Tag Archives: US Navy

2 Cents Worth On Life Its Ownself

Spring beckons in the near term and like the buds promise full blooms soon and ideas and ruminations sprout from the mind after the winter lull…..

As the comments over “sequester” roil the headlines it is useful to remember a fact or two.  First sequester comes from the law and means in plain English that an asset is held or frozen until a later ruling.  This sequester does not automatically result in a reduced Federal spending level.  It merely authorizes it to a certain lower level of growth.  Even that modest reduction does not occur until directed and that comes in later March with the Continuing Resolution funding bill.   If the reductions occur it will be then.   Recall also that we are already half way through this fiscal year so the immediate reductions will not be the full 120 billion (average over ten years) but cut about in half because we have  been spending this fiscal year at the old higher rates.

Speaking of spending why can’t each and every department of the Federal government take a real, honest to God 1% cut in its budget?   Just 1% lousy per cent.   That would be out of a 3.8 Trillion dollar budget.

Liberal Democrats love to look to Europe as they model for so much of our social and economic policies with one glaring omission–immigration.  We are about to allow 11 million or so illegals citizenship simply because they are here in violation of our laws.  France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and several more have much stricter immigration policies.  They usually do allow a fairly generous guest worker program and those folks have legal status in the respective countries but they are never allowed citizenship.  Look at the record for yourself.  Many Turks and others from Eastern Europe have come to work legally but they don’t get to vote or have full benefits of citizenship.

The current controversy over the use of drones to kill bad people is confusing to some of us.  Sure we all want our rights respected and protected but we’ve killed bad guys for years even in the US borders in violation of the 5th Amendment right to protection of life, liberty and property without due process of law.  Today many are concerned that the US citizens who might be killed in a drone strike are denied those rights and that is true, their rights are ignored.  Check a little history though and the actual circumstances of taking out bad guys in times past.  John Dillinger was assassinated not arrested as were many over notorious criminals over the years.  They weren’t read their Miranda rights or offered a chance to surrender.   How about those nuts in Waco twenty years ago?  Women and children were there and they were assaulted with military weapons.   A drone is just another weapon like a cannon or hand gun in the hands of our military or law enforcement.  Regrettably our leaders will always have this power and we can only hope it will be used wisely.   For political reasons it likely will never be used inside our own borders unless we spotted a pack of terrorists moving to a specific target like a nuclear power plant.

This week the politicos at the top-level of the Pentagon, the top generals and admirals, announced that the Navy will be reduced down to under 300 ships in the near future.  Yes, that level Romney talked about being lower than what we had during the WWI era.  Sure those ships are more powerful, run faster and can do more.  But they are still ships and vulnerable to attack.  Most of the modern defense systems for those ships have never been tested in real combat conditions.  They have missile defense and those automated gatling guns to bring down incoming aircraft or missile but they’ve only done test.  What if an enemy like Iran attacked a flotilla with four missiles at once?  How about if they attacked with 20 all within a couple of minutes of each other?  Even the gatling guns can’t fire straight up only at elevations of less than 90 degrees.  The most recent episode of “modern” warfare at sea was the Falkland’s War of 30 years ago.  You may recall that those relatively unsophisticated Exocet missiles (compared to today) wreaked tremendous havoc on the British fleet.   That was only a few missiles.   Just as at Pearl Harbor there should be serious concern that a significant part of our fleet in the Persian Gulf area could be eliminated in matter of minutes.   Quality is wonderful and to be sought, but a little bit of quantity even if of a lower capability could be comforting and very useful.  A large gun on ship could still inflict real damage to a potential enemy using WWII technology.

As the East gets buried in a huge snow storm this week it is noteworthy that the UN, yes, the UN, recently gave an update on global warming.  It noted in the back pages that at least 25% of recent weather changes can be attributable to the effects of the Sun and its cycles.   Hmm,  perhaps we should pass a Sun Regulation Act to make the Sun conform to our notions of friendly renewable energy standards.  Someone should make the EPA form a committee to investigate right away.

One of the major Japanese car makers is apparently seriously considering abandoning totally the lithium-ion batter or any similar battery and looking into the hydrogen powered car for the future.  Makes sense, the battery cars didn’t work 100 years ago and they aren’t the best path to the future now.  They are too heavy, to slow to recharge and too expensive to replace when the time comes as it always does because all batteries wear out.  Don’t know what the future will bring but it will happen one day–just not next year or the next decade.  Be patient, it will happen.

“When a Government takes over a people’s economic life it becomes absolute, and when it has become absolute it destroys the arts, the minds, the liberties and the meaning of the people it governs”  M. Anderson–American dramatist  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

 

 

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2 Cents Worth On Life Its Ownself

Life never stops so the opinions on the foibles and heroics of mankind continue on…..

How many times in the last week have you seen the Paul Ryan proposed budget described in the media as “controversial” or “radical”?   One wonders just when it became radical or controversial to try and balance the budget and get the fiscal house in order?   Do you consider yourself a radical when you try to balance out the monthly checkbook and list of bills that are due?   Maybe there is a new definition of radical in the dictionary that slipped past me or maybe it is simply another example of “newspeak” at work by the left media.

Shame that recent scramjet craft failed in its attempt to hit over 3500 miles per hour.   Frankly, that will be a tough nut to crack and hard to envision ever having that system work on a commercial basis.  They can talk all they want about how quickly you could go from LA to New York but the drag of the atmosphere is so great that without going above the stratosphere it will be nigh impossible to have a craft that can survive the heat and jolts.  In effect those things will be a bullet going up and down; problem is, it is pretty difficult to land a bullet.  But maybe someday they will have it all figured out.

Will the Chinese go through with their proposal to make that big investment in A123?  US taxpayers have already given it about a half billion in loans and grants for their electric car battery production.  Those batteries still have a long way to go to be practical.  They are heavy, so the rest of the car has to be made out of chewing gum and string so the car can move.  That is a real health hazard to drivers.  They are expensive and will remain so for a very long time at best.  You notice how expensive those batteries are for your flashlight at the store?  Well, these are a lot more expensive and just like your flashlight they wear out, run down and have to be replaced.  Those replacement costs are thousands of dollars just for the batteries not counting the labor.   Those electric cars take almost a day to fully recharge and there aren’t power stations conveniently located everywhere.  If we weren’t spending tax dollars on this stuff I wouldn’t care a whit and would wish those trying the best of luck.  But I don’t like the Feds dictating transportation choices.  Maybe they will want to invest in buggy whips next after all that would be environmentally friendly, oops forgot about that methane gas those animals expel.

In case you haven’t notice the national debt will hit 16 trillion before the month is out.   That is more than our annual GDP.   Of course it wouldn’t likely be that large if the Federal Reserve hadn’t been buying such a large percentage of our Treasury bills and notes which merely enables the current Administration to keep running huge deficits.  Alternatively, others may have loaned us the money but the interest rates would far higher than they are at present which would only make the deficits and thus the debt even larger than they are.  By the way, the interest rate on the 10 year note has jumped 40 basis points in less than a month; that is a remarkable jump for them.

You think politics produces a lot of tension?  Shoot, just try living with a mom and daughter the last 60 days before the wedding.  Believe me the correct answer to any request is “yes, dear”.   Anything else gets snappy retorts or tears.   Just write the check for all those (and there are many) “little” expenses that weren’t in the official budget your worked out months before.

If you needed a reminder of why we need a navy larger than the current 286 ship force then check out that report of the Russian sub in the Gulf of Mexico for weeks undetected.   That is a huge concern for any thinking person.  It wasn’t there on a goodwill tour.  It was a test and we failed and worse, they know we did.   If we get into a real conflict like with Iran or China we could lose several major ships in a matter of days even against a clearly inferior opponent.  You don’t replace those losses with something off the shelf overnight.  At least we should do a better job of mothballing fighting ships like we did after WWII which we were thankful for during the Korean War which was not on the radar in 1945.   Yes, you can fly in men and supplies but that is a dangerous proposition and you need an airfield that remains operational.  It is also very expensive.   Airfields can be attacked by an opponent easier than a port which can be protected by the Navy.   Lastly, there aren’t that many airfields in the likely areas we would need them.

You often hear the phrase about the “sensitive balance” in the ecosystem of the earth.  It implies that there is some “correct” relationship between earth, sky, oceans and all the life upon earth that Mother Nature put in place for us and we change it at our peril.  I got news for you–there is nothing more insensitive than Mother Nature;  She cares less what our balance is one way or the other.   That supposed sensitive balance has changed literally countless times over the eons and will do so again and again regardless of what we little peons do or want.   I still want indoor toilets and fresh water but recognize that old Gaia will have her way with us and it is for us to adapt to the earth she gives us and not for us to mold an earth everlasting.

“Every man, either to his terror or consolation, has some sense of religion.”  James Harrington, 17th century English writer.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Vingettes From A Sailor–WWII

 

My dad served in the Navy Armed Guard during the War.  That was the force that was composed of Navy personnel serving on the merchant ships carrying war materiale to Europe and North Africa.  These sailors manned the guns that were mounted on the ships, mostly Liberty ships, that plied the seas in convoys with their cargo and troops.  The Navy contingent was small–only 10-20 sailors on board each ship and the rest of the crew were merchant seamen.  They faced the usual dangers of the North Atlantic with its storms and extreme cold and in addition the constant threat of German U-boats and the German aircraft when they got within range.  My dad was not a hero and never would have considered himself such.  Their life was lonely, cold, gruelling physically and interspersed with those moments of sheer terror.

They had to stand watch on a regular basis.  Their stint would normally be four hours but sometimes the cold and weather was so extreme that was cut back to only two.  Standing watch meant you were outside in the elements.  Most ships at that time did not have radar or GPS and the best way to watch for danger from bergs or the enemy was the old fashioned method of using eyeballs on the seas.   It would take about 20 minutes to get dressed to go outside.  There was no Goretex in those days and the gear was leather, wool and heavy.  They had goggles but they could rarely be used because they would ice up so fast that  they interferred with using the binoculars to scan the horizon.  The watches were around the clock.  The typical duty  roll was for four hours on and four hours off.  That is you got off if there weren’t other duties to attend to like maintenance on the guns.

On one voyage the convoy my dad was in got close enough to Norway that they were within reach of the German aircraft.  That happened a lot and they were attacked often but usually the planes missed and made only one or two passes at the convoy and left.  On this occasion the dive bomber came in for a run and zeroed in on the ship dad was on.  He and others were manning a 5 inch gun firing at the planes.  The plane made a straffing run using its cannon and machine guns.  The bullets hit the ship and the gun station were my dad was located. He was the crew chief for that gun.  A bullet struck the sailor next to my dad and killed him outright and the ricochets and flying debris caused additonal havoc.  The decks always were loaded with wooden crates carrying extra cargo and those wooden splinters from shells could be as dangerous as the bullets themselves.   Another member of dad’s gun crew was hit by a large wooden splinter in the forearm.  The splinter went all the way through his forearm and was sticking out like an arrow.   When they knew the first man was dead, dad turned his attention to the wounded sailor and used pliers to extract the splinter from his forearm and then dress the wound.  Later he stitched the wound when the attack was over. 

The sailor killed in the attack was buried at sea.  Yes, they really did that during the war.  They cleaned the body of their shipmate.  The body was then sewed into canvas tarp covering and an anchor chain link was added to give weight so the body would sink.   The next morning the body was committed to the deep.   My dad always felt really bad about his friend being killed within inches of him.  I suppose you always have that natural question about why it was him that was struck down and not you.   It sure focuses the mind on the important matters in life and what life is about.   The wounded sailor healed without permenant damage.  Dad was the pharmicist mate on the ship.  He was assigned that duty without training other than the Navy medical manual.  There were no doctors on these ships.  If conditions permitted wounded would be transferred to a destroyer or larger ship but that was always an iffy proposition especially in the North  Atlantic.  For medical care you were normally on your own. 

On another voyage his ship was again in the North Atlantic and it was cold as always even in the summer because they ships took such a northern route to reach England.  The ship had iced up very badly on deck.  You have maybe seen some of those old newsreels or History Channel films of those ships all iced over.  Sometimes the icing would be so bad that it endangered the ship due to the ice making the ship top heavy.  Those high seas and wave crests were often 40 feet high and the yawing and pitiching could cause ships to capsize. Remember the movie the Perfect Storm?   During this storm and ice event dad had to stand watch. He dressed and went outside.  He slipped on the ladder and fell several feet and hit his head on the steel plates and bulkhead.  A “ladder” for you landlubbers is a stairway.   He was taken inside and he remained unconscious for hours.  The time dragged on.  Their were able to break radio silence and ask for help from a doctor on another ship.   It was determined that he had a hematoma, a swelling on in the brain, from the accident.  The doctor could not come to dad’s ship and the weather prevented any transfer of dad to another ship with a doctor.  He laid that way throughout the night.  The doctor finally told them they would have to operate on his head.  He would tell them what to do by radio.  The basic tool they would use was a hand held drill, just like you would use in a wood shop to bore a hole.  They were going to bore a hole over the injured area to relieve the pressure.   They boiled and cleaned all the instruments and the clock kept ticking.  As the doctor was going over the instructions with the Captain of the ship who was going to do the operation my dad finally came around.  When he learned what they had intended to do he was stunned.  He didn’t like the idea of a novice boring a hole in his head.  His shipmates, like men do under those dangerous circumstances, razzed him and even showed him all the clean tools they were getting ready to use on him.  Although he was “out” for about 24 hours all he ended up with was a bad headache and a huge bump on his head.  And he got a chewing out from the Captain for being careless going up and down the ladder.  

No purple heart and he never would have thought of one.  Nothing heroic about my dad’s adventures in the Navy but dealing with those dangers seems heroic to me.  My dad was just one of millions of other very young men doing their job and duty so we could have the freedoms and largesse that we have had since the War.  We have been so blessed to have had them as our ancestors.  

Mortgage rates are up a point in the last month and the 10 year T bill is at 4%.  Yet those like Klugman continue to maintain that the government running trillions in deficits and borrowing trillions will not cause inflation.  They have a different idea of investment risk than me and sure do their math different.

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Sea Power Equals Power

I don’t know the exact details of all the cutbacks just announced in our armed forces by Gates.  The big ones are obvious such as the F-22 Raptor reduction and the cancellation of the laser aircraft to intercept missiles.  What didn’t receive quite as much attention was the cutback in the Navy vessels.   I noticed that the new cruiser fighting ship is to be eliminated.  I don’t know the specifics of its combat capabilities but it was to have the most modern and up-to-date attack and defensive systems on board.   Ships cost a lot to build and I can understand the math of wanting to pare the big ticket items to  reduce the size of defense spending.  It is regrettable in many ways but I believe it is in the strategic and short term interest of the US that we have a very strong military capability.   The world is still a dangerous place and danger seems to sprout up in the most unexpected places.  I mean who would have thought that a signifiicant concern at the beginning of the 21st century would be the threat of piracy on the high seas but it is.

Of all the branches of service I believe that we most maintain a particularly vigorous and large maritime force.   Control of the sea lanes throughout recorded time has been vital to the success or failure of countries, empires and kingdoms.  Many of the earliest battles on land and sea were in the Mediterrean Sea area and they were to control the access to the seas for trade and to protect territory from attack.  The great battle at Thermopolae was heroic sure and a grand display of courage in face of overwhelming odds but it was the sea battles near there and later off the coast of Athens that cemented the victory of the Greeks against the Persians.  The Roman Empire had a formidable naval presence throughout its empire and that control and the ability to move goods and armies at will helped the Roman Empire endure for centuries.   Later it was the Venetians turn to use the seas to create and mightly city-state.  Its fleets kept the Muslims at bay on repeated occasions and gave it a dominate position over its competitors in the entire Mediterranean Sea.  

A look at the map of the world gives a clear picture of why the US must maintain a very strong naval force.  We are the only major power in the world to have immediate acces to the two great oceans of the world.   The commerce of the world travels on those oceans from Asia and Europe and all other parts of the world.  The peaceful use of the open seas is vital to the stability of the entire world not just the US.  It is in the strategic interest of the US to keep those sea lanes open and free.  Just as Britain did for a little over two centuries we must use our navy to literally keep the wheels of commerce turning in a free and peaceful manner across the oceans of the world. 

Our navy has proved its worth on several occasions in the recent past.  We could not have won the Second World War without our navy.  Armies and goods have to be moved from place to place and aircraft simply can’t move the quantity of logistical equipment and supplies necessary to sustain any significant military engagement.   Without our navy in the Pacific being large enough and powerful enough to sustain the loss at Pearl Harbor and still remain a viable fighting force the outcome of that war would have been vastly different.  D-Day itself would have been impossible without a big and robust navy.  More recently it was the huge 16-inch guns of our battle ship that allowed the Marines to move ashore unharmed into Lebanon in 1983.   The Cuban missile crisis would have had a far denouement if not for the fact we had a navy to deploy off the coast of Florida and Cuba.  It was the navy that deterred the Soviets not the threat of our ICBM’s.   They knew that if they challenged our sea embargo around Cuba that they would lose that engagement because of our superior naval forces.  Their ships stood to and didn’t force the issue of bringing to Cuba even more missiles on their ships.  

When there is any new threat around the world of a military nature who do we send there to “show the flag” and be ready to take counter measures?   The navy.  Only within the last week was this illustrated again with the missile launch of the N. Koreans.  It was navy ships we positioned off their coast to monitor the launch and be prepared to take action.   We have pirates now off the east coast of Africa but what if  some enterprising cartel folks decide to try the same scheme in the Caribbean Sea or around the littoral of Cuba.  As long as there is man outside of Eden new dangers will arise.  Many of those dangers will be from action on the seas or within miles of a coastline.   I hope that others in power agree with these sentiments and that we maintain a very strong navy now and for the forseeable future.  It is for our security and for our economic interest that we do so.   Just as Mother Nature abhors a vacuum so do the political and military establishments around the world.  If we wane on the oceans you can be assured that someone else will wax and they may not be our friends.  Reach your own conclusions but please do some historical research of your own and don’t fall into the trap of “things are different now” type of thinking.  They are the same and thus will it be ever so.

Again I urge reading the Constitution.  It does deal with piracy under Article I, Section 8.   I don’t know why there is all this hand-wringing over how to arrest and deal with them today.  Catch, try and hang ’em.

I am not smart enough to know if we should be on a gold standard for our money but I do see the logic of it because it demands monetary and fiscal discipline on Government, Inc.   Anyway, if gold is such an archaic notion for monetary value then why does the IMF still use it?    You may have noticed that this week the IMF announced it was selling 400 tons of gold.  So it is good for some monetary systems, sometimes but not for everyone?   Curious.

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