Are You Ready for Some Baseball?

Football is better, but this will help pass the 153 days until Bama kicks off the new season with the ritual sacrficial lamb otherwise known as Western Carolina. I can't wait!

In the meantime, baseball continues to limp along. If you want two quick snapshots as to why baseball is run by the gang who can't shoot straight, here you go. First, the opening game tomorrow night does night feature the Cincinnati Reds. For decades the Reds appeared in the first game every year as a tribute to their status as the first full-time professional baseball team. That tradition was junked a few years ago when ESPN started picking who played first. One of the biggest things baseball has going for it is the rich history they enjoy...and they continue to treat it like so much garbage.

Second, despite his complete disregard for both the law and the rules of the game, Barry Bonds is apparently going to be allowed to continue playing so that he can "break" Hank Aaron's home run record. This is an utter joke. The chemically-enhanced, tax and spouse cheating jerk may hit more balls over the fence than Aaron did, but he will never break the record. If the lords of baseball had the guts to do what was right, Bonds would get the Shoeless Joe treatment and be banned for life.

Anyhow, the Braves kick off on Monday with the Philadelphia Filthies, and I am hoping for a return to form after last year's collapse. Almost nobody is giving the Braves much of a chance...and maybe this year we'll sneak up on some people and return to our rightful position in first place.



All Roads Lead to Rome

We're not (quite) to the days of the gladiators dying in the Coliseum yet...but we're getting close. Tonight they were advertising the new season of Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. The ad featured a guy being dragged off the boat by a wave catching his chain wrapped around his foot. I assume that he was rescued after being flung into the sea, because as I said at the beginning, we're not quite bloodthirsty enough for the real thing. But the vicarious enjoyment of the prospect of serious injury and death is not a sign of a healthy society. It's bad enough to make people eat worms and bugs. This show is just over the line.

Rue Britannia

How can the nation that produced Drake, Nelson, Wellington, Churchill and Thatcher have come to this? How can the once-proud British people stand by helplessly while a tin-horn dictator holds their sailors and marines hostage? How can they settle for talk in a situation where only action will suffice?

It is impossible to picture the great Margaret Thatcher failing to respond to such an egregious and blatant act of war. But then, Tony Blair is a far cry from the Iron Lady. The Brits are losing the last vestiges of the strength and backbone that once made them a world power. Now they're even talking of banning Winnie the Pooh for fear that Piglet might offend the delicate sensibilities of the adherents of the "religion of peace." Apparently that same deference now extends to allowing the members of their military to be captured at will, without a swift and appropriately sharp response.

The facts of the capture are distressing as well. You should read the whole post at Big Lizards, but here's the most relevant portion:

The Iranian boats should never have been allowed to approach the dispatched boarding party without a fight. The moment the Cornwall detected them, they should have sent the Lynx helo aloft and radioed for air support. The ship was about 50 km from Basra, where the British have a sizeable contingent -- including Harriers.

At a relatively sedate 360 knots (667 km/hr), well within the Harrier's operational range, it would take a squadron about 4.5 minutes flight time. Add in 10 minutes to scramble (they should actually be faster, if they're doing their jobs right)... and a quick radio call when the Iranians first entered Iraqi waters would have gotten air support overhead before the Iranians even reached the marines and sailors.

When the Iranians began firing guns and threatening the British sailors and marines, it would have been child's play for three or four Harriers to sink the Iranian vessels in Iraqi waters.

This was once the theme song of an empire--Rule Britannia

When Britain first, at heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian Angels sung this strain:

Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
Britons never will be slaves.

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall:
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

Apparently not so much any more.


The Nick Saban Pizza Parlor

Spring practice started for Bama on Saturday, and the new coach and his staff are doing things right. Following up on a strenuous offseason workout program, the practice routine has been described by a variety of people as intense. And that's a very good thing. I am sick and tired of losing games in the fourth quarter. And now that the Nick Saban Pizza Parlor is open for business, I think that's going to happen a lot less this year. I'm more optimistic than I've been in a long time.

(For those of you who don't speak football coach, Saban said some of the guys were "making pizzas" during the running portion of practice. I could spell it out for you, but don't think about it too closely if you're eating...unless you want to join the guys on the sidelines bringing up the last meal.)

This Is the Way the World Ends

T. S. Eliot wrote The Hollow Men more than 80 years ago, but if there has ever been a better description of today's Democratic leaders in Congress, I don't know what it is.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Today the Senate joined the House in voting for America's defeat in the war in Iraq by requiring our troops to leave the field of battle by a date certain, regardless of the then current conditions on the ground. Their dried voices whispered words of retreat and cowardice, drowning out those who still love our country enough to want to see us win. Unfortunately their words, though wrong-headed and near-treasonous, are not meaningless. They carry a dire weight for our future. It's almost incomprehensible that nearly an entire political party is willing, even eager, to see our country lose just for partisan advantage, but that's where we are.

Harry Reid (D-NV), Teddy Kennedy (D-Vodka), Credit Check Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and of course John Kerry (D-MA, and did you know that he served in Vietnam?) joined together to lead their party over the cliff to try to make sure America loses a battle they never wanted us to fight in the first place. The logic of their statements that they desire to see the war end (not that I believe for a second that's what their true intention is) is utterly false. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We can run away from Iraq, but that won't end the war. If the enemy is not defeated, the war will continue.

Eliot's poem ends with this refrain, also exceedingly apt to the topic at hand:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.


Positively Reaganesque

Fred Thompson today on the disgraceful bill passed by the House last week to force our surrender in Iraq:

The House’s emergency war-funding bill contains several conditions on how the war should be run. They’ll never become law but they “send signals” they say. They’re big on sending signals in Washington. But what I was really surprised to find in the bill was what looked like $25 billion in pure pork. Since a lot of the people who voted for the bill campaigned against pork, I was puzzled.

I’m puzzled there’s $283 million for dairy farmers in an emergency war-funding bill. But there’s also $74 million for peanut farmers so, I figured our soldiers are eating a lot of peanut-butter sandwiches; they need more milk to wash them down with.Hey, I’m trying to keep an open mind, here, okay?

But I also wondered why the bill gives $25 million to spinach producers. Our troops should certainly eat their vegetables, but unless it turns out that there’s a scientific basis for that Popeye spinach thing, I don’t get it.

I’m also trying to figure out what $400 million for rural schools has to do with the war — unless that money produces students smart enough to explain why this bill includes over $300,000 for the widows of two ex-House members, and $80 million for low-income rent subsidies.

There’s a lot in the bill I don’t understand, but this sort of makes sense. There’s $50 million for repairs to the plant that supplies electrical power to the Capitol — where Congress works. To fund and win the war, Congress does need electricity at least to do its job.

Ah, I get it. This bill isn’t just about funding the war for democracy and freedom in Iraq. It’s a political statement. And it’s about buying enough votes with pork in order to make that statement. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if Congress did have its power cut off every once in a while.

That's just about exactly what Ronald Reagan would have said. Put me down as being in 100% agreement with the former Senator on this one.


Quit Whether You're Ahead or Not

So the Dems in the House (joined by two brain-dead Republicans) have now voted to demand that our troops leave Iraq by a date certain (which purely by coincidence happens to be two months before the elections next year) regardless of the state of the conflict at that time. Now in one sense, this is simply an exercise in futility. There is no way this will ever pass the Senate, and even if it did, Bush would veto it before the ink was dry.

But even, or perhaps because, this is an empty action, it is so revealing of a mindset of defeat and surrender. The Democratic leadership is pushing hard to get us out of Iraq without regard to military advice...or the Constitutional duties reserved to the Commander in Chief. Even worse, while we can leave Iraq, we cannot leave the war of which that is only a part. If the Dems get their way, the war won't end. The only thing that will end is our participation (at least for a little while) in Iraq. In fact it is clear that cutting and running will embolden our enemies and put us at even greater risk.

I do not know why it has taken four years for the new strategy to be put into place. And it still falls short of what we need to do to achieve our goals, which is to shut down the terror funding and equipment pipelines running from Iran and Syria. Without doing that, all the work we do in Iraq is temporary at best. But we are at least doing something and it is starting to bear fruit. Quitting now is the most foolish thing we could possibly do.


Flowers, Trees, and the War in Iraq

When we moved to our new house last year, some landscaping came with it. There was one tree in the front yard (the builder planted the wrong one, so we had it transplanted to the back yard and replaced with what we ordered in the first place) and a few bushes here and there. We put in several other plants, some flowers, and a couple more trees. Now that spring is starting, the results of last year's investment are starting to show.

But there's a big difference between trees and flowers. The flowers are an instant gratification sort of thing. You can put them in the ground and get the results almost right away. In fact, this time of year, you can plant flowers that are already blooming. Trees take a lot more time to develop. The oak tree (that's now where it's supposed to be in the back yard) has hardly grown at all in the last eight months. The pear trees we planted did bloom, but they haven't grown much either. Trees require patience, but the payoff is great.

Americans are not by nature patient people. We want instant gratification. Tyson even has a four minute pot roast on the market. (Although having tasted my wife's real one, I wouldn't even try it.) I think there's a correlation between our lack of patience and the public's distaste for what's happening in Iraq. I should say that I'm not even remotely satisfied with the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war. We've held back far too much, tying the hands of our soldiers behind their backs. That's wrong.

But victory is essential. We cannot afford to lose. And, just as in Vietnam, we cannot lose the fight on the ground--we can only lose it here at home. Tomorrow the Democratic leadership in the House is going to try to push through a measure requiring troop withdrawal by next spring. Since a similar measure has already failed in the Senate, it's unlikely to become law, but still the fact that many politicans are ready to cut and walk (if not run) speaks poorly for our chances of winning this vital battle.

The truth is that things in Iraq are starting to get better. (You can tell because the media is talking about what's going on there less and less.) The surge is only about 1/3 in place so far, and the results are starting to show. This new tactic has a significant chance of working--unless we cut it off. It's time for America to get serious about winning the war and plant some trees. Flowers are nice, but trees last for decades if not centuries.


THIS Is the Way to Complain

All of us who have traveled have airline horror stories. It seems like lately there have been a lot more of them. Here's a couple of great takes on the experience from a guy who used his blog to fight back. (There is some pretty strong language employed, so read at your own risk.) They're both very long, and frighteningly funny.

This part is from one is written in the form of a memo from US Airways:

11. US Airways Licensing can be reached at the 1-800 number formerly used for US Airways Customer Service.
12. The new 1-800 number for US Airways Customer Service will be available only on the new Inconvenience Tickets.
13. We have formally discontinued our practice of issuing Inconvenience Tickets.
14. We have not discontinued our practice of requiring an Inconvenience Ticket to accept a complaint. If you wish to appeal this practice, please call our new 1-800 US Airways Customer Service Line.

15. While we expect you to follow these rules, we expect that our agents will too. We have a strict Uniform Code of US Airways Agent Justice to enforce such compliance. We are aware of one rogue agent at DCA (who some of you deemed “Helpful Lady,” “The Nice and Sane One,” or “The Angel of Mercy,” and who insisted upon a hug from every noncompliant customer she assisted) who continually canvassed the line, plucked from it a handful of people who still could make their flights, and prevented, in some instances, the occurrence of the caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation that we love so much. We assure you that we will not fire The Angel of Mercy. Pursuant to the UCUSAAJ, as soon as we can arrange a fair and expedient show trial, we will execute her.

And this one is in the form of a letter of regret, also ostensibly from the airline:

We regret that we told you at approximately 5:00 that the FAA had grounded all flights out of DCA for the remainder of the day and night. We admit that we should have chosen a better story, since you could see flights leaving from other terminals and in fact we actually boarded and sent out a half-dozen flights throughout the afternoon and night. Believe us, if we could do it again, we would choose a better fiction, perhaps that most of the flights were being held because the terror threat level meter was on the fritz, or because the pilots were almost this close to passing the breathalyzer, or perhaps because their flight numbers were unlucky.

We regret that we told everybody booked on a cancelled flight to get in the customer service line and stay there for rebooking. That line got long, didn’t it? Actually, we don’t regret this, because we had never before seen a line that went from the end of the terminal all the way to the security barrier, and now we have something to tell our children.

We regret that we had only two customer service reps at the customer service desk to handle rebooking for all of the several hundred stranded passengers. That is why, after many hours of waiting, you were told that you should leave the customer service line in the terminal and go to the ticketing lines outside the security area, where there were more agents working.

We regret that we didn’t tell you that "more agents" really meant "only two more agents" (for a total of four) at the ticketing desks and that there were three times as many people waiting for rebooking there. You must admit, that was kind of funny.

Perhaps we should have called in more agents, but there were a lot of people in the terminal, and you kind of smelled bad. Admit it, you did not smell great. Or perhaps that was us. In any event, we regret the smells, and we regret that writing this letter has made us remember them.

A Word to the...Well, to Those Who Will Listen

Reviewing the movie 300, James Lileks (with his usual infuriating skill at making devastating points in the midst of seemingly throwaway lines) said this:

Still rooted for the Spartans, though. Because no matter how you adjust for politics or historical distortions or modern template-overlays or Marxist theory or any other Ism you clutch to your breast, the point of the story is universal: individuals defending liberty against tyranny. (To use the crazy words.)

That said, you can split hairs: the individuals were drawn from the upper classes; liberty was not extended to slaves; tyranny as defined by the upper class might have meant certain liberties for the lower classes, according to the rules of the invading empire. Maybe. Point is, the Spartans were asked to kneel, and chose not to. Every culture has a myth like this. If they don’t, they will be vassals to cultures that do. (emphasis added)

Will America continue to choose not to kneel? I am not at all certain of that.


The House of Reprehensibles

Here's a peek at some of the pork barrel spending the House has tucked into the bill to fund the military for Iraq and Afghanistan (from Mark Tapscott). If you can explain what this has to do with fighting a war, I'd love to hear it!

Some of the items being unnearthed are the sort that make defenders of the U.S. military (and yes, I proudly count myself among the defenders of these brave men and women) cringe because they undercut the credibility of the war effort.

In fact, however, those who should be cringing are the spending-crazy politicos in Congress stuffing every available appropriation with goodies for friends, donors, neighbors, family members, favored constituents, etc. etc. Here are just some of the latest examples:

Peanut Storage (pg. 115): $74 million
Additional Salaries for the House of Representatives (pg. 51): $6.4 million
Live Fish Transport Across the Canadian Border (pg. 116): $5 million
FDA Office of Women’s Health (pg. 117): $4 million
Compensation to Spinach Growers (pg. 112): $25 million

This is disgusting. These men and women (of both parties) have failed their responsibility to our soldiers and our country--but they're quite happy to fund their cronies...and themselves.


Harry Reid Goes Down in Flames

The defeatist Democrat from Nevada tried to (unconstitutionally) tie the hands of the Commander-in-Chief today with a Senate resolution to force the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq by the end of March next year. He failed. Utterly and miserably...and thankfully.

In fact, his foolish and short-sighted plot received only 48 votes--even though his party holds the majority with 51 members (counting aligned independents). That's the good news. The bad news is that the result means 48 of our "leaders" are willing to openly call for our nation's defeat in a time of war. It's frankly hard to think of another time in American history when so many politicians have been on the side of the enemy. Even the Copperheads during the Civil War were not so numerous or so vocal. (Of course Lincoln was having them thrown in jail or kicked out of the country, which may have had something to do with it.)

I want to address the false claim of the Dems that they want to "end the war." We CANNOT end the war by coming home. Ending a war requires two sides to agree. We can end the Battle of Iraq part of the war by running home with our tail tucked between our legs. That is within our power. But it will not end the war. It will only embolden and empower our enemies.

And by the way, have you noticed how many fewer stories we're hearing in the news from Iraq now that the surge has started, and seems to be making things better? Mere coincidence I'm sure. After all there's Anna Nicole's death and Brittany's rehab to talk about--and those are so much more important.

Beware the Ideas of March

I'm a college football fan first and foremost, but ever since the BCS ruined the New Year's Day bowl extravaganza, I have to admit that the first two days of the NCAA Tourney are the most hectic/exciting/crazy and fun sporting event we have. Having 32 games in two days is an overload...and yet somehow it works perfectly.

Global warming (now frequently being called "climate change" by its devotees because the last three years have been cooling off!) is a religion. And a false one.

Hillary Clinton has all of the advantages in the race for President. But somehow I still don't think she's going to win. I can't believe this country wants to be hectored by that harridan for four years.

Spring football practice at Alabama starts on the 24th. Early reports from the unofficial "voluntary" workouts are that tongues are hanging out from all the work. I can't wait to see what Nick Saban does with this team.

Word is Fred Thompson may run for President. Guess he can legitimately call himself the "law and order" candidate.

Daylight Savings Time stinks. I happily lived for seven years in Arizona without losing that hour in the spring. So curse you Ben Franklin.

And finally, with apologies to William Shakespeare, it's not the Ides of March that scare me...the Ides of April and the IRS have that one beat to pieces.


Instapundit Interviews Duncan Hunter

The famed Instapundit and his wife, who blogs at Dr. Helen interviewed Duncan Hunter for their most recent podcast. The interview runs just over 20 minutes, and can be listened to here. It's worth the investment of your time. I think you'll be impressed.


This Just In

The Libby jury has pleaded insanity. Sentencing to follow.

Seriously, this is a complete travesty of justice. The jurors should be ashamed. The judge should be ashamed. And Patrick Fitzgerald should especially be ashamed. He should never have brought this case. I think it's highly unlikely that Libby will spend even one day in jail. I can't see this mess of junk holding up on appeal...and even if it did, he certainly should get a pardon. UGH.


Duncan Hunter's Secret Weapon

Got this in an email from the Hunter campaign:

Duncan Hunter when speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., about his finish in the South Carolina poll said, "You know, I woke up to … one of the commentators saying that the only reason that Hunter beat all those guys in South Carolina is because his Marine son has been there for a week. Well, I looked down at that army of consultants, everybody who was vertical in South Carolina was hired by the other guys, and I said, 'You know, that is a good match-up: One Marine versus 550 consultants.' We did have the advantage!"

Hunter's service in the Vietnam War and the service of his son in Iraq give him a great insight into issues relating to the military. His years chairing the Armed Services Committee are an invaluable resource of experience in a time of war.


A VERY Good Day for Duncan Hunter

The Republican Party in Spartanburg, SC conducted a straw poll with these very surprising results:

With 81 of 92 precincts reporting, Giuliani garnered 158 votes. California Rep. Duncan Hunter was a close second with 152 votes, and Arizona Sen. John McCain was third with 116 votes, according to county GOP officials. (Report from GoUpstate.com)

Hunter, unlike the supposed frontrunners, had ZERO paid staff working the state for this event. By way of comparison McCain had 11! There is no great love among conservatives for Guiliani, McCain and Romney. Yes, they have the money and the press attention, but they are not acceptable to many. Guilani is respected because of his response to 9/11 and deservedly so. But if you are a conservative first and a Republican second, he's not a very attractive candidate philosophically.

One swallow does not make a summer they say. But this straw poll result is extremely encouraging. Hunter deserves the support of conservatives. Let's get behind his long-shot campaign and turn it into a winner!

UPDATE: Well, apparently just about all the remaining uncounted votes were McCain votes. Here's the final tally:

McCain 164
Guiliani 162
Hunter 158
Brownback 85
Romney 80
Huckabee 21

Still, this is an embarrassment for McCain. There's no other way to put it. He's spent the most money and has by far the most paid people on the ground...and he ends up in a virtual dead heat with two other candidates, one of them almost unknown to the major media. He's having serious cash flow issues (fittingly ironic for the man who trashed the Constitution to bring us campaing finance "reform"), and he just doesn't seem to be connecting the same way he has in the past.

It's even more embarrassing for Mitt Romney. To finish behind Brownback in a poll like this, and in fifth place overall reveals some real problems. He's gotten ten times the media attention and probably 50 times the money of Hunter and Brownback combined...but not the support. Romney has serious issues convincing people he's a real conservative. Too many flip-flops for my liking.

Bottom line--a great day for Duncan Hunter. Hopefully he can generate attention, momentum and fund raising off of this to continue on as the real conservative in the race. It's only a straw poll, but it's far from meaningless.