Friday, October 26, 2007

California Whines

The media's incessant, inane, and imbecilic comparisons of the governmental responses to the California Wildfire Disaster and Hurricane Katrina is matched in absurdity only by the California Lt. Governor's news conference assertion that California National Guard troops should be brought home from Iraq to help with disaster response. The assertions that there were "lessons learned" by Bush and the federal government is correct only in the sense that the federal government learned not to trust the preparedness of liberal democratic local and state governments. First, let's set the record straight on governmental response to Katrina.

The single greatest contribution to the crisis created by Katrina's assault on New Orleans was the complete and criminal incompetence of the city's government. Next in line for culpability whippings is the Louisiana governor and her staff. FEMA Director Browning was a buffoon, to be sure, and the Feds could have gotten massive aid to the scene at least 24 hours faster. But, the preparedness (or lack thereof) by Nagin and his krewe was laughable at best and criminal at worst. Contrast Governor Blanco's "deer in the headlights" news conferences with Governor Barber's rolled up shirt-sleeves presence at the front immediately following the storm's passing. While Mississippians, in large part, helped themselves and each other, New Orleanians helped themselves to each other's belongings.

The real difference between the response prior to and following Katrina and the response to the California wildfires are the actions by local and state governments. While Nagin and Blanco hunkered in their bunkers and neglected to lead their citizens to safety, California local and state authorities evacuated all but a handful of citizens from their homes ahead of rapidly advancing wildfires. The world watched Katrina take a bead on New Orleans for nearly a week, and Nagin/Blanco, et. al. did nothing. Not since Nero fiddled while Rome burned has a state's leadership demonstrated such utter disregard for its citizenry.

No fiddles played by Conan and his crew--with the exception of the politically motivated cheap-shot whine by the Lt. Governor. The truth: less than 15% of California's National Guard is currently deployed to Iraq, leaving 17,000 guardsmen in the state. The last I saw, the Governator had only seen a need to call up a fraction of those.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to the drought.

It hasn't been a drought buster by any stretch of the imagination, but the steady rain that has fallen here at the northern end of southern nowhere for the past 30 hours has been one of the most welcome sights I have seen in a long time. By my calculation, my little corner of the Tallahatchie Free State is running a rainfall deficit of nearly two feet for the year. It has been so dry here that, to paraphrase Sheridan during his ruinous romp in the Shenandoah Valley, "a crow flying over the length of the Tallahatchie River bottom would have to carry his own canteen for water." The water level in my lake has dropped precipitously over the past 8 months--five or six feet by my reckoning. The three or four inches of rain we just got won't refill it, but it will at least arrest the decreasing shoreline for a few weeks.

Miss Brenda and I have a running argument regarding the descriptive appellation by which to refer to our liquid inpoundment. I call it my lake. She insists that it is merely a pond. She is unswayed by my definitive reasoning that if one cannot throw a rock across the widest portion of said body of water it is more correctly referred to as a lake. She cannot pitch a petra across, nor have I attempted to do so (the muscles of my throwing arm have atrophied to the point of severe embarrasment should anyone witness my fruitless fling). Furthermore, some of our neighbors have ponds that have completely dried up during this epic drought. My lake and its pescatorial population has survived nicely--though significantly decreased in surface acreage and fin room.

I think I have a way to put the lake v. pond dispute to final rest. Hereby and forthwith, my lake shall be known (with appropriate reinforcing signage) as Lake Brenda.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just Like Ole Times

Ruined another beautiful Saturday afternoon sitting in Vaught-Hemingway stadium this weekend. After the huge let-down against Alabama last Saturday, my Rebels came out flatter than a dried out cow chip. It was 21 to nuthin' early, and Arkansas only needed a dozen plays total to score those three times. We turned the ball over to McFadden and company four times after long drives and only scored late after Houston Nutt decided he had run the score up enough to save his job for another week and put his waterboy in to play defense.

At half-time, a fund-raising program fireworks display knocked out a transformer, and we watched the third quarter in silence. The Ole Miss unfaithful started filing out of the stands halfway through the third, and I wasn't very far behind 'em. Final score: Arkansas 44, Ole Miss 8.

Who says "you can't go home again?" This football team is right where I left them when I left Oxford 30 years ago--dwellin' in the cellar of the SEC. Just like old times.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rebel Ranting

There's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth following the Ole Miss - Alabama game in Oxford on Saturday. Most of the sound and fury surrounds the overturning of an on-field call at the end of the game by the replay official. Alabama was leading 27-24 with two minutes left and Ole Miss had moved into Alabama territory. Following a sack that put the Rebels well out of field goal range, Ole Miss went for it on 4th down. Ole Miss quarterback Seth Adams lofted a pass down the left sideline, Rebel Shay Hodges and the defender played tug of war with the ball, and Hodges came up with it on the 4 yard line. Seven seconds remained on the game clock.

As Ole Miss lined up to go for the win, Alabama called timeout. Then, it was announced that the play was under review. After an interminable period of time, the officials announced that the replay official had ruled that the reciever had stepped out of bounds prior to the catch. Alabama took over on downs and their quarterback took a knee to end the game, amid the most fury I've seen unleashed on the Ole Miss campus since Meredith enrolled.

As much as I think that the replay official made the wrong call--all of the video angles were disputable about whether the defender touched the ball first and thereby allowing the reciever to legally reenter the field of play and catch the ball--I have two reasons to thank him for his decision. One, it reinforced my long held belief that Ole Miss remains hated by everyone else because the Rebels so dominated SEC football in the 50's and 60's and then waved the rebel flag in everyone's face in the process.

Two, there would have been four or five possible outcomes had Ole Miss been given the ball on the 4 yard line with 7 seconds left, only one of which would have been positive. We would have thrown an incomplete pass to go for the win. Coach Orgeron's clock management being what it is, it is doubtful we would have been able to save a second to try a tying field goal. But if we had tied the game with a field goal, our track record in overtime is miserable.

So, you see, by denying the Rebels the opportunity to try to win the game, the replay official saved us an even more crushing finish, and gave Rebel Nation a target on which to vent our frustration.

Gotta love college football.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Same Ole Missery vs. Alabama

When it comes to Ole Miss football there are only two games in the season that mean anything to most people, the last two games of the season against hated LSU and disdained Mississippi State. I add a third to my list--Alabama. Ole Miss and Alabama have played some great games. One of the greatest and most celebrated games of Archie Manning's Rebel career was actually a loss against Alabama. The Tide has had our number all time, beating us four out of five times we've met. The last time I attended a game against Alabama that we won was thirty-one years ago. We beat Bama on Bear Bryant's birthday and sang Happy Birthday to him at the end of the game. It was so good.

Since that time we have beaten Alabama maybe three or four times. Three years ago we had Bama on the ropes here in Oxford, hadn't let 'em move the ball all day, and they marched down the field in the last two minutes and beat us with a last second field goal. Last year, in Tuscaloosa we took 'em to overtime, and lost by three. This year we traded the lead back and forth all game and then fell short on a last minute drive. Final score 27--24.

With five games to go in this miserable season, I predict we'll win one more and finish 3 and 9.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Boot Camps and Armies are National Responsibilities

I have long believed that local government and the free market system are the most effective and efficient means of delivering essential goods and services to citizens. As a conservative, I ascribe to the tenet that local government and the free market provide the most responsive and democratic service to citizens. The higher up the food chain provision of goods and services is aggregated, and citizens taxed therefore, the greater the opportunity for political misuse and inequality of distribution, despite socialists' claims that they are correcting inequalities. But, there are some things best left to the Feds. Boot camps and armies are federal government responsibilities.

Just before I left the Redneck Riviera, a young man died as the result of abuse at a local sheriff's department's boot camp for troubled teens. This past week the trial of the guards at that boot camp ended in acquittals. Turns out the abuse they heaped on the kid before he collapsed was approved procedure. Most of the defenders of the boot camp and the guards railed that the kid's parents failed to disclose that he had sickle cell trait, complications from which the original autopsy report credited as cause of death. Frankly, that was beside the point.

When I first moved to Panama City in 2003 and heard that they had a boot camp, I was skeptical at best about the wisdom of such a venture. My experience with boot camps is with the most effective boot camp ever run by any military organization in the history of man, with the life-long boot camp of the Spartans being the one exception. The boot camps run by the Marine Corps at Parris Island and San Diego are the most grueling, shocking, and inhumane (yes, I said "inhumane"--the goal is to teach people to kill) training syllabus in the world. They are run with the most disciplined attention to, and constant supervision of, a detailed set of rules and schedules for cramming a life-time of hardness into thousands of couch potatoes, in 13 weeks' time. Drill Instructors are carefully screened and then put through months of rigorous training (far surpassing what will be expected of their recruits) prior to allowing them to set foot in front of a platoon of recruits. Drill Instructors may not touch a recruit. No Drill Instructor is ever alone with recruits. A Drill Instructor who violates the training schedule or the rigid rules of conducting training risks ruining his or her career at best, Leavenworth at worst.

And yet, abuses at Parris Island and San Diego still occur.

Contrast the most professionally run boot camp in the world with the state-sanctioned boot camps run by local sheriff's departments. Many who would be a "drill instructor" at one of these play boot camps are not qualified, period. Some who strut around under the campaign cover, have no more experience at running a boot camp than having been through one dozens of years ago. One of the Panama City drill instructors was 60 years old! A boot camp run by amateurs is a ticking abuse time bomb, the timing mechanism for which has been set by foolish sheriffs or ignorant state legislators. The drill instructors at the boot camp in Panama City should not have been the ones on trial this past month--the sheriff and the state sanctioning officials should have been.

The same common sense needs to be applied to arrest the proliferation of American mercenary armies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy. Blackwater is equipping itself with its own ground attack air force, for crying out loud! The shame of this is, there are no effective American laws governing the conduct of such private armies, and Geneva Convention protections do not apply to their mercenary fighters. With no rules governing them, should anyone be surprised that they have no compunction against shooting up the local populace in Iraq in order to be able to proclaim that "no VIP, for which we have been contracted to protect, has been killed." Amazingly, Congress had the gall to drag the CEO of Blackwater before "investigatory hearings" as if this whole mess was his (or George Bush's) responsibility, when, in fact, Congress has shirked their responsibility to govern such activities with appropriate laws to begin with!

Leave boot camps and armies to the professionals.