Monday, April 30, 2012

Is America Exceptional? "Not So Much"- E.L. Doctorow

Here are today's thoughts by the author E.L. Doctorow on the issue of American Exceptionalism. Or how to achieve unexceptionalism. He seems to think we have already accomplished that.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute have penned a very interesting article in last Friday's Washington Post examining causes of the vicious partisanship and gridlock in Washington. The article's title telegraphs their conclusions: "Let's Just Say It: The Republicans Are The Problem."

The article opens with a quote from Florida Congressman West asserting that "78 to 81" Democratic congressmen are members of the Communist Party. Shades of Joe McCarthy! But when Senator McCarthy was censured by the Senate, senators of both parties joined in the censure. As did Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower.

But that was then. Mann and Ornstein observe: "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party."

They continue: "The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

These observations are not made by partisan operatives, but by serious scholars with a longstanding reputation as objective observers of our political processes.

We should all take them seriously.

On Service

I don't remember when it started, but I was startled the first time someone, on finding that I was retired military, said: "thank you for your service."

I understood that the person who said it was sincere, and meant it respectfully, but it made me uncomfortable all the same. Ever since, I have tried to understand the source of my discomfort.

I just finished reading Drift by Rachel Maddow, and I think I now understand why such statements make me uncomfortable. It implies that military service or, perhaps more broadly any kind of public service is an extraordinary thing. According to Ms. Maddow, in today's America, only one percent of adults have served in the military.

It was not that way in the America in which I grew up. Service was taken for granted. Every young man was subject to military service, and public service in general was viewed in a positive light. A half century ago, President Kennedy told an entering class at the Naval Academy, "I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worth while, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.'"

But America's youth in those days were inspired to serve their fellow citizens in other ways as well. Young people flocked to the newly-created Peace Corps and recent college graduates actively sought positions in government service.

Like their predecessors who struggled to bring America  out of the Great Depression and who served victoriously in World War II (Tom Brokaw called them the Greatest Generation), this new generation chose to serve in a cause greater than themselves.

Would that those of us who remember those times can inspire our latest generation of Americans to such service.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

War And Rumors Of War

I am reading Rachel Maddow's new book, Drift, The Unmooring of American Military Power.

I'm not finding it enjoyable - Ms. Maddow hits too many nails right on the head. In particular, the heart of her book reminds me why, after nearly three decades of service in the navy, I decided I could no longer serve the foreign policy and national security policy imperatives of a US administration - that of Ronald Reagan.

As Brutus observes in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "the evil that men do lives after them..." The Reagan departure from our historical traditions and the policies of every US President in my lifetime, from FDR through Nixon and Carter, is captured in Maddow's book by an exchange between Senator Edward Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1990:

Kennedy: " you agree that the president must obtain the approval of Congress in advance before the United States attacks Iraq?"

Cheney: "Senator, I do not believe the president requires any additional authorization from the Congress before committing US forces to achieve our objectives in the Gulf . . . There have been some two hundred times, in our history, when presidents have committed US forces, and on only five of those occasions was there a prior declaration of war. And so I am not one who would argue, in this instance, that the president's hands are tied or that he is unable, given his constitutional responsibilities as commander in chief, to carry out his responsibilities."

This was a pretty breathtaking repudiation of the Constitutional provision that only Congress has the power to declare war.

But what about those two hundred-odd instances of military action without declaring war? Actually, the figure Cheney cited is a bit inflated, because it includes some very minor actions that would not plausibly constitute war.

But the list also includes some very major military undertakings, including the three-year "quasi-war" with France, the two Barbary Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and countless foreign interventions, including the Boxer Rebellion and the Philippine Insurrection.

On close examination, what is striking about the list is that vast majority of such military actions involved the navy and marine corps, not the army - to be more precise, not the War Department.

It seems too simplistic, but prior to 1947, there were two military departments of our government, the Navy Department and the War Department. If a military action involved only the Navy Department (which includes the marines), there never was a declaration of war. Only if the War Department was involved in a foreign action was there ever a declaration of war.

In one other interesting respect, the Constitution treats the Army and Navy differently. Article I, Section 8 lists the powers of Congress, including:
"To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Capture on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy...."

For whatever reason, the Constitution does not include a two year limit on naval appropriations. One could conclude that our founding fathers were deeply suspicious of standing armies, but had no such suspicion of navies. The suspicion of standing armies was also memorably expressed in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

What undid more than a century and a half of Constitutional practice and tradition concerning military affairs was the Unification of Armed Forces Act of 1947. Since that action, creating the Department of Defense, the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an independent Air Force, we have yet to sort these issues out satisfactorily.

Pentagon staff officers in my day often shared the observation that "before the Department of Defense, we never lost a war and since then, we have never won one."

Reviewing the history of our very successful operations during World War II, including significant joint Army-Navy undertakings, one can conclude that Unification of the Armed Forces was not the solution to a problem, but rather a solution in search of a problem. Or a solution that created a problem.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oriental Comprehensive Plan

Next Tuesday night, May 1, Oriental's Long Range Planning Committee will unveil its draft of a comprehensive plan.

I haven't completely digested the plan, but there are features of it that I like. Here is a link to the Town Board agenda. Click on the second item to see the 24-page draft of the comprehensive plan.

A second item on the agenda that may make attendance worthwhile is that the town attorney, Scott Davis, will provide an update on South Avenue.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Report On The War: Apr 23 1944

Here Is Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King's Report to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox dated April 23, 1944.

The report is worth reading, since it gives an official view of preparation for and conduct of World War II from the standpoint of one of its principal leaders.

My favorite quote from the report is Admiral King's explanation of the Navy's peacetime efforts to meet its responsibilities:

The Peacetime Navy

Prior to the War in Europe

THE fundamental United States naval policy is "To maintain the Navy in strength and readiness to uphold national policies and interests, and to guard the United States and its continental and overseas possessions."

In time of peace, when the threats to our national security change with the strength and attitude of other nations in the world who have a motive for making war upon us and who are-or think they are-strong enough to do so, it is frequently difficult to evaluate those threats and translate our requirements into terms of ships and planes and trained men. It is one thing to say that we must have and maintain a Navy adequate to uphold national policies and interests and to protect us against potential enemies, but it is another thing to decide what is and what is not the naval strength adequate for that purpose.

In the years following World War I, our course was clear enough-to make every reasonable effort to preserve world peace by eliminating the causes of war and failing in that effort, to do our best to stay clear of war, while recognizing that we might fail in doing so. For a number of years, the likelihood of our becoming involved in a war in the foreseeable future appeared remote, and our fortunate geographical position gave us an added sense of security. Under those circumstances, and in the interest of national economy, public opinion favored the belief that we could get along with a comparatively small Navy. Stated in terms of personnel this meant an average of about 7,900 commissioned officers, all of whom had chosen the Navy as a career, and 100,000 enlisted men more or less.

This modest concept of an adequate Navy carried with it an increased responsibility on the part of the Navy to maintain itself at the peak of operational and material efficiency, with a nucleus of highly trained personnel as a basis for war time expansion.

For twenty years in its program of readiness, our Navy has worked under schedules of operation, competitive training and inspection, unparalleled in any other Navy of the world. Fleet problems, tactical exercises, amphibious operations with the Marines and Army, aviation, gunnery, engineering, communications were all integrated in a closely packed annual operation schedule. This in turn was supplemented by special activities ashore and afloat calculated to train individuals in the fundamentals of their duties and at the same time give them the background of experience so necessary for sound advances in the various techniques of naval warfare. Ship competitions established for the purpose of stimulating and maintaining interest were climaxed by realistic fleet maneuvers held once a year, with the object of giving officers in the higher commands experience and training in strategy and tactics approximating these responsibilities in time of war.

Our peacetime training operations, which involved hard work and many long hours of constructive thinking, were later to pay us dividends. For example, it would be an understatement to say merely that the Navy recognized the growing importance of air power. By one development after another, not only in the field of design and equipment, but also in carrier and other operational techniques-such as dive bombing-and in strategic and tactical employment, the United States Navy has made its aviation the standard by which all other naval aviation is judged and has contributed its full share to the advances which were to make aviation the sine qua non of modern warfare. It may be stated here, with particular reference to naval aviation, that the uniform success which has characterized our naval air operations is unmistakably the result of an organization which was based on the conviction that air operations should be planned, directed and executed by naval officers who are naval aviators, and that in mixed forces naval aviation should be adequately represented in the command and staff organization.

WWII: Were We Ready?

The "standard narrative" of US entry into World War II insists that the US wasn't prepared for war.


I have recently focused on a single event early in the war - the Doolittle raid on Japan, and conclude that our armed forces were amply prepared for war. They would like to have had more stuff, but they had very good stuff and very well-trained people.

The truth is, no general or admiral is ever entirely satisfied with the readiness of forces under his command. In the US Civil War, General George McLellan never felt his forces were ready for battle.

But successful military leaders know that perfect readiness never happens.

The standard narrative extols the Battle of Midway as the turning point of the Pacific War. That was six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Every ship and airplane at the Battle of Midway was already in service at the time of Pearl Harbor.

Assessments of "turning points" are always a bit arbitrary, but I find it striking that Japan actually made no significant advances in the Pacific after the Doolittle Raid of April 18, 1942. (To be sure, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal in July, but the US landed in August, and the Japanese had to withdraw before year's end.) After the Doolittle raid, Japan withdrew their carrier force from the Indian Ocean to defend their main islands, and moved other forces back to Honshu.

The Japanese operation to capture Midway was, itself triggered by the Doolittle raid. The Japanese high command wanted to make it impossible for the US to conduct similar raids unopposed.

I think that strengthens the case for the joint Army-Navy attack on Japan of April 18, 1942 as the real turning point of the war.

And the US was prepared.

More on this theme later.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keynes Was Right

It is worth pointing out that the British economic policies that have led Britain back into recession are exactly the same policies pushed by Congressman Ryan and other Republicans in Congress. What we need, instead, is more government spending to bring us back into prosperity.

I am not the only one who has come to that conclusion. Increasingly, members of the business community are recognizing that austerity is exactly the wrong approach.

Read, for example, this article in Business Insider by its editor, Henry Blodgett. Blodgett explains clearly why austerity doesn't work:

"The reason austerity doesn't work to quickly fix the problem is that, when the economy is already struggling, and you cut government spending, you also further damage the economy. And when you further damage the economy, you further reduce tax revenue, which has already been clobbered by the stumbling economy. And when you further reduce tax revenue, you increase the deficit and create the need for more austerity. And that even further clobbers the economy and tax revenue. And so on."

Of course, that is what Keynesians have been saying all along. 

So, how did we get where we are? Blodgett explains:

"Most of the debt mountain we've piled up is the result of what we did before the crisis, not after it. In the years leading up to 2007, our absurdly undisciplined leaders took a nice big budget surplus and then squandered it. And they created absurdly loose lending standards and encouraged the whole country to lever up and buy stuff we couldn't afford. And they never said "no" to anything except tax increases, no matter what, and denied all the structural problems that were building up for decades.

"And by 2007, they had put us in one hell of a hole.

"And, given that, it seems reasonable to think that, as Krugman has long argued, one of the problems with the economy now is that the original stimulus just wasn't big enough."

By the way, businessmen realize that the problem holding back business investment is lack of customers (aggregate demand), not regulation or "confidence" in any psychological sense. Show them some customers and they will invest.

Britain In Recession

Official data released today shows that Britain has slipped into a new recession.

Britain's new recession is not a direct consequence of policies of the European Central Bank, because Britain is not in the Eurozone. It retains its own currency, the pound.

But the Cameron government has been following a policy of economic austerity, insisting that this will lead to economic expansion.

Apparently, not so much.

Actually, Britain's recovery from this recession is worse than its performance in the 1930's following the Great Depression.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More On The South Avenue Deal

Today's Parks and Rec meeting was good, because attendees asked a number of probing and worthwhile questions. Those interested in taking another look might want to review some earlier observations I made here.

I think my previous post covers most of the issues. I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone may have. Contact me at:

South Avenue Special Meeting

This morning a special meeting of Oriental's Parks and Recreation Board met at the intersection of Avenue A and South Avenue. According to my sources, some assertions were made that may not be entirely factual, and questions raised to which the answers are available.

For those curious about background details, I recommend a search in this blog site for "South Avenue." I have made a lot of posts, in considerable detail, over the past three years. One post, that shows the survey of the intersection by Dennis Fornes, is worth taking a look at:

The pink wedge shows where the pavement curved around to the left from South Avenue. There has been discussion since winning the case, that the town would have to tear up the pavement and return the wedge to the owner of the corner lot.

It ain't necessarily so. So far as I have been able to tell, that curve has existed since at least 1936 and probably from as far back as the 1920's. The public has been using that curve in the road as a right of way all that time. That is more than sufficient time to establish the curve as town right of way by prescription.

The town can certainly abandon that portion of right of way, following a public hearing, just as it can abandon rights of way established by other methods. But there must be a hearing.

More on this set of issues later.

Monday, April 23, 2012

More On Europe And The US

Good article in today's Guardian concerning the economic and political turmoil in Europe and the continued intransigence of her economic leaders. The author, Robin Wells, predicts the US may suffer collateral damage.

Spain In Recession

It was announced this morning that Spain is officially in recession. Not a surprise. Spain, like other countries in the periphery of Europe, has been pressed by Germany and the European Central Bank to pursue policies of economic austerity. This is guaranteed to make things worse. Paul Krugman recently (and accurately) identified what was happening in Spain as insane.

But the insanity is not confined to Spain. It is happening everywhere in Europe, but voters are beginning to push back. Spain's unemployment rate, by the way is 23.6% and among young people about 50%. Austerity will make this worse. Is Europe committing economic suicide? Or just political suicide?

In the Netherlands, already in recession, the government has resigned after failing to get approval for further austerity measures.

Guess what? The economic measures causing such distress in Europe are just like the ones contained in Paul Ryan's budget.

Two years ago, the Republican narrative was that it was the budget deficit that caused the economic decline and loss of jobs. I would call that an intentional lie, except there are some voodoo economists playing for team Republican who still hawk those wares.

But it isn't true. It is true that economic crises and the resulting loss of jobs and income causes budget deficits. More government spending is still the most effective and speedy remedy for declines in aggregate demand that result from unemployment, even while spending on such safety net measures as extended unemployment benefits protects businesses from even more precipitous declines in their customer base.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Europe On The Edge

This weekend's elections in France may portend a serious shakeup in European politics. Nicolas Sarkozy lost the first round of elections to the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande. There will be a runoff election between these two leading candidates on May 6.

I had previously suggested that the first decade of the Euro could well be the last. For awhile, it appeared that the Greek government might be the most vulnerable in Europe to a repudiation by the electorate of austerity measures. Clearly this past weekend, French voters sent a strong signal. It seems increasingly likely that European voters in other countries will reject the austerity forced on them by the European Central Bank under the strong influence of Germany.

"It [the election] may also represent the first stirrings of a challenge to the German-dominated narrative of the euro crisis, which holds that public debt and runaway spending are the main culprits and that austerity must precede growth." - NY Times.

It has been obvious to what I would call the sensible economists (those of a Keynesian bent) for a long time that austerity in a time of recession will not lead to growth. It should have been equally obvious to political leaders that intentionally causing a depression in one's own country is not a recipe for reelection.

Over the weekend, the Dutch government failed to gain majority support for austerity measures, and more Czechs turned out to protest a tax increase and budget cuts than any protest since 1989.

Other countries whose voters increasingly press for growth instead of austerity include Great Britain, Spain and Italy.

It may be possible to rescue the Euro, but it looks more and more difficult.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chickens In Cary

Just noted in the News and Observer:

"Cary is set to legalize backyard chickens as early as this summer. A 5-2 majority of the Cary Town Council has endorsed a plan to allow six hens per house in backyard coops across town.

"The governing board on Thursday night suggested that residents pay a $50 initial fee and an as-yet undetermined annual fee for the chicken-keeping priviledge.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Councilman Jack Smith voted against the overall idea of backyard chicken legalization, but will help shape a compromise ordinance. The new rules would take effect immediately upon adoption in June or July."

Some of us on Oriental's town board tried three years ago to modify our ordinance, (a disguised anti-chicken provision) to allow backyard chickens in our small rural town, population 900, at the end of the highway. I was astounded at the opposition.

If Cary, a town of 94,000 with an urban/suburban environment can have chickens, how come we can't?

Read more here:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Town Of Oriental Announcement

Just in - or at least I just noticed: 

Special Parks & Recreation Board Meeting - April 24, 2012 8:00 am to begin on the corner of South Ave. and Ave. A. 
Parks & Recreation Board will begin their meeting at 8 am near the corner of South Ave and Ave A to discuss design concepts for a new town pier/dock.  Meeting will continue at 8:30 am in the Baptist Church on Broad Street.
For more information please contact town hall at 249-0555.

Secret Police In The Heart Of Europe

Here's the latest report from Hungary. On the theory that if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck, this sounds like a dictatorship under construction.

Can Europe stand up to Hungary? The world wonders.

Ladies And Gentlemen: Cast Your Ballots!

The 2012 election is underway in Pamlico County. Tuesday this week, the county board of elections held its first weekly absentee meeting of the primary and validated four absentee ballots cast by mail. These ballots are safeguarded and will not be counted until May 8.

In the meantime, "one-stop" voting started today at the board of elections office in Bayboro. These votes also will not be counted until May 8.

Many Pamlico County residents have found that one stop voting is more convenient than waiting until election day. In fact, at the 2008 general election, about two-thirds of the votes were cast at one-stop.

The election has begun.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18, 1942 Western Pacific

April 18, 1942 – Task Force 16 consisting of USS Enterprise (VADM William F. Halsey, Commander Carriers Pacific embarked), USS Hornet (carrying 16 US Army B-25's under command of Lcol James Doolittle) and cruisers Northampton, Salt Lake City, Vincennes and Nashville, heading 265, speed 20 knots, bound for Tokyo, distance about 700 miles.

Early morning, unexpected events began to pop. In the words of the participants:

Commanding Officer, USS Enterprise:

On april 18, the day it was planned to reach the 500 mile circle from Tokyo at about 1600, ENTERPRISE launched the usual dawn search flight and combat patrol. These were maintained continuously throughout the day. The contacts and action, indicated on the track chart by capital letters, were reported by pilots of these flights. Times indicated in connection with contacts and action, April 18, are Zone minus 10.
  • “At 0310 radar disclosed two enemy surface craft bearing 255°T., distance 21,000 yards, and at 0312 a light was seen approximately on that bearing. Ship went to General Quarters, set Material Condition Afirm and energized the degaussing gear. Course of the Force was changed to 350°T., and at 0341 the two enemy vessels went off the screen bearing 201°T., distance 27,000 yards. Our presence was apparently unnoticed by the enemy and a westerly course was resumed at 0415.
  • “At 0508 fighter patrol and search flight were launched. At 0715 one search plane returned and, by message drop, reported sighting an enemy patrol vessel in Latitude 36° 04' North and Longitude 153° 10' East at 0558 and that he believed he had been seen. Later developments indicate that this vessel made the original contact report.
  • “At 0744 an enemy patrol vessel was sighted bearing 221°T., distance approximately 10,000 yards. There was no doubt now that our force had been detected and almost certainly had been reported. NASHVILLE was ordered to sunk the patrol vessel by gunfire as the carriers turned into the wind (320°T., 26 knots); HORNET to launch Army B-25's for attack and ENTERPRISE to relieve patrol.s The first Army bomber was launched at 0820 approximately 650 miles from Tokyo, and the last one was off at 0921. At 0927 the Force commenced retirement on course 090°T., speed 25 knots.
  • “At 1214 radar reported enemy patrol plane bearing 020°T., distance 70,000 yards. This plane came within 64,000 yards of our force but passed off the screen at 1228 bearing 314°T., distance 83,000 yards.
  • “At 1400 two enemy patrol vessels were sighted and attacked by ENTERPRISE planes returning from search. One was sunk and the other damaged. By 1413 the enemy ship still afloat was in sight of our surface forces and NASHVILLE was ordered to attack and sink her. A white flag was broken in the enemy ship and after taking 5 prisoners, NASHVILLE sank her by gunfire. Apparently these two vessels were the same ones reported by radar at 0310.

Our force had been detected and almost certainly been reported...” sounds like speculation. But in a secure communications space in Enterprise, navy Communications Technician Ray Rundle was monitoring Japanese communications. He intercepted a warning message from a nearby patrol boat. Rundle's report caused Halsey to act.

Halsey had half of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet Carrier Force within range of Japanese shore-based bombers. As of mid-April, Yamamoto had 11 aircraft carriers at his disposal compared to Halsey's 4. USS Yorktown was operating in the Coral Sea area, and USS Lexington was in the shipyard at Pearl Harbor having her original 8-inch guns removed and replaced with modern antiaircraft weapons. The fifth Pacific Fleet carrier, USS Saratoga, was in drydock in Bremerton, having her hull repaired from a Japanese torpedo. The other aircraft carriers, the much smaller Ranger and Wasp, were in the Atlantic.

USS Essex was under construction at Newport News, and wouldn't be launched for three more months.

So Halsey had to weigh any risk of losing a carrier very carefully. Here is Halsey's account:

The necessity for launching the Army planes at 0820 on the 18th about 650 miles east of Tokyo was regrettable. The plan was to close to the 500 mile circle and there launch one plane to attack at dusk and this provide a target for the remaining planes which would strike about two hours later. This plan was evolved by Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle, in command of the Army flight, and was designed to inflict the greatest damage with the least risk. The remote location of the desired terminus for the flight was also a factor influencing the selection of this plan of attack. However, contacts with enemy surface vessels early in the morning compromised the secrecy of the operation, and after the third contact, at 0744, the decision was made to launch. Japanese radio traffic was intercepted indicating that the presence of the raiding force was reported. The prime consideration then was the launching of the Army planes before the arrival of Japanese bombers.
“The successful launching of the 16 Army bombers from the HORNET in unfavorable wind and sea conditions reflected great credit on the Army pilots and on the Commanding Officer of the HORNET.”
Here is the track of Task Force 16 to and from the launch point:

Sixteen planes, each with a five-man crew, took off that day. They reached their targets in the Tokyo area about six hours after launch, flying without an autopilot, using celestial navigation over water and visual navigation over land, then flew seven more hours to the vicinity of landing fields in China. They ran out of fuel before reaching the fields in unoccupied China, were flying after dark, and the fields were not transmitting homing signals. They had to ditch or bail out. All of the planes were lost, including one interned by the Soviet Union. Of the eighty crew members, 77 survived the raid, but Japanese executed three prisoners and one died of malnutrition and mistreatment.

I first learned of the raid by watching the movie, "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, at the Will Rogers Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1945.

It's still a great movie.

The raid took place four months and 11 days after Pearl Harbor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Doolittle Raid April 17, 1942 - 1,000 Miles From Tokyo

On schedule on April 17, TF16 refueled the two aircraft carriers and four cruisers. The Captain of USS Enterprise after action report (April 23):

  1. "Fueling of the heavy vessels was undertaken April 17 when about 1000 miles east of Tokyo and was barely completed when the wind increased to gale force (wind south, 35 knots; sea rough, visibility 1 - 2 miles). At 1439 (L) the 2 CV, 3 CA and 1 CL proceeded independent of accompanying DD's [destroyers] and AO#s [fleet oilers] on a westerly course, averaging approximately 20 knots."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Public Piety

Yet again in a nearby county a group of citizens who proclaim themselves to be Christians are protesting to be allowed to pray at government meetings, invoking the name of Jesus.

Perhaps they have not heard, read or understood the words of Jesus himself concerning acts of public piety, as recorded in the synoptic gospels. Here, from the gospel according to Matthew chapter 6, verses 1 to 34:

[New International Version 1984]

Giving to the Needy

1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 


5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.a
14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 


16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 

Treasures in Heaven

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. 

Do Not Worry

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifeb?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

April 16, 1942 - Task Force 16 At Sea

Task Force 16, USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Hornet (CV-8), four cruisers, eight destroyers and the fleet oilers Sabine and Cimarron: west of the international dateline. Course 265, speed 16 knots, Tokyo bound.

"Except when bad weather prevented, continuous inner and intermediate air patrols were maintained during daylight and dawn and dusk search flights were conducted daily to 200 miles, 60° on each bow." - VADM W.F. Halsey action report dated 23 April, 1942.

A speed of 16 knots left little extra for the oilers, whose maximum speed was 18 knots. (Personal note - both oilers were still in service in the late 1960's; I refueled from Cimarron many times).

The plan was to refuel the carriers and cruisers on April 17 and detach them for a quick dash to arrive at the launch point at about 1600 (4:00 pm).

The carriers search radars and the aircraft searches weren't the only detection measures. In a hideaway aboard USS Enterprise, Communications Technicians with special radio receivers searched for Japanese radio communications.

European Economy Update

I haven't written lately about Europe. The news isn't good. While the European Central Bank has recently taken useful measures to ease the crisis, the political leadership is doing the opposite - seeking more austerity.

Are there no wise leaders in Europe? Apparently not.

If debt is the problem, it doesn't help people repay that debt when unemployment rises. In Spain, unemployment is close to 25% - for young people, it is 50%. By the way, before the economic crisis, Spain's budget surplus was greater than Germany's. The problem has been private, not public debt.

The whole problem in Europe, it has become clear, is caused by fixed exchange rate (inherent consequence of the Euro) and intellectual rigidity. The continent could easily descend into a new recession/depression. Economist Nouriel Roubini explains:

"The trouble is that the eurozone has an austerity strategy but no growth strategy. And, without that, all it has is a recession strategy that makes austerity and reform self-defeating, because, if output continues to contract, deficit and debt ratios will continue to rise to unsustainable levels. Moreover, the social and political backlash eventually will become overwhelming."

The US could easily avoid a similar fate by a robust fiscal stimulus, except one of our major political parties has effectively halted any effort by the administration to improve the economy. The only thing we have going for us is the Fed and its monetary measures, including quantitative easing. So far it seems to be working, but much too slowly.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greg Mankiw Endorses Democratic Policies (Maybe)

Economist Brad DeLong provides the following quote from economist Greg Mankiw:

Greg Mankiw: Economic View: If the government’s job is merely to provide services, like roads, schools and courts, competition among governmental producers may be… good…. But if government’s job is also to remedy many of life’s inequities, you may want a stronger centralized government, unchecked by competition. These are two fundamentally different visions. The next election, and to some degree every election, is about which one voters find more compelling.

A long discussion ensues on DeLong's blog. One of the most pointed comments:

Derelict said...
It's pretty clear that conservatives view government's essential role as collecting taxes from the middle and lower classes and funneling those proceeds into the pockets of the wealthy. As the record of the last 30-odd years amply demonstrates, providing for the commonweal in terms of infrastructure, social services, or even actual functioning military hardware and support is NOT part of the equation.

When Reagan said "government IS the problem," most of the people in today's GOP were impressionable youngsters who took that quite literally. Today, their motivating philosophy is to destroy the government of the United States. We used to call people like that the enemy; today, they're just Republicans.

Tornado In Woodward: Deja Vu All Over Again

Tonight's news broadcast showed scenes from last night's deadly tornado in Woodward, Oklahoma. No one has seen such destruction, the announcer explained.

Actually, I remember an even bigger tornado that hit Woodward. It was the 9th of April, 1947, just before my tenth birthday. We lived in Midwest City, Oklahoma, just across the highway from Tinker Air Force Base. The next day, the Daily Oklahoman was filled with photographs of the damage. At least 107 lives were lost in Woodward that night, and it looked like the town had been wiped off the map.

The 1947 tornado, rated as F5, killed 69 people in Texas before entering Oklahoma. It was almost two miles wide and stayed on the ground for a distance of 100 miles. It remains the most deadly tornado ever to strike Oklahoma.

Woodward came back after the 1947 twister, and it will do so again.

And in time a new generation will forget it ever happened.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Titanic: Plus ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose

A century ago tonight, Royal Mail Ship Titanic struck an iceberg four days into her maiden crossing at 11:40 in the evening. She sank two and a half hours later, taking 1500 souls, including some of the world's wealthiest men, with her.

"Unsinkable ship sinks," the headlines declared.

To be fair, neither the engineers who designed her nor the builders who built her claimed that Titanic was unsinkable. That claim was the work of marketers and writers of advertising copy, who were no more dedicated to truth a century ago than they are today.

But the engineers were guilty of overoptimism about the number of lifeboats needed and the likelihood of rescue in event of a collision or sinking. The captain was guilty of proceeding at too high a speed even after small icebergs had been sighted.

Building a ship,operating it at sea and planning a voyage are always efforts at identifying and counteracting hazards of navigation. Such hazards are more easily identified after a disaster than before.

Planning ahead is an art. In my day, the navy had a word for the process of thinking through what to do in advance of the event: "forehandedness."  It's one of my favorite words.

In our own time, we have seen the loss of Challenger, Columbia, the French Concorde, and countless airliners. All were thought to be safe until the unthinkable happened. The Greeks had a word for the phenomenon of human overreach: hubris.

It is still with us.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oriental Boat Show

Looks like a good weekend for the Oriental Boat Show. In addition to local boaters, the harbor has also filled up with cruising sailors headed north in the annual migration.

We even have a few shrimp boats in the harbor. Soon we should be back to normal.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hornet Rendezvous With Enterprise

Early April 13, 1942, USS Hornet, her flight deck crammed with 16 US Army B-25's, sailed north of Midway Island on a westerly course, near the international date line. She was screened by a cruiser and a division of destroyers and accompanied by a fleet oiler. Lookouts scanned the horizon, alert for ships of the Japanese Navy.

"Surface ship broad on the port bow," the lookout reported to the officer of the deck.

"Very well." In fact, Hornet's search radar had been tracking the approaching task force for more than an hour. It was Task Force 16, USS Enterprise accompanied by four destroyers, two cruisers and a fleet oiler, with Vice Admiral William F. Halsey embarked in Enterprise. Halsey assumed operational command of the entire force.

The crews were not yet sure what their task would be. Halsey removed all doubt: "This force is bound for Tokyo."

It had been four months and six days since the attack on Pearl Harbor.

They were still six days short of their planned launch, and there would be several refuelings. Destroyers had to refuel every three days and the cruisers also needed to keep their tanks topped off. The carriers had enough fuel for a 12,000 mile cruise, but they needed to have plenty of Av Gas for the airplanes.

Hornet had already undergone one extraordinary replenishment after leaving San Francisco. Two days out, a navy blimp had been sent to deliver a cargo of vital parts for the Army's B-25's.

Here, USS Hornet in the distance and USS Enterprise in the foreground, with her navy fighters spotted on the flight deck for quick launch in case of need.