Friday, June 29, 2012

A taste of Adrianople

While we're all sweltering in 100-degree temperatures during this heat wave, just imagine doing the following in this heat ...

Waking up in the predawn darkness in your tent.

Having your breakfast by a fire.

Marching for the next 8 hours.

Without a break, even for lunch.

In full chain or scale armor and helmets.

And leggings.

Carrying your shield, spear and big sword.

All in this heat.

Then, after all that, you have to fight a battle in which you're outnumbered.

In this heat.

Now you have some idea of the plight of the poor Roman soldiers at the Battle of Adrianople in AD 378.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Even God hates the Miami Heat

Last week, the Miami Heat (aka the al Qaida of the NBA), who were assembled via dishonesty, arrogance, tampering and collusion in violation of NBA rules, won the NBA title.

This week, Miami is being belted by a hurricane.

Do the math.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hey, kids! Wanna kill somebody?

Then the US Supreme Court has good news for you! If you're convicted of murder, not only can you not be given the death penalty, you can't even be given life in prison without parole:
Extending its ever-evolving, and ever less coherent, Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, the Supreme Court ruled today, by a 5-4 vote in Miller v. Alabama, that it is unconstitutional to establish a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for any category of murder committed by a person younger than 18 (otherwise known, if only in this context, as a “juvenile”). The Court’s ruling—majority opinion by Justice Kagan, joined by Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor—invalidated contrary aspects of sentencing regimes established by 28 States and the federal government.
The majority declined to address the argument that the Eighth Amendment requires a categorical bar on the discretionary imposition on a juvenile of life without parole, but it volunteered that “appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty” (the death penalty already having been categorically deemed off limits) “will be uncommon.”
The emphasis is in Ed Whelan's original, but that distinction will not stand. Just watch. With Miller, SCOTUS continues down its road from the 8th Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment to the 8th Amendment prohibiting any punishment. Justice Alito's dissent is epic:

A logic puzzle with no solution?

Remember those old logic puzzles? Where you're, like, given the characteristics of four people and left to determine which of them did what? Usually you have to use a logic grid to solve it? Well, courtesy of Brad Plumer at the Washington Post and Walter Russell Mead, we now have a logic puzzle that describes the mess in the Euro Zone:


I suppose the question is, does this logic puzzle even have a solution?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Too stupid for democracy?

There is an old saying about the Communist version of democracy: one man, one vote, one time.

I could not help but think about that saying when I read about the dissolution of the Egyptian parliament last week. The wailing and gnashing of gums was prevalent: a setback for democracy, a return to oppression.

Except the choice in Egypt seems to be oppression and ... oppression. Either oppression by the secular Egyptian military or oppression by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Barry Rubin is on it:
The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court has just invalidated the parliamentary election there. The parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, is being dissolved. The military junta has taken over total authority. The presidential election is still scheduled for a few dozen hours from now.
In short, everything is confused and everything is a mess. All calculations are thrown to the wind. What this appears to be is a new military coup. What is the underlying theme? The armed forces concluded that an Islamist takeover was so dangerous for Egypt and for its own interests that it is better to risk civil war, a bloodbath, and tremendous unpopularity than to remain passive and turn over power. I believe this decision was made very reluctantly and not out of some lust for power by the generals. They have decided that they had no choice.
Agreed. Fortunately there have been no rumblings of a civil war yet, but better a civil war than the Muslim Brotherhood in power.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An idea whose time is never

The latest brilliant idea out of downtown Indianapolis: privatizing the City-County Building:
It's now apparent that there is no city asset that is so sacred as to not be within the grasp of Mayor Greg Ballard's political cronies to turn into a profit center. The IBJ's Kathleen McLaughlin has a story in today's edition discussing the Ballard administration's plan to privatize the City-County Building, which is currently owned by a municipal corporation, the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority, and leased to city-county government for $4.85 million annually, or about $7.29 per square foot, which includes unlimited utilities. The Authority floated bonds to construct the original 28-story building in 1959 for $32 million.

According to a Request for Information put out by the City, the administration thinks it would be better for it to exercise its option to assume ownership of the building at the end of its current 10-year lease with the Authority and then privatize it rather than continuing to make low lease payments to the Authority. The administration is hoping to shift cost of future repairs to the building to a third party without increasing the city's overall costs. Anyone with common sense knows that it's impossible to turn control of the building over to a private entity, expect that private entity to make necessary repairs to a 50-year old building and lease it back to the city for no more than the paltry $7.29 per square foot the City is now paying the Authority to use the space. The City is even anticipating an upfront payment from a private real estate manager as part of the deal to spend on infrastructure improvements. Apparently the City wants us to believe it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Let's not go banning any unions just yet (or "When is a stimulus not a stimulus?")

The always-insightful Mickey Kaus sees one common denominator in the reasons why the stimulus package failed:
1) The “shovel ready” jobs weren’t shovel ready (as Obama himself has admitted), leading to a delay in the stimulating effect;
2) The money to save the jobs of  “firemen … and policemen … and … teachers” did not just go to firefighters and policemen and teachers. It also went to non-essential bureaucrats (e.g., headquarters paper shufflers, “diversity coordinators”);
3) The money bailed out states that were paying unsustainable pensions and benefits, enabling them to keep paying those benefits, so that when the federal subsidy ran out the states couldn’t afford to keep workers on the payroll and laid them off. (Wisconsin, by cutting back on benefits and collective bargaining, could afford to avoid big layoffs, says Morrissey).
Note that these criticisms apply even if you think countercyclical Keynesian spending helps (as I do) and that public jobs are a good way to do that (ditto). None of the objections would have applied to a Roosevelt-style WPA that immediately put the unemployed to work on useful construction jobs. They’re criticisms of BHO, not FDR. …

P.S.: It would be reductive and predictable for me to point out that all three of these Obama-era problems have a single cause: public employee unions[.]
Let me start by admitting something that many will find unforgivable: I supported the stimulus. I supported the federal government borrowing close to $1 trillion to try to jump start the economy. And even though Obama said it was going to go to “shovel-ready” projects like road construction, I knew at least some of that money was going to go to “rent-seekers” and political supporters of Obama. And I didn’t care. Why? Because even if some of the money was siphoned off to political allies (and at least some is in just about every federal appropriation, no matter the party in charge), it was still going into the economy. One way or another, it was going to be spent. And that would help the economy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rising Sun, Falling Skies

It is my pleasure to be able to announce that a long-time dream of mine is coming true.

Japanese naval flag. From Wikipedia/David Newton.
In Summer 2013, my first book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II will be published by Osprey Publishing, Ltd. of England. The book will cover the heroic efforts of US naval forces trapped and isolated in the Far East after Pearl Harbor, who joined with British, Dutch and Australians in a desperate effort to halt the overwhelming Japanese onslaught. The campaign started badly with the Japanese destroying US aircraft on the ground in the Philippines and sinking the British battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse and ended even worse with the disastrous Allied defeat in the Battle of the Java Sea that led to the Japanese conquest of the oil-rich Netherlands East Indies, what is today Indonesia, and the achievement of the Japanese objectives in going to war.

In the middle, American, British, Dutch and Australian fighting men were done in by factors almost too numerous to list: ambivalent leaders, incompetent generals, indefensible positions, old, worn-out ships; almost no air support, badly outnumbered fighting men, outclassed and outnumbered aircraft, no hope for reinforcement, no hope even for replacements, no chance to rest, no chance to maintain their equipment, constantly low on supplies, especially oil and munitions; poor communications and bickering governments. In the face of these crushing odds, the only hope the Allied forces had was to delay the Japanese, buy time for the new warships and aircraft under construction in US shipyards and factories to enter the war. Every day counted. This was a modern-day Thermopylae, with a stand every bit as heroic, every bit as desperate, every bit as memorable as Leonidas and his 300 Spartans.

Rising Sun, Falling Skies will take more American perspective on the naval campaign, including the efforts of the cruisers Houston and Marblehead, our submarines and ancient-but-game "four piper" destroyers, both crippled by criminally defective torpedoes; the desperation that doomed the USS Langley and the hunted Patrol Wing Ten, who performed reconnaissance work that was borderline suicide. But our faithful and equally heroic allies will receive their due as well: the last stands of the British cruiser Exeter and the Australian cruiser Perth, the little-known British repulse of a Japanese invasion force an hour before Pearl Harbor, and the mountains of unfair abuse heaped on the gallant, humane Dutch commander Karel Doorman, who went down with his ship in the Battle of the Java Sea.

The Japanese, too, will come in for examination. Their navy was a bizarre contradiction of very modern, very powerful ships with capable officers that achieved victory using a doctrine rejected by their own superiors and tactics that did not work. They would succeed in a conquest so vast, so complete that it would rival the German blitzkrieg, but would also sow the seeds for their own defeat in the war.

Rising Sun, Falling Skies has literally been 30 years in the making. All the books, reports and other materials I've acquired and reviewed over the years have been to this end. I first came across Osprey Publishing working on my article on the Battle of Adrianople, when I reviewed quite a few of their works in piecing the battle together. I am ecstatic not only that my dream of writing a book on the Battle of the Java Sea is coming true, but that in doing so I am working with a publisher that is highly skilled and very well respected in producing quality works of military history.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shattered Sword

My day job kept me from celebrating the 70th Annoversary of the Battle of Midway and the 68th Anniversary of D-Day with y'all, but I certainly did not forget, either. Midway and Longest Day have sacred places on my DVD shelf, along with Tora Tora Tora! and A Bridge Too Far.

I must repeat, however, that while there are many, many books on the Battle of Midway, there is but one that I consider to be the "Bible" of the Battle of Midway: Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, two of the people behind The Imperial Japanese Navy Page. Has a sacred spot in my ever-growing library. The best book on the Battle of Midway, one of the best books on World War II and one of the best military history books ever. Just chock full of information.

If you want to learn everything about Midway, check it out.

The gift that keeps on giving

In the history of Egypt, no one -- not the Hyksos, not the Hittites, not the "Sea Peoples," not the Achaemenid Persians, not the Macedonians, not the Romans, not the Muslim caliphates, not the Ottomans, not the British -- have done more damage to the country than Gamal abd al-Nasser. Once the granary of the Roman Empire, the country's ability to feed even just itself was destroyed by Nasser's construction of the Aswan High Dam on the upper Nile.

But the damage was more than just physical. As Michael J. Totten notes:
Egypt used to be a much more liberal place than it is now. That era was ended by Nasser. History has no rewind button. Post-Nasserism will not restore the status quo ante. Political liberalism may well be in the country’s future, but Egypt will first have to pass through an era of Islamism. It may not be Iranian-style Islamism, but Cairo ain’t Prague.
He links to an article in Al-Ahram Weekly that gets into just how bad the situation is in Egypt for classical liberals:

I can sympathize

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the NBA Finals with a great crop of young talent led by the classy Kevin Durant, and the basketball fans of Seattle are not happy:

The Oklahoma City Thunder reached the NBA Finals on Wednesday night.
The city of Seattle feels cheated.
Following the 2007-08 season, the Seattle Supersonics controversially relocated to Oklahoma City and rebranded the franchise as the “Thunder”.
Sonics fans have been angry and in denial ever since, bouncing back and forth between the first two stages of grief. The loss of their beloved franchise is going to take years to overcome.
Oklahoma City defeated the San Antonio Spurs 107-99, coming back from a 2-0 series deficit and winning four straight games. Seeing the Thunder reach the Finals with Kevin Durant (a player they drafted) stings more than most fans can imagine.
Oh, I can imagine. All Cleveland Browns fans can imagine.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Has Amelia Earhart been found?

An older but always interesting story resurfaced over the weekend: the final fate of the legendary pilot Amelia Earhart:
For decades, pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart was said to have “disappeared” over the Pacific on her quest to circle the globe along a 29,000-mile equatorial route.

Now, new information gives a clearer picture of what happened 75 years ago to Ms. Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, where they came down and how they likely survived – for a while, at least – as castaways on a remote island, catching rainwater and eating fish, shellfish, and turtles to survive.
The tale hints at lost opportunities to locate and rescue the pair in the first crucial days after they went down, vital information dismissed as inconsequential or a hoax, the failure to connect important dots regarding physical evidence.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, reported new details Friday leading researchers to this conclusion: Earhart and Noonan, low on fuel and unable to find their next scheduled stopping point – Howland Island – radioed their position, then landed on a reef at uninhabited Gardner Island, a small coral atoll now known as Nikumaroro Island.
Using what fuel remained to turn up the engines to recharge the batteries, they continued to radio distress signals for several days until Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed Electra aircraft was swept off the reef by rising tides and surf. Using equipment not available in 1937 – digitized information management systems, antenna modeling software, and radio wave propagation analysis programs, TIGHAR concluded that 57 of the 120 signals reported at the time are credible, triangulating Earhart’s position to have been Nikumaroro Island.

Friday, June 1, 2012

If you want to learn how to alienate an ally, Part 2

Insulting our ally Poland by referring to the Nazi death camps as "Polish death camps" apparently was not enough for Obama:
Lech Walesa was once a trade-union activist. He was often arrested for speaking his mind against Communist oppression behind the Iron Curtain in Poland and for defying the Soviet Union. He was an electrician who, with no higher education, led one of the most profound freedom movements of the 20th century — Solidarity. He became president of Poland and swept in reforms, pushing the Soviet Union out of his homeland and moving the country toward a free-market economy and individual liberty. And President Obama doesn’t want him to set foot in the White House.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Polish officials requested that Walesa accept the Medal of Freedom on behalf of Jan Karski, a member of the Polish Underground during World War II who was being honored posthumously this week. The request makes sense. Walesa and Karski shared a burning desire to rid Poland of tyrannical subjugation. But President Obama said no.
Administration officials told the Journal that Walesa is too “political.” A man who was arrested by Soviet officials for dissenting against the government for being “political” is being shunned by the United States of America for the same reason 30 years later.