This Is Military Wisdom?

There’s a new book on the market, New Principles of War: Enduring Truths with Timeless Examples. Its author is a retired analyst of military operations. Given his quantitative training and accomplishments as an analyst, one would expect more than pap. In fact, the jacket blurbs would lead the prospective reader to expect deep, compelling, and novel insights into the conduct of war; for example:

“This is a fascinating book most useful for the practitioner and student of war, with many ideas also applicable to other competitive activities such as business. Marvin Pokrant gives us multiple historical vignettes that illustrate the good and the bad of principles of war from around the world and make a compelling case for significant revisions. Highly recommended!”—Col. John A. Warden III, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), and president of Venturist, Inc.

“Marvin Pokrant has masterfully distilled historical and international writings about the conduct of war and uses many historical examples to develop his new principles of war. I believe they form an important resource for study by both the professional military and our national security leadership.”—Adm. Henry H. Mauz Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.)

“The principles of war: prescription for battlefield success or dangerous mental straitjacket? Marvin Pokrant’s seminal exploration of the fundamentals of warfare that have been taught around the globe for generations is sure to engage and provoke. And in these dangerous times we need to rigorously challenge our preconceptions. This book does just that.”—Sean M. Maloney, PhD, professor of history at the Royal Military College

“All active-duty military officers should read this book. It would be perfect as a text at military war colleges. People dealing with strategic studies and national security will find this book valuable due to its suggestions of new principles to guide American military efforts. Readers of military history will find this work interesting because of the numerous historical examples.”—Phil E. DePoy, PhD, former president of the Center for Naval Analyses and founding director of the Wayne E. Meyer Institute for Systems Engineering, Naval Postgraduate School

“Marvin Pokrant’s New Principles of War is an excellent examination of the development of the principles of war throughout history and how they have differed over time and among countries. . . . If you are a student of military thought, this work is a must-read and will be a welcome addition to your library.”—Michael A. Palmer, PhD, author of Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control since the Sixteenth Century

I was therefore expecting something more than banalities. But that, in the end, is what the book delivered. Here are some key passages from the book’s concluding chapter:

Because objectives guide all military operations, commanders should put a lot of thought into selecting and prioritizing them.

Commanders should seek battle under conditions of the greatest possible relative advantage.

Commanders should seek to keep enemies so busy meeting threats that they have no time for their own schemes.

Commanders should take active measures to assure [that] everyone understands the overall purpose of an operation. They should demand [that] subordinates cooperate with each other to attain unity of effort.

Surprise can gain the initiative and a relative advantage, but the strongest effect of surprise is often its moral effect on the enemy. [As if the “moral effect” were always negative. But remember the Maine, and remember Pearl Harbor.]

The goal of deception should be to cause the enemy to act in a specific manner that you can exploit.

All forces should have good situational awareness of the location of friendly forces. [Awareness of the location of enemy forces is helpful, too.]

To defeat your enemy, you must learn as much as you can about your enemy.

The environment is often a decisive factor.

With my corrections, these are useful points to keep in mind when thinking about how to conduct a military operations. But why did it take the author some 300 pages (in the paperback version) to arrive at them. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, the classic of this genre, is rated at 96 pages in the hardcover edition. It would be much shorter than that without the front and back matter, the illustrations, the large typeface, the wide margins, and the ample line spacing (leading, in printer’s parlance).

New Principles of War is much ado about the obvious.

Is Anarchy a Viable Concept?

Even within a family, clan, or voluntary community there are usually persons who possess some combination of status, physical strength, strength of will, cunning, or persuasiveness that enables them to impose their will on the group. The motivation — an urge to control the group or a sincere belief that the group will benefit from their control — is unimportant; the fact of control is what matters.

There is the complementary need, felt by many persons, to be led or dominated because of lack of status, physical weakness, weakness of will, lack of cunning, etc.

Thus do leaders emerge, even within a family, clan, or voluntary community. And they may be venerated and prized just as they may be feared and hated. But they do lead (command) the group, and in doing so they set state-like rules that may help the family, clan, or community to thrive and survive — or put it on a path to strife, poverty, or extinction.

Businesses, of course, are notoriously and unavoidably commanded. As are gangs (which aren’t necessarily voluntary), cults, religious organizations — and on and on.

All of the organizations mentioned thus far (and their unmentioned ilk) may not be dictatorships or oligarchies. That is, their leaders may, formally or informally, seek the advice or consult the preferences of those whom they lead. But in all cases, there is a hierarchy of some kind, and the person or persons at the top have the moral or physical means to command obedience to their decisions.

In sum, the removal of a formal state does not mean the removal of state-like control over the lives of individual persons. At best, it devolves that control to smaller — but still state-like — institutions. And those institutions — like formal states — will devise various means of cooperation and conflict resolution, or like states they will engage in outright coercion and conflict of one kind or another (ostracism, rules enforced by sanctions, combat, economic warfare, etc.).

The argument for anarchy is therefore an argument in favor of replacing a formal state with myriad state-like institutions. These will range, in their preference for cooperation or conflict, from close-knit neighborhoods to mutually beneficial contractual arrangements to violence-prone gangs (of many scales) to uncompromising sectarian and religious organizations that are bound ideologically (e.g., Communist and Islamic cells).

It is beyond me how this would make the United States (let alone the world) a better place — in practice, that is, as opposed to Utopian dream-spinning. The realistic alternative, therefore, is an accountable state, the power of which is checked by constitutional means. It is far from a perfect alternative, as I will soon explain, but it is the only viable one.

Arguably, the United States was once something like an accountable state. And even then (from the late 1700s until the early 1900s), it was far less than a paragon of classical liberalism. Since then, aside from participating in at least a few senseless and horrendously costly wars, the central government has been depriving Americans of much of their liberty. Even the advances for blacks and other identity groups have not been unmitigated gains for those groups — think “welfare dependency”, for example. And those advances have imposed on most Americans the deadweight losses of taxation, reverse discrimination, punishments for “wrong thinking”, etc., that inevitably accompany favoritism for some groups at the expense of others.

But the retrogression of the United States as a force for liberty doesn’t mean that anarchy is a viable alternative to the kind of state represented by the United States. All it means is that no kind of human endeavor is exempt from corruption. Anarchy is just another kind of human endeavor, one that can deliver economic and social liberty only if the all-too-human urges to dominate others and to commit violence against them could be eradicated.

Those urges can’t be eradicated or kept in check — as history amply attests. The urge to perfection — as history also amply attests — only gives the “perfectionists” (Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc., etc.) an excuse for waging war on their own people and on the wider world.

What would a doctrinaire anarchist do if he saw others behaving un-anarchically to his detriment? Well, I suspect that if he were not a pacifist (i.e., self-destructive) he would organize his fellow thinkers into some kind of pro-anarchic army (oxymoron alert), and that the army would have to be hierarchical in order to succeed. I suspect, further, that if it did succeed, the result would be the de facto creation of an anti-anarchic “anarchy”, for the protection and preservation of anarchistic dogma. Shades of dictatorial “peoples’ republics” and Orwellian double-think.

Anarchy, after all, is an ideology. And ideologies always run afoul of human nature, in one way or another. And ideologies aren’t to be trusted because ideologues are dangerous, no matter what they profess to believe. If the Constitution of the United States, which was framed in the light of human nature, failed to deliver lasting liberty to Americans, what can one expect of a naive ideology that dismisses human nature?

The answer to the question posed by the title of this post is a resounding NO.


Related posts:

Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style
Fundamentalist Libertarians, Anarcho-Capitalists, and Self-Defense
Anarchy: An Empty Concept
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Anarchistic Balderdash
Old America, New America, and Anarchy
Extreme Libertarianism vs. the Accountable State
A Few Thoughts about Anarchy
Anarchy: A Footnote
Another Footnote about Anarchy

How to Reform Election Laws

The brouhaha about recent changes in Georgia’s election laws is all about Democrats trying to make it easier for Democrat-leaning voters to vote. If Democrat politicians have their way, not only would D.C. and Puerto Rico become States, thus making it almost impossible for a Republican to be elected president (as long as the Electoral College remains in place), but also: the voting age would be lowered to 16 (14?, 12?); ballots would be mailed to everyone old enough to vote and could completed, collected, and turned in by anyone; online voting (easily corrupted) would be allowed; and anyone who happens to be in the country at election time would be entitled to vote.

All of that, and whatever else Democrats hope to do to secure permanent control of the central government, goes in exactly the wrong direction. Voting should be severely restricted, not opened up. Specifically, voting should be restricted to mature and responsible and who have “skin in the game”. Here is how it should work:

There would be one vote per household — irrespective of the sex of the head of the household (if I may use that quaint term) — inasmuch as a household is an economic and social unit.

The household must include at least one person who is 30 years of age or older, and one such person must cast the household’s ballot on election day (see below).

No member of the household may have demonstrated grossly irresponsible behavior, as indicated by a conviction for a felony.

There may not be an outstanding tax lien against property held by any member of the household.

At least one member of the household must hold a deed to real property with an assessed value of at least $50,000 (to be adjusted upward for inflation), and any outstanding debt secured by the property must not exceed 80 percent of the purchase price of the property.

At least one member of the household who is 30 years old or older must not be receiving unemployment benefits or must not have received them within six months before election day.

Every member of the household who is 21 years old or older must be a citizen of the United States or a legal, resident alien.

To ensure the integrity of ballots and the casting thereof on the basis of up-to-date knowledge of the candidates and the issues, all voting would occur in-person, on election day, at polling stations in numbers and locations adequate to avoid long lines at closing time. Each person casting a ballot for a household would have to produce the household’s government-issued voter-registration card and an approved form of identification (e.g., government-issued driver’s license, military ID card).

There would thus be no need for absentee voting, except in cases where an entire household is disabled (e.g., a household consisting of one or two elderly persons), as certified by a licensed physician, or stationed overseas. (Other households would have to plan vacations so that one qualified member can cast an in-person vote on election day.)

Election day would be shifted to a Saturday. All polling stations in the country would be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., local time. No votes, including absentee ballots, would be counted before the last stations close (i.e., the polling stations in Hawaii).

Thinking about Thinking — and Other Things: Beliefs, Herds, and Oppression

This is the sixth and final post in a series. The previous posts are here, here, here, here, and here.

What this series adds up to is that human beings can and will believe anything. And much of what they believe – even “science” – is either mistaken or beyond proof. Belief, at bottom, is a matter of faith; it is a matter of what we choose to believe.

And why do we choose what to believe? We choose to believe those things that make us feel good about ourselves in one way or another. Here are four (not mutually exclusive) ways in which our beliefs serve that purpose:

  • Logical or epestimic consistency, which can be intellectually satisfying even if the logic is fatally flawed or the knowledge is cherry-picked to fit a worldview.
  • The (usually false) reassurance that a belief has been proclaimed “true” by an authority — “science”, religious leaders, political leaders, etc.
  • No skin in the game: The holding of views (for reasons listed above) that are inconsequential to the holder of the views but which (when put into action) are harmful to others (e.g., a rich person who has private security forces and lives and works in secure settings who calls for defunding the police).
  • Groupthink: Going along to get along, also known as “taking sides”.

On the last point, I defer to Michael Huemer:

There’s … a study that finds that political beliefs are heritable. (Alford et al, “Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?”) They get a heritability estimate of 0.53 for political orientation (p. 162), much larger than the influence of either shared environment or unshared environment. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it — who knew that you could genetically transmit political beliefs? But of course, you don’t directly transmit beliefs; you genetically transmit personality traits, and people pick their political beliefs based on their personality traits.

But, as Huemer notes,

the primary choice people make is not so much which propositions they want to be wedded to, but which group of people they want to affiliate with. Maybe there’s only a very tenuous link between some personality trait and some particular political position, but it’s enough to make that position slightly more prevalent, initially, among people with that trait. But once those people decide that they belong to “the same side” in society, there’s psychological pressure for individual members of the tribe to conform their beliefs to the majority of their tribe, and to oppose the beliefs of “the other side”.

So, e.g., you decide that fetuses don’t have rights because the fetus-rights position is associated with the other tribe, and you don’t want to be disloyal to your own side by embracing one of the other side’s positions. Of course, you never say this to yourself; you just automatically find all of your side’s arguments “more plausible”.

And, as we have seen, belonging to a “side” and signaling one’s allegiance to that “side” seems to have become the paramount desideratum among huge numbers of Americans. “Liberals”, who not long ago were ardent upholders of freedom of speech are now its leading opponents. And many “liberals” – executives and employees of Big Tech companies, for example – demonstrate their opposition daily by suppressing the expression of ideas that they don’t like and denying the means of expression to persons whose views they oppose. They can conjure sophisticated excuses for their hypocrisy, but they are obvious and shallow excuses for their evident unwillingness to countenance “heretical” views.

This hypocrisy extends beyond partisan politics. It extends into discussions of race (i.e., the suppression of “bad news” about blacks and research findings about the intelligence of blacks). It extends into discussions of scientific matters (e.g., labeling as a “science denier” any scientist who writes objectively about the evidence against CO2 as the primary cause of a recent warming trend that is probably overstated, in any case, because of the urban heat island effect). It extends elsewhere, of course, but there’s no point in belaboring the obvious.

The worst part of it is that the hypocrisy isn’t practiced just by lay persons who wish to signal their allegiance to “progressivism”. It’s practiced by scientists, academicians, and highly educated persons who hold important positions in the business world (witness Big Tech’s censorship practices and the “wokeness” of major corporations).

In other words, the herd instinct is powerful. It sweeps all before it. Even truth. Especially truth when it contravenes the herd’s dogmas — which are its “truths”.

And a herd that runs wild — driven hither and thither by ever-shifting “truths” — is dangerous, as we are seeing now in the suppression of actual truth, the suppression of political speech, firings for being associated with the wrong “side”, etc.

Today’s state of affairs is often likened to that which prevailed in the years leading up to the Civil War. There is a good reason for that comparison, for the two epochs are alike in a fundamental way: One side (Unionists then, the “woke” now) assumes the mantle of virtue and thus garbed presumes to dictate to the other side.

Yes, slavery was wrong. But that did not justify the (successful) attempt of the Unionists to prevent the Confederacy’s secession on the principle of self-determination — the very principle that inspired the American Revolution that led to the Union.

Yes, it is fitting and proper to treat the (relatively) poor, persons of color, and persons whose sexual proclivities are “unusual” with respect and equality under the law. But that does not justify the wholesale violation of immigration laws, the advancement of the “oppressed” at the expense of blameless others (who are mainly straight, white, males of European descent), the repudiation of America’s past (the good with the bad), or the destruction of the religious, social, and economic freedoms that have served all Americans well.

Ironically, the power of the central government, which was enabled by the victory of the Unionists, now enables “progressivism” to advance its dictatorial agenda with little effective opposition.

Donald J. Trump did oppose that agenda, and opposed it with some success for four years. That is why it was imperative for the “progressive” establishment — abetted by pusillanimous “conservatives” and never-Trumpers — to undermine Trump from the outset and, in the end, to remove Trump from power by stealing the election of 2020. There has never, in American politics, been a more heinous case of wholesale corruption than was evidenced in the machinations against Trump.

Having said all of that, what will happen to America? The slide toward fascism, which has been underway (with interruptions) for more than a century, now seems to have reached its destination: the dictation of myriad aspects of social and economic intercourse by our “betters” in Washington and their cronies in the academy, the media, and corporate America.

And most Americans — having been brainwashed by the “education system”, bought off by various forms of welfare, and cowed by officious officials and mobs — will simply acquiesce in their own enslavement.


Related reading:

Matt, “Varieties of Opinion“, Imlac’s Journal, March 14, 2021

Frank Furedi, “Big Brother Comes to America“, Spiked, February 8, 2021

Victor Davis Hanson, “Our Animal Farm“, American Greatness, February 7, 2021

Arnold Kling, “Rationalist Epistemology“, askblog, February 26, 2021

Arnold Kling, “Cultural Brain Hypothesis“, askblog, March 5, 2021

Mark J. Perry, “Quotation of the Day on Truths That We Are No Longer Allowe to Speak About … “, Carpe Diem, February 2, 2021

Malcolm Pollack, “The Enemy Within“, American Greatness, February 13, 2021

Quilette editorial, “With a Star Science Reporter’s Purging, Mob Culture at The New York Times Enters a Strange New Phase“, Quilette, February 9, 2021

Is the Vaccine Making a Difference?

Perhaps. In graph below I have plotted 7-day moving averages of the daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases and deaths. The plot of deaths is moved to the right by 24 days because the highest correlation between cases and deaths occurs with a 24-day lag from cases to deaths. Although the case rate began to decline in mid-January 2021, the death rate held steady through early March, and then began to drop only after about 10 percent of the populace had been fully vaccinated.

However, the leveling-off of the case and death rates suggests that the vaccination rate is too low given (a) the more infectious nature of new strains of COVID-19 and (b) the rate at which interpersonal social and economic activity is rising.

Presidents as Regulators: From Ike to The Donald

According to the Regulatory Studies Center of George Washington University,

the number of total pages published in the CFR [Code of Federal Regulations] annually provides a sense of the volume of existing regulations with which American businesses, workers, consumers, and other regulated entities must comply.

The dataset published by the Center provides a consistent measure of the total number of CFR pages for each year from 1950 through 2019, and for 2020 through July 9. Armed with those numbers, I computed the annual rate of increase in the size of the CFR under each administration, from Eisenhower’s to Trump’s (as of July 9, 2020). The result is shown below.

It is no surprise that Trump’s administration was the least heavy-handed. Nor is it surprising that each Democrat administration was generally more heavy-handed than its GOP predecessor. The surprising exception is Clinton’s regime, which was better than Bush I’s, and was second only to Trump’s in its regulatory austerity.

Modeling and Science Revisited

I have written a lot about modeling and science. (See the long list of posts at “Modeling, Science, and ‘Reason’“.) I have said, more than once, that modeling isn’t science. What I should have said — though it was always implied — is that a model isn’t scientific if it is merely synthetic.

What do I mean by that? Here is an example by way of contrast. The famous equation E = mc2 is an synthetic model in that it is derived Einstein’s special theory of relativity (and other physical equations). But it is also an empirical model in that the relationship between mass (m) and energy (E) can also be confirmed by observation (given suitable instruments).

On the other hand, a complex model of the U.S. economy, a model of Earth’s “average” temperature (called misleadingly a climate model), or a model of combat (to give a few examples) is only synthetic.

Why do I say that a complex model (of the kind mentioned above) is only synthetic? Such a model consists of a large number of modules, each of which is mathematical formulation of some aspect of the larger phenomenon being modeled. Here’s a simple example: An encounter between a submarine and a surface ship, where the outcome is expressed as the probability that the submarine will sink the surface ship. The outcome could be expressed in this way:

S = D x F x H x K x C, where S = probability that submarine sinks surface ship, which is the product of:

D = probability that submarine detects surface ship within torpedo range

F = probability that, given detection, submarine is able to “fix” the target and fire a torpedo (or salvo of them)

H = probability that, given the firing of a torpedo (or salvo), the surface ship is hit

K = probability that, given a hit (or hits), the surface ship is sunk

C = probability that the submarine survives efforts to find and nullify it before it can detect a surface ship

This is a simple model by comparison with a model of the U.S. economy, a global climate model, or a model of a battle involving large numbers of various kinds of weapons. In fact, it is a simplistic model of combat. Each of the modules could be decomposed into many sub-modules; for example, the module for D could consist of sub-modules for sonar accuracy, sonar operator acuity, acoustic conditions in the area of operation, countermeasures deployed by the target, etc.. In any event, the module for D will consist of a mathematical relationship, based perhaps on some statistics collected from tests or exercises (i.e., not actual combat). The mathematical relationship will encompass many assumptions (mainly implicit ones) about sonar accuracy, sonar operator acuity, etc. The same goes for the other modules — C, in particular, which encompasses all of the effects of D, F, H, and K — at a minimum.

In sum, the number of unknowns completely swamps the number of knowns. There is nothing close to certainty about the model — or any model of its kind. (In the case of the model of S, for example, relatively small errors — say, 25 percent from the actual value of each variable — can yield an estimate of S that is three times greater than or one-third as much as the actual value of S.) The mathematical operations involved do nothing to resolve the uncertainty, they merely multiply it. But the mathematical operations nevertheless convey the appearance of certainty because they yield numbers. The numbers merely represent a lot of guesses, but they seem authoritative because numbers mesmerize most people — even scientists who should be always be skeptical of them.

Despite all of that, analysts have for many decades been producing — and decision-makers have been consuming — the results of such models as the basis for choosing defense systems. Models of similar complexity have been and are being used in making decisions about a broad range of policies affecting the economy, health care, transportation, education, the environment, the climate (i.e., “global warming”), and on into the night.

The unfounded confidence that modelers have in their models, because the models produce numbers, captivates most decision-makers, who simply want answers. And so, modelers will go to ridiculous extremes. One not untypical example that I recall from my days as an in-house critic of analysts’ work is the model that purported to compare competing weapons (on of which was still in development) based on their relative contribution to the outcome of a hypothetical battle. The specific measure was the movement of the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) to within a yard.

Global climate models are like that warfare model: Their creators pretend that they can estimate the change in the average temperature of the globe to within less than a tenth of a degree. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.


Related pages:

Climate Change

Modeling, Science, and “Reason”

Where’s the Outrage?

Early today

two FBI agents were fatally shot and three more were injured while serving a search warrant at a South Florida residence in a child pornography case….

Later, President Biden issued this statement:

[O]ur hearts go out to the families of these FBI special agents, and — two of whom were killed and three of whom were injured today in Florida….

[E]very single day, every single one of these folks get up and they — by and large, the vast, vast majority of these men and women are decent, honorable people who put themselves on the line, and we owe them.

[End of topic. On to other things.]

As if it was necessary to apologize for the fact that FBI agents were serving a warrant in a child-pornography case.

What the president pretender should have said was this:

I am outraged by the killing of two FBI agents and the wounding of three others who were lawfully serving a warrant in a child-pornography case. It is the efforts of FBI agents and other law-enforcement officers that enable Americans to enjoy the fruits of liberty. Today’s tragedy is further proof that those who wish to defund the police are no better than the criminals whose foul deeds they condone.

President Trump would have said that, or something much like it.

The MADness of It All

This post covers ground that is already well-covered in “It’s a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World“, “MAD, Again“, and ““MAD, Again”: A Footnote“. But those posts are now going on three years old and the issue at hand is too important to ignore.

Here is David Hambling, writing at Forbes (“The Hidden Nuclear Policy the Biden Administration Needs to Tackle“, January 26, 2021):

A U.S. Navy policy on ballistic missile submarines may threaten the stability of the strategic nuclear balance. This seems to be the result of the inertia of a strategy laid down in a different era, one which is becoming increasingly precarious as technology advances.

Previous administrations have failed to spell out the actual policy, preferring to keep it under wraps. Continuing this lack of clarity could prove catastrophic….

ASW is all about finding, tracking and destroying enemy submarines. Strategic ASW targets the submarines carrying nuclear missiles. During the Cold War, Strategic ASW was about tying up enemy forces [Soviet submarines armed with nuclear missiles, thus] affecting the war on the ground, but now the situation is quite different….

The rationale for putting missiles on submarines is to ensure second-strike capability. The argument is that while land and air-based weapons might be knocked out in a surprise attack, the underwater force would survive because submarines cannot be located. This makes submarine-based weapons a linchpin for the nuclear deterrent, the most secure leg of the U.S. nuclear triad as well as the Russian one.

Any threat to a nation’s ballistic missile submarines makes it vulnerable to a first strike, and, in a time of crisis, might prompt them to act first. Hence the question … is strategic ASW still official U.S. policy?

There is no official answer. The last National Security Strategy to be completely declassified was from the 1986 Reagan administration, which explicitly tasked the Navy with strategic ASW. The most recent National Security Strategy, from 2018, has only been released in summary form, and says nothing on the topic.

Actions speak louder than words though, and from the U.S. Navy’s actions, they are still very much in the business of pursuing Russian subs in the Arctic. For example, there are regular ‘ICEX’ exercises which include submarines test-firing torpedoes at targets under the ice….

In fact it is not even clear whether there has been any decision-making process, or whether strategic ASW has become the default policy….

This would make it one of those zombie policies that keeps going long after it ought to be dead and buried. And, while strategic ASW might have made strategic sense 30 years ago it, does not today. This is partly because technology is improving and submarine detection keeps getting better. Each new advance makes the ability to threaten ballistic missile submarines more serious….

[Some] analysts and academicians want to encourage the new administration to state clearly whether strategic ASW is still U.S. policy, and if so who is driving it. [The] aim, for starters, would be to ensure the policy is disowned, which could at least reduce the risk and open up the way for discussion.

And so, the non-problem of strategic ASW is to be solved by a non-solution: a treaty that would be hard to enforce.

Why is strategic ASW a non-problem? First, as Hambling suggests, it wasn’t a problem during the cold war, but not for the reason given by Hambling; namely,

Strategic ASW was about tying up enemy forces and affecting the war on the ground, but now the situation is quite different….

That’s tail-wagging-the-dog reasoning. Whatever strategic ASW was about during the Cold War — in the minds of American strategists — it could only have been about one thing in the minds of Soviet strategists: a threat to Soviet second-strike capability. The possibility that the U.S. would engage in strategic ASW was never an actual threat to Soviet second-strike capability because the precondition — a ground war in Europe being lost by the Allies — was never met.

Moreover, the U.S. rationale for strategic ASW during the Cold War was flawed, and the Soviets knew it. The rationale, as Hambling says, was to tie up Soviet forces defending Soviet submarines armed with nuclear missiles (the Soviet second-strike capability). But those defensive forces were in place long before strategic ASW became a U.S. policy. And those defensive forces wouldn’t have been used for any other purpose, so intent were Soviet strategists on protecting their second-strike capability.

Further, an actual effort to take out the Soviet second-strike capability during the Cold War would have met the same response as an actual effort to take out Russia’s second-strike capability now or in the future: an ultimatum followed, if necessary, by a warning shot across the bow. The ultimatum would be along these lines: Make a move toward our second-strike capability and we will take out one of your cities. And if the ultimatum were ignored, the city would be taken out. (Why, then, the need for defensive forces? Well, why do some men wear both belt and braces (suspenders, in American)? “Just in case”is the best answer to both questions.)

You can play what-ifs and if-this-then-thats all day long. But the bottom line will always be the same: Strategic ASW wouldn’t be conducted in the first place (and wouldn’t have been conducted during the Cold War) because no U.S. president would want to risk having a U.S. city taken out (or worse), nor would he want to risk being humiliated by having to back down in a game of nuclear “chicken”.

The Soviets understood all of that. The Russians (and Chinese) understand all of that. So any talk of strategic ASW is simply irrelevant. Just as irrelevant is the notion that U.S. Navy talk of strategic ASW is destabilizing. It’s not destabilizing because the Russians (and Chinese) know that it won’t happen.

But what could happen? The U.S. could sign on to — and honor — an agreement that limits the ability of the U.S. to detect enemy submarines, even as Russia (and China) — acting clandestinely in bad faith — would develop more sophisticated means of detecting U.S. submarines. Such capabilities, even if irrelevant to a nuclear showdown, would be invaluable in a war where U.S. interests are at stake (e.g., a contest for control of the South China Sea).

So, wittingly or not, Hambling and those U.S. analysts whom he represents are playing into the hands of our adversaries by advancing a “solution” to a non-problem. The “solution” — a hard-to-enforce agreement — would weaken the ability of U.S. forces to defend America and Americans’ overseas interests.

Old Wisdom Revisited

To paraphrase Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord (1878-1943), an anti-Nazi German general, there are four personality types:

Smart and hard-working (good middle manager)

Stupid and lazy (lots of these around, hire for simple, routine tasks and watch closely)

Smart and lazy (promote to senior management — delegates routine work and keeps his eye on the main prize)

Stupid and hard-working (dangerous to have around, screws up things, should be taken out and shot)

It would be fun to classify presidents accordingly, but my target today is a former boss. He wasn’t very smart, but he put up a good front by deploying rhetorical tricks (e.g., Socratic logic-chopping of a most irritating kind). But he was hard-working, if you call constant motion without a notion (my coinage) hard-working.

His rhetorical tricks and aimless energy impressed outsiders who couldn’t appreciate the damage that he did to the company. Both traits irritated intelligent insiders, who were smart enough to pierce his facade and understand the damage that he did to the company.

He kept his job for 25 years because he had only to impress outsiders — the board of directors and the senior officials of client agencies — who had no idea what he actually did from day to day. Good things were accomplished in spite of him, but the glory reflected on him, undeservedly.

About Those “Green” Jobs

The Biden bunch is regurgitating a bit of economic hogwash that originated in the Clinton clatch (#3 here): “Green” jobs will replace jobs that are based on the use of fossil fuels.

First, there will be fewer jobs overall because the economy will tank with the decline of fossil fuels. Second, the resulting “green” jobs will exemplify the broken windows fallacy.

The fallacy is that a broken window is a good thing because it generates business for a glazier. On the same principle, war is a good thing because it results in the recruitment of soldiers. And the killing of solders is a good thing because it results in the recruitment of additional soldiers.

The only thing to be said about Biden’s hysterical call to “climate action” is that it will result in the killing of a lot of a productive jobs and the creation of a smaller number of unproductive and counterproductive jobs.

Biden: Off to a Bad Start with Voters

It comes as no surprise to me (and to many others) that Biden isn’t enjoying a post-inaugural “honeymoon” with the mass of voters. Though it can be said that he seems intent on screwing them with higher taxes, higher energy prices, and privileges for identity groups.

Compare and contrast Biden’s performance in the Daily Presidential Tracking Poll published by Rasmussen Reports. Specifically, compare and contrast Biden’s performance relative to the performances of Obama and Trump according to a measure that I devised back in the early days of Obama’s presidency. I call it the enthusiasm ratio. It is the number of likely voters expressing strong approval as a percentage of the number of likely voters expressing either approval or disapproval (that is, it ignores likely voters who express neither approval nor disapproval).

Here’s the comparison:

What’s noteworthy about the graph, aside from Biden’s slow start, is Trump’s dominance over Obama after the first ten months of their respective presidencies. It should cast some (additional) doubt on the official outcome of the 2020 election.

Some People Are More Equal Than Others, Illustrated

Fox News reports:

On his first day in office last week, Biden signed an executive order to “define equity as the consistent and systemic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals.” That includes those who “belong to underserved communities such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; LGBTQ+ persons; people with disabilities religious minorities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”

Shades of George Orwell, who in Animal Farm coined the immortal maxim, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” It is ever thus in the world of the left, where equality or equity always comes with a codicil, which amounts to this: There are groups of persons who must be given special treatment because they are favored by the regime.

The specific enumeration of identity groups (blacks, Latinos, etc.) means that they are deserving of unearned compensation — in the form of cash subsidies, subsidies in kind, jobs, promotions, university admissions — that they “earn” only because of their membership in one of the listed identity groups.

Those privileges — that’s what they are — will be extracted (in money and kind) from persons who can’t claim membership in one of the listed identity groups, despite the fact that almost all of those who are on the paying end cause no harm to members of identity groups. Moreover, vast numbers of persons on the paying end do great good for members of identity groups, by creating jobs for them (directly or through investments), giving to charitable organizations, and paying the already high taxes that are the price of living in a welfare state.

In the end, as economic growth returns to pre-Trumpian stagnation because of the additional burdens placed on those who earn what they get, the burden will be borne disproportionately by members of identity groups, who will find fewer an lower-paying jobs open to them.

Stock Markets: The Next Victims of Totalitarian Democrats?

Stock prices are about due for a major correction. Consider the graph below, which I derived from statistics available here. I define a major decline as one that lasts at least 6 months and results in a real drop of at least 25 percent in the real (inflation-adjusted) price or total return of the S&P Composite Index.

When will the correction come? No one knows, though there are probably many (and varying) predictions. But I expect it to come during Biden’s one-term presidency. (I have bet the price of a Prius that it will happen before broad market indices rise much more.) And given the run-up in stock prices since the last major correction, it will be a doozy. During the correction of November 2007 to March 2009, for example, the real value of the S&P Composite Index dropped by 50 percent.

Why does that put stock markets in the cross-hairs of totalitarian Democrats? Because stock prices, volatile and emotion-driven as they can be, represent real-world feedback about the effects of government policies. The fact that stock prices continued to rise throughout Trump’s presidency — despite modest corrections in 2018 and 2020 (the latter related to COVID-19) — was seen by many observers (though not Democrats, of course) as a sign of the success of Trump’s economic policies.

The next big correction — when it comes a week, a month, or a year from now — will be seen by many as real-world feedback about the economic destructiveness of Biden’s policies. The policies in question will include new and higher taxes; heavy handed re-regulation, especially to fight “climate change”; the initiation of vast and costly programs to fight “climate change”; the destabilization of civil order through tighter controls on policing and continued laxity in controlling riot by blacks and leftists; bailouts for Blue States and cities; and increases in “social” spending, including but not limited to the subsidization of hordes of recent and new immigrants from south of the border (of the kind formerly known as illegal).

At the first hint of a correction — perhaps even in anticipation of it — policy-makers in the Biden administration will use the power of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to throttle and “guide” stock trading. This will be done in the name of economic stability, of course, but the real aim will be to prevent or minimize a major correction in stock prices that would be seen, correctly, as real-world feedback about the destructiveness of Biden’s policies.

“We Believe”

Unless you live in Deep-Red territory, you will have seen one or more of these in your neighborhood:

These signs are displayed in front of two of the ten houses on my short street. I’m surprised that there aren’t more, because I live in Deep-Blue Austin.

At any rate, sign-sighting tells me something about the persons who post the signs — in addition to their visceral leftism, virtue-signaling (to others of their ilk), and pathetic resort to sloganeering as a religion-substitute.

What is the meaning of each slogan? Here are my interpretations:

Black live matter — We don’t care about black-on-black murder (and other crimes). We don’t care about the demonstrably higher rate of criminality among blacks. We just want to wallow in white guilt about the rare instances in which white (and sometimes non-white) police officers unjustifiably kill blacks.

No human is illegal — This is a bit of nonsense which signifies support for illegal immigration. It labels the believers as persons who disrespect the rule of law and are eager to import more votes for left-wing politicians.

Love is love — This is another bit of nonsense which signifies support homosexuality and the “marriage” of homosexuals. It signifies an eagerness to reject civilizing social norms, as long as the results don’t directly affect the eager believer.

Women’s rights are human rights — This defies translation. Perhaps it means that women are human beings, which is a rather banal statement. And what are “human rights”, anyway? They seem to consist of a list of things that do-gooders would like to force the “haves” to pay for so that they (the do-gooders) can feel better about themselves.

Science is real (or is it “racist“?) — We don’t know what science is, but we believe things that are labeled scientific if we agree with them. We don’t understand (or care) that science is a process that sometimes yields useful knowledge, or that the knowledge is always provisional and always in doubt. We support the movement of recent decades to label some things as scientific that are really driven by a puritanical, anti-humanistic agenda, and which don’t hold up against rigorous, scientific examination. (Examples are the debunked “science” of “climate change”; the essential equality of the races and sexes (despite their scientifically demonstrable differences); and the belief that a man can become a woman, and vice versa.)

Water is life — I don’t water my property, and you shouldn’t either. (Well, may you should quit cooking, taking showers, and washing your car. Watering my property is a way of preserving vegetation that absorbs CO2, provides shade, and harbors wildlife — so there!)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere — This is more incoherent nonsense. Imagine a regime that condones the stoning to death of adulterers, and imagine a regime that punishes such activity. Does the first regime somehow infect the second one? Or is it possible that the second regime might be a threat to the first one. Of course, true believers who post yard signs filled with nonsense are the kind of people of support regimes of the first kind because they are anti-American and not beholden to “decadent” Western values, such as the prohibition of stoning as punishment (or the defense of the millions of victims of abortion).

Trump’s Popularity: A Summing Up

For most of his term as president, Donald Trump was more popular than Barack Obama was at the same points during Obama’s presidency:

That Trump failed of re-election can be chalked up to a combination of four things: fraud, a determined effort by Democrats to get out the vote, anti-Trump enthusiasm, and the decline in Trump’s popularity during the fourth year of his presidency. Even the resurgence between weeks 183 and 196 (due mainly to the Hunter Biden affair) couldn’t save him.

Will Trump remain influential within the Republican Party? Will he form a third party? If he does, will it be self-sustaining or will it fade away like Ross Perot’s party and the Tea Party movement?

Stay tuned….

The End of Freedom of Speech?

Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld, writing in The Wall Street Journal (“Save the Constitution from Big Tech“; January 11, 2021), opine about an issue that I addressed almost three years ago. Here’s some of what Ramaswamy and Rubenfeld say in their piece:

Conventional wisdom holds that technology companies are free to regulate content because they are private, and the First Amendment protects only against government censorship. That view is wrong: Google, Facebook and Twitter should be treated as state actors under existing legal doctrines. Using a combination of statutory inducements and regulatory threats, Congress has co-opted Silicon Valley to do through the back door what government cannot directly accomplish under the Constitution.

It is “axiomatic,” the Supreme Court held in Norwood v. Harrison (1973), that the government “may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.” That’s what Congress did by enacting Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which not only permits tech companies to censor constitutionally protected speech but immunizes them from liability if they do so….

Section 230 is the carrot, and there’s also a stick: Congressional Democrats have repeatedly made explicit threats to social-media giants if they failed to censor speech those lawmakers disfavored [emphasis and link added]. In April 2019, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond warned Facebook and Google that they had “better” restrict what he and his colleagues saw as harmful content or face regulation: “We’re going to make it swift, we’re going to make it strong, and we’re going to hold them very accountable.” New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler added: “Let’s see what happens by just pressuring them.”

Such threats have worked. In September 2019, the day before another congressional grilling was to begin, Facebook announced important new restrictions on “hate speech.” It’s no accident that big tech took its most aggressive steps against Mr. Trump just as Democrats were poised to take control of the White House and Senate. Prominent Democrats promptly voiced approval of big tech’s actions, which Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal expressly attributed to “a shift in the political winds.”

There are idiots in the so-called libertarian legal community who still defend Big Tech’s right to censor conservatives because Big Tech is “private”. Power is power, and the nation is under the thumb of a power elite, of which Big Tech is a leading-edge component.

My recommendations (here and here) for swift action against Big Tech and its allies weren’t heeded. But I will borrow from them here, beginning with the predicate for action.

Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and other information-technology companies represent just one facet of the complex of institutions in the thought-control business.

A second facet consists of the so-called mainstream media (MSM) — the print and broadcast outlets that for the most part, and for many decades, have exploited their protected status under the First Amendment to heavily lard their offerings with “progressive” propaganda. MSM’s direct influence via the internet has been diluted slightly by the plethora of alternative sources, many of them libertarian and conservative, but Google and friends do a good job of throttling the alternative sources.

I need say little about a third facet — the “entertainment” industry — which also exploits its First-Amendment privilege to spew left-wing propaganda.

The academy and its spawn, public education indoctrination, form a fourth facet. The leftward tilt of most academic administrations and goodly chunks of the professoriate is no secret. Neither is the stultifying atmosphere on college campuses.

These information-entertainment-media-academic institutions are important components of what I call the vast left-wing conspiracy in America. Their purpose and effect is the subversion of the traditional norms that made America a uniquely free, prosperous, and vibrant nation.

Clearly, the information-entertainment-media-academic complex is striving for a monopoly on the expression and transmission of political thought in America. Such a monopoly would be tantamount to state action (see this and this), and must therefore be prevented before it can be perfected. For, if it can be perfected, the First Amendment will quickly become obsolete.

Complete victory for the enemies of liberty is nearly upon us. The squishy center of the American electorate — as is its wont — will swing back toward the Democrat Party. With a Democrat in the White House, a Democrat-controlled Congress, and a few party switches in the Supreme Court [or perhaps without those switches], the dogmas of the information-entertainment-media-academic complex will become the law of the land.

Here is what should have been done before it was too late:

Enforce the First Amendment against information-entertainment-media-academic complex. This would begin with action against high-profile targets (e.g., Google and a few large universities that accept federal money). That should be enough to bring the others into line. If it isn’t, keep working down the list until the miscreants cry uncle.

What kind of action do I have in mind? This is a delicate matter because the action must be seen as rescuing the First Amendment, not suppressing it; it must be taken solely by the executive; and it must comport with legitimate authority already vested in the executive. Even then, the hue and cry will be deafening, as will the calls for impeachment. It will take nerves of steel to proceed on this front.

Here’s a way to do it:

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. __________

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. (Article V.)

Amendment I to the Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech”.

Major entities in the telecommunications, news, entertainment, and education industries have exerted their power to suppress speech because of its content. (See appended documentation.) The collective actions of these entities — many of them government- licensed and government-funded — effectively constitute a governmental violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech (See Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944) and Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946).)

As President, it is my duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”. The Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech is a fundamental law of the land.

Therefore, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1. The United States Marshals Service shall monitor the activities of the entities listed in the appendix, to ascertain whether those entities are discriminating against persons or groups based on the views, opinions, or facts expressed by those persons or groups.

2. Wherever the Marshals Service observes effective discrimination against certain views, opinions, or facts, it shall immediately countermand such discrimination and order remedial action by the offending entity.

3. Officials and employees of the entities in question who refuse to cooperate with the Marshals Service, or to follow its directives pursuant to this Executive Order, shall be suspended from duty but will continue to be compensated at their normal rates during their suspensions, however long they may last.

4. This order shall terminate with respect to a particular entity when the President is satisfied that the entity will no longer discriminate against views, opinions, or facts on the basis of their content.

5. This order shall terminate in its entirety when the President is satisfied that freedom of speech has been restored to the land.

I recommended those because of the imminent danger to what was left of Americans’ liberty and prosperity. The alternative was to do nothing and watch liberty and prosperity vanish from view. There was nothing to be lost, and much to be gained.

It is now too late to act. The deluge is upon us. The enemies of free speech are in power, and their allies in the information-entertainment-media-academic complex will do their bidding, quite willingly.


Related reading:

David Marcus, “Don’t Worry, It’s Just Corporate Fascism“, The Federalist, January 19, 2021

Niall Ferguson, “The Tech Supremacy: Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power“, The Spectator, January 22, 2021

The “Pause” Redux: The View from Austin

Christopher Monckton of Brenchley — who, contrary to Wikipedia, is not a denier of “climate change” but a learned critic of its scale and relationship to CO2 — posits a new “pause” in global warming:

At long last, following the warming effect of the El Niño of 2016, there are signs of a reasonably significant La Niña, which may well usher in another Pause in global temperature, which may even prove similar to the Great Pause that endured for 224 months from January 1997 to August 2015, during which a third of our entire industrial-era influence on global temperature drove a zero trend in global warming:

As we come close to entering the la Niña, the trend in global mean surface temperature has already been zero for 5 years 4 months:

There is not only a global pause, but a local one in a place that I know well: Austin, Texas. I have compiled the National Weather Service’s monthly records for Austin, which go back to the 1890s. More to the point here, I have also compiled daily weather records since October 1, 2014, for the NWS station at Camp Mabry, in the middle of Austin’s urban heat island. Based on those records, I have derived a regression equation that adjusts the official high-temperature readings for three significant variables: precipitation (which strongly correlates with cloud cover), wind speed, and wind direction (the combination of wind from the south has a marked, positive effect on Austin’s temperature).

Taking October 1, 2014, as a starting point, I constructed cumulative plots of the average actual and adjusted  deviations from normal:

Both averages have remained almost constant since April 2017, that is, almost four years ago. The adjusted deviation is especially significant because the hypothesized effect of CO2 on temperature doesn’t depend on other factors, such as precipitation, wind speed, or wind direction. Therefore, there has been no warming in Austin — despite some very hot spells — since April 2017.

Moreover, Austin’s population grew by about 5 percent from 2017 to 2020. According to the relationship between population and temperature presented here, that increase would have induced an temperature increase of 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s an insignificant number in the context of this analysis — though one that would have climate alarmists crying doom — but it reinforces my contention that Austin’s “real” temperature hasn’t risen for the past 3.75 years.


Related page and posts:

Climate Change
AGW in Austin?
AGW in Austin? (II)
UHI in Austin Revisited