Friday, December 29, 2006

The Only Good Republican

Fellow Eagle Scout former President Gerald R. Ford has died. The sheer tactlessness of the media's really getting me torqued up about it.

Sure, it's bad form to say what you really think about someone after they die. Thirty years ago, Ford was reviled for pardoning President Nixon and ridiculed as a buffoon... just like every other Republican president since. Hmmmm! Coincidence? Or Science?

But time sure seems to put history in perspective. I feel like a bit of an outside observer; having been born in 1976, the first time I remember being aware of who the President was was when Reagan was shot in 1982. Looking back on the Ford Presidency now, it seems he was a pretty good President, but didn't have the time to make a difference. Though pardoning Nixon cost him the 1976 election, I think he made the right choice. Can you imagine the ensuing trial? Months on end of revisiting and prolonging Watergate, then Nixon in prison for years. The 1970s were painful enough, no one needed that, no matter how much anyone wanted it.

So it's giving the press yet another opportunity to gloat over its two biggest perceived vistories in the 20th century; Watergate and Vietnam. Heck, it's even giving Kennedy Assassination conspiracy theorists a little juice. The MSM and moonbats get to simultaneously impugn Ford's character over Watergate, and criticize President Bush over Iraq.

There's plenty about Iraq and Bush Administration policies that can be criticized (though I prefer constructive criticism and rational discussion to moonbattery), but Gerald Ford had the tact to keep it under his hat, unlike certain other former Presidents. He knew exactly how Bob Woodward would use that interview.

The Ford interview also belies a certain lack of familiarity with the situation. He seemed to think that sanctions would've accomplished something in Iraq, after 12 years of failure doing exactly that. I'm of the opinion that military action was warranted in Iraq, but much, much sooner. If only we'd had a President who was willing to make an unpopular decision at the time...

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Krissmachannaramasolstikwanzawinterfestiveenimas!

Merry Krissmachannaramasolstikwanzawinterfestiveenimas! I was vexed about soemthing last night when I thought about posting, but not so much now. It wasn't a "war on Christmas" thing, I remember that much. I'm actually kind of happy not to wake up completely incapacitated by this cold today.

Jack woke up about his usual time (0430) for a bottle and to cuddle in bed with Mommy and Daddy. But my cough is pretty bad and I didn't want to wake him or keep Red awake on our family day off - therefore, I blog.

Red's family tradition has always been to open Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve and then stockings on Christmas Day. Since my family tradition involves driving all over the Twin Cities for two days to four different Christmasses, and she gets very pouty about not doing Christmas her way, we do Christmas her way. (Of course, living in Jacksonville makes it difficult to visit my grandmothers over Christmas).

So we opened gifts. Not a lot of money to spend on each other this year, but I wen't ahead and used the credit card for a Dyson vacuum cleaner that she had told me she wanted. With the way that Red and the two cats shed, Jack picks up a lot of hair when he crawls around on the floor - this vacuum is supposed to be really good at taking care of that problem.

Red was whelmed at the gift. It was a pop fly to center field, definitely nowhere close to a home run. Especially since, right after we opened gifts, we saw a TV commercial mocking Stereotypical Chubby Stupid White Male for buying his wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. Dr. Helen would be a better one to delve into that than I am.

It was difficult this year to find something to give her, and she found it difficult to find something to give me as well. I've been gone for six months and we pretty much have everything we want. Isn't that nice? We've got a nice little house, the cutest kid on Earth, and all we really want to do is work on those two things.

My Dad asked me for a Christmas list for us and I couldn't think of anything at all, except for I want to build a stone patio in the back of the house, put a nice grill back there, fix the bathtub faucet and finish moving the rest of my things out of the garage and into the house/down to the curb for the trash collectors (as applicable).

This reminds me of one of the heady conversations that Egon and I had in Scotland while walking around. We ended up talking about taxation and redistribution of wealth. In a sense, I suppose I could be considered wealthy. For immediate purposes (for the time being) my family doesn't need anything. Every paycheck Red and I get, we are able to pay our bills and buy groceries and put gas in the cars. We could cut back in some areas and have more money left over if we chose to do so, but we haven't budgeted it out at this point.

Federal taxes take 12% of my income before I even see it. That's crap, if you ask me, because it's my money, and I earned it. I'd like to decide where it goes. It's also ridiculous that I'm a government employee and the government bothers taxing me at all. Why not just pay me less to begin with and keep the bloody money?

Child support takes 25% of my income, no sliding scale, nothing. Minnsota state law supports that regardless of how ridiculous an amount that is. It is currently just about equal to my mortgage payment. What vexes me most about it is what a stupid kid I was. My reasoning went like this: I've got orders to Japan, and I'm never going to see my daughter. I've got to make sure she's provided for. I know! I'll call the county and have them garnish my wages!

I know, I know. I haven't always been the ferociously independent libertarianistic objectivist you see before you today. At one time, I actually thought the government was here to help. It seemed like a good idea at the time, when I was 21 and had no idea how any of these things worked and failed to see the 18-year impact of what I was doing. I think this is how most of these goofy socialist ideas get into people's heads and once they start to suffer the negative consequences of placing their faith in the state to do everything for them, most people come around to thinking more or less like I do.

The net result is that my ex has three kids, including mine, and is able to do a lot of things that she wouldn't ordinarily be able to do, like get through tough times when her husband gets laid off or is going to school since they are a three-income family. Red and I get by day-to-day, but don't really make any headway on paying bills.

Is it fair? Some would say yes, of course it's fair. The state has imposed fairness upon you because you are forces to provide for your daughter as though she lived with you. Since you have more money and are worse off and she has less money and is better off, all is right in the world.

The state doesn't care whether I see her or not, or fulfill my obligations as a father, only that the wealth is redistributed accordingly. I hope that it's being put to good use, because if I had that money, I could put it in a college fund or something for her. I could also use that money to fly up to Minnesota and see her more than once a year, or fly her down to Florida.

Additionally, had I thought to try to reconcile with my ex ten years ago and be friendly toward each other, we could've worked together to decide how much she needed and I may have ended up having a more amiable relationship and I may have ended up communicating better with her and my daughter and maybe, just maybe, things wouldn't be as screwed up as they are now. (Mind you, I am not going into full details here, Internet.)

Of course, I don't ultimately blame the state for my problems - that, again, is giving them too much power. My problems are entirely of my own making. What I'm getting at here, is why do we trust in the almighty government to decide who is too wealthy and who is too poor? What incentive does my ex have to improve her quality of life before my daughter turns 18 and the child support stops coming in? None. She's living, at least partially, a life of dependency. Come June 2015, she will have to quit cold turkey.

From my own point of view, the child support obligation is review every two years and generally increases significantly each time, right around this time of year. Suddenly, this delicate balance that Red and I have with getting our bills paid is upset and we have to figure out how to meet all our obligations with $400 less per month.

Is any of that fair? No law is going make people less poor, nothing will make poor people any richer except for poor people doing it themselves. I think state-imposed fairness does more harm than good. All I really care about is my daughter, and I personally think that she is the one who gets the short end of the stick no matter how you look at it.

On a side note, I found this great article on socialized medicine which makes a similar point. Some of you know I have similar feelings on charity, i.e. that charity keeps people destitute because of their dependence upon it.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

SECDEF's Farewell

While filtering through my message traffic last week, I recieved this message from former SECDEF, the Honorable Donald Rumsfeld. I've been meaning to post it, because I thought it was a really nice message to all of us who serve and that some of you might appreciate it:
For these past six years, I have had the opportunity and the privilege to serve with the greatest military the world has ever known. To all the men and women in uniform across the globe, I wish that I could look you in the eyes, shake your hands and express my heartfelt gratitude for your service. You have given me a complete sense of pride in our mission, and an abiding confidence in our country, especially in those who volunteer to risk you lives to defend us.

As I complete my second tour as Secretary of Defense, I leave knowing that the true strength of our U.S. military lies not in our weapons, but in the hearts of the men and women in uniform, in your patriotism, in your professionalism, and your determination to accomplish the mission.

President Abraham Lincoln said “Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.” That remains as true today as it did during President Lincoln’s time. I have seen countless examples of this resolve when I have met with those serving in this long struggle against violent extremism.

I visited a base near Fallujah two days before Christmas where marines have been engaged in some of the most intense house-to-house fighting since World War II. A staff sergeant asked my why there wasn’t a way he could extend his tour beyond his unit’s service limit in Iraq.

A young man I met at Bethesda Naval Hospital was in the very early stages of recovery from multiple wounds suffered in Iraq. He looked up at me with a tube in his nose, and said, “If only the American people will give us the time we need, we can do it, we are getting it done.”

A soldier I met in Afghanistan said, “I really can’t believe we’re allowed to do something this important.” I feel the same way. I can’t believe I have had the chance to be involved in something so important to the safety of the American people and the future of our country.

What you are accomplishing is not simply important – it is historic. When the cause of human freedom requires men and women to stand on the front lines in its defense, you stepped forward to liberate more than 50 million citizens in Afghanistan and Iraq. You captured or killed tens of thousands of extremists, taking the fight to where they live, rather than waiting for them to attack us again where our families live. You helped alleviates the conditions that foster extremism in places like the horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere so that your children and grandchildren do not have to face our current challenges.

This month has two important anniversaries – the free elections of the Iraqi National Assembly and the seating of the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan. We remember the images of Iraqis proudly raising purple fingers in the air after voting in their first free elections, and the images of Afghani girls singing with joy as their new president took office. Those were historic chapters in the saga of human freedom and you made them possible.

This long struggle is complex and remains unfamiliar and little understood. Some may believe that there is no need to remain engaged. The enemy is counting on us to falter. You are the ones who experience success and who endure the setbacks of this struggle. It is a daily test of your personal will. We all know that the cause of freedom is well worth the price.

In 10 or 20 years, when you are talking to your children or grandchildren, you will look back on your service, at what you have accomplished, with a great sense of pride. You will know that you were part of a truly proud history. Indeed, that you were the makers of that proud history and an inspiration to generations that followed.

It has been the highest honor of my life to serve with you, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. You define and embody the American spirit. You have helped millions triumph over tyranny during this time of great consequence. You have my eternal respect and you will remain in my thoughts and prayers always. May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless our wonderful country.

Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Backpacking in Scotland

EDIT: The published version of this post has a plethora of break tags that I didn't put in there. Scroll down for the post and if you know how to get rid of them let me know. I've exhausted my scanty HTML skills.

Still fighting this crud I got last week. Light-headed and headachy, coughing fits last night, fatigued, lovely stuff. (ooh! I think my ear just drained!) I'm on a 24-hour SIQ chit, which means I go to the clinic tomorrow to get another one (*sigh*). This did not preclude me from standing my duty day yesterday or getting some work done today. Nor will it mean I won't be working tomorrow, so I don't honestly know what the point is.

Therefore, I blog.

During our Scotland port visit in October, I was lucky enough to be able to take a couple days leave and visit my best friend Egon. Egon and I have known each other for 15 years and he's currently married to a lovely British woman and living the dream in London as a struggling writer. Well, he doesn't stuggle too much, as his wife is paid in British pounds.

Frigates nested
When I left the ship, it seemed like the first time in months I had been free. I walked down the brow in the early morning while everyone else was getting ready to go to conferences and straight out the nearest gate of Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland (about 20 yards from the brow). As I hiked down the road to the Garelochead train station, I got this picture of my ship, USS HALYBURTON, nested between USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (outboard) and the Turkish FFG GOKSU (inboard - formerly USS ESTOCIN).

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMy view of Garelochead. It's a little town at the head of the loch (go figure). The train station was up on the hilltop overlooking the town and the base.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image HostingThere's Egon, standing in front of beautiful downtown Oban after we got off the train. Oban is the largest town in the western highlands and known for its whiskey distillery, among other things. We tried to get on a tour, but we missed the last one by 20 minutes. The whole area surrounding the distillery smelled like a smoky single malt. Luckily there was a cafe across the street where we could enjoy that, plus all the bars in town were well-stocked with Oban. I highly recommend it if you're a scotch drinker. Or if you'd like to be.

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Egon, having done this sort of thing a bit more than I have, found us a great hostel overlooking the waterfront and sitting on top of a pub. Perfect!

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Interestingly, many of the pubs in town (and presumably the rest of the U.K. prohibit football colors from being worn inside. This is to prevent the inevitable bloody and literal violence that ensues when football fans of opposing teams converge on the same location. I was worried about that when I walked into one wearing the hat you see here. The fellow who drove the ship's poop truck gave it to me in exchange for buying him two ship' ball caps. Luckily, it turns out that this is a 2003 Rugby ball cap. I don't know if rugby fans are similarly violent, but I wore the hat anyway. Here, we're hiking to an abandoned castle.

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There wasn't a walkway, but it's not as though the traffic was so bad we had to walk on this rock ledge. We just did. The castle is in the background. I have some pictures, but not readily available. We had to hike up a muddy, rocky slope to get there. There are so many old castles in Scotland and England, that I guess not all them qualify as historic or worthy of being preseved of sending tours through.

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Just a neat picture of the harbor entrance.

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This shot was taken from the top of what became a running gag for the entire next day, a former sea cliff. Egon and I, being best friends, naturally come up with in-jokes that no one else would get unless they were there. ("When I think about you, I touch myself! *CLICK*") When sea levels were higher, the area you see here was underwater and most of Scotland's low-lying coastline was underwater. Now it's low areas surrounded by steep cliffs shaped by water and glacier erosion. I know, I know that still doesn't explain it. It was funny at the time, I guess you had to be there.

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The view out of our third-story hostel window before heading to the Isle of Mull for the day. Not as great a picture as I thought it would be, but there was a terrific view of the harbor and nearby islands (part of the Inner Hebrides). Of note, our room was a four-bed (two bun-beds) dorm-sytle room. We checked in early and went out for a few drinks and some dinner, then came back and met our roommates - two 20-year-old American college girls studying abroad in London. Unique for me and a little awkward for two 30-year-old married guys, for a moment, anyway. We all got along just fine and there wasn't a bit of impropriety. In fact, we hardly spoke, all they seemed to want to do was sleep. They did end up on the ferry to the Isle of Mull with us the next day and we ran into them a couple of times throughout the day.

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On Mull, we did a walking tour of the castles there. Rather, our intent was to tour multiple castles, but they were a lot farther apart than we thought. The only castle we physically toured was Torosay. The one you see here, I shot from the ferry on the way to Mull. It's called Duart Castle and it's much older and across the swamp from Torosay

We hiked toward Duart Castle after touring Torosay and realized that it was a lot farther than we thought It also started raining off and on. But it was a pleasant walk through the sheep pastures and provided Egon and I more opportunity to catch up and espouse heady thoughts at one another. ("Boy are there a lot of sheep," and "Hey, do you think we can hitch a ride on that helicopter?") We also got to see a rainbow and were in a perfect position to photograph the castle through it.Castle Duart

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To save ourselves some walking between the ferry terminal in Craignure and Castle Torosay, we rode the miniature railroad, which is, not surpsingly, really small. Not small enough to be uncomfortable, just small enough to be novel and make you thankful that the ride was short. Apparently, there are a lot of weird train-related hobbies in Britain. I'd heard of trainspotting, but not touring the country to ride tiny trains. BloZep, any insight?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI'd like to point out here that Egon is around six feet tall and I folded myself into the same train car with him. And our backpacks.

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Egon and I parted ways on the train back to Faslane. I got underway the next day for Neptune Warrior and had to deal with this. Just for frame of reference, this is a picture out of the port bridge wing door of my ship in 30-foot seas.

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Yes, it was beautiful Scottish weather the whole time. Hope you enjoyed the pictures, I know I enjoyed the visit.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

I Am Time 2006 Person of the Year

No kidding.

I may be a bit behind the curve on this; mostly because I don't read Time, and I haven't listened to the radio or read the news that much over the last half year (what's all this about the Democrats controlling Congress?) However, I am pleased to inform those few loyal remaining People Covered in Fish reader that I (and all of you) am the 2006 Person of the Year.

This, of course, is my second time winning this distinct honor, and I'd like to thank all the little people I stepped on to make this possible. Excuse me while I update my resume. Here's a list of the notable people I share the honor with.

All sarcasm aside, it's an interesting choice, if really lazy. Everybody wins!

It's not all of you, really. Well, it is all of you, and every goofball with a MySpace account, etc. In my twelve years on the Internet I've left a pretty big footprint (much to my chagrin). But my grandmother has had little impact on the information age. She's afraid of the Internet and won't buy a computer. Good for her, I say. Somebody's got to hold out.

Sick day today, Rogue won't stop sitting on me and giving me head butts. Let me tell you about sick days in the military. You report to work as usual and then go to sick call. At sick call the corpsman tells you

1) Yes, you're sick, now get back to work.
2) Yes, you're sick, you get a 24-hour SIQ (sick in quarters) and then you need to come back in every day to make you're still sick until you're not sick any more.

I took the Robosquirrel option in which I attempt to go to the naval hospital closest to my house at which point they tell me to go to sick call at Branch Medical where they tell me to drive an hour back to Mayport to go to sick call there. And then I go home because I'm the boss, it's Christmas stand down, and I've already got all the work covered for the day. Though my option was more of hassle, I prefer the end result.

For the rare person who would see fit to cast aspersions upon the quality of my service, let me just say that I am working while at home today, by phone and email. This has also happened to me before: I had mononucleosis once as a division officer abotu four years ago and the same thing happened. I was forced to drive to work while half-conscious just to prove I was still sick and be allowed to drive back home. I get this sick once a year, tops. The rest of the time I just power through. Those few times I don't, I've proven to be a danger to myself and other and nearly killed myself in two separate incidents of driving while ill.

Screw it, I'm Person of the Year, I earned it.

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