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Tourney Challenge Update

[ 4 ] March 29, 2014 |

Here’s the latest from the LGM Tourney Challenge:

RANK BRACKET, OWNER R64 R32 S16 CHAMPION PPR TOTAL PCT
1
War On Error SouthSideFan773
270 240 200 Wisconsin 640 710 99.8
2
The ed17 1 The ed17
270 220 200 Michigan St 880 690 99.5
3
davidrrutherford 1davidrrutherford
240 240 200 Michigan St 720 680 99.2
4
aintthatprettyracobeen
260 200 200 Florida 880 660 98
5*
TXlovesOZkinestx
230 220 200 Iowa State 400 650 96.9
5*
the PBOATMr.Madame Psychosis
230 220 200 Louisville 80 650 96.9
7
maybe this timesullivap
240 200 200 Florida 960 640 95.4
8*
Karate Bearfighter 1Karate Bearfighter
210 180 240 Arizona 880 630 93.3
8*
folkbumfolkbum
250 180 200 Kansas 400 630 93.3
10*
Hugh Jassjwilloth
240 180 200 Florida 960 620 90.8
10*
Lexington Bearded Ducks farls0
260 160 200 Kentucky 880 620 90.8
10*
Vote SaxonFrinklin
260 200 160 Michigan St 720 620 90.8
10*
Pass me a rolling rockstrauszm
220 200 200 Michigan St 640 620 90.8
10*
dcheval 2dcheval
220 240 160 UCLA 400 620 90.8
10*
spartypartyjohnrauchman
260 200 160 Wichita State 400 620 90.8

Last night’s UK-Louisville game was… epic.  And strange.

“We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation.”

[ 106 ] March 29, 2014 |

Meaningless vote, but it does suggest that international opinion views the annexation of Crimea differently than the Kosovo War or the South Ossetia War:

Russia threatened several Eastern European and Central Asian states with retaliation if they voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution this week declaring invalid Crimea’s referendum on seceding from Ukraine, U.N. diplomats said.

The disclosures about Russian threats came after Moscow accused Western countries of using “shameless pressure, up to the point of political blackmail and economic threats,” in an attempt to coerce the United Nations’ 193 member states to join it in supporting the non-binding resolution on the Ukraine crisis…

A spokesman for Russia’s Mission to the U.N. denied that Moscow threatened any country with retaliation if it supported the resolution, saying: “We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation.”

In the end, the Ukrainian resolution declaring Crimea’s vote on March 16 in favor of seceding from Ukraine as having “no validity” passed with 100 votes in favor, 11 against and 58 abstentions. Another 24 U.N. member states did not cast votes.

Western diplomats called the result a diplomatic success for Ukraine. A similar General Assembly vote was held in 2008 after Russia went to war with Georgia over its breakaway enclave South Ossetia, which later declared independence and

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has unsuccessfully sought annexation to Russia. That resolution was adopted with a mere 14 votes in favor, 11 against and 105 abstentions.

This highlights some of the complexity with respect to understanding the role of precedent in international affairs. Even if the bulk of the world doesn’t find the Kosovo-Crimea parallel plausible, it seems that the Russians do, at least insofar that it serves as legal and moral cover for what Russia wants to do anyway. Moscow calls the shots, and gets to self-describe in the manner it sees fit. And speaking of calling shots, here’s what it’s like to be attacked by a Syrian MiG-29:

Say Hello to Your New Black Sea Fleet

[ 50 ] March 28, 2014 |

Bad week for the Ukrainian Navy:

Ukraine’s maritime forces have been dealt a heavy blow by the Russian intervention in Crimea with 12 of its 17 major warships, nearly 40 support vessels, and much of its naval aviation assets now falling under Moscow’s control.

In the eight days following the controversial referendum on 16 March that opened the door for Crimea to be absorbed in the Russian Federation, almost every Ukrainian naval base and ship on the peninsula has been seized by Russian forces or local pro-Moscow self-defence units.

The scale of the crisis facing the Ukrainian navy is apparent from the fact that around 12,000 its 15,450 personnel were based in Crimea when Russia intervened on 27 February. Over the past three weeks, the majority of the Ukrainian military personnel in Crimea have defected to the Russian military or resigned from military service, according announcements by the new pro-Kremlin administration in Crimea. Independent media reports suggest the Ukrainian navy has suffered personnel losses broadly along the lines claimed by the Russians.

In a major blow to its pride, the service’s commander, Admiral Serhiy Hayduk, was arrested by Russian forces when the navy headquarters in Sevastopol was seized on 19 March and unceremoniously dropped off by Russian troops at the new “border” checkpoint with Ukraine at the north of Crimea. Those of the admiral’s sailors who wanted to continue to serve in Kiev’s navy had to make own way in civilian cars or public transport off the peninsula.

In Sevastopol, the Russians seized intact four major warship – the Grisha V-class frigates Ternopil and Lutsk , the Pauk-class corvette/patrol vessels Khmelnytskyi , and the Bambuk-class command ship Slavutych – as well as Ukraine’s only submarine, the Foxtrot-class Zaporizhzhia . Also seized in Sevastopol was the oceangoing tug Korets.

That probably understates the overall loss, which also includes infrastructure, communications, and training equipment. More captures may come, as the Russians continue to blockade Ukrainian ships in Lake Dunuzlov. I can think of two long-run upsides; first, the ships and equipment lost are relatively old, poorly maintained, and largely a drag on the Ukrainian defense budget. Two, Ukrainian military spending needs to be heavily refocused on land and air capabilities in any case, so a rump fleet (based in Odessa) is probably appropriate.

Back to Battleships!

[ 21 ] March 27, 2014 |

Over at War is Boring,  I expand, rewrite, and update a very old Sunday Battleship Blogging post:

Until the invasion of Crimea, Russia expected to take into service in 2016 RFS Sevastopol, a 21,000-ton-displacement, French-built amphibious assault ship. The choice of name was odd, given that—until recently—the city of Sevastopol lay outside the borders of Russia.

France may cancel the deal in light of Moscow’s aggression. But the soon-perhaps-not-to-be Sevastopol was not the first ship named for the great Russian naval base on the Crimean peninsula.

In fact, Russian naval history is an intricate web of politics, geography and foreign influence. Moscow has long struggled with the problems of maintaining four distinct, unsupportable fleets—and of an unreliable shipbuilding industry.

Read the rest, etc. I have very notional plans of someday revisiting, rewriting, and compiling the battleship posts for an e-book, but that’s probably a couple projects away.

 

The More Things Change, the More They Change

[ 85 ] March 26, 2014 |

This week’s column at the Diplomat takes at how the relative expense of different weapon systems has changed over time, and tries to draw out some operational and strategic implications of those changes.

In 1944, the relative costs of fighters, bombers, and aircraft carriers ran very roughly as follows:

F6F Hellcat: $35,000

B-29 Superfortress: $700,000

Essex-class aircraft carrier $70,000,000

An aircraft carrier was worth 100 heavy bombers, each of which cost roughly as much as 20 carrier-borne fighters. These are (roughly) the expected cost numbers for the next generation of fighter, bomber, and aircraft carrier for the United States

F-35: $150 million

LRS-B: $810 million

CVN-78: $12.8 billion

The ordinal relationship remains the same, but the ratios have changed; an aircraft carrier costs 15.8 bombers, while a bomber cost 5.4 fighters.

 

BREAKING: Laettner Endorses Mitch!

[ 13 ] March 25, 2014 |

Well, this is just embarrassing:

A new ad for Senator Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign hit YouTube today, and it features one of the most egregious errors that a politician can make in the state of Kentucky: glorifying Duke basketball.

For about a second, the new ad shows Duke’s Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas embracing after winning the 2010 National Championship. If you remember, that’s when Duke knocked off the number 8-seeded Butler.

As you might imagine, Kentucky takes its basketball seriously.  But on the upside, at least Mitch took this misstep at a time when no one in the Commonwealth is really paying any attention…

Twitter Fight Club 2014

[ 0 ] March 24, 2014 |

Twitter Fight Club has begun. Here’s a helpful FAQ.

My opponent in the first round is @drunkenpredator, a hilariously inebriated killer robot. Follow the “action” here. This graphic hardly understates the magnitude of today’s decision:

Vote early. Vote often.

Foreign Entanglements: Independent Airpower

[ 5 ] March 23, 2014 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, I debate independent air forces with Adam Lowther:

Why Do Air Force Movies Suck?

[ 123 ] March 20, 2014 |

This is the question I ask in my latest at War is Boring:

Air power should, and occasionally does, sell at the box office. But Officer and a GentlemanTop GunFlight of the Intruder and Rescue Dawn all depicted Navy pilots. In Independence Day, Marine aviator Will Smith saves the world, alternating between a Marine Corps F/A-18 and an alien snubfighter.

The Air Force gets Iron Eagle, in which a teenager with a tape recorder fills in for Maverick and Goose. More recently, Red Tails flopped with audiences and critics. Only Pearl Harbor stands as partial exception. Hated by critics, historians and all right-thinking people, director Michael Bay’s depiction of Army Air Force aviators challenging the Japanese grossed $197 million domestically.

My answer: Part bad luck, part inability to convey a strategic concept for the service. Read the whole thing, lemme know what you think. We’ll have to have another Airpower Movie of the Week sometime soon…

Also, buy my book.

“Third Way” Apparently Means “I Can’t Read”

[ 48 ] March 20, 2014 |

Well, this is an abjectly stupid misreading of Markos:

If Markos Moulitsas had his way there’d be no Affordable Care Act, no Dodd-Frank, no economic stimulus package. That’s the price when purity tests are applied to Democrats.

In a remarkable post yesterday, Moulitsas, founder and publisher of the progressive community site DailyKos, celebrates the departure from the Senate of 10 moderate Democrats over the last decade, and makes clear his hope that Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) lose their tough reelection battles this year. He doesn’t name some other moderates in tight races, like Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), but his logic suggests that he’d be only too happy to say goodbye to them as well.

Here is what Markos actually wrote:

Ten years ago, in 2004, we had a 51-49 Republican Senate. But the fact that Republican Bill Frist ran the joint wasn’t the worst of it. Because look at this motley crew on our side of the aisle: Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, John Breaux, Tom Daschle, Fritz Hollings, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Zell Miller, and Mark Pryor.

Ugh. What a pile of suck. And those were just the worst offenders. Of that crowd, Baucus recently announced his retirement, leaving only Landrieu and Pryor—and Pryor will lose his re-election battle. Maybe Landrieu will, too. Daschle was in charge of the Democratic caucus, horrifyingly enough.

On the progressive end we had Barbara Boxer, Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold and Barbara Mikulski. Maybe a handful more. Not too bad, but a minority within the party.

Today, we still have Boxer and Mikulski, but they’ve been reinforced by Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Martin Heinrich, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Furthermore, our middle-of-the-road senators are people like Jeanne Shaheen, not Bob Graham. And our conservative faction is a shell of its former self, with only Joe Manchin left at the level of our 2004 gallery of rogues. The caucus has shifted significantly to the left.

And so the relatively sensible and uncontroversial proposition that the Democratic Senate caucus has a) moved substantially to the left, and b) grown larger since 2004 becomes, in the mind of the Third Way apparatchiks, a witch hunt for moderates.

I wonder how GOP “moderates” are managing?

Last Chance: LGM Tourney Challenge

[ 4 ] March 20, 2014 |

Last chance, LGM Tourney Challenge:

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

I fear that I have allowed my

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heart, rather than my head, to make my bracket decisions this year…

Governor DuBois?

[ 42 ] March 19, 2014 |

Some twenty-eight years ago, I missed the final episode of Benson.  I had been devoted to the series up to that point, and was excited to see who would win the governor’s race between Lieutentant Governor Benson DuBois, Governor Eugene Gatling, and Senator Tyler.  For reasons I cannot recall, I was unable to catch the episode, and thus never knew who won the race.  This was well prior to the advent of easily retrievable episode guides, and not a lot of folks in the age 12 demographic watched Benson regularly.  Re-runs were a crapshoot.

My state of existential ambiguity lasted for fully fourteen years, until an incoming graduate student (and erstwhile Memphis resident) at the University of Washington informed me that the finale had ended on a freeze frame of DuBois and Gatling watching election returns.  It was not my policy, of course, to ask everyone I met “How did Benson end?” but somehow the topic  came up in conversation.  For some reason, I found this deeply satisfying; my frustration with my own failure was no longer special.  Indeed, I had lived the past fourteen years believing that there was an end, which put me in a more emotionally tenable state than those who knew that there wasn’t an end.

And then this morning I read this:

It wasn’t supposed to be this way; ABC cancelled the show without allowing the writers to prepare a proper series finale. The show’s writers had planned for the cliffhanger to lead into a new season, though they didn’t know what that season would depict. Indeed, the show filmed three potential resolutions for an eighth season, said Gary Brown, who directed the finale, along with 20 other episodes of “Benson”; the writers would choose one over the summer and have their first scene already in the can.

“There was a three-way race in whatever state it was. The governor was running, Benson as lieutenant governor was running and another character, Senator Tyler [played by showrunner Bob Fraser], kind of a heavy, was running. It was a three way race. Benson and the governor were neck and neck. There were the two of them in the kitchen, that’s the end of the show — it’s a cliff hanger, a freeze-frame. We shot three endings. In one, the governor won. In one, Benson won. And in one, and they were really playing with using this one, it was a tie.”

I’m still digesting.

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