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Random Sopranos Observations

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

The season thus far has been uneven, but The Sopranos is at such a high level that the low points are still pretty good. Some thoughts (including spoilers):

- Whatever happened to Bobby and Janice? It seemed, especially after the first episode, that they’d play some meaningful role in the Tony-gets-shot arc. Instead, Janice has been almost invisible, and the rehabilitation of Bobby as mobster hasn’t been nearly as rewarding as it could be.

- The scene last week between Meadow and Finn was rich. Finn has just helped sign Vito’s death warrant, and Meadow still wants to lecture him about Italian-Americans. I’m sure it will all work out…

- What would be the downside of just letting Vito go? I suppose that he’s more likely to go the Feds if he’s outside of the Family and running low on cash. Then again, he might just want to stay as far away as possible from his old life.

- I absolutely loved the Tim Daly subplot, and hope that they return to it. Christopher has actually managed to rub a couple of brain cells together and make something happen on this one; the idea for a movie is, remarkably, a pretty good one.

- If Rusty had taken over the New York family, would Johnny Sac still be in prison? Tony seemed to imply not in the meeting at the wedding, but I can’t imagine that Johnny’s recent ascension made him more legally vulnerable for the various past acts that the indictments must include.

- I had heard rumours that Furio would return at some point this season. No luck so far, but we can hope.

- Vito looked very cute in his motorcycle outfit.

That is all.

Deterrence Failure

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

I haven’t yet had time to comment substantively on the Lieber-Press Foreign Affairs article about the end of nuclear deterrence. We’re in the midst of hiring a Director, and April has been a remarkably busy month. But make sure to read Drezner. The article should serve to remind us that nuclear weapons do not, in fact, immunize a state from US attack or intervention. Much less so for Iran than for China or Russia, I would imagine.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: IJN Mikasa

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

In 1894, the Imperial Japanese Navy annihilated a Chinese Fleet at the Battle of Yalu. The victory helped establish Japanese power on mainland Asia, and served as an announcement to the Western Powers that Japan could be an important player in the brawl over the decaying corpse of Qing China. The victory also highlighted some deficiencies in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Established in 1869, during the Meiji Restoration, the IJN had modelled itself around British and French tactics and doctrine, and had purchased ships from several European countries. The IJN initially preferred the French model, concentrating on small, fast cruisers and torpedo boats. At Yalu, however, two Chinese battleships proved almost unsinkable, pushing the Japanese back towards the British model. Accordingly, the IJN ordered half a dozen battleships from British yards, and accompanied this purchase with that of a large number of other, smaller warships. By 1903, Japan possessed an impressive, competent battlefleet.

The last ship delivered to Japan before 1904 was Mikasa, a 15000 ton battleship based on the British Majestic class. Mikasa carried 4 12″ guns in two dual turrets, 14 6″ guns, and could make 18 knots. Before Dreadnought, it was believed that battleships ought to have a mix of heavy and light guns, as the rate of fire of the smaller guns, especially at short ranges, would make up for their reduced weight. The standard “pre-dreadnought” battleship carried 4 guns in two dual turrets, accompanied some number of smaller weapons. Mikasa’s experience in the Russo-Japanese War would demonstrate the inadequacy of this model.

Russia, Germany, and France had worked together in 1895 to force Japan to cede much of its gains from the 1894 Sino-Japanese War back to China and to an independent Korea. Subsequently, Russia occupied most of the territory that Japan had given up. This caused friction between Japan and Russia, and led to the deployment of a powerful Russian naval squadron at Port Arthur. In February 1904 tensions boiled over, and Japan launched what amounted to a surprise attack against the Russian fleet on February 6. The attack succeeded in damaging several Russian ships, but left much of the Russian force intact. Japanese naval activity for the next several months concentrated on preventing the escape of the Russian fleet. Minefields took their toll on both sides, the Russians losing one and the Japanese two battleships.

On August 10 the Russians made a break for it. Mikasa, under command of Admiral Heihachiro Togo, led the Japanese squadron that confronted the Russians. The Japanese crossed the Russian “T”, meaning that they could use all of their guns while the Russians could only fire their forward batteries. In spite of superior Russian numbers, the Japanese prevailed and forced the Russian fleet back into Port Arthur with severe losses. The admiral of the Russian fleet was killed by a shell from Mikasa, which itself suffered significant damage.

In 1904, countries like Japan simply did not win wars against countries like Russia. Accordingly, the Tsar dispatched his Baltic Fleet to the Far East with orders to combine with surviving Russian ships at Vladivostok and destroy the IJN. The Russian fleet left on October 15, 1904. Along the way the fleet mistook a group of British fishing boats off Denmark for Japanese torpedo boats, and almost started a war with the United Kingdom. Although the new Russian fleet was not as technically advanced as the IJN, it included eight battleships, double the size of the Japanese fleet.

Admiral Togo decided to intercept the Russian fleet in the Tsushima Straits, between
Korea and Japan. The Russian intention was to push through the Straits as quickly as possible in an effort to reach Vladivostok and refit. The Russian ships had been slowed by their long transit, while the Japanese ships were repaired and fresh. The Japanese intercepted the Russian fleet on May 27, 1905, and used its superior speed on a parallel courseto pull ahead of the Russian ships. Having opened up sufficient distance, the Japanese fleet made a hard turn to port and crossed in front of the Russians. This later became known as the “Togo Turn”. Within an hour, most of the Russian fleet was ablaze and sinking. Mikasa, being the first ship in the Japanese line, was badly damaged, but managed to make it back to port without difficulty. The engagement was conducted almost entirely with the long range main batteries of both sides, lending credence to the “all-big gun” theories of Jackie Fisher. Isoruku Yamamoto, a young officer on the cruiser Nisshin, lost two fingers in the battle.

Four of the five largest Russian battleships sank on the first day. The last, along with the most of the rest of the Russian fleet, was rounded up over the next day. The Japanese sank 21 Russian ships and captured seven, including four battleships. Tsushima was one of the last naval engagement in which a significant portion of the defeated fleet surrendered. From 1905 on, most defeated ships would scuttle themselves rather than strike colors and be boarded. The captured Russian ships were incorporated into the IJN in various capacities, with several serving until the 1920s. Tsushima is the 20th century equivalent of Trafalgar, a battle of annihilation in which one fleet is almost completely destroyed with little or no damage to the other.

The Tsar was successfully disuaded from dispatching the Black Sea Fleet to the Far East, and a peace was concluded with President Roosevelt serving as broker. Japan had to give up many of its territorial gains, but assumed control of Port Arthur and began to annex Korea. In September 1905 Mikasa exploded and sank in port. Salvaged and returned to service, her responsibilities were steadily reduced until she was decommissioned in 1923. Nearly sunk in the Great Kanto Earthquake, Mikasa was scheduled for scrapping under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. At Japanese request, however, Britain and the United States approved the retention of Mikasa as a museum ship, and in 1925 she was converted into a memorial.

Mikasa was damaged by US bombing in World War II, and following the Japanese surrender was disarmed by US occupation forces. A movement for restoration began in the mid-1950s, and gained the support of Admiral Chester Nimitz and other prominent Americans. It’s possible that the Americans saw Mikasa as an acceptable symbol of Japanese nationalism, all the more so because of her service against Russia. It’s also possible that they were genuinely interested in the survival of Mikasa as a historical artifact. Using many of the fittings from the Chilean battleship Almirante Latorre, Mikasa was restored and reopened as a memorial in 1962. She is now one of three World Memorial Ships, along with HMS Trafalgar and USS Constitution.

Photographs courtesy of Kate, SYL, and Mike.

Battleship Blogging Addendum

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

I recently discovered SpringSharp, a program that produces technical specs for hypothetical battleships and battlecruisers. I’ve had a lot of fun with it. Here is the output for a 1922 Spanish battleship design:

777B, Spain Battleship laid down 1922

24,372 t light; 25,865 t standard; 27,713 t normal; 29,191 t full load

Dimensions: Length overall / water x beam x draught
600.00 ft / 600.00 ft x 104.00 ft x 29.00 ft (normal load)
182.88 m / 182.88 m x 31.70 m x 8.84 m

6 – 15.00″ / 381 mm guns (3×2 guns), 1,687.50lbs / 765.44kg shells, 1922 Model
Breech loading guns in Coles/Ericsson turrets
on centreline ends, majority forward, 1 raised mount
10 – 5.50″ / 140 mm guns in single mounts, 83.18lbs / 37.73kg shells, 1922 Model
Breech loading guns in deck mounts
on side, evenly spread
4 – 4.00″ / 102 mm guns in single mounts, 32.00lbs / 14.51kg shells, 1922 Model
Breech loading guns in deck mounts
on side, evenly spread
Weight of broadside 11,085 lbs / 5,028 kg
Shells per gun, main battery: 150
4 – 24.0″ / 609.6 mm submerged torpedo tubes

– Belts: Width (max) Length (avg) Height (avg)
Main: 12.0″ / 305 mm 390.00 ft / 118.87 m 12.24 ft / 3.73 m
Ends: 4.00″ / 102 mm 209.98 ft / 64.00 m 12.24 ft / 3.73 m
Upper: 3.00″ / 76 mm 390.00 ft / 118.87 m 8.00 ft / 2.44 m
Main Belt covers 100 % of normal length

– Torpedo Bulkhead:
2.00″ / 51 mm 390.00 ft / 118.87 m 26.21 ft / 7.99 m

– Gun armour: Face (max) Other gunhouse (avg) Barbette/hoist (max)
Main: 12.0″ / 305 mm – -
2nd: 2.00″ / 51 mm – -
3rd: 1.00″ / 25 mm – -

– Armour deck: 4.00″ / 102 mm, Conning tower: 11.00″ / 279 mm

Oil fired boilers, steam turbines,
Geared drive, 3 shafts, 64,726 shp / 48,286 Kw = 25.05 kts
Range 6,000nm at 16.00 kts
Bunker at max displacement = 3,325 tons

1,073 – 1,396

£6.339 million / $25.356 million

Distribution of weights at normal displacement:
Armament: 1,386 tons, 5.0 %
Armour: 10,342 tons, 37.3 %
– Belts: 3,314 tons, 12.0 %
– Torpedo bulkhead: 756 tons, 2.7 %
– Armament: 2,873 tons, 10.4 %
– Armour Deck: 3,181 tons, 11.5 %
– Conning Tower: 217 tons, 0.8 %
Machinery: 2,196 tons, 7.9 %
Hull, fittings & equipment: 10,449 tons, 37.7 %
Fuel, ammunition & stores: 3,341 tons, 12.1 %
Miscellaneous weights: 0 tons, 0.0 %

Overall survivability and seakeeping ability:
Survivability (Non-critical penetrating hits needed to sink ship):
39,003 lbs / 17,691 Kg = 23.1 x 15.0 ” / 381 mm shells or 7.3 torpedoes
Stability (Unstable if below 1.00): 1.16
Metacentric height 7.0 ft / 2.1 m
Roll period: 16.6 seconds
Steadiness – As gun platform (Average = 50 %): 52 %
– Recoil effect (Restricted arc if above 1.00): 0.33
Seaboat quality (Average = 1.00): 1.03

Ship space, strength and comments:
Space – Hull below water (magazines/engines, low = better): 83.1 %
– Above water (accommodation/working, high = better): 130.9 %
Waterplane Area: 42,982 Square feet or 3,993 Square metres
Displacement factor (Displacement / loading): 107 %
Structure weight / hull surface area: 184 lbs/sq ft or 896 Kg/sq metre
Hull strength (Relative):
– Cross-sectional: 0.96
– Longitudinal: 1.47
– Overall: 1.00
Hull space for machinery, storage, compartmentation is excellent
Room for accommodation and workspaces is excellent

Bad Stretch

[ 0 ] April 22, 2006 |

Don’t miss the six-plus part series at Axis of Evel Knievel regarding the impending birth of the author’s daughter. The upshot is that if you’re not going to be born on April 1, you might as well wait until May.

The best review of this series comes from commenter “Wife” who states:

I’m sure everyone is enjoying my witty husband’s remarks on the daily atrocities that have occurred on past days of April. However, I am from the “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean,” school of thought where I figure his time could be better spent sucking the hairballs off of our ceiling with the vacuum cleaner; removing the mound of recycling from the floor of our kitchen; finding out where Henry, his neutotic pisser of a cat, has left his last mark; tossing out the empty can of Fresca and the empty beer bottle that have been laying on our deck for the past six months; or perhaps playing a game of “try to find the teabags,” which are hidden around our house in the strangest of places. He’s witty, to be sure, but he’s also a teabag tosser.

Couldn’t the same be said of us all? Except the witty, that is.

[ 0 ] April 21, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

No Child Left Behind Except the Ones Who Get Left Behind

[ 0 ] April 20, 2006 |

Redbeard has been smokin’ hot lately. His analysis of NCLB statistics and minority group exclusion is too good to summarize quickly, so just Read the Whole Thing.

Revert to Saved File

[ 0 ] April 20, 2006 |

One comment from the thread Scott linked to at Sadly, No! really captures it:

The question is, how many more turns of Anarchy until the Iraqis can select Democracy as their form of government? And do you get the feeling that the Bushies always play on Novice level, and frequently revert to saved files when things go wrong?

I get the sense that the Bush administration saved in May 2003, and doesn’t have its autosave turned on.

Speaking of Civ IV, the v1.61 patch seems to solve the crash issues that start to happen whenever I move into the modern age. I generally like Civ IV, although I have some quibbles. I don’t care for how they’ve nerfed shore bombardment, as you can only damage a city’s defenses, leaving its economic development and units safe. I also used to love send my fleet up and down an enemy coast, destroying improvements as they went. That doesn’t seem to be possible anymore, unless you have aircraft carriers. I also have to wonder why they decided, in both Civ III and Civ IV, to make ships essentially invulnerable to aircraft. My bombers can reduce a frigate or galleon 50%, but can’t sink it. This makes no sense. Improvements, especially of the cottage-hamlet-village-town type, are more valuable, making their defense (and a defense of territory rather than cities) more important.

The diplomatic system is good, and more transparent than the system in Civ III. The financial system also seems to be a little bit more open to manipulation, which is always a good thing in this kind of game. I haven’t played that much with the civics, haven’t really pursued a religious strategy yet, and haven’t done anything with specialists.

Good to be able to waste my life again…


[ 0 ] April 19, 2006 |

Was Scott McClellan just about the lamest press secretary in recent memory? Ari Fleischer was great; wore Evil on his sleeve and didn’t care who saw it. McClellan was pathetic.

The US IS Different…

[ 0 ] April 19, 2006 |

Not to pile on the Euston Manifesto boys (although they heartily deserve it), but this needs some extra attention:

The violation of basic human rights standards at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, and by the practice of “rendition”, must be roundly condemned for what it is: a departure from universal principles, for the establishment of which the democratic countries themselves, and in particular the United States of America, bear the greater part of the historical credit. But we reject the double standards by which too many on the Left today treat as the worst violations of human rights those perpetrated by the democracies, while being either silent or more muted about infractions that outstrip these by far. This tendency has reached the point that officials speaking for Amnesty International, an organization which commands enormous, worldwide respect because of its invaluable work over several decades, can now make grotesque public comparison of Guantanamo with the Gulag, can assert that the legislative measures taken by the US and other liberal democracies in the War on Terror constitute a greater attack on human rights principles and values than anything we have seen in the last 50 years, and be defended for doing so by certain left and liberal voices.

This paragraph could have been downloaded from any given right wing blog over the last three years. Of course Abu Ghraib was bad (if we are allowing that it happened, and isn’t just some kind of fiction), but Saddam Hussein/Iran/Hu Jintao/Soviet Russia was much, much worse, so quit yer bitching. There are two responses to this. Matt has the first covered:

Both the American and Iranian governments torture people. But as an American, there’s very little I can do about Iranian policy. I can write blog posts condemning it, which will accomplish nothing except bolster my own sense of self-righteousness. As regards American policy, I can vote for candidates who are likely to halt or limit the torturing, and I can attempt to persuade my fellow citizens to do the same. Is it so crazy to focus on the latter more than the former?

Quite right.

The second response is to note that there really is a difference between the US government engaging in torture and Saddam Hussein engaging in torture, and that the former, for international human rights law and practice, is much, much worse. China, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are all dictatorships whose governments employ or employed various degrees of tyrannical means, including torture, in order to remain in power. They are not, however, considered role models for compliance with international human rights. No one points to China as a model for emulation in respect for human dignity. Although we can quibble as to the degree to which “freedom is on the march” and democracy is replacing autocracy, I think it’s fair to say that China and Iran are not typically understood as representing the wave of the future. In other words, we expect that autocratic states will maintain torture regimes, we decry it, and we hope that international law, NGOs, and international regimes will put pressure on these states to modify and reform their policies. To a considerable degree we are rewarded in these expectations; the international human rights community can be said to have significant successes in reducing human rights violations in countries around the world, including South America, Russia, and China.

The United States, however, IS a model for human rights emulation. When states and governments look at the international system for a set of appropriate behaviors, they look first at the United States, then at the advanced European democracies and Japan. The United States is deeply identified with the international human rights regime that it took pains to construct in the post-war years and has maintained, with more or less success, since then. Thus, when the United States engages in torture, extra-legal detention, and murder of prisoners, it matters. A lot. In fact, it matters a lot more than what happens in Tehran or Pyongyang. If the United States can ignore human rights practice in dealing with those it declares its enemies, then any country can.

This is why the US deserves the criticism it receives on this point. We have the right to expect better from the United States, and, indeed, if we value human rights then we NEED to expect better from the United States. If the US doesn’t take human rights law seriously, then no one will.


[ 0 ] April 17, 2006 |


Ever since 9/11 he’s been generating words as a fantastical rate the overwhelming plurality of which are based on pretty clear-cut misreadings of Thucydides such that a book about how a once-great country ruined its foreign policy and its own moral virtue in an unnecessary foreign adventure somehow becomes a book about how wars that look really stupid are, in fact, good because they provide a lot of opportunities to show resolve.

Right; the rise of Victor Davis Hanson must rank among the greatest absurdities of our age. His interpretation of the Sicilian expedition (and of the destruction of Melos) really reaches Straussian heights; you literally must believe that what Thucydides MEANT was the exact opposite of what he WROTE.

Lest We Forget…

[ 0 ] April 17, 2006 |

Belle Waring:

No, the thing that strikes me as funny is that everyone who supports was with Iran is all about the “mad mullahs” and how they can’t be deterred by normal deterrance because they’re crazed jihadis content to incinerate their own country, plus OMG THE HIDDEN IMAM The people making this argument now insist that of course MAD worked back when we faced rational opponents like the USSR or, you know, Mao’s China or whatever. But now, in a new era of crazy people having nukes, all bets are off. It’s like Iran is one big suicide bomber! The limits of the internet and my own laziness prevent me from researching this at all, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet that all these people (over a certain age) did not regard the commies as secular rationalists who weighed the costs or war carefully back in the day. Not at all. Much more of the “they’ve got a plan to retreat to their bunkers and sacrifice their own hapless citizens upon the altar of destroying America” Just a theory. (Obligatory on-the-otherhanding: I’m sure some of the liberals now advocating deterrance railed against MAD at the time as an armageddon-hastening nightmare.)

Right. They seem to quite ignore the fact that Iran has the same capacity to commit national suicide NOW, without nuclear weapons, as it would if it had a few nukes. These are also the same folks who argued that Saddam Hussein could not be deterred, in spite of the incredibly clear evidence that, in fact, he could be deterred (why didn’t he use WMD against the US in 1991? I guess it just didn’t strike his fancy!).