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Monday, November 17, 2014

Finding and Keeping Crew

The following was written in response to a scuttlebutt contribution which gave reasons for owners not being able to get or keep crew.

The contributor said, in part, "Short course racing sucks. It leaves no time to socialize. It leaves no time to get to know one another on the boat. It leaves no time to tell jokes, or network in life, or in business... From a recreational sport perspective, camaraderie is what it should be about. It should be about laughter, goofing around, making tight knit friendships and business relations."

Frankly, I don’t think that providing more opportunity for your crew to network with each other and socialize during races addresses the needs of either finding or keeping crew, which are, in fact, two different propositions and which need slightly different approaches, neither of which involves much social networking.

Most people agree to come onboard your boat to crew for you either as new sailors who are excited about doing something they haven’t done before and which seems like it would be fun to them, or as experienced sailors who think you will have a fun, and successful, racing program which they’d like to be a part of.

The new sailors are sometimes easier to find than the experienced hands, and it takes a while to build the team with them to the point when you can win races, but it’s worth it. If treated right, and if they have fun, they will be loyal. The experienced hands, and you need a few of them if you want to win, are tougher to get. But for both groups, you need to work first on getting them, and second, on keeping them.

We’ve done this virtually around the globe and we’ve never had a problem getting or keeping crew, we’ve always had fun and became great friends with the people who have sailed with us, and along the way, we’ve won a few races. It takes time however, and creativity, to find the people and build them into a team. Unless you have such a hot boat that all the rock stars want to get on it, and few of us have that to offer, (and anyhow, it isn’t always a lot of fun), you have to work at getting people and keeping them.

To find people you have to look everywhere. Ask around the dock. Ask at work. Ask friends and relatives. Ask the local sailing school; the instructors will know who is a good candidate. Check out the youth programs. Use social networks and the local radio net, if there is one. Post notes on the yacht club bulletin boards, physical and electronic. Keep an open mind about people who express an interest; sometimes that person who seems totally wrong for sailing will turn out to be a jewel. The most important thing in a new crew member is interest and willingness to commit. If they have that, give them a try.

When you are making your offer of a crew position you need to tell the newbies that it will be fun, exciting, and maybe a little challenging but that you’ll make it easy for them to learn and do well, that nobody will yell at them, and maybe you can talk about the after race parties and tell them how they don’t need to bring anything to go sailing but a windbreaker, etc, just show up. You can tell them how great it is to be on the water in the wind and sun and get them excited about the prospect. To get those valuable experienced sailors to join you need to show that you are reasonably competent, that you have a well organized and moderately funded program, the boat will be well maintained, the crew will be good, or will become good in time, the sailing will fun, (no yelling, etc), and they will have a chance to be on a winning team. In both cases you have to be a bit of a salesperson. A smile and a handshake and a friendly personality will also go a long way.

But how do you keep them once they come out for a race or two?

We’ve found that winning isn’t everything but having fun is. Sailboat racing is a team sport. Working well together as a team is really a lot of fun and it gives people a good feeling and that is why people do team sports. When you finish that race, even if you didn’t win, if you all know that you nailed every maneuver, sailed fast, the right way, and just clicked as a team, everyone will feel good about it. If each person has their job, knows it is important, and knows that they have done it well, and that their teammates also know they have done it well, they will feel good about themselves. Helping people feel good about themselves is what makes them come back.

On the other hand, if your race was full of mistakes, or people yelled and made others feel bad, even if somehow you won the race, people won’t feel good about it. It won’t be remembered as a fun experience.

The skipper’s attitude is important. As a skipper you have to be positive, be patient, be a teacher, and you have to be forgiving of mistakes (up to a point). I don’t mean that you shouldn’t have high expectations of people; you should. People will only live up to your expectations, high or low, so set them high. Give people a job which they are up to, tell them what you expect and that you know they can do it, and that when they do they will become the best team out there. Then show people how to achieve that. They will.

For the experienced hands, give them some responsibility, let them know what you expect, and let them know that you trust them. They will live up to the expectation too, or, if not, and you have to make a change, either in personnel or in roles, don’t be afraid of that. It’s like any management role, and the other good sailors will not want you to tolerate for long a crew member who isn’t cutting it.

After the race it is really important to tell each person how well they did, even if you have to stretch the point a little to find that one good move they made, shake their hand, and tell them how glad you are to have them on the boat, and how much you are counting on them to come back (and tell them when that is.)

The social aspect will come naturally. We’ve found that mixed crews work well. Husbands and wives, single men and women, whatever, but with mixed crews some of them will organize other activities for the crew, such as potluck meals on the beach or dinner parties at someone’s house. This adds to the teambuilding. You will find that the team takes over, they form friendships which outlast the racing program you have formed. And the students will often overtake the teacher. All of this is good, and it all helps build and keep a crew.

As far as socializing on the boat, during the race? Yes, the chatter on the rail is inevitable, but sometimes it gets in the way of the concentration on the race, and sometimes you have to ask for quiet, but if the rest of the program is in place, they won’t mind.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

AIS Alarm Issues

We have an AIS system which shows us on the chart plotter the position, speed, and course of other vessels, on Wings and it is generally a great navigational and safety aid. Probably the second most important improvement to cruising since GPS. However, we have some problems. Read this if you are interested in AIS and our experience.

Here is a recap of our AIS adventures:

Installation

We installed a West Marine AIS1000 in 2010. It was inexpensive and easily available. West Marine programmed it as required by law in the US. The unit is a bit clunky but is weather sealed and rugged (not essential for our installation) but it installed easily and worked right out of the box with little zero further set-up. We really did not want to install a second VHF antenna or the cabling of one so we tried a West Marine VHF signal splitter, which has worked perfectly. Our AIS and VHF share a single cable and mast head antenna. Our cabling to the mast head is RG9U and our losses seem acceptable. We've done limited operational testing but when we have, both class A and Class B equipped vessels have seen us on their displays at reasonable distances. So the installation works.

We've routed the outputs to both the nav station PC for use on OpenCPN and to a Standard Horizon Matrix GX2000 VHF radio which has a AIS display. This permits us to monitor AIS without continuously running the Dell PC we use in the Nav station. (This is a power saving decision). The GX2000 also requires a separate GPS signal and we route our Lowrance GPS output to that (and to the Dell, for redundancy).

The biggest benefit we see from the AIS system is a watch-standing function. Using CPA and TCPA alarms we get over the horizon warnings about commercial traffic, very, very helpful and comforting during passages. In bad weather or when the watch stander is drowsy, the AIS lets us know somebody is coming. Of course during transits of the Straits of Malacca, offshore of East Africa, and near the coasts of Brazil and Venezuela, all very high traffic areas, the visual display on the chart plotter has made a world of difference. Commercial traffic is no longer a significant worry although we will be happier when all fishing vessels and small craft also carry it.

CPA and TCPA

The OpenCPN handling of targets and alarm setting is much better than the GX2000, which has been a bit of a disappointment. In fact if there is one issue we have with our installation it is in the alarm handling of the GX2000. In the first place it cannot logically combine CPA settings with TCPA. So with a CPA setting to give an CPA alarm for any vessel which will come within 2 miles, and a TCPA setting to give an alarm for any vessel whose closest point will be in the next 30 minutes, for example, the GX2000 gives in alarms for all vessels which will either get within 2 miles, no matter how much time will pass before that happens, and all vessels whose closest point will occur in the next 30 minutes, even if their closest point is 15 miles! It is a logical "OR" instead of a logical "AND". There is no prioritization as there is with the Vesper Marine AIS Watchmate. Open CPN works better in this regard.

Re-occurring nuisance alarms

The next issue, which is really aggravating, happens on both units, but it is much more serious on the GX2000. This relates to the instantaneous CPA and TCPA calculations which are dramatically affected by our vessel's yawing and surging in sea states common on an ocean passage. Even when our course is such that we will pass well clear of an oncoming (or overtaking) vessel, when a wave makes us yaw towards the target both our OpenCPN and the GX2000 wake up and give alarms. However, in the next second when we yaw back onto our course the calculation changes and the alarm clears. Why this is such an issue is that the alarms are loud enough to wake the dead (set so intentionally) and having a loud alarm go off every few seconds soon becomes a safety issue itself: how do you operate the vessel (let alone talk on the radio) when you have a loud alarm gonging away in the nav station. You only choice is to turn off the CPA and TCPA alarms, which then exposes you to other possible situations which are not then being monitored. Here is an example: An overtaking vessel is 30 minutes away from a CPA of three miles, but the wave actions cause you to swerve towards that vessel's path every few seconds. The CPA or TCPA alarms sounds, the clears itself, then sounds, then clears itself. You can't stop it with either system other than by turning off the alarms entirely. So that is what you do to get some peace and you manually monitor the overtaking vessel. Meanwhile a second vessel comes over the horizon and sneaks up on you, no alarms! With the GX2000 it is even more serious. With this unit it takes a few seconds to turn off the alarms, due to the number of keystrokes required, however, whenever a new alarm sounds (which happens on every wave, with every yaw or surge of our own vessel) the radio's display and controls switch back to AIS alarm mode even if you are in the middle of disabling the alarm, and you have to start over with the keystroke sequence. Often it is impossible to complete the keystroke sequence to turn off the alarms once they commence. Right when you might need to be on deck watching a commercial vessel, or trying to talk to him, you are instead engaged trying to kill the alarm. We've found that when the GX2000 starts sounding the alarms we have to turn off the GPS so the radio stops calculating CPA and TCPA. Not a good solution. I've spoken at length with Standard Horizon technical people about this but they don't offer any solution, and actually seem skeptical that the situation even occurs. I guess in a laboratory setting, or even on inshore waters where waves don't cause a vessel to swerve or surf, the problem does not occur. On OpenCPN I have suggested a solution, where "Acknowledge" commands, which turn off an alarm for a specific vessel, be retained even after the calculations remove the target from the CPA or TCPA limits. Currently the "Acknowledge" command goes away when the CPA or TCPA calculation says the target is no longer a threat. However, if it comes back, it is a new threat and the alarms sounds again. I'd like the target list screen to show which targets have recently caused an alarm to sound, and allow me to "ignore" these by ticking a box, for a specified period or time, or until an further risk threshold is reached.

Perhaps this all sounds a bit esoteric, but when it happens, believe me, it's aggravating to the point of being dangerous, and imagine trying to explain this to a newbie watch stander who might be non-technical and possibly a bit seasick. In the end it is the captain who gets up and deals with it, which is OK, I don't mind, but it is confidence shattering to the person on watch. I will be interested in hearing about the experience of others regarding this problem, and particularly if Watch Mate handles it better.

SSB interference

One other issue we've run against is the tendency, in some atmospheric conditions, for the SSB radio to kill the GPS computation of the West Marine AIS unit. Not every time, but sometimes, when we transmit on the SSB, like when we connect to Sailmail, the AIS loses its GPS almanac and therefore its position solution, which kills the transponder. We can still receive AIS information but we don't send ours without positional information. The unit recovers itself in about 45 minutes. It took us a while to figure out what was happening, in the meantime West Marine sent us three GPS antennas thinking that the antenna itself was the problem. Now we have some spares, and we understand the recovery cycle.

It seems like these are software issues which were not easily anticipated, and are quite complex to solve, and so we understand why they have not been, so far. But until they do, we're dissatisfied.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Cartagena

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Deep or Shallow Draft

Question:

Hi Fred,

I have read quite a lot from your sailing blog and have enjoyed it very much. I am an Aussie, although I spent quite a few years working in the U.S. and Thailand. I am looking at an 8' draft Alan Warwick designed boat here and so many people say the draft is too deep for many places.. I will take the boat up to Yacht Haven in Phuket, or maybe the new Boat Lagoon marina at Krabi.

I would be interested to hear your comments and if you have encountered many restrictions due to draft.

Take care and fair winds.

Best wishes,
Harry

Answer

Hi Harry,

Obviously 8' draft will restrict you more than 6' draft and six will be more restrictive than four. Some marinas are shallow, not too many however, certainly not Yacht Haven, (I don't know about Krabi, but it IS up a river). Of course Phang Nga Bay is full of shallow areas, many are less than even 4', and in some anchorages you will have to anchor farther out than a boat with shallower draft. We don't feel however, that our draft has unduly affected us; we go where most everyone else can go, just more carefully and anyhow everyone has to pay attention to the depth, even people with boats with much less draft than 8'. In boatyards you see as many 6' draft boats with keel damage as 8' draft boats.

But the main thing I would like to say is that a deep draft keel makes a much better sailboat. If you like to sail, seek out that deep draft boat. If you have a shallow draft it will be to your benefit once in a while, but the lack of sailing ability will be a millstone on your neck every minute you are sailing for all of the years you have the boat. Why accept weak performance 360 days a year to have a convenience once a year? There is a reason why modern boats have deeper, or even retractable, keels: it really makes a difference sailing.

Finally, if Alan Warwick put an 8' keel on that boat then it was because he was interested in designing a good sailing boat. He probably carried that intent thru-out the boat so this will be a good boat, in my opinion, to look at.

In the end, evaluate your priorities: if it is on sailing rather than parking in shallow places, you will accept the limitations of the deep draft because you don't want to accept the poor performance otherwise.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Trinidad


Conclusion

Hi Fred,


Thanks so much for your thoughts. I do appreciate the time taken to respond. You have confirmed my thinking and I look very seriously at the Warwick here in Australia. I know Alan Warwick has designed some superb sailboats and I have already contacted his office in N.Z. about some upgraded I would do on this particular boat.


Thanks again and best wishes,
Harry

Monday, August 01, 2011

Politians and politcal parties fail us

The recent debt ceiling agreement shows how low our politicians and political parties have sunk. The compromise reached between the right, the far right, the left, and Obama, raised the debt ceiling but it failed entirely in almost every other aspect, a view shared by Bloomberg:

Congress's agreement on debt ceiling is an alarming bipartisan mess

Not only did it fail to solve any of the nation's long term problems of budget deficits, wealth inequality, and tax inifficiency, let alone begin to address future needs such as education and infrastructure, it made the short term problems worse by harming the economy.

These elected officals have failed us, and failed our nation. Shame on them all.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Polarization of America: Let’s start listening to the other side

A good friend sent me an email suggesting that we should have some new laws making congress to be more like the way our founding fathers meant it to be, more like citizen legislators who serve their term(s), then go home and back to their farms or places of work. It urged passage of something labeled “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” which is described in a viral emails, in blogs, and on Facebook. But, while I too am frustrated by congress, I’m afraid circulating this “Act” won’t accomplish much since from a factual point of view it is largely incorrect. Most of the points advocated are already in place.

Here are a couple of links which discuss that. (I have also included some of the explanations at the bottom of this reply).

www.factcheck.org/2011/03/congressional-reform-act

http://filterednews.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/fraud-congressional-reform-act-of-2011/

However there is something we can do and a message which I think needs to be spread to everyone:

America has become polarized to the point that we are mostly incapable of making real progress to solving our nation’s problems of which we have many. There is little real debate in our society, only people on both sides of the spectrum preaching to their own choirs; people more interested in making points or discrediting the opposition than in having a discussion.

We don’t even listen to the other side. With our access to the internet we can select the views and opinions we wish to read. We each have our own list of favorite sites and most of us only read views and opinions of those with whom we already agree, views and opinions full of “gotcha’s” and which are highly contemptuous of the other side. Then we say, “Right on!” We, and this includes our congress, have taken such inflexible, polarized, positions that middle ground is not considered.

But this is wrong. We are all Americans, liberal and conservative, libertarian and radical, and everyone’s views and opinions are equally valid. Let’s remember that probably 50% of our fellow citizens have views that are different than our own and this is their country too. Are we really so sure of ourselves, so arrogant, that we are willing to completely discount everyone else’s views, that we want to throw out their views entirely?

It’s time for some discussion, debate, and mutual respect. Even if we disagree we need to listen to each other. Some of what you say might resonate with me and vice versa. Some of our views might shift a little. Maybe we just agree to disagree but at least we could take positions, craft some solutions to the nation’s problems, which take into account the concerns of the other side. That is what is missing.

Let’s start by reading more of the opposite side’s views. Here are some suggestions:

For conservative views search for “conservative media views” or try these:

online.wsj.com/public/page/latest-opinion-analysis-columns.html
www.brucekelly.com/conservative-media.html
www.foxnews.com
www.heritage.org
www.drudgereport.com

For liberal views search google for “liberal media views” or go to:

www.nytimes.com/pages/opinion/index.html
www.bloomberg.com/view/columns

MSNBC

www.thedailyshow.com

NPR


And then we need to start asking our congressional leaders to do the same, and to seek compromises, even if it means giving up their polarized stances.
Fredrick Roswold, 2011

Responses to Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressperson collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they leave office
No one in Congress achieves “tenure” – which is the permanent appointment to a position until retirement or death — so the author is confused.
The author makes it sound as if members of Congress draw their full salary until they die, even after leaving office. This is not true. They draw a “pension,” but it is determined by a number of factors, such as length of service, when they entered Congress, their age at “retirement” from Congress, the specifics of the pension options in which they enrolled upon retirement and their salary level at retirement. By law, their pension is capped at 80% of their salary, and they’d have to serve a very, very long time to get to that level


2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security..
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security
system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system and
Congress participates with the American people. The funds may not be used
for any other purpose.

But members of Congress already participate, paying Social Security payroll taxes just like nearly every other worker. Once upon a time that wasn’t true, but members of Congress were brought under Social Security way back in 1984. Yet bogus claims like this continue to circulate more than a quarter-century later.
Moving their pensions into Social Security would simply create a higher SS tax rate for them than for us, presumably without a higher payout rate. Do you want whatever pension, IRA or 401K you have moved into Social Security? If I had one, I know I wouldn’t.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans
do.
Urges that members of Congress should "purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do." But that’s also nonsense. Relatively few Americans buy retirement plans entirely out of their own pockets. In fact, just under half of all Americans worked in 2009 for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan, according to the most recent information from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. And among those who worked full time for the entire year, 54 percent actually participated in an employer-sponsored plan. About 12 percent are self-employed, EBRI says, and so may be in a position to buy a retirement plan for themselves. But 27 percent had incomes of under $10,000 that year, too little to be putting much if anything away for retirement

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay
will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
But Congress doesn’t do that now. Under current law, pay increases are determined by a cost-of-living formula, and they take effect automatically, unless Congress votes to stop them. And in fact, that’s what has happened for the past two years. Congress denied itself any pay raise in 2010 and in 2011

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the
same health care system as the American people do.
Calls for stripping members of Congress of their current health care benefits and forcing them to participate "in the same health care system as the American people." But which "system"? Most Americans are covered either by employer-sponsored health insurance or by various government-sponsored programs, such as Medicare for those age 65 and over or Medicaid for lower-income persons.
Members of Congress have good health insurance by any standard, but it’s not free and not reserved only for them – and it’s not government insurance. House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers more than 8 million other federal employees, retirees and their families.
The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program gives them a wide choice of private insurance plans. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 51 million persons in the U.S. had no health insurance at all in 2009 — just under 17 percent of the population. (The author may have been laboring under the false impression that Congress somehow "exempted" itself from the new health care law, a bit of nonsense that was based on a number of misrepresentations that we addressed last year.)

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they vote to impose on the
American people.
the idea that Congress has exempted itself from many of its own laws is also somewhat out of date. A law enacted in 1995 applied 13 civil rights, labor, and workplace safety and health laws to Congress, removing the basis for earlier criticisms. It’s true that members of Congress retain a degree of immunity from arrest or prosecution, but changing that require an amendment to the Constitution, which grants that immunity in Article I, Section 6. (The authors of the Constitution didn’t want any president to try what King Charles I of England had done in 1642 — sending troops to arrest his critics in Parliament.)


7. All contracts with past and present members of Congress are void
effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with
members of Congress. Members of Congressmen made all these contracts
for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding
Fathers envisioned citizen legislators so ours should serve their term(s),
then go home and back to work.
voiding "all contracts" with past and present members of Congress, which may be a clumsy way of calling for cutting off all pension and health care benefits even for those who have already retired. (We’re not sure what "contracts" this person was thinking of.) Those are opinions
FULL ANSWER
This latest rant against Congress has been circulating since the start of the year, urging passage of a "reform act" to correct abuses of power by Congress. But as we often find with these chain messages, the author doesn’t know very much about the subject.
He or she (the author is anonymous, of course) repeats a number of false claims that we have debunked before. The author:
• Demands that members of Congress be forced to "participate in Social Security." But members of Congress already participate, paying Social Security payroll taxes just like nearly every other worker. Once upon a time that wasn’t true, but members of Congress were brought under Social Security way back in 1984. Yet bogus claims like this continue to circulate more than a quarter-century later, despite our best efforts.
• Urges that "Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose." But as we’ve explained before, the idea that Congress has exempted itself from many of its own laws is also somewhat out of date. A law enacted in 1995 applied 13 civil rights, labor, and workplace safety and health laws to Congress, removing the basis for earlier criticisms. It’s true that members of Congress retain a degree of immunity from arrest or prosecution, but changing that require an amendment to the Constitution, which grants that immunity in Article I, Section 6. (The authors of the Constitution didn’t want any president to try what King Charles I of England had done in 1642 — sending troops to arrest his critics in Parliament.) The message is confused, at first mentioning earlier constitutional amendments, but then describing the proposal as an "act," which refers to legislation.
• Recommends that "Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise." But Congress doesn’t do that now. Under current law, pay increases are determined by a cost-of-living formula, and they take effect automatically, unless Congress votes to stop them. And in fact, that’s what has happened for the past two years. Congress denied itself any pay raise in 2010 and in 2011, as we’ve reported.
• Calls for stripping members of Congress of their current health care benefits and forcing them to participate "in the same health care system as the American people." But which "system"? Most Americans are covered either by employer-sponsored health insurance or by various government-sponsored programs, such as Medicare for those age 65 and over or Medicaid for lower-income persons. Currently members of Congress have the same health insurance options as millions of other federal employees and retirees and their families. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program gives them a wide choice of private insurance plans. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 51 million persons in the U.S. had no health insurance at all in 2009 — just under 17 percent of the population. (The author may have been laboring under the false impression that Congress somehow "exempted" itself from the new health care law, a bit of nonsense that was based on a number of misrepresentations that we addressed last year.)
• Urges that members of Congress should "purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do." But that’s also nonsense. Relatively few Americans buy retirement plans entirely out of their own pockets. In fact, just under half of all Americans worked in 2009 for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan, according to the most recent information from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. And among those who worked full time for the entire year, 54 percent actually participated in an employer-sponsored plan. About 12 percent are self-employed, EBRI says, and so may be in a position to buy a retirement plan for themselves. But 27 percent had incomes of under $10,000 that year, too little to be putting much if anything away for retirement.
The author of this message advocates setting 12-year term limits on members of Congress, saying they "should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work." It also calls for voiding "all contracts" with past and present members of Congress, which may be a clumsy way of calling for cutting off all pension and health care benefits even for those who have already retired. (We’re not sure what "contracts" this person was thinking of.) Those are all opinions, with which readers may choose to agree or disagree. We take no position either way. What we do say is that the author argues for these opinions by making factual claims that betray a profound ignorance of the system he or she proposes to "reform."
– Brooks Jackson

Sources
Bank, Jusin "Members of Congress Pay Social Security Taxes" FactCheck.org 17 Dec 2007.
Jackson, Brooks "Lawmaker Loopholes?" FactCheck,org 29 Jan 2010.
"Congressional Accountability Act – Overview" Office of Compliance, U.S. Congress Accessed 18 Mar 2011.
U.S. Const., Art. I, §8
Trueman, Chris "The Causes of the English Civil War" History Learning Site. Undated, accessed 18 Mar 2011.
Jackson, Brooks "Another Zero Pay Increase for Congress" FactCheck.org 17 May 2010.
Jackson, Brooks "Health Care for Members of Congress" FactCheck.org 25 Aug 2009.
"Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009" U.S. Census Bureau, press release 16 Sep 2010.
Robertson, Lori "Congress Exempt from Health Bill?" FactCheck.org 20 Jan 2010.
VanDerhei, Jack, Prepared testimony for U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on “The Wobbly Stool: Retirement (In)security in America” Employee Benefit Research Institute 7 Oct 2010.
Posted by Brooks Jackson on Friday, March 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm
Filed under Ask FactCheck • Tagged with chain e-mail, chain e-mails, congressional reform act

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Piracy Answer is not "Shoot-em Up" or Convoys

In response to Cory Freidman’s proposals in the Scuttlebutt Forum:
Dock Talk about piracy where he proposed “short, sharp punitive action against the pirates’ shore bases [in Somalia, in which we] hit hard, leave, and come back again if they do not get the message the first time.” He also proposes “that shipping in the affected areas form up scheduled convoys that easily can be protected” (even yachts operated by “aging flower children” should be in protected convoys, he said.)



Go in and shoot up the shore side bases? What shore side bases? I don’t think they have fenced compounds with signs which say “Pirate Base Here”. Should we blast every seaside town in Somalia in the assumption that the people living there are pirates? That is about as good an idea as blasting out of the water every wooden boat manned with Africans in the Indian Ocean. I don’t think even Cory Friedman could explain the legal basis for either idea, and honestly, this is a lot more than political correctness; the Navy really cannot be expected to openly operate outside of the law. They are not going to become a vigilante force as much as many of us would like fantasize about that.

Convoys would probably improve the odds for the shippers but not reduce the cost. The numbers of vessels regularly transiting the area is rather significant. To hold them up in a staging area until a convoy size was reached and military escorts are available would be a delay to every vessel; a cost to all. The cost now are pretty minimal considering that it is probably an insurable risk (or at least self insurable by the shipping companies) which is spread across a large number of ships, most of which get through already without incident. This is to say nothing of the logistics of the convoy process which would be formidable. I am not sure it is even practical for yachts, and definitely not affordable if the yachts were required to pay for the protection. The military has already recognized this and have, up to now, declined to protect yacht convoys, which are already operating.

No, it is going to take a few more, very highly visible, piracy attacks which go wrong to trigger enough outrage for something to be done and then establishing the legal basis would be move #1. Probably the world powers would have to declare war on Somalia, or at least Puntland, where the pirates and Islamic fundamentalists have teamed up too run this business, which by the way is highly profitable for all involved, including a lot of suppliers and middle men who facilitate the negotiations and ransom payments, to say nothing of the Toyota dealers selling SUV’s to the Somalis on payday.

A declaration of war frees up the navies considerably; they could then stop suspect vessels before an attack against a ship or yacht is commenced, as is now not legally possible. Satellite analysis and a few predator drones could help the navies to find suspect vessels. Active interdiction could be possible, even if only to dump all their weapons overboard, and might do much to de-fang the pirates. Predator strikes, against the pirates after they have collected the ransom and left the ship, might make an impression.

But be realistic guys, right now this is not high enough on anybody’s radar screen to make anything happen. It is simply an insurance issue for the shipping industry. A few yachties getting killed is regrettable, but issues like Libya and internal economic and political problems will keep this off the politician's and the NSC’s agenda for the foreseeable future.

I hate to say it, but a few more people need to get killed first.

And Cory, the “Aging flower children” comment was uncalled for. Cruisers now days are more likely to be retired New York lawyers than old hippies.

Fredrick Roswold, SV Wings, Mauritius (outside of the pirate area, I hope

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hate politics vs Budget Discussion

What makes me disgusted about politics in the USA these days is the hate and anger and the focus by both the right and the left on destroying the other side rather than having a meaningful debate. Never mind the loonies like Glen Beck or Sarah Palin or the left wing loonies (I don’t even know who they are) but even congressional politicians and the talking heads on the cable news media like MSNBC and Fox News seem to have no interest on debating ideas, only hitting home on the other side for whatever stupid points they can find to attack.

Thomas Friedman has it right when he says, “there is something deeply wrong about Mitch McConnell, saying that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. Why is this more important than “to mitigate the recession… and to put the country on a path to sustainable economic growth”?

There is also something deeply wrong when the right is in such a murderous rage about the left, about Obama and Pelosi, about Health care and the stimulus, that Sarah can propose that conservatives should “reload” and she then puts rifle cross hairs on the names of several liberal legislators. Murder threats result and John McCain supports her on it.

This anger and rage is not about Health Care or the Stimulus. It is a (in the words of Frank Rich) “tsunami of anger which is illogical”, given for example, that much of rage is about what the right calls “Obamacare” when “the bill does not erect a huge New Deal-Great Society-style government program. In lieu of a public option, it delivers 32 million newly insured Americans to private insurers.” The Wall Street Journal says “the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas.”

No, much of the anger and hatred “is about fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country” and it would occur “no matter what policies were in play”. It is about “the conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman” (says Frank Rich). These are the underlying causes. When the Tea Party says “we want to take the country back”, this is who they want to take it back from.

And the anger is about hating government, about the conservative obsession with cutting spending and shrinking government, repealing the health care bill, ending bailouts, and to achieve that, anything goes, including threats and murders.

Enough already! Can’t we be adults here?

We do have some serious issues to solve and we need to recognize that there are differing, valid, views on how to do that. I don’t necessarily agree with the conservative agenda but I know many people do and I respect that. The need to address the deficit and other issues are clearly important to a lot of people, many of whom felt the democrats swung too far too fast after the 2008 election, as shown by the recent mid-term elections. We need to acknowledge the election results and shift course. We live in a democracy.

Look, there can be a reasonable debate and there can some compromise-middle of the road solutions.

We need to work on them.

Here is an example: The budget deficit.

The NYT published an analysis in the form of a puzzle which allows you to make the spending and tax cut choices you feel are right to solve the budget deficit. New York Times Budget Puzzle . I did this exercise and found it fun and educational. Most interesting is that I was able to chose some cuts and taxes changes which resulted in a solution to the budget deficit, changes which I feel we could all live with. I know however that my conservative friends would probably make different choices. So why can’t we bring our solutions to the table and debate these differences, and in the end let the democratic process be the decider. Who knows, we might agree on most of it and produce a compromise on the rest which everyone could vote for.

Here is how any of us can start this process. Invite some of your friends over to your house some night, friends with views different from yours, the friends ones you don’t talk politics to because it is always incendiary, for a bottle of wine and a fun, rousing, political discussion on the budget deficit. Bring the NYT puzzle to represent your choices. Get into it. Don’t expect agreement but expect to exchange views. Don’t get hot, have fun. Remember, these are your friends; you want to keep them friends. Maybe, in the end, after everyone goes home, some views will change slightly, and maybe some respect will be granted. Maybe. Its worth a try because the path we are now on is terrifying.

Fred Roswold

Links to sources of this story:
New York Times Opinons
Frank Rich Columns
Frank Rich on Illogical Opposition to Health Care
Thomas Friedman Columns
Thomas Friedman "I think I can Fly"
The NYT Budget Puzzle