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    Friday, February 29, 2008

    USS New York to be Christened Saturday

    The USS New York (LPD-21), the Navy's newest San Antonio class LPD, will be christened tomorrow in Norfolk. The ship, in honor of our 9/11 dead, includes 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center site. Read more here. Nothing after the jump

    New Chinese SSBN Spied!

    Here's a nice picture of the Chinese Type 094 SSBN. I'd hate to try to keep this thing at PD with that giant sucking deck just inches below the sail.

    Apparently, there are some other hi-res images that the Asian press has grabbed hold of. From UPI Asia:

    HONG KONG, China, Some high-resolution images of China's Type 094 SSBN have shed new light on this mysterious strategic missile nuclear-powered submarine of the People's Liberation Army Navy. Satellite photos released by Google Earth reveal two of these new submarines at the Huludao Shipyard in northeast China. Read the rest of the article.

    Angelina Jolie will never work in Hollywood Again

    From an unlikely source, a case for staying in Iraq is made, and a call to all Presidential candidates is put out. Welcome aboard, Angelina. N/T

    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    DVR Blogging the Idol Results Show

    My daughter had softball practice tonight, so we're watching Idol via DVR (as usual). The opening medley of '70's hits was uneven at best. I don't know what's up with the producers on these, but the last 2 shows, they have been awful, as our favorite Brit would say.

    After we review the guys, here's the meat of the matter. Remember that dialidol.com has Luke and Danny in last, with little separation from 2nd to 10th. Only David Archuleta is safe.

    Ryan goes into the back row, and immediately sits down Chikezie and Michael Johns. Jason Castro is now safe, leaving Jason Yaeger and Danny Noriega...Jason Yaeger is gone and Danny is safe. I'm not surprised. Jason was 9th on my list, so this is not a surprise. Of course, Danny was 10th, but mostly because I don't like him. I can see he has a following, though.

    Jason sings us out, and he's actually better than Tuesday, IMHO. I still think there is something screwy going on in the theater tonight.

    Now, for the girls. In review, it's just as painful the second time. Back row again...Kristy, Amanda, Alexandrea, Brooke, Asia'h. It won't be Kristy as Ryan sits her down. Asia'h is safe. Brooke is safe. Alexandrea is going home, leaving Amanda for another week. Reandy is right, she needs to work hard every time. She was a LOT better tonight than last night. Had she given this performance last night, she might still be here.

    Bottom row girls, includes all the good ones, except Kady, so who will it be? Not Carly, not Ramiele, not Syesha, so it's either Alaina or Kady. Alaina is gone, surprising everyone in America, not least of all Kady, who was certain it was her. She doesn't want to sing, but Ryan and Paula convince her otherwise. She pulls it together and sings pretty good.

    After the break, Ryan tells us they're going to pimp the set and Ruben is going to record a special exit song, and, of course, Idol will give back again. Need I also point out that no less an authority than Bob Geldof also thinks George Bush has done more to help Africa than anyone else.

    Now, we have to give another guy the boot. Doesn't really matter since David Archuleta is going to be wiping his butt with them all anyway. So, after Seacrest name drops for the Idol Gives Back event. The last guy is either Luke or Robbie. I am NOT surprised by this. Luke was last on dialidol after the West coast, and the guy that goews home is Robbie. Since he's wearing a wig, he has to go anyway.

    So, dialidol was way off on the guys (these two were 2 & 3 there), closer on the girls, Alaina was last there, Alexandrea was 6th.

    I had the guys 7/8 and the girls were mid-pack for me. But, no surprises, honestly.

    Brazil and Argentina Cooperating on Something Nuclear

    Argentina and Brazil are building a nuclear submarine together...or are they? Brazil says no, it's just for power.

    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    Kitty Hawk to India Saga Continues

    As Defense Sec'y Gates travels to India, the Indians are writing about his offer to give the Kitty Hawk to the Indians. And here is the rest of it.

    Video of USS Ohio in Busan

    I actually can't believe the Ohio is only now making it's first port visit, to Busan, South Korea. Enjoy the short Navy video, here, and an article in Stars and Stripes. I was actually surprised that the Ohio has never visited a foreign port, having been to Venezuela (pre-Chavez) and Barbados on the Floating Palace. And here is the rest of it.

    USS New Mexico makes splash in home state.

    Gotta love local news. New Mexico gets it's second named ship.

    And here is the rest of it.

    American Idol: Live Blogging the top 10 Girls

    Updated at midnight eastern!

    Semi Live blogging the girls (well, on DVR). You'll have to go past the jump. Okay, Carly and Asiah get the bookend spots. Anyway, here goes:

    1. Carly Smithson - Crazy on You - Carly's best performance that I have seen. What's with the eyes looking up all the time and she insists on doing that crap with the microphone again. Odd. She can sing, but....she's still had her chance and will never get my vote. Plus, the tattoos are very off-putting.
    2. Syesha Mercado - Me and Mr. Jones - Weird choice. And, she didn't pull it off. Simon uses his self-indulgent line. Randy is underwhelmed. Syesha, who was so strong last time, was pretty weak tonight.
    3. Brooke White - You're So Vain - Since everyone says she's got a Carly Simon vibe, I guess she would have to take advantage of 70's week to do this song. Okay, everyone thinks she's Carly Simon 2, but, I don't think she really pulled it off. I like her, the makeup covers up her facial imperfections in HD, but, I fear she might not make the final 12. However, she's blonde and cute, and Simon likes her. She gets a ton of air time after the song.
    4. Ramiele Malubay - Don't Leave Me This Way - last week's hottest brings her big voice to this disco classic. I don't know, I like her and she sang the song fine. I agree with Randy, Paula and Simon - it was just boring.
    5. Kristy Lee Cook - You're No Good - This is another boring song from the '70's. Not much of an opportunity for her to show off what she may be capable of. I didn't like it. I think she's in trouble. Randy and Paula and Simon thinks it's a huge improvement. I just don't know.
    6. Amanda Overmyer - Carry on My Wayward Son - She's butchering one of my favorite songs of all time. Out of tune, she looks incredibly strange, and the time spent dancing is a waste of our time. Randy, who knows something about '70s music, expresses my sentiments exactly. If Paula has to say "you can dance" that means she doesn't have anything good to say about the singing. Amazingly tonight, the judges are agreeing.
    7. Alaina Whitaker - Hopelessly Devoted to You - Last week's surprise takes on this Olivia Newton-John standard. I think the song suits her, she overpowers a couple of notes and goes into screech mode, but all in all, it's a good choice that let's her show off some. Randy likes it less than me. Paula comes closer to my sentiment. Simon likes Alaina, but, he thinks she's being too old fashioned, too pageantry. He's right.
    8. Alexandrea Lushington - If You Leave Me Now - I think she's in a precarious position in this competition. Last week she surprised, but I feel she's struggling at times to keep her head above water. This performance was not that good, plus she's dressed like a man. Why? I think Simon's got her nailed tonight.
    9. Kady Malloy - Magic Man - I liked her, but she is really killing us all. My daughter asked me to fast forward through it she was so bad. The judges agree. If Kady doesn't lose the scowl, she's going to alienate what's left of her fans...
    10. Asia'h Epperson - All By Myself - Given the pimp last spot, she's out of tune, badly. It seemed she forgot the lyrics at one point. She did hit most of the high spots, but, it was not well done. Randy obviously wants to keep her in the competition. Fortunately, Simon brings us back to reality. She wasn't good enough to get this song done, and the song was bigger than her.

    I am having a hard time identifying a top three, but, forced to do so:

    1. Carly Smithson
    2. Brooke White
    3. Ramiele Malubay

    The bottom 3:

    1. Amanda Overmyer
    2. Kady Malloy
    3. Syesha Mercado

    Well, the voting is up to America now. We shall see tomorrow

    Update: 1151 PM ET

    Dialidol has the east coast numbers, and it doesn't look good for Syesha or Kady, although they have Amanda in 3rd. She must have the rocker following this year. Brooke White leads Carly barely, and Asia'h is 4th. However, no girl has enough votes to be safe, so far. The biggest surprise the other direction is Ramiele is 4th from the bottom. However, the dialidol last three are solidly in the last 3 spots. Swap Alaina for Amanda, and my predictions are tracking.

    AI7 Guys Week 2, The Davids Have It

    The final 10 AI guys sang Tuesday nite, and, the Davids David Hernandez, David Cook, and David Archuleta were all outstanding, with David Archuleta clearly the class of this field.  Paula was crying when he sang, and Simon rightfully declared the other 19 contestants very miserable, as they now should be.

    Chikezie came back with a strong performance, Luke Menard redeemed himself (to me, apparently not to America, since hes last on dialidol), and deserves to move on, but early fave Michael Johns mailed it in, and the rest, quite honestly, stunk.  Dialidol.com has David A way ahead, but, has Jason Yaeger and Robbie Carrico in 2nd and 3rd, who I thought were really in trouble (well, its within the margin of error on dialidol, so theyre still in trouble).  Nice to see Rodney Ho, over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, agrees with me today.

    In order, I saw them last nite as:

    1.      David A (Imagine) way ahead

    2.      David H (Papa Was a Rolling Stone) gets second

    3.      David C (All Right Now) good rock vibe

    4.       Chikezie (I Believe to My Soul) much better and soulful

    5.      Luke Menard (Killer Queen) I thought it was very well done, and, unlike Simon, Id like to forget Freddy Mercury

    6.      Michael Johns (Go Your Own Way) like I said, mailed it in.

    7.      Robbie Carrasco (Hot Blooded) The next four could go any way not great

    8.      Jason Castro (I Just Want to be Your Everything) boring, and the vocals were not good, and, the dreds are wearing thin, he had a deer-in-the-headlights look, and why did Ryan rush him off the stage so quickly.  Was the only contestant NOT to speak with the judges.

    9.      Jason Yeager (Long Train Runnin) boring song, poorly done.  Why dialidol has him #2, I dont know.  Wouldnt be surprised to see him go, though.

    10.     Danny Noriega (Superstar) I hated it, but I hate his whole persona.  Dialidol has him next to last, so, you never know.

    I think one problem we have with dialidol is, when there is such a clear cut division between the top and bottom, its hard for it to really make any distinctions at the bottom. This week, with Archuletas running away with the numbers, anyone could be in 2-10.

    Well find out Thursday.

    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Kitty Hawk to India

    From The Weekly Standard, via redstate, comes this report that we may just be offering the Indians the USS Kitty Hawk, instead of scrapping it. The Russians were supposed to be delivering their old carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, to the Indians, but that has been beset by delays, and now, apparently a dispute over the price. In exchange for the Indians filling the flight deck with aircraft purchased from us, we may give them the Kitty Hawk. (Nothing after the jump)

    Tell Berkeley Where to Put It

    Cookie points us to a video from Moving America Forward, a group fighting the idiots over in Berkeley who wanted to tell Marine recruiters to scram. Anyway, while the council there has backed down recently, I still think MAF's petition drive is worthwhile. Go see for yourself. And here is the rest of it.

    100 Years of Submarines, refound

    Messing around with del.icio.us tonight and trying to find more submarine bloggers we may have missed, I stumbled on the web site that accompanied the Smithsonian's celebration of 100 years of submarines back in 2000. The exhibit was called "Fast Attacks and Boomers: Submarines in the Cold War." Although the exhibit is no longer up, the web site lives on. For the nostalgic, it's not too bad, and a good place to point your friends who might have no appreciation for what you Cold Warriors lived through. For fun, I will add the link to my list of favorite sites, so you can always get back to it. Nothing here!.

    How Well Do You Sleep Tonight

    Outdoors Pro links to a great short film that should be required for all Americans, as a reminder of what we're up against.

    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    Indonesian and US Navies to paricipate in joint exercises

    The exercise we used to know as CARAT has a new name, read about it here. And here is the rest of it.


    Gus Van Horn posts about blogging over at his site this week. I highly recommend this post for anyone interested in blogging. If you're also an Objectivist Randian, I recommend Gus's site as a good place to start learning all about that particularly philosophy and Doc McDonald is one of our very own in the sublogosphere. You'll now find a permanent link to Gus's site on my list of faves to the right. Although I have some fundamental differences with Objectivists, they are one of those groups in our large melting pot that I have much more to agree with than to disagree with. But, where we disagree can be doozies. H/T to Bothenook.

    Nothing after the jump

    It was not a test, trust me...

    CNO ADM Gary Roughead was in New London today touring Electric Boat and hearing all about how our pals at EB are cutting costs to get us under $2B per Virginia class submarine.

    He opened the valve on the graving dock to float the New Hampshire, then had a short Q&A, where he opined on the missile shot, saying it wasn't a test of the ballistic missile system:

    It was what we said it was, a failing satellite that had a significant quantity of toxic material on board, and it was in the best interest to remove that hazard,” he said.

    He added, “We made the system do something that it wasn't supposed to do. We had to go in and modify the computer program, we had to take three missiles out of our ballistic missile defense inventory and modify those missiles to be able to hit the target, so it really was not a test.”

    So, that's the official word. I guess we get to put 2 of those back into the BMD inventory, so that's good.

    He had something to say about those faulty welds:

    I am confident that we're on the right path, and that the safety of our submarines and our sailors is not compromised."

    Friday, February 22, 2008

    Poll Results - Christians will BAN abortion! Hurray!

    Well, my very scientific, and lightly voted on, poll, is now closed, and the results are in. In case you live in a cave with Obama (oops, I mean Osama), the question was, "Whats' the most HORRIBLE thing the Christian Right will do when they get their way and rule the USA?"

    1. A whopping 36% of poll respondents think that they (we?) will make abortion illegal in all circumstances. I would say that given the premise of the question, that would be a reasonable thing to do. Hey, since most of the people who will be having abortions anyway will be leaving the USA when this occurs, I doubt this will impact them much.
    2. Coming in 2nd, with 27% of the vote, you think we'll round up all non-Christians and force them to convert. Well, actually, we have a more sinister plan, which ties into the 3rd place item....
    3. So, in 3rd place, with 18% of the vote, you think we will round up all the atheists and objectivists and send them to our gulag at Gitmo. Well, while this is tempting, we think that Gitmo is a little too nice for these people. We will instead have mercy on those misguided ones and have them watch 7th Heaven re-runs until they convert to Christianity of their own accord, or commit suicide. Oh, by the way, you don't get to watch the Jessica Biel episodes!
    4. In a tie for 4th place, 9% of you think we're going to make sodomy illegal in all circumstances or define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Let me just first state that there is no desire to do the former, as long as those practicing it are the latter.
    Well, there you have it. As I expected, those who fear the Christian Right, fear the loss of a woman's "right" to choose death. I won't comment on this, except to say that science is marching us inexorably to the point where it will become obvious that we can sustain life from conception, amd this will blur people's opinions about whether abortion is murder or not. As for the argument that you can't tell people what to do with their bodies, I will remind that we do that all the time. We tell you what drugs you can take, we tell women they can't sell their bodies, we tell people they can't sell organs for profit, etc, etc. Heck, we even have Liberals who want to tell us we can't put tobacco in our systems (by the way, the Nazi's also banned tobacco, does that tell you anything about Liberals?), and they're telling us we can use trans-fats, and pretty soon, they're going to regulate how many calories we can consume daily.

    . And here is the rest of it.

    American Idol, Sayonara crappy ones

    Well, the first 4 Idols are gone, and, I have to admit, there were no real surprises. For the guys, Garrett and Colton were axed. For the girls, Amy Davis and Joanne Borgella. Dialidol had the girls exactly, and only had Colton slightly ahead of Chikezie, so they pretty much nailed it. Who's next? I don't know, but my hope is Carly the cheater will fall flat on her face and forget the words next week, and won't be able to use her Prison Break tattoos to remember them.

    Who are my favorites (and not necessarily who I think will make the top 12?

    First, the girls (in no particular order, and note that one of these will definitely NOT make it, since AI is pimping Carly for at least the final 4):
    1. Ramiele Malubay
    2. Syesha Mercado
    3. Kady Malloy
    4. Kristy Cook
    5. Asia'h Epperson
    6. Amanda Overmyer
    The guys:
    1. Michael Johns
    2. David Archuleta
    3. Jason Castro
    4. David Cook
    5. Luke Menard
    6. David Hernandez
    As for the guys, I am also on a mission to get Danny Noriega off the show. I mean, how can we allow the son of General Manuel Noriega win on our favorite American show??????

    Thursday, February 21, 2008


    Last night, cloaked in the veil of secrecy provided by American Idol and a trumped-up lunar eclipse, the Navy successfully used an SM-3 ABM and the Aegis system on board the USS Lake Erie to shoot down a dying spy satellite. Story here and here... Nothing after the jump

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    American Idol 7, Episode 1, The Girls

    At this point in American Idol this season, I am not that interested in the guys. Michael Johns and David Archuleta are the best, and we'll see them in the final 6.

    As usual, it's the girls that I find more interesting, especially with a couple of ringers brought into the fray. I have already discussed here the recording industry past of Carly Smithson. Kristy Lee Cook also has a bit of a history, but not nearly as much was invested in her.

    Tonight, Carly, in her intro piece, spoke about the old recording contract. From the Internet reports, what Carly said tonight did not quite accurately describe her situation, and it makes her no less of a ringer to me. In Carly's intro, she mentioned she had signed a recording deal at 15, made an album (a failure) at 17, but that the record company had gone under and she was lost in the shuffle. I don't know if she was on a sub-label at MCA, but, she was with a major recording studio, and she sold all of 378 albums, after an investment of greater than $2M. I guess I'll let the voters decide (she's doing pretty good on dialidol.com right now).

    As for her performance tonight, I thought it was pretty crappy. Idol gave her the coveted closing spot, and Paula and Randy were falling all over themselves to praise her. I note that Simon spoke truth to power as usual, and said she basically sucked. Listen to Simon people.

    As for the other girls, Ramiele was clearly the best, with Asia'h being very good. Rocker girl Amanda Overmyer was wierd, but good, as was Alaina Whitaker (surprisingly).

    Who stunk - Amy Davis and Joanne Borgella. However, Amy has a career as a model, as these pictures will attest, so, Amy, it was nice knowing you, but see you in the next SI Swimsuit Edition!

    My personal favorite, Kady Malloy, was less than good, and if I didn't like her already, I'd say she's in trouble, too. Come on, Kady, Groovy Kind of Love?

    And here is the rest of it.

    Monday, February 18, 2008

    Health Care Solutions, Chapter 1: How We Got Here

    That our current health care system has serious flaws can not be denied. I can not believe there is a single serious Conservative or Liberal who could not agree on that. Yet, both sides differ greatly in their prescriptions for the problems that ail us.

    I am a free marketer, a believer in capitalism, and have a general distrust of the government's ability to do anything well where we want innovation and cost control. I believe Ronald Reagan's greatest legacy to this country was to re-prove the ability of free markets to drive innovation up and costs down. He showed us that when we removed the shackles of government, in the form of high taxation and excessive regulation, the free market was the best friend the consumer could have, and the only natural way for economies to function.

    As history, the current employer-provided health care system grew out of wage and price controls instituted during WW2. To attract the few qualified people not actually fighting the war, employers began offering health plans. Unions picked these up as parts of collective bargaining agreements, and during the explosive growth years after the war, health plans became more and more comprehensive and feature rich. Ultimately, the government got into the act, favoring employer-sponsored plans via large tax incentives to the employer. It is estimated the value of these tax incentives is $150B annually.

    So, after 60 years, we're got a health care system that essentially is tied to employment. If you're employed, you have health care, if not, well, you probably don't, unless you fall into one of those groups that the government plays the 3rd party role - the poor via Medicaid, or seniors, via Medicare. Roughly 60% of people in the US are covered under employer-provided heatlth plans, with about 10% covered under privately-purchased plans. The remainder of the covered are covered under the two government programs. Most estimates are that about 16% of the population is uncovered at any given time.

    Medicaid is a true transfer payment, where we all pay income taxes that get redistributed to those unable to care for themselves. It's welfare. Like it or not, we have chosen that system through our elected officials. It isn't changing, and as a safety net, it's a necessary system in this country.

    Medicare plays the same shell game we play with Social Security, and is tied to it. Via payroll taxes, we all "pay into" Medicare as we work, so that we can draw from it after we retire at age 65. That's the story, but, like Social Security, we're actually paying today for someone else's Medicare. Regardless, the idea is it's insurance bought for the future. Die at 61 and, well, your Medicare taxes work for someone else. Live to be 100, and, well, you get the picture.

    I think we can all agree that there are many structural problems with our health care system, chief among them:

    1. The market is controlled by 3rd parties (an insurer/employer cabal)
    2. The system is focused on the provider.
    3. Costs and quality are unknowns to the consumer. Quality is unknown before the fact and costs are often unknown forever.
    4. The system focuses on sickness and disease and not prevention
    5. Medicare faces significant funding issues.
    6. Large number of Americans are uninsured

    I'll address my thoughts in posts to come.... Nothing after the jump

    Friday, February 15, 2008

    Ditch Compassion, rebrand Conservatism! (oh, and pass the Viagra)

    Do yourself a favor, and head over to Townhall.com's Scott Ott (editor of scrappleface.com, a great parody site) and read his column on why we need to ditch "compassionate" conservatism. It's also a good read on what being conservative is all about.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Erectile Dysfunction - Just GO AWAY!

    Is anyone else sick of cialis and viagra commercials? I mean, come on, I do NOT want to be humming the Viva Viagra tune for the rest of my life, but, apparently, if I take Viagra, I'm going to be enjoying some time in Vegas. Unfortunately, the reality of that is that the crowd that buys this stuff enjoys Vegas by watching Elvis imitators, gambling away their kids college funds, or looking for another drink.

    Seriously, though, if you're using Viagra, I don't think a kid showing up unexpectedly from college (let's face it, he's getting it, ok), or a plumbing emergency (hey, I KNOW where the shut-off valve is located) is going to make me wait "for the moment." If you need this stuff, trust me (as someone on the verge), you don't get enough "moments" to postpone your semi-annual one.

    Do the guys look slightly more desirable than the women in these commercials? Who do the drug companies think is buying this stuff, the women? Either this is a ploy to make men think Viagra makes them better looking, or these people's marketing is a little off. Hey, Pfizer, you want 50 year old men to buy Viagra, make it deliver some 25 year old nymphomaniacs to their front doors. You know, the kinds of girls who can stay with a man with 4-hour, chemical erection. If the crowd is stupid enough NOT to know that Viagra doesn't prevent STD's and HIV, then they just might be dumb enough to believe that they can get a 25 year old blonde sex freak into bed.

    If these commercials were clever, like the Bob series for Enzyte, then they might be watchable, and I, for one, might take them seriously. Alas, not even Bob was true, as the makers and marketers of Enzyte are accused of fraud, and their product, sadly, does not work. The good news is that Bob lives on on YouTube.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    American Idol 7

    Ok, I'm not too proud to admit it, around my house, we spend a lot of the winter and spring enjoying American Idol. From the early auditions where we get to watch the worst, to the voting, where we vicariously live through these young people as they try to fulfill their dream, we watch and pick our favorites, and thanks to unlimited txt messaging, we become a part of it.

    However, this season, I can't let American Idol get away with something they are trying to perpetrate on us all, and that is allowing essentially a professional, already discovered singer sneak into the competition.

    That singer is Carly Smithson, the "Irish Girl" who was denied her chance two years ago because of a "visa" problem. Reminds me of all those Dominican baseball players who can't make it to spring training. Jeez, these schedules are made like years in advance, can't they get their visas well in advance? Come on. Anyway, I will make it my Season 7 quest to deny this cheater, and the AI Producers, who won't come clean on her history, her place in AI history. Read more here, too.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Oldest Submariner Honored

    Submarine Force Master Chief (SS) Jeff Garrison presents a submarine force coin to Floyd “Skipper” Matthews during Matthews’ 105th birthday celebration Feb. 3, 2008, in Florence, Ala. Matthews qualified in submarines in 1925, having joined the Navy at the age of 16, three years younger than the age his recruiter listed on his enlistment papers. During his career, Matthews served with Lt. Cmdr. Charles “Swede” Momson, the inventor of the Momsen lung, and was a member of the crew that used the Momsen lung to rescue 30 crewmembers of the USS Squalus when their sub sank in 240 feet of water off Portsmouth, N.H. Matthews served on USS Chickasaw, a submarine that performed security patrol duties during two nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific in 1946. Matthews is one of America’s last remaining World War I veterans, a number that is believed to be less than 10.

    Anyone who served with Swede Momsen, one of the true heroes of the submarine force, is a friend of mine! Happy Birthday Skipper!

    And here is the rest of it.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    More Oil from Oil Shale

    Most of you know, I am skeptical when it comes to Global Warming. Not that there has been measurable warming itself, as the evidence is plainly evident that in the last 20 years that has been warming on average across the planet. My doubts are in the sources of this warming - is it Man, or is it Memorex (well, the SUN is an obvious culprit). Anyway, I get emails from a leftist anti-industry group called the Center for Biological Diversity (who seems interested in mostly diversity of non-human biology) and these serve to keep me informed of what the anti-Man left is against. So, today's is actually an interesting email, because today, the CBD wanted me to send a protest email to the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS, there's a mouthful). Anyway, with some careful rewording, you can take their protest statement, helpfully supplied by them, and change it to a very useful support statement, which I did.

    If you'd like to make a statement, use mine, and go here:
    "Dear Sherry Thompson, BLM Project Manager:

    I am writing to OPPOSE the "No Action" alternative in the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Oil Shale and Tar Sands. The proposed development comes at a time when we desperately need to be seeking more native fossil fuels and reducing our reliance on foreign oil sources. The Bureau of Land Management should speed ahead with the proposed development completely, and, in fact, should seek to open more options for oil shale development.

    I urge the Bureau of Land Management to reject the No Action alternative and to accelerate plans to develop oil shale and tar sands on public lands in the Rockies."

    Anyway, the site also has a great overview of Oil Shale/Tar Sands, and I encourage all interested in this potential 400-1200 year source of oil, to read this.

    Religion - A Pain the Rear to Non-Believers

    My fellow sub blogger, Doc McDonald, has, I think, some interesting views regarding the separation of Church and state. I happen to vehemently disagree with them. The discussion that started it is here, with a synopsis of a longer reply I intend to place in this post.

    My summary post was this.

    My problem with this line of thinking is that somehow, intolerance of Christians and Christianity is no problem. Nearly all Christians will bend over backward to show tolerance and respect for people who practice their religions (even atheism) peacefully. If Christians were so hell-bent on forcing their theology down the throats of all non-believers, why is it that Israel seems to have no stronger defender than Evanegelicals? Is it because Christians make up so much of a majority of relgious people in this country that you fear they are only steps away from creating a theocracy, despite over 230 years of proof to the contrary?

    Your response centers mostly on the issue of prayer, and publicly-sanctioned prayer. So, for the record, as a Christian, in the public square, I see NO need to have the government sanction prayer. Furthermore, I don't really WANT the government to sanction prayer. However, I also see no need to have the government, in the interest of serving the minority or political correctness, BAN prayer. I see room for compromise in a civil society, wheer we could agree, for example, that it is acceptable to start the school day with a 1 or 2 minute "moment of silence" or "contemplation." Then all those that choose to use that moment to pray to a God of their choosing should be able to do so. Those that choose not to, well, I'd ask them to be respectful of the others and use it for their own contemplation (or take a nap, or pick their nose, or whatever). There was a time when we recognized that Faith was a very personal and important thing to many people, yet, I can understand how those that consider themselves "rationalists" scoff at those of Faith, and I wonder how much of that condescension sinks into the consciousness of those people.

    Finally, you state in your reply that because the Constitution provides Freedom "of" Religion, it also, therefore, guarantees, Freedom "from" Religion. However, this is a very 9th Circuit kind of interpretation of the 1st Amendment, and one which I, and many Constitutional Scholars, reject. I do believe that in a civilized society, you have the right to reject religion, and not be forced to participate in religious ceremonies, nor should the state compel you to do so. We might actually have honest agreements on what you consider "forced," and we can certainly debate those. As a matter of fact, I will place a point-for-point rebuttal to your detailed reply on my blog, but, for this is the summary.

    However, I chose to take his reply bit by bit, my comments are in BOLD interspersed with Doc's comments.

    Let me substitute the word "Christian" for Catholic - a religion which was part of my past, and one, therefore, that to me, is a familiar synonym for Christian.

    "First, when a student who does not believe as Christians do, be it a Muslim, a Jew, an Atheist, etc. is forced to listen to a Christian prayer in a public setting such as school, he or she is forced to participate at gun point."
    1. Are you implying that when a Christian Prayer is allowed in a school, the state uses it's police power to force others to participate, like the tax system? I think you stretch that point a tad, as your next sentence seems to admit.
    2. It's amazing to me that for how hard objectivists and atheists preach individuality, they would consider that non-Christian kids are so obsequious that they will go along with a prayer to a God they either don't believe exists, or in whom they don't believe. If my kids were Jewish, Atheists, Muslim, Objectivists, Scientologists, Whateverists, I would explain to them that in those moments of "public" prayer to a God that either doesn't exists, or that they don't acknowledge, to spend a couple of moments either a)praying to your God, or b)picking your nose, or c)laughing at the sheep, or d)allowing those believers their few moments to pray and show some respect for their heartfelt faith.
    3. I realize that somewhere in this country we have become so obsessed with the rights of the minority that we have become a tyranny of the minority.
    "Granted, no one can force them to pray, but they are forced to "pretend" they are praying, giving the illusion that "everybody does it"; therefore, it's the right thing to do."
    Silently respecting the desires of the majority does not diminish your own beliefs. In fact, I think it identifies you as a thoughtful, conscientious human being.
    What would happen to a student who just got up and went about his or her business during this "moment"?
    I think he would be immediately identified as a non-believer. Is that such a bad thing? I would challenge these students to have the courage of their (parents') convictions.
    "What would your reaction be if a school official penalized a child of yours for praying in an obvious manner during a break in the classroom routine?"
    It's been said that as long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school. I would be upset if this happened, certainly. But, I think there is room in our society for tolerance.
    What would a "Christian's reaction be if suddenly, ALL students had to kneel on "prayer blankets", face the east and recite a Muslim prayer?
    I can't tell you what your generic "Christian's" reaction would be, only mine. If all students HAD to kneel and face Mecca, I would find that offensive and Unconstitutional. However, if that payer were optional, I would have no problem with it, and I would instruct my kids to pray in their own manner or do nothing, but be respectful of the religious beliefs of those Muslim kids. If this event, though, was disruptive of the school day, I might also protest it. But, let's assume for argument that you live in a school district that is 50% Muslim, and that the school's schedule is arranged so that there is time allotted for a traditional Muslim prayer say around the lunch period. If that community decided they wanted to allot that time for (insert euphemism for prayer here), I would tell me kids, use that time for your own purposes.
    How about a simple Jewish prayer - although one really wouldn't know the difference by the words, one would "feel" the difference in knowing it came from a Jewish text.
    Since a Jewish prayer would probably be in Hebrew, we'd likely know the difference. But, asked and answered.
    The only difference is in the activity or the source that has been sanctioned, and who decides what to sanction? Me? You? Hardly. To pray or not to pray, that is the question.
    If that IS the question, then the answer seems to be, in many states, "To pray." Because nearly all organized religions pray, then the setting aside of a few moments of our public lives to pray would not seem a terrible imposition on society, were that what society (in the form of our elected leaders) decided. Why don't we attempt to let people govern themselves locally?
    What to pray and how to pray, that is the other question. To live free or die, that is the imperative our founding fathers left for us to follow.
    What to pray, and how to pray, is left to the pray-er. During the time of prayer, or silence, or contemplation, I leave it to the non-believer to come up with what to do. I trust they can make good use of the time, without resorting to disrespectful activity.
    Prayer has NOTHING to do with a public school curriculum or any other activity, unless one is enrolled in a religious school or attending a religious event. Would you wear Bermuda shorts to a formal dinner or feel comfortable dressed that way at such an affair?
    A red herring. Should our leaders choose to make it part of the curriculum, it becomes part of the curriculum. We have legislative bodies at many different levels in this country (I propose that such decisions, like most government decisions, are best decided closest to the governed, let's posit in this case, the local school board) and those that oppose are welcome to challenge those leaders at the ballot box, but, as in many things, I find it obnoxious that they would use the power of the courts to obtain what they can't do legislatively. As to your Red Herring question, if the custom became Bermuda Shorts, or the host(s) requested Bermuda Shorts, I would dutifully comply with the wishes of my hosts, or not attend, as would be my prerogative.
    The gun holder, of course, is the authority representing the school, i.e. the local and the federal governments. They hold a power over students that require conformity or penalty.
    The problem here is the non sequitur that there is a penalty for non-compliance. Perhaps there should be a penalty for disruption, but not for compliance. I think certainly to impel people to comply would be wrong, and should not be sanctioned. The force of peer pressure, or of weakness, is not analogous to forced compulsion.
    An invocation at a public ceremony: swearing in ceremony, swearing to tell the truth with a hand on a bible - a book that is absolutely meaningless to an atheist, but serves as a symbol or "depth" to Christians.
    Here, I agree with you. I find it unnecessary that anyone be required to take an oath on the Bible (in fact, I believe in most states, even here in Georgia, witnesses are no longer sworn to Truth using a Bible). However, I think anyone that wants to use the Bible (or the Qu'ran) to demonstrate their fealty to the Truth during a swearing in or affirmation, should be permitted to do so, public ceremony or not.
    The United States Constitution guarantees freedom OF religion, and therefore, freedom FROM religion.
    Another non sequitur. While some WANT and desire to believe this (most serving on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and a handful on the Supreme Court), it is not what the founders intended.
    In order to afford the same opportunity to each group, religion is appropriate in a religious setting; it is not appropriate in a public or civil setting where people of disparate beliefs may gather for a purpose other than religion - a State of the Union message, a swearing into office ceremony, a graduation ceremony and so on.
    I think that's open for debate. I vote for Federalism on this one.
    I could go on, but that wasn't the point. The point was that one could accomplish all of these things and more without the imposition of government force. Atheists do not come into your place of worship and demand you include even brief secular discussions about the advantages of a life of reason vs a life that contains elements of "the willful and blind acceptance of the improvable and the unknowable".
    We're not talking about my place of worship. We're talking about the public sphere, where, unfortunately, secularists (whether they're atheists or well-intentioned religionists) ARE demanding that the public schools teach children philosophies and doctrines that are anathema to Christians (things like the acceptability of gay marriage, the acceptability of "alternative families, the promotion of promiscuity, the re-writing of American History, etc), while these things do little to further the educational experience of our kids.
    So, what gives people the right to force those of us who choose to live according to the world as it is, to instead accept and to live in the same manner as those whose faith demands otherwise?
    I don't believe that anyone is asking those who "choose to live according to the world as it is" to live in any specific manner. You're free to choose your own way. Even if you were a Christian, free will provides you the means to behave as you are compelled. The only difference is that the Christian will answer for his deeds to a higher power someday in some way, the non-believer believes he will not.
    We each have an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I spent 20 years of my life protecting those rights and would reluctantly, but willingly die to protect your right to worship. What are you willing to do to protect my right to be left alone when it comes to matters of religion?
    I too would die reluctantly protecting anyone else's rights (I think Patton addressed this the best), but, like you, I would die willingly.
    I am sorry that non-religious people seem to feel assaulted or offended by the majority in this country. However, I don't need to DO anything special to protect your right to be left alone, as that right already exists. In this entire opus, other than stating a distaste for public prayer (which I addressed ad nauseum), I am not sure where religion is encroaching on your right to be left alone. If you have specific other areas you'd like to point to where religion is impacting your right to be left alone, I'd like the opportunity to address them.

    Friday, February 8, 2008

    Those Dastardly Christians

    My fellow sub-blogger and Objectivist, Doc McDonald, clearly feels that Evangelicals pose a threat to the GOP and the country. In his defense, he's not the only one.

    The Conservative coalition in this country is made up of a triad of groups, Fiscal Conservatives, who also tend to Libertarianism, who favor smaller government, lower taxes, and less involvement in our lives from the government, largely because it impacts their bottom line. National Defense conservatives, who grew out of the Anti-Communist movement of the 50's and still favor a pre-eminent role for the United States in fighting terrorism today, and social conservatives, who, since 1980 at least, have succeeded in keeping an anti-abortion plank in the GOP Platform, and, for whom, the Life issue is their number one issue. It is these Far-right, fire-breathing, Bible-thumping, intolerant, want-to-tell-you-what-you-can't-do-in-your-bedroom Christians that this post is all about.

    Actually, what this post is about, is about trying to find out what it is exactly, that the rest of the coalition finds so threatening about these Far-Right Extremists.

    Doc's post and a co-worker of mine, an intelligent man, who feels much the same way, have me wondering why they feel that way? What has the Christian Right actually DONE that gives people (from opposite ends of the political spectrum in these two cases) the impression that they are soooooooo absolutely dangerous.

    I am not personally a regular churchgoer, I run in circles with people who are, and either these fire breathing dragons are pulling one of the most elaborate ruses in history on the rest of us, or I am missing something here.

    So, what is it I am missing? I'll throw out a few of my thoughts, then I challenge the rest of my readers (well, the one of them), to help me out here.

    1. Abortion - The Christian Right believes Life begins at conception, and, the most extreme would like to see abortion outlawed nationally in all circumstances. There are many proposed HLA's. Most merely state that life begins at conception or that the right to regulate abortions shall be left to the states. Even if Roe were overturned today, it would not lead to mass deaths due to "back-alley" abortions. States like Connecticut, California, New York, etc, would immediately pass laws (already on the books in CT) making abortion legal, and states like Georgia, SC, Alabama, Mississippi, would immediately place significant restrictions, if not outright outlawing abortion. I can't disagree with Doc's premises that it is low self-esteem, lack of education, etc, that leads to promiscuity and abortions. That's true, and, programs that remove those things will lead to fewer abortions. Regardless, the argument that if we just provided every kid with condoms and birth control and taught them how to use them has an analog in the argument that if we just took guns from everyone we wouldn't have any murders. Those both skirt the fact that murder is wrong, except in the most extreme of circumstances.
      So, what is it about the Christian Right's abortion stance is it that strikes so much fear into the hearts of the anti-religionists? Is it the fear that once they succeed in passing an HLA, or overturning Roe that suddenly women will be dying left and right from illegal abortions? Is it that along with the CR's success here, they will get birth control outlawed, too? This, friends, is where I'd like your help, because I don't know what it is here that so bothers this group.
    2. Gay Rights and Defense of Marriage - is this the other issue that so disturbs? There are certainly some high profile Evangelicals who have serious theological and moral problems with homosexuality. And, they have made no secret that they find the homosexual lifestyle (at least as practiced by many gay men) abhorrent and immoral. There is something to be said for tradition, if it didn't work, it would be a tradition we would want to see changed. To many on the Christian Right, the tradition of one man, one woman has withstood the test of time, and is the best environment to raise children who will be productive members of society, not to mention, procreating members of society (but, I digress, as science is making that point moot). Anyway, is this one of those areas that puts us on a slippery slope to theocracy? I'd be interested in hearing those arguments.
    3. Public Displays of Faith - I'll lump things like displaying the 10 Commandments in public places, Manger scenes, etc into this category. Is this the horrible slope to a theocracy that people find so objectionable? I'm curious?
    Those are just the most prominent and the ones I feel like addressing right now. I want someone to paint a picture for me of how awful the world would be if the Christian Right got their way.

    Another Ice Age???

    As if global warming weren't enough to worry about, now we have to worry about Global Cooling, too. Where does it all end?????? . N/T.

    USS Augusta to be Scrapped

    Sadly, the USS Augusta (SSN-710) is going to be joining the "Floating Palace" (pictured on your right here) on the scrap heap before her time. Commissioned in 1985, she will be meeting the cutting blade now. She was placed on the inactive list following a ceremony in Groton this week. (Video, article). Nothing after the jump.

    Monday, February 4, 2008

    McCain for President

    Tomorrow is Super Tuesday. Since I am away for a couple of weeks, I took advantage of the early voting period and voted last week. So, I have already placed my vote. Interestingly, I listened in a few people's conversations who were also early voting, and at least a couple of women (black) were saying this was the first election they were interested in. That's bad news for Republicans, I believe.

    So, after much consternation this season, I decided, after talking to my father and giving it much thought, that I was going to vote for John McCain. I know that may be apostasy to friends I have on the right, but, here is my rationale:
    1. The same #1 reason I voted for Bush in 2004, because I think he's the meanest, baddest, most serious candidate who understands the threat of global jihad, and will continue to take the fight to the enemy. Many will say he opposes Gitmo and waterboarding, and those are good points, but here's why they are wrong:
      • I don't believe that it really matters where the detainees are held. Gitmo, here, some foreign country, doesn't matter to me. These guys are already being coddled at Gitmo, and the courts and Liberals will continue to push to give them Constitutional rights anyway. So, I think our enemy here is the Courts, not John McCain.
      • Although I have done a rotten job completing some of my Joint Professional Military Training, I have gotten far enough to realize that we do have some ethical standards and morals to uphold in this country and as the military in this country. So, if John McCain, as one of the only men in office who was actually tortured, says waterboarding is torture, and he doesn't want it the official policy of the United States, then I accept that. Now, do I wish he had just refused to make a statement, yes, I do, but he has also made clear that in the "ticking (nuclear) bomb" scenario, he'd do whatever is necessary to stop it. I think in McCain, he is making clear that if a decision like that is going to be made, he's going to make it, and he's going to make the right decision.
    2. He can win. Look, I like Romney, I liked Thompson, but, the former seems (and I only mean seems, because I don't think he is) an empty suit. I don't believe John McCain is a repeat of Bob Dole. I think Fred Thompson would have been Bob Dole, notMcCain.
    3. He has said repeatedly that he will appoint judges like Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito. And, since the next president is going to get to appoint as many as 3 judges in the next 4 years, he has a 1 in 3 chance of getting the nature of the court changed.
    4. He's serious about controlling spending, to his detriment (see below). I think he'd actually try to cut spending. He was one of the few to vote against Bush's expansion of Medicare, he has said he would reform social security, via private retirement accounts, and take on Medicare and Medicaid. He understands the ticking time bomb those things are, and he is prepared to expend some political capital on them.
    Let's address the areas where McCain has worked against Conservative causes:
    1. Immigration - here McCain was clearly wrong and out of step with most conservatives. But, hey, so was W, and we all voted for him. I don't think anyone that actually ever listened to what W had to say about this issue ever could have not known what W was for. So, McCain just took the same path, as did many Republicans, and how those lined up was largely based on geography and the safeness of their seat. Look, J.D. Heyworth is evidence of what taking a strong stand against immigration in Az will do for you. I also believe that McCain got the message, he can be for border security first, and still get something else done on immigration. I will say that I am not against large numbers of immigrants being allowed into the US from Mexico. Especially given that they are 90% Roman Catholic (and practice it), I see them ultimately as Republican voters and as a firewall against the secularists who want to make Secularism our official state religion. But, I digress...
    2. McCain/Feingold - Ok, he was just plain wrong here, and he needs to admit it, but, this was another pre-2004 item that W signed into law. We voted for W in 2004, didn't we?
    3. Bush Tax Cuts - Wrong for voting against them, but, if memory serves, he took this tack in the 2000 election, and I think he felt compelled to stick with it, in keeping with his maverick image. At any rate, Republicans go against tax cuts at their peril. I don't think it's likely to happen again. McCain likes to say he wanted spending cuts in exchange, and voted no because they weren't there.
    4. Stem Cell research - this is becoming a non-issue with recent advances, but McCain has been on the wrong side of it. But, he has been a consistent pro-lifer, and has stated that he thinks Roe should be overturned. On other social issues, he's supported letting States decide issues such as gay marriage. I tend to agree with this approach. There are those that get all apoplectic when candidates don't support a Human Life Amendment, Marriage Amendment, etc to the Constitution. I am a Federalist also who believes that 1) the states are the best places to decide these issues (just like abortion) and 2) they're not going to pass anyway. These are done as stunts, not as serious policy initiatives.

    Nothing after the jump!