Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Donald Trump's Ball Game: Calvin Ball

I finally realized today that President Trump is a skilled practitioner of Calvin Ball.

What's that? You ask. Google the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

Here's the description of the game:

Friday, October 6, 2017

National Security Consequences Of Donald Trump

In 1919 the British economist John Maynard Keynes, disappointed at the Treaty of Versailles, published a brilliant little book, the Economic Consequences of The Peace.

His main point was less about economics in the usual sense, and more about national security. In fact, he foretold the European economic collapse of the 20's and 30's, the consequent rise of authoritarian dictatorships and eventual war.

Thus, the consequences of Versailles were more about national and international security matters rather than more direct economic concerns.

Keynes wanted a settlement focused on rebuilding the economy of Europe. The Allies wanted to pursue national advantage.

They mostly saw the world in terms of a zero-sum game. That is, if you win some advantage, I suffer an equal  loss.

That seems to be Donald Trump's view.

Bad economics. Bad strategy. Disastrous negotiating technique.

We built a better world after the end of WWII. Stronger economy. More lasting peace. Greater prosperity.

Not a zero sum world.

Donald J. Trump is a pitiful excuse for a President of the US. I have seen them all in action since FDR. And followed them all carefully. Most surround themselves with good people. And listen,

That's the best way.

DJT can ruin it all.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Vietnam War On PBS

I have been watching the Ken Burns film on the Vietnam War. It is now available on streaming video: Watch the Entire Landmark Film 'The Vietnam War'

New on the PBS Streaming Video Channel

Friday, Sept. 29, 2017


The Vietnam War

A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

Watch all 10 episodes of the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film, featuring testimony from nearly 100 witnesses.

It is a terrific series. I learned a lot from it and recommend it to all Americans. The interviews with participants are particularly well done, especially interviews of Vietnamese participants, both North and South, and interviews of veterans.

My personal connections to the war began in 1961 at the Army language School, when Special Forces troops began showing up to study either French or Vietnamese language. The next connection was in 1964 when I was Weapons Officer of USS Higbee, steaming South from Yokusuka August 3-6 to join naval forces in the Tonkin Gulf after the attack on USS Maddox August 2, 1964. Over the next two years, my ship established the coastal surveillance patrol to intercept Vietnamese vessels transporting weapons and personnel from the north to the Viet Cong. During that time, we fired about 10,000 rounds of 5-inch projectiles at targets up tp 9 miles inland.

I never served in-country, but had some grasp of what was going on.

I can't say that watching the film is enjoyable, but you will learn a lot.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Collisions At Sea - Not Necessary

The collisions of USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain are still something of a mystery, since the investigations have not been made public. But more and more information has been disclosed.

Most recently, it has been revealed that equipment installed on every ship to avoid collisions by transmitting information to other ships about position, course and speed, has been routinely turned off. As a result, other ships have had difficulty detecting USN ships by radar.

In a recent statement, the Chief of Naval Operations explained that the Navy's stealth technology makes it very difficult for commercial ships to detect its ships by radar or even visually. Apparently, ships have routinely turned off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) even in crowded sea ways. This may explain why the Philippine container ship that collided with USS Fitzgerald knew it had collided with something, but didn't know it was a ship.

It may be that ship personnel turn off the AIS in crowded waters because it frequently sounds an alarm of a pending collision and this becomes annoying. Something of this sort may have contributed to McCain's collision with a tanker in the approaches to Singapore.

According to Congressional Testimony, the Navy will no longer routinely turn off AIS equipment (

But this can't be a complete explanation for the collisions. My conjecture is that officers of the deck and other bridge personnel have become too reliant on automated radar and steering systems and may not be doing such a simple thing as looking out the window.

I recommend greater emphasis on basic seamanship skills.

Read up,for example, on the Andrea Doria and other examples of collisions at sea.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The First Time I Saw Tampa

The first time I saw Tampa, we were getting ready for war.

It was 1940, I was not quite four years old, but I knew that war was coming. I knew it from the newsreels at the movies. But mostly I knew it because my dad was in the US Army Air Corps, and I saw the P-39's, the P-40's, the B-18's and C-47's flying overhead.

We lived in an upstairs apartment, and Mother sent me down to the front yard every morning to pick a grapefruit for breakfast.

Tampa was a small town. We got around by walking or by taking the street car. Sometimes we would take the streetcar to the end of the line, where we would watch the sea. I was fascinated by the conductor flipping the seat backs in the other direction before starting back the way we had come.

After about six months, we moved to Tallahassee. Another air base. Different airplanes. We were there on December 7, 1941. Moved to Mississippi in 1942 during the war. Didn't get back to Florida until 1969. In 1942, Mississippi was much like Florida - poor, economically backward, racist.

I didn't make it back to Florida until 1969. Operated three ships out of Mayport, Florida.

By 1969, Florida was modernizing and that was a good thing.

Mississippi was another thing entirely.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Puerto Rico, Irma, and International Relations

As Hurricane Irma bears down on Puerto Rico, I am reminded of a friend and shipmate, and also of a blustering captain who may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer.

It is customary for an officer reporting to a ship to pay a courtesy call on the captain.

In 1957, Navy Reserve Lieutenant Jose Ortega-Otero, a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, reported to USS Cabildo, where he was to become the Chief Engineer.

When Jose called on the captain, the commanding officer detected an unfamiliar accent.

"Where are you from?" Captain Kelsey asked.

"I'm from Puerto Rico," Jose answered.

"What are you doing in the American Navy?" Captain Kelsey asked in puzzlement.

"I was about to be drafted into the American Army," Jose explained.

Schoolbus History

Interesting event this morning in Oriental celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first public school bus in the state of North Carolina that began operation on this date in 1917.

This was a revolutionary development demonstrating the dedication of the State of North Carolina to public school education in rural areas of the state.

It is a result worth celebrating.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Play Taps For Democracy

This evening's White House announcement of a pardon for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio could mark the death nell of American Democracy.

That may sound extreme, but Democracy requires rule of law. Otherwise, a dictatorial tyrant can ignore the constraints of constitutional democracy with impunity.

That seems to be happening.

Defense of our democracy will require courage.

Perhaps our democracy will be rescued by the three career generals running the government.

Maybe democracy will be rescued by the Republicans in charge of the Senate and the House.

Maybe not.

One of the most thoughtful voices I know writing about our national turmoil is a retired Navy Warrant Officer named Jim Wright. He used to live in Alaska but now lives in Florida.

He uses clear language, which tends to be a bit blunt. The kind of language sailors use.

Some people may find sailor's language offensive.

I love it, though I (mostly) don't speak that way.

Check it out: (