Thanks to Those Who Serve
(I’m Looking at You, Harry)

Among the many things I’m thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m grateful for the 1 percent.

No, not the targets of misguided OWS derision — I’m  talking about the 1 percent of Americans who wear the uniforms of the United States Armed Forces.

In particular, I’m thankful for one newly-promoted (yesterday!) Petty Officer Second Class, Harry Kirk Petersen, second from the right.  (I’d be thankful for a better picture from the ranking ceremony, too — I ‘shopped it as well as I could, but I suspect it’s a cell-phone-from-the-balcony shot, and it’s downloaded from Facebook.)

Harry is now officially known as ABE2 Petersen (AW/SW).  Unpacking that leads to Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Second Class (Air Warfare/Surface Warfare).  Proud though I am of my son, there is a tiny part of me that wishes he were in the Army — then I could just call him “Sarge”.  As a Third Class Petty Officer before yesterday, he was the equivalent of a Corporal.

ABEs wear anchors with wings

Boatswain’s Mate“, a generalist designation for a deck sailor, is one of the oldest ratings in the United States Navy, dating from the Revolutionary War.  “Aviation Boatswain’s Mate” is a more recent and more specialized field, designating the people who launch and recover planes on an aircraft carrier.  To make things even more confusing, Aviation Boatswain’s Mates are subcategorized as (Equipment), (Handling) or (Fuels).  (AW/SW) means he has qualifications related to both air warfare and surface warfare.

ABEs like Harry are responsible for maintaining and operating the catapults, arresting gear, and other highly sophisticated equipment used to launch and recover planes.  The pilots themselves are officers, but they take direction from Aviation Boatswain’s Mates when preparing for takeoff.  ABEs wear green shirts on deck (ABHs wear yellow, ABFs purple).

U.S.S. Nimitz

Harry is assigned to the “waist cat” crew of the U.S.S. Nimitz, the lead ship of the Nimitz-class carriers, which include 10 of the 11 active aircraft carriers in the American fleet.  The waist catapult (as opposed to the bow catapult) launches planes diagonally off of the port side of the ship.

The Nimitz is a multi-billion-dollar, nuclear-powered floating city of 5,000, with its own zip code (96620) and five dentists onboard when under way.

It was commissioned in 1975, 13 years before Harry was born, and currently is in dry dock in Bremerton, Washington, across the Puget Sound from Seattle.   Harry has been deployed twice on six-month “cruises” to the Indian Ocean in support of the war in Afghanistan, once on the Nimitz and once on temporary deployment with the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.  On the Reagan he participated in relief efforts after the tsunami devastated Japan.

He’s in one of the hardest-working ratings in the Navy — while under way, he routinely works 14-hour days or more.  Life on shore is less frenetic.  The Nimitz will get under way again for testing purposes early next year.

Harry delights in telling family and friends that he has the most dangerous job in the Navy, other than Navy SEALs.  But while a suicide bomber killed 17 American sailors on the U.S.S. Cole when it was moored in a Yemeni port in 2000, at least the jihadis don’t have a navy or air force, and carriers are surrounded and protected by other ships while at sea.  I’m proud of him for serving, and as a parent I’m grateful that he’s not carrying a rifle in Kandahar.   The riflemen and their families are also in my prayers, today and every day.

Congratulations, Sarge, and Happy Thanksgiving.

(Photos from Facebook and Wikipedia)

Pepper Spray Incident Shows Why OWS Has Less “Staying Power” Than Vietnam War Protests

I have very little use for “Occupy Wall Street” and its far-flung imitators, but even so I found the image somewhat disturbing.  A UC-Davis police officer seems to be strolling along, casually emptying a can of pepper spray toward the heads of protestors seated on the ground.

Then I mentally shrugged.   Unfortunate optics, but no real harm done.  It may have been excessive, but no matter how the police break up a demonstration, they will be criticized for the inevitable injuries and indignities.  A YouTube video helps by putting the pepper spray in the context of a broader and more calibrated use of force.

Obviously, the left has a different storyline to offer.  If you Google “pepper spray” + “Kent State” you’ll get nearly half a million results.

To be fair, nobody seems to be claiming that the UC Davis incident is “another Kent State.” (Googling “pepper spray” + “another Kent State” yields 3,970 results, but the top result says “another Kent State is unlikely”, and other results express fears of “another Kent State.”)

The 1970 Kent State shootings may have been the tipping point of the battle for public support of the Vietnam War.  The episode inspired CSN&Y’s haunting refrain of “four dead in O-hi-o,” and was captured in an iconic photo of a 14-year-old runaway screaming over the body of a dead protester.

But the differences between the two incidents only start with the fact that nobody died at UC Davis.  Taranto, who evokes “Hoovervilles” by consistently referring to the OWS protestors as “Obamavillians,”  breaks it down:

Let’s say, heaven forbid, that the Obamavillians get their “Kent State moment”–a violent climax serving as the final tipping point that convinces the majority of Americans to oppose . . . well, you see the problem. To oppose what exactly? Private property? Public order? Personal hygiene?

Exactly right. To belabor his point: During the Vietnam War, there was a straightforward, easily defined, highly achievable course of action that would meet the demands of the protestors. All the government had to do was abandon our South Vietnamese allies and get out of Southeast Asia.  Rightly or wrongly (and I tend to think it was the least-bad option), the government eventually did precisely that.

But what can be done to satisfy OWS?  Raise taxes on “the 1 percent”? Fine, but even if you assume confiscatory tax rates and no change of behavior by taxpayers, taxing “the rich” won’t do much toward closing the budget deficit — and it certainly won’t create jobs.  And no level of taxation will ever be high enough to satisfy the tax-the-rich impulse.

I haven’t blogged much about the ongoing protests;  my entire OWS oeuvre apparently consists of a passing swipe at “the aimless juvenile antics of the Occupy Wall Street crowd” in a post on an unrelated topic.  The movement hasn’t interested me — I’ve always thought its enemy was capitalism itself.  I’m a big fan of capitalism, and OWS poses no real threat to it.

My priest, a thoughtful liberal who has tugged me back before from some of my more conservative leanings, gave me a new way to think about OWS in his Sunday sermon.  After carefully stating that he was taking no position on the specific messages and tactics of the movement, he said that Occupy Wall Street can be seen as “an expression of pain.”   His point, which I hope I am capturing adequately, is that the pain is real and needs to be acknowledged.

Fair enough.  The classic right-wing response to demonstrators is to snarl “get a job” — a phrase that bristles with cruel irony during a period when it sometimes feels like 9% unemployment is settling in as the new normal.  I have my own riches-to-rags story, although both “riches” and “rags” are exaggerations. I work at a church, making about what I made in 1985 — and I thank God every day that I have a job at all, let alone one that provides the privilege of laboring for a worthy organization.

I do think the OWS crowd would do well to channel its anger in more productive ways.  Say what you will about the Tea Party, but it certainly has built something out of its initial expressions of pain:  one out of every four Republican members of the House now self-identifies as a member of the Tea Party Caucus. Somehow I don’t expect there will ever be an OWS coalition in Congress.

(Unattributed photo snatched from Eschaton.)