The Need for a Roof

Claudio brought up Prigozhin and Wagner group in an e-mail and cited this Radio Free Europe piece. Will Putin’s Chef prosper, and continue to gain influence, and what is the end game? I’ll let you read the article for context and precedence purposes, and I’ll take the bait and offer an opinion that is likely just as accurate as anyone else’s at this point.

The article mentions a krysha or “roof” in Russia and in most countries with strong organized crime baked into the infrastructure (such as Mexico) if you are to survive,  you’ll have one. Almost every business in Russia, from curbside vendors to huge oil and gas companies, makes payments to significant organized crime group(s) for protection they provide a “krysha”, a roof.

When I was working in Mexico for USGOV, I had significant top cover (a US term that means, “a roof”) from within MEXGOV. My coverage came from the top at SEMAR and Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (Center for Investigation and National Security), commonly known as CISEN, which was established in 1989 and lasted until 2018. In 2018 it was folded into the newly formed Centro Nacional de Inteligencia or CNI. My top cover was better than that which USGOV could supply. It was based on relationships that don’t matter for the purpose of this discussion. Suffice it to say, a roof is necessary no matter who you are or where you are. When the sun is hot, you need la Sombra (the shade).

And we’re back to Yevgeny Prigozhin who became rich by understanding the game and manipulating it to his advantage.  It’s currently illegal under Russian law to criticize, or discredit, the armed forces, or to own or operate a private military company. But Prigozhin criticizes inept Russian generals and owns the Wagner Group. With a strong enough roof, you can make your own rules and that’s what he does. This means that Putin and some of the more significant players in the world of Russian organized crime back his play. My guess is that he’s safe for now and maybe he’ll succeed Vladimir Putin as Russia’s strong man. If he’s smart, he’ll protect Putin in retirement.

There is nothing sinister in the concept of a roof. It’s based on relationships (in China it could be guanxi) Prigozhin is obviously a master of this situation.




The Culture of Leadership

The culture of the United States Armed Forces in general was very distinct from our enemies in the Second World War. Many of the senior leaders, notably Nimitz and Eisenhower, came from very modest backgrounds. They had a very practical more than a martial mindset, something that counterintuitively gave them an edge in the chaos of wartime. They also were, by training, engineers and planners.

While the popular imagination leads us to valorize figures like MacArthur, Halsey, and Patton, America’s success was more due to the very grounded, technologically adept, and adaptive brilliance of men who might not have been all that dashing or colorful yet were, when it came to practical matters of warfare, unequaled in history.

Nimitz was by my personal estimation the most successful Allied leader of the war, who only shortly after the debacle of Pearl Harbor was able to seize the initiative in the Pacific despite the commitment of the United States to focus on Europe. An excellent engineer who came up through the submarine service rather than the battleship fleet, he had an unequaled talent for understanding the nuts and bolts of shipbuilding and maintenance. He was also an expert and pioneer in the field of underway replenishment. As a member of the Silent Service, he was technologically innovative and didn’t see all his battleships out of action as an impediment to going on the offensive. Like Grant versus Lee, he probably wasn’t as glamorous or martially impressive as his Japanese counterparts like Yamamoto with their samurai ethos or Lee with his genteel elegance but his ships were maintained, his crews trained in damage control and there was always fresh coffee at the ready. If you wanted someone who could fight their way halfway across the world it was him.

One of his most significant achievements was advocating and getting 150 of these beasts deployed to the front.

Not the battleship. Rather the thing HOLDING the battleship. Nimitz prioritized the forward deployment of skilled shipbuilders and the tools and materials needed to keep a fleet going even with the worst damage to the ships. Essentially, Nimitz, had entire shipyards moving forward with the fleet.

That expertise extended to the ships themselves, with the best damage control teams led by officers and chiefs unequaled in the world. They also pioneered such things as filling voids where dangerous aviation fuel fumes would be displaced by inert carbon dioxide and lines drained immediately after use. This attention to detail made the lightly armored carriers that were full of fuel and ammunition far more survivable than their Japanese counterparts. It was people doing the mundane and, in the enemy’s ships, undervalued things, that made the Americans so dominant so early.

This extended to civilian yard workers as well, who got nearly every ship off the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

No better example of this is the USS Yorktown, a ship the Japanese thought they sunk multiple times, including twice at Midway. The skilled labor and leadership of sailors and civilians alike were exceptional.

When one looks at history the apparently modest contributions of ordinary people get the short shrift in favor of what appears bold and heroic but brilliant leaders like Nimitz knew victory was the result of those unsung ordinary sailors who could keep a ship afloat when the sailors of other navies would see it as a lost cause.


Bullet Points:

* This recession does not correspond neatly to the economic models. Largely because it is self-induced. Construction and technology are laying people off. The ripples are spreading. How it’s going to play out is still a mystery. It still feels to me like late 2006 (where you could see it coming).

* It’s ok to live an ammocentric and ammosexual life, even if the woke don’t understand it.

* Billionaires are weird, what are they saving up for, Hell?

*  I think that my auto mechanic is ripping me off. Does anyone else think that $500.00 for a new exhaust for my Tessla is too much?

* There is nothing quite as racist or transphobic as Plymouth Rock. It marked (another) arrival of straight white people in North America to enslave the natives. Once again it taunts the world by holding back the rising oceans in Massachusetts from global warming as the ice caps melt (and we all prepare to die/drown in 4 years).

* “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” -Mike Tyson… Iron Mike also said, “Some people need a high five in the face with a chair.”

* When people do their own research before buying a washing machine,  a toaster, a house, or a car, they’re considered to be smart consumers. When they do their own research before allowing the government to inject something into their body, they’re called conspiracy theorists.



Good-Bye Norma Jean


Worth 1000 words.


Have an interesting weekend and don’t forget the sermonette here on VM tomorrow!

Life only offers us two things – just two – time, and the decision of how we will spend it.


  1. Definitely turning into an interesting weekend for me. Wife went to KC for October to spend time with the grandkids during their birthdays scattered around that month. Our son said the kids wanted her there and would pay for the flight out and back. He just got laid off from the company he works for (contract IT work for the US govt that required a security clearance). So I just sent her funds to buy a ticket back home.
    Earlier, the company had told everyone they HAD to get the jab or they’d be laid off. He got the J&J jab, as it appeared to be less pernicious than the other two. Don’t know if this is the coming thing due to the crashing economy?
    Son is currently getting interviews in the KC area for a new job.

    • I had the J&J vax so that I could fly for work and it was banned as toxic the next week. It was my only covid vax. Good luck to your son in his job search.

  2. Thanks for the detailed history lesson. Great photo of Nimitz and Eisenhower. Near as I can tell, both are wearing 5-star rank. This is the first time I can recall seeing a photo of that rank on a Fleet Admiral’s sleeve.

  3. Walked out of my hotel in Paris (visiting while I still can) this morning and see more French police in one place than ever before. The concierge tells me Marine Le Pen’s party has a convention just down the street. Oh joy.

  4. Hong Kong – used to enjoy a site run by an American in Hong Kong back when it was still run by the Brits. At some point he mentioned that the daughter of a top family was showing interest in him – made me wonder if the family saw the writing on the wall and were looking for a lifeline to a safer country. Shortly after the dating got serious he stopped posting altogether.

  5. Is there a modern-day Nimitz? Maybe the heads think in terms of thermonuclear exchanges and wars lasting minutes instead of years, but reality is that we need them for everything short of that.

      • I don’t think the Japs were very fond of them either. My late Father turned wrenches on those in “the war” and considered Ba Ba Black Sheep a comedy show. The 4-bladed props on the aircraft in the show came later and he found that, and many other inaccuracies of the program, amusing.

  6. That first picture of HK reminds me of “I Spy”.

    Nimitz was a true warrior. His sailors would go through Hell for him. A superb example of leadership.

    I have my Dad’s Zippo. They always work, and never break.

  7. Plymouth Rock has been moved and messed with too much to be a good example. However, was built to let the tides flush the toilet system, so that provides a datum.

    Look at a highway map of Florida from 50 years ago. Same coastline shape, right? The edge of Florida is shallow angled enough that if sea level rose all that much you would notice a different coastline shape.

    Poke around the NOAA tides and currents web site and you’ll find a record of sea level recorded at The Battery, New York from 1860 forward. Smooth it of short-term variations and it’s a straight line of 11 inches/100 years. However, fossil fuel use from the same timeperiod is a hockey stick. Oops.

  8. Dad was at Chu Lai until 67. His 3rd tour was at Da Nang and Ben Hoa. He separated in 72.when he had been scheduled for 4th Two Korea, 3 VN was enough. Not shown are his vacas to various hot spots around the globe.

    This week I met a man who’d been in the 1st Marine during Tet Offense. He was with family so we talked quickly, reverently. He said he left out of Barstow to Okinawa then to a rally point in country at a place he did not know. It was there he noticed two rows of Marines on the apron; one of them arriving, the other of them leaving. In boxes. That scene shook him so deeply that he vividly recalls it even today.

    Get into one of the trucks to go to a hill overlooking a place called Khe San where you’ll be issued your weapon and gear. He and his high school buddy joined up together, made it through training together, and into the same unit. They squabbled over which truck to take. His buddy took a different truck.

    Nearly immediately they were taking small arms fire. This continued the entire route. Suddenly he saw the truck ahead blow to kingdom come. He had watched his best friend disappear, never to be found.

    This man arrived in Khe San on that very day when the offensive began. He thinks that being on that outlying hill is what saved him. We did praise God, shook hands, and parted.

    Dammit, it seems the more time goes by, the more angry I get. Of course, what it really is about, is I understand ever more how the bankers and the evil incarnate have cancelled so many lives for their own lusts.

    Thanks, Larry, for a place to spout off.

    • It struck home for me when I saw The Wall for the first time. I approached it from the Lincoln Memorial side of the mall, walking across about 3″ of snow, wearing a suit and low-cut leather shoes in early March. The names. So many names. So much blood, so much pain, so much treasure, and for nothing. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident never happened. We know now that it was a rigged pretext for war. May God judge our leaders fairly.

  9. “they’re called conspiracy theorists.”
    I’m at a professional conference. Just had dinner with three MD-PhD guys. One a current chief [1] of cardiology at a top-5 research institution, another a former chief, and the third guy a section chief. Everyone had Harvard, MIT, Duke, Hopkins, (or comparable top institutions in their CV — I do too, but unlike me, those guys are successful and influential) and all are at nationally known research hospitals. So these are the “thought leaders” and trainers of the next generations. And the people who advise on national policy. Each of the three is “good people” personally. But!

    Apart from me, they were unanimous that doubting the vaxx is borne purely of ignorance and paranoia. One recounted stories about how certain patients refused the vaxx, and how illogical and misguided such patients are. Then another suggested that Trump was to blame, and they all shook their heads disapprovingly. I would have laughed, were it not so serious and sad. I didn’t bother to point out that Trump has been consistently a vaxx advocate, and that’s something that very much bothers a substantial portion of his base. It’s a caste, and a bubble, and an echo chamber that academic medicine is in.

    [1] in medicine, Chief is a commissioned role. It’s essentially “the boss”. Department head or Division head. The word is also watered down to smaller units. A sort of rank/grade inflation. The analogy is way back in Euro military units where a “captain” could be a 2LT equivalent, or a guy with stars.

    • They live in a bubble or an echo chamber, and the only people they know live inside the same bubble. Position and tenure breed arrogance, sometimes on an almost Biblical scale.

      I’ve been in bubbles before. I admit it. If you’re in the military and you’re going on a mission you are in a very tight bubble and if you’re any good, you know that you are, like these lettered people at your table. It’s very difficult to break from that mindset and it is heartbreaking to find that you (meaning me) lived in that bubble. For some, remaining in denial is a matter of income, and it’s a conscious choice. For a number of them, they are sheep but don’t know it. They think that they’re lions (sort of like a Jack Russell Terrier). Anything that they do (Fauci) is justified based on their intellectual superiority. God complex?

      • MrsPaulM has run into this nearly weekly for the past two plus years, working with others who actually know virology; vaccines, testing, protocols, challenge data, therapeutics, etc. At least 2/3’s have bought into the BS rhetoric, completely forgetting the real science…totally buying the Perception Management to the point of detriment (one “Dr” has been vaxxed then boosted four times, wears multiple masks, yet continues to get infected with the lighter strains, emphatically saying “It could have been worse.”). Fear has taken root and no amount of fact presentation will budge them off the delusion.

        No sure what is really going on; subliminal messaging via social media and news outlets must have gotten very good at morphing the minds of the weak (the TP “scare” was at the very beginning and proved to TPTB they could control half the population just by saying so). Still…most of what we hear is a lie designed to keep Americans distracted and scrambling so those in elite circles can do whatever the hell they want. I saw it clear as day with the P Pelosi DUI, and now this latest depraved episode by those with money.

        In what rational society would the citizens accept a severely addled President, or worse, a stroke victim, to be in charge? Proves the point.

      • I think it’s actually based on (assumed/claimed) moral authority. The (presumed) intellectual superiority is the backstop and PUBLIC justification, but deep down, they know they are MORALLY superior. It comes with the attitude of “repairing the world”. I used that phrase rather than “ tikkun olam” because it’s not an exclusively Jewish thing. But the concept of tikkun olam applies. (It may be a perversion of TK; I won’t argue if someone wants to assert that. But that said, if something is observed in the breach more often than “properly” then maybe the concept needs work. Same idea as “we’ve never had REAL communism.”) Anyway, as I said, all three of my dinner companions mean well. They dedicate a LOT of their time to mentorship (always good) and likely to some degree social justice-type stuff (horrible) but out of genuinely good intentions. When I was younger I believed that intentions are primary (why we differentiate first-degree murder from manslaughter), but as I get older, I place more weight on outcomes rather than just purely motive. (Especially when it’s very smart people involved — an idiot gets a partial pass because he’s too dumb to know. But a guy with an MD, an MIT STEM PhD, and prestigious residency, fellowships, and all that? He can hardly claim stupidity.)

        @Paul M: so they were all talking about getting covid is near-inevitable. (Despite the vaxx.) The guy who was talking about illogical patients said, “I have the solution: I just stopped testing myself.” There was a general laugh, but SO many problems with that, if you genuinely believe the coof is dangerous.

        Now I didn’t even try to argue with or “educate” my companions. Figured it was a lost cause. And TBH I need to deal with these people going forward (it’s a damned small world). Does that make me a coward? Or prudent and sensible? Maybe both.

        • Makes you the latter…can’t have a rational conversation with the foolish and expect to change their minds, at least very much.

          • Sensible. How much good work will you be unable to do, if you tell the truth and are driven from your profession? If everyone always told the truth all the time, and there were no lies of omission or commission, then there would be nothing but blood in the world. Lies are the grease on the axle of civilization, despite all the bad things that can be done with them.

            As for the “thought bubble”, in this case as you say it is “moral authority”. We need to stop educating expert professionals to believe that they stand on a pedestal, and are better than everyone else, and thus their opinions are automatically correct, w/o examination. Credentials do not make men superior to other men. We need to concentrate on teaching them to always question themselves, always question the popular opinion, always question everything. Cleave to the Scientific Method always, and follow the numbers no matter where they lead. Repeatable results are everything. There can be no “I know better than that”.

            One of the great failings of our society is that we began calling people “elites”, and there was no uprising against it. At least these guys are highly trained researchers and technicians, unlike most of the people with that label who are merely sleazy con-men.

            Instinctual Human hierarchialism continuously bites us in the ass.


        • Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
          And keep your powder dry.
          You might meet one later, one on one and find a different response having not created an aversion now.

        • Intentions are useful to judge an plan in the beginning before we have results. Once we have results we need to go back and inspect whether the intentions produced the intended results, and if not, learn from that. One flavor of evil is ‘deliberately failing to learn from experience’.

    • Doesn’t matter if a human’s brain has the rational horsepower to be a MD-PhD. Some people, many people, 75% of people? view staying in good social standing with a group of peers as more important a motivation than any inconsistency reported by their rational brain center. This is more evidence that policy making by majority vote doesn’t perform very well. 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed say to stop using fossil fuels and replace them with nothing.

  10. My physician recently related a similar discussion he had with the woke clinic administrator, during which he spoke his piece and yet survived, thank God. So considering these, I think perhaps the blind attitudes of these otherwise intelligent folks are formed by this:

    Romans 1:28 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”

  11. The other thing both Nimitz and Eisenhower brought to their respective commands was an understanding that they weren’t the ‘smartest’ people in the room, and were willing to use ideas from juniors and enlisted folks if it improved the command’s execution.

    Yes, that lighter is worth 1000 words…

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