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Padre Steve’s Look Back at 2012: The Year that Was and Still Can Be if You Have Access to Time Travel

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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
~T.S. Eliot~

Well my friends it is my time to look back at 2012, the year that should have been the end of the world had the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. However the Mayans couldn’t see that possibility and life goes on. With that in mind I decided to look back at the more that 300 articles that I have written since the the babe wrapped in Champagne soaked clothes and lying in Times Square gutter belched out his first words… “Is this live?” 

If we lived in the Star Trek World things could be different. We could find an alternate universe, find a time portal at the City on the Edge of Forever or if need be whip the Enterprise around the Sun to throw us back in time.

However we don’t have that ability yet and the year of our discontent began in January. It was a year filled with political carnage, war, man made and natural disasters including the BCS Championship, the athletic drama of human competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Much of the year was consumed by the American 2012 General Elections and Presidential primaries and campaigns. It was a year where we thought things might be different but sages like me looking back on the wisdom inscribed in my Bloom County Comic Strip Collection knew was not.

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Back to the Future in Iowa: A Bloom County Redux

It was not just politics as usual it was also media as usual something again that I predicted was the case by looking back at history.

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Doing the Sidestep: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and American Politics and Media

But as the campaign season snaked its eerie course through the hills, dales, bayous and valleys of our fair fruited plains the rest of the world experienced joy and pain, triumph and tragedy.

It began in this country as all things do when the University of Alabama, a fully accredited school of higher learning won the BCS College Football Championship game, something that the University of Phoenix will never do.

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Alabama wins the Boring Pseudo-National Championship Game…aka the BCS BS Championship Game

Not to be outdone the Italian Merchant Marine got into the act when Captain Francesco Schettino while joy riding in hie massive 115,000 ton Cruise Ship, the Costa Concordia  managed to hit a rock and sink the ship.

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Sinking the Costa Concordia: A Lesson in Hubris and Cowardice

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In February we saw the renewal of of love affair with television commercials as the Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game as Madonna lip synced between the halves as the New York Football Giants defeated the New England non-Tea Party Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, pronounced “Exlivy” in the original Latin.

Politics continued in March with the indecisive “Super Tuesday” Primaries:

Super Tuesday Agony: Indecisive, Inconclusive and a Portent of Things to Come

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But thankfully for all baseball returned in April bringing some sense of normalcy back to a world gone mad. Opening day brought me back to an even keel and the fact that it coincided with Holy Week made it more special to me. Opening Day and Holy Week and being able to attend a home opener was nice. A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

But even in the midst of this there was perfection, in fact perfection done several times in Major League Baseball one of those being when Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game on June 13th.

Houston Astros v San Francisco Giants

The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB Historyand Johann Santana did the same for the otherwise hapless New York Mets 8020 Games and Finally….a Miracle for the Mets: Johan Santana Pitches First No-No in Mets Historyand “King Felix” pitched his first perfect game for the Mariners The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012while Phil Humber of the Tigers threw a perfect game against the Mariners Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

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Baseball produced other surprises this year but probably none bigger than that of the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, underdog and underfunded teams that surprised everyone with their playoff runs and playoff appearances. September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

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The Major League Baseball playoffs were filled with amazing comeback stories but none more than that of the San Francisco Giants who played on the brink of elimination in both the NLDS ( Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS ) and NLCS ( Raining on a Parade: Giants Make Giant Comeback to Win National League Pennant ) before sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. SWEEP! GIANTS WIN SERIES!

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But around the world and away from the rich green baseball diamonds there were other events. In April Kim Jong Un #1 the new dictator for life in North Korea shot a rocket in the air, and where it landed he knew not where Missile Impotence: Kim Jong Un’s Rocket Launch goes Splat even as an American preacher turned fake historian became the star of the Religious Right Faux Fact Factory: The Twisted World of Fake “Historian” and “Hero of the Faith” David Barton  Not to be outdone a Roman Catholic Bishop made his own bad history comparisons Bishop Jenky’s Obama and Hitler, Stalin, Bismarck and Clemenceau Comparison: Bad History, Bad Theology and Bad Politics

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Meanwhile in the background Europe and the European Union faced their own problems. Economic and political crisis engulfed the continent. Europe on the Edge: France and Greece Point to Dangerous Times Ahead

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The Middle East was not to be left behind in the the political tumult. Syria continued its post-Arab Spring plunge into the abyss of full out civil war. Fear and Loathing in Damascus eventually bringing the deployment of NATO Patriot Missiles in Turkey. NATO Patriots to Turkey as Syria Teeters on the AbyssIn the broader Middle East War threatened on almost every front The Gathering Storm: Shades of 1914 as War Threatens in the Middle East and the Arab Spring heated up again Arab Spring Fever: The Revolution Begins Anew in Egypt as Syria Begins to Melt Down

In June the United States saw something akin to what our European cousins were going through when my home town, Stockton California declared Bankruptcy. When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

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But Britain was able to celebrate as Queen Elizabeth marked her 75th year on the throne in June  The Diamond Jubilee: All Glory is Fleeting and hosting the XXX Olympic Summer Games in London in July and August

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British Humor: Bond, Bean, Poppins and The Queen Kick Off XXX Games , Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” Goodbye London: XXX Olympics End on Musical Note

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After a bitterly contested primary campaign Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost the General Election to President Obama. Obama Wins….Now the Real Work of Healing the Wounds Must Begin However that healing didn’t begin and as of today the nation stands at the brink of political and economic crisis that could harm everyone in this country and sink the world economy. Fiscal Cliff Notes: There are Always Results

Then there was the senseless violence of massed murders, some obviously motivated by some kind of insanity while others simply due to hatred of people different.

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The Hatred of “the Other”: White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Politics and the Oak Creek Massacre

Man of Murderous Mystery: James Egan Holmes and the Aurora Dark Knight Massacre

The worst of these was just a couple of weeks ago in Newtown Connecticut A Cry in Newtown: Anguish after a Massacre

The War in Afghanistan dragged on while no politicians really addressed the subject even though the toll in American lives passed the 2000 mark and casualties at the hands of our Afghan allies rose to unthinkable levels. Likewise the crisis in the rise of suicides among active duty and reserve troops as well as Veterans continued unabated.

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The Afghanistan Quagmire and the Escalation of “Green on Blue” Attacks

Why Aren’t Any Politicians Talking About the War and Why don’t Voters Care?

Padre Steve Remembers 9-11 and the Forgotten War

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Natural disasters were not absent from the news this year, the biggest as far as the news went was Hurricane Sandy which struck the week before the US Presidential Election and devastated large parts of New Jersey, New York, the Mid-Atlantic and New England. A Massive and Deadly “Freak” Storm: Sandy Hits the USA while in the forgotten country of Bangladesh a fire at a clothing factory claimed over 100 lives A Juxtaposition of Contradictions: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Bangladesh Clothing Factory Fire

There were deaths of noted people this year:

Disgraced former Penn State College Football Coach and legend Joe Paterno died in January barely 2 months after his final game.

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The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

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Singing great Whitney Houston died of what appeared to be an accidental overdose One Moment in Time: Rest in Peace Whitney Houston 1963-2012 

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon passed away in August One Giant Loss for Mankind: Neil Armstrong Dead at 82

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1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, war hero and Senator George McGovern died in October A Loss for the Country and the World: A War Hero and Prophet of Peace George McGovern Dead at 90

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Iconic General H Norman Schwarzkopf, victor of the First Gulf War died just this week The Loss of an Icon: General Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 79 

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Of course much more happened over the course of 2012 including the end of the world that didn’t happen The Failed Mayan End of the World Prediction and the Chicago Cubs 

There are other things that I might have or should have written about but looking back over the past year if I was a full time writer. However I don’t think that I did too bad for being just one person who has a day job and who is maintaining two residences in different states. Besides as much as I want I still don’t have access to Warp Drive, transporter beams or time travel.

So I write today hoping for a good end to 2012, a better 2013 and peace on earth.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Costa Concordia Disaster Compared with Other Maritime Tragedies

The story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic with the loss of nearly 1500 souls mesmerizes those that imagine the worst disasters involving cruise liners or other passenger vessels.  Conveyed by motion pictures the story reaches into the hearts of people, especially romantics and maritime enthusiasts a century after her demise.  The story is legend. The largest ship then in existence, called “unsinkable” she was the symbol of pre-World War One hubris. The arrogance of her owners, the hubris of her Captain and the storied passenger list which included some of the wealthiest and most famous people of her time lend themselves to a romantic tragedy at sea brought to us by Hollywood.

RMS Titanic

However as great of tragedy as was the Titanic disaster the great liner was neither the largest passenger vessel to sink nor the most souls lost at sea. The Costa Concordia now has the dubious distinction of being the largest passenger vessel to ever sink but comes in very low on the scale for number of fatalities.

SS Sultana disaster

The ships with the greatest number of lives lost came in much more obscure disasters.  The greatest loss of life on a passenger vessel during peacetime was the SS Sultana, a side-wheel steamer returning Union Soldiers home following the end of the Civil War. Grossly overcrowded, the ship which was designed to carry under 400 passengers had nearly 2400 souls aboard when one of her boilers exploded causing a fire which consumed the ship. Only 741 people were rescued.

Yet as bad as this tragedy was the worst disaster in maritime history occurred near the end of the Second World War when the SS Wilhelm Gustlaff, a 26,000 ton 684 former cruise liner in the service of the German Navy was torpedoed by the Soviet Submarine S-13 on the night of 30 January 1945. Over 9000 souls, the vast majority civilians or military dependents fleeing the Red Army went down with the ship.  Another great ship, the 38,000 ton RMS Lusitania was sunk by the German U-boat U-20 on May 7th 1915 with the loss of 1198 lives including 128 Americans.

RMS Lusitania (above) and MV Dona Paz (below)

The MV Dona Paz, a ferry with Sulpicio Lines in the Philippines collided with the tanker MT Vector on 27 December 1987 with a loss of over 4000 souls. Called the “Asian Titanic” it was one the worst maritime disasters of modern times.

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Titanic’s sister the RMS Britannic was serving as a hospital ship in the First World War when she struck a mine in the Aegean Sea sinking in 55 minutes with the loss of only 30 of over 1100 souls aboard.

Andrea Doria sinking off of New York-New Jersey

Another well known wreck was that of the beautiful Italian liner Andrea Doria which collided with the MV Stockholm and sank on July 26th 1956 with the loss of 46 passengers. The sinking was one of the most memorable of all time because of how it was filmed and the heroism of her Captain who unlike Captain Schettino of the Concordia did not leave the ship until he was sure that all passengers and crew were off  and was willing to go down with the ship.

RMS Queen Elizabeth

Yet the largest liners ever sunk were two of the most glorious of their era the RMS Queen Elizabeth and the French SS Normandie.  Both sank under different names and both were due to fires while in port. The the 83,673 ton Queen Elizabeth was retired from the Cunard Line in the late 1960s and taken to Hong Kong where she was renamed SS Seawise University and burned and sank in Hong Kong harbor on 9 January 1972.

The 83,423 ton SS Normandie, one of the most beautiful ships ever to grace the sea and was the first ship of over 1000 feet long. She was taken over by the US Navy after the French surrender to the Germans. She was renamed was renamed USS Lafayette and while undergoing conversion to a troopship in New York on burned and capsized on the 9-10 February 1942.

SS Normandie/USS Lafayette sunk 

Costa Concordia now lies a few hundred yards off Giglio Island and could either break up or sink into deeper water before she can be salvaged.

All of these events were tragic in their own way be they in war or peace.  Some claimed vast numbers of lives while others resulted in the loss of the most significant ships of their day.  The Costa Concordia is the largest liner ever to go down and things being what they are may not be the last.  Her loss was avoidable by all accounts and hopefully will result in owners, captains and governments doing more to ensure the safety of all that sail the high seas.

For those in peril on the sea….

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Navy Ships, News and current events

Sinking the Costa Concordia: A Lesson in Hubris and Cowardice

“You go up that ladder and get on board the ship. You go on board and you then tell me how many people there are. Is this clear? I am recording this conversation, Commander Schettino.” Commander Di Falco, coastguard

Captain Francesco Schettino acted with hubris and demonstrated cowardice in the sinking of his ship the Costa Concordia.  He has denied taking his ship the massive 114,500 ton Costa Concordia too close to to the island of Giglio but evidence is showing that this is a bold faced lie.  From the what we know now the ship passed too close to a rocky outcropping under 300 meters from the main island but much closer to a smaller rocky island just offshore. The ship based on its AIS tracking system was sailing at about 15.3 knots when she struck the rock on her port quarter at 2137 local time.

Captain Francesco Schettino

Damage was massive and within moments of impact the ship suffered a power outage but evidently still had some power and Schettino or one of his officers attempted to turn the ship toward Giglio harbor, presumably to get her into shallow water so she would not go down in deep water.  Investigators have found the exact point of impact with the rocks off the Le Scole Shoal (42° 21′ 20″ N, 10° 55′ 50″ E)

See map  http://toolserver.org/~geohack/geohack.php?pagename=Costa_Concordia_disaster&params=42_21_20_N_10_55_50_E_ )

If you look at the track charts and diagrams it is easy to see how short of distance the ill fated liner travelled before sinking. She struck the rocks and turned slightly to starboard as she rapidly listed 20 degrees to port. The track shows that Casta Concordia slowed and turned rapidly to port (left) and slowed to a near standstill in the space of about 1000 meters as she lost power as Captain Schettino attempted to get her closer inshore.

The visible damage shows a massive gash of about 150 feet in her port side beginning just aft of midships to her port quarter.  The extent of the damage indicated that her double bottom was pierced and that numerous watertight compartments were breached including her main engineering spaces. The power failure experienced by the ship was most likely due to the flooding in the engineering spaces which powered its electrical generators.

The damage itself was catastrophic and probably mortal, but when she turned to sharply to port she heeled back to starboard as the ship’s center of gravity shift and water in the flooded compartments shifted to starboard.  At 2145 the Chief Engineer informed the captain that the breach could not be repaired and was impossible to manage. Schettino should have ordered the ship abandoned at that moment but waited until 2258 to sound the alarm.   The rapidity with which the ship heeled to starboard could have also been affected by winds and the ship’s proximity to shore.  It is also possible that the very design of such large ships can make them vulnerable to such damage in that with such high superstructures they could be more prone to instability when flooding rapidly.

Concordia rolled over on her starboard side on the rocks off of Point del Lazzaretto eventually settling to the bottom at an 80 degree list. 11 people are known to have died and many more are still missing with hope fading for their rescue.

The situation is made worse by the actions of the Captain of the Concordia, Captain Schettino.  First based on the evidence of previous sailings that this is not the first time that Schettino took the ship close inshore. Apparently he did this to allow show off the ship to the relatives of the Maitre d’hotel of the ship to see the ship pass close to the island. Another report said that Schettino called a former commander now retired who lives on Giglio to let him know that he was coming close to the island.  The fact is that taking a ship the size of Costa Concordia so close to a rocky shore at night for the purpose of showing off is reckless endangerment and an act of hubris.

The second concern is the fact that Schettino abandoned ship and despite repeated orders from a Italian Coast Guard officer to return to the ship did not and that junior officers on their own initiative began to evacuate the ship well before Schettino gave the official order to abandon.

see transcript of the exchange between Schettino and the Coast Guard Officer here http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16150968

After his rescue Schettino claimed that the rock was uncharted and that he was farther out to sea than he actually was.  The fact that Schettino and his First Officer abandoned ship while hundreds of not thousands of passengers were still in danger and refused orders to return to the ship shows cowardice.

The will be more on this but Captain Schettino bears the ultimate responsibility for what happened to his ship and the loss of life.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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