Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Loss of USS Hornet (CV-8) October 26 1942

I have been reading as many accounts of Hornet's sinking as I can find.

I keep wondering exactly why the ship was abandoned. Her sister ship, Yorktown, was lost at the Battle of Midway because of progressive flooding and loss of electrical power to drive the dewatering pumps. Yorktown reached a maximum list of 24 degrees before the decision to abandon ship the day after the battle at Midway.  But Captain Buckmaster intended to put a salvage crew back aboard the following day.

I also learned from reading Yorktown's loss report that loss of electrical power was apparently due to the ship's electricians setting up the electrical switchboards in parallel. This meant that when torpedo damage destroyed the forward switchboard and killed the electricians in that space, the after switchboard shorted out whenever the emergency diesel generator tried to come on line. That's why electrical power was lost.

Long experience with damaged capital ships, going back to the bombing experiments promoted by Army Air Corps General Billy Mitchell, made it plain that slow progressive flooding was survivable with a crew aboard well trained and equipped for damage control.

To abandon ship prematurely was a death sentence (for the ship).

But I can find no evidence that Hornet had progressive flooding, even after the second Japanese air attack. The damage report here suggests the ship was on the verge of getting her steam propulsion plant back into operation.The ship's list never exceeded 14 degrees.

After the ship was abandoned, US destroyers tried to sink the ship with more than 500 rounds of 5-inch ammunition and with torpedoes without success.

The empty, blazing vessel was finally left adrift. Japanese navy ships attempted to take Hornet under tow and finally sank her with two large Japanese Long Lance torpedoes.

I also wonder why USS Enterprise, still in the vicinity and able to operate aircraft despite damage, didn't do a better job of protecting Hornet against Japanese air attacks.

It's hard to be certain that a better outcome was possible. I suspect so, but second-guessing officers who were there at the time is a hazardous undertaking. Still, I don't see why the ship was abandoned.

The accounts all say that when the ship's list reached 14 degrees, Captain Mason "knew the ship was doomed." How did he know?  Did the Damage Control Assistant make an inaccurate calculation of reserve stability?

Naval Communications

A century ago, the US Navy was just beginning to use radio communications. Otherwise, ships could communicate with each other only within line of sight.

But signalling by Morse code was slow. Radio propagation might be intermittent due to weather, sun spots, Northern Lights, ionosphere changes and other poorly-understood phenomena.

A result of the slow speed and unreliability of high frequency (also known to civilians as short wave) naval communications was to impose controls over message length. Officers drafted naval messages as though they were paying for the transmissions out of their own pocket. Not just by the word, but by the letter.

Administrative communications were usually sent by mail, even though delays were frequent. If the matter was urgent, it might go by radio, but using a terse, telegraphic style. The task was not unlike that facing users of twitter.

Officers would often receive message orders to transfer from one duty station to another. A transfer message might say something like: "RELDET PROPORICH USS NEVERSAIL(BB-99) ARREPCODU."  Translation: "when relieved, detached. Proceed to the port in which USS Neversail (BB-99) may be located. On arrival, report to the commanding officer for duty."

Another approach was to use prowords - brief words combining several words into one. My favorite was "UNODIR."  As in: "UNODIR USS NEVERSAIL INTENDS PROCEED HONG KONG LIBERTY." Translation: "unless otherwise directed, USS Neversail intends...."  This required skillful timing. If sent too soon the Commodore might reply directing otherwise. Sent too late (for example, if Neversail is already entering Hong Kong) might bring down the wrath of the gods.

The modern day of satellite communications has doubtless removed some of a commanding officer's former flexibility.

Problems With Education

One of my problems well into my eighth decade is that I have lived for more than a third of the nation's history. For most of that time I was paying attention.

When engineers test materials or products, they have two kinds of tests: destructive tests and non-destructive tests. I have believed for a long time that our national obsession with testing has led to widespread use of destructive tests on our children.

A letter posted on Diane Ravitch's blog lends support to my view. The problem is not created by teachers, but by an unholy combination of politicians, school administrators and charlatans in the testing industry (not to mention the industrial-education complex).

I'll have more to say about this after the election.

In the meantime, I reflect on the fact that I never heard a word about supposed failures of the school system until school integration began to actually happen. Is there a connection? You can bet on it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pamlico County Election Summary

Pamlico County voters cast 249 early votes today.

Earlier in the day, the Pamlico County Board of Elections met to review absentee ballots returned to date, accepting 99 as valid. Taken together with the previous total of 2,908 votes cast, as of October 30, Pamlico County has cast 3,258 votes, or 34.45% of the county's registered voters. Four more days of early voting remain before next Tuesday's election.

In another action, the County Board voted two to one in favor of adding four hours to next Saturday's early voting period. State law requires that the vote be unanimous, therefore it did not pass. Therefore early voting will end Saturday, November 3 at 1:00 pm.

In other election news, state officials  decry extremely aggressive and hostile electioneering at some locations:

RALEIGH -- North Carolina voters are facing some obstacles as they cast their ballots from voter intimidation to election misinformation. Election officials said enough is enough.

“Some of it is mischievous,” said Gary Bartlett, NC State Board of Elections executive director. “Some of it is just mean-spiritedness.”

Bartlett said he is seeing more problems during this year's early voting cycle than he has seen in his previous 20 years in elections.

“There have been fights that have broken out and there have been arrests made,” said Bartlett.

In fact, Bartlett sent a letter to all county board of election directors this week, warning them of problems he has seen throughout the state.

“There is really nothing we can do as staff,” says Wake County Board of Elections Deputy Director Gary Sims, “because if it is within that 50 foot we can stop it. But outside that 50 foot all we can do is make sure that we have an obstructed way for the voters to get to the polls.”

Voting site locations aren't the only concerns. Letters were sent out to targeted voters throughout the state from two outside groups.

The letter asks: What if your neighbors knew whether or not you voted?
In some cases, News 14 Carolina viewers said it showed they did not vote in the last election, when they actually had, and they said this tactic alarmed them.
For its part, one of the groups sending the letters, Americans for Limited Government, sent News 14 Carolina a statement saying: "...Using publicly available information, we have been able to identify voters who have a tendency to vote but for whatever reason have failed to do so at the most critical moments. We unapologetically urge these voters to exercise their right to vote, a goal which we are confident everyone applauds."

But election officials said voters from around the state are upset that these letters are circulating.

“We do know that it has upset a lot of people and there has not been anything positive said about that,” said Bartlett.

Early voting continues through Saturday. Election day is Nov. 6.

Election Preparation

It has been a bit busy lately as the Pamlico County Board of Elections gats ready for next Tuesday's election. In the meantime, we're pretty busy with early voting.

Early voting continues at the courthouse until 1:00 pm Saturday afternoon. Plenty of time to get ahead of the crowds and pick your own time to vote.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Early Voting: 2012

The first time I voted early was in Texas in 1992. I thought it was a great idea.

Two decades later, I wonder why all states don't offer this opportunity to their citizens.

So which states have in-person early voting? Here is a link to an interactive map displaying each state's voting schedule.

Very interesting.

Unscheduled Day Off At The Polls

The Pamlico County Board Of Elections scheduled today (Sunday, October 28) as a day of One-Stop (early) voting.

Hurricane Sandy intervened. Last Friday, the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections, as the senior election official, cancelled One-Stop voting on October 28 in Pamlico County and certain other counties near the path of the hurricane. He also recommended that we curtail Saturday voting by one hour.

The County Board met on Friday and decided to shorten Saturday voting by one hour. As it turned out, voting began to slack off considerably over an hour before we closed the polls. Even so, nearly twice as many voters cast ballots on October 27 as had voted the previous Saturday.

Today we all got a day off.

Tomorrow it's back to early voting. The County Board will meet on Tuesday afternoon for its regular weekly review of absentee votes and will address any other remaining issues affecting voting this week and on election day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Early Voting: Days Nine And Ten

Yesterday, October 26, the ninth day of absentee voting, 315 Pamlico County voters cast votes. Yesterday afternoon, we consulted with the County and with the North Carolina State Board of Elections concerning Hurricane Sandy. We had planned to have early voting both Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28.

After consulting with North Carolina emergency officials, the Coast Guard and NOAA, the State Board of Elections advised us that Sunday voting was a "no go." The State Executive Director cancelled our planned Sunday vote and recommended we curtail Saturday voting at least one hour. The County Board met yesterday and decided to cut Saturday voting by one hour.

Today, the turn out was 169 voters, nearly double the vote of last Saturday. It is now 11:15 pm Saturday, October 11 and the wind is out of the north at about 15 miles per hour.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Battle Of The Santa Cruz Islands

"Halsey's arrival in Noumea sent American morale skyrocketing throughout the region, as did his assurances to General Alexander A. Vandegrift, the Marine commander on Guadalcanal, that the Navy would give the Marines all possible support within its means. Halsey kept his word...."

"On October 23, as the Marines and Americal soldiers repelled a second violent Japanese assault, the Big E and her task force rendezvoused with Hornet east of Espiritu Santo, forming Task Force 61, under Rear Admiral Thomas Kinkaid. Halsey, anticipating a Japanese move into the waters northeast of Guadalcanal, ordered Kinkaid to sweep north of the Santa Cruz islands - a small, malaria-infested chain 700 miles north of New Caledonia - to engage the Japanese fleet...."

"Dawn on October 25, then, found the Combined Fleet and Task Force 61 steaming aggressively towards each other, closing range at close to 30 miles every hour. Confrontation was inevitable...."

"Anticipating the Combined Fleet would make a move towards Guadalcanal, Halsey ordered Kinkaid's Task Force 61 - consisting of Enterprise's TF 16 and Hornet's TF 17 - on an aggressive sweep northwest of the Santa Cruz Islands, hoping to outflank the Japanese fleet as it steamed southwards from Truk."

Admiral Kinkaid's two carriers and 169 aircraft were up against Admiral Nagumo's four aircraft carriers and 212 aircraft. Each force found the other the morning of October 26, 1942. By 0900 they had launched strikes.

Details of the ensuing battle are posted on the web site of the Enterprise CV-6 Association at The story reads like a novel. The web site's story continues here and here and here.

By the time the battle ended, USS Enterprise was damaged and USS Hornet, the Doolittle raider, was sunk. As of October 26, the US Navy had no operating aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

Even so, a numerically inferior force had kept Japan from achieving their goals.

"The Consequences

"Though tactically Santa Cruz was a draw, strategically it was a narrow victory for the Americans. Nagumo's carriers and Kondo's battleships had been turned away from Guadalcanal, giving the Marines and soldiers there some much needed relief. Perhaps more importantly, the destruction of the best Japanese naval aircrews, begun in earnest at Midway, culminated at Santa Cruz. Though plane losses were high on both sides - 74 American and 92 Japanese - the loss of airmen pointed to a Japanese catastrophe. Nearly 70 Japanese aircrews - including a number of squadron leaders - never returned to their carriers at Santa Cruz, while all but 33 American airmen did.

"The first hint of the damage done to Japan's naval airpower was seen the day of the battle, in the feeble afternoon strikes at Hornet. A more telling sign came on November 11, when Enterprise - after quick patching by Sea Bees and the repair ship Vulcan - sortied from Noumea, a full air group on her flight deck, ready to fight.

"The only Japanese carriers in the area - Hiyo and Junyo, both slow converted ocean liners - were well north of Guadalcanal, carefully staying clear of the American planes there. Without planes and the crews to fly them, the enemy's fleet carriers were impotent. Although Enterprise and her task force faced significant threat from ground-based air forces and submarines, the simple fact was this: 15 days after Santa Cruz, an American carrier stood off the Solomons, battered but ready for action, and not a single enemy carrier came forth to challenge her."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Stalingrad

Professor Brad DeLong, who has been "liveblogging" World War II on his economics blog, has posted an essay on our debt to Stalingrad.

The Siege of Stalingrad halted the Wehrmacht advance and began their long retreat to defeat. This was the battle that saved Eurasia from German conquest.

We in the West have never publicly acknowledged the tremendous sacrifice of Soviet defenders. It was not only the soldiers whose heroism halted the Germans. It was the workers.Throughout the siege, factory workers kept producing T-34 tanks in factories partially occupied by Germans. Tanks rolled off the assembly line directly into battle.

The same was true at Leningrad.

It is time we took another look at Soviet history and the many accomplishments of the Soviet Union.

Let's remove our own ideological blinders and examine that period objectively.

Early Voting: Day Eight

Pamlico County Voters cast 274 early votes today, the eighth day of early voting. Total to date: 2,181 votes.Twenty-three percent of Pamlico County's voters have cast votes so far.  Nine more days of early voting and one day of regular elections remaining.

We are not quite at the halfway mark.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Early Voting: Day Seven

Pamlico County turned out 307 early voters today. So far, 1,907 voters out of 9,455 registered have cast ballots. Twenty-three percent of those registered have already voted. Eleven more days remain, including election day.

Training For Election Officials

Members of the County Board of Elections and the Director of Elections frequently receive questions about election law and administration. Usually the questions come from citizens active in their own political party, who have a greater than average interest in the details. Sometimes the questions come from citizens who are certain they already know the right answer.

Election law is complex. From time to time, changes are made by statute or by regulation. Sometimes changes are made in the details of computer programs that assist in administering the elections process. Sometimes changes result from court cases.

To help county elections officials keep up with changes, the State Board of Elections conducts training, usually two or three times a year. In addition, the State Board publishes training presentations on its Election Resources web site.

Anyone having an interest in following these details can access the training materials at: The Election Resource Center home page:

Click on : 2012 Annual Training For County Officials - August 14 and 15. This will take you to a list of all the lectures given during that training and printable versions of the training:  At the bottom of that page is a link to archives of prior training material:  That page allows you to access material going back to 2005.

Explore and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Early Voting: Day Six

In Pamlico County, 335 voters cast early ballots today in the heaviest turnout to date. The county board of elections also reviewed and accepted 26 mail-in absentee votes. Total votes cast so far: 1600. Eleven more days of early voting and election day still remain for voters to cast their ballots.

Seventy Years Ago: El Alamein, Stalingrad, Guadalcanal, Norfolk

October 23, 1942: North Africa. General Montgomery's 8th Army attacks Germans at El-Alamein. The attack begins with a 1000-gun barrage. After 20 minutes, 30 Corps sends four of its infantry divisions forward into the German minefields on a six mile front. The 8th Australian and 51st Highland Divisions attack toward "Kidney Ridge" while slightly to the south, the New Zealand Division supported by 1st South African Division strike toward the Miteirya Ridge.

Stalingrad: German attacks in the factory district. Heavy fighting. Soviet forces pushed out of 2/3 of the Red October Factory, which is still building T-34 tanks.

Guadalcanal: Japanese forces attempt to cross the Matanikau River. Thrown back with heavy losses.

Convoy US Army forces under command of General George S. Patton, underway from Hampton Roads, Virginia. Destination: North African coast in Morocco.

Monday, October 22, 2012

President Eisenhower's Wisdom

April 16, 1953. President Dwight David Eisenhower:

"The way chosen by the United States [after World War II] was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.

"First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.

"Second: No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.

"Third: Every nation's right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.

"Fourth: Any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.

"And fifth: A nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

"In the light of these principles the citizens of the United States defined the way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of war, toward true peace.

"This way was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United Nations: to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears. This way was to control and to reduce armaments. This way was to allow all nations to devote their energies and resources to the great and good tasks of healing the war's wounds, of clothing and feeding and housing the needy, of perfecting a just political life, of enjoying the fruits of their own toil....

"The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.

"The worst is atomic war.

"The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

"This world in arms is not spending money alone.

"It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

"The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

"It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

"It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

"It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

"We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

"We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

"This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

"This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.

"This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace.

"It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.

"It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?

Early Voting: Day Five

Monday, October 21, 20012. 270 voters cast their votes today.  Votes to date: 1239.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Early Voting: Day Four

Pamlico County One-Stop early voting was open four hours today (Sunday). Eighty-five voters cast ballots, an average of 21 per hour. On Saturday, we were open eight hours and one-hundred thirteen voters cast ballots, an average of 14 per hour.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Voting: Third Day

Early voting in Pamlico County fell off quite a bit today - only 113 votes were cast.

That's pretty consistent with past experience. Fewer voters cast ballots on Saturday than on week days. I imagine Saturday is, for most families, the day for chores and errands.

Tomorrow will be a new experience. We have never opened for early voting on a Sunday. We will be open on the 21st and 28th of October.

Seventy Years Ago: Operation Liberate North Africa

You're right. We didn't call the invasion of North Africa anything like "Operation Liberate North Africa." That's the sort of thing we do now, when military operations and their names have been taken over by Public Relations Experts.

The real name was "Operation Torch."

Guadalcanal was "Operation Watchtower."

Such names were meant to conceal, not reveal, the purpose of the operation. And certainly not to gloat.

Allied Commander of Operation Torch was Dwight David Eisenhower, Major General, United States Army. Little over a year earlier, he had been Colonel Eisenhower, in charge of the Army's Louisiana Maneuvers. A decade in the future, he would be elected President.

Presidential Scholar Richard Neustadt describes outgoing President Truman's speculation about Eisenhower's difficulties should he win the election: "He'll sit here," Truman would remark (tapping his desk for emphasis), "and he'll say, 'Do this! Do that!' And nothing will happen. Poor Ike-it won't be a bit like the Army. He'll find it very frustrating."

Neustadt thought Truman's prediction was accurate and that Eisenhower found the presidency frustrating.

I think Truman was wrong. No one knew better than Eisenhower how to persuade reluctant and egotistic subordinates to do what he wanted done.

An example of what Eisenhower had to deal with and how he proceeded is set out in a long letter from him to Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall dated October 20, 1942. It was very far from "do this!" and "do that!" The letter can be read here.

Neustadt's essay on presidential power, from the introduction to a later edition of his book, can be read here.  It is well worth taking the time to read it. Better yet, read the whole book.

Reverence Or Sacrilege?

Kountze, Texas (Hardin County). A group of high school cheerleaders painted Bible verses on large paper "run-through" banners that the high school football team runs through at the beginning of every football game.

The Kountze school district prohibited use of the banners, but a state district court judge has ruled they may continue this practice for the rest of the season. Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott came to the cheerleaders’ defense. They called the efforts by the Kountze school district to prohibit the banners “a great insult” that was out of step with a state law requiring districts to treat student expression of religious views in the same manner that secular views are treated.

According to the New York Times, the case has "galvanized" Christians in East Texas and has upset some of the usual suspects such as the Anti-Defamation League.

My question: are there any genuine Christians in East Texas? Let me get this straight: young cheerleaders mark up large paper banners with Bible verses, so that football players will run through them and destroy them? This is supposed to demonstrate religious fervor and devotion? Why not encase a bible in plastic and throw it around the field in a game of ultimate frisbee?

Has anyone caught up in this madness looked up the word "sacrilege?"

I have often wondered, in a similar fashion, about taking our symbols of worldly wealth or "mammon" and imprinting on those symbols the phrase "in God we trust." Is this intentional or merely unintentional mockery of God?

What has become of our sense of the sacred?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Voting: Second Day

Pamlico County One-Stop early voting turnout fell off a bit today - to 328.

That is, five fewer voters turned out today than yesterday.

Total in-person votes to date: 661. Early voting days left: 15.

Total Absentee By Mail Votes reviewed by Board of Elections: 110

Total Ballots cast to date: 771+ (more absentee by mail votes to be reviewed 10/23) 

Total Registered Voters: 9,361

2008 Registered Voters: 9,556

2008 Ballots Cast: 6,848

2008 Voter Turnout: 71.66%

Bottom Line: After two days, Pamlico County Voters have already cast 11.26% of ballots cast in 2008 and there are 15 more days of early voting, plus election day on November 6. We could see a new record.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Voting: First Day

Pamlico County had a good turnout for the first day of early (one-stop) voting. Today's turnout was 333 voters. That's almost 100 more voters than turned out on the first day of one-stop in 2008.

Good job.

Seventy Years Ago: South Pacific Area

October 18, 1942, Vice Admiral Robert Lee. Ghormley, Commander, South Pacific Area, was replaced by Vice Admiral William F. Halsey.

Ghormley had been in charge of the Navy/Marine Corps operation to invade Guadalcanal in early August, commanding forces, eventually including Army units, from his headquarters at Noumea. US Navy losses had been especially heavy.

The decision was made by Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander of the Pacific Fleet. He was concerned about Ghormley's pessimism and sought to replace him with a more aggressive and dynamic leader.

Halsey was such a man.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Election 2012: One-Stop

I hope everyone in Pamlico County knows by now that in-person early voting starts tomorrow.

Citizens desiring to vote can appear at the Board of Elections office at Pamlico County Courthouse any time between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm tomorrow and every weekday between now and November 3. The one-stop site will also be open 9:00 pm to 5:00 pm Saturday, October 20 and 29, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm Sunday October 21 and October 28, and the final day of One-Stop from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm Saturday, November 3.

Voters who have not yet registered can both register and vote at One-Stop.

Election day is Tuesday, November 6. Polls open at 6:30 and remain open until 7:30 pm.

To date, the Board of Elections has received 110 absentee votes by mail. Those votes will be counted on election day, before the in-person votes are counted.

Vote! Brave Americans gave their lives so you can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On Violence

 ‘Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent’

Mayor Salvor Hardin - Isaac Asimov (The Foundation Trilogy)

Or, as I have observed here and here, starting a war is a mug's game.

Monday, October 15, 2012

We Can't Afford (Fill In The Blank)

I have previously revealed my annoyance at the idea that we can't afford doing what needs to be done because of the deficit. This is the "Oh, we're too poor" complaint. My usual response would be "balderdash!" I may change my response to "malarkey!" That's a good word, too.

I just came across a really well done blog that examines many issues similar to the ones that I address in this blog. It's always reassuring, even if it is true that the other author does it better than I do.

Here's a link to an essay entitled "Dam The Economists."  John, the author, points to the Hoover Dam, built at the height of the Great Depression and summarizes the continuing economic benefits to the country.

His point is similar to the one I make here , where I point out that the Great Depression was also an era of Grand Undertakings.

More On Collision

Now we know a bit more about the collision between USS San Jacinto, an Aegis Cruiser and the nuclear submarine USS Montpelier. Montpelier came to periscope depth about 200 yards or less directly ahead of San Jacinto.

At that point, collision was inevitable. The Navy's report disclosed nothing about the damage to Montpelier, but revealed that San Jacinto's sonar dome was "completely depressurized."

The ships had been operating together in an antisubmarine exercise in the Atlantic. What this incident tells me is that both ships are extraordinarily quiet.

Typically, investigations of such collisions put the onus on the submarine to be sure there is no surface ship in the vicinity before coming to periscope depth or surfacing. But what if the surface ship is extremely quiet? Was San Jacinto operating too slowly to be detected? Were the two vessels communicating? Why did San Jacinto not detect the submarine when it was less than a mile away? Lots of questions.

As for the sonar dome, that will be an expensive repair. One of the challenges the Navy faced with the large multi-mode sonar installations beginning with the AN/SQS-26 series of sonars was that the self-noise of water rushing past the dome reduced the sonar's sensitivity. The problem was the steel "window" surrounding the transducer. In 1976 my ship, USS Patterson, received one of the first inflatable rubber sonar domes. This was not a simple modification.

I expect repairs to San Jacinto will prove to be expensive and time consuming.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Collision At Sea

"A Collision At Sea Can Ruin Your Whole Day"

Old Navy Saying

Let's hope there was no serious injury or loss of life. There will be damage to one or more careers, but that is only one of many hazards in a hazardous profession. I wish the Captains and their crews well.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

North Carolina Wind

A little more than three years ago, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill completed a nine-month comprehensive study of coastal wind energy.

The study's conclusion: "North Carolina is well positioned to develop utility scale wind energy production and it is the opinion of the project team that the State should pursue it aggressively."

That was in the summer of 2009. Here is a link to the study - click on "Full Study." If you don't have the time or patience to read it (it's 378 pages), just look at the illustrations and maps. Especially the maps at the end of the study. The map on page 370, for example, shows Bayboro as a possible interconnection substation.

Has the State pursued wind energy production aggressively? No.

Why not?

Could it be because in 2010 the North Carolina State Legislature was taken over by a political party that has:
1. No interest in any kind of energy but petroleum, natural gas and coal?
2. No interest in freeing the US from  petroleum imports?
3. No interest in reducing carbon emissions?
4. No concern over sea level rise?
5. No interest in economic development in Eastern North Carolina?

How about all of the above?

It looks like any push for coastal wind energy development will have to come from the people of Eastern North Carolina working together in their own interest. In the present political climate, neither Raleigh nor Washington is likely to pick up this challenge without a strong push from us.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I confess. I have never smoked a joint - or whatever they are being called these days. For that matter, I have never smoked a cigarette. Not once.

Doesn't mean I never smoked tobacco. I used to smoke a pipe and an occasional cigar. Gave that up thirty-five years ago. The smoke irritated my eyes and didn't do much good for my chronic sea sickness. Not great for a ship captain.

I always thought alcohol was the most dangerous drug. But I drink alcoholic beverages.

I did my best to keep alcohol off my ship. And marijuana. And other illegal drugs.

In my years at sea, I never saw a sailor who was unable to perform his duties because he smoked marijuana on liberty. But there were many times I saw sailors unable to get the ship underway because they were drunk when they got back to the ship.

I went to college in a state with statewide prohibition on the sale of distilled beverages. But very cleverly, the state had a tax on illegally sold beverages. That's called having your cake and eating it, too.

Interesting article in today's New York Times about marijuana laws. It seems the states of Washington, Oregon and Colorado have provisions on their November 6 ballots to legalize marijuana. The one in Washington might even pass.

Lawmen are among the supporters of legalization.

It's worth a look.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Battle Of Cape Esperance

Guadalcanal: October 11, 1942. US Marines have a tenuous foothold about three by five miles on the north shore of Guadalcanal, including the growing airbase at Henderson Field, operating the "Cactus Air Force." Repeated Japanese efforts to dislodge the Marines have been unsuccessful.

The Japanese planned another major attempt to recapture Henderson Field for 20 October. They moved two Infantry Divisions, totalling 17,500 troops, from the Dutch East Indies to Rabaul in preparation for delivering them to Guadalcanal. From 14 September-9 October, numerous Tokyo Express runs delivered troops from the 2nd Infantry Division as well as General Hyakutake to Guadalcanal. Warships were used so they could be in and out of Guadalcanal before daylight, when US aircraft could attack effectively.

For two months, Japan owned the sea at night and the US by day. Japan's planned land offensive was driven by the need to protect Japanese ships from US air. The Japanese Navy promised to support the Army's planned offensive by delivering the troops and equipment to the island and by bombarding the airfield at night.

In the meantime, Major General Millard F. Harmon—commander of United States Army forces in the South Pacific—convinced Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley—overall commander of Allied forces in the South Pacific—that the Marines on Guadalcanal needed to be reinforced immediately if the Allies were to successfully defend the island from the next expected Japanese offensive. Thus, on 8 October, the 2,837 men of the 164th Infantry Regiment from the U.S. Army's Americal Division boarded ships at New Caledonia for the trip to Guadalcanal with a projected arrival date of 13 October.

Ghormley  ordered Task Force 64 (TF 64), consisting of four cruisers (San Francisco, Boise, Salt Lake City, and Helena) and five destroyers (Farenholt, Duncan, Buchanan, McCalla, and Laffey) under U.S. Rear Admiral Norman Scott, to intercept and combat any Japanese ships approaching Guadalcanal and threatening the convoy.

Shortly before midnight, October 11, Admiral Scott's force of four cruisers and five destroyers encountered Japanese Admiral Goto's force of three cruisers and two destroyers near Savo Island. During the ensuing melee. Scott lost one destroyer sunk and one cruiser and one destroyer damaged. Admiral Goto lost one cruiser and three destroyers sunk (including two of the convoy destroyers), about 400 killed and 100 captured.

During the sea battle, the Japanese convoy managed to land most of their troops.

It was a far better outcome for the US than the battle of Savo Island two months earlier, but the US Navy still did not know how much better Japanese torpedoes were than our own. Nor had they learned the full extent of Japan's advantage at night using superior optical equipment and well-trained crews.

Those lessons were yet to come. But radar worked better this time.

And the victory was good for morale.

Meanwhile, Across The Pond....

On economics blogs this week, the big news has been the latest World Economic Outlook published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The heart of the report:

"The main finding, based on data for 28 economies, is that the multipliers used in generating growth forecasts have been systematically too low since the start of the Great Recession, by 0.4 to 1.2, depending on the forecast source and the specifics of the estimation approach. Informal evidence suggests that the multipliers implicitly used to generate these forecasts are about 0.5. So actual multipliers may be higher, in the range of 0.9 to 1.7."

Multipliers? What's that about?

It is a dispute as old as the formal study of economics. Say and certain classical economists contended that government spending will have no effect on the economy as a whole. Government spending will "crowd out" private spending. There is  thus no "multiplier" from government fiscal measures that will improve the economy. In the long run the economy will fix itself.

"In the long run," economist John Maynard Keyenes quipped, "we will all be dead."

In recent years, the dispute has manifested itself in arguments over how big the multiplier is. Some have said, if it exists, the multiplier effect is very small. Not long ago the IMF official position was to that effect.

The new report says, in effect, "we were wrong."

Why is this important? Because the position of the IMF and that of some other powerful commentators has been that countries must reduce debt, even when their economies are experiencing little or no growth. The new insight: contractionary policies contract economies.


Economist Kate McKenzie explains here. Australian economist Bill Mitchell explains here. Mitchell summarizes:

"1. The IMF is incompetent not because its staff are stupid but because the staff use the wrong models and operate in a make-believe world.
2. The world economy is enduring on-going stagnation because there is not enough spending.
3. Monetary policy – whether it being normal interest rate management or the aytpical operations such as quantitative easing – will not resolve a situation where the non-government sector is intent on not spending and the government is intent of pursuing fiscal austerity. The obsession that the policy watchers have with “what is the central bank going to do” is revealing but a waste of time.
4. Fiscal policy activism is desperately required and most nations should introduce new stimulus programs, targetted at direct job creation, to kick-start spending in their economies and provide some optimism to the private sector. This will also allow national income growth to occur, which, in turn, underpins the current desire of households and firms to reduce their precarious levels of debt (following the neo-liberal-inspired credit binge)."

Bottom line: now is not  the time to obsess over deficits and balanced budgets. Now is the time to put idle productive capacity to use by government spending.

I have said this before, but of course no one is paying any attention to me. Maybe some will listen to the IMF.

The core issue: "Who benefits and who pays?"

Related process: "blame the victim."

Chorus of the wealthy and the powerful: "There is nothing the government can do to fix the economy and it's all the president's fault."

Go figure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kissinger On China

Walter Pincus has a very good article in today's Washington Post summarizing former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's observations on China.

Those of us who took Kissinger's seminar on national security policy at Harvard referred to him as "Henry the K." A few days after Richard Nixon won the presidential election and announced that Kissinger would be his national security adviser, seminar students arrived to find television video equipment crowding the classroom. "Pay no attention to the cameras," Kissinger advised his class, "it's good for my megalomania."

He was joking.

The seminar might have been titled "prominent guest of the week," because Professor Kissinger invited prominent academic and government figures to speak at his seminar. One week it might be Robert McNamara. The next week might be Tom Schilling. Then the sequence of prominent guests would be interrupted by one or two lectures given by Professor Kissinger himself. Those lectures were always the most focused and informative of all.

I didn't always view Kissinger's observations on European affairs as especially wise. Nor was I overly impressed with his views on the Soviet Union.

Based on Pincus' article, however, I view Kissinger as expressing great wisdom about China. In a talk at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Kissinger related discussions with each Chinese leader from Mao Tse Tung [I know the spelling has changed], including with the most probable new leader, Xi Jinping. Kissinger believes Xi Jinping will seek such enormous internal changes that “it’s unlikely that in 10 years the next generation will come into office with exactly the same institutions that exist today.

“This is one reason why I do not believe that great foreign adventures or confrontations with the United States can be on their agenda,” Kissinger said. But because Xi faces the need to make difficult domestic changes, he may be more assertive in responding to foreign critics, he added.

“What we must not demand or expect is that they will follow the mechanisms with which we are more familiar. It will be a Chinese version . . . and it will not be achieved without some domestic difficulties.”

Wise remarks.

How Good Is Economic Data?

Good discussion today by economist Mark Thoma on the issue of the usefulness of data. For the most part, any data released by government agencies, especially those like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and others who are in the business of collecting and publishing data, can be trusted as being the best there is. All sorts of private users, businesses, etc. rely on this data. No private entity has the resources to collect and publish such information.

But users must understand how the data is collected and aggregated to understand what it means. There is an old saying that "figures don't lie, but liars figure." It is probably more accurate in the case of government data to say that "figures don't lie, but liars can manipulate the meaning of the figures, so be sure what they mean." That isn't nearly as entertaining as the first version.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Payroll Data Update

The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to show a genuine improvement in the labor market. It has been a long time coming, and the improvement is still weak. But it seems to finally be self-sustaining.

Over the past year, according to the employer survey, the United States has added about 150,000 jobs a month. That exceeds monthly population growth by about 60,000, but isn't enough to make a major improvement in the employment to population ratio.

The big headline when BLS released the report was that unemployment was reduced to 7.8%. Personally, I think a better number to follow is the employment/population ratio. That number is slightly better recently, but also isn't rising fast enough.

This ratio also has problems. Recently economist Paul Krugman published a slightly modified employment-population ratio, modified to reflect demographic structure of the population. As Krugman describes it: "I’ve divided the population into three age groups, 16-24, 25-54, and 55 plus, for which employment-population ratios are available in the BLS databases. (Scroll down and use the one-screen data search). I’ve then taken a weighted average of these ratios, where the weights are the 2007 shares of each group in the civilian non institutional population. And here’s what you get:"

A bit better picture, but not a terrific recovery.

I have doubted that the FED's most recent Quantitative Easing or Twist or whatever it is now being called would do much. Apparently I was wrong and QE is having a positive effect. Just not very strong.

I'd still prefer a fiscal "kick in the pants," but that won't happen until after the election, if at all.

Absentee Ballots

Facts about absentee ballots:
1. Absentee ballots arrive at the Board of Elections  in a sealed envelope that protects vote secrecy;
2. Starting October 16, the County Board of Elections reviews ballot envelopes each week to verify voter's eligibility - envelopes remain unopened, stored securely;
3. Absentee meetings are open to public - at 2:00 each Tuesday until and including November 6;
4. Absentee envelopes are opened by the Board of Elections during a public meeting Tue. November 6 and counted by scanning the paper ballots;
5. Absentee vote count is not released to public until polls close;
6. Absentee ballots and One-Stop votes are counted before counting votes cast election day;
7. Anyone wanting to observe the process should attend the noticed absentee meetings each Tuesday at 2:00 pm October 16 through November 6.

Replacement Candidates And Write-Ins For November

There seems to be a bit of confusion or uncertainty about this year's general election ballot. The problems: write-ins and replacement candidates in partisan elections.

Normally, for partisan elections in November, the ballot lists the nominees of each of the approved political parties of North Carolina: Democratic, Libertarian and Republican. Those nominees are determined by the outcome of the party primaries held last May 8 for contested nominations. For contests where a candidate filed for a party but had no primary opponent, that candidate becomes his party's nominee.

Note that the party is the nominating entity. Unaffiliated voters are allowed to vote in a party's primary only if that party's State Executive Committee so provides by resolution delivered to the State Board of Elections by December 1 of the year prior to the primary election. In recent years, both Democratic and Republican parties have allowed unaffiliated voters to participate in their primary elections.

Winners of primary elections or uncontested filers will have their names printed on the general election ballot for partisan contests. Unaffiliated candidates can also be added to the ballot by petition (2% of voters for Governor in most recent election for statewide office, or 4% for district or county offices.) These candidates must be registered voters, but need not be registered as unaffiliated - they just aren't the official candidate of their party.

Just to make it interesting, it is also possible to qualify as a write-in candidate for the general election by petition. That takes 500, 250 or 100 petition signatures depending on the contest. When a person qualifies as a write-in candidate, a write-in line is added to the ballot, but only write-ins for the approved candidate will be counted.

There will also be a write-in line for every contest in a non-partisan election.

What if, after the primary,  a candidate dies, withdraws or becomes ineligible? In that case, the designated Committee of the Candidate's party appoints a replacement. If practical, the Board of Elections with jurisdiction over the ballot item will reprint the ballot. If that board determines it is impractical to reprint the ballot, then the original candidate's name remains on the ballot and all votes cast for the original candidate are counted for the replacement candidate.

This is all spelled out in North Carolina General Statutes.

This year, we have write-in lines for President and Governor. We also have one candidate who has withdrawn and whose party has appointed a replacement. Every vote for the withdrawn candidate will count as a vote for the replacement candidate.

This might or might not be the way it was where you come from, but it's that way in North Carolina.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Oriental Street Closing Appeal

Today I received in the mail the Town of Oriental's response to my appeal of the Town's closing of Avenue A and Request for Declaratory Judgment.

No big surprises.

Speaking Of Energy

Here's a link to a very good discussion of the economics, politics and technology issues of natural gas vehicles. With respect to energy independence as well as cost control, I go for an "all of the above" approach. There is no single silver bullet.

The Golden Feather

I'm really an old-fashioned guy. I miss the time when nominations were actually decided at each party's national convention. And senate filibusters required the senator to keep speaking until expiring from exhaustion. At least the public knew what was happening - no nonsense about the measure failing on a "procedural vote." If you are older than the baby boomers, you know what I mean.

One reason I miss those thrilling days of yesteryear is that presidential campaigns were mercifully short. They didn't start until Labor Day. Better for suspense (not knowing who the nominee would be until the convention) and the dramatic unity of a relatively brief campaign. I miss "favorite son" nominations.

And one thing we didn't have in those olden days was the indignity of so-called presidential "debates." Candidates were subjected to other indignities - Calvin Coolidge in a Sioux war bonnet comes to mind - but nothing like the debates.

I don't like them because they tell us nothing about the skills a person needs to actually, you know, run the government. I have no desire to have a beer with the president and certainly wouldn't decide who to vote for because one candidate seems more amiable than the other candidate.

It all starts with school elections of the most popular students to be homecoming queen. Being president is more serious than skill at sound bites. Or celebrity - or even popularity. Charisma is good, but not essential.

Columnist Gail Collins in today's New York Times got the debate ritual right:

"It’s a little like one of those fairy tales where the citizens of the kingdom pick their next king on the basis of a race to find the feather of the golden swan."

Patents - Good For Innovation?

A couple of months ago I posted some thoughts about the recent Microsoft win in a "look and feel" patent case.  It reminded me of some earlier cases that I thought were questionable. But I did express support for the idea of protecting intellectual property by patents.

Now I'm not so sure.

I just skimmed through an interesting working paper by two authors from the research division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The authors, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine have written "The Case Against Patents," challenging the idea that patants encourage innovation. Instead, they claim that patents stifle innovation.

Economist Mark Thoma provides a link to the paper here on his blog, "Economists View."

Incidentally, I am writing this on a computer using the Linux operating system (free) and open source software (free) that is more stable and reliable than Microsoft's proprietary products and in most ways more powerful.

Boldrin and Levine make a good case.

I still like copyrights, but I think our copyright law has gone overboard, as well.

Weekly Reader

Sad report today from McClatchy - Weekly Reader is gone from the classroom.

I still remember some of the news articles. Most memorable was the two-page spread explaining the 1948 presidential election. It included the symbols for every political party and the names of the nominees. There were many parties that year with nominees, including the Vegetarian Party. That's where John McCain got his line from his first presidential campaign - that he wanted to appeal to every party, including the Vegetarian Party.

Eighty-four years was a pretty good run, but our children will be the poorer without it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Guadalcanal From Japan Point Of View

I just came across a really interesting historical article on Japanese plans for Guadalcanal, what they were attempting and why, and the Battle of Savo Island from their point of view. The article makes it plain that senior Japanese officers were consummate professionals.

By comparison with their US counterparts, Japanese Naval Officers had more difficulty coordinating Naval Operations with those of the Army. Unlike Nimitz and Halsey, who moved Army aircraft around as they wished, Japanese Naval Officers had no control over Japanese Army aircraft. This was a serious operational problem.

Another operational shortcoming for the Japanese is that their communications intelligence organization was not nearly as effective as ours. That's why they were caught completely off guard when the Marines stormed ashore on Guadalcanal in August.

It's a long article, but tells a very interesting story.

The Navy Way

For years I have reflected that many of our institutions would work better if they were run like the Navy.

I don't mean by that to have a dictator at the top giving orders that are carried out with unquestioning obedience (the Navy doesn't actually work like that), but to follow the precepts of leadership attributed to John Paul Jones.

I recently came across an interesting post on the United States Naval Institute blog making reference to the John Paul Jones precepts and explaining how they might apply to political discourse. I recommend reading the post here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

John Maynard Keynes

Rising Tide Lifts All Yachts

Lyndon Johnson was fond of observing: "a rising tide lifts all boats."

This was pretty true for twenty-five years following World War II. From about 1946 to 1971, income for all income groups tracked very closely with the increase in productivity for the US economy as a whole.

Then something happened. As economist Noah Smith put it in his blog about three months ago, "Something BIG Happened."

From that time to the present, productivity has continued to increase at about the same rate, but hourly wages for workers (adjusted for inflation) remains stuck at the 1971 level. Who gets all the profit from increased productivity? Mostly the top 1% of earners.

In other words, the rule now seems to be: "a rising tide lifts all yachts."  

Noah Smith is puzzled. In a blog post last July, he notes that this phenomenon seems not to have been studied. He thinks it should be.

So do I.

Noah has offered some ideas about concurrent events that might be related - for example, the change from fixed to flexible exchange rates in international commerce. Or possibly the oil crisis. But no one seems to know for sure.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

I was moved by Kitty Dumas' op-ed in today's New York Times. She brought back memories of an earlier time and of names forgotten.

Kitty Dumas is too young to know the whole story. (I may be as well).

What moved me most was her account of the young white man at Ole Miss expressing gratitude for what Kitty Dumas' generation had done for him. There are some Mississippians who get it. I wish there were more who understood the Civil Rights movement was for them, too.

I'm glad to know that Jim Silver is still remembered at Ole Miss. And his friend William Faulkner. Other Mississippians come to mind who fought the good fight in the 1950's, before there was a Civil Rights movement: Will Campbell, Hodding Carter, P.D. East, Hazel Brannon Smith, and countless ministers of all faiths and colors.

Those stories also need to be told.