Rafe’s roundup, August 21

Congratulations to Andrew Bolt. He reminds us that a short time ago he was almost a lone voice talking sense on climate change. One day a book will be written, “The Skeptics Who Saved Australia”, the people who held the line when it was desperately thin.

Spare a thought for Brendon Nelson. He  was taking an appropriately wary line, not quite skeptical but as much as you could expect at the time. The ALP media made so much fuss about his low poll ratings (instead of looking at the rabble of Government), the Liberals were spooked into trying the Turnbull experiment. Which could have been terminal.

Data on cases and convictions in the wake of the UK riots. h/t Tim Blair.

Lorenzo Warby’s housing links.

A fascinating historical piece about the amazing range of firearms used in the Battle of the Little Big Horn (Custer’s last stand). Decades ago I read a piece about a grass fire at the site which exposed the spent cartridge cases from the action, so military historians could reconstruct the location of  individual troopers to supplement the oral history of the indians. [see footnote]

Australia’s leading public intellectual turns his attention from economics and genocide to climate science.

Peter Klein’s “back to school” advice for MBA students, email etiquette, how to miss classes etc.

Jo Nova on the way previous generations practiced conservation as commonsense without being captivated by “the green thing”.

Heads up on a new book on national competitiveness. Relates to the issue of regulation.

This book asks whether democracy is a pre-condition for economic development, what the proper role of government is in the age of globalization and whether successful government led policies were the cause of South Korea’s economic development. As well as these key questions, the book covers the issues of whether the government should rely on the market process to encourage economic development or must they interfere, and by what criteria one can judge a proposal for policies for economic prosperity.

For nerds

Ben Powell’s list of articles on the cost of occupational regulation and other things. h/t Pete Boettke at Coordination Problem. See also on that site Steve Horwitz on incompetent journalists, also debating with trogs and Pete Boettke’s tribute to Warren Samuels (1933-2011) a great scholar in the history of economic thought.

John Armstrong’s call for reform of the humanities. h/t Andrew Norton’s new blog where he has a nice piece on funding for the humanities where he replies to people who have attacked him as an economic fundamentalist (naughty naughty!). This quote is Armstrong:

I BELIEVE THE academic humanities require radical reform – not just in their institutional framework but in their intellectual self-conception, their sense of purpose, of mission even; in their habits of mind, their modes of admiration and the direction of effort. Ironically, such reform is needed to return the humanities to their grandest, most longstanding ambitions. Wisdom should be powerful in the world: that is why we teach, research, and engage the public.

Pressing the theme of the humanities, here is Les Murray’s defence of poetry. Not new, but a different link from the one that was on my website. Some helpful person got in touch to say  my link was dead but the essay can be found here.

Another link on that page is an essay by the late Len Hume who took up the leftwing meme of the dreadful Australian “cultural cringe” and showed that it is a bollocks for the most part. Wonderful stuff! Reprinted in the Rathouse with permission (and thanks) from Len Hume’s literary executor.

For example, the economic historian Edward Shann is described as one who ‘untiringly defended Anglo-colonial economic dependency’.  In fact, he opposed tariff protection (a genuine cringe); he deplored the accumulation of foreign debt (for the benefit of investors in London and New York, as he put it); and he felt Australians should exploit their advantages in primary industries and the proximity of growing Asian economies. Stated in 1930, this has a strongly contemporary ring, and not one of cringing subservience to the Home Country.

 Footnote on the Battle of the Little Big Horn

 One of the strange things to emerge from the story is the unwillingness of many soldiers to kill the enemy, and the huge waste of ammunition.

Firing high has always been a problem, and it apparently does not stem solely from inadequate training. Soldiers and military historians from Ardant du Picq to Paddy Griffith and John Keegan have commented on the phenomenon. In Civil War battles, 200 to 1,000 men might stand, blasting away at the opposing lines at 30 to 50 yards distance, and only hit one or two men per minute. Commanders constantly admonished their troops to aim low and give the enemy a blizzard at his shins. Regardless, the men continued to fire high–sometimes intentionally, sometimes without consciously knowing what they were doing.

In Vietnam, it was estimated that some firefights had 50,000 bullets fired for each soldier killed. In the Battle of the Rosebud, eight days before the Little Bighorn fight, General George Crook’s forces fired about 25,000 rounds and may have caused about 100 Indian casualties–about one hit for every 250 shots. One of the best showings ever made by soldiers was at Rorke’s Drift in an 1879 battle between the Zulus and the British infantry. There, surrounded, barricaded soldiers delivered volley after volley into dense masses of charging natives at point-blank range where it seemed that no shot could miss. The result: one hit for every 13 shots.

Indeed, it was at times even difficult to get soldiers to fire at all. After the Battle of Gettysburg, 24,000 loaded muskets were recovered; only 12,000 of them had been loaded more than once, 6,000 had from three to 10 rounds in the barrel, and one weapon had been loaded 23 times! One conclusion is that a great number of soldiers are simply posturing and not trying to kill the enemy.

At the Little Bighorn, about 42,000 rounds were either expended or lost. At that rate, the soldiers hit one Indian for about every 840 shots. Since much of the ammunition was probably lost–Indians commented on capturing ammunition in cartridge belts and saddlebags–the hit rate must have been higher. Yet the results do not speak highly of a supposedly highly trained, ‘crack’ cavalry regiment.

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48 Responses to Rafe’s roundup, August 21

  1. daddy dave

    I BELIEVE THE academic humanities require radical reform – not just in their institutional framework but in their intellectual self-conception, their sense of purpose, of mission even; in their habits of mind, their modes of admiration and the direction of effort.

    I agree with this, and the essay you linked to – which I’m reading now – seems to be insightful and informed. The humanities see themselves as a good and noble pursuit under siege from anti-intellectual barbarians and money-pinching administrators. As Armstrong says, overhaul is needed.

    In fact I would say it’s coming, like it or not. It’s already underway.

  2. He reminds us that a short time ago He was almost a lone voice talking sense on climate change.

    The supreme confidence of the sincere propagandist.

  3. Rafe

    His confidence has been vindicated.

  4. HandyMan

    One day a book will be written, “The Skeptics Who Saved Australia”, the people who held the line when it was desperately thin.

    Keep up your ‘work’ Rafe and you might get a mention. A footnote at least.

    Speaking of Bolt, did anyone see his interview with Abbott? Hope Tony gave as good as he got. Bolt can be vicious. And I do think he can be a tad biased where Coalition politicians are concerned. (It’s the tongue baths that give him away, always trying to lure them into saying something silly.)

  5. C.L.

    I read that cartridge analysis of Little Big Horn years ago myself. Very clever it was and it confirmed that Custer was an idiot who was quickly overwhelmed by tactically superior foes.

    There have been studies on soldiers’ willingness to fire on the enemy, the thesis being that for psychological reasons men took longer to actually do so in past wars than modern ones. There may be truth to that but I think the comparison of Vietnam with the load rates at Gettysburg are somewhat specious. Those old rifles weren’t exactly M-16s.

  6. HandyMan

    His confidence has been vindicated

    When? Where? By whom? Is the science now “settled”?

  7. HandyMan

    New of Bolt’s “vindication” is yet to reach Leftie* Jon Huntsman: “I think there’s a serious problem. The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science – Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.”

    *elsewhere known as a Republican Party presidential candidate.

  8. Infidel Tiger

    elsewhere known as a Republican Party presidential candidate.

    A recent poll showed he was recognised by less than 1% of the population and was polling the same as candidate of choice.

  9. HandyMan

    recognised by less than 1% of the population

    That’s what I said – he is a Republican presidential candidate.

  10. C.L.

    The Democrat Party is the anti-secience party. It’s current president doesn’t know what conception is and anybody who does is banned from high office.

    Barack Obama also stated recently that he is opposed to the internet and ATMs – believing they create unemployment.

    For 20 years, he worshipped at a church whose leader – a man he idolised – believed the CIA invented AIDS.

    Obama is the most anti-science nutball in the history of the presidency.

  11. Rafe

    Yes the Vietnam reference is unhelpful. By that time you could conceivably exhaust your complete supply of ammunition in about a minute of continuous fire.

    The interesting stat is the low hit rate at Rorke’s Drift. I was always surprised by the relatively low rate of Zulu’s killed in the attack – 150 defenders accounted for 350 Zulu bodies counted afterwards, not counting wounded. I would have thoutht that a competent marksman would score a hit with every second shot at least (under 100 yards) and so in the action that lasted 10 hours that is a surprising result.

  12. HandyMan

    Obama is the most anti-science nutball

    Just typical of the Obama-loving Leftards on this site, always giving Obama credit that belongs to George W Bush. Will this Bush Derangement Syndrome never end?

  13. JC

    Metromick again brings up George Bush. It must be something in the brain that triggers recalling his name all the time.

  14. boy on a bike

    Regarding the riots, these sentencing remarks are worth a read.

  15. C.L.

    Obama Blames ATMs for High Unemployment.

    Obama, asked what happens when sperm meets ovum:

    “Beyond my pay grade.”

    He also believes Langley invented AIDS to keep the black man down.

  16. Global warming is not a question of science vs anti-science, it is a question which science, and more specifically, authority scientists vs individual dissenting scientists.

    In any case, it is only 10% science, mostly of the conjectural modelling kind and 90% public policy, ideology, economics, business and international politics.

  17. Also, Gov.Perry’s claim that he believes climate scientists have manipulated data for grant money may turn out to be right or wrong, but it is certainly not anti-science.

  18. When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution

    Interesting how that particular position doesn’t seem to disturb people of the Australian Right that much.

    Obama is the most anti-science nutball

    No. That’s an open competition. Fiercely contested. And there are many formidable contenders. 🙂

  19. wreckage

    scientists have manipulated data for grant money

    Unquestionably true in every field; it’s just a matter of how often and how seriously.

  20. Token

    scientists have manipulated data for grant money

    Unquestionably true in every field; it’s just a matter of how often and how seriously.

    I wonder if the big government types realise the Great Warming Swindle is going to the end of self-regulation of research where great wads of public money has been obtained.

    Perry has 2 very good ideas which I would not be surprised if they are co-opt by the Republican field:

    1. Tort reform to reduce the level of medical malpractice

    If Perry can do something about that moronic sue crazy culture and reduce the size of damages

    “The Pacific Research Institute estimates that lawsuits cost our economy $865 billion a year in legal costs, higher insurance rates, higher medical costs and lost innovation in business. Bottom line: These lawsuits cost each of us more than $800 a year.”

    2. Increased scrutiny on the research of grant recipients

    Who cares if AGW is true and to what degree. There is too much money at stake and unlike the lefties, I do not believe that people from every part of the political compass are vulnerable to the temptation of money.

  21. Jim Rose

    cartridge analysis and soldiers’ willingness to fire on the enemy is an interesting issue.

    Any analysis must get past social acceptability bias when older soldiers answer questions and the anti-war priors of some researchers.

    For a nice discussion see http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/economic_of_war/the_economics_of_war.htm which discuss the private payoff of shooting at the enemy:
    • How hard you fight is unlikely to affect who wins the battle, but it may well affect the particular part of the battle immediately around you.

    • The more influence he believes his actions will have on the outcome of the fight, the more likely he is to shoot instead of hiding.

    • A study of the behavior of G.I.’s in World War II found that the soldiers most likely to fire their weapons were those carrying Browning Automatic Rifles.

    • A Browning Automatic Rifles is a substantially more powerful weapon than an ordinary rifle;

    • the decision to fight or hide by the man carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle is more likely to determine what happens on his part of the battlefield and hence whether his position is overrun and he is killed than the decision to fight or hide by other members of the squad.

    The British used to dress their troops in bright scarlet uniforms and lined them up in rigid formations for the enemy to shoot at.

    • In order to make sure they fought, their commanders had to be able to see if someone was starting to run; rigid geometric formations and bright uniforms are a sensible way of doing so.

    • Bright uniforms makes it more difficult for soldiers who run away to hide from the victorious enemy, and thus decrease the gain from running away.

  22. Token

    Damn this stupid mouse

    …unlike the lefties, I do believe that people from every park of the political compass are vulnerable to the corruption & temptation if money is not controlled and regulated.

  23. wreckage

    When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution

    Interesting how that particular position doesn’t seem to disturb people of the Australian Right that much.

    Like I’ve said, if the Prez ever has to sort prehistoric lizard bones according to the “primitive” characteristics of the bone-plates of the skull, that might be a problem.

    As it stands, its no more a problem than their beliefs on the origin of the moon. Is it a bit of smashed-off Earth? Rock that accreted on its own? Can someone who can’t answer be considered fit to be president?

  24. Rafe

    Yes. In the middle of the riots I asked myself, how many people could honestly say they would not pick something up and walk off with it, if they found it lying around in the middle of a pillaged shopping centre. The same principle applies to expense accounts, tax deductions etc etc.

  25. Herb

    Add to the list of ‘savers’ – Alan Jones and Jason Morrison who between them got Turnbull rolled when the opposition was voting for the ETS. Good for Bolt Morrison jones.

  26. Rex

    Andrew Bolt
    Alan Jones
    James Morrison
    Christoper Monckton

    But maybe they should all thank Alex Jones, he was awake to this worldwide conspiracy for lot longer

  27. HandyMan

    Global warming is not a question of science vs anti-science, it is a question which science,

    That’s easy: the science of every peak body representing earth scientists the world over and the science of every national science academy in the world, bar none. Except that is, the National Science Academy of Outer Denialistan, ably led by its lead climate scientist No-meritus (self-appointed)Professor Rafe (BBA* from the University of East Bumcrack), which today declared Bolt to be “vindicated” (on the basis of no evidence).
    *Bachelor of Bugger All

  28. Yes. In the middle of the riots I asked myself, how many people could honestly say they would not pick something up and walk off with it, if they found it lying around in the middle of a pillaged shopping centre. The same principle applies to expense accounts, tax deductions etc etc.

    The primary question people ask themselves is: can I get away with it? I can recall a time when on my hyped motorcycle the motor wasn’t “singing” til I hit 140 kph. One big reason I stopped riding was because I knew eventually I would lose my licence and be charged with dangerous driving. On two bookings I was liable to be booked for the same but the cops looked the other way. Those days are gone. So are motorcycles and in these days I am more frustrated by slow drivers than worried about speed freaks.

  29. Gab

    Did someone say something? Or is that the sound of the “strong” Gaia squealing to “become physically manifest” while acquiring “a brain and a nervous system”?

  30. MarkL of Canberra

    Adrien – the Trapdoor Springfield??

    Sorry, it was a slow firing, fragile and poorly designed thing compared to the Martini-Henry Cavalry Carbine .577/.450.

    Mk50
    Brisbane

  31. daddy dave

    That’s easy: the science of every peak body representing earth scientists the world over and the science of every national science academy in the world, bar none.

    Polls of scientists do not back up this appearance of uniformity. It’s called organisational capture, HandyMan.

  32. Peter Patton

    in the middle of the riots I asked myself, how many people could honestly say they would not pick something up and walk off with it, if they found it lying around in the middle of a pillaged shopping centre.

    In this circumstance, there is no way on earth I would take anything, because it has strongly impressed upon my conscience that I would be looting and looting is as low and vile as you can get. Suddenly, this athesit would just KNOW god was watching, and would not be pleased. EXCEPT, if I was genuinely very poor and hungry, then I would.

    OTOH, I have seen $20 on the footpath, and picked it up without a care in the world about a busy-body god watching.

  33. MarkL of Canberra

    Jim Rose:

    The British used to dress their troops in bright scarlet uniforms and lined them up in rigid formations for the enemy to shoot at.

    Correct. And the enemy dressed in simular bright uniforms and ALSO lined up in rigid formations for the british to shoot at. A musket has an effective range of 50 yards, and was slow-firing via a complex loading procedure. So firepower density was low and men HAD to be drilled closely to be of any use on a battlefield.

    • In order to make sure they fought, their commanders had to be able to see if someone was starting to run; rigid geometric formations and bright uniforms are a sensible way of doing so.

    Oh, rubbish. Rigid geometric formations were used by line infantry because that was the only way to utilise firepower. Bright uniforms were essential because these were black powder weapons – after the first volleys visibility was rarely more than 60-100 yards! Note the very tall and large flags and staffs of the period. Again, that was caused by powder-smoke. They were an effort to get above the smoke-banks.

    Note that skirmishers fought in green uniforms in semi-irregular dispersed formations.

    • Bright uniforms makes it more difficult for soldiers who run away to hide from the victorious enemy, and thus decrease the gain from running away.

    Also nonsense. Infantry cannot run from cavalry. It was suicide to run from a defeat in a routed mob, the enemy cavalry ran them down and slaughtered them. Much better for form square, wait until the enemy infantry closed, and then surrender on terms.

    A great source for all of this is Sir Charles Oman’s multi-volume history of the Peninsular War.

    Mk50
    Brisbane

  34. manalive

    MarkL of Canberra,
    That’s interesting, I have the impression that the British army adopted khaki uniforms etc. in response to the guerilla-type tactics of the Boers.

  35. Rafe

    Thanks to Rex for the heads up on Alex Jones, this is a nice piece on his site, an account of Christopher Monckton’s critique of the IPCC models and their worst case scenarios.

  36. PSC

    I have the impression that the British army adopted khaki uniforms etc. in response to the guerilla-type tactics of the Boers.

    In the very early 1900s. Breech loading rifles with smokeless powder were popularized in the 1890s ish. Maxim guns were also around since the 1880s/1890s.

  37. sdfc

    Peter

    I reckon picking up $20 of the footpath isn’t really stealing considering the next person along is unlikely to be the original owner.

    Having said that, I once had a guy chase after me to give me $300 I’d dropped on a Sydney street when my wife and I were scrambling to catch the shuttle to the airport. I copped a lot of shit over that one.

  38. Peter Patton

    sdfc

    Oh, if I’d actually SEEN who the person was who dropped the $20, I too would – and HAVE – chase them, and give it to them. I believe there is something in the “karma” stuff.

  39. Peter Patton

    Dropping $300 is definitely a slapping offence. Hard! 🙂

  40. sdfc

    Don’t worry it’s still a sore point around a decade later.

    I was having a laugh about it, telling the story to a couple of friends a few months back. She still doesn’t see the funny side.

  41. Pedro the Ignorant

    Rigid geometric formations were used by line infantry because that was the only way to utilise firepower.

    from Mark L

    Nail. Head. Hit.

    There are remnants of “geometric” British battlefield tactics still in use by modern Infantry, precisely for the reason Mark has stated.
    Optimum use of available firepower, control of movement of individual soldiers, and all round protection from attack.

    Back in the days of the Redcoat, the strength was in the unbreakable square. On the very few occasions a British square was broken, the Redcoats were slaughtered.

    For students of military history, there is a fascinating correlation between the evolution of the rifle cartridge, the breech loading rifle, and Infantry battlefield tactics. Believe it or not, a major change in warfare occurred when soldiers were able to lie down to shoot and reload their weapons.

  42. Pedro the Ignorant

    That’s interesting, I have the impression that the British army adopted khaki uniforms etc. in response to the guerilla-type tactics of the Boers.

    from manalive.

    Not far off the mark. British uniforms in both India and Africa at the time were “tropical issue” and were mostly white. A combination of long campaigns, lack of water for washing clothes resulted in white clothing becoming decidedly grubby, and many astute commanders recognised the advantage of this early camouflage effect.
    In the frontier regions of India in the late 19th century, British troops dyed their uniforms with tea, and “khaki” came into common use in the field.

  43. Pedro the Ignorant

    Re Custer, dismounted and unsupported Cavalry are easy pickings.

    Still true today, even with armoured vehicles and immense firepower.

  44. HandyMan

    Polls of scientists do not back up this appearance of uniformity.

    Really daddy? Which poll would that be?

  45. Ed Snack

    Dismounted cavalry are not necessarily “easy pickings”. For example British cavalry of WW1 vintage were in fact very capable of holding ground once dismounted. They were armed and trained (for dismounted warfare) very similarly to the infantry of the period. The cavalry were very effective in the opening campaign to Mons and back then forward. And they held significant sections of the line at First Ypres. They did have the problem however that they had fewer active soldiers than a comparable infantry unit when deployed thus.

    And the very early British WW1 infantry were the best around by some margin, primarily because they were the only professional army, the competing German and French armies were almost entirely conscripts and volunteers. That’s not to say that the whole army was so superior, certainly in general the small British expeditionary force was of excellent quality in general but it was relatively poorly equipped, it had only 2 machine guns per battalion (versus at least 6-8), had no trench warfare supplies like grenades or mortars, and the artillery although well trained had very limited supplies of shells.

    Handyman, the apparent “consensus” you want to promote is illusory. Almost all scientists and indeed the great majority of “skeptics” would agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that it’s concentration in the atmosphere is increasing. Most would also agree that if there is no feedback, the effect of doubling CO2 would be an increase in global temperature (however defined) is around 1 degree C. The real argument is around the feedbacks that increase or decrease that 1 degree.

    And if you think that a majority of “scientists” are confident that the feedbacks are positive and will double, treble, or more that 1 degree then that is merely a reflection of their confusion. Because there is no good scientific exposition available that provides any certainty on the feedbacks. The models almost uniformly show such feedbacks, but that isn’t from “first principle” calculations, but from user selected parameters and thus they are entirely worthless in determining what feedbacks might be.

  46. Myrrdin Seren

    Rafe

    Thanks for that link to the article on Little Bighorn – interesting in both content and form.

    Specifically –

    LBH seems to be one of those moments in history that retains an ongoing popular fascination – to the point of the forencic trawling backwards and forwards over the event;

    Interesting because of the debates triggered by the article in comments – and where some of that leads eg

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagon_Box_Fight

    and the evolution of that debate.

    The header says the article was posted in June 2006.

    First comment is dated June 2008. Most recent comment is May 2011. That is an unrushed debate.

    Internet is a fascinating social dynamic.

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