Sunday, September 23, 2007

People Catching Fish, Part II

(Pictures finally updated 28 SEP 07, 1230ish. And yes, BZ, we are hard core killers of fish.)

Today is Sunday, holiday routine, and 17 days left aboard USS HALYBURTON. I am going to miss her. They say that two best ships in the Navy are USS LAST SHIP and USS NEXT SHIP, and I tend to agree with that. I’ve been fortunate to have served on three ships so far with Captains who range from excellent to at-least-they-don’t-throw-chairs-at-me, all with excellent crews, fun-loving wardrooms and generally terrific places to serve.

Occasionally, when tasking is light or during holiday routine days like today, we’ll stop or slow to bare steerage way so that we can maintain a position while waiting for a suspect vessel to show up, conserve fuel and go fishing.

Big sailfishWe’ve caught a couple of whoppers, too, but haven’t gotten them up on deck. Finally, while I was on watch a couple weeks ago, we got word to the bridge to execute preplanned responses for a fish on the line and stop the ship. One of our chief petty officers got a sailfish up on deck.

I haven’t been fishing off the stern, but it’s pretty cool to watch the guys amuse themselves catching these monsters in the middle of the Pacific, or pulling catfish and red snapper up out of water in Panama at the southern mouth of the Canal. I did go on a fishing trip in Panama to a part of Lake Gatun, however. Lago GatunThat’s the lake in the middle of the Panama Canal that used to be a valley until it was dammed up to become part of the Canal. Even though it was almost a hundred years ago, there are still the remains of old trees sticking up out of the water. Some of them were cut off, but now they’re stumps about a foot under the surface just waiting for an unsuspecting motor boat. We hit more than a few as we navigated the arm of the Lake that we were on.

Cooler full of Peacock BassThe peacock bass are plentiful there. We caught a whole cooler full of them, most only a couple of pounds or smaller, but there’s no size limit, so the guide just told us to keep everything. There’s also tarpin in there, along with some jellyfish and other wonderful critters. I decided against swimming for that reason, but Jimbo was not so worried about it when he went on the trip the next day.

The trip was terrific. The first one I caught was pretty small, but I did end up catching the big fish, about six pounds (the one sitting on top in the cooler above). There were just the three of us (one of my hull technicians and one of my oil kings signed up as well), one of whom had never been fishing in his life. It was cool watching him have a blast catching fish for the fist time ever, baiting hooks and everything; definitely a manly day. On top of spending the morning catching about 40 pounds of fish, when we got back, there’s a little restaurant where they will clean and cook the fish for you, served up with limes and fried plantains. I got a heckuva sunburn from the waist up, but the itching has, for the most part subsided at this point.

And now for something , an update on the 500 Miles Club, I’m poised to meet my goal, with 13 usable days left I have 428.5 miles down and 71.5 miles to go. I think our scale here is filthy liar, but according to it, I’ve dropped about 15 pounds. That’s nice. I’m hoping to keep the routine up after I leave. I get about two weeks at home before going to Virgina for school for about six weeks. Then it’s Christmas and another deployment.

More later, Internet cooperation allowing.

People Catching Fish
500 Mile Club

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People Catching Fish

I’ve been having a hard time with the Internet this week. The satellite seems to want to cooperate for downloads, but not uploads, so it’s been taking days to post this. I write things out in advance on Microsoft Word I don’t loose the text, but often the repeated attempts to connect or post are distracting and I have to stop to do some actual work. I tried all afternoon two days ago to post a reply to Fetching Jen, but had to stop due to obligations and frustration.

20 SEP 07

It’s been a heckuva couple of days out in the EPAC. We’ve been boarding a tuna boat all night that was packed with crew – almost two dozen. We haven’t found much except two prostitutes, a stack of cash and a case of Johnnie Walker, but we’re still searching. There’s tuna, also – which is more unusual than you might think.

The interesting part is that not only are we here with this tuna seiner, we’re also out here with an American supply ship who we are scheduled to conduct underway replenishment (UNREP) with this morning. We’re sending one of our Lieutenants Junior Grade to command the tuna seiner while we refuel. Unfortunately, I just got the word that they are having engine trouble and we’re going to have to delay the UNREP, though we’ve got some pallets of stuff we’re going to receive (called vertical replenishment; we’re hauling them with our helicopter) while we’re waiting to fix it.

UNREP was first conceived during the Second World War as a means of extending the range of our Navy. It was so innovative that it was actually classified at the time so that other navies wouldn’t figure it out. With UNREP we are able to stay on station longer and remain mission ready. We can get fuel, stores, mail, personnel, just about anything, really.In the eastern Pacific, we don’t get much opportunity to practice it because there isn’t usually a supply ship in theater, but we’ve had one hanging around for the last month or so and it’s been extremely helpful.

USS HALYBURTON (FFG 40) making her approach alongside USNS SATURNWe start out about 1000 yards (1/2 nautical mile) astern of the delivery ship and then move into position 300-500 yards astern, keeping the delivery ship about three degrees to port or starboard to ensure a lateral separation of approximately 180 feet. When we get the signal, we increase speed to a full bell and drive up alongside and cut speed to a standard bell so that we coast into position with the fueling stations lined up.

When we’re in position, one ship or the other will shoot lines across with a special 7.62mm round that is designed to propel a big rubber projectile with shot line attached to it over to the other ship. I did a midshipman cruise on USS MERRIMACK (AO 179), a CIMARRON Class oiler about a hundred years ago and they used to prefer to shoot lines, because they were better at it by virtue of doing it more often. I saw every ship in the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) battle group that way. When there’s a lot ships like that, they’ll take two at a time, one on each side. I also learned semaphore, since outside of UNREP, there’s not much for a midshipman to do on an oiler.

USS HALYBURTON (FFG 40) alongside USNS Saturn, 21 SEP 07Once the shot line is in hand, they’ll heave around on it until the messenger is in hand. That’s the first line across, which the spanwire will be attached to, and sometimes the CO and the master of the delivery ship will send each other gifts and boxes of cookies and things like that. The spanwire is taken to the fueling station and the messenger is tied to the phone and distance line, a line with flags on it to judge the lateral separation between ships and a sound-powered phone line for communications, and hauled back to the delivery ship. The conning officer constantly monitors the station-to-station line-up and the lateral separation between ships and makes small course and speed adjustments as necessary.

As Chief Engineer, I am stationed in the Central Control Station waiting for the station to receive and seat the probe so I can get a fuel sample and begin receiving fuel. I monitor the process and perform visual tests on fuel samples to ensure the quality of the fuel we receive. I let the bridge know when we have about 15 minutes left to go and when we secure pumping.

For more info on UNREP, check the links above or feel free to ask.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2007

Ahoy there! Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, landlubbers. Even had it on the Plan of the Day. Turns out we spent most of the day shooting at another boat, to it's all in the spirit, arrr!

Anyone else having a piratey celebration?


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Patriot Day

Today, we half-masted the holiday ensign and observed a moment silence at 0746 local time while moored pierside at the old Rodman Naval Base in Panama.

On this day, I can’t help thinking about how much has changed since I joined the Navy. I was commissioned in 1998, when we were wrapped comfortably in the illusion of safety. Even when the USS COLE was bombed in Yemen in 2000, nothing changed much. Bill Clinton launched Tomahawk strikes in Afghanistan and called it good, situation handled. Our defensive posture, the way we conducted business, it was all the same – until September 11, 2001.

I remember being pissed off that we were not immediately deployed somewhere to exact retribution on whoever was responsible. I remember the next day when we found out that one of our previous commanding officer’s, Captain Gerald F. DeConto, had been killed at the Pentagon.

No one asked me, but I think our big-picture overall strategy in fighting terrorism is correct. It’s multi-layered and forward-leaning and we’re fighting it like a war – because it is a war. It doesn’t just focus on Al Qaeda; that would be a mistake, since there are plenty of other terrorist organization that desire harm to come to America and our allies. Even the FARC in Colombia has declared American servicemen military targets and some middle eastern terrorist organizations are setting up shop in Latin America; Islam has even gained a foothold in some countries down here. I’m doing my part right now, trying to help cut off money to drug trafficking/terrorist organizations (the front-end, in the supply chain of terrorism).

It’s also a culture war. Osama bin Laden's own words prove that although the Cults of Liberalism and Islamofacism are completely disparate and philosophically at odds, the end goal of both is the destruction of all that has made America the greatest country on Earth. By living your life to the best of your productive ability, promoting and practicing capitalism, democracy and exhibiting the best qualities of Americans, you do your part too.

Here’s the President’s address for this Patriot Day:

Patriot Day, 2007

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

September 11, 2001, was a defining moment in American history. On that terrible day, our Nation saw the face of evil as 19 men barbarously attacked us and wantonly murdered people of many races, nationalities, and creeds. On Patriot Day, we remember the innocent victims, and we pay tribute to the valiant firefighters, police officers, emergency personnel, and ordinary citizens who risked their lives so others might live.

After the attacks on 9/11, America resolved that we would go on the offense against our enemies, and we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor and support them. All Americans honor the selfless men and women of our Armed Forces, the dedicated members of our public safety, law enforcement, and intelligence communities, and the thousands of others who work hard each day to protect our country, secure our liberty, and prevent future attacks.

The spirit of our people is the source of America's strength, and 6 years ago, Americans came to the aid of neighbors in need. On Patriot Day, we pray for those who died and for their families. We volunteer to help others and demonstrate the continuing compassion of our citizens.
On this solemn occasion, we rededicate ourselves to laying the foundation of peace with confidence in our mission and our free way of life.

By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of
America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2007, as Patriot Day. I call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe Patriot Day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and remembrance services, to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on that day, and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of
September, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the
Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.


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Friday, September 07, 2007

Environmental Hysteria: Oppression Soothes the Conscience

Very little time, sorry. I would like to comment on this article, maybe later, but I think it pretty much says it all. There are some links to other articles in a similar vein at the original website. Lazy blogging, to be sure, but I've got crappy bandwidth and some obligations to meet. The article is from Sp!ked Online Magazine:

Monday 3 September 2007
Is carbon-offsetting just eco-enslavement?
In offsetting his flights by sponsoring ‘eco-friendly’ hard labour in India, David Cameron has exposed the essence of environmentalism.
Brendan O’Neill

If you thought that the era of British bigwigs keeping Indians as personal servants came to an end with the fall of the Raj in 1947, then you must have had a rude awakening last week.

In a feature about carbon offsetting in The Times (London), it was revealed that the leader of the UK Conservative Party, David Cameron, offsets his carbon emissions by effectively keeping brown people in a state of bondage. Whenever he takes a flight to some foreign destination, Cameron donates to a carbon-offsetting company that encourages people in the developing world to ditch modern methods of farming in favour of using their more eco-friendly manpower to plough the land. So Cameron can fly around the world with a guilt-free conscience on the basis that, thousands of miles away, Indian villagers, bent over double, are working by hand rather than using machines that emit carbon.

Welcome to the era of eco-enslavement.

The details of this carbon-offsetting scheme are disturbing. Cameron offsets his flights by donating to Climate Care. The latest wheeze of this carbon-offsetting company is to provide ‘treadle pumps’ to poor rural families in India so that they can get water on to their land without having to use polluting diesel power. Made from bamboo, plastic and steel, the treadle pumps work like ‘step machines in a gym’, according to some reports, where poor family members step on the pedals for hours in order to draw up groundwater which is used to irrigate farmland (1). These pumps were abolished in British prisons a century ago. It seems that what was considered an unacceptable form of punishment for British criminals in the past is looked upon as a positive eco-alternative to machinery for Indian peasants today.

What might once have been referred to as ‘back-breaking labour’ is now spun as ‘human energy’. According to Climate Care, the use of labour-intensive treadle pumps, rather than labour-saving diesel-powered pumps, saves 0.65 tonnes of carbon a year per farming family. And well-off Westerners - including Cameron, and Prince Charles, Land Rover and the Cooperative Bank, who are also clients of Climate Care - can purchase this saved carbon in order to continue living the high life without becoming consumed by eco-guilt. They effectively salve their moral consciences by paying poor people to live the harsh simple life on their behalf.

Climate Care celebrates the fact that it encourages the Indian poor to use their own bodies rather than machines to irrigate the land. Its website declares: ‘Sometimes the best source of renewable energy is the human body itself. With some lateral thinking, and some simple materials, energy solutions can often be found which replace fossil fuels with muscle-power.’ (2) To show that muscle power is preferable to machine power, the Climate Care website features a cartoon illustration of smiling naked villagers pedalling on a treadle pump next to a small house that has an energy-efficient light bulb and a stove made from ‘local materials at minimal cost’. Climate Care points out that even children can use treadle pumps: ‘One person - man, woman or even child - can operate the pump by manipulating his/her body weight on two treadles and by holding a bamboo or wooden frame for support.’ (3)

Feeling guilty about your two-week break in Barbados, when you flew thousands of miles and lived it up with cocktails on sunlit beaches? Well, offset that guilt by sponsoring eco-friendly child labour in the developing world! Let an eight-year-old peasant pedal away your eco-remorse…

Climate Care has other carbon-offsetting schemes. One involves encouraging poor people who live near the Ranthambhore National Park, a tiger reserve in Rajasthan, India, to stop using firewood for their stoves, and instead to collect cowpats and water and put them into something called a ‘biogas digester’, which creates a renewable form of fuel that can be used for cooking and the provision of heat. One of the aims of this scheme is to protect the trees of the national park, as tigers are reliant on the trees. It seems that in the carbon-offsetting world, beast comes before man.

In these various scandalous schemes, we can glimpse the iron fist that lurks within environmentalism’s green velvet glove. ‘Cutting back carbon emissions’ is the goal to which virtually every Western politician, celebrity and youthful activist has committed himself. Yet for the poorest people around the world, ‘reducing carbon output’ means saying no to machinery and instead getting your family to do hard physical labour, or it involves collecting cow dung and burning it in an eco-stove in order to keep yourself warm. It is not only Climate Care that pushes through such patronising initiatives. Other carbon-offsetting companies have encouraged Kenyans to use dung-powered generators and Indians to replace kerosene lamps with solar-powered lamps, while carbon-offsetting tree-planting projects in Guatemala, Ecuador and Uganda have reportedly disrupted local communities’ water supplies, led to the eviction of thousands of villagers from their land, and cheated local people of their promised income for the upkeep of these Western conscience-salving trees (4).

The criticism of these carbon-offsetting schemes has been limited indeed. Since The Times revealed the treadle pump story last week, many have criticised carbon offsetting on the rather blinkered basis that it doesn’t do enough to rein in mankind’s overall emissions of carbon. Some talk about ‘carbon offsetting cowboys’, as if carbon offsetting itself is fine and it’s only those carbon-offsetting companies who go too far in their exploitation of people in the developing world who are a problem. In truth, it is the relationships that are codified by the whole idea of carbon offsetting - whereby the needs and desires of people in the developing world are subordinated to the narcissistic eco-worries of rich Westerners - that are the real, grotesque problem here.

More radical eco-activists argue that carbon offsetting is a distraction from the need for us simply to stop flying and producing and consuming. They claim that carbon-offsetting gives people in Western societies the false impression that it’s okay to emit carbon so long as you pay someone else to clean it up for you. They would rather that we all lived like those treadle-pumping, shit-burning peasants. A group of young deep greens protested at the Oxford offices of Climate Care dressed as red herrings (on the basis that carbon offsetting is a ‘red herring’), arguing that: ‘Climate Care is misleading the public, making them believe that offsetting does some good.’ (5) The protest provided a striking snapshot of the warped, misanthropic priorities of green youthful activism today: instead of criticising Climate Care, and others, for encouraging poor Indians to stop using machinery and to burn cow dung, the protesters slated it for giving a green light to Westerners to continue living comfortable lives.

Carbon offsetting is not some cowboy activity, or an aberration, or a distraction from ‘true environmentalist goals’ - rather it expresses the very essence of environmentalism. In its project of transforming vast swathes of the developing world into guilt-massaging zones for comfortable Westerners, where trees are planted or farmers’ work is made tougher and more time-consuming in order to offset the activities of Americans and Europeans, carbon offsetting perfectly captures both the narcissistic and anti-development underpinnings of the politics of environmentalism. Where traditional imperialism conquered poor nations in order to exploit their labour and resources, today’s global environmentalist consensus is increasingly using the Third World as a place in which to work out the West’s moral hang-ups.

The rise of the carbon-offsetting industry shows that a key driving force behind environmentalism is self-indulgent Western guilt. It is Western consumers’ own discomfort with their sometimes lavish lifestyles - with all those holidays, big homes, fast cars and cheap nutritious foods - that nurtures today’s green outlook, in which consumption has come to be seen as destructive and a new morality of eco-ethics and offsetting (formerly known as penance) has emerged to deal with it (6). It is no accident that the wealthiest people are frequently the most eco-conscious. British environmental campaign groups and publications are peppered with the sons and daughters of the aristocracy, while in America ridiculously super-rich celebrities (Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt) lead the charge for more eco-aware forms of consumption and play. The very nature of carbon offsetting - where the emphasis is on paying money to offset one’s own lifestyle, in much the same way that wealthy people in the Middle Ages would pay for ‘Indulgences’ that forgave them their sins - highlights the individuated and self-regarding streak in the Politics of Being Green.

Carbon-offsetting also shines a light on the dangerously anti-development sentiment in environmentalism. As the British journalist Ross Clark has argued, the success of carbon-offsetting relies on the continuing failure of Third World communities to develop. Clark writes: ‘Carbon-offset schemes…only work if the recipients [in the Third World] continue to live in very basic conditions. Once they aspire to Western, fossil fuel-powered lifestyles, then the scheme is undone.’ Delegates to the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005 offset the carbon cost of their flights by donating to a charity that replaced the tin roofs of huts in a shantytown in Cape Town with a more insulating material, thus reducing the level of heat that escapes and protecting the environment. It sounds good, but as Clark points out: ‘The carbon emitted by delegates’ flights will only continue to be offset for as long as the occupants of the huts carry on living in shantytown conditions.’ If they were to improve their lives, and replace their insulated shacks with ‘much more power-hungry bungalows’, then the carbon-offsetting scheme will have failed, says Clark. The shantytown-dwellers will have reneged on their side of the bargain, which is to remain poor and humble so that wealthy Western leaders can fly around the world in peace of mind (7).

Again, this is not ‘cowboyism’ - it is mainstream environmentalism in action. From the increasingly hysterical attacks on China for daring to develop, to the emphasis on ‘fair trade’ and ‘sustainable development’ in the work of the myriad NGOs that are swarming around the Third World, the green message is this: poor people simply cannot have what we in the West have, because if they did the planet would burn. The treadle-pump scandal revealed in The Times only shows in a more direct form the way in which today’s environmentalist agenda forces the poor of the developing world to adapt to poverty, accommodate to hardship, and effectively remain enslaved for the benefit of morally-tortured Westerners.

It is time to end this eco-enslavement, and put forward arguments for progress and equality across the globe. I would never pick up shit and use it to warm my home, or spend hours on a treadmill in order to raise water. Would you? Then why should we expect anyone else to do such things, especially in the name of making some rich snots feel better about themselves?

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