Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quote Of The Day: Lies

"A lie is like a cat: you need to stop it before it gets out the door or it’s really hard to catch."

Charles M. Blow, NYTimes

Friday, June 29, 2012

Runoff Primary

No, don't runoff, the primary's not over.

You may not have noticed, but the 2012 primary election to determine the party nominees for the election in November isn't over yet. Yesterday the polls opened at Pamlico County's Board of Elections for voters to cast their ballots in five primary contests in which the outcome has not yet been decided.

The second (or runoff) primary is legally just a continuation of the first primary.

Election day for the second primary is July 17. Primary results will not be official until a week after the second primary, when county boards of elections conduct their canvass of votes. A week after that, the state board holds its canvass. That's when the count becomes official.

We even have one contest in November for which the filing deadline is next week. One seat on Pamlico County's Soil and Water Conservation Board will be on the ballot - a nonpartisan county-wide election. The filing deadline is July 6.

Oh, by the way, North Carolina is one of only eight states (all former members of the Confederacy) with runoff primaries.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Health Care: More Detail

As experts review the 193-page Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, some of the consequences of the decision are becoming more clear. The majority ruling on Medicaid, for example, could have some truly bizarre consequences.

Here is an article that spells out some of the detailed results.

Health Care

Today's Supreme Court ruling is good news, not only for those many Americans now uninsured, but also for all Americans who might lose a job and consequently health care insurance in the future. And for those employees who have remained in a job they hate just so they can retain health insurance. You all know someone in those categories. There are so many good aspects to the Affordable Care Act that I think Americans (who have been lied to about it) will eventually fight to keep it.

The big effect: Everyone must now get in the pool. No more insuring healthy people and denying coverage for less healthy people or those who become ill.

Fiscal Drag From State And Local Governments

Three economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York have recently published an analysis of the drag on the economy caused by reduced expenditures by state and local governments here. They show the state and local sector of our economy, representing about one seventh of the overall US economy, is currently dragging down gross domestic product (GDP) by a significant amount:


To explain why this is so, the economists remind us just what state and local governments do:

"What Do State and Local Governments Do?

State and local governments are a very important part of the U.S. economy. The sector employs nearly 20 million people, accounting for about one in seven U.S. nonfarm jobs and more than the manufacturing and construction sectors combined. Almost three-quarters of these jobs are in local government. Unlike the federal government, whose nondefense spending is largely devoted to transfer payments like social security, state and local governments are direct service providers, with primary responsibility for water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure as well as important public services like education and police and fire protection. The essential nature of these services, as well as the size of the sector relative to the U.S. economy, makes stresses to the sector of particular concern."

That is worth keeping in mind. State and local governments do not cause economic downturns. But they suffer from economic downturns at budget time and without outside help from the federal government, they can only make downturns worse.

The federal government can make them better, but only if those who govern have the vision and wisdom to act.

In a quixotic gesture, economists Paul Krugman and Richard Layard have published a manifesto laying out the essence of this case  for wise and effective action and are asking other economists to sign on. But economists aren't the problem, though many have contributed very bad ideas. Political leaders are the problem. And for some of them (many but not all Republicans) the agenda is precisely to make the economy worse rather than better so they can increase their hold on government at all levels after the next election. And many of their largest contributors don't care about employment, because they benefit from economic contraction.

Health Care

Whatever the Supreme Court has to say about the Affordable Care Act this morning, my order of preference for a health care system would be:

1. Straight socialized medicine - government delivered health care. Like I had for many years in the military;

2. Medicare for everybody or some other single-payer system;

3. ACA or something like it;

4. Our present hodge podge of employer-provided health insurance, which will drive the country broke to the benefit of insurance company executives.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

South Avenue: History Lesson

Above is an annotated copy of the plat prepared for the Oriental Bulkhead Improvement Company (OBIC) about 1915. The dotted line shows the eastern and northern boundary of the parcel of land sold to OBIC by L.B. (Lou) Midyette in 1911. Wall Street, South Avenue and Front Street already existed. In a court case in 1908, the Town of Oriental denied ever accepting Front Street as a public street.

The plat dedicated Avenue A, Neuse Front Street West of the dotted line, Avenue B and Main(e) Street. In 1923, The Town of Oriental conveyed Avenue B to adjacent landowners W.E. Northen and W.M. Adams. In September 1927 The Town of Oriental conveyed a strip of land described by metes and bounds (red hatched area) which corresponds to the outline of Neuse Front Street west of Avenue A and Main(e) Street to C.P. Goodwin. Town Board minutes indicate that most of the outlined area was then under water.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Elections Are Expensive

Last week, the North Carolina state legislature removed $664,000 from the state budget for maintaining and improving the state's election system. That $664,000 would have triggered receipt of $4 million from the federal government under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Much of the money would have been shared by the state with counties. The funds are very important for small counties like Pamlico.

But the legislature can't find seven cents per resident to protect elections.

Monday, June 25, 2012

More Sea Level Rise

Today's News and Observer reports the latest US Geological Survey report that sea level on the North Carolina coast is rising even faster than earlier predicted. No matter. Those brilliant scientists in the state legislature will pass a law. That'll fix it.

Golden Rule Reaffirmed

This morning, by a five to four vote, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) reaffirmed the Golden Rule - He Who Has the Gold, Rules. In states as well as the federal government. In a Montana case, SCOTUS ruled  that the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices.

Government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy.

Roads And Conveyances

I've been thinking about the ferry toll issue. Why is it so hard for some people to think of a ferry as an integral element of a transportation system, properly funded out of the system budget?

One reason, I believe, is that people have been accustomed to thinking of the road as one thing and a conveyance as another.

But not always. What would have happened to major cities if elevators were viewed as a conveyance rather than a component of the building? And concluded we have to charge for using the conveyance? We would still be walking up stairs and skyscrapers would never have happened.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Golden Rule

He who has the gold, rules.

That's certainly a commonplace, but it seems to be true of politics in River City. We'll see how well it plays out in the next few days.

Friday, June 22, 2012

70 Years Ago: Turning Point

I just finished reading Stanley Johnston's Queen of the Flattops again. The first time was about 65 years ago.

Some thoughts:

The courage and professionalism of the officers and men of USS Lexington and her air group were awesome.

The standard narrative that the US was not prepared for war is wrong. These men and their ships and aircraft were ready for war.

The standard narrative also emphasizes the superiority of the Japanese Zero and their pilots. Not exactly. Japanese pilots were superbly trained aviators. But there weren't enough of them for a prolonged war.

The Zero was faster and more maneuverable than the US Navy's Wildcat fighters in early 1942. But the Wildcat was tougher, and Navy pilots were also well trained. Even early in the war, Japan lost more airplanes and aircrew than we did.

Japanese aircraft carriers weren't quite as good as ours, and their damage control measures weren't as effective.

Lexington probably shouldn't have been lost. She was killed by explosions of gasoline vapors. Better liquid loading practices might have kept the avgas tanks from rupturing and more aggressive ventilation of compartments might have avoided explosive concentrations of vapor.

Yorktown was lost at Midway because of the way the electrical system was set up before battle. The forward and aft main switchboards should have been isolated from each other. The forward board was destroyed by a torpedo hit and the ship lost power. The after emergency diesel generator came on and could have provided power to the ship's pumps, but kept tripping off the line because of shorts in the forward board and electrical distribution system. With electrical power, she could have been saved.

But these were lessons quickly learned. Japanese fire fighting proved incapable of saving their carriers time after time.

The one area of clear Japanese superiority was in their torpedoes. Their Long Lance torpedoes have really never been equaled for speed and range. Not only were our torpedoes unreliable, the Bureau of Ordinance refused to believe there was a problem for nearly two years. That was scandalous.

Our communications intelligence was superb.

By mid-1942, it was apparent that Japan had not been prepared to go to war with the United States.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

70 Years Ago: Communications Intelligence

Here's a link to the real story about US success with communications intelligence and the Battle of Midway. Also a bit of the story about conflicts between intelligence professionals and operations planners:

70 Years Ago: Midway; The Rest Of The Story

June 2, 1942, USS Barnett (PA-11), carrying survivors from the sinking of USS Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea, entered San Diego Harbor. Among the passengers were Commander Morton Seligman, Lexington's executive officer and a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, Stanley Johnston, who had been aboard Lexington during her actions in the Coral Sea, including the battle. Johnston and Seligman apparently shared a stateroom.

Five days later, and the day after the Commander in Chief, Pacific announced "a momentous US Victory," a story by Johnston appeared in the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers in Washington and New York revealed that the U.S. had foreknowledge of Japanese forces and plans. The headline in the Washington Times Herald: "U.S. KNEW ALL ABOUT JAP FLEET. GUESSED THERE WOULD BE A FEINT AT ONE BASE, REAL ATTACK AT ANOTHER.

Admiral King, Commander in Chief of the US Fleet, was livid. A special prosecutor was appointed. A grand jury convened in Chicago and issued an indictment. The Navy's concern was that the article would be read by the Japanese as proof that their communications were compromised.

On reflection, authorities concluded that holding a trial would reveal even more about our successes with communications intelligence. Within a few weeks, the Japanese made a number of changes to their code and to procedures that made the job of traffic analysis and cryptanalysis of Japanese naval communications more difficult. But not impossible.

Later that year, Stanley Johnston's book, Queen of The Flattops, was published. It gave a very positive account of the professionalism and courage of Lexington's officers and crew and a very positive image of the US Navy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Taking Sentences Apart

One of my favorite activities in 4th grade English class was diagramming sentences.

This seems to be a forgotten art, like cursive writing, no longer taught. That's too bad.

Not only does the diagramming of sentences help students understand and perhaps correct the grammar in sentences they speak or write, it can be useful in studying other languages. I discovered this use of diagramming quite by accident in 1961 when I tried to explain to a fellow student of Russian the function of the dative case. After that, I continued to use sentence diagramming to make sure I understood newly encountered structures of the language.

Imagine my pleasure when I came across a post in New York Times Opinionator section extolling the lost art of diagramming. You can read it here. An earlier post on the same subject here gives a bit of the history. This is a purely American invention.

On Problems With Opponents

Lord, enlighten thou our enemies. Sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions, and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers: we are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom; their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength...

John Stuart Mill

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sea Level

It turns out that North Carolina's legislature isn't the only one trying to prevent the sea level from rising by fiat. Virginia's right up there. Saves a lot of money on scientific and engineering studies, designs and construction. Just pass a law. Or better yet, just redact "global warming," "sea level rise," "climate change" and "subsidence" wherever they appear in state documents.

Might be a bit harder to edit the Navy's studies as they grapple with the problem of Norfolk.

Hey, we've got plenty of time to deal with it. Maybe another thirty years.

Pamlico County Budget

The County Commissioners passed a good budget tonight. It was a hard slog under very difficult conditions to work it out, but there was no posturing by any of the commissioners. The vote was unanimous. Well done!

Now to some planning for the future.

Euro Zone Update

Sigh of relief in some quarters. Greek voters support New Democracy Party that supports staying in the Euro Zone.

But ND didn't win a majority of seats and will have to form a coalition. How will they do that? Germany remains unbending, insisting on austerity rather than economic expansion.

My headline: "Germany remains bent on destroying Euro."

Party Matters

Liz and I spent last Saturday representing the Pamlico County Democratic Party at the 2012 State Convention of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

My fellow Oklahoman, Will Rogers, once observed, "I am not a member of an organized political party - I'm a Democrat." Nothing I heard or saw on Saturday contradicted Will's observation. Thank goodness. No marching in lock step.

But we always enjoy going to state party conventions. It is such a pleasure to meet other democrats from elsewhere in the state, share observations and concerns, and to learn once again that we are not alone in our concerns.

Then, of course, there are the speeches. The best speech we heard was by Ohio State Senator Nina Turner. Nina Turner, in case you missed it, is the Ohio legislator who introduced a bill to protect men's sexual health, modeled on legislation purporting to protect the sexual health of women. The bill, before men could receive a prescription for Viagra, would require that physicians take specific actions before prescribing such drugs, including giving a cardiac stress test and making a referral to a sex therapist for confirmation that “the patient’s symptoms are not solely attributable to one or more psychological conditions.”

In her speech Saturday, Senator Turner observed that some elected officials "have lost their ever-lovin' minds." Had she grown up in our part of the country, she might have added: "bless their hearts."

Were there partisan activities going on?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Good time had by all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ferry Tax

Once again, republicans in the state legislature have thrown Eastern North Carolina under the bus.

I find it interesting that real estate interests, who banded together to rule against sea level rise, have remained silent about the serious economic damage to the region from the senate's proposed tolls. Who, for example, will want to live in Ocracoke when he learns that it will cost at least $54 to take a ferry round trip every time he needs to go to the court house?

The tolls will reduce the real estate value of every property in Eastern North Carolina.

This wouldn't be happening if Marc Basnight were still in the legislature to defend our interests. Does it appear that the present leadership in the state legislature cares nothing for Eastern North Carolina and those who live and work here? Seems clear to me.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

South Avenue: What Do I Really Think?

I have offered suggestions from time to time both on my blog and in private. My goal was to be helpful. I see little evidence that my suggestions have had any influence. So I spent some time this evening reviewing my past posts.

As early as last January 28, I addressed the puzzle of the announcement that the town was "exploring the possibilities of sale or exchange of property in the vicinity of the west end terminus of South Avenue and Avenue A..."

I pointed out that the town owns no property in that vicinity. And that the town can't sell public rights of way. That hasn't changed.

Since January 28th, I have encountered on the internet many legal references reinforcing the principle that a town may not sell or barter a public right of way:

"A City has no power to sell or barter the streets and alleys which it holds in trust for the benefit of the public and cannot vacate a street for the benefit of a purely private interest." - Roney Inv. Co. v. City of Miami Beach (a Florida case).

See also AT&T v. Village of Arlington Heights, 620 N.E.2d 1040, 1044 (Ill. 1993)(“Municipalities do not possess proprietary powers over the public streets [which are] ... held in trust for the use of the public.”). 

The same principle is spelled out by Eugene McQuillin in Law of Municipal Corporations, (3d rev. ed. 1990) at § 30.40 (“[T]he estate of the city in its streets … is essentially public and not private property, and the city in holding it is considered the agent and trustee of the public and not a private owner for profit or emolument. The power to maintain and regulate the use of  the streets is a trust for the benefit of the general public, of which the city cannot divest itself…”);

The contract which the town board approved on May 17 by a 4-1 vote sets forth a barter transaction, in violation of fundamental principles of the law of public streets.

This is not an obscure principle or an arcane technicality. It is fundamental. "...Whatever rights the city may have over its streets, its powers are those of a trustee for the benefit of the cestui que trust (the public), liberally construed for its benefit, strictly construed to its detriment." McQuillen.

One of the most powerful protections of the public interest in rights of way is precisely the prohibition against selling or bartering them. That removes the temptation for the governing body to exchange rights of way held in the public trust for short term fiscal benefit.

To barter our town's most irreplaceable  long-term asset, namely public access to the public trust waters of our harbor, for waterfront real estate held in fee simple, will inevitably tempt future town boards to sell the property to meet short term fiscal needs.

Indeed, one of the present commissioners has expressed the view at a public meeting that the town SHOULD sell some of its rights of way. In response to the concern I have expressed about the current transaction, that there should be some restrictions, preferably a dedication to the public with restrictions that would preclude such a conversion to revenue by a future governing body, this same commissioner asked, "why would we want to tie our hands that way?"

Why? Because our rights of way are held in trust.

Future town boards may not always keep the town's future in mind. We need to help them do so.

There may have been a way to structure an acceptance of Mr. Fulcher's donation of property so that it was not a sale or barter and so that the public's interests were protected by conditions of the gift. There may still be a way.

The contract approved by the town board on May 17 isn't it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

George Bernard Shaw, Oriental and South Avenue

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and author, was seated next to an elegant lady at a dinner party. Engaging the lady in conversation, he asked her: "would you sleep with me for a million pounds?" A little taken aback, the lady thought for a moment and replied: "I might do."  Shaw continued the conversation, asking: "would you sleep with me for five pounds?" Huffing in indignation, the lady replied: "certainly not! What do you think I am?" The playwright responded: "madame, we have already established what you are - now we are haggling over the price."

The story came to mind as I reflected on the proposed exchange of two dedicated and accepted rights of way, including South Avenue, for a waterfront parcel of real estate 55 feet in width. Would I find the exchange more acceptable if the parcel were, say, 78 feet wide, which is the width of the riparian area of Raccoon Creek subtended by our present right of way. Or even 60 feet, which is the width on land of the existing right of way.

We should not haggle over the price, because there is a fundamental principal involved here. The Town of Oriental holds its streets in trust for the benefit of the public. The town is not the proprietor of the rights of way. It is well established that the town has no power to sell or barter its streets. While the town may vacate, close or abandon a street by formal action after a public hearing governed by statute, it nevertheless cannot vacate a street for the benefit of a purely private interest.

I have no problem with Mr. Fulcher's offer. Mr. Fulcher is not an elected official and is under no special obligation to defend or protect the public interest. From his point of view, the proposed contract appears logical.

The town's elected officials, on the other hand, do have an obligation to protect the interest of the public. Public rights of way are in a different category from any normal lots that the town may own, and which the Town Board is empowered by statute to buy, sell, lease, or deal with like any other person with a proprietary interest.

Rights of way are quite different.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Government: Historical Engine Of Economic Development

Today's Washington Post prints a piece by columnist E. J. Dionne shedding light on the positive role the federal government has always played in fostering economic development in this country. In fact, he says, the federal government "is the solution," not the problem in our present economic situation.

"The case for government’s role in our country’s growth and financial success goes back to the very beginning," Dionne explains. "One of the reasons I wrote my book “Our Divided Political Heart” was to show that, from Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay forward, farsighted American leaders understood that action by the federal government was essential to ensuring the country’s prosperity, developing our economy, promoting the arts and sciences and building large projects: the roads and canals, and later, under Abraham Lincoln, the institutions of higher learning, that bound a growing nation together."

I have previously pointed out that, during the great depression, forward thinking leaders pressed on with grand undertakings.  We just observed the 75th anniversary of one of those undertakings, the Golden Gate Bridge. The 1930's, our most challenging economic period ever, became the period of our most lasting structural achievements.

Today, we keep hearing, "oh, we're broke;" "we can't afford to (fill in the blank)." And who keeps chanting the mantra of American inability? Republicans!

Republicans offer us leadership by fraidy-cats and wimps. Republican dominance of federal and state budgets has taken our median wealth back to what it was before Bill Clinton's policies led to the greatest sustained period of growth since the 1960's. Not a single republican voted for the Clinton budget.

Their predictions were wrong. When they got control over the budget, they drove the economy into the ditch and for the past two years have intentionally sabotaged every effort to call in a tow truck.

If you want to bring about a future of American economic decline, by all means vote for Republicans. Otherwise, let your elected representatives know you want to see positive economic efforts.

Don't just stand there, do something! If that doesn't work, do something else! Inaction is not an option - the problem is jobs, not debt. Make white water!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Another Lovely Weekend

We have suffered through another lovely weekend here in Oriental, NC at the water's edge. It's a tough life, but someone has to do it.

That's why we have to be particularly vigilant to protect the streets which provide public access to public trust waters and remind town government that it has no power to sell or barter the streets it holds in trust for the benefit of the public.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oriental Noise Ordinance

Tuesday night at the meeting of the Town Board, during the public hearing concerning the Steamer's special use permit request, noise complaints were discussed. When asked, our acting police chief reported that he had received three recent noise complaints concerning the Steamer. Someone asked whether he had measured the noise level with the dB meter. Mr. Moore responded that, at that time of night he didn't need to.

That may confuse some of our citizens who remember the struggle about four years ago to modify the noise ordinance in effect at the time.

Four years ago, the Town Board engaged in a protracted effort to craft an amended noise ordinance that balanced the uncertainty facing businesses and musicians (caused by the fact that the previous ordinance established the standard that if a neighbor complained, the sound was ipso facto too loud) with the reasonable interest of residents to be allowed to enjoy peaceful uses of their residences. We sought to accomplish this by establishing a measurable, objective standard for the operation of sound amplification equipment. For such equipment, acceptable sound levels were set at a maximum of 65 dBA +/- 2dBA between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Permissible levels were set at 60 dBA between the hours of 9:00p.m. and 9:00 a.m. In both cases, the measurement was to be at an exterior portion of the dwelling of the person making the complaint.

Exceptions may be granted up to four times a year at any place of business, allowing on these special occasions sound levels up to 75 dBA from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and 70 dBA from 9:00 p.m. to midnight, also measured at an exterior location of the complainant's residence. In no case can the sound level exceed 92 dBA +/- 2 dBA when measured at a distance of 20 feet from the source.

Mr. Moore may be relying on Article II Section 1, which declares it "unlawful for any person or group of persons "to willfully make, continue, or cause to be made or continued, any unreasonable loud or disturbing noise...." As written, the ordinance only requires dB measurements for use of sound amplification equipment.

It might be a good idea for the Town Board to revisit this ordinance with a view to removing any residual ambiguity.

Friday, June 8, 2012

South Avenue Petition

There is a petition circulating around town opposing the contract negotiated between the Town Board and Mr. Chris Fulcher concerning the disposition of South Avenue.

I have neither opposed nor supported the process of negotiations. Whenever someone makes a proposal such as this, I think it should be considered carefully, in full appreciation of the facts and in a businesslike manner.

I have been reluctant to intrude on the process, but I have raised concerns from time to time. Nothing in the contract now on the table has alleviated those concerns.

I will, over the next few days, reiterate my concerns and illustrate them with historical documents, surveys and legal references.

My main problems are:

1.  The proposed exchange of two dedicated and accepted rights of way for title in fee simple to a parcel of real estate violates the legal prohibition against sale or barter of a public right of way;

2.  The public obligation of the Town Board in this case should be clear: to protect and preserve the public interest in access to public trust waters at the Raccoon Creek harbor which has hitherto been provided by the dedication to the public and acceptance by the town of the South Avenue right of way - any replacement must provide equivalent public access;

3.  Ownership by the town as proprietor of a parcel of real estate provides a lower level of protection of the citizenry against future imprudent actions by the governing body than that provided by a dedicated and accepted right of way (there may be other ways of depriving future governing bodies of the temptation to sell a property - the example of Lou Mac Park comes to mind);

4.  The proposed parcel isn't wide enough to provide the public with equivalent access to public waters as provided currently by South Avenue;

5.  It isn't clear from the information available that the Town has a complete and accurate idea of what can be built on the proposed parcel in light of the Neuse River Buffer and the CAMA area of environmental concern, nor is it clear that possible public uses of the existing South Avenue right of way to facilitate access to the water have been completely explored.

I think almost all of our citizens recognize the great economic potential for the benefit of all businesses in Oriental of expanded and improved harbor facilities.

But we need to make the effort and take the time to do it right, or at least as well as possible.

I'll have more later.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

70 Years Ago: June 7, 1942 - Elsewhere In The War

It was just about first light when Yorktown rolled over and sank not far from Midway. Elsewhere, the war went on:

June 7, Sun.
Command of naval forces is reallocated: Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, Sea Frontiers, and Special Task Forces are placed directly under Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations; Naval Local Defense Forces, Naval Transportation Service, Special Duty Ships, and Naval District Craft are made responsible to Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
Submarine tender Fulton (AS-11), sent out from Pearl Harbor for the purpose, takes on board 2,015 Yorktown (CV-5) survivors at sea; light minelayer Breese (DM-18) embarks 84; destroyer Allen (DD-66) 94.
Submarine Grouper (SS-214) is bombed (but not damaged) by USAAF B-17s.
Japanese Kiska Occupation Force (Captain Ono Takeji) occupies Kiska, Aleutians, without opposition.
U.S. freighter Coast Trader is torpedoed and sunk by Japanese submarine I-26 about 35 miles southwest of Cape Flattery, Washington, 48°19'N, 125°40'W. Coast Guard plane (V-206) guides Canadian corvette HMCS Edmundston to the scene; Edmundston and fishing boat Virginia I rescue survivors, who include the 37-man crew and 19-man Armed Guard. One crewman dies of exposure before the survivors can be picked up.
Damaged U.S. freighter George Cylmer, torpedoed the day before, is reboarded by her crew.
Small seaplane tender Gannet (AVP-8) is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-652 off Bermuda, 35°50'N, 65°38'W.
U.S. tanker Esso Montpelier rescues the six survivors from freighter Illinois, torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-172 on 1 June.
Unarmed U.S. freighter Edith is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-159, 14°33'N, 74°35'W. Two crewmen perish in the attack, the remainder (29 men) gather on board one lifeboat and two rafts. U-159 conducts a brief interrogation of the survivors, provide them with directions to the nearest land, and gather floating supplies before departing. Within a week's time, Edith's survivors reach Black River, Jamaica.
Unarmed U.S. freighter Suwied is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-107 southeast of the Yucatan Channel, 20°00'N, 84°48'W; 26 of the 32-man crew, and the ship's one passenger, survive the sinking.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oriental Town Board Meeting June 5

A few things learned at last night's meeting of Oriental's Town Board.

1. The town manager has advertised for two full time police positions for the town;
2. The town manager is interviewing applicants for a position as assistant clerk;
3. The town board approved the issuance of a special use permit to the Steamer restaurant to add gaming as a category of use, subject to keeping the front door closed and removing the sidewalk tables, in order to reduce noise in the neighborhood. Some board members and members of the public attempted to expand the discussion to the question of whether the Steamer should be allowed to remain open to serve liquor as late as 2:00 a.m. At least two commissioners thought that was too late and one has promised to introduce a measure that would close all bars in town at an earlier hour. The mayor rightly ruled that such a discussion was outside the scope of last night's public hearing, which was a quasi-judicial proceeding limited to the special use permit request.

In side discussions after the meeting, some observed that the town's requirement for two police officers is somewhat driven by the fact that Oriental is the only municipality in Pamlico County allowing sale of liquor by the drink.

Was The United States Prepared For War With Japan?

The standard narrative of WWII, repeated by most historians and widely accepted as gospel, is that the US was not prepared for war. Hogwash.

I realized it was hogwash when I first learned, about half a century ago, that the ships moored at Pearl Harbor that Sunday morning managed to fire their anti-aircraft weapons at attacking aircraft within four minutes of the attack. That actually demonstrates a very high level of combat readiness.

Admiral Nagumo, officer in tactical command of the Japanese carrier attack, didn't think the US Navy was unprepared. He was surprised at how little advantage accrued to him from the element of surprise. Nor did the Japanese midget submarines find the US unprepared. Only one of the five managed to fire its torpedoes. All were destroyed.

Ten percent of the attacking Japanese aircraft were destroyed by Pearl Harbor's defenders. Three months later, when Doolittle's sixteen B-25's attacked Tokyo and other cities, none was destroyed by defenders.

Another part of the standard narrative is that the US Navy in the Pacific cowered in defensive mode until Midway. If you've been paying attention to my posts, you know that wasn't so, either.

You might want to read some early after action reports. Then reflect on what these reports reveal about the level of readiness and the professionalism of our navy and marine corps in 1941. For myself, I find it awesome:

Enterprise Carrier Air Group Commander Report Dec 7 1941.

Preliminary Report USS Lexington Loss In Action.

USS Yorktown (CV-5) Loss In Action.

Admiral King Report.

June 6, 1944: D-Day

About fifteen years ago, my wife and I visited the landing beaches at Normandy on the anniversary of the allied landing in 1944. It remains an awesome sight, especially at Omaha Beach.

Photographs of the landing site, especially the remains of the "Mulberries" - the concrete caissons forming an enormous artificial breakwater - don't convey the scale of the operation. You need to see it with your own eyes.

70 Years Ago: June 6, 1942: USS Yorktown

First light: USS Yorktown still afloat, 36 hours after ship was abandoned. Destroyers Hughes and Hammann standing by to assist. Ship still has no electrical power and no ability to pump water, but list appears no worse and no sign of further sinking.

Meanwhile, Captain Buckmaster had selected a salvage party of 29 officers and 141 men to return to the ship in an attempt to save her. Five destroyers formed an antisubmarine screen while the salvage party boarded the listing carrier about noon. They found a fire still smouldering in one compartment. USS Hammann came alongside and started supplying electrical power and pumps.

Yorktown's repair party followed a carefully predetermined plan of action to be carried out by men from each department - damage control, gunnery air engineering, navigation, communication, supply and medical.

By mid-afternoon, efforts were paying off. The process of reducing topside weight was proceeding well - one 5-inch (127 mm) gun had been dropped over the side, and a second was ready to be cast loose; planes had been pushed over the side; the submersible pumps (powered by electricity provided by Hammann) had pumped a lot of water out of the engineering spaces. The efforts of the salvage crew had reduced the list about two degrees. Removing weight high in the ship had a greater proportional benefit for stability - hence the effort to remove the guns, mounted alongside the flight deck.

In the meantime, Yamamoto had dispatched submarine I-168 to locate and sink the damaged carrier. The submarine eluded the destroyer screen, found her target and about 3:35 that afternoon, fired four torpedoes. One missed, two hit Yorktown and one struck Hammann, immediately sinking the destroyer.
USS Hammann (DD-412) sinking with stern high, after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168

Once again, the crew abandoned Yorktown, planning to return the following day to continue salvage efforts. About 5:00 the following morning, Yorktown rolled over on her port side and sank in 3,000 fathoms of water.

Task Force 16 was well to the west, searching for Yamamoto's fleet, and sinking a few Japanese surface ships.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On Luck

A few weeks ago I posted a link to a commencement address that would never be given. That fictional address by Robert Reich would, if given, have provided a dash of reality for new graduates.

Today I have a link to commencement remarks that were given. These remarks, directed at future Masters Of The Universe, called attention to the great role played in life by luck.

70 Years Ago: June 5, 1942: USS Yorktown

In early morning light, USS Yorktown was still afloat. When her commanding officer, Captain Buckmaster, had ordered the ship abandoned the previous day, she had no electrical or steam power, no ability to pump water out of flooded spaces, she was listing 26 degrees and the list appeared to be increasing. The sea was lapping at the edge of the ship's hangar deck. Buckmaster thought it best to abandon ship before dark. The destroyer Hughes stood by the crippled ship.

But the ship survived the night. Maybe she could be saved.

At noon on June 5 USS Vireo, a fleet tug, joined company with Yorktown and Hughes. Preparations were made to tow Yorktown. At 1636 Vireo commenced towing at 2 knots. (Yorktown appeared to be riding easily, but was yawing badly and appeared to be down farther by the bow than when first abandoned.) Later in the afternoon a rescue party was sent aboard Yorktown to jettison loose gear and heavy equipment, including some of the ship's guns.

In the meantime, Captain Buckmaster organized a salvage party and developed a salvage plan for the following day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Reflections On A War In Our Own Time

I've been posting updates on the epic of World War II in the Pacific. The Battle of Midway was an enormous victory. Even at the time, though, the victors wondered whether it was due to skill or luck that we prevailed in that battle. We still don't know - a mix, perhaps - but it didn't matter.

However the battle came out, we had vast quantities of war material in production, including more aircraft carriers, planes, tanks, ships and bombs. There was, as Admiral Yamamoto knew full well, no way that Japan could have prevailed against America's might.

The end of the war was not yet in sight. In the Pacific, we could not even say after the battle of Midway that it was the "end of the beginning." Yet in Washington and London, planning was already underway for the end game. Leaders who experienced the collapse of world order after World War I were planning how to have a better outcome this time. We are still living with the fruits of those labors.

But I see no evidence that we are doing any realistic planning for the end game in Afghanistan.

Arguably the task is harder, the complexities greater.

There will be no "unconditional surrender." Who would surrender? And to whom? And surrender what?

Perhaps it is time to declare victory and bring the troops home.

Have parades in Times Square if the troops want it. But it is time to rebuild our own nation.

70 Years Ago: June 4, 1942 - Midway Battle Begins

Early on June 4, Japanese oil tanker Akebono Maru sustained the first hit when a torpedo from an attacking PBY Catalina flying boat struck her around 01:00. This would be the only successful air launched torpedo attack by the U.S. during the entire battle. All told, US Navy forces launched nearly fifty torpedoes, and not one exploded against their targets.

Admiral Nagumo launched his air attack on the island of Midway at 0430. Arriving over Midway at 0620, the force of 36 dive bombers, 36 torpedo bombers and 36 fighters did extensive damage to the base. In the meantime, US bombers launched from Midway before the Japanese arrived, attacked the Japanese force. Even though Midway was heavily damaged by the Japanese attack, the base was still operational after the attack and the Japanese flight leader recommended a second attack. Nagumo ordered his loaded anti-shipping aircraft below to the hangar to be reconfigured for another attack on Midway.

This decision was reinforced by the arrival of a second US attack from Midway before the Japanese attackers returned to the carriers. Nagumo was not aware of the presence of a US carrier force until about 0840.

In the meantime, Admiral Fletcher had ordered the launch of aircraft from Hornet and Enterprise at 0700. The first attacking aircraft, TBD Devastator torpedo bombers from Hornet, drew defending Japanese fighters down to deck level about 0920. They were followed by Enterprises devastator squadrons. Losses were heavy, but while the low-level fighting was going on, dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown arrived overhead, unnoticed by Japanese fighters, Attacking about 1020, their bombs put Soryu, Kaga and Akagi out of action in just a few minutes.

The fourth Japanese carrier, Hiryu, the only one to survive the morning's action, launched a counterattack, hitting Yorktown with three bombs, following up with an aerial torpedo attack that brought Yorktown to a stop and gave her a 26 degree list.

Late in the afternoon, Enterprise launched a counterattack of dive bombers, leaving Hiryu ablaze and unable to operate aircraft.

As the sun set on June 4, all four Japanese carriers were ablaze and out of action, Yorktown had been abandoned with a 26-degree list, thought to be close to the maximum without capsizing, and the airbase on Midway was still capable of operating aircraft.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

70 Years Ago: First Encounter At Midway

At 0900 June 3, 1942, US Navy PBY-5 Catalina amphibious patrol seaplanes operating from Midway encountered ships of the Japanese invasion force more than 700 miles west of the island.  That afternoon, nine US Army B-17 heavy bombers operating from Midway made a high level (20,000 feet altitude) bombing attack on the invasion force. On this occasion, as other incidents early in the Pacific war, B-17's proved ineffective against ships or other moving targets. It would be later in 1942 before US Army air forces modified medium bombers to operate more effectively against ships, using low-level skip bombing tactics. The four USAAF B-26's on Midway had, however, been modified to deliver US Navy air-launched torpedoes.

The Battle of Midway was about aircraft.  By the time of the Japanese attack, Midway was defended by its own aircraft as well as those of three aircraft carriers:

Naval Air Station (NAS) Midway operated:
United States Navy
United States Army Air Forces
United States Marine Corps
Yorktown: 76 aircraft
Enterprise: 78 aircraft
Hornet: 77 aircraft
Japanese Aircraft:

The Japanese carriers of the Striking Force operated:
Akagi: 60 aircraft
Kaga: 74 aircraft
Hiryū: 57 aircraft
Sōryū: 57 aircraft
(Note: These figures include 21 operational Zero fighters of the 6th Air Group being ferried to Midway by the carriers.)
  • Japanese Battleships and Cruisers: 16 recon floatplanes, most of them short-ranged (5 Aichi E13A, 10 Nakajima E8N, 1 Aichi E11A)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why The US Does Work: Case Of Florida

You hear a lot of negative things about income redistribution. Complaints about redistributing earnings of hard-working Americans to lazy ones. What you don't hear much about, but is more significant, is redistribution from wealthy states and regions to regions that would otherwise remain persistent pockets of poverty.

Take Florida, for example. When I first saw Florida in 1940, north Florida was about as poor as Mississippi. But federal funds have changed that. And even in bad economic times, federal programs have kept the state out of the kind of economic death spiral that happened in the early 30's.

Between 2007 and 2010, the collapse of the housing boom in Florida was about as bad as the collapse in Spain. But Florida's unemployment rate, which topped out at about 12%, is now at about 9%. Spain's is approaching 24%, with youth unemployment at 50%. So why the difference? Federal transfers (not loans). Paul Krugman has done a back of the envelope calculation and estimates that between 2007 and 2010, the federal government transferred to Florida the equivalent of 4% of Florida's gross domestic product.

I think Krugman's figures are way too low. He leaves off Medicaid, for example. But he also omits the impact of the Army, Navy and Air Force and their associated defense contractors in Florida. If you travel along the coast of Florida from Mayport at the mouth of the St John's River south past Canaveral and Lauderdale to Key West and back up the west coast past McDill and Panama City to Pensacola, you are almost never out of sight of a military installation. It wouldn't surprise me if that doubles the federal contribution to Florida's GDP.

Florida is by no means unique, and in fact is not among the top recipients of federal transfers in terms of percentage. Back  in April, economist Uwe Reinhardt explained in detail how rich states subsidize poor ones and why that's a good thing.

"The table below, based on data regularly assembled by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, convey a feel for the direction of these transfers. The data clearly identify donor and recipient states.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why The Euro Can't Work

In recent posts, I've been more than a bit pessimistic about the Euro. So is Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and for much the same reason.

Today, Atlantic shows some of those reasons in a really humorous graph.  Whether you believe the Euro is doomed as the article says, depends on whether the Eurozone can create a fiscal union as well as a currency union. I believe that was Mario Draghi's message yesterday.

One paragraph from the Atlantic article really caught my attention:

"If you find yourself wondering, as I did, how the 50 states within the U.S. would compare across this measure of dispersion [within the Eurozone], remember that the nice thing about the United States is that baked into the first word of our name is not only a monetary union (i.e.: we all use dollars) but also a fiscal union. If Mississippi has a bad year (or decade, or century), Washington doesn't debate whether we should force the state to raise taxes or cut spending to become more competitive. We just keep paying it Medicaid, which is basically a transfer from rich Americans to poor Americans, many of whom live in Mississippi."

I would only point out that in our past history prior to the New Deal, the transfer (as during the Whiskey Rebellion) was more frequently from poor Americans and poor regions to rich Americans living in wealthy regions. Those are the thrilling days of yesteryear to which our top .1% want us to return.

Troubles In Dollarland

I wish I could say I'm surprised at today's employment report from the Labor Department. I feared the increases in private employment might not reach the levels many economists predicted. What I didn't expect is the reduction in figures for April from 115,000 to just 77,000. As one observer lamented, it looks like the labor market has not yet achieved "escape velocity."

Use of the figures by republicans as a partisan club was perfectly predictable. Since republicans have uniformly opposed every measure democrats have proposed to improve the jobs picture, their complaints fall in the category of the fellow who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.

We didn't need to be in this pickle. We don't have a federal deficit crisis - we have a jobs crisis. Vigorous efforts to use government spending programs to increase aggregate demand and thereby increase opportunities for business could have us back near full employment by now.

The problems in Europe aren't helping.

Paul Krugman explains what is happening.