Friday, January 19, 2018

The Looming Government Shutdown - A Few Inconvenient Truths

With all the hoopla in the media about the pending US government shutdown its important to remember a few inconvenient truths.

1. Government shuts down because it is out of money.  Government is out of money because Congress (one or both houses) can't complete its Constitutionally-required job of presenting a budget and appropriating funds.  To work or expend funds by an agency during a shut down is a violation of the Economy Act of 1932 which carries criminal penalties.

2. Government shutdowns are political theater and nothing more.

3. In 31 years of government employment I endured 9 full or partial shut downs. Most occurred around October 1, the start of the fiscal year when Congress couldn't pass a budget or come to agreement on a continuing resolution. In other words, in 31 years a shut down occurred on average once every 3 years.

4. The most famous (and longest in my career) shutdown was in 1996 when Newt Gingrich threw a fit claiming he wasn't allowed to sit with President Clinton on Air Force One as they returned from Israel. This despite a front page picture in the Washington Post of Newtie sitting with Clinton on the flight.

5. Government employees do not lose any salary because of a shut down. We are given Administrative Leave for the time off and paid our regular salary when the nonsense is over.

6. Social security checks are still written and sent to retirees as are monthly annuity checks for retired Federal employees.

7. Vendors working with government agencies don't get paid during a shut down but they eventually get paid when funds are appropriated. Albeit late, they are paid.

8. The military, law enforcement and other employees deemed "essential" still work during a shutdown. So its not like the Marines come to a halt and can't do anything or the FBI cant chase bad guys that rob banks or Customs can't enforce import laws. The US Coast Guard is still on the water helping boaters in distress and rescuing sick passengers from cruise ships. They can and still do.

9. Air Traffic Controllers still show up for work and still keep planes in flight separated from each other. Air travel does not change or stop.

10. About the only thing that happens when government shuts down is the National Parks close and the National Wildlife Refuges close, and you can't go sign up for new benefits under Social Security, and the Department of Labor doesn't collect employment data for a few days, and there are delays in obtaining Federal housing assistance, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessels have to return to port because they can't operate without funds. All of these things go back to normal once the children in the Congress agree on more funding.
The only thing that really happens in a shutdown is that pompous asshole members of Congress and in the current case a president with an ego the size of Brooklyn, can crow about how they shut down the government to make a point. The last time there was a shutdown (caused by Senator Ted Cruz R-TX) it was estimated that it cost the american economy something like $28 billion dollars.

So when you hear people panting fearfully on tv about an impending shutdown, just open a beer and watch the fools make a fool of themselves. Think of it as a "free" theater performance and nothing more.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Diving Away in Margaritaville - Bonaire Style

Bonaire is one of the few places in the world where you can earn PADI Lionfish Hunter certification and we all know that the only good Lionfish is the one on the end of your spear

While diving offshore from Anna Maria island have you ever thought to yourself – “There has to be better viz somewhere!”  

If you have then you should consider a week of diving on beautiful Bonaire, one of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) in the Dutch Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela.  Diving is superb, visibility less than 60 feet is considered “bad viz,” plus the dive package at the Plaza Resort Bonaire, and diving with Toucan Diving Bonaire, is a bargain at twice the price.  

True there are cheaper options on the island but they don’t include 12 boat dives, luxurious hotel rooms, all your meals, and unlimited alcohol!

Craig Faanes and Cathy Hayslett are headed back to Bonaire during October 27 to November 3, 2018 and want to invite you to come along.  There are three packages available and the price is based on room type:  A Laguna View/Marina View room is $1466 per person in double occupancy; a Pool View room is $1568 per person in double occupancy, and an Oceanfront is $1810 per person in double occupancy.  Those prices include the following:

 7 night All-Inclusive Special at the Plaza Resort includes:
·        Transfers from airport to resort and return
·        Hotel room
·        12 tanks of boat dives with 6 days unlimited shore diving for each person
·        Tanks, weights, belts, free Nitrox
·        Daily buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner (all you can eat) with live cooking station
·        All drinks, including house brand wine, spirits and beer (premium brands not included)
·        Use of kayaks, snorkeling gear, stand up paddleboards, beach tennis, fitness center
·        Daytime activities and evening entertainment
·        Beach chair & Pool towels
·        Room safe and WiFi
·        All local taxes, service charges and energy surcharge

Toucan Diving Bonaire is a PADI 5-Star Resort where you can work on several certifications (Deep Diver, Night Diver, Rescue Diver, Underwater Naturalist, etc.) if you are interested. An added bonus of diving with Toucan Diving Bonaire is that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can earn PADI Lionfish Hunter certification!

American Airlines now flies nonstop from Miami to Bonaire (a 3-hour flight) making travel to the island much easier than in the past.  There is a connecting flight available from Tampa.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Day in Northern Wisconsin History

January 1, 1974 in Rice Lake Wisconsin the ambient temperature at the airport at sunrise was -62 degrees F. Dick Kaner reported that temperature on radio station WJMC. Luckily there was no wind so there was no wind chill. Walking from the barn to our house after milking cows I spit. It hit the snow as a little ball of ice just like in Jack London’s story “To Build a Fire”

By 11 am I was able to start my car when the temperature had warmed to -40 degrees F. My Chesapeake Bay Retriever Chester and I drove out to the Blue Hills near Hardscrabble. I strapped on snow shoes, and we hiked in a mile to check some traps I had set on a beaver colony. I caught 2 beaver whose combined weight was 90 pounds! I put them in my wicker backpack and hiked back to the road.

Snow shoes were an essential component of off road travel in the north woods of Wisconsin long ago

The added weight of the beavers, on top of my wool clothes, caused me to overheat. I took off my coat, slung it over my shoulder, and trundled back to my car. Steam billowed off me as I walked. I wish someone had been with me to take a picture because I must have looked like a cloud on snow shoes.

By sunrise the next day the overnight low had warmed to only -26 degrees F. The beginning of a warming trend. I relive bitter morning and that hike to check beaver traps in my memory every New Years Day.

Not to be outdone, almost three years to the day later, the overnight low in Rice Lake reached -60 degrees F.  As my now deceased mother said that morning "what do you expect? Its Wisconsin."
These bumper stickers were a common sight in Barron County after that equally bitter day in January 1977