Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

A story

A failure in generalship
By Lt. Col. Paul Yingling

“You officers amuse yourselves with God knows what buffooneries and never dream in the least of serious service. This is a source of stupidity which would become most dangerous in case of a serious conflict.”
– Frederick the Great

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq’s grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps. America’s generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America’s generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

The Responsibilities of Generalship

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.

The passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war. Regardless of the system of government, the people supply the blood and treasure required to prosecute war. The statesman must stir these passions to a level commensurate with the popular sacrifices required. When the ends of policy are small, the statesman can prosecute a conflict without asking the public for great sacrifice. Global conflicts such as World War II require the full mobilization of entire societies to provide the men and materiel necessary for the successful prosecution of war. The greatest error the statesman can make is to commit his nation to a great conflict without mobilizing popular passions to a level commensurate with the stakes of the conflict.

Popular passions are necessary for the successful prosecution of war, but cannot be sufficient. To prevail, generals must provide policymakers and the public with a correct estimation of strategic probabilities. The general is responsible for estimating the likelihood of success in applying force to achieve the aims of policy. The general describes both the means necessary for the successful prosecution of war and the ways in which the nation will employ those means. If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means. If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results.

However much it is influenced by passion and probability, war is ultimately an instrument of policy and its conduct is the responsibility of policymakers. War is a social activity undertaken on behalf of the nation; Augustine counsels us that the only purpose of war is to achieve a better peace. The choice of making war to achieve a better peace is inherently a value judgment in which the statesman must decide those interests and beliefs worth killing and dying for. The military man is no better qualified than the common citizen to make such judgments. He must therefore confine his input to his area of expertise ��� the estimation of strategic probabilities.

The correct estimation of strategic possibilities can be further subdivided into the preparation for war and the conduct of war. Preparation for war consists in the raising, arming, equipping and training of forces. The conduct of war consists of both planning for the use of those forces and directing those forces in operations.

To prepare forces for war, the general must visualize the conditions of future combat. To raise military forces properly, the general must visualize the quality and quantity of forces needed in the next war. To arm and equip military forces properly, the general must visualize the materiel requirements of future engagements. To train military forces properly, the general must visualize the human demands on future battlefields, and replicate those conditions in peacetime exercises. Of course, not even the most skilled general can visualize precisely how future wars will be fought. According to British military historian and soldier Sir Michael Howard, “In structuring and preparing an army for war, you can be clear that you will not get it precisely right, but the important thing is not to be too far wrong, so that you can put it right quickly.”

The most tragic error a general can make is to assume without much reflection that wars of the future will look much like wars of the past. Following World War I, French generals committed this error, assuming that the next war would involve static battles dominated by firepower and fixed fortifications. Throughout the interwar years, French generals raised, equipped, armed and trained the French military to fight the last war. In stark contrast, German generals spent the interwar years attempting to break the stalemate created by firepower and fortifications. They developed a new form of war ��� the blitzkrieg ��� that integrated mobility, firepower and decentralized tactics. The German Army did not get this new form of warfare precisely right. After the 1939 conquest of Poland, the German Army undertook a critical self-examination of its operations. However, German generals did not get it too far wrong either, and in less than a year had adapted their tactics for the invasion of France.

After visualizing the conditions of future combat, the general is responsible for explaining to civilian policymakers the demands of future combat and the risks entailed in failing to meet those demands. Civilian policymakers have neither the expertise nor the inclination to think deeply about strategic probabilities in the distant future. Policymakers, especially elected representatives, face powerful incentives to focus on near-term challenges that are of immediate concern to the public. Generating military capability is the labor of decades. If the general waits until the public and its elected representatives are immediately concerned with national security threats before finding his voice, he has waited too long. The general who speaks too loudly of preparing for war while the nation is at peace places at risk his position and status. However, the general who speaks too softly places at risk the security of his country.

Failing to visualize future battlefields represents a lapse in professional competence, but seeing those fields clearly and saying nothing is an even more serious lapse in professional character. Moral courage is often inversely proportional to popularity and this observation in nowhere more true than in the profession of arms. The history of military innovation is littered with the truncated careers of reformers who saw gathering threats clearly and advocated change boldly. A military professional must possess both the physical courage to face the hazards of battle and the moral courage to withstand the barbs of public scorn. On and
off the battlefield, courage is the first characteristic of generalship.

Failures of Generalship in Vietnam

America’s defeat in Vietnam is the most egregious failure in the history of American arms. America’s general officer corps refused to prepare the Army to fight unconventional wars, despite ample indications that such preparations were in order. Having failed to prepare for such wars, America’s generals sent our forces into battle without a coherent plan for victory. Unprepared for war and lacking a coherent strategy, America lost the war and the lives of more than 58,000 service members.

Following World War II, there were ample indicators that America’s enemies would turn to insurgency to negate our advantages in firepower and mobility. The French experiences in Indochina and Algeria offered object lessons to Western armies facing unconventional foes. These lessons were not lost on the more astute members of America’s political class. In 1961, President Kennedy warned of “another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin ��� war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by evading and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.” In response to these threats, Kennedy undertook a comprehensive program to prepare America’s armed forces for counterinsurgency.

Despite the experience of their allies and the urging of their president, America’s generals failed to prepare their forces for counterinsurgency. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Decker assured his young president, “Any good soldier can handle guerrillas.” Despite Kennedy’s guidance to the contrary, the Army viewed the conflict in Vietnam in conventional terms. As late as 1964, Gen. Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated flatly that “the essence of the problem in Vietnam is military.” While the Army made minor organizational adjustments at the urging of the president, the generals clung to what Andrew Krepinevich has called “the Army concept,” a vision of warfare focused on the destruction of the enemy’s forces.

Having failed to visualize accurately the conditions of combat in Vietnam, America’s generals prosecuted the war in conventional terms. The U.S. military embarked on a graduated attrition strategy intended to compel North Vietnam to accept a negotiated peace. The U.S. undertook modest efforts at innovation in Vietnam. Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), spearheaded by the State Department’s “Blowtorch” Bob Kromer, was a serious effort to address the political and economic causes of the insurgency. The Marine Corps’ Combined Action Program (CAP) was an innovative approach to population security. However, these efforts are best described as too little, too late. Innovations such as CORDS and CAP never received the resources necessary to make a large-scale difference. The U.S. military grudgingly accepted these innovations late in the war, after the American public’s commitment to the conflict began to wane.

America’s generals not only failed to develop a strategy for victory in Vietnam, but also remained largely silent while the strategy developed by civilian politicians led to defeat. As H.R. McMaster noted in “Dereliction of Duty,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff were divided by service parochialism and failed to develop a unified and coherent recommendation to the president for prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. Army Chief of Staff Harold K. Johnson estimated in 1965 that victory would require as many as 700,000 troops for up to five years. Commandant of the Marine Corps Wallace Greene made a similar estimate on troop levels. As President Johnson incrementally escalated the war, neither man made his views known to the president or Congress. President Johnson made a concerted effort to conceal the costs and consequences of Vietnam from the public, but such duplicity required the passive consent of America’s generals.

Having participated in the deception of the American people during the war, the Army chose after the war to deceive itself. In “Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife,” John Nagl argued that instead of learning from defeat, the Army after Vietnam focused its energies on the kind of wars it knew how to win ��� high-technology conventional wars. An essential contribution to this strategy of denial was the publication of “On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War,” by Col. Harry Summers. Summers, a faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, argued that the Army had erred by not focusing enough on conventional warfare in Vietnam, a lesson the Army was happy to hear. Despite having been recently defeated by an insurgency, the Army slashed training and resources devoted to counterinsurgency.

By the early 1990s, the Army’s focus on conventional war-fighting appeared to have been vindicated. During the 1980s, the U.S. military benefited from the largest peacetime military buildup in the nation’s history. High-technology equipment dramatically increased the mobility and lethality of our ground forces. The Army’s National Training Center honed the Army’s conventional war-fighting skills to a razor’s edge. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled the demise of the Soviet Union and the futility of direct confrontation with the U.S. Despite the fact the U.S. supported insurgencies in Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Angola to hasten the Soviet Union’s demise, the U.S. military gave little thought to counterinsurgency throughout the 1990s. America’s generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past ��� state-on-state conflicts against conventional forces. America’s swift defeat of the Iraqi Army, the world’s fourth-largest, in 1991 seemed to confirm the wisdom of the U.S. military’s post-Vietnam reforms. But the military learned the wrong lessons from Operation Desert Storm. It continued to prepare for the last war, while its future enemies prepared for a new kind of war.

Failures of Generalship in Iraq

America’s generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America’s generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America’s generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.

Despite paying lip service to “transformation” throughout the 1990s, America’s armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In “The Sling and the Stone,” T.X. Hammes argues that the Defense Department’s transformation strategy focuses almost exclusively on high-technology conventional wars. The doctrine, organizations, equipment and training of the U.S. military confirm this observation. The armed forces fought the global war on terrorism for the first five years with a counterinsurgency doctrine last revised in the Reagan administration. Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America’s generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The
most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq’s population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America’s generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that “several hundred thousand soldiers” would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as “Fiasco” and “Cobra II.” However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise “Desert Crossing” demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America’s generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America’s generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America’s general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that “there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq.” The ISG noted that “on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.” Population security is the most important measure of effectiveness in counterinsurgency. For more than three years, America’s generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. For reasons that are not yet clear, America’s general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq’s government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. Moreover, America’s generals have not explained clearly the larger strategic risks of committing so large a portion of the nation’s deployable land power to a single theater of operations.

The intellectual and moral failures common to America’s general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship. Any explanation that fixes culpability on individuals is insufficient. No one leader, civilian or military, caused failure in Vietnam or Iraq. Different military and civilian leaders in the two conflicts produced similar results. In both conflicts, the general officer corps designed to advise policymakers, prepare forces and conduct operations failed to perform its intended functions. To understand how the U.S. could face defeat at the hands of a weaker insurgent enemy for the second time in a generation, we must look at the structural influences that produce our general officer corps.

The Generals We Need

The most insightful examination of failed generalship comes from J.F.C. Fuller’s “Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure.” Fuller was a British major general who saw action in the first attempts at armored warfare in World War I. He found three common characteristics in great generals ��� courage, creative intelligence and physical fitness.

The need for intelligent, creative and courageous general officers is self-evident. An understanding of the larger aspects of war is essential to great generalship. However, a survey of Army three- and four-star generals shows that only 25 percent hold advanced degrees from civilian institutions in the social sciences or humanities. Counterinsurgency theory holds that proficiency in foreign languages is essential to success, yet only one in four of the Army’s senior generals speaks another language. While the physical courage of America’s generals is not in doubt, there is less certainty regarding their moral courage. In almost surreal language, professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters. Now that the public is immediately concerned with the crisis in Iraq, some of our generals are finding their voices. They may have waited too long.

Neither the executive branch nor the services themselves are likely to remedy the shortcomings in America’s general officer corps. Indeed, the tendency of the executive branch to seek out mild-mannered team players to serve as senior generals is part of the problem. The services themselves are equally to blame. The system that produces our generals does little to reward creativity and moral courage. Officers rise to flag rank by following remarkably similar career patterns. Senior generals, both active and retired, are the most important figures in determining an officer’s potential for flag rank. The views of subordinates and peers play no role in an officer’s advancement; to move up he must only please his superiors. In a system in which senior officers select for promotion those like themselves, there are powerful incentives for conformity. It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator in his late forties.

If America desires creative intelligence and moral courage in its general officer corps, it must create a system that rewards these qualities. Congress can create such incentives by exercising its proper oversight function in three areas. First, Congress must change the system for selecting general officers. Second, oversight committees must apply increased scrutiny over generating the necessary means and pursuing appropriate ways for applying America’s military power. Third, the Senate must hold accountable through its confirmation powers those officers who fail to achieve the aims of policy at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure.

To improve the creative intelligence of our generals, Congress must change the officer promotion system in ways that reward adaptation and intellectual achievement. Congress should require the armed services to implement 360-degree evaluations for field-grade and flag officers. Junior officers and noncommissioned officers are often the first
to adapt because they bear the brunt of failed tactics most directly. They are also less wed to organizational norms and less influenced by organizational taboos. Junior leaders have valuable insights regarding the effectiveness of their leaders, but the current promotion system excludes these judgments. Incorporating subordinate and peer reviews into promotion decisions for senior leaders would produce officers more willing to adapt to changing circumstances, and less likely to conform to outmoded practices.

Congress should also modify the officer promotion system in ways that reward intellectual achievement. The Senate should examine the education and professional writing of nominees for three- and four-star billets as part of the confirmation process. The Senate would never confirm to the Supreme Court a nominee who had neither been to law school nor written legal opinions. However, it routinely confirms four-star generals who possess neither graduate education in the social sciences or humanities nor the capability to speak a foreign language. Senior general officers must have a vision of what future conflicts will look like and what capabilities the U.S. requires to prevail in those conflicts. They must possess the capability to understand and interact with foreign cultures. A solid record of intellectual achievement and fluency in foreign languages are effective indicators of an officer’s potential for senior leadership.

To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War. The money required to prevail may place fiscal constraints on popular domestic priorities. The quantity and quality of manpower required may call into question the viability of the all-volunteer military. Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face. Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.

Finally, Congress must enhance accountability by exercising its little-used authority to confirm the retired rank of general officers. By law, Congress must confirm an officer who retires at three- or four-star rank. In the past this requirement has been pro forma in all but a few cases. A general who presides over a massive human rights scandal or a substantial deterioration in security ought to be retired at a lower rank than one who serves with distinction. A general who fails to provide Congress with an accurate and candid assessment of strategic probabilities ought to suffer the same penalty. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war. By exercising its powers to confirm the retired ranks of general officers, Congress can restore accountability among senior military leaders.

Mortal Danger

This article began with Frederick the Great’s admonition to his officers to focus their energies on the larger aspects of war. The Prussian monarch’s innovations had made his army the terror of Europe, but he knew that his adversaries were learning and adapting. Frederick feared that his generals would master his system of war without thinking deeply about the ever-changing nature of war, and in doing so would place Prussia’s security at risk. These fears would prove prophetic. At the Battle of Valmy in 1792, Frederick’s successors were checked by France’s ragtag citizen army. In the fourteen years that followed, Prussia’s generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like those of the past. In 1806, the Prussian Army marched lockstep into defeat and disaster at the hands of Napoleon at Jena. Frederick’s prophecy had come to pass; Prussia became a French vassal.

Iraq is America’s Valmy. America’s generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand. They spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers. As at Valmy, this one debacle, however humiliating, will not in itself signal national disaster. The hour is late, but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security. The power and the responsibility to identify such generals lie with the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not act, our Jena awaits us.

April 27, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stupid stupid people

Well its official. The people I work with are retards.

Let me offer the following:

1. “Well maybe it’ll go 190mph, but it only has a 4.0, my truck has a 5.7L!”
2. The government should force oil companies to sell gas at cost.
3. Small cars get more miles on the odometer than big cars for every mile driven… because the wheels are smaller.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TV still kills

I had a fairly complicated blog, but it was dumb. Think about this: Do you know what truly defines the Baby Boomer generation? Its not cars or music. Despite what self worshiping boomers might say, they did NOT invent cheap sex. Every drug that the hippies popularized was illegal purely because it had already been seen to be a menace, so its not drugs. Vietnam? No, every generation has its own pointless war. Watergate? Hardly, political corruption is as old as politics. The assassination of JFK ? Political assassination is as old as civilization.

No, theres just one thing that separates the Boomers from every generation that came before.
T.V. TV is the one single factor that makes them different. Every defining moment of the 50’s and 60’s was televised. And thus came the single greatest evil to ever befall a nation: cultural homogeny. They saw the same bands, then bought the same records. They saw the same tragedies and formed the same opinions. Except the contrarians. Who rather than thinking thru the issues, simply formed whatever opinion was the opposite of what most people believed.

Our country has some challenges to face. Every single one created by the hypocrisy of a group of people who grow older each year and continue to believe that they are 18, and that its still 1968. Oh well.

April 24, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


So, I bought my wife a bike. Its nifty. She looks cute on it. We’re going to get rid of our car and be crazy hippies… tomorrow. Being a long haired, smelly armpits, anti-materialist ironically requires a significant nest egg, so my dream of touring the world by bike will have to wait.

For my geeky bike nerd family members: generic aluminum frame, cruiser style, fat tires which I will replace as soon as wife decides she is ready for faster but less butt friendly ride. Stermy Archer 3 with integrated coaster brake. A real clunker. We looked at bikes that cost 3 times more. She hasn’t ridden seriously since she was 13. I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by it. The aluminum frame isn’t bad, just out of date. It looks more like the 70’s experimental aluminum frames and weighs like it.. The fat tires absorb road shock much better than the crappy energy eating shocks they think everyone wants. The saddle is a bit wide, but she hasn’t ridden much in more than a decade, so probably a pretty good idea at this point. All in all, not to bad.

April 23, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pulse jets

So I’ve designed most of my jet. It has no moving parts and it is supercharged by the exhaust of the adjacent jet (Its going to be made in pairs.) I’ve run into a problem with the intake valve.
The intake valve has to be something called a pneumatic diode. For those of you who don’t speak techno-bable, that means it has to let air flow one way, but not the other.

The intake valve I planned on using was something called a valvular conduit. Like a good many interesting ideas it was invented by a crazy man named Nikola Tesla. Theres a couple problems though:

(1.) Tesla said in the patent that it provided 200 times more resistance in one direction that the other. But none of his notes or assistants ever actually saw him run tests on it.

(2.) The main body of the prototype jet is 2″ in diameter. A valvular conduit of 5.5 stages (What Tesla used in his patent diagram.) scales to about 70″ long for my jet. Thats pretty crazy.

(3.) Tesla was famous for stating the theoretical efficiency as the real world efficiency. He invented a really neat gas turbine that worked by the gas slowly sliding of plates in a very tight radial spiral rather than slamming into blades in a very low helix coaxial spiral. They’re very neat, but they get about half the efficiency he said they would. What if the VC is the same way?

(4.) The VC isn’t especially easy to make. Particularly in the back yard. And there is no math to back up its construction. The only way to make one is to scale the patent drawing. With no math, its pretty hard to analyze one.

(5.) The properties of air in a set of small tubes is really, really odd. The smaller the tube gets the more air acts like water. (Huh, you say?) When air and water are the same pressure, temperature, and velocity, then air will exert 1/14 the force as water if the tube/s they are flowing through is the same size. This gets really strange when dealing with small shapes.
If you want to model the flight of a fruit fly for instance and you want to make the wings about 8″ long, you have to fly it in mineral oil to get the same (scaled) forces on the wing.
When object gets small enough, the fluid you are trying to move thru it (or around it) gets like jello. I’m having a hard time running the numbers.

(6.) And exhaust is 4 times thicker than inlet air. So it has to be sized that way.

(7.) And the combustion chamber has to be small. If its not, the pressure can’t build up fast enough and it farts instead of thrusts.

I’ll keep working on it.

April 22, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Money Guns & Drugs

People like simple answers. Truth is real, but rarely simple. To form an intelligent response to the issue of gun control we need to look at history. Every argument for and against gun control has a corresponding counter argument all based of history.
1. The 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to keep and carry arms
2. Citizens access to arms protects us from evil doers
3. We need arms to protect ourselves from rogue government
4. We need arms to hunt
1. The 2nd Amendment meant what we would now call the National Guard
2. Access to arms increases the number of evil doers
3. Existing small arms allowed to the public have no capacity to fight current military weapons
4. Hunting arms can be more effectively regulated.

Nothing above is wrong, sort of.

1. What the 2nd Amendment meant to the original writers was neither what is listed in the Pros or the Cons, and a little of both. The original intent was that the US would have nearly no standing army whatsoever, and that armed citizens would ensure the safety of the nation directly on a model not dissimilar to the modern Swiss one. (See if you want to know more ) The fear that a standing Army could seize power was balanced in the signers by a fear of hostile foreign take over. The best solution that everyone could concede to signing was a relatively weak volunteer army and a strong armed citizenry. Since we don’t now have either, neither is especially pivotal to the current issue.

2. This one gets very sticky. It would be nice if we could make laws up without having them effect new laws or be effected by old ones, but we can’t. Once upon a time guns were both legal and unregulated. If they were contraband they would be illegal and regulated. They seem to be heading that direction, and are up and down the scale depending on what state in the US you live in. The problem is with contraband is that, in a word, it’s stupid. When a government makes some THING rather than some ACTION illegal, it is no longer making laws about a wrong that has taken place, it is making laws about what someone could do but has not yet done.

During the Prohibition, alcohol was made contraband. Per capita drinking went down by 60%, however, per capita alcohol related crime increased by over 200%. Furthermore, organized policing of the law was responded to with equally organized crime. Organized crime centered on drinking gave the criminals a social machine that they could use like any other organized group to effect political change or support elections. The effects were devastating to America. Eventually the Prohibition was repealed. However, despite the obvious and public failure of the Prohibition people like easy answers and simply outlawing something is easier than coming up with a reasonable response that allows it to be used but discourages abuse. Prohibition encourages hypocrisy and clearly reflects ignorant preferences ahead of rational thought. A good example is that it is illegal you to grow or smoke cannabis on your own property for your own use. However it is perfectly acceptable for Philip Morris to grow tobacco by the ton and lace it with nicotine. THC (the active chemical in cannabis)is a mild psychoactive chemical. Nicotine is a toxic poison. It seems like access to alcohol makes for a safer society, but we are not so open minded about cocaine. “Crack kills!” we are told, but guns don’t kill people, people kill people. As I said contraband laws make us a nation of hypocrites, because they are laws that work off the assumption that something will be abused rather than used. How can we know so certainly what others do, or why they do it? We can’t, so we fall back on cliches and prejudice about things and people that we rarely take the time to understand.

3. As mentioned in (1.) the idea that we need arms to protect ourselves from the government is a romantic cowboy fantasy. Governments world-wide regularly seize the rights and property of the unarmed, and ours would be no different with the right situation and administration, however, the fantasy is that the weapons citizens are currently allowed to posses would have any strategic effect whatsoever in a military confrontation.

4. Oddly, this one is one of the most important economically, though insignificant philosophically. Outdoor recreation is multi-billion dollar industry. Though gun sales themselves make up only about $200 million of those billions (less than 1%) the outdoor industry is founded on weapons. Cabela’s won’t sell nearly as many deer stands if no one is allowed to have deer rifles. Though many people hunt proficiently and happily with bows and arrows, large restrictions in weapons will close the sport to many people and that ripple will be felt in industries that might seem unrelated. Though folks who support gun control often try to take a supportive stance towards hunters, the historic world wide precedent is that gun laws make more gun laws, and usually within a generation or two (30 to 60 years)guns of any type are for all practical purposes eliminated.

So, where does that leave the discussion? Well, what does God say? Scripture has a lot to say about alcohol. Specifically, God doesn’t make it contraband. He could put wine in the list of dietary prohibitions, but He doesn’t. He condemns a lifestyle of drunkenness yet makes wine at a wedding. (Yes, it was wine. I know a great deal has been written about this saying otherwise, but be sure to read the text, it often sheds light on the foot notes. The text in both original language and English is clearly referring to alcoholic wine. Any other interpretation is wistful thinking at best and blasphemy at worst.) Why? Well, ask your self this? Was God surprised by the effect alcohol had on the brain? Of course not, He designed both. God has no problem with alcohol being used but clearly condemns its abuse.

Homicide is another example. God forbids murder and demands death for certain people and certain actions. How is that not hypocritical? Because sometimes homicide is justifiable. In essence, homicide may be used for its proper function, but not abused.

But what about the specific case at hand? Does scripture make a specific case for people having a right to be armed? Perhaps. When Ester’s people were to be killed by royal edict, the king could not take back his word, but instead allowed the Jews to be armed and defend themselves as needed. Further, God demanded that a woman being raped fight and scream. Thus, not only does God demand that the wronged fight, He, in at least one instance, allows them to be armed to do so. A open minded reading of the Bible will reveal that God always expects you to defend yourself

Biblical side: you have moral right to protect yourself, and your charges.
Historical side: you should have 2nd Amendment right to do the above with a gun
Realistically: your 2nd Amendment rights will go the way of the dodo bird within the next 50 years because the legal precedent put in place by well meaning people. If we stand on soap boxes and say: Access to porn makes rapists, access to drugs makes criminals, access to violent video games makes nasty children so it should all be BANNED! Then we have nothing to say when someone else says “access to firearms makes violent crime.” And of course, how long till “access to Scripture makes unhealthy feelings of guilt” and bans it, is anyones guess.

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Doomed 2nd Amendment

First They Came for the Jews

Pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

The Republican party didn’t speak up when the constitutional rights of released prisoners were violated. (Your 2nd Amendment rights are null and void after you get out of prison. ) But why fight for justice for a bunch of ex-cons?

The didn’t speak up when the constitutional rights of drug addicts were violated. (Abuse of warrants, mandatory sentencing, prohibition of substance, unlawful seizure of property .) But why fight for justice for a bunch of potheads?

They didn’t speak up when the rights of businessmen were violated. (Anti-strip club zoning, anti-adult book store zoning) But why speak up for a bunch of fornicating sleaze bags?

They didn’t speak up when the rights of homosexuals were violated. (Criminalization of homosexual acts.) But why fight for justice for fags and queers?

Very shortly the Republican party will begin to fight for the 2nd Amendment rights of “law-abiding, God-fearing citizens.” In the end, they will lose. Maybe not this election cycle, maybe no the next, but they will lose the fight. And the reason is simple. Justice means nothing to the Republican party. The GOPs main concern is the continuing power of the GOP. If justice or the constitution were nearly as important as they claim they would fight as hard for the rights of unpopular people (ex-cons and homosexuals) as strongly as they fight for the rights of popular ones (married suburbanites).

Because they aren’t willing to fight for EVERYONE’S rights, we all lose. The Dems are even worse. They will fight to the death to make sure that the “disadvantaged” receive help to go to college but won’t finish a war that they helped to start.

I don’t know who reads these, but whoever you are: vote for justice for everybody not just the people you care about, or shortly there will justice for no one.

April 18, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

made up units of economic measure

I could write about the Virginia Tech shooting, but what is their to say? The college will be sued, the students are dead. I will, I’m sure, here out cry about how if only the one kid couldn’t have gotten a gun this wouldn’t have happened. No one will mention a January 2006 bill that would have allowed the students who had concealed weapons permits to carry on campus. It didn’t pass. So the whole school was a gun free zone (official VT policy). Works great doesn’t it! I’m sure glad the school made them all safe with its no guns policy…

But I have nothing to say. Fools will speak loudly on both sides of the argument with conservatives offering a crime-free utopia if only guns were easier to get. Yes, availability of weapons has certainly had a stabilizing influence on Africa. Other fools will say if only guns were totally illegal we this wouldn’t have happen either. Yes, the criminalization of marijuana has certainly made it hard to find and reduced its use…

Anywho, what I really wanted to talk about was the M4 Sherman tank vs the Nazi Panther
See, the Sherman was slower, had shorter duration, was taller (a bad thing), had less weapons range, worse power to weight ration, etc. Pretty much the Sherman just sucked, but we won. The normal explanation for this is that we sacrificed our tanks and could afford to do so because we were still on the way up, while the Nazis were on the way down. There is some truth in that, but the real explanation is a little more complicated. The recovery rate of the Sherman’s was much easier. They were easier to fix in the field, despite the fact that the American supply lines were longer by order of magnitude.

Toward the end, the Nazis had, for example, around 2000 ground vehicle types to support. We had about 5. Its just another historical example of how you can have what you need to win a war, but if you don’t look at the big picture, you can still lose.

Its all about services. The Nazis had great tanks, who maintenance was derailed by bureaucratic red tape. Imagine that all the services that a government provides could be broken down into a sort of service accounting unit, we’ll call it the Serva. If a government provided the services of a military, social security, and health care, and another government had only the military, the second government would have to by many less Servas. The Servas are bought with tax revenue. Since gold has a basically stable value, we’ll say tax revenue is collected in ounces of gold.

So now we have a unit: Serva per person per ounce. Now we have a convenient number to work with. If one government if one country is paying particularly more for its servas than a rival, then then in war, the thrifty nation will likely win.

Neat huh?

April 17, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How the Department of Transportation ruins everything

Bureaucracy: rule by bureau.

Bureau means: specialized administrative unit; especially : a subdivision of an executive department of a government agency that serves as an intermediary for exchanging information or coordinating activities

In a democratic state, the definition above has a darker meaning. Bureaus are not elected, they are appointed. A prime and excellent feature of the US government is that it has 3 facets: executive, legislative, and judicial, all of which take office by democratic process. Further, though each has power to rule, only the one, the legislative, has the power to tax. Thus, they compete for the same limited resources, and the power to rule is limited by democratic process as well as by real budget constraints.

Bureaucracy side steps both. A good example, oddly enough, is licensing. The DOT is a bureau appointed by the State to rule one specific action of the states services. I say rule rather oversee because oversee would mean that they simply represent will of the elected government. The DOT, however, has its own agenda which is independent of the elected local government. Further, the DOT is capable of generating its own funding, through the sale of licenses. Generally, the act of selling something is not considered tax. But since the DOT sales a product that you are (1.) Required to have, and (2.) you are not allowed to get from anyone else. Yeah, um thats tax.

So the DOT policies are written with help from the US DOT (also not elected). It has the power to tax (through licensing fees). Oh, and a large, armed police force, and the right to search vehicles without warrant.

Bureaus, like all other human institutions, are not evil. They may do good or evil to the degree that they are capable of action, but selfishness is the easiest path for a person or an organization to take. The actions of a person or group of people are usually bound not by law, but by the relationship of cost to benefit for a given action. For example, when criminal acts have very high compensation, they become more appealing, and the cost of breaking the law is raised or the conditions that make the compensation so high are changed.

Bureaus are appointed, not elected. Thus, their policies tend to selfishness. Bureaus expand, but the service they provide rarely, if ever, expands equally. The electoral process puts a constant assessment on a person/group which tends to slow this down. Since bureaus aren’t elected or run for profit, the incentive is to grow larger and larger. Since efficiency tends to cut manpower (and thus funding) there is a huge incentive for inefficient operation at every possible level.

This has a profound application for a nation at war…

Power and money tends to center around people with access to power and money. Thus, a social or regime change rarely causes deep change. Business leaders need government to provide social conditions which ensure profit. Government leaders need business leaders to provide business conditions which ensure tax. When the government changes, the businessmen largely stop giving protection money to the old corrupt bureaus because they are swept away with the old regime. Since a government exists to provide services, this, in fact, actively encourages the business community to encourage a regime change if it makes the business climate better by providing the same (nominal) service with less overhead. (However, with time, the new regime falls to bureaucratic bloat, the cycle repeats.)

Thus, my point, finally.
All other things being equal, if two states are waring, the state with the youngest bureaucracy wins. Bureaucracy represents a parasitic loss of government revenue. Since both governments have a finite source of revenue the one whose government services function with the lowest overhead will not only have more money to fund the war and more money to fund social programs that encourage victory indirectly, but good ideas will move faster to execution and good people will go from a nobody to a leader more quickly.

NOTE government services do not necessarily need to exist to be efficient. The government cannot waste money it doesn’t have. Government A has vast social programs, run at 80% efficiency. Government B has zero social programs. Since Government B does not lose 20% of its revenue in waste, it has the more efficient government, and all other things being equal will win the conflict.

April 16, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


You know, when you think about government, its important to remember: man is capable of acts of evil or good proportional to his ability. No change in genetics, no chemical, no education, no environment can change that capability, only the ability.

Its such a shocking lesson to forget when history has provided us with such a recent example. The holocaust. The people who did the killing, who ordered the killing, who approved the killing, and disapproved in silence were like us. Many were college educated. Many called themselves Christians. We cannot seek with law to make man more or less than what he is: the product of free choice. As humans, we chose good and evil every day, our capacity to do either evil or good acts is the same, decided by our overall ability.

Yet a mere 60 years later, I read in the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian platforms (the Big 3) ideas that suggest they DO NOT believe that rational man will in general do things that are harmful to him. The Democrats want socialized medicine. Affordable health care for all is a noble goal, but how will it be paid for? Last I checked, there wasn’t a surplus, there was national debt. Who will pay the new fees? The sick or the well? The well of course! The sick will take out from the service the well will pay in. It should be fair, because everyone gets sick… but its not fair. And everyone doesn’t get sick. Sickness is subjective. When I love my job and the hours are short, I might go to work very sick. If I hate my job and the hours are long, I might try to call in sick for the slightest sniffle. If I spend my life getting exercise, eating healthy, and living right, I will pay for every fat, chain smoking slob, who doesn’t care to put the same effort in. When profit can no longer drive efficiency and competing insurance providers don’t compete to drive prices down, what will limit the costs of health care? Oh, I may not pay at the hospital, but I will pay come tax time. When the money paid out of pocket no longer decides how necessary care is, what will? When insurance companies no longer dicker about what surgery is elective, who will decide? Again I say, affordable health care for all is a noble goal. For myself, and my progeny I hope with think of a way to do it.

And the plan the Dems describe is madness.

The Republicans demand that government have less holds placed on its capacity to gather and store information on the law abiding on the chance that they will become criminals. The purpose of government is to render services. Citizenship is accepting certain responsibilities in exchange for the protection of certain rights. If the government has the power to collect information on the citizens who will collect information on the government? As Voltaire (and others before) said “Who will govern the governing?” If information about the citizens’ people should be free, but information about the government’s people should be hidden, what will happen to justice? Who will hold accountable those who hold accountable? The road to security is paved in lost freedom. I cannot tell if the Republicans want a police state or are merely indifferent to one.

The Libertarians demand a total end to social security, saying that private charities can handle the load. They cannot. They could not help the US in 1933 when Oklahoma blew away. They could not help Ireland in 1845 when 12% of the population starved to death.

They could not help Iceland in 1783 when a volcano put up an ash cloud that poised the ground crops. 20% of the population died. I could keep going back, or I could go forward. The history of the world is full of situations in which private charity could not provide the necessary basics of life, and people died like flies and those who survived suffered horribly. I would love to believe that humans are so full of love for their fellow man, and America so wealthy that we need no Federally mandated program to protect those who cannot provide for themselves, but I can’t believe madness. History shows that private charities can handle the load in good times. But not in bad.

The big three political parties, and all believe that man is fixable. That man is basically good rather than merely capable of being good. All believe man is only selfish when he is capable of being evil. All live in dream world, a utopia where they see the only the side of man they wish. If they don’t know what man is, how will they know how to govern him?

April 14, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment