Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Tale Of Two Movies

I was hoping to get out to see some of the new summer movies this weekend so I could provide a review to all of my fans (Hi, Mom!), but I ended up with too much to do. Then I thought, "Hey, I'm a Friedmanian "Flat Worlder" -- I can outsource my movie-watching". I assembled a crack team of three movie experts to review the top two movies out this weekend: "The Da Vinci Code" and "X-Men: The Last Stand". The team consisted of the following members:

Reviewer #1: An 18 year old college sophomore at home for the long weekend. The baggage she brought home consisted mostly of dirty clothes that she wanted someone to wash. She doesn't want a bunch of submariners poking around her MySpace site, so she won't tell her dad how to get to it.
Reviewer #2: A 15 year old high school freshman who was recently elected Sophomore Class President for next year at Idaho's biggest high school. His chest is hairier at 15 than his dad's was at 30.
Reviewer #3: A 14 year old 8th grader who recently won his school's chess championship. Despite his demonstrated intellect, he still can't remember his username or password to update his blog. He just grew an inch in the last few months, and is now about 1/4" taller than Reviewer #2 (and almost 2" taller than his dad).

On Friday night, they saw The Da Vinci Code. I was eager to hear about the reactions of those who hadn't read the book vs. the one who had. Reviewer #1 likes almost all movies -- she hated this one. She said it made her list of the 5 worst movies of all time; Reviewer #3 thought it might have been #1 on his list of bad movies. Both made statements to the effect of "We didn't want to leave the theater to go to the bathroom because we expected that at any time there'd be a scene that would explain what was going on. That scene never came." Reviewer #2, who had read the book, said the movie not only didn't add anything to the book, it took a lot away from the experience. Bottom line: two of the three reviewers got in trouble from their mom for giving the movie "the finger"; the third would have given it the same, but she's a proper young lady.

On Saturday, they saw "X-Men III". Reviewers #1 and #3 hadn't seen the previous two movies in the series, and both said that wasn't a problem with understanding this film. All three liked the movie a lot -- the action kept moving along, and most of the characters were interesting. Reviewer #3 did question why all of the non-standard colored mutants were blue. Although their reviews may have been skewed because they, especially Reviewers #2 and #3, were right in the middle of the target demographic, they all gave the movie between 4 and 5 out of five.

Literary note: I was going to really mess with WillyShake's head and sub-title this post "A tale told by teenagers", mixing Dickens with Shakespeare quotes and thereby perpetuating the stereotype that submariners don't know anything about literature, but decided not to.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Submariners Honor Their Own

G-man has a report on a group of submarine veterans in San Diego who've found a very appropriate way to honor the 52 WWII boats still on patrol. Excerpt:

"Next year, Dennis and the chapter's other members plan to dedicate what will be the largest monument ever to subs and submariners lost in World War II. The project, already approved by the City Council, has been in the works for more than a decade. "It will be the centerpiece of a 40-acre harbor-front park in Liberty Station, a new mixed-use development taking shape on the grounds of the former Naval Training Center at Point Loma, said Douglas Smay, 65, a club member who is leading the memorial campaign.
"Fifty-two American Liberty elm trees will shade two parallel footpaths on either side of a wide lawn.
"Beneath each tree, the veterans will place a monument to a submarine lost in World War II. A photo of the sub and its story, along with the names of its missing crew, will be etched in bronze."

If you're in San Diego, see what you can do to help this group make their dream to honor their shipmates a reality.

"White Rat" Follies

As all submariners know, the term "white rat" serves as both a noun and a verb; it is both the speaker box that broadcasts sound-powered phone communications to a space, and also describes the act of listening in on conversations that don't really apply to you (and passing on the information to those standing around). As an example of the verb form, it almost seemed like it was an immediate action for all hands, whenever the ship was on the surface and they heard over the Bridge Announcing Circuit "XO, Captain, JA", to pick up the nearest JA handset to listen in.

My favorite story comes from the humorous things you'd hear over the 2MC white rat in Maneuvering, though. Hearing A-gangers talk (they're notorious for not following proper IC protocols) was always good for a laugh, but the thing that amused me most was during loss of lube oil drills, where the white rat was used for "talking down the shaft". Here's what you'd normally hear: "Shaft is spinning slowly ahead... slowly ahead... slowly ahead.... Maneuvering, Control, secure rig for high speed.... slowly ahead..."

For some reason, the complete absurdity of that order always cracked me up. Anyone have any other humorous "white rat" stories they'd like to share?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Name That Sub!

The Military Life blog over at the Kitsap Sun (which has become a really good source for Bangor submarine news) posted a picture of an old decommissioned submarine at PSNS. A commenter identified it right away, but before you head over there to see the answer, have a guess for yourself:

Here's another picture of the same sub, from NavSource:

I remember the first time I saw this boat, in San Diego in 1993. I had just come back from a week of leave, and saw it sitting at Sierra Pier, totally rust-covered, and about 80' longer than an LA. I thought some weird Russian sub had defected. Turns out she was just being towed from Norfolk to PSNS for scrapping -- although they apparently haven't gotten around to it yet.

If you got the answer right (without looking at one of the links), let me know in the comments.

Honoring The Fallen

This Memorial Day, the thoughts of most Americans turn to those who have been lost defending our freedoms. I honor all these brave men and women, from the beginnings of the Republic until now, as new heroes are falling even today protecting us overseas.

The Milblog Ring HQ should be a good place to stop by today to see how the milbloggers around the world are honoring their brothers and sisters this Memorial Day. Being a submariner, my thoughts turn mostly to the submariners still on eternal patrol -- those who showed us the way. Here's what I wrote last year, which remains true today:

"On Memorial Day, submariner's thoughts always turn to those of us still on eternal patrol -- the crews of the diesel boats lost during peacetime accidents, the 52 boats lost fighting for freedom during WWII, the USS Thresher, and the USS Scorpion...

I mourn, and celebrate, men like CDR Howard Gilmore of USS Growler, who gave the order "Take her down" so that his shipmates could survive to fight another day... Captain John Cromwell, who rode the USS Sculpin to the bottom to save others he didn't even know... and LCDR Dudley "Mush" Morton, who taught the Submarine Force to fight as CO of USS Wahoo.

About halfway between SUBASE New London and Electric Boat shipyard in Groton is the National Submarine Memorial. Whenever I drove between the two places, I always saluted the men and boats honored there; their sacrifice provided the glue that binds submariners together."

Thanks to all who have served, and all who honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Why I Support Larry Grant

[Local Idaho politics warning!]

Idaho had their primary election this Tuesday, and the slate for the open 1st Congressional District race is set: Democrat Larry Grant vs. Republican Bill Sali. Earlier this month, I blogged about why I, a lifelong Republican, was going to be voting for Democrats this November. When it comes to the national aspects of the race, I admit that there's a little bit of a "lesser of two evils" going on there -- two years of Rep. Pelosi as Speaker is a price I'm willing to pay to get the current crop of Republican legislative leaders to realize we're upset and to change the way they've been doing business (or get the voters to replace them with someone who will). In this race, however, I'm supporting Larry Grant not only because Bill Sali is a bad choice, but because Larry is a good one.

I first became aware of Larry Grant when I read a newspaper article about his campaign blog. I posted a snarky comment asking some questions about an entry his web manager had posted about Iraq, and was surprised to receive a thoughtful reply from the candidate himself. I did some more research, and found that Larry's really a moderate -- in most states I've been stationed in, his views were pretty much in line with mainstream Republican thought.

While people might be expected to emphasize their more "extreme" views during the primary race, and move back to the center for the general election, Larry was willing to take positions his Democratic "base" might be expected to oppose (like during this liveblog session, where he supported the concept of free trade). This showed me that he has actual values that he believes in, as opposed to those who will say anything to get elected. He's been a businessman his whole life, so he knows the importance of being fiscally responsible. He's also willing to admit that there are times he might change his mind if he gets additional information, which is why I'm not worried that some of his ideas on Iraq don't square with mine (permanent bases, etc) -- as he says: "I do not have, of course, access to all the military intelligence that would be available to me as a member of Congress...". He seems like a smart guy, and once he gets some more information, I'm sure he'll apply his business acumen to the problem and be a strong voice for innovative solutions.

Larry's opponent, Bill Sali, is a very, very conservative politician. His main monetary support has come from the "Club For Growth", an organization that exists solely to oppose taxes, as near as I can tell. Sali frequently mentioned that there are 105 congressmen who support the Club's activities him from the Republican Study Group (sentence edited; see below) -- I wondered if they've been putting their rhetoric into action. Sali says he supports reducing government spending; have his 105 friends been voting that way? This year's Agriculture budget bill increased President Bush's proposed spending by $564M; only 46 congressmen voted against it; of these, only 24 were Republicans. I'm pretty sure 24 is less than 105. The Energy and Water Development Budget was the same way -- only 14 Republicans voted against it, despite the pork-laden nature of the bill. Could we expect Sali to vote any differently than his 105 anti-tax buddies?

From his campaign website, it looks like Sali will be running on the issues that appeal to hard-core conservatives most. He lists 10 issues of importance to him, and expands on his views on five of them. Interestingly, the only mention of the military comes last on his list, and he apparently doesn't feel it's important enough to explain more about how he feels about the issue beyond "supporting our troops". He also obliquely mentions national security when talking about immigration. He supports using the National Guard to police the border without ever explaining how he would get around that pesky "Posse Comitatus" law.

Sali said on election night that people should vote for him, or otherwise Nancy Pelosi would become Speaker of the House. However, if current trends hold, the Dems are probably going to take control of the House no matter who's elected in Idaho's 1st district. I submit that it'd be better for western Idahoans to have a moderate Democrat who has a voice within the new House leadership representing them, rather than a bomb-throwing extremist from the opposition.

My good friends Adam Graham and Clayton Cramer are supporting Bill Sali, so I expect some interesting debate about the issue within the Idaho blogosphere. Hopefully this race can focus on the issues and the direction our country is heading, but based on the nastiness of the Republican primary, I don't think this will happen. So far Sali seems to be trying to paint Larry Grant as a liberal, which I think won't work... in addition to being incorrect, I think there will be a lot of traditional Republicans who come out to express their concern with Sali's strident ways.

Should be an interesting 5 1/2 months between now and November...

Update 1518 27 May: Edited to change the identity of the 105 supporters from "Club For Growth" to "Republican Study Group", although their announced goals look pretty much the same. I also forgot to mention that my good friend girlfriday had previously come out for Sali. Also, Diana says some nice things about me over at her place.

Update 0703 28 May: Adam Graham responds to my post here, and I gave a little bit of a rebuttal in his comments. I also found this compilation of quotes and links about how regular Idaho politicians, the ones who know Bill Sali best, really don't like him (don't like Sali, that is, not Adam).

Friday, May 26, 2006

Losing One's Dignity...

Nothing is more important to a cat than their dignity, or at least maintaining the appearance of same. That's why there's nothing quite so funny as a cat momentarily dropping their guard and finding themselves in silly situations. Since I don't have any new shots of Hercules this week, I'll direct your attention to a couple of funny compilations of cat videos over at Google Video: you can find them here and here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm"

Remember when this year's O-5 selection board got disbanded because "written material not specifically approved by the Secretary of the Navy for distribution to board members was made available to selection board members"? Word on the street was that one community had made copies of their community status brief available to the board; the Navy was pretty flustered, I'm sure, at having to publicly announce the disbanding of the board for a seemingly innocuous administrative error.

Which probably explains this new policy announced today by Navy Personnel Command:

"Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter has authorized the use of community briefs beginning with the FY-08 Active Duty Officer Selection Board cycle, which begins in October 2007.
"The briefs will consist of three slides for each of the 25 officer communities. The slides will outline the career path of the community, general statistics unique to each community, and that community's values...
"...The briefs will be included as an enclosure to each board precept when the precept is submitted to the Secretary of the Navy for approval. The information contained in them will be provided as general guidance to inform the selection board members with community-specific information, and are not to be used as a substitute for the normal guidance or "best and fully
qualified" standards that are already provided."

I guess in this case they should have asked permission rather than seeking forgiveness...

Coming Soon To An Ocean Near You...

There's a very interesting article in the new issue of Sea Power magazine about the Navy's plan to develop an "anti-torpedo torpedo". The article is chock-full of some really good information. Excerpts:

"A submarine-launched torpedo, typically 21 inches in diameter, is difficult to counter and evade. It travels at relatively high speeds (more than 40 knots) — providing very little reaction time — and is difficult for a surface ship to spot and track. No existing weapons, such as naval gun systems, are effective against torpedoes without a lucky hit.
"Surface ships can deploy the Nixie, an acoustic jammer towed behind the ship, to confuse an incoming torpedo. And submarines can eject countermeasures such as noisemakers to decoy incoming homing torpedoes away from their target.
"The Navy now is procuring similar expendable countermeasures that can be launched from a surface ship.
"The ATT is 6.75 inches in diameter, 105 inches long, weighs approximately 200 pounds and is powered by a stored chemical-energy propulsion system — which uses steam created by chemical reaction — similar to that used in the Navy’s Mk50 lightweight torpedo. It is designed to operate in the noisy, turbulent wakes of ships, where it could intercept wake-homing torpedoes.
"The ATT could be adapted to be launched from the common surface-vessel torpedo tube launcher — currently used to launch larger antisubmarine torpedoes — and from the standard Rolling Airframe Missile launcher installed on many surface combatants."

Later on, the article mentions that they started a project like this back in the 80's, but it didn't work because we didn't have the computer processing power. Now we do:

"The Navy made abortive efforts to develop ATTs during the naval build-up of the early 1980s. One example, a version of the service’s standard Mk46 lightweight, 12.75-inch-diameter antisubmarine torpedo, designed for launch from aircraft and surface ships, was modified as an ATT but failed its operational evaluation — its final exam — in 1994 and was canceled.
"What makes an ATT achievable now are advances in the “miniaturization of electronics and the subsequent increases in microprocessor computational capability,” said Bock. In countering an incoming torpedo, “the ATT must be able to very rapidly process all of the acoustic information availability and make timely maneuvers in order to intercept the incoming threat.”

If the ATT ends up working (they're going to do some prototype testing later this year, with possible deployment in 2012, according to the article) it'll be a huge advance in submarine warfare. This will be one tool we'll really need to make sure the Chinese don't get ahold of.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Navy Anti-Missile Defense Test Shoots And Scores!

According to this article from CNN, USS Lake Erie (CG 70) recently destroyed a test missile in the final phase of flight using an SM-2 missile (I'm assuming it was an SM-2 Block IVA). One passage of the article jumped out at me:

"The Navy already can shoot down a missile in its final stage with a Patriot Advanced Capability 3, or PAC-3, missile launched from land."

I'm assuming here that the AP reporter didn't know that the PAC-3 is an Army missile, or maybe just doesn't know the difference between the Army and the Navy.

The Navy Area Defense System (yes, it has an unfortunate acronym) has been quietly growing into what appears to be quite an effective program. Along with the SM-2, the Navy has also been deploying the SM-3 missile, specifically designed for short- or intermediate-range ballistic missile defense. Later this year, USS Shiloh (CG 67), one of the Navy's SM-3 shooters, will be changing homeports to Yokosuka, which should give the North Koreans some pause if they decide they want to lob missiles towards Japan. Overall, it's a good way for the surface Navy to stay relevant in the 21st century.

Why Doesn't Anyone Impersonate Submariners?

For those readers who don't stray outside of the submarine side of the blogosphere, there's been a major blogswarm the last couple of days regarding a video put up by someone named Jessie MacBeth, who was claiming to be a Ranger who "admitted" commiting horrible war crimes in Iraq. In short order, the glaring inconsistencies in his story caused it to blow up in his supporter's faces. Most of the background can be found here and here.

A "blogswarm" is when a large number of blogs all start talking about one controversial issue; it's a very effective way of getting lots of dedicated people figuring out what the "ground truth" is. The blogosphere is fairly self-correcting, even across partisan lines; in this case, it only took a day until even the "progressive" sites were distancing themselves from the MacBeth claims, due mostly to the great detective work done by a large number of milbloggers, especially at Milblog Ring HQ. Lately, I've been interested in how these blogswarms get started. In this case, I'm pretty sure I can identify the initial post that got the milbloggers all working on the issue: it's right here. (Of course, I'm not pointing it out to blow my own horn; it's strictly to aid future pop-culture historians researching the blogswarm phenomenon. I knew my early morning scans of Democratic Underground would pay off someday.)

Back to my initial point: why don't we ever see anyone impersonating a submariner? Submariners are cool; they make movies about us! Maybe we don't have the notoriety of SEALS and Rangers, but chicks still dig us. It just doesn't seem fair...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

English Major Turned Submarine Nuke

In a story that's opposite that of WillyShake (submarine nuke turned English Lit guy), DefenseLINK has a profile of a submarine officer who started his career as an English major at the Academy:

"Backhaus graduated from the academy in 2001 with a major in English. He earned a master's degree in literature, then went on to nuclear power school and the submarine fleet, an unconventional move for a non-engineering major. He returned in January for a shore tour to teach alongside his former professors in the English department.
"Backhaus said that while attending the academy he thought the midshipmen who wanted to be submariners were all "big geeks."
"That's a stereotype that's out there," he said. He told himself as a plebe -- freshman in academy jargon -- "I'm never going to be a submariner; that just sounds terrible."

As the story implies, most submarine officers have technical majors in college; I'm not sure if the rule's still in force, but I remember that there was generally a limit of 10% of all submarine officers chosen for any year group that could have non-technical majors.

On USS Topeka, we had one JO when I was there who had been a poli sci major -- inevitably, we called him our zampolit. Since all the line officers who get to the boat have made it through the nuke pipeline, there really isn't any difference between any of them, but I think there's still a little bit of a "huh?" reaction people have whenever they see a liberal arts guy on a boat.

Monday, May 22, 2006

PCU Texas Alpha Trials Video

Via the USS Texas Commissioning Committee website, Northrop Grumman put out a 2+ minute video celebrating Texas' successful sea trials. Since this was the first newcon Alpha Trial they'd done for a submarine in 10 years, they're justifiably proud.

Submarine On Popular TV Show Tonight

Just a reminder that tonight's season finale of 24 will feature a submarine in the story line. Personally, I've never seen 24, but it sounds like it's a standard Hollywood production (meaning, it sacrifices "accuracy" for "excitement" when it comes to describing the capabilities of military hardware).

According to Alex from The Noonz Wire, in a comment on my blog about last weeks episode:

"The submarine is taken over by terrorists (they do this by dropping nerve gas down the hatch in the sail, which kills the whole crew), who then set about prepping the weapons systems for missile launch. They make a point to announce that they're loading missiles in the regular tubes to supplement the ones in the vertical launchers.
Given that they are pierside, launching anything from the torpedo tubes sounds like a pretty lousy idea, no?"

I plan on watching to see what idiocies they come up with tonight (and to see my old boat USS Topeka, which I've heard plays the Delta IV.)

Update 2228 22 May: Well, I watched the show, and it was good to see my old boat again. Some parts of it were humorous (like when they opened the VLS tubes and said they were the tubes for the ICBMs), but to be honest, they probably did the best they could without having to use CGI. Those who know LA class boats were probably amused as they filmed them going from one place to another that was supposed to be just around the corner, but was actually two decks away. It was also a little confusing when they were still supposed to be on the sub, but filming shifted to what I'm pretty sure was one of the trainers at SubTraFac.
Also, I didn't hear if they ever explained why they couldn't just open the forward electrical distribution breakers to stop the missile launch; of course, since it was a "Russian" boat, I suppose we can suspend disbelief and figure there was some reason why.
Overall, not as bad as I thought it'd be. Of course, I may have been emotionally drained by seeing Topeka again, so anyone who thought it was completely ridiculous should let me know in the comments.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Remembering A Great Man

Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks -- Herodotus

RADM Gene Fluckey
, last of the WWII submariners alive who earned the Medal of Honor, reportedly passed away this morning. Admiral Fluckey was, and remains, a true hero to the country and submariners everywhere. He lived a great life, and will be sorely missed, but his spirit will live on in the hearts of all who love freedom.

Sailor, Rest Your Oar...

Update 1810 22 May: There was a little bit of confusion about whether he had actually passed away, but based on this E-mail, it looks like he unfortunately has left us.

Update 2345 22 May: Now there's even more confusion. It appears as though the E-mail I saw from the CSL Force Master Chief may have been in error, and Admiral Fluckey is still with us. I'll leave this post up as a reminder to pray for RADM Fluckey and his family as they struggle through this difficult time, and offer my hope that he will recover his health and strength soon.

Equal Opportunity Mocking and Belittlement

One of my guiding principles in blogging is never to cover for someone or something just because I happen to agree with their politics. Let's face it, though... it's a lot easier to make fun of something you don't believe in. Here's what I found today--

At an anti-immigration and pro-"English as official language" protest in Columbus, Indiana, check out the unintentionally humorous combination of signs:

"No Amnety", indeed. It's obvious now why we need to have more instruction in English in this part of Indiana. Seriously, if you're going to go to the trouble of making a sign, why not check the spelling first? (Of course, I may have just misunderstood the whole thing. Maybe if you "Honk for English", the lady will turn her sign around to reveal the correct spelling.)

Next, I'll direct your attention to my "favorite" progressive watering hole in Idaho, 43rd State Blues. As of early Sunday afternoon, their top two posts are a ridiculous 9/11 conspiracy theory rant (which includes a claim about submarines that's quite humorous for those of us who know about such things) as well as a post about... well, I'm not sure. Since I'm not allowed to comment over there, I'll just reprint the whole thing verbatim so you'll know I'm not mocking them through selective editing:

"Get a grip, people (is it a full moon yet?): Charles Keating is still in jail, he doesn't have e-mail access, Gordon Liddy has too much to lose, and it boggles the mind that BushCo would be behind 9-11. But the French told us so first!
But it's so much fun Daddy, to believe in fairy tales! (like the UCT: Unified Conspiracy Theory)
Big Oil really does want to turn Planet Earth into Dante's Inferno (with them selling the gas), and Prince Al Gore is a knight in shining armor. (Sure, and he really did hoe & crop tobacco).
And Roger Williams isn't a lazy, indecisive boob, who waits past the 11th hour to make up his petulant mind....we must really help him!
Get a grip, people. If we don't we'll never, ever get power in Idaho. (Scary thought, getting power, huh?)"

Remember, people, the correct order should be "post on blog, then take hallucinogens", not the other way around.

Kansas Highway Honors SubVets

Back in my old stomping grounds (I graduated from the University of Kansas back too many years ago) they used the occasion of Armed Forces Day yesterday to designate a portion of I-335 in Kansas to honor U.S. Submarine Veterans. Excerpt:

"More than 20 veterans and their families gathered for the dedication of the U.S. Submarine Veterans Memorial Highway.
"During the ceremony, Veteran Art Randall read the names of submarines and crew members lost since World War I.
"He says it's important to pay homage to those who serve their country, especially those who don't come home.
"It's more than the star spangled banner," Randall said. "It's living and breathing it and dying for your country, if necessary. And if necessary, we want to remember them."
"The dedication comes after the House passed a bill allowing a portion of Interstate 335 to be designated as a memorial."

In an unrelated note, I also learned how to use the "Read More" trick for blog posts.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Nice Picture Of PCU Texas

The Navy put out their pictures of PCU Texas (SSN 775) returning from sea trials, and they're pretty sweet. This one's my favorite:

The part I like best is that you can't see the damn broom. Speaking of the broom, I posted about my displeasure with the concept over at Rontini's BBS, and the subsequent discussion was pretty good, with submariners weighing in on both sides of the issue.

Back By Popular Demand

It's been a few weeks since I've posted a new picture of Hercules, our blanket-molesting cat. It's not because he's stopped molesting blankets -- it's more because the flash card slot on our computer got dumb, so I have to go into my son's room to download the pictures to his computer, and frankly I'm afraid that something might be living under all the crap on his floor.

Anyway, here's a new picture of Hercules, doing that voodoo, that only he do, so well:

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Journalists Invade USS Florida

USS Florida (SSGN 728) just completed one of those dreaded "media underway" events that are such a pain in the ass. They left Wednesday and came back in on Thursday, taking 19 Florida reporters out to "get the word out" about the SSGN program. Using the theory that "any publicity is good publicity", hopefully the Navy gets enough out of the underway to justify the inconvenience to the crew. Let's see how they did...

First, we have a story from a reporter that tells how he prepared for the trip. Excerpt:

"I anticipate that real life aboard a modern nuclear-powered sub such as the USS Florida isn't as melodramatic as I've been led to believe. There probably aren't many rogue officers onboard who are determined to start World War III by launching missiles against Freedonia or some other flea-bite of a nation. No one really shouts "ramming speed" and charges an enemy vessel. The crew probably doesn't have to hold its collective breath to avoid detection by sonar."

Not too bad. Next, we have the first report by someone who went on the underway. It begins:

After a huge overhaul, the USS Florida is now the only submarine of its kind in the world." [emphasis mine]

One sentence, one mistake. We either have to assume that the crew (and accompanying PAOs) either didn't tell the reporters about USS Ohio (SSGN 726) or the reporter didn't understand what he was being told. Anyway, I'll track the other articles that are sure to come out to see if the rest of them reveal a complete inability to deal with facts surrounding submarines.

Staying at PD...

Update 2002 19 May: A writer from the Tallahassee Democrat has a genuinely funny account of the underway, plus a good collection of 19 pictures (including a really good one of the SCP/BCP, excerpted below).

PCU Texas Back From Alpha Trials...

...and they're flying the damn broom! What the hell is it with newcon and conversion submarines nowadays? I'm sure they did a great job on her Alpha sea trials, but it was two days at sea -- not exactly sinking every enemy ship you saw on a war patrol, hence, "sweeping" the seas clean of your enemy. The way things are going, it looks like my boat USS Connecticut will be the last newcon boat not to symbolically equate finishing Alpha Trials with a successful wartime patrol. I will apologize, of course, if it turns out that Texas sank an Al Qaeda freighter when she was out.

Still, she does look pretty good -- even with the broom:

USS Oriskany -- RIP

The ex-USS Oriskany (CV 34) was sunk off of Pensacola yesterday to serve as an artificial reef. While submariners as a rule get a kick out of seeing surface ships sink, it's somewhat humbling to see a ship this big go down. A video of the sinking (compressed to just over a minute from the 37 minutes she actually took to sink) can be found here (as part of this BBC story); some pictures of the sinking are below:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sub-Blogger Podcast (Don't Worry, It's Not Me)

Eric at The Sub Report has entered the brave new blogworld of Podcasting. He interviewed Elaine Helm, military reporter for the Kitsap Sun, about the latest information on the USS Columbus hazing investigation. I'm glad Eric is doing it if someone has to, because you won't find any podcasting here at TSSBP... I'm totally self-conscious about the sound of my voice, and refuse to listen to it whenever possible. I surely wouldn't subject my readers to it. (Eric, on the other hand, has a perfectly fine voice.)

PCU Texas At Sea... And On TV!

In what's either a case of serendipitous scheduling or Navy/TV network coordination, the National Geographic Channel will be showing an episode of Explorer tonight about PCU Texas (SSN 775), just as word comes out that she's on Alpha Sea Trials. As I discussed last month, the sea trials normally come about a month after the ship is placed "in service".

I'm recording the episode of Explorer, so if you miss it tonight (the first showing starts in about 4 minutes), I'll hopefully be able to tell you if it's worth your time to watch it when it repeats on Thursday and Saturday.

Video Of USS Virginia

[Intel Source: The Sub Report] National Geographic has a great video (almost 3 minutes) of USS Virginia (SSN 774) over at their website. It's worth a look; in addition to some great time-lapse phototography of the boat moving around the construction yard, it also has the best below-deck footage I've ever seen -- much better than the few pictures I was able to find last year. It's worth your while to watch it; I got a screen capture of the Control Room to pique your interest:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Slow Submarine News Week

Submarine news is so slow this week, I've been reduced to baiting poor deluded Idaho moonbats for entertainment. I was gonna go to the first Boise blogger's dinner last night, but ended up projectile vomiting for most of the evening instead. It's tough being a sub-blogger...

Two More Sub-bloggers

Bothenook found another sub-blogger from over at Rontini's BBS: Myron has started up Myron's Mind Meanderings, which already has up a couple of submarine-related posts.

And in my E-mail, I found a link to Dramaal's Yahoo blog: Dramaal's Daily. This is the first submariner's blog I've found on the Yahoo 360° service -- it looks like it's pretty easy to put together a blog there.

If any other submariners are out there who would like have their blog added to my blogroll, just drop me a line at: joel (dot) bubblehead (at) gmail (dot) com.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Milblog Corner

For those who like NRO's The Corner, there's a new site that provides the same informative back-and-forth discussion on military issues: the new headquarters of the Milblog Ring. Hosted by Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette, they've got some of the biggest names in the milblogosphere contributing: Smash, Blackfive, Sgt. Hook, and Neptunus Lex, to name a few. They've even got a couple of submariners in the mix: Chapomatic and some other guy. Head on over and see what's up!

Suckin' Rubber

Saw this picture over at NavSource, and it reminded me of one thing that I don't miss about submarines:

It's a picture of the Ship's Control party of USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) during some sort of drill requiring EABs (probably a fire drill). One of the things I hated most was coming to PD while wearing an EAB -- you really couldn't see out the 'scope at all, plus you got maybe 1 1/2 revolutions before you ran out of EAB line and you had to reverse direction. It's definitely something for the younger guys to do. (One of the best things about being Eng was that I was almost always a drill monitor, so I hardly ever had to wear the EABs.)

On another, more serious note, the NavSource site recently added some great drawings and pictures of the older pre-Holland submarines with lots of great background information. Boats they have there include American Turtle, Alligator, H. L. Hunley, and Intelligent Whale. Some good stuff for submarine buffs!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New Day Military Reporter

It looks like The New London Day has finally replaced Bob Hamilton with a new Defense reporter: Richard Rainey. He's got an article in today's paper (as always with The Day, annoying registration will be required after today) that looks at the trends for submarine numbers over the next decade. It looks like he's done his homework:

"Looking ahead:
• In 10 years, the current fleet of 54 fast-attack submarines could shrink to 52.
• By 2010, the Navy plans to deploy 60 percent of its submarine fleet –– 31 ships –– in the Pacific.
• By 2007, the USS Seawolf and the USS Connecticut, both Seawolf-class, will join the Navy's other Seawolf-class ship, the USS Jimmy Carter, in the Pacific northwest.
• The USS Albuquerque, a Los-Angeles class ship stationed in Groton, is scheduled to head to San Diego in 2008.
• U.S. Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, home to the other major submarine base on the East Coast, will lose two Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines around the same time. Twelve submarines, including the converted guided-missile-firing USS Georgia, are currently stationed there.
• Seven Los-Angeles class submarines will have surpassed the 33-year average lifespan by 2015, probably triggering their retirement. Two are scheduled to leave the fleet by 2010.
• General Dynamics' Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman's Newport News, Va., shipyards plan to build 13 new Virginia-class submarines by the end of 2015, according to the Navy's long-term shipbuilding plan.
"Efforts in Congress to speed up production of submarines ahead of schedule would translate to two more submarines being built by 2015, bringing the total of Virginia-class ships –– including the one already at sea –– to 16. It is an effort that officials have said would help bolster a case to keep the Groton base off future closure lists.
• Four Virginia-class submarines are now in the water or in some stage of production. The USS Virginia was launched in 2004. The Navy plans to commission the USS Texas –– which will be stationed in Groton –– in 2007. Construction of the USS Hawaii and USS North Carolina began in 2004, with commissioning planned for 2008 and 2009."

Nothing in the way of earth-shattering breaking news, but no really bad errors I could see, either. His dates and numbers for the Virginia class boats were wrong -- there are six named and under construction, including the New Hampshire (SSN 778) and New Mexico (SSN 779), and two more have been ordered, so they're being built as well. Also, while the keels were ceremonially laid for Hawaii and North Carolina in 2004, actual construction began years earlier -- I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and mark it up to a semantics issue. I'm sure he'll also eventually learn the difference between a submarine being "launched" (as USS Virginia was in 2003) and "commissioned", which happened to Virginia in 2004.. Still, it wasn't a bad first effort, and I look forward to seeing what else Rainey comes up with on the submarine front.

No, We Are NOT About To Attack Iran

Various conspiracy theorists have been arguing that the normally scheduled deployments of the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) mean we're about to attack Iran. I suppose that's possible, even though we normally have at least 3 aircraft carriers deployed -- one in the Gulf (as USS Ronald Reagan is now), one on it's way to relieve them (or coming home from being relieved), and another on a non-Gulf deployment. Plus, I thought USS George Washington (CVN 73) was supposed to be getting ready to invade Venezuela, and I don't think we want to spread our carriers that thin.

Now comes word that two submarines, one from each coast, left on "surge deployments" last week. USS Louisville left from Pearl on May 2nd, and USS Memphis (SSN 691) left from Groton last Saturday. These "surge deployments" are something subs haven't done much lately, but they don't mean we're about to go to war again. Normally, they're run as demonstations that we can do it, and only last three months. The last time I remember the Navy doing a bunch of "surge deployments" was back in 2004, and we all remember how we attacked North Korea and Iran back then.

Bottom line: This is not an indication that we're about to attack Iran. Late-night pizza deliveries to the Pentagon, however...

Royal Military Academy Lecturer Knows His Stuff!

[Intel Source: ThreatsWatch] Some other milblogs have covered this already, but I just couldn't resist piling on. In a letter to the Canadian National Post, Kristian C. Gustafson, identified as a "senior lecturer, Department of War Studies, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England", wrote about his dislike of General Tommy Franks, who commanded CENTCOM during Afghanistan and the first part of the Iraqi War. Here's what he says:

"... It should come as no surprise that General Tommy Franks was at least partly responsible for the failure of the U.S. to establish stability in post-war Iraq. This is because 2003 was not the first time that General Franks botched a military operation in Iraq.
"In 1991, Franks was the general officer commanding VII Corps in the First Gulf War. There he quickly proved not only to be well beyond his own competence level, but also overly cautious and lacking in initiative. With their start time for the ground war brought forward by 18 hours because of the lack of significant Iraqi resistance, Franks stopped his modern, night-vision-equipped army at nightfall, for fear of counterattack. Yet the Iraq army -- which had been bombed continuously for 30 days -- was not only immobile, but it also had no night capability. Upon learning of this ridiculous and timorous order (and so the loss of precious time), General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell had to be persuaded not to sack Franks on the spot to replace him with a more capable officer..."

All very interesting, until you realize one thing: General Tommy Franks was involved in Desert Storm, but as ADC of the 1st Cavalry Division; VII Corps was commanded by General Fred Franks, who's no relation to Gen. Tommy Franks. This pretty much makes Gustafson's point rather moot, as the Brits might say. (Based on the title of a book he wrote, "CIA Machinations in Chile in 1970", it appears that he might not have much of a problem looking for any reason to try to put down Yanks.)

Still, if this guy gets confused by two General Franks, it must be even worse for him with all the Kings and Dukes with similar names when he teaches British military history at Sandhurst. I can see it now: "While King George had some serious problems with the American Revolution, we see he more than redeemed himself by his stalwart leadership of Great Britain during WWII."

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Sub Report: Now With Bloggy Goodness!

The Sub Report has been the best source of up-to-date submarine news every since it started last year. Now, Eric has decided to add a blog to the website. Everyone should add it to their bookmarks -- I'm sure it'll be worth your while.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Boys In The Band Ordered... Boat Pages

I've always liked stumbling across a boat page -- web sites devoted to a single submarine, usually put together by an former crewman, that serves as a gathering spot for shipmates from across the years. Some are for old diesel boats -- like the one for USS Wahoo (SS 565) -- and some are for the nuclear boats, like this one for USS Hawkbill (SSN 666), or this one for USS Atlanta (SSN 712). One of the better ones I've seen for the LA class boats is this one for USS Groton (SSN 694). The Submarine Sailor website has a good collection of links to boat pages; however, many of the links aren't active anymore. As a general rule, the decommissioned boats are more likely to have an active boat page.

That's why I was excited to see that there's a new boat page on the 'net for USS Jacksonville (SSN 699), which is just about to finish up her DMP in Portsmouth, according to the last info I've heard. It looks like the page is off to a good start, so head on over and check it out!

(While looking around for links for this post, I stumbled across this page that serves as a gathering spot for old sub-riding CTs. Looks like it might be interesting. Reminded me of the time we almost ran out of food on USS Topeka, and made up a list of the CTs we were going to eat first...)

Satan Flexes His Political Muscle

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I always look for logical explanations for events, and have found that if I apply Occam's and Hanlon's Razors, I can usually get to the truth of the matter. That's why I'm kind of surprised at myself for the conclusions I've reached about the results of this week's Nebraska Republican gubernatorial primary.

The race matched the sitting governor, who took over when when elected Governor was picked to be Secretary of Agriculture, against a living legend, Tom Osborne. It should have been no contest -- the sitting governor, Dave Heineman, may have done a good job as Governor, but he never won 255 games as a coach. I mean, seriously, Osborne went 60-3 in his last five seasons; there's no way he could lose an election in Nebraska! And yet he did.

So, armed with this inpenetrable logic, I needed to figure out how Osborne could lose -- especially since the main region he lost was his own Congressional district, where he'd never gotten less than 82% of the vote. Some say it was because he took controversial positions on two major education issues. Another possible explanation comes from my exclusive correspondence with M. Kennedy, noted Nebraska political observer (Hi, Mom!):

"He looked older than his age (he will be 70 next February) but argued that point with the fact that Ronald Reagan was that age when he became President. You wanted to say, "Tom, you are no Ronald Reagan" to that one. He does not look healthy."

Those explanations might be right, but they still don't convince me. This leaves me with only two possible explanations: Rovian Mind Control Rays, or Satanic influence. I needed to figure out who would benefit most by altering the election results. Karl Rove doesn't seem like he'd have anything to gain -- Osborne has always been a strong supporter of the President. That leaves Satan. Satan, as long-time readers know, is currently on Earth in the guise of the Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska (I discussed this alarming development here, here, and here). I'm convinced that he knew that Osborne, had he been elected Governor, would have taken steps to remove the man who single-handedly made Nebraska move from the power running option game to a "passing" offense. Therefore, he put forth all his unholy power to defeat the One who could stop him. Now that Osborne has been vanquished, who can stand in his way?

The world wonders...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

She Should Have Covered Old Smokey With Sand

Normally I don't blog about "offbeat news" items, but I couldn't help it with this one:

"A high school student was suspended for five days after singing a spoof of "On Top of Ol' Smokey" that includes lyrics about shooting a teacher...
"I'd had a song stuck in my head all day, like the tune of it," she said. "This kid in front of me asked me about the song. So I told him the words. I didn't say them loudly."
"The song includes the lyrics: "On top of Ol' Smokey, all covered with blood, I shot my poor teacher with a .44 slug."...
Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for the school district, about 30 miles northeast of Atlanta, said the suspension was "appropriate disciplinary action" for disrupting class."

Not sure why a 16 year old would be singing that song -- but in the "old days", we'd sing variations of it when we were 8 or 9. I suppose it's considered "bad form" to sing songs like that in a post-Columbine world, but it still seems like a little bit of an overreaction to me.

More Sub-Bloggers Found

Tonight, I stumbled across a blog from an old diesel boat Sailor -- The Cook Shack. Cookie's latest post is about one of his old boats, USS Piper (SS 409).

Earlier this week, bothenook found another submariner over at Reality Frame. Rob should be happy, since the author seems to be liberal, but I can't confirm that -- he has BlameBush! listed on his blogroll with a bunch of left-of-center blogs, so he might just have a wicked sense of humor.

Update 2243 10 May: In my comments today I found another active duty submarine blogger -- Trickish Knave, who blogs over at Aloha Dump. One of his recent posts was a first-hand report, with pictures, of this year's Sub Birthday Ball in Honolulu.

Whiny JO Resignation Letters

I've blogged about the NewNavy website before, but it continues to provide some humorous content. The author is apparently a deeply disturbed former submariner (I know I normally don't use that term, but I think it's appropriate in this case) who doesn't seem to have enjoyed his time in submarines, or in the psych ward before he got out. (He's doing much better now, though.)

I'm not sure if they're new, or if I missed them the first time, but he's got up a couple of incredibly whiny JO resignation letters that sound fairly legit. Some excerpts:

"A problem that is exacerbated by being stationed in Japan is how the Navy handles personal responsibility. We are in charge of warships and hundreds of lives, but we have to be told what we can and can't do on liberty. We are told where to go, what to wear, and when to be back. Due to the political sensitivity, I understand using the easy solution of creating more rules and restricting behavior. Since I can offer no better solution, I can't say that it is the wrong way to handle the situation; however, I don't enjoy being treated as a child and I will enjoy the greater freedom and personal accountability that goes along with adult life outside the Navy."

I'm sure the liberty rules aren't at all due to previous officers who had lots of freedom and ended up drunk, beaten, and robbed. From the 2nd letter:

"In both my collegiate education and in my own further study of management theory, the basic leadership principle that I have encountered time and time again is that people are motivated best by positive reinforcement. Contemporary psychology has shown in experiments that treating individuals with sincere praise and encouragement reinforces and develops desirable behavior at the actual expense of unwanted behavior. The Navy’s method of leadership, however, is fundamentally based upon negative reinforcement. At every turn, behavioral change is attempted through criticism and punishment.
"As a junior officer first starting to monitor maintenance practices on my submarine, I was instructed by my Department Head to omit positive comments since they “provided no value.” Upon completion of a period of casualty drills, the Chief of the Boat would debrief the crew on only the errors and mistakes they had made, explaining that improvement could only be made by calling attention to what had been done wrong. Even official evaluations – such as Operational Reactor Safeguard Examinations (ORSE) or Tactical Readiness Evaluations (TRE) – report their findings as a detailed list of deficiencies. In the absence of negative comments, a simple disclaimer is made: “No deficiencies noted.” Seldom is feedback provided highlighting what was done correctly or how to correct the deficiencies that were observed, and any such feedback is off the record."

I'll admit that this particular practice takes some getting used to; skimmers and airdales both emphasize good things when debriefing. Still, to make it one of the reasons you're getting out seems a little bit overboard.

Anyway, I'm sure these two guys will be happier outside of the Navy, and will find that civilian jobs are always fun and never frustrating... {/sarcasm}

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Text Of Iranian President's Letter

Here's what is supposed to be the text of the letter from Iranian President Ahmadinejad to President Bush that's in the news today. It looks like he's been reading Democratic Underground or Daily Kos too much; I'm wondering if some of the liberal leaders are concerned that this nutjob shares their concerns regarding the evils of Zionism and the theory that 9/11 was an inside job:

"All governments have a duty to protect the lives, property and good standing of their citizens. Reportedly your government employs extensive security, protection and intelligence systems – and even hunts its opponents abroad. September eleven was not a simple operation. Could it be planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services – or their extensive infiltration? Of course this is just an educated guess. Why have the various aspects of the attacks been kept secret? Why are we not told who botched their responsibilities? And, why aren’t those responsible and the guilty parties identified and put on trial?
"All governments have a duty to provide security and peace of mind for their citizens. For some years now, the people of your country and neighbours of world trouble spots do not have peace of mind. After 9.11, instead of healing and tending to the emotional wounds of the survivors and the American people – who had been immensely traumatised by the attacks – some Western media only intensified the climates of fear and insecurity – some constantly talked about the possibility of new terror attacks and kept the people in fear. Is that service to the American people? Is it possible to calculate the damages incurred from fear and panic?
"American citizen lived in constant fear of fresh attacks that could come at any moment and in any place. They felt insecure in the streets, in their place of work and at home. Who would be happy with this situation? Why was the media, instead of conveying a feeling of security and providing peace of mind, giving rise to a feeling of insecurity?
"Some believe that the hype paved the way – and was the justification – for an attack on Afghanistan. Again I need to refer to the role of media. In media charters, correct dissemination of information and honest reporting of a story are established tenets. I express my deep regret about the disregard shown by certain Western media for these principles. The main pretext for an attack on Iraq was the existence of WMDs. This was repeated incessantly – for the public to, finally, believe – and the ground set for an attack on Iraq."

Sounds like it comes straight out of some far-left talking points. Of course, there's really only one response that President Bush can make to this letter: "You want better relations? Apologize for taking our diplomats hostage, then we'll talk".

More Bad News For USS Columbus

In addition to the hazing charges against seven Sailors I discussed earlier, the USS Columbus (SSN 762) is apparently facing other challenges as they try to finish their DMP. From an article by Elaine Helm in The Kitsap Sun (annoying free registration -- where they ask for your home address for some unknown reason -- required):

"In a move unrelated to the hazing investigations, the sub’s executive officer has been relieved of his position, Rojas said. Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Nisbett, Columbus’ second in command, was transferred off the sub after an April 21 arrest by Poulsbo police.
"Rojas declined to provide any details about why Nisbett was arrested.
"The sub’s maintenance work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is nearly 90 percent complete — and more than six months overdue. The Columbus was scheduled to undergo a 13-month depot modernization period, but it has been at the shipyard since September 2004.
"PSNS spokeswoman Mary Anne Mascianica said resources from the Columbus project were "assigned to higher priority work but have now been restored."

That's too bad about the XO (I crossed paths with LCDR Nisbett a few times), but I'm wondering if the Navy is maybe being a little bit disingenuous is saying that his firing wasn't due at all to the hazing charges. In any event, hopefully he'll be able to work through whatever personal issues he's dealing with.

Staying at PD...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Another President Kennedy

When we went to take our daughter back to college last weekend, we left our oldest son behind, since he had an important obligation at school -- running for Sophomore class President at Mountain View High School, the largest school in Idaho.

On Saturday, he called us with the news -- he'd won! In order to better serve his constituents, Rob started a new blog: "Why Not The Worst". The title, for those old enough to remember it, comes from Bill The Cat's slogan for the 1988 Presidential race. One of the slogans that put Rob over the top was one he got from me:

Robert Kennedy

You can see some of his other slogans in his first entry. He's really pretty funny... and I'm sure he'll get better at spelling eventually. I do note, however, that he didn't mention one of the main reasons he was able to coast to victory, which was spelled out in one of his other slogans: "All of his opponents are girls". That's apparently the key to victory in high school elections -- split one sizable demographic while keeping another to yourself.

Since the best I ever did was Freshman class president at a very small school, it looks like he's already well on the way to doing better than his old man -- in something other than height, in which he passed me when he was 13.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Book On Loss Of USS Scorpion

I just started reading "Silent Steel" about the loss of USS Scorpion (SSN 589). I'll let you know what I think when I'm done, but until then, here's a recent review. Has anyone else out there read it already?

Why The Republicans Are Losing My Vote

The 2006 midterm elections are six months from today, and I'm in somewhat of a quandary. I've been a Republican my whole life; I've voted for a couple of Democrats for Senator and Governor when I was in the Navy, but Nebraska Democrats would pretty much be Republicans anywhere else. This year, though, I'm afraid I'm going to do something that I never thought would happen -- if the election were held today, I'd vote for Democrats pretty much across the board.

Normally, that's not a big deal in a non-Senatorial midterm election. This year, though, the Idaho 1st District Congressional seat is open, and if current trends continue, it could be one of the seats that decides who controls the House. I'm planning on voting for Democrat Larry Grant not only because he seems to be the best candidate, but also to send a message to the Administration and the Congressional Republicans as a whole -- you had your chance, but you screwed it up, and if you don't straighten up right away, We The People are going to replace you with someone different -- maybe not better, but they couldn't be worse.

What have the Administration and Republican legislators done to make me change my mind that Republicans are normally the best option during times of trouble? I have three main reasons: lack of competence, lack of fiscal and ethical responsibility, and most importantly, lack of steadfastness in prosecuting the War on Terror.

In the past, Republicans have been known as being more "competent" that Democrats; Dave Barry once wrote that if your car was broken down on the side of the road, a Republican would drive by without stopping; a Democrat would stop, but would accidentally burn your car to the ground in the process of trying to help. I've always thought that this was because Republicans, more interested in the "bottom line", would hire staffers based on who could do the best job, whereas Dems were driven more by ideology. The current crop of Republicans, though, seems to be just as ideologically-driven as the most progressive Dems; while Dems believe that people won't try to take advantage of you when you offer to do things for them that they should be doing for themselves, the "new Republicans" seem to operate under the assumption that it'll all work out no matter if they work hard or not, because God is on their side. I haven't seen much real-world evidence that either belief is true.

When I was at CENTCOM, I didn't work directly with the political appointees in D.C., but I worked with the people who went to meetings with them. It was then that I started realizing that the civilians we had in charge either weren't aware, or didn't care, that you couldn't just assume that "everything would work out" -- to use an old Sub Force saying, "You get what you inspect, not what you expect". The "Staffer's Hard Sayings Log" is full of examples of frustration from people trying their best to accomplish objectives that had no basis in reality, but it was something that the civilian leadership in D.C. thought would be a "good idea". That's the kind of thing you expected to have to do when Dems were in control, not Republicans -- until the last few years, at least…

Republicans currently in charge of Congress don't seem to me to be Conservative at all, if by "Conservative" you mean supporting less government intrusion in our lives and concern about increased government spending. They've run up huge deficits while arrogantly refusing to cut pork, and have no one to blame but themselves -- they control the whole budget process. Their recent attempt to "reform" ethics is, quite simply, a joke -- it's as if they don't even care that the voters know it's a sham. Why can't they even pretend to give up their boondoggle overseas "fact-finding" trips?

The last straw for me, though, is the failure of the Administration to prosecute the Global War On Terror with the level of intensity that I think is required. They started off pretty well, but somewhere they lost the way. I believed President Bush when he told the world that, "If you're not with us, you're against us". Coming up on five years later, we have the remnants of Al Qaeda's leadership hiding in NW Pakistan, and all we can do is an occasional Predator attack. I understand that it would be diplomatically difficult to get boots on the ground there, but I believe that had President Bush kept his eye on the ball, we could have convinced the Pakistani leadership to let us in. Likewise, I liked the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, but the Administration's failure to understand the Arab mindset, as well as failing to adequately explain to the American people why this was important (hint: WMDs weren't the main reason, but it was the most convenient reason) was a huge missed opportunity from which it'll take a while for us to recover. Just as disappointing to me is the Republican's failure to ask those of us not on active duty (or their loved ones) to sacrifice for the war effort. The continued emphasis on tax cuts during wartime sends the exact wrong message, as well as contributing to an obscene bloating of the federal deficit.

Some might say that it would send the wrong message to our enemies to change horses in mid-stream; I say that this concern isn't valid, and here's why. Secretary Rumsfeld is right that this is going to be a long war; we can't expect to keep the same party in power for a generation or more (especially if they aren't serious about prosecuting the war). I think that when our enemies see that the Democrats are willing to continue the war (which they will; they're even more poll-driven than the Republicans, and scared to death of being seen as weak on national security) they'll come to realize that they don't just have to wait for a change in American politics. And honestly, it'll be hard for President Bush to legitimately open another front in the War. I don't think we'll have to attack Iran -- this will be a chance for a "Cold War" style victory for us in the GWOT. (We've already seen tensions between the Revolutionary Guard and regular Iranian armed forces that we should be able to exploit if we're smart.) If we do end up needing to go into Iran, I'd say that as only Nixon could go to China, only [insert Democrat's name here] could occupy Teheran -- that's political reality.

My bottom line: The Republicans currently in power have, through intellectual laziness, greed, and lack of vision, squandered an opportunity to lead the nation, and the world, into the new century. It's time for them to be pushed aside and let someone else try. And if they nominate a screwball for President in 2008 (and the Dems cast aside their recent history and nominate someone who isn't ridiculous) I could even see myself voting for a Democrat for President. I'm not there yet, but I could almost see myself going there is the Republicans don't straighten up.

Don't get me wrong; Idaho Dems aren't perfect. They have their share of moonbats, but the tin-foil hatters seem to be pretty marginalized from any actual political power; you only hear about them from their websites and on the Letters To The Editor page of the paper. Idaho Republicans, on the other hand, seem to not only listen to the black helicopter crowd, they even occasionally elect one of them to Congress. I don't want to be a part of that.

Standing by for incoming...

Update 1923 07 May: Chrys has some good thoughts she put up on her blog, and Sara mentions my post over at her place.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Back On Deck

Just got back from taking our daughter to school for her second year of college. While I'm surfing around to see what went on in the world while I was gone, here are some Navy NewsStand pics of USS Jefferson City's homecoming this week: here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

This Sub Sailor Must Really Hate Skimmers

Yesterday, I blogged about USS Hampton (SSN 767) pulling into PEV for Fleet Week USA on Monday. Today (via The Sub Report) we learn that one of the Hampton submariners took our well-known antipathy for surface ships a bit too far:

"A sailor, who serves as a Fire Control Technician, is accused of setting fire to a 44-foot yacht docked on the New River.
"Fort Lauderdale police arrested U.S. Navy fire control technician Robert Lee Coloretti at about 12:20 a.m. Thursday morning.
"Authorities said Coloretti, 23, snuck on to the Ida II and began breaking things in the cabin, waking up the passengers sleeping below deck. Police said while one of the passengers dialed 911, Coloretti was setting the yacht on fire.
"Police said they arrested Coloretti as he was stepping off the yacht. Police said he was wearing his uniform."

He obviously forgot that we're supposed to take out surface ships with torpedoes, and not our bare hands. The article doesn't say if alcohol was involved, but I think we all know the answer to that question...

(More seriously, I'm sorry that this young man's career will take a big hit from this, and it's too bad the rest of the crew will probably have more liberty restrictions, but let's face it... who hasn't had someone from their crew do something worse on liberty? The difference now is that the Internet lets us all read about it, rather than it only showing up in the local paper.)

Update 2208 04 May: The story even made Fark.

Update 2035 06 May: I don't think the Sailor's alibi is going to work:

"I was only trying to put out the fire," Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Lee Coloretti explained to police, according to his arrest report.
"Police picked up Coloretti, 23, on the Ida II, a 74-foot Forbes Cooper express cruiser, just after 12:30 a.m. on the New River, according to the report. Inside the boat, authorities said they found three fires, bleach poured over parts of the cabin and a punctured lifeboat."

A Navy spokesman commenting on the case shows he apparently doesn't know much about how advancement in the submarine force works:

"McGuinn said Coloretti joined the Navy in 2001 and reported to the submarine in 2003.
"Based on Coloretti's rapid rise in rank, McGuinn said his conduct in the Navy must have been good.
"You don't get to be a second-class petty officer in that time without doing well," McGuinn said."

Most FTs show up on the boat as an FT3 right out of "A" school (as long as they've signed up for a six year initial hitch), and you only have to be an E-4 for a year before you get to go up for E-5; I'm pretty sure you can still get that automatically by re-enlisting under the STAR program. Therefore, it's not surprising that a submarine FT would be an E-5 with 5 years in. About all it says is that you haven't been busted...