Thursday, May 09, 2002

Advantage Daley Weather
Best of the Web today has several posts discussing how this war is looking a lot like World War Two including an excerpt from David Pryce-Jones in National Review Online:

The Thirties are coming round again in Europe. Fascists are flourishing politically in France and Italy, and now comes the murder of Pim Fortuyn, a populist politician who might have done well enough in the forthcoming Dutch elections to hold the balance of power in that country's parliament. But it is the widespread Jew-baiting that best reveals that Europeans are evidently incapable of learning from their history.

Contrast that to what I wrote back in February in a post entitled Welcome To 1939:

Reading about the state of the European military establishment led me to ponder historical parallels. The best analogy is the interwar period between the two world wars...

Interwar years: Dangerous leaders take power, announcing their plans in advance (Hitler, Mein Kampf). West ignores warnings.

1991 to 2001: Dangerous leaders announce their plans in advance (Bin Laden, declares war on West). West ignores warnings.

I was thinking along more military lines because I wasn't pessimistic enough about the European political scene. I didn't foresee the attacks of Jews and the success of a right wing French politician. But sadly I was on the right track.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

And You Thought Spam Was An Invasion Of Privacy
As long as you don't know the dark evil secret, this mind reading web site is pretty cool.

If I had developed this in 1998 I could have got millions in venture capital and gone IPO.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

About a month ago I was interested in writing about the parallels between the Palestinian bombers and the Japanese Kamikaze attacks in World War Two. Most of my kamikaze knowledge is a bit old and dusty, so I did a Google search. It turned up basically nothing. Many sites were selling products that used Kamikaze in the name such as Kamikaze Records. One site that was actually about the Kamikazes was down in honor of the 9/11 attack victims. The others contained little real information.

This is a shame, because we could learn much about the Palestinian bombers from understanding what motivated the Japanese to adopt suicide tactics. So a bit of background on the Kamikaze phenomenon and then some lessons that we might draw from it.

Kamikaze near missing an unidentified US destroyer

It is important to distinguish the Kamikaze attacks that began in late 1944 with earlier suicide attacks. Some pilots in World War II when their planes were heavily damaged or they were severely wounded opted to crash their planes into enemy targets. This trait was not something unique to the Japanese. On this scale suicide attacks were seen as heroic self sacrifice. Imagine Star Wars with an alternative ending where a mortal wounded Luke Skywalker chooses to crash his fighter into the Death Star to destroy it. This was not planned suicide. Instead it was the luck of the draw.

Where the Kamikazes differed was in intent. A Kamikaze took off with the sole intention of finding an American ship to crash into. The Japanese found themselves in a desperate situation by the fall of 1944. Their attempt to destroy the US fleet during the US invasion of the Marianas in June 1944 had resulted in a crushing defeat. The Imperial Navy had lost the bulk of its carrier based aircraft and trained pilots in a battle the Americans named The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. Japanese air power was now unable to penetrate the US fighters and anti-aircraft defenses to deliver conventional attacks. At the Marianas Japan lost over 400 planes (out of 430 engaged) and three aircraft carriers in exchange for 130 American planes and two ineffective hits on US battleships. When you include the fact that about 100 of the US planes were lost due to accidents during night landings the Japanese defeat is even more apparent.

American technology in the form of radar, advanced anti-aircraft defenses, and fighter direction doctrine combine with the falling experience levels of Japanese pilots made conventional attacks all but impossible. Sending pilots out to fight the US fleet was already seeming like a suicide mission. Some Japanese officers reasoned that if the pilots were dead men anyway, they might as well attack in ways that offered the best chance of success. The first suicide unit was the brainchild of Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro of the First Air Fleet based in the Philippines- the obvious target for US invasion after the Marianas. The Japanese called them Special Attack Units. The name that stuck was Kamikaze meaning Divine Wind in reference to the typhoon that saved Japan from Mongol invasion hundreds of years before.

Kamikaze about to strike the battleship Missouri. It hit the armor belt below deck level and caused minor damage and no American causalities.

The first attacks were carried out during the American invasion of the Philippines in October 1944. They were small scale but in contrast to the ineffective conventional attacks they were very successful. Several American escort carriers were hit and one sank.

The shock factor was enormous. It took some time for the fact to dawn on the US Navy that this was not the typical isolated suicide attack. It was one thing to face men trying to kill you. It was quite another to fact men who were willing to suffer certain death to do it. And there was no where to run. You had to stand your ground and fight. Much of the US anti-aircraft arsenal was rendered useless. The lighter 20mm cannons lacked the range to knock down a Kamikaze before it hit the ship. These light guns had been very effective in forcing conventional attacks to miss or could down the planes after they had dropped their weapons and tried to escape. With a Kamikaze there was no escaping plane. Only the heavier 40mm and 5 inch guns had a chance to stop a Kamikaze before it impacted. Ronald Spector's book Eagle Against the Sun describes the tension this way:

As the kamikaze battles continued, the nerves of the sailors within Fifth Fleet began to wear thin. Endless alerts, lack of sleep, the possibility of sudden, fiery death at any hour- all this began to take its psychological toll. In some cases, crews were so keyed up that they learned to listen for the telltale click and static of the ships' loudspeakers being activeate- they were running for their battle stations by the time "General Quarters" was sounded. American communications intelligence enabled the American commanders to anticipate the larger air attacks, and at first crews were alerted accordingly. "But this practice," recalled one correspondent, "had to be stopped. The strain of waiting, the anticipation of terror, made vivid from past experience, sent some men into hysteria, insanity, and breakdown."

In the early days of the Kamikazes, Japanese airmen were enthusiastic volunteers. The first flights had pilots selected by lots. Some pilots wrote their names in their own blood as a way to help convince their commanders that they should be chosen. Japanese soldiers were taught that it was glorious to die in the service of the Emperor. This did not always reflect itself in a desire to die as quickly as possible. Rather it served to convince them that death, when it came, was an honorable options.

American carrier Bunker Hill burning after being hit by two Kamikazes on 11 May 1945.

As the war continued the Japanese attitude began to change. It was increasingly obvious that the war was lost (it really had been lost since early 1943). The Japanese were willing to lay down their lives to protect their Homeland, but even they had second thoughts when their sacrifice appeared to be in vain. Attacks continued, but the number of eager volunteers declined. On land Japanese fighting on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were more likely to surrender than they had been early in the war (though that is a relative thing- the difference was between almost no prisoners and some prisoners).

On the American side, the war had taken on a grim and determined feel. The Pacific War had always been a very racial war, and the seeming disregard for life displayed by the Japanese only amplified that tendency. The end result of their fanatical behavior was the fire bombing of Japanese cities and the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I see the following parallels between the Palestinian bombers and the Kamikazes:
  • Desperation by the leadership. The Kamikazes were not a spontaneous idea by desperate Japanese soldiers. It was a concept developed by a desperate leadership. Japan refused to surrender because the military effectively controlled the government. Any surrender would have lead to the eliminate of military rule and was thus unacceptable. The same situation among the Palestinians. The leadership has failed to win a conventional fight with Israel. They have failed to win a guerilla war. So now they have resorted to suicide attacks because the alternative would be to admit defeat and be swept from power.
  • Suicide attacks are a sign of weakness, not strength. The side initiating such attacks will claim it proves their moral superiority. The Japanese frequently asserted that thier indominable spirit would turn back the American tide. Similar sounding claims echo from the Palestinian bombers. But in fact suicide attacks are signs of weakness and an inability to prevail at less drastic levels of confrontation or violence. Suicide tactics are the final roll of the dice and a sign that outright defeat is on the way.
  • Shock value. The suicide attacks (and you can include 9/11 here) certainly got the world's attention. In the short run that shock puts extreme pressure on the suicide attack targets. In the long run it will prove self defeating because it tells the target that the gloves are off and anything goes. This is a hideous mistake against an enemy that has already proved able to defeat your conventional warfare efforts. It will allow your enemies to justify the most brutal methods of defense and tends to destroy any interest in a negotiated peace.
  • Hard to defend against. It proved very hard to shoot down a plane determined to hit you. The same can be said of the Palestinian bombers. Someone willing to die in the attempt is much harder to defend against.
  • Extended defense as the solution. The US Navy adopted a system of extended defense to combat the Kamikazes. Radar equipped destroyers served as pickets to allow fighters to intercept the Kamikazes as far from the fleet as possible. Israel has moved into the West Bank to perform a similar function. Note the relative absence of attacks during the Israeli offensive.
  • Eventual loss of morale among the attackers. The early success can be intoxicating, but eventually successful defensive efforts, the lack of victory, and the tension between the words of the leaders urging you to blow yourself up and their unwillingness to do the same will wear down the suicide attacker's morale. The attacker able to use nationalism or religion as a rallying point will most likely always find someone willing to use their body as a bomb, but the number of willing volunteers will being to dry up. Contrary to the rhetoric, no society has ever proved willing to commit mass suicide.
The tactics being used by Israel will eventually defeat the Palestinian terror campaign. The cost will not be light because there will be more attacks before the Palestinian Kamikazes burn themselves out.

Just read one of today's Opinion Journal articles on Muslim justification for suicide bombings by Amir Taheri. Some of the quotes remind me of Japanese statements during the war. Contrast these:

From Amir Taheri's article: Algeria's president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has described the bombers as "innocent blossoms of martyrdom."

From John Dower's War Without Mercy: The falling cherry blossom became the best known symbol of the [kamikaze] flyers, appearing in their poems, their songs, their farewell letters, and in the hands of the virgin school girls who assembled to see them off on their final missions in the spring of 1945.

From Amir Taheri's article: Ghazi Algosaibi, Saudi Arabia's ambassador in London and also a poet, has praised the human bombs as a model for Muslim youth in an ode.

From John Dower's book: Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro, with whom the idea of the Special Attack Forces originated, often inscribed this line when asked for a sample of his fine calligraphy: "The purity of youth will usher in the Divine Wind"

From Amir Taheri's article: Ismail Abushanab, the Hamas leader in Gaza, says that 10,000 Palestinians should die while killing 100,000 Israelis as part of a strategy to "put the Jews on the run."

From Ronald Spector's Eagle Against the Sun describing the Japanese plans to defend Iwo Jima: On the walls of pillboxes and bunkers Kuribayashi [the Japanese commander] had posted copies of the "Courageous Battle Vow" which pledged the defenders to "kill ten of the enemy before dying."

The more things change.....
Another Andersen Case
Another Andersen client with bad numbers:

Internet advertising firm L90 Inc. on Monday said it would restate results for four prior quarters after an internal investigation in conjunction with a probe by securities regulators showed it overstated sales by $8.3 million over that period.

Los Angeles-based L90, whose auditor is the embattled accounting firm Andersen , said it would restate results for the third quarter of 2000 and the first three quarters of 2001. Because it is restating the third quarter of 2000, the company will also announce restated results for that whole year, the company said.

I'm not even looking for them and I find them!
Arthur Andersen
I blogged back on March 15th that Arthur Andersen was going down. That was based solely on the Enron situation. Since then they have lost tons of clients. And today as their trail proceeds through jury selection it appears that Enron was not the only Arthur Andersen disaster. Peregrine Systems has $100 million in "irregularrities on their books, books formerly maintained by Andersen:

A huge financial scandal has engulfed Peregrine Systems Inc after its auditors uncovered revenue recognition "irregularities" involving as much as $100m in the last two financial years.

Chairman and CEO Steve Gardner and CFO Matt Glass quit the CRM and asset management software developer yesterday after the irregularities were brought to light by auditors KPMG, who replaced Arthur Andersen at Peregrine in April after the accountants were disgraced by the Enron affair.

San Diego, California-based Peregrine caused a stock market panic last week when it delayed filing its fourth quarter figures, saying KPMG needed more time to finalize the accounts after it took over from Arthur Andersen. Investors' worst fears were realized when the board said yesterday it had authorized its audit committee to investigate the irregularities.

When Andersen was first charged there was a great cry among Andersen workers. It got big play on NPR and I noted it in my March 15 post. It is starting to look like this wasn't just a case of poor practices on the Enron account. Andersen did Peregrine books for years and never saw anything wrong. KPMG to their credit figured it out in a couple of weeks. Andersen is in a business where trust is their primary asset. I'm not sure they have any trust left at this point. As the Register article concludes:

At the same time, the Peregrine affair is bound to increase the suspicion that has inevitably attached itself to those companies in the industry whose accounts were audited by Arthur Andersen.
Losers Don't Graduate
Now that I'm Registered with them, here is an LA Times article I found of interest. Seems that if you are a graduating senior at certain San Fernando Valley high schools you won't be going through the graduation ceremony unless you have a plan for the next stage of your life. Hiking across Europe don't count:

More than 3,700 seniors at eight San Fernando Valley high schools may have taken all the English, history and math classes required for a diploma, but if they want to cross the stage at graduation, they'll first need to take big steps for their future.

Under a new, much-debated policy, those students will be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies only if they have committed to post-secondary education or training--whether university, community college, trade school or the military.

First, this is stupid. Graduation is supposed to be where you receive admiration for achieving your goal of completing high school. Second, why is the district wasting man hours doing paperwork to verify this policy? If they are so concerned about kids going to college they should take that time and use it to actually talk to the kids about their plans. Of course it is easy to circumvent the policy:

"It's nonsense," said Van Nuys High School senior Rafayel Ambartsumyan, who also wrote an editorial against the policy in the Mirror, the school newspaper. "A lot of students are going to lie about [their plans for college]."

Well, at least the kids are learning one way to deal with idiotic rules from above. Not sure that was the leason the district was trying to teach them though.
Please Register
I hardly ever read New York Times online articles. Why? Because I have to register to see them. I can typically find that same information elsewhere without having to go through the bother of registering. One good alternative has been the LA Times.

Now the LA Times is doing the same thing. Not on every story mind you, just some of the them. As far as I can tell it is only the most recent stuff that requires registration. So when I wanted to see the LA Times take on the Enron documents that purport to show how Enron was causing or at least helping along the blackouts in California I have to register with them.

So what does the LA Times want to know about me before I can see that story? Lots:
  • My name
  • My address
  • My phone number
  • My email
  • My yearly income
  • My age
  • My gender
Note that all of these are required fields and that the LA Times emails you a link that will active the account.

OK- I'm all the way down with the idea that the LA Times might want to restrict access to its web information. After all, they are in the business of selling information. If they give it away for free on the web they are cutting their own throat. But I seriously question whether their product is worth giving them my telephone number. Their privacy policy promises not to spam me. It also says:

We may use Personally Identifiable Information collected on to communicate with you about your registration and customization preferences; our Terms of Service and privacy policy; services and products offered by Tribune Interactive, Inc., and other Tribune Company affiliates and partners; and other topics we think you might find of interest. We reserve the right to share this information with other Tribune Company business units and affiliates, including for example our affiliated newspapers.

The key bit being that "other topics we think you might find of interest" bit. Hey- how about you let me decide what I'm interested in and you go think about something else? We all know when you think you find something for me you really mean something you can mass mail to everyone that fits that demographic category. No one at will ever think at all about what I mind find of interest.

After some consider of what I might find of interest I registered with However I gave them a fake name, fake address, fake phone number, and my spam collecting never check it anymore Yahoo mail account. I told them I make well over $100K a year so they will feel very interested in finding topics that might interest me. Have at it guys!
Welcome To 1950 Something
Best of the Web links to this story about a Baltimore city council member who wants to ban bad language. Most notably Councilman Melvin Stukes wants to ban the "N" word. Now obviously he is going to get toasted on 1st Amendment grounds if anything ever comes of this. But then again I don't think Councilman Stukes is a rocket scientist anyway. Consider this:

Stukes says that by ignoring the use of the word, officials give the impression -- especially to young people -- that it's acceptable. He said he wants to ban other derogatory words as well, and to encourage young people to dress more conservatively.

Hmmmm, perhaps they should ban dancing too and keep Kevin Bacon out of town?
Comic Book Hero
All the other Blogs are doing it, so here is Avenger Chris from the Hero Machine:

I dig the hat.
One of the most interesting things I read in Blogland last week was Steven den Beste's comments on the DD(X) project. DD(X) is the US Navy's idea for their next major surface warship. Northrup just won the competition to produce the ship. That is a $2.9 billion contract.

Steven's take is that the new ship represents the cutting edge of the latest naval revolution, one that saw the transition from the all gun warships bristling with weapons to the lean, austere look of modern combatants. For example, contrast these two ships. The first is a model of the American heavy cruiser Brooklyn from World War Two. She carried fifteen 6" guns along with many lighter weapons for anti-aircraft defense.

Contrast Brooklyn with the modern cruiser Normandy. She carries two 5" guns, but her main weapons are her missiles. They are carried in two vertical launch missile bays, one between the forward 5" mount and the superstructure, the second between the helicopter deck and the aft 5" gun.

There is approximately 50 years between these two ships. The DD(X) is only on the drawing board, but it will look something like this:

Like the Normandy, the new design is armed primarily with vertical launch missiles. She will carry only a single gun. The amount of superstructure and masts has been reduced to create a stealthy design. This is not a new idea. France has built the Lafayette class of frigate. The French Navy operates five of these and both Taiwan and Saudi Arabia have ordered them. Here is one of the Taiwanese ships.

Though it appears that the DD(X) design is attempted to take things to the next level, drawings always make ships look cleaner than they turn out to be. The Lafayette looks very clean but actually has a number of doors that open to allow anchors to drop and provide access to boats. It will be a real challenge to produce a clean, stealthy design on a destroyer that requires the ability to refuel and receive more weapons at sea. Both of these task require a crane like post, something that creates a large radar cross section.

Previous stealth designs like the Lafayette are also much smaller ships. Lafayette displaces 3,250 tons. The DD(X) will most likely end up between 8,000 and 10,000 tons.

One way to be stealthy is to build your ship low to the water. This is easy to achieve with smaller ships and boats designed to operate in a coastal defense role. The US Navy requires ships that can operate in deep water in all kinds of weather. Thus your ship can not be too low to the water or the decks will be awash in even minor seas.

Another potential problem is the inability to deal with small boats. Armed with only a single large gun and missiles the DD(X) would not be an effective ship to use against masses of small gun boats. US ships operating around the world are likely to encounter such craft and require heavy machine guns or small caliber cannon to drive them off. Unfortunately such weapons would cause a massive increase in radar cross section. If the DD(X) is going to mainly operate as a carrier escort then such concerns are minimal. But she will be compromised operating on her own without light guns.

Building the DD(X) will be an interesting balancing act between the traditional requirements and the goal of stealth. Let's hope that important capabilities are not thrown away on the altar of stealth.