Friday, November 30, 2012

Sixty-Eight Years Ago: Buried Spitfires

In August, 1945, Royal Air Force troops in Burma had received perhaps as many as 140 brand new Spitfires in shipping crates. No longer needed for the war effort, and with faster aircraft coming off the production lines, what to do with them?

Apparently it was decided to bury them in their shipping crates.

Nearly seventy years later, following British abandonment of Burma as a colony and decades of political turmoil, improving relations have led to discovery of some of those aircraft after a sixteen-year search by a British farmer and aviation enthusiast.

There are various versions of the story and a number of curious aspects. For example, apparently the burying was done by the US Army. The project was helped along by the intervention of the British Prime Minister with Myanmar officials.

It is expected that excavation will begin after the first of the year. Only then will the presence of the aircraft be confirmed. The first site excavated will be near the runway at the Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) international airport. There may be other burial sites as well.

Stand by for further news.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Battle Of Tassafaronga

Japanese Army forces on Guadalcanal were desperately short of food and on November 26, 1942, radioed pleading for more. The previous three weeks, only submarines had been able to deliver supplies. Each submarine delivered about a days' supply, but the difficulty of offloading and delivering the food through the jungle reduced what reached the troops. The troops were living on one-third rations.

Japan had resorted to submarines because they were unable to rely on surface ships. A combination of US aircraft operating from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, US PT Boats operating from Tulagi and US surface warships had prevented Japanese resupply operations by ship.

The Japanese developed a new plan. Resupply by high speed destroyers carrying floating drums of food and medical supplies. The drums, connected to each other by line, were to be carried on the decks of six destroyers, escorted by two more. The destroyers would approach at high speed, drop the drums overboard and return to base. Soldiers would swim out and recover the drums.

Following the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Admiral Halsey, Commander of the Southern Pacific Command, reorganized his surface warfare forces, forming a new Task Force, TF 67, at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, about 580 miles from Guadalcanal. The Task Force, initially under RADM Kinkaid, was reassigned to RADM Carleton H. Wright on November 28.

TF 67's job: intercept and destroy any Japanese surface force coming to the aid of Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.

The U.S. victory at the Battle of Guadalcanal had cost Halsey 18 ships sunk or so badly damaged that extensive repairs were required. With the exception of destroyers, Halsey's only available surface units were the carrier Enterprise, the battleship Washington, and the light cruiser San Diego at Noumea and the heavy cruisers Northampton and Pensacola at Espiritu Santo.

Several other ships were en route to the South Pacific. By 25 November, as intelligence was piecing together a clearer picture of Japanese plans, Halsey had assembled a force adequate to counter the expected offensive. At Nandi in the Fijis lay the carrier Saratoga, the battleships North Carolina, Colorado, and Maryland, and the light cruiser San Juan. The heavy cruisers New Orleans, Northampton, and Pensacola, and the light cruiser Honolulu were stationed at Espiritu Santo. These last two, together with the heavy cruiser Minneapolis which arrived on the 27th, had come from Pearl Harbor. Here also on the 27th were the destroyers Drayton (which had accompanied the Minneapolis), Fletcher Maury, and Perkins.
On 27 November, these 5 cruisers and 4 destroyers at Espiritu Santo were grouped in to a separate task force, Task Force William, under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, with general instructions from Halsey to intercept any Japanese surface forces approaching Guadalcanal. Admiral Kinkaid prepared a detailed set of operational orders for the Force, but, before he could go over them with his captains, he was ordered to other duty. He was replaced by Rear Admiral Carleton H. Wright, who had just made port in the Minneapolis.

Task Force William consisted of four heavy cruisers: Minneapolis, New Orleans, Northampton and Pensacola. Admiral Wright was embarked in Minneapolis;
One light cruiser: Honolulu, with RADM Tisdale embarked; Four destroyers: Drayton, Fletcher, Maury, Perkins. USS Fletcher was the fleet's newest and most powerful destroyer. Her CO, Commander William M. Cole, was in charge of the destroyer unit.

On 29 November the Task Force was moored at Espiritu Santo on 12 hours notice for getting underway. Admiral Wright held a conference, attended by Admiral Tisdale and the commanding officers of the 9 ships, at which the operation plan drawn up by Admiral Kinkaid was "briefly discussed."

At 1940 Admiral Wright received orders to prepare to depart with his force at the earliest possible moment, and to proceed at the best possible speed to intercept an enemy group of 6 destroyers and 6 transports which was expected to arrive off Guadalcanal the next night. He directed Task Force WILLIAM to make all preparations necessary to get under way immediately, and advised COMSOPAC that his ships would be ready to sortie at midnight.

Three hours later COMSOPAC ordered Admiral Wright to proceed with all available units, pass through Lengo Channel (between Guadalcanal and Florida Islands), and intercept the Japanese off Tassafaronga on the northwestern shore of Guadalcanal. Later, Admiral Wright received information that enemy combatant ships might be substituted for the transports, or that the Japanese force might consist wholly of destroyers, and that a hostile landing might be attempted off Tassafaronga earlier than 2300, 30 November. He received no further advices respecting the size or composition of the opposing units.

Admiral Wright promptly put into effect, with minor modifications, Admiral Kinkaid's operation plan, and set midnight as the zero hour for his ships to sortie. Actually the destroyers got under way at 2310, the cruisers at 2335. The whole Force cleared the well-mined, unlighted harbor of Espiritu Santo without incident and shaped its course to pass northeast of San Cristobal Island.

 Task Force WILLIAM cleared Lengo Channel at 2225 at a speed of 20 knots. Its average speed made good from midnight, 29 November, when it left Espiritu Santo until it entered Lengo Channel at 2140, 30 November, was 28.2 knots. The cruisers steamed in column, 1,000 yards apart, while the destroyers in the van bore 300° T., 4,000 yards from the Minneapolis. The night was very dark, the sky completely overcast. Maximum surface visibility was not over 2 miles.

Admiral Wright had prepositioned sea planes from the cruisers at Tulagi. Their instructions were to take off in time to patrol the area between Cape Esperance and Lunga Point starting at 2200. They carried flares to drop at Admiral Wright's command. The rest of Admiral Wright's plan depended on using the Navy's new SG surface search radar to gain the advantage of surprise. The four destroyers were in the van (ahead), followed by the cruisers steaming in column 1,000 yards apart. Two additional destroyers, Lamson and Lardner, joined the force at 2100, bringing up the rear. Lamson's CO, Commander Abercrombie, was senior to Cole, but had no copies of the plan, no surface radar, and no knowledge of what was going on. He was therefore unable to assume command of the destroyer force.

At 2306, Minneapolis' SG radar picks up two objects off Cape Esperance. At 2316, Cdr Cole, in accordance with the plan, requested permission to launch torpedo attack on enemy formation of 5 ships, distant 7,000 yards.

About 2321, Admiral Wright ordered ships to commence firing star shells (for illumination) and explosive shells. Apparently TF 67 had caught the Japanese by surprise. The force engaged eight Japanese destroyers or cruisers using fire control radar for aiming. After a few minutes, four of the radar targets disappeared from the radar and some were visually seen to explode and sink.

There was some confusion in attempts to correlate ranges and bearings of Japanese ships, but as of 2326, it appeared that TF67 had won a great victory.

At 2327 a Japanese torpedo struck Minneapolis', blowing off her bow. The ship kept firing until her engineering plant failed and lost power. At 2328, New Orleans was torpedoed, losing her bow as far aft as Turret II. At 2329, a torpedo struck Pensacola on the port side aft, the ship erupted in flames, and fire raged for hours. At 2348, Northampton was torpedoed. Despite valiant efforts to save her, she finally sank about 0300.

Thus, within a few minutes, what had seemed a great victory turned into a resounding loss. One US heavy cruiser sunk, three out of action for months, 395 sailors killed.

As it turned out, only one Japanese destroyer was lost and 197 killed.

Even so, TF67 succeeded in preventing Japanese resupply of their troops on Guadalcanal.

The battle revealed continuing shortcomings in the use of radar.

The surface force was not yet aware that reliability problems affecting submarine torpedoes also applied to those launched by surface ships. Corrective action was many months away.

But damage control and firefighting crews performed magnificently. It is almost inconceivable that Minneapolis, New Orleans and Pensacola were saved and lived to fight another day.
New Orleans at Tulagi

 Minneapolis at Tulagi

 The US Navy still did not know how powerful and effective Japanese type 93 surface-launched torpedoes were. Admiral Wright, in his after action report, still thought the sips had been torpedoed by undetected submarines. There were, after all, no Japanese surface ships within what we believed to be torpedo range.

We would not learn of their technological superiority until later in 1943, when intact torpedoes were captured.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Good Piece By Bruce Bartlett

I've been reading articles by Bruce Bartlett recently with a sense of wonder. As in, I wonder when and why he started to make good sense.

Here, he answers that question in an article in The American Conservative.

I admire writers and thinkers who are concerned with policies that work (or could work) instead of personalities or doctrine.

Good for Bruce Bartlett.

As for his revelations about the Murdoch empire - suspicions confirmed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lincoln - Go See The Movie

We went to see "Lincoln" this afternoon. Everyone should see it. Not because of the great acting, though that was at least serviceable.

See it for the politics.

If you still think that the present exchange of vitriole among American political figures is unusual in our history, the movie should disabuse you of that notion.

The plot is centered on events leading to approval by the House of Representatives of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery. You might think this would be a slam dunk for Union politicians, especially Republicans. You'd be wrong.

See the movie and find out why.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Nationwide Gas Rationing

There's a war on, you know! The soldiers need gasoline. And rubber is in short supply. November 26 saw nationwide gas rationing.

Take a look here at rationing books, stickers, stamps and rules.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scratching My Head Over GMO Amendment

I just took a look at the agenda for the Oriental Town Board meeting on December 4. A public hearing has been announced to discuss Growth Management Ordinance amendments addressing Adult Bookstores, Adult Entertainment, Internet Sweepstakes/Electronic Gaming, and Tattoo Parlors.

You can find the proposed texts here. Be sure to check it out soon - postings on the town web site are frequently removed rather quickly.

I'm sure there's a rational explanation for why the town is expending so much effort and concern on this subject, but danged if I can figure it out.

Tony Tharp, one of our erstwhile journalists, has tried to figure it out as well. Here's his take on it.

I could be wrong, but as far as I can tell, there is no place inside the town limits of Oriental that meets all the criteria set forth in the draft ordinances.

On the off chance that I'm wrong, one proposed ordinance measure for internet sweepstakes requires a $5,000 fee for a permit and a $2,500 fee per terminal or connection point, including wireless. The maximum number of terminals allowed is six. That adds up to $20,000 in fees just to get started. Plus a proposed annual tax of $2,500 per business and $500 per gaming machine in operation or stored on the premises. That adds up to $5,500.

By the way, we do not currently tax any business. For the past several years one of our board members repeatedly claimed that our fee for a sign permit ($25) was driving businesses out of Oriental.

Surely someone can explain all of this to me.

A Notable Passing

I never know how to react when I learn that a contemporary has passed on.

Dean Faulkner was William Faulkner's niece and stepdaughter. I knew who she was when we were both students at Ole Miss. I don't know if she knew me. A friend of mine dated her from time to time.

She was the last living Faulkner. Last year she published a memoir of the Faulkner family. I need to read it.

I'm sorry I'll never have the chance to discuss it with her.

She was a literary figure in her own right.

The end of an era.

Hostess Demise

Michael Hiltzik, writing in the Los Angeles Times, makes it pretty clear that Hostess' problems were caused by management, not the unions.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied W. Edwards Deming's insights into quality control. He attributes 85-90 percent of quality control problems in any enterprise to management, rather than workers.

It is clear from Hiltzik's summary, citing chapter and verse, that Hostess' problems could have been resolved long ago by exercising quality control. Instead, they rewarded their top level magement and raided the pension funds.

It's an all too common story.

But it helps keep up the income share of the top decile.

And then there's this observation.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Broken Income Distribution System

This is a nice display over time of the percentage of national income received by the top decile (tenth). So why should the top 10% receive half of all national income? Because they are so productive? So essential to the economy? Because they make so many things? If you believe any of those explanations, you've never met one.

These are the real moochers, parasites or leeches. Our economy worked better when the top decile received only about a third of the national income.

Even that is a disproportionate reward for what they contribute to society.

We should so manage our economy as to promote general prosperity, not to promote increased concentration of wealth at the top. It works better that way.

Do We Have A Broken Election System?

Today's New York Times has an editorial addressing how to fix a broken election system.

Some of the ideas make sense and some of the comments are especially pertinent.

On the other hand, relatively few of the problems identified by the NY Times affect elections in North Carolina.

In Pamlico County, our election system is not broken. It functions quite well. Can it be improved? Yes.

Our voter turnout exceeded the state average - 71% for Pamlico County; 68% for the state of North Carolina. We make it easy for voters to cast their ballots by conducting early voting for longer hours, having many voting locations (ten polling places for 9600 registered voters), and having well-trained election officials.

Unlike other locations in North Carolina and around the nation, we had no long lines. Most of the time, the longest wait was about five minutes. We did have printer breakdowns at two locations, and the line grew to about half an hour at Arapahoe until we installed backup equipment and procedures to keep the lines moving.

A major factor in our success has been thorough planning and preparation. That happens because we have a superb Director of Elections: Lisa Bennett. Pamlico County is fortunate to have her.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More On The Dust Bowl

I was born in Oklahoma in 1937, near the end of the Dust Bowl period. I was a couple of hundred miles east of the Dust Bowl, in Tulsa. By the time of my first memories, about 1939, the Dust Bowl catastrophe was abating.

In 1949, I was in the eighth grade in a rural school east of Oklahoma City. As a part of our elementary school curriculum, eighth grade boys had to take a course in agriculture. I think the girls took home economics.

We boys learned about measures to take to control erosion by wind and water. We learned about planting wind rows of trees between the fields to moderate the wind. We learned about contour plowing and crop rotation, and natural methods of controlling agricultural pests. We learned about use of natural fertilizer and the benefits of using legumes, including alfalfa, in crop rotation. Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil and reduce the need for artificial fertilizers.

All of these methods were put into place out in the Oklahoma panhandle, and the dust bowl began to subside.

But it came back. In 1950 and 1951, whenever there was a sustained wind from the west, we would have vast sand storms in Oklahoma City. The storms would dim the sun and occasionally mid day would look like late evening. This was the beginning of another period of drought that lasted seven years.

In June of 1954, I flew from Denver to Tulsa by way of Amarillo and Oklahome City. Our twin-engine Convair flew low enough that I could see drifts of sand across Southeast Colorado, Eastern New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle and Western Oklahoma. The sand piled up at each fence corner.

It looked pretty grim.

By 1957 the drought was over.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New Research: Velociraptor Resembles A Turkey

As you sit down tomorrow to feast on turkey, bear in mind that our holiday bird is about the same size and appearance as the Velociraptors of Jurassic Park fame.

Here's the story.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pamlico County Elections Wrapping Up

Yesterday was the deadline for any candidate to request a recount. There was no such request for any candidate for a Pamlico County office.

Today at 5:00 was the deadline for any election protest concerning irregularities (other than counting of votes - that protest deadline was November 16). No such protest was received for any Pamlico County contest.

The statutory date to begin to issue certificates of election to winning candidates is November 22. Since that is Thanksgiving day, we will hold off until next week.

The Dust Bowl

The past two nights, public television broadcast Ken Burns' new documentary on the Dust Bowl. Very powerful!

The dust bowl was a man-made ecological disaster. Billed by PBS as the worst ecological disaster in American history, I am not entirely convinced. I think we have made equally destructive ecological disasters, just not as concentrated in geography and time.

The most powerful aspect of the movie was the in-depth interviews with dust bowl survivors, all children at the time. Their recollections are moving and revealing. Much of what they have to say might caution us about the new disasters we are creating in climate, in wetlands, by contributing to sea level rise, etc.

The movie is worth watching again and again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Election Wrap Up: Getting Close - No Statewide Recount

Last week, there was still a possibility of a statewide recount of the race for Lt.  Governor. According to press reports, the margin between the two candidates was small enough to allow a request for a recount. There was also the possibility of a court challenge to NC provisional ballot procedures, and the possibility of a request for copies of the cover of all provisional ballots with non-public records (drivers license, social security number and date of birth) redacted. Responding to such a request would be a large undertaking.

This morning, we received notice from the State Board of Elections that Lt. Governor candidate Linda Coleman has decided not to seek a recount and has asked that her public records request of last week be withdrawn. There will be a few district and county recounts, but so far as we know, there will be none involving Pamlico County.

As an aside, my observation is that, given the procedures and equipment used in North Carolina, there is little likelihood that any recount will result in a different outcome.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

House Of Representatives Problem

D.R. and M.D., writing in The Economist blog Democracy in America, take issue with Speaker Boehner's claim that the American people have given the House of Representatives a mandate by electing a Republican majority. They point out that the American people gave more votes to Democratic candidates for the house than to Republican members and attribute the Republican majority to successful gerrymandering:

Their blog post is interesting, because it addresses a number of problems with some of our historical assumptions about representation. The main issue the blog post addresses is that the maldistribution of seats in the house.

The authors do point out that "It is not the first time that a party has won a majority of seats in the House despite receiving fewer votes than its rival. Mr Gingrich’s team won re-election and a 26-seat majority in 1996, on 47.8% of the vote to 48.1% for the Democrats. In 1942 Sam Rayburn managed to attain a 13-seat majority for the Democrats in the mid-terms, even though his party won 46% of the vote to the Republicans’ 51% (small wonder that Rayburn holds the record as the longest-serving speaker). But rarely does it produce such a skewed result as we've seen in the House this year."

Actually, Sam Rayburn's accomplishment is less impressive when you realize it took place in an era before the Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Carr which established the principle of "one person, one vote." In other words, each member of Congress must represent an approximately equal number of citizens. That was not the case in 1942.

D.R. and M.D. tentatively suggest proportional representation as a way to avoid this problem, and then quickly back off because it would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I'm not so sure. The Constitution doesn't even mention Congressional Districts. There may be ways without such an amendment.

I posted some thoughts on the subject last May:

Some of the ills of congress are built into our constitution. The US Senate, for example, which likes to characterize itself as "the world's greatest deliberative body" is arguably the "free world's" least democratic body. That is, first of all, a consequence of the constitutional arrangement that each state, regardless of size or economic output, have an equal number of senators. This is compounded by the increasingly inexplicable commitment of the senate to the requirement of a supermajority of senators to pass any legislation at all. My solution to that: get rid of paper filibusters imposed by the cloture rule. Let's go back to "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" style of filibuster. Filibusters would become more rare because voters could see what was happening and better understand what it was about.

Some republicans want to fix the senate by repealing the seventeenth amendment providing direct popular election of senators. What, we have too much democracy?

A common complaint about the House of Representatives is "My representative doesn't listen to people like me."

Some advocate term limits to fix this. I say, we already have term limits. Elections. What we don't have is enough representatives.

We are going through redistricting right now. This is the process after every decenniel census (except for the 1920 census - there was not a reapportionment after that census). First Congress reapportions seats in the House of Representatives to the states according to population. District boundaries are then redrawn by state legislatures and in some cases by courts.

Contrary to popular opinion, the number of seats in the House of Representatives is not in the Constitution. But the number has not changed since it was set at 435 in 1911. At that time, each member of the House represented about 216,000 citizens. Since then, our population has more than tripled, but the number remains the same. Now each member represents about 708,000 constituents.

My suggestion: enlarge the House so that each member represents about 216,000 citizens. With modern communications systems, that would allow the members closer communication with constituents. It would also lower the financial and organizational barriers to running for office. It might reduce the influence of money in politics and even create opportunities for more political parties to become competitive.

How many representatives would we have? About 1,426. Admittedly, that might make the body even more unwieldy, but it might just as well force more cooperation. It would certainly induce representatives to be more responsive to constituents.

How could we accommodate so many representatives? Replace the desks on the floor of the House with benches. Reduce representatives' personal staffs. Currently, members are allowed to hire as many as eighteen personal staffers. Reduce that to five per member. Representatives might have to study bills themselves, possibly answer phones and write some of their own correspondence. But they wouldn't have to raise so much money.

Originally Posted May 29, 2012 

Note: I would actually prefer proportional representation. Failing that unlikely outcome, a possible (but not necessary) consequence of enlarging the House might be to increase the possibility of third (or fourth...) parties. It might at least make it harder to have the kind of lock step voting patterns we see on the Republican side of the House today.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pamlico County Election Canvass

Ten days after the election, every county board of elections meets at 11:00 a.m to make the preliminary count made on election day official. That happened yesterday all across North Carolina. In finalizing the count, the board considers timely absentee votes submitted by mail that were received after election day (we had eleven) as well as provisional ballots cast on election day.

In Pamlico County, sixty-three provisional ballots were cast. When we examined those sixty-three ballots, we determined that twenty-five of them met the legal criteria to be accepted as legal votes. The thirty-eight ballots that were rejected will still be processed as voter registration requests and many of the provisional voters will be added to the county's voter registration rolls.

Next Thursday, November 22, the county board will issue certificates of election for every contest involving only county offices, in the absence of a demand for recount or an election protest.  As of this writing, we do not anticipate a local recount or protest.

There remain two possibilities for a statewide recount: one congressional seat not involving Pamlico County and one statewide contest - that for Lieutenant Governor.

Once the election is truly over, I will have a few words to say about various candidates. In the meantime, my interest remains policy and process, not individual candidates.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Racist Dog Whistle Factory: Lee Atwater

"You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Lee Atwater, 1981

Here's a complete article from The Nation with complete audio of a 1981 conversation with Lee Atwater.

Life Expectancy

There are a lot of more or less rational arguments that can be raised in favor of changing some social and economic policies. One that does not withstand close examination is the idea that we should increase retirement age because "we are all living longer."

It turns out that "all" is a bit of an exaggeration.

In fact, it turns out that the life expectancy at age 65 of the lowest quarter (25%) of US males is down close to the life expectancy found in Eastern Europe. Not good.

Here is a link to some interesting graphs.

By the way, life expectancy for white people in America with less than a high school education is declining, as shown here.

Washington Post Fact Checking

I have mixed views about the proliferation of "fact checkers" as a specialty in many newspapers. I am of the view that reporters themselves should verify the truth of assertions made by interviewees, rather than "he-said, she-said" reports equating two sides. For one thing, there are often if not usually more than two sides to any controversy.

On balance, it is better to have fact checking than not. Still, it is not clear that we must trust the objectivity of the "fact checkers" themselves. Who checks the "fact checkers."

I have been particularly disappointed in the Washington Post "fact checker," Glenn Kessler. Particularly in the area of the national economy, he has from time to time awarded numerous "pinocchios" to statements that were actually true.

Today Kessler takes on Senator John McCain's comments about UN Ambassador Susan Rice's comments on "Face The Nation" on September 16 concerning the Benghazi raid. Kessler reviews the statement and makes it absolutely clear that John McCain completely misrepresents her comments and the context of them. In short, McCain's attack on Rice is a lie.

Kessler awards McCain two pinocchios.

Here is Kessler's scale:

"The Pinocchio Test
Where possible, we will adopt the following standard in fact-checking the claims of a politician, political candidate, diplomat or interest group.

One Pinocchio
Some shading of the facts. Selective telling of the truth. Some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods.

Two Pinocchios
Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people.

Three Pinocchios
Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.

Four Pinocchios

Reasonable people can differ as to whether Kessler's own fact checking justifies four pinocchios  or only three. But two? No way!

Seventy Years Ago: Naval Battle Of Guadalcanal, Phase II

The first phase, November 12-13 of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal had resulted in the deaths of US Admirals Scott and Callaghan and the loss of two light cruisers and four destroyers. Japan lost battleship Hiei, two destroyers and seven transports.

Admiral Abe withdrew his forces, including his remaining battleship, Kirishima one light cruiser and eleven destroyers. Yamamoto postponed the planned Japanese landing on Guadalcanal until November 15.

The US had paid a high price for a two-day delay. Callaghan's forces thought they had won a great victory. Subsequent analysis revealed that Callaghan's force disposition failed to make best use of the capabilities of radar, with which he was unfamiliar, and that he had issued unclear and confusing orders.

The truth is, that once again Japanese training in night combat operations and superior Japanese torpedoes had inflicted a tactical defeat on American forces.

Strategically, Callaghan and Scott had turned back the Japanese invasion force.

Japan remained committed to reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal and pushing the Americans off the island. They started the force back toward Guadalcanal, with battleship Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and nine destroyers under command of Rear Admiral Kondo.

Halsey had few undamaged forces to send in to the fray. He dare not send the damaged Enterprise into a night time engagement. But he decided to send most of Enterprise's escorts, including four destroyers and the fleet's newest battleships, USS South Dakota (BB-57) and USS Washington (BB-58) under command of Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, embarked in Washington.

Admiral Lee understood radar. He also understood tactics. He spent much of the evening of November 14 discussing how to use the ship's radar with Washington's commanding officer and gunnery officer. They knew what to do.

About 2300 that evening, Washington and South Dakota radars detected the Japanese forces, now under command of Admiral Kondo, in the vicinity of Savo Island. All ships were at general quarters (battle stations) and expecting action.

A few minutes after spotting the Japanese force, both Washington and South Dakota opened fire. The four US destroyers engaged the Japanese cruisers. Within minutes, two were sunk by Japanese torpedoes, a third had lost her bow, and the fourth took a hit in the engine room, taking her out of the action.

That left two new, untried battleships in defense of Guadalcanal.

The Japanese spotted South Dakota and brought all their guns to bear. Between midnight and 0030, the battleship was hit by 26 Japanese projectiles, none of which penetrated her armor. But about that time, South Dakota suffered a series of electrical failures, rendering her blind (no radar), dumb (no radio communications) and somewhat lame, though she suffered no major structural damage. She steered away from the action, in the direction of a previously agreed rendezvous point.

The electrical failures may have been caused by failure of automatic bus transfer switches (ABT) to work properly. Similar failures may have contributed to loss of Yorktown at Midway.

In any event, this left USS Washington alone against a Japanese battleship, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and as many as nine destroyers still effective.  The Japanese were still concentrating their fire on South Dakota and failed to spot Washington as she approached the action.

Once Admiral Lee was certain who was friend and foe, Washington opened fire on Kirishima at a range of about 9,000 yards. Kirishima and the destroyer Ayanami were badly damaged and burning. Both ships were scuttled and abandoned about 0325.

Believing the way clear for the invasion force, Kondo withdrew his remaining ships

The four Japanese transports beached themselves at Tassafaronga on Guadalcanal by 04:00 on 15 November, and the escort destroyers raced back up the Slot toward safer waters. Aircraft from Henderson field attacked the transports beginning about 0600, joined by field artillery from ground forces. Only 2,000–3,000 of the Japanese troops originally embarked actually made it to Guadalcanal, and most of their ammunition and food supplies were lost.

This was the last major attempt by Japan to establish control of the seas around Guadalcanal and to retake the island, though there would be more skirmishes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

To Save A Woman's Life - Or Not

Here's a link to an account of a pregnant woman who was in essence tortured to death in a Galway hospital.

Judging from this Spring's Republican primary election debates, this is the kind of country some Republicans want us to become. Can any of them sense the cruelty of it?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Naval Battle Of Guadalcanal

For almost three months, Japanese forces had tried mightily to dislodge the Marines from Guadalcanal, without success. Every Japanese effort to reinforce their army forces on the island had been thwarted or at least limited by the US Navy.

Japan had achieved major successes against the US Navy, including submarine attacks on USS Saratoga and battleship North Carolina, under repair at Pearl Harbor. In late October, Japan sank the carrier USS Hornet and thought they might have sunk Enterprise. Now they planned to send a powerful surface force to bombard Henderson Field, where the "Cactus Air Force" of Marine, Navy and Army aircraft continued to operate with deadly effect against Japanese naval forces trying to reinforce Guadalcanal.

The night of November 12/13, 1942, the Japanese bombardment force under Admiral Abe approached the area, passing south of Savo Island, with two battleships, a light cruiser and thirteen escorting destroyers. The battleships were armed with high explosive projectiles to do maximum damage against the aircraft and fuel dumps at Henderson Field. Such projectiles would be of limited use against battleships and heavy cruisers, but Abe expected no opposition.

The Enterprise had not been sunk. She was undergoing urgent repair at the harbor of Noumea.  Her formation was still a powerful force: the fast battleships Washington and South Dakota, the heavy cruiser Northampton, the light cruiser San Diego and six destroyers were protecting her. 

At Espiritou Santo, moreover, Halsey retained Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner's transport units, to conduct another supply run to be completed by 12 November. In his force were seven transports carrying the 1st Marine Aviation Engineer Regiment, the U.S. Army's 182nd Infantry (National Guard) Regiment and supplies to sustain the forces on the island. Turner had a very potent escort: heavy cruisers Portland and San Francisco, light cruisers Helena, Atlanta and Juneau, plus nine destroyers. Turner move his forces in two separate moves, first the Engineers on three transports, with Atlanta and three destroyers as escorts, under command of Rear-Admiral Norman C. Scott, victor at Cape Esperance. Turner himself would take the rest of the forces, with his escorts under command of Rear-Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, former Chief-of-Staff to Admiral Ghormley.       

Halsey had an advantage: advance knowledge from COMINT of Japanese plans. He realized that every US gain to that point was at stake. But he could only get a third of his forces underway in time. Enterprise and her screen, augmented by heavy cruiser Pensacola, departed Nouméa; but they would not arrive in time to stop the Japanese. Admiral Turner's transports reached Guadalcanal in the early hours of 12 November, and commenced unloading rapidly.

The evening of November 12, Turner withdrew his transports with a weak escort force and left the area. He left behind a force combining Admiral Callaghan's forces with those of Admiral Scott, under command of Callaghan, who was two weeks senior to Scott, who had been victorious in the surface engagement at Cape Esperance a month earlier. This may have been a bad choice. Callaghan had no combat experience and no experience or understanding of radar. What he did have was courage.

About 0130 on November 13, Callaghan's force of two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers and eight destroyers stumbled across Abe's force of two battleships, a light cruiser and thirteen destroyers.

In a confused and brutal night engagement, both Admiral Scott and Admiral Callaghan died in battle (Scott possibly from USS San Francisco's friendly fire), the US Navy lost two light cruisers and four destroyers. Admiral Abe lost one battleship (Hiei), two destroyers and seven transports. 

Japan did not succeed in landing reinforcements.

But the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was not yet over.

Reflections On Elections

Elections are a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for democracy. By that, I mean representative democracy, which is the only kind that has a chance of functioning in a large nation. But what constitutes representation?

Nearly half of our voters are dissatisfied with the outcome of the presidential election. In North Carolina, more than half of our voters are dissatisfied with the outcome of Congressional elections.

After each election, there appear criticisms and suggestions for how to fix problems.

From my perspective as an election official of the State of North Carolina, I think we have a pretty good system. This reflects sound decisions made years ago by the North Carolina Board of Elections and by my county, Pamlico County.

I plan to make specific comments about problems and possible solutions. I wouldn't trade our problems for those of other states such as Florida and Ohio.

The New York Times posted an interesting discussion on the question of whether our voting system(s) need to be fixed.

In the next days and weeks I plan to add my thoughts to the mix.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jobs First - Deficits Later

I've been writing about economics on this blog for a couple of years. My comments are based on a pretty careful reading of scholarly works on the economy and the data scholars have collected and analyzed.

I conclude we don't have a deficit problem. Not right now. Deficits do matter (despite Cheney's observation about Reagan), but not now. Right now we need to put Americans back to work. Then they can pay down their debt, pay more taxes and help the government pay down its debt. Just like Bill Clinton planned in the late '90's.

Here are a couple of pointed comments by scholars.

And Now A Word From David Frum

David Frum, George W. Bush speechwriter, appeared on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC. Here is what Frum had to say about the Republican Party:

I believe the Republican Party is a party of followership. The problem with the Republican leaders is that they're cowards.... The real locus of the problem is the Republican activist base and the Republican donor base. They went apocalyptic over the past four years. And that was exploited by a lot of people in the conservative world. I won't soon forget the lupine smile that played over the head of a major conservative institution when he told me that our donors think the apocalypse has arrived.

Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex.... Because the followers, the donors and the activists are so mistaken about the nature of the problems the country faces the nature--I mean, it's just a simple question. I went to Tea Party rallies and I would ask this question: "have taxes gone up or down in the past four years?" They could not answer that question correctly. Now it's true that taxes will go up if the President is re-elected. That's why we're Republicans. But you have to know that taxes have not gone up in the past. And "do we spend a trillion dollars on welfare?" Is that true or false? It is false. But it is almost universally believed.
That means that the leaders have no space to operate.
Painted themselves into a corner? Not sure I believe that.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Southwest Pacific - Noumea

November 11, 1942. USS Enterprise, under repair at Noumea, gets underway with repair crews from the tender Vestal still on board. Assisting in repairs was a 75-man detachment of Seabees.

The commanding officer of Enterprise, Captain Osborne Bennett "Ozzie B" "Oby" Hardison, USN (USNA- Class 1916, North Carolina) reported to the Navy Department that "The emergency repairs accomplished by this skillful, well-trained, and enthusiastically energetic force have placed this vessel in condition for further action against the enemy." That was a matter of opinion, though her crew had no doubts.

Enterprise, damaged though she was, was the only remaining operational carrier in the Pacific. As she headed for more combat, a fuel tank was leaking, her watertight integrity was compromised, and one aircraft elevator was still jammed from bomb damage from October 26. The flight deck crew posted a sign: "Enterprise vs. Japan."

Why We Should Still Observe Armistice Day

June 18, 1914, a 19-year old Serbian (or Yugoslav) nationalist named Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne during a state visit to Sarajevo.

During the Austrian investigation and trial, police learned that Princip had been recruited, equipped and trained for the mission by the intelligence service of the Kingdom of Serbia. When Serbia refused to turn over those responsible to Austria, Austria declared war on Serbia. Russia came to Serbia's defense and declared war on Austria. Germany came to Austria's defense. France came to the defense of Russia. England joined with France in defense of Belgium.

All of these mobilizations were governed by prewar treaties.

Over the ensuing four years, 65 million European soldiers and sailors were mobilized. In 1917, they were joined by nearly five million Americans. Eight and a half million died in battle, 21 million were wounded and nearly eight million captured.

The forces of Austria-Hungary suffered 90 percent casualties (dead, wounded, captured). Germany had 65% casualties; Russia 76%; British Empire 36%; France 73%; Italy 39%; United States 7%. That doesn't include civilian deaths in Belgium and Poland from a brutal occupation, 20 million from the ensuing Russian civil war or countless other internal and international conflicts after the Armistice.

By the time of the Armistice, Europe was exhausted by war. The Russian, Austro-Hungarian, German and Turkish empires were falling apart. The British and French empires were badly wounded.

We are still picking up the pieces in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Aegean, Central Asia and the remnants of European colonies in South and Southeast Asia.

If we still observed Armistice Day, it would provide us with an annual "teachable moment" to recall the profound connections between that time and our own.

Armistice Day

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns fell silent along the vast earthen fortifications known as the trenches. The earthen forts stretched from the North Sea coast of Belgium along a winding frontier between warring forces to the French frontier with Switzerland.

It was not a surrender, but an armistice.

Thus ended, at least on the Western Front, the "War to end wars."

Until 1954, we celebrated November 11th as Armistice Day and commemorated the event by wearing artificial poppies in the lapel.

In 1954 the day of observance was renamed "Veteran's Day" in the US.

I prefer "Armistice Day." It commemorates an actual event, rather than a bland, undifferentiated recognition of veterans.

It also conveys the transitory nature of the termination of that conflict.

The war didn't end all wars.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Democrats Win Vote For House Of Representatives!

That's an accurate headline. Across the nation, Democratic candidates for Congress received 54,301,095 votes while Republicans got 53,822,442.Pretty close, but a majority voted for Democrats.

However, Republicans won more seats in the House of Representatives and hold a 234-194 majority, with 7 seats undecided.

So they lost the popular vote but won the election? Even with all the voter suppression measures in Republican-dominated states? How did they do that?

Gerrymandering. Details here.

In North Carolina, the result of Republican redistricting was that while President Obama received 49% of the votes, only 31% of the seats in the Congressional delegation went to Democrats. The ratio was even worse in other states.

Why did this happen? The short answer is, the Republican blitzkrieg of 2010. They brought national funds and nationwide organization techniques to local elections.

We saw it right here in Pamlico County.

The result of the Republican takeover of the NC General Assembly was the redrawing of districts to favor Republican candidates.

This sort of thing has been going on since the dawn of the Republic, but never before has so much money and such sophisticated tools been placed in the hands of political operatives.

Who benefits?

Who pays?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Public Employees And Public Service

New York's subway system is mostly back in operation. New Jersey's not so much.

Half of the system's underwater tunnels (seven out of fourteen) were partially or completely submerged by Hurricane Sandy. The story has all the drama of a disaster movie with the added bonus that it is true. Today's New York Times tells some of the story.

I get a bit annoyed at confident assertions by Republican candidates, millionaires all, who have never done a dangerous days' work in their lives, that the "private sector" can do it better. Do what better? Why, anything, of course. Balderdash!

A Times reader from Massachusetts put the accomplishment in perspective:

"Going into a wet, dark, possibly electrified tunnel is beyond my abilities. I am not that brave nor am I smart enough to know how to fix it. So I would like to take a moment to celebrate the intelligence of what we typically call blue collar workers. Without these smart people who build and repair homes, cars, trains, roads, and all the devices we take for granted, the rest of us would be helpless. Intelligence comes in many forms; let's celebrate the hands-on form -- mixed with superior problem-solving skils -- that fixed the transit system of one of the world's most important cities. I hope that they get paid well for this! In fact, give anyone who worked on these repairs a jacket or something (after the extra pay, of course) so others can identify and thank them."

How many of the financial "geniuses" of Wall Street who brought our economy to its knees four years ago could make the slightest contribution to keeping our real systems going? Rhetorical question. We all know the answer. The "Masters of the Universe" don't know how to design or manufacture anything or indeed to make anything but deals. Why should they be so handsomely rewarded for what they do?

Better we reward people who actually produce useful goods and perform useful services. People who work hard and do challenging, often dangerous work on behalf of all of us.

The Past Isn't Dead- It Isn't Even Past: Faulkner

Is history destiny? I found this map today in a comment on a blog entry by Noah Smith. Noah's entire post on "makers and takers" is worth reading.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

If This Be Socialism, Let Us Make The Most Of It

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Preamble, Constitution of The United States

"Article I

Section 8.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;"

Article I, Section 8, Constitution of The United States

I have noticed lately that conservatives, especially of the Tea Party variety, insist that any cooperative activity to our mutual benefit is "collectivist," and BAD, even "Socialism!"  Paul Krugman has some thoughts on that here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election's Over!

No more speeches. No more debates. No more annoying ads. No more robocalls.

No more ballots.

As a member of Pamlico County's Board of Elections, I am prohibited from publicly advocating or opposing any candidate appearing on my county's ballot. I have chosen to interpret that as prohibiting the display of yard signs or bumper stickers.

But the election is over and there is no more ballot that I am responsible for.

Today I put up a yard sign for Obama/Biden.

I can now celebrate my country.

We can be truly exceptional.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day 2012

I'm watching the scene on ABC as the network calls Ohio for Obama. The scene is an open-air crowd, obviously not Republicans. How can I tell? The diversity.

This is America's future. Even in North Carolina, which has taken what I believe is a temporary deviation from its historic course as the most progressive state of the Old South.

Demographic change is happening across the land. 

North Carolina can lead, follow or get out of the way.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Siren Song

I won't be at Tuesday night's Town Board meeting. There's an election going on, and I have to be there.

In case anyone is interested, I think Alan Arnfast makes a good case that the siren should stay at Town Hall.

In any event, I wonder if the Town has tracked down which agency is the successor to the original 1953 federal funding source and what they have to say about location.

Remembrance Of Elections Past: 2000

Elections have consequences.

Counting votes has consequences.

Supreme Court interventions have consequences.

Consequences of 2000:


John Roberts; Samuel Alito;


Twelve more years of global warming, aka climate change;

Vast increases in wealth of the top 1% of earners;

2007 economic collapse.

Cause of election outcome:

Press distortions about Al Gore;

Gore and his campaign were too polite;

Outright lies by Bush campaign given free pass.

In an earlier time, it was reasonably safe to rely on the mainstream press to provide objective coverage of elections. It was pundits (fed leaks) who did the dirty work. US law prohibited too much common ownership of media.

By 1992, the national press had pretty much shifted out of that mode.

In 1993 FOX got the rights to broadcast NFL football.

The rest is history.

Good results of 2000:

Help America Vote Act.

One More Day

Tomorrow is election day.

Unless you are a poll worker or other election official, the only thing you have to worry about is getting up and stopping by your precinct to vote. In Pamlico County, we hope election day lines won't be long - 46% of our registered voters have already cast their ballots.

We don't know how many voters will show up tomorrow, but based on four years ago, 2,500 seems like a good estimate.

Polls open at 6:30 am and close at 7:30 pm. Each polling place will count votes as soon as the polls close and announce their local results to any member of the public present. They will then deliver election records to the Board of Elections in Bayboro. County returns will be posted in the upstairs Court Room as soon as they arrive.

What happens if we have an emergency? The Board of Elections plans for contingencies so you don't have to. If there is a loss of power, we are prepared to use paper ballots in place of our voting machines. If a machine fails, we have backups. If a precinct official gets sick, we have emergency officials on call.

And we are all thankful we don't have the problems facing election officials and voters in New York and New Jersey.

The election will take place.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Standard Time Again

I really don't like the twice yearly ritual of changing clocks. It is totally irrational.

Daylight Saving Time doesn't. We have exactly the same amount of daylight today one way or the other. Here is a link to my earlier post suggesting we go back to the system before railroads - every place has its own local time based on the sundial.

Computers can handle that.

Another approach to Oriental Standard Time has already been implemented by some local citizens - abolish clocks and wrist watches.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Election Problems In Other States

North Carolina has completed early voting. In Pamlico County, we expect a few more absentee votes between now and election day. So far, 4,382 Pamlico County voters have cast ballots. That number constitutes about 46.35% of our registered voters.

No one can know how many more will vote next Tuesday. If the last presidential election is any guide, there should be at least 2,500 additional votes cast. Maybe more.

Rain is forecast for Tuesday.

But that rain will be nothing compared to the challenges facing voters and election officials in New York and New Jersey. Where will people vote? How will they get there?

New Jersey officials have decided to allow electronic voting.

In the meantime, some voters are planning to sue the Ohio Secretary of State for allegedly installing experimental software between county vote tabulation equipment and the state tabulators.

In North Carolina there is a little carping about a handful of voting machines out of calibration. In Pamlico County, we have never had a voting machine lose calibration during an election.

At election time, I'm happy to be here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Next Tuesday's Election In Oriental

In case you hadn't heard, next Tuesday is a presidential election. Many voters in Pamlico County have already cast their votes, perhaps as many as half of all likely voters. We won't know until all the ballots are in.

Holding an election involves a lot of people. Not only the voters but also the most politically active and dedicated members of the community. About 50 poll workers. Anywhere from 40 to 80 poll observers inside the polling places to observe the proceedings. Perhaps ten more "runners," to pick up lists of voters at each polling place at 10:00, 2:00 and 4:00. Citizens giving other citizens rides to the polls. Each party will staff its headquarters to analyze turnout and encourage those who have not yet voted to do so. There may be another 100 party representatives greeting voters outside the buffer zone, offering information about their party's candidates. There will be representatives of candidates and candidates themselves among the greeters.

In short, perhaps 200 to 300 of the county's most dedicated citizens may be involved in election activities. Many will not leave the polling places until after the votes are counted, perhaps 8:00 pm, perhaps later. And it is likely to be after 9:00 before the county's final vote total is available at the court house.

A high percentage of these dedicated citizens, including two members of the County Board of Elections, reside in Oriental and continue to follow town affairs.

The Oriental Town Board of Commissioners apparently seem oblivious to the schedule. Once again, they decided to have the November town board meeting Tuesday evening while the election is still going on.

I didn't succeed in getting the November meeting moved when I was on the Town Board, but I still see no reason not to reschedule meetings instead of holding them election night.

It's a shame we can't seem to get that done.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Greatest Generation?

Tom Brokaw called the generation who lived through the depression and fought World War II "the greatest generation."

I wish he hadn't.

They accomplished amazing things, but they weren't the greatest.

The greatest generation were their leaders. Born in the 19th Century, inspired by the Civil War Generation but determined to do better, forged on the anvil of World War I. Admirals Leahy, Nimitz, King, Halsey, Kimmel (who might have been great); Generals Vandegrift (USMC), Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley, MacArthur,Hap Arnold, Doolittle. This was the generation who completed the design of the profession of arms that was set in motion by the likes of Mahan.

Equally important were the civilian leaders who matured in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, influenced by America's move out into the world after the Civil War. They found it perfectly natural that America should be involved in China, Russia, Europe, and Latin America. They were schooled for it and accustomed to it. Men like Roosevelt, Hull, Knox, Stimson and others.

But wars rightfully belong not to those who plan them and lead them, the strategists, but to the GI's. The grunts. The sailors, soldiers and young officers who led them into battle, often with little idea of the aim of their effort beyond the next hill, the next ship or plane encountered, or the target in their periscope.

They are the ones who have to make it work.

Both groups are essential, but the generals and admirals can plan in perpetuity. If the soldiers and sailors can't make it happen, it won't.

My look at World War II has concentrated on the naval war in the Pacific. Surface warships are what I know best. But I am also fascinated by the inter service cooperation throughout the war. Cooperation between Navy and Marine Corps is not surprising. Marines have been proud to call themselves "soldiers of the sea," and they belong to the Department of the Navy.

But we forget how closely the Navy and Army cooperated during the war. Not only in the Doolittle raid. The Army was involved in Guadalcanal. The services worked together to invade Normandy. Army aircraft flew from Navy aircraft carriers from as early as May, 1941 to the end of the war. Army aviators used the Norden bombsight, designed by and for the Navy. The Navy flew B-24's and other planes designed for the Army. In the Southwest Pacific, Army pilots attacked ships with Navy torpedoes fitted to their B-26's. The Navy evacuated MacArthur from Corregidor.

This was cooperation, not competition.  OK, there might have been a bit of friendly competition. Like the Army-Navy game. But when there was a job to do, they did it together.

Sailors know some things civilians don't grasp. They know they are all in this together. If a ship sinks, everyone goes down with it. Even if one survives, he has lost shipmates, his home, and the ship itself, which is more than just a floating steel box. It is, for as long as sailors are aboard, the center of their lives and the core of the most intense experience they will ever have. A shared experience.

Each sailor depends on his shipmates for his very survival. If the electrician's mate doesn't keep up the batteries in the battle lanterns, men won't be able to find their way when battle damage destroys the electrical distribution system and the lights go out.

If the Water King (usually a first class petty officer) lets boiler water chemistry get out of tolerance, a boiler tube might fail, killing shipmates operating the boiler. It could slow the ship and bring it under attack. If the radar operator isn't vigilant, an enemy ship or plane might attack without warning.

It isn't about rugged individualism. It is about working together.

And none of it is for profit.