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Archive for April, 2006


[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

I don’t mean to pick on Ezra, but, after our recent experience with Josh “The Roman Troll” Trevino, you can color me deeply skeptical that the “Swords Crossed” project will amount to anything beyond hollow pomposity…


Ask a Wingnut: The Changing of the Horses

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

Dear Wingnut,

Kingdaddy has this post which says that changing leaders in mid-war can be a good thing. He’s wrong, isn’t he?

Confounded in Topeka

Dear Confounded,

Kingdaddy’s post is interesting enough, but his invocation of the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts is obviously ill-conceived. It is, of course, always acceptable to replace a Democrat with a Republican in the course of a war. Democrats are pussies, and can’t be expected to fight worth a damn. Once the Republican is in office, the rule about not changing horses in mid-stream applies.


Another Note on Conspiracy Theories

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

Some of the comments in this thread deserve a more lengthy response.

On the various question regarding one piece of evidence or another, it’s important to realize that conspiracy theories are, by their nature, impervious to evidence. If the government produced the flight recorder, and all of the data supported the conventional conclusion regarding United 93, it wouldn’t prove anything. If the plane really was shot down, and the government really did want to cover it up, then of course the administration would release a falsified data recorder. You could produce a hundred experts on plane crashes pointing out that passenger planes maneuvering violently at high speeds run the risk of breaking up, and the retort from the conspiracy theorist would invariably be that experts are easy to buy, or that evidence is easy to conceal, or that this other expert said something different. Moreover, the conspiracy theorist would be right; once the conspiracy has been submitted, no evidence can possibly be sufficient to disprove it.

The other argument that some have made is that, while it may be difficult to ferret out the precise motive for a cover-up, the Bushies are congenital liars and really are capable of anything. To an extent this is true, and there are many things that I would believe of the Bushies. But it does not follow that I must believe that everything Bush and Cheney do is tinged with deceit. I am capable of believing, for example, that there were serious problems with vote counting in Ohio (I don’t believe it made a difference, but I don’t think that people who do are out in left field). However, if someone began arguing to me that there was widespread voter fraud in Wyoming, my brain would shut down pretty quickly. Why would anyone ever risk stealing votes in Wyoming, even if they were otherwise deceitful? To me, it makes about as much sense as concocting an elaborate cover-up of the fate of United 93, which is none at all.

Now, if in a year some fighter jock turns up and produces conclusive evidence that he personally shot down flight 93, I will issue a retraction and apology. Until then, however, I’m sticking to my position that this is the first step on the road to madness.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: SMS Schleswig-Holstein

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

SMS Schleswig-Holstein was the fourth of the Deutschland class, the last pre-dreadnought battleships built by Germany. The Deutschland’s were authorized by Admiral Alfred Von Tirpitz’ Fleet Acts, designed to provide Germany with a large, powerful Navy. The idea of a powerful Navy appealed to a wide swath of German society, including labor and big industry. The prospect for a larger overseas empire also excited the Kaiser. Schelswig-Holstein was laid down in 1904 and completed in 1908. She carried four 11″ guns in two twin turrets, displaced 14000 tons, and could make about 18.5 knots. Pre-dreadnought battleships tended to carry large secondary armaments, and Schlewig-Holstein was also armed with 14 6.7″ guns

The commissioning of Dreadnought in late 1906 rendered most battleships in the world obsolete. This helped to obscure the fact that Schleswig-Holstein and her sisters were completely outclassed, upon completion, by foreign competition. The British King Edward VIIIs were much larger and carried a heavier main armament. The same could be said of the American Connecticut class, and even the Japanese Mikasa, completed six years earlier, compared favorably with the German design. Moreover, the German ships were utterly inferior to the last generation of pre-dreadnought warships, mostly completed after Dreadnought, and including the British Lord Nelsons, the French Dantons, and the Austrian Radetzkys.

No one knew quite what to do with pre-dreadnought battleships after the completion of Dreadnought. The USN continued to employ pre-dreadnoughts in front line roles until it possessed enough dreadnoughts to push the older battleships into the second line. Some pre-dreadnoughts, like the Radetzky class, had the speed to keep up with the dreadnought battlefleet, and could stay in a fleet role. The British employed pre-dreadnoughts in any number of different roles, including coastal defense, cruiser hunting, and in the Dardanelles operation. By 1914, Germany had an embarassment of dreadnoughts for any mission other than fighting the Royal Navy. Most German pre-dreadnoughts were committed to training operations or coastal defense. The Deutschland class, however, were retained as a squadron in the High Seas Fleet, and regularly performed maneuvers with the German dreadnought fleet.

Thus, Schleswig-Holstein was part of the High Seas Fleet in late May of 1916, when the German Navy sortied in an effort to catch and destroy a portion of the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy. The inclusion of the six pre-dreadnoughts (the five Deutschlands and the earlier Hessian) was controversial; these ships were slower than the German dreadnoughts, and many believed that they didn’t add enough firepower to be of consequence. Given that the High Seas Fleet was at a severe firepower disadvantage relative to the Royal Navy, I think that the inclusion of the pre-dreadnoughts was defensible. Schleswig-Holstein and her sisters were at the end of the German line, and did not suffer from severe gunfire damage. However, one of their number, Pommern, was hit by a torpedo and sank.

After the High Seas Fleet returned to port, Schleswig-Holstein and her sisters were removed for other duties. At the end of the war, the best of the High Seas Fleet was dispatched to Scapa Flow for eventual scuttling. The rest of the German dreadnoughts were turned over to other allied powers, which either sank the German ships as targets or sold them as scrap. By the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was allowed to keep only a few pre-dreadnought battleships, including Schleswig-Holstein. The replacements allowed for these ships were even smaller than the pre-dreadnoughts themselves. Thus, the Kriegsmarine retained Schleswig-Holstein as an active unit for the entire interwar period.

In late August 1939, Schleswig-Holstein was dispatched to Gdansk for a “courtesy visit”. On the morning of September 1, 1939 the aging battleship opened fire on a Polish Army barracks, opening World War II. Schleswig-Holstein continued to bombard Polish positions for the next five days, taking some damage from Polish shore batteries in the process. The rest of Schleswig-Holstein’s career was relatively uneventful, although she did participate in the occupation of Denmark in early 1940. The Kriegsmarine used the old battleship as a training ship for the rest of the war.

On December 19, 1944, Schleswig-Holstein was hit by 3 bombs, caught fire, and sank in shallow water. The crew later set off scuttling charges, causing some additional damage. This damage did not dissuade Russia for refloating Schleswig-Holstein, renaming her Borodino, and turning her into a target ship. She continued in that service until 1948, when the Russian Navy scuttled her.

Trivia: What was the only German capital ship (other than a pre-dreadnought) lost in World War I?

Contrarian Centrism at its Best

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

If you need a perfect example of how non-sensical Slate’s form of knee-jerk contrarianism is, look no further than Lord Saletan’s article on gay and covenant marriage.

Fair enough. But the test goes both ways. In their foundational statement on marriage, Catholic, Baptist, and evangelical leaders claim to be defending it against cohabitation, divorce, and “diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying.” They call for “mentor couples” and “influence within society” to promote marriage. Can you imagine a more powerful influence than finding out that the gay couple down the block has a stronger marriage than you do? Can you imagine a more powerful way for that couple to earn society’s respect? Here’s a chance to get more marriage, less cohabitation, and less divorce. Is that what conservatives want? Or would they rather keep out the gays?

If anyone can show just cause why these two movements may not be joined together, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.

In other words, if we take a form of marriage that even Christian conservatives find idiotic (covenant marriage) and combine it with gay marriage, then everyone will be happy! Conservatives would love gay marriage if only the gays couldn’t get divorced!

How stupid do you have to be to write this kind of crap? Does Saletan seriously believe that conservatives are going to evaluate gay marriage based on the likelihood of divorce, rather than based on the notion, you know, that men shouldn’t marry men and women shouldn’t marry women? And why does Saletan think that gays are going to want to accept a far more legally onerous type of marriage than heterosexuals? Believe it or not, some gays just want to get married like everyone else; the point is that they love someone, not that they want to make political hay.

Saletan remains mired in this idea that for every political disagreement there is a compromise that will make everyone happy, and that if a Slate writer just thinks hard enough about it for a while, the solution will appear. It is a fundamentally unserious approach to politics.

UPDATE: In response to Patrick, I too wondered whether this article was intended as sarcasm. Let’s say that Saletan has not earned the benefit of the doubt.

Chilling Effect

[ 0 ] April 30, 2006 |

The multi-million dollar federal lawsuit filed against blogger Lance Dutson for a post critical of the advertising agency hired by the state of Maine is indeed highly disturbing. As Jarvis points out, the most frightening part of the suit is its allegation that “Dutson also claimed, falsely, that WKPA is ‘pissing away’ Maine tax money.” In addition to being legally farcical under current First Amendment doctrine, if this type of claim can serve as the basis for a lawsuit any political blogger is under the constant threat of a major lawsuit. Hopefully they won’t sue me for libel when I note that Warren Kremer Paino should change their name to Deignan Advertising…

Occupied Britain

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

Interesting post and thread at Crooked Timber on the idea of a Nazi occupied Britain, based on an interesting article in the Guardian.

On the one hand, it’s important to note that French behavior wasn’t all that atypical of countries occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II. If the English Channel had not existed, Germany would undoubtedly have successfully conquered Great Britain and installed some sort of collaborationist regime. The French weren’t cheese-eating surrender monkeys so much as they were cursed by geography. On the other side of the continent, Russia prevailed over Germany only by giving up several France-sized chunks of territory. The French military defeat in 1940 was just that; a military defeat. All it revealed was that Germany had a more potent army and better intelligence than the French, and neither of these is, particularly, a moral or cultural failing.

However, I am inclined to think that Vichy was unusually poisonous for a collaborationist regime. Although fascist groups existed in Britain, I don’t believe that they ever had the strength that the right was able to claim in France. The Third Republic was a bit of a mess by 1940, riven by factions which had ceased to believe that they could work with the other side. The defeat of France by Germany was taken as a signal by the right wing factions that the left had finally led France to destruction. These groups saw Vichy as an opportunity to expunge the Third Republic, the Dreyfus Affair, and even the Revolution from French life. I don’t think that any British group had aims as far ranging, which suggests that the British collaborator government would have been somewhat less awful than the Vichy regime. Of course, I yield to any specialist on this question.

I also suspect that, because of the strength and relative independence of the British Empire, that a far more significant residue of UK fighting power would have continued the struggle. Neither Australia nor Canada would have surrendered to Germany, and both would have probably joined the US in its war against Japan. I would imagine that a significant portion of the Royal Navy would have passed to Canadian or American control, regardless of the neutrality of the United States.

Spanish speakers? They’re not really as American as the rest of us…

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

I seem to recall a little while ago that all the wingnuts were in a rage because immigration demonstrators didn’t wave enough American flags. Today, Dear Leader made clear that patriotism in Spanish just isn’t quite as good as patriotism in English.

That Bush’s claim is appalling doesn’t particularly surprise me. More importantly, it seems really stupid and hamfisted; how many of the people on the right who find this issue important are going to be swayed to vote by this? Bush has just made a symbolic identification of the English language with American identity. This is quite a bit different than making a practical argument (one that I think most people, including immigrants, agree with) that English is necessary to doing well in the United States. Moreover, it would seem a perfect issue for Democrats to use in the Spanish language media. The President has made clear that the Spanish language isn’t good enough to sing the national anthem in; by extension, Spanish speakers are second class citizens.

When you have to appeal to the bigots, you’re eventually going to step in it, and I think that’s what the President just did.


[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

I admit to being a bit staggered by Ezra:

So far as Flight 93 goes, various folks have convinced me that the plane was actually shot down by scrambled fighter jets. I don’t tend to go in for conspiracies, and I don’t think it much matters one way or the other, but I basically trust the sources here. As I understand it, the way the plane’s wreckage lay wasn’t consistent with an on-the-ground crash, but rather with an in-air explosion. Various parts of the engine were miles away from each other, debris was found eight miles from the crash site, etc. If you’re interested, there’s a collection of info here, but as I said before, I fail to see how it matters.

Apparently Amanda Marcotte believes the same thing. I think it’s absurd; indeed, I think that it goes a fair bit beyond absurd. You have to believe that the Bush administration would willingly (and, really, in a few minutes) concoct a cover-up for something that was genuinely justified. If a fighter shot down United 93 on the orders of someone in the Bush administration, there would have been, literally, zero political heat. If, on the other hand, the administration had managed to shoot down 93 and quickly covered it up, there would be enormous heat if the facts ever got out. Given that the administration can barely be bothered to cover up the things it should be ashamed of (Gitmo, Abu Ghraib), you’ve got a long way to go to convince me that something happened here other than the standard narrative. If Cheney/Bush ordered Flight 93 to be shot down, they’re heroes; why wouldn’t they publicize it?

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that most people genuinely don’t understand how bureaucratic organizations, including the ones tasked with national security, function. They operate by a set of standard procedures fixed around expected threats. When other threats materialize, it can be difficult for them to shift focus in short periods of time. It’s not at all difficult for me to believe that the fighters scrambled over Washington did nothing useful on the morning of September 11.

Please, leave the conspiracy theories to the right-wingers who believe that Saddam Hussein sent all the WMD to Syria…

Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

Heh. Indeed.

According to Judge Smith:

“Jackie Fisher was England’s greatest admiral after Nelson, and was responsible for the creation of the Dreadnought, which was launched nearly exactly 100 years to the day of the start of the trial,” the judge wrote in an e-mail message. “Nevertheless, he has been airbrushed out of history.”

I’m not sure that either of those is the case. Surely Fisher deserves some credit for revitalizing the Royal Navy at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it’s not as if all-big gun ships would have failed to appear if he hadn’t been around. South Carolina and Michigan were already designed when Dreadnought was laid down, as was Satsuma. Moreover, Fisher had his share of disasters, including battlecruisers that exploded at the drop of a pin and useless light cruisers intended to foray into the Baltic Sea. I doubt the assertion that he’s been airbrushed out of history, either; he is featured quite prominently in Massey’s excellent books about the German and British battleships, and remains well known among naval enthusiasts.

Nevertheless, kind of cool…

En Francais

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

Via someone who found the post in question doing a search at for “should we ban cars” (?), I found out that Canadian Google has a translation function. Finally, our blogroll has the appropriate French names! Even Clou a tete perdue Delong

[ 0 ] April 28, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

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