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Arrived in the mail today:

Photo

Cvn 80 02
USS Bubba?

Current American aircraft carriers are named for United States Presidents, living and dead, or political and naval leaders of some importance. In the former category, we have the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan (named when Reagan was still alive), the USS Harry S Truman, and others. In the latter, we have the USS Nimitz (named for the most important American admiral of WWII), the USS John C. Stennis (a Senator critical to the Navy over several decades), and the USS Carl Vinson (a Congressman of similar ilk).

They’re running out of recent Presidents to name them, though. The lead ship (CVN-78) of the new carrier class (successors to the Nimitz class) was named the USS Gerald R. Ford. Ford had naval connections, but not a particularly successful Presidency. The next ship in that class (CVN-79) has been named the USS John F. Kennedy, a quick reuse of that name as the previous Kennedy was retired in 2007. The next ship remains unnamed. There is some pressure to name it the Enterprise, a name with a long and storied history in the American navy. But if not that, then the Navy would likely have to return to the list of Presidents. They’ve cherry-picked the great ones–there’s a Roosevelt (thought not an FDR), there’s a Washington, and there’s a Lincoln–so going to the distant past would be somewhat difficult. USS Martin van Buren, anyone?

I didn’t think so.

There are recent Presidents without carriers named after them, however. Lyndon Baines Johnson has no carrier, nor does Jimmy Carter (he does have a submarine named after him, perhaps appropriate for him since he served on submarines), nor does Bill Clinton, or Richard Nixon. I note that these are all (but Nixon) Democrats. I also note that both Johnson and Clinton were two-term Presidents, that Carter was a naval officer, and that Johnson was a member of the Naval reserve with a Silver Star to his name (albeit, oddly, an Army Silver Star). Clinton had a somewhat difficult relationship with the military, both before and during his Presidency. Johnson has Vietnam, and the Gulf of Tonkin. Nixon has his disgrace. Carter was not a great President.

None of those are particularly disqualifying. Ford was not a good President, and he has an entire class named after him. George H.W. Bush served a single term and, with the exception of the Gulf War, had few notable successes (*not* being Ronald Reagan could be counted as a success for many, I think). So the question becomes: what will CVN-80 be? The USS Lyndon Baines Johnson? The USS William Jefferson Clinton? The USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) will still be active, so it can’t be that. I personally think it should be Johnson, but the USS William Jefferson Clinton would cause right-wing heads everywhere to explode with massive force, which has its own appeal.

Current Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has shown a willingness to give ships names that break from the expected (the USS Gabrielle Giffords and the USNS Cesar Chavez for example) and so perhaps he will step up.

is up at Cliopatria. Enjoy the best of reader-nominated military history from around the web.

I was playing around with the data at USGovernmentSpending.com and decided to share:

Usgs line 1 php

We are still living in the aftermath of World War II.

So Colonel Daniel Davis criticizes the American effort in Afghanistan (a criticism I don’t agree with, by the way)? Watch as (it sure seems) the Pentagon media machine spins up to discredit him through cooperative media folk, in this case, Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy (and formerly the Washington Post). First comes the reasoned response, from a professor at the National War College:

I was prepared for a real critique and came away profoundly disappointed. Every veteran has an important story, but [Davis'] work is a mess. It is not a successor piece to HR McMaster’s book on the Joint Chiefs during Vietnam, or Paul Yingling’s critique of U.S. generalship that appeared in Armed Forces Journal a few years back. Davis is not a hero, but he will go into the whistleblower hall of fame. If years hence, he doesn’t make full Colonel, it will be construed as punishment, but there is nothing in this report that suggests he has any such potential.

Then, two days later, comes the character assassination:

For a reservist, Lt. Col. Danny Davis (author of the recently touted and then critiqued report on the Afghan War) sure gets around. I was told yesterday that when he was a major, he proposed that the United States conduct a ground invasion of Iran by air dropping an armored division northeast of Tehran and then doing a tank assault into the city.

I also was told that he proposed to General Abizaid that he be promoted to lieutenant colonel and put in command of the lead tank battalion in the assault.

Note the blinding passiveness of “I was told” and “I also was told.” Note how Ricks refers to Davis as “Danny” (in the text and the title) a diminutive coinage that seems to be particular to Ricks. Other news stories have (as far as I can tell) universally referred to him as “Daniel Davis.” Note how Ricks finishes him off by quoting an awkwardly-written email from Davis. Davis shouldn’t have sent the email that way, but Ricks quotes the whole thing, grammatical errors, capitalization problems and all.

All this doesn’t make Davis correct, of course, but it’s an impressive effort nonetheless.

Welcome to the big leagues, Lt. Colonel. I trust you’ve given up on your ambitions to make full Colonel?

(See also this fascinating comment in the post thread.)

Some of the best works on the American Empire are being done by reporters and publicatioins exclusively focused on the various branches of the US military. Sean Naylor, of the Army Times, is an example. His six part series on covert American activities in Somalia is an enormously valuable insight into the nuts and bolts of global imperial efforts, missions that will go on long after the United States has left Iraq and Afghanistan. An excerpt:

The official referred to Joint Special Operations Command’s notion of “the unblinking eye” — using intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to keep a target under constant watch. In Iraq and Afghanistan, JSOC was “developing the concept of ‘we don’t want any blinks in our collection’ — the unblinking eye,” the senior intel official said.

But the wars in those countries deprived commanders in the Horn of the overhead assets they needed, “so in Somalia, it was a blink all the time,” the official said, adding that commanders “would go days without any kind of overhead collection capability” they controlled.

Not a military-focused organization, but still intensely informative is The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based non-profit that “bolsters original journalism by producing high-quality investigations for press and broadcast media.” They’ve created a timeline of known American actions in Somalia.

A map of the world, split into American unified combatant commands:

Unified command world map

I’ll be running the 30th edition of the Military History Carnival over at Cliopatria on March 1. Submit the best of military history on the web here by February 27.

State Bill 1467:

IF A PERSON WHO PROVIDES CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL ENGAGES IN SPEECH OR CONDUCT THAT WOULD VIOLATE THE STANDARDS ADOPTED BY THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION CONCERNING OBSCENITY, INDECENCY AND PROFANITY IF THAT SPEECH OR CONDUCT WERE BROADCAST ON TELEVISION OR RADIO:
1. FOR THE FIRST OCCURRENCE, THE SCHOOL SHALL SUSPEND THE PERSON, AT A MINIMUM, FOR ONE WEEK OF EMPLOYMENT, AND THE PERSON SHALL NOT RECEIVE ANY COMPENSATION FOR THE DURATION OF THE SUSPENSION. THIS PARAGRAPH DOES NOT PROHIBIT A SCHOOL AFTER THE FIRST OCCURRENCE FROM SUSPENDING THE PERSON FOR A LONGER DURATION OR TERMINATING THE EMPLOYMENT OF THAT PERSON.
2. FOR THE SECOND OCCURRENCE, THE SCHOOL SHALL SUSPEND THE PERSON, AT A MINIMUM, FOR TWO WEEKS OF EMPLOYMENT, AND THE PERSON SHALL NOT RECEIVE ANY COMPENSATION FOR THE DURATION OF THE SUSPENSION. THIS PARAGRAPH DOES NOT PROHIBIT A SCHOOL AFTER THE SECOND OCCURRENCE FROM SUSPENDING THE PERSON FOR A LONGER DURATION OR TERMINATING THE EMPLOYMENT OF THAT PERSON.
3. FOR THE THIRD OCCURRENCE, THE SCHOOL SHALL TERMINATE THE EMPLOYMENT OF THE PERSON. THIS PARAGRAPH DOES NOT PROHIBIT A SCHOOL AFTER THE FIRST OR SECOND OCCURRENCE FROM TERMINATING THE EMPLOYMENT OF THAT PERSON.
B. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, “PUBLIC SCHOOL” MEANS A PUBLIC PRESCHOOL PROGRAM, A PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, A PUBLIC JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, A PUBLIC MIDDLE SCHOOL, A PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL, A PUBLIC VOCATIONAL EDUCATION PROGRAM, A PUBLIC COMMUNITY COLLEGE OR A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY IN THIS STATE.

Note that in the bill as written the “speech or conduct” is not limited to the classroom. By current FCC standards, I believe this means that, were I a professor in Arizona and this bill were to pass, I could say “shit” after 10 pm at night, but never say “fuck.” I won’t even explore the conduct side of things.

Paging George Carlin.

Powers 2The sources available to historians jump exponentially for the post-1945 era. The rise of typewriters, copy machines, computers, and printers created a blizzard of paper that shows no sign of ending. Add into that all the electronic files, email, and the like, not to mention oral history recordings, and historians studying the years after World War II might be forgiven for having a thousand-yard stare and powerful bifocals. Google (which I am using as a generic word for search & indexing of all type. There goes the trademark) has helped some, but has its own problems.

Now comes the flood of video. The Air Force, the linked article notes, collects 6 petabytes (which is technical language for “Holy sh#$%$#%, that’s a lot of data”) of high-definition video per day. Such video could be remarkably useful for military historians (want to watch a combat engagement in real time?) but wading through it will be the work of generations.

022012mc ss logo1 800Both military historians and the United States military have long had an unhealthy fascination with the German Army of World War II. The Wehrmacht, the thinking goes, was both enormously effective (much more so than their enemies), and apolitical.[1] Unstained by its lack of involvement in Nazi war crimes, the Wehrmacht was thus a useful military model. Add to that the start of the Cold War, in which the Soviets became the main enemy, and the American military looked to the Germans for information and inspiration. The apotheosis of this was Colonel Trevor Dupuy’s Quantified Judgment Model, which used a statistical analysis to conclude that Germans were more effective soldiers than Americans in World War II. The German’s Combat Effectiveness Value, according to Dupuy, was significantly higher than that of the Allies, western and eastern front alike. Each German soldier, Dupuy figured, was worth about 1.55 Americans.[2]

The result of this fascination has come out in a number of ways, including the Marine Scout Snipers who decided that the SS symbol was a good one to adopt as their logo. But it also made the American Army focused on the kind of mechanized warfare that they took as the German model. Facing the Soviets across the Fulda Gap during World War II, American soldiers found themselves symbolically in the same position as the Germans in WWII (excepting the whole Germans invading the USSR thing, of course). That focus was (arguably) useful in Western Europe, but less so in other theaters, like Southeast Asia. The Germans were notoriously bad at counterinsurgency, and some of the American difficulties, I think, came over from the German model (note that pre-WWII, Americans had been pretty reasonable at counter-insurgency). The fascination with the Germans might also have influenced American imperial behavior; alone (I think) among major imperial powers, the United States did not have a separate imperial military force (like the Indian Army) that it used abroad.

The US military has gotten away from that obsession somewhat in recent years, and adapted quite well to the requirements of counterinsurgency (though it shows signs of backtracking in recent years), but, as the Marines demonstrated, the fascination with Nazi Germany remains.

[1] Military historians have pushed back against the apolitical image of the Wehrmacht in recent decades.
[2] Dupuy explained his model concisely here (subscription required, sorry). There were substantial problems with the analysis, outlined here and here. Dupuy recognized some of these problems, including a chapter called “Fudge Factors” in his book on the topic, Numbers, Predictions, and War.

The dark secret behind the bucket:

(I know that it’s vintage 2009. Still awesome. h/t Kevin Levin)

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter:

in 3D!

As a followup to this letter, Jason Kottke and others did some research on Jourdan Anderson’s further life. It looks like it was a good one:

At the time, Anderson and his wife Mandy were in their 70s and had been married for 52 years. Mandy had borne 11 children, six of whom were still living (Anderson’s letter, written in 1865, references five children, two of whom were “brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters”…not sure if they had died or not). The three children living with them in 1900 were all in their 20s, born several years after the letter was written.

Obviously, it could have been a life of family turmoil, but I prefer (in the absence of evidence to the contrary) to envision one of domestic happiness and calm. I also have this tiny little fantasy that every Christmas, Mr. Anderson sent a Christmas card to his former enslaver. “Still free.”

Drones for human rights, in Syria!

This sounds a lot like surveillance, and it would be. It would violate Syrian airspace, and perhaps a number of Syrian and international laws. It isn’t the kind of thing nongovernmental organizations usually do. But it is very different from what governments and armies do. Yes, we (like them) have an agenda, but ours is transparent: human rights. We have a duty, recognized internationally, to monitor governments that massacre their own people in large numbers. Human rights organizations have always done this. Why not get drones to assist the good work?

Surface to air missile:

A surface-to-air missile (SAM) or ground-to-air missile (GTAM) is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles. It is one type of anti-aircraft system; in modern armed forces missiles have replaced most other forms of dedicated anti-aircraft weaponry, with the anti-aircraft cannon pushed into niche roles.

The Syrian military appears to have more than 4000 of such missiles, and I suspect that they would have a few available in restive areas.

On the other hand, I did, in fact, read the entire op-ed, which is more than can be said for this morning’s crop.

Author Title Word or Phrase That Caused Me To Stop Reading and Hurl the Paper Against the Wall Number of Words I Actually Read
Friedman The Politics of Dignity “From: A traveler to Cairo and Moscow” 18
Dowd Who’s Tough Enough? “Obambi” 53
Nugent (not Ted, unfortunately) I Had Asperger Syndrome. Briefly “Briefly” 4
Hyman The House That George Romney Built Okay, I read the whole thing 647

(The category, by the way, is an Internet meme, repurposed for anything so appalling stupid it causes eye-bleeding.)

A letter from a freedman named Jourdon Anderson to the southerner who kept him in slavery, August 7, 1865:

We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

So many parts to love in this, but my favorite is where Mr. Anderson carefully totals the back wages owed for his years as a slave, and gives an address to send the money.

(hat-tip Corey Robin)

(as usual, Ta-Nehisi Coates is ahead of us all)

Dtpro
(Part one here, part two here)

Having ended up with thousands of photographs from an archival research trip to Britain, I returned to the United States and realized that I had to figure out what to do with them. In essence, by using the digital camera, I had transferred the work of sifting, reading, and note-taking the sources from the archive itself to my home. What had been a concentrated effort in the archive, with multiple layers of seeking, finding, and judging all going on at the same time, had become more spread out.

The solution lay in both new tools and new methods. Unlike my earlier approach, I actually planned out ahead of time the process I was going to use to take notes. I would load the pictures into Scrivener, my writing tool of choice at the moment, and take notes on them directly into the program. That way I wouldn’t have to switch back and forth between photo application and note-taking application. Each individual item (following my practice) would include the information or quote I wanted to remember and the citation to its source (Scrivener could do citations that MS Word would recognize and format as footnotes when I exported the prose to the manuscript, making this even more useful). If I could think of the text I might actually use in the eventual manuscript, I would try to write a paragraph incorporating the information/quote in it, with the citation. Then, when I came to writing, I would have complete nuggets of text, all ready to be placed into the draft.

This went wrong almost immediately. Scrivener was not designed to hold lots of large photos (2 MB + each) and started to slow down as I put more and more into it. It wasn’t going to be able to handle hundreds, let alone thousands of large files. I thus looked around for something that could handle such large files. Eventually, after trying a range of applications, I settled on Devonthink Pro (now Devonthink Pro Office). The developers emphasized large-scale document storage, analysis, and retention as the primary goal of the program. It had other tempting attributes: OCR was built-in, it supported scanning directly into the program, and it had reasonably useful text-handling attributes. It did lack the ability to create footnotes in its text, which munged my process a bit.

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot. Read the rest of this entry »

220px John Tyler by George P A Healy
Dude!

John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, may not have been a particularly remembered executive (except perhaps as the trailing end of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too“), but he, his children, and grandchildren quite nearly cover the span of the American nation. Tyler himself was born in March, 1790, just over a year after the Constitution, having been duly ratified, came into force. He lived until 1862, dying in the greatest test of that nation (and also the war of the greatest American general, although Tyler tried to join up the wrong side).

During that life, he fathered fifteen children, the latest, Pearl Tyler, coming only two years before his death in 1860. Her mother, Tyler’s second wife, Julia, was thirty years John’s junior. The youngest children of that union, Lyon, Robert, and Pearl, lived well into the 20th century, Pearl dying the last of all in 1947.

Two of Lyon Tyler’s son are, as of 2012, still alive, and living in the ancestral mansion “Sherwood Forest,” Lyon Jr., and Harrison. They are the third generation of a family that spans the Republic (and is trending on Twitter), and makes it personal in their memories. I can’t help but imagine that it is that deep sense of America that informs Harrison Tyler’s judgment of Newt Gingrich: he’s a “big jerk.”

It’s positively constitutional, it is.

(Full genealogy here).

Ronald Reagan with Newt Gingrich
What did you say your name was?

Reading this Wall Street Journal article about Newt Gingrich’s short but odd career as a history professor,* I felt the need to explore what the other people in the story were thinking. Obviously, I have no direct knowledge of West Georgia College or the people there, but I have been at an academic institution for a while.

In addition to the normal application materials, Gingrich submitted his reading list for the last three months to the history department at WGC. He had read 26 books, though they were “too eclectic for a specialist” Gingrich confessed in his letter to the department. Nonetheless, Benjamin Kennedy, the chair, talked to him on the phone, thought he sounded nice, and hired him. Even early on, Gingrich was not shy:

A year into his first full-time teaching job, Newt Gingrich applied to be college president, submitting with his application a paper titled “Some Projections on West Georgia College’s Next Thirty Years.”

According to a history professor, this “‘drew a chuckle’” from administrators. Gingrich did not get the job, needless to say, but he applied undeterred for the chairship of the history department when it came open the next year. This was not funny. It was one thing to apply for the Presidency, but presumptuous to apply for a job with real power. Gingrich’s application was not greeted “so kindly.” Kennedy ruefully recalled him as being “Well, he seemed pretty energetic, young, ambitious. God, always that.”

At this point, there seems (I speculate) to have been a meeting of minds between the administration and the history department on how to distract Gingrich into less bothersome pursuits. The answer? A committee! Read the rest of this entry »

I have no love for Rick Santorum, but the Times’ lead on the Iowa caucuses recount is quite impressive in its naked slant towards Romney:

Mitt Romney’s eight-vote victory in the Iowa caucuses will be rescinded on Thursday, following a two-week review by the state’s Republican Party that found that Rick Santorum actually finished 34 votes ahead of Mr. Romney, two party officials confirmed.

So Romney was the winner when he was ahead by eight votes, but Santorum only “finished…ahead” when his lead was 34? The Times might defend itself by pointing out that the Iowa GOP isn’t going to certify a winner because they can’t be sure of votes from eight precincts, but, as Nate Silver pointed out, Santorum almost doubled Romney’s total in those precincts when counted on caucus night. The Times does not mention that. I guess being the presumptive nominee has its advantages.**

*There was a joke in my house growing up that the Times would not report things about Cornell particularly well. It was that “upstate” school. The classic example was that a Cornell victory over Harvard in football (rare enough!) would be reported by the paper as “Harvard Loses.”

**Though I’m sure that Gail Collins will connect Iowa to Romney’s dog, somehow.

Any conference report that includes “but the mere public showing of his erection from the podium was not sufficient” is worth an extended read. The presenter–one Professor Brindley–was experimenting with cures for erectile dysfunction. His strategy involved the wince-inducing method of direct penile injection. He was not content with merely showing slides:

He paused, and seemed to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with gravity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence’. With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs, approaching (to their horror) the urologists and their partners in the front row. As he approached them, erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air, seemingly in unison, and screamed loudly. The scientific merits of the presentation had been overwhelmed, for them, by the novel and unusual mode of demonstrating the results.

Suddenly, Powerpoint doesn’t seem that bad.

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