October 18, 2010

Royal Navy’s Ark Royal to be decommissioned

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 17:23

The Royal Navy is losing its carrier HMS Ark Royal effective immediately, according to The Guardian:

The prime minister will underline the scale of the cuts to Britain’s annual £37bn defence budget tomorrow when he announces that Britain will be without a carrier strike capability for a decade. HMS Ark Royal will be decommissioned immediately and its Harrier jump jets will be withdrawn from service.

The Royal Navy will have to wait 10 years until as many as 50 new Joint Striker Aircraft can be launched using the catapult and trap system — “cat and trap” — from the new Prince of Wales aircraft carrier. This system, which will allow French and US planes to fly from Britain’s new aircraft carrier, will cost about an extra £500m.

In reality, this means that the Royal Navy will probably never have a strike carrier capability again. The next government will have lots of reasons to further reduce the RN’s Fleet Air Arm, and the will to reverse these cuts can’t be found on the opposition benches. The Royal Navy will now move toward being a pure coastal defence force.

The cost of only 50 F-35B aircraft will sink the carrier fleet more effectively than torpedoes. They were already going to be ultra-expensive with the original planned order of more than twice as many. Ordering so few guarantees that they’ll be even more expensive per plane. Whether the current government survives a full term in office or is defeated in the house, the next government will have even less political reason to buy these planes.

The Prince of Wales will be the second of the new aircraft carriers to be built at a cost of £5.2bn. The first aircraft carrier — the Queen Elizabeth — will be in service for just three years, between 2016-19, as a helicopter carrier. It will then be mothballed, a process known as “extended readiness”, and possibly sold off.

Cameron told the cabinet today that the decision to abandon a carrier strike capability for 10 years — and to put the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier into service for just three years — was one of the most difficult decisions he has made. “The prime minister told the cabinet that this was one of the hardest things he has had to grapple with,” one source said. “But this decision was taken collectively.”

It’s not mentioned in the article, but I assume that the reconfiguration of Queen Elizabeth as a helicopter carrier also means that the RN will be losing the relatively new HMS Ocean as well as the Ark. I guess the “frigate captain” branch of the service won the battle for funding.

Argentina’s opportunity to liberate “les Malvinas” coming up shortly . . .

Update, 19 October: The Prime Minister’s speech to the House of Commons confirms most of what The Guardian reported yesterday. The planned F-35B purchase will be switched to F-35C, one carrier to be completed then mothballed, the other to go into active service, and the Harriers to be retired from service. Trident fleet to be replaced, but five years later than planned, and both tubes per boat and number of boats to be reduced. The Army loses 7,000 troops, and 40% of their tanks and heavy artillery. On the plus side, the British will no longer be maintaining a garrison in Germany after 2015. The RAF will be reduced to 33,000 by 2015.

Gaining votes by insulting the voters?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:53

President Barack Obama has an odd way of campaigning for his party:

President Barack Obama said Americans’ “fear and frustration” is to blame for an intense midterm election cycle that threatens to derail the Democratic agenda.

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. “And the country’s scared.”

Obama told the several dozen donors that he was offering them his “view from the Oval Office.” He faulted the economic downturn for Americans’ inability to “think clearly” and said the burden is on Democrats “to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling.”

Blaming the voters for their economic worries isn’t quite the tone I’d expect him to set while trying to drum up support for his party’s candidates in the upcoming election. Perhaps Americans respond better to being insulted than Canadians would?

QotD: The primary achievement of modern schools

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Government, Liberty — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:56

They were right — although I had to see it for myself before I fully grasped the magnitude of the phenomenon — children are learning machines, more or less in the same sense that sharks are eating machines.

The only phenomenon more astonishing than that is the way the public school system manages to kick, stomp, and crush a child’s inherent curiosity and love of learning, often destroying it altogether by the third or fourth grade. Yes, children are learning machines. The fact that government schools have managed to condition them against learning is an astonishing — if wholly negative — feat, achieved at the unspeakable cost of countless hundreds of billions of dollars.

Nobody has any choices in the matter. The government’s schools are underwritten by the kind of theft we call taxation, and nothing good can ever come of that. Their little desks are filled by a kind of conscription. The entire institution is administered and operated by unionized net tax consumers, who savagely resist any attempt to objectively assess their work and reward (or punish) them on that basis.

I’d like to have a nickel for every time I’ve had to listen to school administrators inviting parents to participate in the education of their own children — and then complaining when parents actually do it.

They want you to participate, all right, but only on their terms. They don’t want you questioning their policies and practices. They want you to validate whatever they do to your kids, to provide them with what Ayn Rand called “the sanction of the victim”. And if you won’t do that, or if you won’t sit down and shut up — or better yet, just go away — then they identify you as “problem parents” and “trouble-makers”.

L. Neil Smith, “Salt on the Ruins: A Chapter from the Forthcoming Where We Stand“, Libertarian Enterprise, 2010-10-16

Paramilitary police raids in the United States

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:09

The Cato Institute provides an interactive map of paramilitary police raids:

View Original Map and Database

Click on each marker on the map for a description of the incident and sources. Markers are precise in cases where the address of an incident was reported. Where media reports indicate only a town or neighborhood, markers are located at the closest post office, city hall, or landmark. Incident descriptions and outcomes are kept as current as possible.

Other map features:

– Using the “plus” and “minus” buttons in the map’s upper left-hand corner, users can zoom in on the map to street-level, as well as switch between street map and satellite views. In some large metropolitan areas, there are so many incidents in such close proximity that they tend to overlap unless viewed on a small scale (try zooming in on New York City, for example).

– Users may isolate the incidents by type by clicking on the colored markers in the key (see only “death of an innocent” markers, for example).

– The search function just below the map produces printable descriptions of the raids plotted on the map, and is sortable by state, year, and type of incident.

L. Neil Smith finds some new hope

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:06

Taken from a speech for delivery at a Hollywood convention:

Once again we find ourselves standing at the brink. In just a few more days, our neighbors will choose — for themselves, and, to an unfortunate degree, for us — whether they want to live brave and free or would rather cower with the boot-heel of collectivism on their necks.

As individuals, we can vote, too, which may or may not be a futile effort — it’s been a subject of debate within our movement for three decades. However that may be, we libertarians, as a movement, have little or no power to change the course of events — a virtual river of blood — flowing violently all around us. The best we can do is to plan for what will come afterward, no matter what that may turn out to be.

[. . .]

And then, as I said, something happened, something that many of you may sneer at, but something, I believed (and still do) will prove to have been of unprecedented historical importance. Even more than that, it made politics exciting and fun all over again — I found myself laughing at the political situation for the first time in months.

John McCain had accepted Sarah Palin as his personal savior.

It didn’t work, of course, not for McCain. He was beyond saving. But Sarah spiced up the American political scene again, rendered it refreshingly unpredictable, and managed to make an ass of Barack Obama and all his works. Sure, she’s a Republican — although plenty of Republicans despise her, and she despises plenty of them. She’s even put a few of them in jail. In that respect, she’s Barry Goldwater’s revenge.

She’s a church-lady, war-supporter, anti-abortionist, and I, atheist and anarchist that I am, count myself as none of those things. But she’s solidly, provenly, for limited government and unafraid to be photographed with a sport-utility rifle in her hands, and empty cases in the air overhead. She hunts animals bigger than she is, and she’s cute.

Get over it.

Vikings outlast Cowboys for 24-21 win

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:42

Yesterday’s game showed a lot of both the good and bad of this year’s Vikings team. They made fewer mistakes than in previous weeks, and (as always) got a great performance from their defence, but displayed yet another inconsistent offensive effort.

I didn’t see the first few series, tuning in with the score level at 7-7. It was yet another forgettable first half for Brett Favre and the offense, and they went into the locker room at the half down 14-7. According to Judd Zulgad, it was Randy Moss who gave the inspirational half-time speech to the troops:

Randy Moss departed the home locker room Sunday without talking to reporters. The mercurial wide receiver had five receptions for 55 yards in his first game as a Viking at Mall of America Field since 2004, and thus his silence did not come as a surprise.

It turned out, however, that Moss’ refusal to speak did not extend to venting at his teammates at halftime of the Vikings’ 24-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Moss, who rejoined the Vikings in an Oct. 6 trade with New England, let it be known that he had seen enough after watching a second consecutive opening half of offensive ineptitude from his new team.

“I think it was a matter of fact, what we needed to hear,” quarterback Brett Favre said after the Vikings improved to 2-3 and dropped Dallas to 1-4. “It wasn’t anything scientific. It had a couple of choice words in it that I’d rather not use.”

Whatever Moss said, it worked.

Percy Harvin showed that he’d been paying attention to Moss, taking the second-half kickoff back for a touchdown, tying the score at 14-14. Adrian Peterson scored a short-yardage TD a series later, giving the Vikings their first lead of the game.

The Cowboys responded with a TD pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant, victimizing backup cornerback Lito Sheppard, who appeared to be trying for the interception instead of the pass break-up. The final points of the game were a field goal by Ryan Longwell, which was set up by E.J. Henderson’s second interception of the game (and only the fourth of his career).

Update: I think this AP photograph by Andy King, published by the Pioneer Press clearly shows Sheppard’s attempt to catch the pass:

If he’d just gone for the block or deflection, I think he’d have broken up the pass nicely.

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