I'm shocked, shocked . . .


BofA, Wells Fargo, Citigroup Left TARP Early To Avoid Restrictions On Executive Pay, Report Finds

In the wake of the financial crisis, a number of the nation's largest banks were excused from the government's rescue program before they had returned to a position of complete financial security -- in part because they wanted to avoid restrictions on how much their executives would get paid, according to a new report from the program's government overseer.



Full story here and elsewhere.


A demo showing a small bit of DFM (or Close Range Assault (CRA), as it's also called) for those who are unfamiliar with it. As I say, the mode offers many advantages, though some will prefer the more classic versions of the game - you'll definitely need to try both to decide.

Url: http://youtu.be/qCWW5mSUVAA

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
the DFM controversy


Aside from the decision to set Assault Horizon in the “real world,” DFM or close-in dogfighting mode has been the most controversial aspect of the game.*

It should be said that DFM was controversial within the development team as well. In fact, when the mode was first being discussed there were spirited exchanges about how the controls would work. A lot of traditionalists – and I would count myself in that group – felt DFM would take too much from the player. We wanted the old “classic” style that we had grown up with in the game.

(As many people know, I wrote the story and was deeply involved in the development of the game. It also happens that I have been a fan of the Ace Combat since it was originally called Air Combat and showed up on the early PlayStation consoles – which dates me, I know.)

Admittedly, there were benefits to DFM, most especially for new players. Getting new players into the franchise was an important goal, one that everyone agreed on. The new control scheme did have measurable advantages in other ways. And I also have to admit that the graphics and gameplay possible in DFM blew me away the first time I saw them. They do today. Still, I’m not exaggerating when I say that feelings on the matter were vehement. Certainly mine were.

The bottom line result of all those discussions, thought, and most of all work by the team: Players can chose to fly how they want. They can use DFM, or they can fly what is essentially a “classic” mode. And of course you can map your controls to your own specs, classic or whatever, if you wish.

While I personally will probably continue to prefer the “classic” approach, I have warmed up quite a bit to DFM as I’ve seen it grow. I suspect that most players, even those who have been with the franchise since back in the PS2 days, will at least try both. And for certain missions and situations, they may find they prefer DFM.

There has been a lot of needless confusion and controversy on this issue. Veterans who have been with the series for years are an important part of our community, and we tried in various ways to incorporate their preferences into the new game. I realize you can’t please everyone, but I think some of the team’s efforts and concern for the existing community have been lost as reports have understandably focused on what’s new.

Assault Horizon is new. It is an exciting rebirth. But the heart of the franchise is still there.

* If you're not familiar with DFM (Dogfight mode, also known as CRA, for Close-Range Assault), check out the post above, which has a video.



More Assault Horizon eye candy . . .

(This got lost somehow - should have gone up in May or April or something . . . better late than never.)

Bradley's ice cream


I had the great privilege yesterday of speaking with one of General Omar Bradley's aides, Colonel Allan Little, now retired from the U.S. Army. The colonel had served as the general's senior aide-de-camp for the last two and a half years of his life. If Chet Hanson was Bradley's Alpha, Little was his Omega, with a great number of insights into the man.

He shared a few stories, some of which I hope to get a chance to elaborate on at some point. But my favorite was one that was all Bradley:

During what we now know as the Battle of the Bulge, with his headquarters within artillery range of the enemy and Nazi special ops units rumored to be operating behind the lines, Bradley reluctantly agreed to take a single precaution for his well-being, moving his room from the front of the hotel where he'd set up to a place further back in the building. (He'd finally given up living in the back of a truck, though I suspect he did so only reluctantly.)

However, he did see to it that the ice cream machine his aides had managed to locate was surrounded with sandbags and properly protected. Some things you didn't take chances with.
Marist College


I was up in Poughkeepsie yesterday at Marist College to speak to some classes and then tape an event for C-Span. It's been a few years since I've been on campus - I'm a grad and also did a little adjunct teaching there - and my God has it grown.

People talk about its top-notch academic programs, its technology labs, media studios, professors, cutting edge library and the like. They all deserve considerable praise. But the thing that really blows you away is how beautiful the place is. The buildings and grounds are simply inspiring.

I think I may go back to school . . . problem is I might not make the cut these days...

Boston???

I keep talking with Red Sox fans about their team and I find myself becoming - gasp - sympathetic.

As a group, Boston fans are very knowledgeable about the sport in general - maybe a hair tick under Yankee fans, but way up there. And you have to admire their passion. If teams made the playoffs based on their fan base, Boston would be in every year.

I do hope the Sox make the playoffs - but as a Yankee fan I must immediately add that's because I want to see  the Yankees beat them in championships. (Seven games, of course, with a few in extra innings.)

I don't think that meets the criteria of rooting for the Sox, which as a Yankee fan is genetically impossible.

(While I'm on the subject of knowledgeable Bostonians, some props to Kein at Pundit Review Radio, and not just because he liked my book: http://www.punditreview.com/2011/09/jd-091811/ )



Assault Horizon - the prequel

What was Will Bishop like before he was the star of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon?

"The Last Ace," a special novella available exclusively on Kindle for only 99 cents. Click here.

At Marist College . . .


Visiting Marist College in Poughkeepsie this evening to talk a bit about Omar Bradley. C-Span will be taping the event.

There will be free beer and prizes.

Well, no prizes. And you have to pay for the beer. And, actually, that's after the event and off-campus. But the rest of it is true. The event is at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Room, located on the third floor of the Marist Student Center.

Full press release here.
Assault Horizon - the prequel

What was Will Bishop like before he was the star of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon?

"The Last Ace," a special novella available exclusively on Kindle for only 99 cents. Click here.


Hodges at First Army

While the relationship between Bradley and Patton gets most of the attention, Bradley had an equally productive relationship with the head of his First Army, Courtney Hodges.

Hodges was no where near the colorful figure that Patton was. While Bradley at times acted as a brake to Patton's impulses, he had pretty much the opposite type of relationship with Hodges. The First Army staff - and Hodges by implication - were considered problematic and even "weak" by both Bradley and Eisenhower. Originally Bradley's deputy, it's not entirely clear that Bradley actually wanted him to succeed him as head of 1st Army; that order came from above.

Nonetheless, it was Hodges who got across the Rhine first, not Patton. And First Army had a long list of other achievements during the war, including meeting the Russians at Elbe.

Bradley's urging aggressiveness on Hodges may have been responsible for one of the most serious allied mistakes in the conflict, the serial messes known as the battles in Huertgen Forest. (Ultimately, I blame Bradley for the losses there, though clearly the lower level planning and execution were not very good.)

Hodges is another of the unknown generals of the war. While not as critical as Bradley, he does deserve more attention. Unfortunately, he was every bit as retiring as Bradley was when it came to publicity. His personality didn't help him either. Not only did he come off as dour, he had a reputation as a disciplinarian, and often was bad cop to Bradley's cop when he was his second in command.

As far as I know, he's only had one biography written on him. He comes off rather poorly in a few books, but mostly he's been pushed even further into the background than Bradley was. This is despite having had  a pretty interesting personal story - he left West Point after doing poorly in math, enlisted as a private, won a Distinguished Service Medal for bravery during WWI, and rose from an enlisted man to four star general.



Getting to know the general



Omar's free chapter is now available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/63002923/Omar-Bradley-by-Jim-DeFelice-Free-Chapter
Telling it like it is in Pakistan


Mullen Asserts Pakistani Role in Attack on U.S. Embassy

  Pakistan’s intelligence agency aided insurgents who attacked the embassy in Kabul last week, said Adm. Mike Mullen, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


NY Times story here; there are plenty of others around. The story will probably fade quickly, as so many have.


Imagine the shock if the roles were reversed - if the U.S. helped a terrorist group bomb ISI* headquarters . . .


* ISI = the Pakistani spy agency.



How great was Omar Bradley?


I've spent the last two weeks talking practically non-stop about Omar Bradley, so much that I'm hoarse.

I think that's great, because it's past time that Bradley gets some of his due. He is well known inside Army circles and to some extent among historians, but he really has never gotten the attention that he deserves in the general public. (A lot of what historians think they know about him is wrong as well, but that's a topic for another day - or the book itself.)

One question that's difficult to answer, however, is one that seems like it would be the simplest: How great a general was Omar Bradley?

It's easy to say categorically that he was not the plodding infantryman or meek egotist that he is occasionally caricatured as. And it's also easy to show that he was more than mediocre - he had an exception tactical sense, was open to new ideas, flexible in his use of forces, and single-handedly planned one of the key operations of the war (Cobra, the breakout from Normandy).*

But does all of that place him in the "first rank"? Should he be spoken of in the same breath  as, say, Napoleon or Rommel?

He's not Napoleon, but in thinking about that general it becomes clear that there's really no way to compare Bradley, or even of his peers, to Napoleon, at least not on terms that are fair to either. The state of war has changed so much that comparisons are simply not operative.

My book does say that Bradley is undervalued and deserves a lot more credit than he's given. He was a great man and a great general by any normal measure. But how great was great?

Even after all my research, thinking and writing, I'm not sure I can answer that. One thing I will note, however -- Napoleon eventually lost. Same with Rommel. Bradley didn't.

* He had negatives as well. Most people don't ask about them in the interviews. They are in the book. I think his pluses outweigh them, but no man, no general, is perfect. And I can think of at least one series of battles I'm sure he would have taken back if he could have.
Now this is a custom-made rifle . . .


If I ever hit the lottery, I'm going to ask Phil Morden to make me a gun.

(He's a competitive shooter - no kidding, right? Story here. It's your basic AR-15 on steroids...)
The Invader . . .


World War II's A-26 (re-designated the B-26 during the Korean War) has always been one of my favorite aircraft, but for some reason I thought it was a lot smaller than it really was, as you can see in this photo.

This restored aircraft is on display at Dover Air Base, where I visited a few weeks back.
If you think the U.S. is in bad $$ shape . . .

Europe is about two steps away from a complete implosion and the chaotic breakdown of the Euro scheme, but many European leaders are still way in denial. This quote in the NY Times cracked me up:

“I found it peculiar that, even though the Americans have significantly worse fundamental data than the euro zone, that they tell us what we should do,” Maria Fekter, the finance minister of Austria, said after the meeting Friday morning. “I had expected that, when he tells us how he sees the world, that he would listen to what we have to say.”
(NY Times story here, if you can get past the paywall.)

Now clearly, the U.S. is in tough shape and much needs to be done. But U.S. fundamentals are NOT worse than Europe's. On the contrary. Even our unemployment - a real curse on the present and future - is better than Europe's. (See this among other sources. Data is of July.)

America's problems are difficult - we basically have a choice between 1) kick-starting the economy with enormous spending on infrastructure, then battening down the hatches to pay for it all, or 2) weathering perhaps ten more years of pain as the system wrings itself out. Either way, we also have to deal with the fact that much of our economic and social direction are being shaped by international corporations that have ZERO interest in individual Americans' future, except as virtual serfs (aka paying customers).

But Europe's choices are: immediate bankruptcy and the breakup of the Euro, or . . .

Except there is no real "or" there, unless the EU becomes the U.S.-lite with very closely coordinated fiscal policies across all the members. I strongly suspect the Austrians aren't going to settle for that, given the reluctance to this point to simply shore up other countries' banks.

So Ms. Fekter, there's no need to take advice from the U.S.; I wouldn't from Geithner myself. But I might take a little stronger look at the mud you're in if I were you.


And now for something completely different



Release your inner hippie . . .
Databases & history


I missed this article in the NYTimes by Stephen Mihm when it first ran Sunday, but it's right on:



For generations, biographers have used the same methods to conduct research: they waded through the paper trail left by their subject, piecing together a life from epistolary fragments. Based on what they found, they might troll through newspapers from specific dates in the hope of finding coverage of their subject. There were no new-fangled technologies that promised to transform their research, no way of harnessing machines to reveal new layers of historical truth.

That’s all starting to change. Several campaigns to digitize newspapers — Readex’s “American Historical Newspapers” available by subscription at research universities, or the free “Chronicling America” collection available at the Library of Congress — have the potential to revolutionize biographical research. Newspapers are often described as the “first draft of history,” and thanks to these new tools, biographers can tap them in ways that an earlier generation of scholars could only have dreamed of.

Full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/opinion/sunday/the-biographers-new-best-friend.html

In my case, having access to digital databases helped (and continues to help) in a large number of ways. To give just one example, being able to look at contemporary news stories about Patton and Bradley in the context of the times showed clearly how a lot of our perceptions about them really began with the early new stories and the publicity the men received.

That's not to say that Patton wasn't a great general, of course, or that Bradley was perfect and never made a mistake - on the contrary. Rather, it's a statement about how we come to our perceptions of people.

And that is really one of the core points of General At War. Why is it important? Because if we don't examine our perceptions about the past, then we are very likely to make the wrong decisions in the present. We're likely to revere (an admitted stereotype, by the way) one type of leadership over a more effective though not nearly as flamboyant alternative.





Only the beginning . . .


China Consolidates Grip on Rare Earths 
By closing or nationalizing dozens of the producers of rare earth metals, which are used in energy-efficient bulbs, China is crimping the global supply.

Story here.

And by law - passed and signed in 2007 - we're only supposed to use these bulbs next year. So in effect, we're mandated by law to enrich China.
A lot of war stuff . . .

. . . lately, I know.

More variety and general mayhem ahead, I promise . . .


The difference between Brad and Georgie . . .


While General at War is a s-e-r-i-o-u-s book, and the interviews about it are almost always s-e-r-i-o-u-s , every so often, on the right show, I get a chance to put things in a slightly different perspective:

Interviewer: So can you describe the difference in management styles between Patton and Bradley?

Me: Let me put it this way - when Patton had a general who wasn't really performing up to snuff, he went and p'd in his trench, but kept him on for the rest of the war. Bradley would counsel him a time or two, then fire his ass.

Other views on Brad

Interviewers are generally far too polite to ask about other visions of Bradley, let alone to get into arguments.

But there's plenty of room for other views. If you want an excellent analysis of the relationship between Ike, Patton, and Bradley, pick Jonathan Jordan's Brothers, Rivals, Victors (on Amazon here). While we actually agree very much more than we disagree, I think Jonathan's book gives another perspective.

And if you want a completely different view of Bradley - almost 180 from mine - then you really have to read Carlo D'Este's biography of Patton, A Genius for War. (Trade paper at Amazon here.) Whatever he says about Bradley, his work is huge and his knowledge impressive.

Actually, agree or disagree, both of those books are really must-reads if you're interested in heroes and WW II - and they're just the start...

American Sniper


The next big project, due out in January.

And it will be big . . . Rumors should start circulating shortly, as the bound galleys are going out sometime very soon, if not already.

Helios hits the month after.

Hoping to honor U.S. WW2 soldier

Do you know a soldier named Private James Jones who came from Rockland County? A gentleman from France is trying to find out as much information as he can about Jones to keep his memory and his sacrifice alive.


Details, contact information here.
Invisible tanks . . .



A lot of talk around about the new technology that confuses IR sensors, making objects "disappear." Here the technology is used on a tank, though that's probably not its most likely use for a number of reasons, at least until it's more practical (and cheaper).

Story here. The tail end of the article mentions the really interesting stuff - making the vehicle invisible to the naked eye during daylight.

Of course, we've been doing that for a while in Dreamland, but R&D is a lot cheaper for novelists . . .

"I ain't drinkin' a toast to Stalin . . ."



How comfortable does Omar Bradley look here, waiting for his Russian hosts to make a toast?

I'd say, not very. Maybe he was considering whether he should have told Eisenhower to go to hell and let First Army take Berlin.

(The photo is from the West Point collection; I've left the identifying tags here for reference.)
Patton's hatchet man


Doing radio today, I started telling a story on Sully and Russ T. Nails' show that I didn't get a chance to finish. And so I'll tell the ending (briefly) here . . .

We were talking about how Patton dealt with his subordinates, and how he would occasionally humiliate them in front of others . . . but when it came time to fire them, he could be a bit of a wimp. He had to get Bradley - at the time his deputy commander - to fire Orlando Ward in Africa.

That was personally pretty tough for Bradley, as Ward had been one of his mentors (and, in fact, Bradley thought he simply hadn't received enough support). That was clearly an emotional moment for Bradley, but my guess is that it made it easier for him to replace general officers later on. In fact, Bradley was probably the toughest American commander when it came to cashiering generals. (As historian and friend Jonathon Jordan* points out, in a lot of cases later he was "simply" following their commanders' recommendations; still, he was the one who did it.)

Bradley does deserve the nickname "GI General." He cared very much for the individual soldiers under his command, and there are plenty of stories of small kindnesses toward them. But he was anything but soft, and he focused on results throughout the war.

(The url for Sully and Russ: http://bigbizshow.com/ They're a hoot.)

*You can get to Jonathan's excellent book on the relationship of Patton, Eisenhower and Bradley from this link. Definitely worth putting in your WW2 library.
At War, on sale . . .



Brad goes on sale today.

You can find him at B&N, Books-a-Million, and most other fine stores, not to mention on-line. Some links are on my website, here.

Cheaper by the pound









Seen on the internet: Ten pounds of best-sellers, including two (??) of mine, for $150 in Buenos Aires. Certainly worth the airfare.

(High bid Saturday was under forty bucks - I might put a bid in myself...)
You're full of it, Monty . . .


Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words . . .

This one of Eisenhower and Montgomery comes from a special collection of World War II photos that have been basically overlooked for years; we were lucky enough to be given access to them while working on the Bradley book, and included some of them in the photo section.

As you can tell from the markings and notations, the images were taken by an Army photographer and apparently used in some military-related publication. You can see some more at my website (www.jimdefelice.com), and of course in the book. (Get a free chapter here on Facebook.)
How to lose a navy . . . 

Item:

Turkish PM says navy will escort aid ships to Gaza
Associated Press09.09.11, 02:38 AM EDT 
ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's prime minister has said Turkish warships will escort Turkish Gaza-bound aid ships in the future.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Al-Jazeera television that the navy will accompany the aid ships to protect them from raids like the one Israel launched on a flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade last year, when nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed
As if the Turkish navy might last ten minutes in a battle with Israel off the Israeli coast.

Even if it sent all four of its frigates - the top of the Turkish line, to use the old naval term - the result would be . . . four ships at the bottom of the sea. The only question is how long it would take them to sink.

I realize this is really about geopolitics for Turkey, but sometimes you have to stand back and say, what the hell are you thinking?
What I did on my summer vacation . . .


. . . I landed one of these.

Well, actually, it was only the simulator, and it was really Labor Day weekend, but it's the thought that counts.

Plus, I didn't crash.

(Many thanks to the folks at the Air Mobility Museum at Dover Air Base.)
King Air strikes back

Cute story in the NYTimes today about the military using older civilian-style aircraft for electronic, et al, surveillance. (Story here.)

The trend is much older than the reporter says, though it's been generally under the radar. (Sorry for the pun.) I was also pretty amused at the "computer chat rooms" comment - probably a quip by someone that the reporter took seriously. Kinda makes you think al Qaeda could direct a mission, doesn't it?
The unsung 9/11 heroes

There were thousands of acts of heroism that day, big and small. One story you've probably not heard is of a subway operator or motorman (basically the engineer in a traditional train) who took many to safety:


“I did my job just like … just like the police officers, just like the firemen, just like the EMTs, just like the people in the towers just across the street did,” Irizarry said. “I got to live, and all those people that perished. Why am I the lucky one? You know? God has a reason for everything, but you just have to accept it.”
Full story here.

(It's not clear in the story if the conductor played a part in the decision. Nearly all subway trains have two crewmen, with the operator in the first car and the conductor in the middle car. The conductor usually is the one watching the doors, though the operator would have the final word.)


Don't tell me it's raining again . . .
Leadership

I don't usually get political, because there are tons and tons of people who do it better on all sides of the political divide. But the recent flap over scheduling the President's jobs speech left me flabbergasted. No one in ANY leadership position should go so far out of his way to make himself look like an impotent imbecile.

The Daily Caller was kind enough to post some of my thoughts. They're here at http://dailycaller.com/2011/09/06/the-small-stuff-actually-does-matter-mr-president/

What would Bradley have done?

He would NEVER have run for President in the first place. He didn't care much for politics - he did his fighting on the battlefield, not in the media or at cocktail parties.
Where I was today . . .



(No, it's not my video...)
Why I wrote General at War



A few of the reasons, anyway.

Mostly I was pissed that an American hero was screwed by historians who mostly were either too lazy to look at his record or didn't have a clue about what they're writing about, but I'm not supposed to say that on camera.

A video we're working on...