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Vacation

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

I’m outta here. My itinerary includes Las Vegas, Seattle, and Fort Collins.

Generously filling in for the next two weeks will be Drs. Dan Nexon of Duck of Minerva and Steve Gimbel of Philospher’s Playground. Expect the quality of discourse on this blog to increase significantly.

I’ll be back on Friday, June 16.

Happy Birthday to Us!

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

Today is the second anniversary of LGM.

Thank you very much.

Happy Jutland Day!

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

This is the fifth and final post in a series commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland.

Part I: SMS Lutzow
Part II: HMS Lion
Part III: SMS Friedrich Der Grosse
Part IV: HMS Iron Duke

These ships also participated in the battle:

HMS Barham
HMS Warspite
HMS New Zealand
HMS Canada
HMS Invincible
SMS Ostfriesland
SMS Schleswig-Holstein

The battle is counted as a tactical German victory and a strategic British victory. British losses (3 battlecruisers, 3 armored cruisers, 8 destroyers, and 6097 sailors) were heavier than German (1 battlecruiser, 1 pre-dreadnought, 4 light cruisers, 5 destroyers, and 2551 sailors), but several German ships were very badly damaged, and the High Seas Fleet did not play a significant role in the rest of the war. Allied surface naval dominance would continue to increase, and the Germans would turn to the submarine to win the naval war. Moreover, while it’s easy to imagine scenarios in which the British inflict much more damage on the High Seas Fleet, it’s hard to see how the Germans could have done much better than they did.

I’ve already suggested that I don’t think that a British decisive victory would have significantly changed the course of the war. What about a German decisive victory? Let’s assume that Scheer had managed to pull of a Nelson at Trafalgar. Let’s say that the High Seas Fleet manages to destroy 20 of the 28 British dreadnoughts and six of the nine battlecruisers, while only suffering losses of one battleship and one battlecruiser. That’s wildly implausible given the technology of the day, but we’ll accept it for the sake of argument. The Germans had one dreadnought in reserve, bringing their total to 16 dreadnoughts and four battlecruisers. The British had two dreadnoughts and one battlecruiser in reserve, giving them 10 dreadnoughts and 4 battlecruisers. This would seem to leave the Germans with a substantial, and potentially war-winning, advantage.

But not so fast. France had seven dreadnoughts that weren’t doing anything particularly vital in the Mediterranean. It’s likely that these would have been immediately incorporated in the Grand Fleet. The six Italian dreadnoughts were plenty to counter the four Austrian ships, leaving the Allies in control of the Med. British construction was also more advanced than German. Two battlecruisers and three battleships would enter the Royal Navy in 1916, compared with one battlecruiser and two battleships for the German fleet. By the end of 1916, assuming no further losses on either side, the Grand Fleet would have consisted of twenty dreadnoughts and six battlecruisers, while the High Seas Fleet would have had eighteen dreadnoughts and five battlecruisers. In short, having won one Trafalgar, Scheer would have had to win another Trafalgar to achieve a decisive superiority over the Royal Navy. This would have had to be done before US entry into the war (which might well have been accelerated by a German victory at Jutland), and the commitment of twelve additional dreadnoughts (not including the slow Michigan and South Carolina) to the Allied cause. Also, had the Allies needed them, the two Brazilian dreadnoughts almost certainly would have been put into service more quickly than they were. Finally, Japan had four battlecruisers and six dreadnoughts that the British attempted to lease during the war. Japan eventually committed a naval squadron to the Mediterranean, and it’s not wholly unreasonable to think that a disaster at Jutland might have forced the British to make concessions necessary for additional Japanese assistance.

Of course, this doesn’t include the effect on British morale, which might have suffered dramatically from a German decisive victory. Then again, British morale didn’t collapse at the height of the U-boat campaign. The fall of France in 1940 might be counted as a reasonably similar event, and it didn’t result in a British collapse. It’s possible that a German victory could have driven Britain from the war, but unlikely.

It’s strange that a battle of this caliber, representing so much investment from both sides, had so little impact on the course of the war and involved so little damage to the belligerents involved. Jutland would be the only major conflict in either war between fleets of dreadnought battleships. Battleship combat in World War II would never involve more than one or two ships on either side, and the aircraft carrier, especially in the Pacific, would come to dominate naval warfare.

Other Jutland Resources:

Wikipedia
World War I Naval Combat
Battle of Jutland.com
Daily Mirror/BBC

Mmm… Carnitas

[ 0 ] May 30, 2006 |

The uncontrolled giggling you may have heard since the President’s speech on May 15 has come, in large part, from defense contractors. As Gordo at Liberal Avenger noted, the Secure Border Initiative will prove to be a porktastic contractors delight. Armchair Generalist commented here. The lead article in this week’s Defense News is about how the major defense firms have gone positively giddy at the prospect of selling high tech equipment to the government in an effort to “secure” the southern border:

Now the makers of stealth fighters, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors, analytical software and other technologies are preparing to turn in bids May 30 on a multibillion dollar program that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security hopes will secure US borders by 2012.

Defense contractors hope this program, the Secure Border Initiative, signals the long-awaited emergence of a lucrative market for homeland security technology.

George W. Bush will never, ever forget to reward his real base.

Twenty Years

[ 0 ] May 30, 2006 |

Defense News just recently published its twentieth anniversary issue. Of particular note to me was an article on the difference that twenty years has made in naval procurement. In 1986…

583 ships
14 CV
217 surface warships, including 3 battleships
101 SSN

In 2006…

281 ships.
12 aircraft carriers
91 surface warships
54 attack submarines

And all of those numbers are likely to go down in the next ten years. Defense News is good enough to remind us of why this happened:

Soviet Navy in 1986…

Nuclear Attack and Cruise Missile Submarines: 142
VSTOL Carriers: 6
Cruisers: 32, including 2 battlecruisers
Destroyers: 74

Russian Navy in 2006…

SSN and SSGN: 22
CV: 1
Cruisers: 5, including 2 battlecruisers
Destroyers: 17

And that probably overstates Russian naval strength, since the fleet is so poorly maintained that much of it is unable to leave port.

Fascinating times. I know of no other case in which a navy has cut itself in half, yet managed to increase its global dominance. My guess would be that the Royal Navy had a roughly similar experience after 1815, but I don’t know enough about naval procurement policies in the first half of the 19th century to say for sure.

Baseball Challenge Standings, Week 9

[ 0 ] May 29, 2006 |

The Kentucky Bearded Ducks remain in first place. Loomis falls farther behind only a week after making a reckless, narcotic fueled boast that I Love Technology would leave the Bearded Ducks in the dust by the All Star Break. Bolts from the Blue suffer a poor week and fall into fourth place; peaking too soon?

Kentucky Bearded Ducks , R. Farley 2512 98.1
I Love Technology , E. Loomis 2421 96.0
titleixbaby , P. Smith 2371 94.4
Bolts from the Blue , R. Payne 2273 90.3
The Stugotz , B. Petti 2135 81.3
green weinies , W. Bell 2098 78.0
Axis of Evel Knievel , D. Noon 2086 76.8
Shangri-La Coelacanths , J. Daw 2007 67.9
Seattle HemiCats , M. Bruneau 1973 63.6
deez nuts , m s 1949 60.3
St. Louis Cardinals , D. Solzman 1909 55.0
Sector 7G Carbon Blobs , S. Meredith 1883 51.3
Eephus , J. Schroeder 1859 48.0
Moscow Rats , I. Gray 1846 46.4
Axis of Evel Knievel , d. noon 1739 33.6
GeorgeWCarpetbagger , P. McLeod 691 5.1

Deep Thought of the Day

[ 0 ] May 29, 2006 |

Chris Welsh, Cincinnati Reds color man, upon the event of Ryan Freel being robbed of a home run by a bad umpiring call:

“Sometimes a leadoff home run can be a real rally killer”

A Reward for Idiocy

[ 0 ] May 29, 2006 |

Aw, this sounds like such a sweet story:

A spectator got a hand on the [Barry Bonds 715 home run] ball but could not hold it. It caromed into a gap behind the fence where there are no seats and toward a concession stand, where it landed in the hand of a man waiting to buy beer, peanuts and a sandwich.

He was Andrew Morbitzer, 38, a San Franciscan who said he was a marketing director for the software company Intuit. He sat in $17 bleacher seats with his wife, Megan.

That’s super, but one question remains: What kind of moron goes to get beer, peanuts, and a sandwich when Barry Bonds is about to come to the plate? Moreover, it appears that Mr. Morbitzer wasn’t even paying attention:

“We both finished our beers and decided it was time to get a beer refill,” Morbitzer said. “I looked up and saw all these arms. I caught it in the air. It never hit the ground.”

Why does God reward the stupid?

Conventional SLBMs

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

Finally, a Pentagon idea I can get behind:

The Pentagon plan calls for deploying a nonnuclear version of the submarine-launched Trident II missile that could be used to attack terrorist camps, enemy missile sites, suspected caches of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and other potentially urgent threats, military officials say.

If fielded, it would be the only nonnuclear weapon designed for rapid strikes against targets thousands of miles away and would add to the president’s options when considering a pre-emptive attack.

I wouldn’t say that this is an unproblematically great idea, but I think that the benefits outweigh the costs. Frankly, the NYT article sounded a little alarmist, pointing out that this would add to the President’s capabilities in carrying out a pre-emptive attack. That strikes me as about the least useful thing one could say about this program; pre-emptive attacks are, by definition, carried out with some degree of planning, while the conventional tipped Tridents would be ideal for quick retaliation. Given the range of the Trident missile (4600 miles) and the number of missile submarines (10) this would give the US the capacity to put conventional munitions anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

On to the details:

Under the Pentagon plan, each Trident submarine would carry two of the nonnuclear Trident II missiles along with 22 nuclear-armed Trident missiles. Each of the nonnuclear missiles would carry four nonexplosive warheads. Two types of warheads would be developed. One type would be a metal slug that would land with such tremendous force it could smash a building. The other type of warhead would be a flechette bomb, which would disperse tungsten rods to destroy vehicles and less well-protected targets over a broader area.

The serious objection to the missiles is that their launch could be misinterpreted by China or Russia as the opening salvo of a nuclear attack. Russia and China are notable for being extremely large countries, and any missile launched might well look as if it were headed for one of their home territories. I agree that this is a real concern; especially given the deteriorated nature of the Russian early warning system, an accident is possible. On the other hand, I think that the risks are small and manageable. A communications system could easily be designed in which Russia or China were notified in advance or shortly after a conventional launch. This system could hold even in the event of a conflict between the US and China; both sides would have a significant interest in avoiding nuclear misunderstanding.

Avenger Navigators for Truth?

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

In comments, Michael argues:

“Michael Dukakis immediately and publicly rejected the opportunity to attack Bush on the issue…”

I think a different example needs to be provided. There was no “opportunity to attack Bush.” Dukakis would have come off as an idiot to attack Bush’s record

GHWB flew in WWII and his career in the military is without controversy. Dukakis had no choice but to reject the claims

Thanks for trying, but no. From Wikipedia:

San Jacinto was part of Task Force 58 that participated in operations against Marcus and Wake Islands in May, and then in the Marianas during June. On June 19 the task force triumphed in one of the largest air battles of the war. On his return from the mission Bush’s aircraft made a forced water landing. A submarine rescued the young pilot, although the plane was lost as well as the life of his navigator. On July 25 Bush and another pilot received credit for sinking a small cargo ship off Palau.

After Bush’s promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade on August 1, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. On September 2, 1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichi Jima. For this mission his crew included Radioman Second Class John Delaney and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, who substituted for Bush’s regular gunner. During their attack four TBM Avengers from VT-51 encountered intense antiaircraft fire.

While starting the attack, Bush’s aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his attack and released the bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits. With his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft. However, the other man’s parachute did not open, and he fell to his death. It was never determined which man bailed out with Bush. Both Delaney and White were killed in action. While Bush waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine U.S.S. Finback. For this action Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Now sit back and imagine if the man described in this passage had been a Democrat. Think about the lines of attack that the right-wing attack machines would have generated in order to slime the candidate. How long would it have taken the Republicans to dig up a few Avenger pilots who, in the service of grinding personal grudges, were willing to engage in the most viscious of smears? The answer is “not very long”. There isn’t actually a problem with Bush’s record, just as there was no problem with Kerry’s. Indeed, the two are quite similar; both are New England aristocrats who felt that their good fortune meant that they owed something to their country. But a sterling record does not, it turns out, prove that one is immune from the kind of rancid attack that we saw in 2004.

As is pointed out by TheDeadlyShoe, John Kerry’s war record was not controversial prior to the point that the Republicans decided to smear it. There are two differences between George H.W. Bush’s experience and Kerry’s. The first is that Michael Dukakis, whatever his shortcomings, is a decent human being. George W. Bush isn’t, and was happy to let proxies lie on his behalf. The second is that John Kerry made an entirely accurate speech about Vietnam that some people didn’t care for. For that, he had to be punished, truth be damned.

Meandering Personal Anecdote Without a Point

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

This morning I had my first migraine headache in probably two years. The headache starts in my eyes. I see a flashing, kaleidoscopic blur just to the left of center of my field of view. The blur slowly expands over the course of the headache, hollowing out as it goes. By the end, I have sort of a weird corona around my field of vision, but I can see things that are directly in front of me. Usually the headache itself hits towards the end of the visual disturbance (maybe twenty minutes on average). During bad headaches, I experience severe nausea, numbness in the extremities, and verbal impairment. Today wasn’t such a bad headache; some mild nausea was all I had. This didn’t make it any less inconvenient, though. The headache struck when I was about five minutes into my thirty minute bike ride home from work. With the extreme sensitivity to light on a bright Lexington day, I was effectively blind all the way home. Some might suggest that riding a bike blind (and without a helment) is a poor survival strategy, but I was in a hurry and very annoyed at my brain. By the time I got home, the visual impairment was gone, so all I had to deal with was the pain and nausea for the next several hours.

These days, I get a migraine about once every two years. When I was young, I would often get two per week, and they usually tended towards the more severe. Nothing I took helped, although I came to discover that if I took three or four aspirin just as the headache hit, things didn’t go so badly. For a long time I carried ibuprofen around wherever I went, although I don’t so much do that anymore. The migraines started slowing down my last year in high school, and I probably only suffered from one or two a month during most of my college career. By grad school they were a rare occurence, perhaps once a year. For a while I would occasionally (and still do very occasionally) suffer from what I like to think of as a semi-migraine; some mild head pain along with the feeling that I’m about to be visually impaired, but without the actual impairment or any other symptoms. Whenever I felt this way I would pop a couple of Advil, and nothing very bad would happen.

I can’t say why the migraines stopped. It could be that I’ve outgrown them, but my sister still suffers migraines, and she’s thirty. Oddly enough, she didn’t start getting headaches until high school, while I’ve had them since the second or third grade. I think, though, that it would be fair to say that the headaches changed my life. Although the correlation wasn’t perfect, and I of course never ran any numbers, there seemed to be a very strong link between headaches, periods of high stress, and missed meals. If I missed a meal and for some other reason suffered stress, I could virtually count on getting a headache. I also had occasional insomnia, and the headaches I got at night were invariably the worst. In my desire to escape the headaches, I think that I adjusted the way I live in a couple of very important ways. Specifically, I decided that I would avoid stress and avoid hunger.

No one who knows me would be likely to use the terms “tightly wound” or “high strung” to describe me, but I think that both would be fair assessments of my personality until my late teens. At some point, I just decided to stop worrying about things. This didn’t make me a free spirit, or a directionless drifter, but rather meant that I started taking a very laid-back approach to work, school, and life. In retrospect, it’s probably good that I didn’t get into a particularly good college, because I might have done very poorly, especially at the beginning. Even by the time I started doing well at the University of Oregon, my success depended more on the mastery of the necessary basic skills than on hard work. Although I would describe my stress level as low relative to my friends and co-workers (and I understand that this is an inherently difficult to assess question), I don’t think that the strategy I decided to pursue regarding stress has been entirely healthy. I think that it has made it difficult for me to get work done, especially when the presentation of that work has some stressful consequences. To give an example, I find virtually nothing more stressful than the experience of submitting an article for review. It’s hard enough to get myself to do the work, and I find the idea that others will be reading and critiquing what I write very difficult to deal with, especially in the context of the importance of such work to my career. Indeed, sometimes I experience a similar level of stress regarding blog posts. I understand that there are better strategies for managing stress, but I’ve never been able to employ them to great effect.

The other lifestyle change that migraines helped bring about involves food. I try very hard to avoid ever being hungry, at least in part because I associate hunger pangs with migraine attacks. When I’m with people, I’m almost invariably the guy who’s asking when we’ll eat, where we’ll eat, what we’ll eat until we eat, and so forth. Since I’ve never been willing to develop healthy eating strategies (carrying carrots or fruit around, for example), this has had predictable consequences. I exercise too much to be seriously overweight, but my cholesterol is very high, and I undoubtedly spend too much money on dining out.

The headache this morning seems to have been a random event, as I had just eaten a pancake breakfast and my stress level was mild even by my standards. Still, it’s interesting to think back on these events that were once central to my existence. I lost a league championship chess match in high school because of a migraine attack, and had to bow out halfway through an ACT test because of another. When I was looking for a job after I dropped out of college, I probably suffered a headache a day for a week. The way that I live now seems very distant from how I lived then. It’s possible (perhaps even probable) that the headaches stopped for some other reason, but I think that the impact has endured.

Fighting the Swiftboating

[ 0 ] May 28, 2006 |

Interesting NYT article on how John Kerry has pressed the fight against the Swiftboaters for Truth. Unsurprisingly, Kerry’s assault has been devastating; the only defense the Swiftboaters can seem to muster is that they didn’t like his anti-war speech in 1971.

Why didn’t Kerry fight back harder in 2004?

Of course, plenty of disappointed and angry Democrats would like to know why Mr. Kerry did not defend himself so strenuously before the election. He had posted some military documents on his campaign’s Web site and had allowed reporters to view his medical records but resisted open access to them as unnecessarily intrusive.

Mr. Kerry and his defenders say that they did not have the extensive archival material, and that it was too complicated to gather in the rapid pace of a campaign. He was caught off guard, he says; he had been prepared to defend his antiwar activism, but he did not believe that anyone would challenge the facts behind his military awards. “We should have put more money behind it,” Mr. Kerry says now. “I take responsibility for it; it was my mistake. They spent something like $30 million, and we didn’t. That’s just a terrible imbalance when somebody’s lying about you.”

I’m not convinced that fighting back hard would have done much good. Guys like Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus constantly harped on the point that Kerry hadn’t released all of his records, but does anyone really think that such a release would have satisfied any of his opponents? Indeed, Kaus took the opportunity of the release to mock a bad picture of Kerry, to make fun of his grades, and to suggest that the records demonstrated that Kerry wasn’t really all that smart. In short, the release of the records didn’t answer any questions at all, because the point of the question was not to receive an answer, but rather to raise doubt about Kerry’s credentials.

Similarly, I doubt that a serious effort on the part of Kerry to fight the Swift Boaters would have made a difference in the campaign. There was plenty of evidence in the public sphere in the summer of 2004 that the Swift Boat campaign was garbage, but that was hardly the point. The purpose was to take advantage of a media dedicated to he said/she said coverage of major campaign issues; the accusation of cowardice was enough, even if no compelling evidence could be manufactured. I suspect that if Kerry had fought back against the Swift Boaters, the media would have portrayed him as obsessive about the issue, and Glenn Reynolds would have had the opportunity to link to a Mickey Kaus post suggesting that Kerry’s efforts to fight the charges clearly indicated that he had something to hide.

The only way that these sorts of things really go away is when the opposition party has enough basic dignity to reject the charges. When George H. W. Bush’s war record was brought into question in 1988 by someone who had served with him in the Navy, Michael Dukakis immediately and publicly rejected the opportunity to attack Bush on the issue. Given the same opportunity, the Republican Party manufactured fake Purple Hearts in a display that mocked anyone who had ever been wounded in US military service. When the proponents of the argument are driven by sufficient hate (the belief that Kerry stood for all of the things that helped us lose the Vietnam War), and have a large enough bankroll, I don’t know that there’s a good way to fight these kinds of charges.

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