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Red Review

[ 0 ] October 1, 2006 |

As things are now just about done, it’s appropriate to review the Reds 2006. At the beginning of the year I predicted that the Reds would win about 72 games, good for fifth place in the NL Central. As it turns out, they went 80-82, secured third place, and at one point not so long ago were tied for the division lead.

What went better than expected?

The acquisition of Brandon Phillips and David Ross. The Indians gave up on Phillips after several years, and he played a decent second base in Cincy. Given that the Red gave up nearly nothing for him, I’d say that the move worked out. David Ross came over from San Diego and hit .257/.351/.584 in 245 ABs at catcher, shoring up the position as Chesty LaRue collapsed.

The fogeys came through. For some reason, Scott Hatteberg had a career year. For some even more unfathomable reason, Rich Aurilia also had a great year, hitting .300/.349/.518 and playing at least 10 games at four different positions.

At some point on the way from Boston to Cincinnati, Bronson Arroyo was transformed from an adequate innings-eating fourth starter into one of the best pitchers in the National League.

What went as expected?

Adam Dunn was fine, if perhaps just slightly disappointing with a .492 slugging percentage. Ryan Freel cemented his claim to be the best “scrappy white guy” in baseball by turning in a .363 OBP and playing good defense at several positions. Ken Griffey Jr. posted the worst year of his career in rate stats, but played in 109 games, which about evens out the expectations.

Edwin Encarnacion turned in a nice season, although he sometimes gets lost in the noise supplied by all the great young third basemen in the National League. Aaron Harang had a very good season.

What went worse?

On July 31 the Reds traded Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Wagner for Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Daryl Thompson, Brendan Harris and Royce Clayton. Harris, an infielder, didn’t contribute at all to the Reds. Clayton hit .236/.292/.331 in 148 ABs. On the pitching side, Majewski turned in 15 innings of 8.40 ERA ball, Bray turned in 27 innings at 4.23 ERA (and was lucky at that), and Thompson didn’t contribute. Both Kearns and Lopez hit considerably better than the players they replaced. The Reds are likely to finish 3.5 games behind the Cardinals for the division title, and it’s quite likely that, in the absence of this trade, they could have won the division. Indeed, while it’s hard to know what else was available, it’s extremely difficult for me to imagine that another, better trade could not have been made with Kearns and Lopez the bait. Moroever, the failure of the trade was entirely predictable, although the collapse of the Cardinals perhaps was not. Given what the Reds picked up for free in the ensuing weeks (Ryan Franklin, Jason Johnson), dumping Kearns and Lopez for nothing was inexcusable, and probably cost the Reds the division.

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Course Modification

[ 0 ] October 1, 2006 |

Starting tomorrow, I will begin blogging at TAPPED. Some content will be cross-posted at LGM, and much will be found only at LGM (curiously, Sam didn’t include Battleship Blogging in my TAP contract). However, many posts dealing specifically with foreign policy will now likely be found only at TAPPED.

Without trying to sound ominous, it is very unlikely that this will be the only change experienced by LGM in the next week or so. Nevertheless, Lawyers, Guns and Money isn’t going anywhere, as Scott, Dave, and I remain committed to the LGM project (which I believe is some sort of hovercraft).

Sunday Battleship Blogging: USS Mississippi

[ 0 ] October 1, 2006 |

USS Mississipi, second ship of the New Mexico class, carried 12 14″ guns, displaced 32000 tons, and could make 21 knots. Mississipi was one of twelve “standard type” battleships, designed with a similar armor scheme, speed, and main armament in order to operate together. Commissioned in 1917, Mississippi was not deployed with the Grand Fleet because of oil shortages created by the German U-boat campaign.

Like most US battleships, Mississippi was modernized during the interwar period. Mississippi and her sisters were rebuilt with a citadel superstructure somewhat similar to that of HMS Rodney. This arrangement was more useful (and aesthetically pleasing) than the tripod mast reconstructions adopted in earlier ships. Mississippi was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in early 1941, and was escorting convoys during the Pearl Harbor attack. After the attack Mississippi rejoined the Pacific Fleet, undergoing an overhaul that increased her anti-aircraft armament.

Mississippi’s war record was similar to that of other battleships of her vintage. She escorted convoys, acted as a reserve force, and bombarded islands in preparation for Marine assaults. The most exciting part of her service came on the morning of October 24 when she, along with five other battleships, participated in the destruction of HIJMS Yamashiro. Mississippi, lacking the most modern radar (she was equipped with Mark 3 radar, the same type used by USS Washington at Guadalcanal), fired only one salvo at Yamashiro, less than a minute before Admiral Oldendorf issued a cease-fire order. Yamashiro quickly sank from torpedo and gun damage.

Hit by a kamikaze in January 1945, Mississippi participated in most of the actions at the close of the Pacific War. After the war she was converted into a gunnery training ship and given a new designation, AG-128. Mississippi was more fortunate than her sisters and half-sisters, who found themselves either at the bottom of Bikini Atoll, at the scrapping yard, or in reserve. In late 1952 she was equipped with Terrier surface-to-air missiles for testing purposes. For the next four years she carried out tests of missiles, before decommissioning in 1956. She was sold for scrap in November of that year.

Trivia: Which Admiral at Jutland was honored by having his name given to a “battleship”?

Newsflash: Victor Davis Hanson, American Idiot

[ 0 ] September 30, 2006 |

VDH on Jimmy Carter:

Carter’s Waterloo, of course was the Iranian hostage crisis. It was not just that his gutting of the military helped to explain the rescue disaster. Far more importantly, we can chart the rise of radical political Islam with the storming of the American embassy in Teheran and the impotent response of Jimmy Carter.

VDH is half right; Desert One really was the Waterloo of the Carter presidency and, had it succeeded, Carter would probably have won the 1980 election and we’d have a different America. At least part of the blame for the failure of the operation must be laid at Carter’s feet, although a more sensible commentator than Hanson would probably have noted that infighting and poor planning within the uniformed services also contributed to the disaster. VDH also has the chutzpah to call Carter “historically ignorant”, a fascinating charge coming from a man whose grasp even on his specialty is tenuous, and the bulk of whose professional career has been an (often successful) effort to make Americans MORE ignorant of the history of military affairs.

The big lie here, though, is “gutting of the military.” The idea that Jimmy Carter gutted the military strength of the United States lives only in the fantasies of the most ignorant of wingnuts; US military spending bottomed out in fiscal years 1976 and 1977, both of which were on the watch of Gerald Ford. Under Carter, military spending went up in FY 1979, 1980, and 1981. It’s worse than that, even, because the high budgets of the early 1970s had a lot to do with the end in Vietnam and the cycling down of military effort in Southeast Asia. As people who take the time to learn about United States military policy know, the military build-up of the Reagan years began in the second half of Jimmy Carter’s term. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the numbers. If you still don’t believe me, listen to Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan:

Today, [1996- ed] defense spending is less than 20 percent of the total federal budget. In 1962, before the Vietnam War, defense spending ran at almost 50 percent of the overall budget. In 1978, before the Carter-Reagan defense buildup, it was about 23 percent. Increases of the size required to pursue a neo-Reaganite foreign policy today would require returning to about that level of defense spending — still less than one-quarter of the federal budget.

Via Instapundit, who of course doesn’t bother to evaluate Hanson’s claims. I swear to you, the first person to write “but Reynolds just linked; he didn’t say that he approved of Hanson” in comments gets permanently banned.

"All I’m Asking is that You Help Me Prevent Another Tragedy"

[ 0 ] September 30, 2006 |

I wonder if Ron Moore interviewed any US interogators with experience in Iraq for Webisode 8; nothing short of outstanding, in any case. Looking forward to October 6, more commentary on the way.

[ 0 ] September 29, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

Africa as Stage

[ 0 ] September 28, 2006 |

I’m enthusiastically awaiting the arrival The Last King of Scotland in Lexington, but I must admit that Dana Stevens review of the film reminds me a little bit of Chinua Achebe’s appraisal of Hearts of Darkness:

Africa as metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril. Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind?

In other words, there was more to the Belgian Congo than two Adventurous White Guys going crazy on a river. Indeed, the problems of Marlowe and Kurtz don’t seem to amount to a hill of beans compared to the grand opera of destruction that was the European colonial project in Africa. Stevens suggests that Last King uses Amin as a prop to examine the moral degeneration of Adventurous White Guy, played in this case by James McAvoy. I’m also reminded a little bit of Cry Freedom, which, for whatever merit it has, could have been titled “White Guy Comes to Grips with Apartheid while his Black Friends Die.”

Thinking on this question makes me revisit my mild disappointment in Hotel Rwanda, which, in retrospect, largely avoided the problems discussed above. Hotel Rwanda’s avoidance of the crazy white guy narrative has to be seen as particularly impressive in the context of what was an obvious “white guy gone crazy” opportunity in the figure of General Romeo Dallaire, played in the film by Nolte as “Colonel Oliver”. Dallaire was genuinely driven crazy by the events in Rwanda, but the film shows us very little of this, instead concentrating on the experiences of the African victims and perpetrators of the genocide. I think that my mild disappointment had a lot to do with how the film lacked operatic sweep, especially towards the end. Rusesabagina’s recovery of his children during the RPF advance feels like a tacked on Hollywood ending but is, in fact, the way that the story played out. There was no way, without doing violence to the narrative, to tell the story with a different ending.

Nevertheless, I found it unsatisfying, and I’m now wondering whether that has more to do with me than with the film. Am I prepared to accept a story about Africa when Africa is a Grand Backdrop for Something Important Happening, and less prepared to accept a story about Africa and Africans? Perhaps the inevitable consequence of being a white Westerner, but probably not…

Incidentally, why has no one ever made a movie out of Things Fall Apart or No Longer at Ease? I see that there was a production of the former in 1971, but it seems to have been rather minor and I’ve never seen it.

Poetic Justice

[ 0 ] September 27, 2006 |

Chuckle:

RICHMOND — U.S. Sen. George Allen once again is being told to lay off the Confederate flag.

But this time, it’s not from the people who abhor the Dixie symbol. It’s from the people who revere it.

State leaders of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have scheduled a news conference Thursday to criticize Allen’s recent acknowledgement that the Confederate flag can be seen as a symbol of hate.

“George Allen was a good friend of ours and we don’t appreciate him turning on us to get out of political trouble,” said Frank Earnest of Virginia Beach, commander of the Virginia division of the SCV. “He’s degraded us, the flag and our heritage.”

Allen has a friendly history with the Sons of Confederate Veterans; while governor, he issued a Confederate History Month Proclamation in each April of his four year term. Mark Warner notably refused to issue such a proclamation during his tenure.

George Allen is the Gary Cherone to George W. Bush’s Sammy Hagar. You don’t think it’s possible to get worse on every single dimension, but you’re wrong.

Via Alterdestiny, via Virginia Progressive.

France

[ 0 ] September 27, 2006 |

Yglesias on Peretz on France:

French dovishness comes down to one war — Iraq, part deux — that France didn’t want to fight, and that France was right not to want to fight.

France’s “rep” for weakness and appeasement comes, of course, from World War II. But in 1938, France was the non-axis country most eager to fight Germany. Going to war without the support of England, the USSR, or the United States would have been a horrible policy. Once their British ally was on board, they fought. They lost, of course, but the contrast between France, the UK, and the USA in this regard is that France was located adjacent to Germany without a convenient stretch of ocean to block the Nazi advance.

It should also be noted that the Soviet Union survived the German invasion by giving up several France sized chunks of its territory and a number of dead equal to about half of France’s entire population. The supposed “dovishness” of France is a topic I invariably mention in lecture, usually while citing the following statistic:

French military deaths, August 1914-November 1918: 1,375,800
US military deaths, April 1775-present: 1,012,000

Dieppe

[ 0 ] September 27, 2006 |

Bob Bergen of the CDFAI (Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute) is irritated:

The left wing in Canada has been doing its level best to equate Canadian foreign and defence policyunder Prime Minister Stephen Harper with American President George Bush for some time now. But a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) making headlines across Canada has broken shameless new ground implying that Canadian troops in Afghanistan are little more cannon fodder.

Bergen is referring to a report by Stephen Staples and Bill Robinson that purports to show that Canadian troops are more likely than any other nationality (adjusted for size of deployment) to be killed or wounded in Afghanistan, and thus are disproportionately at risk. Bergen’s basic point is sound; Staples and Robinson draw conclusions from a sample that is really too small to support the contentions that they’re trying to make. They then use those conclusions to make political arguments relying on the implication that Canadian soldiers are being used by US and NATO commanders in particularly dangerous situations, a contention that again isn’t sufficiently supported by the statistical evidence or by a qualitative assessment (the latter regarding US forces, at least; Canadians may in fact be engaging in more dangerous Afghani missions than other NATO allies).

Bergen undercuts himself by analogizing to World War II, however. Apparently, the desperate need to link any given conflict to the struggle against fascism in World War II is not limited to wingnuts in the United States. Bergen writes:

Just one historical will demonstrate what is wrong with such an analysis. On August 19, 1942, 4,963 Canadians were sent to attack the beach at Dieppe, France, in the first major Canadian action of the Second World War. Of them, 907 were killed and 1,946 remained hostage.To compare that death rate on the very worst day of the war to American casualties or to calculate that,based on that experience, Canada would lose an extrapolated number soldiers over the war’s duration if the rate were to remain unchanged would be pure folly.

Here’s a tip; if you’re trying to make the argument that Canadian forces aren’t being used as cannon fodder, it’s best not to bring up Dieppe. The Dieppe raid of August 19 was planned and staged by Lord Mountbatten in an effort to convince the Russians that the Western Allies were serious about a Second Front, to draw Axis attention away from North Africa, and hopefully to draw either the Luftwaffe or the Kriegsmarine into battle. The attack used primarily Canadian soldiers and was an unmitigated disaster, as the Germans slaughtered many and captured more. Over half the Canadian participants were lost. Incidentally, I would also rate the defense of Hong Kong (2000 Canadian troops were deployed in October and November of 1941 to a hopeless position) as the first major Canadian action of World War II.

In any case, it’s my understanding the the spectacularly inept planning and execution of the Dieppe Raid has long been controversial in Canada, precisely because of the concern the Canadian soldiers were being used as cannon fodder.

Musharraf

[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

The interview isn’t really playing to Stewart’s strengths (he’s invariably docile when faced with authority), but I’m fascinated that it’s happening at all; the President of Pakistan (who took power in a military coup) is chatting with an American comedian about Pakistan’s realpolitik calculus following 9/11, including a consideration of the possibility of military conflict with the United States.

We live in interesting times.

Reds

[ 0 ] September 26, 2006 |

I have been preparing to write a post-mortem for the Reds, but it seems that, somehow, they’re only three games back pending the outcome of tonight’s St. Louis-San Diego game. It would be unseemly to write the post-mortem, then see them win the Central. I will say, though, that it sure would have been great to have Felipe Lopez’ .282/.362/.361 instead of Royce Clayton’s .234/.288/.326, not to mention Austin Kearns’ .251/.382/.431 instead of the rogue’s gallery that they’ve put in the outfield.

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