[Updates added at the bottom. – JED]
Greetings, readers. This is the inaugural edition of the TOC Ready Room, which will be an open thread and drop-by briefing space in the spirit of the ready rooms used by military aviators.
My experience being with U.S. Navy ready rooms, the feature image is of a ready room on the carrier USS Constellation (CV64) used by a squadron from Carrier Air Wing 2. The image is tagged as being from March 2003, when Constellation was on her final operational deployment supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. (The CVW-2 patch is visible on one of the flight jackets, incidentally.) Constellation was decommissioned only a few months later, in August 2003.
On a carrier, the ready room is used for planning and squadron briefings, but also serves as a gathering space subject to availability. It’s the center of squadron life during underway periods and deployment.
The Ready Room posts will be added at least once a week, but the plan is not currently for them to occur daily.
The format for info-bits that I add will be informal. They won’t be polished posts with extensive research or analysis behind them, though I anticipate adding brief comments in most cases.
Today’s grab bag to prime the pump.
Oh…that explains it. These articles popped out 1-2 on Monday.
First we learned that the U.S. will not be participating in Russian-sponsored talks on Afghanistan, being held this week in Moscow.
The reason: “logistics.”
According to The Hill: “State spokesperson Ned Price … did not expand on what logistical challenges were preventing the U.S. from participating.”
Presumably because it’s a ridiculous excuse. The world’s foremost power has a “logistical” challenge sending someone to Moscow? Not possible.
The Hill article didn’t speculate on why the U.S. wouldn’t attend the talks (or show any sign of research on the matter). It did note that the Biden administration had representatives at the round of Russian-sponsored Afghanistan talks in March 2021. Apparently our logistic capabilities were up to par back then. More importantly, it’s clear we are politically willing to attend the talks, as opposed to distancing ourselves from them for policy reasons.
Within a couple of hours: surprise, surprise. It turns out Russia has just suspended ties with NATO and removed its entire diplomatic mission from NATO headquarters.
The reason: “NATO reduced the number of Russian diplomats at its Brussels headquarters from 20 to 10 and withdrew the accreditation of eight Russian diplomats the alliance suspected were working as Russian intelligence officers, according to The Associated Press.”
Russia retaliated by pulling out completely. This is a major loss for geopolitical stability. Russia has had diplomatic representation to NATO in some form since 1991 (the mission was formalized when Russia joined the Partnership for Peace in 1994).
I think we can conclude that’s why “Biden” isn’t sending a delegation to the Afghanistan talks in Moscow.
This is a very worrisome trend. For one thing, it paves the path for Russia to make peremptory moves in Ukraine and/or the Baltic Republics. (Or Georgia, for that matter.)
For another, it relieves Moscow of the policy constraint of relating to NATO as a whole. It’s a jumping-off spot for Russian diplomacy that’s intended to divide and weaken NATO, and do so pretty much overtly.
I don’t think this rift gets repaired. It’s a head-shaker that it’s getting little play in U.S. media. Oh, they’re dutifully reporting it via online postings of the AP article. But it’s not getting emphasis in primetime lineups.
But we’re used to that by now.
This is what the media are focused on. Rachel Levine, formerly Pennsylvania’s health department secretary, was sworn in as a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service.
The admirals of the U.S. Public Health Service can be appointed without prior service in the Navy. They are not career officers of a military service, and their political appointment has nothing to do with military policy, or merit or achievement as military officers.
Still, wags across Twitter posted contrasts with China, which tested an earth-circling hypersonic missile a couple of days ago.
The Babylon Bee was on the spot with a take:
Sure. 81 million Americans voted for this. On Tuesday, Jen Psaki taunted Americans from the White House about the increasingly alarming shortage of basic goods in our stores, and the growing problems in the supply and distribution systems – all of which have been caused by government policies.
“When NYT reporter Michael Shear asks about the ongoing supply chain crisis,” Washington Free Beacon tweeted, “Psaki jokes about ‘the tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.’”
Well, no, it’s more like the missing cleaning products, paper goods, beef, chicken, vegetables and fruits, computer chips, etc.
Jeering at the people’s concerns is so bizarrely arrogant and dismissive, it’s biblical in character.
The Biden administration’s handmaiden. The Washington Post was there to put shortages in perspective.
“Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations.”
An excerpt from this prejudicial study of the American consumer (emphasis in original):
American consumers, their expectations pampered and catered to for decades, are not accustomed to inconvenience.
“For generations, American shoppers have been trained to be nightmares,” Amanda Mull wrote in August in the Atlantic, before the supply chain problem turned truly ugly. “The pandemic has shown just how desperately the consumer class clings to the feeling of being served.”
Customers’ persistent whine, “Why don’t they just hire more people?,” sounds feeble in this era of the Great Resignation, especially in industries, such as food service, with reputations for being tough places to work.
The “pandemic” didn’t bring this on, of course. Government policies brought it on. In the absence of lockdowns and mandates, none of the things affecting the supply side of commerce would be happening. Lockdowns and mandates are policy choices; they are not the inescapable result of anything that has actually happened because of COVID-19.
When the plagues hit Europe, huge percentages of the population (on the order of 25% to 33%, depending on the region) sickened and died in a series of very short periods. The disease itself wreaked socially devastating havoc; bodies piled up in the streets, whole families were wiped out in the space of days, vast estates were left untenanted, the farmers unable to plant and harvest because they and all the workers were dead.
COVID-19 hasn’t done anything even a little like that. Its case fatality rate remains far below any level of socially-catastrophic emergency. That’s even among the elderly patients who are the most likely to die. (Probably a lot fewer of them would have died to date if they hadn’t been callously shipped off from hospitals to nursing homes for care. The nursing homes in most places where this was done were unprepared to provide the care needed.)
In any case, well-stocked shelves are the result of people being free and working hard. Increasingly empty shelves are what happens when people are not free, and are prohibited from working hard.
The latter is our situation today. Our job is not to lower our expectations of supply; it’s to adjust our expectations of government. It’s to recognize, with clear eyes and like grown-ups, that the federal government we currently have is not acting in the interests of the people – and indeed, is openly mocking us.
One nice take:
There’s good news, however. Ron DeSantis is encouraging shippers to send their cargoes to Florida to help get them processed and moving through the U.S. transport system to their destinations.
See the thread: DeSantis says that ships have already diverted to Florida ports. We can hope he’s starting a trend, and that Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas can boost their cargo-handling in the coming days.
The helpful effect for states in the American West would trickle across from the East, rather than being immediate. California will remain problematic because its entire transport system is straitjacketed by environmental and union restraints. It doesn’t do a lot of good to send cargo to Oakland rather than L.A. or Long Beach, or to the smaller ports for that matter, when the regulation-compliant trucking just isn’t there to unload the cargo faster and work it off quickly.
(Conservative Treehouse had a good article on this last week. From my own research, I had deduced this to be the case, but CTH has the receipts. Recommended reading.)
I mentioned on Twitter, for those who follow me there, that Mexico might be an avenue for unbollixing the supply chain in the western U.S. (Sadly, I fear Canada is not an option right now.) Arizona is not that far out of the way from Mexico’s West coast.
People have needed their eyes opened to the genuine faithlessness of too much of the American political class. It really is that bad. Conversely, seeing the political leaders who step up and get it done, like DeSantis, is invaluable. It’s information, encouragement, and a shaper of expectations.
*UPDATE* 20 Oct 2021
The Navy comes out with findings on the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) fire, which resulted in the loss of the ship.
The summary posted by “Cdr Salamander” is incredible reading. It’s hard to even take in how much was done wrong.
For example, it doesn’t get more basic than this:
To illustrate this point, the crew had failed to meet the time standard for applying firefighting agent on the seat of the fire on 14 consecutive occasions leading up to 12 July 2020.
But there’s also this:
Just after 8:00 a.m., a junior sailor walked through the upper vehicle deck as she headed out to a vending machine after her watch. She noticed a “hazy, white fog” in the lower vehicle deck around 8:10 a.m. But she didn’t report it, the investigation found, noting that “because she did not smell smoke, (the sailor) continued to her berthing.”
Eventually other people observed and investigated the smoke. Then:
“Having not heard any announcement, at 0820, the OOD called away the casualty over the 1MC,” the report found. The officer told investigators “he delayed calling away the casualty due to the possibility of a benign reason for the smoke (such as starting an Emergency Diesel Generator).”
By now, everyone ever involved in shipboard firefighting has a buzzing in his/her head. Twenty minutes from first-seen and the firefighting team isn’t even suited up yet.
Attack teams had trouble finding serviceable fire stations. In fact, 187 of the ship’s 216 fire stations – 87.5 percent…
At no point did either the DC Central Watch Supervisor or EDO attempt to start any additional equipment or activate Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) firefighting systems … the ship’s installed AFFF systems weren’t put into action “in part because maintenance was not properly performed to keep it ready and in part because the crew lacked familiarity with capability and availability” …
Reminiscent of some of the horrifying investigations we used to read from the late 1970s. This is courted for the military whenever funding is cut drastically (as it was during the Obama sequestration era) and force priorities overbalance to social engineering. Read the whole thing. There’s a link to the full investigation report.
Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Felix Garza Jr. (Via Wikimedia Commons)