May 17, 2007
Okay, this was just an excuse to do one last Goldie Hawn post.
Update: More overpopulation humor at 6MB.
May 02, 2007
Today is the 25th anniversary of the sinking of ARA General Belgrano* by HMS Conqueror. more...
April 29, 2007
Cunningham and Driscoll's May 10, 1972, sortie was one of the legendary dogfights of all time. Despite several tactical errors, and lacking a gun which would have been useful, they shot down three MiG-17s that day. The team became America's first "all-missile" aces.*
They flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom. The navy plane in the video is not one of Cunningham's F4Js. The plane from the May 10 dogfight never made it back to the USS Constellation after Cunningham and Driscoll shot down their last MiG. They ejected over the ocean on the way back, after taking damage from an SA-2 ground-to-air missile.
* Trivia: of the four American aces from the Vietnam War, the top scorer (with 6) was a back-seater, USAF Capt. Charles DeBellevue.
April 21, 2007
[A]bout 10 per cent of the Victory's crew came from outside the British Isles: twenty-two Americans, one Brazilian, two Canadians, two Danes, seven Dutch, four French, three Germans, nine Italians, six Maltese, two Norwegians, one Portuguese, four Swedes, two Swiss, two from India, and five from the West Indies. Such a mixture was due partly to press-gangs and partly to volunteering. French men serving in the British Navy were usually royalist volunteers, opposed to the revolutionary and then Napoleonic regimes in France.Source: Roy Adkins, Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World, p. 50. Lots of interesting stuff in that book.
April 03, 2007
Answer here (paragraph 6).
February 06, 2007
He was also Maggie's hero.
via Good Lt at Jawa
December 07, 2006
As most of you know, it is a naval tradition for sailors to line the deck of a carrier when passing U.S.S. Arizona and also Mt. Vernon.
I visited the Arizona Memorial once. (It's where I learned that "quay" is prononced "key.") For those who haven't yet, you definitely should go see it. The National Park Service runs the museum onshore, and before you get on the ferry to the memorial, they make you watch a movie about the attack. It's a good idea because it puts everybody in a somber mood before they go to the memorial.
When you get on the ferry boat, they make a big deal about how you are no longer in the custody of the Park Service; now the Navy is in charge, which makes you even more respectful by the time you step onto the memorial. It is a cemetary after all.
The group I was with was very quiet while on the memorial, as I imagine most visitors are. It was a beautiful day, and all you could hear was the flapping of the American flag overhead or the occasional clang of the line against the flagpole. When you look over the side, you really can see the Arizona, only a few feet below the water's surface. And there really is oil coming out of her after all these years. And inside still, are the men. They died sixty-five years ago today.
Pearl Harbor Trivia: Bonus points go to whoever can name the ship that survived Pearl Harbor, only to be sunk by a British torpedo!
December 02, 2006
At 1700 on the evening of December 2 a telegram arrived aboard Nagato . . . directing the opening of certain sealed top secret envelope. As his eager fingers tore open the seals, [Adm. Matome] Ugaki sensed that he had in his hands the orders he had awaited impatiently. His instinct was correct. Down the page ran the words "Our Empire has decided to go to war against the United States, England, and Holland early December." Ugaki immediately sent a message to the commanders in chief of each fleet: "Decision made, but date and time will be ordered later."The next morning, Admiral Ugaki sent out the second most famous Japanese coded message of the war, "Climb Mount Niitaka, 1208," which meant that the attack would begin on December 8, 1941 (Japan time).
[Adm. Chuichi] Nagumo had been even more than usually concerned with security that day. At 0730 he signaled his ships:This force is already in the anticipated scouting areas from Kiska and Midway Islands. Tonight we will pass the 180 degree line and near the enemy zone. More strict air alert and strict lookout against enemy ships suspected of tracking us will be maintained. Particular attention will be paid not to reveal any light at night and to limit blinker signals as much as possible.Now, on receipt of the "Go" signal, Nagumo knew that he would have to push forward on this gambler's venture he had so dreaded.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world, the German Wermacht had cut off Leningrad from the rest of Russia. They had been unable to take the city and now the first winter of the long seige had begun. Neurobiologist Alexei Alexeivich Ukhtomsky was one of the leading Soviet scientists of his day. Also a devout Russian Orthodox, he would not survive the seige of Leningrad.
From Harrison E. Salisbury's harrowing The 900 Days:
Ukhtomsky was sisty-six years old when the war broke out. He had just completed editing his lectures on the nervous system for the University of Leningrad publishing house and was planning in the 1941-42 academic year to offer a new course in physiology. With the onset of war he put aside these occupations . . . His laboratory and institute were packed up and shipped to Elabuga in the Tatar Republic and Sratov, but he himself refused to go. His lifelong associate, Nadezhda Ivanovna Bobrovskaya, was critically ill; she had suffered a brain hemorrhage on June 6, and he was caring for her in his apartment. Moreover, his own health was extremely bad. . . .Professor Ukhtomsky finally succumbed to his illnesses and starvation on August 31, 1942.
Nonetheless, he refused to be evacuated with his laboratory. Nadezhda Bobrovskaya died September 26, but Ukhtomsky still refused to go. . . .
"I remain in Leningrad," he said, "in order to finish my work. I haven't long to live. I will die here. It's too late to leave."
The university organized a meeting on December 2 to mark the fiftieth anniversity of Lenin's graduation. It was held in the assembly hall. The electricity was working. From somewhere flowers had been produced for the platform. But the windows were broken, icy winds filled the chamber, and there were snowdrifts on the floor. Air-raid sirens sounded during the meeting, and there were occasional explosions of German shells.
Although he was now suffering from emphysema, although his toes were gangrenous and his cancer much worse, Ukhtomsky spoke with such vigor that participants counted his address one of his most striking.
. . .
So the intellectual life of Leningrad went on; so the intellectuals kept to their laboratories and their libraries, dying by the hundreds but making no concession to the terrible enemies which threatened their existence.
November 10, 2006
October 25, 2006
Crispin and Crispinian were once the Catholic patron saints of cobblers, tanners, and leather workers. Born to a noble Roman family in the 3rd century AD, Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twin brothers, fled persecution for their faith, winding up in Soissons, where they preached Christianity to the Gauls and made shoes by night. Their success attracted the ire of Rictus Varus, the governor of Belgic Gaul, who had them tortured and beheaded c. 286. In the 6th century, a church was built in their honor at Soissons.You may not know about the Catholic feast day, but I hope you know about the most famous speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, the St. Crispin's Day Speech. I posted that speech back during the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. Today I am reminded of the appeasers and the "cut-and-run" crowd by this famous line:
The feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian is October 25. However, these saints were removed from the liturgical calendar (but not declared to no longer be saints) during the Catholic Church's Vatican II reforms.
The reasoning used by Vatican II for this decision was that there was insufficient evidence that Saints Crispin and Crispinian actually existed. Indeed, their role as shoemakers, their relationship as twins, and the timing of their holiday are suggestive of the possibility that they could have represented a local Celtic deity (Lugus-Mercurius) which had been made into a saint as a result of syncretism. [links omitted]
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,Celebrate St. Crispin's by watching Kenneth Branagh recite the Bard's poetry:
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
And let's not forget too, that 62 years ago was day three of the biggest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
October 14, 2006
A study published in the Lancet this week estimates that 654,965 Iraqis have died as a consequence of war since 2003. . . .655,000 is roughly the population of Baltimore, Maryland, where Johns Hopkins University is located.
. . . The researchersled by Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins Universitygathered data on more than 12,000 people in clusters of houses around Iraq, and tried to figure out how many people had died both before and after March of 2003. By comparing the pre- and post-invasion mortality rates, they figured out how many deaths could be attributed to the war, and then extrapolated from their sample to the country's entire population. [via Slate.com]
Johns Hopkins University, Boston University and MIT are not fly-by-night institutions, and people who work there have academic reputations to protect.Must be true then. These people couldn't possibly make a mistake. In fact, I bet the peer review process is waived for all studies coming out of JHU, BU, MIT, or the Lancet.
The Lancet, founded 182 years ago, is one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world.
The most disturbing thing is the breakdown of the causes of death.Actually, blind acceptance of the Lancet's figures and methodology by a historian such as Dyer looks like carelessness to me.
Over half the deaths -- 56 per cent -- are due to gunshot wounds, but 13 per cent are due to air strikes. No terrorists do air strikes. No Iraqi government forces do air strikes either because they don't have combat aircraft. Air strikes are done by "coalition forces" (i.e. Americans and British) and air strikes in Iraq have killed over 75,000 people since the invasion.
Oscar Wilde once observed that "to lose one parent ... may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."
To lose 75,000 Iraqis to air strikes looks like carelessness, too.
Now, I didn't do too well in statistics, so I won't pick apart the Lancet's methodology, no matter how suspect it seems to me (it was based on interviews?!). But I do have a history background and the 655,000 number seemed wildly far-fetched to me the instant I saw it. Wildly far-fetched.
I immediately wondered why the study's authors had not considered placing the estimate into historical perspective. That would be a kind of "smell test," which I suspected the study might not pass.
Consider this. In 3½ years, the Lancet figures we have been responsible for 655,000 civilian deaths. (Not casualties, deaths. The term "casualty" includes missing, wounded and POWs.) For comparison, I simply went to two easily available sources: The Oxford Companion to World War II, and the often less reliable Wikipedia.
According to those two sources, Japanese civilian deaths in World War II ranged from 400,000 to 600,000. One generally expects the Wikipedia figure to be at the higher range, and that was true in this case. I also consulted Wings of Judgment, by Ronald Schaffer, a somewhat left leaning historian of the two World Wars. Shaffer gave an estimated range from 330,000 to 900,000 Japanese deaths (p. 14 , which coincidentally is almost exactly the range that the Lancet used for Iraqi civilian deaths (392,979 to 942,636).
Looking at all three sources, the Wikipedia estimate of 600,000 Japanese civilian deaths seems most reasonable. So the obvious question to me is this:
Are we to believe that the United States has killed more Iraqi civilians in the current war than we killed Japanese civilians during World War II?
I have no doubt that there are very many anti-war kooks who would not hesitate to believe that, but it sure doesn't pass the smell test to me.
Keep in mind that we attacked Japan repeatedly with unguided incendiary bombs in WWII, while we mostly relied on precision guided bombs when bombing Iraq. Also remember that the aerial bombing in Iraq occurred in the first three weeks of the war, and thereafter was only used to support certain offensives like in Fallujah, etc.
Keep in mind that the purpose of strategic bombing in WWII was to kill civilians and that we intentionally targeted Japanese civilians for over a year. In Iraq, we make a great effort to avoid civilian deaths. In fact, Iraqi civilian deaths are counter-productive to the war effort and can be used as a propaganda against us by our enemies, as the Lancet study proves.
Keep in mind that we flattened two Japanese cities in WWII with nuclear weapons, and that those attacks weren't even as deadly as the Tokyo firebomb raid in which three hundred B-29s burned the city to the ground and killed almost 100,000 civilians in one night. We bombed the crap out of Japan so thoroughly that we had pretty much run out of cities to destroy by the end of the war.
It was a lot easier to kill Japanese civilians by firebombing than it is to kill Iraqis today. The Lancet figures that most Iraqis (56%) were killed by gunshots, which is probably the least efficient way of killing mass numbers of people. Remember that Japanese civilians lived in houses made of paper and wood, and that the population density of Iraq is nothing compared to Japan in the 1940s. During the Tokyo raid, escape was near impossible. Shaffer wrote:
The fire storm quickly roasted those who stayed in under-house shelters. Alleys and small gardens filled with flaming debris. Shifting flames blocked exit routes. Abandoning their efforts to check the inferno, firemen tried to channel people across already burned areas, and where there was still water pressure they drenched people so they could pass through the fire. Some inhabitants ducked themselves in firefighting cisterns before moving. . . .That is what it takes to kill 655,000 civilians. Death on that kind of scale is not something that can easily escape notice, yet there have been no such stories coming out of Iraq in the last three years. I'm not trying to minimize the horrible situation in Iraq, but some perspective is definitely in order. And the Lancet's estimate is so insanely exagerrated I can only conclude that the researchers are bald-faced liars.
Choking inhabitants crawled across fallen telephone poles and trolley wires. As superheated air burned their lungs and ignited their clothing, some burst into flames, fire sweeping up from the bottoms of trousers or starting in the cloth hoods worn for protection against the sparks. Residents hurried from burning areas with possessions bundled on their backs, unaware that the bundles had ignited. Some women who carried infants this way realized only when they stopped to rest that their babies were on fire.
. . . Thousands submerged themselves in stagnant, foul-smelling canals with their mouths just above the surface, but many died from smoke inhalation, anoxia, or carbon monoxide poisoning, or were submerged by masses of people who tumbled on top of them, or boiled to death when the fire storm heated the water. [p. 134]
More: Confederate Yankee wonders, "where are the bodies?"
September 01, 2006
I think it's especially appropriate to pause today and think about that fateful moment in 1939, which led to the death of so many millions.
Many folks have noted that our situation now is not unlike the time before that first panzer crossed the Polish frontier. I'm one of them. I see the failure of our international institutions and the blindness of so many prominent figures and I think of the League of Nations, Chamberlain, Lindbergh, and Coughlin.
There is no cosmic law that says we can't re-ignite the horrors of World War Two for a new generation. The United States lost 293,000 brave men to the conflict, but almost zero civilians. We had it lucky. We were the saving heroes from across the water in that war. We won't be so lucky next time.
The bill from the last world war was staggering. Twenty-five million Soviet citizens, fourteen million Chinese, seven million Germans, six million Poles, two million Japanese, and on and on.
If you were a European Jew, a Philipino, a Chinese or Russian peasant, even a lowly German or Soviet conscript, your life was a hell in the 1940's. All because a handful of world leaders could not, or would not, stop the juggernaut of fascism.
The atrocities were so numerous, we've given them names: Bataan, Auschwitz, Malmedy, Nanking, Dachau, Katyn Forest, Lidice, Treblinka, the Burma Railway, and on and on.
We must also remember the unimaginably horrible deaths from new techniques of killing developed for the war by our side, and used at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Tokyo, and on and on.
There are those who say we are on the precipice of World War Three right now. Others say it started five years ago. I am not going to argue with either viewpoint. Nor will I end this post with a pollyannish "don't worry, our leaders have things under control."
Because even if we were blessed with the greatest of statesman, which we're not, I don't know that it will be possible to avoid another trial of war brought upon us by evil men.
Some people insist our current enemies are not dangerous, or if they are, they're not evil. I'm at a point now where I don't think that argument matters a whole lot. Our enemies have their own agenda, and they will settle the issue in their own time. And we will have to fight them whether we're ready or not.
I looked up at the sky last night and saw a fiery meteor burn across the horizon. It was scary, though I knew it was no bigger than a coin. It made me think about how wise we think we are, yet how much there is we don't know. I wonder if there are intelligent beings who have been watching us these past hundred years. How they must laugh at our folly.
August 28, 2006
The first was definitely the proudest moment for me as a blogger. This whole exercise in semi-regular public writing is pretty ridiculous most of the time. But last September I can honestly say we made a difference. By we, I mean you, the very generous visitors to annika's journal who pledged $2,250 for hurricane relief.
You folks really deserve congratulations, because you showed how beautiful you are. We outdid some real big time blogs,* as you can see from the final list. Special thanks to Shelly who added a lot of cheerleading and cajoling to his characteristic generosity last year.
The second thing was that I bought a gun and started a disaster preparedness kit. Even though some of the horror stories turned out to be exagerrated, what did happen was still pretty horrible. And it could happen anywhere. I grew up in Oakland and have witnessed my share of natural disasters, so I have no excuse not to be prepared. The one lesson we should all take from Katrina is that each one if us is responsible for his or her own safety. Don't ever count on the government to do it for you, it's your job, and they're not very good at it.
* I didn't mention it at the time, because I thought it in bad taste (and maybe it still is) but I was really amazed at the sharp political division between the bloggers who joined in the fundraising and those who stood on the sidelines.
I did some informal research during the drive. I checked the biggies, like Kos etc, and they were on the ball. But I was curious about the smaller fish, so I started going down the list of the blogs listed as members of the League of Liberals. I actually went through the whole blogroll. Of those blogs that were still active, I was disappointed to see that the vast majority had absolutely no link to any charitable organization. That was despite the fact that most were not shy in hurling criticism at the administration (deserved) or at conservatives in general (undeserved). I seem to remember that there were only two blogs that had any charity hyperlinks. One of them put it up only after I left a scathing comment. And then it was to PETA or some sort of animal rescue org.
I acknowledge that my point is probably unfair. How do I know what these people donated in private? But the contrast between the left and right sides of the blogosphere back then really surprised me, and I think of it as kind of a watershed moment.
July 21, 2006
Instead, I took advantage of the new Pennsylvania Ave. location of my office and I decided to walk to the White House to see, with mine own eyes, the Code Pink Vigil/Fast. It's not every day I play tourist; this AM I looked the part: backpack w/ water bottle and camera in hand. Were it not for the long pants and leather shoes I think I would've looked like someone from out of town.
But Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, was practically empty.
Baron von Steuben was there.
As was Andrew Jackson.
But no Code Pink, no Cindy Sheehan. It seems I was mistaken; the vigil in Lafayette Park is scheduled for 10 AM to 7 PM. My bad.
However, William Thomas and his dog were out there, as they have been every day since June of 1981 (working in shifts with Concepcion Picciotto), protesting against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
You have to admire the courage of his convictions: Twenty-five years in one place...now, that's a vigil.
Also there was a newcomer, laptop on lap, protesting about Darfur:
Sadly, I did not chat with him, as I had to get to work. And I still do.
Reporting from Washington, for annika's journal, I'm Victor.
I walked over to the park during my 30-minute (by choice) lunch break to take some pix of the anti-war protestors. It took me awhile to find them.
Falun Gong was there, en masse, protesting China's alleged organ harvesting (NOTE: A Canadian report on these allegations can be found here):
I'll try to post some video later at home.
Iranian protestors were there, about where the Darfur protestor from this morning was:
Note that was the Iranian flag while under the Shah.
I finally found the anti-war protestors when I turned around, against the White House fence:
I saw no counter-protestors.
Reporting from Washington for annika's journal, I'm Victor.
July 06, 2006
No, not this bikini.
I'm talking about this kind!
So scandalous was the first modern-day bikini that the only female free-spirited enough to pose in one was a stripper. Parisian engineer-turned-designer Louis Reard released the suit at a fashion shoot on July 5, 1946. It was cut high on the hip, but the really stunning feature was that it bared the navel, a part of the body that in modern history had been off-limits for public display.Maybe so, but as the article points out, the bikini wasn't invented in 1946. It was only re-introduced. According to Wikipedia (font of all knowledge) "Two-piece garments worn by women for athletic purposes have been observed on Greek urns and paintings, dated as early as 1400 BC."
The tiny two-piece shocker signaled the coming transformation of attitudes toward the body. Still, it would take more than a decade for most American women to get comfortable with wearing the skimpy suit.
The baring of the belly button was the big hurdle.
"I can't think of any situation in the thousand years before the '60s when it was acceptable to show the navel, '' said Kevin Jones, a curator and fashion historian at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.
Here's a scene from the famous Roman "bikini girls" mosaic at the Villa Romana del Casale in Italy, which dates to the early 4th Century A.D.
(The chick on the left demonstrates something the Romans liked to call "nipplae slipae.")
Over the course of this blog, I've done a couple of bikini related posts. Let's take a look back, shall we?
Two years ago, I linked to a swimwear poll, which revealed that 7 out of 10 women own a bikini, and California girls prefer low-rise bottoms, while East coast girls like a mid-rise.
Last winter, I went all out and did a bikini fashion preview. In that post I predicted that polka dots would be "in," and I was right. I saw polka dots all over the place. Speaking of nipus slipus, that was the post where I coined the term ""dunstation."
I'll probably toast the bikini's 60th birthday with a fruity drink and a swim after work. That sounds like a plan. How will you celebrate?
June 18, 2006
I haven't changed anything except for the first word of the essay, in reference to the year, and removal of the footnotes. I apologize for the excessive use of the passive voice, the unwieldy subordinate clauses, redundant modifiers and other hallmarks of a desperate undergrad's writing syle. Most everything I wrote back in those days was done at the last minute, with a hangover and barely proofread.
But I got a good grade, and it is on a subject of general interest and therefore blogworthy, I hope. more...
June 08, 2006
Now that Al Zarqawi is getting fucked in the ass by his cellmates Pol Pot and Beria, I think we should celebrate the heroes who dropped the two 500 lb. JDAMs that killed him. Their victory is as historic at the one that occurred on April 17, 1943, also heralded as great news:
[A]s the mountains of Bougainville came into view [it was] 0934 when sharp-eyed Doug Canning called out "Bogeys, eleven o'clock. High." Mitchell couldn't believe it; there they were, right on schedule, exactly as planned. The Japanese planes appeared bright and new-looking to the pilots of the 339th. They jettisoned their drop tanks and bored in for the attack. Holmes and Hine had trouble with their tanks, only Barber and Lanphier of the killer group went after the Japanese bombers. All the other P-38s followed their instructions to fly cover.Link to the full history here.
. . . The Lightnings had waded into the Japanese flight, pouring forth their deadly streams of lead. In the manner of all aerial combat, the fight was brief, high-speed, and confused. . . .
. . . Both Lanphier and Barber claimed one bomber shot down over the jungles of Bougainville. Frank Holmes claimed another shot down over the water a few minutes later. From Japanese records and survivors, among them Admiral Ugaki, the following facts are certain. Only two Betty bombers were involved; Yamamoto's was shot down over Bougainville with no survivors; the second went into the ocean and Ugaki lived to tell about it. Shortly after the attack, a Japanese search party located the wreckage, including the Admiral's body, which they ceremonially cremated.
. . .
The pilots uneventfully flew back to Guadalcanal, where upon landing, the ground personnel greeted them gleefully, like a winning football team. While Lanphier and Barber briefly disagreed about the air battle, all was subsumed in the generally celebratory atmosphere. Lanphier later recalled enjoying his best meal of the war that night.
June 06, 2006
June 05, 2006
More still photos here.
I'd say something about "lest we forget," but I know we already have forgotten. All they wanted was freedom.
May 29, 2006
This was one of a handful of truly great speeches of the post war era. It's closing lines are what Memorial Day is all about.
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