The Navy’s “punishments” for the BONHOMME RICHARD fire, explained

USS BONHOMME RICHARD on fire on 12 July 2020, from Wikipedia

Do you remember the USS BONHOMME RICHARD fire from 2020? Today marks two years since the fire was finally extinguished, having raged for four days while the ship was moored in Naval Station San Diego. Thankfully, nobody was killed in the fire, although 63 people suffered minor injuries, but the ship was ultimately scrapped, being sold for just over 3 million dollars and towed to a scrapyard in Texas.

A multi-billion dollar warship being scrapped due to a fire that should have been put out relatively quickly? Perhaps the Navy will hold someone accountable? I mean, when LtCol Stu Scheller said mean true things on social media, he was placed in jail for nine days and ultimately fined $5,000. Surely the incompetence that leads to the preventable loss of a warship in a US port would be punished more severely?

Well, the Navy unveiled its punishments on Friday:

“The disposition decisions included six Nonjudicial Punishments (NJP) with guilty findings, two NJPs with Matter of Interest Filings (MIF) and a Letter of Instruction (LOI), two NJP dismissals with a warning, one additional MIF, five other LOIs, three Non-Punitive Letters of Caution (NPLOC), two letters to former sailors documenting substandard performance, and six no-action determinations,” according to a statement from the service.”

From navy.mil

The Navy also issued a letter of censure to retired VADM Brown and two LOIs for other admirals.

For most non-Navy people, the language used for the above punishments listed is confusing, so I’ll translate what it says into what it actually means.

First, the letter of censure. In this case, it was issued to VADM (ret) Brown, who is already retired. The letter can be viewed here. A letter of censure is a “strongly” worded letter from the Secretary of the Navy expressing their disgust for someone’s actions. It sits in a service member’s record, so if you were hoping to promote, its unlikely to happen. That…doesn’t matter much to someone who is already retired. Worse still, it appears that nobody interviewed VADM (ret) Brown, and he is contesting the results, so the letter may ultimately be rescinded.

In other words, letter of censure = no punishment if you’re retired.

Let’s look at the non-judicial punishment (NJP) results:

  • 6 NJP with guilty findings
  • 2 NJP with MIF and LOI
  • 2 NJP dismissals
  • 1 MIF
  • 5 LOIs
  • 3 NPLOCs
  • 2 letters to former Sailors
  • 6 no-actions

NJP is a legal proceeding where the Navy doesn’t have to prove something “beyond a reasonable doubt,” instead they can punish someone if there is a “preponderance of the evidence.” If that sounds a bit sketchy to you, it should. The “preponderance” level essentially means you can find someone guilty of a crime even when there is substantial evidence placing doubt as to whether the person was really responsible.

The Navy is supposed to use NJP to punish small offenses quickly so as to maintain good order and discipline. NJP punishments are limited in nature and aren’t considered an actual conviction, so they don’t translate to felonies or misdemeanors on a service member’s record when they leave service.

The fire on the BONHOMME RICHARD was not a small offense. Reading through the description of the poor response to the fire should make you angry as to how the Navy, charged with maintaining the premier maritime fighting force for the most important nation in the world, could let a critical warship burn in a major city when it has plenty of firefighting equipment nearby. This SHOULD have gone to court martial. The one Sailor accused of starting the fire, a Seaman Apprentice, is facing criminal charges at a court martial, and we don’t know yet those results. Yet for some reason the Navy elected to not pursue court martial charges for any other person involved in this case.

So NJP it is. Six members were found guilty at NJP. We don’t have the full results, but the SECNAV said that two members, the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer of the BONHOMME RICHARD, were assigned letters of reprimand and forfeiture of pay. NJP limits pay forfeitures for officers to 1/2 months pay for up to two months. With this in mind, we can calculate the lower limit for how much pay was taken by assuming they each lost 1/2 months pay for one month, and the upper limit as 1/2 months pay for two months.

CAPT Thoroman enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and thus has 34 years of service. His base pay is $12,980 a month, so he could have been fined $6,490 or $12,980. CAPT Ray joined via NROTC in 1996, and his base pay is $12,725, so he’s being fined either $6,362.50 or $12,725.

Adding these up, the lower limit of total fines is: $12,852.50
The upper limit of total fines is: $25,705
The estimated cost to fix the BONHOMME RICHARD was around $3 billion, so these fines represent 0.000857% of the repair cost for the ship.

I might be off a bit, check my math and let me know in the comments.

So that’s the financial cost, and as far as I can tell, the ONLY financial cost. Granted, its not likely the Navy could get $3 billion from all the people involved, but only punishing the CO and XO financially seems a bit light. The other guilty NJPs probably issued letters of reprimand, which like the letter of censure is a black mark on your record that otherwise has no bearing in the civilian world.

What about the Matter of Interest Findings, or MIF? A MIF is a negative letter that also sits on a service member’s record that essentially says this person wasn’t necessarily guilty, buuuuut we think we should be concerned about this individual. Translating that to reality, it means that person will likely never get promoted, but the MIF doesn’t become a felony or misdemeanor in the civilian world.

Letters of Instruction (LOIs) are letters that say “You did something wrong, and I’m instructing you on how to do better.” Then, once you complete all those items, the LOI is considered complete. I have an LOI from my first command where I screwed up a tagout and my CO made me provide tagout training to my division. LOIs don’t go on your record and don’t affect promotion. They correct bad behavior and are one step above yelling at someone for doing something stupid. Again, not much of a lasting punishment.

A NPLOC is a non-punitive letter of caution. It has even less teeth than a punitive letter, because it doesn’t sit on your record at all. A NPLOCs whole purpose is to give you more evidence on someone that is likely committing crimes but staying just below the threshold to get caught. Do you remember the “I’m not touching you game,” where you irritated your sibling by putting your finger just bareeely in front of their nose or cheek and said “I’m not touching you,” like somehow not touching you meant you couldn’t be punished? Remember when your birthing person mom or dad said “That’s strike one, do it again and you’ll get a whooping.” That’s a NPLOC. Not a punishment at the time, but could be used later.

Did any Admirals besides VADM (ret) Brown get punished? Well, Rear Admiral Scott Brown (not related to the VADM (ret) Brown) and Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage both got LOIs.

And that’s it. So, just to review:

  • USS BONHOMME RICHARD catches fire on 12 July 2020, burns for four days and is a total loss of somewhere around 3 billion dollars.
  • Two years later, the Navy issues approximately 30 pieces of administrative paper that say they are really, really mad with how a Sailor acted.
  • The Navy also issues somewhere between $12K and $25K in fines.
  • The Navy has an ongoing criminal trial into one Sailor they think started the fire that we don’t have resolution on yet two years after the initial event.
  • No other Court Martials were convened.
  • No Sailor above the paygrade of O-6 was held responsible in any meaningful way.
  • No person was sent to jail (at least not yet).

And that’s it. That’s the extent of how the Navy holds people responsible for losing a warship inside our own port.

We often talk about the “Deep State” and how it protects bureaucrats from punishment while holding all the “little people” responsible. While its been obvious for some time now, the failure of the investigation into the fires on the BONHOMME RICHARD confirm that the military should be included into this “Deep State” calculus. It goes far beyond COVID vaccines and extremist “training.” The people wearing stars in our military will gleefuly destroy the lives of the hard working men and women in our service while continuing to provide poor leadership, poor guidance and force an ever increasing focus on non-warfighting skills. They are responsible for the poorly structured command and control diagrams, the shortened damage control training pipelines, and the increasing focus on non-warfighting skills, yet they demand all the pomp and circumstance for their office from every service member below them, and demand that we ASSUME (always a dangerous word) that they are really ready to conduct warfighting on behalf of this great nation.

Contrast the response to the BONHOMME RICHARD fire to that of the USS COLE, which had a massive hole blown in the side at the waterline from a suicide bomber, yet stayed afloat long enough to be brought home in one piece on the MV Blue Marlin, and eventually returned to service. Think about that when you read the descriptions in the BONHOMME RICHARD report on how Sailors didn’t know basics about their fire fighting gear:

On the morning of the fire 87% of the ship’s fire stations “​remained in inactive equipment maintenance status,” according to the investigation. None of the crew members tried to use the ship’s foam sprinkling system because it had not been properly maintained and “in part because the crew lacked familiarity with capability and availability.” The crew made several other mistakes that day, including waiting far too long to report the fire, the investigation found. Several sailors decided not to put their firefighting gear on because they thought they were not wearing the proper uniform to take part in firefighting efforts. Sailors were also not properly trained on how to use emergency breathing devices, leading to cases of smoke inhalation.

Task and Purpose Article

What happened in the 20 years since the COLE bombing? How did we get worse at damage control as a Navy? Most importantly, who should be held responsible for that?

One final piece of history. The original BOMHOMME RICHARD was a converted merchant ship used by Captain John Paul Jones to raid the coast of Britain. In the Battle of Flamborough Head, Jones fought the HMS Serapis, which heavily damaged and eventually sank the RICHARD, but not before Jones had lashed the ships together, stormed the Serapis and ultimately captured her in a massive win for the fledgling United States Navy.

One has to ask how Captain John Paul Jones, currently interred at the Naval Academy, would react to his old ship’s namesake suffering such a tragedy, and how he would have conducted the follow-on investigation.

This post represents the views of the author and does not represents views of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or any other government agency. You’re welcome to read their views in their official posts on navy.mil. If you learned something from this article, please consider donating to Da Tech Guy, or purchasing one of the author’s books for you or someone you care about.

Building solid products

I still enjoy going to the theater for a movie. My last in-theater movie was Dune, and while I have a good sound system at home, nothing can compare to giant theater speakers making your chair shake as a sandworm travels across the screen. Theaters have had to up their game compared to when I was a kid. Back in my day, you were lucky to get hot popcorn with something resembling butter and a seat that was cleaned a few hours ago. Now your seat is cushy, was reserved in advance (no rushing to the theater), and at my local theater you can order alcohol and dinner from your seat!

Movies are finally starting to up their game as well. We went through a drought of movies after Avengers: Endgame that just seemed didn’t inspire spending the money to go to a theater. On top of that, the movies went both woke and China-censored at the same time (which ironically often conflicted with itself). But times are changing, and Hollywood seems to be waking up to the realization that it should make solid movies and worry less about pleasing the Chinese or the woke mobs.

Apparently, its big enough that even CNN is recognizing it.

Look at the Top Gun sequel. Rather then make a movie about a sad Tom Cruise now working as the top DEI enforcement officer at the Pentagon, or cut out the Taiwanese flag on his iconic jacket, Hollywood decided to just make a solid movie. And it sold, bigly, now well over 1 billion dollars. Or look at Spider-man: No Way Home, another solid movie that just focused on being a movie. Or Dune, which took complicated source material and pieced it into an action-packed film.

My point is, if you make a solid movie, more often than not you’ll make money. That holds true across many other disciplines: make a solid product, and you’ll make a solid profit.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you like this post, why not listen to the author narrate his epic tale of woe to you by purchasing his book on Audible?

When should you start a family?

I have five living kids at home, and would have an additonal six year old girl with Down Syndrome had she not died after a failed heart surgery. I also have a pretty odd mix of friends, most of whom don’t have a family anywhere near my size, so I get asked a lot of questions about raising a large family. The most common questions come from younger couples asking about when the right, perfect time is to start a family.

And well…there isn’t one.

Someone might tell you to at least wait till after high school, which sounds like pretty good advice. After all, you probably aren’t married in high school, need to finish your diploma, and let’s be honest, most high schoolers don’t think through such life altering choices as having a baby.

Yet I know a few families that were high school sweethearts that married in or pretty near to high school graduation. My mom was one of them. She was married at 18 to my dad (who was graduating college and 4 years her senior) and somehow managed to successfully raise three kids while traveling the world with a Marine Corps officer. Compare that with too many of today’s graduates that can barely write English papers and brag about doing their laundry only a few days late with hashtag adulting on social media. Perhaps that says more about the current state of education than family planning though.

We could pick more times: after you finish your degree, after to start your first job, after you “settle down” (whatever that means), or after you are “ready” (seriously, what the heck does that mean??). But every time you try to nail down a right time, you’ll find lots of counter examples of people starting families that don’t follow that logic that come out just fine.

Which is why there isn’t a perfect time to start a family. Sadly, I see too many good, family-oriented couples searching for the perfect time to start a family. Many of them pray over it, but their prayers revolve around asking God to tell them when to start a family, like they expect some booming voice to emanate from the clouds declaring “Have intercourse at 6:35 pm on July 12th!” or some other nonsense like that. This delay and worry is part of the reason people are waiting later and later to start families, which makes it harder to have children as your biological clock only runs at full tilt for so long.

The recent SCOTUS decision is likely making many couples revisit this question. Abortion and contraception make it appear to give us control of when we have children. Neither does, or certainly doesn’t without consequences. Accepting the challenges, and the joys, of having a family will mean accepting it on the timeline that it comes to you.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating to this blog or purchasing one of the author’s books.

Renaming the Stennis is dumb

If you don’t follow the U.S. Naval Institute, you could be forgiven for not knowing that there are a lot of articles written by Naval Officers thinking about the future of seapower. Some are good, some are not, but the fact that we continue to have officers that at least think about the future is a good sign. Unfortunately, the USNI articles have morphed from thinking about integrating cyber in future maritime conflicts to increasingly focusing on cultural issues. The latest in this string of articles that includes delving into the LGBTQ culture of Newport, RI, and looking at the Confederate connections in the Naval Academy is a proposal to rename the USS JOHN C STENNIS (JCS).

The JCS is named after Senator John Stennis of Mississippi, the last Democrat Senator from that state and one of the longest serving Senators in US history. Senator Stennis has an interesting history, and LCDR (ret) Reuben Green focuses on racist comments that he made in 1956 along with his criminal behavior as trial prosecutor in Brown vs Mississippi. The fact that John Stennis was racist isn’t up for debate, and neither is the fact that racism is wrong. The notion that to correct this we need to rename the JCS when she pulls in for a refit though is stupid.

Anytime we name anything after a human being, its going to cause controversy. The Navy named a replenishment oiler after Harvey Milk, who took plenty of controversial actions, including outing the homosexuality of a Marine that acted to save President Ford’s life for his own political gain. We also have a USS Gabrielle Giffords, who voted in favor of limiting sales of assault weapons, which more than a few military members own and use without issue in their personal lives.

Any human being we’re going to name ships after is going to offend someone. Should we rename the USNS Maury, who despite contributing much to the study of weather and oceanography, fought in the Confederate Navy? Or the USNS Cesar Chavez, who advocated against immigration? Should we look deeper into the Kennedy family, which has plenty of skeletons in the closet and has two ships named after John and Robert Kennedy?

There are two ways to solve this. The first is to try and pick completely non-controversial names. We can name ships after battles, cities, states and even fish (which might include bumblebees if you’re a resident of California). The other option is to continue naming ships after people, with the understanding that sometimes these people will let you down. Especially with an increasing digital trail that follows everyone, its likely that anyone in the future will have said something controversial that was captured in a video, social media post or a published article.

This brings up a larger question: As a society, can we accept that people are multi-faceted and will have things we both like and dislike about them? I want to answer “Yes” to this question. While Martin Luther King Jr. had extra-marital affairs that I don’t agree with, he should be celebrated for his work in desegregating America. I can accept that Matthew Maury was a brilliant scientist that advanced our understanding of weather and oceanography while also disagreeing with his choice to serve in the Confederate Navy.

We become less human when we attempt to create binary heroes that are all good or all bad. Renaming the JCS would open the door to renaming other ships, creating a very political process that will sway depending on who is in power, and is a door best left shut.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Honey bees and communism

The author checking on one hive. These bees were removed from the attic in a house, hence the odd comb.

A honey bee colony is composed of thousands of individual bees. Almost all of these bees are female workers. The workers spend their whole life working on behalf of the colony. Newly hatched workers take care of the inside of the colony, cleaning out honey cells, taking care of the young, and tending to the queen bee. As these workers get older, they begin flying out to gather nectar (which they use to make honey) and pollen (which is used to raise young bees).

Like all good little communist workers, the worker bees continue to work until they literally burn out. During the year, a worker bee lifespan is about 42 days. Some workers will get eaten by a variety of animals or other insects, while others fall victim to pesticides or bad weather. If she manages to survive all of these dangers, an old worker bee that can no longer contribute to the hive faces a dilemma. If she tries to retire to work a less intensive job, her sisters will pull her out of the hive and throw her off the landing board. Most spent workers instead commit a sort of bee-suicide, simply flying away and dying alone.

Life for the male bees, called drones, is not much better. Drones are larger and have better eyesight, but gather no nectar or pollen. Instead, they simply eat off the stores that their sisters build up. Drones fly out during the day looking for a virgin queen to mate with. If they succeed in this endeavor they die, as certain…body parts…break off during copulation. If drones don’t mate by the end of the year, before the onset of winter, the other worker bees will throw them off the landing board and keep them out of the hive, since they aren’t needed for the winter and take up space. I imagine this is a sort of “This is SPARTA!” moment for the worker bees, freeing themselves of the loafers that sat around guzzling their gathered honey all year.

Even the queen, who can live up to five years, doesn’t live the glorious lifestyle we would associate with her title. She lays anywhere between 800 to 3,000 eggs a day in the hive, allowing the hive to grow and stay strong. But as a queen ages and struggles to maintain this level of activity, the hive will begin building a queen cell, where it will raise a new queen. Once that new queen returns after mating, the honey bees will ball up around the old queen and smother her to death.

Honey bee society almost perfectly mirrors communism. No bee owns anything. The honey cells are open to all bees. Everyone does their job for the good of the hive. This model can be amazingly productive. Some honeybee hives can produce over a hundred pounds of honey in a year. Considering that a gallon of honey takes around 55,000 “bee miles” of flight to produce, the bees certainly prove that a communist society can produce good results when everyone is dedicated to the cause.

But bees also show the dark side of communism. Once a bee is no longer useful to the hive, its cast out to die without thought or mercy. Whether it is workers that are used up, drones that never mated with a virgin queen, or a queen that can’t lay enough eggs, the hive is fast to discard any bee deemed no longer useful. There is no bee retirement. Heck, bees can’t even live alone, as experiments have shown they die if not in the hive despite having plenty of food and water.

Honey bees give us a glimpse into what communist perfection looks like, a world that can be both amazingly productive and savagely dehumanizing at the same time. While not everything translates from bee to man, the similarities do exist. I wonder if bees were placed on this earth by God to teach lessons about ourselves. Wisdom is often described as learning from the mistakes and successes of others. Perhaps we would be wise to learn from the honey bee before attempting to model our society after a hive.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, consider purchasing a book from the author or donating to Da Tech Guy.

Opioids are no joke

The opioid addiction crisis in America has been in the news for quite a few years now. It tends to elicit the same politically-motivated responses from each side. The Left seems to ignore it mostly (since it hits a large portion of rural America that doesn’t vote for them), but occasionally someone uses it to argue for more lenient drug laws and better rehab options. The Right uses it to argue for more money for rural areas and occasionally rails about Big Pharma.

It’s hard to really understand what motivates someone addicted to opioids if you’re a regular person like me that doesn’t use illicit drugs. But I got a taste of it this past week. I had surgery last Friday on my shoulder to repair the over 18 years of damage the Navy has done to me, shoving me in submarines, airplanes and other small spaces that I was probably never meant to fit into. It all caught up, so I spent over two hours with a surgeon poking around my shoulder and repairing the various tears and installing a lot of anchors. When it was all finished, my brother-in-law drove me home with a large pack of medications, one of which was oxycodone.

Now, I’ve never had any narcotics, so I was careful to take the oxycodone on the prescribed schedule. By Sunday, I felt awesome. Sure, my arm was still in a sling and I was slowly working it back into a full range of motion, but I still felt great. I was walking around the house just fine, enjoyed being outside in my garden showing my kids what vegetable to pick, and I did plenty of “Netflix and chill.”

The chill dropped off on Tuesday. My prescription ran out, and that morning I had physical therapy. I would describe the crash of my mood like the drop as sudden, awful and gut wrenching. The last case was definitely true, since I threw up after the physical therapist had tortured me for 30 minutes. I spent most of Tuesday on the couch with some sort of ice pack on my shoulder, wondering what pain the next 10 minutes will bring.

Wednesday was better, and I learned to work through my pain, and by Thursday I was back to a much happier place. That brief glimpse of how effective oxycodone was, and how my whole world changed just after going off it from a weekend of use, gave me a far better understanding of just how powerful addiction is and the difficulty in breaking it. I have a lot more sympathy for someone that is in constant pain and just wants to feel normal, and if you can take a tiny pill (my oxycodone was the size of my thumbnail) to make it all go away, why wouldn’t you?

I can’t say I know what the answer to the opioid crisis is, but I can say some of our assumptions are flawed. I don’t think most people want to be addicted. I knew that while it was easy to take that tiny pill to feel better, long term it was a bad idea. Thankfully I have a family that can support me sitting on a couch for a while. What about senior citizens that don’t have family? What about the many single people who don’t have adult kids or even neighbors to check in on them? Thrusting these people into a bucket labeled “deplorable addicts” denies them humanity and makes it too easy and convenient to ignore their plight.

We need some actual solutions to opioid addiction that preserve our use of these drugs to manage pain while recognizing the power they have to destroy our lives if we aren’t careful.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, why not donate to Da Tech Guy or purchase one of the author’s books on Amazon?

Tragedy of the Commons: HOAs

Homeowner Associations, or HOAs, are a sneaky way that fascism crept into our daily lives. HOAs are ubiquitus in most residential neighborhoods, and unless you buy an older home or build from scratch, its hard to escape them, since around 80% of new homes are built into an HOA.

The original idea behind an HOA seems to be a way for cities to dump the responsibility for maintaining small residential parks. Rather than have the city maintain it, an HOA would collect fees and do the dirty work. Even better, HOAs could enforce codes on everything from mulch color to weeds in your lawn, which would keep home values up as well as property taxes. From the government’s perspective, its a win-win.

For homeowners, its a total loss. HOAs have taken on a mind of their own, going so far as to foreclose on people’s homes and sell them at auction. We’re not talking just one or two homes. In Colorado, one HOA had filed 2,400 foreclosure cases against homeowners. Many of these followed a similar pattern: a homeowner gets fined for some stupud nonsense like weeds, and if they don’t pay up, the HOA tacks on legal fees and late fees. Once you reach into the thousands of dollars, it becomes almost impossible for a homeowner to pay it, so the HOA files a foreclosure case and attempts to kick the homeowner out and sell their house at auction.

Kicking someone out of their house for weeds in the front lawn and selling the house at auction. Read that sentence out loud and ask yourself how any person could stoop that low.

HOAs try to rip out perfectly good trees, beat people up for free speech, and even punish someone for having the gall to put out a dog treat dispenser. By far the worst problem is that the HOA tries to regulate your life while you’re in your own home. It’s bad enough dealing with morons at work, but at home? HOAs were one of the main reasons I built a custom home not in a community (which you can read about here).

HOAs don’t often get national media attention, but your HOA probably controls your well being a lot more than most national politics do (except for Biden-flation). These monstrosities need to be dismantled and destroyed. Some people are doing just that through legal means, like the Colorado legislature that is limiting fees and foreclosure cases. Many people are pushing back. When one HOA tried to stop a thin-blue-line flag, multiple neighbors began flying the same flag. As Stu Scheller likes to say “We can’t all be wrong.”

If you’re in an HOA now, I recommend getting onto the board and dismantling it on the inside. That’s what one of my neighbors has done. He has approved and expedited nearly every neighbor request for their property, making sure people can do whatever they want to their property. If you can’t do that, you should bring up HOA reform with your state representative, so that instead of debating what person to name the next highway after, they might actually make your life better. It’s a fight worth fighting, and unlike national politics, your voice can really make a difference.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating to Da Tech Guy and purchasing one of the author’s books.

Stop pretending Star Wars hates Black People

I watched the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi last night, and I’d say it was pretty good. I’ve been warned by a few people its a “bait and switch” and we’ll get less Obi-Wan and more Sith Inquisitor Reva, but that remains to be seen. Her character so far is decent: dark, conniving, and ruthless, if a bit hot-headed, but certainly not dumb.

What is dumb is this article about LucasFilm prepping Moses Ingram (who plays Reva) for the coming racist backlash about her character. Two quotes stand out:

In her interview with the Independent, the “Obi-Wan” actress tackles diversity issues in the franchise. “To me, it’s long overdue. If you’ve got talking droids and aliens, but no people of colour, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s 2022, you know. So we’re just at the beginning of that change. But I think to start that change is better than never having started it.”

The Post Millenial.com

No people of colour?

So this guy is white?

Lando Calrissian, from Wikipedia

And this guy?

Finn from StarWars.com

And this guy?

Ahmed Best, from IMDb

(No, seriously, Jar Jar was played by Ahmed Best)

And who can forget this guy, the MOST iconic voice in Star Wars?

James Earl Jones, from IMDb

Star Wars has always had people of all races. It’s Science Fiction, which gives you the license to bring in darn near anyone with any background. Almost all of the portrayals have been good, and when they aren’t, its normally the studios fault. Lando Calrissian plays an awesome character in The Empire Strikes Back, and fans love him. James Earl Jones will never be forgotten for voicing Darth Vader.

Finn would have been a cool character had Rian Johnson not gutted his backstory to prop up Rey. I and many fans thought it was cool to see the man behind the stormtrooper helmet, but then Rian Johnson sacrificed him to become the butt of jokes in The Last Jedi. Remember when he uncovered that the Resistance was buying weapons on the black market illegally while on Canto Bight? That cool side story lasted for all of 30 seconds, so you could be forgiven for missing it. Wouldn’t it have been cool if Finn spent the films coming to grips with the Resistance using similar methods to the First Order? What if he had come from a crappy backwater planet that the First Order had rescued? The fact that Finn was a mediocre character had nothing to do with fans and everything to do with crappy directing, crappy plots and a box-ticking thinking when it comes to putting diversity on screen.

But the article doesn’t stop, because it has this gem:

John Boyega of the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy has said that their experience with the franchise has included a racial component to it. In order to comply with Chinese authorities, Disney shrunk Boyega’s character on the “The Force Awakens” poster in December 2015.

The Post Millenial

So where’s the outrage over this? Please actors and actresses, jump all over this one like you do with every single social issue here in the United States. But we know you won’t, because that sweet, sweet cash will keep your mouth shut.

To recap: there have always been people of color in Star Wars. Always. Some get great characters, some don’t. When the character is well acted and well developed, people love it. When that doesn’t happen, fans don’t like it. That goes for every character in Star Wars. Americans love good Star Wars characters, but the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t like black people.

Now, I’m sure some dumbass on Reddit will claim to be a Star Wars fan and make a bunch of racists remarks on black characters. To which I say…so what? I’m sure some racist loser wishes Lando Calrissian was white. Nobody takes that guy or gal seriously. Heck, one could say that when fans fall in love with good, well developed characters that are portrayed by black people, it helps breakdown any racist tendencies they might have had.

I hope Disney gives us some good characters in the Obi-Wan series, and I hope they make Reva an intriguing, cool antagonist. Because perhaps what we need is a new hope.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, why not buy one of the authors books? You can even get the audible version to distract you on your drive to work about the high cost of fuel these days.

Walmart vs. The Navy

One of the great things about being in the Navy is the chance to interact with people from all over the United States, and even the world. It’s diversity in its truest form. I’ve met someone from every single state, almost every territory and plenty of immigrants from countries in every continent and heck, I’ve even met people that traveled to Antarctica.

I’m quite proud that I never wasted these opportunities to learn about the background of the Sailors around me. It’s how I learned about the real difficulties my African-American Sailors faced growing up, or the difficulties for Sailors from the backwoods portions of America. I particularly remember one Sailor’s response to my question “Why did you join the Navy?”

“Well Sir, it was either that or working at a gas station my whole life.”

For many people, the Navy is there chance to get out of a bad circumstance. Compared to most companies, the Navy is happy to pay big money to train someone with nothing but a high school degree and give them a decent paying job with good benefits. In fact, I’d say it was one of the only places that did this.

But that has changed.

Walmart is now paying truck drivers over $100K a year.

Lowes and Home Depot are paying for employees to be upskilled, without debt.

These companies and others have always had a path for people to excel. A friend of mine works in McDonalds Corporate Headquarters, but he got started as a teenager flipping burgers. The problem was not that there isn’t much opportunity, but that it wasn’t advertised all that well. Now that it is, that’s a good thing, because the more skilled our labor force, the better it is for everyone.

Except the Armed Services.

The military depends on a constant flow of young, somewhat educated young people (mostly men) to fill its ranks every year and replace the older, burned out service members that leave. The choice between the service or a life of gas station work is a real choice many Americans face every day. But if you can drive trucks for Walmart at $95K your first year, you’re making more then any non-nuclear Petty Officers in the Navy. Combined with not getting shot at in a war zone or deploying on a ship in such conditions it might make you turn to suicide, and it looks like a pretty good deal.

Even Business Insider is reporting on it now.

In the quest for manpower, my money is on Walmart, not the military.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency, because they’ll tell you everything is great while I tell you the truth. If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my books on Amazon, they make great gifts for your friends.

Firewood and Breast Milk

If it was a real person, you’d accuse me of clickbait!

I sell firewood at my house. I cut down trees on my property (or cut up trees blown over by a storm), saw them into 16 inch pieces, split them with a hydraulic log splitter, and then dry them on a rack in the sun for almost a year. After that, I put them out in a nice, lighted stand at the end of my driveway. Most people pay me with cash, although quite a few are now paying me with Zelle. I give them more firewood then the 7-11 does for the same price, and everyone walks away happy.

Recently on the NextDoor App, some lady made the mistake of complaining that she couldn’t find any nice, split firewood for free. I and many others reminded her that properly split and dried firewood takes time and effort, and as such people like to be compensated for that time and effort. She scoffed at that notion.

I was going to ask if she stayed warm at night under a blanket in the form of the flag of the People’s Republic of China…but I decided against that.

Plenty of people want something for free. Americans are generous people, and while the pandemic drove down charitable donations, a majority of Americans still donate in some way. But donations are gifts, and you shouldn’t fault people for wanting compensation for their time and talent.

That brings us to breast milk. The expectation from quite a few people is that breast milk should be donated to a breast milk bank. That’s all well and good, but as I noted in my book (which you should absolutely read!), when my wife attempted to donate to our local bank, the number of rules and restrictions were outrageous. For example, if you take any supplement outside of prenatal vitamins, it precludes you from donating. I find it absurd that taking glucosamine sulfate means that you should dump perfectly good breast milk down the drain because the milk bank won’t take it.

Then there is the fact that breast milk donations get sold. At non-profit milk banks, this is touted as a way to cover freezers, employee pay and other expenses. Most milk banks sell breast milk at around five dollars an ounce.

To help defray the costs of screening donors and managing donated breast milk, nonprofit milk banks typically charge recipients a fee of about $5 per ounce of milk. “Although the milk is donated, there are expenses, such as milk processing, milk distribution, and buying of pasteurizers, freezers, and bottles,” Noble said

Healthline.com

Insurance coverage is hit or miss, and you’re stuck with the bill if your insurance says no.

Now, you can always buy formula…oh wait, not right now. Hence the increased interest in breast milk banks. And, hence the increased interest in purchasing breast milk through websites like Only The Breast (yup, that’s a real, non-pornographic website). Which has sparked lots of debate on whether people are justified to sell their breast milk.

To which I say, if you want to sell it, you’re 100% justified in doing so.

It is a pain to hook up to a breast pump, put everthing in a nice bag, freeze the milk and then store it. To make substantial milk, you’re eating more calories then normal, which costs more money. All this work, and yet some people think its unethical to pay people for their time and effort. The fake science studies people have even “questioned” the safety of purchasing breast milk, but can’t point to any significant cases where someone sold dangerous breast milk. While, on the contrary, there are plenty of cases of bad formula, but that hasn’t stopped hospitals from pushing it on mothers.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, linking this push of formula on mothers, and then a shortage of formula spiking the price which brings more money to formula companies, would be pretty easy. Did we create this crisis to further some other agenda? It doesn’t look good.

Selling breast milk undercuts milk banks and makes it easier to get milk locally. It compensates women for their time, effort and calories, and it encourages money to stay locally instead of fueling some big corporations that have every incentive to profit from formula shortages and breast milk donations that they can markup on their own.

Which is exactly why many interested people want you to believe its unethical. People that, just like my firewood example, don’t place any value on your time or effort.

Moms, if you’ve got extra milk, check out OnlyTheBreast, or talk in your mom groups about selling or donating your milk on your own terms. Don’t feel bad asking for some compensation, if nothing else for the time it took you to bag everything and stay hooked up to an uncomfortable machine. You could help solve the formula crisis, since its not like the US government is going to anytime soon.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. While you’re getting ready for Memorial Day, why dont you buy one of my books on Amazon and help me out?