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.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Capstan Operations Or Marching: Which Do Submariners Traditionally Do Worse?

USS Alexandria (SSN 757) arrived for a routine visit in Souda Bay, Crete, this week, and as usual the excellent Navy photo team on the island got a good action shot of a boat out on the "tip of the spear":

As I was looking at the picture in high-res (as I always do with submarine action shots, looking for any evidence of B1rD (CGU-11 mod) system use), I noticed something very rare in this picture, to wit:

That's right -- submariners actually using their capstan in conjunction with (probably) a tugboat -- or maybe a bollard on the pier. Is the capstan being used correctly in this picture? I have no idea; I'm pretty sure I've never seen one used as designed. Maybe the boats I was on were an exception, but we never had much luck whenever we tried to use the capstan. Contributing to this, I think, is that we never really wanted to do any hands-on training with it, for fear it would break and delay our underway. Do any of you have any particularly humorous stories of capstan capers that happened on your boat?

Update 2228 07 Aug: Here's another picture of the Alexandria's landing using the capstan; this one shows that they do have the line around a cleat, and even provides a rare "action shot" of the line being watered!

Some Recent Videos I've Found And Liked

Have you ever dreamed of spending a couple of weeks in Diego Garcia? I know I haven't. But that's where both crews of the USS Florida (SSGN 728) are doing their crew swap; here's a video that talks about the arrival of the Gold Crew on DiGar:

Here in Idaho, we've got a challenger in the 1st District Congressional race, Walt Minnick, who not only cares about veterans, but is also one himself. (His opponent, Bill Sali, never got around to joining the military; he had other things to do during the 70s). Walt just released his first two campaign commercials; this one is my favorite:

Walt's other new biographical commercial is here.

Here's a video of the guys at SubGru SEVEN who are planning on climbing Mt. Fuji 4 times in one day:

The video got picked up for CNN I-Reports, where it has over 12,000 views to date.

Finally, here's a video my oldest son's biology class made about the Scope's Monkey Trial. It's really good:

My son is the one playing William Jennings Bryan. I don't think Bryan really flashed gang hand signs at the actual trial.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Big Navy Gets Two More Scalps

I have to admit I'm a little conflicted about this story describing how the CO and XO of the USS George Washington (CVN 73) were fired following the investigation into the bad fire they had in May:
Capt. David C. Dykhoff and his executive officer, Capt. David M. Dober, were relieved of duty while the ship is in port in San Diego, California, for repairs.
The two were fired because of practices on their ship that Navy investigators believe led to the fire, Navy officials said.
The Navy officials said investigators believe the fire was started when a cigarette ignited material stored in an engineering room.
Investigators found flammable liquids stored in an engineering area of the ship, which is strictly prohibited. Investigators also found that sailors were allowed to smoke in the same engineering areas, considered another violation.
Clearly, lots of important safety rules were being broken here, and corrective action was undoubtedly called for. I've been in the Navy long enough to know that whenever there's a big incident that makes the paper, someone's head has to roll, and it's normally the CO's. Here's the thing, though -- I'm pretty sure the CO and XO didn't personally select the Aux Boiler area as the best place to store waste oil that they couldn't dump at sea, or put out an instruction that said "Smoking is authorized near the flammable liquids inappropriately stored in the engineering spaces". Sure, everyone knows the CO is supposed to know everything that goes on aboard his ship, but most people also know that's just not possible on a ship the size of the carrier. Where were the JOs and, especially, Chief Petty Officers? For that matter, where was the Carrier Group Engineering staff? (And I'm sure an NR monitor or two has walked through that area at some time or another.)

My point is that until the Navy starts holding the ISIC staffs and other shipboard inspectors to at least some level of accountability for preventable accidents, many more Sailors will feel jaded by the system wherein deskbound officers are continually punishing those at the tip of the spear while escaping any scrutiny of their own staff's deficiencies.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

When Civilians Who Don't Understand The Terminology Attack

A columnist for the New York Daily News had a story on Saturday wherein he questioned Sen. McCain's oft-repeated claim that the U.S. Navy has never had a nuclear accident. The columnist did a lot of research for the story in listing what he claimed were U.S. submarine nuclear "accidents"; specifically, he went to this Wikipedia article and copied down the few resin and coolant discharge incidents in port the nuclear Navy has suffered in the last 55 years; all the incidents he listed were from back in the '70s. Not once did he direct his readers to this "Fact Check" story in the St. Petersburg Times that listed Sen. McCain's claim of zero accidents as "True". (He also confused nuclear weapons accidents with nuclear reactor ones, and included quite a few Russian Navy problems in his numbers.)

While it's clear that the editorial writer had his own anti-nuclear (and maybe even anti-military) objectives, I can't really hold him to the same level of accountability I would someone who had an actual clue. The reason, as you may have guessed, has to do with the specific definition of "accident" used by us nukes. A nuclear "accident", by definition, is a reactor problem that results in core damage. Most laymen would consider quite a few of what we call "incidents" to be "accidents", but that still doesn't enable them to claim that someone who does know the difference is lying. If the core's not damaged, it's not an accident, so Sen. McCain is correct.

In your comments for this post, please remember your NNPI debrief...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"I'd Rather Have A Sister In A Whorehouse..."

"...than a brother who's a recruiter." Those were among the first words that got yelled at all of us new recruits when we showed up at Great Lakes back in April 1983. This was during the portion of the boot camp "welcoming" ceremony where we were given a chance to surrender any contraband we were carrying without any penalty -- or at least that's the theory.

While everyone knows that most recruiters are dedicated professionals (like everyone's favorite recruiter up in northern Idaho), there are certainly some who might be a little bit too interested in quotas and might occasionally sign recruits up for promised jobs where they know it won't work out. I got an E-mail from an old high school classmate whose daughter had joined earlier this year. She had been promised 2nd Class Dive school for her guaranteed "A" School, but when she got there, none of the equipment would really fit. (She's a very tiny girl.) As a result, she's not able to complete the course, and is being put into the "general undecided" pool for fleet assignment. It seems to me that the recruiter should have known this could be an issue, but nothing was ever said.

So what are your worst experiences either with (or as) a recruiter?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Aussie Submarine Sinks U.S. Warship!!11!!1!

The breathless and somewhat misleading headlines in the Australian media notwithstanding (here and especially here), there's a great video that just came out of HMAS Waller (SSG 75) sinking an unidentifed U.S. hulk with a Mk 48 Mod 7 CBASS torpedo. Check it out:

This SINKEX occurred off the coast of Hawaii in conjunction with the upcoming RIMPAC 08 exercises. It brings a tear to an old submariner's eye to see a skimmer's bow slipping silently beneath the waves...

Bell-ringer 1539 24 July: A commenter thinks the SINKEX victim was the ex-USS David R. Ray (DDG 971); this post last month from Steeljaw Scribe would seem to confirm that this is likely.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Idaho's Dogmatists -- A Day Late And A Dollar Short

My congressman, Bill Sali, is in the news again this week, for a couple of things. Idaho evangelical leader Bryan Fischer reports that the Family Resource Council on Wednesday thanked Congressman Sali for "exposing" taxpayer subsidies of Planned Parenthood. The "exposure" seemingly happened during a special orders speech in front of about 10 people on the House floor earlier this month. So was Congressman Sali the first to "expose" this funding? Of course not... it was all over the 'net a few months ago, including in a blog post from the Republican Study Committee of which Congressman Sali is a member. In general, it seems that Congressman Sali is normally about 3 months late; remember his announcement that he had stopped the ATF from handing out Leatherman tools with an "Always Think Forfeiture" engraving, when it turns out that the agency had stopped using the slogan months earlier in response to complaints from others -- a fact that even the simplest Google search would have revealed.

Speaking of "late", Congressman Sali is also one of only 2 Congresspeople who still hasn't filed his campaign finance report, now 9 days late. This brings up an interesting question -- are Idaho's dogmatists just incompetent? Or do they actually skew data and just assume their supporters don't bother to check their sources? Check out a post from Adam's Blog yesterday; I happen to know that Adam isn't an idiot, and that he just cherry-picks data to suit his causes. He's trying to make a big deal out of the "fact" that the Democratic nominee for Congress in my district has gotten 71% of his contributions from out of state. While he allows that "these reports are not complete", he utterly fails to mention that the methodology of the report he uses is skewed heavily: "The numbers on this page are calculated from contributions of more than $200 from individuals, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. PAC dollars are not included." (If you go to the page that has the PAC dollars, which one can assume are mostly from out of state, you'll see that Sali has outraised Minnick in that category, as of June 30th, by $381K to $45.5K.)

A quick look at Minnick's most recent campaign finance report shows that the vast majority of his contributors are people making small (under $200) donations from here in Idaho. Adam, to his credit, did report that the data he used was not complete. Adam also allows comments, and is very good about responding to readers who question his tactics. Bryan Fischer is another case altogether.

In his post today, Fischer gets really excited about Adam's post, but doesn't think to put in any qualifiers. (He also doesn't link back to Adam's post, so his readers can't easily see the comments on Adam's sites from those with dissenting views. From my point of view, quoting a blogger without linking to them is pretty weak.) Fischer says:
The non-partisan Open Secrets website reports that an astonishing 71% of Minnick’s campaign funds have come from out of state. Minnick has raised more money in New York City than in Boise.
Both statements are flat-out lies; Minnick's "campaign funds" include individual contributions of all amounts, personal donations from the candidate, and PAC donations, among other things. Also, when contributions of less than $200 are included, Minnick has raised way more money in Boise than in NYC. (Plus, the CPR report didn't include the last reporting period.) Does Fischer know that he's lying, or is he really that ignorant? To be honest, I'm not sure in his case. He doesn't allow comments on his website, so you can't really get into a real back-and-forth with him to determine if he's shady, or just not too bright. There are some clues in his previous posts, however:

1) Yesterday, he posted that "Tax Freedom Day" was on July 17 this year. This directly contradicts the link he provided, which says that Tax Freedom Day was on April 23. (He apparently got it confused with "Cost Of Government Day", which calculates the "costs" of things like the Pure Food and Drug Act.)

2) I reported earlier that he changed the verb tense of his linked post to make it look like people he was writing about were still facing charges.

So, is Bryan Fischer intentionally dishonest? Or does he generally just not have a clue? At this point, I'm really not sure which one it is.


This Picture Could Cause A Fuss

Many submariners know that there have always been "holes" in the Arctic ice during the summer months, sometimes even in the farthest north. Stripped of this context, however, I'm sure there will be people who will make a big deal about this picture of USS Providence (SSN 719) "moored" at the North Pole:

USS Providence is on her way to the 7th Fleet AOR, and surfaced at the Pole to honor the first trans-polar voyage of USS Nautilus (SSN 571) -- Nautilus left Pearl Harbor to start her journey 50 years ago today. House Resolution 1067, honoring the Nautilus and her historic accomplishment, unanimously passed the House last month.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Roundup Of Submarine Blogs

Continuing the tradition started by bothenook, Nereus at Right Ascension of Aries has posted a roundup of submarine bloggers who had interesting posts this month. It's a good way to keep track of who's saying what in the sub-blogosphere.

After you're done checking out what the bubbleheads have to say, check out this story of potential waste of GWOT funds by Air Force Generals. Excerpts:

The Air Force's top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on "comfort capsules" to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world, with at least four top generals involved in design details such as the color of the capsules' carpet and leather chairs, according to internal e-mails and budget documents...
...Air Force documents spell out how each of the capsules is to be "aesthetically pleasing and furnished to reflect the rank of the senior leaders using the capsule," with beds, a couch, a table, a 37-inch flat-screen monitor with stereo speakers, and a full-length mirror...
...A military officer familiar with the program, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it, likewise said that its extravagance has provoked widespread contempt among lower-ranking Air Force personnel. "This whole program is an embarrassment," the officer said, particularly because transport seating for troops en route to the battlefield is in his view generally shoddy...
...Air Force documents about the SLICC, dated June 8, 2006, emphasize the need to install "aesthetically pleasing wall treatments/coverings" -- in addition to the monitor, footrests and a DVD player. The beds, according to one document, must be able to support a man with "no more than 50% compression of the mattress material." The seats are to swivel such that "the longitudinal axis of the seat is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft" regardless of where the capsules are facing, the document specified...
What impressed me most is the reported resistance to the proposed wastage by field-grade officers who tried to convince their Generals that this was a public relations disaster in the making (in addition to just being wrong).

What's the biggest waste of money that you've ever seen to satisfy a senior officer's desire for his/her luxury and/or convenience?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Movie Reviews: "Hellboy 2", "Mamma Mia", And "The Dark Knight"

I just realized that I've been to a lot of movies this summer. In addition to seeing the "Big 4" movies in May, I also saw (but never got around to reviewing) "Hancock" (liked it), "Get Smart" (liked it more), and "WALL-E" (hated it viscerally).

This "weekend", we went to see three more movies in a 48 hour period from noon Wednesday to noon Friday. Here are my reviews, from a guy's perspective:

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army". Having never seen the original, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get into the flow of the story with little difficulty. There's lots of humor (I especially liked Hellboy's antipathy towards his new German boss) and some pretty good fighting scenes, along with some clever social commentary -- when the existence of the Hellboy is made public, the religious right is less concerned with the fact that the U.S. Government has a demon in its employ than with the possibility that there might be "interspecies marriage". Unfortunately, the movie never really seems to live up to its potential; this is probably a function of it being the 2nd in a planned series of films as much as anything. It advances the story in a workmanlike manner, but nothing is really resolved. This, along with some slow-moving parts that (literally) put me to sleep, results in the movie getting a solid 3 Stereotypical German Gasbags out of five.

On Thursday night at midnight, it seems that most of the country was lined up to see "The Dark Knight". That's why I took the girls in my family to check off my quarterly PM and see the midnight showing of "Mamma Mia". I'm always excited when I can fulfill my "chick-flick" obligation with a musical, because I generally like those. Seeing the trailers, I was a little worried that this film was going to suffer from the problem that "Sweeney Todd" had, wherein the "big name" actress they got for the female lead ended up being a bad singer. Despite an uneven performance in the title track, it turned out that Meryl Streep was a pretty good singer; the bad singing in this film was provided by Pierce Brosnan, who pretty much ruined what could have been a really good version of "S.O.S". The rest of the cast did pretty well, especially Amanda Seyfried playing the bride. I hadn't been sure where I'd seen her before, but soon remembered that she plays the oldest daughter in "Big Love" -- hopefully she won't get typecast by appearing in a movie having three dads on the heels of a cable TV series where she has three moms. The story pretty much depended on the three potential fathers not thinking to ask for several hours how old the bride-to-be was, but I suppose disbelief must be suspended in any movie where townspeople spontaneously break into song. Overall, the movie was simply O.K. -- I was going to give it a 2 until they finally included my favorite ABBA song ("Waterloo") as part of the closing credits. As a result, it gets a mushy 3 Clueless Dads out of five.

Eight hours later, we were back in the theater for the morning showing of "The Dark Knight". I'm not going to beat around the bush... this movie is really, really good. My only question I had as I left the theater is if it was better than "Casino Royale"; if so, it would move up to 2nd place on my list of "Best Films of the Naughties" (behind "Serenity"). The movie effectively drew the viewer into the director's world; the actors were well-cast (Maggie Gyllenhaal is a big upgrade from Katie Holmes as the love interest from the first film in the current franchise) and the action was non-stop. Although the film clocks in at 2 1/2 hours, it didn't seem like it lasted that long. The big thing that pushes this movie above almost all others, though, is the re-definition of a well-known character by a single actor's performance. When the Oscars are being handed out next year, you might hear someone say that Heath Ledger is only getting the Best Supporting Actor award because he died. If so, please ask them if they actually saw the movie, and if they say "yes", suggest that they actually watch the screen rather than shave their back the next time they go to the theater. Whereas Daniel Craig had Sean Connery to go to for inspiration to "re-create" James Bond, Ledger so completely redefined -- and made his own -- the Joker character that no other incarnation is even conceivable. He commands the screen in any scene in which he appears. This one performance is enough to push this movie into the "great" category, and earns my rating of 5 Overshadowed Superheroes out of five.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another Reason It's Better To Be At Sea Than In Port

At sea, you never have to worry about "Fire in the forward Main Ballast Tank" being called away, as they heard today on USS Annapolis (SSN 760):
Subase spokesman Chris Zendan said the fire was reported at about 9 a.m. The flash fire occurred in the forward ballast tank, which helps the ship stay below or at surface.
The ship was on the base’s dry dock undergoing maintenance, said Zendan. All nonessential personnel were evacuated from the ship. Three Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employees were in the area during fire. They were evaluated and released at the scene, he said.
Anyone want to bet against "hot work catching rags on fire" as the cause?

I also love the explanation of the purpose of the MBTs. I suppose it's technically accurate from a certain perspective to say they "(help) the ship stay below or at the surface", but it could make one wonder if, without the MBTs, the ship would somehow go airborne, which is the only other option. As everyone knows, the only thing that can make a submarine do that is an inexperienced or unlucky DOOW. Please share your memories of your favorite times the DOOW "earned his wings".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Public Service Announcement From TSSBP

Show of hands -- who likes Navy Dentistry? I sure didn't, but I went to the dentist every year because I had to. I'd always had fairly good teeth (never needed braces and didn't have my first cavity until I was 16), but I ended up with 1 or 2 minor cavities a year during my last years in the Navy.

When I was doing my retirement workups in the summer of 2004, I got all the dental work done that they could think of doing, because it was free. When I finally got my civilian job, I noticed that it came with dental insurance, and would listen to the stories my wife and kids told about when they went to the dentist or orthodontist, but I never got that notice from the Doc that I had to go, so I... didn't.

When I started being able to feel a cavity on one of my back molars with my tongue a few weeks back, I figured I really needed to buckle down and find a dentist. I went today, and they found -- get ready for it -- 17 cavities, including one that will require a root canal, and another (the one I was feeling) that probably will. Plus, it turns out that, in the civilian world, you actually incur fairly substantial co-pays. (Having Tricare as my secondary medical insurance here in CIVMOUNT, I'd never really thought about that.) Bottom line is that they want about $2,600 above and beyond what my insurance would cover this year to get all the work done. Of course, most of the cavities wouldn't have progressed this far had I gotten a yearly cleaning.

So, take it from Bubblehead -- don't think that just because you're out of the Navy, you don't need to see the dentist. Plus, they say that they'll give you something that makes it so you won't even remember your visits, which is way better than what the Navy does for you.

I Like Walt Minnick

In response to my post about how I wasn't a big fan of my Congressman, Bill Sali, a reader wrote and pointed out that it's more helpful to be positive in politics than negative. I agree.

In November, rather than simply casting a vote against Bill Sali, I'll be voting for Walt Minnick. A successful businessman and Army veteran, Walt is a fiscal conservative and social moderate. He'll be able to counteract the more extreme elements of the Democratic Party in Congress while providing effective representation for our district.

(Also, for those who were wondering, I'm still planning on voting for John McCain for President. While moderates might not be welcome in the Idaho Republican Party, I think there's still room for us in the national one. That being said, I think we actually have two good candidates running for President. I recognize this is a minority opinion -- maybe I'm just an optimist at heart.)

Submariners And Mt. Fuji

Most submariners who've deployed on SSNs in the Pacific have pulled into Yokosuka. I imagine almost everyone who spends some time in Japan thinks about trying to climb Mt. Fuji when they're there -- then they discover that there's really only about a 2 month window when people take the hike. Plus, it's normally an all-day affair.

Submariners stationed in Japan, though, can climb Mt. Fuji at their leisure. Most, I'm sure, would want to make the climb once. Any more times than that would take real dedication.

That's why I'm so impressed with some of the guys from Submarine Group SEVEN who are proposing to climb Mt. Fuji not once, but four times -- in one day! Here's their web site that explains when they're doing it (Sept. 1st, 2008), why they're doing it (for charity), and how you can contribute. A couple of them made the climb 3 times in one day last year, and in true submariner spirit recognized that they could get even more work done in a day. Good luck, guys!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SSN 783 Name Announced (L.E. SSN 784 Too)

(See update at bottom; it turns out that two submarines were named today.)

According to a statement from Sen. Byron Dorgan, SSN 783 784 will be named USS North Dakota.
“This is great news for North Dakota. It’s a testament to the respect the Navy has for our state that the next Virginia-class submarine will be the USS North Dakota,” Senator Dorgan said. “North Dakota may be landlocked, but our state has contributed a great deal to the U.S. Navy. This ship will be a fitting tribute that should be a source of pride for all of our veterans.”...
...“There hasn’t been a ship named after the State of North Dakota in 85 years,” Hoeven said. “That’s why together we put on a full court press to get the Navy to name a submarine after our state, and we were successful. I think the more than 1,000 pictures colored by our young people which we presented to Donald Winter, Secretary of the Navy, impressed him with the grassroots effort our state made to name a submarine USS North Dakota.”
Senator Dorgan invited Senator Conrad, Congressman Pomeroy, Governor Hoeven, and a group of prominent North Dakotans earlier this year to take part in the effort to convince the Navy Secretary to designate a new USS North Dakota. The result was the formation of the USS North Dakota Committee. Dorgan asked former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, a native of Scranton, N.D., to act as honorary chair of the committee.
Senators Dorgan and Conrad, Congressman Pomeroy and Governor Hoeven led a delegation last month in a meeting with Navy Secretary Donald Winter at the Pentagon. The group outlined a plan for how North Dakota will support the ship and its crew. They said that after so many decades, the time is right for the Navy to name a new ship after North Dakota.
It's as good a name as any, but I can certainly imagine Dave Barry cracking some jokes as the boat comes up for christening.

Bell-ringer 2357 16 July: When I posted this morning, I assumed that only one submarine would be named today; they actually designated two:
The Navy announced on July 15 that the next two Virginia-class attack submarines will be named the USS Minnesota and the USS North Dakota.
The selection of Minnesota, designated SSN 783, honors the state's citizens and their continued support to our nation's military. Minnesota has a long tradition of honoring its veterans of wars past and present. The state is proud to be home to 46 Medal of Honor recipients that span from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.
This will be the third ship to bear the state name. The first USS Minnesota, a sailing steam frigate, was commissioned in 1857 and served during the Civil War, remaining in service until her decommissioning in 1898. The second Minnesota was commissioned in 1907. On December 16, 1907 she departed Hampton Roads as one of the 16 battleships of the Great White Fleet sent by then-President Theodore Roosevelt on a voyage around the world. She continued her service through World War I, and was decommissioned in 1921.
The selection of the North Dakota, designated SSN 784, honors the state's citizens and veterans and their strong military support and heritage from the Frontier Wars through the Cold War and currently the war on terrorism. Seventeen North Dakotans have received the Medal of Honor for actions in combat, including Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony on March 3, 2008. This is the second ship to bear the name North Dakota. The first ship, the Delaware-class USS North Dakota, was in service from 1910 through 1923.
And in answer to the commenter who wondered why Montana was left out... it turns out that there has been a USS Montana. It just got renamed after 12 years, right before it was decommissioned.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Town Hall Meeting With Congressman Bill Sali

I went to a hurriedly-scheduled "town hall" meeting today with my Congressman, Bill Sali. Long-time readers will remember that I'm not a big fan of Bill Sali; I feel that our district deserves a Congressman who is able to work with people to get things done, rather than just embarrass himself with insensitive gaffes and be on the losing end of a bunch of 403-18 votes.

The meeting started about 10 minutes after the scheduled noon start time; here's who was there:

We ended up with a few people showing up late, so overall attendence was about 30 people -- probably 90% of them Sali supporters. Congressman Sali has always been very personable when I've seen him before, and today was no exception. He opened the meeting by apologizing for the short notice, and explained that he had planned to go to ANWR this weekend; unfortunately, he was unable to arrange for transportation. He said the reason for that was that the "Democrat Congress" had passed an ethics bill that made it so that Congressmen couldn't get free airplane rides from lobbyists anymore -- apparently, he's against that restriction.

He started off talking about high energy prices, and said that our problems are caused by the "Democrat Congress" not allowing us to drill off the coast and in ANWR. Never mentioned was the fact that it would take years for any of this oil to get into the marketplace, and it would have no real effect on prices for a long time. While I personally don't have a big problem with drilling for oil where we can in an environmentally-conscious manner, I do know that it's neither a short-term nor a long-term solution to our problems by itself -- ANWR would provide maybe 1% of world oil production by 2030.

He then moved on to attacking entitlements, including problems with Social Security. I asked him about his campaign promise in 2006 to reveal his plan that would "protect Medicare and Social Security for all generations" by reducing payroll taxes. Amazingly, he flat-out admitted that he was wrong; he claimed he "had" a plan, but when people with an actual clue looked at the numbers, they convinced him it wouldn't work. Then an older woman mentioned how her Social Security check wasn't going very far, and the crowd started getting ugly. While Congresman Sali responded to the woman with comforting words, I heard people snidely whispering behind me that "I bet she hasn't paid into Social Security as much as she's getting out." Congressman Sali, who had attacked opponent Larry Grant in 2006 over his admission that we'd have to balance intakes and outlays of the program (either by increasing payroll taxes or pushing back the retirement age sometime in the next 30 years), basically admitted that the math just doesn't add up -- by 2040, you'll have 2 contributors for every recipient under the current rules. While he's a canny enough politician not to come out and say that you'd have to reduce or delay benefits to get it to work, it was clear he thought that was the only option if we want to keep Social Security solvent.

The overall tenor of Congressman Sali and his supporters was that "people screwed it up in the past" and that had people only followed their principles, we wouldn't be having these problems. They might be right. That being said, it doesn't help us now to only provide "we told you so" as a solution. Any possible solution they offered was either patently absurd, against the laws of physics, or (most often) politically impossible. (One person suggested President Bush declare a "National Emergency" and rule by decree. Congressman Sali said the President should "keep that option on the table.")

At this point, a Sali supporter asked him if Congressman Sali ever gets down-hearted by all the people saying bad things about him; specifically mentioned was the new "Bill Sali Hates Idaho" website. Bill Sali said basically that he's OK with himself standing by his principles, and if the people elect someone else, he'll take it with good grace. I followed up by asking him, in the manner of Bob Slydell from "Office Space", a variation on "What exactly is it that you do here?" [Long version of the question: I first thanked him for getting the PUC for VO-67, and then pointed out that he really hasn't accomplished anything else tangible during his tenure, other than be on the losing end of a bunch of lopsided votes. I mentioned that his much-hyped "Always Think Freedom" bill wouldn't even get a hearing (he didn't disagree), postulated that his "Simplify the Tax Forms" amendment would probably get dropped in conference (he said he thinks it will survive, so I'll believe him for now, even though he didn't disagree with my characterization of it as "without metrics" and therefore basically meaningless), and pointed out that his co-sponsorship of bills like Rep. Ron Paul's "U.S. Out Of The UN" H. R. 1146 was completely pointless, since there's no chance that any of these bills will even get a committee hearing. I concluded that the only tangible effect of having him in Congress seemed to be that our district got less federal money than we would have had we elected a Democrat in 2006.] He chose to focus on why he signed on to co-sponsor the UN Bill, and fell back on "American sovereignty" -- he didn't mention why he wasn't supporting a "U.S. Out Of NATO" bill, since that organization actually would force us to go to war when we might not want to, which seems like a bigger threat to our sovereignty than the UN would ever be. He then went on to claim, bizarrely, that he doesn't think the House leadership would have given more money (in the form of earmarks) to a freshman Democrat in an unsafe district; instead, he claimed that he'd gotten more earmarks than "most" of the freshman Democrats. Other than my amazement at seeing a supposedly fiscally-conservative Congressman claiming as his main achievement a whole bunch of earmarks, I really doubt that he had more than "most" freshman Democrats (since that group got $237 million in earmarks, and freshman Republicans got only $36 million) -- maybe he did, though, because the district has so much land. Hopefully Mountain Goat has the research on that tucked away somewhere.

At this point the meeting got a little uglier. One woman behind us complained about everyone having an "entitlement mentality" and wondering why the government had to help people at all, especially people who were hit by natural disasters. Congressman Sali admitted that he thought that there were things the federal government probably should do to help people in that situation. (He didn't mention the actual unspoken reason that the elites decided long ago to help people down on their luck -- that it's much better to make sure everyone has enough to eat than to drive them to desperation, where they end up robbing people like the woman who complained about her tax dollars going to help "undeserving" people.) Another woman in the row behind us then started to quiz Sali about his salary and benefits; her point seemed to be that people who work for the government shouldn't have pensions or health care. Poor Congressman Sali tried to protect himself from the onslaught, and I felt so sorry for him that I spoke up and said that I thought I had earned my government pension. The woman was gathering herself up to keep going when SubBasket turned and asked the woman if she thought that having to go through 4 six-month separations didn't maybe mean I'd earned something. The woman behind us didn't say another word. After that, a woman complained about the state of education in the country; Congressman Sali replied that one of the problems is that we can't even hire all of the foreign students who get advanced degrees here. Apparently, he supports the granting of more H-1B visas; interestingly, he doesn't mention that on his campaign website.

Towards the end, Congressman Sali got philosophical, and admitted that he hadn't really understood when he took office how complicated things like foreign relations were. He also said that he doesn't want to be an "alarmist", but he's worried that our economy could get much, much worse by the end of the year, even worse than during the Great Depression. He seemed much more honest to me than he has in the past; I think he's starting to realize that he really is in over his head. I can admire a man who stands by his beliefs; I just don't want him as my Congressman if he's completely useless. Hopefully, by early next January, Bill Sali will be able to return home -- although he did say that, if he lost, he didn't know where "home" might be, since he didn't want to live someplace that didn't vote for someone like him. I'm thinking ANWR might be a good place for him to put down roots...

Update 2051 13 July: When I was at work today, I remembered an additional piece of information from the meeting. Congressman Sali did seem to suggest that Social Security could be "saved" by the government getting $60 trillion (say it like Dr. Evil for full effect) by having all energy in government lands extracted -- here's another Congressman talking about that. I put this under both the "patently absurd" and "against the laws of physics" categories, in that most of the energy can't be extracted with any current or planned technology, our current GDP is only about $13.3 trillion (so who's going to pay all this money that doesn't exist?), and when you've collected all the money (if it was even possible) you now have no energy supplies left in the country.


Friday, July 11, 2008

"Just Chip It Out"

This video gave us hours of amusement in the Ops Barrio during my 2000 deployment with the CarGru SEVEN staff on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74):

It's the guy's knees buckling that really sells this one.

What amusing videos / programs have people secreted away on your command's server?

USS Henry M. Jackson Crew Sports New PT Duds!

Probably as payback for being assigned to the only Ohio-class SSBN without a namesake state, the Gold crew of the USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) became the envy of their peers last week when they became the first group at Naval Base Kitsap to buy, and then PT in, the magical new PT Uniform I discussed earlier. Here's an excerpt from the story:
There were mixed comments on the uniform's fit and comfort during the work out.
"The material is thin, cool and breathable," said Chief Missile Technician (SS) Adrian Watkins. "With me it's all about comfort, and if I'm agitated or aggravated while working out, I get annoyed. I feel very comfortable wearing this uniform; it's refreshing to be comfortable while working out."
However, some Sailors found parts of the uniform uncomfortable.
"I really don't like the liner on the inside of the shorts, but they're OK because they're really comfortable," said Watkins.
"I love the shirt, however, the shorts are a bit ill-fitting," said Fahrney. If you don't have the right body type they don't fit very well."
While leading the workout, Bertolacci-Starich also noticed a possible flaw in the uniform, but otherwise enjoyed her PT session with the Sailors.
"I think it's hard to keep the shirts tucked in while they're jumping around, but other than that I think it's awesome," said Bertolacci-Starich. "I've seen guys come in to work out wearing flannel pajama bottoms before, so it's nice to see the change, and I think it's respectful for the military to come out with this uniform."
Here's a picture of the young Warriors at work:

If you think the jihadis are scared now, just wait until they add mandatory shirt stays to the ensemble!

Proud Parents Can Be Really Obnoxious

You know how annoying it is when parents go on and on about how smart their kids are? Well, stand by to be annoyed.

I opened the mail today, and found out that #1 Son had gotten a "5" on both his Calculus AB and Physics B AP exams. As a junior. w00t! If you're a college recruiter, please send your scholarship offers to the E-mail address listed in the profile.

I'll be continuing to brag on this kid throughout the year, and will start bragging on my youngest sometime next year. An earlier example of me bragging about my daughter can be seen here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where Have You Gone, EM Log Blogger?

Over the last couple of months, many of us have enjoyed the great sea stories put out by "Free The Nucs" over at The EM Log. Sometime this week, it looks like his blog got deleted -- probably not accidentally, since the subheader says "Closed Until Further Notice". It's too bad, 'cause there was a lot of good material there, both in the posts and in the comments.

Free The Nucs, if you're out there, let us know what happened here in the comments.

Update 1813 10 July: A reader sent in the RSS feed of FTN's last post, titled "Open Mic Night", before the blog got deleted. It might contain a clue to what happened:
It looks like I'm going to be working some severe hours for the foreseeable future. While that's sure to result in some great angst-inspired stories later on, who knows when I will have time to write them down?

With this in mind, I'd like to encourage you to submit your own Log-worthy sea stories; you can either post them as a comment, or email them to me via the link on the right. No one's worried about spelling, grammar, or language, but please edit out any last names or NNPI before you submit them. The log gets between 300 - 500 hits a day (most of them folks just like you), so this is a great chance to tell your tale.
I've got a feeling it wasn't a "Big Navy-induced" shutdown (such as what happened to the active-duty guys of the Greeneville ART). Still, I'd like to know what happened, so hopefully we'll hear from FTN himself.

Update 0650 16 July: We still haven't heard from FTN, but I'll let you know if I ever do. The comments here have kind of degenerated, so for the first time I'm cutting off comments to a post. I appreciate that people, especially some active duty guys, like to comment anonymously, and I'm normally glad to support that. However, when it turns into one troll personally attacking some regular commenters, I reserve the right to take action. In the past, I've arbitrarily started deleting the troll's comments, and that seemed to work. (No one wants to spend a lot of time typing if they know no one's going to see it.) To the "Anonymous" who seems to be stationed on the MSP -- yes, I'm talking about you.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kazakhstani News -- News You Can Trust?

Every morning, I look for news about submarines on the web; usually, if there's something important that's happened, there will be several stories from various news sources. Sometimes, though, there's something that's only single sourced, so I have to decide if it's likely true and worth the time to blog about it. Normally, I'll type up the post as I'm researching.

Today was such a day. My quick Google search had one article from Kazinform, which is some sort of news agency (or maybe just a web site) serving Kazakhstan, about an accident in a Japanese shipyard on one of their Japan's new Soryu-class submarines where 5 people were hurt. The article says that Kazinform got the report from ITAR-TASS; however, that Russian news agency doesn't have anything on their English-language website yet. Nor was there any mention in a Japanese news website. So, I'm left with the decision -- do I let my readers know about a potential submarine news item of interest, or do I not waste their time?

As it turns out, my blogging ended up being driven by the realization that I have to leave for work in 15 minutes. The bottom line -- some people may or may not have been hurt in a Japanese shipyard working on a submarine. If so, I hope they're OK. The Sub Report will have any updated information probably way before I do.

Update 1819 10 July: Edited the 2nd paragraph above to correct an unfortunate pronoun inconsistency. It looks like, in this case, the Kazakhstani news source was correct; here's confirmation of the incident from a Japanese paper. Apparently, 5 shipyard workers were shocked during a battery test.
Five shipyard workers were treated for burns Wednesday after receiving an electric shock while working inside a submarine docked at a pier in Hyogo Ward, Kobe, police said.
The five employees of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.'s Kobe Shipyard and Machinery Works were in a machinery room of the Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine Soryu when the incident occurred at about 7:20 a.m.
They were sent to hospital to receive treatment for burns to their faces and hands...
...According to the police and the shipyard, a series of electrical battery tests that commenced on Tuesday night was still under way in the machinery room at the time of the incident. One of the five workers mishandled a cable carrying a 500-volt current, causing a battery to release an atmospheric discharge that inflicted an electric shock on all five workers.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

In honor of our country's 232nd birthday, here's a picture from back in 2002 of the raising of the Navy Jack on USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716):

Everyone have a good time today, but remember the old saying: "He who has a fifth on the 4th will not come forth on the 5th."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Man Overboard!

A comment by XCOB in the previous post got me thinking about people falling off submarines while tied to the pier. While there's no doubt that going overboard is very dangerous when the boat's underway, and can be dangerous when moored, I was thinking more of the humorous inadvertent dunkings. Here's my favorite:

On the morning of the first deployment of the good ship USS Topeka (SSN 754) in August 1992, we had a new guy reporting to the boat straight from "A" School. He basically checked into Squadron that morning, and sent him right over to the boat to go on the deployment. (This had all been worked out in advance.) He comes down the gangplank carrying his seabag with everything he'll have for the deployment -- after all, this is his first time on board the boat. For some reason, he couldn't get around the sail on the starboard side (where the towed array housing gives you a place to put your right foot so you're walking basically level) and, being a NUB, he went around the port side of the sail, lost his footing, and fell into the water -- along with his seabag packed with all his belongings for the next 6 months. We fished him and his seabag out of the water, and for the first night of our underway, all of his clothes were draped over steam piping in the Engine Room. (The dryer broke down as it started on first load of the run, as is normal on LA-class submarines.)

Can anyone top that?

SPRUCE For Scranton

There's one acronym that, even more than ORSE, fills a submariner with fear and loathing -- SPRUCE.

A "Scheduled PReservation Upkeep Coordinated Effort" (Vol. VI, Chap. 27 of the JFMM refers) is a 14 day period when submariners can pretend that they're professional painters who don't get paid as much as real painters. All Ship's Force work other than that necessary for safety and security are stopped so the whole crew can paint the ship. That's the theory, anyway -- but everyone knows that the various reports and whatnot are still required off the boat, so you see most XOs and YNs sneaking off to do all that work they're not supposed to have to be doing.

USS Scranton (SSN 756) is just starting their SPRUCE:

To the officers and men of the Scranton: Remember, although you might find yourself thinking that an "accidental" needle gun incident might be a good way to get 14 days worth of convalescent leave, it's really not worth the pain. And for the officers and men who somehow finagled a school that goes through the whole SPRUCE -- I'm looking at you, PNEOers -- you have my admiration for your excellent timing.