November 9, 2012

FEMA’s embarrassing record

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:38

Shikha Dalmia on the odd phenomenon that FEMA is just flat-out terrible at doing the job it’s supposed to do — co-ordinating emergency relief efforts — but is still beloved by big-government fans:

Hurricane Sandy hadn’t even touched down when liberals started blowing kisses to FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal disaster relief agency. A New York Times editorial declared that the impending storm proved that the country needs FEMA-style “Big Government” solutions more than ever. Salon, New Republic and other liberal outfits heartily agreed.

Why do liberals love FEMA so much? Certainly not for its glorious track record. Rather, FEMA has been a great vehicle for expanding the welfare state.

FEMA’s tragic missteps after Katrina earned it well-deserved disgrace. The Times blames those on the Bush administration, whose anti-government philosophy supposedly gutted FEMA. President Obama, the argument goes, straightened things out, and Americans should now “feel lucky” that the agency is there for them. Without it, local and state authorities wouldn’t be able to coordinate where “rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.”

So how did the new and improved FEMA perform post-Sandy, a storm for which it had lots of advance warning? Not so well.

It didn’t set up its first relief center until four days after Sandy hit — only to run out of drinking water on the same day. It couldn’t put sufficient boots on the ground to protect Queens residents from roving looters. The Red Cross — on whom FEMA depends for delivering basic goods — left Staten Island stranded for nearly a week, prompting borough President Jim Molinaro to fume that America was not a Third World country. But FEMA’s most egregious gaffe was that it arranged for 24 million gallons of free gas for Sandy’s victims, but most of them couldn’t lay their hands on it.

Solving the “tax haven problem” … with military intervention

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:30

Radley Balko suggested that this is insanity. I agree, but as Dan Mitchell explains, it’s being bruited about by people who should know far, far better:

A former bureaucrat from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development actually called for the forcible annexation of low-tax jurisdictions, writing in the Financial Times that, “Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man should simply be absorbed lock, stock and barrel into the UK…Andorra, Monaco and Liechtenstein should be given the choice of ending bank secrecy or facing annexation.”

He wasn’t quite so belligerent about Switzerland, perhaps because all able-bodied male citizens have fully automatic assault weapons in their homes. But he did urge financial protectionism against the land of chocolate, yodeling, and watches.

What a bizarre attitude. It’s apparently okay for certain countries to persecute – or even kill – ethnic minorities, religious minorities, political dissidents, homosexuals, and other segments of their populations. Very rarely do people like Mr. Buiter call for annexation or sanctions against such loathsome regimes.

But if a nation has low taxes and a strong human rights policy on financial privacy, then cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:49

My regular Guild Wars 2 community round-up at GuildMag is now online. This week features the last of the Halloween special event coverage and some speculation on what next week’s Lost Shores content release will bring us, plus all the usual blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, and fan fiction.

Tomb discoveries cast light on Thracian culture

Filed under: Europe, History, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:16

A recent discovery in Bulgaria promises to tell us more about the culture of the Getae, a powerful tribe in Thrace:

Archaeologists in Bulgaria are chuffed today to announce that golden treasures and artifacts produced by the ancient Thracians have been discovered in a subterranean tomb complex in the north of the country.

The treasures include snake-headed bracelets, a golden crown or tiara type affair, a golden horse head and piles of smaller solid gold items including rings, statuettes and buttons. They’re thought to date from the third century BC and to have been produced by the Getae, a tribe among the ancient Thracians.

[. . .]

Thracian warriors played prominent parts in many of the wars of antiquity. The peltast javelineer style of fighting was said to have originated in Thrace, gradually superseding the armoured hoplite warrior: an entire phalanx of the formidable Spartans was crushed by peltasts fighting for Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and the lightly armoured Greek/Thracian warriors are also said to have inflicted severe damage on heavy Persian cavalry.

Alexander the Great — from the neighbouring area of Macedonia — is also said to have used Thracian mercenaries in his world-spanning campaigns, and later on Thracian warriors were prominent in the armies of Rome and then the Eastern empire. In particular, the famous gladiator and rebel Spartacus had originally been a Roman auxiliary soldier from Thrace. Later on — after the fall of Rome, when the Empire was ruled from Constantinople — both the emperor Justinian and the great general Belisarius are said to have been Thracians.

Deception and counter-deception

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, WW2 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:08

Deception in war reached a crescendo in the latter stages of World War 2, with the allies’ use of General George S. Patton’s imaginary First US Army Group (FUSAG) to pin German attention on the Pas de Calais for more than a month after the real D-Day landings in Normandy. In addition to direct propaganda and an extensive radio network generating fake messages to show the size of FUSAG, the allies also created entire dummy airfields and flotillas of fake landing craft to show up on German air recon photos. The fake planes, aircraft, and buildings were a key part of maintaining the fictitious threat of another, bigger invasion — which successfully kept a large German force away from the real landings.

Less well-known is that the Germans also indulged in this kind of deception:

In what could easily be the finest and boldest example of death-defying and cheeky nose-thumbing during the Second World War or any conflict for that matter, bomber and intruder crews of the Royal Air Force and USAAF are reputed to have bombed the Luftwaffe’s decoy airfields and dummy aircraft, not with high explosives or incendiaries, but with nothing more than dummy bombs made of wood, and painted with the smug remark “Wood for Wood”… all just to make a point.

Throughout all theatres of war, during the Second World War, from China to Holland to Kent, air forces, phsy-ops units and logistics people constructed dummy targets such as airfields, factories, truck parks, convoys and even ships, out of wood, canvas, burlap, or inflatable rubber. The decoy airfields were often populated with dummy aircraft and vehicles of such high quality, that even low flying recce aircraft with photographic equipment would have hard time telling the difference between the dummies and the real thing. The decoy airfields and dummy aircraft served several purposes simultaneously. They confused snooping enemy aircraft and hence planners as to the number of aircraft available to the opposing forces as well as to their displacement. They provided decoy targets for enemy bombers which, if attacked would prevent real aircraft from being destroyed. Often, these airfields were built near real airports in the path of attacking aircraft in the hopes that they would then drop their bombs and strafe the dummies, thereby saving the real aircraft.

H/T to Roger Henry for the original link.

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