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News from the Northern Front

[ 0 ] December 12, 2005 |

Be sure to read Dave Noon’s update on our progress in the War Against Christmas.

Courage.

The Bevilacqua Hit

[ 0 ] December 12, 2005 |

It looks as if the Bevilacqua kid (“Cause that sugarless motherfucker, it’s the last fucking drink you’re ever gonna have.”) has some actual legal problems:

An actor who once played an aspiring mobster on ”The Sopranos” faces murder charges along with another man in the death of an off-duty police officer, authorities said Sunday.

Lillo Brancato Jr., 29, was hospitalized in critical condition with gunshot wounds suffered when the officer shot him after catching two men breaking into a home. Brancato’s friend Steven Armento, 48, was also shot and in critical condition.

Prosecutors were in the process Sunday of charging Armento with first- and second-degree murder and Brancato with second-degree murder in the death Saturday of Officer Daniel Enchautegui, 28, said Steven Reed, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Ah. Life imitating art…

Maye

[ 0 ] December 11, 2005 |

Let me echo Redbeard and Angelica (among many others) on the Cory Maye case; it seems that this guy is getting railroaded. You don’t have to be a Second Amendment purist to believe that someone who shoots an unannounced intruder in the middle of the night in his own home doesn’t deserve to die.

Yarr…

[ 0 ] December 11, 2005 |

Blarg.

“My Humps” has made me a fatter man. I think it’s fair to attribute 3-4 pounds to the fact that I can’t figure out how to change the radio station in the gym at my apartment complex. If “My Humps” starts playing at the beginning of a workout I can ignore it, but if it starts playing when I’m 23 minutes in on the elliptical, I just can’t muster up the gumption to finish. I think I need an Ipod.

Matt Yglesias: Wrong about “My Humps”, wrong for America.

The Dream of a 313 Ship Navy

[ 0 ] December 11, 2005 |

Interesting report from the New York Times on how the Navy is thinking about its procurement future.

I think that Matthew Yglesias evaluation of the DD(X) as a ship that is “cool but useless” is a little bit unfair. The DD(X) has actual mission capabilities beyond combat at sea. The Advanced Gun System is capable of delivering a lot of ordinance to points deep inland in a very short amount of time. As such, it represents a real increase in current naval capabilities. This doesn’t mean that we should buy it; the DD(X) is very expensive, and it doesn’t look as if the Navy will be able to afford more than a small number (although it’s unclear whether the seven destroyers mentioned in the article are the initial buy or the entire production run). But to call it useless is putting the case a little bit too strongly. I’m inclined to think that the Arleigh Burke destroyers have a long, useful life in front of them, but at some point we will have to come up with a replacement. The DD(X) might not be it, but I like the idea of the Navy procuring ships that keep Joint operations in mind, and that you can actually imagine being engaged in the kinds of conflicts that might happen in the next twenty years.

The LCS is the other new ship that the Navy is working on. Whereas the DD(X) is really expensive ($3 billion a ship), the Littoral Combat Ship is relatively inexpensive (about $200 million). LCS is a roughly frigate sized ship that is designed to operate in shallow waters and fulfill a variety of different missions, from amphibious operation support to anti-piracy. Like the DD(X), the LCS design shows that the Navy is at least beginning to think of its missions in a less Mahanian fashion; that is, directed toward ends other than the destruction of an enemy fleet at sea.

Whether the procurement of either the DD(X) or the LCS in any kind of numbers will happen is in serious question. The Navy has been declining in size for quite a while, and Congress is unlikely to be very receptive to calls for a funding increase. See Brad Plumer for a bit more on this. Personally, I am very doubtful that the Navy will ever get a DD(X), but I think the LCS has a much brighter future, if only because the Navy can sell it as a multi-purpose vehicle.

For a very bad analysis of naval procurement, see Ed Morrissey. His post on this topic is a clinic on inept half-thinking on the issue of naval power. For Ed, one “existential threat” is just as good as another; if we needed a huge Navy to prepare to fight the Soviet Union, then we certainly need one for the War on Terrorism. And if we don’t, then we need one to prepare to fight China. That the procurement proposed by the Navy doesn’t seem particularly geared towards the Chinese threat apparently escaped his notice. His most laughable assertion is this:

In a decade, the Chinese fleet may surpass our Pacific fleet in firepower, a dangerous imbalance not only for us but for our Pacific Rim allies such as Japan and South Korea. That shift in power will signal not just Beijing but other regimes and terrorist bands that the US has lost its primacy on the seas — and that will exponentially expand our problems.

Quite. The first part is true; if China goes on a crash naval buidling spree, and the US Navy loses six aircraft carriers in a mysterious boating accident, then the PLAN might approach equality with the USN in a decade. Of course, the JMSDF would still be larger than the PLAN, but in the mind of Ed things like that don’t matter; despite all actual evidence, Japan will bandwagon with Chinese power rather than balance against it. As for South Korea, it has perhaps escaped Ed’s notice that China doesn’t need a single fishing boat to threaten Seoul. To his credit, I will allow that it’s possible that Al Qaeda pays close attention to the relative naval procurement strategies of the US and China, much in the same way that it’s possible flesh eating zombies could crawl from the sea tomorrow and begin attacking US naval assets around the world. This is what happens when a blogger can’t bring himself to analytically distinguish between naval power and his own masculinity…

Sunday Battleship Blogging: USS Guam

[ 1 ] December 11, 2005 |

USS Guam (CB-2) came about through a curious set of circumstances. Early in World War II, the United States received intelligence suggesting that Japan was building a class of 18000 ton heavy cruisers designed to raid deep into the Eastern Pacific. In order to counter this threat, the United States Navy developed plans for a class of ships in between heavy cruisers (ships of roughly 10-12000 tons, carrying 8″ guns), and battleships (of which the most recent were 35000 tons, carrying 16″ guns). Guam and her sister Alaska ended up with 9 12″ guns, a displacement of 27000 tons, and a speed of 32 knots. Oddly enough, the Japanese were neither building nor planning to build any such ships, although they considered the possibility after learning of Alaska and Guam.

The Navy insisted (and still insists) that Alaska and Guam were not battleships, or even battlecruisers, but instead something called a “large cruiser”. The naming protocal for Large Cruisers was unclear. Cruisers were named after cities, and battleships after states. The battlecruisers planned in the early 1920s were named after famous battles, such as Lexington and Saratoga. It was decided that these not-quite-battleships-but-more-than-cruisers should be named after US territories. The four members of the class never completed were listed as Hawaii, Samoa, Philippines, and Puerto Rico. The USN may have been reluctant to call Guam a battlecruiser because of the high casualty rate among battlecruisers in World War II.

The contention that Alaska and Guam were not battlecruisers is indefensible. Guam was more than twice the size of the heaviest heavy cruiser ever built, and carried an armament superior to the contemporary Scharnhorst class. Moreover, they were designed for specifically the mission that the first battlecruisers were created for, which was the pursuit and destruction of enemy heavy cruisers. In action, Guam fulfilled precisely the same missions as the other battleships in the fleet, which primarily meant fleet air defense. Had Guam encountered Yamato or another modern battleship, her characterization as a “Large Cruiser” wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference.

The US Navy placed Guam and her sister Alaska in reserve shortly after World War II, along with most of the rest of the battleship fleet. A large number of ships were disposed of in the immediate postwar period, leaving only the Big Five (California, Tennessee, Maryland, West Virginia, and Colorado), the two ships of the North Carolina class, the four of the South Dakota class, the four of the Iowa class, and the two Alaskas. The Navy purged itself of all but the Iowas in 1960. I believe that not retaining Alaska and Guam was a mistake. Their armor and armament were superior to any ships afloat other than the Iowas (and the French Jean Bart). They could perform shore bombardment duties nearly as well as the Iowas, and could be operated at a lower cost and with a smaller crew. They might well have proved an option more palatable than retaining Wisconsin and Iowa on the Navy List until the first DD(X) comes into service.

Trivia: What are the only two dreadnought battleships built in the United States to carry wing turrets?

[ 0 ] December 9, 2005 |


Friday Cat Blogging. . . Dewey

"So bad as to veer toward evil"

[ 0 ] December 8, 2005 |

Oh, yes.

This is what makes “My Humps” such an inscrutable pop moment. It’s not Awesomely Bad; it’s Horrifically Bad. The Peas receive no bonus points for a noble missing-of-the-mark or misguided ambition (some of the offended have responded with parody videos and snickering anecdotes about how the group uses Hitler-approved microphones). “My Humps” is a moment that reminds us that categories such as “good” and “bad” still matter. Relativism be damned! There are bad songs that offend our sensibilities but can still be enjoyed, and then there are the songs that are just really bad—transcendentally bad, objectively bad.

You’ve Already Brought Horror into My World

[ 0 ] December 7, 2005 |

Mr. O’Reilly:

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I’m gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that.

Remember, there are no demagogues on the right.

Medvedite Music Collecting

[ 0 ] December 6, 2005 |

It’s as bad as you could imagine. See Axis.

My suggestions:

Drive By Truckers, Never Gonna Change
AC/DC, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Derek and the Dominoes, I Looked Away

But whatever you do, don’t mess with the newspapers

[ 0 ] December 6, 2005 |

In Hitch’s world, these things are cool:

Shooting Iraqis.
Torturing Iraqis.
Bombing Iraqis.
Invading Iraqi homes.
Destroying Iraqi property.
Lying about Iraqi weapons.
Incarcerating random Iraqis.
Destroying Iraqis’ historical heritage.
Spurring a violent insurgency on Iraqis’ soil.

But he is shocked, shocked to find that the US military might pay for stories in Iraqi newspapers. That’s really beyond the pale. “This time, someone really does have to be fired.” Not for the torture. Not for the bad planning. Not for Abu Ghraib. Not for the WMD fiasco. But for this, he thinks someone needs to be fired.

Fuck off, Hitch. You’re not wanted here. Enjoy playing with your new buddies at the Corner.

The Future of the Battleship

[ 0 ] December 6, 2005 |

Armchair Generalist points us toward this Bob Novak editorial on the future of the Iowa and the Wisconsin, the last two battleships on the Navy list. Although plans are in motion to permanently decommission the last two battleships in the fleet, the Marine Corps still hopes that they will be retained in light of their unique ability to supply indirect artillery fire in hostile littoral areas.

The Navy high command is determined to get rid of the battleships, relying for support on an expensive new destroyer at least 10 years in the future. This is how Washington works. Defense contractors, Pentagon bureaucrats, Congressional staffers and career-minded officers make this decision that may ultimately be paid for by Marine and Army infantrymen.

Marine desire to reactivate the Iowa and Wisconsin runs counter to the DD(X) destroyer of the future. It will not be ready before 2015, costing between $4.7 billion and $7 billion. Keeping the battleships in reserve costs only $250,000 a year, with reactivation estimated at $500 million (taking six months to a year) and full modernization more than $1.5 billion (less than two years).

On the modernized battleships, 18 big (16-inch) guns could fire 460 projectiles in nine minutes and take out hardened targets in North Korea. In contrast, the DD(X) will fire only 70 long-range attack projectiles at $1 million a minute. The new destroyer will rely on conventional 155-millimeter rounds that Marines say cannot reach the shore. Former longtime National Security Council staffer William L. Stearman, now executive director of the U.S. Naval Fire Support Association, told me, “In short, this enormously expensive ship cannot fulfill its primary mission: provide naval surface fire support for the Marine Corps.”

As you well know, I’m quite the fan of the battleship, but I’m skeptical of this argument. First, I’m unconvinced that mothballing the ships is an effective solution. Re-activating the ships (and, in the case of Iowa, repairing the damaged B-turret) would take at least six months. It’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which we could definitively predict the necessity of shore bombardment more than six months in advance. Thus, while there might be an argument for keeping the ships in active service, I’m unconvinced that they could ever be effectively mobilized in the current strategic setting.

Moreover, the battleships are extremely expensive mechanisms for the delivery of ordinance. I’m not so concerned about their vulnerability to air attack; most modern anti-ship missiles would have little effect on a ship as large and as well protected as the Wisconsin. However, they are quite vulnerable to submarine attack, and given that they need to be within 20 miles of a coastline in order to carry out their mission, they would be easy to find and would make a tempting target.

Finally, I am unconvinced by Novak’s argument that the Navy is inherently anti-battleship, and just wants to decommission these ships so that it can purchase the DD(X). The two ships in question are in excess of sixty years old, which is very, very old for a warship. They underwent modernization in the 1980s, but most of their components (including, notably, their gun turrets) remain 1940s era technology. They are impressive platforms, and can carry out missions not originally envisioned, such as the delivery of cruise missiles, but it makes more sense to me to develop newer, cheaper platforms intended to accomplish these missions, rather than to rebuild these ancient ships. For example, it would cost two Littoral Combat Ships apiece simply to reactivate the battleships, and more to modernize and keep them in operation.

So, like AG, I’m inclined to think that the day of the battleship has passed. Nevertheless, I would not consider myself too disappointed if the Marine Corps lobbying was successful, and the two ships were retained. Indeed, if the Navy had demonstrated a bit more foresight in the 1960s, it might have kept the battlecruisers Alaska and Guam, which could have carried out the envisioned operations at a lower cost than the Iowa class battleships.

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