Submarine Force 2011 Year In Review

Here's an official COMSUBFOR video of the year in review in U.S. submarines:

Happy New Year to all!

Delta IV Shipyard Fire

Reading between the lines of this story about a fire aboard RFS Ekaterinberg (K 84), I'm guessing the shipyard used turpentine-impregnated wood in building the scaffolding. Excerpts:
Television pictures showed a giant plume of smoke above the yard in the Murmansk region of northern Russia as over 100 firemen struggled to douse flames which witnesses said rose 30 feet above the stricken vessel. Emergency workers said efforts to partially sink the submarine at the dock had failed to fully extinguish the fire. A defense ministry spokesman quoted by state news agency RIA said the blaze, which began at 1220 GMT (7:20 a.m. ET), was under control more than eight hours later...
...After hours of trying to put out the flames, officials decided to partially submerge the hull of the 18,200-tonne submarine at the Roslyakovo dock, one of the main dockyards of Russia's northern fleet 900 miles north of Moscow.
Local media reports were vague, but the blaze was believed to have started when wooden scaffolding caught fire during welding repairs to the submarine, which had been hoisted into a dry dock.
Earlier reports said the reactor was shut down after the fire started, but I'm guessing that was just media reporters who don't understand the military coming up with that one there own. Any fire that's bad enough for them to decide to try to submerge a boat undergoing refit must be pretty bad, though. I'm wondering if the Delta IVs have some sort of hull coating, and if maybe it got hot enough for that to catch fire?

What's the dumbest thing you've ever seen shipyard workers do to endanger Sailors?

In Memory Of Mike And Tom

From the video description of this tribute by poster "Grunt Labor" to the Submariners lost aboard USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708) 5 years ago today: "My video memorial/tribute to Thomas Higgins and Mike Holtz, who were killed in the line of duty during a pilot transfer off the coast of Plymouth, England."

Sailors, Rest Your Oars.

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2011

(The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)Welcome to a tradition started by the much missed Jon Swift/Al Weisel. He left behind some excellent satire, but was also a nice guy and a strong supporter of small blogs. As Lance Mannion puts it:Our late and much missed comrade in blogging, journalist and writer Al Weisel, revered and admired across the bandwidth as the “

Quote Log

I think most boats had a "green book" or something similar where humorous quotes from crew members were preserved for posterity. It seems to be fairly common throughout the military, as shown my the "Staffer's Hard Sayings Log" I saw when I was at CENTCOM. On submarines, a lot of the quotes that make the cut are inherently funny, some are humorous only to Submariners, and others you won't get unless you know the person or people involved. (Some are put in their by the XO because they're trying to be "one of the guys", but the quote is only funny to him.)

Since it's the end of the year, let's collect some of the funnier quotes that you remember from your submarining days, past or present. One from my past the is humorous to me is as follows:

ENG (after being woken by a phone call at home for the third time that night): "Hello... Hello... I can't hear you!"
EDO (shouting, but sounding very distant): "Eng, you've got the phone upside down!"

See, it's not that funny, but the memory makes me smile whenever I dredge it up. So whether it's the CO's wife giving phone permission for a nuclear evolution in perfect nuclearese or something obscene the AMR Watch said during dependent's cruise, share your funniest quote for our own TSSBP "Virtual Quote Log".

Terry Gilliam's Christmas Card

CBS News:"Yes, a card makes Christmas complete." These are the first (and only) words in this 1968 short video made by Terry Gilliam. The Monty Python member made this festive cut-out animation for the British TV show "Do Not Adjust Your Set" – a show that featured several other members of what would become "Monty Python's Flying Circus." As you could probably guess, it's odd, funny, and very

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - Submarine Style!

The official Christmas video from the Submarine Force!

Whoever put this together did a pretty impressive job of coordination. BZ to them, and Merry Christmas to all Submariners and those who love them!

The Submarine Force normally does a good job of getting boats home for Christmas if at all possible. Here's a video of USS Miami (SSN 755) returning home to Groton last week after a five month deployment. That being said, there always have to be at least a few boats at sea for the holiday. What are your favorite (or most intense) submarine-related Christmas memories?

Fela Kuti – "Roforofo Fight"

My "War" Story

With the end of the war in Iraq, I figure I can tell the story of my "contribution" as the ultimate REMF to the war effort...

So there I was... I'd just been medically-disqualified from serving on submarines and lost my orders to be XO on USS Hartford (SSN 768); as a result, they transferred me to be AOIC of the Submarine Learning Center Detachment in San Diego while I waited for the inevitable 2x FOS to come through and I could put in my retirement papers. When I got to San Diego in July 2003, the OIC -- a real fitness fanatic -- decided that because I was right up against the Navy height-weight requirements I shouldn't teach any classes. So, not wanting to just sit around, I volunteered for the first Individual Augmentation job that came in; they needed an O-4 with SCI clearance to support Operation Iraqi Freedom at CENTCOM. Three weeks after I reported to San Diego, and 6 days after I first saw the message requesting volunteers, I was on my way to Tampa. (The rest of the background information is here, and here's a post about the "good deal" aspects of the assignment.)

CENTCOM headquarters normally had about 900 people assigned on PCS orders, but because they were running the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq they'd been augmented with about 3000 people on six month TAD orders. I got assigned to the Iraq Coalition Coordination Center and got put in charge of handling the financial aspects of supporting the Polish-led Multi-National Division (Central South) that was just arriving in country. The fact that I got assigned a job for which I had no training, and my turnover was spending a day with my predecessor who gave me his E-mail cache and a folder with a 2 page memo from Condi Rice saying we had $500 million in unbudgeted money to play with, a 4 page standard boilerplate agreement between the U.S. and Poland, and a 17 page agreement with no specifics between Poland and the other 22 countries involved -- none of which contained any mechanism for actually carrying out what they'd agreed to -- gave me my first inkling that the people running the war at the higher levels had no idea what they were doing. This was kind of a shock to me, because I'd always assumed that the Big Bosses knew what they were doing. It turns out that it was only the pockets of competence that existed at the O-4/O-5 level that enabled the war effort to function as well as it did from a staff perspective.

The next six months were a blast. Despite having no training in finance, I set up the mechanisms for providing funding for the logistics support for the division of 10,000, got additional force protection set up less than a week before an unsuccessful suicide attack on an MND-CS base that probably would have caused extensive casualties had I not cut through the red tape, and realized that the Spaniards are among the most unreliable "allies" in the world. I came to understand that while you have to be pretty smart to make flag, there are no real intelligence requirements to make O-6, particularly in the Marines. I saw lots of "war pr0n" of early insurgents who hadn't quite mastered the art of having their IEDs wait to blow up until after they had finished emplacing them, and saw one memorable IR camera video of a bunch of Taliban insurgents get out of a truck behind one that had just blown up, sprint about 100 yards off the road, and gather together in supposed safety, followed by a huge flash right in the middle of their group. I realized that the American military really was trying to do what was best for the Iraqi people, and the higher-ups really did have no plans for a permanent occupation -- they had no real plans at all. I saw the original plans for the invasion that showed that Turkey's refusal to let the 4th ID move in from the north negated what would have otherwise been a brilliant encirclement campaign that would have closed the big hole in the lines north of Baghdad, through which most of the future insurgent leaders escaped. Hanlon's Razor was confirmed: "Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by incompetence".

What did you do in the war? Alternately, were your eyes ever opened by serving on a major staff?

I'm On A (Political) Blog

I while back, I mentioned that I wouldn't be posting my political writings here anymore because I'd be joining a group blog. That new blog,, has finally launched, and will focus on Idaho politics with writers from across the political spectrum. (At least that's what we hope -- I'm currently the most liberal writer, and my political philosophy is very close to the first President Bush.) For those who are interested, my first post is here. (It's basically about the upcoming battle for the soul of the Idaho Republican Party.)

Psychohistorians versus Pseudo-Intellectuals

Asimov, Krugman and America deserve better. Teresa Nielsen Hayden makes an authoritative case that "Krugman is from Trantor; Gingrich ain't: Far be it from me to discourage mainstream political commentary that’s framed in terms of science fiction, but Ray Smock’s Newt Gingrich the Galactic Historian gets it wrong: If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Newt Gingrich is from the planet

A Submarine Video And One Other Item

Here's a submarine video from YouTube -- it has some of my old Topeka shipmates, since part of it was clearly lifted from "Sharks of Steel":

Also, there's absolutely no confirmation that this guy is this guy. (I've been getting a few E-mails about the first linked story, and note that despite the same retirement year and same middle initial, there's no proof that the guy who pled guilty in the first story is actually the former USS Maine CO, SUBRON 20 Commander, and CSG 10 CoS.)

Army-Navy Spirit Spot From The Submarine Force

Here's the "Spirit Spot" from the Submarine Force for today's Army-Navy game:

What do you think of our effort this year? Personally, I'm a little disappointed; not really submarine-related. Here's a much better "Spirit Spot" from last year.

Let's Write A Story!

[Completely off-topic but timely aside: You can watch the christening of PCU Mississippi (SSN 782) here starting at 1100 EDT today; if you miss the live showing, they'll have an on-demand video replay available there for about a week starting later this afternoon.]

As I was soaking in the tub this morning, I started -- as frequently happens -- thinking about submarines, specifically some of the old midwatch discussions that pass on so much of the Submarine Force's "corporate knowledge" to the next generation. One of my favorites was the theoretical "forward vs. aft war" scenario: If the cones and nukes went to actual war on the boat, who would win? The conclusion always seemed to depend on where the discussion was being held; if in Maneuvering, the nukes would win, while if the discussion were held in Control the cones would prevail. The guns were all forward, but control of propulsion and all electrical power other than the battery bus, along with local control of the planes, was back aft.

This got me wanting to run an experiment with our little TSSBP community. While I doubt that it will work (I expect a result something like this), I think it'd be fun to try some "collaborative fiction" in the comments. My initial ground rules: 1) The protagonist wants to survive, so no solution where he just sinks the boat; 2) No gratuitous sex scenes; 3) No classified technical jargon that isn't already available open source; 4) There's some sort of mechanical fault that keeps the nuke from just manually blowing the aft EMBTs; and 5) If you want to make an editorial comment that isn't a contribution to the story, please put it in [brackets]. I'll start:

"MMCS(SS) Smith thought back to how he ended up in this situation. The emergent tasking while doing mid-deployment voyage repairs on his Los Angeles-class submarine in Jebel Ali, UAE, to transport the world's most wanted terrorist -- recently captured on the Afghan/Pakistani border -- back to the United States for trial. The submerged transit of the Straits of Hormuz and uneventful transit through the Arabian Sea. The midwatch training as EWS of the Reactor Technician (Under Instruction) on EAB usage with ET2(SU) Jones. The sounding of the general alarm with no 1MC announcement. Seeing the rest of the watchstanders in the Engine Room fall dead as if hit by a gas. Rushing forward to dog the watertight door between the forward compartment and the engine room, and seeing the crazed face of one of the CIA "guards" of their terrorist prisoner through the viewing window. Then, most disturbingly, the 1MC announcement -- in Arabic -- followed moments later by a voice in English saying "Surviving crewmembers in the Engine Room: We have complete control of the ship. Surrender now, and you will live."

USS North Carolina Deploys

USS North Carolina (SSN 777) departed on her maiden WestPac yesterday. Here's a picture:

Do you have any good stories from your first deployment?

"Pinball Wizard"

This version comes from Tommy, directed by Ken Russell, who died this week. Roy Edroso has more. Russell made some seriously weird films, but he came by it honestly, which made for some interesting and memorable moments in a long career. (Lair of the White Worm is bizarre and unforgettable; I haven't seen most of Russell's many and highly-regarded artist biopics.)I also have to include this

Rumproast’s Fundraiser for StrangeAppar8us

Rumproast blogger StrangeAppar8us has suffered a traumatic brain injury that has, among other things, left him blind. The Rumproast crew is holding a fundraiser to help him out. Follow the link for far more information.

Stop the SOPA and Protect IP Bills

Two similar bad bills are under consideration in Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate. While some elements in the bills may be well-intentioned, these bills could severely restrict the internet. This video by Fight for the Future spells out some of the issues:CNET has a FAQ on "How SOPA would affect you."Kos has more information

RC Submarines

A reader sends in a link to a video of the shakedown cruise of his newest radio-controlled submarine, modeled on USS Virginia (SSN 774):

Do you have any submarine-related hobbies?

Blind Pilot – "Keep You Right"

Blog Redesign

The VS blog redesign is now live. I've been tinkering with it off and on in the background for a while. There are some drawbacks to the latest Blogger layout interface, but it's much easier to share posts and scroll through category archives. Recreating my blogroll took some time. Regular readers and commenters should find themselves included. If you're not, and you'd like to be, shoot me an

Why Not The Best?

It's my opinion that every adult can lay claim to being the "first" or "best" in the world (or at least the country) at something. In much the same way that probably 95% of everyone asked would consider themselves to be an above-average driver, making this claim can sometimes require a little bit of self-deception, but no real harm is done.

For me, my claims to fame are that I run the world's most popular submarine blog, I was the fastest ever submarine Engineer on Alpha Trials (at least in the U.S. -- it depends on if the Soviets let their Alfas get up to flank on their initial sea trials, which I kind of doubt), and I lay claim to having written more Admiral's letters enclosures than any Eng in the history of the Submarine Force. (I wrote about 60, having been initial manning Eng twice; letters were due every 4 weeks in the shipyard.)

What's your claim to being the best?

♪♫ "And Another One Gone..."♫♪

Well, another CO in another submarine-related command got the ax this month, and this one is quite a surprise. RDML (sel) Greg Thomas was temporarily relieved as CO of Newport News Norfolk Naval Shipyard back in May; the CO he replaced in 2010 was also fired. Navy Times reports that command climate was the reason for the firing:
In mid-May, Naval Sea Systems Command temporarily yanked Thomas, a rear admiral selectee, from his perch atop Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. A naval inspector general investigation completed Aug. 31 found Thomas’ conduct “went beyond the limits of professional conduct expected of persons in authority.” The firing was made permanent Oct. 25 after Thomas was formally reprimanded for conduct unbecoming an officer.
The IG interviewed 45 witnesses who served in various leadership positions under Thomas during his nine months as commanding officer of the shipyard. Nine said they were subjected to “demeaning, insulting or profane language or intimidating behavior” privately as well as in public. All names other than Thomas’ were redacted from the report, which was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
An active-duty officer with more than 30 years in uniform told the IG that while some of his interactions with Thomas had been amiable, “There have been times when it rises to the worst experience of my naval career in terms of dealing with a superior who will not listen, who wants to be very vocal and loud, and who just wants to dress [me] down. I don’t know that I’m being treated differently in that case.”
What's surprising to me is that Thomas was selected for flag in the first place. I would be very surprised if all the people on the board (particularly in a community as small as EDOs) didn't know the guy had an "unpleasant personality", and given the risk-averse nature of most Navy senior personnel decisions nowadays, I figure that would have been disqualifying.

Reading Thomas' biography, I was surprised to see he went EDO right after finishing initial training, but still got assigned to a submarine later on. Normally guys who go ED before getting their dolphins are the ones who develop some disqualifying medical condition during training. However, given that he was probably "assigned" to USS San Juan (SSN 751) in 1988, when I think the boat was in PSA, I could see them giving a medical waiver for a guy to get his ED Dolphins in that situation. However, the fish Thomas is wearing in this photo look real.

Did you ever work for an asshole? I did. And do you think that assholism may be required in some situations? (Maybe like when you're taking over for a CO who was relieved because the command wasn't getting the job done?)

Bell-ringer 1620 16 Nov: Off-topic but still of interest, here's a story by the Michael Melia reporter about the ongoing investigation into cheating on nuclear qual exams.

Food Banks – November 2011

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, this is a good time for those with the means to donate to their local food banks, or for those in need to get assistance. The Los Angeles food banks make a little go a long way. The Feeding America site has a useful national food bank locator. Best wishes to all those in need.

"94 Percent Availability Of Commodes"

From an article in Navy Times:
The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier has a messy problem. Since deploying in May, the Norfolk, Va.-based carrier George H.W. Bush has grappled with widespread toilet outages, at times rendering the entire ship without a single working head. But it’s no laughing matter. Sailors tell of combing the ship for up to an hour to find a place to do their business, if they can find one at all. Others have resorted to urinating in showers or into the industrial sinks in their work stations. Some men are using bottles and emptying the contents over the giant ship’s side, while some women are holding it in for so long that they are developing health problems, according to sources on the ship. The sailors blame the ship’s vacuum system. But the Navy is blaming sailors for flushing “inappropriate material” down the toilets. The ship, commissioned in January 2009, is wrapping up a deployment in the Persian Gulf. Three sailors who spoke to Navy Times on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media said the problem has been persistent at least since Bush began its first deployment in May. Throughout its deployment, there have been at least two times when all 423 commodes in the ship’s 130 heads went offline, the sailors said. More often, they said, all heads either forward or aft of the middle of the ship have gone out of service, or clusters of heads scattered through different departments have been shut down.
Any good stories about the unavailability of the heads on your boat?

Eric Bogle - "And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda"

In the spirit of Armistice Day.

11/11/11 Armistice Day

(Click on the comic strip for a larger view.)In 1959, Pogo creator Walt Kelly wrote:The eleventh day of the eleventh month has always seemed to me to be special. Even if the reason for it fell apart as the years went on, it was a symbol of something close to the high part of the heart. Perhaps a life that stretches through two or three wars takes its first war rather seriously, but I still

Coming Home Safely

Welcome home to the officers and crew of USS Springfield (SSN 761), who returned to Groton yesterday after a six month deployment to the CENTCOM AOR. Here's a picture:

Some more pictures of the homecoming can be found here. As we celebrate Veteran's Day, we honor all those who have served our nation, whether they returned home safely like the men of Springfield or if they were not so fortunate. How can we, as a nation, best honor our veterans and their families? Alternately, why did you join the military? (My story isn't very uplifting -- it was the old "got involved with the wrong girl and stupidly threw away a lot of chances, and looked to the Navy as a way to restart my life" tale. I'm hoping some of my readers have better narratives.)

While you're pondering, here's a teaser for an upcoming CNN report on veterans of the Submarine Service during the Cold War.

They Could Not Look Me in the Eye Again

See better, Lear, and let me still remainThe true blank of thine eye.- Kent, King Lear, 1.1, 159-160. If the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month every year is somehow special or sacred – and it is – then it seems the date 11/11/11 should hold some added significance. Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, or Veterans' Day, should be about pausing to reflect on war. More

You Pick The Topic!

I'll put it up to a vote. For my next post, would you like a) a discussion of the most recent SOBC graduation, or b) an essay about national politics? Vote in the comments!

Update 1611 10 Nov: While you're voting, here and here are a couple of random "Best of Bubblehead" posts from the "Toilet" division.

Bell-ringer 1717 10 Nov: From the comments, here's a cool "Spirit Spot" from USS North Carolina (SSN 777) for the upcoming Carrier Classic:

Update 0549 11 Nov: And here's the response from one of the USS Michigan (SSGN 727) crews.

Ximena Sariñana - "Mediocre"

Hitler The A-gang LCPO

An submarine-related entry in the classic "Hitler reacts to current events" video meme:

Happy 7th Blogiversary, Blue Gal

Reliable sources inform me that it is the indefatigable, multi-talented Blue Gal's 7th blogiversary. Head over and say hi. Also, it'll be the 100th podcast of the Professional Left Podcast this Friday, but since you're a regular listener, you already knew that, didn't you?(She's the brainy, crafty sort.)

Poverty and Death for Thee, Not for Me

To follow up on a recent post on the death penalty and Ross Douthat, Justice Antonin Scalia, a Catholic, made a remarkable statement that has garnered attention:[Scalia] said he found no contradiction between his religious views and his support of the death penalty. "If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign," he said. "I could not be a part of a

Happy Halloween!

Yes, I kinda get into the holiday.

Update 1620 04 Nov: I wanted to add this link to an amazing young couple who are trying to adopt. If you know anyone who is looking for a loving home in which to place a baby, you couldn't find a better family than this:

USS California (SSN 781) Joins The Fleet

PCU California (SSN 781) becomes USS California this morning in a commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk. You can watch the ceremony live at 1100 EDT here; it should also be available after the ceremony for viewing at your convenience. A timelapse video of the boat and crew preparing for commissioning can be found here. Some comments from RADM Breckenridge can be found here. And a message from the Lieutenant Governor of California is here.

Are you a plankowner?

Update 0855 29 Oct: Based on this picture on Facebook, it looks like the weather might have driven the ceremony indoors. Wusses. I stood outside in bitter December Groton cold for the commissioning of Connecticut in 1998. (As Eng, my job was to stand in front of the formation of the crewmembers who didn't have any specific role in the ceremony. That's the job I've seen the Eng do at every commissioning I've attended.)

Update 1407 29 Oct: Here are some pictures from the ceremony. And here's a picture of the crew "manning the ship and bringing her to life":

I'm sorry, but I think a commissioning ceremony is one of those times where it's OK to have the crew wear their dress uniforms topside. It's not like they're actually going to handle lines. Call me old-fashioned...

Update 2000 30 Oct: Either I didn't read the caption correctly the first time, or they've since changed it, but the caption now explains the picture above was taken during rehearsal, so it's perfectly fine that they're not in Dress Blues.

Mariachi El Bronx - "48 Roses"

Mariachi El Bronx is the mariachi version of punk band The Bronx, based out of... Los Angeles. Here's their full KCRW set.

Us Killing You is Really in Your Best Interests

Last month, Ross Douthat wrote an extremely immoral – and not coincidentally, poorly-argued – piece in favor of the death penalty. The occasion was Troy Davis' execution in Georgia. If you're not familiar with the Davis case, this and this cover the main points. (He may have been innocent, and several eyewitnesses who testified against him recanted, raising the issue of reasonable doubt.)

PED Owning SubPac Submariners SOL?

Word on the street is that at least some bases in the COMSUBPAC sphere of influence are looking at banning personally-owned electronic devices from the boats, and that possibly COMSUBPACINST 2075.1 is the instruction that establishes this ban. Any truth to this, or just waterfront rumors running amok?

Another Sub Skipper Fired

CDR Joseph Nosse, Commanding Officer of USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) was relieved of command by the SUBRON 17 Commander today:
“Cmdr. Nosse exhibited inadequate leadership and oversight of the crew in the areas of operations and administration,” Early said. “The determination came after a series of external assessments and observations.” Early did not have details immediately available on the specific shortfalls, who had first observed them or when and whether Nosse’s relief was the result of an investigation.
CDR Nosse began his CO tour with the Gold Crew in February 2010, and accepted the Omaha Trophy on behalf of his crew later that year. He assumed command of the combined crew in August of this year in preparation for the boat's mid-life refueling. Nosse is the 20th Navy CO fired this year. This is getting old. Even if he did used to be an officer detailer, no one wants to see someone's career end like this.

USS Boise Crew On Namesake City Visit

The Commanding Officer of USS Boise (SSN 764) and three crewmembers are in town for a namesake city visit today through Saturday. I was able to meet them at a Rotary Club meeting, and snapped this picture of three of them:

I hope they enjoy their time in Boise, and that the people with whom they interact better understand the sacrifices these men make. For my readers -- did you ever get to be the CO's "liberty buddy"?

Oscar Wilde's Birthday

Oscar Wilde was born today in 1854. Roger Ebert has a nice post up for the occasion, featuring one of the best appreciations of Wilde I've seen, this one by Stephen Fry:Ebert also has the classic Monty Python sketch featuring Wilde and Shaw posted (head over to see it). Wilde's later life was tragic, and the subject of many a biography, play or film itself. His own legacy is formidable. I had


As the Navy prepares for the upcoming commissioning of PCU California (SSN 781) and supports the beginning of the "two submarine starts per year" era, PCU Mississippi (SSN 782) passed an important milestone when she was "floated off" at Electric Boat:

I never liked being in drydock that much, especially after my boat was shaken by two earthquakes while in one in June 1992. Since it's been a couple years since we last discussed it, I'll ask again for the new readers: What are your favorite drydock stories?

Coldplay - "The Scientist"

I know it's fashionable in some circles to slag off on Coldplay, but I like some of their songs, including this one.

The Republican Debate in 100 Seconds (10/11/11)

TPM helpfully recaps it, and summarizes: Repeal everything! Also, jail Barney Frank - but apparently, don't prosecute anyone on Wall Street (and don't investigate any war crimes committed by their buddies in the last administration). Meanwhile, I imagine many folks realize Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan would severely cut revenues and would be a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, but

Deliver Us to (White) Spite

There's another Republican debate looming, and the past ones do not bode well for the Republic. The conservative faithful keeps looking for a savior, finding and then rejecting one candidate after another... and rejecting reality, history and compassion as well. Scott Horton looks at the succession of conservative sweethearts in "A Snapshot from the Age of Distraction":It’s not unusual for a

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

The outpouring of posts and pieces on Steve Jobs on blogs and Facebook has been overwhelming. I won't link all of them here, but Apple and Pixar are two impressive legacies. Many people have a very warm and personal connection with their Apple devices and even more so with the Pixar films, and it shows in the reaction.NPR ran a snippet of the commencement speech he gave in 2005 at Stanford,

PD Fun!

Here's an old picture of USS Key West (SSN 722) at periscope depth:

What's the most interesting thing you've ever seen out of the 'scope at PD?

Julie Fowlis - "Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach"

A wealth of great music has come from the British Isles, including some stunning tunes in Gaelic. I caught this tune on The World. Julie Fowlis' website is here. The lyrics are:Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach (A sheiling on the Braes of Rannoch)Gur e m' anam is m' eudailchaidh an-dè do Ghleann Garadh:fear na gruaig' mar an t-òris na pòig air bhlas meala.O hi ò o hu ò, o hi ò o hu ò,Hi rì ri

"Get The Grease!"

At work yesterday, for some reason the conversation between me and one of the other Submariners I work with turned towards some of the pranks we boat types used to pull on each other. Some of the more disturbing ones involve things done to people while they're asleep or otherwise incapacitated. Whether it's a Shellback getting silver nitrate "teardrops" applied to his face as he sleeps during the 'Wog Rebellion or the poor guy who got stuck behind some piece of machinery having unmentionable things done to him, the lesson we Submariners learn early is "don't leave yourself vulnerable".

Confession time: what's the worst thing you've done (or seen done) to a shipmate who was unable to effectively defend themselves?

Support a Robin Hood Tax

Over at Crooked Timber, John Quiggin has written a piece arguing for a "Tobin tax" (or Robin Hood tax) on financial transactions. The idea is to discourage "high volume, short-term financial transactions" and to raise money by doing so. Head over to CT for the details, and a link to an earlier Quiggin piece on the subject. In the meantime, since I'm a fan of Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy,

Longer SSN Deployments?

Check out this AP story; excerpt:
Vice Adm. John Richardson told the AP this week that keeping subs out longer is one of several options the Navy is considering as the number of attack subs is projected to continue dropping in the next decade and beyond. “I think we’re looking at all the options,” he said. “As you try and maintain the same presence with fewer hulls, there are all sorts of variables in that equation. One would be extending deployment lengths. So that’s certainly on the table.”
As usual, the story by the Michael Melia reporter has to get something wrong ("Enlisted crew members on the attack subs sleep six to a room...") but it seems to be fairly accurate overall. Have you ever done a deployment of greater than six months? What do you think of the potential change? (Alternately, what do you think about the increase in sub pay for E-8/E-9s with over 18 years of submarine service?)

Bell-ringer 1550 01 Oct: It turns out that Virginia-class boats do have several 6 man berthing spaces, so I stand corrected. Only one I was ever onboard was the lead ship of the class in the shipyard, and they didn't have the module with the berthings spaces there when I left.

Bring It On!

The commander of the Iranian Navy is apparently claiming that the Iranian Navy will soon "have a powerful presence" near the United States. Other than the fact that it's very unlikely to happen -- they'd be lucky to limp into some Cuban harbor at the end of a 10 knot journey and lay over for several months of voyage repairs before trying to limp home -- the thought of them doing something like that would be a rude awakening to their crews if they did manage to hang around off our shores.

For those who haven't had the chance to participate during the few instances in the last couple decades when potential adversaries try to "show the flag" off our coast, we tend to drop the niceties we observe when  conducting "freedom of navigation" exercises off Country Orange's shore and start playing at the varsity level. (I was the Sub Guy on the Stennis Battle Group Staff for the Oscar deployment mentioned in the link above.) If the Iranians think we're annoying when we follow all the rules of international maritime law when we're sailing through the SOH, just wait until they're the visiting team.

Since a "powerful presence" for them involves an oiler and a couple of 1400 ton frigates, I'm not too worried if they did end up following through with their "threat". Which they can't, not because they're not brave, but because their equipment isn't worth crap. (Unless you're a Congressional staffer trying to decide if you should tell your boss to vote for more money for the Navy to counter the Iranian threat -- in that case, they're a first-class Navy; Kilos get better with age!)

Banned Books Week 2011

This year, Banned Books Week runs from September 24th to October 1st. The main site is here. You'll find a map of censorship attempts, a handbook of materials (including the posters featured in this post), a list of local events by state, and social media links. This year, the big featured event is the Virtual Readout, in which participants make videos of themselves reading a passage from a

Low - "Nightingale"

I saw Low perform live ages ago. Their full KCRW set (audio) is here.

Russian Boomer T-Boned, Drunks Blamed

From RIA Novosti:
A Russian strategic submarine received light damage to its outer hull when a fishing vessel rammed into it early on Thursday, a Pacific Fleet source said. "The Donets fishing ship was maneuvering to avoid collision with the Kormchy fishing boat and did not notice the St. George the Victor nuclear-powered submarine anchored near the Avacha Bay," the source said. "As a result, the submarine received insignificant damage to its outer hull," he said, adding that the sub was undergoing repairs at a dock in Vilyuchinsk. The submarine's nuclear reactor was not damaged. A preliminary investigation suggests that the crew of the Donets fishing vessel is to blame for the collision, as they were reportedly drunk and ignored radio and warning signals.
The article goes on to say that the submarine victimized by the drunk fishermen was RFS St. George the Victor (K 433), a 31 year old Delta III that gets out more than you'd think; it allegedly successfully conducted a test launch last year.

What's the most damage that's ever been done to your boat by the actions of drunk seamen?

Soylent Green Incorporated Is People

This is a great line I've seen a couple of times, but it's sadly timely tonight with the execution of Troy Davis (in Georgia). It's somewhat similar to the line currently posted above on my blog, from Jon Stewart: "Bad jokes and gay marriage are destroying this country. But torture can save it." There are times we should ask ourselves, and certainly press others - what exactly are your values?

Talk Like a Wall Street Pirate

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I'd use the English-to-Pirate translator on an infamous rant from one of Wall Street's scurvyiest dogs. If the original was satire, it was satire that National Review and other corporate conservatives sincerely endorsed:We be Wall Street. It’s our job t' make doubloons. Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece o' fake paper,

Seven Years Of Submarine Blogging

I completely forgot that Saturday was my 7th blogiversary. I guess that should tell me something.

In these seven years, I've posted 2709 times and received over 2.3 million individual visits and over 4.5 million page views. I've sent hundred of people the words to the "Submarine Song" and regained contact with dozens of old shipmates. It's been a good ride.

Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Diesel Submarines In The News

Here's an interesting article on Israeli submarines that I though was worth a link. While the Israeli submarine force is often credited by idiots on the right with being able to transcend time and distance, everything I've heard is that they're a pretty good coastal defense force. My boats didn't work directly with many foreign diesels (at least not cooperatively), so I don't have that much direct experience, but I was impressed in the few instances I did with what the more advanced diesel boat operators could do with their limited capabilities.

Do you have any good stories about working with OPFOR diesel boats? Which country do you think does the best job? I've always heard the Chileans are right up there near the top. I'd say that, maintenance-wise, the Canadians would probably have to be near the bottom.

"Red Sky At Morning..."

Because recent pictures of my last boat, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) are so rare, I'll post them whenever they show up in the public domain:

From the caption: "The Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) returns to its homeport of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor at sunrise." Welcome home, guys, from whatever you were out doing.

Never Forget

As we remember the attacks of 10 years ago today, I don't have much to add to what I said last year, other than that, when our resolve weakens, I hope we all remember how we felt on that day. God Bless all the victims of the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. My faith teaches me that we are supposed to forgive those who attack us. I haven't reached that point yet.

HMAS Farncomb's Recent Loss Of Propulsion: "Bad" On The Good/Bad Scale

I had read this article a couple of weeks ago about the Australian submarine HMAS Farncomb (SSG 74) saying that the boat had been forced to surface after a loss of propulsion, and decided there really wasn't enough to the story to make it a good topic for discussion here. This new article that came out today with new information, however, changed my mind. Excerpts:
For the 60 men and women aboard the Collins-class boat, the next few minutes would be among the longest of their lives. Like a Hollywood thriller, the sailors found themselves grappling with a double engine failure followed by a terrifying, powerless descent towards the bottom of the Indian Ocean, stemmed only by the cool actions of a veteran commander. This real-life drama, which took place at 12.30am on August 23 about 20km off the northwest coast of Rottnest Island, was not revealed by Defence at the time. When quizzed by The Australian the following day, officials gave only a brief, sanitised version of the incident, omitting key facts while praising the competence and training of the crew for following "standard operating procedures"... ...What is undisputed is that Farncomb was conducting operational training in the waters northwest of Rottnest Island soon after spending a month in dry dock where it had its emergency propulsion unit replaced. In charge that night was veteran submarine commander Glen Miles, a ruddy-faced archeology and rugby enthusiast who once served on the old Oberon submarines and who was dux of his submarine officer's course. Also on board was a Sea Training Group assessing the crew's competence. Shortly after midnight, the Farncomb was gliding at a periscope depth of 20m while undertaking a routine known as "snorting", where air is drawn into the submarine to run the diesel motor in order to recharge the boat's batteries. At 12.30am, without warning, a fault in the control switchboard of the submarine's electric motor caused the motor to stop. "Propulsion failure, propulsion failure" rang out across the Farncomb's address system, as crew ran to emergency stations... ...According to several crew members' versions, the Farncomb slowed to a virtual halt, tilted nose up and began to slide backwards towards the ocean floor. The tilt was so steep that sailors eating in the mess room had to grab their dinners as they slid off the table. Those in the sleeping quarters found themselves "on top of each other". In the control room, Commander Miles was not panicking, but was watching the sliding depth gauge hoping that the propulsion motor would restart before the Farncomb sank too deep. He knew that, as a last resort, he could take the dramatic step of blowing the submarine's ballast tanks to stem the descent... ...Crew accounts of how deep the Farncomb sank differ. The consensus is that it plunged to between 150m and 190m. If so, this is uncomfortably close to the submarine's permissible deep diving depth, the actual figure of which is classified. At some point during the Farncomb's powerless descent and without any sign of life from the motor, Commander Miles ordered a partial blow of the submarine's main ballast in which air expels water from the ballast tanks, making the boat lighter. "Because the submarine was still heavy as compensating water was being pumped (out), the commanding officer chose to blow main ballast to arrest descent," a Defence spokesman said. What happened next depends on whose account you believe. Defence says that the initial ballast blow stemmed the descent and that the Farncomb actually began to slowly rise. Some crew members maintain the submarine was still sinking, although at a slower rate. Either way, Commander Miles then decided to take the most drastic step available to a submarine commander: to order a full emergency blow of all ballast tanks.
The story is written in such a way as to make it seem more dramatic than I'm sure it really was, but there's no doubt that finding yourself left with no option other than an EMBT blow makes for some interesting stories to tell around the grill. Have you ever been scared sh*tless on the boat? The one time I had non-expected flooding called away on my boat, I was kind of surprised at how calm I remained -- partly because I knew everyone was looking at me, I'm sure. (Long story short: Alpha Trials on SSN 22, I was in Maneuvering, flooding in the Machinery Room called away when we first started changing depth from PD to the next deeper depth on the initial controlled dive. ADM Bowman (NR at the time and in charge of the Sea Trial), in Control, told the CO/OOD not to do an EMBT blow. It ended up being overflow from a trim tank.)

Selectivity -- A Good Thing?

A reader wrote in to ask if I had any insight into the best way to increase one's chances of getting into the Navy as an officer. Excerpt:
I have been trying for over a year now, increased my GPA, lost over 50 pounds, and added additional community services to my resume. From my understanding, there just aren’t any spots for young men and women who are just getting out of college.
To be honest, I hadn't realized just how picky the Navy had become. I knew the services had been meeting their accession goals recently (I'm sure the state of the economy contributes to that), but didn't know just how few slots there really were. Some entries from this blog by a New York Navy Officer recruiter has some interesting posts, including this one and this one, excerpted:
Today I saw NRD NY's goal or quota for Fiscal Year 2012 which starts this October. I did a double take. Active Duty General Officer (Pilot, NFO, SWO, Intel, Nuke, CEC, Supply, SEAL, etc.): The goal for ALL of NRD NY is ten. That's right, T.E.N. Out of those ten four were Nukes. What does that mean to me? Well to put it into perspective last year my personal goal was 24, the year prior 31 while the goal for the district has been 65 and 71 respectively. It means that I highly doubt there will be a board for any of these designators until September of next year. There are twenty-six NRDs in the US. Do the math and you'll see they only need 260 Officer Candidates this year which is a joke, in the past it has been well over a thousand.
I knew the Navy was drawing down, but this sounds much more serious than I'd realized. Sure, it seems like it would be nice to be able to pick and choose which people you want to join your organization, but I'm worried that we'll end up with several year groups in a row composed only of the people who the recruiters think would make the best Officers -- which, to be honest, might not reflect the characteristics and personality types with whom the non-recruiters among us would most like to serve.

Do you have any advice for the reader about what he might be able to do to impress the recruiter? (Input from current and recent recruiters would be especially useful.) And do you have any concerns about potential blowback from the Navy's new-found freedom to "pick and choose"?

Off topic, kind of: Also on the recruiters blog, here's a report of an E-mail he got from a young officer in the middle of the Nuke pipeline that I thought was interesting. Excerpts:
As it turns out nukes are much needed in the fleet but huge holds are building up in the pipeline. If you recall I was attached to NRD NY for 15 weeks and that was shorter than most people who graduated OCS and were designated as sub nucs (There were ensigns who were on hold for up to 24 weeks). Throughout the 24 weeks here in Charleston no one knew where or when we would be going to prototype or SOBC. For my class, we were issued 3 sets of orders the week before graduation which changed constantly. As of now, everyone took 2 weeks of leave and the sub nukes have to report back to Charleston for 2 months of quality assurance training (some assignment they're experimenting with so we don't go back to OHARP or just sit around and muster daily). Most of us are going to prototype in NY after we report to SOBC with a few who are staying in Charleston (mainly those with families who do not want to keep moving around).

The "AwCrap" Moment

So there I was... onboard USS Topeka (SSN 754) in November 1992, where the boat had just pulled into Mina Salman, Bahrain, for a mid-deployment upkeep. Before we could go out on liberty, however, we had a few items to take care of. I was responsible for making sure that a couple hundred packages got signed over to the Defense Courier Service from the "special" mission we'd been doing -- the tender guys and gals couldn't come on board to start the upkeep until it was all gone.

I had inventoried everything the night before, and rounded up a working party of about 8 guys to get all the packages moved out to the government van; I checked off the items on the inventory list with the local DCS rep as they were loaded in. When the guys brought out the last load, every block was checked... except one. That caused a little bit of excitement as we ransacked all the places these items had been kept, and after about a half hour we found the package (a 9 x 12 inch envelope); it had fallen behind a bench in Radio. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and headed off to the Alcohol Support Unit at the base to start to unwind from being so vital to national security over the previous several weeks, in preparation for heading out into town to see what Manama had to offer.

Anyone care to share their favorite "Aw, crap" moment?

Update 1155 08 September: Going back through my archives, here's a story that falls under the category of "Stupid JO Tricks" more than "AwCrap". And as a "bell-ringer" (moving a link from the comments up to the main story) here's the story of the CO of USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) becoming the 18th Navy Commanding Officer fired this year for mistakenly targeting a civilian fishing vessel with inert training rounds during deployment workup.

Labor Day 2011

Since it's Labor Day, it's a good time to revisit some labor history, both from the last century (the Great Depression and the New Deal) and more recent times (the battle in Wisconsin and other states, and the lackluster discussion of jobs in Washington). Here's a roundup of sorts. A new book is out on labor icon Joe Hill. New evidence strongly suggests that he was innocent of the murder

Submitted For Your Approval...

One of my Facebook friends had a patch made up that I think is absolutely great:

What do you think? Isn't that just about the best patch ever? What are your best stories of off-crew? (Or, for us Fast Attack heterosexuals, what are your best stories of being "left behind" when the boat went out to sea?)

Update 1409 02 September 11: The maker of the patch has agreed to make some available to TSSBP readers for $5 (including shipping). If you want one, send me an E-mail [joel(dot)bubblehead(at)gmail(dot)com], and I'll forward it to Jan.

Update 2244 05 September 11: I ended up forwarding 17 orders for probably 40-50 patches to Jan, so it looks like they were pretty popular!

Adventures With Skimmers

This picture of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) pulling into Pearl Harbor yesterday caught my attention:

It got me thinking of my time on a carrier, the Millennium deployment of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as the Submarine Ops guy on the Carrier Group SEVEN staff. While we were in the Arabian Gulf, one of the assigned submarines was tasked to do one of those "special" missions we all know about, the ones where they bring on extra Sailors who eat four meals a day and monopolize the best tables in Crew's Mess between meals. The boat wanted to make some room, so I arranged for them to send some extra nukes over to the carrier to ride for a few weeks. Being the gung-ho Submariners they were, they decided they'd make the best use of their time by earning the Enlisted Surface Warfare Insignia. As I remember, six of the 9 Submariners met that goal within 4 weeks. As they were getting ready to leave, I asked them what they'd remember most, and they said they learned that 1) administrative tasks you routinely see E-5s doing on submarines are done by O-4s on the carrier, and 2) skimmers aren't very bright.

Have you ever had to interact with skimmers on their home turf?

Emergency Sortie

Here's a photo of an unidentified Los Angeles-class submarine pulling out of Norfolk yesterday ahead of Hurricane Irene:

(Official Navy information on the storm can be found here.) Have you ever had to do an emergency sortie for a hurricane? Or been kept in port because your boat couldn't move and had to ride out the storm?

[Admin note: Expect light blogging for the next few days. I'm celebrating four dozen years on earth today, and switch back to day shift at work after that, so I'll need to get re-acclimated to a normal schedule.]

Request For Information!

Although we think that our little community here at TSSBP is a fairly insular little group, discussing issues of little attention to the world at large, I can assure you that is not the case. It turns out that people of eclectic interests read what we have to say and would like us to comment on issues of vital national importance. I got this E-mail from "Susie":

I work for an IT company that has extensive contracts with the Department of the Navy. I am looking for information about US submarines that have been damaged by earthquakes while berthed, but preferably while on patrol. Since we just experienced our own 5.9 bit of excitement here yesterday afternoon, this would be a topic of interest to our in-house Team Sub.

Based on your comments and your readership, you seem to have extensive resources; most of what I come up with is speculation about how US subs’ underwater testing has been the cause of whales and dolphins beaching themselves, the island of Sumatra shifting, and a trove of other sins so I’m hoping that you have more verifiable information on this topic. If you can assist me in this quest, please send any links that would provide some details.
So what do you think? Can we help Susie out? I've discussed my ideas on whether or not naval sonar is responsible for marine mammal beachings before (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), so you could say I'm on the side of the "skeptics". As far as submarine operations shifting the island of Sumatra, I had heard that there are some who think that "Bush/Cheney" set off a nuclear bomb to cause the 2004 tsunami to distract attention from their theft of Ohio votes in the election; once again, I'm a little skeptical about that one. I discussed my views on that topic on other websites.

So what do you think? As far as the effects of sonar on marine mammal beaching, there are probably legitimate security classification concerns with revealing too much, but I think we can all agree that the story of submarine operations causing tectonic shifts is much too important to worry about little details like "national secrets", so I encourage all my readers with vital information on this important topic to let us know in the comments!

Political Ideology Research

I recently finished reading an intriguing article summing up social science research on political ideology. The direct link is here, but you can also access it by going to NYU Professor John Jost's webpage here and scrolling down until you find this item:

Jost, J.T., Federico, C.M. & Napier, J.L. (2009). Political ideology: Its structure, functions, and elective affinities. Annual Review of

"Serious" Culpability on the Debt Ceiling Hostage Situation

The American national media's main failing during the recent debt ceiling hostage situation was its frequent refusal to describe it accurately, instead insisting that 'both sides are equally to blame.' However, some supposedly sober, responsible "serious" journalists and political players not only failed to halt the madness – they joined the far-right and urged it on.

Jonathan Chait

Malcontents On Submarines

We covered the Memphis cheating scandal in extreme detail back in November, but stories are making the rounds again after the AP got some information (much of which we already had) from an FOIA request. I wasn't going to rehash the old news, but enough people E-mailed me about it that I figured there was some interest. Excerpt from the new story:

An investigation report obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request describes an atmosphere aboard the USS Memphis that tolerated and even encouraged cheating: Sailors were emailed the answers before qualification exams, took tests outside the presence of proctors and openly asked officers for answer keys. One sailor told investigators that test-takers were encouraged to "use their time wisely" during breaks, insinuating that they should look up answers to exam questions.

A submarine force spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, said the Navy holds its officers and crew to very high standards and denied that cheating is rampant.

"The evidence we have shows that it's very rare," said Rousselow, who is based in Norfolk, Va.

But three former officers said the episode aboard the Groton, Conn.-based Memphis was an extreme example of shortcuts that occur aboard many of the roughly 70 American submarines in service.
[I couldn't find anywhere that the AP writer posted the report he got from the Navy; has anyone seen it online?] The article goes on with quotes from one former Submarine officer who claims that cheating is pervasive throughout the fleet, and bragged earlier about how he refused to cheat, resulting in him failing what I assume is the BEQ test several times.

How did you deal with malcontents on your boat who wouldn't "go with the flow"? Personally, I generally liked them and encouraged them to question things (to a degree), but I'll admit it could get old after a while when they just didn't know when to stop tilting at windmills.

Update 0850 23 August: For the purposes of this discussion, remember that "malcontent" is not the same as "disgruntled", as shown in this story about a Sailor off "the USS Springfield submarine". The article was written by the Michael Milea reporter.

Sachal Studios - "Take Five"

A fantastic cover of a classic. Via via.

Bloom on Speaking Poetry Out Loud

Scott Horton recently interviewed Harold Bloom, who has a new book out. Last year, Horton posted a video of Bloom reading Wallace Stevens' poem "Tea at the Palaz of Hoon." Apparently, Bloom feels understanding this poem is essential for understanding Stevens and his evolution as a poet. Here's the poem itself:

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day

Prime Post

Today this blog turns 7 years old, which is a prime number.

And, this marks the 1,013th posting, which is also prime.

I'm Not Judging You, But You're Going to Burn in Hell

David Gregory is mostly awful, but he's correct here to press Michelle Bachmann on her anti-gay views:

Here's the transcript (you can also watch the full interview, if you like):

MR. GREGORY: OK. I want to also ask you about your interpretation of the Bible and your feelings about gays and lesbians. You have said in recent years that opposition to same sex marriage is defining a political

Just Bad Luck

On the campaign trail in Iowa, Obama says:

"We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again," Obama told a crowd in Decorah, Iowa. "But over the last six months we've had a run of bad luck." Obama listed three events overseas -- the Arab Spring uprisings, the tsunami in Japan, and the European debt crises -- which set the economy back.
How the Arab uprisings hurt the economy isn't quite clear to me, but be that as it may, recall Heinlein wrote in 1973:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded- here and there, now and then- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.This is known as "bad luck."
UPDATE: Great minds thinking alike? Surely independently, Instapundit posted the exact same juxtaposition exactly one hour after I did!

Posted at 10:00 pm by Glenn Reynolds

2012 Via Palantir

Here is a hilarious guide to the 2010 election campaign, as seen through the lens of Middle Earth.
Orcs are public sector unions, ACORN, anyone who writes for Huffington Post, and every other evil, statist minion ever identified by Glenn Beck. Speaking of Beck, his closest equivalent is Denethor, Steward of Gondor — well-spoken and intelligent but more-than-slightly crazed.
The photographic juxtapositions alone are worth hitting the link and reading it all.

For extra credit, don't miss this "unused dvd commentary" dialogue by Zinn and Chomsky on the Fellowship of the Ring...

Life After A Sub

Just about 7 years ago today, I went on terminal leave prior to my retirement from the U.S. Navy. I went to all the required pre-retirement classes where they talked about the importance of networking, how to write a résumé, and the importance of starting your job search early. I figured, "Well, that's all well and good for the skimmers in the class, but I'm a highly-qualified Submariner. I'm the only guy in recent memory who was initial manning Eng on two new construction submarines, and I know all the civilian companies out there know that NR looks at that billet harder than any other Department Head slot. Plus, I did Coalition Finance at CENTCOM, so I've got the budgeting block checked. I just need to send out some CVs, and the offers will come pouring in."

Those of you who have already been through the post-service job search already are probably laughing your butts off, and rightly so. When they tell you that you need to completely convert all military terms to their civilian equivalents when talking with recruiters, they're exactly right. I was able to get a job here in Idaho, but not just by sending in a résumé and having them be so excited by my qualifications that they hired me on the spot; I needed to network. Luckily, there's a very senior Submariner who moved to Boise after he retired who takes us under his wing, shows us the ropes, and introduces us to the right people. If your town doesn't have a former Fleet Commander, however, that option might not be open to you. If you don't have an "in" with a given company, your best option might be to target a group that understands the Navy culture.

From what I've heard, one such company is Bechtel. I found this over at the NavyCS blog, and wanted to repost an updated copy here:
Time to leverage your shipboard nuclear power and submarine warfare knowledge and translate it to land based power plants and other projects in the US, Asia, Middle East and other regions? Bechtel Corporation, one of the largest Nuclear Power engineering, project management and construction firms in the world, is prepared to help transition qualified engineers – Naval Officers and NCOs for engineering leadership positions, into their business. Bechtel currently has many projects and needs for Navy Nuclear Power trained engineers. Bechtel is prepared to help transition qualified engineers into their business and allocate resources to do this.

Bechtel has 100’s of openings, many in the field of Nuclear Power Generation and are aggressively seeking the usual suspects; US Navy nuclear propulsion trained officers (ranks of O3 – O5 preferred); US Navy nuclear submarine qualified officers (ranks of O3 – O5 preferred); US Navy nuclear propulsion trained Warrant officers – submarine or surface ship; US Navy nuclear aircraft carrier nuclear propulsion trained officers; US Navy Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) nuclear propulsion trained – submarine or surface service; US Navy Reactor Operators (RO); and US Navy Shutdown Reactor Operators (SRO) – submarine or surface, US Navy nuclear propulsion trained Petty Officers (E-6 and up) qualified in Submarines (i.e., Engineering Lab Technicians [ELT’s], Machinist Mates [MM’s], Electronic Technicians [ET’s]) (AS degrees preferred); US Navy nuclear propulsion trained US Naval Petty Officers (E-6 and up) surface Navy (i.e., ELT’s, MM’s, ET’s) (AS degrees preferred); US Navy nuclear propulsion prototype instructors (officers and enlisted); US Navy nuclear propulsion power school instructors (officers and enlisted).

Starting base salaries are high - can range from $95K to $175K and up, not to mention the potential for bonuses, depending, of course, on your qualifications and the position you fill.

Interested? I highly recommend that you contact Erik Plesset, a Senior Recruiter at Bechtel directly at Hotjobs[at], or if you are on Linked-In, hit him up there at – .
I was intrigued when I read that post, and since I was planning a series about "getting a job after the Navy", I contacted Erik to see if he'd be willing to share some pointers. Hopefully he'll be able to, because I think one of the best uses of this blog, with its combination of active duty and veteran readership, is to help guys transition back to civilian life when their time on the boats is done, and having the perspective of a senior recruiter of a major company would be helpful. For those who want to see what kind of jobs Erik is talking about, the Bechtel career page is here.

For the guys who have re-entered the civilian workforce -- what was your experience in getting a job on the outside? For those looking to get a job over the next few years, do you have any questions for Erik or those of us who have made the transition?

Judicial Engagement

Perhaps some good news from the judicial branch:

In striking down Obamacare’s individual mandate today, the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals used the term “judicial engagement” to describe the proper role of courts in deciding constitutional cases. The Institute for Justice coined that term and today marks the first time a federal court has used it in this context. Instead of deferring reflexively to Congress as courts so often do, the Eleventh Circuit correctly observed that “the Constitution requires judicial engagement, not judicial abdication.” Institute for Justice president Chip Mellor praised the ruling: “We have more government at every level than the Constitution authorizes. This decision is an important step towards the direction of limited government.”
If Judicial Engagement is the opposite of judicial activism, by reining in government power to accord with the structure of the Constitution, rather than to arbitrarily expand it for the sake of expediency, I'm all for it!

Thou Shalt Not Question Supply-Side Jesus

Over at Hullabaloo, David Atkins (thereisnospoon) has an excellent short post:

Has anyone in the media considered asking the Republican presidential hopefuls a few simple questions:

• In real dollar terms, how much more money do the rich need before they can create jobs?

• What would happen to the economy if we returned to Clinton era tax rates on the rich?

• Do you know what the marginal

Life On A Sub

For some reason I missed this official Navy propaganda video when it first came out in January:

At least one of the guys in that video is from my old boat, Topeka. A couple other videos I missed about that time (I did share two of them that came out in January) were "Fast Attack", focusing on Virginia-class boats, and "Experience". All five videos are aimed at getting people to visit the official Navy submarine officer recruiting page.

Have you ever been in an official Navy video?

Update 0957 13 August: Here's another one I missed, from back in February, featuring a simulated battle on a Virginia-class boat:

New Posts On The COMSUBFOR Blog

Both RADM Caldwell and VADM Richardson have new posts up at the COMSUBFOR blog. Hopefully they'll keep writing and responding to the comments they get.

Update 0830 10 August: VADM Richardson has been busy getting his views out in the public eye; he wrote this response to a post from a Naval War College professor over at The Diplomat.

Steel Beach

Here it is -- the video that's causing all the controversy on Facebook! The picture causing the questions, at about the 2:40 mark, is apparently of midshipmen on USS Michigan (SSGN 727):

Other (longer) videos by the same poster can be found here and here.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Bell-ringer 0818 8/9: Some people are saying in the comments that the female JOs aren't going to be filling existing billets, but that the wardrooms are getting +2'd in the manning document. Word on the street is that those commenters are telling the truth. If so, it looks like PERS-42 isn't going "all in" on this experiment working out.

Hope and Change (August 2011)

The debt ceiling hostage situation was pretty depressing, and predictably, Republicans are crowing about taking hostages again in the future. I'll write more on all that in the future (not as if there's a shortage of good posts out there on the subject). In the meantime, I thought actual hope and change would be kinda welcome. TomDispatch has an essay by Rebecca Solnit called "Hope: The Care

Proposed Change That Will Adversely Affect Future Submarine Manning

By the end of the year, we'll be seeing a dramatic change in the makeup of some submarine crews. The first women submarine officers will be arriving at their boats as early as November, and even before that, prior to the end of the summer, homosexual or bisexual Submariners will have legal cover to be open about their sexual preference. (Note that I don't say that gay Submariners will start arriving after that time; anyone who's honest about it knows they've had gay shipmates in the past, and current Submariners have gay shipmates now, and it will continue in the future.)

So are these the changes that will adversely affect submarine manning? Well, there could be some issues. Since Congress never modified or removed Article 125 (Sodomy) from the UCMJ, it's possible that an overzealous chain of command could bring a media sh*tstorm on themselves by writing up a gay Submariner for telling too much about whatever penetration -- however slight -- he may have enjoyed over the weekend. Likewise, it's possible that the 10% of military members who said in a 2009 Military Times survey that they'd leave the military if DADT was repealed weren't just blowing smoke, and they'll take their chances in the current job market. Of course, the old method of getting out quickly -- the "phrase that pays" -- won't exist anymore.

As far as women on submarines goes, of course that will introduce new challenges. I'll admit I'm a little concerned reading about one of the young officers getting ready to get to her boat saying "I have a feeling more people will be focused on us. Our mistakes and successes will be magnified more than they deserve." When women were being integrated into the surface and air arms of the military, the stories you saw make the press were Senators ending the careers of Admirals for dropping women out of flight training. While it's possible that some Submariners will try to make it harder for women to qualify, I think it's more likely that one of the women just won't be able to cut it, and despite the fact that about 1 of 25 male submarine officers can't finish their qualifications after they get to the boat, the press will make a huge deal out of this happening to the same percentage of women. Hopefully the senior Submarine Force leadership won't overreact when that happens.

So are these two changes going to be too much for the Submarine Force to handle? Of course not. We'll handle it the same way we've handled other changes in the past -- by making a commitment to doing it, and then carrying out the plan. Any dislocation will be minimal, and certainly not Force-wide. I mean, c'mon, skimmers could do it; of course we can make it work. (Speaking of skimmers, when I was on the Stennis in 2000 I laughed about the ship's "no dating" general order; now, if I were a submarine CO, I'd be thinking seriously about implementing one on my ship sometime in the next few months.)

So what is the "Proposed Change That Will Adversely Affect Future Submarine Manning"? It's this one -- the proposal to radically restructure military retirement from the Defense Business Board. Their presentation can be found here. Excerpt from the first-linked article:
In a massive change that could affect today’s troops, the plan calls for a corporate-style benefits program that would contribute money to troops’ retirement savings account rather than the promise of a future monthly pension, according to a new proposal from an influential Pentagon advisory board.
All troops would receive the yearly retirement contributions, regardless of whether they stay for 20 years. Those contributions might amount to about 16.5 percent of a member’s annual pay and would be deposited into a mandatory version of the Thrift Savings Plan, the military’s existing 401(k)-style account that now does not include government matching contributions.
I can seriously see this proposal being adopted, and if it is, I think we'll see significant attrition of experienced Submariners starting about the 10 year point, the time when they should be running divisions or departments. With the attacks we've seen on public employee pensions from some who subscribe to Tea Party principles, I fully expect to see them move towards attacking military pensions -- not now, but as we finish with the "easy" cuts and they realize that people like me have been getting over $35K/year since I was 41, along with free health insurance. If this proposal is adopted, that's when we'll start seeing problems with getting enough qualified Submariners to man the boats. And then we'll be glad we haven't eliminated 51% (or so) of the population from serving on submarines, like we do now.

So what do you think? Will having women on submarines cause a plague of locusts o'er the land? Will having openly homosexual Submariners cause the Earth to stop spinning on its axis? Or will the sudden change in centrifugal force fling all the locusts into space and result in a wash? (Yes, for Dilbert fans who thought that sounded familiar, I didn't come up with that on my own.) Personally, I think the only result of having "out" homosexuals on board will be a reduction in overt acts that any observer not familiar with submarine culture would classify as "gay" (e.g. "swordfights" in the tunnel, various spit games between the ERUL and ERF watchstanders, etc.) as people don't want to be accused of actual gayness. Having women onboard will probably cause more issues, but I don't think it's something we can't overcome with minimal effort. Let us know what you think in the comments. (I'm not planning on running any more "gays/women on submarines" posts unless some specific incident makes the news, so this could be your last shot. Have at it.)

Lady Danville - "Kids"

I like this cover better than the MGMT original.

Are Officers Inherently Jerks?

A reader sends in the following:
I was an enlisted nuke MM and following my time in the canoe club, went to [respected university] for my BSME. I have completed all the course work for my Masters in Engineering and am just working on the research to complete it. So I have an education and am not stupid in any sense of the word.

Is there something in ROTC and/or the Academy that they teach officers about in treating enlisted sailors with disdain? I don’t get it. I happened to meet a gentleman at work the other day that was an officer on the Dallas (I was on the Philly). He was engaging and the minute I mentioned that I was an enlisted nuke, the whole conversation turned. Well actually it just ended – abruptly. Since then I have seen him and he has never said a word to me even in a professional sense. I am in a training class currently (two days) and he is sitting right behind me – not a word or even any acknowledgement of my existence.

This isn’t the first time I have run across this behavior, and actually find it quite common.
I've known quite a few officers who seemed to believe that they were inherently "better" than enlisted people; my stateroommate on the carrier on which I was stationed used to thrust his collar device out of mess attendants he thought weren't being sufficiently deferential. I didn't think it was something he'd been taught in an organized way; I figured he was just probably a jerk. Still, I've heard from many people who believe that that probably apocryphal quote about enlisted Sailors being "cunning and devious", allegedly contained in some early 20th century officer handbook, is still being actively taught by commissioning sources. Now, I only went through OCS, but I paid attention in class, and I'm almost positive they didn't teach us that there.

We've kind of discussed this before, but what do you think about this story? Are guys who are officers who are jerks to enlisted men just a-holes, or is there something about the Submarine (or military) culture that teaches them that they should be like that?

Blogiversary VI: Occasional Return of the Blogger

As of yesterday, this blog turns six. I've had much less time to write since last year, alas, but I hope that will change in the next few months. Thanks to all those who have stopped by for my occasional (and mostly long-form) blogging.I'll do my usual retrospective. Since last year, I added a couple of entries to the Chart Project (an attempt to visualize issues), "The Stupid-Evil-Crazy