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[ 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.


[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

It may have been the right decision to favor Sherrod Brown over Paul Hackett, but Hackett certainly deserves a recurring spot on the Daily Show…


[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

I don’t have anything very insightful to say about Barry Bonds and steroids. I suppose that, for a long time, I was hoping that I could continue to believe that he had not used steroids seriously, or that the steroids had not meaningfully impacted his performance. The former, obviously, is no longer plausible (subscription required). Of the latter we’ll never know for sure, but it’s hard for me to believe that the beginnings of a steroid regimen coincided only accidentally with the transformation of a first circle Hall of Famer into the Greatest Player Who Ever Lived, all at the age of 36.

At the same time, I suppose that my disappointment in Bonds is mildly ameliorated by the fact that my favorite player, Ken Griffey Jr., has never been accused of using steroids. Indeed, Griffey’s record looks much more impressive in light of the general steroid scandal. He is now the active leader in home runs hit by a player untainted by accusations of steroid use. The fact that Alex Rodriguez has similarly never been accused of steroid use should undermine whatever confidence anyone had left in sports journalism; if Bonds isn’t the Greatest Player Anyone Has Ever Seen, then A-Rod comes pretty damn close, and the media still, unaccountably, hates him. That he seems to be the nicest guy in the world only makes it more odd; he may have been indecisive regarding his choice of countries in the WBC, but that seems to me to be a factor in his favor, especially given the number of elite players who have chosen not to participate at all.

Things I Didn’t Know…

[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

but am genuinely appalled by.

Less well-known is that the AFL also worked with the CIA to overthrow the elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954, helped set up drug smuggling routes in Europe, and in 1962, established the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) which helped lay the groundwork for U.S.-backed military coups in Brazil in 1964, the Dominican Republic in 1965, and Chile in 1975, among others. Under the aegis of “business unionism,” the AFL-CIO supported military dictatorships around the world against leftist and progressive unions. Among other things, it supported the Reagan administration’s refusal to conduct a review of labor rights under the military regime in El Salvador for most of the 1980s, because, as Human Rights Watch noted, those being repressed were mostly left-wing unionists.

I suppose that it doesn’t really surprise me that the AFL-CIO has such aa reactionary foreign policy history. Most of the actions noted above actually had wide, bipartisan support in elite policy circles, and it stands to reason that the labor movement would operate within that Cold War consensus. Still, it’s disappointing that the AFL-CIO would find itself involved in the worst excesses of the Cold War (and the various interventions on behalf of murderous Latin American meat packing glitterati would certainly qualify as such), and more disappointing that the AFL-CIO would continue to kowtow to many of the worst impulses in US foreign policy.