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Watching the Submarine Races

There's no one who likes submarines more than I do. But even I can see that we don't need to spend $2.5 billion on a stealthy new Virginia class attack submarine. Still, there it is, in the new budget.
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I once dragged my father and my little brother Mac through the USS Nautilus at the submarine museum in Groton. It's funny how you can love something -- and find it so obviously, intrinsically cool -- and watch it have no effect at all on other people. It didn't even not amuse my father, who's known to have a knee-jerk reaction to war. (You know, "Jesus says killing people is bad.") He and Mac just found it dull. Maybe it's because nuclear submarines are so useless you can't even get mad about them. They don't even kill people. He said it was like touring a shoe factory that had never made any shoes.

Other submarines I've subjected family members to include USS Growler in New York, USS Pampanito in San Francisco, the Soviet "Scorpion" in Long Beach, the German one-man "Biber" at the Imperial War Museum in London and the Japanese midget submarine Ha-19 in Key West. Oh, the happy hours as my sisters attempted to drill holes in the back of my head with their eyes. The point I'm establishing here is that there's no one who likes submarines more than I do.

I like submarines the way some people like that Frank O. Gehry crap. There's no rational way to defend it, and I'm not going to try.

But even I can see that we don't need to spend $2.5 billion on a stealthy new Virginia class attack submarine.

Still, there it is, in the new budget. Along with the stealth fighter, the stealth destroyer and the Marine Corps' incredible tilt-wing V-22 Osprey, that takes off like a helicopter, flies like an airplane, and crashes like a fireball.

The budget also includes $15.9 billion for star wars weapons, in case Boston ever has to defend itself against guerilla marketing from space.

But there's something that sticks out about $2.5 billion for another submarine. Maybe it's because ships are traditionally called "she," you know, like welfare queens.

Part of the justification for building another attack submarine -- to go with the 55 we have -- is, "Why the hell not?" It's money we'd otherwise just blow on the growing rate of infant mortality. The other reason, and this isn't one of those "top" secrets, is that it makes work in Connecticut and Virginia.

Because Virginia Class submarines are built in two parts, half in Groton and half in Newport News, and then the parts are hauled by barge -- we can only assume it's a stealth barge -- to one yard or the other and welded together. Which kinda sounds like a boondoggle, but only if you don't understand strategy.

Here's how Ronald O'Rourke of the Congressional Research Service explains it:

"Compared to a one-yard strategy, approaches involving two yards may be more expensive but offer potential offsetting benefits... (they) would permit the United States to continue building submarines at one yard even if the other yard is rendered incapable of building submarines permanently or for a sustained period of time by a catastrophic event of some kind."

In other words, if someone attacks us with nuclear weapons, and takes out Newport News, we can still, quickly, build a submarine in New London and hit them right back.

Think America is just going to limp away from that kind of attack? No way. In two-to-four years, we're going to build the front (or back) half of a whole new submarine and kick some ass.

It's so absurd, it almost sounds like an idiotic lie.

And who's going to attack our submarines in the first place? The Waterproof Shoe Bomber?

Who? The answer may surprise you: China.

The people who make the $30 DVD players at Target.

And when will they strike? In 2025.

According to the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review:

"Of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter strategies."

Ominously, "China has increased its defense spending by more than 10% in real terms in every year except 2003." Whereas we've only doubled ours. I guess I've had my head in the sand.

That's not where Randy Forbes keeps his head. The congressman from Virginia knows who we're fighting. We're fighting the navy China might build by 2025.

"We looked at their steel mills. They're throwing out steel as fast as you can watch it; running it 24 hours a day."

Which raises an interesting question: Is "fast as you can watch it" a really brilliant expression, or a seriously brain-damaged one? How fast can Randy Forbes watch someone throw steel? Is that like some kind of Eudora Welty gag, "I didn't know whether to commit myself, or just sit around and watch Grandma throw steel?" Am I missing something?

And it also points out something really sort of adorable, when you think about it:

We need $2.5 billion for the next Virginia Class submarine.

We need it to contain China.

But the deficit is $400 billion.

So we'll have to borrow the money from China.

It turns out Lenin wasn't looking at the big picture. A capitalist may sell you the rope with which to hang him, but he'll borrow the money from a communist to build the rope.


Hey, morbid onlookers!

Anna Nicole Smith is dead, and de mortuis nil nisi bonum and all that, but let's look at just who God called home. If he really needed a ubiquitous blonde with weight issues, obviously a wounded soul, haunted and grasping and desperate, famous for nothing, knowing nothing, signifying nothing, babbling about nothing, why couldn't he take Ann Coulter?

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