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, September 30, 2009

Will The Adults Keep Control?

(Test post 11/26/11 for a new blog -- please ignore)

The Idaho Republican Party is coming up on a legislative session and subsequent election that could determine their direction for years to come. The battle, as it is elsewhere in the country, is between the more Libertarian/State’s Rights wing of the party and the establishment (hereafter referred to, in the preferred language of the insurgents, as “RINOs” – Republicans in Name Only). Were one to only look at the Idaho GOP platform adopted in 2010, an outside observer might think that the extremists had already won; the platform calls for, among other interesting ideas, the repeal of the 17th Amendment and returning to the gold standard.

It’s one thing for party activists to adopt a bold party platform, but another for the more reasonable members of said party to actually vote for it when their actions may be noticed by the wider public. In the two examples noted above, many Idaho Republican legislators failed to follow through when given the opportunity to cast a vote in favor of these two principles, despite the “loyalty oath” also included in the new platform: the House State Affairs committee failed to advance a “repeal the 17th” bill, and a “sound money” bill failed to even get a motion from the same body. That these elements of the Idaho GOP platform were too extreme for the Idaho House is telling (or, more likely, too potentially embarrassing to open for public debate), since it’s normally the Senate that was counted on to act as the “adult” last session. (The House actually passed the Health Care Nullification law only to see it shot down in the Senate committee.) This proves that there’s a disconnect between some of the more extreme Idaho Republican partisans and the elected officials of their party – the “adults” of the Idaho GOP are willing to say one thing and do another when the more extreme theories of the new Idaho GOP orthodoxy are put to the test of the real world.

Idaho freshman Congressman Raul Labrador filled out the questionnaire for TEA Party Boise before the 2010 election, and, with two exceptions, pledged or committed to carry out everything on their checklist – even the items that were clearly delusional. When the rubber met the road, however, Rep. Labrador decided that there were times when real world political considerations outweighed his “pledge” to work to enact a theory. He voted for at least one bill that hadn’t been “published on the web for at least 7 days prior to the vote”, and still hasn’t posted a list of “all campaign donations on your website, including date, name of parent organization as well as the donating entity, and the amount of the donation”. I don’t blame him for his actions in these cases; where House rules only require 3 days posting of bills and FEC rules only require disclosure of donations of $200 or more, it would be silly to go beyond that. I would, however, hold him accountable were he to make the same ridiculous pledges next year.

So where does this leave the Idaho Republican Party? While the case could be made that the 45% of primary voters who voted for someone other than Butch Otter in the May 2010 primary are the forefront of a potential wave of disaffected “True Republicans” who will overthrow the RINOs and lead the way back to the 1850s, I think that the powers that be will do whatever it takes to limit the extremists to a few planks in the Party platform and will let them win a few symbolic votes in the Legislature for bills that either have no effect or will quickly be thrown out by the courts. They know that the only way the Republican Party can lose their stranglehold on Idaho politics is to give control to the most extreme members of the party (the 26% who voted for Rex Rammell in May 2010) and watch the moderate voters desert the party in droves when the main accomplishment of a future legislature is to enable citizens to pay their property taxes in gold or silver coinage or all their legislators follow the lead of Rammell and declare themselves de jure citizens. The upcoming session will be a good barometer of how far the “adults” are willing to let the insurgents go, and if failure to enact the more extreme elements of the party platform will energize the extremists to actually vote out some of the RINOs in the primary. It should be fun to watch – as long as they don’t actually pass any bills that would irrevocably hurt the citizens of our state.

USS Georgia Visits Bahrain

USS Georgia (SSGN 729) became the first Ohio-class submarine to operate in the Arabian Gulf during her current deployment. Here's a story from Fifth Fleet about their port call in Bahrain, and here's a blog entry by CAPT Brian McIlvaine (my old XO) describing the port visit.

Back during the Bush Administration, stories like this would have brought the "we're about to attack Iran" crowd to screaming levels of hysterics. I wonder if any of them are now willing to admit, given that we never did attack Iran before President Bush left office, that they were wrong in thinking that President Bush was purely evil, and are maybe even willing to entertain the idea that he was actually a man who had the best interests of the country at heart, even if they disagree with him on how to achieve what was best for the country?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Skimmer CJCS Supports Women On Submarines

According to this Fox News article, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ADM Michael Mullen (a known skimmer) has come out in support of women on submarines in written testimony to Congress:
Female sailors can broaden their role in the Navy by serving on submarines, an activity currently prohibited by the Armed Service, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has advised the Senate Armed Services Committee...
..."I believe we should continue to broaden opportunities for women. One policy I would like to see changed is the one barring their service aboard submarines," he added... reported that Mullen, a former chief of naval operations and a surface warfare officer, wrote his endorsement of women serving in subs in his response to questions submitted by senators preparing for Mullen's confirmation hearing for a second term as chairman of the JCS. That hearing was held Sept. 15...
...Mullen spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby told the Web site that the chairman had previously asked the Navy to look into overturning the rule, but did not want to get too involved in managing the force.
More on ADM Mullen's comments can be found here. My thoughts are that it's a change that's going to happen eventually, but with the submarines we have now, it's not the right time. Due to berthing constraints, you'd really need to design a whole new class of submarine to handle female berthing, and you'd have to go into it knowing that you'd be reducing combat effectiveness in order to do it. (Because, no matter what, the extra space you'd need for extra berthing compartments could be better used for combat or survivability systems.) And, for those who say we need it to keep "manning" numbers up, being co-ed sure hasn't helped our Aussie allies in that regard.

What do you think? Will we see women serving as permanent crew members aboard U.S. submarines before January 2013?

Update 1641 24 Sep: The new SecNav is also supporting women on submarines, according to this Navy Times article. He doesn't know yet that he has no actual power to make policy in the face of opposition from Naval Reactors. He'll soon learn.

Update 0916 26 Sep: There are several more news articles on this controversy, including this one in the San Diego Union-Tribune that mentions the comments in this thread.

Update 2322 05 Oct: Here's an article in the Honolulu Advertiser that says the change is a done deal, and that women will start showing up on Ohio-class boats in 2011. Not sure I believe it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

USS Texas Departs Groton

Check out this artful photo of USS Texas (SSN 775) departing Groton for her new homeport of Pearl Harbor:

As they're transiting, the Navy is holding its first Senior Enlisted Continuation Board, whereby E-7 through E-9s with more than 20 years of service and 3 years time in grade will be evaluated to see if they can continue serving on active duty; those that aren't will have to retire by the end of next June. So what do you think: is this a good idea that will "reinvigorate the Chief's Mess", or another way the Navy will lose more experienced leaders? (Personally, I think it sounds like a good plan, as long as they're really telling the truth that there aren't any quotas for how many have to be let go.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Australian Submariners Get Bravery Medal

Last month, the Australian Navy reported that three Submariners had been awarded the Bravery Medal for their actions aboard HMAS Farncomb (SSG 74) in 2007. Today, The Australian has two articles the describe the actions for which they were awarded, here and here. Excerpts:
As Petty Officer Langshaw was trying to undress his stricken crewmate, the sub was heaving up and down in the choppy seas. He was slammed against the side of the boat several times, breaking one of his ribs.
He and Leading Seaman Rowell eventually lifted their exhausted crewmate on to the sub, but the effort meant all three men were spent.
With four men still bobbing in the ocean, a new volunteer swimmer was needed.
Chief Petty Officer Rohan Pugh put up his hand. The 40-year-old Pugh was a veteran lifesaver and father of two from the coastal town of Secret Harbour, south of Perth.
Knowing time was running out for a safe rescue as the conditions worsened, Petty Officer Pugh did not bother with a wetsuit.
Instead, he put on his Speedos with Secret Harbour written on them, slipped on some fins, hopped out of the hatch and into the swirling ocean.
He said he didn't think twice about the risks.
"We're all mates plus we just go and do it," he said.
By this stage, the swell had risen to about two metres and the men had been in the water for more than an hour.
Please read the whole story of the rescue of the five Submariners who went overboard while trying to clear a fouled screw. To CPO Rohan Pugh, PO Greg Langshaw and LS Steven Rowell: Good On Ya, 'Mates.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Five Years Of Sub-Blogging Goodness

Five years ago today, when I was on terminal leave from the Navy, I started The Stupid Shall Be Punished with this post. Now, 2350 posts and over 2.5 million page views later, I celebrate my five year blogiversary. Thanks to all my readers and commenters for making this blog what it is.

This blog has definitely changed in character over the years. As I've run out of non-classified sea stories I can tell, it's become more of a forum where I provide a general topic and the commenters generate most of the interesting content. I'm generally happy with this new direction, but feel somewhat saddened when I think that my best writing is probably behind me. Still, I'll keep plugging along, providing insight into submarine news that happens to make it into the mainstream media, occasional political opinions, and hopefully get back to doing some more movie reviews. I can't promise anything, but I'm certainly hoping to keep this thing going as long as anyone is interested in what I have to say. As I've frequently said, this blog provides a forum for me to keep my foot in the door of the Submarine Force that I love. {/navel gazing}

Thanks again for reading and commenting; I couldn't do it without you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Body Of Taiwanese Submarine Captain Found

The body of Chen Chi-tsung, CO of the Taiwanese submarine Hai Lung (SS 793), was recovered from the sea today. Captain Chen was washed overboard from the sail of his submarine on Monday:
Over a 1,000 Navy personnel, dozens of vessels and chopper sorties were deployed in the two-day search for Chen, who was swept off the submarine Hai Lung's sail, the tower-like structure of the vessel, during a training exercise Monday. Chen was not wearing a life jacket or attached to a safety hook at the time. Chen's body was found at 7:42 a.m. in waters 3.1 nautical miles southwest of the naval port in Zuoying. At 8:02 a.m., a rescue vessel reclaimed the body and verified it as the deceased submarine skipper.
The Hai Lung is a modified Zwaardvis-class submarine of Dutch manufacture, which is based on the old U.S. Barbel-class boats.

The loss of any Submariner is cause for sadness, but seeing a boat loses their skipper is especially heart-rending. Sailor, Rest Your Oar.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Congratulations To The Newly Frocked CPOs

If I remember right, September 15th is the day that the new Chief Petty Officers put on their new uniforms. An important day for the Navy's newest crop of leaders.

Now, it seems that CPO transition is a very organized process. Back in my earlier days in the Navy, it wasn't so much. Do any of you have any stories from the "old days" of Chief's initiation? (I remember my uncle telling me that he was required to put an olive in the martini glass of his "judge" without using his arms, feet, or mouth -- leaving only one body part that could hold and move such an object. He says he didn't fart during the task, so the olive didn't smell too bad.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Submarine Pranks And Unintended Consequences

I always loved good-natured pranks, but found that as the Eng I had to be very careful about not going too far. When I was doing NewCon on Connecticut, we had an electrician get a mild shock; he tagged it out correctly, and verified there was no AC voltage. Unfortunately, since this was new construction, the shipyard had hooked it up wrong, and there was a live DC line going into the cabinet, so he got bit. We filled out the Safety Center report and all the electricians learned to check for both types of voltage until the rest of the time we were in the yards.

When the next compilation of incidents message came out from the Navy Safety Center just as I was writing my Night Orders, I decided to have some fun with it. I printed out the message and put it in Word, then added a "bonus" lesson learned at the end that went something like this:

"Last but not least, on one new construction submarine, some EM was so stupid that he got shocked by DC in an AC cabinet. What a maroon! Only the dumbest electricians could get shocked by the wrong type of voltage..."

I sent the Night Orders down to the boat, and about 15 minutes later got a call from the EDO saying that we had some pretty pissed-off nukes down there. I explained what happened, and he got everyone calmed down. When I came in the next morning, my desk and chair were a mass of EB Green.

Anyone have any good stories about pranks you've seen that have gone awry?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Submarine Wives -- An Appreciation

As I look back over the two dozen years I've now been married to my wife, it makes me think about what a truly amazing group faithful Submarine Wives are in general. Whether it's holding down the home front during our frequent absences to dealing with the amine-saturated clothes when we get back to raising money and awareness for worthy causes, Submarine Wives are a more important part of the success of the Sub Force than we sometimes realize. What we do know, of course, is that they are the center of our homes and our lives, and those of us lucky enough to have a good one would be much diminished without them.

Thank you, Laurie, for sticking with me during these last 24 wonderful years. Thanks for the strength you showed when you had to go through trials when I wasn't there, and thanks for providing me with three wonderful children -- the youngest of which I first saw through the periscope when he was a three weeks old. Here's to many, many more (years, not children).

Friday, September 04, 2009

USS Scranton Returns Home

From the official Navy website, here's a picture of the return of USS Scranton (SSN 756) to Norfolk following a deployment to the Med, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group:

Now that's a picture of a boat that's been working hard. Welcome home, guys!

According to this story of the homecoming, the boat had liberty stops in Souda Bay, Bahrain, and Diego Garcia. I really hope that they stopped in more and better places than those. What's the worst set of port calls you've ever had on a "normal" deployment?

Stupid Rex Rammell Gets Punished

Idiot Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell has been in the national news for making a "joke" about hunting President Obama. (Basically, he was at a picnic where the subject of wolf hunting tags came up, and someone in the audience asked about "Obama tags" and Rammell said "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those.") He doubled down on his idiocy by tweeting that "Obama hunting tags was just a joke! Everyone knows Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue tags in Washington D.C.", leaving open the implication that an Idaho under his leadership would have jurisdiction to issue licenses to shoot the President were he to come to the state. He then claimed that the "CIA" had contacted him about the incident; I assumed that was another one of his "jokes", in that the CIA doesn't handle this sort of thing -- the FBI and Secret Service do -- but then he repeated the bizarre claim at a press conference where he refused to apologize for the "joke", but instead demanded apologies from Republican leaders who had denounced his "joke", and insisted people should "lighten up" in general.

New West Boise has a great report on the press conference that includes some of the question-and-answer section. I wasn't able to attend as an intrepid citizen journalist because I had to work. Had I gone, here are some of the questions I would have asked:

"The Church to which you and I belong has as an Article of Faith that we 'believe in being subject to... presidents...'. Do you believe that you are subject to President Obama as the duly-elected President of the United States?"

"Many of those who share your beliefs say that 2nd Amendment gives them the right to violently overthrow the government using guns. Do you believe that as well?"

"How exactly would they use the guns to overthrow the government without shooting law enforcement officers and military personnel? Do you believe that the recent shooter of the soldiers in Arkansas was acting within his Constitutional rights when he used a gun to oppose government policies, or do you think that this right is only reserved for white Christians?"

"Do you realize that you're lying out your ass when you say that a Boise-based CIA agent contacted you about the incident?"

"If elected Governor (right after cute fuzzy rabbits come flying out of your butt), you may have National Guardsmen from Idaho sent to Afghanistan. Given this world map, can you identify Afghanistan?"

"OK, I admit, that's a tough one. Can you identify a single country on this map?"

"OK, so geography's not your strong point. One last question: In how many gay porn films have you appeared under the name 'Rex Rammer'. What, you don't like that question? It was a joke! Lighten up!"

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Not Everything About "The Old Days" Was Good

I like listening to classic rock; listening to the great songs of the '60s, '70s, and '80s is one of my favorite pasttimes. If your only knowledge of the music of that period comes from what you hear on radio stations today, you might think that music was a lot better back then.

If you do that, you'll be forgetting that the only songs that have made it to the "classic" radio stations are the best of the best. From the '70s, we forget about the horrible songs that actually dominated the airwaves back then: the insipid "Billy, Don't Be A Hero", the banal "You Light Up My Life", and the indescribably horrible "One Tin Soldier". Lastly, don't forget this one: