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Baseball Challenge Standings, Week 9

[ 0 ] May 29, 2006 |

The Kentucky Bearded Ducks remain in first place. Loomis falls farther behind only a week after making a reckless, narcotic fueled boast that I Love Technology would leave the Bearded Ducks in the dust by the All Star Break. Bolts from the Blue suffer a poor week and fall into fourth place; peaking too soon?

Kentucky Bearded Ducks , R. Farley 2512 98.1
I Love Technology , E. Loomis 2421 96.0
titleixbaby , P. Smith 2371 94.4
Bolts from the Blue , R. Payne 2273 90.3
The Stugotz , B. Petti 2135 81.3
green weinies , W. Bell 2098 78.0
Axis of Evel Knievel , D. Noon 2086 76.8
Shangri-La Coelacanths , J. Daw 2007 67.9
Seattle HemiCats , M. Bruneau 1973 63.6
deez nuts , m s 1949 60.3
St. Louis Cardinals , D. Solzman 1909 55.0
Sector 7G Carbon Blobs , S. Meredith 1883 51.3
Eephus , J. Schroeder 1859 48.0
Moscow Rats , I. Gray 1846 46.4
Axis of Evel Knievel , d. noon 1739 33.6
GeorgeWCarpetbagger , P. McLeod 691 5.1

Deep Thought of the Day

[ 0 ] May 29, 2006 |

Chris Welsh, Cincinnati Reds color man, upon the event of Ryan Freel being robbed of a home run by a bad umpiring call:

“Sometimes a leadoff home run can be a real rally killer”

A Reward for Idiocy

[ 0 ] May 29, 2006 |

Aw, this sounds like such a sweet story:

A spectator got a hand on the [Barry Bonds 715 home run] ball but could not hold it. It caromed into a gap behind the fence where there are no seats and toward a concession stand, where it landed in the hand of a man waiting to buy beer, peanuts and a sandwich.

He was Andrew Morbitzer, 38, a San Franciscan who said he was a marketing director for the software company Intuit. He sat in $17 bleacher seats with his wife, Megan.

That’s super, but one question remains: What kind of moron goes to get beer, peanuts, and a sandwich when Barry Bonds is about to come to the plate? Moreover, it appears that Mr. Morbitzer wasn’t even paying attention:

“We both finished our beers and decided it was time to get a beer refill,” Morbitzer said. “I looked up and saw all these arms. I caught it in the air. It never hit the ground.”

Why does God reward the stupid?

Conventional SLBMs

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

Finally, a Pentagon idea I can get behind:

The Pentagon plan calls for deploying a nonnuclear version of the submarine-launched Trident II missile that could be used to attack terrorist camps, enemy missile sites, suspected caches of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and other potentially urgent threats, military officials say.

If fielded, it would be the only nonnuclear weapon designed for rapid strikes against targets thousands of miles away and would add to the president’s options when considering a pre-emptive attack.

I wouldn’t say that this is an unproblematically great idea, but I think that the benefits outweigh the costs. Frankly, the NYT article sounded a little alarmist, pointing out that this would add to the President’s capabilities in carrying out a pre-emptive attack. That strikes me as about the least useful thing one could say about this program; pre-emptive attacks are, by definition, carried out with some degree of planning, while the conventional tipped Tridents would be ideal for quick retaliation. Given the range of the Trident missile (4600 miles) and the number of missile submarines (10) this would give the US the capacity to put conventional munitions anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

On to the details:

Under the Pentagon plan, each Trident submarine would carry two of the nonnuclear Trident II missiles along with 22 nuclear-armed Trident missiles. Each of the nonnuclear missiles would carry four nonexplosive warheads. Two types of warheads would be developed. One type would be a metal slug that would land with such tremendous force it could smash a building. The other type of warhead would be a flechette bomb, which would disperse tungsten rods to destroy vehicles and less well-protected targets over a broader area.

The serious objection to the missiles is that their launch could be misinterpreted by China or Russia as the opening salvo of a nuclear attack. Russia and China are notable for being extremely large countries, and any missile launched might well look as if it were headed for one of their home territories. I agree that this is a real concern; especially given the deteriorated nature of the Russian early warning system, an accident is possible. On the other hand, I think that the risks are small and manageable. A communications system could easily be designed in which Russia or China were notified in advance or shortly after a conventional launch. This system could hold even in the event of a conflict between the US and China; both sides would have a significant interest in avoiding nuclear misunderstanding.

Avenger Navigators for Truth?

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

In comments, Michael argues:

“Michael Dukakis immediately and publicly rejected the opportunity to attack Bush on the issue…”

I think a different example needs to be provided. There was no “opportunity to attack Bush.” Dukakis would have come off as an idiot to attack Bush’s record

GHWB flew in WWII and his career in the military is without controversy. Dukakis had no choice but to reject the claims

Thanks for trying, but no. From Wikipedia:

San Jacinto was part of Task Force 58 that participated in operations against Marcus and Wake Islands in May, and then in the Marianas during June. On June 19 the task force triumphed in one of the largest air battles of the war. On his return from the mission Bush’s aircraft made a forced water landing. A submarine rescued the young pilot, although the plane was lost as well as the life of his navigator. On July 25 Bush and another pilot received credit for sinking a small cargo ship off Palau.

After Bush’s promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade on August 1, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. On September 2, 1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichi Jima. For this mission his crew included Radioman Second Class John Delaney and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, who substituted for Bush’s regular gunner. During their attack four TBM Avengers from VT-51 encountered intense antiaircraft fire.

While starting the attack, Bush’s aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his attack and released the bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits. With his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft. However, the other man’s parachute did not open, and he fell to his death. It was never determined which man bailed out with Bush. Both Delaney and White were killed in action. While Bush waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine U.S.S. Finback. For this action Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Now sit back and imagine if the man described in this passage had been a Democrat. Think about the lines of attack that the right-wing attack machines would have generated in order to slime the candidate. How long would it have taken the Republicans to dig up a few Avenger pilots who, in the service of grinding personal grudges, were willing to engage in the most viscious of smears? The answer is “not very long”. There isn’t actually a problem with Bush’s record, just as there was no problem with Kerry’s. Indeed, the two are quite similar; both are New England aristocrats who felt that their good fortune meant that they owed something to their country. But a sterling record does not, it turns out, prove that one is immune from the kind of rancid attack that we saw in 2004.

As is pointed out by TheDeadlyShoe, John Kerry’s war record was not controversial prior to the point that the Republicans decided to smear it. There are two differences between George H.W. Bush’s experience and Kerry’s. The first is that Michael Dukakis, whatever his shortcomings, is a decent human being. George W. Bush isn’t, and was happy to let proxies lie on his behalf. The second is that John Kerry made an entirely accurate speech about Vietnam that some people didn’t care for. For that, he had to be punished, truth be damned.

Meandering Personal Anecdote Without a Point

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

This morning I had my first migraine headache in probably two years. The headache starts in my eyes. I see a flashing, kaleidoscopic blur just to the left of center of my field of view. The blur slowly expands over the course of the headache, hollowing out as it goes. By the end, I have sort of a weird corona around my field of vision, but I can see things that are directly in front of me. Usually the headache itself hits towards the end of the visual disturbance (maybe twenty minutes on average). During bad headaches, I experience severe nausea, numbness in the extremities, and verbal impairment. Today wasn’t such a bad headache; some mild nausea was all I had. This didn’t make it any less inconvenient, though. The headache struck when I was about five minutes into my thirty minute bike ride home from work. With the extreme sensitivity to light on a bright Lexington day, I was effectively blind all the way home. Some might suggest that riding a bike blind (and without a helment) is a poor survival strategy, but I was in a hurry and very annoyed at my brain. By the time I got home, the visual impairment was gone, so all I had to deal with was the pain and nausea for the next several hours.

These days, I get a migraine about once every two years. When I was young, I would often get two per week, and they usually tended towards the more severe. Nothing I took helped, although I came to discover that if I took three or four aspirin just as the headache hit, things didn’t go so badly. For a long time I carried ibuprofen around wherever I went, although I don’t so much do that anymore. The migraines started slowing down my last year in high school, and I probably only suffered from one or two a month during most of my college career. By grad school they were a rare occurence, perhaps once a year. For a while I would occasionally (and still do very occasionally) suffer from what I like to think of as a semi-migraine; some mild head pain along with the feeling that I’m about to be visually impaired, but without the actual impairment or any other symptoms. Whenever I felt this way I would pop a couple of Advil, and nothing very bad would happen.

I can’t say why the migraines stopped. It could be that I’ve outgrown them, but my sister still suffers migraines, and she’s thirty. Oddly enough, she didn’t start getting headaches until high school, while I’ve had them since the second or third grade. I think, though, that it would be fair to say that the headaches changed my life. Although the correlation wasn’t perfect, and I of course never ran any numbers, there seemed to be a very strong link between headaches, periods of high stress, and missed meals. If I missed a meal and for some other reason suffered stress, I could virtually count on getting a headache. I also had occasional insomnia, and the headaches I got at night were invariably the worst. In my desire to escape the headaches, I think that I adjusted the way I live in a couple of very important ways. Specifically, I decided that I would avoid stress and avoid hunger.

No one who knows me would be likely to use the terms “tightly wound” or “high strung” to describe me, but I think that both would be fair assessments of my personality until my late teens. At some point, I just decided to stop worrying about things. This didn’t make me a free spirit, or a directionless drifter, but rather meant that I started taking a very laid-back approach to work, school, and life. In retrospect, it’s probably good that I didn’t get into a particularly good college, because I might have done very poorly, especially at the beginning. Even by the time I started doing well at the University of Oregon, my success depended more on the mastery of the necessary basic skills than on hard work. Although I would describe my stress level as low relative to my friends and co-workers (and I understand that this is an inherently difficult to assess question), I don’t think that the strategy I decided to pursue regarding stress has been entirely healthy. I think that it has made it difficult for me to get work done, especially when the presentation of that work has some stressful consequences. To give an example, I find virtually nothing more stressful than the experience of submitting an article for review. It’s hard enough to get myself to do the work, and I find the idea that others will be reading and critiquing what I write very difficult to deal with, especially in the context of the importance of such work to my career. Indeed, sometimes I experience a similar level of stress regarding blog posts. I understand that there are better strategies for managing stress, but I’ve never been able to employ them to great effect.

The other lifestyle change that migraines helped bring about involves food. I try very hard to avoid ever being hungry, at least in part because I associate hunger pangs with migraine attacks. When I’m with people, I’m almost invariably the guy who’s asking when we’ll eat, where we’ll eat, what we’ll eat until we eat, and so forth. Since I’ve never been willing to develop healthy eating strategies (carrying carrots or fruit around, for example), this has had predictable consequences. I exercise too much to be seriously overweight, but my cholesterol is very high, and I undoubtedly spend too much money on dining out.

The headache this morning seems to have been a random event, as I had just eaten a pancake breakfast and my stress level was mild even by my standards. Still, it’s interesting to think back on these events that were once central to my existence. I lost a league championship chess match in high school because of a migraine attack, and had to bow out halfway through an ACT test because of another. When I was looking for a job after I dropped out of college, I probably suffered a headache a day for a week. The way that I live now seems very distant from how I lived then. It’s possible (perhaps even probable) that the headaches stopped for some other reason, but I think that the impact has endured.

Fighting the Swiftboating

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

Interesting NYT article on how John Kerry has pressed the fight against the Swiftboaters for Truth. Unsurprisingly, Kerry’s assault has been devastating; the only defense the Swiftboaters can seem to muster is that they didn’t like his anti-war speech in 1971.

Why didn’t Kerry fight back harder in 2004?

Of course, plenty of disappointed and angry Democrats would like to know why Mr. Kerry did not defend himself so strenuously before the election. He had posted some military documents on his campaign’s Web site and had allowed reporters to view his medical records but resisted open access to them as unnecessarily intrusive.

Mr. Kerry and his defenders say that they did not have the extensive archival material, and that it was too complicated to gather in the rapid pace of a campaign. He was caught off guard, he says; he had been prepared to defend his antiwar activism, but he did not believe that anyone would challenge the facts behind his military awards. “We should have put more money behind it,” Mr. Kerry says now. “I take responsibility for it; it was my mistake. They spent something like $30 million, and we didn’t. That’s just a terrible imbalance when somebody’s lying about you.”

I’m not convinced that fighting back hard would have done much good. Guys like Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus constantly harped on the point that Kerry hadn’t released all of his records, but does anyone really think that such a release would have satisfied any of his opponents? Indeed, Kaus took the opportunity of the release to mock a bad picture of Kerry, to make fun of his grades, and to suggest that the records demonstrated that Kerry wasn’t really all that smart. In short, the release of the records didn’t answer any questions at all, because the point of the question was not to receive an answer, but rather to raise doubt about Kerry’s credentials.

Similarly, I doubt that a serious effort on the part of Kerry to fight the Swift Boaters would have made a difference in the campaign. There was plenty of evidence in the public sphere in the summer of 2004 that the Swift Boat campaign was garbage, but that was hardly the point. The purpose was to take advantage of a media dedicated to he said/she said coverage of major campaign issues; the accusation of cowardice was enough, even if no compelling evidence could be manufactured. I suspect that if Kerry had fought back against the Swift Boaters, the media would have portrayed him as obsessive about the issue, and Glenn Reynolds would have had the opportunity to link to a Mickey Kaus post suggesting that Kerry’s efforts to fight the charges clearly indicated that he had something to hide.

The only way that these sorts of things really go away is when the opposition party has enough basic dignity to reject the charges. When George H. W. Bush’s war record was brought into question in 1988 by someone who had served with him in the Navy, Michael Dukakis immediately and publicly rejected the opportunity to attack Bush on the issue. Given the same opportunity, the Republican Party manufactured fake Purple Hearts in a display that mocked anyone who had ever been wounded in US military service. When the proponents of the argument are driven by sufficient hate (the belief that Kerry stood for all of the things that helped us lose the Vietnam War), and have a large enough bankroll, I don’t know that there’s a good way to fight these kinds of charges.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Iron Duke

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

Part IV of a five part series on the Battle of Jutland.

Part I: SMS Lutzow
Part II: HMS Lion
Part III: SMS Friedrich Der Grosse

HMS Iron Duke was the second battleship named after the Duke of Wellington. The first, scrapped in 1906, had been distinguished only by its experience, in 1875, of ramming and sinking its fellow battleship HMS Vanguard. The second Iron Duke was the name ship of the last class of dreadnoughts to enter Royal Navy service prior to the beginning of World War I. Iron Duke carried 10 13.5″ guns in five twin turrets, displaced 25000 tons, and could make 21 knots (although this had slowed by the end of the war). Iron Duke was a well-designed ship, capable of outgunning her German (if not her American) counterparts, and served as the basis for the Chilean battleship Almirante Latorre.

HMS Iron Duke became flagship of the Grand Fleet upon its creation in August, 1914. Iron Duke carried the flag of Admiral John Jellicoe, who had been promoted by Winston Churchill to command at the beginning of the war. Jellicoe’s job was not to lose the war, and the way to do that was to avoid being destroyed by the German High Seas Fleet. given that the German fleet was smaller than the Grand Fleet and was limited geographically, this was an achievable task. Jellicoe understood that numerical superiority was key to victory in modern naval engagements, and steadfastly refused to allow the Royal Navy to meet the High Seas Fleet in detail.

On May 30, 1916, the British received intelligence that the High Seas Fleet was about to sortie. The German plan was to lure the Grand Fleet into a series of submarine ambushes, but the U-boats failed to find any targets. Iron Duke and the rest of the Grand Fleet left Scapa Flow some two hours before the High Seas Fleet put to sea. This put the Grand Fleet in an ideal position to intercept the Germans, who expected the British to arrive much later, and much weaker. The initial contact was made by the battlecruisers of both fleets, and resulted in the destruction of two British capital ships. Admiral David Beatty, however, drew the Germans north into the British trap, and on the afternoon of the May 31, the 24 dreadnoughts of the Grand Fleet became visible to the German van.

The German response was to execute a 180 degree turn away from the British fleet. This left the Germans on the wrong side of the Grand Fleet, however, and Admiral Scheer soon ordered another 180 degree turn. This took the Germans directly into the center of the British line. Understanding that this path led to annihilation, Scheer ordered yet another turn, and ordered his remaining battlecruisers to cover the retreat of the battleships (the wisdom of this move is questionable; the battlecruisers were already seriously damaged, and were by nature less able to withstand the British onslaught). Scheer also gave a critical order to his destroyers to execute a torpedo attack against the British line. This move saved the German fleet from destruction.

Faced with the German destroyers, Jellicoe had to decide whether or not to turn into the torpedos or turn away from them. By turning in, the British line might have suffered some losses, but would have been able to keep in contact with the Germans. By turning away, the British risked losing the Germans. Jellicoe, in accordance with normal practice of the day, turned away. After the war, this move was examined in great detail. In Jellicoe’s favor, it was noted that he had a reasonable expectation that it would be possible to maintain contact with the German fleet and to prevent it from returning to its bases. The German torpedo attack might have cost several dreadnoughts, it was argued, and given the widespread belief that the Germans had ship-to-ship superiority, this could have nullified the British advantage. Finally, it was argued that Jellicoe’s job was not to destroy the German fleet, but to prevent the destruction of the Royal Navy.

I agree with the first argument, but it should be noted that breaking off contact had obvious risks. General signalling ineptitude on the part of the Royal Navy would allow the entire German fleet to escape during the night. Jellicoe knew that this was possible, and could have worked more vigorously to solve Royal Navy communications problems before the battle. The second argument I find uncompelling. The British had 27 dreadnoughts and six battlecruisers at the time of the turn. The Germans had 16 battleships and four battlecruisers. Moreover, the German fleet had suffered a much more severe battering than the British. Also, I seriously disagree with the idea that the British battleships were inferior to their German counterparts. While the German ships may have had better survivability characteristics, the British were much more heavily armed. Even accepting the loss of several ships, the Grand Fleet had a commanding superiority over the High Seas Fleet.

The last argument is most interesting from a strategic point of view. Had the High Seas Fleet somehow destroyed the Grand Fleet, or at least severely reduced it in size, then the British war effort might have been devastated. Theoretically, the German Navy could have raided the British coast, could have attacked British trade on the surface, and could have threatened the supply lines to France. The same was not true, however, of the German war effort. Had the High Seas Fleet suffered complete annihilation, I doubt that the British would have been able to turn it to serious advantage. It would have been very difficult for the Royal Navy to enter the Baltic in any force, and Germany was not dependent on foreign trade. Trafalgar, it should be noted, did not lead to the defeat of Napoleon. On this point, Jellicoe was quite correct to avoid a risky situation.

The British public and the British government, however, did not want a calm and judicious decision. They wanted Nelson and Trafalgar. Jellicoe was eventually “promoted” out of the command of the Grand Fleet, and replaced by David Beatty. The crew of Iron Duke didn’t care for the new admiral, so Beatty moved his flag to Queen Elizabeth. The rest of Iron Duke’s World War I career was uneventful.

The battleships fleets of the world were constrained by the Washington Naval Treaty, but Iron Duke survived the first cut of 1922. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 further reduced the battleships allowable to the three great naval powers, and Iron Duke was reclassified as an auxiliary. She was used as an accomodations ship in World War II, and was hit by several German bombs in 1939. In 1948 Iron Duke was sent to the breakers. John Jellicoe was made Governor-General of New Zealand after the war, and died in 1935.

Clean War

[ 0 ] May 27, 2006 |

Greenwald on Haditha:

It is certainly true, as many pro-war advocates today have noted, that incidents of this type are inevitable in every war. And it is also true that the mere existence of incidents of this sort does not prove that the war is unjustified, since even the most justified wars have included soldiers engaging in gratuitously cruel, violent and outright criminal behavior. The killings are morally reprehensible but do not constitute direct evidence as to whether the war itself was, from the beginning, a justified war. That’s all true enough.

But what incidents of this type do underscore is that wars are not something that are to be routine or casual tools in foreign policy. The outright eagerness and excitement for more and more wars that we see so frequently from some circles is not only unseemly and ugly unto itself — although it is that — but it is also so reckless and unfathomably foolish. Every war spawns countless enemies, entails incidents which severely undermine a nation’s credibility and moral standing, ensures that the ugliest and most violent actions will be undertaken in the country’s name, and, even in the best of cases, wreaks unimaginable human suffering and destruction.

Right. When young men are sent into dangerous areas with heavy weaponry, these sorts of incidents will happen. The problem in not unique to the United States; recall the Somalia Affair, in which two Canadian soldiers massacred a Somali teenager. Surely, training can reduce or increase the frequency of such incidents, and it’s fair to note that German soldiers in World War II performed atrocities as a matter of policy. The perpetrators of Haditha surely should be prosecuted, but it’s critical to remember that this is not simply a case of a few bad apples; this behavior is the inevitable and predictable consequence of using war as a tool of policy.

Ralph Hitchens asked a while ago in comments why I seem so obsessive about critiquing “effects-based operations”, in particular strategic bombing. I detest concepts like EBO and “shock and awe” because they promise clean war, something that they clearly cannot deliver. The concept of clean war has surely changed over the years; in 1940 it meant that the enemy could be destroyed without the cost of serious friendly casualties, and now it has as much to do with the minimization of collateral damage as it does with force protection. What EBO always promises, however, is that war will be cheap and clean. Too many policymakers and too many war advocates fall for this line, and assume that the morally problematic parts of fighting a war are in the past, or can be safely pushed aside.

Sadly, the grimmer consequences of war can be controlled, but not eliminated. The death of innocent civilians in target countries is inevitable, whether it happens as a consequence of occupation or as a result of poor weapons targetting. It follows then, as Greenwald points out, that the decision to use the military as a tool of foreign policy is always a morally problematic choice. While only the few marines who directly carried out the massacre will be prosecuted, the blood is really on everyone’s hands. This doesn’t mean that military force should never be used in the pursuance of foreign policy goals, but it does mean that every such decision involves a weighty calculus.

[ 0 ] May 26, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

Technical Difficulties

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |

I understand that we are currently suffering from some technical difficulties. Without getting into too much detail, I blame the University of Washington. If it doesn’t clear up in an hour or so, I’ll take more vigorous action.

UPDATE: Problem solved.

When Ronald Reagan Saved Us from the Metric System

[ 0 ] May 24, 2006 |

Dean Dad:

Anyway, the metric system at that time came off as a sort of effete, Euro-Modernist import, shoved down the throats of Real Americans by the same smug coastal elites who got all self-righteous about banning smoking and conserving energy. To my memory, the song “Take This Job and Shove It” pretty much captured the spirit of the age. At that point, to suggest posting highway signs in kilometers was tantamount to announcing that you like to traipse through daisies and dress up like a pretty little girl.

Readers of a certain age – do you remember just what, exactly, was behind the anti-metric movement? I think this represents the dilemmas of American liberalism in microcosm.

Great question. I remember just the very tail end of this, but I recall pretty clearly that the grandparents (good, solid Republicans who viewed Ronald Reagan as a secular deity) viewed the defeat of the metric system as a victory in the battle to turn back the barbarians at the gates. I didn’t really understand, but, good American that I was, I tried until junior high to convert ideologically problematic metric measures back into the good “American” English system…

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