And Even More Fun Stuff©

Before I get to that however…I should probably offer a few comments on the whole Roe v. Wade/SCOTUS leak/media brouhaha. This is the second draft of this portion of the post…I didn’t like the first one so tried again…and I like this one a lot better.

Whether abortion should be allowed is really a combination of two choices…a moral one and a legal one. The moral one is obviously up to each individual depending on your personal ethics, religion, thoughts, and decisions…and that’s the way it should be. The legal one is a different matter. Personally…from a legal standpoint I (as a strict constructionist of the constitution) believe that the right to abortion is not enshrined in the constitution and therefore the matter defers…as it states in the constitution itself…to the states. This means that different states might have different rules…but I’m really just fine with that. From a moral standpoint…and everybody’s opinion will be different here…I believe that abortion should mostly be illegal unless it is for the health (not convenience) of the mother, rape or incest pregnancies (although those could be morning after pill treated earlier), if the fetus will not survive or if the infant will have some deformity or health issue making a normal life possible (I’m actually less OK with that last exception than the others). In addition…abortion as a means of birth control should be illegal…there are plenty of other ways to prevent pregnancy and the male involved in the pregnancy should also have to approve since the pregnancy took two people to produce.

All in all…the more I look and and think about this…I’m becoming convinced that nobody really looks good in this whole argument.

  • The worst offender is the person who leaked the draft opinion. I’ve seen claims by both sides that it was clearly the other side that did the leaking…but I’ve seen not one shred of evidence either way and there are reasonable theories for both conservative or liberal leakers. The big problem here is that the court has long had a policy of confidentiality…frequently votes change as a result of draft opinions being routed around and the opinions change as they go through the negotiation process. If…and it’s a big if unless the culprit confesses…the leaker is identified he/she probably committed no crime but their legal career will be over. Probably not disbarred although there’s a provision for that in most states for egregious conduct against judicial system…but the only law firm that will hire them after this will be one of the ambulance chasing variety.
  • Second worst is Politico. First…they know the long held confidentiality history of the court and while they can’t be forced to reveal their source…they freely chose to publish this anyway either because they wanted the scoop or they disagree with the decision. Either case makes them guilty of making the news instead of reporting the news which is what journalists are supposed to do…and no comparison to the Pentagon Papers or the Wikileaks scandal makes this an OK thing to do. Then they double down and claimed this week that the leaked opinion (dated Feb 10 and leaked in late April) is the only opinion being circulated, there has been no revision in its text, and no dissenting opinions are being circulated in draft. They offer no proof for this additional scoop…but hey, it gets clicks on the internet so they think it’s fine to publish things that appear blatantly false to anybody who has the slightest inkling of how a bureaucracy works…and there are almost surely dissenting opinions from the liberals on the court being routed as well.
  • Next up…media and politicians in general for a host of reasons. They keep harping on how this right is enshrined in the constitution (it isn’t) and how this will result in many other rights…interracial marriage, gay marriage, and contraception will be next. This despite the statement in the draft opinion (which has almost surely changed since Feb 10) specifically stating that none of those rights are being considered here. Yes…some of the far right religious folk are saying they’ll go after those next…but in reality the horse has let the barn long ago on those issues and the likelihood that they will be overturned is about as probable as the left tossing out the 2nd amendment or the institution of the blatantly unconstitutional wealth tax/unrealized gain taxes that Warren/Sanders want to impose. Just like Obamacare…things have progressed too far for those to be changed.
  • The administration…we have 3 separate branches of government for a reason…and for the executive branch to come out repeatedly and state that the is an incorrect decision is wrong. Despite this…it’s politically advantageous to do so so…again…it keeps happening.
  • The congress…they want to pack the court and pass legislation requiring the court to have an ethics policy. Again…separation of powers…they don’t have the constitutional right to do the latter and their talk of “rebalancing the court” is merely a disguised policy of “let’s appoint justices we like to overrule the ones we don’t like”. All the talk about illegitimately appointed justices is a bunch of crap…they were appointed and confirmed in accordance with the rules…and let’s not forget that it was the Democrats that first employed the nuclear option of eliminating the filibuster for judicial appointments. Similarly with term limits for the justices…again obviously clearly unconstitutional…but they don’t bother reading the constitution or are just trying to make political points.
  • Left wingers in the Congress who try to pass laws that they claim are “codifying Roe” which in actuality go far beyond what it currently allows.
  • Right wingers in the Congress who say that if the Republicans take the majority in the midterms they will introduce a federal abortion ban bill and also go after same sex marriage, interracial marriage, and contraception. None of those are happening…first off because there’s a Democratic president even after the midterms and second of all there’s still the filibuster to deal with and there likelihood of either side getting a 60 seat Senate majority is pretty remote. I’m pretty sure that you could not get even all the Republicans to vote for any of those.
  • Idiots in the media…both sides…that keep making up stories out of whole cloth and claiming all sorts of things about this issue with not a shred of proof or evidence or even common sense in a lot of cases.
  • Finally…the court itself doesn’t really look too good here. First up is the lack of respect for the court’s confidentiality policy by the leaker but equally important is the broad opinion in this case. Under the chief justiceship of Justice Roberts…the court has almost always voted and opined in relatively narrow decisions about only the case in question and not made broad changes. No matter whether it was gay marriage or same sex marriage or providing flowers/cake for a gay marriage or gun control or many other issues on both sides of the spectrum…the norm for this court has been narrow decisions. And…the far left late Justice Ginsburg agreed with this and stated on many occasions that Roe was (a) decided on the wrong basis, (b) wasn’t really the court’s problem to solve but rather the legislature’s, and (c) was much too broad of a decision and should have been a narrower one that only incrementally changed things rather than revolutionary change.

So…what’s the final opinion going to say? I have no idea…it could be pretty similar to the first draft that was leaked or it could be something much different. As it stands…the first draft is a 5-3 decision with Justice Roberts wanting a narrower decision only on the Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. I’ve seen several different reports that believe that he is trying to get one of the 5 to come over to his opinion…that would make it. 4-2-3 decision but most importantly it would give him as the Chief Justice the right to either write the opinion himself or choose who will write it…and in the case he could write it as a narrower decision with incremental change as he desires and the other 4 would then clearly still vote for that opinion although they could issue a concurring opinion demanding more radical change…but those concurring opinions would not change the ruling opinion. Conversely…he could choose to vote with the other 5 which again would let him write the opinion and go the narrower route. Personally…I’m thinking that more likely than not he will take one of those paths to ensure a more incremental change.

Finally…let’s not forget that even if Roe is overturned…despite the claims of the left this will not make abortion illegal…it will merely toss it back into the democratically elected legislature arena…which as I said is where it belongs in the first place. And the crap about all those other rights disappearing is in my opinion just that…crap. That train left the station too long ago and there are too many same sex and interracial marriages and widely available contraception methods to make a change…just like trying to repeal Obamacare at this point is too late. 

Ok…on to more interesting stuff.

We took a week long trip up to Midlothian VA for Mother’s Day…Alex invited all the mothers…mother, 3 grandmothers, and one great grandmother…out to dinner on Mother’s day at Magianno’s Italian Restaurant in Midlothian. We spent 4 days there visiting Alex and his parents Bryan and Jen and a good time was had by all. Following that…we had realized that despite being stationed in Charleston SC on Neil’s first submarine we had never been out to Fort Sumter where the Civil War started. So instead of coming straight home down I-95 in 2 days…we did one day to Charleston, spent two nights there and went to the fort on the middle day, and then another day from Charleston home…getting back home about dinner time last evening.

Neil was still recovering from bronchitis all week…but kept drugging himself up with antibiotics and symptom relief medications…and didn’t have much appetite as the antihistamine he was taking is the same ingredient that is in most diet pills so he mostly wasn’t very hungry. He wasn’t contagious any more as he had been on the antibiotics 5 days before we saw anybody up there.

We ate the first night at a restaurant in the hotel…Mess which was a Mexican and Sushi place…a combo we had never seen. Connie had some marinated tuna over rice and Neil had 3 tacos…one beef, one fish, and one shrimp/chorizo sausage. All were decent but he shoulda stuck with the beef one as it was the best of the bunch. A nice glass of wine and we were happy.

The second night we ate at High Cotton…we’ve been going there off and on for 40something years since were first in Charleston in the late 70s. It was as good as always…wine, she-crab soup, and then we got both Oysters Rockefeller and Beef Carpaccio and shared for our own surf and turf. Afterwards…we went up to the rooftop bar on the Hyatt where we were staying…it’s the highest rooftop bar in Charleston and while the pay system was somewhat convoluted it works for them and we had a nice time sitting, imbibing some after dinner drinks, and talking.

A bit about the history of Fort Sumter. The entrance channel to Charleston harbor basically runs pretty much east/west and once a couple of miles inside the entrance it branches into the Ashley River to the left and the Cooper River to the right that heads upstream, then a little bit upstream the Wando River branches off the Cooper to the right. Most of the port facilities are either right near the entrance to the Ashley as it’s relatively shallow but most of them are up the Cooper River. To protect the harbor entrance the federal government built a bunch of forts…which was what you did back in those days. Fort Moultrie on the north side of the entrance on Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter on an artificial island in the middle protected the main entrance channel which is about 2,000 feet across An additional fort Johnson west of Fort Sumter on James Island protected the narrower, shallower southern side of the channel south of Fort Sumter and an additional smaller fort Castle Pickney on an island near the main Charleston downtown peninsula further protected the port. At the outset of the whole secession drama prior to the start of the Civil War…all of these forts were pretty minimally manned with only Fort Moultrie having a permanent garrison of about 85 personnel. As the possibility of hostilities increased their commander Major Robert Anderson secretly moved his personnel from Fort Moultrie which he deemed indefensible with the number of men he had to Fort Sumter and SC militia occupied Fort Moultrie as well as Fort Johnson and Castle Pickney and emplaced artillery there. Brigadier General G. T. Bouregard of the SC militia (who had coincidentally been an artillery student of Major Anderson at West Point earlier) demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter on April 11, 1861 after SC seceded from the union. Major Anderson declined and at 0430 the following morning Confederate forces commended bombarding Fort Sumter with the initial signal round being a mortar fired from Fort Johnson (which no longer exists). Despite being on the island and armed with artillery…Fort Sumter was functionally almost obsolete due to advances in artillery including rifled barrels and explosive shells since it was designed. After a 34 hour bombardment…during which amazingly enough only 3 federal soldiers were injured and none killed…Major Anderson surrendered as they were low on ammunition and food and he and his men marched out of the fort and boarded a ship to New York. The fort returned fire during the bombardment but Major Anderson only used his smaller cannon as the largest ones were on the open top of the fort so he preserved his manpower rather than subject them to intense mortar fire. The fort was heavily damaged during the bombardment due to the advanced artillery of the time. After taking control…the Confederacy rebuilt and rearmed the fort with modern artillery and it successfully assisted in protecting the port for the remainder of the war. It was periodically bombarded during the remainder of the war by Union forces with a total of about 7 million pounds of shot fired at it with a total casualty to the Confederate forces therein of 52 killed and 267 wounded. It was evacuated in February of 1865 as General Sherman marched north from Savannah. Union forces reoccupied the fort on April 14, 1865 and raised the same flag that was lowered when the fort surrendered in 1861.

Let’s have some photos.

Connie looking out to the northwest at the new Cooper River Bridge…they finally replaced the old, rickety, 2 lane span with a modern one. The old one had grates instead of pavement across the span and in the ice storms that periodically hit Charleston everybody stopped at the top and one car at a time slipped and slide down to the bottom. She’s all bundled up despite the relatively warm (60s) day in Charleston because the 15 knots or so of breeze coming from the northwest made it mighty cold along the river and on the ferry.

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The visitor center for the National Historic Site.

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One of the many church steeples in Charleston. Neil doesn’t remember precisely which one this is but they’re all used as navigational aids as one navigates a ship into or out of harbor. They’re all on the chart and you take a series of bearings for each navigational fix. Plot those bearing lines on the chart in pencil and where thy cross is where the ship is.

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Our ferry to the island…with Connie doing her normal Vanna White impersonation.

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Castle Pickney as we headed towards the fort…it now belongs to the Sons of the Confederacy historical society.

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USS Frank E. Peterson DDG 121…an Arleigh Burke class destroyer named after the first black 3 star in the Air Force. We noticed the bunting around the rails…that’s part of what the Navy calls Dress Ship along with pennants the you’ll see in a later photo. One of the folks on the boat said the they were told by the rangers that it was a new ship and was being commissioned over the weekend. Neil thought it didn’t look quite the new so he googled it and it was commissioned in 2017…so this dress ship is either for a Change of Command ceremony or its also done sometimes when a ship is in port for a festival or celebration…nothing like that is happening this week so likely a Change of Command.

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Fort Sumter as we approached the dock…notice that the flag is not raised…that’s because as the first boat of the day our crew and passengers get the honor of holding colors at the fort.

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The flag pole with the crowd gathered ‘round.

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The large flag that will be raised.

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Looking down at some of the few remaining casements over the lower gun deck…the largest cannon which Major Anderson chose not to use were up on the top.

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Passengers readying the flag for colors.

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And…Attention to Colors.

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Fully raised. This is the 31 star flag identical to that flown over the fort back in 1861.

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Panoramic view looking to the east-southeast out the harbor entrance channel. Fort Moultrie is to the far left and the channel goes straight out over the day marker out in the water at right of center. 

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Dedication on the flagpole base.

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Panorama of the fort interior looking northwest from the seaward parapet. You can see some of the remaining casemates to the left and the ones to the right that were demolished by the bombardment in 1861 as well as the Union bombardments later in the war.

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Connie for scale next to one of the large cannon that used to be up on the top parapet of the fort. These are 100 pound Parrot (i.e., rifled barrel) artillery.

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The original flag that flew over the fort during the bombardment in 1861. Lousy photo but it was dark to preserve the fabric and no flashes were allowed so Neil did the best he could do with available light, reflections, and no tripod.

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Some of the demolished casemates facing Fort Moultrie from which the majority of the damaging shots were fired. The brick pillars away from the wall used to have arches between them and a deck for the large artillery above. Smaller cannot were in the rooms with below with the bricked up openings…those were closed up when the fort was opened for tours since if you fall out there is only rock and/or water below.

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Closer up view of what the demolished casemates used to look like…but no cannon on top due to structural concerns as the fort is over 200 years old.

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Close up of the closed off gun ports in the lower casement.

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As we left the fort and headed for the ferry…Neil took an Us-ie of Connie and himself in front of the entrance sign.

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Caspian Tern that Connie got a shot of on the way back…Neil wasn’t feeling very well so he didn’t carry any long lenses since he didn’t want the weight.

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She also got some brown pelicans.

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And a very nice house along James Island across the Ashley River as we headed back to the city. More millions than we could afford…but still very nice.

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A final view of the fort as we departed with the flag raised…you can see the next ferry that docked immediately after we departed the single berth dock.

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Another navigational aid.

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This Coast Guard boat was anchored out for some reason we couldn’t figure out…and it has an anchor line instead of a chain…which is strange considering the size of the boat.

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The other side of Castle Pickney.

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And a slightly better shot of the Frank E. Peterson…they’ve finished Dressing Ship in this one as the pennants fore and aft are now up. Few of her weapons systems are visible…the lighter gray patches on the superstructure are her phased array steerable beam Aegis radar and fire control system…the beams are electronically steered vice the older style of radar with a rotating antenna. Her missile batteries are in below decks vertical launch cells fore and aft. Other than those cells which launch both anti-aircraft, anti-ship, and land attack missiles she has a couple of radar controlled automatic 3,000 round per minute Gatling guns for point defense against incoming cruise missiles if the longer range ones in the vertical cells don’t kill incoming fire.

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And finally…another Us-ie of them at High Cotton for dinner. Chardonnay for her and an Old Fashioned for Neil.

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Cyas.

About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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