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Bandidos Yanqui

[ 0 ] July 2, 2006 |

Last Wednesday Scott, Davida and I attended a game at Yankee Stadium, my first visit to that esteemed locale. The Braves were in town, which left me with the chore of having to cheer for one of the most unpalatable teams in baseball against the singular evil of the Yankees. It would have been worse, I suppose, if the Cubs had been in town.

I had been told not to expect much from Yankee; it was supposed to have all the ambience of a 70s stadium and all the comfort of a 20s stadium. That assessment wasn’t completely fair, though. The interior of Yankee is ramp crazy, like a typical donut. Indeed, it reminded me a lot of the Kingdome. The sight lines, however, were pretty good even from fairly high in the second deck. I felt closer to the field than I’ve felt at a lot of modern stadiums. The game was sold out, although many of the season ticket holders clearly weren’t in attendance.

Although I didn’t have any of the food, what I saw looked remarkably bad. Although I suppose it’s stupid to eat at the ballpark anyway, I actually kind of like the decent food selection that most new stadiums have. My biggest complaint, though, is about all the non-baseball garbage that happened between innings. You endure all of the stupid stuff that happens in Seattle, like the ball in a cap game, the hydro race, the rock and roll quiz, and worst of all the goddamn dancing groundskeepers, and you think to yourself “I’m sure they’d never put up with this crap at Yankee Stadium”. Then you find out that yes, they do put up with that crap at Yankee Stadium, and sing along to “YMCA” as the groundskeepers dance. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

Anyway, the Braves took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 12th, at which point they saw fit to trot out Jorge Sosa to face Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez. I very much doubt that I could have gotten even money on the Yankees at that point. Jeter grounded out to shortstop, and Giambi walked. Scott and I were just kind of hoping that Rodriguez would hit it hard at somebody, and our hopes were fulfilled. Unfortunately, the somebody was in the Braves bullpen at the time. We were on our way out before the ball hit the ground.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HIJMS Nagato

[ 0 ] July 2, 2006 |

Even before the Washington Naval Treaty limited new construction, the Imperial Japanese Navy determined that it would never be able to match the USN in numbers. The Japanese solution was to achieve ship to ship superiority. The IJN was the first navy to use the 14″ gun (on Kongo), although the Americans soon matched this with New York and the British exceeded it with the 15″ guns of Queen Elizabeth. The IJN, which continued to have close ties with the Royal Navy, was particularly impressed by the British fast battleships, and decided that their next class of ships would be both fast and heavily armed.

The result was Nagato. Commissioned in 1920, Nagato was the first battleship in the world to carry 16″ guns, of which she had eight in four twin turrets. At 34000 tons she was one of the largest battleships in the world, and her 26 knot top speed exceeded even that of the Queen Elizabeths. Nagato was not as well armored as contemporary American battleships, but her speed should have made her a more useful and effective unit than the US ships. It can be fairly argued that Nagato and her sister Mutsu represented the zenith of battleship design prior to World War II. Especially when she had a swept back funnel, Nagato also looked dangerous and powerful

Nagato was modernized twice in the interwar period, the second refit giving her much heavier deck armor. She served as the flagship of the Combined Fleet for most of the interwar period, including the Pearl Harbor attack. Strangely for a ship of her speed and power, Nagato had a relatively quiet war record. She was part of the Main Body at Midway, but because Japanese naval practice of the time did not include deploying aircraft carriers with battleship protection, she saw no action. This was determined to be a grievous flaw in Japanese doctrine; Nagato, Yamato, and their sisters were fast enough to escort the Japanese carriers, and might have provided some anti-aircraft protection against American attacks. Nagato also did not participate in the Solomons campaign, although, again, her speed was sufficient to “run the Slot” and attack Henderson Field. This, again, was a major error; instead of using their (temporary) advantage in surface warships in the Solomons, the Japanese conserved their most powerful units.

In June 1943, Nagato lost her sister, Mutsu, to a magazine explosion. The Combined Fleet evacuated Truk for ports in Southeast Asia at the end of 1943, and prepared to fight the US invasion of the Philippines. Nagato participated in the Battle of Philippine Sea as a carrier escort, vainly attempting to prevent the destruction of her charge Hiyo. In October 1944 Nagato was attached to Admiral Kurita’s strike force, designed to attack the American escort carriers and transports of Leyte. Although the Japanese plan successfully drew off the escorting American battleships, the attack was disrupted by a group of destroyers and destroyer escorts. Four battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy managed to sink a couple of destroyers and a single escort carrier before fleeing under air attack. Nagato took several bomb hits during and after the action.

Nagato eventually limped back to Japan with the remnants of Kurita’s force, which lost the battlecruiser Kongo along the way. Nagato was drydocked, but the IJN lacked both the materials needed for repair and the fuel necessary to making Nagato operational again. Nagato was reclassified as a coastal defense ship, and did not participate in the final actions of the war. A few additional air attacks damaged, but failed to destroy, the aging battleship. Indeed, the Japanese were able to conduct enough repairs and assemble enough fuel to make a final sortie in case of an American landing attempt. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki rendered this moot, however. When Japan surrendered, Nagato was the sole surviving IJN battleship.

There was no need to incorporate a 25 year old, badly damaged Japanese battleship into the USN. Nevertheless, the United States found a use for Nagato. The Bikini atom bomb tests were about to begin, and the Navy wanted to know what happened when atomic bombs were dropped on ships. Along with Prinz Eugen, the last survivor of the German Navy, and dozens of old American ships, Nagato would serve as a guinea pig for the atomic age. An American crew took control of Nagato and began the necessary repairs, under the advice of its former Japanese officers. On March 18 Nagato set out for Eniwetok under her own power. The journey almost proved too much; Nagato began taking on water, and a blown boiler stopped her dead. Repairs were executed, however, and Nagato took her place for the bomb tests. The first bomb, dropped on July 1, exploded about 1500 yards from Nagato and did only insignificant damage to her superstructure. Notably, Nagato held up better than the American battleships nearby, and was studied for several days by American engineers. On July 24th, a second bomb was detonated underwater. Nagato rode out the blast without incident, but was rendered far too radioactive for further boarding. She began, very slowly, to settle, and sank on July 29.

Nagato is one of my favorite battleships. Aesthetically, I find the pagoda mast very elegant when combined with the four turret arrangement. Technically, Nagato was an impressive ship, comparing well with her foreign contemporaries and useful until the end of World War II. Ideally Nagato would have been preserved, but the political context in both Japan and the United States at the end of World War II made this impossible, of course.

(Images courtesy of Maritimequest)

Trivia: What battleship was saved by an earthquake?

[ 0 ] June 30, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson


[ 0 ] June 28, 2006 |

I spend three days in DC, and it rains nine and a half inches. Much flooding, as you may have heard, prevented an investigation of any of the major museums. Will post a bit later on the craptastic World War II Memorial. Now I’m in New York, and it’s still raining, albeit with considerably less intensity.

While contemplating his flooded basement, PTJ had the following thoughts:

Talk about a disaster. Talk about a socially constructed disaster.
While endlessly bailing water I was thinking — because, honestly, there’s not much else to think about while trying desperately to keep water out of one’s basement — about the conceptual oddity of calling something, anything, a “natural disaster.” This strikes me as a curious locution indeed, as though “nature” were causally to blame for some set of observed outcomes. And that’s just weird, since “nature” isn’t a conscious being as far as I know, and isn’t really even a discrete entity at all; blaming “nature” is kind of like blaming “reality” or “existence.” Very odd, if you stop to think about it.

Read the whole thing.

Go Beavs!!!!!

[ 0 ] June 27, 2006 |

Congratulations to the Oregon State Beavers on winning the College World Series! I know that as a Duck I should never take a pro-Beav stance, but the University of Oregon lacks a baseball team, and in truth most of the bile and darkness in the heart of an Oregon fan remains reserved for the University of Washington.

So today I raise a glass to Corvallis, which certainly is a town in Oregon. And a glass to Oregon State University; let no one dispute that it, uh… hmm…. er…. educates(!?) some students. But, most importantly, a toast to Oregon State Beavers baseball, which has demonstrated itself to be the finest squad in the land.


The Contrarian Fallacy, Baseball Edition

[ 0 ] June 26, 2006 |

Joe Sheehan on baseball punditry:

When the situation was reversed, when the best team in baseball was, at least on the surface, a smallball team, the revolution was upon us. Now that the winningest teams in the game are power teams, though, there’s no mention of a paradigm shift, no discussion of how the little guys are more important than the brutes. Just an awkward silence from the peanut gallery.

I’ve written about this before, but I think the contrast between the way in which the 2005 White Sox and the 2006 version–along with the 2006 Tigers, who might as well have Earl Weaver on the bench–have been covered is illustrative of an insititutional blind spot. For whatever reason, there’s a morality attached to various forms of playing baseball; teams that succeed with power are considered in many circles to be inferior to those that succeed using smallball. I think this is a generational thing; many people in the game and covering the game had their worldview shaped by the baseball of the Second Deadball Era and the years immediately after, when scoring was very low, pitching dominated and smallball tactics were most effective.

There’s also an element of something Bill James discussed in “The Politics of Glory” in a chapter comparing Phil Rizzuto and Vern Stephens. People want to be perceived as savvy, and showing an appreciation for less-obvious skills is one way in which they do that. Anyone can be impressed by homers, but it takes a true student of the game to understand how steals, sacrifices and baserunning contribute to a winning team.

What can be said of baseball transfers so easily to the world of political punditry. If the boys at Slate wrote about baseball, is there any doubt that they’d be the first to extol the virtues of the bunt, the stolen base, and the sacrifice fly rather than the things that actually win baseball games? Consider this: Anyone can see how Roe vs. Wade improves access to abortion, but it takes a true student of politics to understand how support of a broadly popular Supreme Court decision actually hurts the Democratic party. Consider also that instead of attaching moral content to the bunt, the political editor and journalist attach it to the “bipartisan maverick”. Unfortunately, this kind of too-clever-by-half thinking dominates not just baseball, and not just Slate, but the entire edifice of political punditry.

Huh. Fascinating.

[ 0 ] June 26, 2006 |


Two competitors face each other in 11 alternating rounds, six of chess, five of boxing. A bout begins with chess, which is played on a board placed directly in the middle of the ring. Each round of chess lasts four minutes. After each chess round, the bell sounds, and workmen remove the chessboard for a two-minute round of boxing, the gloves go back on, the punching recommences. Participants win by way of knockout, checkmate, referee’s decision, or if his opponent exceeds the allotted total of 12 minutes for an entire match on the chessboard.

There’s obviously some interesting strategy to be had in a match like this. If you think yourself a weaker chess player than your opponent, then going for a knockout in the boxing match is clearly the right way to go. The converse is also, of course, true. For an experienced player, twelve minutes is plenty of time to play an entire game of chess; many speed matches only allow five minutes on either side. Of course, speed chess isn’t often interrupted by consensual pummelling…

In fact, I wonder if twelve minutes is too long to have on the chess clock. Assuming that the openings go very quickly, that’s a lot of time to sit and hope to wait out an opponent. On the other hand, as long as the opponent can stay vertical and coherent for six rounds, he can probably force a decision.

What an absurd sport. Probably going to be on ESPN 2 within a year.

Tip from Jay.

Good Lord, not this again…

[ 0 ] June 25, 2006 |

Yeah, I’m pretty much with Neil; cheering for a Green candidate to sabotage Cantwell is one of the dumbest things to come down the pike since… oh, well, since some people thought voting for Ralph Nader would actually produce a progressive outcome in this country.

People wonder why LGM regularly devotes a post a month to excoriating Ralph Nader and those who voted for him in 2000. Well, this is it; the same narcissism that prevailed among some progressives then threatens to prevail among others now. Political elections are about real world effects, and there is almost no situation, in America today, in which a victory by a Republican will lead to a more progressive outcome than a victory by a Democrat. This includes Maria Cantwell and it includes, God help me, Joe Lieberman.

DJW is fighting the good fight in the comments at Pandagon, but his latest comment is particularly worth noting:

Ah, a last refuge argument–I had the right to vote that way! Yes, indeed you did, and very good. I have, thankfully, the right to do all sorts of stupid things, and criticize those who exercise their rights in stupid and foolish ways.

(The freedom, I like, it’s the petulant spoiled immaturity I’m doing just fine without. This is something the vast majority of Green voters figured out after 2000, of course, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect much from those who just can’t let go of the beautiful dream, which the rest of us struggle though the mess they made.)

The Seat of Empire

[ 0 ] June 25, 2006 |

In Washington D.C. now, for the first time in my life. Some people seem shocked to find that one could get a Ph.D. in political science without stepping foot in D.C., but these people are under the grave misapprehension that political science has anything to do with politics.

Observations thus far:

  • I’m glad I don’t drive here.
  • When it rains, it rains hard.
  • The Jefferson Memorial is the only monument I’ve seen thus far. Meh.

If anything interesting happens to me, I’ll be sure to blog about it.


[ 0 ] June 25, 2006 |

I’ve wondered about this, too. In Seven Ages of Paris, Alistair Horne suggested that Baron Hausmann did a grave aesthetic disservice to Paris in the 1850s. But, as Mr. Trend points out, some changes can be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. Also, the increase of state capacity (as was the purpose of the urban redesign) cuts both ways; increased coercive capacity can be a bad thing, but an increase in the ability to provide services and security can be a very good thing.

And, as Mr. Trend notes, Paris is an exceptionally lovely city now, and it’s hard to imagine that the Hausmann redesign was TOO aesthetically devasating.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Royal Sovereign

[ 0 ] June 25, 2006 |

The Royal Navy followed up its outstanding Queen Elizabeth class battleships with five of the “R” class. Royal Sovereign was second of the class, carrying 8 15″ guns, displacing 27500 tons, and capable of 21 knots. Royal Sovereign and her sisters were a step down from their predecessors, being slightly smaller and quite a bit slower. Although commissioned in April 1916, Royal Sovereign missed the Battle of Jutland.

Royal Sovereign and her sisters were retained under the terms of the London Naval Treaty, but, unlike most other battleships of the interwar period, were not subjected to an extensive modernization. The design had three major design flaws that limited their expected future effectiveness. First, the slow speed, while also characteristic of American battleships, left them incapable of performing many of the missions that would be necessary in the Second World War. The “R” class would rarely conduct a mission other than shore bombardment or convoy escort. Second, the armor scheme was obsolete almost as soon as the ships were completed, as it left the ships vulnerable to long range plunging shells. Winston Churchill referred to the R class as “coffin ships”, and the Admiralty strove to keep them as far away from enemy ships as possible. Finally, the ships were designed with reduced stability in order to induce a rolling motion conducive to good gunnery. Unfortunately, this made reconstructing them almost impossible. All in all, I suspect that the Royal Navy would have been much better served by disposing of one of the R class in favor of the battlecruiser HMS Tiger, which at least could have hunted raiders and escorted fast carriers.

Royal Sovereign had a remarkably dull career. The early part of her war was taken up with convoy escort, and she never got terribly close to an enemy ship. From 1942 on, one of the major duties of the Royal Navy was to escort convoys to Murmansk against German surface ships and submarines. After the destruction of Tirpitz in 1944, the German Navy could pose little threat to the convoys. Some of the older battleships, like Royal Sovereign, were placed in reserve even before the war ended because of a manpower crisis. Instead of retiring Royal Sovereign, it was decided to transfer her to the Soviet Navy in an effort to give the Russians some responsibility for protection of the northern convoys.

I haven’t found any account of why Royal Sovereign specifically was chosen for transfer, but I would like to think that Churchill or someone in the Admiralty, evincing a particularly dark sense of humor, thought that there was some amusement to be had in the tranfer of a ship named Royal Sovereign to a nation that had massacred its last monarch and his family. In any case, Royal Sovereign was renamed Arkhangelsk, assigned to the Northen Fleet, and served in the Red Navy until 1949, when she was replaced by Giulio Cesare. Upon her return to the United Kingdom, she was almost immediately sold for scrap.

Trivia: What Japanese battleship was once operated by an American crew?

The Vice-President Loves Surprises

[ 0 ] June 24, 2006 |

Dr. Strangelove: Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn’t you tell the world, EH?

Ambassador de Sadesky: It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

Peter Howard at Duck calls out the transparent stupidity of this statement:

The White House vigorously defended today a secret program of combing through a vast international data base containing banking transactions involving thousands of Americans. Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials said the program, whose existence was revealed on Thursday night by The New York Times, was both legal and necessary to deter terrorism.

As Peter notes, secret programs cannot, by definition, deter anything. The Vice President should be falling to his knees and thanking the media for revealing this little gem.

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