November 5, 2013

Lake Michigan’s carrier fleet

Filed under: History, Military, USA, WW2 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:21

I’d never heard of the US Navy’s carrier training ships that operated on Lake Michigan from 1942-45, so this link to a thread at Warbird Information Exchange from Roger Henry was of great interest:

This thread may give you a nice idea of what that exercise was all about. Many interesting images to study here and quite possibly of interest to those who are involved with the restoration of aircraft that have been recovered from the Lakes. I have also included a page from my dad’s logbook showing his 1st thru 8th carrier landings on the USS Wolverine in July 1944. Sources are the NMNA archives, Library of Congress photo archives, LIFE image archives.

This will be a large photo thread in a few parts so we’ll start with the two principal ships.

WIKI: USS Sable (IX-81) was a training ship of the United States Navy during World War II. Originally built as the Greater Buffalo, a sidewheel excursion steamer, she was converted in 1942 to a freshwater aircraft carrier to be used on the Great Lakes. She was used for advanced training for naval aviators in carrier takeoffs and landings. One aviator that trained upon the Sable was future president George H. W. Bush. Following World War II, Sable was decommissioned on 7 November 1945. She was sold for scrapping on 7 July 1948 to the H.H. Buncher Company.

The steamship 'Greater Buffalo' before it was converted to the 'USS Sable' (IX-81).

The steamship Greater Buffalo before it was converted to the USS Sable (IX-81).

Overhead view of the training aircraft carrier 'Sable' (IX 81) underway on Lake Michigan with an FM Wildcat making a deck launch from the flattop 1945

Overhead view of the training aircraft carrier Sable (IX 81) underway on Lake Michigan with an FM Wildcat making a deck launch from the flattop 1945

I was initially surprised that both training carriers were converted side-paddle steamers … I’d have thought the extra costs in converting to propeller drive would make them less-than ideal conversion subjects — you can clearly see in the second image that they left the side-paddles in place, so the main cost of conversion was the construction of the flight deck and repositioning the smokestacks to the starboard side (no hangar deck, elevators, or catapults in evidence):

WIKI: USS Wolverine (IX-64) a side-wheel excursion steamer built in 1913—was originally named Seeandbee, a name based upon her owners’ company name, the Cleveland and Buffalo Transit Co.[4] She was constructed by the American Ship Building Company of Wyandotte, Michigan. The Navy acquired the sidewheeler on 12 March 1942 and designated her an unclassified miscellaneous auxiliary, IX-64. She was purchased by the Navy in March 1942 and conversion to a training aircraft carrier began on 6 May 1942.[5] The name Wolverine was approved on 2 August 1942 with the ship being commissioned on 12 August 1942.[5][6] Intended to operate on Lake Michigan, IX-64 received its name because the state of Michigan is known as the Wolverine State.

The steamship 'Seeandbee' before it was converted to the 'USS Wolverine' (IX-64)

The steamship Seeandbee before it was converted to the USS Wolverine (IX-64)

A view of the USS Wolverine (IX-64) while underway in Lake Michigan 1942

A view of the USS Wolverine (IX-64) while underway in Lake Michigan 1942

And given that almost all the pilots were still learning their trade — these were training ships, after all — there were more than a few mishaps:

USS Sable (IX 81) showing a TBF hanging over the side after crashing during carrier qualifications on Lake Michigan.

USS Sable (IX 81) showing a TBF hanging over the side after crashing during carrier qualifications on Lake Michigan.

FM-2 Wildcat after crash onboard USS Sable

FM-2 Wildcat after crash onboard USS Sable

July 27, 2013

Municipal bonds and the economic law of gravity

Filed under: Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:48

In the US, municipal bonds — bonds issued by city or other municipal governments — have been widely viewed as “safe” investments. Detroit may cause that view to change drastically. Reggie Middleton has been sounding the alarm for a few years:

Following up on my timely post “Here Come Those Municipal Defaults That Everyone Said Couldn’t Happen, Pt 2“, I comment on Meredith Whitney’s OpEd in the Financial Times. If you remember, she — like I — warned of municipal defaults years ago and was ridiculed for such. Ms. Whitney is quoted as saying:

    “As jarring as the reality may be to accept, Detroit’s decision last week to declare bankruptcy should not be regarded as a one-off in the U.S. municipal market.” she said.

    “There are five more towns like Detroit in Michigan alone. There are many more municipalities across the country in similar positions.”

    “The bill for promises past is now so large for some cities and towns that it is crowding out money for the most basic of services — in the case of Detroit, it could not even afford to run its traffic lights,” she said.

    “Will [lawmakers] side with taxpayers, unions or the municipal bondholders? If they back residents, money will be directed to underfunded public services at the expense of pensions and bondholders. If they side with the unions, social services will continue to be cut and the risk to bondholders will increase considerably. If they side with bondholders, social services and pensions are at risk.”

    In the case of Detroit, elected officials, for the first time in a very long time, are siding with residents, Whitney said. This is a new precedent that boils down to the straightforward reality of the survival and sustainability of a town or city, she said.

    “After decades of near-third-world conditions in the richest country in the world, the city finally stood up and said enough was enough,”

Well, this is the problem. Defaulting on revenue bonds where the underlying asset (ex. a housing project, utility, or infrastructure project) is not generating the sufficient cash flows is part and parcel of the risk of investing in said class of bonds. This is widely accepted and understood, which is likely why those bonds have a slightly higher yield.

For some obscene reason, defaulting on the general obligation bonds which purportedly carry the “full faith and credit’ of the municipality as a back stop is deemed as wholly different affair. The reason? Who the hell knows? This is a point I tried to drive home in the original “Here Come Those Municipal Defaults That Everyone Said Couldn’t Happen” article in 2011. Backing by the full faith and credit of a public entity does not make an investment risk free. To the contrary, if said entity is fundamentally insolvent, the investment is actually “riskful” as opposed to risk free.

Treating these bonds as unsecured in the bankruptcy is essentially the way to go. If you don’t want to do that, well you can still consider them backed by the full faith and credit of the insolvent municipality, which is essentially unsecured — and move on anyway — particularly as many potential collateral assets of value would have likely been encumbered by agreements with a little more prejudicial foresight.

October 25, 2012

A contrarian view of the proposed Detroit-Windsor bridge

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:02

Terence Corcoran points out that the proposed new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor is not quite the simple story of Canadian generosity to cash-strapped Michigan:

In this view, Mr. Harper as Captain Canada had vanquished not only the state of Michigan and its governor, Rick Snyder. He had also declared war on the real battle target, the private corporation that controls the other Detroit-to-Windsor crossing, the Ambassador Bridge owned and controlled by the Moroun family, headed by 83-year-old billionaire Manuel Moroun.

Mr. Moroun, whose family has owned the bridge since the late 1970s — maintaining it and collecting all tolls — is portrayed as an influence-buying Tea Party capitalist who seeks tax breaks to prosper, a monopolist who wants to keep out competition, a symbol of all that is wrong with America’s special-interest dominated governments. Mr. Harper and Canada stand as principled, influence-free promoters of international trade, commerce and the public good.

It takes a lot of ideological twisting to reach that conclusion, especially for Conservatives who portray Mr. Harper as the economic good guy — despite all evidence to the contrary that Mr. Harper is the heavy-handed statist attempting to cripple a private entrepreneur. What Mr. Harper is really doing is using government power to do what Canadian governments have wanted to do for at least five decades: thwart the private ownership — and if possible take control — of the Ambassador Bridge.

[. . .]

So Mr. Harper, by moving in to fund a competing bridge using taxpayers’ dollars, is re-enacting the Trudeau policy, using more direct methods. Ottawa will pay to build a second bridge, potentially driving the Moroun family out of business.

Being a billionaire, Manuel Moroun isn’t a sympathetic figure. He is described, among other things, as being a fake capitalist, a rent-seeking monopolist who does not want to face competition. It’s a charge that belittles Mr. Moroun and elevates the dubious intentions of the government. When a foreign national government shows up on your door, with the support of the governor of your state and likely the president of the United States, to announce that “We’re from the government and were here to compete with you,” Mr. Moroun has good reason to run to the courts and the political process.

For doing so, Mr. Moroun has been described as litigious, a wealthy manipulator and a purchaser of political favours. When it comes to manipulation, however, it’s hard to beat Ottawa and the massed forces of special-interest industries, unions and government bureaucrats who have joined to promote and build a new bridge at government expense.

October 24, 2012

Persuading Michigan voters to refuse a new free bridge to Canada

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:05

The announcement back in June must have appeared too good to be true: a new bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario to be completely funded by Canada. Michigan voters are being urged to refuse the deal:

Canada, understand, has agreed to pay for the bridge in full, including liabilities — and potential cost overruns — under an agreement that was about a decade-in-the-making and officially announced to much fanfare, at least on the Canadian side of the border, by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in Windsor/Detroit in mid-June.

For Michigan, it is a slam-dunk arrangement. As Mr. Norton told one audience: ‘‘If this proves to be a dumb financial decision, it’s on us, not on you.’’

It’s a free bridge, a vital new piece of publicly owned infrastructure — for both countries — and yet one that is in grave danger of being demolished before construction even begins when Michigan voters head to the polls for a ballot initiative attached to the Nov. 6 elections.

[. . .]

Manuel (Matty) Moroun, an 85-year-old self-made billionaire who owns the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge, is Cynic-in-Chief. The Ambassador is currently the only transport truck-bearing bridge in town. Twenty-five percent of Canadian-American trade, representing about $120-billion, flows across it each year.

It is a perfect monopoly for the Moroun family, a golden goose that just keeps on laying eggs, putting upwards of $80-million a year in tolls, duty free gas and shopping sales in their pockets. Allowing a Canadian-financed competitor into the ring without a fight isn’t an option.

October 1, 2012

Michigan’s unions battle for a veto right over state law

Filed under: Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:10

In the Wall Street Journal, Shikha Dalmia looks at a proposed constitutional amendment in Michigan which would give unions a huge veto power over state law:

The Michigan Supreme Court recently approved the placement of a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot. If passed by voters, the so-called Protect Our Jobs amendment would give public-employee unions a potent new tool to challenge any laws — past, present or future — that limit their benefits or collective-bargaining powers. It would also bar Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state in which mandatory union dues are not a condition of employment. The budget implications are dire.

[. . .]

The amendment says that no “existing or future laws shall abridge, impair or limit” the collective-bargaining rights of Michigan workers. That may sound innocuous, but according to Patrick Wright of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the amendment would hand a broad mandate to unions to challenge virtually any law they don’t like.

[. . .]

The ballot initiative states that it would “override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements.” In other words, collective-bargaining agreements negotiated behind closed doors would trump the legislature — a breathtaking power grab that would turn unions into a super legislature.

Perhaps the biggest upside for unions is that the proposal would prohibit Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state. Regaining its competitive position with respect to the 23 right-to-work states that have become attractive to manufacturers, even auto makers, would be unlikely. Rather, labor would get a field-tested strategy for scrapping those states’ right-to-work laws with ballot referendums.

January 23, 2011

Detroit’s abandoned buildings as “economic disaster porn”

Filed under: Economics, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Noreen Malone wants us to sober up and “stop slobbering over abandoned cityscapes”:

When I sat down to my keyboard recently to Google the city of Detroit, the fourth hit was a site titled “the fabulous ruins of Detroit.” The site — itself a bit of a relic, with a design seemingly untouched since the 1990s — showed up in the results above the airport, above the Red Wings or the Pistons, the newspapers, or any other sort of civic utility. Certainly above anything related to the car industry, for which the word Detroit was once practically a synonym. Pictures of ruins are now the city’s most eagerly received manufactured good.

We have begun to think of Detroit as a still-life. This became clear to me recently, when the latest set of “stunning” pictures of Detroit in ruins made the rounds, taken by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre for a book, The Ruins of Detroit. They were much tweeted and blogged about (including by TNR’s own Jonathan Chait), as other such “ruin porn” photosets of blighted places have been, and were described variously as wonderful, as beautiful, as stunning, as shocking, as sad. They are all of those things, and so I suppose they are good art. But they are rotten photojournalism.

[. . .]

I suspect it’s not an accident that the pictures of Detroit that tend to go viral on the Web are the ones utterly devoid of people. We know intellectually that people live in Detroit (even if far fewer than before), but these pictures make us feel like they don’t. The human brain responds very differently to a picture of a person in ruin than to a building in ruin — you’d never see a magazine represent famine in Africa with a picture of arid soil. Without people in them, these pictures don’t demand as much of the viewer, exacting from her engagement only on a purely aesthetic level. You can revel in the sublimity of destruction, of abandonment, of the march of change — all without uncomfortably connecting them with their human consequences.

H/T to Felix Salmon for the link.

December 21, 2010

Reason TV: Detroit’s Train to Nowhere

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Politics, Railways, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:56

June 15, 2010

This graphic is almost totally self-explanatory

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:03

A jaded viewer might note that the only “incoming” links were from the areas around Washington DC . . . they are from the government and they’re there to help.

By way of Paul Kedrosky’s blog.

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