Sunday, April 23, 2017

Vice President Pence Visits the Schiffkraftwerk!

Oh wow!

I know, I haven't written in a month.  Over a month.  I've been so busy, and so tired, and I've been trying orchestrate a coup within the Peninsula Engineers Council (it failed, but by God did we get close.  So close we could almost taste it).

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But also is the news that Vice President Pence will be visiting the Shipyard this weekend to be keynote speaker at the INDIANA (SSN 789) Christening.  This is a big deal...normally the most high powered person to attend a submarine christening is the Chief of Naval Operations or his deputies, the head of Naval Reactors, and maybe a few Senators.  Powerful people, yes indeed.  But not nearly as powerful as the Vice President of the United States.
Wait.  Strike that.  Reverse it.  No one potentially as powerful as the Vice President of the United States.  I would argue that a high ranking Senator would beat out a Vice President, as a rook on a chess board is worth more than a bishop.  But then Vice President Pence, like a stretched spring or a boulder hovering above Wiley E. Coyote's head, is full of potential, just one too many buckets of KFC away from the most powerful position in the land, if not the world.

Of course, Vice President looked pretty powerful when he was in the DMZ last week, staring down North Korean guards in his totally sweet bomber jacket.  And, as Pence cannot actually land on the deck of a Submarine (at least this one, as it is currently inside the yard's building outfitting facility) much of speculation around this visit concerns that bomber jacket....i.e. will he wear it?

I know I'd be dissuaded from launching an ICMB with a look like that.
Probably not.  Typically at a Christening Cermemony if you are going to speak or be up on the VIP stage you really wear your best.  Not black or white tie, of course (who does that anymore), but The Navy Personnel on hand will be in their dress uniforms in full regalia, men wear their suits and ties and women wear dresses or....pantsuits.  Are we really still going with pantsuits?  We haven't come up with anything better?  Or at we at the point in our society where a suit is just a suit?

Anyway.  A bomber jacket would be a little out of place.  The toughness aspect of the thing would be welcome, but it really isn't in line with convention.  Pence is a pretty conventional guy, and I'd expect him to follow the rules.

But then this is an administration that doesn't really care much about the rules.  When Trump visited the USS Gerald R. Ford he didn't take his hat off inside the Carrier as he toured the mess decks, which is typically done.  He was in a place where hats, generally, are not worn; but there he was with a big old USA red no less.  Generally the Damage Control Department wears red hats so that you know...well, you know that something is going down if one of those guys goes running by.  So not only was he wearing a hat in a place he shouldn't have been wearing one, but he was wearing a color that generally should not be worn onboard ship unless you have a particular reason for doing so.

And then of course just last week wunderkinder Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock toured the white house.  Pictures surfaced of The Nuge and The Kid in the white house, leering in front of a portrait of Hilary Clinton along with The Chick, with their hats on.  They were not ball caps, sure, but they were still hats.  And then another picture, of the trio inside the oval office with Trump, and those two paragons of patriotism still have their hats on!!  

 Now listen.  Wearing a hat indoors is bad enough.  I was always taught that inside of a building, any building, if you are wearing a hat you take it off.  Pure and simple.  I have lost a lot of hats this way, incidentally, as in college a few times I took off a ball cap, put it under my desk, and then forgot to put it back on my head again when I left.  Truly.  It wasn't screwed on, so I forgot it.  I'd realize maybe an hour later that I didn't have it, and when I returned to the scene of the crime it was usually gone.

But that is the price one pays for decency.  I know a lot of people don't follow that rule anymore, just as most people don't follow any rule anymore unless they feel like it...but I would think, the White House, where the likes of Lincoln and Roosevelt have sat and made monumental decisions that affected our country, one would at least have enough respect to remove one's hat, hat hair be damned.

All that is to say, simply, that if the basic rules of hat etiquette are out the window, than anything is possible viz a viz Mike Pence and the bomber jacket.  Of course, one problem is that in April it can get rather hot in Hampton Roads, and I wonder what these guys are going to do when it gets warm and they still want to look tough?  I mean, you may be as tough as balls, but if it's 90 degrees and 80% humidity, you probably aren't going to wear a bomber jacket.  If I have a guess, they'll go with a Motorcycle Gang style cut, leaving the arms bare and cool but still telling all your enemies that you mean business.  Plus, there is the added bonus of having plenty of room for patches.  The overall effect:  Don't fuck with these guys, or we'll pop some cruise missiles in your keister.

As the current forecast high is 85 degrees in Hampton Roads on Saturday, I'll put a box of donuts on Mike Pence showing up in this bad-ass Commander in Chief cut.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

President Trump visits der Schiffkraftwerk! Part II


Thursday, March 2nd, dawned clear, cool, and windy.  There was a...palpable?  Sure, I'll go with it...palpable feel of excitement in Newport News.  I mean, you could actually reach out and just squeeze the excitement.  It was supple, full, and smooth, like the breasts of a ca. 1980's Playboy Playmate, hair held up with enough hair spray to puncture a small hole in the ozone layer above the little cornfed American town in Iowa where she grew up, emblematic of the time when Trump was King of Atlantic City and a rapscallion robber barron of Real Estate.

But my goodness how the times do change.  That is what someone pointed out to me on Thursday as I walked towards a meeting on the waterfront.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

The shipbuilder I was talking to nodded over towards the CVN 72, berthed in the James River, currently in the closing stages of its RCOH.  Every morning the ship puts music on its loudspeakers while the crew carryout their cleaning stages, shop vac and broom replacing Captain Aubrey's Holystones.  "When I was in the Navy, no one spoke Spanish," he said.  "Now the CVN72 is playing whole songs in Spanish".  I listened a little closer and he was right.  "You see," he said again, sheer happiness spreading across his face "times do change."

"Yes," I answered.  "Sometimes for the better."

In this day and age it seems that every act can be interpreted as a political act.  I don't know how the CVN72 picks their music (it isn't always morning it was Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper", with extra cowbell), and I'm not suggesting it was a dig at Trump.  It very likely was little more than a coincidence.  But I found it, nevertheless, an interesting counterpoint to the day, and to the man due to arrive that afternoon.


And so he did.  A few minutes before 13:00 there was the massive "fwhomp-fwhomp-fhwomp" that signaled the arrival of millions of rivets flying in formation, three V-22 Ospreys and two Marine Ones, some carrying Trump and his entourage, the others empty, presenting a befuddling shell game to any intrepid would-be-terrorist.  ISIS scientists are wise to it, and apparently have been playing endless versions of a five shell two pebble game of "find the pea", trying to get down into the American psyche and find any discernible patterns.  Luckily, nothing to show for it so far.
Hats off in the Wardroom!!  What, is he cold or something? 

Those of us not at the event all ran to the windows of our buildings like school children to see the huge craft (and the Ospreys truly are gigantic).  The lucky few (about 2500 shipyard workers) at the event all let up a boisterous cheer.  They had been there since around 10:00, milling about in the ship's hangar bay, squeezed in between Sailors and Press.  They had been subjected to long replays of Foghat's "Slow Ride" until an astute officer on the CVN78, professional as always, pointed out that to continue to do so who would constitute a most grievous violation of the Geneva Conventions.  So they switched to Zeppelin, which went down a lot smoother.  The fact that both bands were British was not lost on the few Tories in the audience, still desperately clinging to the dream that America would realize the error of its ways after nearly 250 years of Independence, and come crawling back.

That slim sliver of hope was dashed when Trump, after touring the ship with the CO and other dignitaries, was lowered into the Hangar Bay on one of the Ford's massive aircraft elevators to the strains of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA".  People everywhere felt a collective shiver in their spine, a great disturbance in the Force, as the muses of taste and tact once again screamed aloud in terror, and were suddenly silenced.  That song certainly has legs.  You'd think over the last 37 years we would have come up with something better.  But no.

Trump arrived wearing a recently obtained aviators jacket that made his hands look a little small and a CVN 78 Gerald R. Ford hat pulled low over the eyes, which he had wisely substituted for the red USA hat he was seen wearing after getting off Marine One (and also onboard ship in round table discussion).  To some he looked tough.  To me, he looked more like a baseball manager.

Trump Calls for a Squeeze Play.  Bold Leadership from a Bold Man.  Photo by the New York Times
He stepped up the podium and gave....well, it was a speech. He stood up, he looked sort of Presidential, gave a second grader's cliffnotes report on the Battle of Midway, and he managed not to say anything too stupid. An atypical politician giving a typical speech, as the Pod Save America guys said of his Grand Address to Congress on Tuesday.  There is a reason that Trump's secret service call sign, apparently, is "The Dancing Bear."

We were all very impressed.  He did say that he wanted to build more ships, and more planes, and more boats, and that it was all going to come "very soon."

Oh Trump, you silly, silly man.  One does not simple open the tap and get more ships.  Though the additional money proposed would certainly help.  Sequestration hasn't really caused a lot of job loss in the Shipbuilding industry, at least at NNS, but it has certainly made the work there more difficult, and made the workers more frustrated.  There is not enough money to do the things that the Navy is wanting to do.  It just isn't there.  So I don't necessarily oppose additional spending for naval assets.  I do think that the idea of stripping down other programs (among them the state department and foreign aid, those things put in place to help avoid having to go to war in the first place) seems, to me, to be incredibly short sighted.

Anyways, after 16 minutes of speechifying it was all over.  He got back on the elevator, was raised up (thankfully) to the flight deck, and then he and his merry men fwhomp fwhomp fwomphed away.


The intent of the speech was to highlight the $54 billion increase in defense spending Trump had asked for in his address to congress.  It think it was also an optics thing.  On the heels of the Tuesday speech, in which the bear managed to dance for over an hour, this should have been an easy win.  Nobody appropriates military hardware for his own grandeur while simultaneously distancing himself from responsibility of sending our military into the fight better than our President, at which the buck stops here, or there, or maybe over there.  Maybe one day he will get it.  Right now he doesn't.  A bust of Churchill in his office, indeed!

But the Ford speech was overcome by other events.  March 2nd was also the day that Jeff Sessions became fully embroiled in questions concerning his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the point where ultimately he had to recuse himself from any further investigations over Russia, which now seem likely to continue.  As of this morning Trump tweeted that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower after the election and before the inauguration, without offering any proof of those allegations.  It's hard to know what to make of THAT, exactly.  I can conceive of various intelligence agencies doing so as part of the their own investigations, but to put that on Obama's head directly (who seemed and seems to me very, very careful to stay out of the the current fray) is bad, and only gives credence to those saying that Obama is trying to somehow have a soft coup and take over the government.  It's amazing to me how the spectre of Obama and..just the naked fear and hate so many people have of him continues to haunt our country - and maybe even our leadership.  Let it go my friends.  Just let it go.

Oh, and he also took a moment to mourn the death of  The Apprentice, which is being cancelled. Christ.  So much for looking, acting, and being Presidential.  Maybe the Bear can't dance after all.

Trump may still well get his money to rebuild the military.  But I would say that, aside from the people at Newport News Shipbuilding, this speech has already been well forgotten, a mere blip in yet another rough news cycle for a troubled administration.

Ultimately, Trump will not be judged on these sorts of silly events, but rather on what he actually does.  So far, in the grand scheme of things, he's done very little.  I fear that if he doesn't pull it together, his administration will be a full stop failure.  While it would raise the prospects of him getting voted out in four years (which so far I would support), there gets to be a point where failed leadership will hurt us all.


Though it won't hurt my prospects for the musical I am working on, simply called "TRUMP!  The Musical".  In the Second Act, Trump goes aboard the Ford and he sits down to the round table discussion, a group of sailors sing an extended aside:


SAILOR ONE:  Look at that big shot over there.  

SAILOR TWO:  Yeah, look at him.

SAILOR ONE:  I mean, doesn't he know that you got to...

Music begins, sort of a peppy kind of pop rock high school musical thing

SAILOR ONE (singing):

You got to take your
Hat off in the Wardroom!
You got to take your
Hat off for chow!
You got to take your
Hat off in the Wardroom, yeah

SAILOR TWO (joining in):

You know it's so rude
And he's being so crude 
Yeah, you got to take your


Hat off!  Hat off!
Yeaaaahhhhh you got to take your
Hat off! Hat offfffffff......
You got to take it off!

It's a work in progress.  For now, I'd call it a sort of tragi-comedy.  Or is it a comi-tragedy.  Not sure.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

President Trump Visits der Schiffkraftwerk! Part I

So yesterday we found out, via company email, that the Shipyard is going to be hosting President Donald Trump on Thursday.  As of blog time not too much is known about the visit other than he will be on the as yet to put to sea USS Gerald R. Ford and he expected to say...something.  Probably.

"Will he bringing donuts with him?" was my first question to upper management.  I still maintain that no amount of donuts would get me to vote for Donald least for now, based on the first 40 some odd days of his administration.  But it would still be pretty cool if he was out there at 5:30 AM, handing out donuts and shaking hands.  I know I would appreciate that.  Unfortunately, based on what I know of the man, he stays up late watching cable news to see how he himself is viewed by pundits and people, and it would probably be difficult to get him up quite so early in the morning.  So much the better.  "Trump Triumph's over Adversity; Awakens early to Deliver Donuts" would be a great headline.  And it would be a great story to tell your grand kids someday, about what life was like before the war.

But more important for Trump, no doubt, is the optics of the whole thing.  How do you make someone who has heretofore served almost no cause other than himself look impressive while humbly serving at the behest of the peoples?  How do you convey to everyone that this man is the real dope shit?  How do you convince everyone that he is Big League? Simply strolling out onto the flight deck or a hangar bay might have worked for George H.W. Bush, because as a veteran of World War II and a long time public servant he already had the necessary gravitas.  But for Trump it simply will not do.  Gravitas must be upgraded into solid gold plated magnificence.  

So I imagine, in a great flash of brilliance, he looked around at his aides over lunch and said "Wait a minute now.  It's an aircraft carrier, right?"

"Well....yes sir, it is, technically."

"Why don't we put an aircraft on it?"

So hence we have Option 1, shown in Figure 1 below.  In this option, Trump lands on the flight deck of Gerald R. Ford aboard Marine One, perhaps flanked by a couple of V-22's or maybe even some Harriers, which would just be wicked awesome.  Consider your most greenest, pacifistic, cupcakey liberal alive who would just as soon take our carriers and turn them into giant floating carbon neutral hemp co-ops; I'll wager if you put them in the vicinity of a Harrier doing a vertical take off or landing, that even they would have to utter "Oh my God that is's just so fucking cool!"

Figure 1:  Trump Arrives on Marine One, with Musical Accompaniment.  Harriers and/or V-22s not shown.

And of course some kind of music would be playing.  Maybe the theme from Air Force One or the opening music for "Glory" with the choir and the drums and such, while the people picked for the event stand on the flight deck with their flags and an honor guard waits at attention.  It would all be quite grand and stirring, reflecting on the magnificence of Trump, his administration, his incredible election victory, and his beautiful (and sizable, he might add) hands.

The irony in this is that Marines, piloting Marine One, Harriers and/or V-22 Ospreys, would be the first to land aircraft aboard a Ford Class Carrier, something that I am sure the Marine Corps will never let Naval Aviation ever, ever forget.

But there are some aides that remember the last time a sitting President landed on an Aircraft Carrier, and how that President's latest and greatest feat of arms devolved into a god awful shitty mess shortly thereafter.
So we have Option 2, as shown in Figure 2, in which Trump actually jumps out of Air Force One and parachutes onto the flight deck with a huge American Flag flying as various fireworks are zinging and banging through the air and the 1MC plays some variation of  "Rock Flag and Eagle" by Charlie Kelly.  Maybe with the Flying Elvises, maybe not; their loyalty to the present administration remains uncertain.

Figure 2:  Trump Arrives via Parachute and Musical Accompaniment.  Flying Elvises Not Pictured

If you question the wisdom of letting a 70 year old man jump out of a perfectly good airplane, let me remind you that Trump is in the most magnificent, most excellent health, perhaps the best health of any President ever.  Lincoln?  Constipated.  Horribly, horribly constipated.  Trump?  You can set your watch by him, like a grand old clock. He may be 70, but he feels like he's 39 (not 40 mind you, but 39, as John Oliver noted in a recent issue of Rolling Stone).  So no worries.  Trump's got this.  Just like he's got the Country.

But even parachuting out of a plane just may not be enough to really show us Trump's vision of our nation in the world.  So we at last come to Option 3, in which the mighty ship is raised out of the James River by Trump's incredible mind power, kind of like Yoda only better, and placed on a Hyuge Transporter, and wheeled at the end of a Triumphant Trump Triumph parade, with a statute of ol' "Fire on the Uproll" Trump on the bow, in full naval regalia (including the hat!), saber drawn, leading us into war and onwards to eternal victory.

Figure 3:  Trump Triumphant!

Against whom?  That, my friends, is the question, though I think I remember Bannon saying the South China Sea is awfully nice this time of year.

I'm sure excited.  As for me, my money is on Option 2.