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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.


[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

That was rather disconcerting; roughly three hours with no blogspot. I feel like I have my left arm back…

Both Ways

[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

Lovely post from Wolcott on intelligent design and the neocon right. Long and utterly unsurprising story short, there’s plenty of evidence, usually from their own mouths, that many of the intellectual poobahs of conservative world don’t give a rat’s ass for God apart from His ability to keep the unwashed masses in line. The story has been told before, but Wolcott and the pieces he links to retell it well. Derb may be one creepy as hell guy, but he does occasionally manage to display a shadow of genuine intellectual integrity. Not often, but he’s good when he’s good.

However, it seems to me that this misses out on part of the story. There are many genuine evangelicals who are bright people, and who can certainly appreciate the transparent, winking duplicity of Irving Kristol, Robert Bork, and their ilk. Certainly there are strategic reasons for an alliance between the two groups, but you would expect some tension to emerge from the poorly disguised contempt that guys like Kristol hold for actual believers. In short, nobody likes to be a tool. The more I think about it, though, it seems clear that modern conservatism is based on a double betrayal. The intellectuals think that religion is useful for keeping the saps in line, especially as they continue to vote Republican. The evangelicals understand this, but aren’t too worried about it. They know, after all, that when the day comes the faithless intellectuals will be headed straight to Hell.

In other words, the Republican party works because everyone can be comfortable with the knowledge that the guy next to him is getting screwed.

Low Turnout

[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

Good and bad news for Hugo Chavez:

Venezuela (Reuters) – Parties allied to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez won 89 percent of votes counted in a preliminary tally of nearly 80 percent of the ballots for the National Assembly, electoral authorities said on Sunday.

The National Electoral Council said turnout was of 25 percent of registered voters. Main opposition parties boycotted the poll, accusing electoral authorities of favoring the populist leader and manipulating electronic voting machines.

25% turnout is not good, especially as it would seem to indicate support for the boycott and, further, concern about the legitimacy of the election.

Yes, I know that Chavez is trying to build “participatory democracy”. I just wish that he and his allies would demonstrate more concern for old fashioned constitutional electoral democracy. The two are not necessarily in conflict, and disregard for the latter suggests that the former doesn’t hold great promise.

Via Fruits and Votes.


[ 0 ] December 4, 2005 |

Adam Cohen makes short work of Faux News’ campaign for Christmas.

This year’s Christmas “defenders” are not just tolerating commercialization – they’re insisting on it. They are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians’ objection to having the holiday forced on them.

The campaign’s leaders insist this is a new phenomenon – a “liberal plot,” in Mr. Gibson’s words. But as early as 1906, the Committee on Elementary Schools in New York City urged that Christmas hymns be banned from the classroom, after a boycott by more than 20,000 Jewish students. In 1946, the Rabbinical Assembly of America declared that calling on Jewish children to sing Christmas carols was “an infringement on their rights as Americans.”

The Christmas that Mr. O’Reilly and his allies are promoting – one closely aligned with retailers, with a smack-down attitude toward nonobservers – fits with their campaign to make America more like a theocracy, with Christian displays on public property and Christian prayer in public schools.

Quite. I tack between thinking that the Gibson and O’Reilly-led campaign for Christmas is the end of conservatism’s moment, the lie so absurd that not even the most virulent liberal haters could buy into, and worrying that even this might not be too far, and that too many people are willing to believe that there is some over-arching secular humanist conspiracy to destroy Christmas. The answer is probably somewhere in between. In any case, the Gibson/O’Reilly crusade demonstrates beyond doubt how little the doctrines and debates of Christianity actually animate the “Christian” Right. In the end, it’s really all about the persecution complex. That, and the cash.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS New Zealand

[ 0 ] December 4, 2005 |

Recall that in the early 1910s Canada considered contributing three Queen Elizabeth class battleships that would be owned and crewed by Canadians but serve in the Royal Navy. Winston Churchill’s response to this entreaty was “Well, we’ll take your money, but you can’t have any ships.” The Canadians sensibly declined this gracious offer. The Kiwi reply was “Hey, that sounds like a great idea! Can we also purchase the optional all weather primer? And do you offer any kind of extended warranty or service plan?” Three years and 1.7 million pounds later the battlecruiser New Zealand joined the Royal Navy.

New Zealand displaced 19000 tons and carried 8 12″ guns, disposed of in two centerline and two wing turrets. Like all battlecruisers, New Zealand could make a decent speed (26 knots), but lacked the heavy armor of dreadnought battleships. New Zealand and other battlecruisers were designed to hunt and kill armored cruisers and to act as forceful scouts for the main battlefleet. New Zealand’s two sisters were named Indefatigable and Australia. The Australians, presumably having more refined negotiating skills, managed not only to purchase the Australia but also to own it, and HMAS Australia served both in the Royal Navy and as the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy. The Royal Navy kindly allowed the HMS New Zealand to visit New Zealand in 1913, at which point roughly a third of the entire population of the country toured the ship.

New Zealand fought in most of the major battlecruiser engagements of the Grand Fleet in the First World War, including the Battle of Dogger Bank and the Battle of Jutland. At Dogger Bank Admiral David Beatty moved his flag from the battered Lion to New Zealand during the battle. David Beatty, much like Douglas MacArthur, had more of a gift for public relations than for military command. At Dogger Bank the disorder produced by sloppy signalling allowed some German ships to escape. At the 1916 Battle of Jutland the problem was more severe, and was exacerbated by the poor marksmanship of the vessels under Beatty’s command.

In April 1916, HMS New Zealand rammed HMAS Australia, severely damaging the latter. It is not known whether this was caused by residual Kiwi bitterness. However, the damage did keep HMAS Australia out of the Battle of Jutland. The German purpose at Jutland was to lure a portion of the Royal Navy into the teeth of the High Seas Fleet, and thus destroy part of the Grand Fleet without having to fight the whole. The German battlecruiser squadron under Admiral Hipper sortied into the North Sea in order to draw out the British battlecruisers. This operation was a partial success. The British did take the bait, and committed David Beatty’s six battlecruisers to interception of the German ships. The British also, however, committed four Queen Elizabeth class battleships (Malaya, Barham, Valiant, and Warspite) to the intial interception, and backed these two squadrons with the entirety of the Grand Fleet, including twenty four additional dreadnoughts and 3 more battlecruisers. In a sense the German plan worked too well; the British took the bait, but with too much force.

The fighting began on May 31 when the respective battlecruiser squadrons engaged each other. The Germans had five battlecruisers and the British six, including New Zealand. The Germans also had much better fire control than the British, and quickly scored hits on three of the British ships, including Beatty’s flagship Lion. The effectiveness of the German fire was enhanced by the fact that damage control aboard the British battlecruisers was wholly inadequate. Indefatigable, following New Zealand in line, was the first to explode and sink. A short time later Queen Mary, ahead of New Zealand in line, also exploded in sank, causing Admiral Beatty to remark “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”. New Zealand, remarkably, took almost no damage. Poor signaling by Beatty had delayed the arrival of the four Queen Elizabeth class battleships, but when they arrived the pressure on the battlecruisers was reduced considerably. Eventually, the entire High Seas Fleet would find itself committed against the entire Grand Fleet. New Zealand fired more shells than any other British dreadnought in the battle, and scored hits on several German ships.

The rest of the war was uneventful for New Zealand, although she did participate in the Second Battle of Helgioland Bight. In 1919, after the war, Admiral Jellicoe chose New Zealand as his flagship for a tour of the Dominions, and she once again visited her namesake country. Jellicoe would later serve as Governor-General of New Zealand. In 1922 New Zealand was decommissioned, and in 1924 she was scrapped in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty.

Quiz for next week:

1. Which two US battleships or battlecruisers were not named after US states?
2. Which two US states have not given their names to US battleships?

Scattered Ruins of the Lost Empire

[ 0 ] December 3, 2005 |

Good article on the escape from an Afghani prison of four members of Al-Qaeda. Addicted to secrecy, the Bush administration has of course not been as forthcoming as a reasonable person might expect. This is what fascinated me, though:

At the time, several officials said, construction crews had been working to expand and reinforce the prison, a cavernous aircraft machine-shop built by the Soviet military during its occupation of Afghanistan and converted by the American military into its primary screening center for terror suspects captured overseas. The breakout took place only days before a series of tougher security measures, including surveillance cameras and brighter lighting, were to be put in place.

Why does it seem that so much of the infrastructure of the War on Terror is built on the ruins of the Soviet empire? Air bases in Central Asia, secret prisons in Eastern Europe, Soviet financed prisons in Iraq, Soviet trained torturers in countries around the world, and old Soviet bases in Afghanistan. There’s certainly no intentionality to it, and I don’t doubt that each decision to use an old Soviet facility can be justified on its own merits. Nevertheless, it is fascinating and disturbing that the United States seems so ready and able to pick up and dust off the rusty tools of Soviet imperialism.

Blue Moon of Kentucky, Keep on Shining

[ 0 ] December 2, 2005 |

Given the staggering success of the “Red State” bureau established in Lexington, Kentucky by the Central Committee of Lawyers, Guns and Money last April, it has been decided by unanimous vote to continue the project indefinitely.

In related news news I have been offered and have accepted a tenure track assistant professor position at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. I have been very happy with my time here thus far, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work here over the next several years, at least. In particular, I have found the faculty and students to be exceptionally supportive.

UPDATE: Thank you all very much. I just hope that I’m not held responsible for this.

[ 0 ] December 2, 2005 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Bud

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