Monday, September 29, 2008


Finally, someone has espoused what I've been unable to articulate:
Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

This comes from the article here. I don't agree with a lot of it (typical anti-religious blather), but this paragraph struck me as right on the nose.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Included in the box of letters my sister just gave me were several from my Grandmother that I just opened and read through dating back at least four months. If you read this blog often, you know that in the last four months, I lost both my Grandfather and my Aunt. My Grandfather's death, as I'd written, left me feeling...strange, while my Aunt's left me feeling relieved (her suffering was so great I can only imagine death was a relief for her).

I read them chronologically and just re-hashed all those emotions again as I read from my Grandmother that my Grandpa was getting sicker, had died, that Aunt Janet was OK, then sicker, then dead. There were a lot of photos she thought I would be interested in along with a particularly thick letter including four typed pages. I opened to find the following first paragraph:
My son, Edward Harmon, died of cancer in October 11, 2004, and one of his request, was for me to write biography. Even, before he got sick, he would suggest for me to do this, every time I tell him a story about my childhood. When, I tell him, that no one will be interested in reading my story, he claims Adam, his son will.

Needless to say, before even getting to the rest of the pages, I was reduced to little more than a tearful boy, feeling again like I was seven and sitting on my father's lap. I got some wine and read the few pages, feeling as though this was a gift that had been written just for me.

Also in the box was a card sent to me upon my graduation from a man who worked with my father in Italy. I did not, immediately, recognize the name, but opened the card and read,
Dear Adam,
My wife Luciana said you look just like Ed Harmon! [illegible] a wonderful man that he has left something in our hearts.

I wrote to my little sister once that it's strange how sometimes, you get in a funk and don't know what's wrong, and my Grandma will send a letter that rambles and says not much of anything, but reading her handwriting and her reminder in every letter that "Jesus Loves You!" for some reason fills a void you didn't know you had. It's not the religion of it, but that there's comfort in knowing that, if nothing else, my Grandmother thinks the Universe of raises ones spirits.

This box of letters was that emotion, twelve times over. I didn't realize how much I missed my father, or how often I think of him. But reading from strangers what he meant to them, did something to me I didn't know I needed, and I can wake up tomorrow feeling better than I did today.

My Grandmother also included my Grandpa's funeral notice. It was strange to read some things I had not known. That my Grandpa was one of eight children, or that he made a great pot of spaghetti. In some ways, my Grandpa was dead before he died. There is very little left of him on this earth other than scant memories we hold, and those are mostly tainted with pain. My father, who died much earlier however, is in many ways, still alive. Interesting how those things work out.

a father's pride...

Sometimes, I think about my dad, and I wonder what he'd think of me now. I wonder if he's be nervous about me going to Iraq or if he'd tell me to do this or that about my current job. When you lose a father or parent, you always wonder; would this decision or that make them proud? Even if you knew them as well as I knew my own father, without hearing it in his own voice, it isn't the same.

I was going through one of those periods recently and I am certain that the fates intervened. For my birthday, my mother sent me a card, inside which was email correspondence between my father and his boss, COL Petty. It was their discussion about my decision to apply to West Point. The funny thing about it was, as often as your parents tell you that whatever you do they'll be proud of you, it wasn't until I read those emails that it struck me how true that is. What my father wrote in those wasn't hopes that I would get in, or his dreams for my future, but simple pride in that I was even considering doing something of that magnitude (something which, if you knew me then, would have surprised you as well). He and the COL went back and forth between one another talking about their sons and how proud they were of us (neither of whom, at the time, were doing much with our lives of exceptional value).

A few days later, this weekend actually, I saw my sister who gave me a box of letters that were addressed to me, along with my father's journal. In the letters was a birthday card from my little sister relating a story of some years ago which I will re-type here:
You know, I think the last birthday I remember spending with you was when you had a little birthday party at mom and dad's house and I snuck jello shooters from the kitchen. You asked me if I did...and I lied. You were the only one who knew me well enough to know what kind of trouble I was capable of getting myself into. I guess in that way I was always more nervous to tell you things or hear your opinion than Dad's! [she drew a smiley face here] But the thing you still have from Dad is that regardless of whether or not you approved or disapproved of my choices you always loved me fully.

Unconditional love between family is something that should go without mention--it is the standard, not something special. However, simply hearing from my sister that she considers even some part of me a bit of my father living on made my heart swell and and my eye water.

I know my dad would be proud of me, but sometimes, moments like these are the closest I'll get to the tangible feeling I would have gotten from him hugging me himself and telling me so. They're beautiful and poignant and I can't thank my mom and sisters enough for helping me to remember my father, and be there for me when he can't.

pre/post debate Kissinger...

There was a bit of a scurfuffle (a word I do not believe exists in reality) over what Kissinger really believed about Presidential talks with Iran without pre-conditions. I have, for the sake of everyone who cares about this one moment as much as I, posted Kissinger's quote from the panel he did (see previous post) along with his post debate statement on the same:

Pre-debate: "I am in favor of negotiating with Iran.... But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations."

Post-debate: "Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality."

Considering Kissinger is McCain's advisor, such a change in position is, I am sure, only to clarify his first opinion, and has not been influenced by the characterization of his primary remarks, by Obama, in the debates.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Secretarys of State...

CNN has Christianne Amanpour (which I probably spelled wrong) interviewing the former Secretaries of State. This is amazing and I want to get it on DVD. Are other people watching this? Will people consider this when voting? Or, does anyone even care?

Also, listening to the hosts address the former Secretaries is fun because of all thier various titles: Madame, Doctor, General...

I wonder what they do when they're home eating breakfast. Does Madeline Albreight watch television and just sit around playing a game of "If I were still Sec. of State..."? It seems it would be hard not to. Also, I do wish Condoleeza Rice were able to participate, but I understand why she can't.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

a little male bonding

Sometimes, people say things in passing that either hurt or touch you more than they know, I remember when I was at basic training some eight years ago, almost to the day when this happened to me. We were on the known distance range and Steve was my battle buddy. We were firing and, between magazines, he said something very casually in conversation. While talking about his friends back home, he added in, "But, they wont stay friends probably, and you're my best friend here or there, so we'll probably be friends until we've got kids." That was barely a paraphrase. I remember thinking that it was probably the first time that someone had been that unnecessarily open with me and I felt very...I don't know what the word is, but it felt good.

Jacob, a good friend of mine from Officer Basic, is someone I often hang out with and who I have explored many a new city with. He loves to eat and drink and enjoy the culture of various cities as much as I, and each new city he visits, he find the best in. He reminds me of my father in very many ways, and I mentioned that to him. It was, I later learned, a moment similar for him. I didn't realize how much that meant to him until he told me so almost a year later. Knowing how much I love and respect my father, Jacob knew how much that meant for me to compare him.

This weekend, my friend introduced me, and maybe this was tinged with hyperbole, as his best friend from West Point. While I realize he had many friends, even if it was an overstatement, I took it to heart.

It is rare that men make admissions of admiration or affection to one another, but when they do, they most often are true, heartfelt and meaningful. At least, that has been my experience.

Military 101...

A few years ago, Mikey, my roommate, and I decided to start a two man book club. It lasted one book. That book, however, was amazing and spurred the two of to discussion and thought. We wrote the author, we talked about it in class, with our professors and with friends. My signed copy still sits nicely near my bed. The New American Militarism is a book that, when I read it, opened my eyes. I cannot say I agree with it all, but I can say it has probably colored everything I've thought of since in one way or another.

Andrew Bacevich, the author, is also a West Point graduate. I like the fact he's a graduate because in his book he outlines very strongly for the abolition (or, at least, changes so drastic that it would no longer have any semblance of the place it currently is) of the Military Academy and the other Service Academies. For those who often assume that all graduates think alike since we are all or were once Officers, he serves as a good counter point.

He has written an article in the Atlantic that I have not yet finished reading but am already willing to recommend you read as well. It discusses the changes in the Officer Corps, in the policy debates and issues surrounding the use of force and, a topic he writes about frequently, the relationship between military decision makers and political policy makers. It should be read by anyone who is voting, by anyone who is making decisions and by anyone who, please...


The Petreaus Doctrine

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Nov. 7, 2000

I voted for Bush. I remember doing it, and waiting to hear who won while I was at basic training. What different times those were. Remember when President Bush said things like,
Big government is not the answer, but the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference. It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity. This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground, we will lead our nation."


Sure, she's his mother...but this is a blatant political ploy as well.
Team McCain is already giving Palin a makeover: "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will speak at her son's Army deployment ceremony on 9/11 and spend two days with ABC News crews later this week as part of a McCain campaign plan to increase Americans' comfort with her as a leader," Politico's Mike Allen writes.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Reena and Amit's engagement party...

I went to Chicago last weekend for Amit and Reena's engagement party and what a trip that was! I saw Jacob again and we took the city by storm. There were amazing restaurants in Chicago and a lot of culture. The Millennium Park, despite the easily dated name, is amazing and the public art there is surprisingly engaging. From there, we went to a museum to see a retrospective on Marilyn Monroe (because it was free) but, upon entering the Chicago Cultural Center, we heard applause and stumbled upon a free performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which we stayed for.

There were two parties for the engagement, one of which I was able to wear traditional Indian garb for. Most of the West Point cats did, other than Casey, who looked silly in a suit compared to the rest of us. Hopefully better pictures will come out soon. The second night, there was a boat tour around the city, fireworks, an open bar, a photo booth and lots of dancing, followed by drinking at a bar downtown and more dancing. Overall, it was not just the first engagement party I've been to, but easily the one to beat in the future. I can't wait for the wedding...whenever that is!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Michelle Malkin, the conservative columnist wrote,
Bristol Palin chooses life. Now leave her alone.

Yes...leave here alone! (ha ha, "Leave Bristol Alone! I can hear the emo kid on youtube saying). Leave her be. The last thing we would want would be to parade her, her shot-gun husband and our special needs child in front of the world for everyone to see in order to garner sympathy votes...

I mean...uhm...wait...
Today was/is my birthday. I woke up at 445 to get to work by 530 to run a range. Sweet. Awesome. For those of you who aren't in the Army (all of you?) that means, basically, you go out all day, sit in the sun, repeat yourself a billion times and have a hundred soldiers angry because you're being too hard on them and a few officers (who can get you in real trouble) angy because you're being too easy on the soldiers. If you're a cadet, it's a bit like being the BDO. You didn't do anything wrong, but it's really a lose/lose situation designed to make you fail. Maybe that's a stretch...but it's close (most Lieutenants would agree, but most Captains would disagree. Much like plebes saying how hard their lives are--LT's--Captains, like yuks, don't see it as such). Anyway...that's what I did. It sucked.

But, there was a silver lining. Instead of celebrating my birthday on Saturday, I can celebrate it on Sunday because Saturday night...I'll be working!! (Wait, is that a silver lining? nope...guess I had my colors confused). That's right. Saturday, I'll be walking around to make sure a bunch of soldiers who aren't mine aren't getting drunk and raping/pillaging/stabbing themselves in the leg (one of those three really happened and, to give you a clue, it's not raping or pillaging).

The worst part is...I still love this job. Seriously? How brainwashed am I where I write what I wrote but still can't imagine doing anything else?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

second post tonight...

OK,'s been too long now and I can't help it any longer. I can stay apolitical to a point, but seriously? This is disgusting. "USA" is not a chant of defiance. Having children in the military is not a qualification. Cities and small towns are not separate universes. And tearing someone down? That's not a platform, it's a past time.

Am I "live blogging"?

Gov. Palin just implied that city folk don't love our countries, don't work hard and don't...this is what got me...fight in our wars. You know what? This city boy loves his country, works pretty damn hard and I'll be damned if I'm not going to Iraq myself to "fight our wars." Keep politicising the military, keep politicising patriotism and let's see how far that gets us. Please...please do.