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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Those New, Improved "Old" Destroyers

From U.S. Naval Institute News a tale of a "old" class of ships in their new incarnation - make that "vastly improved" new incarnation - "The Heart of the Navy’s Next Destroyer":

USS Chafeee (DDG-90) U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey
When the first new Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer enters service with the U.S. Navy in 2019, it will be equipped with a new radar roughly 30 times more powerful than the long-serving Lockheed Martin SPY-1 system found on current Aegis warships. Called the air and missile defense radar (AMDR), the new sensor is expected to exponentially increase the ship’s performance in simultaneously defending the Fleet against both air-breathing and ballistic-missile threats. The key technology that enables such high performance is a semiconductor called gallium nitride (GaN).
***
In addition to having 30 times the sensitivity of the current SPY-1 radar, the AMDR’s dynamic range will be greatly improved, particularly in areas with lots of interference from other emitters, jammers, and clutter. Another key attribute will be the AMDR’s digital beam-forming capability, which enables rapid horizon-to-horizon surveillance of air targets while simultaneously devoting much more energy toward ballistic missile defense . . .
***
Another aspect of the AMDR’s performance will be the result of the radar’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) antennas. Unlike the SPY-1, which is a passive phased-array radar with one large transmit/receive (T/R) element, the AMDR will use many thousands of small T/R modules to form its antenna. About a thousand or so T/R modules will be grouped together to form a sub-array. Several sub-arrays will then make up the radar.

The benefit of such a configuration is that it allows for scalability. But it also affords much more precise control of the radar beam—enabling such capabilities as digital beam-forming. It also eases maintenance since the loss of a few modules has a negligible impact on the overall performance of the system.
***
Small said that the AMDR, even with its advanced capabilities is proving to cost less than originally expected. “Not only are we going to deliver over 30 times the radar capability in sensitivity, we’re doing it for a lot less money than we thought we could even three years ago,” he said.
So, what's not to like? Well, back in March 2013, Bryan McGrath had a few negative vibes in Opinion: Navy Should Avoid a Flight III Arleigh Burke:
The choice of many in the Navy is to create a Flight III DDG-51 variant to house the radar. Essentially, Flight III DDGs would have an entirely new combat system, built around AMDR and allowing each platform to perform simultaneous self-defense and theater ballistic-missile missions, something the current Aegis fleet is challenged to do. The problem is that AMDR will require notable increases in available power, as the sensitivity goals it seeks to meet are a function of both power out and the size of the array. As currently configured, the DDG-51 could not provide either the power required or the cooling capacity necessary to dissipate the heat created by a radar of this size and power. Second, the available real estate on a DDG-51 limits the size of the array available in a manner that sub optimizes the leap-ahead capability that the radar represents. Put another way, the current DDG-51 hull does not have enough power or cooling for AMDR, and even if it did, the room available on the superstructure is insufficient to the task of achieving tactically relevant radar performance.

The Navy’s answer has been to consider altering the DDG-51 in a way that would give it the power and cooling it needs for AMDR (and the power distribution system) while accepting that the array size is sub optimized. This is the Flight III. Some have suggested that a significant lengthening of the hull would be a Flight III feature, though specifics about the concept are not publicly available.

That plan is flawed on several fronts.
***
AMDR is the key to the whole architecture, and shoehorning it into a technically risky, sub optimally sited platform (the DDG-51) makes far less sense than continuing to build the most successful ship type the United States has ever built (the DDG-51) as is, while concentrating on siting AMDR on a platform with growth margins to ensure it can continue to meet the threat in decades to come.

Death to the Great Green Fleet: "Natural Gas Supply Puts Damper On Renewable Energy"

Aviation Week writes "Natural Gas Supply Puts Damper On Renewable Energy":
Projections that the U.S. will become all but self-sufficient in energy by 2035 have profound implications for an aviation fuels market in the early stages of moving from a dependence on petroleum to encompassing a wide and varied range of sources.

Abundant and inexpensive natural gas is making it more difficult for renewable energy sources to establish themselves in the U.S. The nascent biofuels industry is being affected, as gas can be converted to liquid fuels in the near term and in the longer term liquefied natural gas could be used directly in aircraft engines . . . Some alternative-fuel start-ups have switched from biomass to natural gas.
***
But it is the Navy's goals that are drawing the most criticism from conservative lawmakers. Empowered by the Defense Production Act, the Navy has entered into a $510 million agreement with the Energy and Agriculture Departments to promote the development of a domestic advanced biofuel industry through the construction of biofuel refineries. The Navy's share is a $170 million investment, mainly in procurement of fuels to meet its goal of deploying a “Great Green Fleet” strike group of ships and aircraft running entirely on alternative blends by 2016, en route to meeting half of its total energy needs from alternative sources by 2020. To do so, the Navy would need to replace about 8 million barrels of petroleum with unblended alternative fuels by 2020, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported in December.

But being an early adopter means paying higher prices, and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Republicans such as Reps. Randy Forbes (Va.) and Michael Conaway (Texas) say the Navy spending is misguided—particularly as sequestration cuts are hurting military readiness and threatening future technological advantages by starving research and procurement spending. As part of the HASC bill markup in June, Conaway sponsored three successful amendments to ban defense buys of biofuels until their price matches conventional fuel, as well as to halt defense spending for biofuel refineries and encourage Pentagon spending on oil sands and coal-to-liquid fuel.

“This is an area that is better suited for the Energy Department to pursue and to get these fuels affordable and competitive,” Conaway says of alternatives. “If we are needing to apply them, to use these biofuels here in the U.S. to protect the homeland, that would be one thing—but that's not the case.”

But HASC Democrats such as Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.) stress that finding alternatives to petroleum has been a key naval concern for decades, leading to innovations like nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines or the DDG-1000's integrated electric-drive technology. “If in the short term there is a little bit of an expense, well, in the short term there was a little bit of expense in developing oil way back in the day,” Larsen says. “But having alternatives to oil and not being completely dependent, that is important. It's been important in the Navy for a while.”
Gee, Mr. Larsen, natural gas frees up U.S. oil and thus reduces or eliminates "dependence" - and it doesn't cost 4 or 5 times the going rate. Previous thoughts on the silliness of Navy's alternative fuel plan here and here.

Of course, natural gas is a fossil fuel which the current administration views as really, really evil and bad.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Now Hear This" PT Boats



Back during the Korean War, the Navy Recruiting Service and NBC teamed up to produce a radio series, "Now Hear This." Here's one of the shows concerning a type of boat the Navy had abandoned (for the most part) after WWII - the PT Boat:



(to listen, click on the arrow thingie in the box above and the show will start)
For those of you young enough not to remember the days before everyone had television - this is one example of how we got entertainment over the radio. The challenge for the scriptwriter and the listener was to create a mental image of the world being described.

You should also note that the writers took considerable poetic license in this story. While the U.S. fleet was not yet built up, there were heavy ships out there - a tale well told in James D. Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno. We had a nice chat with him about the book on Midrats in 2011.

Not denying the courage and dedication of the PT Boat crews, just saying that it was part of a larger story . . .

By the way, this is an experiment of sorts in learning how to put an mp3 onto this site. There may be a few kinks. Creative commons license applies to the audio.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Fun Film: U.S. Navy in China - The Yangtze River Force

Shades of the Sand Pebbles.

Mid-1930's on the Yangtze River Patrol:



Described here as:
This rare film features ships of the U.S. Asiatic fleet patrolling the Yangtze River. The Asiatic Fleet's gunboats were tasked with protecting American shipping (primarily oil tankers) from pirates and the Japanese. Contains amazing footage of life in China circa 1935 including the cities of Chunking, Shanghai, and the countryside. Ships featured in this film are the USS Augusta (CA-31), USS Borie (DD-215) and USS Simpson (DD-221) as well as US gunboats.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Feds Don't Want to Share Offshore Oil Monies with Adjacent States

I suppose that one could look at this as the federal government looking out for the interests of the citizens of states without offshore oil and gas development, or I suppose one could view it as another means of the feds grabbing money that can then be redistributed to -uh- "favored" entities. In any event, Nick Snow at the Oil and Gas Journal reports, "Administration opposes bill to share OCS revenue with coastal states":

“The revenue-sharing provisions of S. 1273 would ultimately reduce the net return to taxpayers in every state from the development of offshore energy resources owned by all Americans, have significant and long-term costs to the federal treasury, and increase the federal deficit,” said Pamela K. Haze, deputy US Interior secretary for budget, finance, performance, and acquisition.

“In addition, the bill does not appear to be targeted to achieve clear conservation or energy policy outcomes,” Haze said, adding, “For these reasons, the administration cannot support the bill.”

But the bill’s sponsors—Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), the committee’s ranking minority member, and Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.)—countered that coastal states in general and communities in particular are asked to withstand energy development impacts without getting any of the revenue directly.

“It doesn’t make any difference if your project is one, three, or 20 miles offshore,” Murkowski said. “It still uses coastal communities’ resources, and their assets are limited. We know there will be infrastructure impacts because we can see what’s happened to states farther south.”

Landrieu said, “Whether you’re standing on the coast of Oregon, Florida, Louisiana, or Alaska, you can see oil and gas platforms and windmills generating revenue for the federal government, but not for the communities that can’t afford an emergency room at their local hospital.”
***
Cathie J. France, deputy director for energy policy in Virginia’s Mines, Minerals, and Energy Department, said, “I’m always taken aback that we have to pick winners and losers, and that there’s this false line 3 miles offshore.”

She added, “Virginia has one of the most robust ports on the East Coast. With offshore energy production—whether oil, gas, or wind—upgrades will need to be made to bring that energy to all the other states. Giving the states an unfunded mandate to do that is false and ingenuous. It has to be a true partnership to mitigate impacts on coastal communities.”

The discussion is largely academic if most of the federal OCS remains closed to energy resource development, noted National Ocean Industries Association Pres. Randall B. Luthi. “Companies invest capital where they’re allowed to work. This could divert operations to other countries,” he warned.

“It’s only by providing additional oil and gas access that this theoretical resource revenue can become reality,” Luthi said. “Congressional delegations from South Carolina and Virginia have introduced legislation to open areas off their shares. Only in Washington, DC, do we think that getting 100% of nothing is preferable to getting 60% of something.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Need to Read: "The Pipe Dream of Easy War"

As recommended by our guest on Midrats last Sunday, John Nagl, H. R. McMaster's NY Times piece, "The Pipe Dream of Easy War". An excerpt:
Today, budget pressures and the desire to avoid new conflicts have resurrected arguments that emerging technologies — or geopolitical shifts — have ushered in a new era of warfare. Some defense theorists dismiss the difficulties we ran into in Afghanistan and Iraq as aberrations. But they were not aberrations. The best way to guard against a new version of wishful thinking is to understand three age-old truths about war and how our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq validated their importance.
We seem to have trouble learning this lesson as our fantasies overtake what we should know are realities.

I am always reminded of some quotes from T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War:
In July, 1950, one news commentator rather plaintively remarked that warfare had not changed so much, after all. For some reason, ground troops still seemed to be necessary, in spite of the atom bomb. And oddly and unfortunately, to this gentleman, man still seemed to be an important ingredient in battle. Troops were still getting killed, in pain and fury and dust and filth. What happened to the widely-heralded pushbutton warfare where skilled, immaculate technicians who never suffered the misery and ignominy of basic training blew each other to kingdom come like gentlemen?
In this unconsciously plaintive cry lies the buried a great deal of the truth why the United States was almost defeated.
Nothing had happened to pushbutton warfare; its emergence was at hand. Horrible weapons that could destroy every city on Earth were at hand—at too many hands. But, pushbutton warfare meant Armageddon, and Armageddon, hopefully, will never be an end of national policy.
Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud. ”

***
Korea showed it was time to tell the men who man our legions that there is nothing easy in this world, that there are tigers, and to furnish them not only with atomic life eradicators but tiger guns.
All the "magic toys" in the world will not change the fundamentals of ugly hard war.

Read the entire McMaster  piece.

U.S. Coast Guard: Scratch one drug run





From CPO Judy Silverstein at Coast Guard Compass
On the evening of Jul. 15, 2013, a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane from Air Station Miami detected a go-fast in the waters south of Mona Pass. Assisted by infrared capabilities, the sharp aircrew detected suspicious, square-shaped packages onboard and notified the command center at Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Along with Coast Guard Cutter Legare, Coast Guard Cutter Robert Yered and a helicopter from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron were diverted to assist in pursuit of the suspected smugglers. Once on scene, the helicopter crew asked the suspicious vessel to halt. When it failed to do so, warning shots were fired.

As the go-fast continued to flee and began tossing bales overboard, the helicopter fired disabling shots. What began as an adrenaline-laced pursuit resulted in an important seizure of 2,300 pounds of cocaine and the apprehension of four suspected smugglers. The street value of the seizure was estimated at $35 million.
USCG video.

Hump Day Treat: "PT Boats"





 You might also be interested in At Close Quarters: PT Boats in the United States Navy
by Captain Robert J. Bulkley, Jr.,USNR (Retired) (1962)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Why Are . . . Liberals So @&%*! Angry?"

If you leave out the "North Carolina" from the headline - it's still a good question: From the WSJ, Steve Moore: "Why Are North Carolina Liberals So @&%*! Angry?". Part of his answer is even better:
So what are liberals of all stripes so angry about in North Carolina?
***
. . . the answer to my question is he and his followers are mad as hell about, well . . . everything
Mostly they seem to be angry that the NC government, after a zillion years of being in the hands of Democrats is now held by Republicans.

What's the old poker saying? "Winners count their money and the losers cry deal."

If you can't read the sign, it urges protection of "Mentally Ill/Unemployed/Students/Teachers/Prisoners/Uninsured/Elderly/Minorities/Disabled"

Most of them apparently "victims" of the need to balance the state budget.

Whatever.

Isn't it always about the money?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Balloon-Borne Broadband for Emergencies

The 4G LTE balloon platform—on its way up to 70,000 feet!
One of those good ideas - from Oceus Networks Deployable LTE Solution Above the Clouds to Support Public Safety :
Oceus Networks Inc., the market leader in delivering mobile 4G LTE broadband networking solutions, announced today that it has successfully demonstrated the efficacy of a deployable 4G LTE solution on a high-altitude balloon platform, which can be used to rapidly provide broadband coverage and communications services to first responders within the first 72 hours following an emergency or natural disaster.

The exercise, conducted near Boulder, Colo. last week, launched an airborne 4G LTE cellular network, allowing engineers to collect data and characterize the
Balloon platform at 75,000 feet.
performance of a high altitude 4G LTE public safety system.


The payload traveled nearly 200 miles and reached an altitude of 75K feet. The experiment supports the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture (DACA) initiative, which is exploring the role of High Altitude Platforms in the national public safety network. Oceus Networks partnered with Space Data to deliver an innovative platform for public safety communications restoration in the event of large scale commercial outages after major natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
***
Accoeding to Emergency Management, the trial balloon ". . .traveled nearly 200 miles, reached an altitude of 75,000 feet, transmitted an LTE network signal that provided a 100 km radius of coverage . . ."
So, if LA experienced a disaster, you could put one of these things up and cover(roughly) the area within the yellow box on the map below.
That's pretty good. You might note that "72 hour" time frame. Plan on being self-sufficient for at least that period.


Photos from here. I made the silly map on Google Earth.

As an aside, I recently received a certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management from the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. If you are interest in such a program, you might look here. The new CPDM Curriculum is one class shorter than it was when I took the course.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Midrats Episode 185: Getting "Next" Right with John Nagl - Sunday 21 July 13 at 5 pm

Join us this Sunday, 21 July at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) for Midrats Episode 185: Getting "Next" Right with John Nagl:
So, which is it? Do we forget our history and are therefore doomed to repeat it, or are we
always preparing to fight the next war?

As we finish up the final chapter of our participation in Afghanistan after well over a decade, and reflect on the changes in the arch of the Muslim world from the Atlas mountains to Mindanao - what do we need, intellectually, to retain for what is coming "next?"

With one eye on historical patterns and another on developing economic, demographic, and political trends - what do we need to do to man, train, and equip the armed forces to be best positioned to address what we think we will face, but flexible enough to meet what we don't know?

Our guest for the full hour will be John Nagl, Lt Col USA (Ret.), PhD, presently the Minerva Research Professor at the US Naval Academy, previously the President of CNAS.

Dr. Nagl was a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Military Academy Class of 1988 who served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army for 20 years. His last military assignment was as commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor. He led a tank platoon in Operation Desert Storm and served as the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nagl taught national security studies at West Point and Georgetown University and served as a Military Assistant to two Deputy Secretaries of Defense.

He earned his Master of the Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and his doctorate from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

He is the author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and was on the writing team that produced the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. His writings have also been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, among others.
Join us live on the 21st or, if you can't make it, pick the show up later by clicking here.

Friday Fun Film: The Before WWII Navy

 The U.S. Fleet before Pearl Harbor - early 1941:



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Turkish-Owned Tanker Taken Off Gabon on 15 July 13

Reported as "Pirates Hijack Tanker And Crew Off West Africa Coast":
Pirates hijacked an oil tanker off the coast of Gabon, West African country, on Monday.
The tanker, carrying a crew of 24 Indians, is believed to be in Nigerian waters. Nigerian officials have not yet commented.
Confirmation from the owners here:
The Turkish company Genel Denizcilik has confirmed in a statement July 17 that one of its tankers was seized off the coast of Port-Gentil in Gabon.

It also said that the MV Cotton, flying the Maltese flag, had a crew of 24, all of whom were Indian. The statement also added that the company was in touch with the crew’s families as well as the local officials.

ShipSpotting.com
© Danylo Myachyn


UPDATE 23 July 13: From Live Piracy Report: "The vessel was released on 22 July 2013 off Nigeria. All crew safe. "

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

North Korea: Cheat and Smuggle

See photo info below
The Wall Street Journal says a North Korean ship leaving Cuba had more than sugar in its holds - "North Korean Ship Yields Worrisome Cargo"
The U.S. and Panama had been tracking the ship for several days, suspecting it was carrying weapons and that it was going to try to transit the canal, said a U.S. official.

U.S. officials said they hoped Panama would stop the ship to inspect it, and publicly praised Panama for doing so. "The U.S. was aware of the suspected shipment and believed the Panamanian officials were going to stop it," a U.S. official said.

A State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, said the U.S. has pushed for enforcement of U.N. resolutions restricting North Korean weapons activities. "Any shipment of arms would violate numerous U.N. security resolutions," he said.
More from the BBC here:

ShipSpotting.com
© Malcolm Cranfield



The ship, the Chong Chon Gang, was stopped near Manzanillo on the Atlantic side of the canal last week.

It had left Russia's far east in April and travelled across the Pacific Ocean before entering the canal at the start of June, with Cuba as its stated destination.


The ship had crossed the Pacific without its automatic tracking system switched on - a move described by the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner as highly suspicious.

Panama's Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino told the BBC that the ship - carrying 250,000 bags of sugar - was seized on 10 July after a tip-off that it was linked to drugs, but the "resistance and violence from the crew" delayed the search.

He said the suspected weaponry was found in two containers and did not rule out further "surprises" as the search of the ship continues.
Current NORK Kim-in-Charge
USA Today reports that Cuba says the systems found buried under all that sugar were "obsolete."

Hmmm. "Obsolete" like the governments of Cuba and North Korea?

About that photo - this site captions the photo as "The first released photos of the arms. Captain of the
ship." Of course, the larger photo is from the ship, taken by a Panamanian government official. The inset, however, appears to be the NORK Current-Kim-in-Charge, Kim Jong Un. Unless, of course, he captains weapons smuggling ships in addition all the other amazing stuff he is up to.

U.S. Navy's New Tool? The Unmanned Submarine Follower

Ah, robots!

Faced with high ship building, operating and personnel costs, the U.S. Navy tasks the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to come up with some help in the hard job of keeping track of quiet diesel- electric submarines for long periods. DARPA has responded with s plan for something called the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV). DARPA says:
The program is structured around three primary goals:


  1. Explore the performance potential of a surface platform conceived from concept to field demonstration under the premise that a human is never intended to step aboard at any point in its operating cycle. As a result, a new design paradigm emerges with reduced constraints on conventional naval architecture elements such as layout, accessibility, crew support systems, reserve buoyancy and dynamic stability. The objective is to generate a vessel design that exceeds state-of-the art platform performance to provide complete propulsive overmatch against diesel electric submarines at a fraction of their size and cost.
  2. Advance unmanned maritime system autonomy to enable independently deploying systems capable of missions spanning thousands of kilometers of range and months of endurance under a sparse remote supervisory control model. This includes autonomous compliance with maritime laws and conventions for safe navigation, autonomous system management for operational reliability, and autonomous interactions with an intelligent adversary.
  3. Demonstrate the capability of the ACTUV system to use its unique characteristics to employ non-conventional sensor technologies that achieve robust continuous track of the quietest submarine targets over their entire operating envelope.
So, as reported in the Navy League's Sea Power magazine:
DARPA selected six industry proposals for the ACTUV concept in January 2010 for Phase 1 of the program, the concept definition phase. In August 2012, DARPA selected Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) to design, construct and demonstrate an ACTUV prototype under the next three phases of the program under a $58 million contract. SAIC “proposed a trimaran platform: key features and innovations for the vessel, sensors, autonomy and
software. The scope of the program includes developing and testing a Remote Supervisory Control System,” Littlefield said.

In March, Raytheon Co. announced that it had been selected by SAIC to provide the sonar system for the ACTUV. The Modular Scalable Sonar System (MS3), a fifth-generation development of the company’s 30-yearold medium-frequency, hull-mounted SQS-56 sonar will have both active and passive acoustic search, detection, passive threat filtering, localization and tracking capabilities. It also will provide torpedo detection and alert and avoidance of small objects.
DARPA ACTUV Simulator Screen Shot

*** The ACTUV’s sonar will need to be autonomous, performing the difficult task of submarine tracking without an operator directing its operation. It will need sophisticated algorithms for automatic tracking, including maintaining a low false-target detection rate. The sonar also will help the ACTUV observe the rules of safe navigation applicable to any vessel at sea.
If this concept works, it will be quite the force enhancer.

UPDATE: DARPA want you to have fun exploring this concept - with its Can You Outsmart an Enemy Submarine Commander? bit, including a chance to run through a simulator.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Zimmerman verdict protesters show their depth of feelings by storming Wal-Mart

Clearly evil.
Really, this LA Times headline says a great deal about the LA version of a protest about a jury verdict in Florida: Zimmerman verdict protesters attack TV reporter, storm Wal-Mart:
Young vandals who entered the Wal-Mart stormed in, threw merchandise on the ground and yelled, shoppers told a Times reporter. Some tried to break open the jewelry glass displays.

Oh, those evil jewelry cases.


Good-Bye Old Paint

The tow truck arrived this morning to take away my 1996 Saturn.

After 17 years of abuse and faithful service, this bland little piece of reliability is headed to earn money for the university radio/PBS (aka National Communist Radio when the liberal commentary gets too much for me).

Bought after a teenage child wrecked my pickup truck in Texas and given to that same kid when he graduated from college and went off to Navy flight school, the car came back after 7 years and we drove it another 5 until - well, the cost of keeping it became higher than the cost of replacing it.

190,000 miles. It survived Texas, Pensacola, Norfolk, North Carolina and my monthly commutes to DC during that final Navy Reserve tour. It taught four kids to drive a stick, change oil and tires. It's plastic side never showed dings or dents. The windows (all but the front passenger side) quit working. The a/c quit. It got a new clutch. It toted tons of stuff and really never complained much. It carried dogs and cats and moved people from dorms to apartments and houses. It was a work car and when a road became a little winding - it was fun to run through the gears and pretend it was a sports car. Oil began to appear in the coolant reservoir. It was not worth fixing. To its dying days it always got 35+ miles on the highway and close to 30 around town,

Sad to see it go? Sure - it was a loyal little beast. But the good memories will last.

There are those lines from that cowboy song, "Good-Bye Old Paint" -
Old Paint's a good pony.
He runs when he can,
Good morning young lady,
My pony won't stand.
Thanks, old friend.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Midrats 14 July 13: Episode 184: "The Big Man Theory"

Join us for Midrats on 14 July 13 at 5pm Eastern for Episode 184: "The Big Man Theory"

What is the impact of the right man at the right time with the right ideas? What is the impact of what seems to some as just a man, but to a son is all?

For the first half of the hour we will have LCDR BJ Armstrong to discuss his book, 21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era.

For the second half of the hour our guest will be Stephen Roderick to discuss his book, The Magical Stranger: A Son's Journey into His Father's Life.

LCDR BJ Armstrong is a Naval Aviator and an occasional naval historian. His articles have appeared in numerous journals including USNI's Proceedings and Naval History, Naval War College Review, and Infinity Journal to name a few. He is a research student with the Department of War Studies at King's College, University of London. He was recently named the 2013-14 Morison Scholar by Naval History and Heritage Command and was awarded the 2013 Navy League Alfred Thayer Mahan Award.


Stephen Rodrick is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and a contributing editor for Men's Journal. He has also written for New York, Rolling Stone, GQ, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Men's Journal, and others. The Magical Stranger is his first book.

Before becoming a journalist, Rodrick worked as a deputy press secretary for United States Senator Alan J. Dixon. He hold a bachelors and masters in political science from Loyola University of Chicago and a masters in journalism from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.
Join us live or listen later by clicking here

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Fun Film: "The Small Boat Navy"

Raymond Burr narrates the story of river warfare and coastal surveillance in an earlier war:




Everything old is new again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Better protection of US energy facilities needed" - former CIA head says

Oil and Gas Journal's Nick Snow reports "Ex-CIA chief calls for better protection of US energy facilities":
Valero Refinery
US energy firms and government officials should be more concerned with physically protecting domestic facilities from attacks than lining up supplies, former Central Intelligence Agency Director R. James Woolsey maintained.

Electric power generation and distribution systems look particularly vulnerable, Woolsey said in wide-ranging remarks July 7 at Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies.

But oil and gas facilities also could be targets, with refineries at greater risk than pipelines and production operations, said Woolsey, who was CIA director during the Clinton administration and now is a venture partner with Lux Capital management.

He said federal and local officials became concerned following an incident on Apr. 16—a day after the Boston Marathon bombings—where several individuals in San Jose, Calif., were observed shooting at power pole transformers in the middle of the night.

Authorities there later found that other people had lifted a manhole cover and reached telephone landlines beneath a street at about the same time, Woolsey said. “These apparently weren’t teenagers who had grabbed their fathers’ rifles for some late night fun,” he added. “They had something more serious in mind.”
Read it all.

Of course, the same government that delays a crude oil pipeline in favor of less safe rail tank cars is carefully monitoring this threat . . . .

Refineries are complex plants, however, and are not all that compact, so they are harder targets than you might think.

Not-So-Big Mystery: Who took out Syrian Anti-Ship Missiles? Hmmm.

It is very small mystery but Syrian rebels say it wasn't their doing, Rebels Claim Israel Bombed
Russian-Made Anti-Ship Missiles:
Syrian rebels have implicitly fingered Israel for the bombing of Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles near the Syrian port of Latakia last week, a bombing that the Assad regime has blamed on a group linked with Al Qaeda terrorists.
***
The target at Latakia, according to the rebels, was a cache of Yakhont anti-ship missiles, which could be used to attack Israel’s offshore natural gas and oil rigs and would have been at least the fourth time Israel has bombed a site in Syria this year.
You remember the Yakhont threat, right?

More fun "speculation" by David Barnett over at The Long War Journal:
Hezbollah's Al Manar claimed that the explosions were the result of stray mortars from local clashes, according to Ynet News. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was unclear who caused the explosions, according to Agence France Presse. A Syrian official purportedly told state media that al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists using European weaponry conducted the attack.

A source told the pro-Assad outlet Al Akhbar that three missiles were fired at the base, which caused the explosions and led to the death of at least one soldier. The report further alleged that the rockets may have been fired near the coast, if not from the sea itself.

Reuters today quoted Qassem Saadeddine, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, as saying foreign elements were behind the attack on Latakia. "This attack was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean," Saadeddine stated. Saadeddine also said that the attack targeted "newly supplied Yakhont missiles," according to Reuters.
Oh, well, whoever did this - nice targeting.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Somali Pirates: Ship Being Held By Pirates Sinks - Some Crew and Pirates Dead



A Malayasian-owned cargo cargo ship held by Somali pirates has sunk, as reported here:
A Reuters news report said that at least four foreign crew members and seven Somali pirates died when the cargo ship that the pirates were holding to ransom off the Somali coast sank, and 13 others were missing.

The Malaysian-owned MV Albedo cargo vessel and its crew were hijacked 900 miles off Somalia on Nov. 26, 2010 while sailing from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya.

“The ship has been gradually sinking for almost a week, but it sank totally last night,” a pirate who works with the gang said on Monday by telephone from Haradheere, Somalia’s main pirate base.

“We have confirmed that four foreign (crew) and seven pirates died. We are missing 13 in total,” said the pirate, who gave his name as Hussein. “We had no boats to save them.”

The Albedo had 23 crew from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran when it was seized.

Hussein said the captain had died earlier and four of the crew had previously been taken off the ship. With four dead, this would leave 14 to be accounted for, and it was not clear why there was a discrepancy with the pirates’ figures.

The EU Naval Force, a European Union anti-piracy unit that protects merchant shipping off the Horn of Africa, said the whereabouts of 15 crew were still unclear.

“EU Naval Force can confirm that the Malaysian flagged motor vessel MV Albedo, held by armed pirates at an anchorage close to the Somali coast, has sunk in rough seas,” a statement on the force’s website said.
More from EN NAVFOR here:
EU Naval Force can confirm that the Malaysian flagged Motor Vessel MV Albedo, held by armed pirates at an anchorage close to the Somali Coast, has sunk in rough seas.

MV Albedo has been in pirate hands since it was attacked in the Indian Ocean in November 2010, and was in pirate hands when it sank.

An EU Naval Force warship and Maritime Patrol Aircraft have closed the sea area and are carrying out a Search and Rescue operation to search for any survivors. The whereabouts of the 15 crew members from MV Albedo is still to be confirmed.

EU Naval Force continues to monitor the situation
MV Albedo was the last ship being held by Somali pirates, as set out by vesseltracker.com:
Both pirates commander and EU NAVFOR mentioned m/v Albedo having mechanical problems for months, which is no wonder. Vessel in pirates captivity was as good as derelict, from the point of view of proper maintenance. To stand against storm in an open bay means either moving out to the sea, or at least, if staying at anchor, keeping vessel’s bow against swell and wind, which requires an operational main engine.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Help Your Congressperson to Lower Your Gasoline Prices -Tell Them to Repeal "Renewable Fuel Standard" Mandates

From the Oil and Gas Journall, a little truth in why adding more ethanol to gasoline is a bad idea on a number of fronts:

. . . Congress set mandates for fuel ethanol far in excess of what the market safely and economically can use.

It did so under political pressure from agricultural interests. The ethanol mandate has been great for growers and distillers of corn.

For anyone else who buys fuel or food, it costs too much. And it will get worse.

The statutory requirement for ethanol from grain soon will exceed the gasoline market's capacity to use it at normal blending levels. Refiners and other blenders must buy credits to make up the difference. Prices of the credits are rising.

Meanwhile, a requirement for ethanol from cellulose is phasing in, although that material remains scarce. Blenders unable to meet sales mandates must pay fines.

Producers of gasoline thus face rapidly rising costs and have a growing incentive to export product rather than sell it domestically. Rising costs and diminished supply promise increasing prices at the pump.
...
The program is a disaster—and not because ethanol is bad stuff. It's a disaster because Congress, in order to make those grain growers and distillers happy —meaning rich— tried to outwit the market.

This never works. And it's inevitably corrupt.

A bipartisan bill to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard, as this fiasco is known, was introduced in the House in April. Now a group of Democrats and Republicans has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

With consumers in jeopardy, the end of the RFS can't happen soon enough.

It won't remove ethanol from gasoline. It will, however, bring the amount of food burned in US vehicle engines back to rational and affordable proportions.
We have lots of natural gas, which burns cleaner than gasoline and doesn't "burn food." Perhaps this idiotic "Renewable Fuel Standards" effort is a backhanded way to encourage the market to expand NG availability for cars and truck and to help vehicle owners make the switch. Probably not,though, considering the source of the legislation.

According to an Exxon report, vehicles powered by natural gas have a 25% higher initial cost and is less "energy dense" so it may require more frequent fill-ups and other issues. However, these seem to be technological issues and I suspect that higher levels of production of NG vehicles would drive the price down and the availability of refill stations to expand. In addition, NG carries a lower price than gasoline so it is possible to recover the extra costs in a lifetime (unlike,say, with a hybrid car) . . . see here:
With so much supply that energy companies are pulling rigs out of the ground to cut back on production, natural gas is starting to look more appealing as a cheaper and cleaner alternative to gasoline and diesel.
As much as I hate to agree with Boone Pickens NG may be the way to go. And it may help remove one more seed of corruption in Washington.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Have You the Courage to Stand Up to a Tyrant?

Have you the courage to sign your name to these words and live with the consequences?
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

China Issues Threat to the Philippines Over South China Sea

Yes, you could call it a "warning" as Reuters does in China media warns Philippines of 'counterstrike' in South China Sea, but we all know a threat made by a bully when we hear one, don't we? From the Reuters article:
The overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a front-page commentary that the Philippines had committed "seven sins" in the South China Sea.

These include the "illegal occupation" of the Spratly Islands, inviting foreign capital to engage in oil and gas development in the disputed waters and promoting the "internationalization" of the waters, said the commentary.

The Philippines has called on the United States to act as a "patron", while ASEAN has become an "accomplice," said the commentary, which does not amount to official policy but can reflect the government's thinking.

"The Philippines, knowing that it's weak, believes that 'a crying child will have milk to drink'," the People's Daily said, accusing Manila of resorting to many "unscrupulous" tricks in the disputed waters.

Beijing's assertion of sovereignty over a vast stretch of the South China Sea has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to other parts of the sea.
Wow, even reads like the words of 12-year old thug picking on a smaller kid.

The U.S. has defense agreements with the Philippines.

"Seven sins" against China -that's pretty good -setting China up as a victim.

 And you have to love the use of the "counterstrike" to justify an act of aggression against a country with a very weak military.

 Perhaps China is afraid that international law won't recognize its claims to the Spratly Islands and the entirety of the South China Sea?

Or perhaps they see the U.S. as too timid to react on behalf of an ally? Everyone else seems to be tweaking our nose lately.