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Category: Robert Farley

Monday Reading

[ 78 ] March 9, 2015 |

Happy Monday!

USS Enterprise FS Charles de Gaulle.jpg

“USS Enterprise FS Charles de Gaulle” by U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman. – U.S. DefenseImagery photo VIRIN: 010516-N-6259P-003. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

From Vietnam to Chicago to Gitmo

[ 35 ] March 9, 2015 |
Chicagopd jpg w300h294.jpg

“Chcagopd jpg w300h294″ by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.


What happened at Gitmo wasn’t torture.  Why, it was no worse than serious BDSM/ Special Forces training /frat hazing/ what the Chicago Police Department does on a daily basis.

These allegations recall Chicago twenty-five years ago. In 1990, after multiple allegations of torture, the CPD Office of Professional Standards conducted an investigation in Area 2 that identified fifty cases of torture by over thirty officers. Subsequent investigations led to the uncovering of over 100 victims, going back to 1968. Tactics included shocking, bagging [the head] and suffocating, suspension, whipping, burning, and beating. Most incidents were connected to Jon Burge and his “Asskickers.” Jon Burge brought many of the tactics he learned in Vietnam to interrogations of criminals of Chicago. Although Burge eventually lost his job,[4] other than two associated officers, no other officers were disciplined. Many remained and were promoted.[5] Even if the problem was a “bad apple,” it may very well have spoiled the bunch. Investigations identified over fifty officers over close to three decades. Not only that, but approximately one third of Cook County criminal court judges were attorneys or detectives involved in the torture cases.[6] So the fact that the allegations that began to surface about nefarious practices at Homan in the mid-2000s has gone mostly unnoticed is not all that surprising. When asked about why the Chicago media hasn’t broken the story, Tracy Siska, the executive director of the Chicago Justice Project, replied that many “reporters agree with the police perspective.”

Nuclear Targets

[ 58 ] March 7, 2015 |

_56356891_hmssheffieldpaOne of the lessons we can draw from the best work on nuclear weapon handling accidents, a lesson available from both the theoretical and the anecdotal accounts, is that the accidents happen due to an accumulation of unexpected errors that interact in unpredictable ways.  A falling wrench tears open a pipe; changes in personnel rotations lead experienced people to ignore weapons loaded onto a plane; and so forth.

I’m not sure that “sending nuclear-armed ships into an area where they’re being fired on by Exocet missiles” counts as this kind of normal accident:

The Ministry of Defence admitted for the first time last night that British ships carried nuclear weapons in the Falklands war.

The disclosure came as the government was forced to concede – after a long-running campaign by the Guardian – that seven nuclear weapons containers were damaged during a series of wartime accidents.

But many of the details of these accidents are still being kept secret by the MoD.

The ministry also refused to say whether any nuclear depth charges were on board HMS Sheffield, which was sunk during the war.




So You Want a Blue Water Navy…

[ 16 ] March 6, 2015 |
US Navy 050614-N-0120R-050 The conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) receives fuel during a replenishment at sea.jpg

US Navy 050614-N-0120R-050 The conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) receives fuel during a replenishment at sea.jpg

Here’s five things that could maybe help:

Broadly speaking, having a blue water navy means having the capacity to deploy a task force of ships across the open ocean, and to support them at great distance from their bases. Having a blue water navy means that a nation has the potential to play a big role on the international stage. Indeed, developing a blue water navy may be more complex, expensive, and useful than building a nuclear weapon.

In Mahan’s day, what countries needed to count as having a blue water navy was a series of coaling stations that they could access during war. This could mean colonies, friends, or a healthy set of financial accounts. Times have changed, but much of the basic logic of blue water deployment remains the same.


[ 23 ] March 5, 2015 |

Japanese battleship Musashi cropped.jpg

“Japanese battleship Musashi” by Tobei Shiraishi – Japanese_battleship_Musashi.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Because of course I’d have more than just one thing to say about HIJMS Musashi:

The sinking of HIJMS Musashi in October 1944 made depressingly clear what many observers had suspected since 1941, and even as early as the 1920s: sufficient numbers of committed carrier aircraft could sink a battleship, even when that battleship carried a heavy anti-aircraft armament and could maneuver at speed. But a more careful look at the story offers some insights into how we understand the relationship between military innovation and “obsolescence.”

HIJMS Musashi

[ 12 ] March 4, 2015 |

It appears that Paul Allen has found a very large battleship:

More about the expedition here. I suppose this means that a Gamilon attack is right around the corner…

Wednesday Linkage…

[ 19 ] March 4, 2015 |
Mig-29ukraine arms.JPG

“MiG-29ukraine arms”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

For your reading pleasure:

Dronz! With the Killz!

[ 46 ] March 2, 2015 |
The Reaper returns

MQ-9 Reaper (US Air Force photo)

My latest at the National Interest takes a look at killer drones:

Why kill with drones? States have a few reasons to prefer Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to do their dirty work. From a political standpoint, drones would seem to carry less risk than manned aircraft; even unsophisticated foes can sometimes bring down a jet and take its pilot captive. Freed of the need to keep a human pilot alive and awake, drones can loiter on station much longer than manned aircraft, keeping more careful watch on potential targets.

Some drones kill directly; others facilitate joint military operations. This list looks at five of the most lethal drones that nations have begun to field over the last decade.


[ 21 ] March 1, 2015 |

A couple weeks ago, Miriam and Elisha attended a National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) builder’s workshop at their elementary school.  For me, this offered the opportunity to drop them off for an hour and drink in peace.  For them, it meant a chance to enter a school-wide competition with a lot of their friends, as well as to play with Legos.  Neither Miriam nor Elisha are huge Lego builders at this point, although they enjoy playing with things that are already built.  We’ve had a bit more success with Lincoln Logs, which I was surprised to discover still existed.

Each kid received a few Legos, a sheet of aluminum foil,  a piece of string, and instructions to build a project related to the construction industry. Parents were excluded from the cafeteria in order to ensure that the kids worked on their own. There was a lot of variance in how long it took the kids to finish; many were more interested in playing in the gym downstairs than in building. The kids were allotted about forty-five minutes; Miriam took 35, and Elisha was one of the last in the school to conduct an exit interview with the judges.

Initially, Elisha explained to me that she had built a milk machine. This didn’t seem to have much relation to the construction industry (her sister built a mountain), and so I pretty much wrote off her chances.  When we were allowed in the exhibition room, she showed me her entry, and it was hard to tell precisely what it was.

10846075_10155145391210265_3278727000891471822_nAnd so I was surprised when the judges announced that Elisha had won first place in her age group (K-1), and even more surprised when they announced that she had won the overall competition.

Turns out that Elisha’s had thought through her entry in more depth than I had imagined.  She had initially intended to build a giraffe, but decided that it was too difficult and would take too much time.  The backup, a “milk machine,” was actually a milk processing plant, with the foil representing a big pond of milk, the string a pipeline, and the blocks the various stages of processing and distribution.  At the end of the picture you can see crumpled foil being sent out on trucks for delivery.

The engineers in attendance found this explanation particularly compelling.  After raining a variety of gift certificates on Elisha, one of the judges tried to explain the terms “mechanical engineering” and “electrical engineering.” I don’t think that she was paying any attention, having decided that the biggest achievement of the evening was outdoing her sister.

For her part, Miriam’s initial reaction was not positive.  She was irritated that she hadn’t won, and more irritated that her sister had won.  But she held it together; no falling apart. This was a respectable disappointment, focused not on the judges or the structure of the competition, but on an unhappiness that she hadn’t done better.  Over the next few days her attitude evolved, and her sister’s victory became a point of pride in conversation with people outside the family.

Foreign Entanglements: More ISIS!

[ 3 ] February 28, 2015 |

On this episode of Foreign Entanglements, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and I talk ISIS:


[ 82 ] February 27, 2015 |

Leonard Nimoy’s influence on the way I look at the world is incalculable. Still active until very recently, he will be deeply missed.



[ 132 ] February 26, 2015 |

I find reading Matt Taibbi to be a deeply frustrating experience.  He has enormous strengths as a writer, including a gift for metaphor.  His weaknesses lay mainly in an inability (or unwillingness) to provide helpful context to the details that he supplies.  These strengths and weaknesses are on glaring display here:

Unlike the NBA, where phenoms like LeBron or Kobe are spotted as young children and whose draft stock often remains more stable than that of young football players, the NFL is a sport where overpaid GMs regularly miss by a mile. They allow MVP-caliber players like Tom Brady or Terrell Davis to fall through their fingers all the way down to the bottom rounds, by which time the Mel Kipers and Todd McShays have talked themselves hoarse and millions of fans are still paying close attention, praying for aSeabiscuit-type miracle ending. It’s no coincidence that ESPN plays up draft-malpractice stories like The Brady 6 as they get closer to the event.

None of this is quite wrong, but if it’s possible to have a less informative paragraph about the contrast between NBA and NFL prospect projection without being outright false, I’d like to see it. NFL prospects are harder to project than NBA prospects for a lot of reasons, including differences in how systems interact, and in how the human body matures. Virtually none of this has anything to do with the acumen, or lack thereof, of “overpaid” NFL GMs and scouts.

Taibbi also tackles the Mariota-Winston competition, with unsatisfactory results. As far as I can tell (and I’ve been following this fairly closely) there is no human professionally associated with the NFL who cares that Winston runs a much slower 40 than Mariota. And then Taibbi tries to shoehorn the competition into a ready-made storyline:

In years past, there have been several controversies involving highly rated African American quarterbacks and draft experts. Longtime Pro Football Weekly writer Nolan Nawrocki, whose face is certainly on the Mount Rushmore of draft analysts and who is known for his Tolstoy-length, book-style draft reports, infamously blasted Newton as having a “fake smile” and for being a “con artist” who “comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup…”

And thus began SubtextBowl 2015. Get ready for a ton of Winston-Mariota hype chock full of loaded dog-whistle language, some of which will probably be below the belt. Winston is clearly the more gifted passer, but Mariota, a talented Hawaiian often celebrated for his consistency and quiet leadership, is already being showered with the laudatory overachiever clichés normally reserved for white wide receivers, who in the draft are always compared to Wes Welker and inevitably described as “gritty,” “hardworking,” “coachable,” “blue-collar,” “humble,” and possessing of a “high football IQ.”

Again, it’s not as if this is quite wrong; it’s just not particularly applicable to this story. The ghost that’s haunting Jameis Winston isn’t Cam Newton, it’s Johnny Manziel. It’s kind of ironic and deeply unfair that a pro-style African-American quarterback is suffering from the sins of a dual-threat white QB, but there you go. Mariota is a better fit for the stereotypical African-American dual-threat quarterback who can’t transition to the NFL, although it’s interesting that people haven’t brought up Tim Tebow more often. And for what it’s worth, all the reports on Winston that I’ve seen thus far have indicated that he performed very well in team interviews.

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