Sunday, August 17, 2008

John McCain is War

John McCain was one of the few politicians I admired and respected. His positions on campaign finance years ago were exceptional for a main stream politician. He was notable for his sympathy to some environmental causes in contrast to his Republican brethren who are most typically on some kind of slash and burn agenda (hey look guys, the Native Americans have been subjugated by removing their access to food when we killed off the buffalo. psst... you won!). And, he used to maintain a reluctance to engage the US military unless needed and with clear popular support so another Vietnam type of engagement didn't replay itself.

Something definitely changed in Mr. McCain after 911 and it seems to have overwhelmed the clear reasoning he previously maintained. Or, maybe it just allowed us voting public to understand better what was there all along.

John McCain comes from a family of warriors. It is seemingly in their blood. Every generation of McCains back to 1776 has sent a son to war for the US. You can view that in many ways: 1) a family of American patriots from the start of our country until now 2) a family with lots of blood on its' hands 3) a family that knows duty and exercises it consistently. However you see it, one thing is clear - John McCain's family history has war as a central theme.

John McCain's father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., believed in the exercise of military strength and used to lecture his family on The Four Ocean Navy, the Soviet threat, and his favorite symbol of US power - a soldier walking through a rice paddy with a gun on his shoulder. So, we have a man here who has grown up believing in the inevitable use of US military power on foreign soil.

Regarding the country's ill-fated Iraq War, it is also clear that McCain was out in front of the Bush administration naming Iraq as a possible conspirator on 9/12 and advocating an Iraq invasion six months before the Bush White House. If you are a conspiracy theorist, it is easy to say McCain was in on the whole enchilada from 9/11 to Iraq and gave W the political cover in the beginning and a certain level of legitimacy with the public and other Senate and Congressional members.

If you believe that Iraq was based on good people making bad decisions on faulty intelligence then McCain was one of the easiest to convince with bad data. He made gut level decisions not based on evidence. He made decisions based on who he thought was the good guys and bad guys. The Axis of Evil was W's way of putting black hats on who the administration didn't like and make it easy to sell a gullible public on who they should fear and hate. McCain was with the program all the way and was really right out front leading the parade.

This leads me to my conclusion why I will not vote for the man I thought in 2000 was the best candidate. He would be the next War President. If we somehow get out of Iraq, he will get us into another war. It is in his blood, his psyche, and is part of the man. There is no separating him from finding places and reasons to exercise the US military (remember his 100 year Iraq War comment). The US has huge problems here at home and if we don't reign in military spending and rebuild our infrastructure and get our financial house in order, we will end up like all other previous empires.

Important link with many of the facts sighted above......

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Last Family Vacation (?) Part 2 - Planning

In the last post we had decided where we going in general and for about how long. I wanted to give that info to a travel agent and let them construct something wonderful and cheap and let me concentrate on all my petty life difficulties, job, investment management, exercising, sports, and spending money. I contacted an old friend whose wife is a part-time travel agent and while she was helpful with advice, I did not sense any desire to be our travel agent, which in hindsight I can understand. Looking at a Europe ski trip I did a couple years ago, I found the name of the local travel agent who put that together for a group of 20 people. He had done a pretty good job with hotel selections and transportation organization so I contacted him. He wanted a $100 just to talk!

I didn't understand that, so I decided to start looking for air fares and compare to on-line package deals. After using many different sites, I found that was excellent. It gives you prices from several different websites including some of the biggies like Expedia and Priceline. It will also forecast (sometimes, if it feels like it) whether the prices will go up or down. There was also a feature on Priceline that made it easy to see how varying you departure dates for leaving and coming back affected prices. That helped immensely as well and made locking down our schedule to 23 days. I watched prices move lower and then about 5 months before our scheduled departure time, prices started creeping up about $20 per ticket, so I purchased at that time getting a San Francisco to London Heathrow RT ticket for $1064 each.

Now, we could start planning where to spend the time. I asked the teenage children to start researching where they wanted to go, what they wanted to do, and ideas of where to stay. I sent them links and talked with them. I "thought" they would really get into putting an itinerary together. And, I couldn't have been more wrong. After a couple months of nagging on my part and inaction on theirs, I enlisted the wife and we went to the local travel bookstore Even though their website does not seem to list travel books, they do have an extensive selection and a very knowledgeable staff who were eager to share their expertise and feedback from customers. We ended up with a Rick Steves for London, Rick Steves for Provence, Pauline Frommer for London, and Pauline Frommer for Paris. Also, walked out with a nifty %12.95 Berlitz French/English dictionary that came with an audio CD since our French consisted of my 17 year old's one year of French three years ago. Her retention seemed to consist of "wee" and "boinjer".

Now, armed, utterly confused, and overloaded with ideas, we got ready for the real fun part, though we didn't know it yet.

The Last Family Vacation (?) Part 1 - Where?

Hey kids, Dad is going on a business trip to New Zealand in February. “That’s not fair!” they cry in unison and a promise to take them next year is made, “if it is nice there”. Well, the South Island is very nice and so next fall the question is made, Hey Kids, you want to go to New Zealand for Christmas break? No way, Dad! We have to be home for Christmas.

This line of dialogue continued for 6 years from the time they were 10 and 12. I offered Costa Rica, Hawaii, even New Zealand again. How about anywhere? Nope. My conservative middle-class kids had more holiday values than me and said that time was to be spent at home.

So, when #1 child was preparing to graduate high school, I offered the perennial trip to anywhere as a grad present. “No, I don’t want to fly anywhere!”, the answer. How about driving anywhere? “No!” I concede the issue saving myself thousands of dollars and then force him and #2 to go to a my wife's and mine high school/neighborhood friends reunion in North Carolina. That seemed to cure the fear of flying bit, but, then I took lots of grief for “making” him and his sister travel from Mount Shasta, CA to hot, humid, Bryson City, NC.

So, when two years later, #2 says, “I want to go to Paris for my HS graduation”, I am delighted that someone wants to actually get out in the world. I don’t realize how much planning and work is actually involved in a overseas family trip until around 8 months ahead of departure time I start to look at what it will take for money, time away, and trip research time.

“Geez Honey, do we really have to spend 2 weeks in Paris?”, the negotiation starts. See, I am really more a small town kind of person and more than a week in a big, foreign, city conjures up visions of pushy people, diesel fumes, bad air, black snot, chlorinated water, expensive restaurants, scary parts of town you find by mistake, and the like. “But Dad, Paris is like the City of Love”, the 17 year old daughter sort of pleads, whines, and coos at once.

After much back and forth, we come up with a general plan. It goes something like this: 5 – 6 days in London; 4 – 5 days in Paris; and the balance of roughly 3 weeks going around France. Now, the blackboard has a little writing on it and some kind of action can take place. But, will it be fun? Read on......

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another Lone Nut - Really?

The "lone nut" theory is starting to crack on me. The latest lone nut, of course, is Bruce Ivins, the Army microbiologist who allegedly killed himself after the FBI threatened to indict him for the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and injured many others.

Throughout recent history, we have had many lone nuts and Mr. Ivins can now join the list of Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Lynette Fromme, John Hinckley, Jr., and Mark David Chapman. It seems more than a little odd to me that all these assassinations or assassination attempts were carried out by one lone nut case.

In the case against Mr. Ivins, there seems to be a serious lack of evidence showing that he had the capability to weaponize the anthrax. There is fairly solid evidence the anthrax came from the lab where Mr. Ivins worked. Taking the anthrax that he worked with and turning it into the anthrax that was delivered in the mailed envelopes is a complex task that there is no supporting evidence linking to Mr. Ivins.

The facts surrounding his alleged suicide seem a little bizarre and the fact no autopsy was ordered or requested is also odd. Why didn't his lawyers ask for one? Why didn't his family? Why didn't the police or FBI? With the case not completely solved, and the possibility that others might be involved not known, was it not in the interest of the FBI to have an autopsy performed to ensure the drugs found in Mr. Ivins had not been put there by force? Maybe someone else was covering their tracks.

There seems to have been a rush to judgement in this case. Why? With this case open for seven years, what was the rush to close it now? Why was not all possible evidence gathered, such as an autopsy?

The articles below were some of the sources for the information contained in this blog. What do you think?

August 10, 2008 Op-Ed Contributor: Open Questions on a Closed Case By GERRY ANDREWS