The Sounds of Disaster?

Outside the beltway and military circles, the theses [Link] of LTC Paul Yingling seem to have received scant attention.[Link] I know I only saw one brief consideration of it on the news channels this weekend, but this was the weekend of, among other things, Talladega, and hence may be little more that the general civilian apathy for things military that is the complement to the military dislike, often blending into hatred, of things civilian.

The first things that occur when one examines the situation, its coverage, and the article are the religious aspects. Certainly, the publication of the article has a parallel to the posting of the 95 theses on the door of Castle Church.[Link] If nothing else, the charges of ineptitude leveled at the army’s general officer corps are parallel analogs of the charges of simony leveled at the Catholic church. Even the man’s name is noteworthy, Yingling being an anglicized spelling of Ynglng,[Link] itself a derivative of Yngvi, [Link] an older form of the name Freyr (Frey) who owned a sword that fights by itself.[Link] 

Having read LTC Yingling’s article, I find little to criticize here other than a few technical points and neglected contradictions. Interestingly, like COL Harry Summers, who he criticizes as an apologist, Yingling is a Clausewitzian, at least to some degree, and misses the point that war is prosecuted not just by nation-states but by any organization willing and able to make and pursue war policy. This distinction may seem hair splitting but it has impact at the crux of his argument that the general officer corps has selected out qualities of adaptability and creativity in a Darwinian fashion. That this is the case is evident not just to the military, but to any observer who has cared to look. The general officer corps since the end of Containment has been steadily dumbed down and rendered reactionary not as any special characteristic of that pinnacle but as an overall trend in the Yankee army.  Creativity and adaptability, as opposed to silence and apathy, have not been survival characteristics in the post-wall army. The reason that LTC Yingling may be in service to observe what he has only because of the greater demands of the very conflict whose senior leadership he decries.

There are gaps, of course. He misses a key difference between the end of the Vietnam era and the end of Containment in the presence in the former and the absence in the latter of a spirited junior officer dialog in the military journals on the army’s future that preceded the decisive leadership of post Vietnam generals. This debate was absent after Containment, and the pronouncements of senior leadership were unilateral and untempered by the debate of questioning and innovative juniors. Given that those who were lieutenants in Vietnam are now retired or very senior generals, this oversight is forgivable.

We have to also fear his proposed system of correction. It seems destined to failure in its complexity and its susceptibility to misuse. The problems that the army currently has with unadaptable and uncreative generals result from an existing complex system that selects for those characteristics and not for their opposites. Intended to assure excellence and competence, as with most such systems it generates the opposite. If we want a general officer corps, indeed, an army that is creative and adaptable, we need to find ways for the expression of those qualities to excel and develop as a matter of course, not as a matter of pruning and grafting.

Even then, there is no assurance of success. If there is anything that American history teaches us it is that peacetime, regular army generals are seldom good war generals. Further, as much as the military tries to hide, even ignore, the impact of society as a whole on its nature, this is a period when society stresses sociability and conformance and penalizes creativity and adaptability. Even with its increasing ghettoization, the army cannot completely escape the influence of the civilian side of society.

Getting Hot

Fifty-five million years ago – 55 MYA – Tellus undergoes a global warming.[Link] Over a period of 10 KY repeated volcanic eruptions emit enormous quantities of green house gasses. The recovery takes about 200 KY. Significantly the temperature change amounted to about 9 degrees Fahrenheit, about the same as is projected for the end of this century if drastic action is not taken.

Scant months ago the majority viewed global warming as some sort of bogey man propagated by extremists and scientific doomsday fanatics, the situation glazed by the status quo stance of the executive administration. Now, the majority accepts that global warming is an actuality, in good probability largely the result of human numbers and activity, and want some decisive action to be taken.[Link] Sadly, the administration shows little sign of taking any action soon.

The question that presents is whether this lack of action is itself the act of dutiful minions of the corporate oligarchy, or the inherent inertia of organization. Even the most obvious of actions, in themselves insufficient, will result in serious impact on the national, planetary economy. The most obvious of these, some combination of moves intended to address the transportation emission of greenhouse gasses and its use of dwindling petroleum resources – a separate but closely related problem – will almost assuredly have a severe negative impact on an already struggling, perhaps even dieing, American automobile industry.

The claim that what action should be taken is almost baseless, or would be were it not for the administration’s “war on science” and the oppositions negation of science. The two together reduce the inaction to the most base of principles. While the international assessment organization could not make recommendations, a group of scientists, under the auspices of the Sigma Xi,[Link] an American but not very proud of it, and perhaps rightly so given the politicians’ behavior, and chartered by the United Nations, has prepared a recommended actions report. This report is available on the internet [Link] and may be downloaded and read by anyone with internet access, which we have reason to believe includes at least some of the Yankee government.

This political impasse needs to be broken, and the actions taken cannot be either to lenient or too transient – this cannot be another occupation of Iraq – or we shall most certainly be facing a situation in a generation at most that will topple civilization and offer high probability of ending the human species.

Different Understandings

One of the things I notice that bloggers do is read other bloggers. Some of this is to see what they say and either borrow or criticize their stuff. That’s all right by me, none of us has a monopoly on either brilliance or the manifold dimensions of stupidity. I myself read several, running for my distinguished colleague Total Angular Momentum Coupling, aka Eye of the Tyger, who is included on my blogroll to the pertinacious P. Z. Myers, Pharungula [Link] who this morning offered up this: [Link]

“There is one odd moment in the interview. I don’t sympathize at all
with the ethnic purity angle, but this part I actually liked:

In the question and answer session that followed Rabbi
Sacks was asked how he would convince someone like scientist and
atheist, Richard Dawkins of the benefits of religious identity.

Mr Sacks responded: “We need atheists to remind us things are
not God’s will, God does not want hunger, injustice or violence. I am
quite happy Richard Dawkins stops us having too much faith. There’s a
lot more religion in the world than there was 25 years ago and there’s
a lot more violence in the world than there was 25 years ago.”

I suspect that while I enthusiastically agree qualitatively with
Rabbi Sacks, we might disagree on how much religion is too much — I’d
say anything above zero.”

in talking about an interview with a Rabbi who is concerned with preserving ethnicity.

Before commenting, I want to also cite a cartoon strip whose general theme has to do with graduate studentism:

At the time I saw this, earlier, this week, my initial thought was that this also describes many, if not most, of the folks who are awarded a “real” graduate degree. This is being a bit parochial, but those who have done graduate research, labored over the composition of refereed and thesis publication, dealt substantively and emotionally with referees, on the one hand, and degree committees, on the other, and continue to live in that universe, are manifestly distant from those who obtain course-only master’s degrees or even stop with undergraduate education. Not better, mind, just different.

One of the characteristics of these folks is that they tend to be intensely interested in “their” subjects and are often oblivious of others, including those of great import to the greater part of the human species; they will talk incessantly and passionately about their subjects, but not on any current work that has not been accepted for publication – it is still unaccepted and you just might try to abscond with it. So overwhelming is this that I have known colleagues: who regularly lose automobiles by driving them somewhere and then walking home; who are admitted to hospital because they forget to eat; whose spouses refuse to divorce them because they fear criminal persecution for neglect or abandonment.

Hence my reaction to Professor Myers’ desire for an absence of religion – doubtful, at least so long as sapiens continues. At root religion serves a similar function to science in trying to explain the nature of things, especially those that threaten and are not human. This aspect of “explaining” and ameliorating the non-human threats against people is fundamental to all religions, and seems to be wired into humans. Indeed, the wiring is closely related to that that gives rise to science. And no, I am not going to get into the whole science-religion competition here because that’s not what I am about at the moment.

What I am about is that even if we could demonstrate that its eradication were universally beneficial, which we cannot, religion is not likely to go away. At the most callous level, there are many people, as Averroes noted, [Link] there are folks who are simply not suited to philosophy (science) and for them there is the Koran (Bible).

But given that Professor Myers is a biologist, perhaps he is off developing a gene engineered human who can do science without the need for religion?

Friday Mumblings

I see the governor of Alibam is trying another fast one to exclude real people from holding elected office.[Link] Apparently his pork project cronies can’t compete with real folks so the guvner wants to keep these folks from holding office under the guise of “double dipping”. Apparently the administration, which holds highest marks for spin doctoring and general degradation of the electorate, thinks that they can smear these legislature lizards with connotational slime and get them banned. And given the general intelligence, interest, and knowledge level of the Alibam electorate, they will probably be successful.

But we can say one good thing about the current Alibam executive administration – it certainly makes the national executive administration look good in comparison.

In a more real world announcement, the folks who are working on laptops for children in less affluent nations – what we used to call the third world for reasons that never made very much sense and the term may now be politically incorrect – have announced that instead of costing $100 the machine will cost $175.[Link]

There will doubtless be mumblings and rantings among the functionally illiterate “intellectual” liberality that Negroponte (Black Bridge), the director of the project is a blackguard. Based on my analysis, I believe that the cost increase is an attack of reality that displays considerable creativity and perspicacity on the part of the project. The major laptop manufacturers cannot get much below a retail price of $500, which probably indicates a manufacturing cost of $250-300, so coming in almost half of that is laudable and commendable.

What the same cost analysis techniques reveal is that the project is still probably horribly constrained. Even with the support of the “intellectual” liberals and their (modern) democrat pols, we have to recall that almost all of these countries – calling them nation-states is a travesty of the criterion for such – have per capita annual incomes of less than even the $100 price tag; the increase to $175 has only marginal impact on the numbers who obviously cannot afford even this small – to us – price tag.

We also have to question the merits of any subsidized plan. In many of these countries, families sell children to obtain enough money for the rest of the family yo survive. How then can we expect them to retain one of these laptops if there is any market at all for them? This has too many of the hallmarks of too many aid programs that only line the manufacturers’ and the overlord’s pockets and have little impact on the country’s economics or social wellness.

This is not to say that this Charles river shul has no practical sense. Their ‘FAB” lab is a model of how to do a productive and useful project, provided the proper safeguards and guarantees against abuse and misuse can be obtained.

But then, the same can be said of the government of Alibam. The question is how do the citizens obtain these safeguards and guarantees?

Challenges of Life

It seems the former Vice President from the Volunteer State, the one who did so well in the cinema business, winning awards but making little money – you know, the one who makes extravagant claims about himself – has come under criticism by scientists in England about inaccuracies in his film.[Link] What is not clear is whether the English hold their politicians or their cinematologists to a standard of accuracy. Certainly the obvious comparison, Melvyn Lord Bragg, the life peer who produces the BBC 4 wireless program “In Our Time” displays a concern for accuracy and communication consistently lacking in the efforts of the Tennessean.

Perhaps the former VP should harken to the words of one of his predecessors, Mr. Crockett, who I believe said “First make sure you’re right, and then go ahead.” Bot then one wonders is the former VP can understand either right or the basic idea of an If-Then statement?

While we are on the matter of the Volunteer State, I see that the Tennessean is experimenting with on-line reportage and reader response.[Link] Reader response to newspapers is nothing particularly new, many newspapers have had letters to the editor columns for years. These letters are, of course, selected by the editor and those that exceed his righteous outlook of what constitutes reasonable praise or criticism are sent to the recycle bin. This has a pronounced effect on letter writers who tend to moderate their language as a reality of this censorship.

Such censorship is not always practical on-line, especially with most newspapers being strapped for cash flow. As a result, the commentary is often characteristic of the worst that one may come to expect from the inherent depravity of the human mind, emboldened by the appearance of anonymity of the internet and the general ignorance, deepening daily, of the general populace for matters technical and real. One is sorely tempted to lump together these hate mongers with those who despise science, but the only thing they often share is nothing more than a more extreme delusion of reality than the mean.

Nonetheless, there are aspects of this that are to the better. Journalism has too long held itself separate from that reality, its practitioners cloaking themselves in an arrogance almost as thick as that of Congressional staffers and retired politicians, but only slightly less odious than that of evangelistic religionists and exalted cause humanists. For example, one of the television stations in Huntsville has a red-headed female news reader who daily qualifies as a nominee for a Darwin award, were there such for news reading. If reportage is held to a more exacting and timely criticism, some degree of depth and kritik must emerge at least for those who seek such. The current banal intellectual porridge, the only common food in the nation that is naturally lacking in salt, serves only the advertisers whose goal is the stupidification of the electorate to their own enrichment.

But speaking of newspapers and stupidification, there is a reasonable article in the Register [Link] on the particular question of how people end up with Windows as the OS on their computer. Despite a few who have the righteous answer that the programs they use to do their work are only available, in particular or in general, on Windows, the general response is that most are unable, incapable, and incompetent to choose, much less implement their choice, and hence are insentient on the matter.

This is the general situation. If we consider the matter in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy, we see that one is only aware and concerned of matters congruent with the level one is on. Matter of levels above are beneath consideration – like the pattern of toilet paper to a subsistence worker. But similarly, the matters of levels below are irrelevant and distasteful. If our interest is writing nasty comments to the Tennessean or shopping on eBay, then the OS on our PC is as far from our interest as is the OS of our automobile, and having left that selection to the marketplace, the selection will be made to the benefit of that marketplace.

This is characteristic of much of our society. Why do men wear ties? Why do women wear skirts? Why is all of our food so bad for us? Why can we only sell a house through a Realtor and why do we have to buy houses with mortgages? Our lives are ruled by things we are insentient of because even if we can transcend the inertia of Maslow’s hierarchy, most of our species cannot and we are overcome with the inertia of human nature.

Bubble Science

Bubbles are inherently interesting. They have extreme optical properties for several reasons, notably their nature as dual spherical lenses. Collections of bubbles, foams, are demanding because nothing is in the far field.

Today the feeds are full of bubble articles. The first [Link] addresses the nature of the head on beer. This is the most commonly observed form of foam for several reasons. The foremost of these is that most physicists bathe, when they do, in showers rather than by immersion. I have been told that this is because find so many phenomena to stare at in immersion bathing that they tend to die of pruning or whatever the biological process is called that results in the appearance of a prune. Wags, of course, claim that it is because physicists lack the motor skills to get out of a tub.

It is also well known that showers also present a health hazard. One of my graduate shul professors asked me, at a party and after several beers had been consumed by all present, how one could tell the difference between a physical chemist and a chemical physicist? The answer is that if left out in a rainstorm, a chemical physicist will drown because he is so entranced by the fall of the water droplets and the phenomena therein that his head stays up, his lungs fill with water, and he drowns.

More telling, the story itself exhibits how important beer is to physics, or at least physicists.

In a related matter, researchers at U Illinois – one of my alma materi – claim to have determined why diet sodas do not taste the same as regular sodas.[Link] The claim is that it has to do with the fluid properties of fructose syrup as compared to artificial sweeteners. Sadly, the lads seem to have completely missed that there is also a factor of the artificial sweeteners having such vile aftertastes, much less the inferiority of corn syrup over the original syrup, now sadly often only available in Kosher versions.

This story, of course, illustrates just how lacking the plains are of intellectual diversion, especially in the wintertime and hence the commitment to research no matter how outre it may be, probably because of cultural deprivation and a resulting loss of good sense. The same conditions also contribute to the consumption of beer, which is sometimes known in those parts as Illini Vodka, in reference to the traditional and comparable Russian problem with winter imbibing.

Of course, there are occasionally a third diversion on the plains – and I am not speaking of water skiing in borrow pit lakes here – which is addressed by work by researchers at Washington U over in St. Louis.[Link] This work adds to the indications that Neandertals were not so much extinguished as bred into conformity. This work reports Neandertal characteristics in early European Sapiens, indicating that the two species were inter fertile and at least occasionally mutually attractive.

Given last week’s beer rhetoric, perhaps some sort of alcoholic beverage was around before sedentaryness? But since there are no cave paintings of the foam on beer we may have to assume the absence of both beer and physics.

High Voltage and Low Theater

My mother used to tell me not to make fun of the unfortunate because I could never tell I wouldn’t suffer some time. I see now [Link] that Acer has had to recall laptop batteries. Back when everyone else was recalling batteries and the web was chockablock with photographs of self-destructed laptops – happily without any pictures, at least usually, of the wounded users/owners/bystanders, there was a bit of grrr brrr about how Acer was unaffected by this mismanagement and hence was a better choice for a laptop. Part of that 1/f noise was about how Acer was moving to pass Dell in laptop sales.

Acer has a good reputation, primarily in academic circles although their advertising is orders of magnitude less obtrusive than Dell or HP. I have to admit that I have never owned an Acer laptop, primarily because every time I tried to buy one the e-store was either out or the model had been discontinued. Finding a laptop that met my requirements was evidently too much for them and  had to go with HP or Dell, the least three times.

Speaking of battery recall however, and embarrassment, I see that television’s female counterpart to Imus, Rosie O/Donnell is departing “The View”. They are putting a good honest (modern) republican-capitalist spin on the matter being rooted in contract non-communication, but the overwhelming gestalt of the matter is that the Caucasian answer to Oprah is being axed as part of the Imus pogrom of political correctness and arson fiddling. An interesting article and video on the Tribune feed [Link] purports that the co-hosts are disappointed. The video projects something entirely differently; something more a mixture of polite facial neutrality mixed with eagerness for relief from acute (intellectual) rectal pain, with an occasional sparkle of profound, almost uncontrollable glee.

Perhaps encouraged by this burst of urbanity, Canada announced a national ban on incandescent light bulbs.[Link] American politicians immediately acclaimed the move as it will help the balance of trade – now the American seniors sneaking into Canada to buy cheap drugs can pay for their excursions with black market American light bulbs.

Since the English speaking world seems to be racing along on this path of banning incandescent bulbs, perhaps we can get the Yankee congress interested in such. Then maybe they can be involved in something that is their rightful function instead of foreign policy and war making, neither of which they seem able to do better than the executive administration, which in turn proves that both are at least as inept as television management.