O Captain, My Captain

By CajunJoe, a Trail Mix Contributor

When the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship last week killing seven sailors, I was drawn back to my own experience both serving in and working for the United States Navy. Collisions at sea involving Navy vessels are a big deal. It is assumed that a Navy ship can count on the combination of advanced electronics, maneuverability, trained watch standers, experience Captains, and standardized rules of navigation to avoid running into other ships. But it happens occasionally.

I was involved in one myself, serving on “another vessel involved.” I was on a destroyer being refueled off the coast of San Diego. Refueling at sea is a hazardous, but necessary exercise. While refueling, the Oiler sets the course and speed, and, importantly, maintains the watch to avoid other ships. In this case, the Oiler failed in this responsibility. A freighter was on a course to cross our bow, and the Oiler’s. Our destroyer, a more maneuverable ship, saw the pending danger and exercised an ’emergency breakaway’ in which we axed the lines and refueling hoses and took evasive action. The Oiler, however, was a big, lumbering ship and was unable to avoid collision with the freighter.

In 2009, there was another collision, involving the guided-missile destroyer Porter, this time with a super-tanker. In this case a voice recording of actions on the bridge was released. It depicts chaos and confusion on the bridge leading up to the collision, not characteristic of my bridge experience. You can hear it here.

While reminiscing about all of this, my mind wandered, and wondered, further, to the Fat Leonard scandal involving alleged contract fraud, which is still sweeping its wide net within the Navy ranks. The Fat Leonard scandal depicts a Navy lacking discipline and dedication to duty. It shows a large, pathogenic cancer on the Navy as an institution, that high ranking officers in highly responsible positions would engage in such venal corruption.

Are these things somehow related?

Has the Navy, as an institution, lost its way, leading to lax discipline and shoddy leadership? Seven sailors, enlisted men all, died on the Fitzgerald, and that is tragic. But were the seeds of their fate planted long ago?

The Porter and the Fitzgerald incidents were tragic accidents, although the Porter might have avoided collision with better seamanship. With the Fitzgerald, it will remain to be seen. But the evidence, including that the Fitzgerald was hit on the starboard side, indicating a departure from the usual port-to-port passing rule, will put the burden of proof on the Captain and the Officer of the Deck. In the end, I feel comfortable speculating that the Fitzgerald, as the Porter before her, was a victim of poor leadership and discipline.

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GA Fall Out Buck Up

By Whskyjack, a Trail Mix Contributor

Goodness, did you all really believe a Democrat could win a solid Republican district?

Grow up. Politics is a rough sport. The Democrats went into the devil’s lair and grabbed old Nick by the beard. It was a good night.

But get real, come 2018 there are 435 seats up for grabs and a lot of them way more vulnerable than this one.

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I’m Done With Airlines

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, had it right, she refused to fly on airplanes. I’m in her camp now. I spent five hours yesterday trying to catch a flight to Trail Mix Southern Command, but my flight was canceled with no explanation and no options offered for getting there. At least I got a full refund.

Airlines these days handle passengers as they do baggage. What’s next? Bar codes around our necks and we just lay down on conveyer belts.

That’s it. I’m done. Back to cars, boats and trains.

Hitting the road soon for my next trip to Orlando. Some 14 hours it’ll take, but I suspect a halfway stop in Florence, SC, will be better than mooing along with the airport herds.

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What Do China and Cuba have in Common?

By eProf2, a Trail Mix Contributor

The quick answer is they both have Communist governments. And on Friday last Donald Trump decided there isn’t a common United States policy for Communist governments like China and Cuba.

The Trump administration wants to engage in more contacts and trade with China, even though during the presidential campaign he said China was at the root of U.S. economic problems, which were catastrophic. The president and his family have been courting Xi Jinping for more trade and trade mark recognition for Trump products and properties. Trump himself seems to be indebted to Chinese banks while his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was, and could still be, in negotiations for a New York City billion dollar property with China.

There is an appearance that if the Trump family is economically involved with a nation-state U.S. policy will tilt in that direction. There are many examples of this in the first five months of the Trump administration (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, et cetera).

Cuba: No Pay No Play

Cuba, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have a Trump connection. It was reported that Trump once sought hotel rights in Cuba even though the embargo for U.S. businesses was in effect. Trump was turned down by the Castro government. The Friday announcement will severely cut back on business connections and restrict individual travel to the island nation with some exceptions.

The rationale for re-imposing major parts of the fifty year old embargo was that the president didn’t want U.S. dollars flowing to the Cuban military and government. Where does he think U.S. dollars go in China?

Two other rationales have been written about extensively. The first is that all things Obama must be repudiated; thus, Obama’s overture to open relations with Cuba must be overturned. Second, Trump needed to appease older, conservative Republican Cubans in south Florida, who through their hatred of Castro voted for Trump; a single interest group of voters who Trump courted in order to win the electoral college votes from Florida.

Both rationales are not valid arguments when formulating foreign policy. Internationalists must be scouring the world to see what the next foreign policy decision will be made on the basis of Trump investments, loans, and close personal relationships.

This is not the way to implement national interest policy. Both China and Cuba can take away some lessons from Trump’s decision last Friday: U.S. policy can be changed quickly when Trump’s interests “trump” those of the United States.

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