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Bummer

[ 0 ] August 28, 2006 |

What a depressing ending for Deadwood, not simply in the substance (which, in the last two episodes, was crushing) but also in the sheer incompleteness of the project. Knowing that the program would not be renewed, the producers decided to press on with the original plan even though it would leave numerous plot threads dangling and the absence of a meaningful conclusion. The third season was filled with plot elements that were designed to lead to something in the future (Tolliver’s thread, and virtually the entire Brian Cox storyline) but that served, under the circumstances, to detract from what was our central interest, the conflict with Hearst. Wu’s partisans and Landgrische’s troup may have yielded narrative payoffs, but we’ll never know.

I’m not sure how much the production should be faulted for this decision. In the face of a very similar situation with Angel, Joss Whedon decided to accelerate certain plot developments and craft the rest of the conclusion out of thin air, leaving us with a finale not nearly as sastisfactory as it should have been. I would think that there must be a happy medium between these two extremes. It could be fairly argued that a show like Deadwood should never result in some sort of happy equilibrium, in which we are more or less satisfied that the narratives of importance to us have come to a close. True enough, but that still misses the target a bit; I feel no greater sense of closure having seen the last episode of the season than I did seeing the sixth, and would have preferred if at least some gesture towards finality had been offered.

Then again, we are apparently supposed to get a couple feature length episodes to finish off the tale. There’s no timeline, and I’m skeptical that they’ll ever see the light of day, given the difficulty associated with reuniting the cast in a couple or three yeears.

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Delaware

[ 0 ] August 28, 2006 |

In extremely tepid defense of Joe Biden, I don’t think he was BOASTING that Delaware was once a slave state; rather, he was pointing out a basic fact about one of America’s most obscure states that many people don’t know and that, in particular, his Fox News interviewer seemed ignorant of. For a variety of reasons it is quite wrong to refer to Biden as a “northeastern liberal”. Delaware isn’t really a northeastern state, and, more importantly, Biden really ain’t that liberal.

The much more irritating aspect of his interview is that he was willing to go on Fox News and essentially dis northeastern liberals, one of the most important and most loyal constituencies that the Democratic party has.

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?

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.

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.

[ 0 ] August 25, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

Ok, Lee, Now is the Time to Step Away from the Computer…

[ 0 ] August 24, 2006 |

Self-parody cannot describe the place that Lee Siegel has gone. I must admit that I now have deep sympathy for anyone working in the offices of the New Republic. Watch out for the crazy old man, Brad, and this time I don’t mean Marty Peretz. We now learn that the Democrats are out of power because, apparently, they condone pedophilia…

Is it any wonder that conservatives run the country when liberals respond like growling Pavlovian dogs to any suggestion that people cannot indulge their every sexual appetite?

[…]

And all the liberal automatons, these clueless knuckleheads, who have been programmed by some Woodstock genome to applaud any sexual impulse, praise Kincaid’s concern for children, and for innocent citizens persecuted by the law.

In his rage, Siegel has forgotten to provide even a hint of evidence that James Kincaid condones pedophilia, nor does he bother to show that liberals are inclined to “applaud any sexual impulse”. All he can manage in inchoate rage, lashing out at imagined demons. But it gets worse:

I hope I won’t upset anyone’s world-view if I say that in regard to fucking and to various other sexual practices, I am an unbridled, even unrestrainable, enthusiast

This is exactly the last piece of information that I ever wanted to receive about Lee Siegel. I thought that “Descent” was kind of scary, then I come home and find Siegel ranting on about his raging libido. Not good. Not good at all.

This last paragraph I just couldn’t make out at all. It seems like a group of unrelated sentences strung together. I leave it to your interpretation:

I also believe that progressive politics or social attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with open sexual expression. Some of the biggest creeps I’ve known screw with total abandon, and some of the most decent people I’ve known are not sexual at all. Do you want a Democratic president, and a Democratic Congress? Cut the cord between progressive politics and the ethics of cultural abandon. The tortured debate over abortion isn’t about the biological status of a fetus. It’s about the limits of sexual permissiveness. Which, in the case of pedophilia, is about commodifying helpless persons.

If I’m reading the last part right, Siegel is not only confirming Scott’s argument that opposing abortion is really about constraining female sexuality, but is suggesting that this is the only meaningful justification for abortion laws, and, moreover, is arguing that abortion and pedophilia are more or less the same. Did I get that right, or am I misinterpreting?

UPDATE: Ezra has done some remarkably rich research. Apparently Lee remains troubled that he did not become aroused in the face of a flirtatious, 16 year old Uma Thurman.

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