Sunday, September 30

Voting Madness in Texas

Plain Simple Organized Vote Fraud

by Democrats and Republicans. This is amusing on many levels. With that said, every single one of them should be tossed out, provided they can't be tried and convicted. (Don't hold your breath, this is from March.)

A Housing Bubble 'Price Improvement'

'Reduced' signs outside houses for sale have been a dime-a-dozen lately. So how to attract attention that the price has been lowered? How about a 'Price Improvement'?

This sign is posted outside a house for sale in McLean, Virginia. So what has the price been improved to? Try $1,247,999. Damn, that is still just a bit outside what I can afford. But wait, it seems that the price is negotiable:
4 Bedrooms, 4 Full Baths, 1 Half Bath, 1 Fireplace - OWNERS WILL CONSIDER ALL REASONABLE OFFERS! Brick home in W McLean w/ decorator touches, short walk to McLean shops/restaurants. Gourmet kitchen island w/gas cooktop, granite, upgraded appliances. Lots of windows & gas fireplace in family room; walk out to private courtyard patio. Office, living & dining on main level, all have hardwood floors. Finished basement. *PARK BESIDE EITHER GARAGE - Weichert
Click on the image below for the current listing:

There is a virtual tour and the house looks nice, but I guess you need to like orange and yellow as the walls of a number of rooms are painted in those colors. I had driven around the block to take this photo, and not surprisingly, there were at least five other houses for sale within that one block.

I know your wondering how much the price was improved. According to ZipRealty, not much:

$27,001. However, they will consider less.

Thursday, September 27

Anchor Countries

One dream, especially in Europe, is of the future society, a Modern Society. Part of getting there, for them, was the formation of the European Union. The EU would fulfill many goals for getting to this Modern Society, including fostering a healthy growing economy, standardization of all sorts of things, facilitate free trade and eliminate the threat of wars with the eventual benefit of not needing military forces.

The United Nations was also setup for many similar reasons. While maybe not including the Modern Society, surely for the advance of mankind in the lesser-developed parts of the world, which in itself helps the rest of us advance even farther.

The world can easily be on the path to a modern society with the United States around. Most likely, the US will be a major contributor of what is required to get us to the level of a modern society. For all the criticism, the US does way more good that bad. The good being the norm and the bad being the exception. Even with the bad, the US goes to great lengths to correct any wrongs its responsible for.

Then you have these countries here listed below. They are examples of what is wrong with this planet. Some of them are bad actors. Others are taking advantage of the situation by protecting them from sanctions. Nonetheless, the result is Governments that really have no place in a modern society. Good lucking reaching a Utopia with them guys around. So here is a short list on the countries I believe are preventing the World from evolving into a much better place.

The Bad States:
Zimbabwe - Total self-destruction
Venezuela - Actions that will take it down the similar path that Zimbabwe took
Cuba - Communist oppression
Sudan - Genocide
North Korea - Communist oppression, State-sponsor of terrorism
Iran - State-sponsor of terrorism
Syria - State-sponsor of terrorism
Mexico - Exporting its population

Then you have the countries that Should Know Better:
Spain - Backing Cuba's human rights abuses. Support of Venezuela, ......

China - Backing of Sudan, Burma's Myanmar Government and North Korea. Lack of human rights.

Russia - The Russian mafia is infamous for its ruthlessness. Now we have Putin's Russia acting like mafia thugs. Executing unfriendly media. Sending assassins abroad. Using energy supplies as a weapon. Ignoring their responsibilities to clean up the nuclear waste in their own backyard, instead leaving the West to pay for it. This attitude goes back to the foundation of the post-communist Russia, when they demanded that Poland pay the expense of withdrawing the Russian Army from Poland. Providing Iran with nuclear technology and weapons.

South Africa - Demands that African countries alone should deal with African problems yet does nothing to stop Zimbabwe's downward spiral other then demand that other nations not act.

Two of the countries listed above are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. When the UN fails to adopt a resolution against a 'rogue' state, it is normally one of these two that stopped the UN from acting.

Putin and Ahmadinejad - Each the other's most Useful Idiot

Speaking of the United Nations:
This is the one entity that was supposed to help lift the world towards the modern society. Instead, it is helping countries drift down to the lowest common denominator. This is the Organization that protects the 'rights' of the countries listed above to abuse their own populations (In violation of UN Conventions) as well as abandon them while the leadership sucks the country dry of assets. This is great for the UN, which can then better reinforce its own need by assuming the responsibility to provide for these people, through the World Food Program and UN Development Program. This may even give those causing the tragedy another income source if the aid agencies pay bribes or facilitation fees to get aid to those they wish to help. Worse, a good portion of the aid may never reach those they intend to help, instead being diverted, again to Government authorities.

United Nations Human Rights Council
This council knows of no human rights violation on this planet other than those claimed to be committed by Israel.

The council is so problematic that even the new UN Secretary General has criticized its work.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined Western nations on Wednesday in criticizing the world body's own Human Rights Council for "picking on Israel" as part of an agreement on its working rules.

The European Union, Canada and the United States have already attacked the deal reached in Geneva on Monday under which Israel's actions would become a permanent item on the Human Rights Council's agenda.

A UN statement said: "The Secretary-General is disappointed at the council's decision to single out only one specific regional item given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world." (June, 2007) - Haaretz
Now these anchor countries claim that positions like mine above are typical of the Western Nations meddling in their internal affairs while at the same time blaming the Western nations for any problems they might admit to having. Yet as bad and imperialistic as it sounds, the world would be a much better place, if these third-world countries would be a little bit more like the United States. (Or Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand, or the UK, Ireland, Estonia...)

And finally, lets not forget the International Press, which in many cases completely fails to investigate the countries above, or fails to report information damaging to these rogue state. Take this one recent example during an interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad:

When an Israeli journalist asked him something, he just smiled and said: "Next question."

Then the wife of an Israeli soldier abducted by Hizbullah got up and asked Iran to cooperate with the Red Cross to discover his fate. But her question was ignored, and she was drowned out by more questions. - Guardian (As spotted at LGF)
There would far fewer problems in the world if the press reported the news fairly and accurately, instead of distorting stories and sitting on others. Of course, they would not get such a free pass if it were not for all the moonbats parroting their false messages. The Israeli soldiers held hostage by Hamas and Hizbullah is a perfect example.

We have a far way to go before we reach that Modern society as long as these parties listed above have anything to do with it.

How Illegal Aliens get a 'Social Security Number' in their own Name

Illegal aliens don't need to steal or make up a social security number to give to an employer. There is another less illegal way in which the Government issues them a number.

Step one:
- apply for a Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS:

What is an ITIN?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. It is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit, example 9XX-7X-XXXX.

IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have U.S. tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code.

Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception.

What is an ITIN used for?

ITINs are for federal tax reporting only, and are not intended to serve any other purpose. An ITIN does not authorize work in the U.S. or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit. ITINs are not valid identification outside the tax system.

IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security Numbers. - IRS

For good reason, an ITIN card does not look anything like a Social Security card:


Step two:
- Put that valid ITIN number onto a fake Social Security card.

They now have a valid tax number on a Social Security card giving them the 'proof' needed to get a job. (Apparently employers do not check the number, accepting the card as proof enough.)

- No need to use a number stolen from someone else.
- No risk that you are one of many illegal aliens using the same number.
- Peace of mind that the number has been assigned to you.

I have no idea how popular this type of fraud is. I was only recently made aware of the process.

Pretty sneaky eh?

Update: 4 October 2007

Just to be clear, the process explained above is illegal!

Update: 4 February 2010

I have posted an update here: UPDATE: How Illegal Aliens get a 'Social Security Number' in their own Name

Tuesday, September 25

For Sale: One Surplus Staten Island Ferry

Seems that the City of New York is looking to sell off a spare "double ended passenger/vehicle ferry" used for the Staten Island - Manhattan route.


No mention of the price, although I suspect that it might be negotiable considering that there can't be too many places that can use such a large ferry. Then again, this might be the perfect opportunity to start a new ferry service, as long as you don't want to operate it in Hawaii.

As first spotted in the September Edition of MarineLog.

The Staten Island Ferry blog can be located here.

Monday, September 24

Maritime Monday 77

Welcome to this Weeks edition of Maritime Monday.

You can find Maritime Monday 27 here. (Published 18 September 2006)

You can find last week's edition here.

This Weeks Photos:

This week we have the pipe laying vessel/barge ACERGY PIPER
The Acergy Piper, one of the world’s most efficient semi-submersible pipelay barges, has an outstanding track record of achievement in the challenging environmental conditions of the UK and Norwegian sectors of the North Sea.

She has two double-jointing lines for one main firing line with five welding stations, one NDT station and two pipe-coating stations. With the ability to lay pipe of 8'' to 60'' diameter with fully automated welding systems, she is currently laying the world’s longest trunkline between Norway and England. Langeled trunkline is 1200 km long, 44''/42'' diameter and runs between Nyhamna in northern Norway and Easington on the south east coast of England. The route includes crossing the Norwegian trench at water depths of 380 m. Langeled trunkline lay is scheduled for completion in 2006. She has also successfully carried out significant pipe lay and trunkline lay operations in the North Sea, West Africa, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. - Acergy (PDF Link)


Once the sections of pipe have been welded together, the whole tube is lowered out from the back of Acergy Piper and onto the seabed at carefully calculated angles. Text and photos: Jorn Madslien. - BBC

There is a related BBC photo slide show here.

The Times Online has a story from September 2006 on the vessel in "Floating factory fits pipe for UK"

This Weeks Items:
Eagle Speak has the severe listing and complete evacuation of the cruise ship DREAM in Rhodes. A number of ships officers have since been arrested.

Also be sure to check out Eagle Speak's weekly series "Sunday Ship History: "I have not yet begun to fight"" covering Captain John Paul Jones.

The BBC has the desperate measure "Europe bans bluefin tuna fishing". Don't worry, they are not really serious as they only banned it for the rest of the year. If they were serious, they would permanently ban fishing for the tuna in the Mediterranean, as they are rounded up literally like 'fish in a barrel' after they migrate there from the Atlantic. If you did not read "Tuna Wars: The ruthless tuna pirates who are driving these majestic creatures to extinction" which I linked to in Maritime Monday 73, here is a second chance.

(Sleeping with the fishes: Illegal bluefin tuna ranching has links with the Mafia - Daily Mail, UK)

It is going to take longer than a couple months to grow more tuna like these.
You've heard of dolphin-friendly tuna. Tuna fishing is also very unfriendly - but this time to the tuna populations themselves because supply just cannot keep up with demand. Japan is the world's biggest consumer of fresh and frozen tuna, at 30 percent of global tuna production, while the EU consumes 40 percent of the global canned tuna market. Pacific experts warned at a recent convention (October 2003) that unless urgent action is taken, key tuna populations are likely to begin crashing within 5 years due to the pressure from industrial fishing fleets migrating from collapsed fisheries to the Pacific. Once begun, this scenario will quickly lead to the destruction of Pacific fisheries and a catastrophic collapse of key Pacific Island economies. - Greenpeace
I bet we run out of tuna before we run out of oil. Where is the outrage?

CDR Salamander has the interesting read "The fundamentals of running aground" covering the grounding of the US Navy Destroyer ARLEIGH BURKE and the loss of the Captain's command.

Neptunus Lex has another amazing read in Naval Officer self-destruction. This one claims the career of a command officer for encouraging the crew to drink, including those on watch while in port during a celebration. It probably would not have been a problem, were it not for the fire. He probably would have gotten away with covering it up, were it not for the second fire.

Neptunus Lex also has coverage of a sister of a Naval Academy Midshipmen deal with the surprising discovery that the Naval Academy is really the military. And this coming from an Ivy-league student. I guess she never made it to a mixer, or whatever they call it at the USNA.

Tims Times has "Mark 1 Eyeball Method" with a reminder to get your eyeballs off the bridge electronics and point them out the windows.

The Washington Post:
"New rules that will require the scanning of all cargo containers imported to the United States, a move to stop nuclear weapons being shipped in, are expensive, unnecessary and misguided, industry and security experts said." - Experts say U.S. nuke cargo scan rules "unworkable"

The Ellesworth American covers the fact that you're never too old to join the US Merchant Marine.

Cargo Law has amazing photos of the loss of the M/V DENDEN right off the beach in Mangalore, India.

The Swedish Club (Marine Insurer) has "Study of major accidents highlights “Competence erosion”"

The Monitor (Canada) covers rules changes for the Canadian Navy that will permit it to dump garbage and sewage into the Arctic, basically so that they can patrol the Arctic to ensure that others don't do the same.

The Philippines, one of the world's largest sources of maritime labor, is running out of seafarers.

Kiwi at Sea covers his numerous failed attempts to join the New Zealand Seamans Union since 1992. Only now that their membership has been decimated by age are they prepared to open the door.

MarEx Newsletter has "Canada May Ban LNG Supertankers". This will however affect transport to the US, which is most likely to result in a dispute between the two countries over the right of free passage.

The Pilot Boat has a photo of the Portuguese ship TOMAR.

Daily Yomiuri Online covers the UN's resolution expressing support for Japan's Maritime Self-defense Force's refueling operations in the Indian Ocean as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Yankee Sailor has the story that Japan's Maritime Self-defense Force 'illegally' transferred fuel to the USS KITTY HAWK, which was headed for operations by Iraq and not acting in part of Operation Enduring Freedom off Afghanistan.

HMS-SOMERSET-CO (Life onboard a Royal Navy Type 23 Frigate - Seen through the eyes of her Commanding Officer) has no shortage of volunteers to drive the target float. (Stupidity is not against the law, but it might improve your chances for a long-life.) Go read the rest and view the other photos of a well-played prank on some naive crewmen. (Found at Yankee Sailor)

EITB24 has the story of 15 Palestinians from the Gaza strip found in a shipping container when the vessel they were on called Barcelona, Spain. The ship was headed for the UK. No word on where the container was headed.

American Shipper has the story of suspected bribes made by the Shipping Company of India to Indian Customs to clear transshipment cargo. It includes this money quote:
Maybe graft doesn’t seem that unusual, but the unique situation here is that SCI is a state-run entity, meaning that one division of the government was essentially greasing the palms of another division. - American Shipper
Now that is funny.

IMC Brokers has "India’s Largest Dredging Project Gets Underway"

The Stupid Shall Be Punished has no ordinary UNREP photo. It is the view from a submarine periscope. (On my last ship, back in 1994-95, we were the 'high value target' for the sub to attack in training. Halfway through the exercise I suggested to the Captain that perhaps it would be a good idea for us to turn off the world's only 3.5 kHz sonar transducer, just to make it a little more challenging for the sub. The scientists were really embarrassed, especially considering that my comment was in response to them wanting me to blacken ship by covering over all the portholes. Five minutes later the sub had launched its flare ending the argument.)

Greenpeace has "Alaska Polar Bears Doomed" (Quotes are theirs)

Never Sea Land has a Real mermaid.

English Russia has "Murmansk Military Objects" which gives a Google Earth eye's view of the Naval Wasteland that is now Murmansk. Lots and lots of scuttled ships. (From this last winter.)

Maritime Compass has "The real Jack Aubrey?"

Finally, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Lego are holding a shipbuilding contest. First prize is a cruise for four. There is even a 15 and over category. (Click on the photo for details)

Haight's Maritime Items has:
EU – reinforcing the EU’s southern maritime borders - The Council of the European Union issued Council Conclusions on further reinforcing the EU’s southern maritime borders. Unfortunately, the document dances around the issue of allowing ships that rescue economic migrants in distress to disembark those persons at the first convenient port. (9/18/07). - Dennis Bryant Holland & Knight homepage (Used with Permission)
Fairplay Daily News has:
Criminals: beware of Sea Mounties - VANCOUVER 17 September – Criminals attempting to escape by water across the Canada-US border could be in for a surprise when they find themselves pursued by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police into the US, or by the US Coast Guard into Canadian waters. The programme, called Operation Shiprider, has been in operation since September 2005, but became public knowledge only recently when USCG officers were seen operating in Canadian waters. The operation is targeting organised crime on both sides of the border and gives police the authority to act as law enforcement officers in another country. Project Shiprider involves joint patrols off the south coast of British Columbia and on the St Clair River and Windsor/Detroit area in Eastern Canada. In a statement issued at the launch of the scheme, the RCMP said that it will help assess the viability of developing a longer-term Canada-US programme for stronger maritime law enforcement and emergency response. Boats used during Operation Shiprider are clearly marked as police vessels, and according to the statement the joint RCMP-USCG operations include "detection, monitoring, pursuit and boarding of suspect vessels in US and Canadian waters." In February 2004, Jamaica signed a Shiprider agreement with the US, which allows the USCG to board foreign-flag vessels within its territorial waters. - Fairplay Homepage (Used with Permission)

Submissions for future editions:
Please submit articles for inclusion in next week' edition using the following submit form at Blog Carnival. You are also welcome to email photos for inclusion in future editions as well as suggest area of coverage.

** Sponsorship **
Send me an email (address in the sidebar) if you would like to sponsor an edition of Maritime Monday. I accept money and gear.

Previous Editions:
Here or click on the label below 'MaritimeMonday'.


Saturday, September 22

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Vandalized

I was taking a friend on a tour of Washington, DC by night and as we walked through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial she asked "where are the security guards?" I told her to ask the Park Ranger who was right behind her.

She was surprised that there really was someone there. We started talking with him and I asked about if there was any crime problem at the Memorial. He replied that there really was not with all the people, the park rangers and the Park police all around. He then added that there was an anti-war protest inside the memorial earlier in the day Friday where the protesters defaced some of the stones with chalk. I asked if anyone was arrested and he replied that there were two who were arrested and sent to jail.

I can't find anything in the news about this, so lets call it an ** EXCLUSIVE **

Tarp covers vandalized stones at FDR Memorial - 21 Sept 07

This is just plain shameful behavior. The vandals should be made examples of with stiff jail time and fines to cover the expense of repairing the damage.


I asked about the vandalism at the Vietnam Memorial. The Park Ranger mentioned that the opinion is now that the damage was probably the result of an accident. (So pay attention to the signs that say no eating or drinking!)


Friday, September 21

Iraq, Zimbabwe and Mexico

Lets compare the refugee problems of a couple of troubled countries:

Iraq: (Population: 28,993,000 )

UNHCR estimates that more than 4.2 million Iraqis have left their homes. Of these, some 2.2 million Iraqis are displaced internally, while more than 2 million have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan. Many were displaced prior to 2003, but an increasing number are fleeing now. In 2006, Iraqis had become the leading nationality seeking asylum in Europe. - UNHCR

That comes out to less than 7% of the population fleeing the country and with 14.5% of the population displaced both inside and outside the country. That is understandable considering what is going on in the country. So how does that compare with some other countries, not at war:

Zimbabwe: (Population: 13,349,000)

Zimbabwe is spiralling out of control with real inflation running at 13,000 per cent, four out of five of the population live in abject poverty and four million others having fled to neighbouring countries, the report said. - The Independent, UK

Almost 30% of the population of Zimbabwe has fled the country, with the US Military nowhere to be seen. There are however calls for the UK to invade. Most likely there will be some foreign intervention within the next year due to the complete destruction of most everything there. (Might this be one reason they are reducing their operations in Iraq?)

Mexico: (Population: 106,535,000)

There were an estimated 8.5 million illegal alien Mexicans in the US in 2004.

That comes out to almost 8% of all Mexicans deciding that it was better to live in the US illegally than to stay in Mexico. The total percentage is much higher as some studies state that for every Mexican living in the US illegally, there is one living her legally. That would make the percentage of Mexicans living in the US 15% of the total population. (I think the generally accepted number is 10%, which again is higher than Iraq, and no small feat considering that amounts to about 30% of Iraq's total population in comparison.)

So despite enduring a war and years of instability, Iraq has less of a migrant/refugee problem than Mexico. How bad is it in Mexico? Bad enough for Illegal aliens who give up on living in Florida to flee north to Canada instead to returning to Mexico.

Over the past three weeks, 45 families and 31 individuals -- approximately 200 people -- entered Canada at the Detroit River crossings and applied in Windsor for shelter and social assistance after filing refugee claims with the Canada Border Services Agency. Municipal agencies dealing with the sudden influx of mainly Mexican refugee applicants are renting out hotel rooms and bracing for predicted thousands more to come.

"We don't have the means, ability or capacity to deal with this additional cost. We are not able to deal with this potential crisis locally," Francis wrote Harper. -

They are expecting thousands more in the coming months. There is a simple solution to this problem. Deny them entry into Canada. They will then be detained as they return to the US border and then shipped back to Mexico. Too heartless? How about speeding up the review process from the current 14 months of taxpayer-supported welfare before an application is rejected. Instead of giving the money away as aid, how about shifting it to employ more resources to quickly deal with the applicants.

Population by country - Wikipedia

- -

USCG: "Sponge Bob 'stops up' sinking vessel"

From the Press Release:

BOSTON - A Coast Guard rescue crew called upon Sponge Bob Square Pants for help in a tight situation aboard a Gloucester-based vessel sinking near Gloucester Harbor around 7:15 p.m., Saturday.

The four man crew of the 25-foot Clam Juice contacted Coast Guard Station Gloucester via VHF radio channel 16 to report their vessel was rapidly taking on water just off Ten Pound Island.

The Coast Guard launched a 25-foot response boat and rescue crew from Station Gloucester, which arrived on scene within minutes, and removed two crewmembers from the Clam Juice. Two Coast Guard crewmembers boarded the Clam Juice with a dewatering pump and began pumping the estimated 2,000 gallons of water out of the sinking vessel.

Upon dewatering the vessel, a large crack in the vessel's exhaust pipe was revealed as the source of the flooding. The best solution was to plug the exhaust hole externally with a round object, and rescuers began searching the vessel for something that fit the bill.

"I wish we had our football," said Petty Officer Second Class Daniel Bartholomew of the rescue crew. Finally, a crewmember aboard the Clam Juice grabbed a Sponge Bob Nerf football that was down below.

True to Sponge Bob's character, the squishy football sealed the hole perfectly and allowed the Clam Juice to be towed to Browns Yacht Yard for more permanent repairs.
No injuries were reported of the four crewmembers. Sponge Bob served his duty and returned to port without a scratch.

"Luckily, Sponge Bob got a day off so he was available to assist us with this rescue," said Chief Petty Officer Paul Wells, executive petty officer at Station Gloucester. - USCG

This is a perfect example of taking advantage of the materials around you.

GLOUCESTER, Mass. - Petty Officer Second Class Daniel Bartholomew, of Coast Guard Station Gloucester, celebrates a successful rescue with his counterpart Sponge Bob. The Nerf football was a perfect plug for the hole that nearly sank this 25-foot vessel Sept. 15. (Coast Guard Photo

H/T to Dennis Bryant's Haight's Maritime Items, where I first read the story. (Holland & Knight homepage)

Thursday, September 20

Anger Over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Visit is Misplaced

Surely everyone knows by now that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to go to the World Trade Center site for what had to be a media stunt. This of course generated a great amount of outrage. He request has been denied, but that was only to go into the site. There is nothing to stop him from going down there to visit like any other tourist can do now, once he gets into the country.

That is where we should really direct our anger, not for what he wants to do in the US, but that the US Government saw fit to permit him to enter the US at all. That is outrageous. Just because he is the President of Iran, does not give him a free pass to come to the US, he still has to apply for and be issued a visa. It is our right as host to the UN to deny him entry and as the leader of a country that the US State Department (the issuer of his visa) has listed as sponsor of terrorism, that alone should disqualify him.

State Sponsors of Terrorism

Country -- (Designation Date)
Cuba -- (March 1, 1982)
Iran -- (January 19, 1984)
North Korea -- (January 20, 1988)
Sudan -- (August 12, 1993)
Syria -- (December 29, 1979)


Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.- US Dept of State

In order for the State Department to grant him a visa, they first had to get permission from Homeland Security to issue the damn thing. In yet another sign of problems with how Homeland Security works, they did grant permission:

The State Department had to seek a special waiver for Ahmadinejad from the Department of Homeland Security because of unresolved allegations that he was involved in the 1979-81 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, in which 52 hostages were held for 444 days. - Washington Post

So not only did the State Department decide to grant Ahmadinejad a visa to insult us from inside the UN in NY, but someone inside Homeland Security gave them the green light to do it. What is the point of having all these checks and balances if they are never used? There is no mention if all 130+ officials Iran submitted applications for were also issued visas. Keep in mind that Iran is currently in violation of UN Security Council Sanctions.

President Bush is missing a great opportunity to score points at home by denying Ahmadinejad, and Chavez, access to the UN. They don't deserve it. One was here last year insulting our President and the other is threatening to wipe another member country off the map. A declaration that might just earn him charges of inciting genocide. Also, if the US is pursuing ‘regime change’ in Iran, than it should have refused to issue him a visa. Issuing him a visa sends mixed signals to those back home who are fighting for change.

Permitting Ahmadinejad to visit the US, for any reason, would be like the US permitting Hitler to visit the UN in 1939 - 1941 had it been around. We would not have done it then, so why now? I understand the State Department wanting to grant him the Visa as one of their responsibilities to the UN to be 'good-hosts' but in this case that action should have been checked by Homeland Security which should be operating under different priorities. (Oddly enough, if the UN was around at that time, you could bet that the Soviet Union would have vetoed any attempt to stop Hitler. If anything, having the UN around at that time might have actually permitted Hitler to consolidate his gains with calls for a 'diplomatic solution' to the crisis, with the Soviet Union pursuing 'quiet diplomacy'. Thank God the UN was not around then! We might never have recovered.)

Not for anything, but I bet that this will be one good deed that will not be unpunished. I wonder, did the State Department OK his visit because they have no problem with him attacking the President?

Update: 20 Sept 2007

Like I mentioned above, just because his request to visit the WTC site was rejected, does not prevent him from going there. According to this post by Michelle Malkin, that is just what he plans to do:

A law enforcement source says the Iranian mission to the United Nations has informed the Secret Service that the Iranian president intends to visit Ground Zero Monday at 10 a.m.

The source says regardless of the NYPD’s rejection of the request for a Ground Zero tour, Iran’s president and his entourage will be accompanied by a Secret Service protective detail, a detail provided to all heads of state when they visit the United States. - Michelle Malkin

Thank you so much for looking out for us/US, State Department!

Wednesday, September 19

Fake USA TODAY Story 'Endorses' Scam Cancun Trips

This is about as deceptive as they come. Take a look at what spit out of our fax machine today:

Call 800-417-3710 to get screwed out of hundreds of dollars

Of course I cannot find any such story on the USA Today site nor can I find any reference for the two 'authors' of the story other than a reference posted in a spam forum by another person who received the same fax. (They discuss their calls to the number here)

Just imagine how many suckers are going to fall for this scam. $50 a day for an all-inclusive vacation. Maybe they deserve to be suckered. Still, those behind this scam (and those manning the phones!) should see serious jailtime.

Update: 20 September
USA Today is aware of the scam:
Note to readers: We at USA TODAY are aware of a fax blast of an unsolicited advertisement, designed to look like a story from our Aug. 7 Money section, that has been received in many homes and businesses. The story is a hoax and never was published in USA TODAY. While we cannot comment on the validity of the offer described in the fake article, promoting vacation packages to Cancun, Mexico, and often containing a handwritten note, we do want you to be aware that we have filed reports with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling to their attention the fraudulent nature of the fax. To those of you who have called this to our attention, thank you for taking the time to contact us to let us know that our name is being misused in this manner. Should you wish to file a complaint with the government, there are complaint forms available on the FTC website at and on the FCC website at - USA Today
I filed a complaint. It felt good.

Monday, September 17

Maritime Monday 76

Welcome to this Weeks edition of Maritime Monday.

You can find Maritime Monday 26 here. (Published 11 September 2006)

You can find last week's edition here.

This Weeks Photos:
This weeks photos come out of the accident report covered by Mr. Dennis Bryant of Holland & Knight:

Haight's Maritime Items has:

UK – report on shipping container collapse - The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued the report of its investigation of the collapse of shipping containers on a container ship in the Baltic Sea on 26 February 2007. The investigation revealed what appears to be a systemic problem with the rapid loading of containers, allowing minimal time for the ship’s officers to determine whether the loading is being done in accordance with the load plan and to calculate the effect of the loading on ship stability, among other factors. The report recommends development of a best practice safety code and other industry-wide changes. Report No. 21/2007 (9/13/07). - Dennis Bryant Holland & Knight homepage (Used with Permission)

The photos:

This is an interesting report for anyone who does stowage planning. It will become even more relevant as the number of large vessels increases, increasing the chances of similar incidents since average stack heights will increase.

Here is a picture I took while working in the container depot in Helsinki as a container damage inspector. You can see some of the IBC 30 foot bulk containers in the background. In the foreground are a couple of containers on the inspection stand:

Here is a picture from the report of the CSC plate of one of the bulk containers:

The ACEP sticker means that the container is part of an Accepted Container Examination Program.

The owner of a container is responsible for maintaining that container in a safe condition and must arrange for a container to be examined in accordance with certain procedures and at prescribed intervals for the purpose of determining whether the container has any defect that could place any person in danger.

For leased containers, by virtue of lease agreements the owner or lessor normally transfers these responsibilities to the lessee.

As part of minimum requirement for depot's, most shipping companies, instruct empty container depots to examine every container in accordance with the owners/lessors requirements that enters the empty yard for compliance with the owners/lessors respective CSC scheme. If within CSC, then the container must have a minimum prescribed time in accordance with the respective maintenance schemes provided under CSC (i.e.90 days time left before next due plate update). In the case of ACEP, then it must be sound for the full 30 months (on equipment 2 ½ years or older). For any unit not conforming to owner/lessors CSC/ACEP scheme requirements, the depot is normally requested to quote to effect repairs to bring the container up to the owners/lessors standard or to advise the container owner or agent of the containers non-CSC conformingcondition. - Shipping Australia

Of course every shipping line has different standards.

Finally, here is a photo of one of the worst crushed containers I have run across. It was dropped from a container crane. As you can see, it was full of glass:

'Broken Glass'

This Weeks Items:
Eagle Speak has "More secure containers?". Also, be sure to check out his weekly series "Sunday Ship History: The Inchon Invasion, September 1950"

Maritime Accident Casebook has the special report "The Case Of The Killer Catch". Once again the instrument of death is the lifeboat which takes the lives of two seafarers during a safety drill. The report lists a number of good points about how needlessly complicated the gear is for attaching and releasing the falls from the lifeboat. Personally I tend to prefer the old open boats with the single lever marked "DANGER LEVER DROPS BOAT". With the open boat, it is easy to see that you are in the water and permits easy access to the falls. Also the hooks can be secured before attaching the falls. Surely this system was not perfect, but at least you were not trapped inside, and provided that the 'manropes' were maintained, you at least had something to hold onto in case the lifeboat dropped out from under you.

Here is the lifeboat setup from the M/V GALVESTON BAY, which was photo of the week here. Go read the explanation of why the lifeboat was so high up on the house. One thing I did not mention at the time, was that this photo was taken while weight testing the falls. This was done by filling the boat's bilge with water. The problem came when the Chief Mate ordered me (the deck cadet) to ride the vessel down to the water with an AB (I had no problem with that) and then release the falls (I had a problem with that). I refused, explaining to the mate that the boat would flip as soon as I did that. I then was chewed out by the mate in front of the Coast Guard inspector (who, by the way, stood there and said nothing). I was finally let off the hook by the Port Engineer who heard all the noise and came to investigate. He then berated the Mate because some other fool Officer on a sister ship did something similar resulting in the death of two while the ship was docked in New Jersey. The Chief Mate wanted to release the falls as it required to be done once every three months and he figured he would save a little time by combining the two tests:

Imagine being in this lifeboat as the ship rolled.

gCaptain has what is apparently bad news to a number of US Merchant Mariners who were a little creative with their work-related meal 'expense' deductions with his post "Mariner Tax Deduction “Kapp-sized” By IRS". (For those who don't know, the ship provides your meals at sea, at no additional cost to you.) The relevant part is that the Government is demanding names of clients back to 2000. That sounds somewhat unfair to me, because I was under the impression that they can't go after you for more than 3 years back as long as you file. Anyway, gCaptain promises to keep on top of the story here.

I was originally going to link to this gCaptain article "Aw Nuts! By The Artful Blogger". To better understand the barrel reference, look here, but only if your not easily offended. (If you are easily offended, you are at the wrong corner of the internet.) Hmm, who knows, maybe the barrel reference will also apply to the other gCaptain post.

Honolulu Advertiser explains the fears of those who inhabit the outer islands that the Hawaii Superferry will ruin their isolation. (Better transportation connections normally do that.)

Superferry has announced that they will restart service between Kaua‘i and O‘ahu starting on September 26 and have posted on their website "the Summary of State Law Consequences" (PDF Document) (which includes Federal charges for interfering with the Coast Guard). The list was released by the State of Hawaii as a warning to protesters who might consider breaking the law, again.

The Economic Times (India) has the latest on the BLUE LADY scrapping battle in "Blue Lady's fate uncertain as activists to challenge SC". Apparently, it was finally approved because the vessel had already been beached. The Oregon Telegraph has the expected reaction from the environmentalists in "Rights and environmental groups condemn Blue Lady ruling". Technically, this should be an internal Indian matter since the owner of the vessel is an Indian Shipbreaker, who planned to profit from recycling the ship. Go here for Flickr photos of Alang Ships.

The Pilot Boat brings in the dead ship/Portuguese ferry ILHA AZUL for repairs.

Shipping Times (UK) has "Scottish Government urged to abolish fishing fleet 'slave labour'" noting a number of severe abuses on EU-Registered fishing vessels.

'Manoeuvre' in Maritime Asia has "Taiwan to Construct Spratly Air Base". There is a small issue in that China has also claimed the islands for themselves as do a number of other countries. Back in school the big NAVTAG simulation involved the Spratley Islands. My watch actually won the event by kamikaze-ing our last jet into the Chinese troopship sent to occupy the islands. The instructor thought it would be amusing to enable the kamikaze option but never thought that it would be the deciding factor in the game.

Tims Times posts a sea story from his first arrival in the US. The story is titled "Divine Intervention"

Robin Storm takes a good look at remotely operated underwater vehicles including how they assisted in the salvage of the M/V BOW MARINER.

Logistics Management has one company's switch from shipping cargo from Air to sea in "Ocean shipping strategies: Risk versus reward". In many cases, shipping by air is not as fast as you would think it is. That is a problem for the air carriers as moving cargo by sea is getting faster.

The Daily Dispatch (South Africa) has a list of accidents off the Eastern Cape Coast of South Africa in "WILD COAST: The ship wrecker".

Sailor Girl (Atlântico Azul - Paixão pelo Mar) invites you to participate in Royal Race Regatta on 5 October, 2007, in Portugal.

MarEx Newsletter has "Flag State Activities Crucial to Promoting Safety at Sea"

DC Examiner has a story on the Baltimore International Seafarer’s Center. Their website is located here.

Titanic International Society’s Web Log has "Coast Guard appoints first woman to command Ice Patrol". That would be US Coast Guard LCDR Gabrielle McGrath.

UN Atlas of the Oceans has Captain Caroline Lallement, the first female Ship Captain in France. (So it claims.) For those who can manage, the French language story can be found here.

French Captain Caroline Lallement

The Boston Globe has the story of one entrant to the upcoming Vendée Globe around the world alone race.

Bosun Bob's Locker has a good example of why it is a bad idea to have nobody awake on watch in a story of the sailboat OUZO being run over by the channel ferry PRIDE OF BILBAO (Wikipedia info here) in ""Reflectors are virtually useless" (Damning report on Ouzo sinking)". The reflector mentioned is the radar reflector carried on many sailboats. So be warned. While they had that, they did not have other, more useful equipment, such as an EPIRB or even lights for their lifejackets. That is a shame since they survived the sinking of their sailboat, only to die in the water. The MAIB Report can be found here. (PDF File.)

Environmental News Network has "Indian Ocean sees smallest tuna catch in 11 years"

SAILORS, MARINERS & WARRIORS LEAGUE has "the claim by and Animal Rights Group Saying that it sank the Whaling Ship WILLASSEN SENIOR in Norway.

Steeljaw Scribe has the firing by Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia’s Navy Chief, Admiral Vladimir Masorin, possibly for accepting an award from the US Chief of Naval Operations.

National Public Radio has a photo essay and radio presentation "Exploring for Oil in the Arctic's 'Great Frontier'"

Maritime Links Editor's Blog has "Maine Maritime Academy Enrollment at All Time High!" Hmmm, seems like a trend.

Maritime Compass posts about the arrest of the former facilities director of Mystic Seaport, Cindy Snarski, for stealing thousands of dollars of copper wire.

Tugster has the Dutch-Flag, US-based canal boat GOLDEN RE'AL.

The Canadian Press has the head of the Canadian Navy, Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson state that the Navy needs to learn how to fight pirates and terrorists.

With yet another example of why Greenpeace should be thrown out of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), again, and just in time to back up the statements of Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Robertson, is their post "Pulp freighter blockade in Canada"

How about slacking this line out and dunking this guy? I bet his attitude would change pretty quick:

"Greenpeace activist suspended from mooring lines" - Greenpeace

Where are the fire hoses?

Greenpeace keeps getting away with this because ship's crews are not given the GreenLight to repel them. Here are some ways to protect the ship if you find yourself being attacked by Greenpeace: (Note: Anything you do is your responsibility, although it is Greenpeace that forces you to act.)

- Use fire hoses and fire monitors. Add Foam or soap to make everything slippery. Deliver the soap inside water balloons and then use the hosed to foam it all up.

- Use the anchor wash if there is an attempt to secure themselves to the anchor chain.

- Use paintball guns. For more effect, shoot Pepper balls.

- Have the engineers whip up a couple potato cannons. Instead of potatoes, you can try ice cubes for a shotgun effect.

- Make use of expired flares. Just don't shoot them skyward.

Navy Times has the damage being done to our Navy by the shrinking number of shore duty jobs and reduced chances for advancement. (Hmmm, it has been about 5 months since I submitted by request to resign from the Navy Reserves.)

Read "Cheating death (Lloyds List)" for the amazing story of the survival of the entire staff of the American Bureau of Shipping who escaped from the 91st floor of the first World Trade Tower to be hit. The plane hit right above their floor and nobody escaped from any of the floors above them.

Finally, EU Observer has "EU abandons metric conversion for UK and Ireland".

Fairplay Daily News has:

Fury as Norway scraps tonnage tax - OSLO 10 September – The Norwegian government sent autumn chill through the country’s shipping community by presenting a framework for the taxation of shipping that effectively means cancellation of the tonnage tax system and massive claims for payment of tax credits incurred since 1996 when it was introduced. A new system will be published with the government’s draft budget on 6 October. The Norwegian tonnage tax meant that operating profits were untaxed unless taxable dividends are paid to the shareholders or if assets are moved out of Norway. The government now intends to reclaim these tax credits. The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA) estimates that the credits amount to between 14 and 21 billion kroner ($3.6Bn). “A claim to pay the so called tax credits will lead to selling ships and newbuilding contracts on wholesale scale and massive exodus of Norwegian shipping to Denmark, Great Britain and Germany,” NSA said in a statement, adding that the equity of many companies will be dramatically reduced, in some cases by half. Taxation of shipping has raised controversy in Norway since 1996, when the tonnage tax was introduced. Ship owners say the system adopted has not offered the same benefits as those in use in many EU countries. Some economists say all business in Norway should be taxed equally to ensure the best use of funds invested. A shipping analyst told Fairplay that listed companies with domiciles abroad, such as Frontline, Golden Ocean or Nordic American, would not be affected at all. Those domiciled in Norway, including many privately owned firms, could be badly affected. “This is tough, but I don’t think the last word has been said yet,” he predicted. - Fairplay Homepage (Used with Permission)

That was just the first act. Then the other shoe dropped:

Tonnage tax: Oslo doubles the pain - OSLO 13 September – Norway’s finance ministry is to double the tax bill for shipping companies already reeling from the double blow of losing the tonnage tax and the demand for back tax. A letter from the Norwegian finance ministry to one shipping company stipulates that market values rather than book values should be used in calculating owners’ tax liability following the abolition of tonnage tax, which can double the bill owners face to NK40Bn ($7.1Bn). Per Saevik, MD of the offshore vessel group Havila, said in an interview webcast on that the letter had stipulated that owners’ tax liability should be based on the market value of their fleet and not on the book value as owners had assumed so far. He described the situation as dramatic and said that talks are needed between the owners and the government to address the problem. The very existence of a number of companies would be in jeopardy if an NK40Bn bill was levied on the industry. This, in turn, would have serious consequences for ancillary industries such as shipbuilding and marine equipment manufacturing. The Norwegian marine cluster employs some 90,000 persons, which is about 5% of the workforce in a country of four million. - Fairplay Homepage (Used with Permission)

It seems that Norway is determined to kill off their shipping Industry by burying it in taxes.

Submissions for future editions:
Please submit articles for inclusion in next week' edition using the following submit form at Blog Carnival. You are also welcome to email photos for inclusion in future editions as well as suggest area of coverage.

** Sponsorship **
Send me an email (address in the sidebar) if you would like to sponsor an edition of Maritime Monday. I accept money and gear.

Previous Editions:
Here or click on the label below 'MaritimeMonday'.


Thursday, September 13

Congressional Abuse of a General

OK, I was a sucker for listening to the two days of Congressional hearings on Iraq as our 'favorite' Congressmen grandstanded over the need to evacuate our troops out of Iraq A.S.A.P.

First, I am amazed at General Petraeus's seemingly unlimited ability to maintain Self Discipline. Clearly, this has been honed over years of service to our country.

Second, I found it pretty damn amusing that on both days, the Chairmen of the hearings had trouble controlling the spectator/protesters, who interrupted the hearings multiple times. If Congress cannot control their own hearing room, then it is understandable that the US might have a difficult time controlling all of Iraq, especially considering that terrorists in Iraq try to blend into the local population by not dressing in bright pink to make themselves easily identifiable as the misfits in the Congressional hearings did. Why Code Pink has not been banned from hearings entirely is a complete mystery to me.

Now the General has proposed a reduction in troops and the news is suggesting that the President will announce as reduction as well. The General also provided a draft timeline, as illustrated in the following slide he presented to Congress:

General Petraeus suggested a drawdown of troops up until July, 2008 which as it happens is the latest date mentioned in the timeline. However, by that date, the number of troops appear to be reduced by 25% and possibly more than that. Of note is how the mission the troops are performing changes over time. The graph also provide the template for the rest of the withdrawal. It is just missing the dates, which did not sit well with the Democrats at the hearings.

The Democrats, seemed to be working hard to blunt any mention of any sort of progress being made in Iraq. This was done mainly by highlighting previous failures and using the past as reasoning for getting out as well as failure to comply exactly with plans made up months ago. That is a shame since by recognizing the progress that General Petraeus is claiming, they can push for withdrawals based on the progress made and expected. That path however causes problem for those running for President. (see below)

Sunk costs:
Sunk cost has been a major theme in the Democrat's plan to surrender in Iraq. Basically, we were losing, so we need to pull out to be sure that we lose.

This is how Wikipedia explains 'Sunk Cost':

In economics and in business decision-making, sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with variable costs, which are the costs that will change due to the proposed course of action. In microeconomic theory, only variable costs are relevant to a decision. Economics proposes that a rational actor does not let sunk costs influence one's decisions, because doing so would not be assessing a decision exclusively on its own merits. - Wikipedia

So whenever you hear a Democrat discussing how we need to get out of Iraq because we have spent too much money there and that we has lost enough lives, that is an example of basing a decision on sunk costs. With that sort of reasoning, we never should have invaded Afghanistan since nothing we could have done would have brought back the lives lost on that day, nor given us back the twin Towers. They were simply sunk costs. Thankfully, President Bush, and the Congress at that time didn't see it that way.

The 2008 Presidential Election:
There is one sticking point about the July, 2008 date that none of the Congressmen mentioned during the hearings, in that the date is right in the middle of the 2008 Election campaign. That is a serious problem for Democrats. First, Bush, and whoever is campaigning on the Republican side, is surely to benefit from any troop withdraws announced in March 2008 to start in July 2008, especially if they are coming home, leaving a relatively peaceful Iraq. That is the other problem for Democrats in that as time goes on, there is less bloody news footage coming out of Iraq.

So there is the need for the Democrats to force a quick pullout from Iraq. If things continue to get better without troops there, they can claim the credit for having the foresight to do the pullout. If things don't get better, or get worse, they can claim that having the troops there would not have made the country any better, but would have resulted in more US lives lost. Even better, they can blame Bush for keeping the troops there for too long, which resulted in the country becoming dependant on our presence.

Then there is the issue of the ad. The Democrats running for President only seem to be bothered by how best to not say anything that might upset moveon members. While Moveon has the right to print something like that in the paper, it is something that every member of Congress as well as everyone in the Government should condemn for the poison that it is.

Out of the whole hearing only one question seems to have great importance, that was of gauging Iran's sincerity at discussions in Iraq over the country's security. The answer was simply that they were to there to give the appearance to be helping, but in reality they were not interested at all in actually doing so. Good luck in having any of the Democrats push to hold Iran to account for its recent actions in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon.

What seems to be missing from the Democrat side as the simple fact in the rebuilding of Iraq and its Government, you just can't fill all the positions with just anybody. You need qualified people to do the jobs. A person becomes qualified to be an Iraqi General by working his way up the ranks. As General Petraeus stated, that is the problem as the lower ranks have a severe shortage of personnel due to a lack of qualified people prior to the US invading Iraq. So they are working quickly to get people the needed skills and experience to move up. The same goes for the rest of the Government positions, which were mostly non-functional under Saddam Hussein.

Now we could do this in a half-assed sort of way, but that is not how we are doing it. We are not trying to rebuld the Iraqi Army into a third-world militia. We are turning their forces into a first-rate professional, voluntary military. That is not small act. We are also trying to help the Iraqis build a first-world Government. That too takes time.

Time the Democrats don't want to give them. Because that will interfere with their goal of taking back the White House. That sounds like no plan to win an election.

Grim Milestones - 13 March 2007