Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Friday, August 31, 2007

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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

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.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


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.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

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.

Monday, August 20, 2007

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.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

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.

Friday, August 17, 2007

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?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

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!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

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!

Monday, August 13, 2007

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.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

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.

Friday, August 10, 2007

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.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

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".

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


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?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

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.

Friday, August 03, 2007

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.)

"Hey, Shipwreck": The Fourteenth Episode

Head on over to TubeDaze to check out the 14th episode of the enormously popular space submarine video saga:

In this episode, a nuke is treated with unseemly disrespect by the coners, and bad jokes are told on the midwatch. The 2nd part is believable; the first doesn't really ring true to this old Eng -- I don't ever remember a Nuke actually saying, "For the love of Rickover", and the nukes generally out-pranked the coners by about a 10:1 ratio. Maybe it's different in the future, though.

For more on the very talented creator of "Hey, Shipwreck" (an active duty submariner on recruiting duty here in Idaho) check out the most recent "Navy Wife Radio" episode that features an interview with Patrick Hrabe by submarine wives Wendy and Marie.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Russian Submersibles Back To Surface At North Pole

Over the last week, there's been a lot of news coverage of the Russian expedition to the North Pole seafloor; the Russians apparently plan to use "data" gathered by the subs to claim the Arctic Ocean up to the North Pole as part of their territorial waters. While this won't ever be recognized (barring the election of a Kucinich Administration here in the U.S.) it certainly seems like the Russians pulled off a nifty bit of submarining, assuming their claims of actually reaching the seafloor are true. From the latest article in The Moscow Times:
A Russian flag was planted on the North Pole seabed Thursday as man reached the bottom of the top of the world for the first time in an expedition likely to accelerate the scramble for rich underwater deposits.
Two mini-submarines, Mir-1 and Mir-2, carried three-man crews more than four kilometers below the Arctic surface and back up again in a nine-hour operation. A mechanical arm dropped the rust proof flag on the seabed from Mir-1 as part of Russia's attempts to bolster its claim for a vast part of the Arctic floor...
...The two submarines descended from a 25-meter-by-10-meter opening in the ice early Thursday morning. The first vessel was piloted by Sagalevich, who manned the submarine that took the footage of the wreck of the Titanic used in the Hollywood film by the same name.
"The most difficult part of the operation was surfacing," said Begak.
The submarines, which are only 8 meters long, had to make sure they found the opening, and not the 1 1/2-meter-thick ice. Begak said it was "like hitting a hole the size of the eye of a needle."
Mir-1 appeared above the water eight hours and 40 minutes after submerging, spending 40 minutes below the ice before it found open sea, Begak said. Mir-2 surfaced an hour later.
Here's a picture alleging to show one of the submersibles on the seafloor:

As they said, the most dangerous part of this mission was getting both mini-subs back to the surface without getting stuck under the ice -- either to the same hole they left from, or into a reasonably thin polynya. I'm personally wondering if they actually did take the trouble to actually go to the seafloor under the Pole -- loss of one of the subs would have been a big propaganda defeat for the Russians. They did a "test dive" a few days back, and there's no reason they couldn't have taken the photos and videos they're releasing now back on Sunday -- and even collected the "samples" they're going to provide. If they really wanted to prove they were there, they should have put a pinger on their package containing the Russian flag they left at the Pole. They may have, although I didn't see mention of one in any of the articles.

The bad news for the U.S. is that we can't even go to confirm if they were there or not. While the Alvin could reach the depths, we don't seem to have an icebreaker manly enough to escort her up there. Hopefully this may spur Congress and the Navy to coming up with funds for a new generation of deep submergence vehicles.

Somewhat off topic: Does anyone know the story behind the DSV-5 (ex-Nemo)? Everything I could find seemed somewhat mysterious. (For general information on non-commissioned submersibles, check out Eric's roundup of links.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Shift Work

Blogging's been light the last few weeks as I've tried to get my not-as-young-as-it-used-to-be body back into the "shift work" routine. I switched over from a standard Monday-Friday daytime job to a Sunday through Wednesday (or Tuesday) 12 hour shift where I work over in Boise. It's actually fewer hours per week, but I'm finding that getting up earlier in the morning is making me want to go to bed earlier, which has been cutting into my blogging time. It got me to thinking how I ever survived the submarine (and specifically nuclear power) versions of shift work.

Most nukes first become familiar with "shiftwork" during their six months at NPTU right after Nuke School. The shiftwork schedule has changed since I first went through it back in '85. There are quite a few ways of making sure your people can cover 24/7 operations with a reasonable quality of life -- the way the Navy did it back then was just about the worst. For staff personnel in Idaho, the shift calendar started on Wednesday at 1600; you did 7 days on "Swing Shift", working from 1600-2400. You got off at 2400 on Tuesday, and then were back to work 48 hours later (0000 Friday) for 7 days of "Mid Shift" (0000-0800). This ended at 0800 Thursday; 48 hours later, you're back at work for seven days of "Day Shift" (0800-1600). Finally, at 1600 Friday, you started the glorious "4 off" (actually 120 hours), and then the cycle started again. (Students had it even worse -- they had 12-hour days until they got qualified; they did the extra 4 hours before Swing and Mid Shift and after Day Shift normal hours.) This method of shiftwork was the most efficient way to have 4 crews of people cover everything with the most "fairness". (In this case, "fairness" means everyone gets equally screwed.)

Idaho had the same schedule when I went through as an officer student in '89-'90, but by the time I showed up in Charleston as a Shift Eng, they'd added a fifth crew, and added an extra week to the cycle -- instead of a "4 off" after Day Shift, you had a normal weekend, and then did a week of Monday-Friday again before the "long" break. During this "T-week", the crew would get all their mandatory training done, and wouldn't (theoretically) have to stand watch in the plant. In practice, there'd always be someone on shift getting sick or going nutso, and since the crews were all minimally staffed, the T-week crew was a good body pool to cover any shortfalls.

Once you got to the boat, you learned what Navy shiftwork was really all about. Since submarines don't have a lot of extra people on the crew, most boats end up only having enough qualified guys to run three shifts. That means your next day off is whenever you're done with shiftwork. For pre-commissioning crews, nuclear shiftwork can last several months -- believe me, it sucks. You get to go home, but you never really get to get away from work. Essentially everyone I served with in the 'yards said they'd much rather be at sea than in shiftwork.

Having had experience with both civilian and Navy shiftwork, I've decided I like the civilian version better. Although I have to work 12 hour days, we get 4 months on Day Shift before rotating to Night Shift, plus I get a "4 off" every two weeks! It's like a little bit of heaven twice a month.

(Related side note: Back when I was at the prototypes, and was younger, it seemed like most people got their bodies acclimated from Swing to Mid Shift by staying up all night partying after the last day of Swings. I don't know if it was only called an "LDS Party" in Idaho, or if it was known by the same name on the east coast.)