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Archive for August, 2006

Bluegrass

[ 0 ] August 27, 2006 |

It looks as if there’s been a plane crash in Lexington.

… Fox News, unhelpfully, was speculating as to whether terrorism was the cause.

Other Titles that Demand Production

[ 0 ] August 27, 2006 |

In the wake of Snakes on a Plane, Dana Stevens at Slate requested additional, literal minded film titles. The best:

The Creature Waits in the Structure
That’s Not Sangria!
Kittens for Breakfast
Woody Allen is Too Old for This
The Lord Helps Nonthreatening Southerners
I am Explosive, Bosomy

And finally my favorite, which for some reason reminds me of something DJW would come up with:

How Can I Prevent this Alarming Thing from Happening to Me?

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Rodney

[ 0 ] August 27, 2006 |

The Washington Naval Treaty dealt the Royal Navy a raw deal. The RN posssesed 32 dreadnoughts and 9 battlecruisers, compared to the 22 dreadnoughts of the USN and the 8 dreadnoughts and 4 battlecruisers of the IJN. Moreover, the battleships and battlecruisers on the Royal Navy drawing board were distinctly superior to their Japanese and American equivalents. The fact that the United Kingdom was nearly bankrupt in the wake of World War I, and that her resources were far outmatched by those of the United States didn’t help alleviate the sting of having to scrap more than half of her dreadnought fleet, abandon her magnificent new battleships, and accept naval parity with the Americans and only modest naval superiority over the Japanese. The Royal Navy was, however, able to wring a major concession. Because Japan and the United States had both completed battleships with 16″ guns, Great Britain would be allowed to construct two of its own. These ships became Nelson and Rodney.

In designing the two ships, the British tried to combine the best elements of the cancelled battlecruiser and battleship classes. The Treaty limited the displacement of the ships to 35000 tons, slightly larger than the Nagato and Colorado class battleships of the other two major navies. They would be armed and armored on the same scale as the planned battlecruisers, while possessing the speed of the battleship class. This resulted in ships with an armament of nine 16″ guns in three triple turrets, a displacement of 34000 tons, and a speed of 23.5 knots. For the first time, the Royal Navy adopted the “all or nothing” armor scheme that had been incorporated in US battleships since 1916. This scheme left much of the ship unprotected, on the assumption that the vital areas (magazines, boilers) should be heavily defended and that the light armor covering the non-vital areas could not resist battleship guns in any case. Consequently, the Nelsons were very heavily armored, including a 14″ main belt.

Although quite powerful, the ships were of a hybrid design and consequently had some serious problems. A curious decision was made to put the entire armament forward, ahead of the tower superstructure. One of the turrets was superfiring, but one was not, leaving it with a very restricted firing arc. The gun disposition also led to blast problems, and it was general policy that the guns should never be fired all at the same time. The ships had a massive tower superstructure that, while looking impressive, sometime acted as a sail in high winds. The armor belt, although thick, proved difficult to repair. Because of the desire to save weight the ships only used two propellers, which reduced their maneuverability and made them vulnerable to underwater attack. All in all, the British could have done a much better job. The third turret should have been placed aft, as later became the practice in most navies. Although it was hard to predict this at the time, it would also have made sense to sacrifice some protection in favor of speed, as Rodney could not keep up with even the Queen Elizabeth class battleships. Rodney was commissioned in 1927, and despite their problems it is probably fair to argue that she and her sister were the most powerful battleships in the world until 1940.

The United Kingdom was still strapped for cash, and the Depression didn’t help matters. In 1931, the government decided to cut pay for some sailors by 25%. Unsurprisingly, the sailors didn’t care for this line of thinking. On September 15, 1931, sailors on board Rodney and three other Royal Navy battleships mutinied, and refused to take orders from their officers. The Invergordon Mutiny, as it came to be called, threatened to spread until the Cabinet took action, reducing the pay cut to 10%. Several hundred sailors were either jailed or discharged for participating in the mutiny. Partially in consequence of the resultant fiscal crisis, the United Kingdom abandoned the Gold Standard several months later. The rest of Rodney’s interwar career was uneventful.

In the early part of World War II, Rodney served as a convoy escort, meeting but not firing upon Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in March 1941. In May, Rodney was assigned to the hunt for the battleship Bismarck. Because of damage to her rudder, Bismarck could not escape the slow British battleship, and Rodney (along with King George V) engaged Bismarck on May 27. The most serious damage that Rodney suffered during the battle was self-inflicted, as the crew could not be dissuaded from launching full salvos. Bismarck proved difficult to sink, with Rodney finally closing to point blank range and firing torpedos into Bismarck before breaking off. Bismarck would later be sunk/scuttled by a combination of British torpedos and her own scuttling charges. This appears to be the only case of a battleship successfully firing torpedos at another battleship.

After her encounter with Bismarck, Rodney returned to convoy escort in the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic, and the Arctic. Due to heavy use and insufficient repairs, she became incapable of further action in 1944, and was put in reserve in December. Rodney was sold for scrap in 1948.

(Images courtesy of Martimequest)

Discussion: Taking time period into account, what was the best all-around dreadnought battleship (or class of battleships) ever constructed?

The Faculty Meeting

[ 0 ] August 27, 2006 |

This gets it right.

BSG wins the Buffy

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

Battlestar Galactica has won Salon’s prestigious “Buffy” award for television’s most underappreciated show. Previous winners include The Wire and Veronica Mars. This bit is particularly nice:

Ten reasons not to watch “Battlestar Galactica”:

1. No light sabers. Not a one.

2. The gripping, conflicted experiment with democracy aboard Galactica seems too unrealistic. Politicians make good decisions and elections are always fair!

3. Where’s the fat, goofy husband?

4. The personal crises on the show — breast cancer, loss of loved ones, the brutal disillusionment of loving someone you can never have — are unbelievable. They live on a spaceship! Now, if they lived on Wisteria Lane …

5. I don’t want a President Roslin, with her clear-eyed pragmatism and steely political instincts, when I can have the portentous speechifying of President Bartlet!

6. A woman president? Come on, it’s already science fiction, why tip over into the realm of fantasy like “Commander-in-Chief”?

7. The Cylons (the terrorists!) seem to exhibit real emotions and possibly humanlike feelings, creating constant existential crises for the Galactica staff. That’s silly. In real life, the good guys are always clearly distinguishable from the bad guys.

8. There’s too much realistic adventure and too many pulse-racing fight scenes; I don’t like to get that excited.

9. William Shatner hasn’t made a single guest appearance!

10. I like my science fiction peopled with multi-nostriled characters sporting thick, blue, leathery skin. Too many of the “Battlestar Galactica” characters are preposterously hot, and stubbornly refuse to ooze green, viscous liquids. Who wants that?

Better France than Italy

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

Yglesias points to this excellent article on Italian and French military capabilities. In brief, “thanks, but no thanks” is probably the best response to an offer of Italian military support and leadership, especially when other options are available. The French military has consistently displayed a high level of expertise in peacekeeping and other low intensity operations (Rwanda notwithstanding, which suffered from problems more political than military in any case), and are probably the best choice for Lebanon.

A great book has yet to be written on why some states and some cultures seem to do well at the tasks necessary to maintaining a capable and efficient modern military organizations, and others don’t. Resources and wealth don’t do such a great job explaining such variation. I would suspect that the determinants vary for different kinds of operations and different organizational structures. Stephen Rosen’s book asks some of the right questions, but he unfortunately wades into a not-terribly-useful set of case studies that ignore the very real differences between modern and ancient military organizations.

Green

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

This reminds me of this.

Unsurprisingly, the Mahdi Army Claims Victory

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

More evidence that Bill Petti is right. We cannot dictate how Iraqis will interpret a withdrawal from Iraq.

The British withdrew from Camp Abu Naji near Amara. They only gave the Iraqis one day notice. This short notice suggests that the evacuation was done under considerable duress; one suspects that the British position was becoming untenable because of repeated Shiite guerrilla attacks (there were only 1200 British troops there). When they left, they left behind nearly $300,000 in equipment, intending that the Iraqi police should have the use of the base.

Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers on the provincial Governing Council crowed that the Mahdi Army was the first Iraqi group to force a substantial withdrawal of Coalition troops from an Iraqi territory, according to Amit Paley. The LA Times says that the Mahdi Army boasted of having forced the British troops to leave so abruptly.

As Petti notes:

More importantly, the problem with signaling a reputation for resolve (and any other kind of signaling for that matter) is that your opponent will draw whatever conclusions (mostly favorable) they want from your actions. There is little one can do to ensure that the target of their signal gets the right message. The question I would ask the President and supporters of his policy is what outcome, short of utopian style democracy and stability in Iraq or staying forever, would ensure that our enemies do not draw negative conclusions about our resolve? It appears to me that a host of outcomes would leave much to interpretation. And if we know anything about terrorists groups (and any political actor for that matter) we know they thrive on and are schooled in the art of spin.

The claim that we need to stay in Iraq in order to demonstrate our resolve to the terrorists is garbage. It is simply not the case that the United States can withdraw “on its own terms” because we are not the ones who determine the interpretation of our actions. When the US leaves, be it in 2007 or 2031, Iraqi militants and international terrorists will declare victory and argue that the United States is weak.

Appalling

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

Make sure to remember these disgraceful actions of the Alabama Democratic Party the next time you hear “Mudcat” Sanders or some other idiot go into the umpteenth self-pitying rant about how the Democrats can’t possibly afford to write off the Deep South. That’s the Democratic Party using an egregiously selective application of an obscure technicality to disqualify a gay candidate (with, admittedly, some of what deserves the usually vacuous epithet “identity politics” thrown in) who’s running unopposed. The idea that the national Dems could come close to carrying Alabama while maintaining any semblance of their current principles is just a joke. Pam has more.

WA Senate update

[ 0 ] August 25, 2006 |

Until now, former Safeco CEO and Slade Gorton advisor Mike McGavick has been running a competent if uninspired challenge to first-term senator Maria Cantwell, pretending to run against Washington, DC and partisanship in general, rather than against Cantwell or with Bush. He was creeping up in the polls against Cantwell, whose mild vulnerability has been vastly overstated due to the dearth of actually vulnerable Democratic senatorial incumbents. Cantwell’s first round of TV ads (as well the neutralization of a former from-the-left primary distraction) did some significant damage to any gains his campaign had made, a non-trivial but non-fatal setback.

Now, though, McGavick has done something truly bizarre:

In “An open letter from Mike” on his campaign blog, the Republican candidate also discussed his divorce from his first wife, the layoffs he ordered while chief executive of Seattle-based Safeco Corp. in 2001 and 2002, and an inaccurate campaign attack ad he allowed when he managed Slade Gorton’s successful Senate election campaign in 1988.

Does he honestly believe that if he takes the skeletons out of the closet himself they won’t be able to harm him? Or is this just an effort to avoid a strategic late October surprise?

At any rate, the Cantwell campaign is remaining silent, letting the state Democratic party take a few whacks at these softballs. David Goldstein notes that McGavick wasn’t just over the legal limit–his blood alcohol level was significantly higher than the level which apparently turns ordinary men into raging anti-semites.

In other local political news, Darcy Burner is still way down in what is apparently the 19th most competitive district in the country. I hope this gets more competitive soon; the good news is she’s hardly started her campaign and her fundraising has been strong. Given the current state of the district, if she can link Reichart with Bush she might have a chance.

Minor Template Edits

[ 0 ] August 25, 2006 |

You may notice a couple of small changes in LGM. I’ve added a few rotating picture files in the left sidebar, and moved 3.0 Blogads to the top of the right. 3.0 is, I’m led to believe, niftier and all-around super better than 2.0, or whatever we had before. The most notable change is the addition of three more subheadings under the “Best of LGM”. These include collections of our anti-Nader screeds, our book reviews, and (by request) our rotating images.

Among the Dead-Enders

[ 0 ] August 25, 2006 |

Because the blogosphere tends to skew toward the opinions of educated elites, it’s relatively hard–even among conservative blogs–to find nice, chewy wingnuttery on the subject of the decision to make Plan B available over the counter. Even Josh Trevino doesn’t seem to have written anything, although admittedly I may have missed a number of the blogs he’s undoubtedly joined and left in the past week.

But, fortunately, there are exceptions that can provide some amusement. Sister Toldjah gives the standard reactionary boilerplate, claiming that if Planned Parenthood were serious about stopping teenage pregnancies, it would be trying to promote abstinence programs that are demonstrably useless rather than proving teens with tools that can actually stop pregnancies: “Imagine if PP were to change its tune and devote as much time now to promoting abstinence as it has in the past promoting ’safe sex’ and ‘alternative ways to engage in sexual activity that doesn’t involve the actual act’. We wouldn’t have to worry about that high teen pregnancy rate that Richards mentioned.” You read that right–she seriously seems to believe that teens would stop having sex if Cecile Richards were more vocal on the subject. Because if there’s anything besides moral instruction from teachers that teens are thinking about when they’re about to get it on, it’s the words if the head of prominent interest groups. The logic is airtight!

I was expecting Dawn Eden‘s take to top even this, but it’s actually kind of disappointing. Despite a title that promises a spittle-flecked rant worthy of Lee Siegel himself, we are only given the opportunity to play “straightforward answers to idiotic questions:”

So, riddle me this: Why do oral contraceptives still require a prescription, seeing as they’re so safe that you can take 40 times the prescribed amount anytime you want?

Because Plan B is for emergencies and must be taken within a narrow time frame, which makes obtaining a prescription considerably more burdensome than in the case ordinary birth control? You’re welcome!

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