climate elementary (school)

the debate

Many people, myself included, refused for a couple decades to acknowledge that people could really affect the weather.   My religious beliefs hold that God is in control of all things, yet God did put Adam as steward of the planet.  Whatever your belief,  in my lifetime, I have witnessed barely breathable polluted air over Southern California,  rainy years, drought years, colder and milder winters,  hotter and milder summers.  Hurricanes.  Tornados.  Floods.  Climate change is the topic that every schoolboy in the industrialized countries of the world has had stamped into their consciences in recent decades.   Everyone from politicians in California to European “Green” parties demand humanity stop using resources that are “proven” to destabilize our climate and pollute the planet.  For the last twenty years, politicians debate and people divide into camps.  But does anyone really know a solution?

“something must be done”

pelosiThere have, as yet, been no realistic nor popular solutions proposed nor any process enacted.  One nation refuses to hinder their industrialization by employing technologies they cannot yet afford to mitigate pollution.  Other nations have no solid infrastructure to enact regulation.  In the First World, taxation is the first response to climate change, but hinders any real discussion or experiments at solutions that are not “lobbyist”-championed projects. (Several of these have all-but-embezzled millions of tax dollars.)  For those of us who work many miles from our homes,  lack of public transportation to get there is at odds with the government actions to dissuade personal vehicle use.  (Population in most cities outside California is many factors more dense so personal vehicles are less efficient than mass transit.)

climate impacts humans

Geologically, human existence has been a blip on the clock.  It is still unclear whether volcanism, sun spot activity, and tectonic forces are responsible for the oscillations in weather over millions of years.  Weather changes created Ice Ages and in-between glacial periods caused sea level change. Drought, lasting decades and even centuries,  put pressure on feeding ancient populations  and caused ancient civilizations to decline.

hohokam-canals_hohokam1-courtesy-arizona-historical-societyTwo in the Americas,  Hohokam and Anasazi civilizations were very advanced, yet may have faded – centuries before European visitors – due to extended periods of drought.

A volcanic eruption of Santorini in the Mediterranean was a primary factor the successful Minoan civilization faded around 1500 BCE.  From the Bible and other texts, years of record crops followed by drought and famine in the Middle East occurred.   Yet history teaches us that human beings in sufficient numbers can alter the environment as well. The millennia that Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Roman and Greek people cut the “cedars of Lebanon” for ship timbers and structures has all but eliminated them.  copper-t1.

In northern Michigan 7000 years ago ancient ancient people mined copper; tailings and debris left behind tell the stories before 19th Century mining began there.  But the growth of the world population and the demand for resources have caused more debilitating changes in many aspects on the planet.    In more recent times,  denser populations along the coasts – the heavy industrialization using coal, oil and natural gas for energy first in the Americas and Europe, then Asia and Africa have had unrestrained and inefficient (heavily polluting) consequences.  After several decades, each region in turn developed a conscience about limiting “acid rain” and early deaths from lung diseases and cancers.  Before  government management in the Americas, clear-cutting forests and mining were damaging what we later preserved through government intervention.  This is still rampant in Brazil and the Amazon Basin.

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Amazon deforestation  

Strip mining that ruins the land and the chemicals used to extract metal poison groundwater in many developing economies.  Of course, the topic that give California Jerry Brown the largest headache,  is burning hydrocarbon fuels for energy,- releasing billions of tons of chemicals that were deposited over millions of years within the last  century or two.

 

 

it’s elemental

Fire

Less than two months ago, the Sonoma region of California became an inferno.

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Ventura, Los Angeles county, December 2017

This week, another tragic environmental calamity is occurring not only a couple of hours north of me in northern Los Angeles but forty miles north of my home, the Lilac fire,  in the hills at the edge of San Diego County.  Wind-propelled wildfires have consumed the lives, property, and dreams of hundreds of residents,  displaced thousands more. and killed dozens of stabled horses in the last days.  Ten years ago, my third of the county was being turned to charcoal by wildfire.  Coordinated effort of thousands of firefighters, military and civilians have managed to keep human casualties few while battling the environment.

Perhaps the Government and the governed can put down their acrimony long enough to work through “defensible space” in residential areas.  Tangible efforts such as clearing wider swaths of highways near open country might prevent vehicle-caused brush fires.  Remove diseased and non-native species of trees and plants, many of which are very flammable, by dedicated planned cutting and clearing.  Allow natural clearing through regular controlled burning.

Earth

170908-mexico-earthquake-4-ew-326p_e9ba9d74ca848450704463d0efc087fc-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000
Mexico 2017

Living at the tectonic boundaries of continents, Asia-Pacific and western North, Central and Latin American residents, earthquakes, and the infrequent volcanic eruption destroy  property, kill people living in un-reinforced structures, and wreak havoc. The residents of central Asia suffer a major quake every dozen years of so. A decade or more ago, a major earthquake severely damaged eastern Japan, and one previously induced tsunamis from Thailand to India. Volcanic eruptions occur over a geologic timescale, so it is often ignored by people from Indonesia, to Naples, Italy, to some Caribbean island residents who live on their slopes.

For those who live at tectonic boundaries, nations can provide technical expertise with construction, but it will be up to the affected nations to employ these methods and materials.  While many nations do not have infrastructure, others have corrupt or ineffective leadership in their economies.

Water

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aftermath of Maria, Puerto Rico

Hurricanes or cyclones or typhoons, and tornadoes are either more damaging now – or are more reported in the twenty-four hour news cycle.  El Nino or La Nina cyclic ocean heating or cooling contribute to heavy growth of fuel for fires in wet years in the western US, then in dry years contribute to tinder-dry fire conditions;   hot winds blowing toward the Caribbean from western Africa mix to become tropical depressions and then storms that churn into the Caribbean,  the Gulf of Mexico or Eastern seaboard. For this hemisphere, it is a roulette wheel every June through September where storms will make landfall.   Hurricanes in 2017 have ruined large swaths of the Caribbean,  and flooded southeastern Texas.  For other hemispheres, cyclones or typhoons  have often killed many and displaced thousands in the Philippines, and coastal Indian Ocean countries.

Nature has a way of mitigating hurricanes through dense miles of mangrove swamps;  humans building in flood-prone regions, building over land that would absorb or deflect flooding has had devastating effects.  Home owners who have properties along the beaches where hurricanes have come ashore frequently make a choice to live there, yet the debris that piles up and down the coastline is environmentally damaging and take a long time to remove.  With storms such as that which struck New York in winter, or Houston, or Puerto Rico and the eastern Caribbean this year, there may be more frequent and stronger storms in future years.   Sea walls, restored wetland, stronger levees, stockpiled supplies and more durable materials are some of the things that people can demand.

Wind

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Texas, (courtesy CNN)

From westerly ” Santa Ana” winds out of the deserts of California that dry out vegetation in the forests and hills every Fall (and sometimes Spring through Fall), to the tornadoes that develop in the Central and Eastern United States when cold air masses clash with the warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico,  to hurricanes,  wind is a major force to be reckoned with.  As part of the whole climate debate, people want to use wind to generate power yet curse it when it accelerates fires, lift roofs off schools, blow down trees or sink ships at sea.  As a natural force, wind is not going to be stopped by human will.  However, more intelligent design for buildings may mitigate storm damage.

I am so exhausted listening to everyone blame climate change for the problems in the world.  It is not the weather “why” I care about.   It’s how the world population – as a whole – intends to alter in meaningful ways the slide to more unstable and unpredicable  future.   As long as there is President Obama-style unilateral initiatives  or Congressional “legislation”  or California bureaucratic fiats without real adoption in the new industrializing regions of the world – there is no leadership.    However social media page “Likes”, group-think, hysteria and the resulting inaction is a poor gift for future generations.

Big Corporation is watching

This week I received a phone call from the Veterans Administration, to ask me to submit a copy of my most recent DD-214,  the document that all veterans recognize as our Certificate of Release or Discharge from military service, which also provides the veteran with a validation for several federal and state benefits.

Since I am given to understand that the United States Government’s Executive Branch oversees the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense (DOD), and the DOD oversees the Department of the Navy, I am unsure how transmission of my Active Duty service record – and DD-214 for my second period of service (ending 17 years ago) – or at minimum, the DD-214,  failed to be transmitted to the records the Veterans Administration maintains (veterans are its customers).   Were it only a paper record, I could understand that millions of archival pages might be confusing for one file clerk with band aids on her thumbs and a dry sponge-pad (to moisten fingers) searching through file cabinets.   But for thirty years,  documents have been scanned into computer records.

pinterest_surveillance

In the most recent twenty years,  and particularly in the last ten years, there have been lobbying groups protesting the illegal monitoring/ harvesting of data purportedly on American citizens – and  our “undocumented guests” in the country.   College students, particularly at Ivy League universities, college professors,  Congressional investigations, anarchists camping out in the streets, and huge exposes by media – CNN, Politico, New York Times, and groups like the ACLU and so on, condemn BIG GOVERNMENT for purportedly nefarious purposes.

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Given my experience with Government, including data losses,  long delays between completing forms and receiving confirmation of receipt,  and even longer delays when requesting information, specific to the very thing the Government agency is responsible,   I have some reservation about how nefarious or how “omnipresent” Big Brother really is in our daily lives.   I am much more concerned with BIG CORPORATION (##).

Google, Facebook, other social media,  Microsoft, and so forth collect TRILLIONS of bytes of data daily on our finances, credit use, personal interests, sexual preferences, and other habits.  Anyone who has looked at a website on your computer or phone at work or at home should notice how quickly all your other devices start to send you “tailored” advertising.      And knowing that criminals, foreign governments, and non-state bad actors are often way more proficient with data mining than our own GOVERNMENT,  I would not be surprised to hear my Progressive, aka Liberal, friends be embarrassed one day in the future to learn that buying the Birkenstock and Hillary Clinton’s autobiography from the web, will also come with a free sample of Russian borscht or Chinese travel vouchers.

(##)   since I served and presently work where my privacy is understood to NOT be a sacred thing – the Government has maintained records on me since I was 18 years old – I am not willing, nor able to drop off  “the Grid” anytime soon

234 years, still waiting

On the occasion of a visit to the Veterans Administration Compensation and Pension Claims Office in San Diego today, I was given to wonder if obtaining care from our Commander in Chief ( the bureaucracy, to be exact) was always an issue.  The Federal Government since the early Nineteenth Century officially provided for the wartime disabled veteran, yet even in the most recent years, since I first wore a uniform,  there have been struggles to link illnesses with wartime service.

In the following letter to President Washington from an unidentified soldier of the Revolutionary War,  he had been waiting seven years for a promised reward for the suffering, putting his life, family and livelihood on the line for the new nation.   And apparently, it seems some who did the promising, profited, and to those who were promised,  were left to scrape by.

I’ve highlighted interesting parts of the letter which seem relevant today.  The following is from the Archives :

From “An Old Soldier”

Commonwealth of Massachusetts—Decr 25th 1789

Great Sr

I hope it is a moment of leasure if this luckely should fall into your hands—urgent necessity induces me thus humbly to approach your Excellancy—I will not Sr long divert your attention from your arduous employment—but beg leave to observe—that on the first alarm of war I entered the Service of my Country being a minute Man in the then Massachusetts State—and having a fervant zeal to see the Conclusion I engaged from term to term till the first time of Inlisting for the War—which I unfortunately complyed with and had not the advantage of large Bounties as others afterwards had—and being a miner my Master had my wages till the last engagement—when the money began to depreciate—& our nec[e]ssaties so urgent that it procured but scanty release—hoping and expecting every Campaign to be the last—and not ambitious for office obtaind none took my tour as sentinal at all times and on all occations—cold & hot—wet & Dry—and being with the infantry was almost continually on the loins of the Enemy—I always loved—and had the love of my officers—obey’d every order punctually and considered your Excellencies as sacred—The promises of my officers—the incoragments in Genl orders—and the Resolves of the State and Congress induced me to hope and depend on an aduquate reward for my long toyl—hazard—& sufferings—when peace should be restored to our country again; but—alass! how aghast was I when with all my prudance—and many times suffering pinching need to preserve and save my earnings—& 250 Dollars in final settlements was my only Subsidy.

And when I reflect on the many—many dark & dangerous Nights I walked my Post all attentive—the much fatigue nakedness—and hunger I have indured—the many hazards I have run for my country—first on Bunkers-hill—at Perls Point—at white plains—the fatigueing but glorious action at Trenton & Princeton—the malancoly retreat from Ty—the Victory at Bemises-heights—the Battle at Monmouth & the Concluding seage of Yorktown—and that Eight Years of my prime was gon—had lost my trade—was unacquainted with husbandry—had formd the Connection of matremony in a very respectable family—had Two babes by a most agreable companion—her father impatent for my return to releave him of the long burden of my Wife & children—and I—unfortunate Man had no where to put them nor any provisions made for them—where said I is my dear General whome I ever hoped would have it in his power to see us righted—my officers have forsaken me—Congress dont pay me—my country dont thank nor pitty me! I offered my Securities for sail they would fetch only 2s./10d. on the pound—and I resolved if they was ever made good I would have the benefit of them if I worked my fingers to the bone for bread—but too close application soon redused my health—and to keep from goal for the doctors bill my securities are redused to Two hundred Dollars—Seven Long Years have elapsed and no releaf till my patiance is nearly gon with my constitution by unremited strugles at day labour to pay Taxes and bearly support my family which now is Eight in number—six children untaught through poverty—and by a rearage of rent my landlord thretens the remainder of my securities @ 5s./2d. on the £ unless a spedy prospect of the Interest being paid saves them to me—Is there or is there not, my dearest of Generals any ground of hope—I ketch at every incouragement—and recolect in the Generals last and farewell orders to the Armies of the United States he observed that “the officers & soldiers may expect considerable assistance in recommencing their civil occupations, from the sums due to them from the public which must and will most inevitably be paid”1—also in the Genls presenting his thanks to the several classes of the Army he says—“And to the non commissioned officers and Soldiers for their extreordinary patience in suffering, as well as their invincible fortitude in action; to the various branches of the Army the General takes this last and solemn opertunity of profesing his inviolable attachment and friendship”—then observes “he wishes more then bare profession were in his power, that he was really able to be useful to them in future life.”

Now I trust heaven has put it in his power—And when the new Constitution took place (which was pro⟨illegible⟩ of in the above Quoted genl orders) my heart leaped with Joy—but not more than when I was advertized of the great-good Man put at the head of it—and felt confidant of releaf—but how was I affected when I found the old creaditer was neglected and the revenew whittled up among the multiplicity of officers and offices of the new government—may they not with propriety wate for a part of their inormus Sallerys as well as the poor Soldier for his seven Years Interest on his heard earnd pettance—one Years neglect more and all my expectations are blasted—my Securities must go to keep me out of goal and my family from Starving—what oppression! what crualty! such a severe Strugle to save my country—and their promised rewards arested from me—through their neglect and my necessity for almost nothing—and I exposed in some future day to pay my proportion of the whole sum to the menopalizer—Dear sr help for all other help but that of Heaven faileth—The demand by Taxes—by my Landlord—by my Family and my infermities bares me down my courage is nearly exosted and I reduced to invy those who—not only bled with me but died in their Countries service and are now mouldring in the dust.

But most worthy Sr—fully confidant of the rectitud of your mind—and your sincere wish to releave all in destress, and especially the deserving—And to distribute Justice to all men; and in perticular to the injuerd—I earnestly implore Heaven to Send all needed aid to the all attentive Preasidents exertians to contribute to all equally the rewards of their Country, according to their deserving—then may I depend on the small pittance due to your Excellancies most devoted & obedeant humbe Servt

An Old Soldier

Echoing this old Soldier more than two hundred years ago,  I would like to see the priorities in this country change to care for the veteran particularly for those who are suffering as a result of combat service.

the naked and the dead

Thirty years ago, I read several of Norman Mailer’s work.  It was a time of controversy during the maturing of society in the post-Vietnam era.  The Death Penalty, scandals in Government,  Presidents and Senators losing their positions.  Foreign revolutions.  Domestic terrorism.  Sex.  Religious charlatans.  While my thoughts today run to the passing of an old letch, Hugh Hefner, yesterday, the impact of Hefner’s life’s work cannot be left unmentioned.  Playboy  followed the American culture in the last half of the Twentieth Century, and over fifty years the culture, unfortunately for Hefner, matured past him.   But military lockers,  battlefields, firehouses, and little boy’s attic cubbyholes in the 1960s and 1970s were adorned with centerfold images.  Some stolen from their dad’s collection.  With the sexual revolution of the Flower Children which became the hedonistic ’80s, the age of AIDS, and then the gay culture, everything about the onetime bedroom subject  can now  be taught in grade school.   Talk about a real life satire.

I was in the 1980’s  a fan of satire, particularly on the military.  M.A.S.H was still popular on television,  Joseph Heller’s Catch-22,  the war movie Kelly’s Heroes was often on television.  In the mid-1980s, I had several friends ( some I regularly talk with today) who served in Vietnam.    I was mentored by World War II and Korean War vets.   I spent twenty-six years over a thirty-two year span in a Navy uniform.  I saw a lot of things about bureaucracy, opportunists, and the occasional subject satirized in these stories happening through the experiences of my friends and from my personal observation.

Hefner’s Playboy – and then its competitors,  and with new technology, brought sex out into the mainstream, made it a commodity, and cheapened it, from a wonderful bonding relationship between two under God’s blessing, to a mainstream yardstick for judging maturity.   As America matured,  women and men very often were colleagues or competed in the same profession,  and just as the race identity was removed by the military,  the gender barrier also came down.  This is not to say that it was a smooth transition.  Change takes a generation or two to fully be accepted.   And perhaps, the nation is on the verge or putting it back into the bedroom.  When “taboo” becomes the mainstream, a new counter-culture icon may find a new audience.    Hefner is dead.  The Playboy Mansion, already sold, has lost its previous occupant.   And now, with a few truckloads of Lysol,  scrub brushes, and an army of health control professionals can sanitize fifty years of the “cosmopolitan” stains away.   Wonder if Helen Gurly Brown or Hilary Clinton might shed a tear.   There’s one less Neanderthal in the world.

Thermite games

Among my peers in the world of Navy cryptologic operations,  we enjoyed a sense of humor that few civilians might understand.  To this very day,  when friends or family ask me about my work, I will likely smile, then say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”    I do not get asked very much about my work.

Today,  when recalcitrant equipment that I either test or provide customer with needed support and repair,   I always have a smart-aleck response as my double-secret probation/ inside-voice, final debug plan.   Put it in a barrel and light off some Thermite.   But then, I am hired to fix it;  it is up to my bosses to determine when the expense outweighs the continued troubleshooting.

Very early in the 1990’s, particularly as some hotspots in the world – where intelligence-gathering was not collected from 60,000 feet or a hundred miles in altitude as it may be today, but on the ground – my unit held a demonstration of classified material emergency disposal.   This was the chemical destruction capability of THERMITE.   Given a few minutes to dispose of the contents of a large safe,  personnel might not have time to shred documents;   some equipment that shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands could not be physically destroyed by physical effort.  Ergo,  a thermite grenade could be ignited, placed in or on it, and the object would be reduced to ash and molten slag.

However, history taught me that this material might have been more for show than practical use.   When the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized in 1979,  if some stories are to be believed,  shredded documents were reassembled  by people working furiously over months.  When the Iranians again seized our personnel during the Obama Presidency,  was there Thermite to obliterate our crypto gear on board? was it destroyed?  If jettisoned overboard, was it recovered?

And in the digital world of  identity theft,  credit reporting thefts, and hacking,  there’s nothing to render data irretrievable but for military-grade encryption.  And yet it often depends on human beings to practice security.   Of course my mind runs to a different form of “thermite”, but if we cannot find the provocateurs, cannot render them sanitized.

Here’s one video demonstration of this material:

http://www.military.com/video/ammunition-and-explosives/grenades/the-thermite-grenade/983538042001

When these States were United

statue-of-liberty-tear-swscan04051
from  envisioningtheamericandream.com

There were three sucker punches the United States of America suffered – within her borders – in history.  August 24, 1814, when the British burned the White House during the War of 1812.   The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  And within the lifetime of most Americans now living,  New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the thwarted attack, probably destined for the White House, on September 11, 2001.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln

brainyquote.com

Out of World War II, one-time enemies became friends and Allies.  From the early Nineteenth Century, the world entered the Modern Era, mostly due to the inventiveness and creativity of people coming to these United States.  From turbines and cotton gins, to aircraft and space exploration,  ideas germinated here or were improved on and flourished, the gift of immigrants who were united in pride for this nation.

Blood has been shed defending a free people.  Ideas that flourished here have gone out into the rest of the world.  From medicine to Microsoft,  a melting -pot in America fostered new ideas and directions in the world.   Freedoms that had not been prevalent to societies in the Old World worked here.

But in the late 1940s and continuing through today, three forces have gathered in opposition to Americanism.   Socialism, atheism, and equivocation.    A failed idea of mid-19th century European intellectuals that the Industrial Revolution created oppression was embraced first by Russia, China, and imposed or embraced by nations in Europe, Asia, and some Latin American states.  It resulted in a mediocre existence, little pride in workmanship, and ironically, a small elite oppressing a majority.   It continues today due to control of information, education, and government services by an elite over a majority.  Atheism, fostered by the same socialist elites, highlights the weaknesses of mankind as being the result of and not a remedy through the Christian faith.  All the other religious orders are unopposed, generally,  by the elites – for whom, power is religion- to confound and isolate people into manageable groups.

And  from dictionary. com,

equivocation: “the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication.”

Leaders formerly stood upon principles,   Washington,  Jefferson,  Lincoln;  Martin Luther King,  Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.    Today,  masses follow sound bites,  imagery, and shed blood based on half-truths,  lies and backroom deals.  And in the U.S.,  most politicians have only one purpose – to gain and remain in power.

On this 16th anniversary of the murder of 3,000 people, at the hands of fanatics -propelled by a  religion where the very mention of their prophet’s name can instigate murder – I pray for everyone here to embrace unity, discourse,  freedom, and respect for law and for the Constitution.

A house divided cannot stand.

Impossible to implement

All this hulabaloo over DACA, immigration, and healthcare.  Most of us are very charitable and supportive people.  Our blood has been shed the world over to help unfortunate peoples have a chance to improve their lot.   But some here go too far.  The noisiest protests come from noise-makers: media, celebrities, lobbyists, and unemployable hangers-on; from the insincere: the uber-wealthy political-influence peddlers who may send a few shoes but  demand “action” from Government (while they profit from their pocket-politicians) ;  and the machiavellian: professional politicians who manipulate the public and government for their own purposes.

A simple proposition.  Everyone (including the influence-peddler and politician alike) who opposes American nationalism, opposes U.S. state and national laws being enforced, and opposes citizens’ -only rights for citizens – our citizens and not contrived citizenship,  I would ask YOU to (contractually) sponsor one or more “guests” within our borders. In perpetuity.

Exchange your citizenship for your sponsorship of an illegal guest.  If they act criminally, you take their punishment.  If they are illiterate or unskilled, you teach them.  If they have medical conditions, you pay for their care.  Do not demand that others who are already charitable to the less-fortunate, be forced to support the non-citizen and the civilly disobedient, demand we comply when you change the rules of the game, and demand the lawful bend to the unlawful.  Otherwise, the hell you create here is no better than the purported hell our “guests” left.

Examining Collisions at Sea, Part II

via U.S. Naval Institute, Proceedings Magazine 

CAPT. Eyer’s (USN, Retired) insight is recommended reading for Navy veterans and military professionals about failures throughout the organizational structure.   It is not the “stand-down”  and the bandaid as the Navy rushes in to fix this that is required.  It should be long-term, lasting institutional changes.  How many times will the services go through loss of life, damage and loss of equipment, scandals and loss of prestige?   When politicians and bureaucrats at the highest levels wanted to adapt corporate practices, social experimentation, and project power with unclear objectives, the military culture suffers.

Examining Collisions at Sea

Via the Naval Institute’s Proceedings. Article by Capt. Kevin Eyer, U.S. Navy (Retired)

In the past two months, two major U.S. warships have collided with merchant vessels. In both cases, lives were lost; personnel were injured; and ships sustained major damages. In both cases, the Navy assigned teams to determine the causes of the accidents.

In theory, these investigations are undertaken to determine what errors were made, by whom, and whether any conclusions or lessons learned might be drawn that would allow for similar disasters to be avoided in the future. While the intent of these investigations is plain—determining the raw material of facts and recommending the assignments of guilt—the question is whether they will produce anything else useful

Part I.   Recommended reading for Navy veterans and military professionals about failures throughout the organizational structure.   It is not the “stand-down”  and the bandaid the Navy rushes in to fix this.  It is long-term, lasting changes.  How many times will the services go through loss of life, damage and loss of equipment, scandals and loss of prestige.   When politicians and bureaucrats at the highest levels wanted to adapt corporate practices, social experimentation, and project power with unclear objectives, the military culture suffers.

In the Navy, anything that causes loss of life, damage or destruction of multi-million dollar systems, or negative public opinion will get reviewed by a Board of Inquiry.  This is a first part of a sobering view of military culture, scandals, and the nature of the bureaucracy to not examine too deeply for root causes.

 

this land (and sea)

In pre-war (WWII) Northern Ireland, the businesses that my grandfather inherited and ran made a sufficient income to have a generally comfortable middle class living;  in the post-war economy, those businesses collapsed and they were forced to emigrate, with little option but to start over.  My grandfather found work selling insurance and wanted his daughters to work as bookkeepers or in such work.   Mom applied, was accepted, and ultimately graduated at the top of her nursing class at Mount Sinai Hospital.

My father, son of a Polish immigrant, was born and grew up in the Bronx;  he excelled in school and ultimately pursued aerospace and mechanical engineering at college.  His, too, was an act of desperation.  My grandfather was a shipfitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII.  He and my grandmother ran a small bakery for a time.  When my grandmother passed away relatively young – my grandfather was a restaurant -equipment repairman.   My dad had to excel in a profession to make his way.

Life was always complicated in America.  It went through successive struggles of growth, industrial expansion, war, and immigration open to the world.  Through the centuries, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Italian, and eastern Europeans (Slavs) arrived from the East.  Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and all over came via the West.   They came as Protestant, Catholic, Jew.  The came as indentured servants, slaves and refugees.  African-Americans after the Civil War spread out from the South to the  urban Mid-West and Northeast.  Before the influx of immigrants from the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia, life was quite complicated,  and particularly so after a World War.  The Cold War, Viet Nam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have colored the last 75 years of the American psyche.

It was no less complicated since the 1960s.  In my lifetime, I have personally practiced in elementary school for impending nuclear attack.  I heard the unusual reports of someone in high school bringing a firearm.   Metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs in schools and public places.  School mass-shootings.   A President in office while an Islamist revolution held American diplomats hostage for more than a year.  The first World Trade Center bombing.  September 11, 2001, in which a mentor and friend was murdered by terrorists using a commercial aircraft as a weapon.

The late Woodie Guthrie, folk singer, wrote a song that we sang as schoolchildren in California in the 1960s.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

where are the peacemakers?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.    (NIV) Matthew 5:9

As a younger ( admittedly, I was thirty-one years old) Sailor, I had brushes with questionable people and groups.  In Pensacola, Florida since I was trained in the use of various firearms and owned a few different weapons,  I had on occasion gone to a shooting range in the rural red-clay part of Escambia county.  One Saturday, I came home  to a message on my answering machine inviting me to join the Klan!  I never responded. It wasn’t something you mocked in person.  I presumed they got my home phone (this was long before cell phones) from the sign-in sheet at the range.   On one occasion,  when a black community group – I’m assuming a church group – would picnic in a local park,  I would notice a couple of large pickup trucks with very ‘white’ occupants  would cruise by slowly.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. John F. Kennedy

With the whole country worked up into a frenzy over Trump, cultural identity, destruction of historical places, names and monuments, and social media,  I have to confess I have never been ashamed of my race, ethnicity, education, religion, gender, sexuality nor veteran status.   In the last forty years, I have been a card-carrying member of several national organizations: the Navy,  the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW),  Fleet Reserve Association (FRA),  National Cryptologic Veterans Association (NCVA), Tin Can Sailors, the Navy Memorial Association, and  the American Legion.

There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.   Abraham Lincoln

I can only speak specifically to my experience over forty years in the military and industry, that the least tolerant of different opinions, least skilled in critical thinking, and least appreciative of the benefits and blessings of the United States, are generally the ones raised and taught by non-veterans.  I served with and was mentored by some of the most professional, inspiring, and capable leaders, female and male,  black, hispanic, asian, and white.  I would march into hell itself with these role models leading me.  When there needs to be leadership, from the local school board, up to and including the White House, the military-trained leader needs to step up.

Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. Harry S Truman

***  5, U.S.C. 3331 codified in 1868, that all Federal employees take an oath to work within the bounds of the Constitution, to support the government and not to circumvent it.  It was part of the healing process to re-unite the defeated Confederacy.   Part of the oath states support for the Constitution and to oppose all enemies, “foreign and domestic”.

why ships are “she”

There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea. Joseph Conrad

In February 1992,  at age 32, my personal life in shambles ( an estranged wife with mental illness, and crushing debt were the big issues),  I received orders to the USS TEXAS (CGN-39), a nuclear powered guided missile cruiser homeported in Alameda, California – across the bay from San Francisco.  I drove out from Florida by myself.   Arriving at the bottom of the brow,  I was ready and excited to begin my first period of “sea duty”.    I was reporting as one of three technicians, supporting the communications and  RF surveillance systems – which I had just spent half a year learning.  Looking back today, the electronics and the computer control – running octal code!  – were less complex than the average electronic toy today.    But in 1992,  few people owned a personal computer, and maybe the well-heeled might have a “car phone”  — bulky device, with bag, battery and a cigarette lighter socket charger.

The duties I was assigned – as the newbie out of school – were general.  I was already being called “grandpa” since I was nearly six or seven years older than the senior tech in our workcenter.  As the new guy,  I was put in a harness to go aloft.   (The harness came with a “ball-buster”, so-called  because of the mechanical brake used as a safety line for ascending and descending the mast — if you disconnected without thinking, a few pounds of metal would swing away and crash into your groin! )

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Capt Neal Brennan commends me

For a guy that wasn’t all that fond of heights – I had been rappelling mountains in Virginia to end that timidity climbing a hundred feet up above the water pierside was my “welcome”.    Of course, the lamp at the top of the mast, attached to our TACINTEL antenna had no need to be changed.   But the gentle sway was calming, and height never troubled me after that.  I spent a lot of time over the course of several years greasing fittings, cleaning away salt buildup, sanding and painting equipment.  Since each communications shop : the CT and EW (electronic warfare or ELINT guys)  were in my division;  the Radiomen and the Combat Systems groups also had things to maintain aloft.  The primary time to do these chores were in port for extended periods as we would have the rotating and radiating (radars especially)  for our ship and neighboring ships “tagged out”.   Nobody wanted to be sterilized or cooked (think of a  microwave oven) from RF energy.

Between performance tests, maintenance, cleaning, and cross-training as an operator in our own center, we had training in security force ( rapid reaction team), firefighting, damage control and other collateral jobs.    Because of the nature of the job, most of the crew knew us only as “spooks”, and Maintenance (CTMs) were not above getting strange looks from the hot and sweaty Engineering (Snipes) crew.  You see, in a couple of our workspaces, the air conditioning (chilled water) system were overly efficient.  Large, heat-generating equipment had been replaced with newer systems that were much  less power consuming.  The now much colder workcenter  made it necessary for the techs to wear our winter coats or “foul weather jackets”;  we might forget to remove them when we went to the Mess Deck to get some coffee.  Some sweaty, greasy shipmates were a little irritated at some “topsiders” easy living.  shopping

Working behind the “Green Door”  with its OZ Division sign (“Oh-Zee” meant we were part of the Operations Department)  required special access and security protocols.  We would get asked from time to time what we were doing.  We would come up with all sorts of stories.  “Actually,  I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you” was our running joke.   In the days when email and Internet were toddlers,  when the AFRTS broadcast was still received  and rebroadcast in the evening through the ship’s entertainment system,  we might get sports scores or news before the rest of the ship.

While the underway schedule was tedious and I would sometimes spend up to eighteen hours working, cleaning, training or on watch, it was peaceful.  All the noise at sea – equipment, machinery, buffers, alarms, announcing systems were less unnerving than the sudden “silence” – an equipment casualty occurring at that moment – followed by an alarm and a all-ship announcement through our 1MC intercom.   I really felt at home on the TEXAS.  Compared with the stress of the home I had left back in Florida, I was in a long-term relationship.  That ship and crew were my family.   I set out to learn everything I could about the ship as part of the Enlisted Surface Warfare qualification  and earn my silver Surface Warfare pin.

It was a shame that the ship’s schedule was a few months deployment s, before it was to go into the shipyard for a couple of years in order to replace the nuclear fuel and receive upgraded systems.   My first underway period occurred in the late Spring of that year,  and it was not long afterward that I was able to add Panama and Ecuador to foreign places I had visited.   Transiting the Panama Canal was one of the highlights of my Navy career.   And becoming a member of the honored Shellbacks – first, as pollywogs, we had to be properly indoctrinated in a raucous smelly, greasy, traditional welcome. And being hosed down with salt water in the pre-dawn of the equatorial waters near the Galapagos Islands, is a memory I cherish. My years of spanish from school, living in southern Arizona, traveling in Mexico, paid huge dividends in Central and South America.  Where some Panamanians or Ecuadorians were bemused or put off by American Sailors,  I was able to share jokes, catch deals on local crafts,  negotiate fantastic deals on a hotel room for shipmates and even trade wits with a streetwise New York-born kid visiting relatives.

On our return to Alameda,  a segment of the crew was able to take change of station, house-hunting leave  for our pending move to Bremerton, Washington.  In June, I was soon after to realize, that the weather was perfect though temporary.  For the remaining 11 months until the following June, it was cloudy, misty, rainy, snowy or sleeting.  Prior to going into dry dock, the TEXAS made a trip across the Puget Sound for Esquimalt , British Columbia, Canada.   Killer whales in a pod accompanied us for part of the trip.  Between maintenance assignments and duty rotation,  I was briefly able to take in the view outside the skin of the ship.   The view of the Olympic Range (the Olympic peninsula is the large portion of the state west of Seattle) puget-by-pacificnwseasons-blogspotdotcomto the south is amazing – when the fog or mist lifts long enough to see the snowy mountains.    The Canadian naval base is next to Victoria, a city that looks every bit as if it was lifted out of England and deposited there.  For the couple of days that we were visiting, I had my first experience with craft beer.  My present infatuation with micro-breweries, got started there.    greater_victoria_780_64

I still think about going back to hike in British Columbia, visit the tea shops and markets, and maybe enjoy scones and english marmalade.

In the coming year,  the ship, now in dry dock, was cut open, all the decks were covered with plywood,  giant tarps hung over the side of the ship while sandblasting away the paint, barnacles, and growth of many years at sea.

With my equipment shutdown or removed for maintenance, I was left to clean, to document maintenance – I worked fairly closely with the  Maintenance Material Management System or (3M) Coordinator  by that time.  For a couple of months I was assigned off the ship to help coordinate the maintenance of the Bachelor Officers Quarters which at the time was being transitioned to a civilian who had been running large hotels.  Officers had it pretty cushy.  Enlisted sailors in base quarters in Bremerton  didn’t have it too rough either.   At the time the Navy made its decision to halt the refueling and scrap the TEXAS,  I had moved off base to renting a home not far from the shoreline.  Seattle was visible across the bay.

I was enjoying the little town of Manchester.  Then my estranged wife showed up, long enough to take most of my valued possessions and several firearms.  And leave with her boyfriend.   I was ready to transfer to my next ship,  a destroyer in Norfolk, Virginia, the USS PETERSON (DD-969).

Ships are known to the men who go to sea in them as “she”.   Temperamental, attractive, frustrating, consuming, difficult, requiring a lot of commitment and hard work. And romantic.  All at the same time.  But like a woman you are with, you can be successfully only in one relationship at a time — and a ship is jealous for your time.