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[ 0 ] March 21, 2006 |

Congratulations to Japan, Ichiro, and Sadaharu Oh on winning the WBC. Kudos to Cuba for a fine run.


[ 0 ] March 20, 2006 |

Kingdaddy attended a protest commemorating the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, and wasn’t pleased:

The speakers displayed their tin ear for American politics in other ways. A Middle East expert blew several minutes dissecting the Bush Administration’s public statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A folk singer belted out a tune about how Americans like to blame “welfare immigrant mothers on drugs” for all their problems. After the mother of an army lieutenant killed in Iraq gave the rally touched the nerve that a majority of Americans are feeling about Iraq, a local public radio personality stopped the political and emotional momentum with a rambling discussion about the Bush Administration.

The organizers had an opportunity, and lost it. You don’t need a manifesto to explain why you should be against the current US strategy in Iraq. Instead, you need only listen to someone like the mother of Lt. Ken Ballard, who said what a growing number of Americans are feeling: we did not need to fight this war; we were lied to about the reasons for the invasion, which then kept changing; we were ill equipped for the insurgency; too many Americans and Iraqis are now dying, without the substantive progress that might justify their sacrifices; and in the end, we are not safer than we were the day before the 9/11 attacks.

I can’t say whether Kingdaddy’s experience at the protest was representative of other protests, although I can say that it resonates with MY experience at such events. Nevertheless, even though I agree with a lot of Kingdaddy’s account, my agreement leaves me feeling vaguely uncomfortable.

I suppose that my first problem is that these events usually attract committed, anti-war leftists, and I am far from a committed anti-war leftist. This is neither my fault nor theirs, but it still produces a disconnect. I’m not anti-war in a politically meaningful sense; I’ve supported every other major military intervention that the US has conducted in my lifetime, although I really haven’t taken the time to rethink Lebanon or Grenada since I was eight. Of course I’m going to be uncomfortable with a genuine condemnation of US “militarism”, US foreign policy, and (although rarely seen these days) the US military. I could never condone a withdrawal from Afghanistan, for example, and I still haven’t fully politically forgiven a friend of mine for superimposing a swastika over a NATO star at an anti-Kosovo War rally. To the extent that protests about the Iraq War almost always seem to extend beyond the Iraq War to a more general critique of US foreign policy, I’m left cold.

My second problem is that I’ve never understood the web of connections between a particular war and the other issues that animate the Left. I hate the word “moderate” when it’s applied to political beliefs, and I especially detest self-declared “moderates” and “centrists”, but I am, after all, kind of moderate. There are some issues, like trade, on which I’m much more likely to agree with those on the right than with those on the left. I think that recognizing Israel’s right to exist is a good thing, and I’m deeply suspicious of the motives of any number of foreign countries. Like Kingdaddy, I think that universal health care, the Iraq War, and vegetarianism really are separate and distinct issues, although this seems a minority of opinion at these kinds of rallies.

But I’m also uncomfortable, because I know that any political movement must bring together a whole set of different interest groups, and that those who feel most strongly are likely to make up the vanguard in any struggle. There are some incredibly bad arguments for NOT staying in Iraq, and for NOT invading Iraq in the first place, but it’s important not to pay so much attention to those that I forget that there are good arguments, as well. No demonstration for any cause, really, is going to look like middle America, even if it has the tacit support of the majority, and the energy that people spend on these things has to be honored in some way.

Then again, I can’t help feeling that some people are just idiots, and are wholly detrimental to the causes they support. I feel that way a lot about Gore Vidal, for example. I’ve been sitting on this Vidal interview in the Nation for a while because I just haven’t been sure how to approach it. This exchange here particularly grabbed me:

Q: If, indeed, this Administration is collapsing for lack of weight, what comes after it?

A: Martial law, that’s next. Bush is like a plane of glass. You can see all the worms turning around in his head at any moment. The first giveaway of what’s on his mind–or the junta’s mind.

Q: The junta being…?

A: Cheney, who runs everything, I suspect. And a few other serious operators. Anyway, I first noticed this was on their mind when Bush finally woke up to the fact that the hurricanes were not going to be good PR for him. And he starts to think friends of his are going to be running in ’08. So what’s the first thing he does? The first thing on the mind of a dictator? He gets the National Guard away from the governors. The Guard is under the governors, but Bush is always saying, Let’s turn it over to the military. This is what’s on their mind. Under military control.

Q: Are you predicting a coming military dictatorship? And that the American people would stand for that?

A: They’ll stand for anything. And they will stand for nothing.

Just what in the hell has to be wrong with you to think that George Bush is about to order a military junta? Anyone who has been awake over the past four years might have noticed that the uniformed military and the Republican Party are not the same entity, and indeed stand at odds on a number of important questions, not least the conduct of the Iraq War. For Vidal, though, there is no difference; Cheney is evil, the military is evil, and therefore their ends and means must be identical. As far as I’m concerned, this kind of analysis is worse than useless; it makes us look like idiots.

So my not terribly insightful conclusion to this overly long post is that moderate dissenters of the war need to express tolerance for the truly committed, but that this tolerance can’t be unlimited. There can be enemies on the left, but that the Reynolds/Hitchens trap of emphasizing only the worst arguments against the war or in favor of withdrawal is very dangerous.

Lexblogging: Fun with Governor Fletcher

[ 0 ] March 20, 2006 |

In 1986, Judge Lewis Paisley declared Kentucky’s anti-sodomy law unconstitutional.

In 1991, a group called Pro-Family Kentucky distributed a flier claiming that “Lexington is becoming a Hot-Bed for growing Sodomy, Pornography and Violence against women and families,” in part because of Judge Paisley.

The treasurer of Pro-Family Kentucky at the time was a man named Ernie Fletcher, who is now the governor of our fair state.

As one of the commenters at Bluegrass Report puts it, “I didn’t know you could grow Sodomy in a Hot-Bed. And to think for all these years I’ve been using potting soil and Miracle Gro.”

Given that it’s had fifteen years to grow, you’d think I’d notice all the sodomy here in Lexington. Eh, not so much, as far as I can tell. I’m also uncertain how sodomy laws prevent violence against women and families, but I’m sure that Governor Fletcher has a good explanation.


[ 0 ] March 20, 2006 |

V for Vendetta was fair enough for a big studio production. Natalie Portman rarely impresses me as an actress, and this was no exception. Hugo Weaving was a perfect choice for the title role, however, and pulled it off both verbally and physically. The plot was rather predictable, and its foray into the political was unsurprisingly hamfisted and clumsy.

As a final note, please don’t rely on this film for its historical interpretation of the original Guy Fawkes. Just because you want to blow up Parliament and decapitate the English elite does not, in fact, mean that you’re an anarchist.

For Glenn Reynolds, is there a difference?

[ 0 ] March 19, 2006 |

Verbatim Glenn:

They’re not so much “antiwar” as just on the other side.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Invincible

[ 0 ] March 19, 2006 |

Lord Fisher was not content with the invention of Dreadnought, the all big gun battleship which would render the fleets of the world obsolete. The mission of the Royal Navy was not limited to the destruction of the enemy battlefleet. Fisher was worried that smaller, less capable navies might attack British trade through the use of commerce raiding armored cruisers. These cruisers could typically outpace even Dreadnought, and could make the defense of Britain’s trade lifeline difficult. Accordingly, before Dreadnought had even left the slip, Fisher commissioned a design for a new kind of ship, the battlecruiser. HMS Invincible was the first of this kind.

HMS Invincible displaced 18000 tons, carried 8 12″ guns in four twin turrets (one fore, one aft, and two wing), and could make 27 knots. Although roughly the same size as Dreadnought, Invincible sacrificed one turret and a lot of armour for six extra knots of speed. Invincible could either outgun or outrun any ship in the world. Against armoured cruisers, she was, well, invincible. Facing battleships, she had the speed to withdraw. The Royal Navy would build eleven more battlecruisers, culminating in HMS Hood. The German Navy, feeling the need to match the British, built seven, and the Japanese four.

HMS Invincible began the war with the First Battlecruiser Squadron, based in Britain. Her first action was the Battle of Heligoland Bight, in which a group of British battlecruisers intercepted a destroyed a few patrolling German light cruisers. Developments in the Far East, however, drew HMS Invincible away. At the beginning of World War I, Germany controlled a naval base at Tsingtao. A crack German squadron including Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Germany’s best two armored cruisers, had been transferred to China before the war. The German position in Asia was untenable, however. British and Russian forces could easily occupy the German territory, and the Japanese were making ominous anti-German noises. Admiral Graf Maximilian Von Spee decided to take his squadron into the Pacific in an effort to do as much damage as possible before being caught. There was a small chance, if the German ships were lucky, that they might make it back to Germany. Spee’s squadron wreaked havoc in the Southeast Pacific for a couple of months before the British were finally available to collect the ships necessary to track it down. The first British effort ended in disaster, however; the British cruisers became detached from a pre-dreadnought battleship, and were destroyed at the Battle of Coronel. This defeat outraged British public opinion, and the Admiralty decided to deal with Spee by sending HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible to the South Atlantic.

Admiral Graf von Spee’s squadron attacked Stanley on the morning of December 8, 1914. The Admiral had no idea that Inflexible and Invincible were in port. Had the Germans launched an immediate and all out attack, they might have had a chance of seriously damaging or even crippling the British ships. On the other hand, Admiral Graf von Spee can hardly be blamed for retreating before an overwhelimingly superior force. The British Admiral, Frederick Sturdee, was unfazed by the initial German attack, and ordered the crew to take in breakfast while the battlecruisers raised steam. When Inflexible and Invincible were ready, they proceeded to leave Stanley, track down the German cruisers (they had an advantage of 3-4 knots) and destroy them at range. The ensuing battle was deeply unsporting, but Scharnhorst and Gneisenau did manage to score a number of hits on their poor shooting Royal Navy opponents before sinking.

HMS Invincible
returned to Great Britain, but missed the Battle of Dogger Bank. In May 1916, Invincible was flagship of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron, temporarily operating with the Grand Fleet out of Scapa Flow rather than with the rest of the battlecruiser squadrons. Her commander was Read Admiral Horace Hood, part of a family with a long history in the Royal Navy. Invincible did not arrive at Jutland early enough to participate in the “Run to the South” where five German battlecruisers managed to destroy two of six British battlecruisers. When the Grand Fleet appeared on the horizon, the German fleet began to turn to the south. Hood joined his ships to Beatty’s surviving battlecruisers, and Invincible began to hammer SMS Lutzow, the flagship of Admiral Hipper’s German battlecruiser squadron.

Unfortunately, the Germans noticed Invincible’s excellent gunnery, an unusual characteristic in a British ship. Lutzow and Derfflinger poured fire onto Invincible, and a salvo from Lutzow hit the British ship on its middle turret. Invincible was not designed to take heavy fire from battleships, but the admirals of neither the Grand Fleet nor the High Seas Fleet could resist pressing their battlecruisers into front line combat. Invincible exploded and sank, taking all but six of her crew of 1021 with her, including Admiral Hood. That was twice the number of survivors of the battlecruiser Hood, destroyed almost twenty-five years later. A much larger number of sailors probably survived the initial explosion, but it was not the policy of the Royal Navy to pick up survivors during battle. Invincible came to rest in two pieces, with her stern protruding just above the water. As the rest of the Grand Fleet passed by, the name Invincible was clearly visible on the stern of the wreck.

Trivia: What battleship devoted the highest percentage of its displacement to armour?

Challenge Results, Round 1

[ 0 ] March 18, 2006 |

The Bearded Ducks are ready to make their move. Ordinarily, I’ve already been eliminated by this point, what with my special ability to identify high seeded first round upset victims and pick them to win the tournament. If Albany had pulled it out against UConn, I’d be sitting pretty; I have unwisely selected Kentucky to upset the Huskies, and an Albany victory would have let me off the hook.

[ 0 ] March 17, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

WBC Semis

[ 0 ] March 17, 2006 |

Well, that was surprising.

I don’t think that anyone could have predicted that the US would simply fail to hit in the WBC. In five games against teams other than South Africa, the US scored 16 runs. That’s with an exceptional offensive lineup against pitching which doesn’t compare favorably with that of an average Major League team.

I’m glad that the umpiring travesty in the US-Japan game didn’t end up mattering. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Japan will win its third game of the tourney against Korea, then will defeat the Dominican Republic in the finals. But really, with four teams as evenly matched as these in a single-elimination tournament, anything could happen.

And Just When You Thought Judy Miller Couldn’t Get More Pathetic

[ 0 ] March 16, 2006 |

Who knew bloggers had such power?

Judith Miller has a new alibi—the blogs done her in!

Writer Marie Brenner presents Miller’s latest defense in an April Vanity Fair feature story about the fallout from the Valerie Plame investigation. Brenner, acknowledging she’s a friend of the former New York Times reporter, writes that while still in Iraq in May 2003, Miller became a “major target in the intense public anger directed at Bush’s war, owing to her reports that Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction.”

The ones tossing the fire were those dastardly—but unnamed—bloggers, according to Miller. Upon returning to New York later in May, Miller met with the Times’ two top editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, who were then battling a staff revolt triggered by the Jayson Blair scandal. They acknowledged the “flak” her stories had gotten and told her foreign editor Roger Cohen did not want her to go back to Iraq. Cohen opposed her return because, as he tells Brenner, “There were concerns about her sources and her sourcing.” Still, Miller managed a quick trip to Iraq.

Wow. And I thought that it was her extraordinarily bad reporting. Certainly the blogosphere has provided a venue in which hackish work like Miller’s can be exposed. But, it’s not as if this is some small potatoes event that some enterprising blogger stumbled upon and then publicized. Judy repeatedly relied on sources who claimed that Iraq possessed large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Iraq did not, in fact, possess even small stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. I think somebody was going to notice this problem even if Josh Marshall and Bob Somerby hadn’t pointed it out…

Tourney Challenge

[ 0 ] March 15, 2006 |

Last reminder; we already have 19 entrants.

ESPN NCAA Tournament Challenge
League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Early Steroid Use?

[ 0 ] March 15, 2006 |

This is genius.

With the DVD release of “Looney Tunes Golden Collection” it is at last possible for us to examine one of the most famous baseball games ever in detail, and see what lessons the contest holds for the analytical community.