Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's in a Name?

Since the failure of the bailout plan to pass a House vote yesterday, our brave politcal leaders have developed a bold new strategy.

"Now it's not about financial institutions. The focus has switched to everyday Americans. And it's not an expenditure of taxpayer money, it's an "investment."

Rather than spending money, we are now investing money. Now I feel better. It's a great feeling knowing that we are investing money instead.

From the same Yahoo! News article.

"Let's not call it a bailout. Let's call it a rescue," said Republican John McCain.

Democratic rival Barack Obama said, "This is no longer just a Wall Street crisis — it's an American crisis, and it's the American economy that needs this rescue plan."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's take: Its not a bailout but "a buy in, so that we can turn our economy around."

Perhaps the most important change to the bailout plan is that it is no longer a bailout plan. Now it is a Rescue Plan or a Buy In!!! Although it is not clear what other changes are pending, we have changed the NAME of the plan. This is truly a decisive step that makes the plan much more palatable. Thank goodness for the leadership in Washington D.C.

I think I can smell the leadership from way over here in Pullman. On second thought, maybe it's just the smell of farmers fertilizing their fields.

USS Nautilus and Submarine Memories

Today is the anniversary of the the commissioning of the USS Nautilus. She was commissioned on September 30, 1954.

Now, I was stationed at the submarine base in Groton back in 1989. I spent about a year there and never once went to tour this historic ship. I can't think of a good reason why I never went to tour it. I guess the idea of going to look at another submarine while I had time off never appealed to me at the time, what with another submarine consuming nearly every waking hour of my life. Besides, my first boat, the USS Shark (SSN-591), was commissioned in 1961, so how different could it have been?

I do remember seeing the Nautilus many times. I remember one stretch of a few weeks where we were used as a training platform to prepare sea-returnee officers to moor a submarine. We would repeatedly get underway, go out into the Thames River, do a few donuts in the water near the Nautilus, and then come back and bump the pier, change officers, and do it all over again.

This might sound like a pretty good deal, what with not having to stay out at sea overnight, but think about how much it sucks to come in at about 4 am every single day to start up the reactor, getting underway and mooring over and over until about 1600, then shutting down after we brought shore power on. Those made for some long and miserable days.

It also had a few scary moments. I seem to remember parting a line on one trip, damaging a kleat on another occasion becuase of an improperly fastened line, and breaking some timber on the pier another time when we came in a little too fast. Think Driver's Education on Steroids. It was made even scarier for the topside line handlers. There just wasn't much room to move around on deck.

In fairness, the ship handling characteristics of the Shark probably weren't very similar to the newer classes of submarines that most of these guys probably did their first tour on, and I am sure we had many uneventful moorings, but I only seem to remember the ones that scared the heck out of me.

What kind of stories do the rest of you have about unpleasant jobs (unclassified, of course) that your boat was assigned to do while you were in the Navy?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Russian Submarine Photos

This is a series of pictures taken during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's tour of the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets.

I notice that even the Commander-in-Chief is wearing a name tag on his jacket. I think it is interesting to see how the other half lives. They do seem to have much nicer coffee cups (teacups actually) than I remember having in the crews mess. How many of those do you suppose end up at the bottom of the harbor?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Submarine News From the Other Side of the Pond

It sounds like our fellow submariners from the other side of the Atlantic are catching some hell.

From the Sunday Herald:
"Safety Blunders at the nuclear bomb bases on the Clyde have rocketed to a record high, shutting down submarine reactors, spilling radioactivity and contaminating workers."

Another quote from the Herald:

"Among the 25 "lessons learnt" listed by the MoD are indications that the workforce may have been over-stretched. "Management should be aware of the increased potential for errors through excessive work and take action where possible to guard against operator fatigue," said the report.

It warned that "external pressures" must not compromise safe operation and singled out some naval officers for criticism. "The quartermaster's position is a busy one and his areas of responsibility are numerous and diverse," the report said. "He must not allow himself to be distracted from his duties."

People being overstretched and external pressures being a distraction from duties. Where have I heard that before?

I do feel some sympathy for their sailors. It must have gotten pretty ugly there for a newspaper report like this to come out. I guess they will come out okay on the other side by keeping a stiff upper-lip. Of course, the incidents that are referenced were from 2006-2007, so perhaps they have already came out on the other side.

Buck up, little troopers!!!

Sports in the Northwest

One of the things that I missed during my time in the service was sports. It was practically impossible to follow any season from start to finish. While out at sea, our sports update was a line or two of text about some of the games that had been played, and often, all we saw was a final score. Even while I was in port, it would be difficult to keep up on the games that I wanted to see, featuring the Seattle area teams. Most of the games that I watched while I lived in Hawaii were various teams from California.

Perhaps the hardest thing to get used to was football while I lived in Guam. Monday Night Football becomes Tuesday Morning Football and Super Sunday comes on a Monday morning, one of which I spent in a classroom attending training.

In any case, one of the things that I really looked forward to when I retired and moved to Washington State was being able to watch entire seasons of college football, pro football, and pro baseball. I am not much of an NBA fan, but I would have been happy to watch the playoffs if the Seattle Sonics had gotten in. Now that I can watch most of the games, sports in the northwest have taken a sharp turn south.

Today, the end of the regular season of Major League Baseball is upon us. The Seattle Mariners, with over a $100 million payroll have already broken into 100+ loss territory, and with a loss today coupled with a Washington Nationals win, still have a chance to own the worst record in baseball this year.

The Seattle Sonics, after going 20-62 and posting the second worst record in basketball last season, have been taken from Seattle to Oklahoma City.

The Seattle Seahawks, have stumbled out of the starting gate to a 1-2 record.

The Washington State Cougars have started 1-4 with their lone win coming against lowly Portland State at home. After yesterdays game, when discussing the upcoming schedule, the commentator suggested their next win will likely have to wait until next year.

The Washington Huskies have fared even worse, starting at 0-4, setting the stage for this years Apple Cup to be a battle for last place in the Pac-10.

I tell ya, it's been a pretty rough run for sports up here in the northwest over the last year. Maybe I should take up knitting.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Presidential Candidate Debate

I just finished watching the debate between Obama and McCain. Admittedly, my mind is already made up as to which candidate I will vote for in November. I thought that both candidates did a pretty good job of presenting their positions and can't say that I was surprised by anything that either one of them said tonight.

McCain kind of hammered away at the inexperience issue by repeatedly saying "You don't understand" to Obama. This kind of puts me off a little bit, because it sounds a bit condescending and shows a lack of respect. I think if I were undecided, this might sway me towards Obama. I also like the fact that Obama agreed with McCain on several issues. I am happy to see that he will not dismiss ideas out of hand just because they came from the opposite party.

From watching some of the post-debate shows on various news channel, it doesn't sound like there was a clear "winner" from this debate. I think that helps Obama, since the topic of the debate was foreign policy, and this is one area where McCain is favored by the voting public, and I think he needed to score more points here.

I would guess that this was a pretty good debate for undecided voters, but I realize that I am not looking at this with an unbiased opinion. Did this debate help any undecided voters with their decision, and if so, what impact did it have?

Bitchy Little Kids

Well, it appears that a deal might be close on the big bailout plan. Of course, they said that same thing yesterday, but once they got behind closed-doors to negotiate:

"The White House meeting -- attended by McCain, Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama, President George W. Bush and lawmakers from both parties -- "devolved into a contentious shouting match," according to a statement from the McCain campaign."

Read more from CNN

I can't say that I am too surprised by this. Our elected officials have finally detected that our economy is in a state of crisis and end up shouting at each other like a bunch of bitchy little third graders. This is not really much of a surprise, since both sides refuse to recognize that even a single good idea can come from the other party. Even the ones that say they will work across party lines are frequently doing nothing more than paying lip service to the idea of bipartisanship.

Both sides are too cowardly to agree on and pass a bill which is sure to piss off the American taxpayers. If you help out people that have borrowed more than they can afford, then you offend all the taxpayers that have borrowed responsibly. If you bail out the large companies and allow CEO's to leave their companies with their fortunes intact, you piss off the taxpayers that are left to bail that company out. If you don't limit the pay of CEO's of companies participating in the bailout, again, more pissed off people.

In the meantime, the bickering will continue with Republicans blaming Democrats for making unreasonable demands and with Democrats blaming Republicans for making unreasonable demands.

All this time, the American economy will be slowly sinking in the quicksand while our elected officials stand beside the pit holding a life line, arguing about whether the life line should be tied tightly around the American taxpayer's neck or whether it should be tied tightly around the American taxpayer's testicles.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Letterman slams John McCain

In John McCain's rush to Washington D.C. to provide leadership in this time of economic crisis, he has suspended political campaigning, stated that he will withdraw from this Friday's debate with Obama if a plan to save the economy is not approved, and withdrew from an interview with David Letterman on tonight's "Late Night With David Letterman" show.

I am sure we will be hearing the talking points from both sides of this action. The McCain campaign will be showing how this demonstrates McCain's "Country First" platform and the Obama campaign is already talking about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

In the meantime, David Letterman was told by John McCain that he would be unable to make it to the shooting of his interview for Letterman's show because he was rushing back to Washington D.C. immediately. Letterman's show then set up an interview with the anti-McCain, Keith Olbermann. It turns out that, rather than rushing to the airport to get back to D.C., McCain was, at that very moment, being prepared for an interview with Katie Couric only three blocks away. Letterman decided not to take this lying down.

I love it when politicians open themselves up to this kind of stuff.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

USS Nebraska tragedy

I think the cause has already been floating around the rumor mill for a day or so, but the Navy Times has verified that the injury resulting in the tragic death of a Machinist Mate Third Class on Saturday was caused when he become entangled and pinned in the rudder ram while cleaning.

Here is a link to the Navy Times article.

Again, my prayers are with the sailor's family, friends, and shipmates.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Submarine sailor killed in accident off Hawaii

From KHNL in Hawaii:

"The U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force says a sailor died in an apparent accident on board a ballistic missile submarine off Oahu over the weekend."

Here is a link to the story. Not many details about what happened yet, but I am sure more will come out in the next few days.

My prayers are with the family and friends of the sailor and with the crew of the USS Nebraska.

Financial Bailouts

I am sure that everyone has heard about the $700 Billion bailout plan for institutions that are suffering due to the bad mortgages. From what I have read, I gather that our government is going to purchase the bad debt at a reduced price and then sell the debt off to the highest bidder to recoup some of the taxpayer money that they are injecting into the system. Now, I am not an economics guru, but it sounds to me like the government is going to turn all of the people that have defaulted on loans over to collection agencies.

If they don't do this, the general feeling is that the credit market will tighten further and companies and businesses depending on credit will go out of business making the problem much worse than it already is.

I am absolutely furious about this. We may be at a point where there is no other choice, but this still makes me pretty angry. What bothers me most about this plan is:

1) Taxpayers are cleaning up the mess created by people overextending their credit.

2) The people running a lot of these large companies are probably personally wealthy and will still be wealthy while the average Joe is footing the bill.

3) Without a major change in leadership at these companies, which is apparently not going to be attached to this spending bill, we are giving the same boneheads that put us in this mess in the first place a chance to put us into another mess later.

Here is an AP story about the bailout plan.

What does everyone else think about this? Please feel free to comment and correct me if you think I am wrong to feel the way I do, particularly if you have more economic experience than I do.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Coast Guard versus Cocaine Submarine

A few days ago, there were some stories about the U.S. Coast Guard capturing a fiberglass and steel submarine that was filled with bales of cocaine, 7 tons in all. Can't say that I would ever want to go out to sea on a submarine like this, but apparently it had fuel and navigation capabilities that would have been sufficient to reach the United States from South America. This is a video showing a part of the pursuit and capture.

First Post

Welcome to my blog. The reason that I am starting this blog is just to sound off about things that concern me on any given day. Hopefully, everyone that comes here will get some entertainment out of their visit. Feel free to jump in and say whatever is on your mind. Thanks for reading and I am glad to have you here.