What Quint Got Wrong about USS Indianapolis

This is my favorite scene from Jaws:

There are a couple of things about this speech. First, it was not written by Peter Benchley or Carl Gottlieb. The idea for Quint having been on the USS Indianapolis came from Howard Sackler (The Great White Hope). Most of the writing of the speech itself seems to have been done by Robert Shaw himself. (John Milius has also taken substantial credit, but I don’t find that very likely, and not just because I don’t like Milius.) For the record, it is surprising that Jaws was a best-selling novel. It is not that interesting. Most of the drama in the book has to do with the infidelity of Brody’s wife.

Also, what Quint says about the sharks is not really true. Most of the men died of exposure, desquamation (skin peeling), and thirst. There were still a lot of shark attacks and undoubtedly the sharks feasted on the dead as well. The majority of the sharks were not Tiger but rather White Tip. According to one of the episodes of Planet Earth, White Tip sharks are responsible for more human deaths than any other sharks, because of attacks on survivors of downed ships and planes.

Finally, over 300 men died on board the Indianapolis, so only 880 actually went into the water. Roughly 560 died in the water. Of the 321 who were rescued, 317 survived.

Don’t go near the water!


This is from Wikipedia and speaks to the intelligence of the Great White shark. Just to clear up what Jaws may have taught you about the shark, “Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that’s all.” Not really. Great White sharks are very complex:

Although the great white is typically regarded as an apex predator in the wild, it is in rare cases preyed upon by the larger orca (also known as the killer whale). Interspecific competition between the great white shark and the orca is probable in regions where dietary preferences of both species may overlap. An incident was documented on October 4, 1997, in the Farallon Islands off California in the United States. An estimated 4.7–5.3-metre (15–17 ft) female orca immobilized an estimated 3–4-metre (9.8–13 ft) great white shark. The orca held the shark upside down to induce the tonic immobility and kept the shark still for fifteen minutes, causing it to suffocate and then proceeded to eat the dead shark’s liver. Another similar attack apparently occurred there in 2000, but its outcome is not clear. After both attacks, the local population of about 100 great whites vanished. Following the 2000 incident, a great white with a satellite tag was found to have immediately submerged to depth of 500 m (1,600 ft) and swam to Hawaii.

Michael Hastings Ruining Journalism… Again

Michael HastingsI really like Michael Hastings. Like most people, I learned about him when he published his explosive The Runaway General in Rolling Stone. I didn’t give the article itself that much thought. A reporter had a good scoop. It was the reaction to the article that made me take notice of him. It seemed you couldn’t turn the page of a magazine without being confronted with another journalist explaining why Hastings’ article was a bad thing. Never again would the disgraced Stanley McChrystal trust him.

My opinion of Hastings went even higher when he appeared on Up with Chris Hayes in August and dismantled Josh Barro’s fascist argument against Julian Assange. Even more than Jeremy Scahill, Hastings seems determined to get at the truth regardless (or perhaps because) of powerful interests.

Earlier this week, Hastings wrote an article for BuzzFeed, The Sins Of General David Petraeus. He doesn’t talk much about the sex scandal. In fact, he writes, “For the record: Who really cares whom P4 is sleeping with? The idea that the FBI was investigating his sex life says more about the FBI and our absurd surveillance and national security state than it does about King David’s morality.” Overall, he is understanding of both Petraeus’ and Broadwell’s dalliances.

The problem is not Petraeus’ affair with Broadwell; it is Petraeus’ affair with the media. Hastings then goes through the last ten years of his career and shows that it has been a sham. He managed to trick the Washington establishment into thinking that the Surge in Iraq was successful and then managed to get the Obama administration to repeat the Surge in Afghanistan—with tragic results. All while the media cheered along.

Of course, just as after the Rolling Stone article, there were journalists who had to snipe. Dylan Byers at Politico wrote a hatchet piece. It is particularly offensive because it tries to psychoanalyze Hastings. Hastings lost his girlfriend in Iraq? He went after someone who worked at Little, Brown because they decided not to publish his book? Hastings considers himself a Gonzo journalist? What any of this has to do with anything is unclear.

A commenter, Tr Randolph, wrote what I thought was a very good reply to this bit of journalistic nonsense:

Reading this warning makes me like Michael Hastings even more. The idea that journalists aren’t already advocates is hogwash. The cheerleading from media up to and in to the Iraq War was disgusting, but that wasn’t deemed as advocating at the time. Embedded journalists were easily the biggest military advocates and Wikileaks proved they were either unable or unwilling to report horrific crimes carried out by the U.S. military…

When journalists at Politico and other places can actually start speaking to power (you know, that whole military industrial complex that you seem to gloss over) you can put Hastings out of work. Until you develop some substance yourselves, save your warnings.

Other commenters focused on one bit of Byers article that is worth repeating here:

If you believe that journalists are supposed to call bull when they see it, then Hastings is your man. But to those who believe journalists shouldn’t be advocates—either out of ethical concerns or practical ones (it’s not always effective)—Hastings is muddying sacred waters.

This is exactly the argument we heard against the Rolling Stone article: you shouldn’t tell the truth about powerful people! If you do, you will lose access. And if you lose access, you won’t be able to… Continue to not tell the truth about them?


This is a great bit of TV with Hastings at his best:

Jonah Goldberg Calls for More Lying

Jonah GoldbergJonah Goldberg has written the kind of article that liberals just love, Compassionate Conservatism Redux. In it, he admits that this election has taught him a valuable lesson: as much as he and the other evil men at National Review may love their “Give me low tax rates and give them death” ideology, they need a kinder, a gentler conservatism if they are going to convince the rubes to vote for them. And what is the kinder, gentler conservatism? Certainly not George Bush Sr. He wants to take us back to George Bush Jr. and his idea of “compassionate conservatism.”

Quick: what made Bush’s conservatism compassionate? Bmmpth! You couldn’t think of it quickly, because he never actually governed that way. But let’s go back to the way that he claimed he would govern. Goldberg reminds us:

People forget that Bush was elected during the [post-Cold War period] and had the [War on Terror] thrust upon him. But at the end of the 1990s, he was one of many voices on the right trying to craft a political rationale to deal with the changing electoral and demographic landscape. He campaigned on a “humble foreign policy” in 2000 and promised something very, very different from a “leave me alone” domestic policy.

Let’s see here: would a man who cared about, say, seniors, pass a law that was first and foremost a giveaway to drug companies? Would a man planning on a “humble foreign policy” have Dick Cheney as Vice President? It doesn’t really matter. The truth is that I have no memory of a Republican ever governing based upon his campaign. Sure: they all promise tax cuts and they almost always pass them. But other stuff? Not really. Remember Reagan? Remember how terrible the federal deficit was and how he was going to knock it out with those three 10 percentage point tax cuts? I do.

When a Republican promises something like fiscal restraint or human compassion, I know they are lying. So when Jonah Goldberg says that the Republicans need to revisit “compassionate conservatism,” what he means is that they need to sound more compassionate. And once in office, they can devastate the poor and start a bunch of new wars. In other words, what Goldberg is really saying is that he’s been too honest in the past.

Jerry Nadler Pushes Tired Gaza Narrative

Jerry Nadler was on Up with Chris Hayes where he got to spout the official United States line regarding Israel:

Here’s the critical part:

We were reminded of one thing that we knew, which is the utter hypocrisy of the UN and the non-aligned movement when it comes to Israel and the Middle East that said nothing when Hamas has fired over five or six hundred missiles at Israeli civilians, each missile being a war crime. And when Israel finally hit back by attacking a leader of the militants and started attacking launch sites, suddenly there’s a UN security council meeting and the non-aligned movement condemns Israel.

I am really not a partisan in this matter. This whole thing is a mess. But I don’t find the Israeli justifications for its actions very compelling in this case. And it seems that American media always pick convenient starting times for any dispute. At this point, I figure all the actions of both sides are based upon the previous actions of the other side.

What people on the left react to is that the Hamas actions are mostly impotent while the Israeli actions are anything but. It would be one thing if Israel’s use of non-proportional retaliation accomplished anything. But all it seems to do is continue the conflict on while killing thousands of Palestinians.

As to Nadler’s remarks: they are entirely one sided. The Palestinians were firing rockets at Israel and Israel had to put an end to it. Implicit in his statement is that Palestine had no good reason to be firing on Israel and Israel has every reason to be firing on Palestine. I’m inclined to say that neither side is justified in this killing. But it is just wrong to say that one side has cause and the other does not. Also note: no mention of the ceasefire.

The coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reminds me of the countless Indian wars here in the United States. In those cases, one could certainly cherry pick examples of the Native Americans behaving badly. But what was really going on was a land grab. Is that what’s going on in Palestine? I don’t know. But the “Israel good, Palestine bad” rhetoric makes me appreciate that narrative.