I am an active duty officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. All views expressed in this blog are my personal views as an individual and not those of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Common Sense

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamcare) “individual mandate” is constitutional under the federal government’s power to lay and collect taxes. 

Here are seven eight related quotes that may help explain the general disgust with government that pervades the American populace:

The mandate is "absolutely not a tax increase...Nobody considers that a tax increase."
-President Obama, September 20, 2009

"not only is it fair to read this as an exercise of the tax power, but this Court has got an obligation to construe it as an exercise of the tax power"
-United States Solicitor General Virrelli, March 27, 2012
 Arguing before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Government (defending Obamacare) 

"Congress did not intend the payment to be treated as a 'tax'"
-U.S. Supreme Court, June 28, 2012
 Syllabus, page 2

"the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax."
-U.S. Supreme Court, June 28, 2012
 Syllabus, page 4

"Congress’s decision to label this exaction a “penalty”rather than a “tax” is significant because the Affordable Care Act describes many other exactions it creates as 'taxes.'...Where Congress uses certain language in one part of a statute and different language in another, it is generally presumed that Congress acts intentionally."
-Chief Justice Roberts, June 28, 2012

"The Government asks us to interpret the mandate as imposing a tax...it can be so read"
-Chief Justice Roberts, June 28, 2012

"It is of course true that the Act describes the payment as a 'penalty,' not a 'tax.'"
-Chief Justice Roberts, June 28, 2012
Opinion of Roberts, C.J., 567 U. S. ____ (2012) (page 33)

Update June 29:“It’s a penalty because you have a choice. You don’t have a choice to pay your taxes, right?”
 -White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, June 29, 2012
 Press briefing aboard Air Force One

I’m no constitutional scholar but I’ve got a crazy idea for the Court, the Congress and the country: it either IS a tax, or it ISN’T a tax. 

P.S. I’ve read Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion.  I comprehend his distinction between the Constitution and laws (specifically the Anti-Injunction Act) passed by Congress.  But unlike the vast majority of my elected and appointed leaders, it appears, I still possess some common sense.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My bucket list

Rest day again today (and tomorrow; sometimes you just need to give your body a chance to recover).  On deployment, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, there is not that much to do and lots of time not to do it in.  A few days ago, out of the blue, I started a bucket list.  Answering the age-old question, “if a thought forms and it isn’t broadcast to the known universe on a blog, does it really exist?” with a definite no, I’ll share my list with you now. 

First, the fine print. 
  1. It’s obviously only a few days old at this point, and a work in progress.  I’m open to suggestions. 
  2. It’s for things that are at least a little out of the ordinary, or things I’ve been meaning to do for a long, long time, e.g. get a dog. 
  3. They are in no particular order. 
  4. I put lots of things on it that I’ve already done, because why not? and also because even though this is the first time I’ve written it down, some of these things have been on my mental list for years, during which time I actually did some of them.  Also some of the things I’ve done, like give a concert, I intend to do more fully, i.e. give a better concert. 
And now the list:
  • Visit Stonehenge at the summer or winter solstice (reading about this is what got me thinking about my list)
  • Visit the Pyramids of Giza
  • Visit Rome
  • Learn Arabic
  • Write a best-seller
  • Visit every continent
  • Compose a piece of music (a whole piece)
  • Create and fund a scholarship
  • Throw out the first pitch at a Yanks game
  • Drive a super car
  • Attend a World Series game
  • Play all of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
  • Go on an African safari
  • Fly a helicopter
  • Skydive, solo
  • Coach little league
  • Learn to sail
  • Own a horse
  • Start a business
  • Own a dog
  • Get a Ph.D
  • Get accepted into an Ivy League school
  • Learn to shoot a bow
  • Go to the Olympics
  • Go into outer space
  • See Old Faithful
  • See a glacier
  • Design and build my own home (and landscape my own yard)
  • Help build a Habitat home
  • Buy an island
  • Climb Mt. Washington
  • Hike the Grand Canyon
  • Serve my country in uniform
  • Fly a plane
  • Climb Massada
  • Pray at the Western Wall
  • Get published
  • Give a concert
  • Learn to shoot
  • Learn to drive stick
  • Learn to ski
  • Study a martial art
  • Scuba dive
  • Fly in a helicopter
  • See Auschwitz
  • Visit the White House
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Learn to ballroom dance
  • Teach a college-level class
  • Overcome my fear of semicolons

What do you think?  Still more things on the unchecked side of the ledger but I’ve made some good progress, no?  What’s on your bucket list?  What have you done already that I absolutely must try?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Counting days, feeling good

It's always a good part of the deployment when you can switch from counting down months or weeks to counting days.  Since "troop movements" are considered classified I can't share my exact count with you, but it wouldn't matter.  No plan survives first contact with Stratcom.  But my best guess is I’ll be back in CA by the first weekend of August - or so. 

So that has me feeling pretty good.  Also, in the last few months I seem to have overcome some kind of major writing hurdle or opened some floodgate I wasn't aware of, because I've been very prolific.  I've probably written (and rewritten and rewritten) over a dozen scenes for my book in the last month alone - and some of them are actually not terrible.  Also there's my CDS column and - not frequently enough, I know - this blog.

So on at least one of the promises I made myself, I'm making good progress.

The other, faithful (i.e. bored) readers will recall, was to set new standards for my fitness.  Well, I suffered a bit of a setback.  In mid-April I started having sharp pains in my neck.  I had to take a full month off from any resistance training before they (mostly) went away, and then after two days back in the gym they came back, a lot worse than before and running all down my right arm now.  Diagnosis (my own, with help from Dr. Dad): pinched nerve, probably C5 or C6 for those keeping score.  So basically I can't go to the gym.  This is incredibly frustrating.

I've tried to make up for it by hazing the crap out of myself with cardio, since that doesn't hurt and actually seems to help a little.  I'm up to running 50+ minutes every morning, working toward an hour.  For real runners it's not all that much, I know, but cut me some slack - I'm doing it in 90-100 degree temps.  Also I hate running.  But anyway, it's working.  We don't have a scale or anything here, but my cammie pants (“trousers” in the officially-sanctioned Marine Corps lexicon) tell me I've trimmed the ol’ waist line some.

So there you go.  More than you ever wanted to know about my personal fitness, but since I set out those goals publicly before I left, I figured I'd post a progress report.

Right now, I'm getting ready to go for my morning run once again.  It's 0507, a bit earlier than I usually wake up but when you're up, you're up.  Earlier is certainly better for a run: I noticed on my calendar (thank you, AH) that today is the first official day of summer.  Ha ha.  Ha.  Ha.  

The best part of being up at this hour, though, is "watching" the Yanks game while I hydrate (I know, I hate that word too but it’s terribly efficient).  The Internet is too slow here for video or even the radio broadcast (I would, I think, give up an entire paycheck to hear John Sterling call a live game right now) but I can more or less follow the play-by-play with MLB GameDay, where the Yanks have just tied up the score in pursuit of their 11th straight win.  Go Bombers!

In war news, things have been very busy of late, and going well for the good guys, all in all.  Needless to say, I’m talking about military stuff – the political side of things is its own story that each person can judge for him/her/itself.  Unfortunately even when things are going well – big picture – the price is high, and the moments of silence in the JOC become more frequent as the fighting season continues to heat up.  

If there is one thing that frustrates me the most about international affairs it is that the sacrifices we Americans make for other peoples – and I’m not just talking about the troops but the money too – seem to get taken for granted, like of course the U.S. will send troops and taxpayer dollars to every crisis or natural disaster on the planet.  The world would basically implode into boiling shit, not to be too blunt about it, if the U.S. overnight withdrew all its foreign aid, humanitarian assistance, security guarantees (explicit or implied), forward-deployed forces, contributions to the U.N. and the IMF and the WHO and various other NGOs and IGOs and non-profits and charities and good-will causes and so on, yet it seems everyone always has some complaint or demand or criticism that goes beyond what any other country – big or small, rich or poor, Western or non – is asked or expected to do.  Sometimes I just get fed up with that.  I’m not saying we don’t reap benefits from what we do and give, but we do and give far out of proportion to others and to what we get in return.  So I hope the Afghans, among others, remember for generations what the Americans – and the Brits and others but undeniably the Americans most of all – have sacrificed for them.  We shoved the human garbage known as the Taliban regime out the door in well under a year, but we stuck around for over a decade to do our best to leave something better in its place.  I hope they remember that.

Well that was unexpected.  Guess I had something to get off my chest.  Anyway the Internet has gone away – we’re not in Op Minimize but it does that quite often for mysterious and unknown reasons – so I’ll have to post this when it comes back.  Meanwhile, I’m all hydrated up, so it’s time for a run. 

See ya soon!

 "Yankees win.  Theeeeeeeeee Yankees...win!"