Quotulatiousness

February 12, 2016

The Generalissimo Goes Forth I THE GREAT WAR – Week 81

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 11 Feb 2016

The situation for the Italian soldiers was dire during the winter battles, but even though Luigi “The Generalissimo” Cadorna maintained a tight grip on the strategy used, the equipment of the Italian soldiers was greatly improved. At the same time, the Russians were advancing on Erzurum in the Turkish Caucasus and war at sea counted a few more casualties on all sides.

QotD: Military developments from 1870 onwards

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The period of Colonial expansion coincided with three major developments in weapon-power: the general adoption of the small-bore magazine rifle, firing smokeless powder; the perfection of the machine gun; and the introduction of quick-firing artillery.

By 1871, the single-shot breech-loading rifle had reached so high a standard of efficiency that the next step was to convert it into a repeating, or magazine, rifle. Although the idea was an old one, it was not fully practicable until the adoption of the all-metal cartridge case, which reduced jamming in the breech. The first European power to introduce the magazine rifle was Germany who, in 1884, converted her 1871 pattern Mauser rifle to the magazine system; the magazine was of the tube type inserted in the fore-end under the barrel, it held eight cartridges. In 1885, France adopted a somewhat similar rifle, the Lebel, which fired smokeless powder — an enormous advantage. Next, in 1886, the Austrians introduced the Mannlicher with a box magazine in front of the trigger guard and below the entrance to the breech. And two years later the British adopted the .303 calibre Lee-Metford with a box magazine of eight cartridges, later increased to ten. By 1900 all armies had magazine rifles approximately of equal efficiency, and of calibres varying from .315 to .256; all were bolt operated, fired smokeless powder, and were sighted to 2,000 yards or metres.

Simultaneously with the development of the magazine rifle proceeded the development of the machine gun — another very old idea. Many types were experimented with and some adopted, such as the improved Gatling, Nordenfeldt (1873), Hotchkiss (1875), Gardner (1876), Browning (1889) and Colt (1895). The crucial year in their development was 1884, when Hiram S. Maxim patented a one barrel gun which loaded and fired itself by the force of its recoil. The original model weighed 40lb., was water cooled and belt fed, and 2,000 rounds could be fired from it in three minutes. It was adopted by the British army in 1889, and was destined to revolutionize infantry tactics.

The introduction of quick-firing artillery arose out of proposals made in 1891 by General Wille in Germany and Colonel Langlois in France. They held that increased rate of fire was impossible unless recoil on firing was absorbed. This led to much experimental work on shock absorption, and to the eventual introduction of a non-recoiling carriage, which permitted of a bullet-proof shield being attached to it to protect the gun crew. Until this improvement in artillery was introduced, the magazine rifle had been the dominant weapon, now it was challenged by the quick-firing gun, which not only outranged it and could be fired with almost equal rapidity, but could be rendered invisible by indirect laying.

J.F.C. Fuller, The Conduct of War, 1789-1961, 1961.

February 11, 2016

QotD: Dissing Wal-Mart as a cultural signalling device

Filed under: Business, Economics, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There’s no sign of it here in Magnolia, Ark., but the boycott season is upon us, and graduates of Princeton and Bryn Mawr are demanding “justice” from Wal-Mart, which is not in the justice business but in the groceries, clothes, and car-batteries business. It is easy to scoff, but I am ready to start taking the social-justice warriors’ insipid rhetoric seriously — as soon as two things happen: First, I want to hear from the Wal-Mart-protesting riffraff a definition of “justice” that is something that does not boil down to “I Get What I Want, Irrespective of Other Concerns.”

Second, I want to turn on the radio and hear Jay-Z boasting about his new Timex.

It is remarkable that Wal-Mart, a company that makes a modest profit margin (typically between 3 percent and 3.5 percent) selling ordinary people ordinary goods at low prices, is the great hate totem for the well-heeled Left, whose best-known celebrity spokesclowns would not be caught so much as downwind from a Supercenter, while at the same time, nobody is out with placards and illiterate slogans and generally risible moral posturing in front of boutiques dealing in Rolex, Prada, Hermès, et al. It’s almost as if there is a motive at work here other than that which is stated by our big-box-bashing friends on the left and their A-list human bullhorns.

What might that be?

Kevin D. Williamson, “Who Boycotts Wal-Mart? Social-justice warriors who are too enlightened to let their poor neighbors pay lower prices”, National Review, 2014-11-30.

February 10, 2016

“It is as if the world had suddenly, mysteriously, begun to clamour for Dumbledores and Gandalfs”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Colby Cosh suspects we’ve just hit “Peak Bernie”:

You are reading this on what is the probable date of Peak Bernie. Although you never know. The 74-year-old Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has become the unlikely sex symbol of American politics, fighting Hillary Clinton to a draw in last week’s Iowa Democratic caucus voting. Sanders has been in Congress for a quarter-century as an independent socialist who voted with the Democrats and participated in their seniority structure for the purpose of taking committee assignments.

[…]

What is the secret of Sanders’ success? It’s a combination, I think, of closely related phenomena that are hard to distinguish, and that are related to his advanced age. First, there’s what I like to call John Waters’ Law, after the movie director from Baltimore: if you do the same thing over and over again for long enough, people will reach the irresistible conclusion that you are a genius. Especially if you stay put in the same place.

But there is a form of this general principle specific to politics, which is, broadly, that what goes around comes around. It is close enough to the truth that there are no new ideas in politics — that we are just reiterating debates that were already stale in old Sumer. So if some idea seems temporarily discredited by experience — like democratic socialism! — you can just wait long enough, if you have the nerve and the time, for a bunch of people to be born who have not had that experience.

It is hardly a coincidence that Sanders is popular with young students, with his improvised nostrums for cheap health care and free education. Those fanbros don’t have a strong sense of how socialism makes the world drab and crummy and creates a civilization of queues, shortages and political pull. They certainly don’t know what a hundred different countries could tell them, if countries could speak, about how giving political authority to a fanciful, ambitious studentariat works out.

Andrew Coyne re-phrases Justin Trudeau on our Iraq commitments

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It’s all a bit confusing, so Mr. Coyne has thoughtfully straightened out and recast the Prime Minister’s statement:

Still, in any mission, you need to make choices, even false ones. We can’t do everything. Rather, in the fight against ISIL we have chosen to do everything except the one thing our allies have asked us to do: fight ISIL. While Canadians have always been prepared to fight, we believe that in this campaign there are better ways we can contribute that build upon our uniquely Canadian expertise. Thus, rather than actually fly the planes ourselves, we will rely on our uniquely Canadian expertise in refuelling planes for others to fly.

Let me be clear. There is a role for bombing — just not by Canadian pilots. After all, combat is not what Canada is all about. Rather, what Canada is all about is standing by while others engage in combat on our behalf. Think of the consequences, if in the course of an airstrike aimed at ISIL one of our brave and talented Canadian pilots were to inadvertently kill a great number of innocent civilians. Whereas merely providing the fuel for the plane that does — along with aerial surveillance, and of course the essential work of identifying targets by our special forces, er, training advisers working on the ground — leaves us wholly uninvolved.

A word about those trainers. It is true that we are tripling their number, while increasing the total number of our military personnel in the region by a fifth. Here again I would caution people not to think this meant we were somehow engaged in combat. Yes, it is true that they will be installed near the front line, and yes, training will often involve taking Iraqi and Kurdish troops out on patrol, and yes, this will sometimes mean that our troops are fired upon, and yes, they will sometimes be obliged to fire back. But merely because our troops will be firing upon the enemy in a war zone or calling in airstrikes from above does not mean they will be in combat. I mean, it says right there in the platform: “We will end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq.”

Justinian & Theodora – VIII: Bad Faith – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 30 Jan 2016

Mediolanum had fallen. Belisarius wrote a furious letter to Justinian explaining what happened, and the emperor immediately recalled Narses and reaffirmed Belisarius’s leadership. His army tore through the Ostrogothic territory and soon laid siege to Ravenna, which they brought to the brink of surrender. But the Ostrogothic King Vitiges had written to the Persian Empire urging them to take advantage of Rome’s distraction. Sure enough, Justinian found himself faced with a Persian army in the East, and he sent orders to Belisarius to leave Ravenna and return to defend Constantinople. Belisarius hated seeing his victory snatched from him, however, and almost refused to do it. Hearing of his displeasure, the Ostrogoths reached out to him and offered to make him their new king – no surrender necessary. Belisarius accepted their proposal, then immediately turned on them and declared the city for Justinian. Still, his greed cost the empire time. Justinian was furious that Belisarius had disobeyed his orders to return and wasted precious months solidifying control over the Ostrogoths while Persia threatened to overrun the heart of the empire. He could no longer trust his most valued general.

QotD: “The Catholic Church is unique among institutions in the modern West, in taking women seriously — as women

Filed under: Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Parse [the headline] carefully and one will find less overstatement than one might have hoped for. I did not use “unique” to mean “exclusive”; and “modern” may be restricted to the last half-century or so. Focus, rather, on what is plainly intended: the italicized qualification after the long dash.

Many individuals, of both sexes, do in fact take women seriously (as women). In many jurisdictions, this is now against the law, but it happens all the same. Various other “faith groups” continue to recognize women as having their own distinct nature and identity — Orthodox Jews come first to mind, then Orthodox Christians. Lots of Evangelicals.

On the other hand, most mainstream Protestant congregations, so far as they have any members left at all, formally withdraw this recognition. Too, many “modern” or “liberal” or “recovering” Catholics (nominal ones who look upon Church teaching as merely quaint) reject the notion that women could be women. But the Catholic Church cannot always be held responsible for the views of those who contradict her. (Even if, in the long run, she probably can, as I argued here.)

Certainly, the post-Christian, post-rational “secular” authorities deny that women (or men) exist, and have gone to the trouble of eliminating “father,” “mother,” “son,” “daughter,” “brother,” “sister,” “uncle,” “aunt,” and any other terms that seem to imply a sexual identity, from all legislation — making much of it retroactively quite insane. Their attack on what they call the “traditional” (i.e. normal) family is unambiguous. For it was and remains highly sexed, whereas the new State-protected “alternative families” are invariably sterile. (Some wiggle-room is still left for “breeders,” however, pending the invention of new reproductive technology.)

A good test of this — fanatic denial of the blatantly obvious — may be conducted by using the word “priestess.” Those demanding female priests (an unCatholic notion if there ever was one) are likely as not to freak at the use of that word. They do not like the connotation, and will declare that it is “sexist.” They want females to be priests the same as men. It would defeat this intention to call them “priestesses,” as well as calling attention (among the historically informed) to the very conscious decision made by the early Church to avoid the cultural and spiritual implications of the priestess function within ancient and pagan religions. For priestess cults, and their reputations, were something early Christians wanted to get away from.

David Warren, “Sexes & saxes”, Essays In Idleness, 2014-12-03.

February 9, 2016

Zeppelins – Majestic and Deadly Airships of WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 8 Feb 2016

Zeppelins pioneered the skyways, could fly long distances and reached heights like none of the British fighter-interceptor aircraft before. Because of that, they were used for scouting and tactical bombing early in the First World War. In this special episode we introduce these majestic floating whales and their usage in WW1.

How John Perry Barlow might have revised his 20-year-old Declaration

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

From a short interview in The Economist:

I probably wouldn’t have imitated the grandiloquent style of a notorious former slave holder. And I would have been a bit more humble about the “Citizens of Cyberspace” creating social contracts to deal with bad behavior online. The fact remains there is not much one can do about bad behavior online except to take faith that the vast majority of what goes on there is not bad behavior. Yeah, I hate spam, and viruses, and worms, and surveillance [by America’s National Security Agency], but the fact remains that if you can censor one of these bad behaviors, you’ve endowed yourself with the ability to censor almost anything you don’t like online. This is not an ability I wish to extend to any existing government in the physical world. If we assert it, what’s to prevent Saudi Arabia from doing the same.

And I would make it more obviously clear that I knew that cyberspace was not sublimely removed from the physical world, with which it has exactly the same relationship that the mind has with the body: deeply interdependent but qualitatively different. I think that point often got lost.

Over the decades, it has been continuously fashionable to make a straw man of my declaration, to hoist it up as the sort of woolly-headed hippie nonsense you’d expect from techno-utopians like me. This is done largely by people who have never read it, or take a strong interest in believing that government is about to come stomping into town, there to “civilize cyberspace.

Cam Newton’s 198.8% tax rate for his Super Bowl “winnings”

Filed under: Football, Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Dan Mitchell explains how Cam Newton is being taxed at nearly 200% on his California income for playing in the Super Bowl:

When I give speeches in favor of tax reform, I argue for policies such as the flat tax on the basis of both ethics and economics.

The ethical argument is about the desire for a fair system that neither punishes people for being productive nor rewards them for being politically powerful. As is etched above the entrance to the Supreme Court, the law should treat everyone equally.

The economic argument is about lowering tax rates, eliminating double taxation, and getting rid of distorting tax preferences.

Today, let’s focus on the importance of low tax rates and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers is going to be our poster child. But before we get to his story, let’s look at why it’s important to have a low marginal tax rate, which is the rate that applies when people earn more income.

[…]

Now let’s look at the tax implication for Cam Newton.

    If the Panthers win the Super Bowl, Newton will earn another $102,000 in playoff bonuses, but if they lose he will only net another $51,000. The Panthers will have about 206 total duty days during 2016, including the playoffs, preseason, regular season and organized team activities (OTAs), which Newton must attend or lose $500,000. Seven of those duty days will be in California for the Super Bowl… To determine what Newton will pay California on his Super Bowl winnings alone, …looking at the seven days Newton will spend in California this week for Super Bowl 50, he will pay the state $101,600 on $102,000 of income should the Panthers be victorious or $101,360 on $51,000 should they lose.

So what was Cam’s marginal tax rate for playing yesterday?

    Losing means his effective tax rate will be a whopping 198.8%. Oh yeah, he will also pay the IRS 40.5% on his earnings.

In other words, Cam Newton will pay a Barack Obama-style flat tax. The rules are very simple. The government simply takes all your money.

Or, in this case, more than all your money. So it’s akin to a French-style flat tax.

QotD: Aristocrats

Filed under: Books, Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

“So Sybil’s ancestors used to come along and talk to the hermit whenever they were faced with a philosophical conundrum, yes?”

Willikins looked puzzled. “Good heavens, no, sir, I can’t imagine that any of them would ever dream of doing that. They never had any truck with philosophical conundra.* They were aristocrats, you see? Aristocrats don’t notice philosophical conundra. They just ignore them. Philosophy includes contemplating the possibility that you might be wrong, sir, and a real aristocrat knows that he is always right. It’s not vanity, you understand, it’s built-in absolute certainty. They may sometimes be as mad as a hatful of spoons, but they are always definitely and certainly mad.

Vimes stared at him in admiration. “How in the hell do you know all this, Willikins?”

“Watched them, sir. In the good old days when her ladyship’s granddad was alive he made certain that the whole staff of Scoone Avenue came down here with the family in the summer. As you know, I’m not much of a scholar and, truth to tell, neither are you, but when you grow up on the street you learn fast because if you don’t learn fast you’re dead!”

They were now walking across an ornamental bridge, over what was probably the trout stream and, Vimes assumed, a tributary of Old Treachery, a name whose origin he had yet to comprehend. Two men and one little boy, walking over a bridge that might be carrying crowds, and carts and horses. The world seemed unbalanced.

“You see, sir,” said Willikins, “being definite is what gave them all this money and land. Sometimes it lost it for them as well, of course. One of Lady Sybil’s great-uncles once lost a villa and two thousand acres of prime farmland by being definite in believing that a cloakroom ticket could beat three aces. He was killed in the duel that followed, but at least he was definitely dead.

* Later on Vimes pondered Willikins’ accurate grasp of the plural noun in the circumstances, but there you were; if someone hung around in houses with lots of books in them, some of it rubbed off just as, come to think of it, it had on Vimes.

Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam, 2013.

February 8, 2016

Small Arms of WWI Primer 014: Canadian Ross Rifle Mark III

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Dec 2015

Othais and Mae delve into the story of this WWI classic. Complete with history, function, and live fire demonstration.

C&Rsenal presents its WWI Primer series; covering the firearms of this historic conflict one at a time in honor of the centennial anniversary. Join us every other Tuesday!

Ross Rifle MkIII
Cartridge: .303
Capacity: 5 rnds
Length: 50.6″
weight: 9.9 lbs

This disastrous straight pull rifle remains an infamous part of WWI. It brought down politicians, cost soldiers’ lives, and was generally a complete failure on the battlefield. But was the Ross Rifle really unfixable? Or did the Canadians drop the gun just when they had it finally working?

Additional reading:

The Ross Rifle Story
Roger F. Phillips
http://astore.amazon.com/candrprimer-20

QotD: In the future, wars will not be fought over water

Filed under: Economics, History, Military — Nicholas @ 01:00

You often hear from farmers, environmental Jeremiahs, and amateur economists that the wars of the future will be fought over water. This is almost certainly balderdash. Turn the pages of history, and you will find confirmation that large-scale human conflicts usually begin in religion, ethnic unpleasantness, dynastic strife, or ideology. Rarely do they flare up over some specific strategic object or resource. (The most brutally contested part of the Middle East is, notoriously, just about the only part of that region that has no oil.)

People may occasionally kill each other over water, in the context of a military siege or a tribal dispute over an oasis. Peoples rarely do. After all, full-fledged civilizations don’t grow up in the first place where there is no drinking water or access to arable land.

Colby Cosh, “California’s water woes are man-made — and so is the solution”, Maclean’s, 2014-09-07.

February 7, 2016

Did Germany and Britain Trade Rubber And Optics in WW1? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 6 Feb 2016

Check out War History Online and their excellent coverage: http://warhistoryonline.com

Indy sits in the Chair of Wisdom again and this week we talk about a strange story in which Germany and Britain actually traded goods during wartime.

BAHFest Seattle 2015 – Matt Inman: Fixing Problems

Filed under: Humour, Science — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 2 Feb 2016

Matt Inman keynotes the first ever BAHFest Seattle and he’s here to fix some problems.

BAHFest makes its Pacific Northwest debut at Town Hall Seattle, with the all new theme “Big Science.”

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