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Atomized junior

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Like Coxey's Army

  About a month ago I heard a story on NPR's Morning Edition that referred to a protest march in Vietnam. The story as a whole dealt with the effect the global down-turn is having on those nations and economies where global manufacturing is now encamped. The march had formed the hook of the story. After a few weeks I decided to double back inside the internets and find out what all that had been about.

 Toward the end of March there was a largely catholic protest march in Vietnam  Catholic Culture : News Briefs : Viet court affirms conviction of Catholic activists, sparking new protest.  My friend Trân indicated that this was not the first time something like this had happened. Five thousand residents of a northern Vietnamese town marched on Hanoi. They didn't get very far. They got some twelve kilometers before a police force that rivaled their size could be assembled to stop them. Not bad for a prayer vigil that just decided to get up and take a walk. All this was following the trial and conviction of a group of (Catholic) church leaders. They had been arrested late last year for protesting the seizure of church property by the government and had been charged with destructive behavior  VIETNAM Sentence against faithful of Thai Ha upheld. Catholics protest injustice - Asia News. A minor populist uprising and a reflection of latent resentment of the government. The varied sources of this resentment, the stories indicated, were local corruption much of that centering on access to good housing.  Interference by the central government in Catholic Church affairs VIETNAM Ahead of trial against faithful of Thai Ha, Catholics welcome a new bishop - Asia News. Also, a general dissatisfaction due to rising unemployment and abruptly lowered expectations of the current depressed global economic situation. As the NPR report put it:

 The communist government of Vietnam derives much of its political legitimacy from rapid economic growth. Now that the global economic crisis is slowing this export driven economy, the government is worried that discontent will spread among the people  Vietnam Worries Economy Will Spread Discontent.

  What is it about a protest march? What is it about the notion of someone saying: "Hey let's form a group and march down the road to capital city." I imagine it is the spontaneity and symbolism of the thing. The strong immediate demonstration of feeling. Even if what thought has to be put into it takes a few hours days or weeks of planning, that's still spontaneous for the majority of participants, and there's never the feeling it can't be done. For everyone involved there is that cathartic feeling of accomplishment at the end. It is spectacle and almost never fails in its mildly disruptive nature to be disobedient. And so earns its place as a subset of civil-disobedience in the taxonomy of protest.

    I would say further that the protest march is a thing in its own category. More  than the sum of its parts. This is due to its deep history. It traces through periods of direct action as well as modern movement-protest. In the United States, since March of 1894 when Coxey's "army" left Massillon Ohio towards The District of Columbia; marching on Washington List of protest marches on Washington, D.C. - Wikipedia has become a national pastime Marching on Washington : the forging of an American political tradition. The attraction is clear, it is a bonding experience of considerable power, it creates a consciousness among those involved or who simply witness it. Few of these would doubt it creates a raised consciousness. Another factor is how well it lends itself to the principles of non-violent protest. The more disciplined and emotive the crowd the more gravitas behind the message. And yet the march is still certainly a cousin of the mob. What happens when the march stops? Where have they stopped? Is the cathartic feeling sufficient, do the marchers feel their implicit (or actual) petition is delivered, understood? Or do they need more?  However, the critical observation to make here is that a protest march does not equal a protest movement.

 What then makes a protest movement? Simply stated it is a program of activism that brings about change. It is worth qualifying that as preferably change towards greater degrees of self-determination. There are institutional factors involved with protest movements. They are a coherent promulgated set of aims, embodied in groups that represent those aims. The initial phase is to raise awareness for your cause. Success here could be read in the scale and number of protest events. Against this as Debra Minkoff argues one might look at the density of activist organizations  and sequencing of allied protest movements [ The Sequencing of Social Movements | Debra C. Minkoff : JSTOR link] The first sees protest movements emanating out the the observed popularity and success of previous disparite protest events. The second sees the crucial determinant of the success of movements lying in the accumulation of organizational competency and the effect of degrees of competition among activist groups for that competency (to simplify the argument a great deal). Sequencing of allied protest movements refers to the relation and effect of concomitant though not directly related protest movements to each other in the formation of a generalized era of reform. There are problems extrapolating studies and histories of U S or western european movements Protest and opportunities : the political outcomes of social movements [] elsewhere Repression and mobilization []. Western style protest is not useful for situations where the government is willing to outlaw criticism, and jail or kill large numbers of protesters.

 Considering the future of protest, of reform in Vietnam the first thing that has to be said is that for the Vietnamese it is lonely struggle. The literature in protest studies of resistance to and attempts to reform people's republics of the left, runs thin. At first glance there is opportunity for a potential sequencing of reform movements in Vietnam. There is the Catholic Church with its commitment to social justice  and autonomy of conscience. There is the Democracy movement represented by the forces behind the TdNgonluan web site  Freedom Democracy for Vietnam and their existing 8406 movement Bloc 8406 - Wikipedia, named for the date they released their Manifesto for Democracy in 2006. The Falun Gong movement is a potential source for reform as it gathers adherents in Vietnam BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Falun Gong finds followers in Vietnam . I know little about them: a spiritual movement dedicated to exercise, meditation and well being: They've been active in China for 20 years. The government there recognized the incompatibility of such a group dedicated to self-reliance with a collectivism or managed capitalism that prefers the people remain reliant on a privileged elite. Similarly there is potential for the principles of the extensive roadmap for reform and human rights en-scribed by Charter 08, Charter 08 - Wikipedia, which has already elicited arrest for one of its principle drafters Xia Liu - A Voice for My Husband - to spread to Vietnam. At some point in the near future I'll have to come back and look into and write more on Charter 08 and its earlier model Charter 77.

   States born thorough revolutionary action seem to have an especial difficulty dealing with reform movements. A tendency to see any criticism as counter-revolution, revanchinsm,  a step back from achieved perfection. Vietnam's regime attempts to deal with a tool like the protest march by making visiting a city where they fear one might be forming illegal, and backing that up with house to house searches.  Where some power structures will deal with reform movements grudgingly through bargaining and expansion of rights and franchise - which they may certainly view as mere appeasement. Regimes which view themselves as the pinnacle result of a movement of class  struggle will instinctively shy away from correction and offer only reaction and repression.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

   This posting is intended as a rant. A rant, like any good philippic, for which I endeavor to be as unreasonable as I can be. Difficult for someone born - somewhat by nature - to a libra mentality.  Here I give the observations of a suburban broadcast TV viewer as the shift is made to Digital Broadcast TV. I have never had cable and intend to watch whatever broadcast TV offers until it finally disappears altogether, like a cheshire cat. My friend Trân, having burnt bridges with the local cable concern, opted to continue television through a satellite dish arrangement, and threw her converter box coupon away with a laugh. Cable etal, is a near infinite variety of the finite. You have to pay for it (I can scarcely afford this DSL line), and they show commercials.

   The digital propagations that comprise the new system are fragile signals, subject to considerable weather degradations and antenna placement issues. It is nearly possible, perhaps possible, to simply wave these signals away. By hand. Any breeze over 8-mph produces pixelated breakup. Rain or wind above 15 mph results in screen freeze or a "No Signal" message across all (nominally) available channels. Additionally antennas, rabbit ears or what have you, must be repositioned between viewing channels on transmitters at different locations. It is true that when you are receiving a signal the picture is excellent and free of the snow, static and double-imaging  that plagued analog broadcasts. And I do like the weather channels (the .2 channels)  that grow like kudzu off the big city stations. But the intermittent signal loss which runs between 10 and 50 percent, points to an impossibility of following narrative programing. Above 20 percent intermittency you are missing scene set-up shots and either the subject, predicate, verb, or adjective out of every line of dialog. The only programming that can be followed under these conditions is baseball. This struggle is compounded logarithmically if you try this in a rural area. I can walk outside, go across the street to some high ground and see the tower these radio waves are supposedly emanating from.

    My sister Ann recently emailed me a link to an article in the Everett (Snohomish County) Herald  HeraldNet: For antenna users, there's a dark side to digital TV which offered some confirming observations on the delicate nature of the digital signal. "[T]he little-known downside of converting to a more technologically advanced yet weaker broadcasting system." is how the author Amy Rolph describes it. Later she quotes Jay Zacharias, assistant chief engineer for KCPQ: ""If people have a good line of sight from their antennas to our antennas, they should get a good signal.""  So if you can see the signal tower you should be alright. Perhaps they should just mount jumbo-trons to the towers and cut out the middle man. The comments from the readers that follow the article are noteworthy too. The first commenter claims interim DBTV is often using UHF spectrum on lower power:

 All current digital TV broadcast is on UHF frequencies, even the ones from VHF channels ... After June 19th the VHF frequencies will also be converted to digital TV use. At that time the signals should be almost as strong as the old ones...Even though the current digital channels include VHF channels the digital broadcasts are all on UHF right now. When they quit analog broadcast then they can use the bandwidth to broadcast digital TV on the real VHF channels.

Another commenter claims he has been informed that interim D B TV is using non-optimum tower installations while analog is still in service. I strongly suspect that something like this is true, that the transition period is full of compromises and scaffolding that will fall away when analog is no longer obligated. At the same time the robust VHF spectrum that transmitted analog was auctioned off for cell carriers and isn't coming back.

   Thinking about this I was again struck by what little information really lay in what was coming out of the federal government on this. Maybe I wasn't looking deep or hard enough. Maybe it took more than parsing the consumer palaver of the DTV's pages Digital TV Transition: What You Need to Know About DTV . It needed listening deeply to the voice of the shuttle; those second, third and fourth links in off these web pages, where you hear the government talking to itself, and to its first public: industry. I have noted a transition in the governments outreach and internet information from 'how to obtain and hook up a box'  TV Converter Box Coupon Program Website, to 'how to a catch signals' The Digital TV Transition: Fix Reception Problems. There is more focus on antennas Antennas and Digital Television both large and small AntennaWeb. I saw an public service advertisement for a service the FCC offers from their suite of pages (which I had already discovered on my own). The FCC's The Digital TV Transition: DTV Reception Maps. This is FCC data overlaid on a Google maps interface. It was this type of data from the FCC that that the Herald article above was responding to. This is the GIS revolution in motion. For any area entered, a list of stations in the market(s) involved appear in a list on the left. They are color coded by their estimated received strength, clicking on the call signs makes an icon representing the tower appear on the map with a line to your location, with bearing and distance. Along with this you get numbers of effective power expressed in kW, and receive power in dBm. Since these are undefined technical terms they are useful here only as measures of relative efficacy. In a cursory examination I'd say if a station's receive power in dBm (expressed as a negative number) is weaker than -36  (higher) you won't get that station with a pair of rabbit ears. Another set of  data that comes with this page is whether a station is planning any major upgrades, or is operating on a weak or UHF frequency in the interim, and will only go to full power after June 2009. Dependent, it seems, on the information from the relevant Form 387s filtering down to this level.

   The FCC has more comprehensive coverage of these matters on their maps book pages  Map Book of All Full-Power Digital Television Stations Authorized by the FCC. These include the pre and post transition coverage of all broadcast stations in the U S, and an additional separate map book of FP station with significant changes in coverage  Map Book For Full-Power Digital Television Stations Having Significant Changes in Coverage. These maps by market, station, and network measure points where coverage is gained, where it is lost but where the content is covered, and lost with no direct substitute from another content provider. Judging by the DC area and the Milton/Lewes De areas the only two I'm familiar with, all this suffers from a singularly creative level of optimism. The FCC also seems to have assumed that if signal strength in an area ought to be at a certain level, according to their standard model - then it is. If terrain or a dense curtain of urban buildings obstruct this, they don't count it. Although those hills and those buildings aren't going anywhere. In many area's they point to significant coverage gain in the periphery, but the receive power there is -66 dBm. That signal is only available if you choose to mount an amplified outdoor antenna the requisite 20 to 30 ft above surrounding terrain. Otherwise the drifting "No Signal" tag will be your tv companion. (I've found I can change the border color of the no signal tag, and often amuse myself by this)      

 There is strong indication between the lines that the engineers and bureaucrats knew this replacement was less adequate. Offhand I don't know whether it is better to believe they were so blinded by the industry's pressure to make this happen, the corporate and institutional gains that would roll forth if they ignored it, or that they were so incompetent that they didn't see it at all. Either way I only see it as dereliction of professional ethics, and abandonment of fiduciary responsibilities.

 Moreover I see a governing assumption lurking in the background of all this that the overwhelming majority of the American population would switch to cable or satellite at this point leaving only a small rump population on broadcast who could be safely ignored.  Forming only an minor adjunct to an industry that would center itself on other ways and means elsewhere. I am inclined to regard this as, at the least, a malfeasant expectation, and not synonymous with mere technological advancement - whatever that is believed to mean. I see this as favoring cable and parallel non-public providers long term aims concerning content (rights) management and control against the interests of the American public. It is all a haphazard swindle.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

 I've written about this subject previously. I probably don't have that much to add this time around. It is about a particular day.  Not the most significant day in my life, not even the most significant day from those years when it occured. Who knows what  significant is, though. In any event a day memorable in its own right. The 30th anniversary of the day the aircraft carrier I was on, when I was nineteen year old sailor, sailed into an oil tanker. That's how the day began in fact. I knew the anniversary was coming up and wanted to write something full and complete, to nail the moment down - to the extent I could remember anything. The day arrived, I wasn't prepared yet.  I find myself scrambling now to come up with some coherent thoughts, and I remember nothing.

A picture named USSRangerCV61.jpg
USS Ranger CV 61 05-09 Apr 1979. the transit back to Subic

  What happened was that on O5 Apr 1979 at 0544 in a dim hazy predawn the USS Ranger (CV 61), a 78,000 ton Forestal class aircraft carrier, struck the Motor Vessel Fortune (Monrovia) a Liberian flagged, but Taiwanese owned vessel, about 600 ft. in length. One of our escort vessels describes it in their official history USS ELLIOT (DD 967): Command History 1979. The collision also earns a line in this Italian list of naval incidents lista incidenti ad unita' navali nucleari.  It was routine for many ocean vessels to be registered in Liberia at that time - they had no maritime regulations, safety training, or equipment standards, etc, whatsoever. It made Liberia a free market perfection. The collision's impetus was a misreading by the MV Fortune of our ship/airport running lights. They read the lights to indicate we were on a different course than we were, and assumed we had better charts and knew what we were doing, so they put themselves on what they thought was a parallel course. They actually put themselves on a course to cut in front of us. We were just beginning a transit of the Straits of Malacca at the time approximately 24 miles from Singapore. The straits are a narrow and very busy shipping channel between Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula.  Lcdr "Crash" Kramer, and Lcdr "Tasmanian "Thies - we gave them nicknames afterwards - the OOD and Navigator  who were present on the bridge at the time compounded the MV Fortune's initial error. They disagreed whether to turn to port and try to regain a true parallel course, or to starboard and pass below their stern (the correct answer). The Captain was asleep in his cabin at the time and not available as tie-breaker.  No action was taken in time and we hit them amidships at 5 knots. This ended with 10,000 tons of oil washing ashore on Singapore. The largest oil spill in that region until sometime in the late 1990s  OIL SPILL CONTROL: Govt. of Mayasia. Tonnes of oil it says in that link. Normally you hear of oil spills in terms of barrels. I have no idea how many barrels of oil that might be.  

A picture named MVFortuneMorovia.jpgOil Tanker M.V. Fortune after the collision. USS Ranger hit the Fortune amidships and cut a dozen feet in, from the deck to well below the waterline.

    I have limited personal recollections of that morning. The collision alarm went off - three bell like tones in a row. Of course if you are asleep there is always the chance  you might miss a couple waking up, leading you to spend a few seconds trying to remember what an unfamiliar abrupt piercing tone might mean in the course of shipboard life. This was followed by the impact itself a hard audible crash that fishtailed the ship and knocked people out of their racks. OZ division's berthing was on the O3 level under the number 3 wire, about four-fifths of the way to the stern. We probably felt the collision least of all. While I along with Mark Edmunds, and Mark Ramsey were airwing, being with RVAH -7,  it was routine for our rating to be TADed to ships company.  Others from RVAH-7 like Mark Edmund's roommate from our Key West quarters Kent Dotson were berthed further forward. It was still very apparent we hit something. After this General Quarters was announced and we needed to report to our assigned duty stations within a few minutes as ship would go into lock-down (material condition zebra) after that. The next six hours were spent with all watertight doors shut throughout the ship. The principle practical meaning of this for us - no bathroom breaks. The nearest head was on the other side of a dogged hatch. One of our people, SN Ted Galpa, I think had been on the fantail doing trash detail  when it happened (trash detail: carry all the watches plastic trash bags down to the stern, tear a hole in them - "rig for negative bouyancy", toss in ships wake) He sees the silhouette of the ship we hit, gets back up to the CVIC on the 03 level and gave us this info, confirming the speculation and rumor going around that we hit a ship, not a reef or a submarine (- which is what I thought unable to accept at first that we hit something we could see). A group 3 cargo ship. The intense smell of sulfur pervading the ship indicated it was an oil tanker. Carrying no. 6 grade crude we found out later on. Unrefined oil straight out of the earth. There was little or no official word for the first hour or so. Though I believe we knew they had put up helos  to survey the situation. 

A picture named RangerRepairsSubicApr79.jpg
A picture I took myself with my Olympus OM-1. Arc welding on the starboard catwalk, Subic Bay PH. a week after the incident.

  For the rest of the day they worked to determine the extent of the damage, put the ship's launches in the water, put divers over the side. The impact tore a hole in the Ranger's bow at the water line that you could have squeezed a small car through  We slowly reversed away from the MV Fortune and the soon voluminous and potentially dangerous oil spill surrounding it  They determined the bulkheads in our bow behind the tear were holding, and that the ship wasn't taking on water. The decision was made to move all the planes and mobile equipment as far back to the stern as they could be stationed to raise the bow up . The ship turned north, away from the equator we had been about to cross the next day, and limped back to Subic Bay in the Phillipines for initial repairs. This consisted of welding steel plates over the gaping hole in the bow. Then later to Yokuska Japan to go into dry dock for more extensive repairs.
 Unfathomably the MV Fortune was seen by us several months later back on the job, repaired and a good 50 to 70 feet longer. They had spliced in a new midsection. I used to have a picture of that which I can't find now.  I can find no trace of what became of the MV Fortune after that on the internet now, though there seems to have been a bulk cargo ship named MV Fortune out of Monrovia in the late 1990s.  To official history (the USS Ranger is now decomissioned and awaits potential transformation into a musuem currently) it all seems quite dry and unremarkable.   

 April 5, 1979: Near the eastern approaches to the Straits of Malacca. USS RANGER collided with the Liberian tanker FORTUNE suffering substantial damage but no injuries while the tanker is holed in the port side from the main deck to the waterline. Following the collision USS RANGER's CO was relieved by Capt. Roger E. Box, USN. ( USS Ranger CV-61)

 They note that Captain Box replaced Captain Thomas G. Moore after this. That happened a month or so later after the USS Ranger nearly swamped a barge tug leaving Yokuska, the USS Ranger tried to assume helm control while the tug still had a line on us. There had already been a maritime court of inquiry that had assigned joint blame for the big accident. Captain Moore was gone within hours of that second incident. The Navy at the time routinely assigned command of Aircraft Carriers to fighter pilots like Captain Moore. As I think about it, these improvised repairs worked well enough, there was a least one period of very heavy seas when we spend three days on the edge of a typhoon off of Luzon. Nothing broke off that couldn't be winched back in place. In late August we returned to Yokuska (near Yokohama) where the Ship Repair Facility had built us a new bow section and we went back into dry-dock for a few weeks to have it fitted on. It was on this occasion that I got up to Kita Kamkura and Tokyo. From there we pounded back to Hawaii at flank speed to test it out. Every single thing on the ship rattled against something else for a week. Pens danced on desktops and the typewriters seemed to type by themselves. Your pillow rattled against your head when you tried to sleep.

A picture named CV61NewBowSRFYokuska.jpg
September at the end of the cruise: Ship Repair Facilitiy Yakuska Japan, presents us with the new bow (tied up with red ribbon) they have fabricated for us over the summer.(photo is from the 79 westpac cruise book credited "UKN")

  Every so often I'll come across a reference to the history of that year and the Ranger's small part in it in some book or article. I'll think of the repercussions and opportunity lost of that incident. The Persian Gulf not sailed to. That's where we were headed after all. A port call in Perth, across the Indian Ocean, a patrol off Kenya a port call in Mombassa, then late spring and early summer in the Persian Gulf. The Kitty Hawk had to take our place. When we went back to San Diego in September, they came out to take up 7th fleet duties. Leaving no carriers on station in the gulf for the rest of the year. The point of carriers, really, is what doesn't happen (there is a cost-benefit/risk analysis equation in there somewhere to be sure).  I don't recall anything in particular happened in the Persian gulf region in the later part of 1979. There was something indistinct about a radical Islamic revolution in Iran. This was a long time ago though, and I'm sure all that was sorted out fully in the many years since.

Peace Out.

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