Costa Rica 
Thursday, March 9, 2006, 10:47 PM
We pull into Golfito tomorrow which means that everyone will be at the same two places getting drunk together. There's a lot I'd do right now to trade this port call for a couple of nights at home. Quite frankly, visiting foreign countries isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

Something to tide you over for the time being:

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21 Days and a Wakeup 
Thursday, March 9, 2006, 04:39 PM
I'm drafting a COM article for the ship on electrical safety. I added a section on enforcement that says we can cut people's cords if they don't comply with safety requirements. As a joke, I also mentioned that crock pots are specifically prohibited (the EO has one and it violates virtually all safety regulations). Five minutes after emailing the article for approval I get a call from the EO.

"Peter, you cut the cord to my crock pot and I'll ****ing kill you."

"Roger that sir."

Perhaps not a good joke to play while he's writing my OER.
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Red Gear 
Wednesday, March 8, 2006, 08:33 PM
I've worked through some technical issues with my blog and am once again able to post. I'm not sure what the problem was, but I believe it had something to do with the php support provided by my hosting company. In any case, I did absolutely nothing and the problem fixed itself.

We had a near-casualty on the #2 reduction gear. Basically if the reduction gear dies, then one of our two shafts is dead and we cannot run the turbine or the diesel on that side. Reduction gear casualties mean you immediately return to home port and don't get underway for a long time. I won't bother to spell out here my sentiment when I found out everything was OK.

I also submitted my Officer Evaluation Report (OER). Don't think that just because this single document determines in large part the next couple years of my life I avoided procrastinating and did any work on it before the last minute.
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Another Reason To Go Home 
Friday, March 3, 2006, 09:40 PM
I thought that my earlier entry regarding Panama would be sufficient for a blog like this, but I've changed my mind. I want to articulate why visiting a nice foreign country like Panama makes me want to go home even more.

A port call in Panama has all the right ingredients to make an awesome port call. First, let's start with the money. Unlike some other countries, Panama does not use some strange colorful currency with an exchange rate that is difficult to keep track of when you are drunk. Panama uses nice, green, American currency, meaning that when you leave you're not left with a bunch of worthless play money.

Unlike Costa Rica, where we select the lamest, most backwater city we can find (Golfito), in Panama we actually visit the capital. This is especially sweet becasue it means that there is more than one bar in the entire town for everyone to get wasted at. And believe me, when you've spent 30 days within 378 feet of the same 170 people, you're going to want to get away. It's may be lot of fun watching your shipmates drunkenly discuss their pent up tension and anger with each other using the time honored fist-to-the-face method. Unfortunately, sometimes you wake up with assorted bruises and a vague recollection of doing/saying things you really shouldn't have. Fast forward several weeks and you find yourself standing in front of an old man with far too many ribbons and gold bars. He explains to you that because of your actions he's obligated to take some of your money and make your life suck for a little while. That doesn't seem quite fair -- if you're going to be punished for something it would at least be nice to remember it.

Finally, Panama has nice hotels. You can't understand how important this is until you've lived in a room the size of your bathroom with three other men.

What I don't like about Panama is all the people who are trying to make money off of you. I don't mind the occasional taxi driver who takes advantage of your inebriated state to charge a little extra (this is mostly because I don't remember this ever happening). What I do mind is being bombarded and crowded by venders, whores, and taxi drivers everywhere I go. Before I went to Panama, I'd never had a prostitute grab at me on the street. The cab drivers are the worst. I arrived in Panama with one goal: get piss drunk and urinate all over myself Sam Nelson style (okay, scratch the whole urine thing). The last thing I want to deal with while stumbling back to my hotel room is a dozen cab drivers offering me "poosay." Fortunately, one of my fellow officers stumbled upon an ingenious strategy to be left alone: tell them you don't want pussy, you want dick. Works every time.
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Not Everyone Likes Sayed Rahmatullah 
Tuesday, February 28, 2006, 07:22 AM
Michelle Malkin has an interesting post that references some writing by John Fund of the Wall Street Journal. Apparently he's upset that Yale would let in a participator in the Taliban regime into Yale.
Something is very wrong at our elite universities. Last week Larry Summers resigned as president of Harvard when it became clear he would lose a no-confidence vote held by politically correct faculty members furious at his efforts to allow ROTC on campus, his opposition to a drive to have Harvard divest itself of corporate investments in Israel, and his efforts to make professors work harder. Now Yale is giving a first-class education to an erstwhile high official in one of the most evil regimes of the latter half of the 20th century--the government that harbored the terrorists who attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001.
First off let me say that Harvard's discrimination against ROTC and the military in general makes me angry, but I'm not going to talk about that right now. Let me just say that if you're confident in the reasoning and the justification for your position, you shouldn't be afraid of exposing your students to opposing views.

By the end of his piece, Fund softens his position a little, so it's actually worth reading it in its entirety. The best point I can make is that we cannot just write off everyone who is raised as extreme muslims. We need someone to convince millions of people that murdering civilians will not bring you into paradise. That person is not going to be an American born model citizen.

Michelle Malkin
John Fund from WSJ
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Bring in the Plumbers 
Monday, February 27, 2006, 08:38 PM
First off, I'm all about freedom of the press. Both in principle and from my extremely limited experience in journalism, I believe in a paper's right to publish "all the news that's fit to print." When I was editor of my high school paper, we were censored by the administration and it wasn't much fun. However, it's hard not to cringe when reading the NY Times article on German intelligence assistance in the invasion of Iraq. The pain gets worse when you read the German response and the NYT response it prompted. As a direct result of this article, foreign intelligence agencies will be less likely to share information with the United States. No foreign intelligence service is going to pass on information when there's a reasonable risk of that information and the method by which it was obtained being published in the press.

It's hard to fault The Times for printing such newsworthy information. Even if they had restrained themselves, someone else wouldn't have. The person who needs to be fired is the government employee who leaked the classified document the article was based upon. I'm no fan of bringing in the plumbers to clean up leaks in the government -- I think it allows the executive branch to keep vital information from the public by over classifying documents. That being said, there is a lot of information that were it released would be damaging to national security. Documents are classified for a reason, and releasing them to the press is a crime. Every so often, a document warrants being leaked as a reality check to remind the administration that classifying documents is not a PR tool. This was not one of those cases -- the public's right to know does not outweigh the harm done.

The only cool thing about this, was that it was fun to see military-speak appear somewhere outside of message traffic: CENTCOM, HUMINT, LNO, JFCOM, NEGRES... wait, no NEGRES wasn't in there -- this isn't a CASREP. In other news, I really should be using my time to draft a CASCOR -- which of course would include the word POSRES -- but this is much more fun.
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Yale and the Taliban 
Monday, February 27, 2006, 05:36 PM
The New York Times Magazine published an extremely interesting article on a former member of the Taliban who is now a freshman at Yale. This guy was not simply some random punk -- he was an ambasador at large who represented the Taliban in countries around the world, including the United States. Several years later, he has a different view on many issues and would like to one day bridge the gab between Islam and the West. It was one of the most encouraging articles I've seen in a long time.

One thing the United States needs to do to help improve it's image abroad, is stop making obtaining a student visa such a nightmare. Certainly we have to watch who we let into the country, but current delays are due to bureaucratic incompetence more that actual security concerns. The issue may get tossed aside because it doesnít directly affect voters (because we're citizens), but my guess is that a graduate from an American university is much less likely to spend the rest of his life hating America than someone who pursues his education elsewhere. And right now, it isnít just the Middle East that has an abundance of America-haters. International ill will isn't simply going to disappear -- it's going to require some effort on our part to eradicate.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006, 09:52 PM
All of the noise regarding this Dubai port deal is really starting to make me angry. The situation is an astounding combination of xenophobia and ignorance. It seems that the more ignorant some people are, the more they feel they have a right to voice their strong opinion on this.

There are two major points I'd like to make about the majority of the port deal opponents. 1) None of these people know very much about port security. If they did know anything about port security, they would realize that having control over the shipping operations doesn't give you anything. They are not in charge of actually inspecting the containers or determining what is allowed into the country. As far as learning "important information" regarding where American shipping goes to and comes from, that could easily be learned by getting a job as a dockhand. The key point is, they're not in charge of security. And there's not very much security to be in charge of, which leads us into the second point.

2) None of these people really give a hoot about port security. This isn't an issue of port security, because our ports are alredy astoundingly insecure. If any of these people actually cared, they would already be making noise because port security can't get much worse. Virtually all containers entering the United States are not inspected for dangerous cargo (ie, a nuke). Port security is the job of the Coast Guard, which is about the same size as NYPD (around 40,000). The difference is that NYPD patrols one city, while the Coast Guard attempts to patrol thousands of miles of coast line. Furthermore, a significant portion of Coast Guard assests aren't even involved in port security. For example, I'm currently bobbing around off the coast of South America looking for drug smugglers. The real issue here, is an irrational fear of Arabs that is starting to smell of discrimination. (I can't believe it, I sound like a damn liberal.)

Ana Marie Cox said it best: "shouting 'sold to country with terrorist ties' is fun and easier than trying to understand maritime law."

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New Home 
Sunday, February 26, 2006, 01:11 PM
If you're here, then you know that while my old entries will remain here, this is the new home for my random thoughts.
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Sunday, February 26, 2006, 09:15 AM
Today is our last day in Panama City, Panama. Port calls are few and far between so I'll take any opportunity to step off this boat and get a taste of dry land. One of our cab driver's gave me an interesting take on politics. Contrary to what I would think, he was furious at the government for kicking the Americans out of the canal zone. He said that Americans put a lot of money into the local economy, which benefited everyone. He also said that Americans helped keep crime down and drugs out of the country. Now the Columbians are moving in full force, bring the drugs and crime with them. Now if our government wasn't so good at making the rest of the world hate Americans, we might be able to do some good.
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