Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cool stamps

I don't usually get to worked up about postage stamps, but I stumbled upon a cool sheet yesterday. I walked into the PO just needing stamps, but the nice lady at the counter decided to give me some options. They had some motorcycle stamps and another book of impressionistic art. Finally, she pulls out the baseball sluggers edition. With postseason upon us, it was no contest.

Roy Campanella, Hank Greenburg, Mickey Mantle and Mel Ott grace the stamps. I could feel the crisp autumn air and remembered day time World Series games. Unfortunately, I had to use half the book to get the bills mailed. Maybe some clerk out there in the vast US will appreciate it. However, I did send one letter where the Campy stamp should be well received.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Finally, a meaningful test

I've always liked Tammy Bruce, especially when she passes along items like this.

I'm a southerner.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Football, football, football

Considering the outcome of the Carolina Panthers' game this afternoon, it's been a great football weekend.

On the collegiate front, Wake Forest made sure Saturday ended on a good note. The Deacs didn't find the land of Faulkner too ponderous to understand and swept aside Ole Miss 27-3. Nothing impatient about the Demon Deacons as on offense they only threw five passes and on D held the Rebs to 34 yards rushing. No illusions here though. The first five opponents occupying Wake's schedule represent the weakest run of the season. But hey, they've been wins. A game next week against I-AA Liberty and then the Tigers come to town.

Speaking of the Tigers, I watched a good chunk of the Clemson/UN Carolina game and I have to say, the final score, 52-7 orange team, is every bit indicative of how the game went. (More thoughts on this one at Ed Cone's blog.) State got a great last-second win over BC and Chuck Amato got emotional post-game. Good for the Pack. I like Amato, but I don't know what to make of him.

On the national scene, Michigan may well represent the biggest challenger to Ohio State in the BCS race. If it comes to that, things will get settled on the field around Thanksgiving. As overrated at Notre Dame was preseason, you can't count on them getting whipped around the field two weeks in a row by teams from Michigan. Good win for the Irish over Michigan State.

I finally feel like writing about the NFL. The Panthers got a good win today over Tampa Bay. Thank goodness for the left leg of John Kasey and the guile of Jake Delhomme. So far, Kasey has been Carolina's most lethal weapon. He kicked four field goals today, including a game winner with only a few seconds left. The game winner would never have come if not for Jake. While he didn't play his best game, Delhomme maybe made one of his best all-time moves . On fourth and long at about the T BAy 40, after dropping back a few steps, he hit the alley and ran down into comfortable Kasey range. Good to see Steve Smith back. He makes a difference all the way around even when he's not in top form. With nothing easy left on the schedule, the Panthers better come to play every week.

While I was tracking down the links, I found this one on the hosptialization of Bucs QB Chris Sims after the game. Some sources say he is in critical condition. Tampa Bay officials refute it. After a horrible start, Sims played solidly. He wasn't in good shape late, but continued to play except for part of one drive. I hope he keeps fighting hard. It puts all that written above into perspective

Before the Berlin Wall fell, there was this one

In honor of the last week of September

Some friends invited me to a party last night. Great time. They had a '70s mix CD playing and EWF was on the list. It fit appropriately with the cool breeze blowing across the porch. I thought it was a good way to figure out how to use You Tube on the blog.

The Sunday morning Clinton hissy fit

I watched the full-length eruption of Mt. W. Jefferson Clinton on Fox News Sunday this morning. Maybe Clinton had a point or two to make, but for my taste, he needed to do it with a less emotion and more reason. He spent most of the rant sitting on the edge of the chair and sticking his finger in the face of Chris Wallace. He constantly accussed Wallace and Fox of setting him up for a gotcha interview, claiming he agreed to appear because Wallace would interview him about some type of environmental think tank he's started.

First, Wallace played anything but gotcha with Clinton. If you watch Fox News Sunday regularly, you'll find that Wallace will ask the tough questions of any guest. If you have something controversial swirling around you, it doesn't matter if you're Richard Perle, Condi Rice, Ned Lamont or Howard Dean, Wallace will bring it up. Clinton knew that Wallace would bring up the Clinton administration's handling of the al Qaeda threat. Who brought it to the public's attention a couple of weeks ago anyway?

Next, it's hard to tell how effective or ineffective the loss of temper will be. If it was genuine emotion, a man of Clinton's stature needs to keep a check on his emotions. He spent the interview on the edge of his seat appearing ready to jump on top of the much smaller Wallace. More than once, he claimed Wallace had a smirk on his face. To Wallace's credit, he sat on the edge of his chair too, refusing to back down to Clinton's intimidating pose. If the outburst was more calculated, I guess time will tell if Clinton rallied any new support to this particular cause.

I think Brit Hume offered a good theory on Clinton's reaction in the panel disucssion following the interview. He said it was about Clinton and his legacy. Let's face it, we partied like it was 1999 throughout the '90s. If there was no 9/11, we might be riding a wave of Clinton nostalgia at high tide by now. None of us were too concerned with Osama bin Laden then. Could the Clinton administration done more? Sure. Was there a groundswell among the masses that he make the fight against terrorism a top priority? Nowhere close. While Clinton doesn't deserve high marks for his handling of terrorism, he doesn't deserve to have the majority of blame dumped in his lap either.

In the fall of '97, I remember running into a friend I hadn't seen for a couple of years. I asked him what he thought of Clinton. He said, "he makes a good Coolidge." That may be right. The roaring '20s roared during the Coolidge administration, but underlying economic problems were not addressed. Less than a year after Silent Cal left office, the bottom dropped out. (I doubt WJC will find the comparison flattering.)

Putting the legacy thing aside, let's face it, we're all in this thing together. It doesn't matter how we got here. Now that we're here, let's win.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Democrats grand '06 election strategy

John Hinderaker at Powerline takes a look at some of the latest polls and how they relate to this November's election. If the polls prove accurate, he concludes the Democrats plugged their crystal ball into the wrong frequency this summer:

The Gallup poll also finds the generic Congressional preference ballot even between the parties, among likely voters. Frankly, I think that's too good to be true. But it does illustrate a basic problem faced by the Democrats. Having chosen not to run on any positive program, they are at the mercy of events. If oil prices fall, voters are reminded of the Democrats' record on national security, etc., their superficially strong position could erode quickly.

The poll, if believed, has another piece of bad news for Democrats: among likely voters, Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say that they are "extremely motivated" or "very motivated" to vote in November.

I like Hinderaker's story line. It may well prove true that the Democrats entered the '06 campaign season banking on driving to the checkered flag in a '74 Torino. A great car for its time and a great car to have today, but it's not crossing the finish line at Daytona anymore.

The Dems had their scandal and unpopular war lined up. Disgust over gas prices started rattling the lid on the boiling pot. You even had, and still do have, conservative talking heads mulling over the merits sitting out the race this go round to give the GOP a disciplinary fall from power. The scandal was sans scandal. The war is still unpopular, but unlike '74, we're still over there. There's no defining consensus to close shop and send the scraps to the sanitary landfill to fade away over time. As for the gas prices, more quick side trips to Hanging Rock appear eminent. We'll see the implications of the fourth scenario around November 7.

Who knows? America's oldest political party may turn out to be right, but there are indications that they may have taken a two-tire pit stop when a full change was the savier move.
They're taking a non-strategy strategy into battle for the third straight election. In any long race on the track, many different drivers may lead early. However, as the final laps wind down, you can tell who has the stronger car. In this election, the issue of national security is driving hard to the finish, neither too tight nor too loose.

For the third straight election, the Democrat Party had the opportunity to develop and offer an alternative view of national security and for the third straight time chose not to get behind the wheel of that machine. You avoid election trends at your own peril. We'll know more soon.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Budapest: See what happens when politicians admit they lied

An interesting story is developing in the land formerly behind the Iron Curtain. Determined protesters in Budapest attempted to storm the studios of Hungary's state television station to broadcast their disapproval of the country's current government:

Protesters clashed with police and stormed the headquarters of state television early Tuesday, responding with violence to a leaked recording that caught Hungary's prime minister admitting the government "lied morning, evening and night" about the economy.

Rescue services said at least 50 people were injured as police fired tear gas and water cannon at rock-throwing protesters, who have been demanding the government resign.

The violence followed a mainly peaceful demonstration that began a day earlier outside parliament, after a recording made in May was leaked to local media. On it, Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitted officials lied about government finances to win April's elections.

Despite the surge in violence involving dozens of the protesters, Gyurcsany said that he had no plans to resign.

It's too early to get a handle on this story. The AP article gives no details on who the protesters were. The cutline on the accompanying photo calls them "right-wing." Gyurcsany says he will not give in to a mob. Maybe we'll learn more later.

Update: Reuters has better coverage on the demonstrators. They are identified as rightists. The crowd also managed to damage a memorial to Russian soldiers too.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Football fix

I'll admit to being a football geek this weekend. College ball inspired me to the point that when I went to Harris-Teeter and saw a guy run by me on the sidewalk as I walked out of the store, I felt the temptation to drop the groceries and tackle him. Restraint prevailed though.

I had a lot of chores to do around the house, but I tuned in the Wake/UConn game on the radio. Until the fourth quarter, I was expecting the Huskies to explode and surge past the Deacs, but it never happened. Wake's defense took control and the team headed back south with a 24-13 win and a 3-0 record. WFU has won with defense, a good kicker and kicking mistakes by two of three opponents. It doesn't make for the prettiest football. The competition hasn't been overwhelming either, but a 3-0 start is something most of us Wake fans will take with few quesitons asked. The run would be most impressive if it came on the hoops court. Along with UConn, Wake has taken out Syracuse and Duke on the gridiron.

There was good selection of games on the tube. Michigan drove a spear into Notre Dame and kept twisting it all game long. It's good for football when the Irish are good, but I don't think they're as good as the talking heads want them to be. While I never feel sorry for Oklahoma, they got a bad call on the field and in the review box on an onside kick against Oregon. Following the gift, the Ducks scored a quick touchdown and then blocked a last-second Sooners field goal attempt. Auburn/LSU wasn't pretty, but if you love hard-hitting football, it was entertaining.

It doesn't look like the ACC will put a team in BCS title contention, but the league is competitive which should make for some exciting games. Clemson's last-second win over Florida State was fun to watch, as was the Tigers' heart-breaking OT loss to Boston College last week. It looks like it might be a season where some teams have a chance to deliver some payback to Florida State and Miami.

We had a good NFL Sunday today, but I can't bring myself to say much more. I'm having a hard time getting over the Panthers making one of the most bone-headed plays I've seen in a pro football game. It's even harder to conceive that a coach as conservative as John Fox with his defense in control of a game would call a trick play on a punt return. It's the dominating theme on Scott Fowler's Q and A at the Charlotte Observer.

Let's keep the helmets strapped on and no tackling on the pavement.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mark the return of the Hidden Imam on one of their calendars

Via Sweetness and Light, it looks like Hezbollah may be planning for their version of a "Thousand Year Reich." A look at the Imam al Mahdi Scouts might take you back to the Germany of the late 1930s.

A lot of people don't like the term Islamofascist. Maybe it's not accurate. Maybe we're wrong to say the Nazis were fascists. What makes a fascist a fascist anyway?

BTW: I also learned some about Ayatollah Khameini, who served as Ayatollah Khomeini's security chief as the latter ascended to leadership of Iran. He seems an ambitious sort of humble imam.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reading about reading "Fiasco"

I haven't read "Fiasco," Thomas Ricks's account of the Iraq war, but I enjoyed reading Jack Kelly's review of it today. Kelly wrote that as a supporter of the war, he felt put off by the title. However, he found much of what Ricks wrote convincing. I found the concentration on the first Battle of Fallujah the most intriguing in Kelly's synopsis of the book:

After the CPA and the Army made most of Iraq's Sunnis mad at us, our "leadership," by wimping out in the first battle of Fallujah, gave the insurgents reason to think they could win.

The Marines were ordered to take Fallujah after the grisly murders of defense contractors there in March, 2004. But as they were on the verge of taking the city, political pressures forced the Marines to halt their assault. The insurgents were handed a victory. Their prestige and their morale soared. Thirty nine Marines and soldiers died for nothing.

Kelly finds more with which to agree and also points out two weaknesses he finds in the work.

The first Battle of Fallujah has long stood out with me. At the time of the battle, Bush enjoyed solid public approval of the Iraq war and he appeared in good shape as the November election loomed. The first Fallujah occurred concurrent with the 9/11 Commission hearings, which did not help Bush. As the battle in Iraq unfolded, through al Jazeera, insurgents unleashed a propaganda campaign focusing on suppossed American military atrocities in Fallujah. (Sounds a little like this past summer on the eastern Mediterranean coast.) The Bush administration flinched and halted the assault. GW Bush became much more vulnerable strategically and politically. He's not recovered yet, but already may have started walking out of the valley. The November elections may prove a good indication of that.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Deacs get double rabbit's feet win on gridiron

Wake Forest needed both of Bodmin Bunny's hind paws (sorry animal lovers I needed a metaphor with a link) plus a black cat sneaking around on Duke's sideline this afternoon. As the final seconds ticked away, the Deac's Chip Vaughn blocked a last-second Blue Devils' 27-yard field goal attempt, preserving a 14-13 WFU victory. In a post game radio interview, Vaughn said that earlier in the game he picked up on the way Duke lined up to protect kicker Joe Surgan. He said he thought that if he took a certain angle he could beat his blocker and get in the way of the pigskin. It worked as Vaughn said he ended the game with a big red mark on one of his forearms. Can't remember if he specified left or right.

Wake may have used up all the good luck available this weekend in Forsyth County, getting outplayed by Duke in most aspects of the game. The Devils deserved a better fate. Their QB, Thaddeus Lewis, played a strong game (over 300 yards passing). The most telling tale of the tape was five DBD drives into the red zone with only one field goal to show for it. The Deacs shouldn't have much trouble living with the Devils' moral victory, Wake's seventh straight over Duke.

BTW: A nice Apache flyover by the NC Air National Guard just before kick off. Good afternoon to be outside.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Do we really need the US Senate anymore?

Well, maybe I won't go there yet, but the current GOP Senate Campain Committe, headed by NC's Liddy Dole, raises more serious questions with me.

Let's look at its recent track record:

It's lending de facto support to a Democrat over the GOP nominee in Connecticut.

It did a swell job toppling Katherine Harris earlier this week in Florida.

Today we have this. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed its confirmation vote on John Bolton because Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee is not prepared to vote yes.
Guess who Liddy's committee supports in next week's Rhode Island GOP primary?

I understand that in the cloistered world of Washington politics it's hard for a party to turn on one of its incumbents, especially during a crucial election where control of the Senate is at stake. Since I don't have to worry about that stuff, I refuse to donate any money to a Republican Senate campaign committee that's spending a good portion of its resources to save Lincoln Chafee's tail. Don't get me wrong. The extent of my political spending is a $40 donation to the Bush campaign in '04. I gave once and almost bi-weekly the GOP empty hand is stuck through my doorway via the US Mail. Though the '07 Reagan calender is cool, but that didn't come from the party.

Before asking for our hard-earned money, my US senator needs to talk to her voters. I know Chafee's opponent Steve Laffey stands no chance to win RI, but if you're making security the top issue, it looks like the confirmation of Bolton should be a top priority. You've already given up one state in New England, might as well let another one go. If you cut Chafee loose, you would be standing on the same principles that have led you to support Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. I'm starting to feel more prepared to answer my misleading headline.

BTW: Chafee went under the Coulter knife last week.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Romney makes strong gesture

Via Instapundit, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced today that his state will not provide any security for the visit of former Iranian PM Mahmoud Khatami when he visits Harvard. He made a strong unequivocal statement in support of his decision which reads in part:

In his own country, Khatami oversaw the torture and murder of Iranian students, journalists, and others who spoke out for freedom and democracy. Khatami relaxed freedom of speech laws giving democracy reformers a false sense of security only to engage in one of the largest crackdowns in the country’s history.

In Khatami’s Iran, there was no religious tolerance. According to the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom, Iran was one of the worst offenders of religious persecutions. Minorities, such as Evangelicals, Jews, Catholics and others, have suffered.“

Khatami pretends to be a moderate, but he is not. My hope is that the United States will find and work with real voices of moderation inside Iran. But we will never make progress in the region if we deal with wolves in sheep’s clothing,” said Romney.

Romney looks more and more like a formidible challenger for the GOP's '08 nomination.

Those darling Panthers

Adam Schein penned the first NFL preseason forecast I've read on the web. I don't know that I've ever read anything he's written before, but it seemed as good as any prognostication on which to post.

Here's a few highlights:

He likes Carolina. He loves the D and gives the O more love than I'm willing to let loose at the moment, but I hope he's right:

The Panthers' offensive line is very good, and if possible, underrated. Travelle Wharton has turned into a stout left tackle that is only getting better. Left guard Mike Wahle is the leader of this group and one of the best interior linemen in the NFL. Jordan Gross is sturdy at left tackle. And this will give Jake Delhomme time to use his weapons, highlighted by one of the best receivers in the NFL in Steve Smith.

But this year, the passing attack won't just be about one player. Keyshawn Johnson still has great hands and is fearless. He is the perfect compliment to Smith over the middle. And he effectively lets Drew Carter and Keary Colbert shine as the 3rd and 4th receivers, respectively.

DeShaun Foster will start at running back, but nobody will be surprised if rookie DeAngelo Williams takes over at some point. It's just another example of the incredible depth. And I love the moxie and attitude this team plays with every time out. It can be a special season in Carolina.

He also expects a strong season in the AFC East from both the Pats and Dolphins, calls for a big drop off for the defending world champs, foresees a top-5 D in Jacksonville ( my fantasy defense), calls the NFC East football's strongest division complete with a worst to first finish for Philly and doesn't give the AFC West a whole lot of respect.

I won't give away Schein's Super Bowl pick completely, but he expects to see a bunch of big mean cats prowling around Miami in early February.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day weekend: football, fantasy and real, darts etc.

It's been a fairly low-key Labor Day weekend, but looking back I got a lot packed in.

I contemplated going to the Grimsley-Dudley game, but I had a fantasy football draft scheduled for Friday night. As it turns out we hit a snag and had to postpone the draft a day. I had to settle for getting bits and pieces of the real game by listening to the PA, which I hear loud and clear. I heard the Whirlies go-ahead touchdown. Sounds like it was a great game.

Saturday night I met the folks in Winston and we headed to the Wake-Syracuse game. Wake dominated the game, especially defensively, but couldn't get the offense clicking enough to acheive a blowout, winning 20-10. Even though the score remained close throughout, Wake never appeared in trouble. The Deacs did lose QB Benjamin Mauk for the season when he broke his upper right arm diving on a fumble. Redshirt freshman Riley Skinner took over and the offense didn't drop off any. We'll see if that's the case as the season stretches on. Duke is next up for Wake.

Friday night's snag meant I had to give up the fantasy draft and leave my picks at the mercy of the computer. I left a good draft list, but I didn't get anywhere close to the team I would have put together. I won't complain too much. I did land Ladainian Tomlinson, Anquan Boldin and Peyton Manning, but I only ended up with two running backs. The RB is the highest scoring position in fantasy ball. You need plenty in reserve, especially if a star like Tomlinson goes down to an injury. I've been working with the roster. I've already made a big trade and claimed two players from waivers. This is my first go at fantasy football. It's amazing how alluring it can be once you get into it.

A buddy of mine was kind enough to throw some steaks on the grill last night. After good eats, we threw some darts and watched the Louisville-Kentucky game. It was a thriller, featuring a load of scoring and drama. It also included a devastating injury to Cards' RB Michael Bush, being touted as a Heisman candidate, who broke his leg in the second half. He's done for the season. Louisville won 59-28.

Love that three-day weekend, especially when there's still some of it left.

Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, RIP

Sorry to wake up Labor Day morning to the news that Steve Irwin died from a stringray sting to the heart. We cover Australia in seventh grade social studies and I usually show my classes a video that tells the story of how Irwin became the Crocodile Hunter. His family ran a crocodile zoo in Australia. Irwin took up the family business and took it to unbelievable heights. The kids ususally love the story. I think they get their biggest kick when they hear Irwin talk. I never watched a lot of his shows, but I've always liked Irwin. He had a go for it, enjoy the hell out of it approach to his work as dangerous as it was. I've never been to Australia, but if a good chunk of Aussies share Irwin's spirit, it's got to be a great place. Irwin's run was too brief. He died at 44.

Here's more details on stringrays.