Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Look, Ma, I'm Driving!

Grandson at the controls of the USS Albacore.

and driving a DUKW at Boston Ducks.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Share the Wealth

Found in my email:

Yesterday on my way to lunch at Doe's, I passed one of the homeless guys in that area
with a sign that read "Vote Obama, I need the money."

Once in the Doe's my waiter had on a "Obama 08" tee shirt.

When the bill came, I decided not to tip the waiter and explained to him while he had given me exceptional service, that his tee shirt made me feel he obviously believes in Senator Obama's plan to redistribute the wealth. I told him I was going to redistribute his tip to someone that I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. He stood there in disbelief and angrily stormed away.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $3 and told him to thank the waiter inside, as I had decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy looked at me in disbelief but seemed grateful.

As I got in my truck, I realized this rather unscientific redistribution experiment had left the homeless guy quite happy for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn.

Well, I guess this redistribution of wealth is going to take a while to catch on with those doing the work.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Battle off Samar

By all accounts, Thomas Lupo was a wild kid in his youth. Growing up Italian in New Orleans could do that. After all, the lynching of eleven Italians for the murder of Police Chief David Hennessey was still in the memory of the older members of the population.

He enlisted as soon as he heard the news of Pearl Harbor. The Navy taught him to fly TBM Avengers and in October 1944 he was part of VC-68 on board the USS Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70). They were part of Task Unit 77.4.3, known as Taffy 3, providing air cover and ground support for the invasion of Leyte in the Phillipines. Things had been active since 20 October when MacArthur staged his return and the Navy had been particularly busy in decimating the Japanese Naval Forces in several historic actions, including the last classic naval gun duel, during the week. But on 25 October, the action was going to involve Lt (jg) “Lucky Loop” Lupo.

The Japanese had devised a typically complicated attack plan which involved splitting their forces and using decoys. The US Navy had decimated the Japanese fleet but had lost track one group of Japanese ships. It was also about this time that Admiral Halsey, with his attack carriers, was lured out of position by the Japanese decoy operation. That left the landing beach on Leyte Island exposed when Adm. Kurita’s fleet led by the Yamato came through the San Bernadino Strait from north side of the island of Samar. The only thing between him and the almost defenseless landing operation was Task Unit 77.4.3 which consisted of a 3 destroyers, 4 destroyer escorts and 6 escort carriers commanded by Adm. Clifton “Ziggy’ Sprague. The Japanese brought 4 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 11 destroyers to the party. The US Navy was heavily outgunned.

If the Japanese fleet reached the landing beaches they could decimate the troops and spoil MacArthur’s great return. The only option was to attack to try to gain some time until help arrived. Adm Sprague ordered the DDs and DEs to attack, launched all his planes and then turned the CVEs around and tried to escape.

It was a target rich environment for the pilots and they quickly expended their ordinance. “Lucky Loop” Lupo was one of the first to empty his bomb racks and his guns. Then, in keeping with his wild boy persona, he buzzed at the Japanese ships and threw loose items from his cockpit at them. Other pilots did the same or fired their pistols at the ships. By all accounts, the Japanese were dumbstruck at the sight of pilots firing their handguns at battleships. The image would be comical if the circumstances weren’t so deadly. But the tactic proved useful. When faced with an aircraft lining up for a bombing run, the captain had no choice but to take evasive maneuvers and this prevented them, at least for a little while, from pressing their attack on the landing beach.

Now some 400 planes (while the only the ships of Taffy 3 had direct contact, the aircraft from all “Taffy” groups attacked the Japanese) had the problem of where to go. They couldn’t return to their ships as they were under fire and steaming away from the big Japanese ships as fast as they could. Lupo headed for the only place he could land – the newly captured landing strip at Tacloban. When he arrived, the Army was still bulldozing the strip to fill in bomb craters. Nevertheless, Lupo was able to land successfully and alert the Army that more Navy planes would be arriving soon. He then spotted a neat stack of bombs and “asked” to talk to the person in charge of it because he wanted to re-arm his plane. A US Army colonel then informed him that those bombs were for the use of the US Marines that would be arriving in a few days. Lupo’s response was an extreme example of “argumentum ad baculum”. He pulled his service revolver, pointed it at the Army officer and informed the Colonel that if he didn’t load those bombs, the Japanese were going come and take his precious bombs away from him. This bit of “upward management” was soon cooled off by a couple of junior officers who organized an impromptu air traffic control and re-arming system for the Navy planes. It was rough and definitely not by the book. In some cases, planes on their take off run played chicken with planes that landed behind them going in the opposite direction. But it worked. Planes were re-armed and they returned to harass the Japanese.

And at the height of the battle, when the DDs and DEs were dead in the water or sinking and everything seemed to be lost, Adm. Kurita inexplicably turned around and retreated. Perhaps he thought he was engaging a larger force. Perhaps he was a little gun shy after having his flagship torpedoed out from under him the day before. (It seems he made a habit of having ships sunk out from underneath him. The same thing happened to him at Midway) Perhaps he thought Halsey and the big carriers were going to arrive soon. No one knows, but leave he did, thereby saving the Yamato for another day. (When he was in his eighties, he finally admitted that he retreated because he did not see the sense in wasting more lives since he knew the war the lost.) He died in 1977.

Taffy 3 sank 2 heavy cruisers and knocked a third out of action. Taffy 3 lost 2 escort carriers, 2 destroyers and 1 destroyer escort.

Halsey never got a chance to join the battle and spent the rest of his life trying to explain his absence that day. That one action tainted his entire career. But that’s another story.

Thomas Lupo was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to New Orleans and lived there until his death in 2004. The Italian Navy named the LUPO class frigates after him. And that’s a little bit of Italian history from New Orleans.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Josephine's Rose Garden

My wife and I made the trip out to Chateau de Malmaison during our last trip to France. Chateau de Malmaison was the home of Napoleon’s wife, Josephine. She bought it in 1799 while he was away in Egypt (probably having learned that the best way for a wife to get what she wants is to do it while hubby is away) and proceeded to renovate the house and build one of the finest gardens in Europe. It was also the headquarters of the French government from 1800 to 1802. After Napoleon divorced Josephine in 1810, he gave the house to her and she lived there until her death in 1814.

The first time we tried to get there, we got lost and spent a couple of hours wandering around the small Paris suburb of Rueil on a Sunday. Being a Sunday in France, taxis were non-existent, so we gave up and went back to Paris. This time with the aid of our trusty guidebook, we found it with no trouble.

We both enjoy roses. We also enjoy visiting rose gardens in our travels. We knew that Napoleon brought rose bushes back for Josephine from all over the world. (The little guy was such a romantic underneath it all) and we were excited to see this one. We were expecting to see a fabulous rose garden, hopefully with rose bushes that had been imported by Napoleon himself. The chateau, after all, was famous for its rose garden. Pierre-Joseph Redouté, the botanical artist, used the roses in Josephine’s garden as models for his illustrations. The foreword to “Jardin de la Malmaison” (1803), which featured his paintings, read:

You have gathered around you the rarest plants growing on French soil....as we inspect them in the beautiful gardens of Malmaison, an impressive reminder of the conquests of your illustrious husband...

We arrived at the chateau a little after the hour of noon to find that the staff, every last one of them, had taken off for lunch. We were told they would return at 1:00. We cooled our heels until the lone gatekeeper finally allowed us inside to stroll the grounds until the staff returned to open the house. We wandered off to the rose garden and couldn’t believe our eyes. At one time it must have been a beautiful rose garden laid out in a formal design. Now it is overgrown with grass and weeds and it is only because France has a relatively dry climate that any rose bushes survive at all.

Chateau de Malmaison is a national museum and you would think it would be a matter of national pride to have a rose garden there that would rival Queen Mary’s Gardens in London. But, sadly, the legacy of Napoleon and Josephine and their roses has turned to weeds.

Trivia Alert: Josephine’s name was Rose but Napoleon hated it and refused to call her by that name.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hurricane Shut in Statistics

According to the MMS, as of yesterday, 81 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are still shut in. These platforms account for about 506,000 barrels per day of oil and 2,700,000,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas. That's about 39% of the oil and 37% of the gas produced in the GOM.

With hurricanes shutting in a significant portion of the Gulf of Mexico every couple of years, wouldn't it be a good idea to get some oil from a different geographical area?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Misinformation from the Dems

This is about the best summary I have seen regarding the statements the Dimmocrats are making about oil and gas leases going unused. This issue is a key plank in Obama's platform and this new report chews it up like a termite going after new pine boards.

The point is that leases have a fixed life. If they aren't used, the lease expires. No company wants to throw money away paying for leases that they don't use. Lets apply some common sense to the issue.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Hmmmm. Lets see……

Our Presidential candidates say our dependence of foreign oil is an issue of national security. I’m sure I heard that during the debates. I thought I heard them both say that drilling, at least in the near term was the best solution. (At least McCain did)

So, it appears that the path to reducing the need for foreign oil is to drilling the USA, especially offshore.

But Obama wants to tax the oil companies. Didn’t I hear him chastise John McCain because McCain’s tax plan gave the oil companies a tax break? And didn’t Obama want to penalize for oil companies for sitting on oil leases? (He’s wrong but that’s another story)

But didn’t HR 6899 limit drilling to those areas more than 100 miles offshore? Didn’t HR 6899 remove the royalty relief (that’s part of law) given to oil companies for deep water and deep gas? Didn’t HR 6899 penalize oil companies for not developing leases they own? Aren’t the issues above a big plank in Obama’s platform?

So, the way to encourage oil companies to drill in the USA, which Obama supports, is to (1) eliminate incentives, (2) remove offshore areas the pool of available leases, (3) increase taxes on them and (4) generally us them as a whipping dog for the Dimmocrat Party.

Somehow I’m not connecting the dots here.

I’m reminded of the story about the farmer who in talking about his neighbor said, “I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a liar, but every time he wants his cows to come in from pasture, he has to get someone else to call them.”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hurricane Shut In Statistics

The latest MMS figures show 123 platforms still evacuated from the two storms. There is currently 764,000 Barrels per day of oil shut in (about 60% of normal production) and 3,500,000,000 cubic feet per day of gas shut in (about 50%).

What's the hold up, you say?

All that oil and gas has to find its way to shore via pipelines. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to verify that these pipelines have not been damaged. In some cases, they need to pressure test the entire length again. Pipelines gather production from several platforms into a single pipeline. If the pipeline is down, everything upstream is down.