Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Like a sucker

Booster Seat Law Cometh
The new (Wisconsin) booster seat law goes into effect tomorrow. Here’s a handy guide for making sure that you comply with the law.
(Homer Simpson) You mean the State can do my thinking for me? And all this time I've been using my brain, like a sucker.

I don't think my state rep voted for this but if he did he's off my Christmas list.


From yesterday's White House briefing with Press Secretary Tony Snow:
Helen Thomas: Why did the President pick a man [Karl Zinsmeister] who is so contemptible of the public servants in Washington to be his adviser--saying, "People in Washington are morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings"? Why would he pick such a man to be a domestic adviser?

Mr. Snow: You meant contemptuous, as opposed to contemptible, I think.
There is no doubt that some public servants and others in Washington are "morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings". Also no doubt that 'domestic' covers more than just the Distict of Columbia.  It can be hard to forget that most of the country could give a flip about what happens in D.C.  Perhaps Ms. Thomas is feeling a bit put upon.
Helen Thomas: If this is his attitude toward public servants --

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think it's his attitude toward public servants -- it may have been toward the press. Just kidding.

Via Opinion Journal - Best of the Web Today - May 31, 2006

I told you guys to slow down and take it easy or something like this would happen.

From the Trebuchet entry in  Wikipedia.
Because of the time required to load the sling and to raise the counterweight, a large trebuchet's rate of fire is slow, often not more than a couple of shots an hour. Smaller trebuchets can fire a couple of times a minute. The payload of a trebuchet was usually a large rounded stone, although other projectiles were occasionally used: dead animals, beehives, the severed heads of captured enemies, small stones burned into clay balls which would explode on impact like grapeshot, barrels of burning tar or oil, Greek fire, or even unsuccessful negotiators, prisoners of war, and spies catapulted alive.

Emphasis mine.  I am not sure but I don't think the tone in the above paragraph would make it into Britanica. One of the many reasons to adore Wikipedia.

Working harder with less fuel - hey it works for staff

If you can make your staff work harder for less pay, why can't you push the engine of capitalism the same way?

TCS Daily - Is This What Is Meant By 'Investor Protection'?
Since SOX became law, our economy and capital markets have suffered from higher compliance costs in several ways:

* The number of companies going private (so-called "going dark") has increased dramatically, with many firms citing SOX compliance costs as a principal reason for choosing to do so
* A growing number of firms choosing to rely on retained earnings or private equity rather than raising money by going public via an IPO
* Pre-SOX, 9 out of the ten largest IPOs had a US component; in the last year, 9 out of the 10 largest were entirely foreign
* Fewer acquisitions and ADR offerings by foreign issuers

The bottom line? SOX is costing our economy the proverbial bundle and the SEC's response is little more than whistling past the graveyard.

More good news. Bleh. I'm not going to call for a rope but will only note that if you whip a horse while cutting off it's air don't be surprised when your wagon doesn't get very far.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Maritan Memorial

Martian memorial |
I ran across a fascinating historical footnote in the May issue of Sky and Telescope I feel should be much more widely known.

The builder of the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers was a small Manhattan company named Honeybee Robotics. The company offices are just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, so it hardly bears saying the engineers were deeply affected by the events of 9/11.

They paid their respects in an unusual and touching way. With assistance of the Mayor's office they acquired bits of mangled aluminium debris from the site. The engineers pounded and formed them into cable shielding parts.

Those bits of the World Trade Center have now been roving Mars for two years.
Very appropriate for Memorial Day.

Ted Nugent: Off his rocker?

Ted Nugent: Off his rocker?
We take a break. Nugent sits by a small amp and plays tunes by Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed. Though he's sometimes derided as a circus act, watching him close up it's not hard to understand why people have likened him to Jimi Hendrix, or how John Peel came to call "Cat Scratch Fever" the best rock single of its year. His decision to restrict his berserk talent to heavy rock has undoubtedly masked his virtuosity. Not that this bothers Ted. "GOD SENT ME HERE TO MAKE SURE THESE LICKS CAME OFF OF A GUITAR. THEY ARE PERFECT. THEY ARE FUCKING PHENOMENAL."

He wants to run for the Governer's office in Michigan in 2010.

Awesome. Not for his politics - I find his professed politics a tad extreme. But my, it would be entertaining.

The aritcle is worth reading for the 'oh my gracious' attitude of the reporter. As if P.J. O'Rourke took a hard left and became a Limey.

Nugent is not known for his intuitive connection to his feminine side; he arrives wearing a camouflage cowboy hat, his shorts supported by a belt housing a Glock revolver. I don't, at this stage, notice the .22 which he will discharge in 45 minutes' time.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


STS-121 Payload Canister on it's way to Launchpad 39B.


Why we explore the unknown

Why we explore the unknown - from Robert Service's "The Spell of the Yukon"


From Joe Huffman's quote of the day.
Clitorises are the best thing in the world! No other piece of the human body has the SOLE PURPOSE of bringing pleasure. If that's not the coolest thing ever, I don't know how you expect to find any sort of sexual happiness in your life.

Xenia Huffman-Scott
Celebration of Ovulation
An anthology Moscow Idaho English period 6.
May 5, 2006
No comment needed from this quarter.


Reworking the the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers catch-phrase about dope: Wealth will get you through times of climate change better than climate change will get you through times of no wealth.

Climate change, predicted by the UN to change the way most people live over the next 100 years, is the least important of the world's immediate problems, says a group of economists, including three Nobel prize winners, who were asked to priorities how money should be spent on helping the world's poor.

The team of six American and two other economists, brought together by controversial environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, said it was not worth spending money on climate change because the effects were expected to be far in the future. They recommended that people became rich first and that money should be spent on HIV/Aids, water and free trade.

Which all sounds so reasonable that it should not need explanation. If you're wealthy you can .. you know .. do things like build levies, irrigation projects, force industry to utilize expensive measures to clean up their manufacturing process. A poor society can only suffer floods and gasp for air as sooty factories pollute the environment making cheap krep for the proles.

I must be wrong - clearly I don't understand the real world.

But they were immediately castigated by international development and environment groups, who accused them of "understanding nothing about the real world".

Do .. what?

"This simplistic and rather banal ranking of these problems should not be taken too seriously," said Stephen Tindale, the director of Greenpeace. "It is an example of intellectual illiteracy. All these problems are linked."

"They have come up with bizarre conclusions," said Andrew Simms, the policy director of the New Economics Foundation. "The simple point is that unless you act to prevent runaway climate change, all the other things which they prioritize - which are generally no-brainer good things - will be wrecked by global warming."

Or it could be that in a world of wealth Greenpeace won't be relevant and people won't need NGO experts to tell them how to generate wealth. That would be .. horrid, not to need their well meaning advice and smug self-righteousness.

Sarbanes Oxley - spread the love around

A Sarbanes Oxley for the legislative branch.

The Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 requires corporate executives not merely to read but to certify the accuracy of their companies' financial reports. Why are Congressmen (i.e., both Representatives and Senators) held to a lesser standard? Why are they not required under penalty of perjury to certify that they have read and carefully studied each bill that they vote for? Don't the American people have the right to demand that their legislators know what they are doing?

...A first step should be the refusal to enact any new legislation that the members of Congress are unwilling to swear or affirm under oath that they have read and carefully studied. And along with this, as another preliminary step, the promulgation of any new rule by any regulatory agency should be prohibited except upon that rule having been read, studied and voted into effect by a majority of the House and Senate Committees having jurisdiction over that regulatory agency. Thus, for example, before the SEC or EPA could enact any new rule, a majority of the members of the House and Senate Committees having jurisdiction over them would have to approve the new rule. This measure would effectively place members of Congress in charge of the various regulatory agencies.

Sauce for the goose is good for the gander.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintennance

Speaking of Quality Control . . .

The question why comes back again and again and has become a major reason for wanting to deliver this Chautauqua. Why did they butcher it so? These were not people running away from technology, like John and Sylvia. These were the technologists themselves. They sat down to do a job and they performed it like chimpanzees. Nothing personal in it. There was no obvious reason for it. And I tried to think back into that shop, that nightmare place, to try to remember anything that could have been the cause.

The radio was a clue. You can’t really think hard about what you’re doing and listen to the radio at the same time. Maybe they didn’t see their job as having anything to do with hard thought, just wrench twiddling. If you can twiddle wrenches while listening to the radio that’s more enjoyable.

Their speed was another clue. They were really slopping things around in a hurry and not looking where they slopped them. More money that way...if you don’t stop to think that it usually takes longer or comes out worse.

But the biggest clue seemed to be their expressions. They were hard to explain. Good-natured, friendly, easygoing...and uninvolved. They were like spectators. You had the feeling they had just wandered in there themselves and somebody had handed them a wrench. There was no identification with the job. No saying, "I am a mechanic." At 5 P.M. or whenever their eight hours were in, you knew they would cut it off and not have another thought about their work. They were already trying not to have any thoughts about their work on the job. In their own way they were achieving the same thing John and Sylvia were, living with technology without really having anything to do with it. Or rather, they had something to do with it, but their own selves were outside of it, detached, removed. They were involved in it but not in such a way as to care.

No doubt the late hour and an egregious flaw in a supposedly professional CMS install has something to do with my irritation.


Say what you will but a forged DD-214 of this quality is just sad. Spelling counts.

Jesse MacBeth hates ballerinas because they twirl all day and not a single person gets roundhouse kicked in the kneecaps.

Friday, May 26, 2006


"That's the Lieutenant's tank. No NCO would put his tank in a hole like that."

Tank in Mud


From TCS
America: Well, that sounds reasonable. I'm sure that we can work out some kind of AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! Oh, the mind-bending, excruciating horror! It's like a pair of ravenous earthworms are burrowing tunnels of agony in my lower abdomen! In the name of God, why?

Iran: It was a bizarre, freakish accident.

America: No, it wasn't! The best-selling book in your country is "Protocols of the Elders of Kicking America in the Crotch!" You've given dozens if not hundreds of speeches on the religious necessity of planting your foot in America's gonads! You gave a presentation at the last International Islamic Conference on "Kicking America in the Crotch: Strategic and Economic Considerations!" This was no accident!

Iran: Oh, pish-tosh. Surely you realize that we espouse that kind of rabid pro-crotch-kicking rhetoric to appease the crotch-kicking masses? We may seem like deranged religious fanatics in public, but in private we're humane, civilized men who enjoy fine literature, good music, and the occasional stoning of homosexuals and liberal dissidents. We all want the same things: peace, prosperity, a cessation of hunger and want, total submission of the world to the teachings of Allah...

America: We don't want that!

Iran: Whatever.



What do you get when the mother looks like this

And the father looks like this?

Align Center

We're not sure either. We'll know more in a week or so. My guess is 'so ugly they're cute'.

Anyone want a puppy?

Photos not of actual dogs. Void where prohibted.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Response to "Space Elevator is Doomed" meme

Tom Nugent published a reply to the this letter in Nature by N. Pugno and the spate of the space elevator won't work and I told you so meme.

There’s been some discussion recently (as well as emails sent directly to us) about the Nature letter which summarizes an article by N. Pugno predicting that the maximum strength possible in bulk CNTs will be roughly 30 GPa (as opposed to the 130 GPa predicted by Edwards 4+ years ago).

I posted about the paper mentioned in Nature to our forums back in January, and some (mostly non-LiftPort) people responded: Here is what I just wrote in an email about the issue:

I’ve discussed the article with a couple of CNT researchers, and they say that they’re not convinced by the paper. My attitude is that we have to wait and see what really happens, because there’s a lot about carbon nanotubes that we don’t know yet.

Despite anyone’s predictions, we won’t know what the material will be like until it’s made. There’s a LOT of other work that needs to be done on SE development regardless of what the material winds up being. And in the “worst” case, you can still build a space elevator on the moon with near-term materials.

One thing to remember is that, even if bulk CNT were limited to 30 GPa, we could still build the space elevator. It would just become limited by finances. That’s because, with a density of 1300kg/m^3 and a strength of 30GPa, the mass of a seed ribbon (using the same assumptions as in my November article - safety factor of 2, and 1,000kg capacity) would be roughly 3,440 tonnes (i.e., 3.44*10^6 kg), or roughly 170 rocket launches (using current medium-lift rockets) to loft it (i.e., ~80 times as massive as in the 2002 NIAC report). The expense and logistics of creating a seed ribbon at that point (assuming you’re launching from Earth) becomes much more daunting, but not impossible.

A week ago we were saying what we've been saying all along - we don't know what we don't know, we're exploring the options, to reach a go no-go point in 2009ish. It is worthwhile to explore the options in light of the potential benefits.

We're still saying that but in light of the 'neener neener we told ya' blog posts we might look like happy optimists instead of dour pessimists. Amazing how you can maintain the same position but appear to have shifted sails.


Aidan, aged 11: (poke)

Me: Stop i'm trying to work.

Aidan: Work or Liftport?

Me: Liftport . . .


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Jesse MacBeth Facts

Jesse MacBeth. Genuine Barb, Fake Ranger. Sadly I note that his support is evaporating - an earlier, rougher age might have said he's been purged by his fellow travelers. The appropriate punishment is not jail time or sanction, but endless and eternal mockery.

Jesse MacBeth Facts.

Guns don't kill people. Jesse MacBeth kills People.
There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Jesse MacBeth allows to live.
Jesse MacBeth does not sleep. He waits.
The chief export of Jesse MacBeth is Pain.
There is no chin under Jesse MacBeth' Beard. There is only another fist.
Jesse MacBeth has two speeds. Walk, and Kill.
The leading causes of death in the United States are: 1. Heart Disease 2. Jesse MacBeth 3. Cancer
Jesse MacBeth drives an ice cream truck covered in human skulls.
Jesse MacBeth is my Homeboy.
Jesse MacBeth doesn't go hunting.... Jesse MacBeth GOES KILLING

Because some people deserve to be mocked.

Content shamelessly lifted from Chuck Norris Facts.

Mind by Kenny Goh


It knew it was special.
Eternity was set in it, yet it was mortal.

Mind civilised and tamed the land.
Mind lorded over the earth. Mind dominated the earth.
Yet the earth was but a mote in a seemingly endless universe.
And on this mote resided the only known awareness in the universe.

So Mind looked to the stars.
Without physical conquest, Mind engulfed the universe.
Mind understood the universe.

But there were the unseen things.
These too, Mind brought to light.
Energies were harnessed to its liking.
The mysteries of Time Space opened up.

One by one, the universe gave up its secrets to Mind.
The mental conquest came as a torrent.

It knew it was special, yet the reason was incomprehensible.
Despite intimate understanding of the universe,
Despite a future dictated by Mind,
This last hurdle proved one too high.

The question of Existence remained closed,
And as the stars burn out shall Mind pass without meaning.

Ecc 1:18:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.


Once in a while you read something that tells you .. the fellow might not know what he is talking about.
From a security perspective, if Microsoft disappeared no one vendor would have a 95 percent market share and worms could not spread as fast. “Heterogeneity is a powerful positive,” says John Pescattore, vice president for Internet security at Gartner.

We would also find out how bad the Linux and Apple vendors are at providing patches, compared to what [customers] got used to from Microsoft,” Pescattore says, adding that Microsoft is much better than Apple and Linux at delivering security patches. “If you keep getting into car accidents, you know how to fix dents.”

I'll let the comment about how "Linux" is worse than Microsoft to release patches stand on it's own.

I have some personel experience with patches from Apple, compared with those from Microsoft. Let us just say that the one is faster and better to release and it ain't the guys from Redmond. My own experience, or do I trust the guy with title from Gartner. Perhaps he was misquoted.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

National Guard - Competence

New slogan: Army National Guard: We're Damn Good, and No One Notices.
The National Guard had its headquarters for Katrina, not just a few peacekeeping troops, in what the media portrayed as the pit of Hell. Hell was one of the safest places to be in New Orleans, smelly as it was. The situation was always under control, not surprisingly because the people in control were always there.

From the Dome, the Louisiana Guard's main command ran at least 2,500 troops who rode out the storm inside the city, a dozen emergency shelters, 200-plus boats, dozens of high-water vehicles, 150 helicopters, and a triage and medical center that handled up to 5,000 patients (and delivered 7 babies). The Guard command headquarters also coordinated efforts of the police, firefighters and scores of volunteers after the storm knocked out local radio, as well as other regular military and other state Guard units.

Jack Harrison, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, cited "10,244 sorties flown, 88,181 passengers moved, 18,834 cargo tons hauled, 17,411 saves" by air. Unlike the politicians, they had a working chain of command that commandeered more relief aid from other Guard units outside the state. From day one.

The cavalry wasn't late. It didn't arrive on Thursday smoking a cigar and cussing. It was there all along.Link

More at the link including that the Guard, at Jackson Barracks, noticing the flooding long before anyone else had a clue (water 20 feet deep around the Barracks might be hard to miss, granted) but then moved their headquarters to the Superdome. Restablishing com in four hours. Which in and of itself speaks volumes for their leadership and the excellence of their troopers.

The question in my mind is why the focus on the erronous reports of mayhem and the exclusion of the superb work done by the Guard and others?

via Jason Coleman


Shubber Ali at Space Cynics has hit upon a method for making business in thte community.
Space Cynics will gladly review your business plan/case/whatever, and post our findings on our website. We will allow you room for rebuttal, and will respond to any substantive criticisms (but this will not become an open-ended he said/she said - we will stop the dialog if it becomes unresolvable).

The cost? $2500.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Fake Ranger, Genuine Barb

Wretchard discusses the interviews of purported Ranger and Iraq vet Jesse Macbeth. Purported because the guy is clearly out of uniform i.e. tabs and rank badges in the wrong place, sleeves rolled 'Marine' style not the way a soldier does and so on. Other commentators note the unit details are wrong and so on.

A fake. All of this is beside the point.
In an earlier post I wrote that the defenses of civilization consisted not merely of arms, but of belief, culture, law and commerce. The hallmark of a functional civilization is that these things are bulwarks against barbarism -- and not portals for it -- by common consent. Belief, culture, law and commerce were once used by civilization as a wall against savagery; not as means of providing their escalade. But as author Philip Bobbitt, pointed out, the replacement of the nation state by the "market state" has loosened many of the ties which formerly bound together the peoples of traditional nations. In the modern multicultural state the cement of culture is no longer what it used to be. In that context, Riehl's question can be interpreted as asking: is there any sanction in Western belief, culture or law which prohibits Socialist Alternatives from trotting out deliberate lies? We already know that many on the Left would be opposed to deliberate lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction. But is there any corresponding prohibition against impersonating an Airborne Ranger in a broadcast? If none, then it's anything goes and barbarism is no longer strictly without, it is also within.

I find it tolerably amusing that the tools and methodology used to make Western Culture the epitome of tolerance and light are the ones being used to tear it apart.


RLV and Space Transport News the good word on the perils of cosmic rays to travelers in outer space that will trap us on earth forever ...
.Good news.

Three Things You Can't Fake

From Deadprogrammer's Cafe

I am currently reading Douglas Coupland's latest book, "Jpod" and absolutely loving it. My favorite quote so far:

"Here's my theory about meetings and life: the three things you can't fake are erections, competence and creativity. That's why meetings become toxic--they put uncreative people in a situation in which they have to be something they can never be. And the more effort they put into concealing their inabilities, the more toxic the meeting becomes. One of the most common creativity-faking tactics is when somebody put their hands in the prayer position and conceals their mouth while they nod at you and say, "Hmmmmm. Interesting." If pressed, they'll add, "I'll have to get back to you on that." Then they don't say anything else".

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Woman in Field - Alfred Stieglitz


From TJIC.…

…The [ shuttle’s external fuel tank, brought into orbit, and converted into a space station ] would provide a huge working space, and one major problem with various wet workshop designs is what to do with all the space. The oxygen tank, the smaller of the two tanks inside the ET, is itself much larger than the entire Space Station Freedom in its fully expanded form. Additionally, getting access to the interior is possible though “manholes” used for inspection during construction, but it is not clear if realistic amounts of building materials could be inserted into the tank after reaching orbit. Nevertheless the problem has been studied repeatedly, a number of such studies are collected in the links section below…

Leave it to NASA to see a completely empty space station, vastly larger than the Freedom, launched in a single mission, for free (as part of the throw-away materials) as a “problem”.

Yes, the SE is a work in progress, all designs are preliminary and subject to revision. Still, after our first ribbon is deployed the plan is to have several hundred expended lifters parked nose-tail at the bitter end of the ribbon. A modest amount of onboard computational ability, solar panels, drive train, framework. Just waiting for someone to come along and reuse them.

Not thousands of cubic feet of living space, but it is something.

Corsairs over Korea


'tdr' who blogs at 'Tales of the Heliosphere' has this comment on ISDC
At the ISDC Szoka ran the legal track of discussions. The legal track included great topics that were unfortunately sparsely attended. The talk by adventure sports lawyer Tracey Knutson should be required listening for anybody who hopes to launch people into space and avoid liability when something eventually goes wrong. (Here.) But few attended.

There's probably a reason for the sparse attendance. One, there are the really cool view graphs of spaceships and hardware at the other talks. At the legal talks, what viewgraphs there are typically have words, lots and lots of words. And not just regular English words or even whizbang rocketry words. No, we're talking legalese. Who wants that?

The more likely reason is that many spacers don't like government, but arguably they dislike lawyers even more. Maybe if they ignore them, the lawyers and government will just go away. In fact, Pete Worden got some appreciative laughs with a few lawyer jokes during his luncheon talk on Sunday. One joke suggested that even one lawyer in space was too many.

Yet during his talk Worden said an important requirement for opening the Moon to economic development is the right to own private property on the moon. He acknowledged not being a lawyer but said his understanding was that the Outer Space Treaty didn't bar private property ownership on the Moon.

If Worden or the audience had attended Szoka's comprehensive and insightful talk on private property rights in space under the OST, he and his audience might have learned that owning real property on the Moon is not going to be as easy as he and they think. However, mining its resources, possessing enough territory to mine those resources, and selling the resources are all legally possible even under the OST.

So let the lawyer jokes continue. Lawyer jokes are the price lawyers pay to run the world. Just remember, if you're not satisfied with one world, do you think lawyers are? And who do you think you're going to have to call when you're finally ready to stake a legal claim to a platinum group metal asteroid or helium 3 on the Moon?
Which is a good, important point. Engineers and hackers are essential to any project. More, a really good engineer (and you don't want any other kind) might do well at lawyering but he's not going to be happy doing it. To engineer and hack you need an interface between you and the cold world. Business guys (Hi Michael) and lawyers are that interface. Ignore the need at your peril.

Smith [the company commander] did not have to order his Marines straight into the direction of the fire; it was a collective impulse - a phenomenon I would see again and again over the coming days. The idea that Marines are trained to break down doors, to seize beachheads and other territory, was an abstraction until I was there to experience it. Running into fire rather than seeking cover from it goes counter to every human survival instinct - trust me ... In one flash, as we charged across [the street] amid whistling incoming shots, I realized that they were not like me; they were Marines.

In the Line of Fire
Robert D. Kaplan


Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Vision for Space Exploration: New Opportunities - A Speech by NASA ARC Director Simon P. Worden

I am never sure how much import to attach to speechs by administration officials. Easy to dismiss when you don't agree with them, easier yet to proclaim a new heaven on earth when the tone of the speech agrees with your own thoughts.

Still. Whatever the Director of NASA Ames Research Center has to say should not be lightly dismissed. Full text of the speech at ISDC on 5/7/2006 is here.
Now these are the key questions then: How do we sustain the vision for space exploration to lead us to settlement? How do we afford it? How do we nurture it? My answer - and I think a lot of yours' - is the private sector.

But I've got to point out that history teaches us new frontiers were not opened up by tourists. English visitors and colonists in the 17th century had few if any wealthy tourists among their numbers. So I believe we must look elsewhere for the interests and funds to sustain the type of space exploration - and settlement - that we all seek.

Let me provide you a few thoughts how we might approach this problem. First I will assert (which may be changed by my leadership) that the government should focus its efforts on two areas. The first is infrastructure.
Infrastructure - man I do love the way that word rolls off the tongue. Not much glory in building a railroad, perhaps, but it can be fun and profitable.

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Hah. A comedy 3,000 years in the making ...

10 Things I Hate About Commandments


Space Cynic

Space Cynic. Because, God bless their hearts, everyone needs to be grounded in reality. Shame there aren't more people talking on their site. Thus far it's .. just the editors.

The Democrats' Dictionary

The Democrats' Dictionary. I think Ambrose Bierce* would approve.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

FREE: 1. Anything you have to pay for whether you want it or not, as in "free public education". 2. Anything that the government allows you to do as long it is in the best interest of The People, as in "free speech".

NPR: National Public Radio. Organization that is able, through a non-market funding system, to provide listeners with programming that they do not want to listen to badly enough for commercial radio stations to bother running them, even at four in the morning.

PEOPLE, THE: The rhetorically useful imaginary American peasant class. The very young and the very old are easily convinced that they are a part of The People.

PBS: Public Broadcasting System. Television network that is guaranteed to produce objective programming in a manner that is responsive to it's viewers by the fact that it receives federal funds (which by their very nature never come with political strings attached). This frees them from the necessity of pandering to the mere consumers of their product.

RICH: Anyone who has anything that some of our constituents want to take from them.

via 'The Hand of Munger'

* I didn't reallly need to link to the Wikipedia entry did I?

Friday, May 19, 2006


The sentiment expressed by Alex, made me chuckle quietly.
Unions. Turning well oiled capitalist engines of profit and simplicity into complicated, pre-detonating, oil fouled, nightmares of technology since 1915.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

America - An Ode To Immigrants

An ode to immigrants.


We are the dream that other people dream.
The land where other people land
When late at night
They think on flight
And, flying, here arrive
Where we fools dumbly thrive ourselves.

Refuse to see
We be what all the world would like to be.
Because we hive within this scheme
The obvious dream is blind to us.
We do not mind the miracle we are,
So stop our mouths with curses.
While all the world rehearses
Coming here to stay.
We busily make plans to go away.

How dumb! newcomers cry, arrived from Chad.
You're mad! Iraqis shout,
We'd sell our souls if we could be you.
How come you cannot see the way we see you?
You tread a freedom forest as you please.
But, damn! you miss the forest for the trees.
Ten thousand wanderers a week
Engulf your shore,
You wonder what their shouting's for,
And why so glad?

Run warm those souls: America is bad?
Sit down, stare in their faces, see!
You be the hoped-for thing a hopeless world would be.
In tides of immigrants that this year flow
You still remain the beckoning hearth they'd know.
In midnight beds with blueprint, plan and scheme
You are the dream that other people dream.


Open Source Train

Open Source Train
I think that people are realizing that the Open Source train has left the station. Some people missed the train. Some people are in the middle of the bridge and are (rightfully) horrified. Others don't even hear the whistle. Their company will die without ever knowing what hit it.


While working on the Chinese portions of the sites, several small implement-looking objects were uncovered by a number of dig teams in different locations. They were often made of jade or ivory, but some had been found that were wooden and some that were metal. They roughly resembled cocaine spoons.

Eventually the hypotheses boiled down to an undetermined ceremonial use. Some time later, my friend was in SF's Chinatown and wandered into a soft-goods shop where she found one of the tiny, slender, long-stemmed spoons for about two bucks. She couldn't believe her eyes.

Joan grabbed the spoon, went to the counter, and bought the spoon. After paying for it, she asked if there was any special use for it. The lady behind the counter looked at her like she was a crazy seven-year-old and gestured with her hand to her ear: "It for wax."

Reminded me strongly of something family legand holds that my paternal grandfather would do, or did at least once do.

He travelled for business. From central Oregon to the coast and back. Going to the coast he would take (or did once take) 'desert' rocks to the coast, and would bring 'beach' rocks back to the desert. And then drop them off. To confound future students who would have to ponder how beach rocks got to the desert and visa-versa.

The new phone books are here!

The Jerk
"Page 73, Johnson, Navin, R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity, your name in print, that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now."
What? Oh, nothing. My copy of 'Liftport: Opening Space To Everyone' arrived last night, that's all. Nifty book - you should hie thee to the link, do the clicky thing and order a copy.

Lee Harvey was no friend of mine

Excellent essay on the death of Liberalism.
It is one of the ironies of the era that many young people who in 1963 reacted with profound grief to Kennedy’s death would, just a few years later, come to champion a version of the left-wing doctrines that had motivated his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. But why should this have been so? What was it about mid-century liberalism that allowed it to be knocked so badly off balance by a single blow?
Good - excellent - read.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Texas Lightning

Kick-ass video.

Eurovision 2006: Germany - Texas Lightning (Music Video)

Dang those Germans do both kinds of music - country and western - right.

Via Frau Budgie at Red Hot Cuppa Politics. And look - they have a website.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Despair is a sin.

Jerry Pournelle - Reflections on Immigration

I'm optimistic - I am. Reading Jerry's thoughts on immigration, however, gives me the mopes.
Under currently proposed legislation, we will import up to 100 million -- that's 10^8 people -- legally and legalized illegals -- in twenty years or so. I do not believe that the Melting Pot can deal with that dilution to the American character.

In fact I do not believe that we can assimilate the number of illegal immigrants we already have. The legal immigration program already admits too many people at the bottom end of society if you count families: elders imported to be on Social Security because the Old Country doesn't have decent pensions. And so forth. Add to that the illegal immigrants and the very character of the American Experiment in Self Government is at stake.

Democracy is a dangerous form of government. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide. The Framers opted for a federal republic, a Nation of States, an experiment in ordered liberty with variants. That has endured for a long time. It was transformed into a more unitary state by the Civil War, but even that did not destroy the fundamental character of these United States. I know there are those who argue that the Civil War ended the American experiment; I remind them that despair is a sin, and that in fact as late as 1938 Washington, DC was a small town in Maryland, "Don't make a Federal Case of this" was a meaningful expression, the FBI office in a major city might have half a dozen Agents and as many clerical staff, and so forth.

Since the Civil War the US went from Federal Republic to National Democracy, but it did so slowly, and until Earl Warren and his Imperial Judiciary it ran up against limits. Now we are going further down that axis toward a French-style Centralized Bureaucratic Rule. We are becoming a national democracy.

There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.

But even those who have long advocated democracy have always known that a democracy is not a form of government compatible with cultural and linguistic diversity. The Swiss Exception is instructive: Switzerland is a democracy, and it is diverse in both language and confession -- and it is not unitary. Few Swiss can name their President although most can tell you the name of the Canton and Commune officials relevant to their lives. A national democracy cannot endure as a culturally diverse society with cultural, linguistic, and religious diversities. It cannot. Ours will not.

The American Melting Pot model of assimilation to a single language, and a wide-based Judao-Christian ethical and religious culture, might be able to endure nationalization. Might. That would be an interesting experiment. But it is 100% certain that the Melting Pot cannot handle great dilution, and that it takes time for it to work. Adding tens of millions of illegals plus larger numbers of legal immigrants will destroy the model and force our national democracy into the typical defects of a large national democracy, and thus to extinction. This is about as certain as anything we know about history.

Apparently no one in Washington understands this.

If they did, they would close the borders NOW, not in 2008.

As to how, it's simple: call it 2000 miles of border. At $1 million per mile that is $2 billion/year, a drop in the Budget. Hand that money on a per/mile basis to each border county sheriff, with provision that it must be spent on border control -- apprehension and confinement. Now hand every border city $20 million a year for the same purposes. Hand each Border State $50 million a year, again solely for border enforcement. The whole program will cost less than the illegals cost us now.

And yes, there are details to be worked out, including rewards for performance and penalties for non-performance, and I took the numbers out of the top of my head; but it would work a lot better than sending 6,000 Guardsmen down to the border for TWO WEEK SHIFTS. The present plan will do nothing. It won't even LOOK as if it is doing something, which is its only purpose anyway.

Close the border now. Deport all illegals who come to the attention of the police courts. Insist that any legalization program includes instruction in English, Civics, American History, and such, and have a zero tolerance policy regarding crime including DUI, speeding tickets, driving without a license, drunk and disorderly... IN other words, deport those who volunteer for deportation. And hope that we can assimilate the rest. And do that NOW.

Apparently no one in Washington understands what is at stake.

Daily we sow the wind.
Not because I think he's wrong. Because I fear he is right.

What do you do when your culture seems determined to shoot itself in the foot?

Presidential Material

President Newt Gingrich? About as likely as a former B-list movie actor getting to the Oval Office.

Right. At any road Gregory Anderson interviewed Newt in 'The Space Review'

I am for a dramatic increase in our efforts to reach out into space, but I am for doing virtually all of it outside of NASA through prizes and tax incentives. NASA is an aging, unimaginative, bureaucracy committed to over-engineering and risk-avoidance which is actually diverting resources from the achievements we need and stifling the entrepreneurial and risk-taking spirit necessary to lead in space exploration.

There ought to be tax credits for manufacturing in space and tax credits for developing commercial flights into near space for space tourism so we build a very robust launch program in the private sector. We need a lot of competitive players, not simply one or two cumbersome large bureaucratic government contractors.

We should simply interpret the (1967 Outer Space)Treaty very broadly and state that in the absence of an international regime, people can pursue legitimate investment and development within national law.

For those who see manned space as having no role they would have thought the Wright Brothers were irrelevant in 1903. The human race has a destiny to spread across the solar system and then across the stars. I prefer that destiny be led by free people.

President Gingrich has a ring doesn't it? And the best part? Having a fellow named 'Newt' in the White House would drive the our supposed betters bonkers.


Because it's my blog and I'll drag out the way-back machine if I want to. But mostly because I ran across part of this quote in my .sig file and I feel like posting the Lileks wrapping around it. Lileks is good. He may not be remembered by the ages but he's a good workman like writer.
The Strib’s editorial page had some anti-space program cartoons on Sunday. You could predict the lame japery – looking for WMDs on Mars, Gitmos on the Moon, etc. This one by Toles summed up the whole stay-on-earth-until-the-sun-novas idea. It shows a little girl in a wheelchair reading the news, saying “They’re prepared to spend how much so a man can walk on Mars?” The scribbled dingbat in the corner – you know, Toles’ own commentary on his own commentary – says “some things just inspire us.”

Yes, we could make that little fictional girl walk if only we spent the money. But curing spinal cord injuries wouldn’t inspire us. Maybe it’s a stem-cell funding research reference – a valid jibe, I suppose, if this was an either-or thing, and people had deeply-held moral objections to a Mars mission. It just strikes me as the same old provincial jibe I dimly recall from the Apollo era: why are we going to the Moon when there are so many problems here?

Because there’s an entirely different set of problems up there.

And the answers might come in handy.

Some are steamed because the Hubble’s been tanked ahead of schedule, and I’m not pleased about that either. But you could say that every dollar spent on the Hubble thus far could have gone towards Toles’ crudely drawn paralyzed girl. Would the artist insist we had never sent the observatory in the first place, then? For that matter: there were paralyzed children in the 60s. Would Toles have preferred that the government shut down the Apollo program and throw all the millions into spinal-cord regeneration research? Will I never stop asking loaded rhetorical questions?

No. Some more:

France isn’t going to the moon. What stops them from curing spinal-cord injuries? Germany isn’t going to the moon. What stops them from curing spinal-cord injuries? Britain isn’t going to the moon. What stops them from curing spinal-cord injuries? And so forth. It’s not a zero-sum game; America is not the world. But America is best suited to leave this world for another. If that idea leaves you cold, fine.

But I can’t shake the suspicion that we were put here to leave.

As I have noted from time to time, I’m a Lutheran Deist. By some peculiar coincidence my concept of God flatters my own conceptions of the universe; imagine that. If I were king of the forest, and I set this blue-green ball up to follow my dictates, I would have made the night sky inky black - if you want the bald apes below to follow your lead, don't give them stars; they;ll only make up stupid stories. But the night is alive; there are a billion blazing stars above. A challenge? A warning? A promise? We don’t know, but they are so very tempting. And we are notoriously bad at turning temptation away. Haven't you ever looked up at the great dark beyond and felt you were being drawn from where you stood, carried into something greater? Every night the sky is an invitation. Who can look up and see nothing but a roof?

To put it all in Rumsfeld lingo: it’s the known unknown. Space is to humans what Beethoven is to dogs. I don’t think we have the slightest idea what we don’t yet understand.

Just thought of something: What holds the paraplegic in their chairs? What keeps them from shooting around the room, stopping their progress with a finger, floating from desk to desk?


And gravity isn’t a big issue . . . where?


Boy: Where is Mom?
Me: She's running away to Mexico. Do you want to go with her or stay with me?
Boy: I want to stay here. I don't want to go to Mexico.
Me: They have monkeys in Mexico . . .
Boy: Oooh Monkeys! I want to go to Mexico!

Thrown over for monkeys. The horror.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Economist: Rocket renaissance

From The Economist
First, the money. So far, more than $1 billion is known to have been committed to building private spaceships and the infrastructure to support them. For example, Mr Rutan's follow-up vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, is expected to cost its backers, Virgin Galactic, $240m for a fleet of five. The spaceport in New Mexico from which these are intended to fly will account for another $225m, although New Mexico's government is planning to raise this money itself.

These are not small sums, of course. On the other hand, Virgin Galactic has already banked $14m of deposits towards the $200,000 fare from people who want to travel on SpaceShipTwo, even though it has yet to be built, let alone flown.

All this suggests that spaceflight, if not exactly entering the age of the common man, is at least entering the age of the moderately prosperous enthusiast.

Of course we'll know when space access has truly arrived when it moves from the Science and Technology section to Business.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I don't know if I agree with Fred's conclusions vis-a-vis the trend termed multiculturism. It does make for interesting reading.
From the Washington Post: “Nearly half of the nation's children under 5 are racial or ethnic minorities, and the percentage is increasing mainly because the Hispanic population is growing so rapidly, according to a census
report released today.”

Now in newspaper parlance, “minorities” means “permanently underperforming and inassimilable minorities,” which is to say blacks, Latinos and, when anybody remembers, American Indians. It very seldom means successful minorities, such as Chinese, Greeks, white men, Jews, or Anglo-Saxons.

As we look forward to a massive slewing away from the dominance of European whites in America, what may we expect? What will these huge minority populations do? It is instructive to look at what they have done so far.

He goes on at entertaining if gloomy length describing various problems and ills, some of which he's seen first-hand. Nothing like first-hand experience to trump a slew of well-meaning intent. Then we get to what is - I feel - the nut of the piece
Another crucial question is this: If half the children today are of minorities, then in no more than eighteen years half the kids of college age will be. Unless they show a sudden scholarly afflatus which has not heretofore been in evidence, this means that soon the US will have to compete with China with the brains of only half the nation. This is not to mention secondary effects, such as enstupidating all schools to hide the failures of the minorities. Do you suppose that the Chinese are doing that?

Good question, Fred.

Conclusion: the United States as a viable country is doomed. I don't know if I agree but a) Fred doesn't have a dog in this fight, having absculated to Mexico and b) he's a sharp guy with a great deal of experience in places polite society fears to tread.

I'm still living here - I do have a dog in this fight. I've not lived as long as Fred, not kicked around the more dismal corners of the world. Which is to say I may be biased in ways the Fred is not, and unable to see forest for the trees. And too, I'm optimistic by nature.

I confess I'm not so very after reading that article.

Secrets of the Economists

Russ Nelson reveals
These facts are well-kept secrets of economists. The first rule of economics is: don't reveal the secrets. I'm going to take a big risk and reveal these secrets. Don't tell anyone else!
* for a business, capitalists are a cost,
* "excess" profits go to the entrepreneurs who created the business,
* competition eliminates these entrepreneurial profits over time, and
* the primary beneficiary of capital investment are workers.
Historically, capitalists have only gotten about a 5% yearly return on their money.
Damn greedy running-dog capitalists.


This is enough to make me stop using anti-bacterial soap
Chemicals use in anti bacterial soap are persistant in the environment, and the presence is therefore accumulating. Municipal water treatment plants don't handle the chemical, so it transfers to the "treated" sludge, where it is spread on fields routinely. Some scientists are worried that this gradual buildup could lead to "superbugs" being developed out int he wild, negating any so called advantage of using the anti bacterial soaps in the first place eventually.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


From Mempunks
DNA tests have recently confirmed that a bear killed by a hunter is half grizzly and half polar bear. Avid hunter Jim Martell was on a $45k guided polar bear hunt on Banks Island when they encountered the strange animal. The hunts Iniut guide, Roger Kuptana, was the first to note that the bear wasn't normal. It had an indented face, a humped back, long claws, and eyes ringed in black. The outfitters hosting the hunt sent the carcass out for DNA testing to save Martell a potential thousand dollar fine and year in jail for killing the wrong kind of animal. As it turned out, the creature had a polar bear mother and grizzly bear father.

The event that produced the hybrid would have been clinically interesting to watch .. from a distance.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Kedrosky puts the smackdown on a former management consultant
. . . we are told repeatedly that he founded a major consulting firm, but not which one -- only to find out that his firm was a failed bubble creation at which he had only worked for four years:

By a strange twist of fate, I owe the longevity of my consulting career [ed. Elsewhere he says seven years] to this circumstance. When I first announced my intention to withdraw from the firm in order to pursue my vocation as an unpublishable philosopher at large, my partners let me know that they would gladly regard my investment in the firm as a selfless contribution to their financial well-being. By the time I managed to extricate myself from their loving embrace, nearly three years later [ed., 7 - 3 = 4], the partnership had for other reasons descended into the kind of Hobbesian war of all against all from which only the lawyers emerge smiling. The firm was temporarily rescued by a dot-com company, but with a year both the savior and the saved collapsed in a richly deserved bankruptcy.

To summarize in English: Stewart started an unnamed firm, and tried to exit mid-bubble four years later; his partners didn't want to buy his equity, so he sued them. By the time he got his shares bought three years later the firm had imploded. I may have some of the precise details wrong, but that's seemingly the essence. Not to be unnecessarily harsh, but who the hell cares what someone like this has to say about management theory, especially if the article is disjointed, dull, obvious, smug, poorly written, and full of falsely-elevated faux philosophy chatter.

If only the literate beating could be administered to consultants as a group. Ah one can dream.

Sea Angel

In May, 1991 I was assigned to 3D FSSG, Camp Kinser Okinawa. Specifically I was assigned to the programming section of the Information Management Services Office (ISMO) producing iffy programs in Clipper.

Sunday evening the MSGT X knocked on my door. This is entirely unexpected; I'm just another junior NCO in the ISMO, he's the boss.

"How would you like to get out of the inspection tommorrow?"
"0700 tomorrow report to the dispensary, get a full specturm of shots. 0800 report to supply, draw gear. 1000 you'll be on a plane at Kadena. You're going to Bangladesh. They need the best NCO programmer I've got. As it happens you're the only NCO programmer who can deploy so off you go."

I was on my way to Joint Task Force Sea Angel. My contribution in the final analysis wasn't great; they didn't need a programmer they needed someone who could read a book and create a flat-file database. As it happened since no one at the ISMO knew what they meant by the orders for 'the best NCO programmer you have" I ended up with a footlocker full of LAN and WAN gear, a good toolkit, massive amounts of software on floppy, and manuals.

Among the manuals was the one needed for the flat-file database application they had. I spent a few hours reading, a day coding and learning and hey presto my job was done. I spent another two days cleaning malware from the machines (anti virus software, whazzat?), then spent the rest of my time (nearly a month) as the message center's messenger.

Still .. helping people - no matter how small my contribution - felt good. It felt right being there, helping a country recover from disaster.

Why blog about this now? As near as I can recall two days from now is the fifteenth anniversary of MSGT X telling me I was going to Bangladesh. I didn't want to the let the occasion pass by with out remark.

See also this for the perspective from Bangladesh. Remembering April 29: The deadly sea and the sea angels.


I'm biased - I work there. But I think this is pretty damned cool. From Liftport's May Technical Newsletter
Interested in clean, green, renewable wind power to reduce energy costs? Do you know that meteorological data is critical to siting wind turbines? Liftport is seeking opportunities to utilize its ballooned meteorological HALE platforms to help site wind turbines. We are seeking farms or vineyards who will allow us to fly a meteorological HALE platform at low altitude on their property. This can be a much simpler and more cost effective method to help site wind turbines than current standard data collection methods.

Liftport is currently particularly interested in property in New England, Washington and in the vicinity of Southern New Jersey. If you know someone who would be interested in installing a Liftport HALE platform on their farm or vineyard please send the location's full mailing address, point of contact, telephone number, email address and the current electricity provider to

I have no idea about the details - see Andrew. It's just all so cool and groovy playing even a minor role in a group of people that organize around the space elevator idea.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Carl the Second

More fun from Carl.This goes back in time to the now far off and distant days during the Heroic Age of the dot com bubble.

Episode 6: The Problem With Dilbert

"What's this?" Dave asked.

I looked at where Dave was pointing. "That's Ratbert. He's the one that looks like a rat."

"No, it's a Dilbert cartoon," Dave said. "Have you ever noticed how everyone expresses their so-called individuality by taping a Dilbert cartoon to their computer monitor?"

I frowned. "Dilbert is an integral part of the geekosphere."

"Dilbert disempowers the working class by making light of the historical conflict between capital and labor," Dave told me, with a straight face.
Internship of Fools, Luke Seeman:
It's like a Dilbert cartoon gone terribly, terribly wrong. In the last month 14 people here have quit in frustration. The people in the trenches are obviously hollow shells of what they once were and management is clueless.
Fray. Now that takes me back. No reason for posting this. Just Because if you must know. And because seems to be MIA and I really wished Carl had made a go of that venture.

Not that I know Carl well enough to first name him.

Think of the children

Why a Space Elevator? From alert enthusiast Ed Greisch comes the news that

The number of potentially viable human lifetimes lost per a century of postponing of the onset of galactic colonization is 5 with 46 zeros afterit! We loose 5X10**46 "great grandchildren" for each century we postpone colonizing the galaxy!!!!!!!
Will no one think of the children? See 'Cosmological Forecast and Its Practical Significance' in Journal of Evolution and Technology Vol. 12 - September 2002.


Thingamy is written in LISP.
Thingamy is now entirely done in Common Lisp, after having basked in a few other development environments in it's early days :)

Given the nature of the system and the way we go forward - "no way we can plan for all, better build so we can face anything" - then, well, CL has so far been the best of friends.

Given that Paul Graham (as noted by Ric in the comments) believes LISP is an edge that few competitors will want to match .. I'm feeling better about the Thingamy and how it could fit into Liftport's environment.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Lileks doesn't just write a good piece, he does modestly entertaining audio.
When you grow up and all you know of Britain is the television shows and the Kipling stories it's an amazing, fascinating place.

It had two identities. It had it's past identity as the planets most civilized bad-asses. The could project power across the world, conquer anything. And what did they do when they conquered? They put in place laws and schools and courts and the rest of it. Walked around in stiff red uniforms, sweating, miserably hot and nevertheless do it for King and country.

And then you have the contemporary version of Britain. Suave and sophisticated spy-like David NIven / James Bond with gadgets and martinis and a wry eye tilted toward the ladies simultaneously with swinging carnally mod London with it's indescribably perfect pop music which would later give way to a different form of rock and roll entirely.

Between those two things it's past and it's dual identity in the present Britain was an amazing country. Britain is a cousin country just hanging out there and someday you figure you'll visit.


Wisdom from Carl.
I believe in projects. Projects should never be too big. Big ideas and big dreams lead to big problems.
It should be noted that Liftport is not, in the grand scheme of things, a big project. Ambitious, but not with airy grand schemes.


Profanity Ahead.

Attention Microsoft Outlook Developers.

I'm composing a mail message in Outlook. I've not used it in a while but we're deploying it at the day job so I'm taking one for the team.

File - New - Mail Message
Click To:
Hmm. I know 'Joe' but what is his last name?
Click Advanced, select Find
Display Name: 'Asshat' Click 'ok'
"No Entries were found" "OK"
And you're dumped witout ceremony back in the 'Select Names' dialog.

Jesus McFuck people. Who is the developmentaly delayed project manager who decided that the default for a failed search in the address book is to close the search function? As if my default behaivor is to say 'meh' and just .. give up. Did it occur to you that, maybe, I don't want to give up my search and I just might need to change the spelling of a search term?

Respectfully Submitted,

An Irritated User

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Revolution will not be Blogged

The Revolution will not be Blogged
by Pharoah Ashseti of Newark @ myspace

You will not be able to read it at home, brother.
You will not be able to log on, log in and syndicate your feed.
You will not be able to lose hours in MetaFilter and Kuro5hin,
Click on text ads for naked punk girls with online diaries,
Because the revolution will not be blogged.

The revolution will not be blogged.
The revolution will not be hosted on Blogspot or Pitas.
It will certainly not be hosted on Salon or Backwash.
The revolution will not show you digicam pics of people
You've never met before in pubs or bars looking like they've
Just stepped out of Nerd Central Station and
Eaten a few too many Ring Dings.
The revolution will not be blogged.

The revolution will not win a goddamn Web award
From the Bloggies or Webmonkey or be linked to by A-list
Bloggers like Meg Pickard or Wil "Crazy Hair" Wheaton.
The revolution will not be turned into a comedy novel.
The revolution will not comply with HTML 4.01.
The revolution will not be updated regularly in easily
Digestible chunks, because the revolution will not be blogged, brother.

There will be no half-baked diatribe about the plans
You and your lover have for the weekend or that thing
You saw on television the other day but missed half of because Nancy rang.
The Guardian will not run a special on you
Or be able to spell your name.
The revolution will not be blogged.

There will not be any little graphics from "alternative" websites
Declaring you to be Syphilis or Charlie Manson.
There will not be any little graphics from "alternative" websites
Declaring you to be a Native American Chief made of butter.
There will be no custom scripts allowing you and your friends
To talk banalities in the sidebar of your site.
There will be no webcam pics of you posing just like Madonna
So that the rich nerd perverts who visit your page can buy you things
From your Amazon wishlist.

Memepool, Daypop, Blogdex, B3ta and Fark
Will no longer be so goddamn relevant or funny, and
Women will not give a shit if Brad and Jennifer are having
A happy marriage or if Tom Cruise is a homosexual because
The good people of the world will be in the street looking for peace.
The revolution will not be blogged.

There will be nobody having nervous breakdowns while
Putting together Web applications for updating your page
Or links to pages with many hamsters dancing in unison.
The revolution will not be an all-pervasive medium for
The transmission of ideas in a timely manner on a global scale.
The revolution will not display correctly in Mozilla.

The revolution will not have banners or popups or popunders
Or those irritating graphics that take over your whole screen.
You will not have to worry about having the latest Macromedia
Flash, Macromedia Shockwave or Macromedia Goddamn plugin.
The revolution will not work at all in Opera.
The revolution will not secretly hope for a deal with Microsoft.
The revolution will not be skinnable.

The revolution will not be blogged, will not be blogged,
Will not be blogged, will not be blogged.
The revolution will be no Web diary, brothers;
The revolution will be televised.


Sunday, May 07, 2006


Harlan Ellison was named the Damon Knight Memorial Grandmaster in Tempe, Arizona on May 6.

Robin Wayne Bailey, Harlan Ellison, and Connie Willis
Photo courtesy of SFWA

I'm sure he's still feisty. I'm sure he's still the guy who never learned it's not polite to ask 'who farted?'. But holy crap he looks old and unwell. Just a bit of a shock - in my mind Harlan is a young punk of about thirty.


Watching a TV movie last night. Heroine picks up a bat to fend off the Bad Guy. Boy (who is six) pipes up from the couch "Schwing-batta-batta-schwing!"


Q: Does Strongbadia have a space program?

A: Who doesn't have a space program these days? I mean, don't, like, the Italians have a space program?

Proud Legions by T.R. Fehrenbach

This essay is a chapter in 'This Kind of War' by T.R. Fehrenbach. A history of the Korean War, written in 1963, it is a study of what happens when a nation neglects the basics of war fighting.

Buy a copy. It's good. Not just for the topic material but because Fehrenbach can write.

'Proud Legions' is chapter 25, but works as a stand-alone essay. Spend a few minutes reading this - it will not be wasted time.

I found this stashed on my hard drive. The file save date was two years ago, and contained typographic errors. There is no way I'd have the patience to type this in - I obtained it from somewhere, but have no idea where.

Proud Legions

T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War

We was rotten 'fore we started – we was never disciplined;
We made it out a favour if an order was obeyed.
Yes, every little drummer 'ad 'is rights an' wrongs to mind,
So we had to pay for teachin' – an' we paid!
- Rudyard Kipling, "That Day"

During the first months of American intervention in Korea, reports from the front burst upon an America and world stunned beyond belief. Day after day, the forces of the admitted first power of the earth reeled backward under the blows of the army of a nation of nine million largely illiterate peasants, the product of the kind of culture advanced nations once overawed with gunboats. Then, after fleeting victory, Americans fell back once more before an army of equally illiterate, lightly armed Chinese.

The people of Asia had changed, true. The day of the gunboat and a few Marines would never return. But that was not the whole story. The people of the West had changed, too. They forgot that the West had dominated not only by arms, but by superior force of will.

During the summer of 1950, and later, Asians would watch. Some, friends of the West, would even smile. And none of them would ever forget.

News reports in 1950 talked of vast numbers, overwhelming hordes of fanatic North Koreans, hundreds of monstrous tanks, against which the thin United States forces could not stand. In these reports there was truth, but not the whole truth.

The American units were outnumbered. They were outgunned. They were given an impossible task at the outset.

But they were also outfought.

In July 1950, one news commentator rather plaintively remarked that warfare had not changed so much, after all. For some reason, ground troops still seemed to be necessary, in spite of the atom bomb. And oddly and unfortunately, to this gentleman, man still seemed to be an important ingredient in battle. Troops were getting killed, in pain and fury and dust and filth. What had happened to the widely heralded pushbutton warfare where skilled, immaculate technicians who had never suffered the misery and ignominy of basic training blew each other to kingdom come like gentlemen?

In this unconsciously plaintive cry lies buried a great deal of the truth why the United States was almost defeated.

Nothing had happened to pushbutton warfare; its emergence was at hand. Horrible weapons that could destroy every city on earth were at hand – at too many hands. But pushbutton warfare meant Armageddon, and Armageddon, hopefully, will never be an end of national policy.

Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life – but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.

The object of warfare is to dominate a portion of the earth, with its peoples, for causes either just or unjust. It is not to destroy the land and people, unless you have gone wholly mad.

Pushbutton war has its place. There is another kind of conflict – crusade, jihad, holy war, call it what you choose. It has been loosed before, with attendant horror but indecisive results. In the past, there were never means enough to exterminate all the unholy, whether Christian, Moslem, Protestant, Papist, or Communist. If jihad is preached again, undoubtedly the modern age will do much better.

Americans, denying from moral grounds that war can ever be a part of politics, inevitably tend to think in terms of holy war – against militarism, against fascism, against bolshevism. In the postwar age, uneasy, disliking and fearing the unholiness of Communism, they have prepared for jihad. If their leaders blow the trumpet, or if their homeland is attacked, their millions are agreed to be better dead than Red. Any kind of war short of jihad was, is, and will be unpopular with the people. Because such wars are fought with legions, and American, even when they are proud of them, do not like their legions. They do not like to serve in them, nor even to allow them to be what they must.

For legions have no ideological or spiritual home in the liberal society. The liberal society has no use or need for legions – as its prophets have long proclaimed.

Except that in this world are tigers.

The men of the Inmun Gun and the CCF were peasant boys, tough, inured to hunger and hardship. One- third of them had been in battle and knew what battle meant. They had been indoctrinated in Communism, but no high percentage of them were fanatic. Most of them, after all, were conscripts, and unskilled. They were not half so good soldiers as the bronzed men who followed Rommel in the desert, or the veterans who slashed down toward Bastogne.

They were well armed, but their weapons were no better than those of the United States design, if as good. But the American soldier of 1950, though the same breed of man, was not half so good as the battalions that had absorbed Rommel's bloody lessons, or stood like steel in the Ardennes.

The weapons his nation had were not in his hands, and those that were were old and worn.

Since the end of World War II ground weapons had been developed, but none had been procured. There were plenty of the old arms around, and it has always been a Yankee habit to make do. The Army was told to make do.

In 1950 its vehicles in many cases would not run. Radiators were clogged, engines gone. When ordered to Korea, some units towed their transport down to the LST's, because there was no other way to get it to the boat. Tires and tubes had a few miles left in them, and were kept – until they came apart on Korean roads. In Japan, where divisions were supposedly guarding our former enemies, most of the small arms had been reported combat unserviceable. Rifle barrels were worn smooth. Mortar mounts were broken, and there were no longer any spare barrels for machine guns.

Radios were short, and those that were available would not work.

Ammunition, except small arms, was "hava-no."

These things had been reported. The Senate knew them; the people heard them. But usually the Army was told, "Next year."

Even a rich society cannot afford nuclear bombs, supercarriers, foreign aid, five million new cars a years, long-range bombers, the highest standard of living in the world, and a million new rifles.

Admittedly, somewhere you have to cut and choose.

But guns are hardware, and man, not hardware, is the ultimate weapon. In 1950 there were not enough men, either – less than 600,000 to carry worldwide responsibilities, including recruiting; for service in the ranks has never been on the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's preferred list of occupations. And in these 600,000 men themselves trouble lay.

There was a reason.

Before 1939 the United States Army was small, but it was professional. Its tiny officers corps was parochial, but true. Its members devoted their time to the study of war, caring little what went on in the larger society around them. They were centurions, and the society around them not their concern.

When so ordered, they went to war. Spreading themselves thinner still, they commanded and trained civilians who heeded the trumpet's call. The civilians did the fighting, of course – but they did it the Army's way.

In 1861 millions of volunteers donned blue or gray. Millions of words have been written on American valor, but few books dwell on the fact that of the sixty important battles, fifty-five were commanded on both sides by West Pointers, and on one side in the remaining five.

In 1917 four million men were mustered in. Few of them liked it, but again they did things the way professionals wanted them done.

The volunteers came and went, and the Army changed not at all.

But since the Civil War, the Army had neither the esteem nor the favor of public or government. Liberal opinion, whether business-liberal or labor-liberal, dominated the United States after the destruction of the South, and the illiberal Army grew constantly more alienated from its own society.

In a truly liberal society, centurions have no place. For centurions, when they put on the soldier, do not retain the citizen. They are never citizens to begin with.

There was and is no danger of military domination of the nation. The Constitution gave Congress the power of life or death over the military, and they have always accepted the fact. The danger has been the other way around – the liberal society, in its heart, wants not only domination of the military, but acquiescence of the military toward the liberal view of life.

Domination and control society should have. The record of military rule, from the burnished and lazy Praetorians to the juntas of Latin America, to the attempted fiasco of the Legion Etrangere, are pages of history singularly foul in odor.

But acquiescence society may not have, if it wants an army worth a damn. By the very nature of its mission, the military must maintain a hard and illiberal view of life and the world. Society's purpose is to live; the military's is to stand ready, if need be, to die.

Soldiers are rarely fit to rule – but they must be fit to fight.

The military is in essence a tool, to be used by its society. If its society is good, it may hope to be used honorably, even if badly. If its society is criminal, it may be, like the Wehrmacht, unleashed upon a helpless world.

But when the Wehrmacht dashed against the world, it was brought to ruin, not by a throng of amateurs, but by well-motivated, well-generaled Allied troops, who had learned their military lessons.

Some men, of kind intention, are always dubious because the generals of the Wehrmacht and the men of West Point and V.M.I. and Leavenworth read the same books, sometimes hold the same view of life.

Why not? German plumbers, American plumbers, use the same manuals, and look into the same kind of water.

In 1861, and 1917, the Army acted upon the civilian, changing him. But in 1945 something new happened. Suddenly, without precedent, perhaps because of changes in the emerging managerial society, professional soldiers of high rank had become genuinely popular with the public. In 1861, and in 1917, the public gave the generals small credit, talked instead of the gallant militia. Suddenly, at the end of World War II, society embraced the generals. And here it ruined them.

They had lived their lives in semibitter alienation from their own culture (What's the matter, Colonel; can't you male it on the outside?) but now they were sought after, offered jobs in business, government, on college campuses.

Humanly, the generals liked the acclaim. Humanly, they wanted it to continue. And when, as usual after all our wars, there came a great civilian clamor to change all the things in the army the civilians hadn't liked, humanly, the generals could not find it in their hearts to tell the public to go to hell.

It was perfectly understandable that large numbers of men who served didn't like the service. There was no reason why they should. They served only because there had been a dirty job that had to be done. Admittedly, the service was not perfect; no human institution having power over men can ever be. But many of the abuses the civilians complained about had come not from true professional but from men with quickie diplomas, whose brass was much more apt to go to their heads than to those of men who had waited twenty years for leaves and eagles. In 1945, somehow confusing the plumbers with the men who pulled the chain, the public demanded that the Army be changed to conform with decent, liberal society.

The generals could have told them to go to hell and made it stick. A few heads would have rolled, a few stars would have been lost. But without acquiescence Congress could no more emasculate the Army than it could alter the nature of the State Department. It could have abolished it, or weakened it even more than it did – but it could not have changed its nature. But the generals could not have retained their new popularity by antagonizing the public, and suddenly popularity was very important to them. Men such as Doolittle, Eisenhower, and Marshall rationalized, America, with postwar duties around the world, would need a bigger peacetime Army than ever before. Therefore, it needed to be popular with the people. And it should be made pleasant, so that more men would enlist. And since Congress wouldn't do much about upping pay, every man should have a chance to become a sergeant, instead of one in twenty. But, democratically, sergeants would not draw much more pay than privates.

And since some officers and noncoms had abused their powers, rather than make sure officers and noncoms were better than ever, it would be simpler and more expedient – and popular – to reduce those powers. Since Americans were by nature egalitarian, the Army had better go that route too. Other professional people, such as doctors and clergymen, had special privileges – but officers, after all, had no place in liberal society, and had better be cut down to size.

The Doolittle Board of 1945-1946 met, listened to less than half a hundred complaints, and made its recommendations. The so-called "caste system" of the Army was modified. Captains, by fiat, suddenly ceased to be gods, and sergeants, the hard-bitten backbone of any army, were told to try to be just some of the boys. Junior officers had a great deal of their power to discipline taken away from them. They could no longer inflict any real punishment, short of formal court-martial, nor could they easily reduce ineffective N.C.O.'s. Understandably, their own powers shaky, they cut the ground completely away from under their N.C.O.'s.

A sergeant, by shouting at some sensitive yardbird, could get his captain into a lot of trouble. For the real effect of the Doolittle recommendations was psychological. Officers had not been made wholly powerless – but they felt that they had been slapped in the teeth. The officer corps, by 1946 again wholly professional, did not know how to live with the newer code.

One important thing was forgotten by the citizenry: by 1946 all the intellectual and sensitive types had said goodbye to the Army – they hoped for good. The new men coming in now were the kind of men who join armies the world over, blank-faced, unmolded – and they needed shaping. They got it; but it wasn't the kind of shaping they needed.

Now an N.C.O. greeted new arrivals with a smile. Where once he would have told them they made him sick to his stomach, didn't look tough enough to make a go of his outfit, he now led them meekly to his company commander. And this clean-cut young man, who once would have sat remote at the right hand of God in his orderly room, issuing orders that crackled like thunder, now smiled too. "Welcome aboard gentlemen. I am your company commander; I'm here to help you. I'll try to make your stay both pleasant and profitable."

This was all very democratic and pleasant – but it is the nature of young men to get away with anything they can, and soon these young men found they could get away with plenty.

A soldier could tell a sergeant to blow it. In the old Army he might have been bashed, and found immediately what the rules were going to be. In the Canadian Army – which oddly enough no American liberals have found fascistic or bestial – he would have been marched in front of his company commander, had his pay reduced, perhaps even been confined for thirty days, with no damaging mark on his record. He would have learned, instantly, that orders are to be obeyed.

But in the new American Army, the sergeant reported such a case to his C.O. But the C.O. couldn't do anything drastic or educational to the man; for any real action, he had to pass the case up higher. And nobody wanted to court-martial the man, to put a permanent damaging mark on his record. The most likely outcome was for the man to be chided for being rude, and requested to do better in the future.

Some privates, behind their smirks, liked it fine.

Pretty soon, the sergeants, realizing the score, started to fraternize with the men. Perhaps, through popularity, they could get something done. The junior officers, with no sergeants to knock heads, decided that the better part of valor was never to give an unpopular order.

The new legions carried the old names, displayed the old, proud colors, with their gallant battle streamers. The regimental mottoes still said things like "Can Do." In their neat, fitted uniforms and new shiny boots – there was money for these – the troops looked good. Their appearance made the generals smile.

What they lacked couldn't be seen, not until the guns sounded.

There is much to military training that seems childish, stultifying, and even brutal. But one essential part of breaking men into military life is the removal of misfits – and in the service a man is a misfit who cannot obey orders, any orders, and who cannot stand immense and searing mental and physical pressure.

For his own sake and for that of those around him, a man must be prepared for the awful, shrieking moment of truth when he realizes he is all alone on a hill ten thousand miles from home, and that he may be killed in the next second.

The young men of America, from whatever strata, are raised in a permissive society. The increasing alienation of their education from the harsher realities of life makes their reorientation, once enlisted, doubly important.

Prior to 1950, they got no reorientation. They put on the uniform, but continued to get by, doing things rather more or less. They had no time for sergeants.

As discipline deteriorated, the generals themselves were hardly affected. They still had their position, their pomp and ceremonies. Surrounded by professionals of the old school, largely field rank, they still thought their rod was iron, for seemingly, their own orders were obeyed.

But ground battle is a series of platoon actions. No longer can a field commander stand on a hill, like Lee or Grant, and oversee his formations. Orders in combat – the orders that kill men or get them killed, are not given by generals, or even by majors. They are given by lieutenants and sergeants, and sometimes by PFC's.

When a sergeant gives a soldier an order in battle, it must have the same weight as that of a four-star general.

Such orders cannot be given by men who are some of the boys. Men willingly take orders to die only from those they are trained to regard as superior beings.

It was not until the summer of 1950, when the legions went forth, that the generals realized what they had agreed to, and what they had wrought.

The Old Army, outcast and alien and remote from the warm bosom of society, officer and man alike, ordered into Korea, would have gone without questioning. It would have died without counting. As on Bataan, it would not have listened for the angel's trumpet or the clarion call. It would have heard the hard sound of its own bugles, and hard-bitten, cynical, wise in bitter ways, it would have kept its eyes on its sergeants.

It would have died. It would have retreated, or surrendered, only in the last extremity. In the enemy prison camps, exhausted, sick, it would have spat upon its captors, despising them to the last. It would have died, but it might have held.

One aftermath of the Korean War has been the passionate attempt in some military quarters to prove the softness and decadence of American society as a whole, because in the first six months of that war there were wholesale failures. It has been a pervasive and persuasive argument, and it has raised its own counterargument, equally passionate.

The trouble is, different men live by different myths.

There are men who would have a society pointed wholly to fighting and resistance to Communism, and this would be a very different society from the one Americans now enjoy. It might succeed on the battlefield, but its other failures can be predicted.

But the infantry battlefield also cannot be remade to the order of the prevailing mid-century opinion of American sociologists.

The recommendations of the so-called Doolittle Board of 1945-1946, which destroyed so much of the will – if not the actual power – of the military traditionalists, and left them bitter, and confused as to how to act, was based on experience in World War II. In that war, as in all others, millions of civilians were fitted arbitrarily into a military pattern already centuries old. It had once fitted Western society; it now coincided with American customs and thinking no longer.

What the Doolittle Board tried to do, in small measure, was to bring the professional Army back into the new society. What it could not do, in 1946, was to gauge the future.

By 1947 the United States Army had returned, in large measure, to the pattern it had known prior to 1939. The new teenagers who now joined it were much the same stripe of men who had joined in the old days. They were not intellectuals, they were not completely fired with patriotism, or motivated by the draft; nor was an aroused public, eager to win a war, breathing down their necks.

A great many of them signed up for three squares and a sack.

Over several thousand years of history, man has found a way to make soldiers out of this kind of man, as he comes, basically unformed, to the colors. It is a way with great stresses and great strains. It cannot be said it is wholly good. Regimentation is not good, completely, for any man.

But no successful army has been able to avoid it. It is an unpleasant necessity, seemingly likely to go on forever, as long as men fight in fields and mud.

One thing should be made clear.

The Army could have fought World War III, just as it could have fought World War II, under the new rules. During 1941-1945 the average age of the United States soldier was in the late twenties, and the ranks were seasoned with maturity from every rank of life, as well as intelligence.

In World War III, or any war with national emotional support, this would have again been true. Soldiers would have brought their motivation with them, firmed by understanding and maturity. The Army could have fought World War III in 1950, but it could not fight Korea. As a case in point, take the experiences of one platoon sergeant in Fort Lewis, Washington. During the big war he had held sway over a platoon of seventy-two enlisted men. The platoon was his to run; the officers rarely came around the barracks.

The platoon sergeant was reasonable man, in charge of reasonable men, who knew why they were in the Army. Their average age was thirty-two; one-fourth of them, roughly, were college trained. Almost all of them were skilled, in one trade or another.

This kind of man cannot be made to dig a six-by-six hole to bury a carelessly dropped cigarette, nor double-timed around the PX on Sunday morning.

The platoon sergeant relieved a multiple-striped young idiot – as he termed the man – who tried just this. The platoon, as platoons can, ruined the former sergeant.

The new platoon sergeant told his men the barracks needed cleaning, but if everyone would cooperate, each man clean his own area each day, he could get a few men off detail to clean the common areas, such as the latrine, and there need be no GI parties.

The platoon cooperated. There were no GI parties, no extra details. A few men went off the track, now and then; the older men of the platoon handled them quietly, without bothering the platoon sergeant.

This was discipline. Ideally, it should well up out of the men, not be imposed upon them.

The platoon prospered. It won the battalion plaque for best barracks so often it was allowed to keep the plaque in perpetuity.

Even after VJ-Day, every man fell out for reveille, promptly, because the platoon sergeant explained to them this was the way the game was played. And the platoon was proud of itself; every man knew it was a good outfit, just a little better than the next.

Then, one by one, the men went home, as the war ended.

The platoon sergeant now was promoted to first sergeant, six stripes, an enlisted god who walked. He got a new company of several platoons, all filled with the new, callow faces entering the Army to be trained. The war was over, and every man coming in knew it.

The first sergeant, wise now in the ways of handling men, as he thought, carefully explained to the newcomers that the barracks must be cleaned, but if everyone would cooperate, each man clean his own area each day, there would be no GI parties, and there would be passes.

On Saturday the barracks were dirty.

The sergeant, who thought that men needed only to understand what was required to obey, carefully explained what he wanted. Friday, with a great deal of hollering, shouting, and horseplay, the new men cleaned the barracks.

On Saturday, the barracks were still dirty, and the captain made a few pointed remarks to the sergeant. The sergeant got everyone together, and told them how it was going to be. These men on the mops, these men on the brooms, these men with the lye soap. No hollering or sloshing of water or horseplay – just clean the goddam barracks.

It took most of Friday night, and the men had to stay in the latrines to clean their rifles, but they cleaned the barracks. A few of them got out of hand, but there were no older hands who could – or would – hold them in check. The sergeant handled each of these himself.

The platoon prospered, but it wasn't easy, particularly on the sergeant. Gradually, he came to realize that seventeen- and eighteen- year-olds, mostly from the disadvantaged areas of society, had no feeling of responsibility to the Army or to the Republic for which it stood. They were not self-disciplined, and they tended to resent authority, even more than the college men and skilled artisans he had commanded before. Probably some had resented their parents; definitely most resented the sergeant, even as most of them, back in their hometowns, had instinctively resented the police.

There is no getting around the fact that cops and sergeants spoil your fun.

The platoon prospered, as a sort of jail, until someone wrote to his congressman. After that the captain spoke to the sergeant, telling him that it was peacetime and that perhaps the real purpose of an Army was not to learn to use the bayonet, but to engage in athletics and take Wednesday afternoons off.

The sergeant, now a confused young man with six stripes who walked, left the Army, and graduated from college. If the Army was going to hell, it was a lot more pleasant to watch it go to hell from the Officer's Club than from the Orderly Room.

A decade after Korea, the military traditionalists still grind their teeth. The sociologists still keep a wary eye on them. Both still try to use the Korean battleground, and its dreary POW camps, to further their own particular myths of human behavior.

Probably, both are wrong.

The military have the preponderance of fact with them as far as Korea was concerned. Korea was the kind of war that since the dawn of history was fought by professionals, by legions. It was fought by men who soon knew they had small support or sympathy at home, who could read in the papers statements by prominent men that they should be withdrawn. It was fought by men whom the Army – at its own peril – had given neither training nor indoctrination, nor the hardness and bitter pride men must have to fight a war in which they do not in their hearts believe.

The Army needed legions, but society didn't want them. It wanted citizen-soldiers.

But the sociologists are right – absolutely right – in demanding that the centurion view of life not be imposed upon America. In a holy, patriotic war – like that fought by the French in 1793, or as a general war against Communism will be – America can get a lot more mileage out of citizen-soldiers than it can from legions.

No one has suggested that perhaps there should be two sets of rules, one for the professional Army, which may have to fight in far places, without the declaration of war, and without intrinsic belief in the value of its dying, for reasons of policy, chessmen on the checkerboard of diplomacy; and one for the high-minded, enthusiastic, and idealistic young men who come aboard only when the ship is sinking.

The other answer is to give up Korea-type wars, and to surrender great-power status, and a resultant hope of order – our own decent order – in the world. But America is rich and fat and very, very noticeable in this world. It is a forlorn hope that we should be left alone.

In the first six months America suffered a near debacle because her Regular Army fighting men were the stuff of legions, but they had not been made into legionaries.

America was not more soft or more decadent than it had been twenty years earlier. It was confused, badly, on its attitudes toward war. It was still bringing up its youth to think there were no tigers, and it was still reluctant to forge them guns to shoot tigers.

Many of America's youth, in the Army, faced horror badly because they had never been told they would have to face horror, or that horror is very normal in our unsane world. It had not been ground into them that they would have to obey their officers, even if the orders got them killed.

It has been a long, long time since American citizens have been able to take down the musket from the mantelpiece and go tiger hunting. But they still cling to the belief that they can do so, and do it well, without training.

This is the error that leads some men to cry out that Americans are decadent.

If Americans in 1950 were decadent, so were the rabble who streamed miserably into Valley Forge, where von Steuben made soldiers out of them. If American society had no will to defend itself, neither did it in 1861, at First Manassas, or later at Shiloh, when whole regiments of Americans turned tail and ran.

The men who lay warm and happy in their blankets at Kasserine, as the panzers rolled toward them in the dawn, were decadent, by this reasoning.

The problem is not that Americans are soft but that they simply will not face what war is all about until they have had their teeth kicked in. They will not face the fact that the military professionals, while some have ideas about society in general that are distorted and must be watched, still know better than anyone else how a war is won. Free society cannot be oriented toward the battlefield – Sparta knew that trap – but some adjustments must be made, as the squabbling Athenians learned to their sorrow.

The sociologists and psychologists of Vienna had no answer to the Nazi bayonets, when they crashed against their doors. The soldiers of the democratic world did.

More than once, as at Valley Forge, after Bull Run, and Kasserine, the world has seen an American army rise from its own ashes, reorient itself, grow hard and bitter, knowledgeable and disciplined and tough. In 1951, after six months of being battered, the Eighth Army in Korea rose from its own ashes of despair. No man who was there still believes Americans in the main are decadent, just as no man who saw Lieutenant General Matt Ridgway in operation doubts the sometime greatness of men.

He who supposes all men to be brave at all times…does not realize that the courage of troops must be reborn daily, that nothing is so changeable that the true skill of a general consists of knowing how to guarantee it by his positions, dispositions, and those traits of genius that characterize great captains. – From the French of Maurice de Saxe, "Reveries on the Art of War".

When Lieutenant General Ridgway left Tokyo to assume command of the Eighth Army on 26 December 1950, he asked MacArthur in parting, "General, if I get over there and find the situation warrants it, do I have your permission to attack?"

MacArthur's aged face cracked wide in a grin.

"Do whatever you think best, Matt. The Eighth Army is yours."

These were, as Ridgway said later, the sort of orders to put heart in a soldier. And Ridgway's own first task was to put heart in the Eighth Army.

Matt Ridgway came to Korea convinced that the United States Army could beat any Asiatic horde that lived to its knees. He quickly found that on this subject he was a majority of one.

The Eighth Army was not only pulling south; it had no great desire to meet the Chinese. Contact over much of the front was broken. There was almost no patrolling.

When Ridgway asked where the Chinese were, and in what strength, he was shown a vague goose egg on the map to the north of Eighth Army in which was inscribed the figure 174,000. More than this no one knew, and no one was making concerted efforts to find out. The Eighth Army had had its fill of Chinese-hunting in the north.

But if the Eighth Army expected General Matt Ridgway to be satisfied with that, they had another think coming.

Ridgway began to hammer away. At first, realizing the problem, he talked of simple things: aggressive patrolling, maintaining contact at all costs, supply, and firepower. He talked of the most basic thing of all, leadership. He was as blunt or as gentle as the situation called for.

He told his senior commanders the simple truth that America's power and prestige were at stake out here, and whether they believed in this war or not, they were going to have to fight it. He would help provide the tools, but they would have to provide their own guts. If the American Armed Forces could not beat the hordes of Red China in the field, then it made no difference how many new autos Detroit could produce.

Everywhere Matt Ridgway went, however, he found the same question in men's minds: What the hell are we doing in this godforsaken place?

If men had been told, Destroy the evil of Bolshevism, they might have understood. But they did not understand why the line must be held or why the Taehan Minkuk – that miserable, stinking, undemocratic country – must be protected.

The question itself never concerned Matt Ridgway. At the age of fifty-six, more than thirty years a centurion, to him the answer was simple. The loyalty he gave, and expected, precluded the slightest questioning of orders. This he said:

The real issues are whether the power of Western Civilization, as God has permitted it to flower in our own beloved lands, shall defy and defeat Communism; whether the rule of men who shoot their prisoners, enslave their citizens, and deride the dignity of man, shall displace the rule of those to whom the individual and his individual rights are sacred; whether we are to survive with God's hand to guide and lead us, or to perish in the dead existence of a Godless world.

Under General Ridgway's hammering, the Eighth Army took the offensive within thirty days. After 25 January it never really again lost the initiative. At Chipyong-ni, the battle that presaged what was to come all spring, it was the Chinese who melted away into the snow-draped hills, leaving their dead behind.

Under a new, firm hand, and with the taste of Chinese blood, the Eight Army found itself. Ridgway made legions.

The ranks were salted now with veterans, men wounded and returned to duty, and were led by men like Ridgway, Captain Munoz, and Lieutenant Long, who had been through the drill before, who had been from the Naktong to the Yalu, and had learned, as Americans had always had to learn, how to fight this new-old war.

They had learned the Chinese could be cunning, but also stupid. Failing to meet quick success, he could not change his plan. Often he continued an operation long after it had turned into disaster, wasting thousands of his troops. Lacking air cover, artillery, and armor, his hordes of riflemen could be—and were—slaughtered, as the Eighth Army learned to roll with the punches and to strike back hard.

Again and again, with the prodigal use of men, he could crack the U.N. line at a given point. But the men at the point had learned to hold, inflicting terrible losses, and even if the line gave, the Chinese could not exploit, while U.N. reinforcements, mechanized, rushed to deploy in front of them and to their flanks.

In the terrain of South Korea, battle was more open, and in open battle no amount of savage cunning could substitute for firepower. The Chinese could not even apply superior combat power to the 135-mile line. The truth, that a backward nation can never put as many well-armed men into the field and support them as can even a small- sized industrial country, became apparent. Chinese replacements, even with Russian aid, were often ill equipped and ill trained.

The press still reported human seas and overwhelming hordes, but except where they massed for a breakthrough, the Chinese remained apart and in moderate numbers on the line. Front-line soldiers began to joke: "Say, Joe, how many hordes are there in a Chink platoon?" Or, "We were attacked by two hordes last night. We killed both of them."

But the Chinese retained the will to fight.

The drive northward was not easy.

As many years earlier, when the cavalry fighting on the Plains had developed leaders such as Miles, Crook, and Ranald Mackenzie, men who rode hard, made cold camps, threw away their sabers, and moved without bugle calls, putting aside all the things they had learned in the War Between the States—but who had driven the Indians without surcease, hammering them across the snows and mountains until their women sickened and their infants died and they lost their heart for war, so the Army developed men who learned to fight in Asia.

Soldiers learned to travel light, but with full canteen and bandoleer, and to climb the endless hills. They learned to hold fast when the enemy flowed at them, because it was the safest thing to do. They learned to displace in good order when they had to. They learned to listen and obey. They learned all the things Americans have always learned from Appomattox to Berlin.

Above all, they learned to kill.

On the frontier, there is rarely gallantry or glamour to wars, whether they are against red Indians or Red Chinese. There is only killing.

Men of a tank battalion set spikes on the forward sponsons of their tanks, and to these affixed Chinese skulls. This battalion had come back from Kuni-ri, and the display matched their mood. They were ordered to remove the skulls, but the mood remained.

In Medic James Mount's company, there was a platoon sergeant named "Gypsy" Martin. Martin carried a full canteen and bandoleer, but he also wore a bandanna and earring, and he had tiny bells on his boots. Gypsy Martin hated Chinese; he hated gooks, and he didn't care who knew it.

In anything but war, Martin was the kind of man who is useless.

In combat, as the 24th Division drove north, men could hear Gypsy yell his hatred, as they heard his M-1 bark death. When Gypsy yelled, his men went forward; he was worth a dozen rational, decent men in those bloody valleys. His men followed him, to the death.

When Gypsy Martin finally bought it, they found him lying among a dozen "gooks," his rifle empty, its stock broken. Other than in battle, Sergeant Martin was no good. To Jim Mount's knowledge, he got no medals, for medals depend more on who writes for them than what was done.

It made Jim Mount think.

The values composing civilization and the values required to protect it are normally at war. Civilization values sophistication, but in an armed force sophistication is a millstone.

The Athenian commanders before Salamis, it is reported, talked of art and of the Acropolis, in sight of the Persian fleet. Beside their own campfires, the Greek hoplites chewed garlic and joked about girls.

Without its tough spearmen, Hellenic culture would have had nothing to give the world. It would not have lasted long enough. When Greek culture became so sophisticated that its common men would no longer fight to the death, as at Thermopylae, but became devious and clever, a horde of Roman farm boys overran them.

The time came when the descendants of Macedonians who had slaughtered Asians till they could no longer lift their arms went pale and sick at the sight of the havoc wrought by the Roman gladius Hispanicus as it carved its way toward Hellas.

The Eighth Army, put to the fire and blooded, rose from its own ashes in a killing mood. They went north, and as they went they destroyed Chinese and what was left of the towns and cities of Korea. They did not grow sick at the sight of blood.

By 7 March they stood on the Han. They went through Seoul, and reduced it block by block. When they were finished, the massive railway station had no roof, and thousands of buildings were pocked by tank fire. Of Seoul's original more than a million souls, less than two hundred thousand still lived in the ruins. In many of the lesser cities of Korea, built of wood and wattle, only the foundation, and the vault, of the old Japanese bank remained.

The people of Chosun, not Americans or Chinese, continued to lose the war.

At the end of March the Eighth Army was across the parallel.

General Ridgway wrote, "The American flag never flew over a prouder, tougher, more spirited and more competent fighting force than was Eighth Army as it drove north…"

Ridgway had no great interest in real estate. He did not strike for cities and towns, but to kill Chinese. The Eighth Army killed them, by the thousands, as its infantry drove them from the hills and as its air caught them fleeing in the valleys.

By April 1951, the Eighth Army had again proved Erwin Rommel's assertion that American troops knew less but learned faster than any fighting men he had opposed. The Chinese seemed not to learn at all, as they repeated Chipyong-ni again and again.

Americans had learned, and learned well. The tragedy of American arms, however, is that having an imperfect sense of history Americans sometimes forget as quickly as they learn.