Never Trust Anyone Who Hasn’t Been Punched in the Face

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

The cause of civilizational decline is dirt-simple, Scott Locklin says: lack of contact with objective reality. And that’s why he recommends that you never trust anyone who hasn’t been punched in the Face:

The great banker-journalist (and founder of the original National Review) Walter Bagehot said it well almost 150 years ago:

History is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world gave a chance for it.

Every great civilization reaches a point of prosperity where it is possible to live your entire life as a pacifist without any serious consequences. Many civilizations have come to the state of devolution represented by modern Berkeley folkways, from wife-swapping to vegetarianism. These ideas don’t come from a hardscrabble existence in contact with nature’s elemental forces; they are the inevitable consequence of being an effete urban twit removed from meaningful contact with reality.
Men who have fought know how difficult it is to stand against the crowd and that civilization is fragile and important. A man who has experienced violence knows that, at its core, civilization is an agreement between men to behave well. That agreement can be broken at any moment; it’s part of manhood to be ready when it is. Men who have been in fights know about something that is rarely spoken of without snickering these days: honor. Men who have been in fights know that, on some level, words are just words: At some point, words must be backed up by deeds.

Above all, men who have been in fights know that there is nothing good or noble about being a victim.

Welcome to the future! Nothing’s changed.

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Welcome to the future! Nothing’s changed.

The USAF And The Way Of The Rifle

Friday, December 30th, 2011

The air force does have ground combat troops — 23,000 of them, assigned to security force duty — and was the first branch to issue the iconic M-16 assault rifle.

Now the air force is changing its rifle training:

Based on the combat experience of many airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan, air force rifle training now includes wearing combat equipment (protective vest and helmet) while firing. In addition, airmen are trained to fire from more positions (that are typical of actual combat) as well as at many different distances (especially short range). Air force security troops are also receiving more night firing training.

Airmen also fire twice as many rounds (196 versus 100) during the new rifle qualification course that is taken every two years. The ten hours of training and shooting includes material on tactics, target identification, marksmanship while under fire, how to clear jams and other weapons failures. About 70 percent of airmen pass the new rifle training course on the first try.

All this increased emphasis on rifle training evolved over the last decade as more airmen found themselves involved in ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Initially, many were unprepared. For decades, air force basic training only involves a week of field training, including learning the basics of firing a rifle. After that, most airmen fired those rifles, briefly, once every two years. This was shown to be inadequate for airmen being sent to wartime Iraq and Afghanistan. So the air force created a special four week combat course for airmen headed to a combat zone. The course is taught by many airmen who already have combat experience in Iraq.

They’re also receiving some training in hand-to-hand combat, or combatives:

The Air Force Combatives program is a 20 hour version of the 40 hour U.S. Army Combatives Program.

As a point of reference, earning a blue-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu — the lowest belt above white in the art that’s the basis for the current combatives curriculum — requires roughly 200 hours of training and practice.

The Goose

Friday, December 30th, 2011

The M3 Carl Gustaf — the Goose, to its friends — is effective out to 1,000 meters, which is why American troops are using it in Afghanistan, where they’re facing long-range machine-gun and RPG ambushes.

Although it looks like an old-fashioned bazooka, it’s not a rocket-launcher but a so-called recoilless rifle; it shoots an artillery-style shell, but doesn’t fully contain the back blast.

When America introduced the original bazooka, the Germans quickly copied the design, but increased its size, to create the successful Panzerschreck. Then the Americans copied German recoilless-rifle designs.

Hedy’s Folly

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Richard Rhodes new book describes Hedy’s Folly:

That a glamorous movie star whose day job involved hours of makeup calls and dress fittings would spend her off hours designing sophisticated weapons systems is one of the great curiosities of Hollywood history. Lamarr, however, not only possessed a head for abstract spatial relationships, but she also had been in her former life a fly on the wall during meetings and technical discussions between her ­munitions-manufacturer husband and his clients, some of them Nazi officials. Disturbed by news reports of innocents killed at sea by U-boats, she was determined to help defeat the German attacks. And Ant­heil, arguably the most mechanically inclined of all composers, having long before mastered the byzantine mechanisms of pneumatic piano rolls, retained a special genius for “out of the box” problem ­solving.

Over several years the composer and the movie star spent countless hours together drafting and redrafting designs, not only for the torpedo system but also for a “proximity fuse” antiaircraft shell. In reality, their patent was an early version of today’s smart bombs. The device as they made it employed a constantly roving radio signal to guide the torpedo toward its target. Because the signal kept “hopping” from one frequency to another, it would be impossible for the enemy to lock onto. To solve the problems of synchronizing receiver and transmitter, Ant­heil proposed a tiny structure inspired by the workings of a piano roll. This was a feat that years later would be used in everything from cellphone and Bluetooth technology to GPS instruments.

On Aug. 11, 1942, United States Patent No. 2,292,387 was granted to them for their design. But persuading the Navy to take it seriously proved insurmountable. Pentagon bureaucracy, coupled with the fact that the design’s co-inventor was a movie star, resulted in their idea being ignored. Hedy’s folly may have been in assuming men in government might overcome their prejudice that a beautiful woman could not have brains and imagination. But she lived to see similar versions of her invention be put into common practice, and in 1997, Hedy Lamarr, at the age of 82, and George Antheil (posthumously) were honored with the Pioneer Award by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A Parable about Quality

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Bill Waddell shares a parable about quality:

A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can’t be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don’t get mad and buy another product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution — on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done to re-start the line.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. “That’s some money well spent!” – he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

It turns out; the number of defects picked up by the scales was zero after three weeks of production use. It should’ve been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed an inquiry against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes off the belt and into a bin.

“Oh, that,” says one of the workers — ‘one of the guys put it there cause he was tired of walking over… “every time the bell rang”‘.

(Hat tip to David Foster.)

Man the Fat Hunter

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Our proto-human ancestors, Homo erectus, preferred a high-fat diet and hunted Middle-Eastern elephants (Elephas antiquus) to extinction 400,000 years ago, at which point Homo erectus more or less disappeared, and more gracile proto-humans took over:

It is our contention that two distinct elements combined in the Levant to propel the evolutionary process of replacing H. erectus by a new hominin lineage.

As the classification of varieties of the genus Homo is problematic, we refrain in this paper from any taxonomic designations that would indicate species or subspecies affiliation for the hominins of Qesem Cave. The Qesem Cave hominin, based on the analysis of teeth shares dental characteristics with the Skhul/Qafzeh Middle Paleolithic populations and to some extent also with Neandertals).

One was the disappearance of the elephant (Elephas antiquus) – an ideal food-package in terms of fat and protein content throughout the year – which was until then a main calorie contributor to the diet of the H. erectus in the Levant.

The second was the continuous necessity of H. erectus to consume animal fat as part of their diet, especially when taking into account their large brains. The need to consume animal fat is the result of the physiological ceiling on the consumption of protein and plant foods. The obligatory nature of animal fat consumption turned the alleged large prey preference of H. erectus into a large prey dependence.

Daily energy expenditure (DEE) of the hominins would have increased when very large animals such as the elephant had diminished and a larger number of smaller, faster animals had to be captured to provide the same amount of calories and required fat. This fitness pressure would have been considerably more acute during the dry seasons that prevail in the Levant.

Such an eventuality, we suggest, led to the evolution of a better equipped species, in comparison with H. erectus, that also had a lighter body, a greater lower limb to weight ratio, and improved levels of knowledge, skill, and coordination allowing it to better handle the hunting of an increased number of smaller animals and most probably also develop a new supporting social organization.

(Hat tip to David Foster.)

How New York City Sold Public Housing in the 1930s

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

David Foster recently reminded me of how New York City propagandized for public housing in the 1930s:

How’d that work out, anyway?

Why do middle-class men feel confident dressing as slobs today?

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Why do middle-class men feel confident dressing as slobs today?, Steve Sailer asks:

Their grandfathers would have been anxious that merchants would snub them as bad credit risks if they went about their errands dressed like California Gold Rush prospectors. Why aren’t we?

Because we have credit cards.

Americans always dressed less formally than Europeans, but our ancestors worried about looking respectable. Because of the country’s sprawling size, American commercial life was peculiarly vulnerable to traveling con men. Judging a man by how spiffily he dressed still left businesses susceptible to the occasional natty fraud like Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, but most criminals can’t be bothered with routine aesthetic upkeep.

Today, though, if a guest trashes his hotel room, it just goes on his Visa card. As Hunter S. Thompson discovered to his delight in Las Vegas in 1971, the modern credit system had made his paranoia about impressing desk clerks obsolete.

Commenter Nergol prefers another explanation:

I prefer Oswald Spengler’s explanation, which was that in rising cultures, the poor imitate the mannerisms of the rich, whereas in declining cultures, the rich imitate the manners of the poor. Check out Dan Carlin’s description of Clodius Pulcher in his excellent recent podcast series on the end of the Roman Republic to see where that’s come up in history before.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

I’ve discussed Christmas a number of times over the years:

Deserve’s Got Nothin’ To Do With It

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

“Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it,” Clint Eastwood’s character may have said in Unforgiven, but equity has been the central issue of Western politics for centuries, Thrasymachus says:

The first struggle over equity involved King John versus his barons, and forced him to concede his rule was not absolute and that freemen could only be punished under law. It resulted in the Magna Carta. This document wasn’t always followed, but it set the theoretical precedent that the individual could insist on fair, and equal treatment. More importantly, it set up an ongoing conflict between the need and desire of the state to exercise power to maintain order and the need and desire of the individual to do what he wants.
The major event of the middle of the last millenium — the Reformation — was a matter of authority. But having shaken loose the locus of authority, from the Pope to — well pretty much anybody who could read — the issue of equity came much more to the forefront, explicitly or not.

In England it became a struggle between the commercial class and the traditional military aristocracy. The commercial class actually did stuff, but the aristocracy only ruled by accident of birth, so how was that fair? The English commercial class promoted its interests for several centuries by spreading democracy, until this became the world standard. The reformist Protest religion of this loved the idea of equality, tearing down those above it and civilizing those below it with religious discipline — the “sivilizing” that rankled Huckleberry Finn so much.

Human neurological uniformity is thus a very deep part of the reformist mentality. No one can rule by birth, and no one can be born to be ruled. People are still obviously not uniform, so what makes them different? Morality, rather than some inborn quality. The people who run society do so because they are more moral. People are good citizens to the extent they adhere to this morality, or at least agree to it.

Asterix no densetsu

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Yop’s manga rendition of Asterix is inspired. Voilà — Asterix no densetsu:

Monkey Washing Dishes

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

There’s something oddly endearing about a monkey washing dishes:

(Hat tip to Boing Boing.)

Marines Take More Casualties

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The U.S. Marine Corps is trying to play down reports that its troops suffer higher casualties than their army counterparts — but that’s what Marines do:

Analyzing the raw numbers it was found that, .47 percent of all marines who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were killed, and 4.28 percent were wounded. The U.S. Army, in comparison, suffered .38 percent killed and 2.75 percent wounded.

The differences result from two unique aspects of the marines. First, they don’t have as many support troops as the army. The navy provides a lot of logistical and other support for the marines, and its sailors doing this work. A higher proportion of marines are combat troops. But even taking that into account, the marines have a higher rate of combat casualties. That is largely caused by a different approach to combat. Marines are trained as assault troops, especially amphibious assault. When attacking a defended beach, you have to push the enemy back, so you can bring in your own support forces, or be at a deadly disadvantage. Retreat is not an option.

Even before the marines began expanding and specializing in amphibious warfare a century ago, they were aggressive. That’s because their main job was close combat. This was in the age of sail, when ships often crashed into each other and the crews fought it out hand-to-hand. The marines were expected to specialize in that kind of combat. The marines were also expected to carry out or lead (sailors armed with rifles) raids ashore. Again, this required aggressive behavior in order to succeed.

The army was trained to carry out more deliberate, less risky, combat. The army fought longer, and larger, battles. Nevertheless, the army could carry out raids, and often did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the marines rarely adopted the deliberate, “keep our casualties down” type warfare the army favored. The marines believed their aggressive behavior was an asset, and as far as the enemy goes, it was. The marines terrified the enemy more than the army did. But facing either force, Islamic militants found themselves dead or running for their lives.

Marine commanders want to keep their casualties down, but not at the expense of the aggressive style of combat that has long been what made the marines different from the army.

The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj Mumbai

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The ordinary heroes of the Taj Mumbai were the employees who looked after hotel guests during the terrorist attack in 2008.

One reason for their tremendous loyalty and sense of duty is that they are recruited specifically for their values:

The Taj Group’s three-pronged recruiting system helps to identify people it can train to be customer-centric. Unlike other companies that recruit mainly from India’s metropolitan areas, the chain hires most of its frontline staff from smaller cities and towns such as Pune (not Mumbai); Chandigarh and Dehradun (not Delhi); Trichirappalli and Coimbatore (not Chennai); Mysore and Manipal (not Bangalore); and Haldia (not Calcutta). According to senior executives, the rationale is neither the larger size of the labor pool outside the big cities nor the desire to reduce salary costs, although both may be additional benefits. The Taj Group prefers to go into the hinterland because that’s where traditional Indian values — such as respect for elders and teachers, humility, consideration of others, discipline, and honesty — still hold sway. In the cities, by contrast, youngsters are increasingly driven by money, are happy to cut corners, and are unlikely to be loyal to the company or empathetic with customers.

The Taj Group believes in hiring young people, often straight out of high school. Its recruitment teams start out in small towns and semiurban areas by identifying schools that, in the local people’s opinion, have good teaching standards. They call on the schools’ headmasters to help them choose prospective candidates. Contrary to popular perception, the Taj Group doesn’t scout for the best English speakers or math whizzes; it will even recruit would-be dropouts. Its recruiters look for three character traits: respect for elders (how does he treat his teachers?); cheerfulness (does she perceive life positively even in adversity?); and neediness (how badly does his family need the income from a job?).

The chosen few are sent to the nearest of six residential Taj Group skill-certification centers, located in the metros. The trainees learn and earn for the next 18 months, staying in no-rent company dormitories, eating free food, and receiving an annual stipend of about 5,000 rupees a month (roughly $100) in the first year, which rises to 7,000 rupees a month ($142) in the second year. Trainees remit most of their stipends to their families, because the Taj Group pays their living costs. As a result, most work hard and display good values despite the temptations of the big city, and they want to build careers with the Taj Group. The company offers traineeships to those who exhibit potential and haven’t made any egregious errors or dropped out.

One level up, the Taj Group recruits supervisors and junior managers from approximately half of the more than 100 hotel-­management and catering institutes in India. It cultivates relationships with about 30 through a campus-connect program under which the Taj Group trains faculty and facilitates student visits. It maintains about 10 permanent relationships while other institutes rotate in and out of the program. Although the Taj Group administers a battery of tests to gauge candidates’ domain knowledge and to develop psychometric profiles, recruiters admit that they primarily assess the prospects’ sense of values and desire to contribute. What the Taj Group looks for in managers is integrity, along with the ability to work consistently and conscientiously, to always put guests first, to respond beyond the call of duty, and to work well under pressure.

For the company’s topmost echelons, the Taj Group signs up 50 or so management trainees every year from India’s second- and third-tier B-schools such as Infinity Business School, in Delhi, or Symbiosis Institute, in Pune, usually for functions such as marketing or sales. It doesn’t recruit from the premier institutions, as the Taj Group has found that MBA graduates from lower-tier B-schools want to build careers with a single company, tend to fit in better with a customer-centric culture, and aren’t driven solely by money. A hotelier must want, above all else, to make other people happy, and the Taj Group keeps that top of mind in its recruitment processes.