Howdy All, a few Interesting Items for your information. Enjoy –
In this issue:
- Big Stick
- Ravn Air
- Venezuela. I can tell that the current festivities are starting to take a toll, as my sense of humor is getting ground down a bit. With that in mind, I’ll start this issue of II with one of the funnier stories I’ve seen in a couple weeks. This one took place offshore from Venezuela around midnight March 30 when a Venezuelan patrol boat attempted to hijack a German-owned cruise ship in international waters. The ship was empty of passengers, unarmed, sailing under a Portuguese flag, and I would guess just after passage through the Panama Canal on its way home. Appears the Maduro regime was about to engage in a hostage taking, forcing the ship into a Venezuelan port where it could be bartered for cold, hard cash. When your supporters as a regime are the Iranians, Russians, Cubans and ChiComs, such a business model is not that far out of the norm for that group of nations. Maduro accused the captain of the RCGS Resolute of “terrorism and piracy.” The ship had been drifting for a day or so in international waters doing some engine maintenance off an offshore island. The other engine was fully operable. Shortly after midnight, an armed Venezuelan approached it and ordered it to follow to Puerto Moreno on Isla de Margarita. As the Resolute was in international waters, the captain called home to the head office. Not getting the response they wanted, the patrol boat opened fire and rammed the starboard bow of the ship. There were multiple collisions, all in an attempt to force the ship into port. The Resolute suffered minor damages not impacting seaworthiness. The patrol boat was not so lucky, taking on water and sinking. Venezuelan military reported that marines aboard were all rescued, suggesting another craft in the vicinity or an out an out lie. This event took place at midnight in international waters, at least 12 nm offshore. It was likely very dark, as the moon was a waxing crescent and as far as I can tell, set around 2350 L, meaning whoever went into the water had a long swim in dark with the sharks. Why did the patrol boat go down while the cruise ship was relatively undamaged? It turns out that the cruise ship was specially outfitted for operation in Antarctic (and Arctic) waters, essentially a passenger-carrying icebreaker. And those guys generally win collisions by what CDR Salamander refers to as the Law of Gross Tonnage. Too bad there was not a video.
- Big Stick. The US aircraft carrier Teddy Roosevelt is referred to in the business as the Big Stick. It suffered a Wuhan virus outbreak. At the time, the Captain was working with the Navy to control the outbreak, care for the crew, and maintaining combat readiness. At some point, the captain apparently didn’t think he was getting the support from his chain of command that he wanted and wrote a fiery letter which he transmitted to at least 20 individuals, some of them not in his chain of command. Of course, the letter was leaked to his hometown newspaper in SF which promptly published it, shocked, simply shocked that the Navy was not properly caring for its sailors. The SECNAV promptly fired him and later ran his mouth on the carrier after the firing calling the captain either “… too naive or stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.” Needless to say, this didn’t go over all that well with HIS superiors and he shortly tendered his resignation. Nobody involved did themselves or the Navy any favors in this one, and the actual story is still being sorted out. The SECNAV released an extended written rationale for the firing, claiming among other things that the Navy was working with the captain to address his concerns about the infection and spread of the virus. He also claimed that the captain had jumped outside the chain of command and hadn’t kept his immediate superior informed of his growing concern. The decision to write his letter and send it outside the chain was bad enough, but the decision to do it via unclassified channels demonstrated at best wanton cluelessness, more properly dereliction of duty. Why is this? The Big Stick is a $10 billion warfighting machine operating within missile range of China. It and the carrier battle group that supports it represent a substantial portion of combat strength in the Pacific Ocean right at the time when China is rattling its military sabers with provocation after provocation after provocation in the South China Sea. And the captain just told the ChiComs that he was not combat ready and wouldn’t be for a while. In peacetime, it is an incredibly dangerous act. We might get away with it this time around, as it appears the ChiComs still have their own military hands full (a fire aboard their carrier over the weekend for instance). I have no idea why he didn’t pursue this thru secure channels. He hasn’t posited any explanation. In my mind, he clearly screwed up under pressure. Happily, it didn’t get any of his people killed as this sort of thing would have done under combat. I could make a real cynical comment about promoting people from SF, but I won’t.
- Ravn Air. A small regional airline that serves mainly Bush Alaska called Ravn Air filed for bankruptcy last week. They have been around for a while and carry mainly passengers, mail and cargo. Governor Dunleavy issued a stay at home order a couple weeks ago. Along with that order, was a suspension of passenger traffic in and out of the villages. Villages in the Bush are really sensitive to viral outbreaks like Wuhan, as the Spanish Flu took a terrible toll a century ago, exacerbated by minimal sanitation, little to non-existent medical care, and few trained medical professionals. Bush villages are sufficiently freaked out by the current festivities that trucks have been parked on runways to keep planes from landing. Of course, the notion that having sufficient fuel to divert to multiple runways never occurs to these self-selected aviation experts. And the inability (and unwillingness) to keep flying mail and cargo to these places doesn’t either. Long story short, and the combination of all this led to $90 million debt and the bankruptcy filing. Seeing his opening, one of Alaska’s wannabe Hugh Chavez’s, North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower wrote an emergency order seizing all Ravn Air assets located in the North Slope Borough, mainly Deadhorse and Barrow. His order also dragooned all former Ravn employees into service of the Borough and demanded they present all leases and security codes for their facilities. Good luck with that. Rationale for this was the 27,000 pounds of undelivered mail. Thanks to former US Senator Ted Stevens, most cargo to Bush Alaska is delivered as US Mail, your tax dollars at work. Left unsaid was his apparent desire to set up his own Borough airline / cargo system using former Ravn employees to fly the planes. Following the shock, it took the Alaska Department of Law less than a day to determine that the seizure of assets was illegal, as we have things called courts, judges, lawyers, banks and accountants to deal with bankruptcies. The Wuhan festivities certainly do uncover the wannabee tyrants nationwide.
- Alaska. North Slope Borough Mayor Brower is not the only Alaskan who had a good week (/sarc) last week. Here are few examples.
- Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R) administration let a half-million dollar, no bid contract with a Florida online education company to provide a statewide online education option. The story hit local media and the comments exploded following the article in the local fish wrapper, totaling over 500 after a couple days. In doing this, Dunleavy got out ahead of both the statewide education establishment and the unions. While he was giving parents and students an option, the unions were out collecting signatures to recall him from office. Don’t think we won’t remind voters of that should the recall hit the ballot.
- The dream of the Dunleavy recall was to hold a special election sometime this summer, while everyone was out fishing. Looks like the earliest they can hold it now is the November General Election, when both Trump and the legislature will be up for a vote. It’s not the venue they wanted. The Alaska Supremes have not yet ruled on the recall, though as he cut their budget too, they are expected to rule in favor of the recall.
- Anchorage’s Boy Mayor, Ethan Berkowitz, finally closed the sporting goods stores here in town, shutting down most sales of guns and ammo. While he did not touch local gun shops, the sporting goods stores (Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and Sportsman’s Warehouse) do the majority of the business. Ethan’s sneaky (convenient) rationale is that the sporting goods stores are non-essential.
- Ethan has also asked for an extension of his authority to declare an emergency (which gives him spending authority over the tax cap) through Nov 15. The Anchorage Assembly, which did not see a single incumbent defeated, though a couple races were relatively close, remains stunningly leftist (thanks to the glories of mail-in ballots) but is starting to make noises about limiting that authority to 14-day long chunks. Our Boy Mayor sure does like himself his emergency orders.
- Final Alaska story comes from Seldovia, a small town of around 300 full-time residents across Kachemak Bay from Homer. Seldovia is also a location for part-time residents from the rest of the state, who typically have cabins they live in and use for the summers. It is not connected to the road system so access is either by floatplane or boat. The Police Chief a week or so sent correspondence to many of the part time residents that they are no longer welcome in Seldovia because Wuhan. Some of the part-time residents are pushing back daring the Chief to enforce his order. This should be a lot of fun in local courts.
- Wuhan. Saving the worst for last. Here are a group of stories on the Wuhan flu / virus over the last week.
- I participate in a FB Group of former fighter pilots. A lot of the guys are still flying, most who are fly commercial at some level. Ran across a few stories (claims) for your consideration. We have been hearing from cargo guys working for a few of the major companies who regularly fly into China (mainly Beijing, occasionally Shanghai). They have been telling us normal aviation traffic over China is almost non-existent, with nobody airborne. Ground times are newly limited to just a few hours. Robert Kraft’s flight into China to load hospital masks for Boston a couple weeks ago was limited to hours on the ground. They are of the opinion that Wuhan was incredibly deadly in China, with rumors of 2.5 – 3 million dead so far. Now there is no way I can prove this, but if China is open for business, so will air traffic in it. And that traffic has not resumed to anywhere close to its former level.
- Chicago phlebotomists are finding 30 – 50% of everyone they test have Wuhan antibodies in their blood. 10 – 20% of those tested are actual carriers of the disease. The high rate of Wuhan antibodies in the blood means that either Wuhan or something very close to is has been running around in the US months before the officially announced outbreak, perhaps as far back as Oct – Nov last year. This may help explain why California was not as badly hit as NY.
- After 13 years, SF reversed its ban on single use plastic shopping bags. The Anchorage Assembly has pointedly refused to consider our ban.
- Scott Adams has been really beating up on modeling, which is in turn used as an excuse for the economic shutdown / hunker down / stay home orders that has idled the US economy. Adams’ perspective is as a former economic modeler who has significant expertise in persuasion. He pounds home the notion that models are created after the decision to proceed in a direction has been made, simply to persuade whatever target (business, general public, etc) that persuasion is aimed at. That’s it. The trick is to make the predicted range of outcome on the models just as wide as possible, so that they are seen as predictive of the future. We see this with the Wuhan models. We see it with the climatista models. They do not predict the future. Nobody can. Rather, they only exist to persuade.
More later –