Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Cognitive control — delay of gratification, impulse management, emotional self-regulation or self-control, the suppression of irrelevant thoughts, and paying attention or learning readiness — predicts success both in school and in work life:

Cognitive control increases from about 4 to 12 years old, then plateaus, said Betty J. Casey, director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Teenagers find it difficult to suppress their impulses, as any parent knows.

But impulsivity peaks around age 16, Dr. Casey noted, and in their 20s most people achieve adult levels of cognitive control. Among healthy adults, it begins to wane noticeably in the 70s or 80s, often manifesting as an inability to remember names or words, because of distractions that the mind once would have suppressed.

Bolstering this mental ability, specialists are now suggesting, might be particularly helpful in treating A.D.H.D. and A.D.D.

To do so, researchers are testing mindfulness: teaching people to monitor their thoughts and feelings without judgments or other reactivity. Rather than simply being carried away from a chosen focus, they notice that their attention has wandered, and renew their concentration.

According to a recent report in Clinical Neurophysiology, adults with A.D.D. were shown to benefit from mindfulness training combined with cognitive therapy; their improvements in mental performance were comparable to those achieved by subjects taking medications.

Military Spirit is Dead

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

The military spirit is dead in France — as in all democracies — Colonel Ardant Du Picq laments:

The military spirit died with the French nobility, perished because it had to perish, because it was exhausted, at the end of its life. That only dies which has no longer the sap of life, and can no longer live. If a thing is merely sick it can return to health. But who can say that of the French nobility? An aristocracy, a nobility that dies, dies always by its own fault; because it no longer performs its duties; because it fails in its task; because its functions are of no more value to the state; because there is no longer any reason for its existence in a society, whose final tendency is to suppress its functions.

After 1789 had threatened our patriotism, the natural desire for self-protection revived the military spirit in the nation and in the army. The Empire developed this movement, changed the defensive military spirit to the offensive, and used it with increasing effect up to 1814 or 1815. The military spirit of the July Restoration was a reminiscence, a relic of the Empire, a form of opposition to government by liberalism instead of democracy. It was really the spirit of opposition and not the military spirit, which is essentially conservative.

There is no military spirit in a democratic society, where there is no aristocracy, no military nobility. A democratic society is antagonistic to the military spirit.


We are a democratic society; we become less and less military. The Prussian, Russian, Austrian aristocracies which alone make the military spirit of those states, feel in our democratic society an example which threatens their existence, as nobility, as aristocracy. They are our enemies and will be until they are wiped, out, until the Russian, Austrian and Prussian states become democratic societies, like ours. It is a matter of time.

The Prussian aristocracy is young. It has not been degenerated by wealth, luxury and servility of the court. The Prussian court is not a court in the luxurious sense of the word. There is the danger.

Meanwhile Machiavellian doctrines not being forbidden to aristocracies, these people appeal to German Jingoism, to German patriotism, to all the passions which move one people who are jealous of another. All this is meant to hide under a patriotic exterior their concern for their own existence as an aristocracy, as a nobility.

If Russia Gets Gay With Us

Friday, May 30th, 2014

If Russia gets gay with us,” a 1903 Dry Goods Reporter ad promises, “she’ll have some pretty muscular soldiers to meet.”

The relevant meaning of “get gay with,” a Google Books search suggests, is to provoke, threaten, harass, insult, or — to use a colloquialism equally likely to become incomprehensible with time — diss. Take this ominous sentence from the May 1913 issue of Business Philosopher magazine: “Germany, Austria, and Italy have formed a combination, and said, ‘We will help each other. If Russia, France, or England gets gay with you, just let us know, and we will help you show them where they get off.’”

Dry Goods Reporter Ad for Nazareth Waist

In the 1903 ad, the bellicose language appears, oddly enough, in a promotion for children’s underwear. For decades, the Nazareth Waist Company advertised its wares as stretchy enough to allow vigorous exercise. “We needn’t ask if you would have the boys and girls sturdy and strong, with bright eyes and rosy cheeks. The Nazareth Waist allows them to grow, play and romp unhampered,” promised a 1895 Ladies Home Journal ad. In an urbanizing society increasingly anxious about physical fitness, the company declared its products good for kids’ development. Hence the promise that young men “reared in a Nazareth Waist” would make “muscular soldiers.” (“Heavy stocks,” by contrast, has nothing to do with muscles. It means “large inventories” held by financially strong wholesalers.)

The ad’s saber rattling marks a notable departure from the company’s usual promotions. Nazareth Waist’s trade ads typically emphasized the popularity of its products, their easy availability from wholesalers, or the brand’s ample consumer advertising. Yet in July 1903 tensions with Russia were running so high that the subject could plausibly make catchy copy to sell children’s underwear, at least at wholesale. What was going on?

So, what was going on?

Two sources of hostility had become entangled, as a search for newspaper stories on Russia reveals. One was Russia’s aggressive action in Manchuria, which would eventually lead to the Russo-Japanese war. In particular, the United States objected to the closing of treaty ports to foreigners, including U.S. merchant vessels.

The second was the Boko Haram story of its day: the brutal massacre of Jews in the Russian town of Kishineff (or Kishinef or, its common spelling today, Kishinev) over Easter. As stories of what had happened trickled out, including the role of local officials in abetting the pogrom, the incident became a cause célèbre, not only for Jews but for Americans in general. Newspapers ran horrifying accounts, relief drives took place, and B’nai B’rith organized a petition to the Russian czar asking for religious liberty and tolerance “in the name of civilization.” Opposing the massacre of Jews in Russia became an expression of American culture and values.

The past is a foreign country.

Mean World Syndrome

Friday, May 30th, 2014

George Gerbner fled Hungary in 1939, returned with the Allies in 1943, and certainly saw many terrible things, but he was much more concerned with what people ended up watching on television after the war and said it led to Mean World Syndrome:

People who spent a great deal of time watching television, he found, had an inaccurate picture of the world. They felt that violence, corruption, and danger were more widespread than they were in reality. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Television is modern-day religion:

It presents a coherent vision of the world. And this vision of the world, he says, is violent, mean, repressive, dangerous — and inaccurate. Television programming is the toxic by-product of market forces run amok. Television has the capacity to be a culturally enriching force, but, Gerbner warns, today it breeds what fear and resentment mixed with economic frustration can lead to — the undermining of democracy.


Whoever tells most of the stories to most of the people most of the time has effectively assumed the cultural role of parent and school,” Gerbner says, “… teaching us most of what we know in common about life and society.” In fact, by the time children reach school age, they will have spent more hours in front of the television than they will ever spend in college classrooms. Television, in short, has become a cultural force equaled in history only by organized religion. Only religion has had this power to transmit the same messages about reality to every social group, creating a common culture. Most people do not have to wait for, plan for, go out to, or seek out television, for the TV is on more than seven hours a day in the average American home. It comes to you directly. It has become a member of the family, telling its stories patiently, compellingly, untiringly. We choose to read The New York Times, or Dickens, or an entomology text. We choose to listen to Bach or Bartók, or at least to a classical station or a rock station or a jazz station. But we just watch TV — turn it on, see what’s on. And in Gerbner’s view it is an upper-middle-class conceit to say “Just turn off the television” — in most homes there is nothing as compelling as television at any time of the day or night.

It is significant that this viewing is nonselective. It’s why Gerbner believes that the Cultural Indicators project methodology — looking at television’s overall patterns rather than at the effects of specific shows — is the best approach. It is long-range exposure to television, rather than a specific violent act on a specific episode of a specific show, that cultivates fixed conceptions about life in viewers.

Nor is the so-called hard news, even when held distinct from infotainment shows like Hard Copy and A Current Affair, exempt from the disproportionate violence and misrepresentations on television in general. The old news saw “If it bleeds, it leads” usually prevails. Watch your local newscast tonight: it is not unlikely that the majority of news stories will be about crime or disaster — and it may well be that all six stories will be from outside your state, especially if you live far from any major metropolis. Fires and shootings are much cheaper and easier to cover than politics or community events. Violent news also generates higher ratings, and since the standards for television news are set by market researchers, what we get is lots of conformity, lots of violence. As the actor and director Edward James Olmos has pointedly observed, “For every half hour of TV news, you have twenty-three minutes of programming and seven minutes of commercials. And in that twenty-three minutes, if it weren’t for the weather and the sports, you would not have any positive news. As for putting in even six minutes of hope, of pride, of dignity — it doesn’t sell.” The author and radio personality Garrison Keillor puts it even more pointedly: “It’s as bloody as Shakespeare but without the intelligence and the poetry. If you watch television news you know less about the world than if you drank gin out of a bottle.”

The strength of television’s influence on our understanding of the world should not be underestimated. “Television’s Impact on Ethnic and Racial Images,” a study sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s Institute for American Pluralism and other groups, found that ethnic and racial images on television powerfully shape the way adolescents perceive ethnicity and race in the real world. “In dealing with socially relevant topics like racial and ethnic relations,” the study said, “TV not only entertains, it conveys values and messages that people may absorb unwittingly — particularly young people.” Among viewers watching more than four hours each day, 25 percent said that television showed “what life is really like” and 40 percent said they learned a lot from television. African-Americans especially, the study showed, rely on television to learn about the world.

Television, in short, tells all the stories. Gerbner is fond of quoting the Scottish patriot Andrew Fletcher, who wrote to the Marquise of Montrose in 1704, “If I were permitted to write all the ballads I need not care who makes the laws of the nation.” Fletcher identified the governing power of, in Gerbner’s words, a “centralized system of ballads — the songs, legends, and stories that convey both information and what we call entertainment.” Television has become this centralized system; it is the cultural arm of the state that established religion once was. “Television satisfies many previously felt religious needs for participating in a common ritual and for sharing beliefs about the meaning of life and the modes of right conduct,” Gerbner has written. “It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to suggest that the licensing of television represents the modern functional equivalent of government establishment of religion.” A scary collapsing, in other words, of church into state.

The Admiration for Force

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Man’s admiration for the great spectacles of nature is the admiration for force, Colonel Ardant Du Picq says:

In the mountains it is mass, a force, that impresses him, strikes him, makes him admire. In the calm sea it is the mysterious and terrible force that he divines, that he feels in that enormous liquid mass; in the angry sea, force again. In the wind, in the storm, in the vast depth of the sky, it is still force that he admires.

All these things astounded man when he was young. He has become old, and he knows them. Astonishment has turned to admiration, but always it is the feeling of a formidable force which compels his admiration. This explains his admiration for the warrior.

The warrior is the ideal of the primitive man, of the savage, of the barbarian. The more people rise in moral civilization, the lower this ideal falls. But with the masses everywhere the warrior still is and for a long time will be the height of their ideals. This is because man loves to admire the force and bravery that are his own attributes. When that force and bravery find other means to assert themselves, or at least when the crowd is shown that war does not furnish the best examples of them, that there are truer and more exalted examples, this ideal will give way to a higher one.

Nations have an equal sovereignty based on their existence as states. They recognize no superior jurisdiction and call on force to decide their differences. Force decides. Whether or not might was right, the weaker bows to necessity until a more successful effort can be made. (Prud’homme). It is easy to understand Gregory VII’s ideas on the subject.

In peace, armies are playthings in the hands of princes. If the princes do not know anything about them, which is usually the case, they disorganize them. If they understand them, like the Prince of Prussia, they make their armies strong for war.

The King of Prussia and the Prussian nobility, threatened by democracy, have had to change the passion for equality in their people into a passion for domination over foreign nations. This is easily done, when domination is crowned with success, for man, who is merely the friend of equality is the lover of domination. So that he is easily made to take the shadow for the substance. They have succeeded. They are forced to continue with their system. Otherwise their status as useful members of society would be questioned and they would perish as leaders in war. Peace spells death to a nobility. Consequently nobles do not desire it, and stir up rivalries among peoples, rivalries which alone can justify their existence as leaders in war, and consequently as leaders in peace. This is why the military spirit is dead in France. The past does not live again. In the spiritual as in the physical world, what is dead is dead. Death comes only with the exhaustion of the elements, the conditions which are necessary for life. For these reasons revolutionary wars continued into the war with Prussia. For these reasons if we had been victorious we would have found against us the countries dominated by nobilities, Austria, Russia, England. But with us vanquished, democracy takes up her work in all European countries, protected in the security which victory always gives to victors. This work is slower but surer than the rapid work of war, which, exalting rivalries, halts for a moment the work of democracy within the nations themselves. Democracy then takes up her work with less chance of being deterred by rivalry against us. Thus we are closer to the triumph of democracy than if we had been victors. French democracy rightfully desires to live, and she does not desire to do so at the expense of a sacrifice of national pride. Then, since she will still be surrounded for a long time by societies dominated by the military element, by the nobility, she must have a dependable army. And, as the military spirit is on the wane in France, it must be replaced by having noncommissioned officers and officers well paid. Good pay establishes position in a democracy, and to-day none turn to the army, because it is too poorly paid. Let us have well paid mercenaries. By giving good pay, good material can be secured, thanks to the old warrior strain in the race. This is the price that must be paid for security.

The soldier of our day is a merchant. So much of my flesh, of my blood, is worth so much. So much of my time, of my affections, etc. It is a noble trade, however, perhaps because man’s blood is noble merchandise, the finest that can be dealt in.

M. Guizot says “Get rich!” That may seem cynical to prudes, but it is truly said. Those who deny the sentiment, and talk to-day so loftily, what do they advise? If not by words, then by example they counsel the same thing; and example is more contagious. Is not private wealth, wealth in general, the avowed ambition sought by all, democrats and others? Let us be rich, that is to say, let us be slaves of the needs that wealth creates.

Military Crest

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

A military crest sounds like it belongs on top of a 19th-century officer’s hat or helmet, but the term refers to a terrain feature:

Military crest is a term in military science that refers to, “An area on the forward or reverse slope of a hill or ridge just below the topographical crest from which maximum observation and direct fire covering the slope down to the base of the hill or ridge can be obtained.”

The military crest is used in maneuvering along the side of a hill or ridge to provide the maneuvering force maximum visibility of the terrain below and minimize their own visibility by not being silhouetted against the sky, as it would be at the topographical crest of the hill.

Military Crest

Observation points (OPs) can be located at the military crest if the main defensive position is located on the reverse slope of the hill or ridge, as is usually done if the main defensive position would be vulnerable to the enemy’s artillery if located at the military crest, making coordinated withdrawal difficult.

(Scipio Americanus used the term recently in discussing the Defence of Duffer’s Drift.)


Thursday, May 29th, 2014

The Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen has led to toxic gender warfare, Cathy Young suggests:

For one thing, “misogyny” is a very incomplete explanation of Rodger’s mindset, perhaps best described as malignant narcissism with a psychopathic dimension. His “manifesto” makes it clear that his hatred of women (the obverse side of his craving for validation by female attention, which he describes as so intense that a hug from a girl was infinitely more thrilling than an expression of friendship from a boy) was only a subset of a general hatred of humanity, and was matched by hatred of men who had better romantic and sexual success. At the end of the document, he chillingly envisions an ideal society in which women will be exterminated except for a small number of artificial-insemination breeders and sexuality will be abolished. But in an Internet posting a year ago, he also fantasized about inventing a virus that would wipe out all males except for himself: “You would be able to have your pick of any beautiful woman you want, as well as having dealt vengeance on the men who took them from you. Imagine how satisfying that would be.” His original plans for his grand exit included not only a sorority massacre he explicitly called his “War on Women,” but luring victims whom he repeatedly mentions in gender-neutral terms to his apartment for extended torture and murder (and killing his own younger brother, whom he hated for managing to lose his virginity).

Some have argued that hating other men because they get to have sex with women and you don’t is still a form of misogyny; but that seems like a good example of stretching the concept into meaninglessness — or turning it into unfalsifiable quasi-religious dogma.

Of course, four of the six people Rodger actually killed were men: his three housemates, whom he stabbed to death in their beds before embarking on his fatal journey, and a randomly chosen young man in a deli. Assertions that all men share responsibility for the misogyny and male violence toward women that Rodger’s actions are said to represent essentially place his male victims on the same moral level as the murderer — which, if you think about it, is rather obscene. And the deaths of all the victims, female and male, are trivialized when they are commemorated with a catalogue of often petty sexist or sexual slights, from the assertion that every single woman in the world has been sexually harassed to the complaint that a woman’s “no” is often met with an attempt to negotiate a “yes.”

A common theme of #YesAllWomen is that our culture promotes the notion that women owe men sex and encourages male violence in response to female rejection. (It does? One could much more plausibly argue that our culture promotes the notion that men must “earn” sex from women and treats the rejected male as a pathetic figure of fun.)

Humans like to be among their own kind

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Humans like to be among their own kind, Fred Reed has noticed:

This can mean many things. It can be political. In Washington, white liberals cheerlead for diversity while spending their time exclusively with white liberals and execrating Southerners, Jesus Creepers, genocidal conservatives (understood to mean all conservatives), Catholics, racists, owners of guns, rednecks, and so on. No dissenting voices are heard because, like conservatives, liberals choose to be among their own. Similarly, if in any of Washington’s dives you know that one person in a table of six has an IQ in excess 130, it is a good bet that all do. It isn’t snobbery. Smart people enjoy the company of smart people. Their own kind. So what?

If left alone, people will naturally and peacefully form such associations as seem to them desirable. If left alone. So what?

The Chinese cluster together in China Towns because they want to be among their own. So what? Jews have yeshivas because they want to preserve their culture. So what? On campus, black students want separate fraternities and dormitories. So what? When men can find a pretext for being among other men, they do. So what?

In all of this, I am a bit of an outlier, having lived among many cultures and generally liked them. Some can do this. Yet as a white American of European extraction, I too want to preserve my culture. This involves (or did) respect for law, studiousness, the production of children within marriage, self-reliance, honesty, sexual restraint, and so on. Another part of my cultural package is the literature of Milne, Milton, Twain, Galsworthy, Gibbon, and others at length. I want my children to read them

However, I do not want to impose my values and culture on others. American blacks for example are truly African Americans, and quite reasonably may have as little interest in European history as I do in African. Rationally this would argue for separate schools where each could study what and as it chose. For reasons impenetrable to me, to suggest this is thought worse than genocide.

A reason for letting people associate as they choose is that, while groups naturally do not like each other, they overlap in curious ways.  Left to themselves, people sort these matters out like water reaching its level.

Nobody Knows Anything

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Today, Colonel Ardant Du Picq says — speaking of the late 19th century — nobody knows anything unless he knows how to argue and chatter:

A peasant knows nothing, he is a being unskilled even in cultivating the soil. But the agriculturist of the office is a farmer emeritus, etc. Is it then believed that there is ability only in the general staff? There is the assurance of the scholar there, of the pedagogue who has never practiced what he preaches. There is book learning, false learning when it treats of military matters. But knowledge of the real trade of a soldier, knowledge of what is possible, knowledge of blows given and received, all these are conspicuously absent.

Ditching the Dining Room

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Some luxury home owners are eliminating their dining rooms altogether, the Wall Street Journal reports, instead using the space for libraries, dens and “living pavilions”.

Sounds even more sensible for not-quite-luxury homes…

China, Vietnam, and Naval Nerf Wars

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

China and Vietnam are facing off in a naval Nerf war over the Paracel and Spratly island groups:

There’s a long tradition of this sort of madness among up’n’coming naval powers — and both China and Vietnam have big, powerful navies, both of which are accusing each other of “ramming” their ships as they play this giant game of parking-lot chicken near the island chains.

It’s as if 21st century naval vessels had no better way of attacking an enemy ship than by whipping the galley slaves up to ramming speed, Ben-Hur style. This is the lowest possible setting you can get for offensive military action, one step up from making faces or spraying a hostile ship with a water cannon — which Chinese ships have also done, spraying Vietnamese ships near the Paracel Islands.

And it’s not as if China has no better ways of destroying enemy ships. With more than 200 nuclear warheads, China could wipe out the entire country of Vietnam, never mind its navy, using land-based ICBMs. If the Chinese navy wanted to show its latest capabilities, it could use the new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile to obliterate any Vietnamese naval force in the South China Sea without ever showing the flag above water.

And yet the Chinese Navy, this massive, powerful force, is playing bumper-car ramming games and having squirt-gun water fights instead of using its real power.

This is a feature of 21st century war most war gamers are very reluctant to face. They’re more comfortable with the Stalingrad model: all-out, total war, use every shell you’ve got. That model is actually very rare, especially in East Asian war. What we’re seeing in the South China Sea is war dialed down so low it barely registers at all — stylized war, pantomime war.

And the US is actually very lucky that naval war in the 21st century has been dialed down to ramming speed, because if we ever encountered the all-out naval war Stalingrad gamers dream about, America’s aircraft carriers — a mid-twentieth-century weapon and twenty-first-century death-trap — would vanish in a radioactive mist, thanks to another weapon China has but isn’t using, the Dong Feng 21 — a nuclear-armed ballistic missile specifically designed to erase the US carrier fleet.

Naval war has a long tradition of this. “Showing the flag” meant sending a warship or two into disputed waters so that the rival power could literally see your flag waving from the topmast. Shows of force like that are a little easier to modulate than armies; if the neighboring country sees your army massed on its border, it may tend to panic, but naval vessels can make the point without triggering what you might call an overreaction.

Of course naval visits can also be used to provoke an overreaction, or fake one, if that’s what you want. Remember the Maine?


Stalingrad is what happens when you have friggin’ nutcases running your war for you. The 1979 Sino-Vietnamese is what happens when you have a family problem between two factions that think long-term and have superb political discipline.

Walter R. Walsh Dies at 106

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Legendary FBI gunfighter and competitive shooter Walter R. Walsh recently died at age 106:

Walter Rudolph Walsh was born in West Hoboken, N.J., on May 4, 1907, to Walter Brooks Walsh and the former Dolinda Invernizzi. When he was 12, his father gave him his first rifle, a .22-caliber Mossberg. He shot rats in the New Jersey Meadowlands and honed his skills on an aunt’s laundry clothespins.

At 16 he lied about his age, joined the Civilian Military Training Corps and received his first formal training with a 1903 Springfield rifle. He joined the New Jersey National Guard in 1928, won a spot on its rifle team and did his first competitive shooting at national matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.


He joined the F.B.I. in 1934, a short, feisty James Cagney tough guy fresh out of Rutgers Law School. A natural left-hander, he was already a dead shot who could cut the center of a bull’s-eye at 75 yards with a rifle and blaze away at moving targets with a pistol in each hand — an enormous advantage in a bureau that was just breaking in its first class of agents authorized to carry guns.


Mr. Walsh, who killed at least 11 gangsters in his F.B.I. days, competed regularly in national shooting tournaments and broke the world record for centerfire pistol shooting in 1939 at Camp Ritchie, Md., scoring 198 out of a possible 200. He also won the Eastern regional pistol championships in 1939 and 1940.

In 1942, after America’s entry into World War II, Mr. Walsh joined the Marines. For two years he trained snipers in New River, N.C. He requested combat duty in 1944, was sent to the Pacific and joined the invasion of Okinawa in 1945. At one point, with his unit pinned down, he killed an enemy sniper at 80 yards with one pistol shot.

After the war, he briefly returned to the F.B.I. but concluded that his days as an agent were over and turned increasingly to competitive shooting. On the United States Olympic shooting team at the 1948 Summer Games in London, he placed 12th in the world in the men’s 50-meter free pistol competition.

In 1952, he won gold and silver medals with the American team at the International Shooting Sport Federation championships. He won many F.B.I. and Marine Corps competitions and trained Marine marksmen until his retirement as a colonel in 1970. He was the captain of the United States team at the world muzzleloading championships in Switzerland in 1994.

He still did not need glasses.

Mr. Walsh’s most famous case ended the Brady Gang’s cross-country crime spree:

On Oct. 12, 1937, Mr. Walsh was in the sporting goods store Dakin’s in Bangor, Me., posing as a gun sales clerk and waiting for Public Enemy No. 1, Alfred Brady, and two gunmen, James Dalhover and Clarence Lee Shaffer.

Wanted for four murders, 200 robberies and a prison breakout, they had been in the store days earlier and were returning for Thompson submachine guns. But a large force of federal agents and state and local police officers were waiting in ambush, hidden in cars, storefronts and offices across the street.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story

The gang’s car drew up at 8:30 a.m. Dalhover got out and entered the store. He was immediately seized and disarmed by Mr. Walsh and taken to the back by other agents. Shaffer and Brady, sensing something was wrong, emerged with guns drawn.

Mr. Walsh, meanwhile, approached the store’s front with a .45 in his right hand and a .357 Magnum in his left. But as he reached the door he realized he was looking through the plate glass at Shaffer. The glass exploded as both men fired simultaneously.

Shaffer fell, mortally wounded, to the sidewalk. Mr. Walsh, although hit in the chest, shoulder and right hand, stepped outside firing his Magnum at Brady, who was cut down in a thundering fusillade from all sides as he shot back wildly. Witnesses said he was still moving as Mr. Walsh put another bullet in him.

As Weapons Man notes, that remarkable obituary is all the more remarkable for appearing in the New York Times.

Always Kept on a Tight Rein

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Colonel Ardant Du Picq decries the tendency of superiors to infringe on the authority of inferiors:

It results in lessening the authority of subordinate officers in the minds of their soldiers. This is a grave matter, as only the firm authority and prestige of subordinate officers can maintain discipline. The tendency is to oppress subordinates; to want to impose on them, in all things, the views of the superior; not to admit of honest mistakes, and to reprove them as faults; to make everybody, even down to the private, feel that there is only one infallible authority. A colonel, for instance, sets himself up as the sole authority with judgment and intelligence. He thus takes all initiative from subordinate officers, and reduces them to a state of inertia, coming from their lack of confidence in themselves and from fear of being severely reproved. How many generals, before a regiment, think only of showing how much they know! They lessen the authority of the colonel. That is nothing to them. They have asserted their superiority, true or false; that is the essential. With cheeks puffed out, they leave, proud of having attacked discipline.

This firm hand which directs so many things is absent for a moment. All subordinate officers up to this moment have been held with too strong a hand, which has kept them in a position not natural to them. Immediately they are like a horse, always kept on a tight rein, whose rein is loosened or missing. They cannot in an instant recover that confidence in themselves, that has been painstakingly taken away from them without their wishing it. Thus, in such a moment conditions become unsatisfactory, the soldier very quickly feels that the hand that holds him vacillates.

Can China Best the West at Statecraft?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

For centuries, China’s mandarins ran the world’s most advanced government, until the Europeans and then the Americans forged ahead, Micklethwait and Wooldridge point out:

Better government has long been one of the West’s great advantages. Now the Chinese want that title back.

Western policy makers should look at this effort the same way that Western businessmen looked at Chinese factories in the 1990s: with a mixture of awe and fear. Just as China deliberately set out to remaster the art of capitalism, it is now trying to remaster the art of government. The only difference is a chilling one: Many Chinese think there is far less to be gained from studying Western government than they did from studying Western capitalism. They visit Silicon Valley and Wall Street, not Washington, D.C.

The West pulled ahead of “the rest” because it created a permanent contest to improve its government machinery. In particular, it pioneered four great revolutions. The first was the security revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, when Europe’s princes created modern nation states. As Spain, England and France competed around the globe, they improved statecraft in a way that introverted China never did.

The second great revolution, of the late 18th and 19th centuries, championed liberty and efficiency. Aristocratic patronage systems were replaced with leaner, more meritocratic governments, focused on providing services like schools and police. Under Britain’s thrifty Victorians, the world’s most powerful country reduced its tax take from £80 million in 1816 to less than £60 million in 1860 — even as its population increased by 50%.

This vision of a limited but vigorous state was swept away in the third revolution. In the 20th century, Western government provided people with ever more help: first health care and unemployment pay but eventually college education and what President Lyndon B. Johnson called the Great Society. Despite counterattacks, notably the 1980s half-revolution of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the sprawling welfare state remains the dominant Western model.

In the U.S., government spending increased from 7.5% of GDP in 1913 to 19.7% in 1937, to 27% in 1960, to 34% in 2000 and to 42% in 2011. Voters continue to demand more services, and politicians of all persuasions have indulged them — with the left delivering hospitals and schools, the right building prisons, armies and police forces, and everybody creating regulations like confetti.

In all three of these revolutions, the West led the way. But now, as China’s ambitions illustrate, the emerging world is eager to compete again.

And why not? Over the past two years, while the U.S. political system has torn itself apart over Obamacare, China has extended pension coverage to an additional 240 million rural people. Lee Kwan Yew’s authoritarian Singapore offers dramatically better education and health care than Uncle Sam, with a state that is a fraction of the U.S.’s size. If you are looking for the future of health care, India’s attempt to apply mass-production techniques to hospitals is part of the answer. So too, Brazil’s conditional cash transfers are part of the future of welfare. At the very least, the West no longer has a monopoly on ideas.

It’s time for a change

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

There was another mass killing this weekend, and it’s time for a change:

I realized that we can’t just keep going on like this. Something has to be done, and we have to be willing to sacrifice some of our Constitutional rights to protect people. It’s time for a change. It’s time to accept responsibility. It’s time to put reasonable limits on the 1st Amendment and restrain the mass media that enables this killers to achieve the fame and notoriety they so desire.

The Founding Fathers couldn’t have possibly imagined a world where 24-hour news networks streamed coverage of these mass killers non-stop; they couldn’t have predicted that talking heads on cable news would repeat the names of vile murderers over and over again. They never would have imagined something like the internet, where future killers could research and see how much glorious, sweet attention previous murderers had gotten.

So America, I say it is time for a change. It’s time to restrict those dangerous freedoms that are placing innocent lives in jeopardy. The first and most important action should be for Congress to limit news coverage of mass killings to no more than 1 per day, per network. You don’t need more media coverage than that, right? After that, a joint effort with google would force anyone who googles mass killers and their names to pass an online background check before they’re allowed to see their search results.

I know it’s a small step, and some people will be inconvenienced. But if it only saves one life, it must be worth it.