8/18/2016

Shipbreaking Accelerating

Photograph by Mike Hettwer
The Wall Street Journal article: Economic Slump Sends Big Ships to Scrap Heap details the downward spiral of the world economy, over capacity in the Merchant Marine fleets, and depressed shipping costs.

As a marine surveyor working for ABS many years ago, I remember inspecting vessels which in some cases were well beyond their projected service life of 30 years. Ships on the Great Lakes have a longevity that we all wish we could have. Today a number of these vessels are not even 15 years old.

The effect of depressed rates to $575 per container from Asia to Europe has resulted in a sudden glut of ships being sent to the ship breakers. The glut has depressed the ship breaking rates to $250 a ton from $300 last year.  Once the rates drop too low, even the ship breakers can't break even.

At the current rate, the ships will end up being beached until they can be broken, or perhaps a worse fate; they will be scuttled at sea.


World Vision and Hamas

I am following the legal proceedings against Mohammad El-Halabi. Over the years, my family has contributed to World Vision. Discovering that there is a possibility that the money was funnelled to a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, and violation of my Christian principles is troubling to say the least.

Israeli prosecutors allege $7.2 million a year was being transferred for over 5 years.  If this is true, then I feel betrayed by World Vision and its accounting failures. It would also mean that we have been fueling the ongoing crisis in Israel, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria. It also means that those funds which were slated to do "good works" have been siphoned off to do evil in the world.

World Vision, and other Christian NGOs should heed this siren call, and keep a better eye on their books. Otherwise funding from Christians like myself will dry up and disappear.

A Seafarer's Cautionary Tale

The Wall Street Journal article: Court to Weigh Fate of Vessel Stranded in Foreclosure Off Coast of Georgia details the status the Merchant Marine worldwide currently. The slowdown in world markets, turmoil in Europe, and glut of cheap oil have driven down shipping costs. A number of ship owners have not been able to make enough money to stay afloat (pardon the pun).

The low cost of transport has an unintended side-effect. When a vessel is seized as in the WSJ article, the mariners on the vessel are stuck. They can not depart the vessel until relieved of duty. This typically is handled by arrival in port and swapping out crew. In this case, they can not put in at a port, and can't leave until the vessel is properly secured in a berth.

When you work in vessels which are operated on the cheap with foreign crews, these men and women are left to their own fates when the operators fail.

Boeing Tanker KC-46 Cleared by Pentagon

Courtesy: Boeing
The controversial Boeing KC-46 Refueling Tanker has finally cleared the Pentagon's testing and contract awarding process on the 15th of August 2016. The U.S. Air Force will issue the initial contract within the next 30 days to begin the construction of 19 KC-46 aircraft.

These next generation aerial refueling aircraft will begin to replace the aging KC-135 tankers in the current military inventory. The airframe is based on the Boeing 767 which should allow production synergies to be maximized for the construction of the aircraft.

The first aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in August 2017.

Apparently, the deliveries can't come fast enough: Refueling issues cause military jets to change route. That was the headline I heard this morning while contemplating this blog post.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Bill Clinton signing CTBT
The Wall Street Journal had an article Evading the Constitution to Ban Nuclear Tests that discussed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Obama administration is trying to make an end run around Congress to get the U.N. to make member states who are signatory and who have not ratified the treaty a party to it. Therefore making it illegal for the U.S. to test nuclear weapons.

I am shocked and appalled that a sitting U.S. President would put the American people, as well as, the free nations of the world at risk by attempting this maneuver. We have not tested any nuclear devices since 1992. We have used simulations to "test" our upgrades to the current weapon systems. The DOD has noted that this is reaching the end of its usefulness. The more we depart from the original designs, the more unpredictable our simulations become. The nuclear umbrella that keeps Russia and China, but more importantly these days N. Korea and Iran at bay is Mutually Assured Destruction (MUD). Our allies have lived under the security of this umbrella, and they have not had to keep stockpiles because of the safety we provide. This has made the world a safer place.

President Obama is attempting to usurp powers not given to him in the Constitution. The CTBT was rejected by the Senate in 1999 where sensible minds prevailed. Let me remind everyone that the original treaty was signed by President Bill Clinton whose wife is now running for the same office. I am not trying to make a political statement other than note that if they have the same beliefs; it will put us at risk again to ratifying a crippling treaty that only benefits our adversaries who do not play by the rules; think Iran and Russia to start.

Encourage your elected representatives, especially your Senators that this end run on the Constitution should be squarely put down, and reign in on Presidential power.

I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. This applies equally to elected officials that attempt to subvert their clearly defined powers.  Ask your Congressmen to do their jobs, and curb assumed Presidential powers.

6/29/2016

My son is trying his hand at Blogging

Sean Yeary
The WWW needs to be on the lookout for my youngest son. He is trying his hand at blogging. The Polar Bear Boy is on the loose.

He is a huge fan of video games so expect some great content if you are into Destiny and Fallout 4.

He is also a master Minecrafter.

9/05/2015

Joint Tactical Light Vehicle (JTLV)

No Photography?  (Shephard Media)
The DoD awarded the the initial production run of the JTLV to OshKosh Defense. It seems to have produced a number of interesting remarks from outsiders who think OshKosh B'Gosh childrens clothing.

This is a fine weapon and delivery system and not a child's toy. The image to the right I found using a Google search. I found it funny because of the tag on the front that says "No Photography". The vehicle looks very nice, and hopefully will perform as expected.

(Oshkosh Defense)


The vehicle for me seems to have one visible flaw. The large undefended radiator grill in the front. I think that this needs to be covered more effectively, or moved to the top of the hood as much as possible.

The initial cost per unit is roughly $300K which is more than a HUMMV, but considerably lower than MRAP.

My expectation is that this vehicle helps protect our troops and bring them home safely at the end of the day. The price tag is not the defining issue here.

9/04/2015

Chinese Navy in US Territorial Waters

(Xinhua/Zha Chunming)

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday and today that Chinese naval vessels were found in US territorial waters off of Alaska. Does this indicate a shift in Chinese military stance? I believe it is significant in its timing as noted in the articles.1, 2

There are five principle timing events to keep in mind: President Obama was visiting Alaska, the Chinese military was celebrating 70 years since the end of WWII  with an enormous parade (which coincidentally included Vladimir Putin as a guest), US military pivot to the Pacific, and US Naval challenge of the "freedom of the seas" in the Spratly Islands, and Chinese cyberwarfare against US government agencies and military.

The first seems to be a passive-aggressive issue where the Chinese are putting ships in an area where a US president is visiting. It is a technique we use to project force worldwide. Our typical stance is to send a carrier group to an area as a show of force. This seems on the surface to be the same thing. It is worth noting that while President Obama and Vladimir Putin were exchanging a phone conversation in July to celebrate Independence Day, the Russians sent bombers to Alaska and California. In both cases, I think we are expected to see the force projection.3

The Chinese sent invitations for the US to attend the 70th Anniversary of end of WWII celebrations which included an outlandish military parade 4, 5 reminiscent of Soviet military parades during the Cold War. The parade included the current militaristic dictator of Russia who I may conjecture knew of the Chinese vessels in Alaskan waters. Since previous to this event, they were engaged in military exercises with the Russians.

The US military pivot to the Pacific is old news, but it is significant in the Chinese eyes that they see the US as a threat to their agenda. One in which old adversaries of the US (Russia/China) play a strategic partnership to advance a thinly veiled expansion agenda.

The Chinese have been advancing their agenda in the South China Sea with the construction of artificial islands much to the chagrin of their neighbors. These islands include one which has a military air strip and radar installations. They have also threatened the US Navy with violations of their territorial waters, though in the case of the Spratly Islands in question, international law says otherwise. The tit-for-tat approach of the Chinese Navy in undisputed US territorial waters is a taunt to say "What is the US going to do about it?" The US military says that they are free to operate with the "freedom of the seas" carefully tossed back in our faces.

All of this occurs with the backdrop of the Chinese military spying on the US government and engaging in Cyber warfare. The Obama administration has emasculated the military and engaged in military bravado speeches about a pivot, and "freedom of the seas".  The US Navy is in such a declined state, we can't effectively project force, and we must "pivot". Once upon a time, the US had a 600 ship navy second to none. Today, that navy is reduced to 236 commissioned ships and 417 if you count non-commissioned (USNS) and Ready Reserve Fleet. The 236 includes non-combatant vessels.6

If the US wants to continue to be a dominant military, this must change. The Russians and Chinese have figured out we are starting to soften, and are pushing in on the edges toward the center.

The only pivot I see here is at the waist of the military leaders who may also know it as BOHICA.

  1. http://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-watches-as-chinese-navy-ships-sail-in-bering-sea-1441216258
  2. http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinese-navy-ships-off-alaska-passed-through-u-s-territorial-waters-1441350488
  3. http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/09/politics/russian-bombers-u-s-intercept-july-4/
  4. http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-flexes-its-military-muscle-at-world-war-ii-parade-1441282579
  5. http://www.wsj.com/articles/missing-from-beijings-military-spectacle-price-tag-1441210301
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_ships_of_the_United_States_Navy

8/02/2015

Op-ed: An S.O.S From Battleground Ukraine

I finished reading the Opinion piece by Sohab Ahmari called An S.O.S From Battleground Ukraine and I too have been wondering why the US and NATO have turned their backs on Ukraine. Victor Poroshenko asked for 1,240 US Javelin anti-tank missiles. As noted in the article, that is the exact number of nuclear warheads turned over by Ukraine in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. If Ukraine had kept those nuclear missiles would we see the same level of aggression from Russia? Would Russia really have annexed Crimea? I am thinking they would have given pause to such aggressive behavior. The crystal ball is fuzzy on whether it would have stopped Czar Putin from his trophy, but it would likely have cost him more.

I am glad that the Ukrainian leadership in 1994 realized the issues around nuclear weapons, and surrendered them. The world is a safer place because of it, but Ukraine is not a safer place for it. I have friends and fellow Java leaders who live in Ukraine. I pray for their safety and well being. I just wish the US and NATO would come to their aid. Poking the Russian Bear is not only necessary, but warranted. Let's make Czar Putin consider his calculus more carefully and reverse the direction of the "New Cold War". By making Czar Putin's life more miserable by mounting losses of manpower, and equipment like in Afghanistan, he may be forced to withdraw from Ukraine including Crimea, and leave South Ossetia to the Georgia

Israeli Military Industries for Sale

"Uzi 1". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Who made the famous Uzi? You guessed it Israeli Military Industries (IMI). The iconic Uzi and its symbol of Israeli innovation and power is being sold. The Israeli Government is trying to divest itself of state-owned businesses. Perhaps having its leash cut, or at least lengthened may allow it to innovate and experience a new age of growth. Elbit Systems, Renco, and SK Group are in the bidding. Personally, I would like to see Elbit Systems, Ltd. win the bid. This would keep IMI part of the heritage of Israel, and keep weapons development in Israel.

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