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Archive for February, 2007

Tales of the Sea: HMAS Sydney vs. HSK Kormoran

[ 0 ] February 25, 2007 |

Part I: HMAS Sydney

Part II: HSK Kormoran

The following facts are beyond dispute: A battle occured between HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran. Sydney and her crew were lost without a trace, while most of Kormoran’s crew escaped before the merchant cruiser sank.

Of the details, we have only the sometimes contradictory accounts of Kormoran’s crew. According to them, as Sydney drew within 1000 yards, the guns of Kormoran were uncovered and opened fire. Sydney was hit several times by Kormoran’s 6″ guns and once by a torpedo, and Kormoran’s anti-aircraft guns quickly cleared Sydney’s deck. The turrets of the light cruiser were heavily armored, and began to reply shortly. Although the firing positions on Sydney may have been knocked out early, at 1000 yards it would have been easy even for independently aimed turrets to find Kormoran. Kormoran received a hit in the engine room that rendered her immobile. Sydney, on fire and apparently out of control, drifted away.

As the ships drifted out of contact, it became clear to Commander Detmers (below, sitting, second from left) that Kormoran could not be saved. Her engine room was largely destroyed, and fires were threatening more vital areas of the ship. Kormoran would have to be abandoned. About twenty of Kormoran’s crew of almost 400 had died in the fight, and another couple dozen died during the evacuation when a lifeboat capsized. Most of the remaining men, however, were rescued by an Australian ship.

The survivors of Kormoran told their interrogators that they had last seen Sydney drifting to the north. After she left visual range, an explosion was heard and a sheet of flame was seen on the horizon. As no survivors were found, it was assumed that a magazine explosion must have sent Sydney to the bottom. The 6″ hits, the torpedo, or fires started by the anti-aircraft guns all may have contributed to a fire that reached the magazines. Australian damage control was probably based on British practice, which did not have an inspiring record. For example, it is now thought that HMS Hood was lost not to a hit from Bismarck, but suffered an explosion as the result of a fire started by shell hits from Prinz Eugen, a heavy cruiser. Criminally negligent shell storage probably cause the loss of the ship. Especially in the case of Sydney, a ship which did not expect to find an enemy and which may not regarded Straat Malakka as much of a threat, it’s plausible to think that shell storage might have been lax. Moreover, ships that suffer magazine explosions often incur extremely high casualty rates; only six survived HMS Invincible, three HMS Hood, and two HMS Queen Mary.

On the other hand…. Hood, Invincible, and Queen Mary sank within minutes of suffering German fire. Men below decks had no opportunity to reach the deck, and there was no chance for liferafts and other survival equipment to be launched. Given what seems to be a long period of time between Sydney’s disengagement and her destruction, it’s puzzling that more men weren’t able to make it off the ship. The explosion may have been unexpected, especially if it was caused by poor shell storage, but there still should have been men on deck fighting fires. Even if the captain was dead, damage control teams should have been able to operate on their own. Sydney must have lost power (presumably because of flooding from the torpedo), as she would have moved off and engaged Kormoran at range if she could have.

Interrogation of the crew of HSK Kormoran shed no light on these question. Kormoran’s commander and crew remained in an Australian prisoner of war camp until 1947. Three weeks after Sydney’s disappearance, the Imperial Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor and embroiled Australia in the Pacific War. Much of the rest of the Royal Australian Navy was destroyed at the Battle of Java Sea and by Japanese aircraft carriers. The question of Sydney’s fate was, temporarily, put on the back burner.

On Febrary 6, 1942, a life raft bearing a dead man washed up on the beach of Christmas Island, over 2000km from the likely site of the battle. Although the remains could not be positively identified as coming from Sydney, it was believed at the time that the condition of the remains and the area of their discovery indicated that they were probably from the missing light cruiser. Unfortunately, no extensive inquiry could be made, as the Imperial Japanese Navy was in the midst of its six month rampage and invaded Christmas Island in March. The body was buried without marker in a military cemetary on the island.

In October 2006, a group seeking to identify the dead sailor found the grave and recovered the body. In the skull of the unidentified sailor, they found a 9mm bullet.

To be continued…


Fake Scandal, Republican Edition

[ 0 ] February 25, 2007 |

Ed Morrissey and Kevin Hayden are right–this is a bullshit smear piece on Romney. Indeed, it seems to me straightforward religious bigotry. I mean, seriously, he had a relative with 5 wives during the McKinley administration? Another one gave sermons about polygamy in 1852? How could this possibly be relevant to anything? (Apparently, it’s “a part of current events” because HBO has a show on the subject. Hmm, maybe Giuliani has some relatives who participated in some political assassinations in ancient Rome? That’s even more cutting-edge!) Does anyone think he’s going to have 3 more wives move into the White House if he gets elected? Ram a constitutional amendment legalizing polygamy through Congress? Should we start scrutinizing politicians to see if they had distant relatives who were involved in the Inquisition, or owned slaves, or opposed the signing of the Magna Carta? At least most silly “character” stories are ostensibly about the candidate, not their great-great-great grandparents.

Shakes: “But this kind of juvenile, he’s-got-cooties, smear-by-association faux-journalism has to stop. It’s pathetic; it lowers the public discourse; it insults us all.” See also Jackmormon on the LDS and public discourse.

…Breaking! Red Sirens! Must credit Lawyers, Guns & Money! A major scandal is erupting surrounding Ezra Klein: “When my great-great-grandfather was 14, he stole a wagon. At 22, he over-imbibed from a wineskin and had impure, though partially humorous, thoughts about a nearby goat. These thoughts were never acted upon, but they existed nonetheless.” So much for him becoming President. Although that’s nothing: my grandfather considered Atlas Shurgged the greatest novel ever written. I expect to receive my notice from TAPPED in the morning.


[ 0 ] February 25, 2007 |

Here’s what I love about the wingnut-o-sphere:

Step 1: Read on Instapundit that “the surge is working.”

Step 2: Learn (via Rubble Boy’s link)that former Bush/Cheney webmaster claims in a Townhall column that “It hasn’t been reported on widely, but murders in Baghdad are down 70%.”

Step 3: See that webmaster links to Trekkie Clausewitz Dafydd ab Hugh on the 70% figure, among other “incisive” matters. Read Trekkie Clausewitz and learn that “attacks in Baghdad have now “plummeted more than 70%.” Impressive.

Step 4: Follow Trekkie’s link to unsourced military strategy blog a guy who makes military board games.

Step 5: Realize that a shitload of people are citing this mysterious “70%” figure, all without attributing it to an actual source.

Step 6: Learn that not only has the 70% drop in Baghdad’s murder rate not been “widely reported,” it appears not to have been reported anywhere. It has been reported, however, that diarrhea rates among children have increased as much as 70 percent in Anbar province since 2006; attacks in Diyala against American troops have increased 70 percent since last summer; and about 70 percent of Americans oppose the surge.

Oh, and a big car bomb just killed a bunch of people.

. . . I should also add that these the very people who devoted so much pointless wristwork to “debunking” not liking the discovery by public health researchers that higher death rates in Iraq had likely produced hundreds of thousands of extra deaths.


[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

Tim Noah:

But the terms of eviction from Wikipedia raise a larger issue than the bruised ego of one scribbler (or Jungian analyst or anime artist or Finnish security consultant). Why does Wikipedia have a “notability” standard at all?

First, the fact of Tim Noah’s eviction from Wikipedia makes me despair of ever achieving the honor of an entry; Noah is a pretty well known guy, and if he could only save his entry by launching a head long attack against the notability standard, what chance do I stand?

More to the point, the reason for the notability criterion seems relatively obvious to me. Wikipedia is a community operation, with each entry depending on continuous correction and revision. If Sven, the weird guy down the hall, writes an entry on himself, there’s likely no one who knows enough about him to contradict anything that he says. Wikipedia does have a commitment to accuracy, and their method of achieving accuracy is through drawing on the communal expertise available on the internet. Excluding subjects through notability criteria is a way of saying that no community exists capable of checking the assertions in a particular entry, and thus that Wikipedia lacks the means necessary to stand by those assertions.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. III

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

Holy Joe Lieberman turns 65 years old today.

Four years ago, I attended a wedding on the east coast where I happened to meet an old staffer of Lieberman’s who insisted — despite my vigorous and mostly unsober pronouncements to the contrary — that he was not a “corporate tool” or a “droning, moralizing sack of shit.” He was, she insisted with a sniff of derision, “his own man.”

Over the next four years, Joe Lieberman would prove to be “his own man” in the sense that Kato Kaelin was “his own man.” Sure, Lieberman has “opposed” the President on some issues — much as Kato Kaelin played a small role in Night Shadow or Tony Blair has pretended to be “Prime Minister” of England — but at every important moment, Lieberman has snapped his heels to attention and behaved as if George Bush’s ass smelled like Mountain Laurels, the state flower of Connecticut and by some accounts “the most beautiful of the native American shrubs.” Now, embittered by popular rejection of his toolery, Lieberman is reduced to making idiots happy by threatening a “centrist” and “principled” switch to the Republican party.

In recognition of this unfortunate day, I offer you a few great moments in Libermania:

Joe Lieberman on existential danger, August 2006:

“I’m worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don’t appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us — more evil, or as evil, as Nazism and probably more dangerous than the Soviet Communists we fought during the long Cold War,” Mr. Lieberman said.

“We cannot deceive ourselves that we live in safety today and the war is over, and it’s why we have to stay strong and vigilant,” he added.

Joe Lieberman on rape, emergency contraception, and Catholic dogma, March 2006:

In Connecticut, it shouldn’t take more than a short ride to get to another hospital.

Joe Lieberman on just being a plain old tool, February 2006:

HANNITY: … by the way, I was mad at you at Alito, and one day I’m gonna pull you aside, and I believe in my heart, I really believe in my heart that if the president really needed your vote, you would have been there.

LIEBERMAN: (Sigh) Well, OK, you pull me aside and we’ll talk. (Laughter)

HANNITY: Alright, you don’t want to answer that publicly, do you?

LIEBERMAN: (Laughter) Cause I voted no.

HANNITY: I know you voted no but…

LIEBERMAN: But I did vote against the filibuster cause I thought that, you know, it was time to move on.

Scott Lemieux on Joe Lieberman, February 2005:

What makes Lieberman intolerable is that he undermines the Democrats every chance he gets, and he doesn’t come from a red state where we need to put up with that. The [Alberto] Gonzales vote is the biggest disgrace in a career filled with them. He must go. I don’t care if the candidate is Paul Newman or Wayne Knight. Get rid of him.

Great White Rule of Law

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

I am proud of my non-home and native land today, as the Canadian Supreme Court unanimously rejected a government policy that permitted the indefinite detention of foreign born suspects based on secret evidence. Chief Justice McLachlan:

The procedures required to conform to the principles of fundamental justice must reflect the exigencies of the security context. Yet they cannot be permitted to erode the essence of s. 7. The principles of fundamental justice cannot be reduced to the point where they cease to provide the protection of due process that lies at the heart of s. 7 of the Charter. The protection may not be as complete as in a case where national security constraints do not operate. But to satisfy s. 7, meaningful and substantial protection there must be.


I conclude that the IRPA’s procedures for determining whether a certificate is reasonable and for detention review cannot be justified as minimal impairments of the individual’s right to a judicial determination on the facts and the law and right to know and meet the case. Mechanisms developed in Canada and abroad illustrate that the government can do more to protect the individual while keeping critical information confidential than it has done in the IRPA. Precisely what more should be done is a matter for Parliament to decide. But it is clear that more must be done to meet the requirements of a free and democratic society.

The opinion is, I think, a good model for thinking through questions of balancing fundamental rights against legitimate security interests. I wish I thought we would see somethign similar from the United States Supreme Court.

And Then There Were Eight

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

Another U.S. Attorney is fired. According to the WaPo story Jeralyn points us to:

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty told senators earlier this month that all but one of the prosecutors were fired for “performance-related” reasons. McNulty said that former U.S. attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock was removed so the job could be given to a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Nearly all of the dismissed prosecutors had positive job reviews, but many had run into political trouble with Washington over immigration, capital punishment or other issues, according to prosecutors and others. At least four also were presiding over high-profile public corruption investigations when they were dismissed.

I actually think that the precise reason for the firings makes a big difference. It’s at least defensible for the administration to fire attorneys because they won’t seek the death penalty, for example. I disagree with the substantive priorities of the Bush administration, but they are entitled to hire people who will, within the law, follow them. If competent U.S. Attorneys are being fired for investigating corrupt Republicans, on the other hand, that’s appalling.

Judicial Activism: The Real Definition!

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

The Conservapedia (via everybody and their cat) is indeed pure gold, and many people have picked out their favorite bits. (I’m particularly partial to “[Nineteen-Eighty-Four] is a utopian book because it talks about a place where everyone is watched over by Big Brother.”) I like the entry on “judicial activism“:

There are two major types of judicial activism practiced in the United States’ court system:

1. Liberal judges striking down laws that uphold core conservative American values
2. Liberal judges refusing to strike down laws that subvert core conservative American values

The most famous example of this is Roe v. Wade. Other examples include Brown v Board of Education[1] and Loving v Virginia[2] which stripped state control over education and marriage, respectively, putting it in the hands of the federal government.

Indeed. I only wish someone would add the Rehnquist quote about “strict constructionism,” (perhaps with a discussion of whether overturning Roe or Loving would produce more sweet, sweet freedom), and that the entry had an initial definition of “judgifying we don’t like.

…as a commenter points out, make sure to check out Patrick and his commenters as well.

Freedom Is Forced Pregnancy

[ 1 ] February 24, 2007 |

Finally the New York Times adds a strong (self-described) feminist voice to its op-ed pages:

Similarly, Giuliani respects the distinctive work of judges and the separate role of the state legislatures. If Roe were overruled, those legislatures would decide how to regulate abortion. And decentralized legislation really is fairly called “part of our freedom” because the Constitution’s framers saw the balance of power between the national government and the states as a safeguard against tyranny.

Ah, yes, nothing would enhance our freedom like the ability of state legislatures to violate people’s fundamental rights–just ask George Wallace! Anyway, there are some obvious problems here:

  • The Madisionian “double security” argument is at least plausible if you’re defending a narrower construction of federal legislative powers, but when (as with abortion) it’s a question of individual rights versus state power, to claim that expanding the power of the state–in this case, to force women (not in Ann Althouse’s economic bracket, so who cares?) to carry pregnancies to term–enhances freedom is Orwellian. Perhaps the increase in state power is desirable, but it’s absurd to claim that it’s a net increase in freedom for American women.
  • But, of course, the argument is even worse because the idea that overturning Roe would return the issue to the states is transparent nonsense. If Althouse gets her wish and Giuliani (or any other Republican) is able to appoint enough justices to completely gut or overrule Roe, abortion will be a federal as well as a state issue, and Congress can and will pass abortion regulations (indeed, this term Althouse’s beloved Justice Alito is almost certainly going to vote to uphold a particularly irrational federal abortion law.)
  • And most farcical of all is Althouse’s claim that Giuliani’s pledge to appoint judges that are (to use a term that is essentially meaningless in the context of constitutional interpretation) “strict constructionists” is a signal that he won’t “populate the judiciary with politicos.” As William Rehnquist said in an admirable moment of candor, “A judge who is a “strict constructionist” in constitutional matters will generally not be favorably inclined toward claims of either criminal defendants or civil rights plaintiffs—the latter two groups having been the principal beneficiaries of the Supreme Court’s “broad constructionist” reading of the Constitution.” Anybody who thinks that Republican presidents that appoint alleged “strict constructionists” aren’t seeking some particular political outcomes would lend their credit cards and house keys to someone they just met through a Craig’s List personal.

Why oh why can’t we have better guest columnists?

…oh, and one more thing to add. In light of Althouse’s alleged commitment to the Sacred Principles of Federalism and purported opposition to “politicos” on the Supreme Court, you may wonder what she thinks about Bush v. Gore, in which 1)a ludicrously insubstantial federal constitutional question was used to override a state court interpretation of state law, 2)the Court not only declared that the ad hoc federal principle was inapplicable in future cases but failed to apply it logically in the case itself, and 3)all of this had the result of putting the favored candidate of the Court’s bare majority in the White House. Needless to say, she supports it.

Whether you want to know about pregnancy birth or childcare find it here. Search our medical library and find everything you need when it comes to pregnancy info.. Whether you are debating on where to buy cheap viagra or determining what skin cancer looks like get your medical info here.

Trails of Tears

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Senate’s 1831 ratification of a treaty between the US and the Choctaw nation, which had agreed the previous fall to give up 11 million acres of land in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. This was the first of the removal treaties that also deported the Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw and Cherokee from their historic lands. All this, of course, happened long before Jack Abramoff fucked the Choctaw out of nearly $8 million.

As rotten fate would have it, today is the anniversary of the 1944 removal of hundreds of thousands of Chechen and Ingush people to Kyrgystan and Kazakhstan. Otto Pohl explains:

The initial round up of the Chechens and Ingush involved considerable violence on the part of the Soviet security forces. They arrested over 2,000 people and confiscated over 20,000 firearms. More notably they perpetrated a number of massacres during the operation. The most notorious of these occurred at Khaibakh. Here the NKVD herded over 200 Chechens into barns and other buildings and then set them on fire. This atrocity has become a particularly important symbol in the long litany of Chechen suffering.

It really doesn’t get any better from there.

Friday Cat (Power) Blogging

[ 0 ] February 23, 2007 |

Abortion, Choice, and Communitarianism

[ 0 ] February 23, 2007 |

Russell Arben Fox has a thoughtful post, expressing his ambivalences about abortion, which you should read. Obviously, much of my disagreement is on well-trodden ground: I don’t think that a woman’s reproductive freedom can be legitimately abridged to further a vague sense that traditional (and generally patriarchal) sexual morality is preferable, I’m happy to be candid that an increase in sexual freedom is a feature not a bug, etc. As even casual readers will know, I also think it couldn’t be more wrong to claim that reproductive freedom is about rights for the middle class. The affluent will always have access to contraception and safe abortions, under any legal regime (including when abortion is formally illegal in most circumstances.) It’s the centrists on abortion, not pro-choice “extremists,” who abstract abortion discourse from social inequities. Whether the decision was framed as a “negative” right or not, Roe matters far more to poor women than the middle class. Things brings us to what I think the the fundamental error in Russell’s analysis:

But at least, in trying, I’m engaged in a genuine social project–whereas the rhetoric of rights and choice is mostly non- or even anti-social. Not that that hurts it as a movement in contemporary, non-participatory, my-your-own-business America; anything but, in fact. Still, it’s a point for liberal defenders of abortion rights to keep in mind, next time they wonder why so few people from the office or the grad seminar show up to walk the picket line with the janitors.

This is very similar to the William Saletan argument that abortion rights advocates won the battle but lost the war, because the rhetoric of choice helps conservatives more. I think this is completely wrong on several levels. First of all, it gets cause and effect backward: reproductive freedom is often framed in terms of rights because it’s effective, not vice versa. Radical feminist critiques of Roe sometimes make a similar error: the choice was not between Roe and a Canadian-style regime of unregulated state-funded abortions; the choice was Roe or nothing. It’s a fantasy to think that abortion would be more accessible if not for the Supreme Court’s intervention, and I also think it’s a fantasy to think that there would be more labor solidarity in the United States if only states could use their coercive power to stop (poor) women from getting abortions, or if women were less aggressive about making rights claims. By looking at other liberal democracies, we can notice that having greater access to abortion than in the United States doesn’t seem to prevent many countries from having robust welfare states, strong labor movements, etc., which further suggests that Russell is getting the cause-and-effect backward. (Moreover, pace Mary Ann Glendon–who focuses too much on law on the books and not enough on actual practices–abortion discourse in Germany is saturated with discussion of rights.)

Relatedly, I think there’s also false a claim that rights upholding individual choice are “non” or “anti-social.” A woman’s right to choose does involve individual claims against a particular vision of the social (patriarchy, class and gender double standards, assumptions that the biological capacity for childrearing should be central to a woman’s experience, etc.), just as the civil rights movement was opposed to the deeply embedded social mores of Jim Crow. But the right to choose is also part of a social vision of its own, one that assume that a woman’s equality, dignity, and security of person are better for men, women, and society as a whole. (It’s not feminists, after all, who oppose the welfare state, and nor does the communitarian, religion-drenched rhetoric that is so pervasive below the Mason-Dixon line seem to lead to more unionization.) Moreover, even if one assumes that most people are happier and children better off in committed, monogomous relationships and society should encourage this, it is (to put it mildly) unclear that increasing the number of unwanted–or, at least, unplanned–pregnancies will increase family stability. (Consider LizardBreath’s post about Roe–I think that the individual/community split is a false dichotomy. Her exercise of abortion rights was in her interest, and also in the long-term interests of her committed relationship and eventual loving family.) I have to respectfully reject the claim that abortion rights-claiming is fundamentally anti-social.

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