Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Why do we let politicians get away with this crap?

By all accounts, the mayor of East Cleveland, Ohio, one Saratha Goggins, is a model citizen - unless, that is, you count her murder conviction from 20 years ago.

As bad as that is, what's worse is her "explanation". Get this. She said that she recalled being convicted, but couldn't remember the charge. (Yeah, I have the same problem.)

She called the murder an "unfortunate incident" in her life. And, I'll bet the victim considered it pretty damn "unfortunate", too - unfortunate that Goggins was stabbing him to death!

Wait, it gets better. Goggins was married with children at the time. So, did she murder her husband?

Uh, no. She murdered her boyfriend.

Details are still unclear as Goggins succesfully petitioned a judge to have her record sealed.

You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

Don't believe me?

Click here for story.

The Truth About Bush's Guard Service

Ok. We all know that John Kerry served in Vietnam. Four whole months, after which he took advantage of a little-known, little-invoked regulation that allowed him to desert his "band of brothers".

We also know how Dan Rather libeled George Bush and impugned his service in the Texas Air National Guard on a "60 Minutes II" report based largely on forged documents.

During his time in the Guard, George Bush flew the F-102 Delta Dagger fighter-interceptor. The F-102 saw service in the Vietnam theater between March 1962 and December 1969. During this time, F-102 squadrons were based out of Tan Son Nhut, Da Nang and Bien Hoa in Vietnam, and Udorn and Don Muang in Thailand. (Click here for source.)

As far as George Bush knew, he and his unit could have been transferred to Vietnam.

In all this so-called controversy, has anyone considered that perhaps George Bush just wanted to fly jets? And, let's remember, flying supersonic fighter jets is dangerous! They don't let just anybody do it.

Some reporters (you know, the ones with journalistic ethics) have actually uncovered the truth about George Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. For example, did you know that George Bush spent considerably more time in uniform than John Kerry?

What follows is the text of an e-mail sent to me by a friend of mine (thanks to Dave Manzano). Read on to learn the facts.


Bush’s National Guard years
Before you fall for Dems’ spin, here are the facts

What do you really know about George W. Bush’s time in the Air National Guard? That he didn’t show up for duty in Alabama? That he missed a physical? That his daddy got him in?

News coverage of the president’s years in the Guard has tended to focus on one brief portion of that time — to the exclusion of virtually everything else. So just for the record, here, in full, is what Bush did:

The future president joined the Guard in May 1968. Almost immediately, he began an extended period of training. Six weeks of basic training. Fifty-three weeks of flight training. Twenty-one weeks of fighter-interceptor training. That was 80 weeks to begin with, and there were other training periods thrown in as well.

It was full-time work. By the time it was over, Bush had served nearly two years. Not two years of weekends. Two years.

After training, Bush kept flying, racking up hundreds of hours in F-102 jets. As he did, he accumulated points toward his National Guard service requirements. At the time, guardsmen were required to accumulate a minimum of 50 points to meet their yearly obligation.

According to records released earlier this year, Bush earned 253 points in his first year, May 1968 to May 1969 (since he joined in May 1968, his service thereafter was measured on a May-to-May basis). Bush earned 340 points in 1969-1970. [In other words, Bush earned enough points to satisfy the requirements for his entire six year hitch in 1969-1970 alone. - acd] He earned 137 points in 1970-1971. And he earned 112 points in 1971-1972.

The numbers indicate that in his first four years, Bush not only showed up, he showed up a lot. Did you know that?

That brings the story to May 1972 — the time that has been the focus of so many news reports — when Bush “deserted” (according to anti-Bush filmmaker Michael Moore) or went “AWOL” (according to Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee). Bush asked for permission to go to Alabama to work on a Senate campaign. His superior officers said OK.

Requests like that weren’t unusual, says retired Col. William Campenni, who flew with Bush in 1970 and 1971.

“In 1972, there was an enormous glut of pilots,” Campenni says. “The Vietnam War was winding down, and the Air Force was putting pilots in desk jobs. In ’72 or ’73, if you were a pilot, active or Guard, and you had an obligation and wanted to get out, no problem. In fact, you were helping them solve their problem.”

So Bush stopped flying. From May 1972 to May 1973, he earned just 56 points — not much, but enough to meet his requirement.

Then, in 1973, as Bush made plans to leave the Guard and go to Harvard Business School, he again started showing up frequently. In June and July of 1973, he accumulated 56 points, enough to meet the minimum requirement for the 1973-1974 year.

Then, at his request, he was given permission to go. Bush received an honorable discharge after serving five years, four months and five days of his original six-year commitment. By that time, however, he had accumulated enough points in each year to cover six years of service.

During his service, Bush received high marks as a pilot. A 1970 evaluation said Bush “clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot” and was “a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership.” A 1971 evaluation called Bush “an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot” who “continually flies intercept missions with the unit to increase his proficiency even further.” And a 1972 evaluation called Bush “an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer.”

Now, it is only natural that news reports questioning Bush’s service — in The Boston Globe and The New York Times, on CBS and in other outlets — would come out now. Democrats are spitting mad over attacks on John Kerry’s record by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. And, as it is with Kerry, it’s reasonable to look at a candidate’s entire record, including his military service — or lack of it. Voters are perfectly able to decide whether it’s important or not in November.

The Kerry camp blames Bush for the Swift boat veterans’ attack, but anyone who has spent much time talking to the Swifties gets the sense that they are doing it entirely for their own reasons.

And it should be noted in passing that Kerry has personally questioned Bush’s service, while Bush has not personally questioned Kerry’s.

In April — before the Swift boat veterans had said a word — Kerry said Bush “has yet to explain to America whether or not, and tell the truth, about whether he showed up for duty.” Earlier, Kerry said, “Just because you get an honorable discharge does not, in fact, answer that question.”

Now, after the Swift boat episode, the spotlight has returned to Bush. That’s fine. We should know as much as we can.

And perhaps someday Kerry will release more of his military records as well.

Byron York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week.

Monday, September 27, 2004

War and Remembrance

Yesterday I finally found time to wander around Melbourne and take some pictures. I headed south, away from the Yarra River and the Central Business District, in the general direction of the U.S. Consulate.

The main drag in this area of town is St. Kilda Road. Running along St. Kilda for a good stretch is a complex of parks and gardens called King's Domain. King's Domain features an amphitheater (Myers Music Bowl), botanical gardens (National Botanic Gardens), an observatory, the Victoria State Government House and the Shrine of Remembrance.

Yesterday was quite overcast, a little windy and it spit rain intermittently throughout the morning and early afternoon, so all in all not the best day for taking pictures. I first walked around Victoria Gardens, which features statues of Victoria (Melbourne is the capital of the state that bears her name, after all) and her son, Edward VII. However, my real destination was always the Shrine of Remembrance.

As you have probably guessed, the Shrine of Remembrance is a war memorial. Originally designed to honor Victorians (some 19,000) killed in WWI, it is now a monument to all Victorians killed in armed service overseas. The monument was dedicated in 1919, just one year after the end of the war. It was conceived to give loved ones a place to go to honor those lost fighting overseas, as the Australians don't repatriate the remains of fallen soldiers. Rather, they are buried overseas; sometimes in cemetaries, other times in unmarked graves.

The Shrine features a long, tree-lined walkway to the steps that lead to the Sanctuary. All around the grounds of the Shrine are trees of various types, dedicated to different units. As you approach the Sanctuary, there is an Eternal Flame and Cenotaph to honor the fallen members of the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force from WWII. (A cenotaph is a monument erected in honor of persons whose remains are elsewhere.)

The Sanctuary is a square building, with a pyramid-shaped roof with a small glass aperture at the apex. All around the inner walls are displayed books listing the names of all Victorians who have served overseas. All names are listed without rank, as all are equal within the confines of the Sanctuary. Set into the center of the floor is a stone bearing the inscription, "Greater Love Hath No Man". The Sanctuary is designed so that on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the sun shines through the opening at the top and illuminates the word "Love" in the inscription.

Downstairs is the Crypt. This name is misleading as there are no remains within. Instead there is a statue entitled "Father - Son", commemorating fathers who had perished in WWI and sons killed in WWII. Also displayed in the Crypt are the banners of all units who fought in WWI. There is a corner of the Crypt dedicated to the Royal Australian Navy and its losses during WWI. There is no special area for the Royal Australian Air Force, as it wasn't founded until 1921.

Exiting the Crypt, one comes to the Visitor's Center. Here one can view a short audio visual presentation on the Shrine. There is also the inevitable gift shop. Adjacent to the gift shop, is a new display detailing Australia's role in the War on Terror. (As I remarked in a previous post, and as columnist Charles Krauthammer noted recently - (Column here) Australia is one of our staunchest allies (if not the staunchest).)

Being a military history buff, especially WWII, visiting the Shrine of Remembrance was quite worthwhile.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

"You fight, we fight."

Last night my colleague and I went out with some of the people from the consulate. We started out in a beer garden next to the consulate. Then one of the folks from the consulate got a call from an Aussie friend, Dave, inviting us to meet up with some people at a bar in the Central Business District (CBD).

The bar we went to, the Deanery, was very much a meeting place for the professional set. Dave and his partner, Linda, are both attorneys. Two of their friends, Deborah and Victoria, are financial planners.

We embarked on the classic "pub crawl", having a drink at each spot before pressing on. Two or three bars later, we found ourselves in La La Land. The bar, not the mental state. It was a nice place, full of comfy couches and chairs.

Dave and I started to talk about the War on Terror. Now, as many of you know, I strongly support George Bush and the War on Terror. Dave does, too. I remarked how most Americans don't seem to realize how staunch an ally Australia is, fighting alongside us in every major conflict since WWII.

Dave said something that really stuck with me:

"You fight, we fight. We know that we're in this together."

Would that our European "allies" had such clarity of thought!

"Footy" Result

Well, the game, er, match is over. The Port Adelaide Power foiled the Brisbane Lions' bid for a fourth straight premiership title. Unfortunately, I didn't really learn much more about the game. I really should have gone out and sat in a pub and watched the match with some of the locals. I'm sure some of them would have taken pity on me and explained some of the ins and outs of the game. Last night I stayed out quite late and had a bit too much too drink (easy to do when you're in the company of Aussies!) and didn't quite feel up to it.

Time to head out for a bite.

"Footy" Grand Final

Today is the Australian Football League Premiership Grand Final. Basically, it's Super Bowl Saturday in Australia. The Grand Final game is being played at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. The "G" as it's known is the largest stadium in Melbourne.

Basically, the whole city is at a standstill at the moment. The hype has been building all week, with all kinds of special events and telecasts all around town. All the pubs are packed and the streets are deserted.

I'm watching the game and frankly I don't really have a clue what's going on. "Footy" as it's called resembles a cross between soccer and rugby. It's the most popular game in Victoria state (of which Melbourne is the capital). (The popular game in Sydney is rugby.) It's a pretty rough game and the players only wear mouth guards. A few wear helmets, but most don't. It's also similar to ice hockey in that there's a lot of fights on the field (or "pitch"). Like in the US, the fans seem to love it!

I know that the objective is to kick the ball (which resembles a rugby ball, which itself resembles an American football) through a set of uprights. I know that accomplishing that is worth six points. I see from the score that it is possible to score single points, but I'm not sure what one does to score a point. I'm hoping to glean more as the game progresses.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Why does Dan Rather still have a job?

First of all, if Dan-o had any, any integrity, he would resign. (Actually, he would commit seppuku on the air - no, wait, that was a dream I had.) And if his superiors at CBS had either integrity or balls they'd fire his sorry Texas ass.

Instead, they have chosen to hide behind one of the lamest excuses since "It depends on what the meaning of is is". Basically, CBS' excuse is: "Ok. These documents are fake. But they are exact replicas of documents that used to exist. Trust us." In fact, The New York Times ran the following headline: "Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says".

(By the way, the typist in question is 86 years old now. When she was first contacted by a Houston paper about the Guard memo story, she couldn't remember anything: couldn't remember Bush, couldn't remember the memos, nothing. Now that she is getting her 15 minutes, all of a sudden she "remembers" all kinds of details about him.)

In this case, every document expert that CBS asked to look at these documents questioned their authenticity. Every document expert but one. Guess which expert Dan Rather (and the evidence points to the fact that it was Rather's decision to air the story) chose to believe? If this doesn't demonstrate that the media has a horse in this race, I don't know what does.

I am going to write to Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, and urge him to fire Dan Rather (since I know there is no way they will execute him on the air).

Courage, Dan!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Greetings from 'down under'. I'm writing to you from Melbourne, Australia. This is my second visit to Australia. In January of 2002 I spent two weeks in Canberra. Melbourne is a lot bigger and more cosmopolitan than Canberra. There looks to be lots more to do as well.

Almost didn't make it here, though. My original itinerary had me leaving Washington on Friday evening and arriving in Melbourne on Sunday morning. Friday, however, the Washington area was feeling the effects of Hurricane Ivan (I think - there've been so many this season) - rain, high winds, etc. As I was sitting in the first class lounge waiting to board my flight for San Francisco, I heard an announcement that there would be delays due to a tornado warning.

Now, normally, I scoff at such warnings. We get them all the time (the Washington area seems to be prone to "weather hysteria") and I've NEVER even SEEN a tornado. Well, not no more! Out the windows of the lounge, we could see funnels forming around the airport. It was hard to tell how far away they were, but they were unmistakenly real-live tornadoes. (Later, I learned that the twisters had torn the roofs off of homes in Chantilly and Centreville, two towns adjacent to the airport.)

So, I go to the gate where I am supposed to board my flight and United announced that the big silver bird that was going to take me to San Fran had been diverted to Harrisburg. United offered to put me on another flight to San Francisco, however, instead of first class they were going to put me in coach. Now, losing my first class seat is a pretty big blow, but I was more concerned that I keep my first class seat on the flight from San Fran to Sydney. So I boarded the other flight, only to find that I wasn't even in Economy Plus. I was in full-fledged cattle class - in THE VERY BACK ROW to add insult to injury! I mean here I am with an $11,000 ticket and they put me in the rear with the gear? And, not even an offer of an upgrade coupon, drink coupons. Nothing.

Needless to say, yours truly is not very happy about this turn of events. However, now that I've boarded the new flight, the captain announces that we will be delayed pushing back from the gate. Our new arrival time is forecast to be 11:30 pm. Well, folks, my connection to Sydney was due to depart at 10:45. So, I called the flight attendant, explained my situation and asked if United could call ahead and have them hold the plane. Negative. Well, then will United put me up in a hotel in San Fran? Negative. The cause of the delay was weather-related. Hence, beyond United's control and not their responsibility. So, let me get this straight. I'm going to sit for five hours in coach, to miss my connection and then have to shell out for a hotel? No thanks.

So, I told the flight attendant that I wanted to de-plane. She called a customer service guy, who proceeded to try and brow beat me into staying on the plane. Now, I have two strategies in a situation like this. The first would be to get nasty as hell and bite back. The second (less often employed) is to put a big smile on my face, be bend-over-backwards polite and firmly stand my ground. Something told me Mr. Windbag would not respond to my default mode, so I just smiled as broadly as I could and insisted he let me off the plane.

I returned to the check in counter in the departure area of Dulles where a very nice woman re-booked me for the following day. The flight from San Francisco to Sydney was great. I slept most of the way. We landed around 6:30 am in Sydney. Connected for an hour flight to Melbourne. Arrived in around 9:30 am. Grabbed a cab to our hotel (a really nice Sheraton), showered, grabbed a quick bite to eat and made it in to the consulate just after lunch. No harm, no foul.

More on Melbourne itself tomorrow.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I just created this site. I travel for a living. A lot. I used to be really diligent about writing about all the places I visit and e-mailing friends and family. Yeah, that's too much work. Luckily, a lot of the hotels in which I stay have internet access, many in the room. Hence my reason for creating a "blog".

An exit cable is the official record of one of our trips. I work for a company called Stanley Associates. Stanley is a sub-contractor to another company, Harris Orkand Integration Services, on a State Department contract. So, my job is to travel to US embassies and consulates worldwide and work on the computers in the consular sections of all those places. It's pretty much a kick-ass job. I took my first trip in January 2001. Since then I've been to about ...well, let's count:

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Canberra, Australia
Kathmandu, Nepal
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Tirana, Albania
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Lima, Peru
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Rome, Italy
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Vientiane, Laos
Banjul, The Gambia
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Gaborone, Botswana
Tirana, Albania
Seoul, South Korea
Kigali, Rwanda
Baku, Azerbaijan
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Rome, Italy
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Recife, Brazil
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Guangzhou, China
Shenyang, China
Vientiane, Laos
Vilnius, Lithuania
Melbourne, Australia (updated December 22, 2004)
Maputo, Mozambique (updated December 22, 2004)
Sofia, Bulgaria (updated December 22, 2004)
Djibouti, Djibouti (updated February 9, 2005)
Recife, Brazil (updated March 11, 2005)
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (updated April 18, 2005)
Tirana, Albania (updated April 18, 2005)
Ponta Delgada, the Azores, Portugal (updated June 17, 2005)
Frankfurt, Germany (updated June 30, 2005)
Luxembourg, Luxembourg (updated November 4, 2005)
Gaborone, Botswana (updated November 4, 2005)
Havana, Cuba (updated November 4, 2005)
Sofia, Bulgaria (updated November 4, 2005)
Shanghai, China (updated December 14, 2005)
Beijing, China (updated December 14, 2005)
Kigali, Rwanda (updated January 20, 2006)
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (updated February 25, 2006)
Tirana, Albania (updated February 25, 2006)
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (updated May 7, 2006)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (updated May 7, 2006)
Tripoli, Libya (updated July 27, 2006)

Wow, that's a lot of trips! (Okay, so I was showing off a little bit.) 55 trips to post in 54 months. So that's a little more than one post a month. Of course, I've been to some places more than once (some more than that!) but I didn't even list all the places that I lived and visited as a kid.

So, I'm taking off tomorrow for Melbourne, Australia. I'll be flying from Dulles to San Francisco to Sydney to Melbourne. I think I arrive Saturday, er, make that Sunday morning. I'll be staying in a Sheraton in Melbourne and they usually have internet. If so, I'll post again then.

Happy trails, amigos!