Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ain't that the truth?

E.J. Dionne in the Post, demonstrating more knowledge of American history than the entire Republican Party put together:

When Republicans are FBI haters who are sidetracking probes into Russian subversion, the world truly is turned upside down.

Book Review 406:The End of the Imperial Japanese Navy

THE END OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY, by Masanori Ito. 192 pages. Macfadden-Bartell paperback

As we wonder what moves China or North Korea might be willing to make on the international stage, it is worth remembering how badly Americans understood what Japan would be willing to do 75 years ago.

The Japanese view of how it unfolded is very different from ours, even if the Japanese thinker agrees with most American historians that Japan had no chance of submitting its national goals to the test of war successfully with the United States and Gret Britin.

“The End of the Imperial Japanese Navy” is an old book, published in the early ‘50s, first as a series of newspaper articles by  highly-placed reporter who had covered naval affairs since the ‘20s.

Some takeaways:

For the Japanese, god, specifically the War God, was an active agent in warfare. Americans (like MacArthur) might prate about God’s being on their side, but even as psychotic a general as MacArthur did not write god into operational plans. The Japanese navy did.

Even as well-informed a reporter as Ito made some odd mistakes. He got the armament of HMS Prince of Wales incorrect. (Americans fixate on Pearl Harbor, but from the Japanese point of view — specially of a big gun guy like Ito), the sinking of the Prince of Wales was an even greater victory.)

Ito also still fell completely for the claims of the kaiten (suicide submarine) faction, even into the ‘50s. He credits these nasty weapons with major successes. In fact, they scored only a destroyer escort and a tanker. (I have a personal interest in kaiten, since the largest warship one ever attacked was the USS Case at Ulithi. Accounts of that attack vary — either that Case ran down and sank the kaiten or that the kaiten hit the Case but the warhead broke off and sank without exploding. My father was the gunnery officer aboard Case and if the kaiten had succeeded you would not be reading this.)

All military people make mistakes in reporting battle outcomes, usually claiming more destruction than was accomplished, but the Japanese were especially flagrant. In the case of kaiten, the only way they had of assessing results was what the big submarine that launched the little one could see, which was not much. At Ulithi, for example, several kaiten penetrated the atoll. The launch sub saw the results of explosions and concluded that the kaiten must have succeeded in sinking at least a battleship and several aircraft carriers, since the pilots would pick out the most impressive targets and could not fail. In fact, all but one of the explosions were of kaiten running onto the reef.

The antagonism of the headquarters of the imperial army and navy are well-known (and only somewhat more vicious than the antagonism between the US army and navy), but Ito proclaims that at the local level army and navy cooperated wholeheartedly. This is not the way Amercians saw it.
To take an example, although shipping was the main problem of the Japanese war effort, the army and and the navy each grabbed as much for their exclusive use as each could and would not share.

As a result, sometimes precious freighters were sent on empty voyages just because one service or the other would not let the other use its tonnage.

The most interesting section of the book — and one of the longest — is Ito’s defense of Admiral Kurita’s retreat at Leyte Gulf, always presented by American historians as lack of nerve or confusion. Ito, who knew and admired Kurita, has a very different view.

He says Kurita, first, was opposed to useless sacrifice of sailors’ lives if no military purpose was likely to be served; and second, understood that his valuable ships were best used against equally valuable enemy warships, and concluded that the sinking of empty transports — even many of them — would not have justified any substantial risk.

As in the United States in 2017, in Japan in the ‘30s and ‘40s, military officers vastly overrated both their own abilities and the capabilities of their arsenal. And they lied to each other and to their governments.

Genuine voter fraud discovered

As always, the fraudster is a rightwinger. A chairman of the Colorado Republican Party no less.

Did he man up and admit his dirty deed? Of course not. He's a Republican.

Hat tip to Juanita Jean, your internet source for rightwing shenanigans.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Where is Israel's foreign ministry?

According to Wikipedia, it is in Givrat Ram, a district of Jerusalem.
The Israeli version of Foggy Bottom

I was surprised to learn this, I would have guessed it was in Tel Aviv. Even more surprised not to have learned it through any of the many reports about WBD's decision to move our embassy.

It seems like a relevant fact.

Cutting ties with Wells

For a while, Tricia and I had accounts with Wells Fargo. It was not a business either of us would have dealt with if we had had a choice, even before the news reports about pervasive criminality and dishonesty -- not the main characteristic you want in a bank.

However, the administrator of an estate we were involved in used Wells, so we opened an account.

The estate was wound up, so I wrote -- real letter, on paper -- the branch where we had opened the account, instructing the manager to close the accounts.

I didn't hear anything back, so I assumed the accounts were closed. Today I got an email informing me I could view the latest statement.

Imagine  my surprise to see that the accounts were not closed and that Wells Fargo was assessing me fees on them. I had a negative balance.

So I called and got a nice lady who blandly informed me that at Wells you cannot close an account where you opened it. You do that online. Or, in my case, after some strong words, right on the spot over the phone.

Me: Are you telling me that the branch manager just threw my letter away?
Nice Lady: I cannot answer that.

So, not only is Wells Fargo criminal and dishonest, it is stupid.

But big. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My prediction in the Aabama election

The special Senate election is a week away. I have not been in Alabama for a long time, but my grandfather was from the area where Roy Moore operated and I grew up (across the state line not far away.

People do not change rapidly, especially when their religious and deep cultural ideas are involved.

So I have a  prediction: Moore will win and it will not be especially close. Not a landslide but a comfortable victory.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The spy in the palm of your hand

The New York Times has an impressive report on the likelihood that Trump's claim that a Patriot missile shot down a Houthi Scud at Riyadh was mistaken.

The report relies on something called the Middlebury Institute, which I'd never heard of, and the institute, in turn, assembled its information from Google satellite images, social media posts of videos and similar open sources.

This is a good news/bad news revelation for military intelligence analysts. For one thing, now it's comparatively easy for savvy people to determine the actual results of an attack using stand-off weapons. For another thing, now it's comparatively easy for savvy people to determine the actual results of an attack using stand-off weapons.

I am reminded of the "Battle of the Beams" during the German bombing of England. The Germans used a radio-triggered bombing release, the first ever GPS technique. The British developed a countermeasure that "bent" the trigger beam, inducing the planes to drop their bombs in the countryside instead of on London.

The Germans, with no sources on the ground to report where the bombs fell, never realized their system had been spoofed.

It is easy to think of later examples of offensive efforts that were ruined by lack of targeting data: the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail is an obvious one.

Now, at least in some cases, results are discoverable.

Of course, you have to be smart enough to assess the evidence. WBD isn't that smart.

Are American military officers? Past experience suggests they are not.