John McCain

As a veteran, I must pay my respects to a fellow warrior who showed valor far above and beyond his call of duty.  David Foster Wallace described the critical days in a 2000 Rolling Stone article.  An extended quote:

You probably already know what happened. In October of ’67 McCain was himself still a Young Voter and flying his 23rd Vietnam combat mission and his A-4 Skyhawk plane got shot down over Hanoi and he had to eject, which basically means setting off an explosive charge that blows your seat out of the plane, which ejection broke both McCain’s arms and one leg and gave him a concussion and he started falling out of the skies right over Hanoi.

Try to imagine for a second how much this would hurt and how scared you’d be, three limbs broken and falling toward the enemy capital you just tried to bomb. His chute opened late and he landed hard in a little lake in a park right in the middle of downtown Hanoi, Imagine treading water with broken arms and trying to pull the life vest’s toggle with your teeth as a crowd of Vietnamese men swim out toward you (there’s film of this, somebody had a home – movie camera, and the N.V. government released it, though it’s grainy and McCain’s face is hard to see). The crowd pulled him out and then just about killed him.

U.S. bomber pilots were especially hated, for obvious reasons. McCain got bayoneted in the groin; a soldier broke his shoulder apart with a rifle butt. Plus by this time his right knee was bent 90-degrees to the side with the bone sticking out. Try to imagine this.

He finally got tossed on a jeep and taken five blocks to the infamous Hoa Lo prison – a.k.a. the “Hanoi Hilton,” of much movie fame – where they made him beg a week for a doctor and finally set a couple of the fractures without anesthetic and let two other fractures and the groin wound (imagine: groin wound) stay like they were. Then they threw him in a cell. Try for a moment to feel this.

All the media profiles talk about how McCain still can’t lift his arms over his head to comb his hair, which is true. But try to imagine it at the time, yourself in his place, because it’s important. Think about how diametrically opposed to your own self-interest getting knifed in the balls and having fractures set without painkiller would be, and then about getting thrown in a cell to just lie there and hurt, which is what happened. He was delirious with pain for weeks, and his weight dropped to 100 pounds, and the other POWs were sure he would die; and then after a few months like that after his bones mostly knitted and he could sort of stand up they brought him in to the prison commandant’s office and offered to let him go.

This is true. They said he could just leave. They had found out that McCain’s father was one of the top-ranking naval officers in the U.S. Armed Forces (which is true – both his father and grandfather were admirals), and the North Vietnamese wanted the PR coup of mercifully releasing his son, the baby-killer. McCain, 100 pounds and barely able to stand, refused.

The U.S. military’s Code of Conduct for Prisoners of War apparently said that POWs had to be released in the order they were captured, and there were others who’d been in Hoa Lo a long time, and McCain refused to violate the Code. The commandant, not pleased, right there in the office had guards break his ribs, rebreak his arm, knock his teeth out. McCain still refused to leave without the other POWs. And so then he spent four more years in Hoa Lo like this, much of the time in solitary, in the dark, in a closet-sized box called a “punishment cell.” Maybe you’ve heard all this before; it’s been in umpteen different media profiles of McCain.

But try to imagine that moment between getting offered early release and turning it down. Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? It so, would you have refused to go? You simply can’t know for sure. None of us can. It’s hard even to imagine the pain and fear in that moment, much less know how you’d react.

After this demonstration of superior honor and valor and physical and moral courage, John McCain returned home and entered politics.  He turned out to be a pretty standard issue hawkish corporate Republican, with a bit of racism mixed in, who never saw a tax cut or war he didn’t like. He saved the ACA, but he gave us Sarah Palin and never really pushed back against Trumpism the way one might expect a hero who truly loves his country would.

I wonder why not – John McCain showed more physical and moral courage early in life than he did close to the end.  But few human beings could endure what he went through without breaking down completely. He was a true American hero who loved his country, suffered for defending it as his personal honor demanded, and then returned home to continue serving as he felt driven to serve.  I disagreed with him on almost every issue, but I respect few men more than I do John McCain.  Rest in peace.

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Comment at Virginia Right

Ellwood Sanders is a regular contributor to Virginia Right, a conservative blog edited by Tom White.  Yesterday he posted an article criticizing Leslie Cockburn and Chuck Schumer for having “perverted legal questions into political ones.”  It seems Cockburn tweeted that the Trump Administration demonstrated its “lack of respect for states’ rights and Virginians’ health.,” and Schumer pointed out that the Bret Kavanaugh nomination “would put a dagger through the heart” of Democrats’ belief that health care is America’s number one issue. Continue reading

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More Guns, More Shootings

Another day, another mass shooting, this time at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.  Since the shooter turned his weapon on himself before police could arrest him we’ll likely never know just why.  He may have had a personal grudge against another player or just got pissed when he lost.

Of course, the gun nut lobbyists at the National Rifle Association wasted no time bringing out the “more guns in the room would have either deterred the shooter or allowed someone to bring him down” chestnut.  (Or maybe they just want to ban headsets in public.)  So I have to express my exasperation with people who believe that mass shooting tragedies can be prevented by creating an armed society and normalizing guns in public places. Continue reading

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An Observation on the State of the Democratic Party

Isaac Chotiner has a podcast at Slate called “I Have to Ask,” and this week he interviewed Michelle Goldberg, now a New York Times columnist.  They cover lots of topics, including Omarosa and the Russia investigation.  But this bit caught my eye:

“Whenever I’m in New York, I can work myself into this state of really bleak despair, and then I go out and travel and meet … it’s not even necessarily Democratic Party activists as much as Indivisible activists or Democratic Socialists of America chapters or these sort of grass-roots groups that have sprung up since the election and are just doing so much work. And it always makes me feel so much more hopeful about the future.

You hear the same story over and over again of these kind of middle-aged women who, they voted, but they didn’t necessarily pay super close attention to primaries, maybe they had to look up what congressional district they were in, and who woke up the day after the election and were so shattered and looked around for somewhere they could go and found either an offshoot of Pantsuit Nation or a local Indivisible meeting.

And you meet these women, and they go to meetings now four or five nights a week. They have all new friends. They are just astonishing organizers, and they’re kind of using this intense local knowledge that they have. You can’t replicate that when it comes to canvassing, somebody who just knows everyone on the block. So you see that being deployed everywhere, and that I think is why you’re seeing these numbers in some of the special elections, these swings that are even bigger than the swings you see on the generic ballot.”

I can tell you that I saw the same thing all over Virginia’s First Congressional District during the primary campaign this spring, and these folks don’t seem to be tiring.  So I’m more optimistic than some of my fellow Progressives that we’re really about to see a Blue Wave in November.

Go listen to the podcast or read the transcript.  Lots of good stuff.

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Saturday Morning Coffee

A few links to things I read this morning:

Not sure what to think about the Omarosa Manigault-Newman thing, but this Slate article gives an interesting take.  I like this part:

Either because or despite the fact that Omarosa once belonged to this lair of liars, one can admire the skill with which she has orchestrated these tapes’ release so as to maximally damage the White House’s credibility just as it was trying to torpedo hers. The tapes are essentially booby traps. Katrina Pierson’s reputation may not be a central concern in Trumpworld, but Lara Trump’s is getting closer; no wonder the White House is scared. Omarosa knows—as even his lawyers do—that a man who lies about everything must be guarded against, and learned that lesson early.

Can’t wait to see who gets caught in the next “booby trap.” Go read.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save Capitalism and has introduced legislation.  Over at the Washington Post, Warren answers a few questions for Jennifer Rubin.  Asked about cheating and insider trading, Warren responds:

Sure, it includes insider trading — but it’s a lot more than that. In a well-functioning market, companies compete by providing better products, better service, or better prices. That kind of competition benefits customers and rewards businesses that out-innovate or out-work their competitors.

But when companies can deceive their customers about the quality or price of their products, that’s cheating — and the market stops working. Companies that are willing to deceive their customers are rewarded with more business, while honest companies struggle to keep up. That’s bad for customers and bad for the companies that just want to do the right thing.

Yves Smith explains why she thinks this would be good for shareholders over at Naked Capitalism.  Definitely following this one.

Finally, if you don’t know about XKCD yet, you should go check it out, especially if you’re interested in coding or math.  Great cartoons, including one of my all-time favorites. But if you’re worried about hackers getting into voting machines, this cartoon won’t make you feel better.

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Does the Constitution Give Congress the Power to Regulate Immigration?

Thanks to Ampersand over at Alas, a Blog, I ran across two articles by Ilya Somin arguing that the Constitution includes no enumerated power to restrict immigration.  Go check Amptoons out – he’s a killer cartoonist.

In the first, at Reason Magazine, Somin suggests that President Obama had the power to defer deportation for four million immigrants through executive order.  He thinks this is so in part because he doesn’t think the Constitution gives Congress no power to regulate immigration in the first place.  Later, in the Washington Post, Somin argues that the Migration and Importation Clause (Article I, Section 9) doesn’t fix this because it refers to slavery. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Coffee

A few links for your Sunday morning:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Unite the Right rally, Adam Harris of The Atlantic points out that the University of Virginia has a long history of racism.  Kudos to former University President Teresa Sullivan for commissioning the report discussed in the article – more American institutions should uncover this history and consider ways to make things right. Continue reading

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Music Review: Get a Little

G. E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band released Get a Little on Liberty Records in 1992, while performing as the house band on the long-running late-night comedy show. Fans who enjoyed the band’s instrumental segues into and out of commercial breaks will find plenty to enjoy in this collection of music, including some solid lyrics rarely heard by the television audience.

A rhythm and blues style dominates this recording from the first cut, which is also the title track.  Winding in and out of a very basic blues rhythm set with drums and piano, the band’s very good horn section alternates between helping keep the beat and dueling with Smith’s eloquent guitar.  As Smith sings “Long legs, tight dress, whoo baby, I’m impressed” to the lucky lady from whom he wishes to “Get a Little,” he implores her further with rich but urgent solos.  This song opens the effort strongly, hooking blues and rock fans alike to listen further. Continue reading

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Rob Wittman Pushes for Rural Broadband Internet Access – Except When He Doesn’t

Rob Wittman never had much to say about broadband internet access in the Congressional District he represents until the issue came up in the Democratic Primary this spring.  Much of the district is rural and without connection to the web services that stimulate economic development, support businesses and allow remote access to medical care.  They are without this connection because private markets do not provide what amounts to a public utility in remote areas, and no amount of deregulation will make them want to.  The return on investment simply isn’t there.

Back in the day, much of Tennessee had a similar problem with electricity.  The Federal Government, not private enterprise, solved the problem through the Tennessee Valley Authority, a New Deal Democrat effort to modernize rural areas of the state.  Could we learn something from this very successful effort? Continue reading

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Miss Daisy

The Vangie Williams campaign likes to tell the story of Miss Daisy and the funeral.  If you haven’t heard it, ask Joel Leonard.  He tells it best.

Anyway, Miss Daisy, a Westmoreland County matriarch of sorts, turns 79 this month and wants to celebrate with a cookout and pickle-jar fundraiser for Vangie.

You can get the details at Vangie’s campaign Facebook page, but it’s a week from tomorrow, 18 August, from 1300 to 1700 at 447 Wilson Drive, Sandy Point, Virginia.  I plan to attend and write a check.  Please join in, and knock a few doors for Vangie on your way over.

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