Sunday, August 24, 2014

What caused the Japanese surrender in WW2? (Revisited)

After the post I wrote on whether the atomic bomb or the Soviet entrance into the war caused the Japanese surrender, I would be remiss if I didn't point out this article on how the Soviets were passing along allied battle plans to the Japanese in the hopes of prolonging the war in the Pacific.  They were doing this with the hope that if Japan stayed in the war long enough, they would be able to invade the northern islands of Japan and claim a piece of the nation.  Despite this recent news, I still question whether or not the Soviets had the logistical ability to carry out such an invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Did PEDs Contribute to Baseball's Parity Problem?

Back in the late 90's, early aughts, it was almost impossible to read an article about the business of Major League Baseball without it focusing on how the sport had serious issues with parity.  It seemed as though every other article on baseball detailed how only large market teams with high payrolls could make the playoffs, and the small market teams didn't have a chance.  The book "Moneyball", published in 2003, was all about the way the Oakland A's succeeded in being one of the few small market teams that were able to win consistently.

Being a Midwesterner, I could see first hand how the baseball franchises of the Rust Belt cities struggled mightily.  The Reds went fifteen years between playoff appearances, while the Pirates went twenty years without posting a winning record.  Other small markets, such as Kansas City, also saw their teams suffer decades of futility.  In recent years, things have turned around for several of these small market franchises. The Reds have made the playoffs 3 times in the past four years, the Pirates finally achieved a winning record last year, and this season the Kansas City Royals are competing for a playoff spot.

While the teams mentioned above have succeeded because they finally got their acts together in terms of developing players, I can't help but wonder if the recent crackdown on steroids and HGH in the recent years has helped improve baseball's parity problem.

An expensive baseball team is usually an older baseball team.  Players have to accrue six years of service time at the major league level until they are permitted to become unrestricted free agents.  Since most good players come up to the majors around the age of 22, they are not free agents until they hit the age of 28, which is right in the middle of their prime years.  So at the age of 28 they go off and sign a high salary, long term deal with a large market club, maybe the Yankees or the Angels.  The problem for the large market clubs is they get about two years of that player's prime before they hit the wrong side of 30 and start to decline.  Also, as players age and their bodies break down they tend to spend more time on the disabled list. This might not have been such a problem when Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) were rampant in the sport.  Steroids could help prevent the normal decline that came with age while HGH could prevent trips to the disabled list.  Now, with drug testing having been instituted, large market teams are having trouble with their older players not being as productive as expected, or missing more game with injuries.  This has allowed the small market teams with younger players a chance to compete.

Monday, August 11, 2014

IRS Targeting and the Stupidity of the Obama Administration

Just came across this (via vodkapundit) story about how the group Tea Party Express may be little more then a fundraising scam.  This matches up with other stories out there that have shown the money a lot of these Tea Party groups are raising is not getting out to the political candidates.  While a few of these groups might be true scams, most of them just seem unable to do much more then raise money to meet their overhead.  While many Tea Party supporters might be skeptical of these findings, there is much anecdotal evidence that Tea Party money and support is not getting to the politicians.  This was clear in the Brat-Cantor primary, as the Tea Party groups were nowhere to be found in that race.

The recent exposure of the failure of these Tea Party groups shows the stupidity of the Obama administration for having the IRS target them in the first place.  I believe the IRS targeted conservative groups because many liberals see conservatives as evil incarnate and believe they must be stopped at all costs.  Because of this, they feel conservatives clearly aren't meant to have the same free speech rights they are meant to enjoy. This kind of thinking permeates academia and has led to numerous speech codes on college campuses. Being an "academic professor" himself, I'm sure President Obama thinks this way and has been behind the IRS targeting from the start.

With the information we have now about the Tea Party groups, their targeting by the IRS seems downright idiotic.  They destroyed the integrity of the governmental bureaucracy to go after frauds and incompetents who were going to have little impact on the election anyway.  Ironically, the IRS targeting might have actually prevented conservatives from blowing money on these groups.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What caused the Japanese surrender in WW2, the bomb, or the Soviets?

Today is the anniversary of the day the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.  On that same day, August 9, 1945, the Soviets began their invasion of Manchuria.  The Soviet invasion was a remarkable success, and by August 15th, the Soviets conquered all of Manchuria, captured over half a million Japanese troops, and reached the border of Korea.  August 15 would end up being the day Japan surrendered.  While Americans have always assumed it was the dropping of the two atomic bombs that caused Japan's surrender, the Soviet role in the defeat has started to get more attention recently.  In message board discussions on the issue, many people claim it was the Soviet entry into the war that convinced the Japanese it was time to surrender, and the bombs had very little effect.

While the American-centric view of the war has caused the Soviet's invasion of Manchuria to be almost completely forgotten, I think the belief they deserve primary credit for forcing Japan to surrender is a case of the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction.   It also seems that people are trying to transpose what happened with Germany to the war with Japan.  In the last days of the European war, the Germans fought furiously to avoid being captured by the Soviets, fearing what they would do to them.  I'm not sure the Japanese would have had the same fear of the Soviets.  The Germans were right to fear Soviet brutality, but much of that brutality stemmed from the Soviets seeking revenge against the Germans for atrocities they committed during their invasion of the Soviet Union.  I'm not sure the Japanese had the same reason to fear the Soviets as the Germans did. 

Another factor to take into account is, "Did the Japanese believe the Soviets were truly a threat to their home islands?"  An amphibious invasion of the Japanese home islands would have been an enormous undertaking, and I haven't seen anything to indicate the Soviets had the equipment to do it.  The American forces had all the landing craft that had been used previously in the Pacific, all the landing craft that had been shipped over from Europe, and from I've read they believed they just barely had enough to invade Kyushu, the first home island they were targeting.

Of course, the Japanese could have been fearful the Soviets would have participated in the American invasion, or that they would get a zone of occupation in Japan if the war lasted longer.  Once again, though, the question must be asked how much would they have had to fear Soviet atrocities in these situations.

In the end, I think Soviet entry into the war must be given credit for the Japanese surrender, along with the atomic bombs being dropped.  The loss of Manchuria deprived Japan of much needed resources, in addition to the capture of the half a million troops.  Before the Soviet invasion, the Japanese might have believed they would be able to negotiate a peace that allowed them to hold on to some of their conquests on mainland Asia, but the loss of Manchuria, and the potential for the Soviets to conquer more of their territories, convinced Japan this was never going to happen.

One good thing that has come about from the debate is that a previously forgotten moment of history is being re-discovered.  There is very little in the way of books or documentaries examining how the Soviet conquest of Manchuria was carried out.  I've embedded a doc I found outlining the Soviet campaign.  It's pretty decent, although it insinuates the timing of the invasion was arranged to take place on the same day as the Nagasaki bombing.  In reality, the timing is just a coincidence.  The date for the Soviets declaring war on Japan had been decided at the Yalta conference, when Stalin promised to go to war against Japan three months after the war against Germany ended.  The European war ended on May 8, meaning the August 9 start date for the Manchurian invasion was set from that.

Are Academics Outsourcing Their Own Jobs?

I recently found this article offering dissertation editing services, and I'm not sure what to think about it.  Is it a sign of declining quality in graduate students that they can no longer edit their own dissertations?  I have to admit, that I have yet to see anyone utilizing these services.  Everyone is still just relying on their peers for proofreading and editing, as I did when I wrote my thesis.  Although, the trend of outsourcing academic work like this is a trend that might be growing.  I attended a conference two months ago where I talked with someone about the growing field of professional grant writing.  Principal investigators are hiring professional writers to do much of their grant writing for them.  While I understand getting a grant approved has become more difficult then ever, I can't help but think the need to outsource this kind of work is evidence of a decline in academia.

Saturday Morning Video

Friday, August 8, 2014

World War 1: The "Accidental" War?

As noted in the article by Jonah Goldberg  on WW1 I linked to earlier, one of the popular perceptions of the war is that it started because "Countries and forgotten empires declared war on each other in no small part because a bunch of aristocrats in funny clothes said they had to."  The perception is that after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, all the leaders of Europe started making threats to overcompensate for their small dicks and then declared war on each other to see whose penis was truly the biggest.  The thinking seems to go if that we could have avoided this brief moment of insanity, the world would have remained stable and peaceful and would be a remarkably different place right now.

I think a war the type of WW1 was much more inevitable then others may think.  One bit of history that often seems to get overlooked are the two Balkan Wars that were fought in 1912 and 1913.  These wars were a  result of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and while Austria-Hungary was not a participant, an enlarged Serbia would soon become a threat to that declining empire as well.

The period of time encompassing the late19th/early 20th centuries saw huge shifts in the balance of power with the rise of Germany and the decline of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.  While Germany is often looked at as the instigator of WW1, a solid argument could be made the war was really the death throes of Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans.  Their days as empires were over, and they were never going to die quietly, or without major repercussions that would be seen years down the road.

Also, when looking at the rush to war that took place after the Ferdinand assassination, I don't think we should be so naive as to assume the common citizens of the nations didn't want war just as much as the aristocrats.  The citizens of the dying Ottoman and Austria-Hungary empires likely wanted back their prestige on the world stage and saw war as the best way to accomplish that.  The Russians were still stinging from their defeat against the Japanese a decade earlier, and were looking for war victories that would revitalize them.  Even the French were likely looking for revenge for their defeat against Germany four decades earlier.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

World War 1 Widows: Source of War Myths?

What is myth and what is fact about World War 1 is a debate that has raged in many forums.  This discussion here highlights many of the main points of debate.  While most of the potential myths involve the manner in which the war was fought, I find it interesting there is a raging debate over the perception of the war at the time.  Today, we almost universally accept the fact the war was seen as futile and a horrible waste of life at the time, but several dissenters argue this was not the case.  If it's true the public saw the war in a positive light at the time it was fought, the question must be asked how did the popular perception of its futility take hold.

I think one possible answer to the above question might be found in this article, which details the stories of young women unable to find husbands because so many men in their age cohort died in the war.  This group of women disproportionately suffered the effects of the war, and would have developed a view of it that diverged greatly from the society around them, if it is true the society around them retained a positive view of the war.

The next question that must be asked is, if the widows' view of WW1 was divergent from the rest of society, why did it eventually win out?   I think the answer might lie in the fact that denied husbands, many of the women would have gone on to pursue careers, particularly in education, which was one of the few acceptable career paths for women at the time.  They would have taught the subsequent generations the war was futile, giving rise to the myth the war was always perceived this way.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

World War I Centenary

With the centenary of the start of World War 1 occurring a couple days ago, there have been numerous retrospectives published about the war and its impact on events today.  This recent article by Jonah Goldberg sums up most of the points being made, which match up with a post made by neo-neocon almost two years ago.  A lot of people seem to share the sentiment made in the latter headline, that we have never really recovered from World War 1.  The popular perception of the war is that it was a unique turning point in history that changed the world in ways most other wars throughout history have not.  I have come to wonder how accurate this perception really is.  If an objective, outside observer with no previous knowledge of human history studied us, would they agree that World War 1 is truly the historical fulcrum we perceive it to be, or would they come to the conclusion that the popular perception of World War 1 is just a meme that hasn't died, and there is truly nothing unique about the war in relation to the rest of human history.  That is a question I hope to answer in several blog posts over the next couple days.