Category Archives: Uncategorized

July 19, 2014, 10:56 pm

“A Sea of Women and Children”

(formerly Son of Putin Redux. Phrase from here)

I’d like to revise and extend my previous post, because handing over serious surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to a bunch of incompetent amateurs* is not the work of a smart man. Bringing down a civilian airliner (and adding nearly 300 more deaths to the ongoing tragedy in the Ukraine) is such a monumentally stupid thing to do that it boggles the mind. Every single country with someone on that plane now has cause to be enraged with Russia. The European countries that had shied away from imposing harsh sanctions on Russia now have to be reconsidering it, as does the United States.

In the long term, it may not end up changing the ultimate result, but it will delay Russia being forgiven and likely cost it more in economic damages. For what? There’s no earthly advantage to be gained from destroying a civilian airliner for anyone involved. …

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June 14, 2014, 5:52 pm

The Dumbest F***ing Guy on the Planet

Is back, and Politico thinks that he’s worth quoting on Iraq:

“This is the education of Barack Obama, but it’s coming at a very high cost to the Syrian people to the Iraqi people [and] to the American national interest,” said Doug Feith, a top Pentagon official during the George W. Bush administration.
“They were pretty blasé,” Feith said of the Obama team. “The president didn’t take seriously the warnings of what would happen if we withdrew and he liked the political benefits of being able to say that we’re completely out.”

Just to remind yourself of how hopelessly incompetent Douglas Feith was during the Iraq War, I offer this and this. You could also just go with Tommy Franks’ evaluation, used for the title of this post, and be done with it.

June 10, 2014, 7:28 pm

The Forgotten War (aka Spot the Errors!)

Chillicothe, Ohio unveiled a memorial to the Korean War this last Memorial Day. Unfortunately, the creators do not seem to have had the best historical sense in the world:


The mistakes kind of confirm Korea’s status as “The Forgotten War,” sadly enough.

List of the problems.

May 22, 2014, 3:09 pm

Premature antiformalism

I checked out a study score of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony from the local public library. It’s an early edition, maybe the first American one: © 1945, in the Leeds Music Corporation “Am-Rus Orchestra Scores series.” There’s an introduction by one Harold Sheldon, short but deeply bizarre.


Shostakovich, though well established as one of the principal composers of the Soviet Union, ran afoul of the censors with the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1936), unedifying in its story and violent in its musical language. His 4th Symphony was already in rehearsal when he was persuaded to withdraw it — it doesn’t have a story to criticize, but the music is vast in scope and magnificently aggressive, exhilarating today but hardly the populist affirmation the Party and its Leader were starting to be clear they were looking for. Shostakovich went back to the drawing board to write…

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May 19, 2014, 10:05 pm


Michael Beschloss, criticizing the penchant for commemorating the D-Day anniversary, and talking about Eisenhower avoiding the 1954 anniversary, because:

Self-celebration was mostly alien to the men and women of World War II’s “greatest generation,” starting with the supreme commander.

The problem is that Eisenhower had no trouble being celebrated earlier, at the end of World War II.

Thus, Dwight D. Eisenhower at a victory parade in Kansas City, MO:

45 7 eisenhower388a

This is Dwight D. Eisenhower being feted in the “Canyon of Heroes” in New York City on July 19, 1945:

12 eisenhower new york broadway homecoming parade

(Way up at the front).

I’m pretty sure the “Greatest Generation” was just about as self-celebratory as any other generation.

May 2, 2014, 7:26 pm

Random Friday Notes: Jobs Report, Benghazi, and Evil Plane Seat Booking Behavior

In no particular order:

  • Job reports. In the latest form of blog posts/newspaper articles, we have the “The jobs report is good/bad on the surface, but bad/good underneath” genre. We got a bumper crop of it after today’s release. Yes, I know that today’s report was not of unalloyed good cheer, but 288,000 jobs added is a solid result for this economy, as it squelches along in an era obsessed with austerity.
  • Benghazi is back (as if it ever left!) because Hillary Clinton is (probably) running for President in 2016. Benghazi will be an issue until she has finished with her second term.
  • Evil Plane Seat Booking Behavior. From Tuesday’s New York Times “A child and his mother almost did me in once [on a plane flight]. I love children. Children are great. But recently I had the middle seat between a mother and her little boy. I thought it was strange …

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April 21, 2014, 4:30 pm

In A Continuing Series On Things That Might Still Go Boom.

World War II will not be entirely over for a long while:

Tens of thousands of city residents and U.S. Army soldiers here will evacuate their homes, offices and barracks Thursday as military explosives experts, seasoned by duty in Afghanistan, attempt to disarm a gargantuan bomb that was among thousands dropped during a single Allied mission 70 years ago.


Covering it with a wooden box seems…inadequate, somehow.

This is what it looks like, going off:

And what the bombing raid that dropped it in 1944 might have looked like:

March 14, 2014, 1:55 pm

Founder of Blog Makes Good

Ari Kelman, who co-founded this here blog, manages to make good:

Columbia University announced today that two acclaimed works will be awarded the 2014 Bancroft Prize:

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson (Liveright Publishing Corporation / W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) and A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek by Ari Kelman (Harvard University Press, 2013).

The Bancroft, for those non-historians in the crowd, is the leading award for historians [of the US, I should update to note], our rough equivalent of a Pulitzer. Nice work!

Ari can be found these days over here.

March 13, 2014, 1:05 pm


The cost of living is going up:

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your [Amazon] Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on July 14, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Urk. Amazon Prime (free second day delivery) is, of course, a luxury, not a necessity, but it’s saved me more times than I can count around the holidays, birthdays, and when I’ve forgotten to order the class book ahead of time.

Historical connection:…

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March 8, 2014, 1:27 am

Update on the Ukraine

1. Yes, Russia wants to annex the Crimea. Were we genuinely thinking something else?

2. No, there isn’t going to be another Cold War, whether Russia can afford it or not. Russia isn’t the Soviet Union, isn’t going to dominate eastern Europe, split Germany in half, and threaten the west. The United States, for its part (and despite John McCain), isn’t interested in another 50 year existential struggle with a near economic and military equal in Europe.

3. How about we learn another language to describe the situation, one that doesn’t rely on cold war terminology.

March 6, 2014, 2:44 pm

In Russia, Map Annex YOU!

Note the map behind the presenter on Russia Today:


The Crimea, now part of Russia.

(h/t: @davekeating)

February 18, 2014, 10:22 am

The Leading Edge: Noah Shusterman on Religion, Gender, and the French Revolution, 1789-1799

Noah Shusterman joins us this week on the Leading Edge to talk about the French Revolution, the subject of a book he just published. Noah writes from Hong Kong, where he works at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. This makes him the most distant Leading Edge author yet, an early but still crucial record.

NCSBookCoverCertain events from the French Revolution stand out, and rightly so. The storming of the Bastille in July 1789, commemorated now every 14 July, showed the role that the people of Paris would play in the Revolution. The execution of Louis XVI in 1793 was another dramatic turning point, a burning of the bridges with France’s monarchical past. The execution of Maximilian Robespierre and his allies in July 1794 signaled an end to the Reign of Terror that had been going on for the past 10 months.

The assassination of Jean-Paul Marat in July 1793 might not have been the turning point…

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January 28, 2014, 1:00 pm

The Leading Edge: Robert Thompson and Vietnam

Our second Leading Edge takes us to the provinces of Vietnam to figure out what exactly the US meant when it talked about “pacification.” Robert Thompson, a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi, is working on a dissertation on exactly that, and here he explains it for us.

“Pacification” is a broad term that encapsulates all the ambitions of both military and civilian entities. It is a single word, describing a much more complex reality. My project (at the dissertation stage right now) is a study of language and wartime priorities in Phu Yen Province during the Vietnam War, figuring how how that word reflected reality. An examination of “pacification” shows that the prevailing definition points towards the existence of only one war in southeast Asia. Continuity, not change, best characterized the Vietnam War. “Conventional” large unit warfare under General…

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January 25, 2014, 8:36 pm

Saturday Things Worth Reading

1. Information destruction through history infographic final revisedLovely graphic of information destruction through the ages at Global Data Vault:

Throughout the ages, it has happened again and again. Whole libraries of clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, bark codexes and paper books have been destroyed by natural disasters, fire and war. The Royal Library of Alexandria, where the accumulated knowledge of ancient scientists, physicians and philosophers was stored, was destroyed by fire. The destruction likely started during Caesar’s Civil War when Julius Caesar purposefully set his own ships ablaze, and many scholars believe the library suffered numerous other tragic fires throughout history. More than 120,000 volumes written by classical Greek and Roman authors were lost when fire destroyed the library at Constantinople in 473A.D.. Virtually all of the codexes recording the history, beliefs and sciences of the Maya were intentionally destroyed by…

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January 22, 2014, 2:18 am

Answer to Kevin Drum’s Question “Can 3 Lawmakers Revive the Voting Rights Act After the Supreme Court Trashed It?”