New U.S. Ship Naming Guidelines Announced

In a move long expected, the Secretary of the Navy today announced that the process for determining the names of Navy ships will "finally enter the 21st century":
"In these days of tighter budgets, all government agencies must find creative ways to raise money for operating funds. As a result, I have today directed that naming rights for future naval vessels will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
"This does not mean we won't continue to honor our heritage. Traditionally, names of all ships within a class have been related. Therefore, naming rights for follow-on Ford-class carriers will be limited to automobile manufacturers. I expect to announce the official naming of USS General Motors (CVN 79) within the next week.
"Bidders for naming rights to major surface ships will be limited to companies listed on the Fortune 500. The second Zumwalt-class destroyer will be christened USS Microsoft (DDG 1001). Amphibious ships will be named for foreign countries; each winning bid comes with a guarantee that the ship will not be used to invade its namesake.
"In another return to tradition, submarines following USS Mississippi (SSN 782) will be named after fish... restaurants. The keel for USS Long John Silver (SNN 783) will be laid early next year."
What a way to start a new month...

Update 03 April 2008: In addition to these changes in the way we name boats, SubSim reported the same day on changes coming in the manning (or, in this case, wo-manning) of submarines.

Update 1758 04 April: The Russians must use a different calendar; their April Fool's press release came out three days late:
MOSCOW, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will put its first Borey-class strategic nuclear submarine through sea trials in the second half of 2008, the Russian Navy commander said on Friday.
The fourth generation Yury Dolgoruky was built at the Sevmash plant in the northern Arkhangelsk Region and was taken out of dry dock last April. It will be equipped with Bulava ballistic missiles upgraded from Topol-M (SS-27) missiles.
"The Yury Dolgoruky will go to sea in July. If not in July, then in October or November," Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said.
Ha ha! Those Russian Admirals, always going on with their jokes and quips...

In Idaho: Big Navy = Grinch

[Intel Source: Huckleberries Online] Up in northern Idaho, a retired Marine has organized a program whereby area Navy and Marine Reservists who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are given a personalized Buck Knife (which are manufactured in Post Falls, Idaho). It's a great example of private citizens showing their support for our brave Servicemen and Servicewomen serving in the war zone. And now some "senior officer" says it's a no-go:
Veterans of the Iraq War are being told they can't receive a commemorative Buck knife as a "thank you" for their service and sacrifice.
"Someone put up a red flag and said we can't do it," said Lt. Troy Gilbert, a member of the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion based out of Hayden. "There's a $20 limit in value that a service member can accept as a gift. These knives are valued at $103."
Gilbert said roughly 40 reservists were going to each receive a special knife made by Buck Knives during an April 5 ceremony.
"I am trying to see what can be done," Gilbert said. "I know the Navy JAG is looking at the legality of it. We might be able to get around this rule."
Graham Crutchfield, a retired Marine, organized the commemorative knife program by raising money for the knives and is incensed with the Navy's edict.
"It makes no sense and it defies logic," Crutchfield said. "A private citizen can't give one of our troops a gift for putting their lives at risk because of some bureaucratic nonsense. It's an insult to the American people."
The problem began when Gilbert was trying to get some positive publicity from the Navy on the program. His efforts backfired when a senior officer said the gifts violated Navy regulations.
Needless to say, members of the community are rightfully flabbergasted by the decision of the "senior officer" (who probably hasn't stood a watch at sea in decades, if ever). Luckily, the story is gaining traction (even if it is WorldNetDaily), so I'm hoping the Navy will overrule the unnamed senior orifice quickly. Since Servicepeople are allowed to receive gifts for "meritorious public service" [5 CFR 2635.204(d)], they'll hopefully be able to get out of this PR kerfuffle by citing that reason.

Update 2303 02 April 2008: The Commander of Navy Reserve Readiness Command Northwest -- a submariner, btw -- did the right thing and ruled that the Servicepeople can accept the knives. BZ, Captain Kidd! Hopefully he will also mock and belittle the idgit who made the first idiotic determination.

Now This Is Namesake Support

USS Georgia (SSGN 729) marked her return to service last week with a show of support from her namesake state that is nearly unprecedented. I was most impressed with the initiative that took a Georgia state flag through all 159 counties for subsequent presentation to the ship.

I think a good relationship between a submarine and her namesake can be a great thing for the morale of a crew. The Georgia's CO was my first XO on PCU Connecticut (SSN 22) when she was being built at EB, and I know he learned a lot there about how to make the namesake state excited about having their own submarine.

One advantage of being stationed in the state for which you're named -- the public will buy lots of ballcaps and t-shirts from you, which results in a windfall for your Rec Fund. On Connecticut, we gave away trips and nice TVs as door prizes at the ship's parties; Georgia should be able to do the same if they handle their Ship's Store correctly. I recommend they forget about training during off-crew and just send the guys out to sell shirts at the mall.

Update 2339 02 April 2008: Here's some video of the Return To Service ceremony.

SubGru SEVEN Website Revisited

Everyone knows they can get the latest compilation of submarine news from The Sub Report, but did you know that the Submarine Group SEVEN website in Japan has a new "news" section? It focuses on "official" military news, and looks like it's well on its way to becoming the best source for finding archives of Navy-approved stories about submarines. Check it out!

Honoring The Elite Eight

Although my brackets were left in shambles fairly early in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, I'm still set up to have a fairly good overall point total -- all of my projected Final Four teams are still alive, and I correctly picked five of the Elite Eight teams.

The "Elite Eight" is an interesting moniker; while it represents all the teams that make the Regional Finals, the group itself exists for only about 20 hours, from the end of the last Sweet Sixteen game until the first of the eight teams loses the next night. Despite the short-lived nature of the grouping, it really is a mark of success in college basketball for any team -- even a #1 seed -- to get to this group. That all four #1 seeds made it this year is pretty impressive, especially seeing how quickly the #2 seeds fell.

I'm sticking with my picks for the Final Four (Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, and Texas). I think it'll be a fantasic next 9 days of basketball...

Parents Of The EOM

Our daughter, who's back home now going to school at BSU and working part time, was just named Employee of the Month at the local Toys R Us where she works; her proud parents are very excited!

You May Be Rich!

Back in 2003, the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Submarines" came out; I remember seeing copies of it in the NEX book section, but decided not to get it -- I figured I wasn't an Idiot when it came to submarining. (I did thumb through it, however, and was amused by the chapter on "Phoning the Eng at home", having just come off my "bonus" 2nd Eng tour.)

It turns out I actually was an idiot when I didn't buy the book; it's now out of print, and the cheapest used copy readily available on the 'net is priced at $424.99. And it's just not an Amazon pricing algorithm thing; other web-based booksellers all have it in the $450+ range. So, if you have a copy hanging around at home, you have the makings for a couple of really fancy restaurant dinners for the family! (And if you see a copy in your local used bookstore, you should snag it up and eBay it.)

Crew's Messes On Parade

I always enjoy it when the Navy website posts a photo of some sort of briefing in the Crew's Mess on a submarine. It's one of the few spaces that a boat can personalize, and I like to see what the various subs have done with their freedom of expression. Earlier this week, a picture of a briefing on the mess deck of USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) was published:

From this angle, there seems to be a disappointing lack of uniqueness. If you look at the hi-res version of the picture, you can see they've put engravings of submarine-appropriate rating symbols on one glass locker door, and another glass door has what appears to be a silhouette of the bucking bronco symbol you see on Wyoming license plates. Overall, OKC's Crew's Mess isn't very impressive in terms of personalization.

The COB's haircut, on the other hand, is extremely impressive. Low maintenance, low drag... the perfect underway hairstyle.

Midwatch Discussion -- Worst Toilets

Remember the discussions you'd have on the midwatch in Control or Maneuvering? The ones where you always knew deep down that you really should be going over the stuff in the Night Orders you were supposed to be discussing, but instead got into a 3 hour conversation about something like "things on a submarine named after animals" ("White Rat", "Bear Trap", etc.)? The incomparable ninme posted about Asian toilets a few days ago, and that got me thinking it would be a good topic for conversation...

The first time I ever saw a "squat toilet" was in a bar in Korea. Luckily, I only had to stand while using it; I never did actually use it for #2. I still have no idea about what the unwritten code is for their use (there were three holes in the floor of the bar's bathroom) -- do you just drop you pants around your ankles and squat in the middle of the room?

So the topic of discussion is: what's the worst / most interesting bathroom you've run across in liberty ports around the world?

Global Warming Over

Inconvenient Truth: Global Warming Ended Ten Years Ago

Despite the more hysterical predictions we've heard of late, the evidence continues to mount that if the earth was warming, it stopped quite some time ago.

Of course, don't expect this fact to be widely reported, if it indeed even makes it into any U.S. newspapers or television broadcasts.

Last Monday - on ABC Radio National, of all places - there was a tipping point of a different kind in the debate on climate change. It was a remarkable interview involving the co-host of Counterpoint, Michael Duffy and Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of Melbourne-based think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Anyone in public life who takes a position on the greenhouse gas hypothesis will ignore it at their peril.

Duffy asked Marohasy: "Is the Earth still warming?"

She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."
Duffy: "It's not only that it's not discussed. We never hear it, do we? Whenever there's any sort of weather event that can be linked into the global warming orthodoxy, it's put on the front page. But a fact like that, which is that global warming stopped a decade ago, is virtually never reported, which is extraordinary."

Duffy then turned to the question of how the proponents of the greenhouse gas hypothesis deal with data that doesn't support their case. "People like Kevin Rudd and Ross Garnaut are speaking as though the Earth is still warming at an alarming rate, but what is the argument from the other side? What would people associated with the IPCC say to explain the (temperature) dip?"

Marohasy: "Well, the head of the IPCC has suggested natural factors are compensating for the increasing carbon dioxide levels and I guess, to some extent, that's what sceptics have been saying for some time: that, yes, carbon dioxide will give you some warming but there are a whole lot of other factors that may compensate or that may augment the warming from elevated levels of carbon dioxide.

"There's been a lot of talk about the impact of the sun and that maybe we're going to go through or are entering a period of less intense solar activity and this could be contributing to the current cooling."

Al Gore? Any reaction? Hello? Anyone home?

If Marohasy is anywhere near right about the impending collapse of the global warming paradigm, life will suddenly become a whole lot more interesting.

A great many founts of authority, from the Royal Society to the UN, most heads of government along with countless captains of industry, learned professors, commentators and journalists will be profoundly embarrassed. Let us hope it is a prolonged and chastening experience.

I wonder what those who called the truth-tellers deniers will have to say?

How about those who characterized skeptics as being on par with Holocaust deniers?

What will they have to say?

Likely nothing. In fact, we'll still see apocalyptic stories of impending doom, with reports how global warming is hastening the arrival of spring, despite cool temperatures across much of the United States.
The cost to the public may be even greater as a result of legislation forcing overly ambitious controls over carbon dioxide emissions which in the end may do little or nothing.
The race between government policy, which is just getting up to speed on dealing with "carbon dioxide" to address "global warming", and the new data refuting the predictive ability of the climate models, will be an interesting one to watch.

And by interesting, I mean nail-bitingly exhausting! The EPA is this close (now that the Supreme Court has given them the green light) to regulating harmless carbon dioxide gas, which is a natural biological product we produce by breathing, as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act! They have already found its emission to be "harmful to welfare", and it is apparently only the White House and DOT directing the career bureacrats to not act on their finding...

Some background:
The most worrisome regulation now under consideration is a declaration by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles endanger public health. The so-called endangerment finding would spark many costly measures with the potential to harm the U.S. economy and intrude on citizens' daily activities. The EPA should refrain from initiating any regulation that would jump ahead of Congress on global warming.

In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision against the EPA over its refusal to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from motor vehicles. However, Massachusetts v. EPA did not require the agency to change its position; it required only that the agency demonstrate that whatever it chooses to do complies with the requirements of the Clean Air Act. In the Court's words, "[w]e need not and do not reach the question whether on remand EPA must make an endangerment finding," and "[w]e hold only that EPA must ground its reasons for action or inaction in the statute."

Nonetheless, it appears that some people in the Administration and the EPA want to read this case as a mandate to begin cracking down on carbon dioxide. But doing so is not required under the law.

Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring component of air that is created by breathing and other natural processes. It is also the ubiquitous and unavoidable byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, which currently provides 85 percent of America's energy. Thus, any effort to substantially curtail such emissions would have extremely costly and disruptive effects on the economy and on living standards.
To hear some in Congress and elsewhere, the administration is breaking the law by not moving forward with regulation, but that is a falsehood.

But unfortunately the Court's four level-headed justices weren't enough to squelch the whole issue by declaring CO2 is not a pollutant as defined by the Clean Air Act of 1990.

No News

The New York Times is, of course, puzzled:

The War Endures, but Where’s the Media?

Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet.

Media attention on Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
But why?

The article cites many possibilities for this conundrum, including vague loss of interest by readers, as well as:
Experts offer many other explanations for the declining media focus, like the danger and expense in covering Iraq, and shrinking newsroom budgets. In the last year, a flagging economy and the most competitive presidential campaign in memory have diverted attention and resources.
Though harping on the danger and expense of reporting from Iraq, near the end of the article this line is slipped in:
Americans against the war are less interested now that the news is better.
Good news is no news, apparently!

Fire With Fire

Coptic priest Zakaria Botros fights fire with fire.
Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.

Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. He has famously made of Islam “ten demands,” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.

The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones. The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, many of them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry.
A third reason for Botros’s success is that his polemical technique has proven irrefutable. Each of his episodes has a theme — from the pressing to the esoteric — often expressed as a question (e.g., “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?”). To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes — always careful to give sources and reference numbers — from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present — the illustrious ulema.

Typically, Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is sufficiently detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam.
Botros spent three years bringing to broad public attention a scandalous — and authentic — hadith stating that women should “breastfeed” strange men with whom they must spend any amount of time. A leading hadith scholar, Abd al-Muhdi, was confronted with this issue on the live talk show of popular Arabic host Hala Sirhan. Opting to be truthful, al-Muhdi confirmed that going through the motions of breastfeeding adult males is, according to sharia, a legitimate way of making married women “forbidden” to the men with whom they are forced into contact — the logic being that, by being “breastfed,” the men become like “sons” to the women and therefore can no longer have sexual designs on them.

To make matters worse, Ezzat Atiyya, head of the Hadith department at al-Azhar University — Sunni Islam’s most authoritative institution — went so far as to issue a fatwa legitimatizing “Rida’ al-Kibir” (sharia’s term for “breastfeeding the adult”), which prompted such outrage in the Islamic world that it was subsequently recanted.
Incapable of rebutting Botros, the only strategy left to the ulema (aside from a rumored $5-million bounty on his head) is to ignore him. When his name is brought up, they dismiss him as a troublemaking liar who is backed by — who else? — international “Jewry.” They could easily refute his points, they insist, but will not deign to do so. That strategy may satisfy some Muslims, but others are demanding straightforward responses from the ulema.

The most dramatic example of this occurred on another famous show on the international station, Iqra. The host, Basma — a conservative Muslim woman in full hijab — asked two prominent ulema, including Sheikh Gamal Qutb, one-time grand mufti of al-Azhar University, to explain the legality of the Koranic verse (4:24) that permits men to freely copulate with captive women. She repeatedly asked: “According to sharia, is slave-sex still applicable?” The two ulema would give no clear answer — dissembling here, going off on tangents there. Basma remained adamant: Muslim youth were confused, and needed a response, since “there is a certain channel and a certain man who has discussed this issue over twenty times and has received no response from you.”

The flustered Sheikh Qutb roared, “low-life people like that must be totally ignored!” and stormed off the set.
Botros’s motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote “Israeli interests,” or “demonize” Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying — not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. — must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.
Not taking any religion seriously is a key weakness in contemporary liberalism's approach to confronting radical islam.

Ann Coulter's "convert them to Christianity" prescription is more on target!


Came across this interesting blog, Cobb:
Michael David Cobb Bowen is the political & cultural blogger 'Cobb'. He writes from the perspective of a moderate conservative Republican representing the 'Old School' of African American culture and values. In his 15 year career of writing as a poet and essayist he has been called the Ralph Ellison of his generation.
What is "Old School"?
The Old School is a somewhat mythical orientation of conservative black culture and politics. You know it when you see it. The Old School is Christian, it is family oriented, it is unapologetic and bold, it is organic and self-sufficient. It takes little for granted and is ready to go down swinging. It is deeply American and deeply black. It is strong and proud, stubborn and graceful. I think of it engrained in the values and person of my grandparents who beat polio and got optimistically married during the Great Depression.
From a collection of itme about Cobb's philosophy, I enjoyed reading this description:
The Mercedes Birthright

Every American inherits a Mercedes Benz at birth. It is the infrastructure of the American system. However, it is up on blocks, the wheels are off, and there is no gas in the tank. You can sit behind the wheel in comfort and pretend that you are driving. You can fall asleep in the back seat, roll up the windows and ignore the world. But you have no idea about the real experience of America until you figure out how to get some wheels and mount them, get that car off the blocks and figure out how to get some gas into that engine. If you figure that out, you'll be able to drive 100 miles per hour. But if you don't bother, you walk like everyone else.

VADM Stufflebeem Fired

VADM "Boomer" Stufflebeem, an aviator who was Director of the Navy Staff and former Sixth Fleet Commander, was fired late last week for lying to the Inspector General about an "inappropriate relationship" he had 18 years ago when he was Naval Aide to former President Bush.

So here's the questions -- why would an Admiral get investigated for a relationship that happened 18 years ago? One reader suggests that maybe the product of that relationship was applying to get into Annapolis. Any other suggestions from the peanut gallery? And who will now inherit the title of "Admiral with the most humorous name"?

PCU North Carolina News Reports

PCU North Carolina's recent media availability resulted in three reports from a Wilmington TV station; the first one is here:

The next two are here and here. Some good footage of the inside of a new Virginia-class boat can be seen. And, as expected, some mistakes by a well-meaning reporter who did the voice-over based on quickly-written notes are evident -- such as in the 2nd video, which opens with a Submariner getting pinned with his "fins". I suppose "fins" and "fish" are kind of similar...

Let Them In!

Few Iraqi refugees allowed into U.S.

WASHINGTON — The United States admitted 68 Iraqi refugees in the six months through March, a tiny percentage of those fleeing their homes because of the war, State Department figures show.

The United States has been unable to accept more Iraqis in part because of the time needed for background checks, which have become more stringent since 9/11, Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of State, told USA TODAY.
There's definitely a need for security, but I'd take such arguments more seriously if we had actually secured our borders by now.
Yet, from October through March, the United States gave refuge to far more Somalis, Iranians, Burmese and Cubans than Iraqis, according to the State Department.
Will the Iraqis who helped us, such as the translators, be as shamefully treated as the Hmong?
In the early 1960s, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began to recruit the indigenous Hmong people in Laos to join fighting the Vietnam War, named as a Special Guerrilla Unit led by General Vang Pao. Over 80% of the Hmong men in Laos were recruited by the CIA to join fighting for the "Secret War" in Laos. The CIA used the Special Guerrilla Unit as the counter attack unit to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the main military supply route from the north to the south. Hmong soldiers put their lives at risk in the frontline fighting for the United States to block the supply line and to rescue downed American pilots. As a result, the Hmong suffered a very high casualty rate; more than 40,000 Hmong were killed in the frontline, countless men were missing in action, thousands more were injured and disabled.
Following the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, the Lao kingdom was overthrown by the communists and the Hmong people became targets of retaliation and persecution. While some Hmong people returned to their villages and attempted to resume life under the new regime, thousands more made the trek to and across the Mekong River into Thailand, often under attack. This marked the beginning of a mass exodus of Hmong people from Laos.
Of those Hmong who did not flee Laos, somewhere between two and three thousand were sent to re-education camps where political prisoners served terms of 3-5 years. Many Hmong died in these camps, after being subjected to hard physical labor and harsh conditions.[24] Thousands more Hmong people, mainly former soldiers and their families, escaped to remote mountain regions - particularly Phou Bia, the highest (and thus least accessible) mountain peak in Laos.
Small groups of Hmong people, many of them second or third generation descendants of former CIA soldiers, remain internally displaced in remote parts of Laos, in fear of government reprisals. Faced with continuing military operations against them by the government and a scarcity of food, some groups have begun coming out of hiding, while others have sought asylum in Thailand and other countries.[26]
Many Hmong/Mong war refugees resettled in the United States after the Vietnam War. Beginning in December 1975, the first Hmong/Mong refugees arrived in the U.S., mainly from refugee camps in Thailand; however, only 3,466 were granted asylum at this time under the Refugee Assistance Act of 1975. In May of 1976, another 11,000 were allowed to enter the United States, and by 1978 some 30,000 Hmong/Mong people had immigrated. This first wave was made up predominantly of men directly associated with General Vang Pao's secret army. It was not until the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980 that families were able to come in the U.S., becoming the second-wave of Hmong/Mong immigrants. Today, approximately 270,000 Hmong/Mong people reside in the United States, the majority of whom live in California (65,095 according to the 2000 U.S. census), Minnesota (41,800), and Wisconsin (33,791).
Here, a US Army soldier who served in Iraq, drives the issue home:
I found out that the interpreter our team had used for almost six months is dead. As I write this, I have no idea how he died. It could have been an IED (improvised explosive device), a sniper or one of the local death squads. I do know, though, that his death is just another in a countless chain of young men passing before their prime, both American and Iraqi.

His real name was Haydar but his nome-de-guerre was Zee. There were many occasions Zee put himself directly in danger to help us gather intelligence or uncover weapons caches, among other things. There is no way to tell how many U.S. lives Zee saved. Note I didn't say "may have saved." Zee's actions saved lives. Period. His payback was to watch our plane taxi down the runway at Baghdad International Airport and lift off bound for the states.
His goal was to come to the United States and enlist in either the Army or the Marine Corps. He admired our troops and I know it hurt Zee to watch our guys kick in a door or engage the enemy while he had to sit it out. He longed for the action. But more than that, he wanted his country back. So much, in fact, he risked his life by working with us.

Could we have helped him reach his goal? Sure, if a better system had existed. Of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Iraqis who risk death on behalf for our troops, only a handful have the opportunity to come to the United States each year, and our government does nothing to make it easy.

Why? Why aren't we doing more to help those who have helped us? Why do we fly nameless Iraqi citizens to the United States for taxpayer-funded surgery yet show none of the same compassion toward those who have an active role in our combat operations? Somebody somewhere has to recognize this.

There are several million people south of Texas who decide annually to disregard our laws, disrespect our culture and cross into our country illegally solely for their own selfish goals. Our government ignores it. Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqis are willing to stand in line, fill out paperwork and jump through countless hoops to get here and start over. And our government makes every effort to discourage it. Guess common sense is another casualty of war.

My heart was hard prior to serving in Iraq. It is harder still since my return. But there is still room for humanity, a space that allows me to feel for those in need. I'm not a human rights shill nor am I grinding a political ax. I'm just a guy who knows right from wrong, and the way our government treats our Iraqi friends is just wrong. We give them hope, then tear it away. We ask them to give all, then tell them we have little to give in return.
Why indeed?

This is not a rational policy.

Obama's Theology

Liberation Theology was dreamed up by commies to subvert Christianity to its Marxist aims.

Black Liberation Theology goes a step further. It is clearly racist and non-Christian.

This is the theology of Obama's chosen church, Trinity United Church of Christ, and his chosen spiritual mentor, its former pastor Rev. Wright.

Find all about it here:
Spengler at the Asia Times takes a serious look at the theology of Jeremiah Wright, and indirectly at that of Barack Obama. The religious ideas taught at Wright's Trinity Church are derived from those of the "black liberation" theologians James Cone and Dwight Hopkins. During an interview with Sean Hannity, Wright chastised Hannity for his ignorance of the works of these two theologians, who basically argue that since God must take the part of the oppressed, He is essentially "black". And any God who isn't "black" is therefore an agency of the devil.

Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community ... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.

The McClatchy Newspapers has a comparable piece on Wright's theology by Margaret Talev, who situates the roots of Cone's book, Black Theology and Black Power in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. "Cone wrote that the United States was a white racist nation and the white church was the Antichrist for having supported slavery and segregation." But even after the 60s the ideas of Black Theology lived on, in Trinity Church most especially.

In an interview, Cone said that when he was asked which church most embodied his message, "I would point to that church (Trinity) first." Cone also said he thought that Wright's successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, would continue the tradition. Obama, 46, who's biracial, joined Trinity in his late twenties when he worked as a community organizer. He says he'll continue to worship there.

Thus Jeremiah Wright's widely publicized soundbites are not the incoherent 'rants' and ramblings of an "angry old man" or of slightly senile "old uncle" but the deliberate and vigorous exposition of a systematic point of view which the congregants have every intention of acting upon. Wright's words are not just vocalizations, but 'words that have meaning' in social, personal and foreign affairs. And one of those ideas is apparently the implicit recognition of the right of other oppressed races to create Gods in their own shade of blackness.

For example, the 8,000-member congregation embraces the idea that Jesus was black. It's historically supported left-wing social and foreign policies, from South Africa to Latin America to the Middle East. ... Wright, who hasn't been giving interviews since the controversy broke, told conservative TV talk-show host Sean Hannity last year that Trinity's black value system also had parallels to the liberation theology of laypeople in Nicaragua three decades ago. There, liberation theology became associated with Marxist revolution and the Sandinistas, and split the Roman Catholic Church.

I think Spengler is wrong when he says that Jeremiah Wright's racial theology "is as silly as the 'Aryan Christianity' popular in Nazi Germany, which claimed that Jesus was not a Jew at all but an Aryan Galilean". Aryan Christianity was a mere provincial vanity; a straightforward claim that a particular race was "chosen". Wright's theology is more subtle. Membership in his elect is defined by which race you don't belong to. The doors to heaven are open to everyone except members of the white race, whose burden, in contrast to Kipling's idea of responsibility, is actually inexpiable guilt. Upon the whites a curse of evil is laid that may not be lifted until the world's end or its change. An indio, Arab and black Jesus are all possible. It is the white Jesus that is inadmissible.
While Trinity Church is ostensibly Christian, perhaps its real sister church is the Nation of Islam. Compare Cone's assertion that "black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy", and Jeremiah Wright's sermon claiming that Jesus was a poor black man crucified by rich white people with Farrakhan's argument that whites are subhumans who through some demonic assistance have enslaved the world.
If there is anything worse than being white in liberation theology it is being Jewish. While the pulpits of Chicago and Egypt may be thousands of miles apart their themes can be quite similar. "In his weekly sermon the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Al-Tantawi, the most senior authority in the Sunni Muslim world, described the Jews as 'the enemies of Allah, sons of pigs and apes.'"
Hell is populated with whites and Jews while heaven is thronged with blacks and Muslims. And remarkably this theology is not only allegorical but literal. The idea that God might actually have a skin with pigmentation or a passport was to be found not only in Nazi Germany, Wright's church [and Obama's! -- ed.], Farrakhan's mosque or in the universities of the Middle East. It was also present even a few decades ago in apartheid South Africa.
Rejecting God's love and creating a new black one?

Thou shalt not have other gods before me.

So ironically, Obama may not be a muslim as some charge, but he sure isn't Judeo-Christian either!

The attempted dodge is to state that most people don't agree with "everything their pastor says", but this is so extreme and so fundamental to Trinity Church, that argument just doesn't fly.

Obama didn't attend for 20 years by accident.


Now that Obama has thrown Grandma under the bus (82,200 Google hits!) some of the lustre is lost, but it is instructive to observe just how disturbingly far this Obama as Messiah movement has progressed -- on pure rhetoric!

As an aside, for the claim that Obama is actually a lightweight empty suit, Belmont Club notes:
Obama besides hype has nothing.

True but not true. True in the sense he has no voting record or administrative experience. Untrue in that he has shown a remarkable instinct for finding his advantage. A lot of guys from his Alinsky days would have been stuck in the "community organizing", outsider groove. That was Ralph Nader's mistake and why Nader will never amount to anything.

But Obama knew how to get inside from Day One. Farrkahan. Rezko. Daley. Soros. Kerry. Kennedy. AIPAC. Look at how he went after the Latinos, how he's gotten the Hoffa imprimatur. He knows how to find the right buttons to push and is not inhibited in pushing them.

A lot of less talented politicians -- Nader comes to mind -- wouldn't touch those guys out of a kind of scrupulousness. Obama has no such scruples. He'll bridge to anyone. He says so up front, just like he said he did dope. He'll go right up to Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, probably Osama himself if Bin Laden were still alive and consented to meet.

He'll go up to anyone because at the center of everything is Obama. Don't think I'm criticizing him. That's his genius. He makes his own rules. Like Napoleon or Nelson he is beyond the Fighting Instructions. Lesser mortals are constrained by convention. He's beyond convention. And his freedom, I think, stems at one level from a persona which only comes alive when it is on the public stage. Read Spengler carefully. Obama the private man is smaller than Obama the Man of Destiny. But Obama the Man of Destiny is an emergent phenomenon larger than the man himself.

Therefore I don't think it is a safe bet to write him off as a Milli Vanilli nonentity. Obama is at least an order of magnitude a better politician than Hillary Clinton.
Actually he's quite dangerous.

Here is the Obamamessiah site, which actually isn't a parody but seriously [UPDATE: On further review I'm not sure the site's owner isn't just enjoying a big joke, but the items it aggregates seem to be genuine products of messianic fervor] asks, Is Barack Obama the Messiah?
"... a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany ... and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama" - Barack Obama Lebanon, New Hampshire. January 7, 2008.
One hopes Obama spoke that in jest...

Just scroll through that marvelous site, finding gems like this:
... there is no other like Obama. Absolutely none. ...

What he is offering is not for the naive, nor the fainted-hearted, its not for the uncourageous, nor the unchanging.

What he is offering is for the courageous, for those who have the heart to move beyond just dreams, and into realms never experienced in American history.
What he is offering is an agreement between struggles and a covenant for perfection, in that nothing is impossible if one begins with hope and the assurance of faith.

What he is offering is a contract between the old and the young, black and white, citizens and immigrants, rich and poor, priviledged and the impoverished.
Fundamentally, the similarities between Obamian hope and biblical hope are extraordinary, striking and intriguing.
My musician friends and I are writing songs to inspire people and couples all over America are making love again and shouting "yes we can" as they climax!
They were awaiting the messianic figure of a presidential candidate who had just added two more wins to his victory column and who the night before had ignited a crowd of about 20,000 in Houston.

Barack Obama was coming to town. . . .

Inside the arena, the unprompted crowd was yelling, "O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A!" a full 90 minutes before the candidate would appear. And just like at sporting events there in days gone by, one section spontaneously led the others in the "wave."
Parents had taken their children out of school because they were keenly aware this was a special moment in history. Some high school kids from Fort Worth had skipped classes and taken the early train to Dallas.

When finally taking the stage, Obama basked in the outpouring of affection as his followers stood in awe of the man whom they had waited so long to behold. He was well into his speech when he thought to remind the crowd that it was all right for them to sit down as he delivered the rest of his comments.
To get a feel for the fanaticism, see this tribute video with its rousing chants of "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!"

I love some of the statements by Obama supporters in that video, like "basically, I just want the war to end!" and "I believe in Obama, because he believes in us!", and the plea for the "rest of the world to think highly" of our country again, to explain their Obamaphilia.

But is this really all that new?

Has there truly been nobody like Obama before?

Here's another speaker who also rallied a rapturous youth, speaking of "unity", of "a youth that knows no class distinction", and of a youth that "is the epitome of altruism." This youth was exhorted to be "peaceloving and also courageous. You must be peacable and courageous at the same time."

You'll get the point quickly so you don't have to sit through all seven minutes of this:



Tomorrow belongs to us!

This one is worth watching all the way through; not so hard to understand now, is it?

"You still think you can control them?"

Does Obama's "covenant for perfection" allow for the Liberty to say "No I Won't" instead of "Yes I Can" at every turn?

(not sure where I first saw that question posed, perhaps in the comments at Belmont Club...)

The Anger of the Obamas

Ed Kaitz reflects on Obama's anger:
In Bayou country I lived on boats and in doublewide trailers, and like the rest of the Vietnamese refugees, I shopped at Wal-Mart and ate a lot of rice. When they arrived in Louisiana the refugees had no money (the money that they had was used to bribe their way out of Vietnam and into refugee camps in Thailand), few friends, and a mostly unfriendly and suspicious local population.

They did however have strong families, a strong work ethic, and the "Audacity of Hope." Within a generation, with little or no knowledge of English, the Vietnamese had achieved dominance in the fishing industry there and their children were already achieving the top SAT scores in the state.

While I had been fishing my new black friend had been working as a prison psychologist in Missouri, and he was pursuing a higher degree in psychology. He was interested in my story, and after about an hour getting to know each other I asked him point blank why these Vietnamese refugees, with no money, friends, or knowledge of the language could be, within a generation, so successful. I also asked him why it was so difficult to convince young black men to abandon the streets and take advantage of the same kinds of opportunities that the Vietnamese had recently embraced.

His answer, only a few words, not only floored me but became sort of a razor that has allowed me ever since to slice through all of the rhetoric regarding race relations that Democrats shovel our way during election season:

"We're owed and they aren't."

In short, he concluded, "they're hungry and we think we're owed. It's crushing us, and as long as we think we're owed we're going nowhere."
I managed to get a job on campus teaching expository writing to minority students who had been accepted provisionally into the university on an affirmative action program. And although I never met him, Ward Churchill, in addition to teaching in the ethnic studies department, helped to develop and organize the minority writing program.

The job paid most of my bills, but what I witnessed there was absolutely horrifying. The students were encouraged to write essays attacking the white establishment from every conceivable angle and in addition to defend affirmative action and other government programs. Of the hundreds of papers that I read, there was not one original contribution to the problem of black mobility that strayed from the party line.

The irony of it all however is that the "white establishment" managed to get them into the college and pay their entire tuition. Instead of being encouraged to study international affairs, classical or modern languages, philosophy or art, most of these students became ethnic studies or sociology majors because it allowed them to remain in disciplines whose orientation justified their existence at the university. In short, it became a vicious cycle.

There was a student there I'll never forget. He was plucked out of the projects in Denver and given a free ride to the university. One day in my office he told me that his mother had said the following to him: "M.J., they owe you this. White people at that university owe you this." M.J.'s experience at the university was a glorious fulfillment of his mother's angst.

There were black student organizations and other clubs that "facilitated" the minority student's experience on the majority white and "racist" campus, in addition to a plethora of faculty members, both white and black, who encouraged the same animus toward the white establishment. While adding to their own bona fides as part of the trendy Left, these "facilitators" supplied M.J. with everything he needed to quench his and his mother's anger, but nothing in the way of advice about how to succeed in college. No one, in short, had told M.J. that he needed to study. But since he was "owed" everything, why put out any effort on his own?
During my time teaching in the writing program, I watched Asians get transformed via leftist doublespeak from "minorities" to "model minorities" to "they're not minorities" in precise rhythm to their fortunes in business and education. Asians were "minorities" when they were struggling in this country, but they became "model minorities" when they achieved success. Keep in mind "model minority" did not mean what most of us think it means, i.e., something to emulate. "Model minority" meant that Asians had certain cultural advantages, such as a strong family tradition and a culture of scholarship that the black community lacked.

To suggest that intact families and a philosophy of self-reliance could be the ticket to success would have undermined the entire angst establishment. Because of this it was improper to use Asian success as a model. The contortions the left exercised in order to defend this ridiculous thesis helped to pave the way for the elimination of Asians altogether from the status of "minority."

This whole process took only a few years.
It is instructive to look to Michelle Obama's Princeton Thesis. As I was entering Princeton not long after she left it, I can attest that the campus bent over backwards to accomodate every whim and need of every student, and was especially sensitive to making minority students feel welcome. And yet, she wrote:
"My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before," the future Mrs. Obama wrote in her thesis introduction. "I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second."
If anything, this is an indictment of affirmative action programs, because then no matter how well a minority student does, they will always feel like just part of a quota.

However I will also add that I'm not sure what she expected, as I also feel like a "visitor" on campus, though I wasn't a minority! This feeling has to do with the fact that as a student, one feels like a temporary 4-year visitor compared with the seemingly tradition-entrenched alums, but then as an alum, one feels a visitor to a campus "owned" 24/7 by the current crop of undergrads!
The 1985 thesis provides a trove of Michelle Obama's thoughts as a young woman, with many of the paper's statements describing the student's world as seen through a race-based prism.

"In defining the concept of identification or the ability to identify with the black community," the Princeton student wrote, "I based my definition on the premise that there is a distinctive black culture very different from white culture." Other thesis statements specifically pointed to what was seen by the future Mrs. Obama as racially insensitive practices in a university system populated with mostly Caucasian educators and students: "Predominately white universities like Princeton are socially and academically designed to cater to the needs of the white students comprising the bulk of their enrollments."
Now that's pure nonsense! As a white student, I have no idea what special "white" needs I had that the university catered to.
To research her thesis, the future Mrs. Obama sent an 18-question survey to a sampling of 400 black Princeton graduates...

Just under 90 alums responded to the questionnaires (for a response rate of approximately 22 percent) and the conclusions were not what she expected. "I hoped that these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of identification with whites as a result of the educational and occupational path that black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility."
So in other words, unlike the Obamas, most of the other black alumni of Princeton did not leave university feeling angry and alienated -- they did not see everything through the prism of race.
Obama writes that the path she chose by attending Princeton would likely lead to her "further integration and/or assimilation into a white cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant."
Interestingly, while remaining on the periphery,
According to the couple’s 2006 income tax return, Michelle's salary was $273,618 from the University of Chicago Hospitals, while he had a salary of $157,082 from the United States Senate. The total Obama income, however, was $991,296 including $51,200 she earned as a member of the board of directors of TreeHouse Foods, plus investments and royalties from his books.
Wretched whining ingrates!

Mamet Evolves

In the Village Voice, noted playwright and author David Mamet explains Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal':

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life.
I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."

This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.
I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.
The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant.
And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view [Has Mamet been rading his Victor Hanson? --ed.], the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.
I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

"Aha," you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.
As an interesting aside, George McGovern also this month came out in favor of free markets in the Wall Street Journal:
When the Democratic Party moves too far left for George McGovern, you know they’re in trouble. The former Senator and presidential aspirant writes about the dangers of economic paternalism in a free society, specifically about the impulse among both Democrats and Republicans to protect adults from the consequences of their own free choices. Expect a lot less choice in the future, McGovern warns, if the nanny-state succeeds:

Since leaving office I’ve written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I’ve come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society.

Submarine VMS Running Behind?

An article in The Virginian-Pilot about a press availability to which the crew of PCU North Carolina (SSN 777) was subjected last week talked about the boat's navigation team, and goes into some detail about the upcoming installation of the Submarine Voyage Maintenance System (VMS). Excerpts:
The Navy has begun equipping submarines with a computerized program called VMS, or voyage management system. The program will do with microprocessors what Mason does by hand, allowing navigators to spend less time estimating where they are and more figuring out what's ahead.
The switch, which began last year on the Norfolk-based submarine Oklahoma City, will redefine one of the most basic tasks of mariners for centuries: determining, or "fixing," a ship's position using various environmental clues...
...Davis said planners originally were going to build all Virginia-class subs with VMS. Instead, the fifth boat of the class - now being built in Connecticut - will be the first to leave the shipyard with electronic navigation capabilities.
Five older submarines - Ohio, Florida, Houston, Buffalo, and Oklahoma City - have been retrofitted and are now certified to use VMS.
I'm not sure how accurate that list of submarines currently certified for VMS really is. According to this Navy website article from last year, USS Norfolk (SSN 714), who's currently deployed, was supposed to get it next. In any event, at this pace, it looks like the Sub Force's goal to have it certified on all boats by the end of next year will be kind of hard to meet.

Personally, I like the idea of VMS -- as long as we have enough paper charts on hand to get back home if the thing craps out.

Dolphins On Non-Qual Submarine Caps: Yea Or Nay?

The official Navy website has a couple of photos from a tour USS Scranton (SSN 756) gave to a Brazilian dignitary today, here and here. The 2nd one is most interesting to me; it shows the topside Force Protection Watch:

Check out the ballcap on the Scranton watchstander. I'm assuming this watchstander is qualified Submarines; the text with the picture identifies him as an STSSA(SS), and the hi-res view appears to show something over his left dungaree shirt pocket. Here's a closer view:

Back in my day (and I'm assuming for a while before that) we'd occasionally have fairly heated discussions on whether it was appropriate for a non-qual to wear the "traditional" submarine ballcap with the ship's name and hull number surrounding the appropriately-colored dolphins. Some said "No" -- a Sailor shouldn't wear any representation of dolphins (even on a belt buckle) until they'd earned them. Others (myself included) figured that if the official ship ballcap had dolphins representing the sub's Submarine Warfare mission, it was OK for any crew member to wear it. When I retired, it seems like a lot of boats were moving away from the controversy by putting the ship's crest on the ballcap and issuing the same hat to all crewmembers.

Based on this picture from last year, it appears that Scranton, at least back then, had "traditional" ballcaps with dolphins. So is this new picture evidence that the "controversy" is back and boats are taking dolphins off their hats completely? Or is it more likely that this Sailor only recently earned his dolphins and didn't get a new hat yet? Or was it something "special" for the VIP tour? And where do you stand on the "non-quals wearing hat dolphins" question?

I Love The 21st Century

I'm posting this from my phone! How cool is that?

Once Again, It Is The Time At TSSBP When We Dance

Expect a lot of basketball discussion for the next three weeks here. Let's face it -- the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is the best annual series of contests in the world. (Yes, it's even better than the NFL Playoffs.) Here are some other posts I've written on NCAA Basketball in the past for those who are new to TSSBP.

This year I decided to throw away my fail-safe method of filling out my brackets and go with the old standby: gut instinct. In the 1st round, I picked the higher seeds except: all the 9 seeds, 3 of the 10 seeds (all except South Alabama), the 11 and 12 seeds to win in the East Regional, 13 seed Siena to beat Vandy, and two (!) 14 seeds to win: Cornell over Stanford and Georgia over Xavier. My Sweet 16 consists of UNC, WSU, Louisville, and Butler in the East; Kansas, Clemson, USC, and Georgetown in the Midwest; Memphis, Pitt, Marquette, and Texas in the South; and UCLA, Drake, Purdue, and Duke in the West.

I've got UNC beating Louisville in the Eastern Regional Finals, Kansas over USC in the Midwest, Texas getting by Pitt in the South, and UCLA eating Duke's doughnut in the West. After Kansas makes traitor Roy Williams cry like a pussy in the national semifinals, I say my alma mater beats UCLA in the Finals 88-82.

What say you?

Update 3/22/2008 2217: Well, my bracket is in shambles, but it's still always nice to see Duke leave the tournament early.

New Submarine Book

The New York Times has a review of a new book, Unknown Waters, on the 1970 Arctic deployment of USS Queenfish (SSN 651), written by her CO during that time. Excerpts:
As the book recounts, the sub repeatedly ventured within periscope range of Soviet land. In the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, its crew examined the October Revolution and Bolshevik Islands.
The Queenfish also spotted a convoy. “I was able to see and identify all six ships as Soviet,” Dr. McLaren writes. “They consisted of an icebreaker leading a tanker and four cargo ships on an easterly course that slowly weaved back and forth through the chaotic ice pack.”
The main mission was to map the seabed and collect oceanographic data in anticipation of the Arctic’s becoming a major theater of military operations. The sub did so by finding and following depth contours, for instance, by locating the areas of the Arctic Basin where the seabed was 600 feet below the surface. A result was a navigation chart that bore the kind of squiggly lines found on topographic maps.
Looks like it might be a pretty good book.

Request For Information (RFI)

I think as I'm getting older, I'm either starting to misremember things, or starting to remember things I never knew. Anyway, I'm hoping some smart person out there can help me out.

Here's the background -- my niece is moving down to San Diego to join her new husband, who's a Sailor on a cruiser there. He joined the Navy about a year ago, and after boot camp and "A" School got transferred to a ship in San Diego last summer. He and my niece got married here in Boise over Christmas when he was home on leave. She's now getting ready to move down to San Diego to be with him.

Here's my question: For some reason, I thought the Navy would pay to move the HHGs of a new wife from his Home of Record or closer to where the service member was stationed. They're saying that they're being told you can only do that in conjunction with a PCS move. Is that right, or is there something that everyone does to get around that restriction? Any help (with OPNAVINST reference if possible) would be greatly appreciated.

Update On Submariners In Afghanistan

Last September, I wrote about LT Kenneth Cooke, a submarine officer assigned to a PRT in Afghanistan. His IA tour is finishing up, and it looks like he continued doing the good work that proves the flexibility of submariners -- here's a picture of his awards ceremony:

The accompanying caption states:
CDR Eduardo Fernandez presents LT Kenneth Cooke with the Bronze Star for service while serving as an IA in Afghanistan. Cooke, an N3 officer from Commander Submarine Force, Norfolk, is an engineer for the Provincial Reconstruction Team, Sharana, Paktika Province, Afghanistan, building hospitals, roads, schools, dams and bridges. At one point, the engineering teams Cooke worked with were managing over $70 million worth of reconstruction projects. While deployed, Cooke experienced several direct and indirect fire attacks, as well as several IEDs. He was also awarded the Army Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon for his service.
(CDR Fernandez was one of my shipmates on USS Topeka on our JO tour.) Thanks to all the submariners on IA assignments -- it's a heck of a way to spend your shore duty!

Boise State Going Dancing

For the first time since I was a student at the University of Kansas, we bought college basketball season tickets this year. I guess I'm a good luck charm (KU won the national championship when I was a senior there) because the Boise State men's team is going to the NCAA tournament on the back of a 107-102 triple-overtime win in the WAC championship game.

The 25-8 Broncos have four senior starters, and traditionally senior-led teams do well in the tournament. On the other hand, BSU has had some really bad losses this year (including at home to Loyola-Marymount, who ended up 5-26). I'm just gonna enjoy their victory (along with my beloved Jayhawk's domination of Texas tomorrow) and root them on in the Bronco's first Tournament appearance since 1994.

As long as they're not playing Kansas in the first round...

Things I Miss While I Nap

This car chase ended about 1/4 mile from my house while I was taking my afternoon siesta:
The chase began at about 1:24 p.m., after a routine stop on Interstate-84 at milepost 48. The suspect was driving a Chevrolet pickup truck with large, off-road wheels.
He led police on a wild chase from Interstate 84 through West Meridian subdivisions, on sidewalks near Chaparral Elementary School and ripping out chain link fence and before heading back onto the highway -- driving eastbound in the westbound traffic lanes. Speeds reached up to 100 miles per hour.
The suspect also took out a sign at nearby Fuller Park that read "No Motorized Vehicles," according to Eric Exline, spokesperson for Meridian School District.
The suspect crossed he the median and exited at Meridian Road, where he struck Hays' SUV. An ISP officer hit the suspect's truck, which slammed into the concrete guard rail on the roadway.
[Emphasis mine] I'm glad he didn't make it into my subdivision, which is probably where he was headed next. Thanks to the Idaho State Police for stopping this one when they did.

"Paddles" On A Submarine

When I did a deployment on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in 2000, I learned a lot about flight deck operations. One of the things I found most fascinating was the job of the Landing Signal Officer, or "Paddles" -- the officer on the carrier deck (actually in a bunker) who helps the pilots land. I always figure, "Well, there's one job a submariner will never have to learn".

How times have changed. Here's a recent picture from USS Ohio (SSGN 726) that shows they have their own version of "Paddles":

Other pictures of the helo PERSTRANS are here and here. Having an inordinate fear of getting shocked, I'm glad I never had to be on the team that received a transfer from a helicopter.

USS Jefferson City Returns Home

USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) returned home to San Diego on Monday from a six month deployment, which included port visits to Yokosuka, Sasebo, Guam, and Saipan -- (no comment). Here's a picture of their return:

Anyone know what the deal is with the red cleats? Is that now part of the standard 688 paint scheme, or just something the crew did to personalize the boat? I kinda like it...

Mary Ann With Mary Jane

You can't say Idaho doesn't get its share of celebrity hijinks:
A surprise birthday party for Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island," ended with a nearly three-hour tour of the Teton County Sheriff's Office and jail when the 69-year-old was caught with marijuana in her vehicle while driving home.
Wells is now serving six months' unsupervised probation for the crime. She was sentenced Feb. 29 to five days in jail, fined $410.50 and placed on probation after pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving...
...According to the sheriff's office report, Gutierrez pulled Wells over after noticing her swerve across the fog lines and center lines of State Highway 33 and repeatedly speed up and slow down.
"I exited my patrol vehicle and immediately was able to smell a strong odor of burning marijuana," Gutierrez wrote in his report. "As I approached the vehicle I noticed all four window (sic) of the vehicle were lowered and the female driver was not wearing a jacket."
When Gutierrez asked why he could smell marijuana, Wells reportedly told him that she'd just given a ride to three hitchhikers and had dropped them off when they began smoking something...
Gilligan totally would have bought that excuse...

"Submariner In Space" Program Delayed

With last night's launch of Endeavour, I was wondering how close the planned launch of the first "submariner in space" was, so I went to the NASA website -- and found that we'll have to wait a little while longer. CAPT Stephen Bowen was originally scheduled to go on the next flight, but he got pushed back two flights when he lost his rack to a "rider" -- astronauts for the ISS. Now we'll have to wait until September for CAPT Bowen's flight.

USS Hampton Investigation Report Released

Last fall, the Submarine Force was abuzz with discussion on the problems USS Hampton (SSN 767) had been having with nuclear integrity. Today, a heavily-redacted version of the official Command Investigation was published by the San Diego Union-Tribune today, and, as expected, laid a lot of the blame on the former CO. From the story:

Four officers and seven enlisted sailors have been disciplined as a result of the investigation, said spokeswoman Lt. Alli Myrick of Destroyer Squadron 11, the San Diego-based command that includes the Hampton. The squadron commander dismissed the submarine's commanding officer and chief engineer (sic)...
...A wider investigation also revealed dozens of integrity violations aboard the submarine, according to the report released yesterday. An officer whose name is redacted from the report alleged that he and others had falsified test scores or received answers in advance for exams to certify various officers...
...“Commander Portland set unachievable standards for his crew, was intolerant of failure and publicly berated personnel,” wrote Rear Adm. Joe Walsh, commander of the Hawaii-based Pacific Submarine Force.
These and other leadership lapses, Walsh said, “directly contributed to problems identified in this investigation . . . (and) his failure to identify these problems for over one year.”
Clearly, there were a lot of problems with the boat. Just as clearly, however, some of the problems mentioned in the Investigation are little more than "piling on"... things that you could find even among the most squared-away submarines (e.g. changing Fire Control solutions so you didn't have to report a contact). The majority of the report deals with Engingeering Department exams, especially qual exams. When I was Engineer, I was lucky enough in NewCon to have big classrooms where I could give proctored exams, and have exam banks from previous ships to give new exams out. Normally, though, it's just about impossible to give senior people requal exams that they haven't had a hand in preparing or reviewing; nevertheless, the report takes the boat to task for doing that.

One paragraph in particular jumped out at me. Although the identity of the subject is redacted, it looks like they're talking about the former Eng. Here's what they said:
"The ________ purposefully maintained an appearance of ignorance of the integrity violations happening in his departmect and on the ship to preserve culpable deniability."
That's gotta win some sort of award for best characterization ever in a Command Investigation. Rather than just say "The guy was a weasel", the investigator finds just the right buzzwords to make the guy look like an even bigger sh*tbag than he might actually be. BZ, [redacted]!

So what do you think? Was it overkill or a fair report? Will anything actually change in the Force because of the problems found on the Hampton? Will lessons actually be learned? I'm guardedly optimistic.

Update 0530 17 March: Here's the Navy Times story on the report.

Now These Are Good Liberty Ports!

I've always defined a good liberty port as "someplace warm where people don't automatically hate Sailors because a bunch of skimmers pull in there all the time". The crew of USS Annapolis (SSN 760) just returned from a deployment that featured what I consider one of the best collection of liberty ports I've seen in a long time:
USS Annapolis (SSN 760) returned home to Naval Submarine Base New London Feb. 28 after a regularly scheduled six-month deployment.
Annapolis completed a wide range of joint requirements supporting national security in the U.S. European Commands' area of responsibility, including playing a vital role in African Partnership Station (APS) 2007...
...Annapolis' crew served as ambassadors for the U.S. Navy during port visits to Rota, Spain; Toulon and Brest, France; Praia, Cape Verde; and Ghana. The Cape Verde visit marked the first visit to Africa outside the Mediterranean by a U.S. submarine.
The part about that being the first visit by a U.S. sub to Africa outside the Med kind of surprised me. Back in '92, we were supposed to pull into the Seychelles on the Topeka, but it got cancelled. (We went to Phuket instead.) During the planning for the visit to that group of islands just off the eastern coast of Africa, I'm pretty sure I remember the SubGru SEVEN commander telling us that there were plans to have boats pull into Mombasa, Kenya, at some point. I guess those plans must have fallen through...

Buzzword Bingo!

As those of us who have been on active duty know, the Navy has two separate chains of command: Operational, and Administrative. The Chief of Naval Operations is the senior Sailor in the Administrative chain of command, and although he's an Admiral, he doesn't actually command any warfighting assets. That's probably a good thing; otherwise he might be distracted from writing papers full of humorous buzzwords like his "new" Diversity Policy:
Diversity has made our Nation and Navy stronger. To derive the most from that diversity, every individual, military or civilian, must be encouraged and enabled to reach his or her full potential. They must be inspired and empowered to attain the most senior levels of leadership. That empowerment today is unleashed by involved, thoughtful, proactive, and enlightened leaders. As leaders, we are all entrusted with the duty and responsibility to set and live the example by creating an environment where every individual’s contribution is valued and respected. Future empowerment is cultivated by that same leadership and mentorship and an active commitment to attracting and recruiting the very best. We will foster an environment that respects the individual’s worth based on his or her performance regardless of race, gender, or creed.
As the Chief of Naval Operations, I will lead diversity initiatives in the Navy. I challenge all who serve to do the same through leadership, mentorship, service, and example. Our involved, proactive leadership will create and enable an environment and a Total Workforce that values uniqueness, different perspectives, and talent. Workforce character and professionalism is a priority in our Navy. Accordingly, we will support a culture of professional and personal development ensuring our people are trained and educated to accomplish our mission, with opportunities available to all in an equal manner.
We must not be locked in time. As leaders, we must anticipate and embrace the demographic changes of tomorrow, and build a Navy that always reflects our Country’s make up. We must lead in ways that will continue to draw men and women to service to our Country and to our Navy. Diversity of thoughts, ideas, and competencies of our people, keeps our Navy strong, and empowers the protection of the very freedoms and opportunities we enjoy each and every day. The vast talent, diversity, and experience of our citizens will continue to be our strength, and will ensure our Navy’s relevance and our Nation’s security and prosperity.
As we enhance and empower our diversity, we will remain a global force for peace, and epitomize the ideals that make our Navy great and our Nation the best hope of freedom. We will sustain our force through the fair, equal, and ethical treatment of every member of the United States Navy.
Reading this over, some questions come to my mind: Is the CNO implying that our old policy was not to do those things? Why doesn't he ever define "diversity"? Is "mentorship" really a word? Why does he even waste the ink to say "opportunites (will be) available to all in an equal manner" when he knows that there are certain communities that women just aren't going to be admitted to in the foreseeable future?

Two-Way Submerged Communications

For all those guys who ever thought it was a pain in the butt to have to spend so much time at PD when doing Battle/Strike Group ops, check out this article:
The Navy has developed systems using floating radio antennas and buoys that will provide submerged submarines with two-way communications for the first time in history, a top official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center said at a news briefing on Tuesday...
...SPAWAR's Communications Speed and Depth program will use floating antennas to provide two-way communications to submerged submarines over high-frequency radio systems adapted to handle Internet protocol traffic as well as floating buoys to communicate with military and commercial satellites, said Capt. Dean Richter, program executive officer for the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence's submarine integration program.
Richter said the Navy completed an operational test of the High Frequency Internet protocol system in December 2007, allowing the USS Montpelier attack submarine to exchange two-way message traffic with eight ships in the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group at a date rate of 9.6Kps.
Even at roughly one-fifth the speed of a standard 56Kpbs dial-up modem, the system allowed the submarine to be fully integrated into strike group operations and Navy networks to share situational awareness, plan collaboratively and execute missions with joint forces, Richter said.
SPAWAR also has developed floating buoys that connect to submerged submarines by fiber-optic cables to provide two-way satellite communications, he said. The buoys can exchange data with the commercial Iridium satellite system at a rate of 2.4Kpb and with military ultra-high frequency satellite systems at 32Kpbs, soon to be boosted to 64Kpbs, according to Richter...
...The Navy plans to install the High Frequency Internet protocol and buoy systems on attack and guided missile submarines. Ballistic missile submarines will be equipped with buoy systems, and all 73 boats in the fleet will get two-way communications in one form or the other, Richter said. The program is fully funded with installations to continue through 2015, he said.
SPAWAR also has Sea Deep, a project to equip manned and unmanned aircraft with lasers to penetrate the ocean depths and beam high bandwidth information to submerged submarines. Sea Deep can transmit data at 1Mpbs, Richter said, and he views it as the holy grail of submerged submarine communications. SPAWAR plans to demonstrate Sea Deep in an exercise later this year, he said, but added that the program is not funded.
The "fully funded" part is what's exciting to me. As far as "Sea Deep", I'm not sure how the laser is going to be able to actually find deep submarines without knowing where they are to start with, and how it wouldn't give away the sub's location if they did find them. ("Hey, look, that airplane is randomly shooting a laser into the ocean! Those crazy Americans!") I don't see myself running out to invest money in that one...

Obama's Patriotism

Here President-wannabe Obama displays his respect for the National Anthem:

Maybe he could be President of Cuba, but that is simply unacceptable behavior for a potential President of the United States of America.

Submarine Involved In Somalia Attack?

There's an interesting tidbit in this AP report on today's attack against a High-Value Target in Somalia:
Another defense official told The Associated Press that the strike used one or more Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a U.S. submarine off Somalia's coast. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss details.
Normally, at this point I'd go through the open source reports of submarine movements and write about which boat may have actually been involved in the attack, but it turns out that Galrahn has already done that. He names USS Norfolk (SSN 714) as the most likely firing platform, with USS Montpelier (SSN 765), deployed with the Harry S. Truman Strike Group, as another candidate. Since Norfolk was described in December as leaving on a six month "independent deployment" to the CENTCOM AOR, I'd say he's probably on the mark.