FORTIS Exoskeleton

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Military work is physically demanding — even the non-combat work — and Lockheed Martin’s FORTIS Exoskeleton is designed to help:

Called the FORTIS, the exoskeleton is able to support tools of up to 36 pounds and transfer that load from a worker’s hands and arms to the ground. The goal is to lighten workers’ loads, ultimately making them more productive and skilled at their jobs.

FORTIS Exoskeleton

he anodized aluminum and carbon fiber skeleton weighs 30 pounds, and follows along the outside of a human’s body. It has joints in the parts of the body that would regularly have joints (ankle, knee, hip) and flexes from side to side at the waist. Miller says the skeleton was designed for complex environments — whoever is wearing it can climb stairs or a ladder, squat and generally move business as usual in the exoskeleton. Tools mount to the front of the FORTIS and that weight is directed through the joints in the hip and down to the floor, relieving stress on the entire body, including the feet and ankles.

Lockheed YO-3A Quiet Star

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

The U-2 and SR-71 were fast, high-flying reconnaissance aircraft, but the slow, low-flying YO-3A Quiet Star handled reconnaissance in its own way:

Acoustically undetectable from the ground when flying around 1,200 feet, the YO-3A silently observed troop movement in Vietnam. Some pilots have also said that they went unnoticed by the enemy just 200 feet below them.

Lockheed YO-3A in Flight

Nearly silent, this reconnaissance aircraft would patrol in the dead of night with absolutely no lights on. Using a downward facing night vision aerial periscope, the two man crew would fly above the enemy, taking notes of what they saw as well as call in support and direct artillery fire if needed.

Lockheed YO-3A Mission Equipment

What made this aircraft so quiet was mainly its slow turning propeller and heavily modified exhaust. The muffler ran the length of the aircraft which enabled sound to be incredibly dampened. Everything about this aircraft was designed to reduce noise. Instead of using gears, a belt system powered the propeller and the low rpm engine kept things quiet while eliminating vortices. The Quiet Star also had radar absorbing paint and it was said that once the pilot switched off their transponder, the tower couldn’t pick them up on radar.

The YO-3A’s were successful in their missions and thanks to being nearly completely silent, never took a round or were shot down during their time in Vietnam. In fact, they would have been used more if they weren’t deployed so late in America’s involvement of the war.

Creating a Nation of Readers

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Publishers gave away over 100 million books during World War IIgood books, in a disposable format:

Serious books were hard to find before the war. An industry study in 1931 highlighted the book trade’s limited audience. Nineteen out of every 20 books sold by the major publishing houses cost more than two dollars, a luxury even before the Depression. Those who could afford them often struggled to find them. Two out of three counties in America lacked any bookstore, or even so much as a department store, drugstore, or other retailer selling enough books to have an account with a publishing house. In rural areas, small towns, and even mid-sized cities, dedicated customers bought their books the way they bought other household goods, picking the titles out of mail-order catalogs. Most did not bother.

There was another, less-reputable class of books, though, that enjoyed broader distribution. Cheap mysteries, westerns, and comics could be snapped up at newsstands in paperbound editions that cost far less to produce than hardcover books. Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, publishers tried to take advantage of this format to publish a wider range of books. Most efforts failed. Then, in 1939, two new entrants changed the equation. Pocket Books and Penguin Books each offered a mix of new titles and reprints of hardcover books, including some of a literary bent. More importantly, they sold these paperback books on magazine racks.

Americans could put down a quarter and pick up a book all over town, from train stations and drugstores. Within a year, Americans bought 6 million paperback books. By 1943, Pocket Books alone printed 38 million copies. “It’s unbelievable,” said the head of Random House. “It’s frightening.”

Old-line publishers had good reason to be scared. They were in the business of selling a premium product to an affluent audience. The sudden flood of paperbacks threatened to swamp their refined trade and erode its prestige. The cheap, disposable format seemed best suited to works of little lasting value. That Penguin and Pocket Books included some distinguished titles on their lists threatened the stability of these categories, even as their sales still tilted heavily toward the lower end of the spectrum. Paperbacks were expanding the market for books, but that market remained divided.

Then, war intervened. The key actors in the book trade organized themselves into the Council on Books in Wartime, hoping to use books to advance the war effort. In February of 1943, they circulated an audacious proposal. They proposed to print and sell millions of books to the army, for just six cents a volume.

Hardcover books could not possibly be produced so cheaply. But magazines could. So the Council decided to use magazine presses, printing two copies on each page, and then slicing the book in half perpendicular to the binding. The result was a book wider than it was tall, featuring two columns of text for easier reading in low light. The real innovation, though, was less technological than ideological. The publishers proposed to take books available only in hardcover form, and produce them in this disposable format.

The plan, breathtaking in its ambition, was sure to engender skepticism among publishers asked to donate the rights to some of their most valuable property. So the chair of the committee, W.W. Norton, took care to appeal not just to the patriotism of his fellow publishers, but also to their pursuit of profits. “The net result to the industry and to the future of book reading can only be helpful,” he explained. “The very fact that millions of men will have the opportunity to learn what a book is and what it can mean is likely now and in postwar years to exert a tremendous influence on the postwar course of the industry.”

The program turned The Great Gatsby into a success. Apparently A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was hugely popular with the troops.

(Hat tip to Steve Sailer.)

The Revenge of the Circulating Fan

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Used in combination with air-conditioning, fans could lower energy use by 30–70 percent:

Compressor-based cooling or air-conditioning (AC) puts increasing pressure on electric grids worldwide. In the USA, the birthplace of the technology, AC accounts for approximately 20% of year-round electricity consumption by American households, and 15% of total electricity use. The widespread use of AC explains in large part why Americans use so much more electricity than Europeans: AC electricity use by an American household equals 60% of all electricity used by the average European household.

Except for the few temperate regions on the West Coast, air conditioners are now standard in most American homes. While only 12% of American households had AC in 1960, this number increased to 87% in 2009. Furthermore, the average air-conditioned home consumed 37% more energy for cooling in 2005 than it did in 1993 – in spite of a 28% increase in AC energy efficiency. Part of the increase in energy use is due to the switch from window units (which cool one room) to central air-conditioning (which cool the whole building), and in part to the growing cubic footage of houses and apartments.

Even worse is the impact of air-conditioning on peak power demand. Obviously, the use of AC is not spread equally throughout the year, but concentrated in the summer months. On very hot days, many air-conditioning units are set to a maximum position, and as a consequence demand for electricity spikes. Hundreds of American power plants and a great many miles of transmission and distribution lines are needed on average only two or three days per year, while they sit idle for the rest of the time. Peak power demand is growing faster than average power demand, and compressor-based cooling is an important reason for this.


Air-conditioning is the least energy efficient way of cooling people, because it implies that all the air in an enclosed space needs to be refrigerated (and, if necessary, dehumidified) in order to cool the occupants. The larger the space and the fewer the people within it, the more energy it will take to cool each occupant. Like air-conditioning, circulating fans cool people by encouraging heat loss from the body through convection and evaporation. However, unlike air-conditioning, moving air around requires much less energy than refrigerating it.

Moreover, the cooling effect of circulating fans can be applied locally and has immediate effect. Fans circulate air around the body, while leaving the air in unoccupied parts of the space unaffected. Likewise, it is not necessary to keep the air circulating when nobody is around. Upon entering a room, turning on a fan has an immediate effect. Air-conditioning, on the other hand, needs time to cool down a space. As a consequence, a space will often be air-conditioned even when nobody is around, in order to provide immediate comfort when somebody enters it.


The cooling effect of circulating fans is substantial. An air speed of roughly 1 m/s is capable of offsetting a 3°C (5.4°F) increase in indoor temperature, while an air speed of 3 m/s has a cooling effect of roughly 7°C (12.6°F). [10]


A 2013 study found that subjects were comfortable up to 30°C (86°F) and 60% relative humidity with an air speed of 1.2 m/s, and up to 30°C and 80% relative humidity with an air speed of 1.6 m/s. At 60% relative humidity, subjects would be comfortable at temperatures higher than 30°C, but these conditions were not investigated. During the experiment, which took place in a climate chamber, subjects were wearing light clothing (0.5 clo) and performed light activity (for example, computer work at a desk).

If fans are so effective and comfortable, why is their use not more widespread?

Because until very recently, international comfort standards limited air movement indoors to a meagre 0.2 m/s in order to avoid drafts.

Air conditioning did away with traditional building techniques:

Traditional buildings in hot climates kept solar radiation out by using heavy construction materials, big eaves, reflective tin roofs, and growing shade trees around the house. Air conditioning did away with all these building elements and stimulated the use of lighter and cheaper building materials. Office blocks with H, T, and L-shaped footprints, which facilitated cross-ventilation, were replaced by massive, square blocks with very deep floor plans. Completely new building types emerged, such as office towers with fully glazed facades or enclosed shopping centres, which would be simply uninhabitable without air-conditioning because of the greenhouse effect.

Too Defensive

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

There are people who feel that the doctrine of the Army is too defensive, Gen. DePuy notes — in 1979, while facing a potential Soviet invasion of Europe:

They feel that success in battle only comes to the attacker. And, they are disturbed about the amount of time, effort, and concentration that we now have on the defense. I agree with all of that. I think it is too bad. I don’t think it is a formula for winning the war. At best, it is a formula for a stalemate or for deterrence. Unfortunately, however, the facts of life in NATO, and the correlation of forces as the Soviets call it, are such that we do not have a general offensive capability in Europe. If you ask the Germans why they defended for two and one half years in France during World War I they would tell you because the forces were almost equal, and they used the rest of their forces to defeat the Russians. If you ask the Germans why they defended in Russia for two and one half years after their initial attack in World War II, they would say because the ratio of forces, the resources and the means of war dictated that. I once discussed this with General Haig. He accosted me with the fact that he thought we were concentrating too much on the defense. I replied that I wasn’t concentrating on the defense, he was. I pointed out to him that in FM 100-5, we had one chapter on the offense and one chapter on the defense, and that he was the one who turned to the chapter on the defense and for very good reasons — because he has to defend. The correlation of forces is such that he must. I said, “If, on the other hand, you prefer to attack, go back to Chapter 1. It tells you how to do that. But, I notice that you are spending all of your time on Chapter 2.”

So, this causes the Army some moral anguish. It hurts the feelings of soldiers to always be talking about the defense; there is a yearning to attack and to counterattack. Incidentally, the counterattack to destroy an enemy force which has been stopped by defensive fires is the essence of the “active” defense. But, the counteroffensive — to do that you need the forces, you need the resources, you need the ammunition, and you need the ability to sustain it. It is my judgment that the man who writes the doctrine doesn’t decide how to fight any particular campaign; rather, the man who decides which part of the doctrine he is going to use is the operational commander and he decides how he is going to fight in whatever theater of war he happens to be in at the time. Presently, it is Haig and Blanchard. At one time it was Pershing, and at another time it was Eisenhower. They all acted in accordance with the relative strength of the forces opposing them and their mission.


Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The New York Times reports on Longpoint, the historical European martial arts (HEMA) tournament:

Unlike re-enactors or role players, who don theatrical costumes and medieval-style armor, Longpoint competitors treat swordfighting as an organized sport. Matches have complex rules and use a scoring system based on ancient dueling regulations. Fighters wear modern if sometimes improvised protective equipment, which looks like a hybrid of fencing gear and body armor. They use steel swords with unsharpened blades and blunt tips to prevent bouts from turning into death matches.

Skill and technique, rather than size and strength, decide the outcomes. Fights are fast and sometimes brutal: key to the art is landing a blow while preventing an opponent’s counterstroke. Nevertheless, even the best swordfighters earn large bruises in the ring, which they display with flinty pride.

Longpoint began in 2011 with 60 participants; now the largest HEMA event in North America, it drew about 200 this year. The open steel longsword division had 55 entrants, eight of them women.

Cameras. Lotsa cameras.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

To restore faith in the police, Chris Hernandez recommends cameras — lotsa cameras:

Many cops don’t like having cameras in their car or on their body. I understand why. Even in cases where we do everything right, police work can still be ugly. There is no nice, gentle, eye-pleasing way to take down a violent suspect. And the language of the street ain’t too pretty either. Cops are human, and there are cases (lots of cases) where we use bad language during a high-stress incident. Some police actions just look bad on video, no matter how right we might be. And it’s a bit unreasonable for someone to watch a video of a violent struggle between a cop and criminal and say, “Just because that PCP addict attacked an officer with a tire iron, there’s no reason for the officer to curse. The officer should have called him ‘sir’.”

Video doesn’t always tell the whole story, either. An officer in the middle of a critical incident may miss something that’s readily apparent on video. There are good reasons for this: an officer may have been stunned by a blow, or had a brief visual obstruction, or may be suffering from physiological responses to stress such as tunnel vision. People watching video of an event might say, “Why didn’t the officer see that? It’s totally obvious!” And maybe it is obvious – to the camera. To the guy fighting for his life, it may not have been.

I hate comparing any real-life activity to sports, but consider how often players, refs and fans see something in an instant replay that they missed during the actual play. If someone never played sports and only watched instant replays, “what should have been done” might seem real obvious. It’s not so obvious to the guy playing the game. Video doesn’t capture everything, and even when it does it may not show what the officer saw.

Here’s an interesting example. A dash cam captured part of a fight between an officer and suspect, but didn’t capture the suspect hitting the officer. If the officer hadn’t been wearing a body camera, he would have been stuck trying to convince the public that he was assaulted.

Without question, video has its limitations. But even if it doesn’t tell the whole story, it still provides the public with critical information.

Consider this shooting, which superficially compares to the Ferguson shooting. An unarmed black male was killed by a white police officer. The officer claimed he was attacked and had no choice but to shoot. Without video, and absent any significant injuries, that officer would be hard-pressed to explain why a grown man with a Taser and maybe baton and pepper spray couldn’t defend himself against one unarmed guy.

The video shows just how big and aggressive that suspect was. It clearly shows the officer did not provoke the fight. It shows his Taser fail. It shows the first punch that floored him. In short, it removes the “he said/she said” atmosphere swirling around the Ferguson shooting.

Here’s another one. Officers kill a suspect trying to stab his girlfriend.

Two major points from this incident: officers accidentally shot the girlfriend in the arm when they killed her boyfriend, and the girlfriend says repeatedly “Y’all didn’t have to do that.” In many domestic violence cases, the victim will claim she wasn’t in any danger and the officers didn’t have to take the action they did. This woman insisted the officers didn’t have to shoot; however, in the video (at around 00:57) we see the suspect trying so hard to stab her that the knife blade actually bends from the downward pressure.

The officers were obviously justified. The video proves it. But imagine how it would have been reported without that video.

“White officers shoot black woman while allegedly trying to save her from her black boyfriend. ‘They didn’t even have to shoot him,’ woman says. ‘He wasn’t really trying to hurt me.’”

Cameras may not be perfect, but they give us a better option than expecting everyone to believe us just because we’re cops. The public doesn’t give us that much benefit of the doubt anymore. But if we all have car and body cameras, and the public hears us testify to facts that are backed up by video, we’ll start getting that benefit of the doubt when there is no video. We cops should start demanding that our departments provide cameras. They’ll save a lot of officers who might otherwise be going through the same thing Darren Wilson is.

Cultural Literacy and Common Core

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

At age 86, educational theorist E.D. Hirsch is finally being rehabilitated:

“It’s hard to feel like a guru,” he says, quietly. Then he offers a soft chuckle. “I’ve been a pariah for so long.”

It was back in 1987 that “Don” Hirsch, then English department head at the University of Virginia, published his first popular work, Cultural Literacy. The book proposed that all public schoolchildren should be provided with instruction aimed at familiarizing them with a wide variety of topics, including literature, geography, history, math, science, art and music, in order to have the background knowledge that would make them successful readers and learners. But the book, subtitled “What Every American Needs To Know,” quickly became famous not for its seven dense chapters of educational theory but for The List — a 63-page index of 5,000 essential subjects and concepts that Hirsch believed teachers should impart to their students, arrayed in alphabetical order: A.D., ad absurdum, adagio, Adam and Eve, Adams, John.


The liberals of America’s educational establishment, meanwhile, responded to Cultural Literacy as if it were a manifesto for what one called “a new cultural offensive” aimed at writing the common man out of history. The book, they insisted, was a traditionalist polemic that would replace higher-order thinking in the classroom with a dry-as-dust set of increasingly irrelevant names, dates and places. As for Hirsch, they saw him as little better than a lone reactionary trying to prevent the tide of multiculturalism from eroding the hegemony of the vanishing WASP.

Even now Hirsch can’t hide his irritation. The lifelong Democrat — “I’m practically a socialist,” he insists — was particularly rankled to find himself described by a Harvard education professor as “a neoconservative caricature of contemporary American education.” “I was,” he says, “inundated by irrationality.”

But the progressives, while dominant, have been unable to improve educational outcomes for low-income students, particularly African-Americans and Latinos, and today, liberal educators and politicians are giving Hirsch’s ideas a second, much more admiring look. Many now support a set of grade-specific guidelines developed by the National Governors Association in 2009 known as the Common Core State Standards. Hirsch didn’t write the Common Core, but the guidelines match the expectations set forth in the rigorous public school curricula Hirsch developed with his Core Knowledge Foundation, and he is credited with laying the intellectual groundwork.

“He showed the fundamental importance that knowledge plays to develop the foundations of literacy,” says David Coleman, one of the chief architects of the Common Core, who calls Hirsch’s research “absolutely foundational.”

Hirsch himself started in public schools until a prolonged illness led him to a progressive private school with project-based learning.

His big idea came to him while his was conducting research at a community college near UVA, where he was head of the English department:

There, he observed that the largely African-American low-income students could read short works of narrative fiction but could barely wring meaning from a piece about Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox because they lacked basic knowledge about the Civil War. “What I saw is that background knowledge really mattered,” Hirsch says.

Over time, he expanded on this idea until his central observation ran like this: Children can be taught to read — to decode words — but teaching them to comprehend all but the simplest text requires a shared body of knowledge between writer and reader. For example, when a biographer describes her subject’s central flaw as his “Achilles’ heel” or a disastrous turn of events as a “Waterloo,” people who have acquired a passing knowledge of mythology and European history can easily understand that the first means a potentially devastating personal vulnerability and the second, a staggering defeat. But others just don’t get anything from the words themselves.

Knowing the national language of culture, even haphazardly, has a vast, far-reaching and brutally cumulative impact on learning. For those who begin their education with sufficient stores of background knowledge, it forms a virtuous circle: They have higher levels of reading comprehension, which helps them understand the daily social, intellectual and political discourse, which in turn helps them obtain more background knowledge. Those who do not have it languish. To level the playing field between rich and poor, schools should intentionally build background knowledge in all children in a wide range of subjects, or, says Hirsch, “It will be impossible to break the cycle of illiteracy that persists from parent to child.”

Lessons from the Arab-Israeli War

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The Arab-Israeli War provided a marvelous springboard for reviewing and updating our own doctrine, Gen. DePuy notes:

Some of the evidence coming out of that war was awesome. For example, the losses of equipment that occurred in a short period of time, and the fact that the Israelis ran more tanks through their maintenance system than the total number of tanks they possessed at the beginning of the very short war. The lethality and range of weapons and the tremendous importance of well-trained crews and tactical commanders, as evidenced by the performance in certain areas of small numbers of Israelis against large numbers of say, Syrians. It also fed into our training philosophy which I discussed earlier — the training of a platoon leader, a tank commander, a gunner, and a battalion commander. It helped us argue for more training within the Army establishment.

Now, as far as “how to fight” goes, the big lessons applied to the lower echelons: the crew drills of the Israeli armored force; the mine-clearing techniques; and the assault of fortified positions. There wasn’t anything that happened in the Arab-Israeli War that is in conflict with the doctrine which now has been published; but, it would be incorrect to say that the Arab-Israeli War was the sole foundation upon which that doctrine was built. In fact, there are aspects of the current US Army doctrine which the Israelis do not consider directly applicable to their tactical situation, one being elasticity or the active defense. They believe that they are perfectly able to defend on their frontiers and although they had trouble doing so in the Sinai, they essentially pulled it off in the Golan region. So, there are differences.

FM 100-5, therefore, partakes of the lessons of the Arab-Israeli War primarily in terms of the importance of weapons and weapons operators’ proficiency and performance. As for the overall tactics, they are drawn much more from the very unique environment of NATO, which involves a two-to-one or three-to-one enemy superiority, the requirement for forward defense because of the political dynamics involved, particularly in West Germany — the fact of the matter is, there isn’t much depth of terrain to fight on and there isn’t much terrain to give away — and lastly, as I have described more than once, the fact that the reserves in the Soviet Union are a lot closer than the reserves in the United States, and the Soviet Union’s reserves are much larger. So, from the moment the battle starts, we are at a disadvantage, and as the war goes on it gets worse, not better, as far as force ratios. So, FM 100-5 tries to express a unifying concept behind all of the new doctrine. It starts out and discusses at great length, weapons characteristics. Next, it talks at some length about the tactics of the Russians.

When FM 100-5 was written it was just before the current emphasis on a broad front attack, or a single echelon attack, or a daring thrust, whatever you want to call it. In those days most people were thinking about the classic breakthrough operation. It has since become very clear that there are other options and that the Russians may well use a broad front attack and what now are called Operational Maneuver Groups (OMGs). It really doesn’t change what you have to do, but it does make it more difficult. FM 100-5 says that the first thing you have to do is understand the enemy. You have to understand his weapons and you have to understand his tactics. Also, you have to understand your own weapons, and how to use them to their absolute maximum, and to try to minimize your vulnerability to his weapons. It says that you have to have superior intelligence or information on the enemy if you are outnumbered. You have to have intelligence good enough and soon enough so that you have at least a slight jump on your enemy, something that is very difficult to accomplish. As he concentrates, whether in five big concentrations, or 30 little concentrations, or even 120 little concentrations, you know through your sensors and reconnaissance, and your target acquisition systems, at least the general location of his mass and the direction of his movement. Then, using your own mobility, you can begin to concentrate to defeat each of your enemy’s concentrations. To do that you need all of your ground mobility, all of your air mobility, all of the TAC AIR, and all the flexibility of your artillery, missiles and rockets. That is all concentration. And, the manual describes, and I think correctly and clearly, that concentration is primarily the business of division and corps commanders. The business of getting the Army on the right part of the battlefield and acquiring the intelligence which is needed in order to do that is the job of the generals at division and corps and above. Now, if you have been able to concentrate an adequate force quickly, then perhaps you can stop him and then counterattack to destroy him, and you can accomplish this mission well forward, which, of course, is what the Germans hope will happen.

If, on the other hand, there has been some glitch in the intelligence, some hesitation in the concentration, some deception on the enemy’s part, or just a mistake on our part, and he hits our small force with a very hard blow, from a very large force, then the doctrine says that we have to trade a little bit of space for time and casualties. It describes how we can, in fact, fight a very stubborn action in a very small area, against a very large force, if we are very good at it, very well-trained, have good control, understand weapons, and use those weapons at their optimum engagement ranges, and then, move so that we are always fighting battles where they are most advantageous to us and least advantageous to the other side. There are many other things that need to be done including the synchronization of maneuver, air defense, fire support, electronic warfare, and all of the combat service support, through good command and control.

The Fruits of Democracy

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

If you establish a democracy, Jerry Pournelle reminds us, you will in due time reap the fruits of a democracy:

Almost all the political philosophers of prior eras concluded that democracy was actually suited only to rather small states. When Jefferson said that the basis of the American experiment was that governments are instituted to secure the rights of the people, and derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, was being profound: but he was also indicating that there have to be limits to government.

Consent of the governed is impossible in societies that value ‘diversity’ more than assimilation, and which seek to incorporate more and more people into the decision making entity. The California education system, once the envy of the world, was seen as inefficient: it left control of the schools to locally elected officials in rather small — and thus inefficient — districts. The key would be to consolidate those districts, and take the personal interests of the taxpayers and parents out of the picture: have huge districts governed by boards elected by people who had no relationship with each other beyond living within an arbitrarily drawn boundary, and who often had no actual common interests. The result was predictable and predicted, but that didn’t slow the disaster.

Where it was once thought shameful that only 90% of those enrolled in high schools actually graduated, that is now seen as an impossible dream. The LA Unified School District is a wreck, with widespread illiteracy, little discipline, and — except for some outstanding schools of which our local school is one — are worse than useless. Moreover the district cannot fire incompetent teachers, despite growing evidence that the simplest and fastest way to improve a rotten school is to fire the worst 10% of teachers and not replace them; disperse their students into other classes. Astounding improvement — 100% and more — often follows. But it will never happen.

George Bernard Shaw, who valued Socialism far more than democracy, once said

Democracy means the organization of society for the benefit and at the expense of everybody indiscriminately and not for the benefit of a privileged class.

A nearly desperate difficulty is the way of its realization is the delusion that the method of securing it is to give votes to everybody, which is the one certain method of defeating it. Adult suffrage kills it dead. Highminded and well-informed people desire it: but they are not in the majority at the polling stations. Mr. Everybody, as Voltaire called him — and we must now include Mrs. Everybody and Miss Everybody — far from desiring the great development of public organization and governmental activity which democracy involves, has a dread of being governed at all…

… I do not see any way out of this difficulty as long as our democrats insist in assuming that Mr. Everyman is omniscient as well as ubiquitous, and refuse to consider the suffrage in the light of facts and common sense.

Perhaps a better way would be to limit the scope of government, and not attempt the great development of public organization and governmental activity. Or perhaps, as we should have learned form ruining the best public school system the world has ever seen, allow local control of local matters, even though it is certain that some of those districts will misuse their freedom to do things we don’t want them doing, or which we see as not as good as what we do, and so we should help them — by force if needed — to see reason. And since we can’t watch them all the time, we appoint an organization of experts, who after all must know better, to manage the whole thing while we get back to watching TV or video games or another beer. And “DCPS is unable to excuse Avery’s absences due to her piano travels, performances, rehearsals, etc.,” Jemea Goso, attendance specialist with the school system’s Office of Youth Engagement tells us. Imagine! An entire Office of Youth Engagement, with an attendance specialist! I wonder how many other school districts have such marvels.

Somehow I think the nation would be better served with opulence and excellence. But that will never happen.

Reap, reap, reap.

Lose the Military Gear

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

The police are losing public support, Chris Hernandez notes, and the first step toward getting it back is to lose the military gear:

Even though I’m a minority and police allegedly want to murder me because of my skin tone, for some odd reason I’ve never been afraid of a police officer in America. And in another strange twist, neither I nor any of my dark-skinned friends or family members have ever been shot by a cop. I grew up lower middle class, obviously Hispanic, but never felt oppressed.

But I was scared of cops once. In another country. During a war.

In 2001, while I was working as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo, I had to stay overnight in neighboring Macedonia to catch a flight early the next morning. Macedonia was at that time embroiled in a civil war between the Slavic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. The Macedonian military and police were run by Slavs, and they believed Americans were backing their Albanian enemies. Despite the war, borders were open and the capital’s airport was still running. One of my Albanian translators in Kosovo lived in Macedonia and invited me to stay with his family before the flight.

I had a very nice dinner with his family. Then the translator, his brother and I walked to the town square. Before we left the house they warned me: “If we get stopped by the police, don’t talk. Most of the police are drunk, and they hate Americans. You look Albanian, so if you don’t talk they won’t know.”

The town square was nearly empty because of recent fighting. We only spent a short time there before heading back. And as we walked back through a darkened neighborhood, we turned a corner and ran right into the police.

There were maybe four or five of them. The “police officers”, if you could call them that, looked exactly like soldiers. They were dressed in camouflage fatigues and black combat boots, wore chest rigs and carried AK-47s. They were closer to a fire team than a police patrol.

When they saw us they almost stopped, and glared hard at us. My heart rate quickened. One officer in particular, a small dark guy, focused on me. Crap, I thought, and looked away. I was unarmed, had no idea where exactly I was and had no realistic expectation of either fighting or escaping. If one of those guys decided it would be fun to throw an American in jail, into jail I’d go. And jails in semi-third world, former communist countries aren’t known for being pleasant.

My Albanian hosts gave the officers a friendly greeting in Serbo-Croatian. The officers mumbled back a reply. We turned toward the house, which actually put us in front of the police. I didn’t look back, but I expected to hear “Stop!” in Serbian any second. My friends whispered, “Just act like everything’s normal. I don’t think they figured out you’re American.” Eventually, several minutes later, one of them looked behind us. The coast was clear.

I relaxed, but it had been an odd feeling. I had never been scared of a cop before. I guess when police are geared up like soldiers in a war, and look like they hate you, they can be intimidating.

Anyone else ever seen a cop wearing so much military gear you literally couldn’t tell whether he was a cop or soldier?

I’ve been a Marine and Soldier longer than I’ve been a cop, and I served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand that military gear can be useful to cops. If some wacko with an AK is dumping rounds out his bedroom window, I want an MRAP there. If ISIS is attacking a school, I want SWAT teams to be fully geared out like I was overseas. Other than those extreme situations, why do we need to look and act military?

This is a fine line. We soldiers have learned a lot of hard lessons in the past 13 years of war, and anything we learn that can help make police safer, which then makes the public safer, is a good thing. But there has to be a balance. Yes, officers should carry tourniquets and pressure bandages, because those items save lives. No, officers don’t need to wear desert boots or camouflage uniforms on the street. And good God, someone please explain to me why a cop on duty in America would ever need to wear a shamagh (Arab head scarf).

Do desert boots, camo and shamaghs make us safer or help us do our jobs? No, but they do accomplish two other things: making us look like wannabe soldiers, and gradually eroding public respect for police. The cool gear some of us wear isn’t worth the bad feelings it generates.

People get why we cops do what we do. Most of them respect what we do. But they don’t respect us if we look like we’re trying to be someone else. A cop in all camo with desert boots, a shamagh, chest rig and carbine looks like he’s trying to be a soldier instead of a cop.

Americans don’t want soldiers patrolling the streets looking for combat. They want officers there to help people who need help and keep the community safe. They understand we need to fight sometimes, they understand we need to shoot sometimes. But they don’t want us all geared out unless the crap hits the fan. And that’s not unreasonable.

We’re not at war here in America. We don’t need to look (or act) like those “cops” I encountered in Macedonia. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any military-type gear; on patrol I carried a carbine, plate carrier and helmet in my trunk for special occasions, and I broke it out several times. We should put that gear on when circumstances demand it. But we shouldn’t break it out simply because circumstances “permit” it.

The Popularity of the AR-15

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

What explains the popularity of the AR-15?

There’s a perception in the media that the AR-15 is some kind of weird outlier in gun culture. How many times have you heard since Sandy Hook that nobody needs an AR-15? Well it turns out everyone needs an AR-15; it’s the only gun anyone wants. Have you ever fired one?


If I put one of those in your hands and you shot at a target you would be awestruck at how well you shot. It’s like a guitar that makes everyone play like Jerry Garcia. It was not a particularly popular gun until the assault rifle ban of 1994. The second thing that made it very popular after the ban was lifted in 2004 was the Iraq War and the war on terror. Everyone has seen these guns a million-billion times because it’s the gun our soldiers and marines use. So we are bathed in free advertising for the AR-15 with all the coverage of the wars. But also, it is enormously popular precisely because it’s just so cool. It shoots so well, it’s lightweight, it has a spring in the butt-stock so you don’t feel much recoil. It’s accurate and modular and it has all those great accessories. It’s just a fucking awesome consumer product. It’s the iPhone of guns. When gun guys hear all this talk, they just don’t get it. They’re like, “Are you kidding me? Everyone needs an AR-15!”

Division Restructuring Study

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Gen. DePuy describes the Division Restructuring Study, which became Division 86:

Division 86, which is what they now call it — we called it the Division Restructuring Study — is an effort to adapt our organization to new weapons which are more lethal and more complex. For example, the XM-1 tank, the Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), the Improved Tow Vehicle (ITV), the new air defense weapons, the attack helicopter, advanced tactical fighters, new artillery ammunition, TACFIRE, and other automated control systems, are, in most cases, as complicated or more complicated than World War II aircraft, which were all flown by officers. I say it is not too great a stretch of the imagination to have only lieutenants in XM-1 tanks. I could justify that. I am not suggesting that we do it right now. Frankly, I would suggest that we put warrant officers in as an immediate solution just to raise the quality of the tank commanders. If we already are having trouble in achieving full performance with the weapons we have today, and I maintain that we are having great difficulty in extracting the full potential from our weapons and from our organization, then we have to look for solutions.

There are two areas of solution and Division 86 is simply a reflection of that search. The first question we must answer is whether or not we intend to raise the quality of the operators to match the quality of the weapons. We just don’t have the last surviving corporal in charge of a XM-1 if you want to exploit the capabilities of the XM-1 any more than the Air Force would put the oldest surviving mechanic in the cockpit of an F-15. The Air Force would never consider it, yet we consider it every day. We even take people out of the orderly room and the mess hall and put them in tanks. The Air Force doesn’t do that. In the Army you buy quality by rank. If you can only get so much quality for $400 a month and you need to pay $1500 a month for the kind of quality you need, then what you are talking about is a lieutenant. If you are willing to pay $800 a month then you are talking about a sergeant. So, in the Army you get quality by raising the rank or increasing the rank mixture.

Now, because of the complexity of these weapons, both tactically and mechanically, the second thing you want to do is simplify the tactical training and maintenance responsibilities of the platoon leaders, company commanders and battalion commanders, to a level where they can cope with it. Right now they can’t cope with it. They have too many men to be trained on too many weapons, in too short a time, with too many diversions. We know from testing that the difference between a well-trained crew and an average crew is very great. It can range from 20 to 50 percent of effectiveness, sometimes even more. So, that means you can get more combat effectiveness by increasing the performance of the unit than you ever could by putting new weapons in it. Well, that’s what Division 86 is all about — an effort to improve performance by improving quality, by increasing the leadership mix, and through simplification by reducing the size of units so that the tactical and technical training comes back down to manageable levels.

How the Left “Blew It” on Gun Control

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Baum may be a gun guy, but he’s also liberal. He explains — in Mother Joneshow the Left “blew it” on gun control:

You will hear people say gun owners are accessories to murder, and it’s just the wrong way to talk about people. I spent my whole life among liberal Democrats who are so achingly careful to say all the right, supportive things about Hispanics, immigrants, gays, transsexuals, and blacks, and they will say the most godawful things about gun owners, calling them “gun nuts” or “penis compensators.” The gun represents a worldview that we on the left do not share. The gun represents individualism over collectivism, American exceptionalism over internationalism. It’s a totem of the other tribe and we don’t like the other tribe. The tragedy is, we seem to think by attacking the totem we’re going to weaken the opposing tribe, but it’s just the opposite. Republicans love it when we do this sort of thing. It’s their best organizing tool. Gun owners are kind of a free-fire zone for lefties.


I personally have met very few gun owners who oppose background checks. But very few of them, even the ones that don’t want an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine, believe that limiting the amount of rounds in a magazine is going to contribute materially to public safety. What worries them is being told you are not to be trusted with these things, and that is really offensive because gun owners derive a tremendous amount of pride from being able to live alongside very dangerous things, use them effectively, and not hurt anyone. When a politician or a pundit who obviously has very little experience or no experience with guns, like Charles Schumer or Dianne Feinstein, says to your ordinary gun owner, “You cant be trusted with more than 10-round magazine,” it really strikes the wrong chord.

Training at TRADOC

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Gen. DePuy describes the lack of actual training he found at TRADOC when he arrived:

Well, I would have to say that when I first visited the schools and the training centers I was unimpressed. I was horrified by some of the things that I found. For example, at the Engineer School I discovered that the engineer lieutenants were never given an opportunity to learn how to drive a bulldozer, or run a road grader or a front-end loader. Yet, they would eventually go to an engineer platoon having that type of equipment, and I couldn’t understand how they would be able to supervise, or to criticize, or to train. Down at Fort Benning most of the training of the lieutenants was accomplished in a classroom instead of out with troops. The orientation was very academic, very intellectual. I don’t know whose fault it was. Some people didn’t think it was a fault. There’s been a big argument for years about education and training. I’m not sure what all the differences are, but I do know that the Army had moved pretty much towards education and away from training. TRADOC is now criticized for going too far towards training. My conviction is that we were totally unbalanced towards education, and that as hard as TRADOC works, it will only bring the thing back into balance. As between the two, education and training, you need both.

At Fort Knox I thought that the training of the tank lieutenants, the armor lieutenants, was awful. They really weren’t being trained to be tank commanders first and tank platoon leaders second. They were really being trained to be tank company commanders. The basic courses in all of the service schools taught them not to be what they were about to be, but what they eventually might be. And, when they went to the advanced course, they were taught about brigades and battalions instead of about being a company commander. I found that to be very interesting. It was part of the philosophy of the Mobilization Army in which everybody got a job one or two grades above where he then stood. But, we don’t have a Mobilization Army; we have an 800,000 man Army! That’s what we are going to go to war with. Why should we go to war with untrained platoon leaders, untrained company commanders, and untrained battalion commanders, when they have to win the first battle? So, the first thing I tried to do was to bring the school system back closer to where the Israeli school system is, which is a training system that trains tank commanders, tank platoon leaders, and tank company commanders at about the time that they are going to discharge those duties. As I said, this is controversial, and right now there is a bit of a reaction setting in to all of that. I just hope things do not go back to where they were, which was really bad.

Now, the training centers really upset me. CONARC had run the training centers with an iron hand. Everything that was done in the training centers was prescribed by CONARC. There was no latitude or flexibility, and the first consequence of that was that there was also no feeling of responsibility. No matter how dumb it might be, the answer always was, “It’s in the directive. It’s in the Program of Instruction (POI). We’re doing just what we were told to do.” This meant that the major general commanding the training center went around and inspected only to see how well his Center was doing what CONARC had told them to do. The colonels, the lieutenant colonels, and the captains all went around with their eyes glazed over, bored to death. The drill sergeants had taken over. Over time, the drill sergeants will distort even a very clear directive, and find some little aspect of it that was never intended to be important and make that the centerpiece of some training exercise or bit of instruction. Well, it was really bad. The execution was bad, the concept was bad, the training was bad, the supervision was bad, morale was bad, and motivation was bad.

One term they used in the training centers that conveys part of the problem was what the drill sergeants would refer to as being “on the trail.” I don’t know whether or not you know where the term “on the trail” comes from, but it refers to driving cattle herds from Texas to Colorado, or from Oregon to Colorado. That was the mentality that pervaded the training centers. The cadre were just getting one bunch of cattle through, and then another bunch of cattle would come along to be herded through, with a lot of screaming, shouting, yelling, and cursing, but with little effort to teach. It was just an effort to get through the day, to get another 100 trainees, or another 1,000 trainees through without an accident and without some sort of disciplinary problem. Well, what I did was say, “Each of you major generals running a training center is now totally responsible. If there’s anything that goes on that’s wrong or dumb, stop it, and change it. Do what’s smart, and tell me later.” I told them, “I don’t ever want to be told by you or any of your colonels, captains, lieutenant colonels, or sergeants, that you’re doing something that’s dumb, or that I find out is dumb, because you were told to do it. From now on you are going to do only what you think is right.” Well, that had quite an impact. Now, one of the impacts that it had was that they all started doing things much better, and they thought up all sorts of marvelous new things to do, and marvelous new ways of doing it. Suddenly, they were enthusiastic. They now had a man-sized job to do, and they couldn’t cover up anymore. In my opinion, it turned the whole situation around.

Recently, the Army got all excited when folks discovered that there were differences between the training programs at the various training centers. You may be sure that they are minor. You may also be sure that the price the Army pays for absolute conformity is too high. It results in lousy, irresponsible, lackluster training by officers and NCOs who are bored to death with “on the trail” type training.

Now, the last and biggest part of all of this is the whole philosophy of training. There I have to talk about General Gorman, because General Gorman and the others who were with him on the Combat Arms Training Board (CATB) at Fort Benning, brought to TRADOC a new concept of performance-oriented training, which is a systematic way to go about the setting of training objectives through the careful determination of tasks, conditions, and standards. They also brought to training some exciting new technology and procedures. It took me some time, frankly, to digest it all myself after I came to TRADOC. But, finally, I saw the great benefit and logic of what they were doing and fully supported it. The credit for the concept really has to go to General Gorman and to a number of other people who worked with him, both earlier and later. They are the ones who articulated this concept, and who were the leading proponents of it in the Army.