Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain’s run of bad luck

No, I’m not talking about the NYTimes story today about John McCain’s close ties to a female telecom lobbyist.
What caught my interest while reading through McCain’s Wiki bio entry was the number of times he was involved in a flying mishap that resulted in the loss or near loss of his airplane. There are five all totaled, four of which resulted in the loss of an aircraft and one that was “a close call.”
Not all of these were McCain’s fault, in fact, it’s not clear if any could be directly blamed on him (except possibly the close call incident). But it sure does seem like an amazing run of bad luck for one pilot. How common was it for pilots to lose aircraft like this?

The first incident occurred sometime prior to 1960 while McCain was in flight school in Texas.

During a practice run in Texas, his engine quit while landing, and his aircraft crashed into Corpus Christi Bay, though he escaped without major injuries.

Next came the “close encounter” in 1962:

His aviation skills improved, but he had another close call when he and his plane emerged intact from a collision with power lines, after flying too low over Spain.

The third incident occurred in December 1965:
...he had his third close call when a flameout over Norfolk, Virginia led to his ejecting safely, and his plane crashed.

Then, perhaps the most bizarre and deadly incident occurred onboard an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin in July 1967:

The crew was preparing to launch attacks, when a Zuni rocket from an F-4 Phantom was accidentally fired across the carrier's deck. The rocket struck McCain's A-4E Skyhawk as the jet was preparing for launch. The impact ruptured the Skyhawk's fuel tank, which ignited the fuel and knocked two bombs loose. McCain escaped from his jet by climbing out of the cockpit, working himself to the nose of the jet, and jumping off its refueling probe onto the burning deck of the aircraft carrier. Ninety seconds after the impact, one of the bombs exploded underneath his airplane. McCain was struck in the legs and chest by shrapnel. The ensuing fire killed 132 sailors, injured 62 others, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and took 24 hours to control.

Wow! Talk about bad luck! This guy seemed to be destined for trouble. It makes me wonder if anyone was really surprised when McCain got shot down and taken prisoner just a few months later:

McCain was flying as part of a 20-plane attack against a thermal power plant in central Hanoi, a heavily defended target area that had almost always been off-limits to U.S. raids. McCain's A-4 Skyhawk had its wing blown off by a Soviet-made SA-2 anti-aircraft missile[48] while pulling up after dropping its bombs. McCain fractured both arms and a leg in being hit and ejecting from his plane.

He parachuted into a lake where he nearly drowned before being dragged out by an angry mob that nearly beat him to death. He might have died from his injuries, except that the Vietnamese figured out that he was the son of an Admiral and decided to keep him alive so that they could torture him and try and use him as a propaganda tool.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Legislative achievements

Wow. Obama really kicked some butt last night in Wisconsin. He blew out Hillary worse than John McCain blew out Mike Hucakbee. Just think about that for a minute. And then consider that Hillary recieved more votes than McCain and Huckabee combined, and still lost by nearly 20 points. The Republicans better wake up and smell the coffee, because they are heading toward the short end of a Reaganesque landslide in this fall’s general election.
The Obama phenomenon is continuing to surge ahead and it looks like it will finally swamp the struggling Hillary campaign right here in Texas. If Obama wins in Texas, it’s all over for Hillary.

On a slightly different topic, I want to comment about political hit that MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pulled on Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson who was on air last night as a surrogate for the Obama campaign. Watson had obviously been prepped with the latest campaign themes to regurgitate in short bursts, but instead got hoodwinked by Matthews who wouldn’t let him talk about those things and instead insisted that he list Obama’s “legislative accomplishments” in the Senate. Poor Watson could only stare blankly because he did not know what to say and had obviously not been prepped for that question. Matthews clearly knew this and made great sport of embarrassing Watson over it.
First, if Watson had been a little quicker on his toes he would have shot back and turned the tables by asking Matthews to list the legislative accomplishments of John McCain, who has been in the Senate much longer than Obama, and has no better track record of authored legislation signed into law. He could have also pointed out that if people were interested in who had the biggest list of “legislative accomplishments” they could have gone with any one of the other candidates with far more experience in the federal legislature (Dodd, Biden, Richardson).
But Obama really does have some “legislative accomplishments” under his belt despite his short time in the Senate. And the interesting thing is that most of them were achieved by cooperating with and co-sponsoring legislation with Republican lawmakers - including John McCain on at least two occassions. Obama co-sponsored immigration reform legislation with McCain. He also co-sponsored with McCain a bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Other interesting bi-partisan efforts include the Lugar-Obama act that expanded a cooperative threat reduction agreement to include conventional weapons; and the Coburn-Obama Transparency Act which funded a website run by the Office of Management and Budget where people can see how federal funds are being spent. He has also worked on legislation with Republicans Kit Bond and Chuck Hagel.
I think the fact that Obama seems to work so well with Republicans speaks well of his sincerity in building a broad coalition that can actually change the partisan tone in Washington.
I’m sure the next time the Obama campaign sends out a campaign surrogate on MSNBC, they will be stuffed full of talking points about Obama’s “legislative achievements” and it is probably a good think in the long run that Matthews rubbed their noses in the dirt now rather than saving it for later when it might have hurt more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama endorsement

Is this what it was like in Iowa and New Hampshire?
San Antonio, and the rest of Texas, is being inundated by the political campaigns. We’ve already had Hillary Clinton make an appearance here. Today we have Barack Obama conducting two townhall-style meetings. On Thursday, Sen. Ted Kennedy will be here on behalf of Obama and Gov. Mike Huckabee will also drop in as part of his Quixotic crusade against Republican frontrunner John McCain. Then, on Sunday, Hillary Clinton is supposed to be back again. I’ve also heard that former President Bill Clinton will be campaigning here on behalf of Hillary soon. And I’m sure that is not all. This thing is just getting started with two weeks before the make-or-break primary.
Obama is expected to continue his post-Super Tuesday winning streak today with primary victories in Wisconsin and Hawaii. Unless a miracle occurs for Hillary in Wisconsin, she will have her back against the wall in Texas and Ohio where she will have to win by large margins to avoid being forced out of the race. By contrast, Obama does not HAVE to win here, but if he fails to knock off Hillary then, it will probably mean that we are headed for a brokered convention and that could end up being a lot uglier than anyone wants to see.
I tried to stay neutral in this race for as long as I could, believing that either Hillary or Obama would make an excellent president. But I don’t want to see anything happen that could damage the Democrats chances of retaking the White House in November. Another four years of the Bush presidency with his surrogate John McCain would be unspeakably disasterous. Our nation’s superpower status is hanging in the balance.
Therefore, I’ve gone full bore toward supporting Obama because I see him as having the best chance of winning the nomination outright at this point, and of going on to victory in November. I’m hoping for a clear Obama victory in Texas on March 4 followed by a gracious withdrawal by Hillary so that the Democratic Party can come together in time to weather the onslaught of political attacks being put together by the rightwing spin machine.

It looks like Obama is sweeping the San Antonio Progressive Bloggers Alliance here and here.

Meanwhile, the local wingnut blogs have endorsed: Rudy! Huckabee! Fred! Romney! ummmm Huckabee?