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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stormy Easter - On Pirates and Trains

Radar shows a huge storm is moving into the Houston area this morning. The system goes all the way north of Oklahoma, so we are the bottom end of millions of people who are about to get socked by high winds, some hail and rain on this Easter Sunday. It's now on top of Austin and San Antonio - which need the rain but not the hail.

The Somalia saga of the captured American Captain is ongoing. It shows how our military is not built to deal with this new age of small actors doing great harm, like pirates in small boats taking over huge ships on a non-stop basis. it's embarrassing to see a row of huge ships anchored off a small county that has had no government for 18 years. Therefor it has no police or coast guard. It is a tribal society in which people are trying to eat. Did you expect them to do nothing?

The best recommendation I saw was this article. Navy Commander James Kraska and Navy Capt. Brian S. Wilson make this common sense recommendation -- provide small fast boats and local police forces in Somalia, saying that it would be more effective in stopping hijackings than a huge destroyer. Someone should put these guys at the top in the Pentagon.

Having smaller, faster ships able to deal with small boats -- and speed along as fast or faster than WWII PT boats -- make more sense than sending an elephant to try to stomp flies. We need to develop fly swatters --local people who know the pirates and tribes and can be provided with the equipment to intercept them from Somalia, instead of having big, expensive navy ships wandering around, too slow to cover the millions of square miles of ocean and unable to deal with a few pirates holding a hostage in a lifeboat. If we don't get smarter, a bigger disaster will happen. These failed states are perfect places for any terrorist to hide, or plot. We ignore it at our peril, just like we ignored Afghanistan until 9/11.

There is another technology we need for our own good right here in America - high speed rail. Japan and Europe have 200+ mph rail systems. Our best Amtrak is limited to 84 mph. Texas is considering high speed rail connecting the big three - Houston, Dallas and San Antonio-Austin. It would create jobs in both construction and future operations, advance our technology and make our transportation more efficient. It would also provide an alternative to flying and driving, especially when the weather is bad or you have a lot of ground to cover.

My suggestion is that we should skip a generation of technology and move straight to Mag Lev - so that we could be traveling over 300 mph without steel touching steel. I have been on high speed steel systems and it requires a perfect track connection to avoid a derailment. A Mag Lev system would be safer. A steel-on-steel track could become warped in the heat or if maintenance lags, potential for a derailment. A Mag Lev system would also have a bigger technology payoff for us than a traditional steel-on-rail system. China already has one at Shanghai. Where is ours?

It's time to update our technology worldwide to provide effective solutions to our security and transportation needs.


Texas Viking said...

Robert Gates confirmed that a military solution is not going to solved the problem in this article Monday:;_ylt=AnCAuob5zpkEMolXq8X8iPEGw_IE;_ylu=X3oDMTE5aHVocm9xBHBvcwM1BHNlYwN5bi1tb3N0LXZpZXdlZARzbGsDc29tYWxpcGlyYXRl

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