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Friday, July 30, 2010

Arizona: Court Punts Decision Upstairs

Good analysis of the recent federal court decision concerning the Arizona immigration law by Andy McCarthy at Arizona Immigration Decision:
In essence, Judge Susan Bolton bought the Justice Department’s preemption argument — i.e., the claim that the federal government has broad and exclusive authority to regulate immigration, and therefore that any state measure that is inconsistent with federal law is invalid. The Arizona law is completely consistent with federal law. The judge, however, twisted to concept of federal law into federal enforcement practices (or, as it happens, lack thereof). In effect, the court is saying that if the feds refuse to enforce the law the states can’t do it either because doing so would transgress the federal policy of non-enforcement … which is nuts.

The judge also employs a cute bit of sleight-of-hand. She repeatedly invokes a 1941 case, Hines v. Davidowitz, in which the Supreme Court struck down a state alien-registration statute. In Hines, the high court reasoned that the federal government had traditionally followed a policy of not treating aliens as “a thing apart,” and that Congress had therefore “manifested a purpose … to protect the liberties of law-abiding aliens through one uniform national system” that would not unduly subject them to “inquisitorial practices and police surveillance.” But the Arizona law is not directed at law-abiding aliens in order to identify them as foreigners and subject them, on that basis, to police attention. It is directed at arrested aliens who are in custody because they have violated the law. And it is not requiring them to register with the state; it is requiring proof that they have properly registered with the federal government — something a sensible federal government would want to encourage.
You know the judge knows that no matter how she decided, it was going up on appeal - and now it goes up with illegal aliens getting protection - until either the Supremes rule or the next amnesty act passes.

No word on how long legal residents have to suffer and pay for this illegal activity.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Update on Damaged Tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Initial report here. Good comments - probably not an earthquake...

NY Times: Questions Swirl About Damaged Japanese Tanker
With the tanker docked in the United Arab Emirates, the owner, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and port officials puzzled over precisely what had shattered windows on the vessel, knocked off a lifeboat and punched a dent into its hull. The damage was apparently inflicted early Wednesday morning in the Strait of Hormuz, a passageway for shipping much of the world’s oil from the Middle East.

Mitsui officials said that crew members on the ship, the M. Star, had seen a flash and heard an explosion. They also dismissed earlier speculation by officials in Iran and Oman that the damage had been caused by a “freak wave.”
Me, I'm liking the meteor theory proposed by MDB in the comments to my original post.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Headed for the High Country

Off for a few days in a place where the sheep out number the humans and you can see for miles and miles . . .


Posts may be more intermittent than usual.

Possible Attack on Oil Tanker Near Strait of Hormuz

Sketchy early reporting - press release from Mitsui:
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd.(MOL, President : Koichi Muto) today reported that at about 5:30 a.m. JST (00:30 local time) on Wednesday, July 28, west of the Strait of Hormuz at 26°27' N 56°14' E (Oman territorial waters), the VLCC M. STAR owned by MOL, suffered hull damage caused by an explosion which seemed to be an attack from external sources.

The degree and details of hull damage are currently under investigation but no serious injury was reported, although one of the crew was slightly injured, and no oil leaked from the hull.
Further, M. STAR continues her voyage, making for the UAE port of Fujairah, where the damage and its causes will be thoroughly investigated.

M. STAR took on crude oil Tuesday, July 27, at the UAE Port of Das Island, after which it departed for Chiba Port in Japan.

Details of M/V M. STAR are as follows:
Gross tonnage 160,292 tons
LOA : 333.00 m
FLAG : Marshal Islands
Built in : 2008
Crew : 15 Indian / 16 Philippine crew
Cargo : Crude oil 270,204 MT

There was an explosion on the starboard side of the ship, which damaged some hatches and one of the lifeboats, said Corey Barker, a spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, speaking by phone from the fleet’s base in Manama, Bahrain. “The cause and extent of the damage is unknown and will be investigated,” he said.
Info on the Strait of Hormuz here:
Located between Oman and Iran, the Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Hormuz is the world's most important oil chokepoint due to its daily oil flow of 16.5-17 million barrels (first half 2008E), which is roughly 40 percent of all seaborne traded oil (or 20 percent of oil traded worldwide). Oil flows averaged over 16.5 million barrels per day in 2006, dropped in 2007 to a little over 16 million barrels per day after OPEC cut production, but rose again in 2008 with rising Persian Gulf supplies.

At its narrowest point the Strait is 21 miles wide, and the shipping lanes consist of two-mile wide channels for inbound and outbound tanker traffic, as well as a two-mile wide buffer zone. The majority of oil exported through the Strait of Hormuz travels to Asia, the United States and Western Europe. Currently, three-quarters of all Japan’s oil needs pass through this Strait. On average, 15 crude oil tankers passed through the Strait of Hormuz daily in 2007, along with tankers carrying other petroleum products and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Click on maps to enlarge.

UPDATE: In a weird way, Iran rules out terrrorism:
The Managing Director of Iranian Navigation and Ports Organization on Wednesday rules out the possibility of terrorist attack on a Japanese tanker in Persian Gulf, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
"Probably the earthquake has caused such an incident," Ataollah Sadr was quoted as saying.
Talking to Mehr about the blast in Japanese oil tanker, Sadr rejected the possibility of any terrorist attack on the tanker, saying "due to the presence of some inflammable steams and gases on the oil tankers, the possibility of blast cannot be ruled out."
"Based on the dialogues and messages heard from Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC), there has been news about the quake occurrence," Sadr said, referring to the Japanese oil tanker M. Star blasted near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, leaving one person slightly injured.
Maybe something got lost in translation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Somali Pirates Get "Seychelled"

Reported as Seychelles serves up African justice for Somali pirates:
The Seychelles convicted 11 Somali pirates Monday in the first-ever ruling of its kind for an archipelagic nation off the coast of east Africa best known for its white sand beaches and crystal blue water.

Eight of the Somalis were convicted for committing an act of piracy and the other three for aiding and abetting an act of piracy. They were all acquitted on five other charges related to "acts of terrorism," but each will serve 10 years in prison, said a statement issued Monday by Seychelles' Supreme Court.
As noted here, the pirates tried to hijack a Seychelles Coast Guard boat.

Not a wise career move.

Though their living conditions may actually improve in jail.

Report of the attack on the Seychelles boat Topaz here. Photo shows SCG Topaz when it was in Indian service

Military Times Opens Up "Hall of Stolen Valor"

Catching the wave of a spate of posers who claim military honors, ranks or benefits to which they are not entitled,the Military Times folks have initiated an online "Hall of Stolen Valor" featuring verified accounts of such fakes. For example,
a "AF pilot" who turns out to have served as an E-5:
Then, in the last few years, “Colonel Thom,” as Tullis introduced himself, began entertaining the socialites with decidedly darker stories — ones of his role in the Iran-Contra affair, his work with the CIA and his orders to fly bombing runs over Afghanistan with the aim of killing Osama bin Laden.

Tullis is, indeed, an Air Force veteran, but he never rose above the rank of staff sergeant and never received a valor medal or ribbon, according to records obtained by the POW Network, a private group that tracks possible military impostors, and verified by the Air Force Personnel Center.
Or a retired CG warrant who claimed to have served, while  in the Navy before joining the CG, as a highly decorated SEAL. This guy even managed to get PTSD money from the VA because of the horrors of war he never saw (which ought to be further warning against the liberalization of PTSD awards by the VA, but probably won't be).

Interesting reading.

For a historical view of such exaggerationists, read Stolen Valor : How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Episode 30: Counter Insurgency Part II & Navy mid-year update- Midrats on Blogtalk Radio

5 p.m. Eastern - Episode 30 Counter Insurgency Part II Navy mid-year update 7/25/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
Building off our discussion about Counter Insurgency (COIN) from last week, we continue the conversation with U.S. Naval War College Professor Marc Genest for the first half hour. For the second half of the hour we will have returning guest Phil Ewing from Navy Times to discuss 2010 so far from Aegis, Annapolis, SAN ANTONIO, and everything in between.
Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the Path to Understanding "American Exceptionalism"

Perspectives Of A Russian Immigrant: Elena Kagan And "The Urge To Alter"
No individual or business can harm another as much as powerful and unaccountable centralized government. The reason people of all ethnicities, religions and backgrounds come to and succeed in America more than anywhere else is that America has a Constitution that limits the power of government.

Photo by Dennis Mulligan, from the NPS website.

Friday, July 23, 2010

James Webb: Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege

Well worth a read: James Webb: Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege:
Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers. The time has come to cease the false arguments and allow every American the benefit of a fair chance at the future.
In an odd historical twist that all Americans see but few can understand, many programs allow recently arrived immigrants to move ahead of similarly situated whites whose families have been in the country for generations. These programs have damaged racial harmony. And the more they have grown, the less they have actually helped African-Americans, the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action as it was originally conceived.
Senator Webb is a Democrat from Virginia.

UPDATE: A "virtual declaration of war"?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

North Korea: Unhappy with U.S. and South Korea Naval Training

North Korea condemns US sanctions, naval drills:
North Korea on Thursday condemned imminent US-South Korea naval exercises as a threat to global peace as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Vietnam for Asia-Pacific security talks.
Meanwhile, crooks are condemning police training because trained police forces "cramp the style" of the crooks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another Unnecessary Job Loss Caused by the Obama Administration

Poor Shirley Sherrod, caught on tape admitting that 24 years ago she, well, harbored some prejudice in her heart before her eyes were opened to what she was doing.

Now, those chickens have come home to roost as she was bounced out of her federal job despite the absence of any evidence that she had every failed to do her job as a federal employee in a fair and even handed way (the incident she described occurred when she was not a government employee.

Yes, ignore the incorrect assertion in the following tape that asserts it happened while she was a federal employee and listen to what she says. She saw that she was discriminating on the basis of race - and saw that was wrong.

In any event she ultimately did help the "white farmer" save his farm as set out here.

Too bad, because the White House demanded she resign over the incident, which she did.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This Will Drive Liberals Crazy: Controlling Borders Through State Militias?

Ray Hartwell, Washington Times commentary: "Obama lawsuit invites fortified state militia":
So, the militias organized and armed by a state may go to war when the state has been invaded or is in imminent danger. This is clear under Article I, and plainly justified when the federal government has deliberately failed to protect against invasion as required by Article IV. As Joseph Story explains in his treatise on the Constitution, the prohibition against states engaging in war is "wisely" limited by "exceptions sufficient for the safety of the states, and not justly open to the objection of being dangerous to the Union."
References: U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 10: "No State shall, without the Consent of Congress , , , engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay."

Article IV, Section 4: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Interesting argument.

I like it when the Second Amendment gets brought into play in this context.

A well-organized, state-controlled militia - exactly the what many liberals is the only meaning of the Second Amendment. Like this professor:
"The Second Amendment was simply a promise that the national government would not abolish the state militias," Finkelman said last week. The amendment states that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
"Only if you're in a well-regulated militia, do the people have a right to keep and bear arms," he said.
So, professor, how do you like Mr. Hartwell's argument?

Probably by invoking Timothy McVeigh and these creeps. As in this "news" story:
Critics point out that the National Guard already provides for the state's military needs. They worry a militia would stoke extremism.

"Have they heard of the Oklahoma City bombing?" said Joseph Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma, adding that a militia could "throw fuel in the fire of radicals."

Fearless Navy Bloggers Took to the Air: Midrats Episode 29 COIN and the USMCs next decade 7/18/2010

You can listen to our discussion by going to Episode 29 COIN and the USMCs next decade 7/18/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio or by clicking the thing below:

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Or you can download it and enjoy it as an MP3 or go to iTunes and get it there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Another Candidate For Enhanced Geography Training

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on North and South Vietnam

You might recall the Wisconsin political "leader" who "misspoke" about where Arizona is.

Really, you could not make this stuff up.

Dodos seem not to be as extinct as we thought.

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Episode 29 COIN and the USMCs next decade 7/18/2010

5pm/1700 Eastern U.S. Sunday - join CDR Salamander and me for Episode 29 COIN and the USMCs next decade 7/18/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
As we move into our second decade of conflict with Islamist terrorism, what have we learned, relearned, or having to unlearn about Counter Insurgency (COIN)? Our guest to discuss this will be Dr. Andrea J. Dew, Co-Director, Center on Irregular Warfare & Armed Groups (CIWAG), Strategy and Policy Department U.S. Naval War College Newport, RI. For the second half of the show, we will look at the moves being made already to gut the USMC force levels at first chance - how do we get the narrative right to fight this coming battle? Returning guest, Mark E. Stanovich, LtCol USMCR will be with us to discuss this along with the latest developments with the Marine Corps.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

If you missed Show 28, featuring a Navy Mid-Year review with some very good guests (Daniel Goure, Ph.D., Vice President with the Lexington Institute, Professor Robert C. (Barney) Rubel Dean, Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the United States Naval War College and Fred Fry of Fred Fry International), you can find it here.

Photo caption:
Lance Cpl. Edgar Jones, a combat engineer with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, observes the horizon at the start of a nine-hour night patrol in Southern Shorsurak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, as part of Operation New Dawn, June 27, 2010. Operation New Dawn is a joint operation between Marine Corps units and the Afghanistan National Army to disrupt enemy forces, which have been using the sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa as a safe haven. (Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

Somali Pirates: Swedish helicopters called home

Perhaps an indication of low priority in stopping Somali pirates or something else, but the Swedes are talking about bringing home their two helicopters from the Somalia area as reported here:
The helicopters are currently based on HMS Carlskrona, which is the headquarters ship for the EU’s anti-piracy forces in the region. The helicopters increase the range of the Swedish forces by 70 percent.

They are being brought back to Sweden to participate in the Nordic Battlegroup, an EU naval force composed of Nordic countries and Ireland. The force will be on standby from 1st January 2011, but could be sent anywhere in the world at short notice after that.

Military chiefs say the decision to remove the helicopters from Somalia is due to a lack of resources, but Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors has now questioned that decision...
More on the Nordic Battlegroup here.

According to this, the helicopters in question are Agusta A 109M (Swedish "Hkp-15").

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stolen Valor Act Found Unconstitutional by Colorado District Court Judge

The Stolen Valor Act expands the protections of section 704 to make it
crime to
falsely represent[] [oneself], verbally or in writing, to have
been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by
Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States, any of
the service medals or badges awarded to the members of
such forces, the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge,

Now, finding the Stolen Valor Act "facially" unconstitutional (opinion here), a Colorado U.S. District Court judge struck it down in the case of Rick Strandlof a/k/a Rick Duncan as set out here:
Strandlof, 32, was charged with five misdemeanors related to violating the Stolen Valor Act - specifically, making false claims about receiving military decorations.

He posed as "Rick Duncan," a wounded Marine captain who received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. Strandlof used that persona to found the Colorado Veterans Alliance and solicit funds for the organization.
The ACLU argued that "simply lying" is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

This "bar lies" argument has been seen before
Stolen Valor Act facing legal challenges:
At issue is a 3-year-old federal law called the Stolen Valor Act that makes it a crime punishable by up to a year in jail to falsely claim to have received a medal from the U.S. military. It is a crime even if the liar makes no effort to profit from his stolen glory.

Attorneys in Colorado and California are challenging the law on behalf of two men charged, saying the First Amendment protects almost all speech that doesn’t hurt someone else. Neither man has been accused by prosecutors of seeking financial gain for himself.

Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School who is not involved in the two cases, said the Stolen Valor Act raises serious constitutional questions because it in effect bans bragging or exaggerating about yourself.

“Half the pickup lines in bars across the country could be criminalized under that concept,” he said.
Yes, Professor Turley, but in both the case of the "bragging pickup line" and the "stolen valor" even in the absence of "financial gain" the intention is to get something that might not be attainable if the truth about the liar was known.

People don't just start wearing medals they didn't earn because they like the pretty colors. They get some gain out of it.

An exhibitionist who flashes his wares in public rarely gets a financial gain out of it either, but it is generally not considered "protected speech" even by law professors.

This is not the same as a sports fan wearing a team or player jersey to show support. It is highly unlikely that the sport fan will be thought of as a member of the team or identified as the player himself.

This also is not the same as an actor donning various badges, medals and ribbons for a role or even to someone playing "dress up" for a costume party in that presumably neither the actor nor the costume wearer is making the fraudulent assertion that he is entitled to wear such badges, ribbons and medals because he was awarded them or earned them.

Further, Professor Turley, to compare the fraudulent wearing of the trappings of valor to "pickup lines" in a bar demonstrates a special sort of arrogant ignorance and a true disregard for the men who really earned such medals defending your First Amendment rights.
As Professor Volokh stated:
The boundaries of the “false statements of fact” exception to First Amendment protection are not well-defined. There is indeed such an exception, and it is not limited solely to defamation and fraud: It covers many kinds of false statements of fact, including false light of invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress through false statements (even when the statements are not defamatory), trade libel, perjury, unsworn false statements of fact made to government officials, and falsehoods that are likely to lead to physical harm. And while some of these statements are not only false but very harmful (libel is the classic example), others are considerably less harmful: Consider, for instance, false statements that are not defamatory but that place someone in a false light.

But some false statements of fact are immune from liability, even if they are knowingly false. This is most clearly true for knowingly false statements about the government, but also probably true for knowingly false statements about broad historical, scientific, or current-events controversies, such as the Holocaust or global warming. And the Court has never articulated a clear rule for which knowingly false statements of fact are constitutionally protected and which are not.

Yet while there is no general well-settled rule for which knowingly false statements of fact are constitutionally unprotected, punishing false statements of fact about one’s own medals seems to be constitutionally permissible, because the reasons for protecting some knowingly false statements of fact do not apply to such lies. In particular, because such claims about having gotten a medal are so objective and verifiable, punishing false statements in this field is especially unlikely to deter true statements.

Finally, the Court in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992), has made clear that some content discriminations within unprotected categories of speech are unconstitutional because they pose the risk of viewpoint discrimination. But the Stolen Valor Act does not pose such a risk, and seems likely to fit within one of the exceptions the R.A.V. court identified.
Here's his take on this decision:
I found the opinion to be quite thoughtful and interesting, but I ultimately wasn’t persuaded (despite the recent United States v. Stevens precedent, on which the court heavily relies). The court’s theory seems to suggest that, while fraud is constitutionally unprotected, attempted fraud is protected, at least so long as no-one who relied on the attempted fraud can be identified. And it also seems inconsistent with the Court’s acceptance of false-light invasion of privacy claims — see my brief for more details on those cases — which rest neither on a specific well-rooted false light invasion of privacy exception nor on any plausible judgment that the false light tort passes strict scrutiny
The District Court found that the statute's lack of need to prove that the lie caused harm troubling:
The principal difficulty I perceive in trying to shoehorn the Stolen Valor Act into
the First Amendment fraud exception is that the Act, although addressing potentially
fraudulent statements, does not further require that anyone have been actually mislead, defrauded, or deceived by such misrepresentations.(footnote omitted)
Under this view, it appears someone who actually parted with money to support Mr. Strandlof's alleged veteran's organization in reliance on his lies about his personal military awards could bring a civil fraud suit against Mr. Strandlof, but the government may not step in to protect the public from such a fraud by making it a crime to lie about receiving military awards in furtherance of such a fraud.

We'll see this on appeal.

Now, if I were to wander out in the street wearing the medals shown below, am I entitled to them or am I merely exercising my "free speech" rights?

Will we be able to trust any medal wearing person again?

There's the harm, judge, there's the harm.

Something to pass the time

I'm here, just busy.

Enjoy this:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Marine Tough

Marine gets blown up, walks away unfazed:
Marines who witnessed the event from inside the compound caught glimpses of Garst’s feet flailing through the air just above the other side of the building’s eight-foot walls. The explosion knocked him at least fifteen feet away where he landed on his limp head and shoulders before immediately standing back up.

Not quite sure of what had just happened, Garst turned back toward the blast, now nothing but a column of dirt and smoke rising toward the sun.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh s---, I just hit an IED,’” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Well I’m standing. That’s good.’”

Garst’s squad stared at him in disbelief. The square-jawed Marine has a tendency to be short-tempered, and the realization that the blast was meant to kill him spiked his adrenaline and anger.

“It pissed me off,” he said.

He directed his men to establish a security perimeter while letting them know in his own way that he was OK.

“What the f--- are you looking at?” he said. “Get on the cordon!”
There's tough, and there's Marine tough.

And pretty much luck. Not recommended as a standard IED detection method.

Guatemala nabs drug sub

Reported by Singapore Straits Times as Guatemala nabs drug sub:
GUATEMALA'S navy captured a makeshift submarine loaded with five tonnes of cocaine bound for the United States, the Guatemalan military said on Sunday.

The navy, which was working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration on the operation, stopped the 17m vessel on Friday off Guatemala's Pacific coast and arrested four Colombian men on board.

'There was a sleeping compartment, another (compartment) for the engine, and a third for cargo which was full of cocaine,' armed forces spokesman Byron Gutierrez told a news conference. The four men were taken into custody by DEA agents.
Maps show Guatemala and drug sub possible routes as they follow the coasts up toward Mexico. Note the relatively shallow coastal shelf on the route on the map below:


Friday, July 09, 2010

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Episode 28 2010 Navy and Merchant Marine Mid-year Review 7/11/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Mid year review? Gotcha covered this Sunday with Episode 28 2010 Navy and Merchant Marine Mid-year Review 7/11/2010 - Midrats | Internet Radio | Blog Talk Radio:
Where do we stand half-way through 2010 and our plans to deal with the budgetary and strategic challenges coming up this decade? Join Navy Milblogggers Sal and me as we discuss everything from the coming budget crunch, piracy, Haiti, to the response to the BP oil spill. Our guests will be Daniel Goure, Ph.D., Vice President with the Lexington Institute, Professor Robert C. (Barney) Rubel Dean, Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the United States Naval War College, and blogger on gCaptain, USNIBlog and his own site, 'Fred Fry International' - our resident Merchant Marine, Fred Fry.
Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Sunday 5pm Eastern.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Ronald Reagan on Government Planning

UPDATE: Which ought to be kept in mind while reading about stuff like this:
Financial regulation bill dictates ethnic, gender quotas:
This latest attempt by Congress to dictate what “fair” employment means is likely to encourage administrators and managers, in government and in the private sector, to hire women and minorities for the sake of appearances, even if some new hires are less qualified than other applicants. The result is likely to be redundant hiring and a wasteful expansion of payroll overhead.
And greater cost to the consumer, who is also, by the way, the taxpayer paying for the state apparatus that will be put in place to keep track of all this. In other words, you.

It used to be stick up artists who said, "Your money or your life." Now the government is getting to the point of "Your money and your life."

Where you gonna run to?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Navy Airship to Go to Oil Spill

Reported as A Navy Blimp is Expected to Help the Clean up Oil Spill Process :
The clean up oil spills process continues in the 77th day with a new technology. An enormous navy blimp MZ-3A Airship slowly made its way from Yuma, Arizona and is expected to arrive today in the Gulf Coast at Jack Edwards National Airport, to help clean up the disastrous oil spill, according to a press release from Deepwater Horizon Response External Affairs. The Coast Guard requested the support of the 178-foot-long U.S. Navy airship to detect oil, assist in coordinating skimming efforts and to monitor any threat to marine mammals and other wildlife that may be in distress.

The advantage that the blimp has over the helicopters is that, it can stay aloft continuously for 12 hours while monitoring a large swath of territory at low speed, and would also far more economical than the helicopters, according to the US Navy. The problem is that the blimp can’t go up in rough weather and that could mean significant no-fly periods for the MZ-3A Airship.
OK, cool.

Photo: Navy Hand Out File Photo (Undated) of the MZ-3A manned airship, Advanced Airship Flying Laboratory, derived from the commercial A-170 series blimp. The Navy airship is a high endurance low fuel alternative to fixed wing or rotary aircraft. providing extreme utility in airborne patrol missions where endurance and communications capabilities are required. (U.S. Navy/Released)

Suing Arizona:Silly Move by a Joke of an Administration

You can read the pleading here:
The United States understands the State of Arizona’s legitimate concerns about illegal immigration, and has undertaken significant efforts to secure our nation’s borders. The federal government, moreover, welcomes cooperative efforts by states and localities to aid in the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. But the United States Constitution forbids Arizona from supplanting the federal government’s immigration regime with its own state-specific immigration policy – a policy that, in purpose and effect, interferes with the numerous interests the federal government must balance when enforcing and administering the immigration laws and disrupts the balance actually established by the federal government. Accordingly, S.B. 1070 is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and must be struck down.
Apparently, the "interests" of the federal government include allowing "sanctuary cities" and more or less open borders and forcing legitimate immigrants to jump through hoops not required of those who sneak across borders. UPDATE: To clarify, I mean it seems unusual for an administration to argue that its interest in not enforcing the law of the land somehow rises to an act of supremacy that forbids states from enforcing the law of land. Heck, if you don't like the federal law on which the Arizona statute is based, Mr. President, why not ask your gang in the Congress to repeal it and replace it with something more to your liking?

I told you this would be fun, and here, here, here.

UPDATE: James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal sees signs of an "imperial presidency":
Brennan expressly cited "the predominance of federal interest" in immigration (as opposed to employment law), and the federal government's complaint against Arizona alleges, plausibly, that the state law will impose burdens on legal aliens.But he also makes clear that the power to pre-empt or sanction state laws in an area of federal interest rests with Congress, not the president. This would seem to suggest that if the Arizona law is consistent with federal law and Congress has not expressly barred action by states, the Arizona law should stand.

A large part of the administration's argument, by contrast, is that the Arizona law is inconsistent with federal immigration policy--i.e., with the executive branch's decisions about how to enforce laws passed by Congress. An important question for the court, then, will be whether Congress has delegated its authority to pre-empt state laws by granting discretion over law enforcement to the president.

In other words, this is a case about the balance of power within the federal government, with the Obama administration on the side of expanding the authority of the executive branch.
Wait, Obama as an emperor? Who'd a thunk it?

Drug Submarine: DEA Provides More Info, Photos

 Lots of pictures from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration accompanying a DEA news release here:
The twin-screw, diesel electric-powered submarine is about 30 meters long and about nine feet high from the deck plates to the ceiling. The sophisticated vessel also has a conning tower, periscope and air conditioning system.

DEA Andean Regional Director Jay Bergman stated: “Traffickers historically employed slow moving fishing boats, sail boats, pleasure craft and subsequently go-fasts. Eventually, when speed no longer won the day, traffickers to avoid detection, turned to parasitic devices on the bottom of ship hulls, towed array devices and ultimately low profile vessels and semi-submersible boats. The advent of the narco-submarine presents new detection challenges for maritime interdiction forces. The submarine’s nautical range, payload capacity and quantum leap in stealth have raised the stakes for the counter-drug forces and the national security community alike.”

The submarine was constructed in a remote jungle environment in an effort to elude law enforcement or military interdiction, and is currently located near a tributary close to the Ecuador/Colombia border. As a result of DEA intelligence, Ecuadorian authorities were able to seize the vessel before it was able to make its maiden voyage. This is the first seizure of a clandestinely constructed fully operational submarine built to facilitate trans-oceanic drug trafficking.
Worth noting:
  1. Interesting camouflage pattern and colors;
  2. Use of commercial off the shelf stuff - like the Humminbird depth finder mounted in the interior (I added a red arrow to point it out - click on the photos to enlarge);
  3. Simplicity of design - not building a nuke submarine here, but a tool that can be expended after a run;
  4. Report here says this sub "cost" $4 million to build;
  5. "Tear drop" shape-- my guess is someone bought a model kit on which to base this design.

UPDATE: We've seen a frame work for a similar shape of a submarine being built by the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger terrorist group - as seen back in 2009, as seen in the nearby photo:

Monday, July 05, 2010

Another Drug Sub Seized (UPDATE) - A Real Submarine

Breitbart has it as DEA Seize Drug-smuggling Submarine. UPDATE: But, as noted in the comment, the captured sub was allegedly capable of "full submersion" (see here), a significant step up from the already troubling semi-submersibles already in use, as The Register's Lewis Page notes:
A proper diesel-electric submarine like the one discovered at the weekend has the option of shutting down its engines and submerging fully to run on batteries. The sub is then completely invisible on radar and infrared: interdiction forces can then only locate it by using sonar, which is shorter-ranging, far less reliable, and very expensive to use on a large scale.

A modern military diesel-electric boat can travel some hundreds of miles on battery power, though with the disadvantage of moving at a crawl - it will travel less than a hundred miles in a day like this. Higher speeds are possible, but they slash range to a small fraction of the maximum.

The chances are that the Ecuadorian drug-sub had no such long-ranging fully submerged capabilities: it is probably only capable of shorter journeys entirely underwater, and intended to work in semi-submerged or surfaced mode much of the time, like a World War II German U-boat. In especially heavily watched waters, or if approached by law-enforcement units, the sub would dive and go slow on batteries, confident that it could no longer be followed.
Although some submarine hobbyists have long mocked the "drug subs" (see here) for being "crude" - an opinion that may require some re-thinking.

Earlier posts (dating back to 2006) on drug subs here, here, here, here, here. And, a post from 2008 featuring an interview with Commander Cameron Naron, Deputy Chief, Coast Guard Office of Law Enforcement regarding these drug subs here. At the time of the interview, no such boats had been seen in the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean. This seems to have changed and here.

A good post by Alex Pasternack here with some good video on the "older" models of drug semi-submersibles.

Somali Pirates: Capture a Ship in the Red Sea

EU Naval Forces report MT MOTIVATOR hijacked in the southern Red Sea:
In the early hours of 4 July, the MT Motivator reported it was under small arms fire from a pirate attack in the northern Bab Al Mandeb area in the southern Red Sea. After notification of this attack, attempts were made to make contact with the Motivator but to no avail. The hijack was confirmed early on 5 July.

The MT Motivator, deadweight 13,065 tonnes with a crew of 18 Filipino nationals on board, is a Marshall Islands Flagged chemical products tanker loaded with lubricants oil. EU NAVFOR is monitoring the situation.
This is, to my best recollection, the first capture of a major ship in the Red Sea by Somali pirates.

UPDATE on location of capture from the ICC CCS (IMB) Live Piracy Report here:

An earlier post on the shift of Somali pirates to the Red Sea here. UPDATE: An earlier warning from the U.S. Navy dated June 9, 2010:
Pirates in the Gulf of Aden are increasingly operating at night and could expand their raids into the Red Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Tuesday

The Bahrain-headquartered Fifth Fleet said it had warned merchant vessels about changes in pirates' tactics following bad weather and the stepped-up presence of international navies.

As noted there, the weather off Somalia currently is not very good for small boat (read "pirate") operations - the weather in the southern Red Sea better (see here): From top to bottom: Off east coast of Somailia (Indian Ocean), Gulf of Aden, Southern Red Sea

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Declaration of Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

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.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
So it began . . .

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Gulf Oil Mess: Huge Skimmer Gets Test Run

Earlier report here.

Giant oil skimmer being tested in Gulf of Mexico :
The Coast Guard says testing will take 48 hours.

Officials want to verify the ship can make good on its promise of sucking up as much as 21 million gallons of oil-fouled water per day.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Chart of the Day - Obama's Non-Job Non-Recovery

Found at Chart of the Day - Job creation turns back down:
Today, the Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls (jobs) decreased by 125,000 in June -- the first decline in six months. Today's chart puts the latest data into perspective by comparing job losses following the beginning of the current economic recession (solid red line) to that of the last recession (dashed gold line) and the average recession from 1950-1999 (dashed blue line). As today's chart illustrates, the current job market has suffered losses that are more than triple as much as what occurs at the lows of the average recession/job loss cycle. Also, today's decline in jobs provides further evidence that the current economic recovery has begun to cool.

My suggestion: Cut taxes and cut the big ticket social programs. Stop the idiotic ethanol subsidies and reopen the Gulf of Mexico for oil drilling. Jobs, jobs, jobs. If you get welfare or unemployment, you need to be out doing some community service as an "employee of the the people." Lots of work like the CCC used to do in our parks, inner cities and learning how to repair highways and bridges. Make a condition of welfare some sort of education program.

Give up the silly high speed rail system, kill the U.S. Department of Education, etc.

Bring some sense of economic stability to the country. If all we have to look forward to is a string of way out of whack budgets (assuming we ever get a budget out of the Democrats) and an unknown but virtually certain series of tax increases - the new promise will be "no tax increases on anyone earning below $25,000"), it's a little hard to decide to invest in anything except your own saving against hard times to come.

Pass a law forbidding unionization of state and federal employees, including teachers. Make teachers test for their jobs and close state-run schools that aren't getting the job done.

UPDATE: Of considerable interest How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late: Andy Grove:
. . . Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment. Equally important is what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up. They work out design details, figure out how to make things affordably, build factories, and hire people by the thousands. Scaling is hard work but necessary to make innovation matter.

The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S. And as long as that’s the case, plowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs.

Gulf Oil Mess: Huge Skimmer Standing By for Approval

Reported as Giant skimmer waits for GoM go ahead:
As of this morning (1 July 10) Nobu Su's giant skimmer, the converted 319,869 dwt ore/oil carrier A Whale, was in the Venice, La. area awaiting word on whether the Coast Guard and EPA would allow it to go to work on the Deepwater Horizon spill.
It may work, but we won't know until it's tried.

Hat tip to Lee.

Somali Pirates: Irish Troops Train Somali Anti-Pirate Forces

Reported here:
Irish troops are training 2,000 soldiers to help fight Somali pirates who have plagued international shipping.

The five Irish soldiers, who include a member of the Army Rangers, are giving the Somali troops the skills to fight effectively. They are carrying out the training at an army base in Uganda — which is considered safer than war-torn Somalia.
Commandant Ronan Corcoran said one of the key aims was to improve the fighting skills of the troops so they could tackle the activities of Somali pirates on land.

“Until there is security on the ground, they can’t be security at sea because these pirates have to come back into ports,” he said.
An EU effort, the thinking behind which is sound - defeat the pirates ashore while doing what another part of the effort the EU is undertaking - blockading the pirate ports, as set out here.