August 15, 2013, 4:10 am
Having returned from my vacation (the Jersey shore; very restful. To keep up my military history credentials, I went and took a look at Bunker 223:
It’s not actually terribly interesting as it looks mostly like a giant hunk of concrete from the outside and it’s not possible to get inside), I was drawn into a conversation (on Facebook) about Robert E. Lee and treason (sparked by this article). During the course of it, I found an article in the Times from 1864 called “The Chivalry of the Rebel General Lee” that had a quite remarkable statement about Lee and treason:
The simple truth is that the very fact of a soldier’s abandoning his flag involves an abandonment of character. LEE received his military education from the Government, had been constantly honored and trusted by the Government, and it was the extreme of perfidy in him to turn traitor against the Government. The soul…
July 31, 2013, 4:37 pm
Because the Tenured Radical requested it:
Source. Shockingly, there is no flag code specifically for “slutbag,” so the above spells it out letter for letter. Some of the flags have larger meanings that might be useful for everyone involved: “You should stop your vessel immediately.” “You are running into danger.” “Do not pass ahead of me.” “I am taking in, discharging, or carrying dangerous cargo.” “I require a pilot.” I leave it to the reader to figure out how they apply.
July 25, 2013, 5:58 pm
Sometimes, two forms of communication don’t mix:
When the National Park Service wanted to dress up the U.S. Navy Memorial here, officials decided to fly signal flags, a colorful but archaic form of ship-to-ship communication. Visitors to the site today encounter two flagpoles designed to look like ships’ masts, on which 14 signal flags are arrayed in four groups. Each flag represents a letter. Together, they are supposed to spell: U-S-N-A-V-Y-M-E-M-O-R-I-A-L….[Unfortunately], there are several different ways to read signal flags. “Vomiting is present. Man overboard,” the flags on one yardarm would read. M-E-M is the signal for vomiting. O means someone has fallen into the sea.
A local yachtsman, who drives by the memorial regularly, complained to the National Park Service about the multiple messages. The memorial has settled on leaving the flags up, preserving a message that can be…
July 24, 2013, 5:52 pm
Not all deaths in the military come from combat, or during wars:
Interestingly, in the raw numbers, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had death counts that were actually matched or surpassed by those of the military in the early 1980s, when the US was mostly at peace. When the graph is by deaths as a percentage of the active duty military, that changes:
In this case, the percentage of deaths rises higher during the 2000s than it was during the 1980s.
Some of the differences come simply from size. The military of the 2000s was about two-thirds the size of the military of 1980s and thus, by demographics alone, that larger population would see more deaths. But what is most notable is the way that both accidents and homicides have gone down.
Accidents from 2005-2010 averaged…
July 21, 2013, 5:35 pm
Go read Tenured Radical’s comment on the recent revelation from San Jose State’s use of MOOCs, in which 83% of students finished the course and 56-76% of them failed it. She pretty much hits the nail on the head, but let me add in a few comments:
1. A failure rate of 56-76% translates over 40 courses (roughly typical for a four year college) into an infinitesimally low graduation rate. 56% gives you 0.0000000084629%. That’s a bit low because students could take more than 40 courses to manage graduation, but it’s also a bit high because it doesn’t allow for the 17% who didn’t finish the courses.
2. Not finishing or failing the course is – from a monetary standpoint – a feature, not a bug. Students who fail to finish or finish but fail have to pay again for the same (or an equivalent course). Profit!
3. TR points out that the Udacity founder Sebastien Thrun’s quote about the…
July 18, 2013, 8:46 pm
From here. Interesting in chart form:
Emphasizes for me just how much World War II was an outlier in terms of national effort in the 20th century.
Update: Now draft numbers as a percentage of total population:
July 15, 2013, 7:55 pm
Lindsay Rodman, a Marine officer (and, we are told, a Harvard and Duke graduate), attempts to unskew the numbers on sexual assaults in the military in the Wall Street Journal. “The Pentagon’s Bad Math on Sexual Assault” starts by saying that:
In the days since the Defense Department’s May 7 release of its 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, the media and lawmakers have been abuzz. The report’s estimate that last year 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact prompted many to conclude, incorrectly, that this reliably estimated the number of victims of sexual assault. The 2012 estimate was also significantly higher than the last estimate, causing some to proclaim a growing “epidemic” of sexual assault in the military. The truth is that the 26,000 figure is such bad math—derived from an unscientific sample set and extrapolated military-wide—that no …
July 13, 2013, 3:49 pm
Victoria and Albert
The New York Times has discovered that sex happens in college and that women may be participating:
Until recently, those who studied the rise of hookup culture had generally assumed that it was driven by men, and that women were reluctant participants, more interested in romance than in casual sexual encounters. But there is an increasing realization that young women are propelling it, too.
The Grey Lady’s official belief on female sexuality before this was, of course, to Lie Back And Think Of England.
This phrase is associated with Queen Victoria, which is odd as she quite liked sex, describing her relations with Prince Albert as “heavenly love-making.” She also said the title of this post when told by her doctor that she had to avoid future pregnancies.
July 3, 2013, 3:41 am
Our long national educational decline
is over never existed in the first place! As Kevin Drum points out (with charts!), student scores on reading and math have been going up (or, for 17 year olds, remaining steady) for the last 40 years:
This doesn’t mean everything is peachy; it doesn’t mean there aren’t pockets of unconscionably poor achievement; and it doesn’t mean we’re spending our educational dollars wisely. We can still argue about all that stuff, just as we can argue about charter schools, direct instruction, concentrated poverty, and much more. But the backdrop for those arguments is simple: test scores have been going up for the past four decades, and that rise has continued over the past decade. Not always steadily, but nonetheless going in the right direction.
This came during a period when the American school system 1) worked to integrate itself, and 2) absorbed the…
July 1, 2013, 6:32 pm
George Will is making his usual hash of American history, this time in the service of honoring the Battle of Gettysburg. He wants to argue that Gettysburg is the most important battle in American history, a fair enough point, but the way he eliminates other candidates sometimes borders on the farcical. Saratoga, which brought the French in on the American side during the Revolution? Less important than it might seem because:
But the Revolution would have succeeded without French assistance: No distant island could govern this continent.
This completely elides the critical difference the French actually made, which was to neutralize the overwhelming British naval superiority (something that made Yorktown possible) and also to threaten the British Isles themselves. The British could survive losing naval control of the Chesapeake Bay. The English Channel? Not so much. But it also…
June 25, 2013, 12:54 am
Outside the Supreme Court, June 24, 2013:
June 21, 2013, 9:13 pm
David Brooks clearly hadn’t read Ben Schmidt’s excellent analysis of the humanities crisis before writing today’s op-ed piece. Brooks argues that the humanities are going downhill because their practitioners have lost all passion for the topic:
The humanist’s job was to cultivate this ground — imposing intellectual order upon it, educating the emotions with art in order to refine it, offering inspiring exemplars to get it properly oriented.
Somewhere along the way, many people in the humanities lost faith in this uplifting mission. The humanities turned from an inward to an outward focus. They were less about the old notions of truth, beauty and goodness and more about political and social categories like race, class and gender. Liberal arts professors grew more moralistic when talking about politics but more tentative about private morality because they didn’t want to offend an…
June 19, 2013, 4:57 pm
As far as I can tell, the thesis of this article is that if only Barack Obama had visited all 50 states, partisan polarization would disappear:
So Mr. Obama has not given North Dakota his time. It is one of six states he has not visited as president, along with South Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. He has gone just once to Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Mr. Obama’s near-complete absence from more than 25 percent of the states, from which he is politically estranged, is no surprise, in that it reflects routine cost-benefit calculations of the modern presidency. But in a country splintered by partisanship and race, it may also have consequences.
America’s 21st-century politics, as underscored by the immigration debate now embroiling Congress, increasingly pits the preferences of a dwindling, Republican-leaning white majority…
June 17, 2013, 2:28 pm
(Guest post! Lon Strauss (full bio at the end) wrote his dissertation on an earlier version of the American surveillance state. He’s here to give us some historical context to the NSA revelations.)
There has been a recent uptick in the news over concern about the United States becoming a surveillance state. The Guardian and the Washington Post published articles about the National Security Agency’s practices that have sparked a renewed debate over surveillance, national security, and civil liberties in America. Journalists have posed questions about whether a democratic surveillance state is possible and the role of US companies willingly handing personal information to a government agency. While there are and should be real concerns regarding national security and civil liberties, it will surprise no one that this discussion is not new. When engaging complex historical debates, it …