Friday, April 18, 2014

Fullbore Friday

As the Ukrainians and everyone else is learning again, international law, custom, and just plain good manners are only useful if everyone agrees to stick by them - otherwise they are about as useful and valuable as the air and paper they are on.

When power wants something, they will think about taking it. They can especially be prompted when power is facing what they see as weakness.

Weakness, however, can be deceiving. As in any venture with human beings, there is a wildcard variable there - leadership. 

Just looking on paper, what are we looking at here on a windswept island in the middle of the Atlantic. 
The General Armstrong had passed Sandy Hook on the 9th, sailing from New York (with) ... their one 42-pounder long gun and eight long 9-pounders ... On the evening of 26 September 1814, the American privateer ... lay quietly at anchor in the harbor at Fayal, in the Azores.
Keeping her company at that neutral port;
(HMS) Carnation (an) 18-gun brig ... HMS Plantagenet , a third-rate 74-gun ship-of-the-line, and HMS Rota , a 38-gun frigate.
I'm just going to pull Act II of a three act play that our friend LCDR BJ Armstrong, (USN) reviews in the latest edition of Naval History with his article, A Daring Defense in the Azores.

Privateer or not - this is clearly in the finest traditions of the naval service, and a great example for those who find themselves on paper in a hopeless situation;
The second attack began at midnight. A dozen British boats came on in close order and in single file. Reid’s men had spent the entire evening at their stations, and the General Armstrong was prepared. When all the boats were in range, the captain gave the order to fire and musket and cannon balls from the privateer smashed into the approaching craft. Sailors and marines in the boats returned fire with carronades, swivel guns, and small arms. Blasts from the privateer’s 42-pounder long gun, nicknamed “Long Tom,” however, staggered the British line. After a moment of disorder, the attackers recovered and raised three cheers. The boats then broke from the disciplined line of advance and, with tars pulling hard at their oars, raced for the American schooner, reaching her bow and starboard quarter.

As men in the boats grappled the General Armstrong ’s sides, the Americans heard British officers shout an order: “Board!” Stepping away from the big guns, the privateer’s crewmen took up any weapon at hand. With muskets, pistols, cutlasses, and boarding pikes they met the first group over the rail with a ferocious counterattack. Driven back into their boats, the British reorganized and made another attempt, but were once again cut down by the defenders.

The American crewmen at the bow, with Reid at their side, decimated their attackers as the bloody back and forth of assault and repulse continued. After 20 minutes, Reid received word from the division defending the stern of the ship that Second Lieutenant Alexander Williams had been killed and Third Lieutenant Robert Johnson wounded. Without leadership, the defenders there had begun to fall back.

Reid joined the aft division and rallied the men. After unleashing a fresh volley of musket fire, they charged and forced the British back over the stern rail. Forty minutes after the first shots had been fired, following wave after wave of boarding attempts, the attackers had been routed. As musket shots continued from the deck of the privateer, some of the British sailors and marines dove overboard and swam ashore to escape the bloodbath. Finally several of the boats limped away, others drifted across the harbor, and three remained lashed to the bow and stern of the General Armstrong , filled with the mangled bodies of the dead and wounded.

The Americans looked around their debris-strewn deck as quiet descended on Fayal Harbor. Long Tom had been dismounted in the fight, and several of the carriages of the smaller guns shattered. Wreckage lay all around them, both from the ship and in the form of six wounded sailors and the body of Lieutenant Williams. But the magnitude of the British loss was entirely different. With hundreds of men having participated in the attack, they reported suffering 36 sailors and marines killed and more than 80 wounded. Based on discussions with British officers after the battle, the Americans and Portuguese put the number closer to 120 dead. Reid would report two of his crew killed, seven wounded.
Of course, you need to read the whole thing.

Not an isolated event either. After reading this accounting I realized that in no small measure, I probably owe my existence to Captain Reid. 

You see, there was a second order effect of the action with the crew of the GENERAL ARMSTRONG that greatly increased the odds of your humble blogger's ancestors would survive the action that they were soon to be involved with as part of a rag-tag group of militiamen under an irascible Major General named Jackson.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Diversity Thursday

Rejoice dear hearts, more good news from the front. Seriously.

Remember, the more and more the proponents of division, sectarianism and race/ethnic strife start to feel irrelevant, the more and more they act like the dogs in the Antarctic kennel.

I know at times they seem like they are winning, but that is only because they have managed to mau-mau good people in to silence. In time more and more will rise up against their intellectual dadaism and take the slings and arrows of being called nasty names - but until then, we will just have to watch them make a parody of themselves.

As is the case more often than not, they will show there true selves where they are the most patronized - academia. I don't think I really need to add more in this case - just read it all;
Does Traditional College Debate Reinforce White Privilege?

On March 24, 2014 at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) Championships at Indiana University, two Towson University students, Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, became the first African-American women to win a national college debate tournament, for which the resolution asked whether the U.S. president’s war powers should be restricted. Rather than address the resolution straight on, Ruffin and Johnson, along with other teams of African-Americans, attacked its premise. The more pressing issue, they argued, is how the U.S. government is at war with poor black communities.

In the final round, Ruffin and Johnson squared off against Rashid Campbell and George Lee from the University of Oklahoma, two highly accomplished African-American debaters with distinctive dreadlocks and dashikis. Over four hours, the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like “nigga authenticity” and performed hip-hop and spoken-word poetry in the traditional timed format. At one point during Lee’s rebuttal, the clock ran out but he refused to yield the floor. “Fuck the time!” he yelled. His partner Campbell, who won the top speaker award at the National Debate Tournament two weeks later, had been unfairly targeted by the police at the debate venue just days before, and cited this personal trauma as evidence for his case against the government’s treatment of poor African-Americans.
If they had real issues to speak against - real identifiable bigotry to bring in to the light so we could all work together to stamp it out - they would bring it up. Thing is, in their frustration, they don't and so they can't.

Instead they throw a temper tantrum - tearing down the most mundane of institutions simple for the reason that they can. Why, well ... of course;
Joe Leeson Schatz, Director of Speech and Debate at Binghamton University, is encouraged by the changes in debate style and community. “Finally, there’s a recognition in the academic space that the way argument has taken place in the past privileges certain types of people over others,” he said. “Arguments don’t necessarily have to be backed up by professors or written papers. They can come from lived experience.”
The supporters of division are irrational and teetering - they are ripe to be shown for what they are, all it takes is for good people to stand up to them. Sadly, we are not quite there yet.
To counter this trend, Hardy and his allies want to create a “policy only” space in which traditional standards for debate will be enforced. However, this is nearly impossible to do within the two major debate associations, CEDA and the National Debate Tournament (NDT), as they are governed by participants and have few conduct enforcement mechanisms. For instance, while CEDA and NDT’s institutional anti-harassment policy would normally prohibit the term “nigga” as it was used at the recent Indiana University tournament finals, none of the judges penalized the competitors that used it. In fact, those debaters took home prizes.

14 schools expressed interest in sending debaters to Hardy’s proposed alternative tournament, scheduled to occur last month. But after word got out that a group of mostly white teams from elite universities were trying to form their own league, Hardy and his supporters were widely attacked on Facebook and other online forums. Ultimately the competition didn’t happen, purportedly because of logistical issues with the hotel venue. Nonetheless, Hardy wrote in an email that a “toxic climate” has precluded even “strong supporters of ‘policy debate’ from “publicly attach[ing] their name to anything that might get them called racist or worse.”
Hardy disagrees. “Having minimal rules is not something that reflects a middle-class white bias,” he said. “I think it is wildly reductionist to say that black people can’t understand debate unless there is rap in it—it sells short their potential.” He said he is committed to increasing economic and racial diversity in debate and has set up a nonprofit organization to fundraise for minority scholarships.
Academia in many ways is wormy with this racialist mindset. It affects all colors and ethnicity, it seems. Sigh.

And so we wait ... eventually people like the above will be more challenged by fair-minded people - as will the low hanging fruit like the below.

At first glance it is easy to be depressed that we may be under the retrograde forces of division, but we really aren't. We are actually on the edge of a less sectarian nation as those who think like it is 1973 will slowly fade away - flailing away with their cancerous theories along the way.

Hat tip M.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is Naval Combat that Clean?

Let's be pedantic ... but in a good way, shall we?

Perhaps this is a bit too much word parsing, but words mean things. Words lead to decisions down the road that impact real people and ships.

From SECNAVINST 5030.3B, on the classifications of ships, let's look at the definition of "Support Type Ships,"
2. Support Type Ships

A grouping of ships designed to provide general support to either combatant forces or shore-based establishments. Those auxiliary ships that provide support to naval operations but are not involved with combatant forces, Navy warfighting, or support missions, and are not part of the battle force inventory are listed below.
I'm sorry, but I don't think war at sea is that much of a set piece operation - if you are going to take on board the highlighted passage above. That wording is not helpful - and except for the most narrowly defined word meaning, not accurate.

Some of these ships may fit well this rather awkward phrasing, but not all. In that list we have ACS, AGM, AGOR, AGS, AH, AK, AKR, AOT, ARC, AVB, HST.

And as a final note, can we please call the HST something else, She does stick out like a sore thumb. The lack of sticking to rules is just a marker of bureaucratic laziness just like it was skipping all the way to "35" for the F-35.

Hat tip Lee.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's only a little nuke for goodness sake

Since the end of the Cold War, people have not thought holistically about nuclear weapons. Not so much dropping them ... but being on the receiving end of them.

Not to downplay their power - they do speak for themselves - but their most likely use is not, in spite of all the hyperbole, the end of the world.

As a JO, we practiced nuclear war about as often as Sailors go through SAPR training now days. We planned to fight and win, in a fashion.

What we also knew was that if their use was fairly limited, then so were their effects ... if you were smart.

When at home - for those who knew that right off the East and West Coast there were nuclear armed Soviet submarines that would give you 10-15 minute warning until you were hit ... and with their accuracy - odds are they could land anywhere - one could plan to have a fighting chance to survive an attack.

Post nuclear attack isn't and never was a binary thing. Then again, global nuclear war with generous use of some of the fusion weapons - well - that is a different topic altogether.

What is our big threat now? It isn't global nuclear war - it is the less-than-zero chance that at some point our enemies will either get their hands on, or will build a low-yield nuke. If they get one, they will use in most likely in NYC or DC.

Along those lines, Marc Ambinder over at The Week is doing everyone a favor - giving you a chance to live if the thinkable happens. Marc, do you mind if I steal the core of your article for public service? Thanks.
... very few people in Washington, D.C., who work for the government have any idea what they would do if a 10-kiloton nuclear device exploded at the intersection of 16th and K streets.
And curiously, and perhaps hearteningly, it turns out that there is quite a lot that you or I can do if we get stuck in Washington when something like that happens. Choices we make could very well make the difference between our imminent death and a relatively full and happy life, assuming the bomb is a one-off.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory released a report in 2011 that spells all this out. It hasn't gotten nearly the attention it deserves.

It's called the "National Capital Region Key Response Planning Factors for the Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism" and it makes for fascinating reading.

Did you know, for example, that:

1. The WORST thing for someone to try to do, in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion that they survive, is to get in a car and drive away.

2. Unless you're within about a third to a half a mile radius of ground zero and the shelter options are poor, the BEST thing for someone to do is to find a stable location inside a well-built apartment or office building — the majority of which will remain standing outside that half mile radius — and stay there for 24 hours.

And if you were very close to ground zero and you did survive — and a lot of folks will — the best thing for you to do is to:

A. Take immediate shelter somewhere, because fallout will rain down on you if you don't.

B. Wait an hour.

C. Then, walk about a half-dozen blocks laterally until you find intact large buildings to shelter you.

3. The electromagnetic pulse from a ground burst will NOT, in fact, knock out all types of communication. Some? Maybe.

4. If you live in a single-family house with thin walls, your chances of surviving in the immediate aftermath of a blast and not getting cancer later are exponentially higher than if you seek shelter in a bigger building, even one that might literally be next door.

5. Rescuers should NOT put on radiation protection gear if it will slow them down. So long as the fallout has stopped falling, they're best advised to turn out in their normal gear.

6. Though thousands of people will die from the blast effects, almost all — about 96 percent — of the other potential casualties could be avoided if people understood the basics of what to do in the event of mass radiation exposure.

7. Did I mention that the worst place to be in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear blast is in a car trying to get away? The so-called DFZ — the Dangerous Fallout Zone — will extend out as much as 20 miles, but it is likely to be extremely narrow. (If it's not, that means the concentration of radioactive particles will be lower.) The vector and location of this zone depends on the wind. And its size will shrink with every passing hour.

8. Penetrating trauma from broken glass is probably the largest treatable cadre of blast injuries.
That is good stuff for you and your family to know.

Keep it in your nogg'n.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why the Flood of "Sea Water to Fuel" Articles Now?

This is just silly.

Over the weekend a lot of people have been breathless about what was the news of the fall of 2012. This from USAToday is just a sample;
In the not-too-distant future, the US Navy could be getting some fuel from the very seas it sails on. That's thanks to Navy researchers who say they've figured out a way to convert seawater into jet fuel, the Huffington Post reports.

Experts have been working on the idea for almost a decade,
It works by pulling carbon dioxide and hydrogen from water using a catalytic converter, Discover explains. Those gases are turned into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel that could, experts hope, power both planes and ships, AFP reports.

"We don't necessarily go to a gas station to get our fuel," Vice Admiral Philip Cullom tells AFP. "Our gas station comes to us in terms of an oiler, a replenishment ship.

Developing a game-changing technology like this, seawater to fuel, really is something that reinvents a lot of the way we can do business."
In addition to the above, you can find it all over the place from India's EconomicTimes, to the WashingtonTimes, to DODLive.

After scratching my head - I think everyone got hot and bothered because of this little trick. Good PR, but really people, calm down.

This isn't a game changer, yet. Give it time. We can then talk about the power requirements to make it happen (read nuclear), the footprint required to manufacture thousands of gallons of JP-5 a day, and what the EPA will have to say about what we have to do with the thousands of gallons of yet described chemical leftovers.

Until then, take a powder. Here is the post I did in SEPT 2012. Take a powder.

The Great Green Fleet? Bah! I will trade you all your fuzzy-headed Gaia-goobers for a gaggle of pocket-protector, high-water, short-sleeves-with-a-tie every day of the week! I had to read this twice to realize that ... well ... you read it twice.
Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. "The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy's energy security and independence," says research chemist, Dr. Heather Willauer.
Sure, you can read it all ... but you will have to figure this stuff out and it makes my Liberal Arts nogg'n hurt.
In the first step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production from 97 percent to 25 percent in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins). In the second step these olefins can be oligomerized (a chemical process that converts monomers, molecules of low molecular weight, to a compound of higher molecular weight by a finite degree of polymerization) into a liquid containing hydrocarbon molecules in the carbon C9-C16 range, suitable for conversion to jet fuel by a nickel-supported catalyst reaction.
Ummmm OK. I don't care .... you can oligomerize my olefins all day long and Saturday if you can make fuel out of salt-water. 

Take every red cent from the Green Navy and throw it at the NRL geeks. Making fuel from seawater? Yea - you read that right. Now, if our geeks can take what they have now, operationalize it, and then get even a little bit of Moore's Law going ... then yea. Ponder that writ large.

 Hat tip gCaptain.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Funnies

SWOs ... Millington SWOs. 

Best line, "Or do you just speak to the aide to the assistant of his deputy?"

Hat tip JM.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

12 Carriers and 3 Hubs with Bryan McGrath, on Midrats

"Where are the carriers?" Regardless of the writing, talking, and pontificating about "Why the carriers?" - when there is a real world crisis - leaders still ask, "Where are the carriers."

Since we waived the requirement for a floor of 11, we have drifted to the new normal of 10 without dedicated additional funding. 10 isn't even an accurate number. With one undergoing nuclear refueling - you really have 9. 

Knowing what it takes to deploy, train, maintenance and preparing to train for deployment - in normal times, it takes 9 to make three if you are lucky. If you have an emergency that requires multiple carriers onstation - you run out of options very fast, and the calendar gets very small.

Surge? If as Rear Admiral Thomas Moore, USN said last year, “We’re an 11-carrier Navy in a 15-carrier world.” - what risk are we taking with 9 that can get underway?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be Bryan McGrath, CDR, USN (Ret.), Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group

We will use as a basis for our discussion the article he co-authored with the American Enterprise Institute's Mackenzie Eaglen, America's Navy needs 12 carriers and 3 hubs.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio