FT219: “Obamacare will give us rationing and long wait times like America’s other national health care: the VA.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 25th, 2014

Fundamental truth

Our Veterans have been Wounded and Maimed and we thank them for their Service with the VA

Where do the rich and famous go when they go to a hospital?  They can afford the best.  So you will hear hospitals like Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Mount Sinai, etc.  The crème de la crème of the best health care system in the world.  But one name you won’t hear?  Any VA hospital.

Rich and famous people have something our veterans don’t.  Choice.  They can choose to go to the crème de la crème of the best health care system in the world.  While our veterans have no choice but to go to the dregs of the best health care system in the world.  Very often the worst place you can go in the United States for health care.

It’s sad, really.  For our veterans have given more than any other American.  They have put themselves in harm’s way.  Had people shoot at them.  Lob hand grenades at them.  Had mortar rounds and artillery rounds land near them.  And had improvised explosive devices (IED) detonate around them.  Our veterans have been wounded and maimed and faced the hell of combat.  And our thanks for their volunteering to do this for us?  The VA.

Our VA Hospitals are so bad because they know our Military will be good Soldiers and Wait

There aren’t a lot of VA hospitals around.  So some veterans have to travel to get to one.  And when they get there they have to wait.  As there are a lot of other veterans in the waiting room with them.  Because there aren’t a lot of VA hospitals around.  But that’s not the only waiting they’re going to do.

If they need surgery or treatment there will be even more waiting.  A lot more waiting.  Because there aren’t a lot of VA hospitals around.  Or a lot of VA health care providers.  Or a lot of VA diagnostic equipment.  Which means they have to ration out health care in our VA hospitals.  And when you ration health care you make people wait longer for treatment.  An alien concept for the rich and famous.  Who get what they want when they want it.  Because they have choice.

Our veterans, on the other hand, continue to be good soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen.  And wait.  Just like the old military joke to ‘hurry up and wait’.  Where they will get up before dawn to wait on the tarmac for 4 hours to board an aircraft.  So we’ve trained our military personnel well in waiting.  Perhaps this why our VA hospitals are so bad.  Because they know our military will be good soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen.  And wait.

VA Hospitals are run so poorly that Veterans are dying as they wait for this National Health Care

The sad thing is that some of our veterans are waiting so long that they are dying (see A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital’s secret list by Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin posted 4/24/2014 on CNN).  Because rationing leads to longer wait times.  And longer wait times lead to more deaths.  And this is why the VA hospitals (America’s national health care) are the dregs of the best health care system in the world.

The American left wants national health care.  They want VA hospitals for everyone.  Except them, of course.  For they will be going to the hospitals the rich and famous go to.  But it’s VA hospitals for the rest of us.  Where they will ration health care.  Increase wait times.  And provide some of the most inefficient health care service.  Another reason veterans have to wait so long is that the VA still uses paper records.  Like they did before the 1970s.

The left settled for Obamacare.  They wanted national health care but accepted Obamacare as a stepping stone to national health care.  For they think the government can run health care better than the private sector.  Even though they’ve been running the VA for decades without ever modernizing it.  The government runs the VA hospitals so inefficiently that veterans are dying as they wait for this rationed national health care.  But these same people who can’t bring the VA into the 20th century say they can improve the crème de la crème of the best health care system in the world.  But if they do the VA poorly they will do all national health care poorly.  Because the government just can’t do anything well.

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Women in Combat Zones have been issued Rape Whistles to Protect themselves from their Fellow Soldiers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 6th, 2013

Week in Review

Watch a realistic war movie.  Like PlatoonSaving Private Ryan.  Or Band of Brothers.  And study the scenes where the combat is so close that it devolves into brutal hand-to-hand combat.  Where brute strength and dirty fighting kills someone.  Where men are reduced to animals in the wild.  Snorting and grunting and gasping for life.  Until someone can stab another to death.  Snap a neck.  Or choke someone to death.  For when the enemy gets this close you can’t use your rifle.  All you have is your physical strength.  And whoever is stronger typically wins these horrific hand-to-hand encounters.  This is combat at its worse.  Where the killing is close.  You hear the dying breath of the enemy.  And look them in the eyes as they die.

Now there is a drive to put women in combat.  Up to now they have only served in support roles that engaged in periodic combat situations.  Serving valiantly.  And paying a heavy price in the wounds they receive.  But they end their day in a rear area.  In a base with beds to sleep in.  Hot chow.  And showers.  They haven’t ‘rucked up’ and gone on extended patrols with the infantry or Special Forces.  But some say it is now time that women do (see ‘No girls allowed’: Iraq war vet Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on opening combat missions to women by Rick Klein, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps posted 7/3/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Ask Rep. Tulsi Gabbard why she supports the military’s new policy to allow women to serve in combat roles, and the Iraq war veteran speaks from experience.

“I can tell you during my deployment, there were missions that I– volunteered for and was not allowed to go on, simply because I’m a woman,” Gabbard, D-Hawaii, tells Top Line. “They said, ‘Sorry, no. No girls allowed…’”

Gabbard also brings a first-hand perspective to the issue of sexual assault in the military, saying she “heard and saw incidents” of sexual assault within her military camp when she was in Iraq.

“We got issued rape whistles so that as we walk out of our tent or walk out of our hooch, we’ve got our body armor, we’ve got our helmet, our weapon, and we’ve got our rape whistle,” Gabbard recalls. “It was an eye-opening experience to have to consider that fact when we’re serving overseas in Iraq and…this is a risk or a danger that exists.”

Women have different physical standards in training.  To help them complete training.  Because they don’t have the same strength of men.  And can’t do what men do.  There are some who can but by and large if they didn’t have these different standards we wouldn’t have as many women in the military today.  Or have to issue rape whistles.  For if a women met the same physical standards as a man she wouldn’t need that rape whistle.  For she would be able to defend herself from a would be rapist.  Just as she would be able to defend herself if the enemy penetrated their defensive line and the combat devolved into brutal hand-to-hand combat.  Where blowing a rape whistle wouldn’t cause the enemy to stop trying to kill her.

Sure, some will say, a woman may be able to protect herself if it was one on one.  But what if she was being gang-raped?  Then she would still need that rape whistle.  If it was that bad in the military then we shouldn’t have women there in the first place.  For it’s an obvious distraction to the mission if we have to focus so much on sexual assault in these rear areas of deployed troops.  And what would happen once these troops left these rear areas and entered combat?  There were a lot of unpopular second lieutenants who were ‘accidentally’ shot by their own troops in Vietnam.  For putting men on report.  Or just being incompetent in leading men into battle.  When the bullets started flying accidents happened.  Grenades get tossed around and accidentally end up in the wrong foxhole.  And if they happen to have an enemy rifle, why, they could say the lieutenant fell gloriously in battle under enemy fire.  Any gang of soldiers who would try to gang-rape a soldier in their unit would have no second thoughts about making their problem go away in the field.  You can’t put them all in the brig.  If you did you wouldn’t have enough to send into the field.  So soldiers will enter the field with some possible bad blood.  And scores to settle.

Is it this bad in the military?  Probably not.  Can it be?  Perhaps.  For you’re always going to have trouble when mixing men and women together.  Officers may be gentlemen.  But soldiers are cold-blooded killers in the field.  Who revert to their animalistic past.  Where it’s kill or be killed.  Thinking that we can flip a switch on them to change them from cold-blooded killers to gentlemen is asking a lot of them.  And distracts from the mission.  For the few women who can meet the men’s physical standards is it worth it to play with these social experiments on the best military in the world?  Will these women make the best military better?  Will they not change it?  Or will they degrade it?  None of these three options make a compelling case to tamper with the best military in the world.  So why do it?

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Coin Debasement, Currency Inflation and the Loss of Purchasing Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 16th, 2013

History 101

The Roman Citizens welcomed the Barbarian Invaders as Liberators from the Oppressive Roman Regime

The Roman Empire pushed its borders out for centuries.  And when they did their legions conquered new territories.  And other civilizations.  Allowing them to send a lot of spoils back to Rome.  Providing the necessary funds for the empire.  With this lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome they could leave the economy alone.  And did.  Economic activity was pretty much laissez-faire.  Then something happened.  The Romans had conquered pretty much all of the known civilized world.  And they stopped pushing their borders out.  Putting an end to that lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome.

This created a problem.  For the empire was never larger.  With a greater border to protect than ever before.  And more territory to administer.  Which meant more soldiers.  And more civil servants.  Neither of which worked for free.  Which changed how the Romans handled the private sector economy.  They began to tax and regulate the hell out of it.  To raise the funds to pay the costs of empire.

Things got so bad that some people just started disappearing.  So the Romans introduced something that would evolve into European feudalism.  They forbade people from leaving their jobs.  Ever.  They even forbade the children from leaving their father’s profession.  While they were doing this they were debasing their coins.  The gold a little.  As it paid the soldiers and the civil servants.  And the silver a lot.  The money of the common people.  Who weren’t as important as the soldiers and the civil servants.  Until their silver was nothing but worthless slugs.  Causing prices to soar.  And the economy to collapse back into the barter system.  Hastening the fall of the Roman Empire.  As the Roman citizens welcomed the barbarian invaders as liberators from the oppressive Roman regime.

The Spanish brought back so much Gold and Silver from the New World that it actually Depreciated the Money Supply

Europe met Asia on the Bosporus.  The straits that connected the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.  And it was where the Silk Road brought the exotic goods of the Far East into Europe.  Which the Europeans just couldn’t get enough of.  Making the Mediterranean powers the dominant powers.  For they controlled this lucrative trade.  Until, that is, the European nations made better ships.  Ships that could cross oceans.  And were bigger than the ships that plied the Mediterranean.  So they could bypass the Mediterranean powers.  And sail directly to the Far East.  Fill their large holds with those goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of.  Getting rich and powerful.  And shifting the balance of power to these European nations.

But the Europeans just didn’t go east.  They also went west.  And bumped into the New World.  The Dutch, the French, the British, the Portuguese and the Spanish all had colonies in the New World.  It was the age of mercantilism.  Colonies sent raw materials to their mother country.  Who manufactured these raw materials into finished goods.  And shipped them from the mother country on the mother country’s ships through the mother country’s ports.  For the name of the game was balance of trade.  Which meant you imported lower-valued raw materials and you exported higher-valued finished goods.  And because the value of their exports was greater than the value of their imports there was also a net in-flow of gold and silver.  Which was what mercantilism was all about.  Trying to accumulate more gold and silver than your trading partners.

And the Spanish hit mercantile pay-dirt in the New World.  Gold and silver.  Lots of it.  So they loaded it up on their ships.  And sent it back to Spain.  Where it entered the European money supply.  And none too soon as the Europeans were cash-starved.  Because of all those exotic goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of.  While those in the Far East had no interest whatsoever in European goods.  Which meant that European gold and silver went to the Far East to pay for those exotic goods.  Leaving the Europeans starving for gold and silver.  But thanks to the New World, they were able to reverse that net outflow of gold and silver.  In fact, so much gold and silver arrived from the New World that it actually inflated the money supply.  Which actually devalued the currency.  And because the currency lost purchasing power prices rose.  Making food more costly.  And life more difficult.

President Andrew Jackson joined the Hard-Money People and refused to renew the Charter of the BUS

Responsible nations have chosen gold and silver as their currency as it is difficult to increase the money supply and cause inflation.  Because mining these precious metals, refining them and minting coins is very costly.  Unless you discovered a New World with gold and silver paving the streets.  But that didn’t happen every day.  The irresponsible government, though, figured out a way to make that happen every day.  By just getting rid of the responsible gold and silver.  And replacing it with paper notes.  Fiat money.

Fiat money dates back to 11th century China.  To the Song Dynasty.  Which allowed the government to spend more money than their taxes raised.  Especially during war time.  But printing money devalued the currency.  And when you make the currency worth less it takes more of it to buy the things it once did.  Reducing purchasing power.  And unleashing price inflation.  Making food more costly.  And life more difficult.  During the American Revolutionary War there was so little gold and silver available that the Continental Congress turned to printing money.  And they printed so much that they unleashed a punishing inflation.  Causing prices to soar because the money became so worthless.  People wouldn’t accept it for payment.  So the Continental Army had to take the provisions they needed.  Leaving behind IOUs for the Continental Congress to make good on.  Later.

Of course, not everyone suffered during times of inflation.  Speculators did very well.  For their friends in the government’s central bank could print money and loan it to them on very favorable terms.  The speculators then used this cheap money and bought and sold assets.  Pocketing handsome profits in large part because of that inflation.  As the currency depreciation raised prices.  Including the prices of the assets they were selling.  So the rich got richer during periods of inflation.  While the working class just lost purchasing power.  Which is why President Andrew Jackson joined the hard-money people.  Those who favored gold and silver over paper currency.  And refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States (BUS).  Being one of the first world leaders not to choose destructive inflationary policies.  Instead choosing policies that favored the people.  Not the state.

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FT155: “We don’t blame boys for high school kids having sex but we will blame men in combat units once women join them.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 1st, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The Left empowers High School Girls by Encouraging them to have Lots of Sex

The War on Women is all about trying to prevent women from having as much sex as they possibly can.  At least that’s what you’d believe listening to those on the Left.  For the only thing important to women in the last election was preserving their birth control.  And their access to abortion.  So they can have as much sex as possible without having babies.  For if Mitt Romney had won that election, the Left claimed, he would have relegated women to second-class status.  Forcing them into marriages against their will.  The worst fate that could befall any modern women.  Forcing them into loveless marriages.  Having nothing but babies.  And being a sex-slave for her husband.  While he goes out and lives life.

This is the message the Left tells women.  That marriage is horrible.  Unless you’re gay.  Then it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.  But heterosexual women are to avoid it like the plague.  Which birth control and abortion help a woman do.  So they can avoid sex in marriage which is little more than rape to those on the radical Left.  So they can enjoy sex outside of marriage.  A lot of it.  Because it empowers them.  According to those on the Left.  Being a sexual being.  Pleasing multiple sex partners.  Even if it objectifies them.  By allowing men to satisfy all of their sexual fantasies.  Where these men go from woman to woman.  Bedding them and then leaving them.  Using these women for nothing more than sex.  Allowing the modern man to have more sex with more women than ever before.  Without ever having to put a ring on it.  To quote Beyoncé.

Having lots of sex with lots of different partners is so important for women that the Left helps them at every level.  Even in high school.  By providing free birth control.  And access to abortion.  Even without letting their parents know if possible.  And trying to tell these girls to wait until marriage is just another way to try and oppress women.  Taking them back to the Fifties.  When life was horrible for women.  Because they were married and raising families.  A fate worse than death.  Unless you’re gay.  Then it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.  So we help high school girls have sex.  And don’t blame high school boys for encouraging these girls to have sex.  For this is how the Left empowers these girls. By giving them the tools they need to have as much sex as possible.  Because nothing we say will prevent these kids from having sex.  So the responsible thing to do is to help them.  By objectifying these high school girls.  So high school boys can give in to their surging hormones.

Men can Open their Fly and Quickly Urinate when Paused on a March in a Combat Zone

Before military personnel shipped overseas to fight in World War II they watched films teaching them how to avoid catching a venereal disease.  Because these men had just graduated from high school.  And had surging hormones filling them with sexual desires.  Just like high school kids today.  These boys were leaving home for the first time.  And they knew that they may not come back home alive.  A very dark and foreboding feeling.  A sense of your own mortality.  So a lot of these boys facing death in a combat zone thought about dying.  And these boys didn’t want to die as boys.  If they were going to die they wanted to die as men.  And there were women near these combat zones that could help them become men.  And the military bosses knew these men were going to have sex.  No matter what they said.  So they tried to educate these men on how to be safe.  So they wouldn’t catch something from these women.  Who were helping so many other boys to become men.

So what is life like in a combat zone?  It’s long periods of boredom filled with moments of absolute terror.  In the large-scale combat operations of World War II there were great battles.  A lot of marching.  And a lot of waiting to march.  As bad as the terror of combat was the long waits when they did nothing but think about the coming terror of combat were just as bad.  For your mind can wonder to all the horrible things that can happen.  But apart from this dread they were bored.  And looked for things to occupy that boredom.  And these were the times these boys became men.

While in a forward position these men leave propriety back at base camp.  If they pause in a march they can open their fly and quickly urinate.  And button up before the column goes back on the march.  Easy for a man to do.  For they can pee without dropping trou.  For there is nothing worse than having your pants around your ankles taking a squat when incoming mortars start raining down.  Or artillery.  You can drop down and take cover with your pants still around your ankles.  If cover is available.  But if you need to run to take cover you first have to pull up your pants.  The extra time needed may just be enough for an artillery round to find you.  Wounding you.  Causing another soldier to risk his life to pull you to safety.  Which a soldier won’t hesitate to do.  But thankfully men don’t have to poop as much as they pee.  So they don’t often have their pants around their ankles while in a combat zone.

Women in a Combat Zone will present an Alternative to the Unbearable Boredom when not in Combat

Of course, women have to drop trou to pee.  So while a man can turn to his back to the column, unbutton his fly and urinate a woman will have to pull her pants down and squat.  Will she do this in front of her fellow soldiers?  Or will she move off a little for some privacy?  Will other women go with her to stand guard while she pees away from the main body of troops?  Or will she pee alone.  And risk being captured by the enemy?  And what about her menses?  How will she address this while on the march during her period?  Will the column have to pause so she can dig a hole to bury her soiled tampon or pad?  Or will she just cast it aside and let it be discovered by the enemy?  If operating behind enemy lines something like that could tip off the enemy of her presence.  And her fellow soldiers.

But what about the time they are not in combat?  Or on a march?  Or behind enemy lines observing and evading the enemy?  What if they are in a rear camp?  Bored.  Men and women together.  Looking for something to do to kill time.  These men and women away from home.  Away from their sweethearts.  With a heavy sense of their own mortality.  After having recently been in high school where there was free birth control and access to abortion.  So high school girls could have as much sex with as many people as possible.  Where boys enjoyed this empowering of these girls.  Would all that change in a combat zone?  Will they stop having sexual desires?

Of course they won’t.  Only it won’t be like in high school.  Where kids were just going to have sex no matter what their parents or teachers said.  So we had to give them birth control and access to abortion to let these kids be kids.  But after teaching high school kids that it was okay to have as much sex as possible with as many people as possible how do you un-teach them that in the military?  When they are but a few years out of high school?  When all of a sudden it’s just not boys and girls just being boys and girls.  But women presenting an alternative to the unbearable boredom when not in combat.  No, then these boys aren’t just being boys.  They become predators.  Who have to learn to keep it in their pants.  Lest these women end up pregnant.  This is the problem of having women in combat.  (Well, one of them.  Men are typically stronger.  Taller.  They don’t have breasts so body armor fits better.  They don’t need tampons or pads.  And the enemy is less likely to rape men if captured.)  For men and women are different.  As celebrated by the Left when these kids are in high school.  But once women move into combat positions women will have to fight two enemies.  The one the state is at war against.  And the one trying to get into their pants.  Men who will have to be reprimanded for acting like a base animal in a combat zone.  Normally a good thing when you have to kill people.  Which is what soldiers do in a combat zone.  But not a good thing when you have ladies in your platoon.

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Continental Army, Continental Congress, Inflation, Wage & Price Controls, Paper Money, Specie, IOUs, Impressment and Repudiation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 3rd, 2012

Politics 101

The Articles of Confederation made the United States of America a Confederacy of Sovereign States that had Little Power to Raise Revenue

By the time the Continental Army left Valley Forge they could hold their own against the British Army.  The British couldn’t push them around any longer.  They became so good that they fought the war to a standstill.  They came close to some major wins on the field of battle.  But close didn’t diminish the staying power of the British Army.  And they stayed.  On the battlefield.  And in their cities.  Dragging the conflict out for a total of 8 years.  And no matter what era of warfare you use to measure war-years 8 years of war is very costly.  Someone has to pay for it.  And, ultimately, it’s the people.  Either through taxation.  Or the loss of wealth through inflation.  Or simply the loss of wealth through the losing of your stuff.  And going without.  Because the army fighting for your liberty had no choice but to take what was yours.

This made the Revolutionary War unlike other wars.  For this war was about liberty.  Property rights.  The tyranny of a distant power.  And unjust taxation.  In other words this war was against all the things that made fighting a war possible.  You can’t really draft men to fight in a country that stands for liberty.  You just can’t confiscate the things you need to wage war from your people in a country built upon the principle of property rights.  You can’t declare martial law and suspend the rule of law on people you deem not to be patriotic enough in supporting the cause when you’re fighting the tyranny of a distant power that does.  (Even the Americans gave British soldiers a fair trial for the Boston Massacre).  And taxes?  The people that dumped tea into Boston Harbor over the principle of no taxation for revenue purposes without representation in Parliament was not going to be able to tax their people on a federal level.  Which proved a big obstacle in paying for the war to win their liberty.

The Articles of Confederation made the United States of America a confederacy of sovereign states.  And those sovereign states held the real power.  Virginia.  Massachusetts.  Pennsylvania.  New York.  And the other 9 sovereign states.  Not the United States of America.  That confederation that was waging war against the mightiest power in the world.  Which made raising funds difficult.  For without the power to levy taxes all they could do was ask.  Just like George Washington did all of the time.  Especially during that horrible winter at Valley Forge when his army was naked and starving.  He asked the Continental Congress for provisions.  And the Continental Congress asked the several states for their apportioned funds raised by their state legislatures.  Per the Articles of Confederation.  If they didn’t pay these funds timely or in full (or at all) they could ask again.  And that’s all they could do.  Which is why George Washington’s army suffered through that horrible winter.  Because the funds weren’t there to buy Washington the provisions his army needed.

Thanks to Inflation the Continental Army often had No Choice but to Take what they Needed from the People they were Fighting For 

The Americans never had enough money.  Which makes it amazing that they held off losing for 8 years.  Eight very costly years.  And won.  Especially considering how bad the economy was during the war.  Unable to tax or get sufficient loans from Europe they had little choice but to print money.  Which caused a whole lot of trouble.  For the more money they printed and put into circulation the more the value of their currency fell.  And soon a Continental was “not worth a Continental.”  And when the currency lost its value it took more of it to buy things.  Which led to price inflation.  The price of material and parts grew so high that it increased the cost of American manufactured muskets over the cost of imported French muskets.  Which they had to bring in through a British blockade.  Giving what should have been a cost advantage to the Americans.  Had it not been for the inflation.

To try and keep prices under control they implemented wage and price controls.  Which didn’t work.  The continued devaluation of the currency forced sellers to raise their prices to cover their rising costs.  Forcing them to sell below their costs would just put them out of business.  Voluntarily.  Or involuntarily.  Creating shortages in the market place.  Some offered lower prices for specie (gold and silver coins).  You can’t print hard money (specie).  So it held its value.  Unlike the paper money.  So a little of specie went a long way compared to paper money.  Of course, this didn’t help their wage and price controls.  It just made the paper more worthless.  And raised prices further.

There was yet another ugly side to this sordid business.  High prices and shortages created opportunity to profit handsomely.  There was speculation and market manipulation (hoarding, cornering the market, etc.) to take advantage of those highly priced items that were in scare supply.  Further raising prices for the people.  And compounding the problems of provisioning the army.  Which infuriated the low-paid soldiers.  Who the Continental Congress paid in that worthless paper money.  Angry mobs arose to address this profiteering.  As well as new laws and enforcement.  But they helped little.  The army often had no choice but to take what they needed from the people they were fighting for.  Either outright.  Or in exchange for IOUs.   Promises that the Continental Congress of the United States of America would make good on.  Just as soon as the several states paid their apportioned funds raised by their state legislatures. 

If you Violate the Ideals you’re Fighting for while Fighting for those Ideals it can Complicate the Peace

Fighting for an ideal makes war complicated.  If you’re just a tyrannical dictator looking to rape and pillage it makes things easier.  You don’t have to worry about liberty.  Property rights.  Debt.  Or taxes.  In the short term.  Or the long term.  Which made the American Revolutionary War a very difficult war to fight.  Because at the heart of the United States of America were those ideals.  To win this war to grant liberty to the people required taking their liberty away.  A little.  To win this war to guarantee property rights you had to violate property rights.  A little.  To win this war against tyranny you had to use excessive force against your people.  A little.  To win this war to establish taxation only with representation caused the destruction or personal wealth.  A lot.  Through impressment (taking things from the people).  Borrowing from foreign countries.  Or through inflation.

When the French joined the Americans in 1778 inflation was already out of control.  They printed twice as many Continentals in 1778 as they did in the last three years combined.  And there was serious discussion about doing the unthinkable.  Repudiation.  To simply escape the inflation by escaping the currency.  To retire the bills from circulation.  At a fraction of their value.  And that’s what they did in 1780.  Issuing new currency based on specie for the old currency at a 40 to one ratio.  The states were to tax their people to raise the funds for the new currency.  So the people took a huge short-term loss.  For a stable long-term future.  Based on specie.  That they couldn’t inflate.  This hard money would come from in large part the Spanish and the French.  The Spanish in Cuba buying American flour with specie.  And French aid.  As well as their army and navy spending their hard money in the American economy.

Wars are costly.  And they are rarely nice.  Trying to make them nice can make them last longer.  Which will make them more costly.  Of course, if you violate the ideals you’re fighting for while fighting for those ideals it can complicate the peace.  Luckily, for the Americans, they won their peace.  Their allies, the French, were not so lucky in their revolution.  The French Revolution.  Fought less than a decade after the American Revolution came to a close.  And unlike the Americans the French peace that followed was a bloody one.  That would eventually replace the king they executed with an emperor.  Napoleon Bonaparte.  Who the Americans helped bring to power in part due to the crushing debt King Louis XVI incurred supporting the Americans in their revolution.

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Smooth-Bore Musket, Napoleonic Tactics, Rifling, Minié Ball, Percussion Cap, Breech-Loading, Brass Cartridge, Machine Gun and Indirect Fire

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 14th, 2012

Technology 101

A Muzzle-Loading Smooth-Bore Musket had an Effective Range of about 50-70 Yards and was Slow to Reload

Why do quarterbacks spin the football when throwing a pass?  Because a good spiral will make the football act like a gyroscope.  Stabilizing the ball in the air.  Giving it better aerodynamic stability.  Allowing the quarterback to throw it farther.  Faster.  And more accurately.  In tight traffic.   Threading the needle between defenders.  And into the hands of his receiver.  The quarterback’s target.

But we didn’t confine spinning things to hit targets to only football.  We use it someplace else, too.  And have for quite awhile.  In rifles.  And guns.  Which had a profound impact on the battlefield.  Rifling dates back to the fifteenth century.  But it didn’t really enter the battlefield until the 19th century.  But before we started cutting grooves in rifle barrels to spin projectiles smooth-bore weapons ruled the battlefield.  And shaped the tactics of the day.  What we generally call Napoleonic tactics.  Mastered by Napoleon Bonaparte.  But used before him.  When we used large formations of soldiers on the battlefield.  That we moved in formation thanks to intense drilling and discipline.

A smooth-bore musket had an effective range of about 50-70 yards.  Or little longer than an NFL quarterback could throw a football.  They weren’t extremely accurate because the ball they fired was smaller than the barrel.  Which let the ball bounce off the walls of the barrels before exiting.  So they didn’t always fly perfectly straight.  Also, because the ball was smaller than the barrel there was blow-by of the expanding gasses that forced the ball out of the barrel.  Reducing the muzzle velocity of the weapon.  These muzzle-loading weapons were also slow to reload.  They required many steps to reload after firing.  Taking some 15 to seconds for a good infantryman to reload.  While standing up in the middle of the field of battle.  This short effective range and slow reloading time led to the Napoleonic tactics.  Maneuvering large formations of infantry into long lines.  Where they stood shoulder-to-shoulder to concentrate their fire.  They moved in formation to within effective range of the enemy and fired on command to hit the opposing line of soldiers with a large volley of fire.  When they reloaded opposing cavalry tried to charge their line to break up their formation before they could fire again.  If the infantry brought down effective fire on the opposing line of infantry they might break the enemy’s ranks.  If so, cavalry would charge to route them off the battlefield.  If not, the infantry would close ranks with the enemy after a few volleys and charge with fixed bayonets.  If a wall of approaching gleaming steel bayonets did not break the enemy’s ranks the lines came to gather and they engaged in hand to hand combat.

A Rifled Musket firing the Minié Ball increased the Effective Range of the Infantryman to about 300 Yards

Smooth-bore muskets gave way to rifled muskets.  Which helped with accuracy.  But didn’t make much difference on the battlefield.  Until Claude-Étienne Minié developed a new conical shaped bullet with a hollow base.  The Minié ball.  Made from soft lead it expanded when fired.  The expanding gases pressing the base of the Minié ball into the grooved barrel of a rifle.  Preventing the gas blow-by.  And imparting a spin on the bullet.  Greatly increasing the effective range of an infantryman’s rifle.  Approximately 4 times the range of the smooth-bore musket.  Which meant you could be 4 times as far away from the enemy and still be able to hit your target.  So instead of about a half of a football field you could hit an enemy reliably from 3 football fields away.  Also, they delivered these new bullets to the infantryman wrapped in a paper cartridge that also included gunpowder.  The soldier bit off the end of the cartridge, poured the premeasured amount of powder into the muzzle, followed by the Minié ball, rammed it home and placed a percussion cap (a small metal cap with a shock-sensitive explosive in it) on a hollow nipple above the packed powder.  When the infantryman pulled the trigger the hammer fell on the percussion cap.  This ignition source then spread through the nipple to the packed powder in the barrel.  Igniting the powder.  Expanding the soft lead of the base.  Pushing it and spinning it out of the barrel.  A soft, fat projectile.  That when it found its mark made big holes.  Tore through muscle.  And shattered bone.  Most wounds in the chest or abdomen were fatal.  Wounds in arm or a leg usually resulted with the amputation of that limb.

These were great advancements in weaponry.  Making the infantryman a much more powerful and lethal force on the battlefield.  If used in battle with the proper tactics.  Unfortunately, when armies first used the new Minié ball rifle they still used Napoleonic tactics.  Europeans in the Crimean War (1853 –1856).  And the Americans in the Civil War (1861–1865).  The first modern wars.  That killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers.  About 600,000 each.  And maimed more.  Because they still fought shoulder to shoulder.  Marching forward under a hail of long-range and accurate enemy fire.  Of soft, fat projectiles.  That just decimated their ranks.  Soon the Americans learned to build fortified defensive positions.  On the high ground.  And let the enemy attack them.  Because an offensive attack against a fortified defensive position proved suicidal.  As Union soldiers learned.  So before some of the later battles these soldiers invented something that became standard issue in following wars.  The dog tag.  So someone could identify them after they died in combat.  So their families could bury them at home.  These fortified defensive positions evolved into trenches.  Such as used during the Siege of Petersburg.  A siege because offensive attacks against infantry in a trench proved suicidal.  A lesson, sadly, that few learned.

By the end of the Civil War the tactics finally caught up to the technology.  Napoleonic tactics were out.  And modern war was in.  Infantry didn’t mass on the field of battle.  Resplendent in their uniform behind their colors.  Instead they were filthy and firing from behind cover.  And battles weren’t a Sunday afternoon in the park.  But lasted days.  Where soldiers often went hungry.  Endured constant shelling.   And kept their heads down for fear of snipers.  Also, it was now total war.  War against the soldiers in the field.  And the resources that kept them in the field.  Rail lines.  Telegraph lines.  Factories.  Ports and harbors.  Food supplies.  And even the morale of the enemy combatant’s citizens.  Because attacks against all of these made it difficult to continue to wage war.  Which ultimately shortened war.  But making war truly hell.  And most cruel.  But hopefully ending it quicker and saving lives in the long run.

The Brass Cartridge with Bullet and Percussion Cap allowed Breech-Loading and much higher Rates of Fire 

There are a lot of lessons to learn from the Crimean War.  And the American Civil War.  Which they quickly forgot by 1914.  With the outbreak of World War I.  Where combatants went off in the spirit of a Napoleonic war.  Resplendent in their colors.  Full of patriotic fervor.  But not for long.  For in this most modern of all wars to date they still foolishly massed infantry on the field of battle.  And attacked fortified defensive positions.  A war that still used horses for cavalry charges.  Despite massive advancements in technology.  Like breech-loading rifles that fired ammunition consisting of a bullet pressed into a brass cartridge full of gunpowder.  Also pressed into this cartridge was a percussion cap.  Making a self-contained round.  That they could press into a clip or a magazine.  Which could be loaded into a rifle while lying down behind cover.  Greatly increasing the rate of fire.  Without having to expose the rifleman to enemy fire.  These new cartridges could also be loaded into canvas belts.  And fed into a new weapon.  The machine gun.  A horrific killing machine in WWI.  Where a gun crew could maintain a rate of fire great enough to wipe out companies of infantry at a time.  Who were foolishly advancing over open ground against an entrenched defensive position.  As if the Crimean and American Civil War never happened.

Artillery was bigger and more accurate, too.  And unlike their Civil War ancestors, you didn’t have to see what you were firing at.  Artillery batteries could be miles from the battlefield.  Out of sight of the enemy.  Instead aiming at them with geometry and maps.  By calculating azimuth (left and right) and elevation angles (up and down) to adjust the gun for an accurate but indirect fire.  Forward observers used new electronic communication to adjust this indirect fire onto target.  Breech-loading and recoil dampening devices (also unlike their civil war ancestors where the recoil threw the cannon backwards) made these not only rapid firing but accurate.  Raining hell down on that advancing line of infantry advancing into a hail of machine gun fire.  Meaning that when the order was given to go over the top of their safe (but miserable) trenches to assault the enemy’s trenches many would die.  Giving the huge death toll of World War I.  Where some 10 million combatants died.

WWI is perhaps the greatest man-made disaster in history.  And not just for the horrific death toll.  But what that death toll did.  WWI changed the world.  Not just the lines on the map.  But the very nature of nations.  The size of governments.  And economics.  Not because of the advancing technology.  But for the misunderstanding, and misuse of, that technology.  Because for some fifty years their tactics played catch up to the technology of the day.  Which, sadly, is more of the rule than the exception.  Because it’s senior military personnel that make policy.  And these generals are still planning to fight the last war.  Instead of the next war.

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FT103: “If General Grant used Keynesian tactics he wouldn’t have given up the attack on Cold Harbor until all of his soldiers were dead.” Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 3rd, 2012

Fundamental Truth

On the Eve of Cold Harbor Grizzled Union Veterans pinned Scraps of Paper with their Names and Home Cities Inside their Jackets

General Grant has a few reputations.  That he was a drunk.  He wasn’t.  He just couldn’t hold his liquor.  And he hated inactivity.  And being away from his family.  Two things that led him to drink.  They also called him a butcher.  That he cared little for his men.  Which wasn’t true.  The bloodiest single day of battle in the Civil War was the Battle of Antietam.  Grant wasn’t there.  The bloodiest battle was the three days at Gettysburg.  Grant wasn’t there.  One of the greatest Union defeats was at Fredericksburg.  Grant wasn’t there.  So it wasn’t Grant.  It was the tactics used in the Civil War.  Napoleonic tactics.  Massing great ranks of soldiers opposite great ranks of soldiers.  Fire a few shots.  Close in on each other.  Then finish the job with the bayonet.  And plenty of finishing was needed as those Napoleonic weapons weren’t rifled.  Or all that accurate.

The weapons were rifled, though, in the American Civil War.  And far more accurate.  So they killed a lot of soldiers as they massed and fired.  And killed even more as they closed in to finish the job.  They soon learned that massing troops in the open on the field of battle was not a good idea.  Instead they looked for good ground to defend.  At Antietam there was a sunken road in the center of the Confederate line.  One of the first trenches used in warfare.  Lee failed at Gettysburg because General Ewell failed to take the high ground on the eve of the first day of battle.  Over night the Union entrenched strong defensive positions.  That held for days 2 and 3.  At Fredericksburg there was another sunken road.  This one was behind a stone wall.  It was also on the high ground.  And that’s where the Confederates were when the Union attacked.  And lost the battle.

General Lee was a combat engineer in the Mexican War.  Some called him the King of Spades.  So fortifying defensive positions was something he was good at.  And became better at.  Building breastworks.  Which even the odds in battle when a numerically superior force attacks a smaller entrenched force.  Like at Cold Harbor.  Where the breastworks zigzagged for 5 miles.  Allowing the defenders to shoot into the front of the attacking force.  As well as into the side of the attacking force.  Which is why on the eve of battle the grizzled veterans in the Union Army pinned scraps of paper with their names and home cities inside their jackets.  An early dog tag.  So when they attacked those heavily fortified defensive positions in the morning their surviving comrades could identify their bodies and send them home to family for burial.  Which, sadly, proved very useful after the battle.

The Problem with Keynesian Economics is that it interferes with Market Prices causing Inflation and Bubbles

The attack was over in less than an hour.  Seven thousand Union soldiers fell killed or wounded.  Grant regretted his order to attack until his dying day.  And he wouldn’t give such an order again.  Because he learned the folly of attacking entrenched positions.  And began adjusting his tactics to match the technology of the battlefield.

Sometimes it’s easier to identify failed policies in war.  It may have taken some time.  But it eventually became clear.  For when the casualty rates soared people were less willing to send their sons off to war.  Making the cost of those failed policies very real.  And personal.  Not abstract numbers.  Like in economics.  Where few understand what Keynesian economics is.  Or how to identify if these policies work.  Or if they fail.  For if you listen to Keynesian economists they never fail.  And when they do it’s not because they’re wrong.  It’s because those using them weren’t bold enough.  Such as using a Keynesian economic stimulus to pull an economy out of a recession.  It didn’t work in the Seventies.  And it didn’t work in the most recent recession.  The Great Recession.  And how do Keynesians explain this failure?  The economic stimulus wasn’t big enough.

The problem with Keynesian economics is that it interferes with the market forces.  By denying reality.  The business cycle.  The cycle between good economic times and bad economic times.  From periods of expanding economic activity to periods of contracting economic activity.  It’s this second half of the business cycle that Keynesians were especially trying to deny.  Recessions.  Those things that correct prices at the end of a growth cycle.  Before inflation can set in and wreak its havoc.  And when Keynesians interfere with this market mechanism the market doesn’t correct prices before inflation sets in.  So prices keep rising.  And they create asset bubbles.  Like housing bubbles.  Like the one that led up to the Subprime Mortgage Crisis.  And because Keynesians interfered all they did was delay the inevitable.  Allowing prices to rise higher than they normally would have.  Which meant they had further to fall.  Creating a longer and more painful recession than there would have been had they not interfered.

Unlike a Keynesian, General Grant Recognized a Failed Policy and Stopped Using It

Keynesians try to reduce economics down to a set of mathematical equations.  That they accept on faith.  Blinded by their ideology.  And refuse to recognize their failure.  Which is why they continue to interfere with market forces.  And continue to make recessions longer and more painful than they need be.  While strewing a swath of economic destruction in their path.  Like all of those home owners who lost so much value in their houses that their mortgages are now greater than the market price of their house.  Many lost their retirement nest egg in the process.  Some even had to alter their retirement plans because of their losses.  Or go back to work in their retirement.

These aren’t bodies littering a battlefield.  But the Keynesian carnage has destroyed lives just the same.  Impoverishing future generations to pay for their inept policies.  For people not even born today will have a tax bill so great that it will diminish their living standard far below what we enjoy today.  As bad as that is what’s worse is that they don’t change their policies after these failures.  Believing that the only reason they’ve failed is because they didn’t try them on a grand enough scale.  Or the government quit them before they had a chance to work. 

Thankfully General Grant didn’t use such Keynesian thinking at Cold Harbor.  Had he used such reasoning he would have ordered a second assault.  And a third. And kept ordering them as long as he had living men to send in against that entrenched defense.  But he didn’t.  Why?  Because he was smarter than a Keynesian.  He recognized a failed policy.  And stopped using it.

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