Men want to engage in righteous combat

Friday, September 29th, 2023

Men want to engage in righteous combat:

They want it more than they want sex or VP titles. They fantasize about getting the casus belli to defend themselves against armed thugs that will never come, they spend billions of dollars on movies and TV about everymen in implausible circumstances where EA calculus demands they use supernatural powers for combat, they daydream about fantastical, spartan settings where war is omnipresent and fights are personal and dramatic and intellectually interesting, and they’re basically incapable of resisting the urge to glorify their nation and people’s past battles, even the ones they claim to disagree with intellectually. You cannot understand much of modern culture until you’ve recognized that the state’s blunt suppression of the male instinct for glory has caused widespread symptoms of pica that dominate our politics, media, and online interactions.

And make no mistake — our half-hearted policy of deeming all such tendencies “toxic masculinity”, and refusing men the option to engage in reciprocal or consensual violence against each other, has been a bigger failure than the war on drugs. Lots of ink has been spilled on sphere of influence conspiracy theories that attempt to interpret America’s foreign adventures as rational power-seeking behavior. But the real truth is that men naturally form gangs, political cliques, and military theologies that attempt to justify violence within their existing legal and moral landscapes independent of any external incentives to do so. What they really want from all this is not some policy outcome but the self-actualization that comes from fighting the enemy, and the dearth of opportunities for them to challenge their opponents’ honor on the battlefield in a rights-respecting way is a much more important misandrist failing than child custody bias or divorce law or anything I’ve seen red pill people argue on the internet about. Men who are down especially bad will take absurd pay cuts to join artificial and economically unmotivated criminal sects, solely so they get the opportunity to pick mortal battles with other people who’ve opted into the same social systems they have.

There is no true modern substitute for these ambitions, with all of their cultural and social significance.

Leadership explains the differences in the performance of nearly all armies at all times

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

The Battle of Kasserine Pass occupies a special place in the mythology of American wars, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II):

It was the most staggering and unequivocal defeat in American history, with the exception of the Union debacle at Chancellorsville in the Civil War. But at Chancellorsville Americans were fighting themselves. Analysts of that battle focused on the incompetence of Union General Joe Hooker compared to the brilliance of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. They didn’t raise questions about the quality of the American fighting man. After Kasserine, however, a crisis of confidence shook the Allied military. American morale plummeted, and doubts arose about the quality of American soldiers, especially among the British.

Actually the failure at Kasserine could be traced, as at Chancellorsville, to the quality of leadership they received. Leadership explains the differences in the performance of nearly all armies at all times. At Kasserine a Hooker-level incompetent named Lloyd R. Fredendall had the misfortune to come up against Erwin Rommel, the one true military genius to emerge in World War II.

Chancellorsville and Kasserine demonstrate that the outcome of battles depends upon leadership. But laying full responsibility on the commander is difficult for human beings to accept. Most people assume that groups arrive at decisions by the interaction of their members. This leads many to attribute a defeat (or victory) to the alleged inherent nature of the soldiers or their nation, not the leaders.

After Kasserine British officers and men condemned Americans as “our Italians,” implying Americans were inferior soldiers, as they felt the Italians were. The Italians did perform poorly, but the British forgot that the failures were not due to the soldiers but to their leaders, who sent Italian armies into battle with grossly inferior equipment and under incredibly poor commanders. In the few cases where Italians had good leadership they performed well, sometimes in spite of their atrocious weapons.

Kasserine taught a lesson all wars teach: a military organization must make life-and-death choices. It does not arrive at these choices by consensus. Seeking consensus leads first to debate, then to disintegration, since some will accept hard choices, while others will not. Military forces work only when decisions are made by commanders. If commanders are wrong, the units will likely fail. If they are right, they may succeed.

Kasserine taught another lesson: envious or blind officers on one’s own side can nullify the insight of a great general and prevent him from achieving a decisive victory.


General Fredendall had played into Rommel’s hand. Although Eisenhower had instructed him to set up a mobile reserve behind a screen of reconnaissance forces and light delaying elements, Fredendall had lumped his infantry on isolated djebels, or hills, along the line and scattered his reserves in bits and pieces.


To assist 21st Panzer, Rommel asked Arnim to send down 10th Panzer Division, with 110 tanks, plus a dozen Tiger tanks. But Arnim envied Rommel’s fame and did not want to help him gain more. He provided only one tank battalion and four Tigers, and withdrew these shortly afterward for an attack he was planning farther north.


Rommel’s whole operation killed or wounded 3,000 Americans and netted more than 4,000 prisoners and 200 destroyed Allied tanks, against fewer than a thousand Axis casualties and far lower tank losses. But, if Arnim had cooperated and the Comando Supremo had shown any vision, the Axis gains could have been immensely greater.

Logical reasoning and de-escalation won’t work

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

Greg Ellifritz watched this video of a recent convenience store robbery, and it caused him to think about how common criminal attacks are fundamentally changing:

Multiple attackers: The attacks most people face are no longer from a lone drug user. In the attacks I’m researching, three attackers seem to be the bare minimum along with larger groups of 10 or more criminals working together on occasion. These criminals are organized and they have a plan to handle any resistance in the areas they are robbing. They also have lookouts and people assigned to confront witnesses and store security staff to ensure their robberies are unimpeded.

A merging of the distinction between process and resource predators: In the book Facing Violence, Rory Miller categorized predators as being two basic types. Resource predators are looking to take your things. It could be your watch, your purse, your car, or the goods stocked on a store shelf. Process predators aren’t interested in your stuff. They get pleasure out of the process of victimization. They revel in the act of causing pain and misery.

Historically, process predators have been comparatively rare. Most attacks were committed by resource predators. The bad guys wanted your stuff. They didn’t want to hurt you unless it was necessary to get what they were targeting. Today’s criminals seem to mix the two categories. They want your stuff, but they also take an obscene amount of pleasure in hurting you during the act of taking it.

Compliance will not guarantee your safety: Building on the point above, complying with the attacker will not necessarily keep you safe. In fact, it may embolden the criminals and make it more likely for them to physically attack or pepper spray you even after taking all your stuff.


The store clerk in that case did not resist at all. Despite the fact that she complied, the robbers selected one of their members to punch, kick, and stomp the woman for the duration of their crime.

Younger attackers; Today’s attackers are often young teens or even pre-teens. How would you feel about shooting or striking a 12-year old kid? Those kids know that you will hesitate more when attacked by a child. They also know that the court system isn’t likely to impose serious consequences for such young offenders. Are you prepared to shoot a kid if you have to?


Logical reasoning and de-escalation won’t work: Lots of police agencies and self defense classes are currently focusing on teaching verbal de-escalation skills. In my experience, verbal de-escalation seldom works in attacks involving group violence. Your singular efforts to de-escalate can’t compete with the efforts of several other group members who are trying to escalate. The group demands violence for its amusement. You likely won’t be able to prevent that violence no matter what magic words you utter.

On video: Everything you do will be recorded. The criminals are recording their own attacks for amusement purposes. Almost all commercial public areas are covered by surveillance cameras. Everything you do in the middle of the chaotic attack will be reviewed by people who don’t understand criminal violence and have weeks or years of calm contemplation to decide if you’ve made the correct choice.

Many prosecutors aren’t interested in filing charges against the violent kids who attacked your or stole your stuff. They won’t hesitate a bit to prosecute you if you make what they perceive is an unreasonable self defense decision.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Elon Musk by Walter IsaacsonWalter Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography opens with two quotes:

To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?

— Elon Musk, Saturday Night Live, May 8, 2021

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

— Steve Jobs

Extreme success comes from mastering games and metagames

Monday, September 25th, 2023

One very abstract way to understand people’s skills, Byrne Hobart suggests, is to think about their relative ability to execute some known task versus their ability to continuously reinvent themselves and determine what they ought to be doing differently:

Warren Buffett’s career has been justifiably studied because of his extreme skill at the first, but Charlie Munger made a major contribution to Buffett’s track record by pushing him to reevaluate where he focused his energy. Buffett and Munger both did plenty of scrappy deals early in their careers, buying mediocre companies at a massive discount to their fair value and selling once that value had been reached. But it’s a lot harder to do that at scale. You can find profitable or potentially profitable companies trading at less than net cash if you’re looking at $50m market caps and below, but it’s not going to happen if your cutoff for a needle-moving investment is a $5bn or $50bn market cap instead.

Munger’s story is a good case study in skill and serendipity: he might have been a fairly successful LA-based real estate developer and lawyer with a reputation for loquacity if he hadn’t tied up with Warren Buffett. On the other hand, if Warren Buffett hadn’t gotten the message on quality businesses from Munger, perhaps he’d be an oddball Omaha fixture, a frugal guy who made millions but not billions investing in textiles, local banks, steel mills, and the like. Extreme success comes from mastering games and metagames, and in this case it was a team effort, with Munger handling the metagame and Buffett excelling at whatever the specific game happened to be.

One frustrating note about this book [Damn Right: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger] is that it just doesn’t give enough detail about Munger’s transition from someone who earned a salary and made investments on the side to full-time capitalist. It’s surprisingly hard to find details about Munger’s hedge fund in the 60s and 70s (it’s easy to find their biggest positions, but one of those positions was a closed-end fund that Munger & Co. took over in order to redirect its investments into better businesses. But which!?). And the book sadly omits this story, about how Munger would be worth multiples of what he has today if he’d bought one more small block of an obscure oil company in the 70s, which sold for 30x his cost a few years later. (This is a good case study in why you shouldn’t overrate luck: in an alternate world where Munger had bought that stock, clever people might point out that 80% of his net worth ultimately derived from one decision to call a broker back and make a trade. Whereas what probably really happened was that not making the trade meant that it took a few more years for Munger’s capital base to reach the point where it compounded closer to 15% annually than 30%.)

Spider silk spun by silkworms

Sunday, September 24th, 2023

Scientists in China have synthesized spider silk from genetically modified silkworms, producing fibers six times tougher than Kevlar:

Previously developed processes for spinning artificial spider silk have struggled to apply a surface layer of glycoproteins and lipids to the silk to help it withstand humidity and exposure to sunlight — an anti-aging “skin layer” that spiders apply to their webs.

Genetically modified silkworms offer a solution to this problem, says Mi, since silkworms coat their own fibers with a similar protective layer.


To spin spider silk from silkworms, Mi and his team introduced spider silk protein genes into the DNA of silkworms so that it would be expressed in their glands using a combination of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology and hundreds of thousands of microinjections into fertilized silkworm eggs.

The microinjections posed “one of the most significant challenges” in the study, said Mi, but when he saw the silkworms’ eyes glowing red under the fluorescence microscope — a sign that the gene editing had been successful — he was overjoyed.

The researchers also needed to perform “localization” modifications on the transgenic spider silk proteins so that they would interact properly with proteins in the silkworm glands, ensuring that the fiber would be spun properly. To guide the modifications, the team developed a “minimal basic structure model” of silkworm silk.

“This concept of ‘localization,’ introduced in this thesis, along with the proposed minimal structural model, represents a significant departure from previous research,” says Mi. “We are confident that large-scale commercialization is on the horizon.”

A super-skilled AI might negate any risk of jamming and enable fleets of smart FPV drones to attack simultaneously without human operators

Saturday, September 23rd, 2023

An AI racing drone recently beat human pilots, raising the question of when AI drones will transform warfare:

“The AI is superhuman because it discovers and flies the best maneuvers, also it is consistent and precise, which humans are not,” says Scaramuzza. He notes that, as with AlphaGo, Swift was able to use moves — in this case flight trajectories — which the human champions did not even think were possible.


A $400 FPV with the warhead from an RPG rocket launcher can knock out a tank, personnel carrier or artillery piece from several miles away, or chase down and destroy a truck traveling at high speed. They are cheap enough to use against individual footsoldiers and can dive into trenches. But it requires a skilled human pilot. Ukrainian sources say the training takes around a month to achieve proficiency, and many people fail the course.

FPV success rates appear to vary wildly, with different sources citing 20%, 30%, 50% or 70% — much appears to depend on the exact situation, the presence of jamming, and the skill of the pilot. A super-skilled AI might push that rate far above 70%, negate any risk of jamming and enable fleets of smart FPV drones to attack simultaneously without human operators.


Swift relies on having reliable information on the speed, location and orientation of the drone in real time. This is far more challenging outdoors where there are changes of illumination, wind gusts and other variables to contend with.

Also, Swift has to learn the course ahead of time to work out its flight path.

“The current system only works for drone racing and for a specific racing track of which you perfectly know the map,” says Scaramuzza.

The neural network which navigates through the gates is trained specifically for that layout . The other problem is that Swift trains on a specific setup and if conditions change – for example the wind changes direction – all its learning may be wasted.

“Swift’s perception system and physics model assumes that the appearance of the environment and its physics are both consistent with what was observed during training,” says Scaramuzza. “If this assumption fails, the system can fail.”

This left federal bureaucrats with a lot of time on their hands

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

Steve Sailer reviews Richard Hanania’s “highly useful” new book, The Origins of Woke: Civil Rights Law, Corporate America, and the Triumph of Identity Politics:

For the ever-growing numbers of people paid to micromanage diversity and shut down potentially offensive free speech at work, it’s a living. It may not seem like a lot of money to Silicon Valley titans, but to many soft-major college grads it’s more than they could make doing anything else. To update Upton Sinclair’s famous quote, “It is not difficult to get a woman to believe something when her salary depends upon it.”


The Origins of Woke draws much from the work of law professor Gail Heriot of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, such as her article “The Roots of Wokeness: Title VII Damage Remedies as Potential Drivers of Attitudes Toward Identity Politics and Free Expression” on the malignant effects of specific provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1991.


In the 1960s, the federal government geared up for a long twilight struggle with the forces of Jim Crow in the South, creating numerous bureaucracies to battle entrenched Southern segregation. But, it turned out, as soon as the federal government stopped allowing state-sanctioned or state-tolerated violence against firms that violated Jim Crow norms by no longer segregating their lunch counters and the like, overt discrimination almost immediately collapsed in the South. After all, Jim Crow with its persnickety caste rules was a drag on economic growth, so the Southern business class was happy to finally join modern, booming America.

This left federal bureaucrats with a lot of time on their hands.

Similarly, even though the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination in employment had been added as a joke by a segregationist senator trolling the bill, traditional sex discrimination in hiring largely evaporated in the 1970s. It turned out that capitalists loved having a law tell them to double their potential workforces. (That’s one reason 1973 shows up on so many graphs as the last really good year for male wage growth in American history.)

Rather than announce “Mission accomplished” and go find other work, the triumphant forces of the civil rights bureaucracy became instead the scourge of ever more esoteric forms of discrimination, such as disparate impact, hostile environment due to mean speech, sexual harassment, and disability access. They increasingly intervened in the American workplace in favor of complaining members of protected groups, which cultivated a culture of complaint.


Over time, Democrats figured out that it was in their interest for corporations to be uncertain what exactly the governments’ rules are regarding race and sex. This avoided making clear to voters, who, even in California remain strongly opposed to racial preferences, how much of a thumb the government was putting on the scale.


In response to the proliferation of government regulations (and the lawsuits that accompany them) banning discrimination against some people and encouraging discrimination against others, corporations vastly increased their human resources staff to cajole and mollify the bureaucrats.

Of course, corporate HR staffers are less the adversaries of the government and plaintiff attorneys than their codependents in a symbiotic relationship featuring slightly different career paths in the same business. Just as many of the environmental consultants hired by corporations to placate the Environmental Protection Agency are former EPA staffers (and thus are definitely not going to call for repealing environmental laws), corporate HR, federal civil rights bureaucrats, discrimination lawyers, sexual harassment trainers, and so forth have perfectly understandable mutual economic incentives to bring ever larger parts of American life under their purview to generate more business for people like themselves.

From 1968 to 2021, despite immense improvements in automation, the number of Americans working in Human Resources grew from 140,000 to 1,500,000.

This gave Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini time to make a stupendous military error

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

As the winter rainy season began, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II), General Eisenhower decided to hold up the North African offensive till the weather improved:

This gave Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini time to make a stupendous military error. They commenced shipping in more and more troops, altogether about 150,000 men. Yet the Allies had assembled overwhelming sea and air forces — many times more than had ever threatened Rommel — and could throttle the German-Italian army by cutting off its supplies. Sooner or later its fuel, ammunition, and food would be exhausted and it would have to surrender, leaving few Axis troops to defend Sicily and Italy.

Erwin Rommel noted dryly afterward that, if Hitler had sent him in the spring of 1942 only a fraction of the troops he poured into Tunisia, he could have conquered Egypt, the Suez, and the Middle East, and virtually ruled out an Allied invasion of northwest Africa.


Because of poor food, many Axis troops had become sick. Rommel was one of the casualties, and in September he went back to Europe for treatment and rest. He was replaced by General Georg Stumme, while General Wilhelm von Thoma took over Africa Corps. Both were from the Russian front and were unused to desert conditions. On the first day of the attack, Stumme drove to the front, ran into heavy fire, and died from a heart attack. Rommel, convalescing in Austria, flew back on October 25 and resumed command of a front already heaving from British attacks.

Montgomery took no advantage of his overwhelming strength by sweeping around the Axis positions. Instead, he launched a frontal attack near the coast, which led to a bloody, protracted struggle. British armor pushed a narrow six-mile wedge into the Axis line.


Rommel decided to fall back to Fuka, 55 miles west, but Hitler issued his familiar call to hold existing positions at all costs. Rommel recalled the columns already on the way — a decision he regretted bitterly, writing that if he had evaded Hitler’s “victory or death” order he could have saved the army.


Rommel proposed the correct strategic solution to his superiors — withdraw at once all the way to Wadi Akarit, 225 miles west of Tripoli near Gabès, Tunisia, and 45 miles beyond the Mareth line, a fortified barrier built by the French in 1939–1940. Wadi Akarit was much more defensible than the Mareth line, having only a fourteen-mile frontage between the sea and a salt marsh inland. But Mussolini and Hitler rejected the recommendation and insisted on holding one defensive line after another— Mersa el Brega, Buerat, and Tarhuna-Homs. Yet the work of fortifying these lines was useless, because the British could swing around the flank of all of them.

“If only the Italian infantry had gone straight back to the Gabès line and begun immediately with its construction, if only all those useless mines we laid in Libya had been put down at Gabès, all this work and material could ultimately have been of very great value,” Rommel wrote.

In hopes of getting the Fuehrer to face reality, Rommel flew to his headquarters at Rastenburg on November 28, 1942. He got a chilly reception, and when he suggested that the wisest course would be to evacuate North Africa, in order to save the soldiers to fight again, “the mere broaching of this strategic question had the effect of a spark in a powder keg.” Hitler flew into a rage, accusing members of the panzer army of throwing away their weapons.

“I protested strongly, and said in straight terms that it was impossible to judge the weight of the battle from here in Europe,” Rommel wrote afterward. “Our weapons had simply been battered to pieces by the British bombers, tanks, and artillery, and it was nothing short of a miracle that we had been able to escape with all the German motorized forces, especially in view of the desperate fuel shortage.”

But Hitler would listen to no further argument.

“I began to realize that Adolf Hitler simply did not want to see the situation as it was,” Rommel wrote in his journal.

Why do people work for Musk?

Wednesday, September 20th, 2023

Why do people work for Musk?, Scott Alexander asks:

The book paints a pretty grim picture of working at a Musk company. Employees get handed near-impossible problems, chewed out or fired if they fail, and barely thanked at all if they succeed. Work weeks are 90+ hours. Vance says Elon sent an angry email to a marketing guy who missed an event because his wife was giving birth, telling him to “figure out where your priorities are” (Elon denies this). So why do thousands of people, including the very best and brightest who could get jobs anywhere, work for him?

The cliche answer — that they believe in the mission — is mostly true. But many employees also talked about their past jobs at Boeing or GM or wherever. They would have some cool idea, and tell it to their boss, and their boss would say they weren’t in the cool idea business and were already getting plenty of government contracts. If they pushed, they would get told to file it with the Vice President of Employee Feedback, who might hold a meeting to determine a process to summon an exploratory committee to add it to the queue of things to consider for the 2030 version of the product.

Meanwhile, if someone told Elon about a cool idea, he would think about it for fifteen seconds, give them a million dollars, and tell them to have it ready within a month — no, two weeks! — no, three days! For some people, the increased freedom and the feeling of getting to reach their full potential was worth the cost.

Putting medical boots on the ground

Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

The conflict in Ukraine presents an opportunity for the US to prepare for future potential conflicts with near-peer adversaries (NPAs), including medical care:

Injury in NPA conflict

  • Current US military body armor will likely be insufficient against NPA arsenals with ballistic components that can hit laterally, above, or below standard issue armor plates from multiple angles due to the larger number of accurately impacting munitions.
  • Concussive injury and TBI will be far more prevalent when facing NPA arsenals that can accurately deliver large volumes of more devastating fire.
  • NPA arsenals will be capable of causing significant multisystem trauma to far greater numbers of US personnel.

Providing care for injured in NPA conflict

  • Medical facilities are not safe areas to provide care, even if they are hundreds of kilometers from the line of ground fighting.
  • The resources needed to adequately provide lifesaving care will be far greater than what the US has allocated for in the past.
  • Air, ground, and sea–based medical evacuation will be practically impossible due to very long range and accurate fire capabilities of NPA arsenals; forward surgical teams should be established in hardened structures, possibly underground, capable of withstanding direct attack by NPA munitions.

Preparation and training of US medical teams for NPA conflict

  • Forward medical/surgical capabilities by US personnel will need to be able to handle more casualties simultaneously.
  • Prolonged field care should be a routine part of the medical training curriculum, because evacuation may be delayed or impossible in an NPA conflict.
  • In a future NPA conflict, communications may be limited or nonexistent due to jamming by the NPA or for operational security reasons, preventing advanced notice of casualty arrivals, a scenario that should be practiced regularly (no-notice casualty loads with extensive high-fidelity, situation-based training).

System-level preparation of the US military medical system and structure for future NPA conflict

  • Given electronic jamming by NPA adversaries, robust and redundant command and control of medical assets should be able to be delegated further into the field.
  • Cadres of qualified and capable surgeons need to be developed so that they are ready, able, and willing to deploy to forward locations in a future NPA conflict.
  • Surgeons with expertise in damage control surgery and resuscitation are limited, but this gap may be filled through specialty training, either in person by groups like GSMSG or remotely through programs like the M-Course provided by the ACS.
  • NPAs may ignore international laws against attacking medical resources, medical evacuation platforms, and infrastructure.
  • A database like the US Joint Trauma Registry needs to be implemented for process improvement in the war against Russia, but the US could implement its already established data collection protocol in a future NPA conflict.

How the US Army confronted its racial crisis in the Vietnam era

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Beth Bailey’s Army Afire: How the US Army Confronted Its Racial Crisis in the Vietnam Era opens with a litany of incidents that she presents as protests:

It is a stretch. Major Merritt, for example, was clearly a crank. The written statement he distributed to the press contained gratuitous sexual insults directed at the “seventy-five percent” of white officers who were raised by “mammy who was also his fathers [sic] mistress.” Subordinates told investigators that Merritt’s constant racial badgering included his claim that “once a white woman had a negro she would never go back to a white man.”

Bailey insists that the senseless death of Cpl. Bankston must be seen in the light of rising racial tensions at Camp Lejeune. She repeats, rather irresponsibly, a rumor than white Marines had beat a black man to death the year before and never been prosecuted. The source of this rumor is a LIFE magazine article from 1969 that says the author heard about it from black Marines, who gave no further details except that the man’s death was “attributed to natural causes” by authorities.

Searching Bailey’s book for verified incidents where white servicemen were the aggressors, one finds only a handful of cases. “In 1970, at Fort Carson, Colorado, a white soldier—working part-time as a filling station attendant—murdered the head of the local university’s Black studies program,” she writes. Bailey omits the relevant details: Roosevelt Hill Jr. was filling up his car with gas when Ellis L. Little of Kentucky called to check the validity of his credit card, which was a type Little did not recognize. A passenger in Hill’s car suggested Little might be calling the police, so Hill rushed into the station and attacked him, shouting obscenities. With Hill’s hands around his neck, Little drew a gun from a drawer and shot him in the chest. A grand jury declined to charge Little with any crime.

Germany was a hotbed of racial violence in the 1970s, with soldiers afraid to go out at night due to rampant attacks, but it is hard to determine exactly what were the grievances at issue. “White soldiers were being randomly attacked under cover of darkness,” Bailey writes. “Black soldiers had taken to carrying intimidating ‘soul sticks’ on base, cutting to the front of the mess hall line, blatantly ignoring regulations.” More than 1,000 crimes of violence by black soldiers against whites were reported in Germany in the first nine months of 1971. If this was a protest, what were they protesting?

Disparities in punishment was the complaint cited most frequently. Black soldiers were 14 percent of U.S. troops in Germany but received 80 percent of prosecutions for serious crimes, such as robbery, assault, and rape. One report found 2,984 crimes of violence by black soldiers during a period when white soldiers committed 740. Bailey does not consider the possibility that this reflected reality rather than prejudice.

Only the bow-mounted parafoil passed the sniff test

Sunday, September 17th, 2023

Michael Barnard has been looking at ways to make wind energy a thing for cargo ships again for at least a decade:

Few of the them appear to make much sense in context of the shipping industry. Many appear to be motivated by romanticism rather than pragmatism.

That’s why sails are in the sexy but foolish quadrant of my sexy vs meh decarbonization assessment of maritime shipping, along with hydrofoils (which I love on tiny pleasure water craft like wing foils) and hydrogen (which is just as nonsensical as a shipping fuel as it is a trucking fuel).

The only solution I’d seen which managed to cross over at least partially into the practical quadrant was bow-mounted parafoil power assist. The reasons are pretty straightforward.

Ships are high-tech simplicity. They have big engines, they love to run in straight lines at the same speed for days or weeks at a time, small crews can run huge ships and they are optimized to fit through canals and into ports globally. They exist in a complex business model where one organization builds them, another owns them, another operates them, another registers them, another insures them, another fuels them, and yet another owns the cargo that they carry.

The firm that pays for the ship is usually different than the firm which pays for the expenses of operating the ship. That’s one of the things that gets in the way of efficiency measures that require capital expenditures. The ship’s owner has to spend that money, but typically can’t get that money back from the operators who gain the benefits from it. This is the same problem with efficiency retrofits in commercial real estate, by the way, where tenants pay for utilities but landlords pay for insulation and heat pumps.

So there are business model headwinds for wind energy on ships. But those aren’t the only challenges.

Cargo ships don’t sail majestically across the briny deeps and then lower their cargo into rowboats. They berth at complex, highly automated, highly standardized ports, with most traffic flowing through the biggest 800 ports globally. They exist within a technical ecosystem that includes a lot of technology in ports to rapidly pluck cargo out of them and put it back into them. Smaller ships sometimes have winches of their own for loading and offloading at tiny ports, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

And specific bulk cargos have specific load and offload technologies, often at separate docks. Grain can’t be taken out of ships with coal loading equipment. Ammonia can’t be pumped out by equipment that deals with gasoline. Containers aren’t lifted out with the same cranes that haul out palleted cargo typically. Ships usually moor under a complex, gigantic mechanical spider’s worth of arms and gantries.

How exactly do masts and sails fit into that world? Well, they don’t. That’s a big problem for wind-powered cargo ships. Most wind energy solutions require very big things sticking up from the ship along its length. How exactly do you berth a ship like that so containers can be plucked from it?


The next problem for wind energy and cargo ships is keels. Sailing ships need them. A sailing ship moves forward because wind is trying to push it sideways and forward, and the keel prevents it from going sideways. That enables sailing ships to go upwind, or at least not be pushed downwind. And keels are longer the bigger the sailing ship. Wind surfers get by with little dagger boards. Kite surfers get by with little fins and some creative edging. Sailing ships need really deep keels. And cargo ships have really shallow keels by comparison.

Cargo ships are designed to be pushed from the back and to have the keel and the lee side of the ship push against the water sufficiently to overcome most wind loading from upwind. They burn fuel to go upwind. They point a bit more into the wind as necessary to achieve a straight course.

Put a big set of sails on a cargo ship and a lot more force is pushing the cargo ship sideways and downwind. This has to be adjusted for, mostly with a deeper keel.

And loaded cargo ships are already problematic for a lot of ports without deep keels because they have deep drafts, the distance between waterline and lowest point of the keel. Make the keel a lot bigger, and the draft by necessity gets deeper. Retractable keels exist for sail boats, but that’s not really an option for a cargo ship.


Next up, masts for sails wouldn’t just sit on the deck, they’d pierce the deck and be mounted on the hull. And the hull needs to be structurally sound enough for this. The masts would not be small, and on normal ships, they’d be along the center line, so would take up cargo space in addition to the problem of getting in the way of loading and unloading. Retrofitting sails that actually do anything to most existing bulk cargo ships would take a lot of extra metal below decks, and a really good engineering assessment to ensure that they could even survive the strain.

Finally, at least for this piece, there’s the problem of crews. They cost money. Ships are optimized and automated to reduce the crews as much as is reasonable given various port and sailing duties. A typical bulk coal or iron ore carrier of 150,000 to 175,000 tons would have 20 to 30 crew members. Smaller ships might have eight to ten.

Sailing ships that used to carry 200 tons of cargo had 20 to 30 crew members. We are moving 750 times as much cargo a lot faster with the same number of personnel. Cargo shipping is cheap unless you add a lot of crew. And most sailing technologies are going to require at least a few more people to manage them.

I’ve assessed several sailing technologies and setups for cargo ships. Magnus effect rotors are very interesting, as the same spin that makes a baseball curve in mid-air can be used to generate forward movement in a ship with vertical cylinders, but they really get in the way of pretty much everything noted above. Fabric sails on masts are just manual effort nightmares which pleasure and competitive sailors curse as much as they delight in when they are trimmed and working beautifully. Modern rigid wing sails that grew out of battened, almost rigid windsurfer sails, built in the same manner as wind turbine blades, and used on the massive, absurdly complex, foiling America’s Cup sailboats that crash spectacularly these days, just get in the way of everything too.

Only the bow-mounted parafoil passed my sniff test. Autolaunching and furling? Check (most of the time at least). Single attachment point? Check. Out of the way of cargo loading and unloading? Check. Relatively inexpensive? Check. Most power aligned with pulling the hull in the direction it wants to go through the water? Check. Even then, they’ve been having trouble finding buyers due to the business model challenge.

But this week, the Pyxis Ocean launched in China. The big shipping firm Cargill paid to have the Mitsubishi-owned ship retrofitted by Yara Marine with a couple of first-of-a-kind 123ft (37.5m) tall, rigid, complex sails designed by Bar Technologies, which is a spinoff company of an America’s Cup team. Did I mention the complexity of the business model challenge?

The Finns have camouflaged the road with pines hanging in the air

Saturday, September 16th, 2023

When tiny Finland faced Stalin’s Soviet Union, it camouflaged everything with trees and foliage:

According to the caption that Hedenström attached to the photo, “The Finns have camouflaged the road to Raate, about 10 km from Russia, with pines hanging in the air, because right on the border there is an observation tower erected by the Russians.”

Finnish Road Camouflaged with Trees

The lines of trees wouldn’t obscure the road from a plane flying overhead, but it could block the view from a tower. From a low perspective, down the road, the lines gave the illusion of an uninterrupted sequence of trees. Upon scrutiny, it is possible to see wires connected to a series of poles on the right side of the road. The whole pines were hung from such poles or other trees with cables. Due to Hedenström’s angle, viewers can’t see the attachments of the first row of trees, so they seem to be floating in the air. (The weird shape on the top of the photo is just a defect in the negative.)


“The Finns didn’t have funds to buy artificial camouflage such as nets in vast quantities,” says Colonel Petteri Jouko, a military historian at Finnish National Defence University, “so they used trees, leaves, and foliage to confuse the enemy. They were accustomed to wilderness and took advantage of the forest, unlike the German soldiers operating in northern Finland.”

Finnish ShipCamouflaged with Trees

Finnish Bicycle Camouflaged with Trees

Finnish Airfield Camouflaged with Trees

His theory was that the body-snatching was happening through their phones

Friday, September 15th, 2023

All the sudden disruptions of long-running economic trends in America led people to wonder,What the heck happened in 1971? Now Erik Hoel looks at all the sudden disruptions of long-running social trends in America and wonders, What the heck happened in 2012?

Of course, we should expect it to be harder to measure cultural tipping-point years rather than economic ones, since what makes for healthy psychologies and cultures is often immeasurable. Still, if you look at charts about people’s psychology, or culture in general, like how people use language, you often consistently see a major shift around 2012 or shortly thereafter.

This isn’t just due to the definition of the word “depression” broadening. Teenagers legitimately try to commit suicide far more now, taking off right around 2012.

These changes haven’t affected just teenagers, although they are the most intense there, as if the youth, those most exposed and dependent on the current culture, those with nothing else to lean back on (no memories of the 90s to bask in) are operating like canaries in a coal mine—it is their little lungs which go first.


And yes, psychological changes are nebulous, but there are obvious downstream real-world ramifications. For 13-year-olds across America, both reading and mathematics peaked in 2012 and then rapidly began to decline.

Around 2012, birth rates fell off. They were low anyways, which should be expected after the Great Recession, but it is precisely around 2012 where they should have started climbing back up and instead they fell off a cliff.


It’s simply impossible to dance around it: what would now be called “wokeness” came onto the main stage of culture in 2012, and this in turn began to trigger anti-wokeness (e.g., while Jordan Peterson wouldn’t become famous until 2016, 2013 was when he created his YouTube channel and began uploading). This action/reaction dynamic explains the timing differences for when each political side felt the psychological effects.


At a personal level, I remember someone in graduate school, which I entered in 2010, confessing to me after a few beers that the rise in politicalization among our peers around 2012-2013 (as my fellow grad students either suddenly bought into wokeness and started using its reasoning and language or staked out controversial or secretively resistant anti-woke positions) reminded him of “the invasion of the body-snatchers.” His theory was that the body-snatching was happening through their phones.


In fact, in terms of market saturation, the transition from 2012 to 2013 is the exact year the majority of the US switched to finally owning a smartphone.

Which would certainly explain the massive spike in pedestrian fatalities from cars following a low in 2010.