Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Bottom Is Closer Than You Might Think

A couple of weeks back The USS San Francisco, a Los Angeles Class nuclear submarine (SSN) ran aground at a high rate of speed while submerged causing one sailor to be fatally injured and nearly two dozen others to be hurt so badly they couldn’t carry out their duties. The severely damaged vessel will require extensive repairs in dry dock.

The skipper has been relieved, and an investigation is ongoing. The Navy has never been reluctant to find someone guilty before all the facts are in, but he might not be at fault. There appears to be an uncharted undersea mountain in the [CLASSIFIED] vicinity where the boat met the bottom. Charts in use by the Navy do not show this sub-sea feature even though they were mapped by satellite at least twice going back 5 years. The [UNNAMED] office responsible for producing the charts claims to not have the resources to use the satellite data. Charts currently in use reflect observations made by surface ships over 40 years ago which was long before the advent of precise navigation. They do show a hazard, but it is more than two miles away from where the boat ran aground.

In the meantime, our down-under allies, the Australians, have had a similar experience. The newest ANZAC class frigate, HMAS Ballarat which has been in commission some seven months, ran aground in the vicinity of Christmas Island while on a routine cruise Sunday.

The two Pacific Rim nations with the richest, longest running maritime traditions are having unexpected and certainly unacceptable difficulty. One wonders if the money being wasted in the Iraq adventure couldn’t be put to better use.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Wild Cards Were

A week or so ago I decided to make the run up to Yoshi’s at Jack London Square to hear Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors back up no less than Kim Wilson, Charlie Musselwhite, and James Cotton. Picking which performance out of several required taking into account that the NFL Wild Card games would cover Saturday and Sunday. That pretty much left it for me to go Sunday night.

I’m having a hard time reconciling the results with expectations. The only wild card team that did not advance was Denver. The two NFC teams that advanced were both .500 clubs in regular season. I had picked all the wild cards to lose to their host teams. Surprised? Yep. Me and a ton of other people.

This week the number 6 seed, Minnesota, gets to take on the power-house Eagles and the Rams journey to Atlanta. I really, really got to pick the home teams again. In the NFC, at least.

Over in the AFC, No 5, the Jets, a 11-5 regular season club is on its way to Heinz Field to see just how healthy the phenom rookie quarterback is feeling. My guess is New York is going to have its everlovin’ hands full. The wild and wooly Colts are off to Foxboro where the Pats take a dim view of losing at home. That one’s going to be a scrap that will be talked about for some time to come. Can Manning & Co bear up under outdoor conditions in a New England winter?

It's all on TV this weekend. Catch it for yourself

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Back To The War

Iraqi MGen Al-Shahwani, head of intelligence, told a Cairo newspaper that somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 “terrorists” with support from some 200,000 Sunni Muslims are now active in-country and are being controlled from Syria by former regime officials. See story HERE.

To get it in terms I can understand, let’s call the Gomers “guerillas” or Gs. The old rule of thumb was that one G could keep 7 government troops tied up chasing their tails. That formula was developed from observation of communist-led/inspired insurrections in Latin America and Southeast Asia — all of which save Malaya were successful to a greater or lesser degree. It does not take into reckoning that the Gs have a ready source of farm boys cheerfully willing to earn a place in Paradise by driving 200 kilos of plastique into targets selected for them by the “Holy” man.

By how much do suiciders multiply the force? That answer has yet to come, but the closest analogy I can think of is Japanese Kamikaze force in WWII which flew 2,550 sorties for 475 hits on Allied, mostly American, vessels. The suicide force was not activated until Imperial Navy and both their air forces were limited to operations around and over the home islands. All that was left to Japanese defenders at Okinawa was artillery and infantry. The point would be that the Kamikaze was not employed in concert with other forces, yet it had a highly disproportionate effect on Allied prosecution of the war towards the end.

How effective were they? We lost 45 vessels ranging in size up to and including an escort carrier. 12 CVAs, 15 BBs, and 15 more CVEs were severely damaged and thousands of sailors killed. Had the Sons of Nippon got their act together with the ready-to-go 5,000 suicide aircraft found in home island caves at war’s end, there is a good chance, absent atomic weapons, that the war would have ended in negotiated peace rather than total victory.

What’s that got to do with the price of beans in this day and age? It is a lot easier to drive up to a check point or sneak into a mess hall than it is to try to ram a maneuvering war ship which is defending itself with every gun it can bring to bear. Today’s suicide bomber faces little in the way of tactical deterrence and absolutely none in strategic deterrence.

Leaving aside that unpleasant prospect, the “standard” Gs forces seem to be able to move around the countryside at will, and have been able to pick and choose their targets with seeming impunity. Granted we killed a goodly number of them in Fallujah, but the enemy has yet to provide any reason to believe they are dumb, and I bet they don’t offer many more set piece battles again.

So where’s all this going? We barely have enough troops in-country to maintain the status quo, and maintaining the status quo is not nearly good enough as it entails the deaths of anywhere from 50 to 200 Americans and hundreds of Iraqis each month.

The military campaign to capture Baghdad was brilliant, but was misapplied and the subsequent occupation has been debacle followed by fiasco which in turn has been followed by calamity. Americans are dying and the best the idiots who got us into this mess can do is provide vehicle armor so that when the Gs set off their IEDs at roadside some of the people inside those vehicles have a chance at survival. American know how at its absolute worst.

Every ration pack and every bullet that goes to Iraq is paid for with borrowed money. So much geetus has gone down that rat hole that the proposed unmanned strategic bomber is losing funding, stealth destroyers will never have their keels laid, submarines will go unbuilt, the F35 development is postponed, the Marines will have to wait for the OV-22, et cetera, et cetera ad nauseum.

And to top it all off, Osama bin Laden is still free and probably laughing his buns off at us.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Football, Football . . . and more Football/The New Year’s Orgy.

This year’s games haven’t held much fascination for me. Both the Bay Area Teams leave a lot to be desired in the way of generating any sort of enthusiasm. The Niners are victims of the Free Agent/Salary Cap syndrome that seems to have a number of other teams hovering at the lower ends of their respective divisions. Who knows what happened to the Raiders? The Raiders? You remember them, don’t you? Silver and Black? Raider Nation? Al Davis’s bad boys?

Some of the college bowl games have been fun. The UT-UM match up in the Rose Bowl was a pip. (You’ll notice it is still THE Rose Bowl, not Caesar’s Palace Rose Bowl or, worse, Al’s Heating, Lighting, and Air Conditioning Rose Bowl.) The game had more offensive heroics than one could hope for and I didn’t start paying attention until the second half. I mean, like, Texas in the Rose Bowl in, like California, Man? Surely, you jest.

The oddest I think was the Silicon Valley Bowl wherein Troy was pitted against Northern Illinois. Two house hold names if there ever were. The kick off was delayed because the rainstorm knocked out a couple of the fuses that controlled power for lighting and broadcast facilities. A whopping 6,000 brave souls watched the game in a downpour late at night. Ticket prices were an ample seventy-plus simoleons for a pseudo-decent seat. (As if there is any decent seat in a rain lashed stadium where the kickoff comes near midnight.)

Over in the NFL, Pittsburgh’s second string beat up on Buffalo, knocking them out of contention, St. Louis hung in there to wear down the Jets in OT and get into the playoffs. More about that later.

Seattle sneaked past Atlanta to take NFC West, Green Bay, an 8 point underdog nailed the poor Bear’s hide to the barn door, Minnesota couldn’t get past the Skins, and with a won lost record of 8 and 8, they’re in the playoffs. The quirky Rams, another .500 club is also in the playoffs. I’m sure both teams’ fans are lighting candles to St. Jude.

The most impressive team in the league this year has clearly been Pittsburgh. They lost their starting QB early on and made do with rookie who was the starter in 13 of the team’s 14 consecutive wins, contributing to the Steelers tying a league record and setting his own team record. He wasn’t the only one who stepped up when the injuries came calling. The Steelers had depth on the bench with a capital D. And they beat the other two winningest teams in the league. Compare that with the Dolphins who never got it together when their franchise running back unexpectedly decided to retire to a life of pot and navel contemplation.

As it stands now, the NFC is dominated by the 13-3 Eagles. Unfortunately, Coach Andy Reid decided to rest his starters and they go into the playoffs with a two game losing streak, but they’re not alone in that regard; Atlanta is also riding a two game losing streak. The Pack, NFC North Champions, who have struggled all year, end the season the other way with a two game winning streak. With two .500 clubs in the mix, picking the next NFC champion and backing that pick with a substantial sum is going to take a helluva lot of guts. I personally will take character any day, and that means my money is on Green Bay to win another trip to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I a haven’t a substantial sum to put forth.

Over in the AFC, I predict we will be privileged to witness hard fought football games starting Saturday when the Jets go to San Diego. I would have to pick the Chargers here. I mean any team that couldn’t get past the then 7-8 Rams fails to impress. Saturday morning the now 8-8 Rams journey to Seattle to get their butts beat in the Who Cares Bowl.

Sunday, I think the Broncos are going to have a surprise waiting for them in Indianapolis. The best games will come the next week when New England and Pittsburgh host what looks to be San Diego and Indianapolis. Pittsburgh and Indy didn’t meet in the regular season, and I think we might see the kind of wild and wooly fire works that characterized the old AFL, even though the Steelers have always been an NFL club. The two offenses are the most exciting in the league.

The NFC playoffs looks to be Seattle headed into Philly and the Pack heading for Atlanta. The championship game will have the Pack looking at the film of their 47-17 regular season loss at Philly. If by odd chance Seattle gets by the Eagles, and with Andy Reid resting his starters, one never can tell, then that would be a story book finish of Favre’s fabulous career with the NFC title game played on the Frozen Tundra.

What the heck. With this kind of excitement coming up, I might get a better antenna than rabbit ears to better watch the games.

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