A Pet Peeve

Navy NewsStand posted some pictures from USS Key West's homecoming I mentioned Wednesday; some good pictures are posted here, here, here, and here. There was one picture, though, that I didn't like as much -- not because of what the Sailors were doing, but because of what they were wearing. Here's the picture:

Like this poster at Rontini's BBS, I've always wondered what the purpose is of making topside linehandlers ruin a good dress uniform just so everyone on the boat can be in whites (or dress blues) during a return from deployment. Even if the people ordering this to go on aren't worried about the cost the Sailors have to bear out of pocket, they should consider the safety aspects -- having guys handling lines topside in dress shoes (vice deck shoes) seems like an ORM investigation waiting to happen if a guy goes overboard. Sure, it looks nice for the families assembled on the pier to have everyone dressed up pretty, but a landing is still an inherently risky situation.

What do you think? Am I overreacting, or should submarine COs and COBs decide that safety and utility are more important that having nice pictures to post on Navy NewsStand? Alternately, should the command at least buy a set of "linehandling whites" for each member of the linehandling party and let the guys wear deck shoes? Let me know in the comments.

A Really Great Song

I've been working on my trip report for my recent visit to the Penny Arcade Expo (a bunch of gamers getting together in Seattle), but it's still a day or so off. There was one song I heard there that I feel I can't in good conscience hold off any longer from introducing to those of you who haven't heard it yet. It's called "Code Monkey", by Jonathan Coulton, who opened up the Saturday night concert. If you've ever worked in a techie cube farm, it'll be your theme song as soon as you hear it. Here's a video populated by World of Warcraft characters:



(Note: I didn't even recognize these were WoW characters until I saw the end credits. I have never played WoW.) If the hard-driving electric guitar version of the song is too much for you, there's also an acoustic version.

Welcome Home, Men Of The USS Key West

USS Key West (SSN 722) returned home to Pearl Harbor yesterday after a 7 month WestPac. Although they originally deployed as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group, it looks like they spent the whole time in the Pacific, doing "six national and theater-specific operations", while the rest of the JCSSG went to the CENTCOM AOR.

But now the Key West is home, and the returning heroes can reunite with their loving families or favorite couch and hopefully get a few well deserved weeks off.

Bellringer 2209 29 Aug: Check out this blog by USS Key West Mom.

Looking For Background Information About Idaho Senator Craig's Possible Homosexual Past?

Well, I don't have anything here other than a link to this article in today's Idaho Statesman about an in-depth investigation they did earlier this year but decided against publishing until now. As far as what this will do to the Idaho political landscape, I'll probably write about that later.

SSGN Pics From PCAN

A reader sent in a bunch of pictures of an SSGN (probably USS Florida) operating out of Port Canaveral yesterday. Here's one of the pictures that shows how the Dry Dock Shelter fits onto the SSGNs for those who haven't seen it yet:

I'll try to post some more of the pictures later; they're all really good.

Iraq Coming Together?

Two interesting items from Iraq; must see if they truly develop.

First,

Iraq's leaders agree on key benchmarks

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.
...
Iraqi officials said the five leaders had agreed on draft legislation that would ease curbs on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military.

Consensus was also reached on a law governing provincial powers as well as setting up a mechanism to release some detainees held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority being held are Sunnis.

The laws need to be passed by Iraq's fractious parliament, which has yet to receive any of the drafts.

Yasin Majid, a media adviser to Maliki, told Reuters the leaders also endorsed a draft oil law, which has already been agreed by the cabinet but has not yet gone to parliament.

But a statement from Talabani's office said more discussions were needed on the draft oil law and constitutional reforms. Committees had also been formed to try to ensure a "balance" of Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds in government.
And second, perhaps even more important, but also more speculative, is this report about al-Douri coming in from the cold, which would essentially end the Sunni insurgency and lead to the quick liquidation of Al Qaeda in Iraq!

al Douri was number 6 (the King of Clubs) in the "deck of cards" and had sworn allegiance to Zarqawi, and is the top figure from the deck that has not been captured or killed:
As Coalition and Iraq troops continue the hunt for al Qaeda throughout Iraq, a senior Baathist who years ago threw in his lot with al Qaeda has flipped. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the former vice president of Saddam's revolutionary council and number 6 on the "deck of cards" of the 55 most wanted, has "decided to sever ties with al-Qaeda and sign up to the programme of the national resistance, which includes routing Islamist terrorists and opening up dialogue with the Baghdad government and foreign forces," Abu Wisam al-Jashaami told Adnkronos International. "In return, for cooperating in the fight against al-Qaeda, al-Douri has asked for guarantees over his men's safety and for an end to Iraqi army attacks on his militias."

Al Douri swore bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda in Iraq's former commander, sometime in early 2004 according to an Internet posting on a jihadist website intercepted by The SITE Institute.
But in fact he has such a stain of evil on his hands that some think cutting a deal will be simply impossible. However,
While it is unclear how much influence al Douri possesses with former Baathists turned al Qaeda, or how much of Saddam's money he controls, his turn against al Qaeda serves as an indicator of how actors in the insurgency view the situation on the ground. Al Douri clearly sees that the Coalition and Iraqi government have momentum against the insurgency and al Qaeda.

Reconciliation with the likes of al Douri will be difficult, if not impossible. He was just placed at the top of the list of the Iraqi government's most wanted individuals. Al Douri was viewed by some to be Saddam's successor, and he was a ruthless operative directly responsible for the murder of Shia and Kurds during Saddam's rule. His submission to al Qaeda only compounds his past crimes. The Iraqi government will find it almost impossible to reach some sort of agreement with al Douri but must work hard to split any remaining al Douri-led factions from al Qaeda in Iraq.
So on the other hand, part of his desire to turn on AQI is that since the demise of Saddam Hussein last January, leadership of the Baath party has been in dispute, with Syria backing someone other than al Douri, who felt the position should have gone to him.

It also says the Surge must really be working and ordinary Iraqis can't stand the brutal Taliban-like tactics of AQI.

And already there had been reports that the other main Sunni group, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigades, had already joined us against AQI.
The 1920s Revolution Brigade and the U.S. have come to an agreement that the armed groups will stay off the streets in the daylight, while the U.S. Army is coordinating activities, establishing the Sunni insurgents as local police forces and providing equipment such as radios.

The 1920s Revolution Brigades is considered the "nationalist element" of the Sunni, largely made up of members of Saddam's disbanded army and tribesmen. The Buhriz group turned on al Qaeda in April, after the group terrorized the local population.
The Baath party is denying all this of course, but even if it's just wishful thinking or propaganda, it makes the enemy have doubts and is bad for their morale.

The writing is on the wall!

Italy Wakes Up

As I've said before, awareness of the threat of islam is a one-way function.

Every day, more and more people will know the truth.

The number will only go up and up.

And one day, it will reach critical mass.

Italy is now getting there:
ITALY: INTEGRATION WITH ARAB IMMIGRANTS DECLINES ***

(ANSAmed) - MILAN, JULY 11 - There is more fear and distrust in Italian cities about immigrants identified as 'Arab', or those coming from Islamic cultures. With the drop of opinions in favour for granting these immigrants the right to vote in local elections, a strong rise in opposition to the construction of mosques, and a progressive decline of those who see favourably the formation of mixed couples.

These are the results of a study carried out by the Milan Chamber of Commerce in Milan, Bologna, Rome, Naples and Palermo. According to a representative sample of the population, the opinions in favour of the opening of a new mosque fell to 28% against 48% last year. [good luck with next year! -- ed.]

The motivations of the 'no' are various: according to 30% of those against "public money could be better spent", 28% think that Islam is "a dangerous religion which does not allow integration", 24% of those against clearly speak of mosques as "gatherings of terrorists."
...
The fear of attacks is more clear: passing near crowded public areas, such as train stations, underground stops or trade centres, 54% of residents of Milan, Bologna, Rome, Naples and Palermo say they feel less safe compared to a year ago, 22% feel the same fears and 22% did not answer. Only 0.4% of the residents of the five big cities say they feel more safe today compared to a year ago.

Ban Saudi Air

Daniel Pipes, Presidentially appointed to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, has a great idea:

Saudi Arabian Airlines (known as Saudia) declares on its English-language website that the kingdom bans "Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David." Until the Saudi government changes this detestable policy, its airline should be disallowed from flying into Western airports.

Michael Freund brought this regulation to international attention in a recent Jerusalem Post article, "Saudis might take Bibles from tourists," in which he points out that a section on the Saudia Web site, "Customs Regulations," lists the forbidden articles above under the rubric "Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam."
...
Further, as Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism points out, signs in Saudi airports warn Muslim travelers that the airport's mutawwa'in, or religious police, confiscate Korans, other Islamic literature, and Muslim objects of non-Saudi origin. While discriminating specifically against Shiites and Ahmadis, this policy manifests a wider insistence on Wahhabi supremacism. More broadly, the Saudi leadership runs a country that the American government has condemned repeatedly as having "no religious freedom" and being among the most religiously repressive in the world.

Saudia, the state-owned national carrier and its portal to the world, offers a pressure point for change. To take advantage of this vulnerability, Western governments should demand that unless the Saudi government at least permits "that stuff" in, Saudia faces exclusion from the 18 airports it presently services in Europe, North America, and Japan.
...
Such joint action also sends a long-overdue signal to the despots of Riyadh – that Westerners have thrown off their servile obeisance to their writ. Who will be first to act? Which national government or municipality will arise from the customary dhimmi posture and ban Saudia (slogan: "We aim to please you") from its runways, thereby compelling the kingdom to permit infidel religious items, monotheistic and polytheistic alike, into its territory? Where are you Athens, Frankfurt, Geneva, Houston, London, Madrid, M├ílaga, Manchester, Milan, Munich, New York, Nice, Osaka, Paris, Prague, Rome, Vienna, and Washington, D.C.?

If no government acts, what about a delegation of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others boarding a Saudia flight with much publicity, openly displaying their religious artifacts, daring the airline to confiscate these? Or which public service law firm in those eleven countries will bring local human rights suits against Saudia as an arm of the Saudi government?

This issue provides an opportunity for left and right to unite against radical Islam. Who will take the lead to confront Saudi discrimination, arrogance, and repression?
Indeed, who?

I mean, these slugs keep slaves. The Bandit Kingdom should be erased.

God Wills It!

Belgium Breaking Up?

Belgium's caught in a catch-22 Constitutional crisis, though it hasn't much been in the news. Will Flemish secession be the only solution?

It bodes ill for the seat and multicultural symbol of the EU!

After Belgium: Will Flanders and the Netherlands Reunite?

Belgium is rapidly unraveling. Following the June 10th Belgian general elections, won by Flemish-secessionist parties, the Belgian parties seem unable to form a government coalition.

Belgium is a multinational state, the model for the European Union’s efforts to turn Europe into a single multinational state. Belgium is made up of 60% Dutch-speaking, free-market oriented Flemings and 40% French-speaking, predominantly Socialist Walloons. The Belgian Constitution stipulates that the government should consist of 50% Flemings and 50% Walloons. Belgian governments always have to rely on a majority in both Flanders and Wallonia, since major decisions need the support of both parts of the country. In practice this means that 20% of the population (i.e. half of the Walloons) can veto every decision. This has made the Parti Socialiste (PS), the Walloon Socialist Party, the power broker in the country.

The refusal of the PS to reform the welfare state system has caused growing Flemish frustration, and turned what used to be a linguistic conflict into a dispute about economic and welfare policies. While Flanders pays most of Belgium’s taxes the bulk of the money flows to Wallonia. There a welfare-receiving electorate votes for parties which for over three decades have been blocking any attempts at reforming the collapsing welfare system.

Since the 1970s Flemish parties have radicalized, demanding larger autonomy over welfare issues. Apart from welfare reform the next Belgian government also has to reach an agreement over Brussels. The city, which is historically Dutch, is a bilingual enclave surrounded by the Halle-Vilvoorde district of the Flemish province of Brabant. At present Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV) is one large, single electoral constituency. Flanders wants to assume full autonomy over Halle and Vilvoorde, and demands that these two Flemish towns and the surrounding Flemish villages are split off from bilingual Brussels. This is also being vetoed by the Walloon parties, although four years ago the Constitutional Court of Belgium, with 50% French-speaking judges, ruled that the present situation is unconstitutional and that BHV should be split by July 2007.

The Belgian politicians are unable to solve the BHV problem, and any new elections are unconstitutional as long as the BHV constituency has not been divided into one bilingual constituency Brussels and one Flemish constituency Halle-Vilvoorde. Politically Belgium is now in a catch-22 situation: The Belgian parties are unable to form a government because they cannot agree about splitting up BHV and new elections cannot be held as long as BHV has not been split up.

Last week, Prof. Em. Robert Senelle, one of Belgium’s most prominent constitutionalists, a Flemish Socialist and formerly a teacher of the Belgian Crown Prince, advised the Flemings to annul the Belgian Constitution and solemnly declare Flemish sovereignty. Following this advice Filip Dewinter, the leader of the secessionist Vlaams Belang party, the largest party in the Flemish Regional Parliament, called upon the Flemish Parliament to convene and declare Flanders an independent country.
...
Apart from the media in Belgium and the neighbouring Netherlands, the international papers and broadcasters have hardly reported about the disintegration of the EU’s host country. On Tuesday a survey of the Dutch [Netherlandish] television network RTL4 showed that 77% of the inhabitants of the Netherlands are in favour of the Netherlands and Flanders merging into one country.

In Belgium, an internet poll of Flanders’ largest newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws, showed 50.9% in favour of reuniting Flanders and the Netherlands. The Flemish provinces were part of the Netherlands until 1831, when the international powers established the Kingdom of Belgium.
And what of the Walloons? Will they join France?

Road Trip!

The Kennedy boys are taking off bright and early Friday morning to drive to Seattle for PAX -- the 4th annual Penny Arcade Expo for everything having to do with video games. We went shopping tonight for approved guy road trip food; here's what we bought:

That should be enough to get the three of us there. My teenage sons wanted to go to the Expo because they're uber-gamers, but you might be wondering what why a boring old man would want to spend his 44th birthday surrounded by teenage nerdcore aficianados. The answer is -- I really have no idea what will be happening at this place. The only thing I know is that there apparently aren't going to be Booth Babes, which is disappointing. I'm hoping there might be some exhibits from the people who make submarine simulations, so I can possibly review those games. Other than that, I'm just going to enjoy spending time with my sons before they start heading off in a couple of years.

If I have Internet access, I'll try to file some reports. If not, I'll tell you what happened sometime next week.

Update 2330 26 Aug: Just got back; there weren't any submarine games there. I'll submit a trip report sometime later this week anyway.

Submarine Tidbits From Other English-Speaking Countries

Two pieces of news floating around the 'net about submarines from our neighbors to the north and east, one good and one bad. First the good -- a Canadian submarine, HMCS Corner Brook (SSK 878), recently participated in Operation Nanook 07, which was described as a "Canada Command sovereignty operation taking place in Iqaluit and the Baffin Island Coastal and the Hudson Strait areas". Here's a picture of the former HMS Ursula operating in the Arctic during the exercise:

It's good to see one of the old Upholder-class boats Canada got from the Brits actually going out to sea -- even if it is for a misguided attempt to assert sovereignty over an international strait.

For the bad news, it looks like HMS Astute (S 119) had some problems during their pre-commissioning engine room testing:
BARROW’S new £1.2bn submarine Astute has been damaged after a test went badly wrong.
Two turbo generators ran metal on metal for more than a minute when an oil pump failed.
BAE might now have to cut a hole in the 7,400 tonne sub to fix the problem with the difficult to access turbo generators, which supply all power for on board systems, at the back.
Bearings which encase wide shafts were damaged and an investigation is still taking place to see if the shafts were affected as well...
...A BAE statement on the incident said: “During turbo generator trials on the first-of-class Astute submarine on August 7 a lubrication pump failed to operate during testing.
“Once this failure had been identified (less than one minute) testing was immediately stopped, although both turbo generators sustained damage because oil had ceased to circulate.
For all the nukes out there who ever thought certain pre-underway checks were a waste of time, this provides a reminder on why it's so important that we verified the coastdown pump actually works before we started up the TGLO system.

For Once, I'm Speechless

I really don't know what to say about this video on the proper way to clean a submarine sh*tter by a guy who describes himself as a submariner from Guam. Bad word warning!



It's either the one of the greatest examples of absurdity on film I've ever seen (and believe me, I appreciate absurdity), or it's just really disgusting. I'll let you decide for yourself -- hopefully not when you're at work or somewhere where someone can hear if your speakers are turned up too loud.

USA Today Blog

Just discovered the USA Today "On Politics" blog linked to one of my postings on the Electoral College, concerning California's reform proposal.
According to AP, Maine and Nebraska are the only states that allocate electoral votes according to congressional districts.

It says that adopting Hiltachk's plan could give the GOP candidate a shot at 20 or so electoral votes from "GOP-leaning districts" -- or an Ohio-sized electoral cache.

In the latest edition of The New Yorker, liberal-leaning journalist Hendrik Hertzberg writes that "the bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes -- votes that it wouldn't get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union."
...
For an argument in favor of the initiative, see this post by Ten O'Clock Scholar, a neo-conservative who says the change would bring "power to the people!"
Fun!

USS Boise Deployment Videos

Someone (probably the Chop, based on the name of the "production" company) who served on USS Boise (SSN 764) earlier in the Naughties posted a video on YouTube with video clips and pictures from Boise's 2002 deployment. Here it is:



He also posted a video with pictures from the boat's 2003 deployment; it looks like he didn't have a video camera for that one. Anyway, they're both worth a look (especially if you're a Boise guy).

Naval Reactors: Still No Sense Of Humor

[Intel Source: The Sub Report] Lately, it seems like carrier Sailors have been turning out humorous "music videos" to improve morale and unit cohesion. So what happens when Sailors trying to do something to make their lives more enjoyable draw the attention of NR? Pretty much what you'd expect. From an article in today's San Diego Union-Tribune:
The Navy has pulled the plug on a YouTube video shot aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan because it shows sailors inappropriately using safety equipment, a Navy spokesman said.
The four-minute, 18-second music clip, titled “Women of CVN76: 'That Don't Impress Me Much,' ” was posted May 23 on the popular Web site for videos. It was viewed more than 31,000 times before its removal last week – reportedly at the urging of Adm. Kirkland Donald, the Navy's director of nuclear propulsion...
...The theme of the Reagan video, set to a tune by country singer Shania Twain, is that women serving aboard the Reagan can do the same jobs as men. Until 1994, the Pentagon barred women from serving on combat ships.
“The video was a lighthearted and positive depiction of the service of women officers and sailors aboard aircraft carriers and in Navy squadrons,” Brown said. “It showed the good humor and camaraderie of the ship's crew.”
But it also included fleeting shots of the door to the ship's nuclear power plant and of a sailor dancing while wearing a full-body radiation suit – items that might alarm the Navy's nuclear-propulsion officials, who are hypersensitive about the security. Under Pentagon rules, images of any part of a ship's nuclear plant cannot be shown to foreign nationals.
“The nuclear community is totally paranoid,” said Norman Polmar, an independent Navy analyst from Alexandria, Va. “They should be security conscious. But we're not the only people in the world with nuclear technology.”
Brown denied that anything in the video compromised operational security. What worried Navy officials, he said, was the “lack of propriety” in a few scenes involving the use of safety equipment.
Neither the Navy nor the ship's command sponsored the video, Brown said. But “Women of CVN76” spotlighted sailors from many departments of the carrier. Even the commanding officer, Capt. Terry Kraft, made a cameo appearance.
Brown said someone brought the video to the Navy's attention last week.
So how do you think NR would pass on their displeasure? Maybe a P4 message? Nope, they had to rub it in the CO's face as much as possible to show him who his boss really is.
Kraft was then summoned to the Pentagon for a meeting with Donald, a four-star flag officer who is near the top of the Navy's chain of command.
Betcha that makes sure that no carrier CO will ever appear in a video again. Wouldn't want to risk having something that might be viewed by potential recruits showing them that senior Navy officers have anything resembling a sense of humor.

Update 1049 18 Aug: I should point out that I'm still enough of a nuke to recognize that it was inappropriate for the Sailors to use safety or emergency equipment to have fun with; still, that could have been handled by having the command do training. Calling the CO in for a one-on-one with the Admiral (obviously not in the Pentagon, as the story says, but most likely at NR HQ) was the overkill I didn't like.

Hitchens and Atheism

Interesting essay on Christopher Hitchens and his new book on atheism.

Some snippets:
Hitchens seems to hold that believers think of the Creator as a simple-minded Geometer, a Rationalist Extraordinaire, a two-times-two-equals-four kind of god, a flawless Watchmaker, a bit of a Goody-goody, a cosmic Boy Scout. If that is so — Hitchens leaps for your throat — then evidence is overwhelming that this Creator botched things up, like a rank amateur. In short, evidence all around us shows there is no such god.
...
But suppose God is not like the Hitchens model. Suppose that God is not a Rationalist, a Logician, a straight-line Geometer-of-the-skies. Suppose that the Creator God deliberately made a world of probabilities and failures, of waste and profusion, of suffering and hardships and frustrations. Suppose that He loved the idea of an unformed history, slowly developing (almost like an organism), nearly everything good won the hard way. Suppose that He loved chance, crossing chains of probabilities, freakish accidents, wild and unnecessary profusion, contingencies of every sort — to keep even angels guessing. Suppose He desired a world of indetermination, with all its blooming, buzzing confusion, so that within it freedom could spread out its wings, experiment, and find its own way.
A Perfect World would have no freewill. And otherwise, what would an afterlife be for?

And,
In the moderating habits that Judaism and Christianity partly learned from pagan ethical systems, and considerably deepened with their own resources, Alfred North Whitehead saw the roots of the asceticism, self-denial, discipline, long years of study, dedication to honesty, and limpid transparency which are so necessary for sustained scientific work. Here he also found the conviction that everything in the universe, being the fruit of a single intelligence, is in principle understandable and to be worth all the arduous efforts to try to grasp it.
As a scientist I find that particularly compelling.

Here other scholars (Boorstin, Landes) have found the conviction that it is the human vocation, in the image of the Creator, to be creative, inventive, and to help complete the evolving work of creation.
That last bit puts one in the mind of the old argument over the purpose or need for "Good Works", a whole topic unto itself!

And,
For the atheist — for Hitchens — though, does the problem of goodness create an intellectual problem? If everything is by chance and merely relative, why is it natural for so many to be good — if not all the time, at least so often as to be quite striking? Put another way: Isn’t it unlikely that random chance alone has arranged the world so that many human qualities — the very ones that Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and Jews and Christians find good on other grounds — should also work better for the survival of the human race? It is at least mildly interesting that philosophy, revealed religion, and random natural selection lead to many of the same moral principles. Perhaps that explains why some atheists are so nobly good (the “secular saints” of Albert Camus), and why some insist on being credited (by believers) with being good. Some do seem to hate it when believers borrow that awful line from Dostoevsky: “If there is no God, everything is permitted.”

On the other hand, Judaism and Christianity do add insights and virtues that derive from other forms of intelligence than narrow reason. It was against common sense and practical reason for the Americans in 1776, without an army and without a navy, to make war on the greatest naval and military power in the world. But their Declaration did fit with the faith that the reason God created the world was to offer his friendship to every woman and every man; and as Thomas Jefferson put it, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” (Or in the words of William Penn: If God gave us friendship, then also freedom.) Our Founders concluded that even when they prayed to the same Providence as the British, those who fight for freedom are better in tune with God’s ultimate purposes than those who, though apparently stronger, fight to repress it.

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

If the Old Testament were written by sports commentators, here is one of my favorite chapters:

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
1 Kings 18:1-4

Classical Liberalism

Many who go under the label "liberal" these days is really a Socialist in disguise.

And many so-called conservatives are in fact true classical liberals!

It can be rather confusing.

Barely A Blog has some good definitions.
Classical liberals (this writer) are distinguished in that the only rights they recognize are the individual’s right to life, liberty and property, and the pursuit of happiness. The sole role of a legitimate government is to protect only those liberties. Why life, liberty, and property, and not housing, food, education, health care, child benefits, emotional well-being, enriching employment, ad infinitum? Because the former impose no obligations on other free individuals; the latter enslave some in the service of others.
A commenter adds a simple test:
You can always find false rights easily — just look for the gun it will take to force someone to grant that right. Any ‘positive’ right requires that someone threaten me with a gun to force me to do something for someone else, against my own interests.
Socialism is inherently coercive.

There has never been any shortage of people eager to purchase cheap virtue by controlling how others live.

Another adds,
the left has adopted for itself the term “liberal”, when its political correctness and socialised services agenda smacks of petty fascism. They call themselves “progressive”, when their philosophy evokes Rousseau’s “noble savage” and regressive “back to nature” idealism, and their position on just about any technological, industrial or commercial progress smacks of Luddite conservatism. And they call classical liberals “conservative”.
No wonder it's confusing!

Antiheroes

I never liked the Godfather movies, the Sopranos, or any gangster "entertainment" whatsoever.

Nor did I understand the appeal of the anti-hero in literature and film.

One Cosmos explains why better than I could:
Father Rose, who wrote his piece on nihilism in the late fifties, prior to the vast explosion in crime caused by lenient liberal social policies and a forgiving attitude toward evil, observed that “Crime in most previous ages had been a localized phenomenon and had apparent and comprehensible causes in the human passions of greed, lust, envy, jealousy, and the like; never has there been anything more than a faint prefiguration of the crime that has become typical of our own century, crime for which the only name is one the avant-garde today is fond of using in another Nihilist context: ‘absurd.’”

That is an excellent point, for the absurd sadism of so many contemporary crimes matches the absurdity of an art that celebrates ugliness or “authenticity” and an educational system that promulgates the lie that truth does not exist. When your elites spend several generations creating an absurd world, don’t be surprised if you end up with absurd people and meaningless crimes.

“When questioned, those apprehended for such crimes explain their behavior in the same way: it was an ‘impulse’ or an ‘urge’ that drove them, or it was a sadistic pleasure in committing the crime, or there was some totally irrelevant pretext, such as boredom, confusion, or resentment. In a word, they cannot explain their behavior at all, there is no readily comprehensible motive for it, and in consequence... there is no remorse.”
...
I won’t get into a whole dissertation here, but early film noir such as Double Indemnity depicts a man who is pulled down into circumstances beyond his control due either to bad luck or some identifiable human motive such as greed or lust.

But in late film noir, the entire world has become corrupt, both the criminals and law enforcement. In fact, every human institution has become corrupt. In such a world, the antihero or outlaw becomes the hero with whom we identify [I always rejected falling for such identification -- ed.]. The corruption extends even into the family, which becomes a breeding ground for psychopaths, as in White Heat (starring James Cagney) or The Godfather saga. In these films, evil merely fights evil, so we inevitably find ourselves identifying with evil. There is no “good.” There are only hypocrites.
...
But then, these subhuman philosophies become the justification to fall further into vital animality and animal vitality. Postmodern philosophies absurdly use the spirit to deny the spirit, leaving us with a wholly horizontal wasteland of matter and instinct. This intellectual operation is a complete success, even though the patient -- the human qua human -- does not survive it. A new kind of infrahuman is born, forgetful of his fall and “at ease in a world that presents itself as an end in itself, and which exempts man from the effort of transcending himself” -- which is to have shunned and bypassed our reason for being here.
Actually that's not quite true.

I DO sometimes enjoy watching the Godfather saga etc, just to root for them to all end up in prison or to cackle with glee when any of them get whacked.

We're Sure To Win The War Now!

Although ADM Mike Mullen will be taking over at Chairman of the Joint Chiefs this fall, that doesn't mean he's not still doing the important work expected of a CNO. Navy NewsStand describes his latest accomplishment:
Adm. Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, approved the first Navy physical fitness uniform for all Sailors E-1 through O-10 this week.
“The goal was to design a uniform for wear during command directed group and unit PT activities and that our Sailors will be proud to wear,” said Vice Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., Chief of Naval Personnel. “What CNO has delivered more than meets that goal.”
The uniform consists of a gold short sleeved shirt and Navy blue shorts. The shirt is moisture wicking and odor resistant polyester with Navy in reflective lettering on back with and front. [Ed. Note: WTF? "back with and front"????]
The nylon moisture wicking and odor resistant Navy blue shorts come in six and eight inch lengths, providing standard appearance among different height Sailors, it also has reflective piping and reflective Navy lettering. The shorts have side pockets with a hidden ID card pocket inside the waistband.
“We carefully evaluated the materials, styling and functionality in designing this uniform,” said Harvey. “We looked at the lessons learned from the other services and got feedback from our Sailors – young, mature, male, female, officer and enlisted – and arrived at this design.”
“This is a high quality, high performance product that I know our Sailors will be proud to wear, because we asked them,” Harvey added.
Upon delivery to the fleet, anticipated to be spring 2008, all command directed physical training and semi-annual physical fitness tests will be performed while wearing the PT uniform. However, the uniform does not have to be worn during individual exercise.
I'll bet you Al Qaeda doesn't have matching PT gear, and that's why we're kicking their asses! The Navy has always known that it's not how smart or technically-proficient you are at your job, but how good you look while you're doing PT that determines who should be retained as a Sailor.

Since I'm sure that these stunning new fashions will be showing up on the runways of Milan and New York pretty soon, I was hoping that they might be able to provide even more gear for the most gung-ho Sailors. I wasn't disappointed; the article continues:

“We have designated optional items including a long-sleeved shirt, compression shorts, head gear and running shoes which can be worn during these events,” said Carroll. A Navy wind suit is also in the works.
Navy-designed running shoes -- now there's something I'll want to wear everywhere!

My favorite part of this whole new initiative? That they have pants with two different lengths to provide "standard appearance among different height Sailors". So it's not for people to choose how long they like their shorts; it's so the bottoms of the shorts will all line up when the Sailors are in formation -- as long as their legs are all within two inches of the same length.

Whaddaya bet that no one who has the slightest possibility of ever going back to sea duty had anything to do with this project.

Bell-ringer 0754 18 Aug: Navy Times had a picture of the prototype of the new uniform last month:

Pictures Of Mystic

Navy NewsStand has quite a few new pictures up of the DSRV Mystic, including this one:

Some other new pictures are here, here, here, and here; the last three are from inside the DSRV. I've never been inside a DSRV, but I have been over to the unit's buildings on North Island. Mystic and her sister Avalon are both pretty old, so hopefully the Navy is planning for their replacements. Has anyone heard of anything that's coming down the NAVSEA pipe?

Maybe This Will Convince People That Some Idaho Christian Theocrats Don't Really Know Anything

The line between opinions and facts can sometimes be blurred, but there are some times when a statement is just an out-and-out lie. Such was the statement today from Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance, who, in discussing the story of a misguided Dutch bishop, said this:
Further, from a theological standpoint, Muslims and Christians do not in fact worship the same God. Islam insists, quite emphatically, that God does not have a son. In fact, mosques often proudly display banners which read, “Allah has no son.”
This is the kind of uneducated B.S. that makes it impossible to have real discussions with some people. Muslims will all say they worship the God of Abraham, as will all Jews and most Christians. I know I do, but since Bryan Fischer says he doesn't worship the same God as Muslims, I'm not sure who he actually worships. Muslims, or Jews, or Mormons, or anyone else certainly don't need Bryan Fischer's permission to worship the One God of the universe. If he doesn't want to worship the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob, the Great I Am, Jehovah of the Old Testament, that's his right; it's not his right to try to take that away from other people without being held up to public ridicule as someone who actually knows very little about history or other cultures.

Why is it important to acknowledge that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews? Because the people we're at war with right now are Muslims. (We're not at war with all Muslims, of course; some of them are our allies. But, all the people we are at war with are Muslims.) It's important for us to know our enemies -- and any effort to make the American people understand our enemies less is something I'll fight.

I expect Mr. Fischer to try to back away from this statement, and here's why: Fischer says the reason (and the only reason he gave) that he believes that Muslims don't worship the God of Abraham is because they say He doesn't have a Son. You know who else says that God doesn't have a Son? The Jews. Since Mr. Fischer and his ilk are always talking about a "Judeo-Christian heritage", he really can't be seen as trying to exclude Jews from his little group. For that reason, I expect him to change his website without mentioning it was changed (like he's done before); unfortunately for him, I've already taken a screenshot:

I look forward to seeing either of Mr. Fischer's regular defenders try to back him up on this one, especially with respect to his statement that those who don't recognize the Sonship of Jesus (including, by strong implication, the Jews) do not worship the God that we know and love.

Update 1625 16 August: Rabbi Daniel B. Fink of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise had this to say about Mr. Fischer's post:
I’d like to offer a few thoughts in response to Bryan Fischer’s suggestion that Muslims do not worship the same God as Christians.
First, neither Jehovah nor Yaweh was or is or ever will be one of God’s names. Both of those terms come from a misreading of an unvocalized Hebrew word (consonants YHVH). All we know is that that name comes from the Hebrew verb “to be.” Others suggest that it is the sound of breathing; i.e. God is the very air that we breathe.
Second, to my knowledge, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all assert that God has many names rather than just one. So if someone wants to call God by the name “Allah” so be it. One might also use “The Merciful One” or “Creator” or scores of other names, in scores of other languages. No one has a monopoly on names of God.
And most importantly of all, Judaism and Christianity and Islam are all monotheistic faiths. All of us believe that there is only one God, who is the source of all things, present in all things. It follows, necessarily, that all monotheistic faiths worship the same God—since there is only one. We may have different views about what that one God asks of us (and we may disagree within our own traditions, too). But we all worship and serve the same God.
In this time of conflict, we should be looking to build bridges rather than creating chasms. People of faith such as Bryan Fischer should know better.
Thanks to Rabbi Dan for providing this statement to TSSBP; he's a man who actually uses facts. I'll see who else I might be able to get to weigh in on this one.

Update 2232 16 Aug: I wrote Mr. Fischer and asked him to explain how he felt Jews might differ from Muslims when it came to worshipping the same God as Christians even though both don't believe God has a son. He responded; here's what he said, presented without comment:
The Jews believe the same Old Testament prophecies about a promised Messiah that Christians do. I’ve talked to a number of even secular Jews who are still looking for a promised Messiah, and their expectation is based on the same prophecies Christians believe were fulfilled in Jesus.
So the Jews believe in a coming Messiah who is called the “Son” of God in Old Testament prophecies. They just don’t think Jesus is him. The difference between Christians and Jews is not whether God has or can have a Son, but who that Son is.
Muslims, on the other hand, are quite adamant that Allah does not and cannot have a Son. In their view, it is impossible for the true God to have a Son. If you insist to them that the true God does have a Son, they will be compelled to say “Then you are not worshipping the true God.”
Perhaps you should ask a Muslim whether he thinks he worships the same God Christians do. If he says Yes, then ask him if he believes that God has a Son. He will say No. If he says Christians are simply mistaken on this, but still worship the same God, then you might want to ask him why Islam insists that the only choices Christians have are to convert to Islam, submit to Islamic authority, or be killed. If they are worshipping the same God, why isn’t the Muslim approach to Christians one of live and let live? Why don’t they say, “That’s terrific that we and you worship the same God. Build all the churches you want in our Muslim countries, because, the truth is, we all worship the same God, and we’d be absolutely delighted for you to have as many Christian worship centers as you want in our land.”
Joel, I think if you talk to Muslims you are likely to find they are more dogmatic on these matters than Christians, unless they have been softened by prolonged exposure to Christian culture and its emphasis on tolerance and freedom of conscience.
In other words, if it’s true that we all worship the same God, and Muslims know this, why don’t they just start attending Christian churches instead of building their own mosques?
Update 1115 17 Aug: I contacted a notable Muslim here in Boise, Dr. Said Ahmed-Zaid -- an Engineering Professor at BSU; here's how he explained the Muslim belief that they, contrary to Mr. Fischer's opinion, do in fact worship the God of Abraham:
Muslims believe in one god who is the Creator of the Universe(s). Muslims call this deity "Allah" in Arabic. At our Friday sermons, we use the words God and Allah interchangeably. I believe that Allah is the only word in the Arabic language that is genderless. In other words, Allah is neither a male nor a female god.
God remains a mystery to the Muslim mind and His complete nature cannot be encapsulated with words. Muslims also use 99 other names to call upon God such as the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Forgiver, etc. The Quran clearly refers to this deity as the God of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Arab Christians refer to God as Allah.
My next-door officemate at Boise State University is a Christian Copt from Egypt who calls God "Allah" in Arabic.
There is no theological issue as to the nature of God in Judaism and Islam. In Christianity, however, the nature of God is defined differently with the trinity concept.
To my knowledge, Unitarians, Jehovah witnesses, and Mormons have even different interpretations for the nature of God. Muslims are definitely unitarians in this respect. Allah (whom the Christians refer to as the Heavenly Father or Creator), Jesus (peace be upon him), and the Holy Spirit are three different and separate entities in Islam. All three are mentioned in the Quran. Many Muslims believe that Jesus prayed to God using the word "Father" as a term of endearment in much the same way any old man is called "father" in the Middle East.
In summary, Muslims believe that people of the Scripture (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) worship the same God, the God of Abraham. I am using Abraham as the Prophet of reference here because Moses and Jesus come from the lineage of Isaac whereas Muslims believe Muhammad comes from the lineage of Ishmael. It is the nature of God which is defined somewhat differently in Christianity than in Islam and Judaism.
So there you have it. Mr. Fischer says that he won't accept that Muslims believe in the same God as he does because of a difference in beliefs in one aspect of the total nature of God (specifically, can he have a Son). Jewish and Muslim leaders in Boise, on the other hand, are much more conciliatory, and base their belief that all three faiths worship the same God on history and facts.
I'm wondering if Mr. Fischer, deep down, has problems with some of us who believe ourselves to be Christians who may have a different view of the nature of God. Many evangelicals believe that Jesus and God are the same person; therefore, doesn't that also mean that these people believe that God doesn't have a Son (but rather came to Earth himself)? And what of the Mormon belief that God has an actual, physical, perfect body? Does Mr. Fischer believe that Mormons believe in the same God as he does? We'll see if he chooses to answer that question next.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

August 16, 1987 was the date of the start of the "Harmonic Convergence", a New Age theory based on a misreading of the Mayan calendar and the apparent consumption of several bottles of cough syrup. It was also the day when I met the first person I've ever loved unconditionally from the moment I saw her -- my wonderful daughter. I just wanted to thank her for coming into my life and filling my heart with joy.

Happy 20th Birthday, Sweetheart.

A Photo Suitable To Hang In A Destroyer's Wardroom

Valiant Shield 2007, a huge U.S. joint military exercise off of Guam, finished up this week. There are lots of good pictures from the exercise that you can find here; this one is my favorite to come out of the exercise so far:

I'm not sure which Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is getting pwned in this picture, but I know it was taken by USS Cheyenne (SSN 773); I'm sure the Cheyenne's CO (one of my old shipmates on the Topeka) will be making sure the destroyer CO gets a framed copy of the shot.

The recently completed exercise looks like it was quite a doozy. In addition to three aircraft carriers, there were seven Los Angeles-class submarines participating: USS Los Angeles (SSN 688), USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705), USS Houston (SSN 713), USS Chicago (SSN 721), USS Key West (SSN 722), USS Hampton (SSN 767), and USS Cheyenne (SSN 773). I'm sure the Chinese sat up and took notice.

Update 1751 16 Aug: TSSBP goes international!

Cookin' It Bachelor Style

With SubBasket and our daughter off on a fun trip to Salt Lake City, the Bubblehead house has a very masculine vibe going on this week. I got manly steaks to cook up for dinner tonight; this was before I found out that my oldest son had to go to work before my youngest got back from football practice. I didn't want either of them to miss out, though, so I figured I'd cook up the steak for the oldest before he left.

He likes his very rare (like I do), so we figured it'd be a waste of charcoal to cook it up on our grill. Since we're guys, we came up with an alternate solution -- the good old George Foreman:

Like I said, it was a manly steak. After the outside got all nice and brown, we checked out the inside, and found that it was still pretty much cold and uncooked. That's OK, because we had technology on our side!

About a minute and a half in the microwave made for a perfectly edible rare steak. Manly perseverance and mad cooking skillz come through again!

Motivational Video

For those of you having a hard time getting going on a Wednesday morning, here's a quick little "pick-me-up" -- manly scenes of submarining:



Some of the clips in there are from my old ship USS Topeka (SSN 754) when they were filming for "Sharks of Steel". Only two of my scenes escaped the cutting room floor on that documentary -- all because I'm not photogenic. Darn my homely face!

Good Causes

This blog has no tip jar and runs no ads, and never will, for it is better to give than to receive.

Here are some worthy causes I like to give to, and maybe you will too:

The Smile Train.

Repairs cleft palates and facial deformities of children in godforsaken countries. Claims 100% of your donations go to the surgeries, because overhead and expenses are covered by their initial grants.

The free cleft surgery your donation will help provide, is a true, modern-day medical miracle: it costs as little as $250 and takes as little as 45 minutes.
One of the cheapest ways to immeasurably improve a life!

Then there's:

Sylvia's Haven.

A one-woman show, Sylvia Anthony has had a calling to provide shelter to battered and homeless women and their children in Massachusetts for 20 years.
Sylvia's Haven is a nonprofit housing facility that provides sanctuary, job training, and emotional and financial support for homeless women and their children... Women may remain for up to two years. At the end of this time, or sooner, a woman who is successfully employed and has an apartment or home may leave Sylvia's Haven, along with the furniture in her home, to begin an independent life.
And ways to support the troops in a more concrete form:

Soldier's Angels
Soldiers' Angels is an all volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Patti Patton-Bader, mother of Sgt. Brandon Varn, who recently returned home from a years deployment to Iraq...To date our volunteers have sent tens of thousands of care packages and hundreds of thousands of letters to our deployed heroes; we have helped those who have been wounded with our First Response Packs directly at the Combat and Support Hospitals (CASH) and at the major hospital in Germany, as well as providing care and comfort to those who are now in our military hospitals here at home; we have provided aid to military families in need; we have provided flights to soldiers on leave or in emergency situations and to their families to be with their loved ones upon return from Iraq and Afghanistan; we have provided level III KEVLAR Armor blankets to provide our heroes with some protection in their vehicles when it was needed; we help to honor the families whose loved ones have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and safety.

Quick Notes

1) The FY08 Chief results came out last week; as usual, there are a lot of great submariners on the list. Congratulations to all those selected! (And, as usual, for those not selected -- next year will be your year!) For those E-mailing for the words to the Submarine Song, I'll try to get those out to you as soon as I can.

2) If you want to have some fun today, lurk around Daily Kos or Democratic Underground and watch their heads spin as they come up with conspiracy theories to explain Karl Rove's upcoming resignation.

3) Those silly Russians! Seriously, those of us with recent active duty experience know what happened the last few times the Russian Navy tried to move back up to the varsity level -- (we won't talk about it here, of course). If the Russian Air Force wants to do the same thing, it'll just provide some great training opportunities for our guys -- so they should bring it on. Hopefully the Russian planes won't fall out of the sky during their long overwater flights. (That's not an intimation that they'll be shot down; it's a hope that they won't suffer a mechanical breakdown.)

Bill Sali Embarrasses Idaho Again

Fresh off his opening act of proposing to repeal the law of gravity while simultaneously dissing geologists, my Congressman, Bill Sali, once again is on his way to making the national news in a negative way. Congressman Sali made an appearance on a Christian radio show last week where he made some comments that reasonable people could infer were against any non-Christian expressions of religion in Congress:
Last month, the U.S. Senate was opened for the first time ever with a Hindu prayer. Although the event generated little outrage on Capitol Hill, Representative Bill Sali (R-Idaho) is one member of Congress who believes the prayer should have never been allowed.
"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers," asserts Sali.
Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through "the protective hand of God."
"You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike," says the Idaho Republican.
According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, "that's a different god" and that it "creates problems for the longevity of this country."
The MountainGoat Report has links to some reactions to Rep. Sali's comments, and there's an article on the front page of today's Idaho Statesman that features some quick backtracking from the Congressman and his staff:
The election of a Muslim congressman by Minnesota voters was not "envisioned by the Founding Fathers," Idaho Congressman Bill Sali said this week.
But that doesn't mean Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison doesn't have every right to serve in Washington, D.C., Sali said.
He told the Statesman Friday that his comments quoted on a conservative Web site should not have given the impression that Ellison did not belong in Congress.
"He got elected the same way I did," Sali said. "People certainly have the right to elect anyone they want."...
...Sali said he has met fellow freshman Ellison and that he planned to call him to clarify what he was trying to say.
"I think that Keith deserves a call from me — not necessarily because of what's in my heart or in my mind, but because of how it's been portrayed," Sali said.
To be honest, and unfortunately, I really don't think there are a huge number of people who originally voted for Congressman Sali who would be that concerned about their representative not liking Muslims and Hindus that much. However, there is one fairly significant voting group here in the 1st District who, I believe, would be concerned if they considered some of the other religious groups that Congressman Sali's ideological allies might like to exclude from politics -- the Mormons. Members of the LDS Church have what I believe is a well-deserved repution for voting for Republican candidates by about a 2:1 margin or better. I don't know how many Mormons are in this district, but Idaho overall is about 20% LDS, so even if we only make up 15% of this district, the 5% plurality that those LDS voters would have given Mr. Sali in the last election (again, this is based on no real data) could have accounted for his margin of victory in 2006. Idaho Democratic Party chairman and former Congressman Richard Stallings made the point yesterday that Mormons should be concerned that those who hold the views expressed by Congressman Sali in the interview may target LDS Church members next.

As Alan at IdaBlue points out, I've been asking the Sali camp for some time what Mr. Sali's views are on the question of whether or not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are, in his opinion, Christians. This is a valid question, because the national leader of Mr. Sali's church, Chuck Smith, has statements on his web site indicating that he doesn't believe that Mormons are Christians; it would be fair to assume that this could be a teaching of Mr. Sali's church. Congressman Sali is, of course, free to believe that Mormons aren't Christians; however, since he says that his policy discussions with people of other faiths would start with core principles, but religion could play a role, I think that the voters in his district should know what his stand is on the "are Mormons Christians" question.

Yesterday, the Idaho Values Alliance came out with a statement in support of Congressman Sali (no surprise there) and at the end it included a plea for people to call Mr. Sali's local office to let them know how you felt. I took them up on that offer, and talked to a very nice, very professional young lady manning the phones at Sali HQ. I asked if the Congressman's press liaison, Wayne Hoffman, could give me a call to give me a statement on Mr. Sali's views on Mormons. To my great surprise, Mr. Hoffman phoned a few hours later, and I enjoyed a nice conversation and subsequent E-mail exchange with him. He seems like a good man for the very difficult job of being Rep. Sali's PR man, and the Congressman is lucky to have him on his staff. Here's the statement Mr. Hoffman provided me:
"Based on my knowledge of the Congressman, he has a lot of good friends who are LDS, and believes they worship the same God as he does. I don't know if Congressman Sali is versed enough in Mormon beliefs (to) comment further, except to say that he does have great respect and friendship with many of those practitioners of the Mormon faith.”
A very politic answer; I was impressed. I recognize that this question is one that Congressman Sali can't answer -- if he says he does believe Mormons are Christian, he makes his evangelical base mad, whereas he makes Mormon voters upset if he denies their Christianity. Still, it's hard to believe that someone who has lived in this part of Idaho for so many years could be so intellectually incurious that he wouldn't have actually reached his own conclusion on this question by this time. So, the question remains unanswered. If anyone happens to find themselves in a situation where Congressman Sali is actually answering questions from a non-screened audience (I know this isn't likely to happen), you should ask him the question directly and see how he responds -- it should be quite humorous. If he says he still doesn't know enough about Mormon beliefs, tell him that the Church would be happy to send a couple of nice young men or women around to talk to him about it.

(On a related note, I wrote back to Mr. Hoffman and asked him if he'd like to amend the statement to include an admission from the Congressman that he recognizes that Rep. Ellison also worships the same God as Rep. Sali; Mr. Hoffman declined to go that far, but in a nice way.)

Update 1557 11 Aug: Congressman Sali tried to explain himself to the editorial board of the Idaho Press-Tribune, but ended up just showing more clearly why some may question his knowledge of the U.S. and its traditions:
Friday, Sali said multiculturalism is in conflict with the national motto “E Pluribus Unum,” or “out of many, one.” He said multiculturalism would mean “out of the many, the many.”
“The question is, is multiculturalism good or not?” Sali said. “I don’t think the Founding Fathers were multicultural. Multiculturalism is the antithesis of (the motto).”
Congressman Sali must really want to move us back to the 1950s -- "E Pluribus Unum" hasn't ever officially been the national motto; we first got one in 1956: "In God We Trust". Why is Rep. Sali not wanting to acknowledge that God figures prominently in the national motto? And why does he seem to want to replace it with some phrase that isn't even in English? Latin comes from Italy -- is he trying to replace American culture with that of his family's native land? Voters should be given the answers to these questions!

Later, Congressman Sali tries to explain why Christianity is better than Hinduism and atheism:
In response to his concerns about the Hindu prayer offered in the Senate in July, Sali said it is Christianity that drives many good causes in the United States. “Christian principles work, and they show up in a lot of different areas,” Sali said. “Most of the hospitals in this country have Christian names. If you think Hindu prayer is great, where are the Hindu hospitals in this country? Go down the list. Where are the atheist hospitals in this country? They’re not equal.”
Mr. Sali has an interesting point; however, I'm not sure it's exactly applicable. Cuba has lots of athiest hospitals, and not very many Christian ones. Does that mean that the Congressman believes atheism is better for Cuba than Christianity? Also, I'd hazard to guess that most of the Christian hospitals in this country have Catholic names. Does this mean that Rep. Sali believes that Catholicism is the best form of Christianity?

While I personally believe that Christianity is "better" than Hinduism or atheism, I'm just a lowly submarine blogger, and not a Congressman who is supposed to represent the interests of all his constituents. Rep. Sali just seems to be digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole every time he opens his mouth -- I'm just going to sit back, pull out some roasting marshmallows, and enjoy the show (and maybe throw a little more fuel on the fire while I'm at it).

Update 1935 11 Aug: Adam points out that those of us attacking (or making fun of) Congressman Sali never have anything good to say about him or bad to say about the Democrats running Congress. I haven't said bad things about Congress because, although the Democrats in Congress frequently say dumb things, so far they've passed the bills that need to be passed (the FISA bill, the emergency wartime supplemental, funding for two submarines per year, etc.) -- as I predicted they would last year. However, I'm not so sure that moderate Democrat Larry Grant wouldn't have also voted for those bills. As far as Congressman Sali goes, I'm of course happy that he voted for the wartime supplemental and FISA bill, and I like a lot of what he's been saying about reforming Congress -- I think he's just too much of a polarizing person to actually get it accomplished. One specific thing that impressed me was that he actually got an amendment that he sponsored to an actual bill passed. I honestly didn't think he had it in him, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Update 0521 19 Aug: The first set of Letters to the Editor on this issue came out in today's Idaho Statesman. They were 10-3 against Congressman Sali.

James E. Faust (1920-2007) -- A Christian Man Of God


The LDS Church announced that Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, James E. Faust, passed away today:
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died at his home early this morning surrounded by his family.
President Faust, 87, had served in the First Presidency since 1995 and as a General Authority of the Church for 35 years. A Church statement today said that President Faust had died of “causes incident to age.”
President Faust was appointed second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 12 March 1995. The First Presidency is the highest presiding body in the government of the Church...
...He served as a member of the Utah Legislature from 1949 to 1951, as an advisor to the American Bar Journal, and president of the Utah Bar Association in 1962-1963. He received the Distinguished Lawyer Emeritus Award from the Utah Bar Association in 1995. In August of 1997, he received an Honorary Doctors Degree of Christian Service from Brigham Young University. He was honored as a Distinguished Alumni at the University of Utah in 1999, and was awarded the Honorary Order of the Coif at Brigham Young University in 2000. In 2003, he was given the Marion G. Romney Distinguished Service Award by Brigham Young University Law School, and he was awarded an Honorary Doctors of Law degree by the University of Utah. President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in 1962.
In 1998 President Faust received a Brazilian national citizenship award — an honor given to only a select few world leaders — and was awarded honorary citizenship of the city of Sao Paulo.
Married to the former Ruth Wright of Salt Lake City, they are the parents of five children: James H. Faust, Janna R. Coombs, Marcus G. Faust, Lisa A. Smith, and Robert P. Faust. They have 25 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.
He lived a full life, and will be sorely missed by those who love him -- even those of us who never had a chance to meet him, but only heard and read his words. While this is a day of sadness for followers of the LDS Church, it's also a day for joy in our knowledge that President Faust is continuing on in accordance with Heavenly Father's eternal plan.

Whenever someone passes away, I'm always comforted by the last lines of the great LDS funeral hymn "If You Could Hie To Kolob":

There is no end to glory; There is no end to love;
There is no end to being; There is no death above.

Shore Story Urban Legends

The Navy, like every other organization, has its own collection of "urban legends" that get passed around. One of my favorites came from Nuke School.

For those unfamiliar with the culture of Nuke School, it's a place where it's easy to screw up. Not only are there academic pressures, it's very easy to get busted at Captain's Mast. When Nukes graduate from their "A" School, they automatically get advanced to PO3 -- this is much earlier than most people in the miltary make it to E-4. Back when I was going through the pipeline before Nuke Field "A" School, nuke MMs could be an MM3 within 6 weeks of leaving boot camp. Because of this, most Sailors felt that the enlisted Nukes hadn't really "earned" their crow. (Those Sailors, of course, were right.) Since it was relatively easy for the Nukes to make E-4, the COs at the school seemed to be of the opinion that it should be easy for them to lose it as well. As a result, everyone who went to NJP at Nuke School could expect to be demoted to E-3 as a minimum.

The urban legend I heard going through the school was about one such Captain's Mast where the smartass Nuke knew he was going to lose his crow, so he decided to make it memorable. He took his rating badge off his uniform, sewed his E-3 insignia on, then put his crow back on loosely connected at the five corners. When the bored CO, looking down at the charge sheet, announced that he was reducing him in rate, the Sailor dramatically ripped off his crow. The CO looked up and, without missing a beat, continued, "And since I see an E-3 standing before me, I'm reducing you to E-2".

As with a lot of urban legends, even if it's not true, it should be. What are some of your favorite Navy urban legends?

Carrier Sailors Have Lots Of Free Time

Remember the classic USS Enterprise version of "Numa Numa"? Over at her re-designed blog, ninme found an even better video -- the Sun Kings of VAW-116 doing "Hey Ya":



It's from last year, but if you haven't seen it, it's well worth the time. (Especially if you, like me, think that "Hey Ya" is one of the two best songs so far of the Naughties -- the other being U2's "Beautiful Day".) The Sun Kings had a busy deployment that year; they also did a video for "Pump It".

756!

I loved this picture of USS Scranton (SSN 756) during a recent port visit to Souda Bay, Crete:

Other pictures from that port call can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

What, with a post title like that, did you think I was going to be blogging about something else?

What Makes Idaho Famous?

When people think of Idaho, they often think of our Famous Potatoes. Others might think of all the famous actors who live in Sun Valley. I found a web site that combines both -- Idaho's most famous food with our most famous celebrity -- Dawn Wells!

As all true guys know, Mary Ann was much, much hotter than Ginger on Gilligan's Island, and Dawn has certainly aged well. As Idaho's most involved resident celebrity, Dawn helped draw interest into the 1st iTuber Video Contest; the best videos are linked from here, and you can see all the videos that entered here. So sit back, relax, and watch a bunch of 2 minute, not-at-all-completely-cheesy (not!) homemade videos extolling the glory of the humble potato.

Now This Is Weird...

From ABC News, about a "submarine-like" vessel found in the East River just off Brooklyn, near the Queen Mary 2, this morning:
Authorities are questioning three men after pulling them from a submersible vessel in the East River in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to reports from ABC affiliate WABC.
The men were captured near the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in downtown Brooklyn, near the massive cruise ship the Queen Mary 2, just after 11 a.m.
The intent of the three men being held by police remains unclear, but the initial indication is that it did not appear to be terror-related. They have not been identified by police and no charges have been filed.
The orblike vessel, with a circular hatch on the top for entering and exiting, remains moored in the East River in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. It was equipped with oxygen tanks, WABC reported.
Here's a picture of the vessel:

Normally, I'm not much of an alarmist, but this one doesn't smell kosher. I really can't think of any non-nefarious reasons someone would want to sail a vessel like that around New York, and drug-smuggling doesn't really make sense; you could just drive your load around the city. If they didn't find anything, maybe this was a dry run? I don't like to ethnically profile anyone, but if it turns out the "Sailors" have Middle Eastern names, I'm gonna say this could be the tip of something much bigger.

On the other hand, it could just be a bunch of guys doing guy things in a guy-like way.

Bell-ringer 1152 03 Aug: A commenter mentions that it kind of looks like a replica of the Turtle. There was one built a few years back; the web page describing it is here. It says it was last on the East Coast. Might someone have been doing something for a movie and there was a miscommunication with the police at the pier?

An updated story from the local ABC affiliate in NYC says that "no threatening devices or materials were found on board the vessel." So, if it was terroism-related, it looks like it was a dry run.

Update 1211 03 Aug: Here's another picture of the submersible:

The first Reuters report on the incident makes it look less likely to be terrorism related; it appears that there was one guy inside the submarine, and two others were towing it in an inflatable boat:

A police statement said there were two men on the inflatable boat and a third inside "a partially submerged vessel that appeared to be designed for underwater navigation."
"All three males are expected to be charged with a number of violations and both vessels will be secured by the Harbor Unit," it said.
The submersible had a small round hatch on top and appeared to be a replica of the Turtle, an early submarine used in the U.S. Revolutionary War.
So, it looks like it's moving from a "terrorist dry run" angle to a "what the hell were those guys thinking" kind of story.

Update 1302 03 Aug: Never mind. It did turn out to just be guys doing guy things:

In the end, it turned out to be just a couple of guys fooling around with a historic replica - no link to terrorism whatsoever.
"File it under weird," Balboni said. "They appear to have put the sub in the water at Red Hook to see if it would float, and it got carried within the secured area by the current."
The Coast Guard responded to a report of a "semi-submersible device" in the water near the luxury liner off Pier 41 late Friday morning, said Petty Officer Seth Johnson.
The pedal-powered "turtle", a replica of a historic submersible vessel, was being towed by people in an inflatable rowboat.
Its owner was Philip Riley, of Brooklyn, the Coast Guard said.
The three men were issued two violations, one for trespassing on the safety zone around the Queen Mary 2, and the other for unsafe sailing because the submersible didn't have a system in place for avoiding collisions, the Coast Guard said.
The submersible was carried by strong currents to within 25 yards of the ship.
"If it had been at night, you could have imputed intent," Balboni said, "but they put this thing in the water in daylight in one of the most closely watched areas of the port." Homeland Security Department spokesman Laura Keehner confirmed "there was no nexus to terrorism."
Here's another picture that makes it look a lot more like the Turtle:

Well, it enlivened an otherwise not-very-exciting day in submarine news.

Update 2142 03 Aug: It turns out that rather than just regular guys being guys, it was a "waterborne performance artist" who intentionally wanted to get close to the Queen Mary 2.
The man, Duke Riley, a heavily tattooed Brooklyn artist whose waterborne performance projects around New York have frequently landed him in trouble with the authorities, spent the last five months building the vessel as a rough replica of what is believed to have been America’s first submarine, an oak sphere called the Turtle, said to have seen action in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War.
Mr. Riley’s plan was also military, in a sense — though mostly metaphorical, given that he is an artist. He wanted to float north in the Buttermilk Channel to stage an incursion against the Queen Mary 2, which had just docked in Red Hook, the mission objective mostly just to get close enough to the ship to videotape himself against its immensity for a coming gallery show...
...In an interview at Pier 41 on Thursday afternoon, after Mr. Riley called a reporter to alert him to the planned excursion, the artist said he first became interested in building the submarine after reading about the Turtle in history books. (By some accounts, the original submarine’s attempt to attach an explosive to the bottom of a British warship failed, but the device detonated near the ship and caused the British to move their vessels. Other accounts say the sub never even launched.)
Mr. Riley built his eight-foot-tall submersible not from oak but from cheap plywood, coated with fiberglass and topped off with portholes and a hatch bought from a marine salvage company. Pumps in the bottom allowed him to add water for ballast or remove it.
Fiberglass coating of a plywood boat is supposed to be pretty tricky, so the guy's really, really lucky he didn't drown. No "honorary submariner" designation for you, jackass!

Update 1028 04 Aug: Here's an article about the "artist" and his background, which includes a link to his website. The NYC art community is full of all sorts of interesting characters. (Note that I don't think they're all completely strange -- I have a cousin who's a working artist in the City.)