The North American XF-108 Rapier | Defense Media Network

NorthAmerican XF108 Rapier

It was going to be the biggest, fastest and most heavily armed fighter in the air. The North American F-108 Rapier, designed in response to a U.S. Air Force preliminary study of Oct.

via The North American XF-108 Rapier | Defense Media Network.

This aircraft like many others died as the threat the Soviet Union represented became better understood.  But the technology for this fighter went on, the missile and radar were the basis of the F14 Tomcat’s Phoenix fleet defense system, stil an amazing system even though the system, utterly compromised by the Iranian’s who had bought the system during the Shah’s reign, was rapidly retired as soon as the AMRAAM and newer airborn phased aray radars became available. 

Tomcat on patrol

Tomcat on patrol

The Tomcat is in my opinion one of the iconic fighters of the twentieth century along with the F4 Phantom, the F86 Sabre, P51 and Spitfire…and no I’ve never found the fighters of WWI or pre WWII particularly attractive…though the Beechcraft Staggerwing is probably the most beautiful aircraft ever built.

Beechcraft Staggerwing in Flight taken in 2005

Beechcraft Staggerwing in Flight taken in 2005

Saber Rattling Down, way down, South

So once more the Argentinian gov’t is talking, blustering, about the Malvinas and generally making themselves irritating to all right thinking (Tory) Englishmen. This short article from DIQ, one of the several excellent military info/show groups based in the UK (who needs spies when you have Janes and these guys?), was eye opening.

As the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War arrives over the horizon like a rather fearsome storm cloud, the media hysteria in both countries is slowly building to a fever pitch. The British media, going through a periodic bout of jingoism, is awash with scaremongering over the state of the island’s defences; while the Argentine media is dominated by heated debate about the ‘militarisation’ of the islands and British imperialism. As this author has already discussed, the frequent articles released by men such as Admiral Sandy Woodward warning of the immense military vulnerability of the islands have very little grounding in reality. The military balance in the South Atlantic is very strongly rooted in the favour of the UK and this is unlikely to change in the near future. Of arguably much greater significance to the Falklands debate are the political and economic factors that dominate the current tensions. As will be shown there is neither the political will nor the economic capability for Argentina to attempt any kind of military action against the islands.

Okay so the Brits stole the islands for a coaling station a century and a half ago, get over it for crying out loud. Okay so there’s oil there I’m sure the UK will work a win win deal, they’re almost as good at that as they are at winning wars. Thumping the drums of war seems a way of life for the Argentine’s vacuous Gov’ts it’s a way of distracting attention from the Gov’ts many failures. An article in AWST (aviation Week and Space Technology) last week discussed the technical, tactical and professional aspects of such a face down and thee fact is that even a senescent UK military could take down the Argentines with little trouble.

But in the long run the economic war outlined in the DIQ article is more threatening, though unlikely to cause any short term change. The fact is that the islanders like their life,and the Brits will protect their own. In the short term oil and gas may even make the island grow, but if the recent past is an indication the islands youth will move away and unless something draws new blood back eventually there will be a ghost town and the Brits will withdraw voluntarily.

Tiny Reactors

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds caught this interesting local piece in Knoxville KY (home city of Oak Ridge). Did That Airplane Swallow a Reactor?

The answer of course is yes. The story is pretty interesting and shows that folks were a whole lot more pragmatic about nukes in those days. Not to say they weren’t a little ignorant and a lot cocky but our new day trembling cautiousness is not a reasonable alternative.

That reactor was ‘only’ 100 KW vs a modern reactors multi GW(3 orders of magnitude or 1000x greater) power output. But the DoE is now studying small sealed core reactors as this article discusses in ars technica | Dept. of Energy signs agreements to develop small nuclear generators

Rather than building large, Gigawatt-scale reactor buildings, several companies are developing what are termed small, modular nuclear reactors that produce a few hundred Megawatts of power. These are typically designed to be sealed units that simply deliver heat for use either directly or to generate electricity. When the fuel starts to run down, the reactors will be shipped back to a central facility for refueling. Since they will never be opened on site, many of the issues associated with large plants don’t come into play.

Blue Model – Education and Family Life from Via Meadia

Walter Russel Mead continues his Blue Model contextualization of the 19th, 20th century. A deeply thoughtful look at what was, why it was, and the beginning of a philosophical platform for looking at what is to come:

A family business circa 19th century model

A family business circa 19th century model

American kids spent more time in school as a general rule than kids in other parts of the world in the 19th century, but their “book learning” was only one part of a much broader and richer education that prepared them to be productive citizens. Parents taught kids the fundamentals of agriculture and animal husbandry; they taught them the hundreds of skills that went into maintaining a family farm. In urban areas and sometimes on farms, adolescents went to work on nearby farms or serve as apprentices. There they found production units much like the one they came from: the husband and wife were the proprietors of a bustling family enterprise that might include a few hired hands but in which young people and older people lived, learned and worked side by side.


In the 20th century, it became increasingly common for both parents to work in quite different jobs and professions, often many miles from home. Blue collar workers worked in factories and warehouses; pink collar workers in service and clerical positions; professionals and white collar workers in offices.


If we wonder why marriage isn’t as healthy today in many cases, one reason is surely that the increasing separation of the family from the vital currents of economic and social life dramatically reduces the importance of the bond to both spouses – and to the kids.


Repetitive factory work taught very little; to put ten-year-olds in a factory for a shift was to deprive them of learning and stunt their intellectual growth. On the other hand, office and administrative work often demanded skills that few children could acquire. It was cruel to put kids in the factories or coal mines; useless to put them in an office.


As the educational system grew more complex and elaborate (without necessarily teaching some of the kids trapped in it very much) and as natural opportunities for appropriate work diminished, more and more young people spent the first twenty plus years of their lives with little or no serious exposure to the world of work.


In the absence of any meaningful connection to the world of work and production, many young people today develop identities through consumption and leisure activities alone. You are less what you do and make than what you buy and have: what music you listen to, what clothes you wear, what games you play, where you hang out and so forth. These are stunted, disempowering identities for the most part and tend to prolong adolescence in unhelpful ways. They contribute to some very stupid decisions and self-defeating attitudes. Young people often spend a quarter century primarily as critics of a life they know very little about: as consumers they feel powerful and secure, but production frightens and confuses them.


People often speak of the need to revive vocational and industrial education as a way of reaching students for whom the traditional academic classroom holds little appeal; more basically, education needs to be integrated with the priorities and purposes of life as these young people experience it.

As I said here, complexity and segregation of our lives drove many social changes.

In the 19th century, American communities were small and generally self-managed. Most Americans lived in small towns or in rural areas where government really was something people did for themselves. The “state” scarcely existed; outside port inspectors and postal officials, the federal government was largely invisible. And even at the state level, local communities were much more autonomous than they generally are now. Local mayors and selectmen had very few mandates coming down from on high; people managed their own schools and roads and other elements of their common life by their own lights.

In the 20th century Americans became more politically passive as the state grew. The citizen was less involved in making government and more involved in watching it, commenting on it, and picking candidates who were sold the way other consumer goods are marketed: you voted for which party and candidates you supported, but more and more of the business of government was carried on by permanent civil servants acting under expert guidance. Government did much more to you, and you did less of it yourself.

 WRM discusses the urbanization and complexity of life in the 20th century and I think rightly points out that more gov’t was inevitable.  I would also point out that the above description of the 19th century was largely true till something like the last thirty years.  When I first emerged from my family in the 1980s the vast majority of the land in the US was still governed very lightly.  In many ways the differences between Eastern Urban | West Coast Urban | and the light urban cities most other places, were quite extreme.  But the basic thrust of the above is not affected one iota by that quibble.

Since work itself was so unrewarding for so many, satisfaction came from getting paid and being able to enjoy your free time in the car or the boat that you bought with your pay. It was a better deal than most people have gotten through history, but the loss of autonomy and engagement in work was a cost, and over time it took a greater and greater toll.

there was a feeling that we needed to keep:

up consumption so the economy could work. It was not just the experience of the Depression that led so many to the conclusion that under consumption was the characteristic problem of a capitalist economy.  ……     . Many businessmen promoted imperialism in European countries and to some degree in the US because they wanted …….. markets for their goods. When the age of imperialism came to an end, the intensive development of home markets replaced the extensive development of foreign markets in the eyes of many social thinkers and planners……


Another factor promoted the rise of a consumer economy: the development of new and much more expensive goods required a psychological and institutional shift. If people couldn’t buy cars and refrigerators — to say nothing of houses — on credit, the markets for these goods would be vanishingly small. Americans had traditionally been averse to debt, whether personal or governmental. They thought like producers, for whom debt is sometimes necessary but always a cost. Thrift mattered, and for many Americans it was a point of pride not to buy on credit; if you didn’t have the cash for something, you waited.

That kind of attitude wouldn’t keep the car factories humming. The blue social model involved an unprecedented expansion in the use of credit by private households, large companies and all levels of government. Debt was the mother’s milk of blue prosperity and John Maynard Keynes was the prophet of the blue age. While consumer finance has deep roots in Anglo-American history, with installment plans used to sell goods like furniture and sewing machines well back into the 19th century, the 2oth century became a golden age of consumer credit, and to carry large balances on credit cards, home mortgages and student loans came to seem normal and respectable in a way that would have shocked Americans living in the 19th century.

Between the 1930s and the 1970s this worked better than many of its critics expected.  In a relatively closed economy like the US, if more people went into debt to buy more stuff, the demand would stimulate economic growth, which would tend to raise wages and employment. The additional income would offset the cost of carrying the debt and support additional consumption as well.

And so round and round the money went and it all worked.  Until globalization began to derail the machine.

But the real problem with the debt-based, consumption-focused blue social model, the one that bothered many social critics even in the days when the blue model was working and looked sustainable, is one of values. A consumption-centered society is ultimately a hollow society. It makes people rich in stuff but poor in soul. In its worst aspects, consumer society is a society of bored couch potatoes seeking artificial stimulus and excitement. They watch programs on television about adventures they will never have. They try to change their consciousness through the consumption of products (entertainment, consumer goods, drugs) rather than by changing the world and accomplishing things. The massive use of recreational and mood altering drugs reflects and embodies the distortions that a passive, consumption-based society produces in human populations over time.

Ultimate Couch Potato Contestant(s)?

The above image could be seen as “The end”…but no its not…humans are only able to take so much passivity (at least at the sociatal level) look at what Putin is facing, 10 years of kleptocracy given a free hand because he has made the lives of more Russian’s better than they ever have been. But now they are sick and tired of the grinding corruption and the insults it produces at every turn. Now even though pretty well off many upper middle class citizens are beginning to look up and ask, ‘what else?’

WRM has been thinking about this for a long time, though not always as an eventually positive thing.  In the 1980’s he perceived the oncoming wave of change as a potential tragedy.  The competition from low wage countries, from our technical near peers in Europe and Japan, now China, India and elsewhere, along with the equally disruptive changes wrought by automation of all sorts have made the Blue Model unsustainable.  The US Model that was the Beacon of the world from the 1950’s to the end of the century is no more and what comes next can only vaguely be seen. 

The Blue Model was pretty coherently envisioned by the thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th century (socialists, communists, fascists.) In the long run we ended up pretty much where they thought we would.  Unfortunately for their meme we ended up there as the seas of changed washed the foundations out from under the model.

Now we need a new model to strive for as the old one crumbles around us.  I move forward by holding to the desire to leave the world a little richer for my passing, but I have no overweening image of the future, I am afraid that the rate of change of change has overcome the human imagination. 

And perhaps we shouldn’t think in the grand sweeping, dehumanizing sweeps the great thinkers of the last interregnum did.  Maybe we all need to think about things we need to do ourselves and for each other, not to each other.  Maybe we should look to the simple guidance and not grand sweeps:

  • The Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
  • My rule: Try and make the world a little better for everyone as you pass.
  • The libertarian rule: Who governs least governs best.
  • Libertarian rule 2:  What does not affect me does not concern me.
  • Murphy’s rule: Keep it simple stupid.

Historical Perspective and Narrative


Walter Russell Mead’s blog serial Beyond Blue, currently at #5, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs (from which the pictures in this piece come) is a fascinating monograph putting the changes our society/economy is going through into perspective. Dr. Mead’s explanation goes back to the 19th century:

In the 19th century, government promoted the rise of the family farm, selling cheaply and ultimately giving away millions of acres of farmland, and promoting the rise of railroads (which could carry the produce of western farms to world markets). In the 20th century the government promoted the rise of large, stable corporate employers that offered armies of white and blue collar employees lifetime employment and a bevy of benefits.

And later this:

Currently, the American legal and regulatory system is set up to bind as many people to employers as possible. The government wants you to be a wage slave and sets up a regulatory framework that keeps as many of us as possible yoked to bosses and management. The IRS doesn’t like the self-employed, fearing they many conceal income. Banks and credit card companies view such people with suspicion, and it is notoriously difficult for start ups and part time enterprises to have access to formal finance. Many services are hard for the self-employed to get on terms like those made available to employees of large corporations: from health insurance to retirement planning, many things are harder and more expensive for the self-employed. The payroll tax system is brutal: the self-employed pay both the employer and employee halves of Social Security and Medicare taxes, almost 20 percent of income and likely to go higher. Many cities will tack on unincorporated business taxes, mass transit taxes, and other interesting feudal exactions and dues.

The gov’t used(s) the current ‘Blue Model’ in some senses as a social damping mechanism because it provides for a more hierarchical top down command system (of interest in the Cold War climate of the 50’s to80’s) while also providing a relatively efficient economy and outlets for frustration from the masses. This model has worked since the collapse of the 19th century model….the great depression…but itself is now becoming unstable/unaffordable in its turn because it requires too much command and control.

Too much how? Well now that a high percentage (all high value) workers have been amplified by basic literacy, information systems and other technology, they are capable of much more than the drudge work they used to perform at the command of a ‘supervisor’ and demand / need more autonomy. Many organizations accommodate and move on and up. Others keep the older structure or some bastardized version and sink into the muck. Companies that almost have to operate in the old mode because they deliver one sort of highly regulated good or another, get radically more expensive compared to near peers operating outside the penumbra of regulation and lose relevance and competitiveness at a steadily increasing speed. Look at the post office, once the epitome of efficiency.

From Defense Tech

This reminder of fun times past, though one wonders about the prayers of the C5 pilot prior to ignition. I remember seeing this as one of the options explored for the Peacekeeper ICBM follow on to The Minuteman. Must admit that it seems pretty crazy cost wise and if you kept them on the ground most of the time little different from the bomber force. Maybe it made some sense, fly as close to the border as you want then toss in at a shallow angle, mixing up the attack as it were. Of course by the time this was really feasible, there was no point…and history seems to say that much of this kind of thinking was wasted time and energy, the BOOGEYMAN, was only ever a boogeyman, and probably more worried about what we might do to him than what he could do to us.

New and abused

This StratPage article on the LCSs is very good, but has a negative tone that is disappointing.  As the article notes with a bit of hyperbole the LCS is a pretty radical break with the past, LCS 2, Independence being by far the more radical and perhaps deserving of the hyperbole.  Where has our patience gone, whenever something radically new is tried there are problems and with LCS even with LCS 2 the problems seem relatively minor in the big picture.  Also the fact that LCS went from concept to hulls in the water in less than a decade is tribute to sensible expectation setting on the part of the Admiral(s) who have pushed this family forward.  Though tying hull and weapon system together may make sense for the battleships (carriers and cruisers of our age) it makes small craft too expensive and obsolescent before launch. 

The Radical Sister

LCS 2 Independence The Radical Sister

The trimaran LCS 2 is essentially all aluminum built by Austral (relocated Australian fast ferry company.) She was launched later and has had a lot more or at least more serious issues than her fraternal sister LCS 1.  Most pictures of Independence are either slow speed or docked, far fewer deployment pictures than of LCS 1.  This should have been expected (and was by most) when you have this radical a departure its bound to collect a lot of baggage.   But the ship has a huge flight deck and is highly stable in rough weather, as well as being fast.   In the end its possible the Independence will be the more successful sister, though it’s just as likely that both will be considered successful but better at certain missions than the other.  
 By the way the concept of a trimaran warship was originally raised by the Royal Navy and as above the builder is an Australian company experienced in building catamaran ferries (which have had their own issues.) Who says the US doesn’t take good ideas from abroad?
Just as a matter of interest I had the honor of getting a tour of the LCS3 the Freedoms sister ship Fort Worth at her builder Marintte Marine.  The ship has huge empty spaces but the ‘fixed’ facilities are pretty tight . The bridges of these ships remind one more of something out of a Star Trek movie than a WWII flick. 
And while the hull is the size of a WWII destroyer they are (when geared up for the mission) vastly more lethal the crew size is more in line with a WWII PT boat than the Tin Cans of yore. 
The idea behind LCS is for a capable craft that is available in the numbers needed for dealing with busy coastal waters. These are the modern equivalent of the Gunboats of the nineteenth century. They are not the modern cruiser (called destroyers) battleships (called cruisers) or battleliners (carriers.)  These ships are the corvettes, the torpedo boat destroyer, the frigate, of today and with their vast flexibility and high power they will most likely find uses far beyond those envisaged today.

George Washington, A Human for the Ages

George Washington Circa 1782

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Rules of Behavior

A man’s intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions.

 WASHINGTON, letter to the Speaker of the House of Burgesses, Dec 1756

There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax, Sep. 12, 1758

I shall not be deprived … of a comfort in the worst event, if I retain a consciousness of having acted to the best of my judgment.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Colonel Bassett, Jun. 19, 1775

It is with pleasure I receive reproof, when reproof is due, because no person can be readier to accuse me, than I am to acknowledge an error, when I am guilty of one; nor more desirous of atoning for a crime, when I am sensible of having committed it.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Governor Dinwiddie, Aug. 27, 1757

Some quotes to think about in these days of chaos that are also potent with opportunities for renewal and change, they are words of a human as true today as then.  The man who spoke or wrote them would not recognize the world of  today.   Those living today might have the same trouble with the world twenty years hence,  but the quotes will be as true then as they are now and were in the eighteenth century.