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Good Line

[ 0 ] September 24, 2006 |


When, on CNN, Alexander M. Haig Jr., the former secretary of state for President Ronald Reagan, belittled the report as the product of liberal journalists, Richard C. Holbrooke, the United Nations ambassador under Mr. Clinton, said it was an astonishing thought that the nation’s entire intelligence apparatus might be doing the bidding of Democrats.

Of the various cartoonish absurdities that we’ve had to endure over the past six years, the idea (cherished among wingnuts and their political representatives) that the CIA, FBI, and the other major intelligence organizations of the United States government are shot through with raving left-wing Chomskyites must rank among the most unlikely. Haig and others would have us believe that the Central Intelligence Agency has been operating, essentially, as an arm of the Democratic Party for the last six years, except maybe during the brief period in which the CIA inflated the WMD estimates, and even that can perhaps be written off as originating from the Lieberman faction. That the CIA, banned from some of the more liberal college campuses in America, recruits right of center candidates by both structure and inclination can conveniently be ignored. Reality cannot run counter to the claims of the Republican Party, whether that reality is reported by the CIA or by CNN. Any evidence of divergence is due solely to bias, ill will, and anti-Americanism.

Remember, the facts are biased.


Sunday Battleship Blogging: HIJMS Hyuga

[ 0 ] September 24, 2006 |

The Imperial Japanese Navy was not completely satisfied with its first effort at super-dreadnoughts, the Fuso class. Japanese naval architects slightly modified the design to include more protection and a higher speed, resulting in the battleships Hyuga and Ise. Completed in September 1918, Hyuga carried 12 14″ guns in six twin turrets, displaced about 33000 tons, and could make 23.5 knots. The IJN preferred the six twin mounts to the four triple mounts typical to American ships because the former allowed a longer, narrower hull and thus a higher speed. Unfortunately, it also resulted in less extensive protection (armor spread across a larger area) and in an inefficient distribution of magazines and machinery. Nevertheless, Hyuga was an effective ship, carrying a heavier armament than Queen Elizabeth and faster than her American counterparts. Like most Japanese battleships, Hyuga led an uneventful interwar career, with the exception of a reconstruction between 1934 and 1937 that improved her protection and increased her speed to 25 knots.

In spite of her relatively high speed for an old battleship, Hyuga was not employed during the initial Japanese offensive of 1941 and 1942. Hyuga’s first action came in April 1942. An American carrier task force, led by Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and including the USS Enterprise and the USS Hornet, launched 16 B-25 medium bombers in an operation intended to bring the war to the Japanese home islands. Hyuga, Ise, Fuso, and Yamashiro were detailed to intercept the American task force, but found only a Russian freighter travelling from San Francisco to Vladivostok. Disappointed, the Japanese ships returned to port. A month later Hyuga suffered an explosion during gunnery practice that killed 51 sailors and nearly resulted in the loss of the ship. Hyuga’s #5 turret, now inoperable, was removed and replaced with anti-aircraft guns. In June, again in concert with her sister Ise, Hyuga participated in the invasion of the Aleutian Islands. Unfortunately for the IJN, the concurrent operation to invade Midway Island resulted in disaster and the loss of four aircraft carriers.

The devastating losses at Midway left the IJN searching for ideas to increase carrier deck space. The first plans envisioned a full conversion of the older battleships, leaving no main armament and a deck capable of operating 54 conventional aircraft. The IJN decided that this would take too long, and instead opted for a half-measure in which the aft two turrets of Hyuga and Ise would be removed and replaced with a flight deck, hangar, and catapults. While Hyuga and Ise could not equal a fleet or even a light carrier, and were not expected to carry the most modern aircraft, it was hoped that they would ease the load of the surviving carriers, especially in regards to recon aircraft. Because the flight deck was short, the 22 aircraft that Hyuga could launch would need to land on either a normal carrier or a land base. The Japanese also converted the incomplete Yamato class battleship Shinano into an aircraft carrier support vessel, designed to carry only about 50 aircraft but with enough space for fuel, ammunition, and machine shops to support a full carrier task force. Hyuga began her conversion in late 1942 and completed in in late 1943. Heavy concrete was added to the flight deck in order to compensate for the loss of weight and to increase structural stability.

Although Hyuga launched aircraft in various tests, in practice there were simply not enough trained pilots to fill the deck space of the existing Japanese carriers. Thus, the flight deck was not used as intended during operations. Instead, rockets and additional anti-aircraft weapons were installed. In October 1944, Hyuga, her sister Ise, and four remaining Japanese carriers were deployed, under the command of Admiral Ozawa, as a decoy force intended to draw Halsey’s Third Fleet away from Leyte Island and allow Admiral Kurita’s surface force to destroy the American transports. The first part of this operation was more or less successful, as American aircraft attacked Ozawa’s force, destroying the four carriers and lightly damaging Hyuga. Hyuga retired, avoiding attacks from at least four different USN submarines along the way.

Following Leyte Gulf, Hyuga was deployed to Southeast Asia. In February 1945, narrowly avoiding multiple air and submarine attacks, she and her sister Ise returned to Japan. No fuel and no ammunition meant that Hyuga would not play an active role in the rest of the war. On July 24, 1945 American aircraft attacked Hyuga and sank her in shallow water. She was scrapped over the course of the next two years.

Trivia: What was the first battleship to be armed with guided missiles?

[ 0 ] September 22, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

That’s 548 Friedmans…

[ 0 ] September 21, 2006 |

Defense News:

An independent assessment of IEDs in Iraq, obtained by Defense News and based on British military intelligence, said, “Based on current usage, there are enough stocks of illegal explosives to continue the same level of attack for 274 years without re-supply

See also Billmon’s discussion of IEDs. This is asymmetric war at its finest; the weaker side develops a capability that saps the strength of its opponent and incurs extremely heavy defensive costs. This should also serve to reveal the absurdity of the “It’s all Iran’s fault” argument that you often find in the wingnutosphere. Iraqis can dislike us without Iranian assistance, and they’ve no shortage of available ordinance.

All About the Heritage…

[ 0 ] September 21, 2006 |

Yglesias calls out Saxby Chambliss for what seems like the 912th nostalgic reference to the Confederacy this year alone. Loomis has some appropriately caustic commentary on the subject. On the subject of Southern heritage, see also Sean Wilentz’ fine review of Nicholas Lemann’s Redemption, a history of Reconstruction that tends, incidentally, to undercut recent reevaluations of US Grant.

I sincerely hope that there will come a day when the display of a Confederate flag holds the same political meaning in the United States as the display of a swastika in Germany, and I also hope that, someday, positive invocation of any political or military leader of the Confederacy will be tantamount to political suicide. That time ain’t coming soon, though. As many (but not enough) know, Kentucky was a slave state but never joined the Confederacy. Kentucky supplied large numbers of troops to both sides, but by and large avoided serious battles on its terrain. In spite of the fact that Kentucky remained in the Union, the two statues standing outside the old courthouse in Lexington are Confederate officials, including John C. Breckinridge, Confederate Secretary of War. Some people think that these statues are harmless symbols; I don’t. I think that John C. Breckinridge was a traitor and a defender of slavery, and that there’s about as much justification for erecting a statue of him in Lexington as there is for putting up a statue of Stalin in Tblisi.

As I’ve argued before, the problem isn’t that the South is bad and evil, and that the North is good. The problem is that Southerners seem to have a remarkably difficult time getting past the five most shameful years of their history. “The South” has existed as a social and political community since before the Revolution, and yet invocations of Southern heritage are almost all made in reference to the five years of rebellion in defense of slavery. This obsession is deeply harmful, I think, to the maturation of the political identity of the South. It prevents an honest reconsideration of slavery, of Reconstruction, and of Jim Crow. Note this NYT article on a recently unearthed swimming pool in Mississippi. The pool was buried and closed in the mid-1970s because the white community preferred no public pool at all to an integrated one. Trying to bring up issues like this often evokes an almost turtle-like retreat into a Southern communal identity that rejects any criticism levelled by an outsider. The manifestation of this retreat is “Yeah, you think that all us Southerners are stupid and racist”. Again, it’s fair to say that some Northerners (and Westerners, and Europeans, and whomever else you’d care to mention) do have negative preconceptions about Southerners, but others of us just wish someone would tear down the damn statue of John C. Breckinridge.

More Thailand Thoughts

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

I agree with Erik that the King’s decision to back the coup has essentially ended the political crisis. Thaksin doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of finding his way back into power in the near term. I also think that Erik is right to worry about the decision of the coup-plotters to suspend democracy for a full year. The US has denounced the coup, but this denunciation has not been accompanied by a call for the return of Thaksin, which suggests that there may be a “wink and nod” arrangement.

I do differ a bit from Billmon on the question of American media coverage of the coup. In the midst of criticizing the Post for quoting democracy advocates who support the coup, Billmon writes:

How, exactly, can those who support a military coup be described as “democracy activists”?

Orwell said the word fascism had become nothing more than a generic term for “something not desirable.” Likewise, it appears that democracy has degenerated into a synonym for “a government we support.”

I honestly don’t think that there’s a contradiction, or that anything Orwellian is going on here. I don’t have any contacts in the Thai democratic activist community, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that some portion were supportive of the coup, if not the 1 year suspension. Democracy has both substantive and procedural components, and while I’m not expert on Thai politics I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to find that Thaksin was violating the former while holding to the latter. The Post may be making up nonsense, but then it may not. The biggest problem with American coverage is that there’s simply not enough of it. The BBC, again, has been a far more complete source of information.

Not Invited to the Conversation

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

Make sure to read PTJ’s analysis of the Pope’s speech in Germany. The real target, according to PTJ, were Western secularists and non-Catholics. A selection:

Hence the irony: Benedict wasn’t attacking Islam; he was ignoring it, and in particular ignoring its claim to be a rival monotheistic religion that deserves to be set on equal footing with Christianity when trying to wrestle with thorny issues like the relationship between faith and reason. Classic medieval scholastic response (or lack of response — take your pick). The difference this time is that opportunistic Islamist groups are taking advantage of the Pope’s irresponsibility, even though they missing the issue about as much as Benedict himself did. The problem is not that Benedict insulted Islam; the problem is that Benedict didn’t try to engage Islam.

Shut the *%&$ Up, Giambi

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

I’m with Mr. Trend; however you feel about A-Rod, this from Jason Giambi is absurd and uncalled for. The garbage about “getting the big hit” is just that; undoubtedly Jason remembers his own big hits much more clearly than the runs that A-Rod drives in. The most ridiculous part of this is that it comes with the Yankees up by 11 games. Great teams don’t need “the big hit” to win; they win their games by five runs, and their divisions by ten games. Moreover, whatever problems A-Rod has had in the field this year, it’s nonsense to even consider him on the same level as Jason “I’m a bad fielder for a DH” Giambi. Finally, as Trend notes, A-Rod has never been accused of juicing, while Giambi’s record is, well, a little bit less than clean on that score.

The pity is that I’ve always kind of liked Giambi more than A-Rod, at least since the latter left Seattle. But watching Jason (who is a marginal-at-best HoF candidate) mock a genuine inner circle HoFer in a year in which, defense included, Rodriguez has contributed more than Giambi gets my dander up.

Always Dreary Political Science Blogging

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

I have no particularly deep commentary on the Gerber and Malhotra study discussed by Kieran and here by Kevin Drum. Bitterly fought battles over the relative value of different political science methodologies are a phenomenon that I am happy to consign to my misspent youth. Nonetheless, some attention is appropriate.


There are a lot of studies that just barely show significant results, and there are hardly any that fall just barely short of significance. There’s a pretty obvious conclusion here, and it has nothing to do with publication bias: data is being massaged on wide scale. A lot of researchers who almost find significant results are fiddling with the data to get themselves just over the line into significance.

This is probably correct, as there are lots of ways to massage and finesse data such that p < .05. There is also tremendous incentive to do so, as a single publication in APSR or AJPS may prove critical in tenure and hiring decisions. When the survival of your career depends on whether APSR accepts your article, and when you know that APSR doesn't publish negative results, it can hardly be surprising that fudges happen. Moreover, given that the journals don't have the time to rigorously analyze the data on their own, and given that there are enough disputes about the appropriateness of certain models and particular ways of handling data that "finesse" decisions are almost always defensible on some grounds, it's not even as if scholars are "cheating" in the traditional sense of the term. Were this still 1999, I might add that this problem and others like it tend to undermine the “hard science” claims of those who vigorously argue for the superiority of quantitative over qualitative methods. It’s not 1999, though, so I’ll just let that lie. Anyway, I made up, like, six countries for my dissertation, so who am I to complain?

Oklahoma Sooners=Whiny Infants

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

Still in the grip of a tantrum, the Sooners have decided to take their ball and go home:

Oklahoma would consider canceling its game at Washington in 2008 if the Pacific 10 Conference doesn’t change its rule requiring league officials to be used at its home stadiums, Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday.

It’s a pity, because they could probably beat Washington…

Coup in Thailand

[ 0 ] September 19, 2006 |


The Thai military launched a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday night, circling his offices with tanks, seizing control of TV stations and declaring a provisional authority pledging loyalty to the king.

Rumors of a coup swept Bangkok today as the Thai military blocked the area around Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s office with tanks.

An announcement on Thai television declared that a “Council of Administrative Reform” with King Bhumibol Adulyadej as head of state had seized power in Bangkok and nearby provinces without any resistance.

Fortunately, most coup attempts in Thailand avoid serious violence, although there are exceptions. As the BBC notes, the declaration of loyalty to the King tells us nothing whatsoever about the origin of the coup or its purposes, as the King is wildly popular with virtually all Thais.

More as events warrant. Initial thoughts? Any Thai experts out there?

…as always, the BBC is infinitely more valuable as a news source than any US outlet. See here, here, and here.

…as Atrios notes, it isn’t yet clear whether this is a “good” coup that will further Bush’s interpretation of US interests and thus win the applause of wingnuts everywhere, or a “bad” coup. The cause of the coup seems to be largely domestic and organizational, although the Thai military has been doing some anti-terrorist work in the south. In comments Erik reminds us that while military coups are clearly an anti-democratic method for changing governments (and can be especially damaging when used often), they do not always result in the installation of military governments or authoritarian rule. In this case, regardless of the outcome, a quick return to some form of parliamentary democracy is quite likely.

Loomis has more.

Bush, the Evil Kirk

[ 0 ] September 19, 2006 |

Ron Moore hints at it on the 40th anniversary of Star Trek:

Kirk, for me, embodied an American idea: His mission was to explore the final frontier, not to conquer it. He was moral without moralizing. Week after week, he confronted the specters of intolerance and injustice, and week after week found a way to defeat them without ever becoming them. Jim Kirk may have beat up his share of bad guys, but you could never imagine him torturing them.

A favorite quote: “We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we won’t kill today.” Kirk clearly understood humanity’s many flaws, yet never lost faith in our ability to rise above the muck and reach for the stars.


And as I grew into an adult, and my political views took shape, I treasured “Star Trek” as a dream of what my country could one day become — a liberal and tolerant society, unafraid to live by its ideals in a dangerous universe, and secure in the knowledge that its greatness derived from the strength of its ideas rather than the power of its phasers.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the parallels being established between the Cylon occupation of New Caprica and the US occupation of Iraq in the BSG webisodes are heavy handed, but they’re certainly evident.

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