educated professionals are moving back into cities:

Perhaps their living preferences have shifted. Or the demands of the labor market have, and young adults with less leisure time are loath to waste it commuting. Maybe the tendency to postpone marriage and children has made city living more alluring. Or the benefits of cities themselves have improved.

“There are all sorts of potential other amenities, whether it’s cafes, restaurants, bars, nicer parks, better schools,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University.

“But a huge piece of it,” she said, “I think is crime.”

New research that she has conducted alongside Keren Mertens Horn, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and Davin Reed, a doctoral student at N.Y.U., finds that when violent crime falls sharply, wealthier and educated people are more likely to move into lower-income and predominantly minority urban neighborhoods.

Their working paper suggests that just as rising crime can drive people out of cities, falling crime has a comparable effect, spurring gentrification.

I love the surprised tone.

A “beautiful vision” for the new and improved SAT

January 9th, 2017

After taking over the College Board in 2012, new CEO David Coleman circulated an internal memo laying out a “beautiful vision” for the new and improved SAT:

Literary passages for the new SAT should be “memorable and often beautiful,” he wrote, and students should be able to take the test by computer.

Finishing the redesign quickly was essential. If the overhaul were ready by March 2015, he wrote in a later email to senior employees, then the New York-based College Board could win new business and counter the most popular college entrance exam in America, the ACT.

Perhaps the biggest change was the new test’s focus on the Common Core, the controversial set of learning standards that Coleman himself helped create.

The roll-out hasn’t gone well. “It was a bad year, and I’m sorry,” Coleman said in September.

There might be something amiss with our institutions of higher education

January 8th, 2017

There might be something amiss with our institutions of higher education, Paul A. Rahe suggests:

Forty years ago, when I was in my last year as a graduate student at Yale, I taught in a program called Directed Studies. It was a one-year boot camp for the very best entering freshmen. It consisted of three year-long courses: History and Politics One, Literature One, and Philosophy One. In each class, the students started at the beginning — with, say, Herodotus, the Jewish Bible, and the pre-Socratics — and ended in the 20th century — with, say, Heidegger, T. S. Eliot, and Wittgenstein. Twenty years ago, I returned as a visiting professor to teach History and Politics One in the same program. I was by no means the only visitor. The director could not find in the Yale faculty enough instructors ready and willing to do the job. Teaching the very best students in the college a survey of the tradition of political rumination was beyond the capacity of all but a handful of those on the Yale University teaching staff. The old liberal arts curriculum, which is still intact here at Hillsdale, produced citizens with a broad range of knowledge and a general familiarity with our cultural tradition. Today you cannot assume such knowledge on the part of a distinguished university’s faculty.

How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology

January 7th, 2017

Toby Spribille grew up in a Montana trailer park, where he was educated by a fundamentalist cult, before somehow getting into a German university and then overturning 150 years of biology:

He joined the lab of symbiosis specialist John McCutcheon, who convinced him to supplement his formidable natural history skills with some know-how in modern genetics.

The duo started studying two local lichens that are common in local forests and hang from branches like unruly wigs. One is yellow because it makes a strong poison called vulpinic acid; the other lacks this toxin and is dark brown. They clearly look different, and had been classified as separate species for almost a century. But recent studies had suggested that they’re actually the same fungus, partnered with the same alga. So why are they different?

To find out, Spribille analyzed which genes the two lichens were activating. He found no differences. Then, he realized that he was searching too narrowly. Lichenologists all thought that the fungi in the partnership belonged to a group called the ascomycetes — so Spribille had only searched for ascomycete genes. Almost on a whim, he broadened his search to the entire fungal kingdom, and found something bizarre. A lot of the genes that were activated in the lichens belonged to a fungus from an entirely different group — the basidiomycetes. “That didn’t look right,” says McCutcheon. “It took a lot of time to figure out.”

At first, the duo figured that a basidiomycete fungus was growing on the lichens. Perhaps it was just a contaminant, a speck of microbial fluff that had landed on the specimens. Or it might have been a pathogen, a fungus that was infecting the lichens and causing disease. It might simply have been a false alarm. (Such things happen: genetic algorithms have misidentified plague bacteria on the New York subway, platypuses in Virginia tomato fields, and seals in Vietnamese forests.)

But when Spribille removed all the basidiomycete genes from his data, everything that related to the presence of vulpinic acid also disappeared. “That was the eureka moment,” he says. “That’s when I leaned back in my chair.” That’s when he began to suspect that the basidiomycete was actually part of the lichens — present in both types, but especially abundant in the yellow toxic one.

And not just in these two types, either. Throughout his career, Spribille had collected some 45,000 samples of lichens. He began screening these, from many different lineages and continents. And in almost all the macrolichens — the world’s most species-rich group — he found the genes of basidiomycete fungi. They were everywhere. Now, he needed to see them with his own eyes.

Down a microscope, a lichen looks like a loaf of ciabatta: it has a stiff, dense crust surrounding a spongy, loose interior. The alga is embedded in the thick crust. The familiar ascomycete fungus is there too, but it branches inwards, creating the spongy interior. And the basidiomycetes? They’re in the outermost part of the crust, surrounding the other two partners. “They’re everywhere in that outer layer,” says Spribille.

Despite their seemingly obvious location, it took around five years to find them. They’re embedded in a matrix of sugars, as if someone had plastered over them. To see them, Spribille bought laundry detergent from Wal-Mart and used it to very carefully strip that matrix away.

And even when the basidiomycetes were exposed, they weren’t easy to identify. They look exactly like a cross-section from one of the ascomycete branches. Unless you know what you’re looking for, there’s no reason why you’d think there are two fungi there, rather than one — which is why no one realised for 150 years. Spribille only worked out what was happening by labeling each of the three partners with different fluorescent molecules, which glowed red, green, and blue respectively. Only then did the trinity become clear.

Teenagers and the Education Apocalypse

January 6th, 2017

While discussing The Education Apocalypse, Glenn Harlan Reynolds talks a bit about teenagers

It’s very interesting because if you look at history, we tended to treat adolescents as sort of junior adults and we didn’t — teenagerdom is a fairly recent invention and in fact we didn’t really start talking about teenagers until we had kids in school and we took kids who used to hang out with adults in adult settings, doing adult tasks where if you wanted to be respected, which everybody does, you are going to be respected by adults for being good at doing adult things.

Then we took all those kids and instead we segregated them into schools where they were around a bunch of other teenagers and you still want to be respected by the crowd you’re part of, but now your crowd is all people your own age. So you do the stuff that impresses people your own age and the problem with that is teenagers are idiots.

So the stuff that impresses teenagers is usually idiotic. So instead of being really good at bailing hay or fixing a plough or something like that that you might have done a hundred years before, you want to be good at drinking or dating or playing football or other things that are fundamentally more trivial but that appeal to your peer group.

I recommend reading the whole conversation transcript, but I’ll excerpt one more point that I’ve noticed, too:

If you have the experience as I’ve had of just driving through town driving past schools and then driving past prisons, they really often look a lot alike.

Talk to a physicist

January 5th, 2017

Sabine Hossenfelder is currently a research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, but between gigs she has run a talk-to-a-physicist service:

‘Talk to a physicist. Call me on Skype. $50 per 20 minutes.’

A week passed with nothing but jokes from colleagues, most of whom thought my post was a satire. No, no, I assured them, I’m totally serious; send me your crackpots, they’re welcome. In the second week I got two enquiries and, a little nervous, I took on my first customer. Then came a second. A third. And they kept coming.

My callers fall into two very different categories. Some of them cherish the opportunity to talk to a physicist because one-to-one conversation is simply more efficient than Google. They can shoot up to 20 questions a minute, everything from: ‘How do we know quarks exist?’ to ‘Can atoms contain tiny universes?’ They’re normally young or middle-aged men who want to understand all the nerdy stuff but have no time to lose. That’s the minority.

The majority of my callers are the ones who seek advice for an idea they’ve tried to formalise, unsuccessfully, often for a long time. Many of them are retired or near retirement, typically with a background in engineering or a related industry. All of them are men. Many base their theories on images, downloaded or drawn by hand, embedded in long pamphlets. A few use basic equations. Some add videos or applets. Some work with 3D models of Styrofoam, cardboard or wires. The variety of their ideas is bewildering, but these callers have two things in common: they spend an extraordinary amount of time on their theories, and they are frustrated that nobody is interested.

Sociologists have long tried and failed to draw a line between science and pseudoscience. In physics, though, that ‘demarcation problem’ is a non-problem, solved by the pragmatic observation that we can reliably tell an outsider when we see one. During a decade of education, we physicists learn more than the tools of the trade; we also learn the walk and talk of the community, shared through countless seminars and conferences, meetings, lectures and papers. After exchanging a few sentences, we can tell if you’re one of us. You can’t fake our community slang any more than you can fake a local accent in a foreign country.

My clients know so little about current research in physics, they aren’t even aware they’re in a foreign country. They have no clue how far they are from making themselves understood. Their ideas aren’t bad; they are raw versions of ideas that underlie established research programmes. But those who seek my advice lack the mathematical background to build anything interesting on their intuitions. I try to help them by making connections to existing research. During our conversations, I point them towards relevant literature and name the important keywords. I give recommendations on what to do next, what they need to learn, or what problem lies in the way. And I make clear that if they want to be taken seriously by physicists, there’s no way around mathematics, lots of mathematics. Images and videos will not do.

One or two seemed miffed that I didn’t immediately exclaim: ‘Genius!’, but most of my callers realised that they can’t contribute to a field without meeting today’s quality standard. Then again, I hear only from those willing to invest in advancing their education to begin with. After our first conversation, they often book another appointment. One of them might even publish a paper soon. Not a proposal for a theory of everything, mind you, but a new way to look at a known effect. A first step on a long journey.

I haven’t learned any new physics in these conversations, but I have learned a great deal about science communication. My clients almost exclusively get their information from the popular science media. Often, they get something utterly wrong in the process. Once I hear their reading of an article about, say, space-time foam or black hole firewalls, I can see where their misunderstanding stems from. But they come up with interpretations that never would have crossed my mind when writing an article.

A typical problem is that, in the absence of equations, they project literal meanings onto words such as ‘grains’ of space-time or particles ‘popping’ in and out of existence. Science writers should be more careful to point out when we are using metaphors. My clients read way too much into pictures, measuring every angle, scrutinising every colour, counting every dash. Illustrators should be more careful to point out what is relevant information and what is artistic freedom. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that journalists are so successful at making physics seem not so complicated that many readers come away with the impression that they can easily do it themselves. How can we blame them for not knowing what it takes if we never tell them?

Lego Boost

January 4th, 2017

Lego’s new Boost line was designed to be less complex than its Mindstorms line:

My favorite was Vernie, a bowtie-clad robot with amazing moving eyebrows. There’s also a cat, a space rover, a factory and a guitar.

LEGO Boost

While most of the pieces resemble the billions out there in the wild, Lego Boost kits come with a special Move Hub. Inside is a computer, a wireless chip and a tilt sensor. Attach that, along with included motors and a special sensor that detects color and distance, and the creations come to life.

Actually, there’s one additional step: coding. Lego Boost connects to an Android or iOS tablet app—at launch, no phones, however. The app demonstrates how to assemble simple lines of instruction. No typing required. Like real-world Lego bricks, these digital blocks of code stack up to make your Lego creation respond to stimuli or perform a routine. In a few minutes, I was able to make Vernie do a little dance, and the cat meow when I gave it a milk bottle made from bricks.

The rest of us are end users

January 4th, 2017

More people believe in magic than we would care to admit, Richard Fernandez says:

ISIS is currently carrying out a campaign against wizards in their midst and is executing those they suspect of dabbling in it. But that is understandable given their world view.

[...]

When the last cellphone in the Caliphate is destroyed or worn out no one will know how to make another. Their 8th century is capable of producing fanaticism but probably couldn’t make a ball point pen. Objects in the ISIS universe are “magical” — put there by Allah in the possession of the infidel for holy warriors to plunder and enjoy until the power which inheres in them gradually fades away.

Surprisingly much of the modern world is not very different. Many people treat technology like magic even in the West. How does a cell phone work? Dunno. Where does it come from? The store. Civilization depends on the knowledge of a small fraction of the world’s 7.5 billion population. The know-how to make pharmaceuticals, complex devices, aircraft, computers, industrial chemicals from scratch is probably confined to a few million people concentrated in North America, Europe, Russia and North Asia. The rest of us are end users.

If a global catastrophe destroyed all of civilization’s works yet spared these few million they could re-create every object in the world again. By contrast if only these few millions perished the remaining billions though untouched could continue only until things broke down. It is knowledge which sustains civilization.

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market

January 3rd, 2017

Kidnapping is hard — because of problems of trust, problems of bargaining, and problems of execution — but there is a well-organized market for hostages:

The first principle that insurers adopt is that safe retrieval of hostages is paramount. The second guiding principle is that kidnapping cannot become too wildly profitable, for fear of further destabilization. In the language of economists, there must be no “supernormal profits.” If victims’ representatives quickly offer large ransoms, this information spreads like wildfire and triggers kidnapping booms. A good example is Somalia, where a few premium ransoms led to an explosion of piracy that could only be stopped by a costly military intervention.

Insurers have therefore created institutions to make sure that ransom offers meet kidnapper expectations and produce safe releases but that do not upset local criminal markets. Insured parties obtain immediate, free access to highly experienced crisis-response consultants in the event of a kidnapping. These consultants find out whether the person demanding the ransom actually holds a live hostage to bargain over, they advise on the appropriate negotiation strategy, and they reassure families when they inevitably receive dire threats of violence.

Because insurers can communicate outcomes confidentially, they can stabilize ransoms — as well as discipline rogue kidnappers. One kidnapper summarized this perception in the criminal community as “No one negotiates with a kidnapper who has a reputation for blowing his victims’ brains out.” Crisis responders also manage the ransom drop, removing a further obstacle to a successful conclusion. About 98 percent of insured criminal kidnapping victims are safely retrieved.

Of course, this “protocol” for ransom negotiations is costly. Tough bargaining takes time, imposing huge psychological costs on negotiators and on the victim’s family and tying up productive resources in firms. Experienced consultants are paid a substantial daily fee. It is very tempting to conclude negotiations early. Most of the cost of quick ransoms that are bigger than they ought to be is borne by future victims and their insurers, not the current victim’s stakeholders. An effective governance regime for kidnapping resolution therefore requires rules to prevent anyone’s taking shortcuts.

It would be impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an insurer’s crisis responder deliberately cuts corners because ransoms are naturally variable. This makes it impossible for insurers to formally contract with each other and punish those who “overpay” kidnappers.

Insurers resolve this through an ingenious market structure. All kidnapping insurance is either written or reinsured at Lloyd’s of London. Within the Lloyd’s market, there are about 20 firms (or “syndicates”) competing for business. They all conduct resolutions according to clear rules. The Lloyd’s Corp. can exclude any syndicate that deviates from the established protocol and imposes costs on others. Outsiders do not have the necessary information to price kidnapping insurance correctly: Victims are very tight-lipped about their experiences to avoid attracting further criminal attention.

The private governance regime for resolving criminal kidnappings generally delivers low and stable ransoms and predictable numbers of kidnappings. Most kidnappings can be resolved for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. This makes profitable kidnapping insurance possible. When the protocol fails, insurers sustain losses and must innovate to regain control.

The outcomes of privately governed “criminal” kidnappings (where private firms or individuals pay the ransoms) contrast starkly with those of “terrorist” kidnappings (where governments are asked to pay ransoms or to make concessions). Here, insurers are prevented by law from ordering the market, leaving governments in the firing line.

Governments struggle to contain ransoms, and they often end up making concessions to terrorists despite their public “no negotiation” commitments. Government negotiators have no obvious budget constraints. They often prioritize quick settlements over containing ransoms. Finally, there is no international regime for preventing spillovers to subsequent negotiations. Citizens of nations who refuse to negotiate with terrorists are often tortured or killed to raise the pressure in parallel negotiations. Multimillion dollar ransoms in terrorist cases are therefore not really surprising — and such settlements reliably trigger new kidnappings.

Russia needs just three days to conquer Estonia and Latvia

January 2nd, 2017

Russia needs just three days to conquer Estonia and Latvia, according to a new RAND study:

They found Russian forces will have “eliminated” NATO resistance and be “at the gates of or actually entering Riga, Tallinn, or both between 36 and 60 hours after the start of hostilities.”
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” Shlapak and Johnson wrote.

“A bloody counteroffensive, fraught with escalatory risk, to liberate the Baltics; to escalate itself, as it threatened to do to avert defeat during the Cold War; or to concede at least temporary defeat, with uncertain but predictably disastrous consequences for the alliance and, not incidentally, the people of the Baltics.”

[...]

Assuming NATO has a week to detect a coming invasion, the alliance could deploy an equivalent of 12 maneuver battalions in the Baltic states. This includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rushed from Vicenza, Italy, but no main battle tanks. Poland — which has the largest tank force in Europe west of the Bug River — would be “assumed to be committed to defend the [Polish] national territory” and blocking Russian forces from moving south from Kaliningrad.

However, Russia could mass the equivalent of 22 maneuver battalions, including four tank battalions and large amounts of artillery from its Western Military District. Russia would also have an advantage in the air, with 27 squadrons of fighters and bombers compared to 18.5 NATO squadrons. While able to challenge Russian aircraft, the NATO planes could not quickly establish air superiority. Russian combat planes would then create “bubbles” of undefended airspace to launch “massed waves of air attacks.”

There’s an important lesson here — though Russia cannot challenge the United States or NATO globally, it can do so locally … and win.

[...]

The main problem is that geography favors Russia. In the days after an invasion, the alliance would have to first mass its own forces and conquer Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave bordering Poland which could flank any counter-attack … before facing the bulk of Russia’s Baltic combat power.

[...]

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty obligates NATO to defend its allies, including Estonia and Latvia, if they came under attack. That could plunge Russia into a wider and far more destructive war it might eventually lose, but it could also set off a chain of events ending in a nuclear exchange.

Which is why if Russia were to do it, it would want to do so quickly, presenting NATO with the option of … doing nothing.

Popular Posts of 2016

January 1st, 2017

I just took a look back at my numbers for 2016. Here are the most popular posts during that calendar year, none of which are new, all of which are older:

  1. Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics
  2. Myostatin, Belgian Blue, and Flex Wheeler
  3. Polar Bear Turns Purple After Medication
  4. Longbow vs. Armor
  5. He-Man Opening Monologue
  6. Observations from Actual Shootings
  7. Fast Friends Protocol
  8. Foux Da Fa Fa
  9. Subversion
  10. What A Good Job Looks Like

Here are the most popular posts actually from 2016 and not from an earlier year:

  1. We Are Not Smart
  2. Made to Want Evil
  3. Waiting Will Get You Killed
  4. We Don’t Care About Experts Anymore
  5. Stop Wasting Money Teaching Millions of Students Content They Already Know
  6. An Idle Class That Can Only Dream
  7. Culturally Tone Deaf
  8. Brutality Can Terminate Riots Promptly
  9. Born and Bred on the Other Side of the European Frontiers
  10. Scott Adams is Insane

Again, I’m not sure what to conclude.

Also, I should thank some of my top referrers: Reaction Times, Free NorthernerPJ MediaOutside In, Z Man (new to the list!)Mapping The Dark Enlightenment, and Borepatch.

The Problem With Trump’s Admiration of General Patton

December 31st, 2016

The problem with Trump’s admiration of General Patton is, apparently, that Patton was conservative and anti-Communist:

His success in wartime has, over the years, whitewashed the rest of his character. His views on race and America’s role in the world were retrograde even in the 1940s — and so forcefully articulated that it’s hard to understand why contemporary Americans have such an easy time admiring him. His life isn’t just an example of winning — it’s an object lesson in how hard it is to transfer skills from a ruthless campaign to the complex tasks of real governance.

Patton came from a long line of soldiers. He was home-schooled on the classics until age 12. Like Trump, Patton came from money; he lived well off the battlefield, with a string of polo ponies accompanying him on stateside postings. He fought in Mexico, was gravely wounded in WWI, gained fame leading the Allied invasion of Casablanca in 1942, successfully led the Seventh Army invasion of Sicily and swept into Germany as a conqueror at the helm of the Third Army.

Patton, whom reporters dubbed “Old Blood and Guts,” was a happy warrior. At a somber December 19, 1944, command meeting following the massive German attack that began what would be known as the Battle of the Bulge, Patton saw a tactical opportunity. “This bastard has put his cock in a meat grinder and I’ve got the handle!” he said.

Patton’s rescue of cornered GIs at Bastogne erased his most famous blunder of the war, which occurred in two hospital tents in Sicily in 1943 when he infamously confronted two traumatized soldiers and slapped them. Patton had no concept of the disease that was then called shell shock, and we now know as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wars were about winning and glory, and his subsequent apologies, ordered by his friend and superior, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, were entirely pro forma. He told colleagues that the soldiers were cowards and that the slapping — he also brandished a pistol at one of the soldiers — had saved their souls. “It is rather a commentary on justice when an Army commander has to soft-soap a skulker to placate the timidity of those above,” Patton wrote in his diary.

Eisenhower resisted calls to fire Patton, whom he viewed as a “problem child” who was “indispensable to the war effort and one of the guarantors of our victory.” To Patton’s disappointment, Ike refrained from giving him the highest commands he craved. Still, he had a huge following in the military and among the public, which he stoked with frequent appearances in the press.

[...]

The U.S. Army’s mission in Germany was to govern and start rebuilding a former enemy nation, a country gutted by its war machine and deflated by its surrender. Part of the task, President Harry Truman and Eisenhower agreed, was to “denazify” the country, which meant re-education, the fostering of democratic institutions and the punishment of Nazi war criminals to set an example for the would-be Hitlers of the future. Patton was astonishingly indifferent to this mission. He spent much of his time writing his wartime memoirs, hunting and fishing with subordinates, and riding in the countryside with his groom, Baron von Wangenheim, an Olympian equestrian and die-hard Nazi whom remnants of the SS had implanted in Patton’s staff to keep an eye on him and feed his lust for a war against the Soviet Union.

It was hard enough to get the streets cleared and keep Germans from starving to death; Patton wasn’t interested in denazification or creating a lesson for future tyrants. He thought it was “madness” to imprison Nazis, good soldiers who were much more valuable as future allies against the Soviets than the Jewish survivors he was charged with protecting and feeding.

Disturbingly, Patton had zero sympathy for the Holocaust victims living in wretched, overcrowded collection camps under his command. He was unable to imagine that people living in such misery were not there because of their own flaws. The displaced Jews were “locusts,” “lower than animals,” “lost to all decency.” They were “a subhuman species without any of the cultural or social refinements of our times,” Patton wrote in his diary. A United Nations aid worker tried to explain that they were traumatized, but “personally I doubt it. I have never looked at a group of people who seem to be more lacking in intelligence and spirit.” (Patton was no friend to Arabs, either; in a 1943 letter, he called them “the mixture of all the bad races on earth.”)

The orders from above — Eisenhower wanted him to confiscate the houses of wealthy Germans so Jewish survivors could live in them — embittered Patton. His beloved Third Army was decaying as troops decamped for home, discipline vanished, and meanwhile, “the displaced sons-of-bitches in the various camps are blooming like green trees,” he wrote a friend.

He saw journalists’ criticism of his handling of the Jews and the return of Nazis to high official positions as a result of Jewish and Communist plots. The New York Times and other publications were “trying to do two things,” he wrote, “First, implement Communism, and second, see that all business men of German ancestry and non-Jewish antecedents are thrown out of their jobs.”

As reports on the conditions in Bavaria began to alarm Truman, Eisenhower came down from Frankfurt on September 17 to join Patton on a tour of the camps where Jewish refugees were housed. He was horrified to find that some of the guards were former SS men. During the tour, Patton remarked that the camps had been clean and decent before the arrival of the Jewish “DPs” (displaced persons), who were “pissing and crapping all over the place.” Eisenhower told Patton to shut up, but he continued his diatribe, telling Eisenhower he planned to make a nearby German village “a concentration camp for some of these goddam Jews.”

While Eisenhower ordered him to stop “mollycoddling Nazis,” Patton lashed out at journalists and others he viewed as enemies. “The noise against me is only the means by which the Jews and Communist are attempting and with good success to implement a further dismemberment of Germany,” he said.

Patton’s callousness, anti-Semitism and indifference to the job of re-education were bad enough, but what really worried Eisenhower and Truman was Patton’s desire to start another war. The Soviet Union had been a close U.S. ally against the Nazis, but Patton was an early, fervent anti-Communist who loathed “Genghis Khan’s degenerate descendants” and felt Roosevelt had surrendered too much European turf to the Russians. He was obsessed with pushing them back out of Germany.

The Atlantic is now trying to tar human genetics with the “racist” brush

December 30th, 2016

The Atlantic is now trying to tar human genetics with the “racist” brush:

Modern geneticists now take pains to distance their work from the racist assumptions of eugenics. Yet since the dawn of the genomic revolution, sociologists and historians have warned that even seemingly benign genetics research can reinforce a belief that different races are essentially different—an argument made most famously by Troy Duster in his book Backdoor to Eugenics. If a genetic test can identify you as 78 percent Norwegian, 12 percent Scottish, and 10 percent Italian, then it’s easy to assume there is such thing as white DNA. If scientists find that a new drug works works better in African Americans because of a certain mutation common among them, then it’s easy to believe that races are genetically meaningful categories.

If a drug works better on one race than another, then, yes, it is easy to believe that races are genetically meaningful categories — easy for a very good reason.