Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Amateur sub builders mock captured drug smuggler effort

Just the other day I was discussing with a friend that whatever thing you can think of, there is probably someone who has made a hobby of it. You know, collecting toast with images of Brittany Spears burned into it, and that sort of thing. I suppose, therefore, that I should not have been stunned to learn that there are hobbyists who build and operate homebuilt submarines. But I was, especially when they were called upon to critique the crude (now captured submarine) recently interdictedby the Coast Guard. It is all reported here:
"The captured drug-sub appears to be amateurish in construction and not nearly as seaworthy as the subs we have seen, designed and built," said Jon Wallace, a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard in Weare, N.H. In 1996 he cofounded the Personal Submersibles Organization, which now counts about 13,000 visitors per month to its Web site, psubs.org.

"Semi-submersible at best," sniffed another critic in a posting on the group's site.

After reading reports and seeing photographs of the captured vessel, hobbyists concluded that the gray drug craft was crudely constructed and not a serious attempt at building a submarine. Some said it was more a boat meant to blend into the water, skim just below the surface, travel long distances and avoid radar detection. A giveaway was that it was made of fiberglass -- which is generally not a good material for building a submersible vessel, they say. It also had a squarish design rather than the cylindrical shape required to withstand pressure and stress.
Some sub enthusiasts question why smugglers would use a submarine in the first place since subs are slow and must surface. "I could see somebody towing a submersible below a cargo ship," wrote one on the psubs.org Web site and electronic mailing list. George Slaterpryce, 28, a software engineer in Ocala, Fla., suggested that "a true smuggling submarine" would "have to be something that cruises at 60 feet or so (just deep enough not to be easily noticed)," be constructed of lightweight materials and powered by a relatively silent motor and have enough air for days of submersion.
Tough crowd.

The picture is of one man's homebuilt and came fom here. I think the Coasties need better sonar, ASAP.

Russian ship wreck temporarily closes Bosphorus

Reported here:
The Bosphorus Strait was closed to vessel traffic as a Russian-flagged cargo ship crashed against a construction pontoon in the Turkish city of Istanbul late on Tuesday , Xinhua news agency reports.

Maritime officials were quoted as saying that ’Volgodon 213’, which tried to pass the north-south route in Istanbul Strait without a maritime pilot hit the pontoon Tuesday night.
Some chokepoints are easily closed.

Nice satellite photo, too.

China's Navy a "work in progress"

Noted here in a piece by Bernard D. Cole:
China’s naval modernization during the past 15 years, and especially since the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995-1996, has clearly been focused on preparing for a possible armed conflict over the island’s status, a conflict that would almost certainly feature a maritime scenario. This contingency has provided the basic rationale for the ongoing naval modernization programs that, while striking in terms of capability, have been moderate in terms of pace and priority.
The key question for the continuing development of maritime strategy in China is “What beyond Taiwan?” That is, what will guide the employment of the PLAN following resolution of the Taiwan issue? A likely strategy will emphasize classic command of the sea, defined as the naval ability to defend vital national maritime interests.

Update: Dr. Cole is a professor at the U.S. National War College. The piece also appears here.

Update2: Another interesting piece here, addressing the recent episode of a Chinese submarine surfacing near the Kittyhawk battle group:
This focus on surface ship attacks indicates that the PLAN does not plan to employ its new submarines as “sub killers,” tasked with locating and attacking U.S. or other opposing submarines, but instead intends to use its new submarine force to focus on U.S. surface ships in general and aircraft carriers in particular as their primary targets.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

First Amendment? Heck, this doesn't even pass the common sense test

With a hat tip to Best of the Web: Read Students expelled for teddy bear film for an example of schools that need some courses in ogic for the people in charge. Highlights:
Two students are suing to return to school after they were expelled for making a movie in which evil teddy bears attack a teacher.

The teenagers were among four students expelled from Knightstown High School over the movie, "The Teddy Bear Master." Two of the boys are asking a federal judge in Indianapolis to order the students reinstated, arguing that school officials overreacted to a film parody and violated their First Amendment rights.

But Knightstown Principal Jim Diagostino and Superintendent David McGuire don't see the humor, and note that the teacher who is threatened in the movie has the same last name as a real teacher in the district.

"That's crazy to think that's a threat to anyone," said Linda Imel, 42, whose 15-year-old son, Isaac, and his friend Cody Overbay, 16, have filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
I note the ACLU is on the case for the students and, for a change, I think the ACLU is on the right side.

Evil teddy bears? What kind of threat is that?

Japanese diplomat to take helm of Singapore anti-piracy center- but there's a catch

Reported here:
A Japanese diplomat was appointed Tuesday as the first executive director of an information sharing center to be launched by Asian countries to combat piracy in the region, the Japanese Embassy in Singapore said.

Yoshiaki Ito, minister at Japan's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, will head the center in Singapore.

The center will be officially launched Wednesday as part of a Japan-initiated pact for Asian countries to tackle the threat of piracy in the region, especially in the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest waterways.

The pact, known as the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, or "ReCAAP," involves 14 countries.
The catch?
The 14 countries taking part in the meeting are Cambodia, Japan, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Bangladesh and China.

Malaysia and Indonesia, littoral states seen as vital to maintaining security in the Malacca Strait, participated in a meeting in Tokyo to launch the pact in 2004, but they have not ratified the pact, raising doubts about the efficacy of the accord.
Still worrying about sovereignty, I think...

Monday, November 27, 2006

LNG: Fear-mongering as profit center

Heh. Former White House counter-terror guy Richard Clarke as a high-priced LNG "fear monger":
Richard Clarke, the former U.S. anti-terrorism official who has been going around as a very well-paid consultant warning about the dangers posed by shipping liquefied natural gas, should consider in public -- as politically unpopular as that might be among the many millions of beneficiaries of LNG imports -- how safe the importation of this fuel actually is.
Earlier this month, on the same day that Mr. Clarke was terrifying members of the Boston City Council about the city's imminent incineration, Suez LNG, which brings the fuel to the terminal in Everett, next to Boston, announced that the 1,000th cargo loaded at its LNG facility in Trinidad had arrived in Boston. It was the 174th trip to the Hub for the tanker Suez Matthew since it went into service, seven years ago. Boston's LNG terminal has received almost 750 LNG shipments without incident since its startup, 35 years ago.
The Trinidad-Everett link is a critical way for New England to receive natural gas. The fossil fuel meets some 20 percent of the region's natural-gas demand, and is used for home heating, industrial use and electricity generation. The fuel has had increased demand in recent years because it is much cleaner-burning than coal and oil.
Mr. Clarke bases his objections on the potential of a terrorist attack on the facility in Everett, or on the Suez Matthew while transiting Boston Harbor, or going up the Mystic River. Since 9/11, visits by the ship have been attended by increased security, including armed surveillance on bridges and, indeed, elsewhere along its route.
Last year, Mr. Clarke made presentations in Rhode Island and in Fall River, where LNG terminals have been proposed. These were used by such politicians as Fall River's mayor, Edward Lambert, to whip up opposition to the proposals.
In fact, the region needs more LNG, and more LNG terminals, which Mr. Clarke effectively acknowledges: His presentation in Boston was as a paid consultant for the developers of a proposed LNG facility on one of Boston Harbor's outer islands -- a very good idea in itself.
Nothing in human affairs is utterly without any risk but Mr. Clarke's well-compensated fear-mongering, without any balancing facts, ill serves the region. Meanwhile, in Europe and Asia, LNG shipments continue to go into some of the world's biggest ports.
That's what I've been saying...like here and here (specifically referring to Mr. Clarke) and here.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't get paid one red cent for my opinions on LNG, though I am open to offers. I wonder who pays Mr.Clarke?

The Threat to Somaliland and why peace in Somalia is far away

Reported here:
While Somaliland seeks recognition, the situation in Somalia has radically changed. A chaotic and violent “state" with no functioning central government at all now has a radical Islamic regime consolidating its hold on ever-wider areas of the south, following its takeover of the capital, Mogadishu, in June. The Islamic Courts Union -the armed wing of the Council of Islamic Somali Courts -defeated a coalition of warlords (the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism), then gained popular legitimacy when credible reports circulated that the warlords were clandestinely supported by Washington.

The U.S. and the international community continue to recognize the impotent and corrupt Transitional Federal Government, set up in 2004 via a Kenya-based process known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. They reiterated their support when the ICU seemed poised to defeat the TFG, holed up in its inland headquarters in the town of Baidoa. At present there is a cease-fire between the two factions, but as an indication of the latter’s fragility, on Sept. 18 a car bomb aimed at TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed went off outside of Parliament, killing 18 people. The U.S. is now part of a large contact group whose aim is to get the ICU and the TFG to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement.
Both the ICU and TFG concur in one thing: their determination to reincorporate Somaliland into Somalia. Though this was always their intent, the TFG was never in a position to do anything about it. Now, with the ICU’s ascendancy, the prospect of forcible reintegration has new momentum, especially now that leaders of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, an organization of six African countries focused on drought control and development initiatives, has called for sending a peacekeeping mission to Somalia. IGAD is also requesting that the U.N. lift its arms embargo on Somalia.

In response, Somaliland has vowed to fight reunification and the lifting of the U.N. ban.
That reaction is not surprising given the history of Somalia. On June 26, 1960, the “state of Somaliland" was given its independence from Great Britain, and immediately recognized by 35 nations, including the United States. Five days later the area of Italian Somalia was given its independence. The two legislatures met and decided to unify with the capital to be set in the south in Mogadishu.

Following a year of missteps by the new government, dissident northerners boycotted a referendum on unification. The subsequent period of corruption and clanism in Somalia was halted by a 1969 military coup that brought General Mohamed Siad Barre to power in Mogadishu. Barre proclaimed a socialist Somalia as the “Somali Democratic Republic," and launched a period of increasingly autocratic rule.

After Somalia’s defeat in the Ogaden War with Ethiopia, Abdullahi Yusuf, among other leaders, led a failed coup against Barre. Isaaq clan leaders in what is now Somaliland formed a guerrilla movement to continue the fight against Barre and suffered heavy reprisals during the 1980s. With their help, southern opposition movements forced Barre out in January 1991. Five months later the "Republic of Somaliland" declared its independence and proclaimed Mohamed Ibrahim Egal president. Somaliland has maintained its independence ever since, while Somalia entered a 15-year period of collapse and violence.

The history of independent Somaliland since 1991 has been one of steady democratization. A process laid out in a national charter agreed to at a 1993 “Grand National Reconciliation Conference" survived a period of clan fighting to produce a national constitution, which was ratified in a 2001 referendum that was also a plebiscite on independence. The district elections that followed were judged free and fair by international observers. After Egal’s death, Dahir Rayale Kahin, the appointed interim president, won the 2003 presidential elections - whose results were so close they went to the Supreme Court for adjudication. The decision in Rayale’s favor was fully accepted by the electorate.

The September 2005 legislative elections completed Somaliland’s full transition to democracy. “In 14 years, we have created a free and stable country and held multiparty elections at the local and presidential levels, plus a referendum on our constitution," Pres. Kahin declared. “This parliamentary poll is the final step in the process, and we have earned the right to recognition."
Given the evolution of international norms and standards, there is an argument for democracy as a basis for according international legitimacy to Somaliland. There is no doubt that Somaliland has a claim on the international community’s attention - in the words of the U.S. National Intelligence Strategy - to “ward off threats to representative democracy."
If we are interested in making the world safe for democracy, Somaliland might be a place to work on it.

South Africa takes notice of southerly trending sea pirates

Reported as Sea pirates drift south to threaten SA waters:
Ruthless sea pirates who plunder hundreds of ships each year off the coast of Africa are moving south, threatening South African waters, the Pretoria News reported on Monday.

The United Nations Security Council and international maritime safety organisations have urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to take drastic action against the gangs of heavily armed pirates.

According to their report, between January and November, 48 ships were attacked around Africa by gangs of pirates armed with an assortment of weapons -- including surface-to-surface missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, armed helicopters and heavy calibre machine-guns such as anti-aircraft guns.

The calls for precaution also follow South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils's warnings last year that sea piracy was creeping closer and closer to South Africa and that the country needs to "move swiftly" and establish good intelligence networks to stop pirate attacks.

The report also uncovered that some of the pirates operate phantom ships disguised as vessels in distress.

They are believed to use intelligence operatives stationed at Richards Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town harbours to feed organised crime syndicates with information detailing sailing times, destinations, routes, cargoes and numbers of crew.
Oh, arrgh!

Hey, it really is Maritime Monday 35 at Fred Fry International

Need a diversion from wondering what part of the Thanksgiving turkey is left for dinner? A visit to Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 35 is diverting. You know, like sea launching rockets and all sorts of other things.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rangel: Ooops, he does it again; or, don't confuse me with facts, I've already made up my mind

Charlie Rangel, Rep (NY) is not as smart as my Navy helicopter flying son, who also happens to be a graduate of a fine public university and the son of college educated professionals. And, trust me, there isn't much unemployment around this neighborhood or city or state.

Doesn't stop old Charlie, however, because, he doesn't need no "stinkin' statistics" to believe what he believes, as is made a little too clear here in a truly astonishing interview.

The man wants "slavery" for our youth, I tell you, and won't rest until every child of every household is forced, under penalty of law to do the government's bidding.

Of course, maybe his biography explains why he doesn't get the idea of work outside the government or the freedom to choose one's own path:
He has spent his entire career in public service, first as an Assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and later in the New York State Assembly. He was elected to the 92nd Congress on November 3, 1970, and has been re-elected to each succeeding congress.

UPDATE: Some facts that Mr. Rangel does not let influence his belief system:
The Facts About Today's Soldiers[5]

The average reading level of new soldiers is roughly a full grade level higher than their civilian peers'.

Enlistees' high school graduation rate was 97 percent in 2003, 2004, and 2005. The civilian graduation rate is seventeen percentage points lower.

The wealthiest 40 percent of neighborhoods in America are the home of 45.6 percent of 2005 enlistees. For every two U.S. recruits from the poorest neighborhoods, three come from the richest.

There is no statistical evidence to support the claim that minorities are being targeted or exploited for military service. The 100 zip codes with the highest proportions of African-Americans were actually under-represented among military enlistees in 2005.

Every U.S. military recruit of the last 33 years has been a volunteer.

Antiwar criticism has morphed into a patronizing attitude toward GIs, by way of questioning the quality of the men and women who volunteer to serve. Perhaps it is easier for the antiwar Left to believe that soldiers are unintelligent than to believe that they are taking risks willingly because they actually believe in the war's purpose.
And since Mr.Rangel is apparently unwilling to look it up for himself, the report on which the above facts are based is found here:
A report published by The Heritage Foundation in November 2005 examined the issue and could not substantiate any degradation in troop quality by comparing military enlistees in 1999 to those in 2003. It is possible that troop quality did not degrade until after the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, when patriotism was high. A common assumption is that the Army experienced difficulty getting qualified enlistees in 2005 and was subse­quently forced to lower its standards. This report revisits the issue by examining the full recruiting classes for all branches of the U.S. military for every year from 2003 to 2005.

The current findings show that the demo­graphic characteristics of volunteers have contin­ued to show signs of higher, not lower, quality. Quality is a difficult concept to apply to soldiers, or to human beings in any context, and it should be understood here in context. Regardless of the standards used to screen applicants, the average quality of the people accepted into any organiza­tion can be assessed only by using measurable cri­teria, which surely fail to account for intangible characteristics. In the military, it is especially questionable to claim that measurable characteris­tics accurately reflect what really matters: cour­age, honor, integrity, loyalty, and leadership.

Those who have been so quick to suggest that today's wartime recruits represent lesser quality, lower standards, or lower class should be expected make an airtight case. Instead, they have cited selective evidence, which is balanced by a much clearer set of evidence showing improving troop quality.

Indeed, in many criteria, each year shows advancement, not decline, in measurable qualities of new enlistees. For example, it is commonly claimed that the military relies on recruits from poorer neighborhoods because the wealthy will not risk death in war. This claim has been advanced without any rigorous evidence. Our review of Pen­tagon enlistee data shows that the only group that is lowering its participation in the military is the poor. The percentage of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods (with one-fifth of the U.S. population) declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2003, 14.1 percent in 2004, and 13.7 percent in 2005.
Quite frankly, I also am annoyed by a popular book book, AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country being used to advance the idea that the military services are somehow being denied the benefit of certain social "classes" and, thereby, suffer the potential harm from being insular and out of touch. I suspect that the much smaller military of the 1930's suffered in the same way...indeed, I don't recall the heirs of the Mellons or the Kennedys or the Bushes rushing to serve in those years, either.

And I don't read as much into the following as do the authors of the book:
In 1956, 400 of Princeton's 750 graduates served in uniform. By 2004, only nine members of the university's graduating class entered the military.
First, in 1956, there was a draft, so some of the 56% were involuntary military conscripts, not volunteers. The draft speaks more of the power of the state to compel by force than of some spirit of service. Second, at the time, Princeton was all male and all of draft age. Some who "volunteered" for service at that time were simply signing up to avoid the draft. And I am unclear as to whether the 400/750 figure includes men who served before arriving at Princeton. I do know that the biography of a former Princeton president says:
Dodds became president during the depths of the Great Depression and served through the Second World War and the Korean conflict. During the war years, Princeton adopted an accelerated program to give students an opportunity to graduate before entering the armed forces. At the same time, the Army and the Navy sent hundreds of young men to campus for general or specialized training. The number fluctuated widely from month to month. A faculty depleted by enlistments or calls to government service had to teach unfamiliar subjects at top speed. When peace came, the University absorbed the flood of students returning under the G.I. Bill.
Why a flood?
The fact that the G.I. Bill paid for a G.I.'s entire education had encouraged many universities across the country to expand enrollment. For example, the University of Michigan had fewer than 10,000 students prior to the war. In 1948 their enrollment was well over 30,000. Syracuse University also embraced the spirit of the Bill and saw their enrollment skyrocket from approx. 6,000 before the war to 19,000 students in 1947.
Today's servicemen may qualify for up to $38,000 in educational benefits, less than one year's tuition, fees, etc at Princeton. I suspect that many former servicemen and women choose other schools upon leaving the service out of economc necessity.

In recent years, the pool of Princeton graduates has been over 50% female (see here) and thereby not draft eligible under the present rules. In 2006, 475 men graduated from Princeton's undergraduate program and 481 women. In 2004, the year cited above for producing 9 military entrants, the numbers were 423 male grads and 524 female. So the pool of males in 1956 was 750, in 2004 423. Even if a draft had taken every one of the eligible males of the class of 2004, only 45% of the class would have added "military service" to their resumes.

Secondly, what pool of people makes up the entrants to Princeton? While it is true that many of the graduates go on to well-paying professions that place them in upper income brackets, I am certain that not every admittee to Princeton arrives with a silver spoon in hand.

If "class" is determined by income, then our "upper class" contains a lot of highly compensated football and baseball players as well as movie stars, drug dealers and other money generators. If "class" is determined by having degree from Princeton (or Harvard or Yale) as opposed to degree from the Universities of Georgia or California, then I think the definition is being bent pretty far out of shape in a rather appalling manner. Speaking of the dangers of creating a "we" versus "them" attitude in the military, what about the danger of such an attitude spawned by the simple admission to a certain institution of higher learning?

It would also be interesting to know what percentage of admittees to Princeton today have prior military service. If there are any veterans among the Tigers, have they become part of the "upper class?"

In short, what a bunch of hooey.

Sunday Ship History: Turkey time

The U.S. Navy used to be consistent in naming ships in a certain way - battleships had the names of various states (USS North Carolina, USS Texas, cruisers were named after cities (USS Chicago, USS Houston). Down among the smaller ships, the minesweepers were named in a less high-falutin' way- they were named after birds.

In 1918, Minesweeper No. 13 was commissioned as USS Turkey, as set out here, and began an interesting career:
Although completed too late to see service during World War I, Turkey took part in the gigantic operation to clear the mine barrage which had been laid in the North Sea during this conflict. This system of mine fields constituted a formidable obstacle to the resumption of trade in the aftermath of the war. After steaming across the Atlantic, the new minesweeper ...joined the American forces massing there to begin clearing the shipping lanes between Scotland and Norway.

Soon thereafter, Turkey got underway for minesweeping operations in the North Sea. During her second operation... a mine exploded directly beneath Turkey on 16 May. The disabled minesweeper crept to Lyeness, at Scapa Flow, where she was dry-docked for repairs.

Her damage was corrected in time for Turkey to take part in the project's fifth operation ...

Fair weather conditions, unusual for the North Sea enabled the ships to make excellent progress. While thus engaged, Turkey fouled a mine in her sweep gear; and it exploded close aboard, causing minor damage. However the ship effected quick repairs at sea and continued operations without missing the proverbial step. By the 16th, Turkey's group had swept a record 1,373 mines.
Following her return to the United States, Turkey began operating out of New York in the waters of the 3d Naval District. On 17 July 1920, the minesweeper was designated AM-17 when the Navy adopted its modern alphanumeric system of hull numbers.
Turkey was laid up in 1922 but reactivated in 1938. Things got more exciting for the small ship:
As the Fleet shifted to Pearl Harbor in late 1939 and early 1940, Turkey followed and operated out of Pearl Harbor into 1941. On 7 December of that year, she lay moored in a nest of her sister ships at the Coal Docks at Pearl Harbor, when Japanese planes launched a surprise attack on the unsuspecting Pacific Fleet.

A Naval Reserve ensign, who had experienced only six months of sea duty, led the ship's defense until her commanding officer could return to the ship. The crew tumbled to battle stations at the sound of the general quarters alarm and quickly manned the main battery of two 3-inch guns. In addition, two Lewis guns atop the tall pilot house went into action. A number of riflemen armed with Springfield 1903 bolt-action rifles roamed the decks looking for good vantage points from which to fire at the attacking planes. Twenty minutes after the raid began, Turkey backed clear of the next ship to improve her field of fire and continued the fight.
Turkey's after action report can be viewed here. In Ensign Melchor's words:
1. On December 7, 1941, while in the capacity as Officer of The Deck, at about 0753, I heard an explosion followed by the noise of diving planes which, when sighted, proved to be Japanese. I immediately ordered general quarters and made preparations for getting underway.

2. At 0755 all guns were manned and opened fire on low flying dive-bombers approaching from the Southwest. The estimated number of this flight is eighteen planes. Five minutes later the second flight of about 18 dive-bombers passed overhead and out of gun bearing, headed toward Navy Yard, followed by nine torpedo planes following channel and passing over Hospital Point toward Navy Yard. About 0820, sighted flight of about twenty-five heavy bombers, estimated altitude 12000 ft coming from West, which dropped about seven bombs, landing in the West Lock Area.

3, The conduct of the crew was excellent. They responded immediately and efficiently.
His words speak of a well-trained crew, reminding us of the military truism that "you will not rise to the occasion, you will default to the level of your training."

Turkey continued its war operations, but underwent a change in mission and in 1944 was re-classified as an "old ocean tug" and its hull number changed to ATO-143. There then followed a period of activity helping resupply the fleet and making assisting various ships damaged by enemy action. As the war ended, so did her career and she was decommissioned and sold for scrap.

However, the Navy, in its infinite wisdom still had a Turkey on the books. This Turkey started life as YMS-444:
The second Turkey was laid down as YMS-444 on 16 November 1943 at Kingston. N.Y., by C. Hiltebrant Dry Dock Co., Inc.; launched on 20 July 1944; and commissioned on 26 December 1944, Lt. George H. H. Huey, USNR, in command.
On 20 July, she departed New York and, after a stop at Miami, steamed through the Panama Canal to the California coast, arriving at Los Angeles on 8 September. On the 17th, she set her course westward for Pearl Harbor and the Marshalls. Although the war was over when YMS-444 arrived in the Pacific, there were still enormous tasks left for the minesweepers. YMS-444 pursued her duties operating out of Saipan and Eni-wetok in October 1945. In November, she moved on to the Ryukyus and Japan, sweeping mines in the Kyushu-Korea and Honshu areas, and remained in Japanese waters into the new year.

On 24 February 1946, she departed Kure and set her course, via the Marianas and Marshalls, for Pearl Harbor and California. After pausing at San Pedro in April, she got underway for the Canal Zone on the 27th. It was 6 June before she departed the Canal Zone and set her course, via Charleston, for New York. She was decommissioned on 30 August 1946 and remained in the 3d Naval District as a Naval Reserve training ship.
For the next six years, YMS-444 operated out of New York ports and on the Great Lakes. On 1 September 1947, she was named Turkey and redesignated a motor minesweeper (AMS-56). She was placed in commission, in reserve, in April 1950, and she returned to active status on 21 November.

Turkey returned to the Atlantic in March 1952 and was assigned to serve with the Mine Forces, Atlantic Fleet, in August. During the following four years, she operated out of east coast ports with occasional voyages to the Caribbean. On 7 February 1955, she was reclassified an old coastal minesweeper MSC(O)-56. She arrived at Charleston on 9 November 1956 and was decommissioned there on 23 November 1956. Then, on 1 May 1957, she departed Charleston, steamed via New York, Halifax, and Montreal, and reported to the Commander, 4th Naval District, Toledo, Ohio, on 27 May 1957.

In 1960, Turkey was transferred to the 1st Naval District to continue as a Reserve training ship. As such, she operated out of Fall River, Mass., until September 1968 when she was replaced as a training ship by Jacana (MSC-193). Her name was struck from the Navy list as of October 1968, and she was sold in August 1969.
Was duty on a Turkey less exciting than on one of the big carriers or battleships? I suspect that, as is the case with most shipboard duty, they all had their moments. However, it's clear that both Turkeys provided long and useful service to the fleet and that all who served in them deserve our thanks and a salute.

UPDATE (12/8/06) From an email:
My grandfather, Samuel Burl Neff, LCDR, USN, was stationed on board the ship on P H day. I believe he was a CWO at the time. He was home having sunday breakfast with the family at the start of the attack. Oral tradition of the family has it that my aunt Joanne (age six) went out to retrieve the sun paper and came back in the house and exclaimed "Daddy there are a lot of planes in the sky". My grandfather later became the CO of the USS Turkey (mid 1943). My grandfather enlisted in the USN in 1917. Prior to his enlisting, he had been a car mechanic. The Navy, in it's infinite wisdom, made him a HM (or it's equivalent back then). He later was able to change rate to MM. He retired in 1949 after 32 years service. He died in 1964 and is buried in Arlington National Cem.

Brian Neff

Saturday, November 25, 2006

7 oil workers kidnapped from ship off Nigeria, 2 killed

An increase in the violence normally associated with "oil militants" in Nigeria- who ususally kidnap and hold hostages for ransom- reported here:
A British oil worker has been killed and an Italian seriously wounded during an attempt to free seven workers seized by Nigerian militants.

A Nigerian navy spokesman told the BBC that the remaining five foreign hostages had been rescued unharmed, while two militants were killed.

The hostages - two Finns, an Italian, a Filipino, a Briton, a Pole and a Romanian - worked for Italian firm Eni.

Hostages are usually freed unharmed, often after ransoms are paid.
The hostages were seized from a supply ship off the Niger Delta coast by 10 armed men on speedboats early on Wednesday morning.

Nigerian forces became involved in a shoot-out with the kidnappers during the rescue attempt.

"The Nigerian soldiers intercepted their ship and tried to free the people kidnapped," Gianni di Giovanni, a spokesman for Eni, told BBC News 24.

"In this situation, unfortunately, one of these colleagues was killed, and another was injured."

He said that all the rescued oil workers had now been taken to hospital in Port Harcourt.

One Nigerian solider was also killed during the operation, government and security officials told the Associated Press.

One more reason to dislike the North Korean government

Kidnappping citizens of another country for use in training your spies. As set out here and in the movie discussed therein.

New tool against Malacca pirates: Info sharing center

More signs of regional cooperation in getting a handle on sea-borne threat, as set out here:
Brunei should also benefit from an information-sharing centre, aimed at helping Asian countries combat sea piracy in the Malacca Strait and elsewhere. The centre is set to be opened in Singapore next week, the city-state's transport ministry said on Thursday.

A key function of the S$2.2 million facility is collecting data on attacks and making the information immediately available on a secure network. The strait, one of the world's busiest waterways, is a vital link for global trade. Some 50,000 vessels pass through annually. "Piracy is a transnational problem and this is the first time an international body has been set up to deal solely with the problem of piracy in Asia," the Straits Times quoted the ministry's permanent secretary Choi Shing Kwok as saying.

The countries had joined together in a network called the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). It was initially proposed in 2001 by former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. Members include Japan, China, India, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos, Brunei, Vietnam and Myanmar.
One of the advantages of this regional approach is that sovereignty over littoral waters by their adjoining countries is not challenged but the old ploy of pirating ships in one country and then running for protection into another's territory is ended.

Indian-Japanese Joint Coast Guard Training

Reported here, some joint anti-terror/piracy training between a couple of Asian democracies:
To exchange ideas, experience and share knowledge, a joint exercise between the Coast Guards of India and Japan was held in Mumbai yesterday in which both the nations show their capacities and performances while tackling the evils of sea.
Such exercises help countries to get the help of related countries when their ships face any distress. Since they already have information about the security and rescue facilities with the different countries, this facilitates them in taking decisions when their ships are in distress.
Speaking to the media, Vice Admiral ICG R. F. Contractor said, “From such exercises we get two way information and come to know about the weaknesses and strengths of other countries. From this joint exercise we knew some new things about Japan’s Coast Guard and we are committed to provide maritime security to Japan.”Such exercises help countries to get the help of related countries when their ships face any distress. Since they already have information about the security and rescue facilities with the different countries, this facilitates them in taking decisions when their ships are in distress.
Speaking to the media, Vice Admiral ICG R. F. Contractor said, “From such exercises we get two way information and come to know about the weaknesses and strengths of other countries. From this joint exercise we knew some new things about Japan’s Coast Guard and we are committed to provide maritime security to Japan.”

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sometimes the feast:

Cover - Thanksgiving Dinner, U.S.S. Raleigh, Hong Kong, 30th November, 1905; photo caption: Main Deck U.S.S. "Raleigh." Menu - Thanksgiving Dinner, U.S.S. Raleigh, Hong Kong, 30th November, 1905.
Creamed asparagus bouillon, Roast Turkey, Oyster Sauce, Cranberry Sauce, Celery, Creamed Potatoes, Young Onions a la Hollandaise, Steamed Cabbage and White Sauce, Lemon, Pumplin and Mince Pies, Fruit Cake, Candy, Assorted Nuts

USS Raleigh (C-8) :
USS Raleigh, a 3183-ton Cincinnati class protected cruiser, was built at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, and commissioned in April 1894. She initially served along the U.S. east coast, then made a European tour in 1897 before transferring to the Asiatic Staion. During the Spanish-American War, she participated in the Battle of Manila Bay.

After the war, Raleigh returned to the U.S. east coast, and briefly served off Central America before again transiting to Asiatic waters where she spent the years 1903-1907. She subsequently operated off the Pacific coasts of the United States and Central America. In World War I, the cruiser was active in the Atlantic off both North and South America, and in the Caribbean area. Raleigh decommissioned in April 1919 and was sold in August 1921.

Sometimes - well, something else:

"Go tell th' boys to line up, Joe. We got fruit juice fer breakfast."

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rendition investigation watch: Khaled Al-Masri

John Rosenthal from in on top of the possible investigations to be conducted by the new Congressional majority into the "extraordinary rendition" controversy. In simple terms, this form of "rendition'" is "involves the sending of untried criminal suspects, suspected terrorists or alleged supporters of groups which the US Government considers to be terrorist organizations, to countries other than the United States for imprisonment and interrogation."

One man with a complaint about the practice is Khaled Al-Masri, about whom John has couple of interesting links. The first, here, questions the truthfulness of el-Masri and the second, here, reports:
A German Muslim whose detention and torture by the CIA prompted an apology from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be granted a visa to come to the United States, although he might still be refused entry.
"Khaled el-Masri was found inadmissible to the United States on the basis of ... terrorist activities, and issued a visa on the basis of a waiver from the Department of Homeland Security," a State Department official told United Press International.
The official declined to comment further, saying that the details of visa decisions were confidential.
Mr. el-Masri, a German citizen of Egyptian origin, said in a lawsuit last year that he was stopped at the Macedonian border in December 2003 while on vacation, and handed over to U.S. officials, who beat and drugged him, and took him to a secret prison in Afghanistan, where he was detained without charge and subjected to "coercive interrogation" for five months.
His case has become a lightning rod for European criticism of the United States over secret CIA prisons and other practices, including secret imprisonment of terror suspects without trial.
Two federal officials confirmed at the time that Mr. el-Masri's name was on the secret U.S. watch list of known or suspected terrorists, the Terrorist Screening Database.
One of them told UPI that there was a high-level dispute last year between the State Department and another agency, which had originally "nominated" Mr. el-Masri to the list.
"State wanted him taken off," said the official, adding that the dispute had risen to what he called "a high level" within the agencies involved.
This could get interesting. Fasten your seat belts...

Cocaine submarine photo

Good photo of the cocaine submarine found here.

Last of the first African American Naval Officers dies, receives honors

Last of the "Golden 13" Dies:
Family and friends bid farewell to Frank Ellis Sublett Nov. 12 at a memorial service in Chicago, honoring the last member of the first group of African-American men to receive commissions as officers in the U.S. Navy.
The man who wrote the 1993 book of recollections of the Navy’s Golden 13 gave Sublett’s eulogy. Author Paul Stillwell said that during the writing of the book, “I came to know what real heroes and pioneers these men were.”

In the book’s forward, Gen. Colin Powell points out that, “…from the very beginning, they understood…that history had dealt them a stern obligation. They realized that in their hands rested the chance to help open the blind moral eye that America had turned on the question of race.”
Photo caption:
In February 1944, the Navy commissioned its first African-American officers. This long-hoped-for action represented a major step forward in the status of African-Americans in the Navy and in American society. The twelve commissioned officers, and a warrant officer who received his rank at the same time, came to be known as the "Golden Thirteen". March 17, 1944 photo Top row: John Walter Reagan, Jesse Walter Arbor, Dalton Louis Baugh, Frank Ellis Sublett. Middle row: Graham Edward Martin, Charles Byrd Lear, Phillip George Barnes, Reginald E. Goodwin. Bottom row: James Edward Hair, Samuel Edward Barnes, George Clinton Cooper, William Sylvester White, Dennis Denmark Nelson. U.S. Navy photo.
Offer up a salute to these men, who paved the way so that we take for granted scenes like this:
Lt. Michael Jackson embraces his sons on the pier during the homecoming of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron One One (HS-11) the “Dragon Slayers”. HS-11 returned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville following a scheduled six-month deployment on board USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in support of maritime security operations and the global war on terrorism. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Susan Cornell
Thank you, Lt Sublett.

Brit plan to ship waste nuclear fuel acroos the Channel comes under heavy fire

Using the dread words "potential terrorist target" as a attempted show-stopper, various groups are most unhappy with a plan to ship some mixed oxide fuel from England to France on a single-hulled RO-RO, as reported here:
Kimo says that "in the next couple of days" the Atlantic Osprey, owned by the British Nuclear Group, will transport 1.25 tonnes of mixed oxide fuel (MOX) fuel containing about 90 kg of plutonium to Swiss utility Nordostschweizerische Kraftwerke (NOK).

"The route will pass close to one of the most densely populated areas in the world and will cross some of the busiest shipping lanes, therefore increasing the potential for collision and making it easier for a potential terrorist attack," says KIMO.

"Traditionally MOX has been transported to and from Japan using purpose built vessels that are of the best available technology currently in service," says KIMO. "However shipments of MOX to Switzerland, of which this is the second, are using the Atlantic Osprey, an ex-roll on roll off ferry. The Atlantic Osprey has a single hull, single engine and will travel unescorted throughout its journey unlike the shipments to Japan which travel in purpose built vessels with twin engines, double hulls and naval armament, with two vessels travelling together to provide support in case of an attack."

KIMO charges that "the lack of emergency planning in the event of a marine accident involving nuclear material is also a serious issue ..."
More here and here:
KIMO International President Councillor Angus Nicolson said, "The arrangements surrounding these proposed shipments are flawed and second rate."

"It is absolutely irresponsible in this day and age," he said, "where we are requiring super tankers carrying oil to have double hulls to protect our marine environment that these dangerous cargoes are being transported in an ex-roll-on roll-off ferry with a single engine and single hull through some of the most populated areas of Europe with no escort."
Continuing mentioning of the lack of an escort by opponents kind points out a opportunity for those prospective terrorists, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gadzooks: Still time to catch Fred Fry International's Maritime Monday 34

Maritime Monday is good for a whole week so yo have a few more days to get over to Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 34 and check it out!

Even if you know nothing about nautical matters now, it's a good place to start.

Rangel pushes for slavery

Slavery is the social or de-facto status of specific persons, usually captives or prisoners (or their descendants), who are considered as property or chattel, for the purpose of providing labour and services for the owner or state without the right of the slave to refuse, leave or gain compensation beyond room, board and clothing.

Slavery is a condition of control over a person against their will, enforced by violence or other forms of coercion. Slavery almost always occurs for the purpose of securing the labor of the person concerned. A specific form, known as chattel slavery, implies the legal ownership of a person or persons.
Definition from here.

Isn't that exactly what Representative Rangel is up to in his continuing effort to revive the draft? (As set out here)

Libertarian U.S. Representative Ron Paul has dealt with this before, as did President Reagan. See here:
However, the most important reason to oppose HR 163 is that a draft violates the very principles of individual liberty upon which our nation was founded. Former President Ronald Reagan eloquently expressed the moral case against the draft in the publication Human Events in 1979: "[Conscription] rests on the assumption that your kids belong to the state. If we buy that assumption then it is for the state ­ not for parents, the community, the religious institutions or teachers ­ to decide who shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where and how in our society. That assumption isn't a new one. The Nazis thought it was a great idea." [Note by Eagle1: In fact, it rests on the assumption that not just your kids belong to the state, but everyone of us. Instead of the people being masters of the government, the government masters us all.]

Some say the 18-year old draftee "owes it" to his (or her, since HR 163 makes women eligible for the draft) country. Hogwash! It just as easily could be argued that a 50-year-old chickenhawk, who promotes war and places innocent young people in danger, owes more to the country than the 18-year-old being denied his (or her) liberty.
Without conscription, unpopular wars are difficult to fight. Once the draft was undermined in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Vietnam War came to an end. But most importantly, liberty cannot be preserved by tyranny. A free society must always resort to volunteers. Tyrants think nothing of forcing men to fight and serve in wrongheaded wars. A true fight for survival and defense of America would elicit, I am sure, the assistance of every able-bodied man and woman. This is not the case with wars of mischief far away from home, which we have experienced often in the past century.
And the necessary use of force to bend others to his will is exactly what Mr. Rangel is up to- oh, he claims it is something else:
Rangel, incoming chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said he worried the military was being strained by its overseas commitments.
He said having a draft would not necessarily mean everyone called to duty would have to serve in uniform. Instead, "young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals," with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.
Commit themselves? How completely misleading! In fact, Mr. Rangel is doing precisely what President Reagan warned against, using the power of the state "to decide who shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where and how in our society." You know, Rangel wants a draft "for the purpose of securing the labor of the person concerned" - slavery, in other words.

Mr. Paul also has the better argument in how to stop adventurism- in an unpopular war, the troops will vote with their feet.

Oddly enough, but for far different reasons, Antiwar. Blog also sees the slavery angle.

ONI Shipping Threat Report (through 15 Nov) and ICC CCS Piracy Report

ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report to 15 Nov reported here. ONI points to an increasing problem off Tanzania:
TANZANIA: As of 31 Oct, five incidents of merchant vessel robberies and one attempted boarding off Dar Es Salam have been reported to the IMB since Jun 2006. In 2005, seven similar incidents occurred to merchant vessels while anchored, drifting, or underway off Dar Es Salam. Perpetrators are typically armed with knives or machetes and board vessels via anchor chain or grapnel hook and rope. Based on recent incidents, boardings occur between the pilot boarding area and a line drawn through the north and south anchorages near the channel. All vessels should take heightened anti-piracy precautions when operating in this area (ONI, IMB).

And the latest ICC CCS piracy report (to 11/20) here. Highlights include 3 Indonesian sea robber atacks:
20.11.2006 0130 LT, Dumai Inner Anchorage, Indonesia.
Six robbers armed with knives boarded a bulk carrier. They attempted to overcome the shore watchman who raised alarm. Duty Officer and crew rushed to assist. When confronted by crew, robbers jumped overboard and escaped empty handed.

19.11.2006 1900 LT, 06:06.2S-106:53.3E, Tg. Priok, Indonesia.
While crew were busy involved in discharging operations, robbers armed with steel bars managed to break into two stores and steal ship's stores. Upon seeing suspicious behaviour of shoreworkers on deck, duty crew informed the Duty Officer. Alarm raised and crew alerted. It was suspected the stevedores / shoreworkers may have been involved in the theft. Local authorities informed.

16.11.2006 0335 LT, 06:42.5S - 039:39.9E, 20nm ENE from Dar es Salaam Harbour Entrance, Tanzania.
15 armed pirates in a boat approached a container ship drifting waiting for berth. One of them armed with a knife boarded at main deck between hatches one and two. Duty crew noticed the pirate and he jumped overboard and escaped in a boat. Alarm raised and crew
mustered. Vessel moved to new position about 90 nm NNE from harbour entrance. Master tried to contact Dar es Salaam signal station but no response received.

15.11.2006 0400 LT, Belawan port, Indonesia.
While berthed, about seven robbers boarded a bulk carrier via the gangway by mingling among the stevedores. They broke open store door using steel bars and stole ship's stores. Authorities contacted but no response. No injuries to crew.

China's not helping

China, as one of the world’s major powers, is not meeting its growing responsibilities to promote free trade and international security, according to the latest report by a congressionally mandated bipartisan commission.
In its 2006 annual report issued November 16, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) found that China has not acted forcefully enough to counter North Korean nuclear proliferation activities, is a destabilizing force within Darfur, Sudan, and has not moved decisively in countering intellectual property violations.

"While China is a global actor, its sense of responsibility has not kept up with its expanding power," Commission Chairman Larry Wortzel said at a press conference November 16.
It says here.

And the surprise is?

Malaysia to to do flyover patrols over Strait of Malacca

Malaysia's newest anti-piracy patrols reported here:
Malaysia will provide aerial protection over its waters in the Malacca Strait, a Malaysian official said on Monday.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency will use "fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to conduct aerial surveillance over the national maritime zone" in the Malacca Strait, said M.Kayveas, deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department.

The aerial surveillance will focus on areas that are prone to intruders, he told Dewan Rakyat, the House of Representatives.

Stop the fish virus threat!

See here:
The shipping industry has been blamed in recent years for introducing many of the invasive species that are ravaging what's left of the Great Lakes native fish populations, but the fight to stop the spread of the latest microscopic invader might just threaten the monstrous freighters themselves.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, known as VHS, was discovered in the Great Lakes basin just last year, and already it has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of fish in the eastern Great Lakes.

The virus, which bleeds its victims to death, doesn't pose a danger to humans. But the potential for it to spread into the nation's other waterways so spooked the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, that it ordered some fast and drastic steps to contain it.

Three weeks ago, the agency issued an "emergency" order that blocks the live export of 37 fish species from any of the eight Great Lakes states, a potentially crippling blow to fish farmers at a time of year when they typically harvest and ship their stock. The order also threatened to snarl cooperative interstate fish stocking programs and live bait shipments that help sustain the Great Lakes' $4.5 billion fishing industry.

The federal order was blasted as overkill by the fish farming industry and the scientific community that works with it, and last week, the order was relaxed to allow some exports under a rigid set of new rules.

But now that the federal government has rung the fire bell to alert the region to the dangers of this particularly contagious virus, the state of Michigan apparently wants more.

It wants the shipping industry to shape up.

Specifically, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission wants the federal government to order an emergency ban on freighters filling their ballast water tanks in the virus-infected waters of Lakes Erie, Ontario and St. Clair, as well as the St. Lawrence River. The idea is to protect the virus-free Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior
It's a small, small world.

Query- how can you kill virus in the ballast tanks?

Headline you couldn't make up: "Beet pellets catch fire aboard ship"

Everything seems to be okay, but Beet pellets catch fire aboard ship is an attention getter.

Now, what the heck is a beet pellet?


Captured ship and a ransom demand or something else?

Boston Hereald report:
An East Boston man believed to have escaped a hijacking by gun-wielding Haitian pirates is at the center of a mystery as he phones home from parts unknown, seeking cash for the return of a missing million-dollar cargo ship.
The calls from Frank Bottino, a 60-year-old investor in the Florida Star, have left his business partners stunned and frustrated as they scramble to recover the $1.3 million vessel.
Bottino’s whereabouts are unknown. His last call - requesting $100,000 to get back the boat - came about two months ago.
Lisa McSweeney, who invested hundreds of thousands in the boat with her husband, John, said they’ve exhausted their resources trying to find the ship.
The saga of the Florida Star began in July 2004 when the 247-foot ship was boarded by armed rebels at a port in Miraguane, Haiti. The swashbuckling thugs shot the captain in the arm, assaulted crew members, stole cargo and took over the vessel, according to a report by the London-based International Maritime Organization.
Bottino, initially believed by his partners to be dead, never responded to letters or newspaper ads.
In February 2005, Bottino called other investors seeking money to retrieve the vessel, according to Robert Fedus, a Weymouth contractor and part-owner of the Florida Star.
“He asked us to send him down $70,000 for the boat to get it back,” Fedus said in a recent court proceeding. “We believed all along the boat was on its way back and that it would be recovered.”
Bottino’s most recent known contact came about two months ago when he called another investor, Ronald Camarda.... Bottino told Camarda he was in the Dominican Republic and needed $100,000 to get the boat out of French Guyana...
I love a mystery.

Revolting against U.S. North Korea policy?

Reported as U.S. Diplomats Revolt Over Policy Toward North Korea.
Dr. C. Kenneth Quinones, who played a leading role as a State Department official in the successful negotiations which resulted in the "Agreed Framework" with North Korea in 1994, held an extraordinary forum on Nov. 2 in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the newly created U.S.-Korea Institute at the School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. Quinones said that it was necessary for him to "go public" at this time, following the North Korean test of a nuclear device, with his role as a civilian "back channel" between the North Korean government and leading officials at the State Department from 2004 until very recently. He reported that during these past two years, he had succeeded, not just once, but three times, in finding a basis for agreement between the governments of these two nations to re-launch negotiations toward a peaceful solution to the crisis over the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

In each of these cases, Quinones said, actions by the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld leadership sabotaged the efforts by others within the Administration: The first time, Bush publicly said he "loathed" North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il, calling him a "tyrant," leading to a cancellation of the talks; the second time, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld pulled U.S. troops out of North Korea, where they had been working cooperatively with the North Korean Army for years, searching for the remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War, and deployed F-117 Stealth fighters into the region, again scuttling the planned talks; a third effort succeeded in bringing about talks which led to the highly promising Sept. 19, 2005 agreement to dismantle the North's nuclear weapons program in exchange for development aid and diplomatic respect, only to see the Administration order a reversal on the promise to help with peaceful nuclear power development the very next day after the agreement had been reached.
I don't know, but there seems to be something wrong when a lower level diplomat feels undercut by decisions made at the top of the food chain by the people responsible for the foreign policy. Even if he disagrees with those decisions, he is not in a position to make them for the elected leaders. If he felt that strongly, he should have resigned on the spot.

Japanese submarine grazes chemical tanker while surfacing

Reported here:
A Japanese military submarine collided with a civilian vessel during exercises off southern Japan on Tuesday, officials said.

The Maritime Self-Defense Forces submarine brushed against a tanker carrying chemicals as it surfaced about 30 miles (50 kilometers) off the southeastern coast of Miyazaki, on the southern island of Kyushu, a defence agency spokesman said on condition of anonymity by protocol.

The civilian vessel was later identified as the Panamanian-registered 4,000-ton Spring Auster, en route to China, Coast Guard spokesman Takatoshi Nagasaki said.

None of its crew of 16 Philippine nationals and a South Korean was hurt, but the extent of the damage was not immediately known, he said.

The ship's captain later reported to the regional Japan Coast Guard that it was taking on water, said another JCG spokesman Masao Sonoda. There was no danger of it sinking, however.
Image is of a generic Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force submarine Yushio class.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Take a few seconds...

Read this and say a few words on Lt Kinard's behalf in your prayers.

And don't forget all the others, too, if you will.

And see Blackfive, too.

Pass the word.

Homeland Security, the GAO and "radiation portals"

Some first generation shipping container radiation detectors performed (really, should this be a surprise?) -better than others as noted here and those that worked better got contracts from DHS. But not without fun with the GAO:
A Department of Homeland Security official said he was confident that the next generation of portals designed to find nuclear materials in shipping containers will work despite a withering Government Accountability Office report questioning performance data and their high price tags.

“The department really doesn’t like to struggle with GAO in public,” Howard Reichel, assistant director for systems development and acquisition at DHS’ Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, said at an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement border management conference.

However, he went on to do just that.

“We tested them every which way under the sun. We tested them with easy things. We tested them with hopelessly hard things that no device could ever find. We tested devices that worked very well. We tested devices that were broken half the time during the test.”

The tests were conducted on seven systems that ultimately weren’t chosen, he said.

DHS awarded contracts to three vendors, Raytheon Co., Thermo Electron Corp. and Canberra Industries Inc.

When looking at the performance of the three selected systems on amounts of nuclear material that would actually pose a threat to security, they were 95 percent effective, he said.

“Believe me, I showed [those results] to GAO,” he added.
Some days are more fun than others.

Cocaine submarine captured

Reported here:
U.S. Coast Guards have seized a submarine carrying 3.5 tons of cocaine in the Pacific Ocean off Costa Rica and arrested three Colombians on board, the Costa Rican Coast Guard said on Sunday.

The submarine appeared to be a makeshift vessel unlike military submarines or those used by oceanographers. It could only submerge 6 feet under water, Costa Rican Coast Guard spokesman Jose Antonio Fallas told Reuters.

The 45-foot-long vessel was found last Wednesday near the remote Coco Island, southwest of the Central American mainland, and had traveled hundreds of miles from Colombia on its way to the United States.

UPDATE: More info here:
Tipped off by three plastic pipes mysteriously skimming the ocean's surface, authorities have seized a homemade submarine packed with 2.7 tonnes of cocaine off Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

Four men were inside the 15-metre wood and fibreglass craft, breathing through the pipes. The craft sailed along at about 10 kilometres an hour, just two metres beneath the surface, Security Minister Fernando Berrocal said Sunday.

The submarine was spotted Friday, 165 kilometres off the coast near Cabo Blanco National Park on the Nicoya peninsula.
Interesting crew, too, consisting of
Two Colombians, a Guatemalan and a Sri Lankan were arrested and taken to the United States, since they were captured in international waters, Berrocal said.

UPDATE2: Phot of the sub here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday Ship History: A submersible gas station for seaplanes

First it was a normal World War II fleet submarine with a distinguished record as set out here, with six war patrols, several kills and many rescues of downed pilots. After the war, USS Guavina was placed in reserve for a few years.

Then, in 1949, things changed:
From March 1949, Guavina underwent extensive overhaul and modification for conversion to a submarine oiler at Mare Island, and was even equipped with a snorkel. Guavina recommissioned in the active fleet as SSO-362 1 February 1950 at Mare Island. After operations along the West Coast, she sailed to Norfolk via Balboa and San Juan 24 July to 25 August. Further operations out of Norfolk were followed by overhaul at Philadelphia and on 29 January 1951, Guavina reported to Key West, her new homeport.

Operating out of Key West, Guavina cruised to the Caribbean and up the East Coast to Nova Scotia to test the concepts of fueling seaplanes and other submarines, although most of her work was in the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. After overhaul at Philadelphia 18 April to 26 July 1952, Guavina was redesignated AGSS-362. Two more years of operations along the East Coast and in the Gulf were followed by a second extensive overhaul at Philadelphia. To aid refueling, Guavina gained a large, raised platform over the after torpedo room, which was soon dubbed the "flight deck."

And a flight deck it soon became as in January 1956 Guavina began testing the concept of mobile support of seaplanes from a submarine oiler. After an initial 2-week trial period, Guavina and a variety of seaplanes carried out refueling development for most of 1956. Sailing from Charleston 18 September, the submarine headed for the Mediterranean. After her 2-month deployment there with the 6th Fleet and Patrol Squadron 56, Guavina returned to Key West 1 December, then put into Charleston for overhaul.

Emerging from overhaul 12 July 1957 with the new designation (AOSS-362), Guavina resumed her established pattern of testing various applications of submarine oiler and seaplane refueling concepts, operating principally in the Caribbean. Ranging along the coast from New London to Bermuda, she also engaged in antisubmarine exercises and other peacetime training missions. Guavina sailed into the Charleston Navy Yard 4 January 1959, and decommissioned there 27 March, going into reserve.
Well, okay, but there's more to the story. And that "more" is an airplane - seaplane, actually, the jet powered Martin P6M Seamaster:
The Martin SeaMaster was designed in the early 1950s as a jet-powered seaplane bomber which could carry a nuclear weapon from virtually any body of water; lack of super-carriers at the time prevented the U.S. Navy from having a major strategic weapons strike force to compete with the Air Force and its long-range bombers. The first XP6M-1 SeaMaster flew on July 14, 1955 and the second prototype rolled out in November. This seaplane, which could operate with only a tender or submarine to provide fuel and armament, represented the zenith for U.S. seaplane development and is a good example of the aggressive innovation in aircraft design that took place in the 1950s. The SeaMaster prototype had a gross take-off weight of 160,000 lbs.
In the post-World War II period, the US Air Force built up the "Strategic Air Command", a nuclear strike force of long-range bombers. The US Navy realized that the strategic nuclear mission was now of overwhelming importance, all the more so because defense budgets were being cut, and wanted to build up their own nuclear strike capability to prevent them from being overshadowed by the Air Force / SAC.

Proposals to build a "super carrier", the USS UNITED STATES, as a floating base for Navy strategic bombers were shot down in 1949, and so the Naval Bureau of Aeronautics came up with another scheme, the "Seaplane Striking Force (SSF)". The SSF envisioned a fleet of big, jet-powered seaplanes that would not only be capable of long-range nuclear strike, but would also be useful for conventional bombing, reconnaissance, and mining. Laying mines was seen as particularly important, since to reach the open seas the Soviet Navy had to pass through a number of "bottlenecks" that could be blocked by mining. The seaplanes would be able to operate from advanced areas, supported by a seaplane tender or even a submarine.
Despite the loss of both prototypes, the Navy still remained enthusiastic about the SeaMaster. A beaching cradle was designed to allow SeaMasters to taxi in and out of the water, and two LSDs (landing ship docks), two seaplane tenders, and the submarine USS GUAVINA were sent to shipyards to fit them as SeaMaster support vessels. A home base was set up at Naval Air Station Harvey Point, near Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
More here:
A beaching cradle was designed that allowed SeaMasters to taxi in and out of the water on their own power. Two old amphibious-warfare dock ships and two conventional seaplane tenders began shipyard conversions as support ships for the SSF. The submarine U.S.S. Guavina, redesignated as an AO(SS) "oiler," was equipped to refuel SeaMasters at secret seadromes. There were also plans to use an old escort carrier equipped with a retractable rear ramp for "beaching" P6M's, which were too heavy to be hoisted aboard by cranes.
Eventually the seaplane program was dropped and Guavina returned to more normal submarine operations.

But for a brief period of time, she was very special.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Global war on terror: Somalia, Iran, etc.

I've been laying off on Somalia lately because there are so many wheels in spin and piracy is down, but you ought to read Counterterrorism Blog: Somalia and Lebanon to get a feel for some of the potential badness that can come out of the chaos that was, and is, Somalia.

Especially worth noting is this comment:
However, Tehran et al are providing support for the Islamic Courts Union and that is worrisome. Besides the possibility of access to uranium deposits in Somalia, influence in Somalia gives Iran a foothold on the strategic Horn of Africa. This, combined with Iran's dominant position on the Staits of Hormuz, gives Iran leverage over two crucial shipping channels. Somalia is already a haven for piracy, and with professional help, this piracy could become a major international problem.
It ain't just piracy, but the potential for mischief stirred up by organized military forces on another important Sea Line of Communication that will make you worry. See here for some thoughts on risks in chokepoints posed by asymmetric forces. And Bill Roggio's piece "Of Pirates and Terrorism"> about ocean threats. More here, here (sea lane basics), here (pirate recruitment in one chokepoint). DOE EIA's World Oil Transit "Chokepoints".

Though Somalia does not sit on the a major chokepoint, its position on the Gulf of Aden (though the position is now taken up by the breakaway areas of Puntland and Somaliland) could pose a future threat.

Bill Roggio has been keeping an eye on Somalia here with a link to this, here (Iran & al Qaeda in Somalia), Puntland and Islamic Court Somalia fighting here (by the way, Bill is headed off to embed in Iraq again and could use your support ($) see here).

Freedom! A Friedman Sampler from the WSJ

In celebrating Milton Friedman's life, his own words remind us of his greatness and the greatness of his vision of freedom. The Wall Street Journal has provided a very nice sampler here. Examples:
A citizen of the United States who under the laws of various states is not free to follow the occupation of his own choosing, unless he can get a license for it, is likewise being deprived of an essential part of his freedom. So economic freedom, in and of itself, is an extremely important part of total freedom.

The reason it is important to emphasize this point is because intellectuals in particular have a strong bias against regarding this aspect of freedom as important. They tend to express contempt for what they regard as material aspects of life and to regard their own pursuit of allegedly higher values as on a different plane of significance and as deserving special attention. But for the ordinary citizen of the country, for the great masses of the people, the direct importance of economic freedom is in many cases of at least comparable importance to the indirect importance of economic freedom as a means of political freedom.
What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will. The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself.
To summarize, deficits are bad--but not because they necessarily raise interest rates. They are bad because they encourage political irresponsibility. They enable our representatives in Washington to buy votes at our expense without having to vote explicitly for taxes to finance the largesse. The result is a bigger government and a poorer nation. That is why I favor a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the budget and limit taxation.
Let us put aside the scarecrows of the twin deficits and face up to the real problems that threaten U.S. growth and prosperity: excessive and wasteful government spending and taxing, including in particular the real time bomb in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs; concealed taxes in the form of mandated expenditures on private business; excessive and misguided regulation of individuals as well as businesses; the changes in tort legislation that are discouraging innovation; and not least, the recent increase in protectionism and the threat of a further major increase. We should and can do something about these problems, not allow ourselves to be diverted by politically convenient scarecrows.
To Mr. Reagan, of course, holding down government spending was a means to an end, not an end in itself. That end was freedom, human freedom, the right of every individual to pursue his own objectives and values so long as he does not interfere with the corresponding right of others. That was his end in every phase of his remarkable career.

We still have a long way to go to achieve the optimum degree of freedom. But few people in human history have contributed more to the achievement of human freedom than Ronald Wilson Reagan.
If you've never read Friedman, it's not too late.


French inspect North Korean ship in Indian Ocean

In the French port of Longoni on the isle of Mayotte, a French possession in the Camoros Islands, French authorities are inspecting the North Korean vessel "An Nok Gang" undr UN Security Council Resolution 1718. As set out here:
Port authorities in Longoni, Mayotte's only port, said the North Korean boat was a cement manufacturer called the "An Nok Gang", which arrived on the Indian Ocean island on November 11 to discharge 3,500 tons of cement out of 8,500 tons being transported. They said it had previously made a stop in Indonesia.

"We particularly exercise vigilance towards cargo transported by North Korean ships, as well as those coming from or going to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)," Mattei said.

"France immediately took restrictive measures regarding the DPRK on visas and bilateral cooperation" after the October nuclear test, he said.

"This inspection shows France's determination in the area of surveillance of proliferation activities," added a French diplomat, requesting anonymity.

"This applies to North Korea as well as to other countries."

The diplomat said that the inspection of the North Korean freighter could last "a very long time".

"There was no boarding for inspection, the ship had berthed," he added.
The Comoros islands lie off the African coast near Madagascar.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Coast Guard wants "Danger Zone" lights

Reported here:
The U.S. Coast Guard has awarded a contract to develop a lighting system to warn mariners they're venturing too close to a ship protection zone.

The contract given to Northrop Grumman is for work on the Detection and Unambiguous Warning System (DUWS), which combines a laser rangefinder with red and green lights that can be easily seen by approaching vessels.

"Northrop Grumman's warning system will provide a scalable response to intrusion into ship protection zones," said explained Greg Williams of Northrop's Laser Systems unit in Florida. "The system could aid the Coast Guard and Navy in the protection of the nation's harbors."
Northrop presser here

70-foot rogue wave pounds cargo ship

For the "Big Wave" file. A 70-foot rogue wave reported here:
A rogue wave, reported to be as high as 70 feet, smashed through the bridge windows of 440-foot-long container ship in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday night, knocking out electronics, and forcing the ship to dock for repairs at Coos Bay.

At least one of the Westwood Pomona's 22 crew members was slightly injured...

Photo of ship is when it had a previous owner.

UPDATE: Previous posts on rogue waves here and here. Many interesting links therein.


Milton Friedman is dead, but the "Chicago School" lives on. A nice tribute from the Wall Street Journal here.

If I were to encourage anyone to read one book on economics, it would be Free to Choose.