October 4th, 2008

christmas 2008

It certainly took long enough...


On Thursday, I received a long-promised Navy (and Marine Corps) Achievement Medal for the availability we completed in Portsmouth - five months ago, mind you. This is my first NAM; I am, after all, a nuke. We're not like Supply Department - for them, it's practically a semi-annual (or perhaps quarterly) requirement to "fire up the NAM cannon." I was very surprised by the number of people coming up to offer congratulations. I guess they attach more significance to the award than I do. This has never been about amassing a chestful of multi-colored candy...far from it. I'm proud of this achievement, and my service in the Navy as a whole, but the fact remains that I'm only really happy to be in the Navy on two days of every month - Wednesday was one of them, but Thursday wasn't.

It seems to me that the NAM is overblown because of its importance relative to the amount of effort for which I was cited. My division had a light load during the availability, and while I did support other divisions on numerous occasions, there's a sense that this was an "easy" award. Many of my co-workers have expressed this sentiment as well, and I'm hard-pressed to disagree with them. If this were a fair world, I'd give the NAM to J. Raymond. His contributions were much more integral to the perceived success of the PIRA than were mine. But alas, since he left Memphis a month before our return to Groton, no medal for him. It actually took some jumping through hoops to get him even the customary end-of-tour award upon his detachment.

The medal having been awarded, it really doesn't change any aspect of the reality facing me. The challenges at work are still present, as are the things associated with preparing to separate. Like everything else associated with this, I take it in stride and move on.
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christmas 2008

Wall Street = GIANT BABIES, and anti-capitalists to boot

This past Monday, the U. S. House of Representatives did a brave and heroic thing. A majority of its members, whether due to personal conviction or pressure from the homefront, voted against the Pick the People's Pockets Act of 2008. You probably know it by its official title, the Economic Stabilization Act, or by the more common "bailout." The members of the House said, "We will NOT use the people's money to rescue you from your bad decisions. We will NOT take from the poor and give to the rich, to a degree unseen in our history. And we will NOT move our country toward European-style socialism, and the stagnation that comes with it." Nereus was kind enough to list the results of the vote, broken down by yea or nay and by party affiliation.

When word reached the twin centers of finance in the capital of the world, the grand old New York Stock Exchange and the more modern NASDAQ MarketSite, they rose as one and cried, "NO U!" The men and women of the leading banks and investment houses dug down and got in touch with their inner two-year-old, and threw a temper tantrum. A 1.2 tera-dollar ($1,200,000,000,000) temper tantrum; that's how much money vanished from the portfolios. While the six-percent drop in the Dow is far less than seen in 1987 or 1929, there's still a hell of a psychological impact from seeing "DJIA: -777". The financial community achieved its desired goal - it brought to bear just how the lack of a rescue package would affect Main Street.

And so the two Houses set to work again, resolved to get a bill through, notwithstanding the will of the people or the text of the Constitution. Wednesday night, a 74-25 vote in favor of the revised bill in the Senate saw Obama, McCain, and Biden all on the wrong side of the ledger. Yesterday, the House didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement - had the President been of the opposite (i.e. correct) mind, 263 votes would not have overridden a veto. But he, more than anyone else save maybe Henry Paulson, wanted the power and the dollars, and he wanted them NOW, damn it.

Now, a day later, CNN is already wondering whether it was the right thing to do. Last weekend, I mentioned the posts of Mark Cuban, who knows a thing or two about business; now, it seems that more and more are agreeing with them. Confidence is still low, credit is still tight, and both banks and people are moving into cash and squeezing it as tight as they can. And with the Treasury printing hundreds of billions more American dollars, our currency may deflate even more.

Regardless of the ultimate impact on the economy, passage of this bill is a body blow to our traditions of individual liberty and limited government. More so than at any time since the Great Depression, those twin pillars upon which this nation was forged have been undercut. Our system of checks and balances has been shredded to pieces. Some members of the legislature understand this; Representative McCotter of Michigan made a heroic and principled speech last week. Ron Paul has pushed for these cherished old-school ideals for as long as he's been in Congress, and he took Ben Bernanke to school in committee. The foundation of American exceptionalism, slowly eroded over the past three quarters of a century, may have been damaged irreparably. Two hundred thirty two years ago, we threw off the chains of rule by a tyrannical king. And yet now, so many are content to once again place such vast power in the hands of so few, without adequate capacity for review. It is a sad day when a small group of people can fleece their three hundred million countrymen to this extent. But the real tragedy is the loss of what is truly the American way.