Category Archives: News

To Honor a Hero

Lt. Michael Murphy - US Navy Seal

At a small ceremony tomorrow, Saturday, May 7, at Bath Iron Works – Bath, Maine, the US Navy will christen a new warship, the  USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112). New ships are launched all the time but this one is special. This ship was named after Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy Seal and first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam war. He died in combat in Afghanistan, June 28, 2005, acting above and beyond the call of duty. He is a true American hero.

This honor is as much about how Lt. Murphy lived as to how he died. Sure, he set himself apart from lesser men when he laid his life on the line and paid the ultimate price. This man set himself apart long before he joined the Navy and endured the rigors of Seal training. He was tagged with the nickname of “The Protector,” given to him in his childhood for defending a special-needs child when a group of bullies tried to stuff him in a locker. Or the time he intervened on behalf of a homeless man from a group of uncaring youths. Michael Murphy stood up for those that couldn’t.

On October 11, 2007, The White House announced Murphy would be presented the Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously, during a ceremony at the White House on October 22, 2007. Then, on May 7, 2008, then Secretary of the navy Donald Winter announced that DDG-112, the last planned US Arleigh Burke class destroyer at the time, would be named USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112),  in honor of Lt. Murphy.

At a small ceremony on June 18th of 2010, the keel was laid down and authenticated to mark the beginning of construction of the future USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Ceremony guests of honor included Murphy’s mother; father, Dan; and brother, John, who confirmed the destroyer’s keel, the large beam around which the hull of a ship is constructed, was laid “straight and true.” Ceremony attendees also included nearly 20 Navy SEALS.

“There are no words,” said Maureen Murphy, mother of Murphy. “I still can’t get it through my head that a U.S. Navy ship is going to be named after my son. He would be honored. I hope to have a good rapport with the crew of the Michael Murphy. On the ship, it’s going to be like one big family, and I would like to have a good relationship with the crew.”

That effort culminates tomorrow, May 7th, when Maureen Murphy will have the honor of christening the ship by smashing a bottle of champagne against the bow of the 510-foot-long warship as Murphy’s father, brother and others watch.

There are times when I am never prouder of being an American. This is one of them. In the face of grave loss we can show our strength in community and honor those that, through their sacrifice, allow us to do so.

Godspeed, USS Micheal Murphy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8AWV3r_cdM]

Observations of a Royal Wedding

Prince William and Kate

I think I know who wears the pants suit in that family. Although… Prince William does carry the sword.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that the royals planned the wedding to coincide with “Wear an Ugly Hat to a Wedding” day. (I wonder if Aunt Clara knows her hats have been stolen?)

The rear license plate on the Aston-Martin that the Prince drove his new bride from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House read — JU5T WED… How quaint!

U.K Crime did not take a holiday in reverence to the royal nuptials.  According to the Telegraph, the total number of arrests is now 52. Of those, 13 arrested were held at Charing Cross and Covent Garden after being found in possession of climbing equipment – helmets – and anti-monarchy placards, suggesting that they planned to climb a building and unfurl banners.

I was very surprised to see Prince William paying homage to that wonderfully camp puppet show, The Thunderbirds, with his uniform selection. The resemblance is uncanny!

As Wedding fever sweeps the nation, I have to wonder how much ale will be hoisted in the name of the Royal Couple, the cake, the dress, the car, the Queen, and what ever else the throng can find to hoist an ale over.

Nice dress… Big Cake… National holiday… What’s not to love about a wedding bash of this scope.

It truly is the sign of the times when the Royal Wedding has its own official website. Not to mention the hundreds of other, non-official sites: http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/

Even Google got into the mix with their official “Google Doodle” of the day.

Speaking of News…

CBS won’t confirm it. Katie’s camp is all mum. Nobody wants to talk about what everybody knows.

It was really big news in 2006 when everybody was talking about Katie, the first woman to chair an evening news broadcast. CBS lured Couric away from NBC’s Today show hoping her fresh style and big smile would bring viewers by the millions.

Yet, five years later, CBS Evening News is a distant third in the network news rankings, behind Brian William’s NBC “Nightly News” and Diane Sawyer at ABC’s World News a close second. According to Ricky Bobby, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” That certainly seems true at CBS.

Where she is first is in her paycheck. At a reported salary of $15 million, Couric is the highest paid news personality on television. That’s a whole lot of teeth whitener.

According to unnamed sources at CBS, Couric’s replacement will be “”60 Minutes” host Scott Pelley.

Nobody knows where Couric goes from here but some are saying she is negotiating to launch a syndicated talk show in 2012. I think it safe to say, wherever she lands, Katie Couric will be the best Katie Couric she can be.

 

 

Lookin’ Kinda Silly with a Hole in Your Plane

Statistically speaking, flying is safe. The odds of being on a plane that has some kind of catastrophic failure mid-flight is minuscule. Or, if you happened to be one of the 118 people on Southwest Flight 812 (a Boeing 737-300) headed to Sacramento this past Saturday morning… 100%.

The airline industry only has to do one thing to maintain passengers confidence. Promote an appearance of safe flight. So when a gaping hole opened up along the top of the 737, flying seemed to be not as safe as it was just a few minutes prior.

You have to admire Southwest Airlines for grabbing the plane by the fuselage and getting pro-active with the situation. In response to the event, SWA grounded 81 other 737s for immediate inspection.

In its statement on the inspections, Southwest said Sunday that two planes were found with cracks similar to those in the stricken aircraft. These will be evaluated and repaired before they are returned to service. A National Transportation Safety Board member told The Associated Press later that a third plane had been found with cracks developing.

Southwest has been systematically replacing the 737-300 as it takes deliveries on new aircraft. This is the oldest model in their fleet comprising 170 of 548 planes. All 81 of the grounded aircraft are this model. Some of the SWA 737-300s have had their fuselage retrofitted in recent years. These planes were not grounded.

As airlines deal with an aging fleet it will be interesting to watch how this incident impacts that effort. Planes are expensive and profits are thin. Southwest is fortunate the flight crew got this plane on the ground safely. Until live are lost as a result of fatigued aircraft, I’m afraid airlines worldwide will be somewhat cavalier about getting serious with this problem.

I Lost my Job – Somebody in Mumbai Found It!

Over the last couple of years you could not open a newspaper, turn on a television, or talk to a neighbor without hearing about the disappearing jobs situation across America.

I haven’t worked in over two years. That’s not entirely true. I have worked plenty. I haven’t had a job with a nine-to-five clock, health benefits and someone to call boss. I’ve had to fill my time with what freelance projects I can find and the personal writing projects I take on.

The Obama administration is saying unemployment in America is improving. The administration is wrong. The numbers are smoke and mirrors. It’s sleight of hand and the only thing disappearing are jobs. That’s not entirely true either. The jobs are still there – lot’s of them. The only problem is, there is not here. There is not where they used to be. “There” is Mumbai and Bangalore, where American high-tech heavyweights like Microsoft, Dell, Intel, and others are finding a new workforce to fill high tech jobs that once resided from sea-to-shining-sea.

According to a Dan Rather article in the Huffington Post a couple of months back, since 2009 over 250,000 IT jobs in our country disappeared. Over the same period, IT outsourcing positions in India added nearly 850,000 workers, with the average pay for an IT engineer a little under $9,000 a year. (I’m not entirely sure I can blame the Dells and Microsofts of the world considering the average wage for the same IT worker in Silicon Valley is $80,000 a year – plus bennies.)

Coincidence? I think not.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chOQdw2Kjwo]

Next it will be… “Off with his head!”

Did you see this headline over the weekend?

“Biden Aide Apologizes After Reporter Kept in Storage Closet During Fundraiser.”

You can’t make that kind of stuff up. This VP is becoming the biggest national embarrassment since Dan Quayle. Locking away those pesky press people in broom closets? What’s next — the rack?

Scott Powers, a reporter with the Orlando Sentinel, was ushered into a storage space during a fundraiser last Wednesday for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. It seems the Biden staff was intent on preventing the reporter from speaking to people before the Vice President Biden made his appearance. More about this situation in the Orlando Sentinel.

I can only imagine the outrage had this been a member of the liberal press held against their will at a Republican event. Double standards is modus operandi in politics. It’s become laughable to those that get to watch it play out from afar.

In the meantime, here are the Top Ten Joe Biden gaffes by Time magazine to keep you entertained.

Joe Biden suffers from Foot in Mouth Disease

An Eye for an Eye

With revelations coming out that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi likely ordered the Bombing of Pan Am flight 103 it is no surprise that American families affected by the tragedy are calling this recent action, “Long Overdue.”

Setting the allied intervention aside for a moment, I believe it is somewhat ironic that the murderous reign of Gaddafi will ultimately come to an end at the hands of his own people.

As the days go by the military might of this dictator gets weaker and weaker, and rebel forces surge forward in their push to unseat their embattled leader. Allied air strikes have re-energized the opposition forces.

The losses keep piling up. E Pakistan News reported Sunday evening that Khamis Gaddafi,  Muammar Gaddafi’s son and commander of the feared Khamis Brigade, was killed in an allied air strike.

I don’t know where this is headed, but at the end of it I’d like to see this man standing in front of a judge and the Lockerbie families to answer for this murderous crime.

I don’t want us in another shooting war any more than the next man, but if a few Tomahawks can bring this criminal to justice, I think it’s a worthy investment.

U.S. Embassy to staff 17,000. Seriously???

I was listening to NPR’s Neal Conan, Talk of the Nation, the other day on my way back from the VA. His guest that afternoon was Ted Koppel . (The Podcast of that program can be found here.)

The topic of the show was whether or not the U.S. should be completely out of Iraq by the end of 2011.  During the course of the interview they began to discuss the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Koppel mentioned that the facility would be home to over 17,000 employees.

My head sort of spun around like Linda Blair when that number drilled into my brain like a Peruvian gnat. I was pretty sure he meant 1,700 and mis-spoke when a moment later he said it again.

SEVENTEEN THOUSAND!

This part of Conan’s interview went like this:

CONAN: And Ted Koppel, that raises questions about the fundamental -really, you’d heard those questions raised most often about the interior ministry forces rather than the military forces in Iraq, but that they were more loyal to party than to the government.

KOPPEL: Neal, I don’t think there is any question that both the -certainly the Pentagon and I believe probably the military in Iraq also does not want to see the complete drawdown of U.S. forces at the end of this year from Iraq.

I think what’s happening, for political reasons, both political reasons to serve the interests of the White House and political reasons to serve the interests of Prime Minister Maliki, there is something of a shell game going on right now.

The U.S. embassy to which you referred earlier on is quite literally the largest embassy in the universe. It is going to have staffing somewhere in excess of 17,000 people. There is no other embassy in the world that comes even close to that, no other U.S. embassy, and I don’t think any other embassy comes even close to that.

Many of those 17,000 will be the military/civilian contractors that you were referring to before, and you’re going to have this bizarre situation where the State Department, in effect, is going to be running the military operations that previously were run by the Pentagon.

I played around with that 17,000 number and the sheer volume of people is staggering.

Consider this — if you hired every player in the NFL, NBA, Major and Minor League Baseball, to start staffing the Embassy, you would still need over twenty-one 747 airplanes, fully loaded with passengers, to finish staffing the facility.

Or this — Penske Automative Group (PAG) operates 253 retail automotive franchises, representing 40 different brands, and 40 collision repair centers. PAG is a member of the Fortune 500 (#245) and Russell 200, and has approximately 15,000 employees. (2,000 less than the US Embassy in Baghdad.)

Somewhere later in the interview Koppel notes:

“Each of those men, on average, is paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 a year, which as most of your listeners probably know is somewhat in excess of what our men and women in uniform earn.”

If only half the 17,000 (8,500) employees were paid $100,000 a year, the payroll for that half would amount to $850 million dollars, and you still have to pay the other half.  Conservative estimates for the new Embassy thinks the annual operating budget to be around $2 Billion. That’s a lot of school lunches.

I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around what 17,000 people are doing at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, especially as the military operation has run its course.

And this new embassy is a pretty substantial facility known in the neighborhood alongside the Tigris river in Baghdad.

The embassy has extensive housing and facilities in addition to the usual diplomatic buildings. The buildings include:

  • Six apartment buildings for employees
  • Water and waste treatment facilities
  • A power station
  • Two “major diplomatic office buildings”
  • Recreation, including a gym, cinema, and a swimming pool

The complex is heavily fortified, even by the standards of the Green Zone. The details are largely secret, but it is likely to include a significant US Marine Security Guard detachment.

I’d like to know why we need so many people in a diplomatic mission in a country that doesn’t want us to be there. Why so many people? Must be planning on making a lot of passports in Baghdad.

Some resources to check out:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS21867.pdf
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12319798 <—Must See Video