Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We Get What We Vote For

At dinner the other night, a client asked me about my preferences in the 2008 presidential election. I told him that in my seldom humble opinion there hasn't been anyone worth voting for since 1984--that last time Ronald Reagan stood for office.

Unfortunately for us, the most capable leaders on both sides of the political aisle have been sitting out the presidential elections for the past couple of decades. Instead, we have been given the choice between charismatic charlatans, old men who have "paid their dues," or liars practicing the art of "tell 'em what they want to hear."

When the Philanderer in Chief won re-election in 1996, I lamented to a friend that his win meant that we would have the Clintons in our faces for the rest of our lives. That Clinton won in 1992 (with less than 50% of the vote) can be blamed on George H. W. Bush and Ross Perot. That he won re-election in 1996 is the fault of the American people. That those two snake oil salesmen (Bill and Hillary) have so dominated the political landscape in this country is a national shame.

I am afraid we are being set up for a repeat of the 1992 and 1996 Clinton victories combined, this year. In 1996, the Republican party so misjudged the popularity and political skill of Bill Clinton, that Bob Dole (a great American, but not the best leader available on the right) was given the opportunity stand against him. Dole was such an ineffective campaigner that he actually caused his local poll numbers to drop following each stop on the campaign trail.

I have the utmost respect for the wartime valor and sacrifice of John McCain (as I also do for Bob Dole), but McCain is no match for the Clinton political machine. Nor is Barrack Obama. In all likelihood, Hillary Clinton will be the Democrat nominee. McCain will probably stand for the Republicans. With those choices (or any of the others still standing at present), a third party ticket is almost inevitable--probably Bloomberg. A third party ticket splits the vote on the right--Hillary wins with less than 50% of the vote.

A Hillary Clinton presidency (or even an Obama presidency), combined with a very probable much stronger Democratic majority in the Congress, will mean a lurch toward socialism not seen since FDR. Standby for tax rates that will rival any this country has ever seen. Roosevelt packed the Supreme Court with liberal justices who would not strike down his clearly unconstitutional laws and programs. Clinton will do the same.

In 1980, Reagan proclaimed "a new day" was "dawning in America." I am afraid that we will awake to a much darker dawn this time a year from now.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fifty-two and Counting

Sometime on Saturday, the 26th of January, I will complete my 52nd orbit of the sun. For the past half century +2 I have been traveling, along with several billion other souls, at 67,062 miles per hour around the tight little race track at the inner edge of our solar system. Depending on your stance on life's timeline, fifty-two years of age may not seem like all that advanced of an age. But, as one of my Marine Corps mentors once told me, "it's not the mileage, but the roads traveled," that determines the wear and tear on our chassis and engine.

Some days, I feel considerably older than my actual age--a career of too many hikes with too many pounds on my back often reminds me with too much stiffness on early cold mornings. But more often than not, my mind tells me I'm still a youngster, still able to leap the challenging chasms of life without effort. And I still catch myself trying.

Frankly, I still enjoy adding a year to my age at the end of each January. It's not because the alternative is less attractive. I'm not worried about that final heartbeat--I know where I'll be shortly thereafter. I guess I am just competitive enough to consider advancing age like accumulated points in the game of life.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Eli's Going

I haven't watched a full NFL game all season, or in the last several seasons for that matter. But I had a lot of interest in the NFC title game last night, and watched, kick-off to overtime win. I didn't have a favorite. Both teams are lead by quarterbacks with Mississippi ties. I've always liked Mississippi native and University of Southern Mississippi grad Brett Favre--a gutsy, salt-of-the-earth country boy who is the kind of guy who you just know would take time to admire the nice buck in the back of your pick-up even if he didn't know you.

I've followed Archie and Olivia's youngest football prodigy for the past seven or eight years. Eli, unlike his older brother Peyton, followed oldest brother Cooper and their father's golden footsteps to Ole Miss. The name, Manning, is revered at Ole Miss. One of the main thoroughfares on campus is named Manning Way. The speed limit, campus-wide, is 18--Archie Manning's number when he played for the Rebels. Eli Manning brought back the on-the-field football magic missing at Ole Miss since his daddy left the hallowed hills of the northern end of southern nowhere for the NFL, thirty years previous. But, when I watch Eli play, I can't help but think that he reminds me of the character played by Tom Hanks in the movie "Big" -- a little boy in a man's body.

I could not have been prouder of the two Mississippi boys playing the games of their lives in sub-zero weather way up there behind enemy lines. It's hard to do things with your hands when the temperature is minus something and the wind chill is minus something more. I know--three winters spent training in Norway, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, still gives me icy nightmares, and can still be felt in the tips of my fingers when it gets cold. That they were able to pass that frozen football so often and with such accuracy amazed me. If only their receivers' hands were as little affected by the cold--lots of dropped balls that would have made a difference for either team.

Truth be told, I was kind of hoping for a Green Bay win--would have liked to see Brett Favre retire with a Super Bowl win. But, I'll root for Eli and the Giants on Super Sunday and hope for an improbable end to the most improbable seasons anyone could have imagined for New England and New York this year.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stupid is as Stupid Wades

Stupid. That's what it is. Just plain stupid.

No, I'm not referring to the pedantic punditry surrounding the current political liars' club personality contests (cauci and primaries). I'm talking about the exercise in idiocy I succumb to this time each year--duck hunting.

Case in stupidity point: This morning my alarm woke me at a few minutes past four. 0400. 4 A.M. Dark, and going to be that way for several more hours. By 5, #2 son and I have donned 4 layers of clothing, swilled two cups of coffee (an act we will regret three hours later encased in chest waders) and prepped his boat. Although the boat ramp is less than five minutes from the house, and the slough to which we are heading is only a five minute boat ride upriver, we calculate that we need to be at the boat ramp way before anyone else in order to beat the boat launch gaggle and any other hunters who may intend to hunt our favorite spot. This means that we will wait in total darkness in knee deep water for nearly an hour waiting for sunrise and legal shooting time. Did I mention the two cups of coffee?

The boat ride itself is a windchill adventure. The river is shallow, and the most expedient way to prevent the boat motor from dragging the bottom in places is to ram the throttle forward and plane the boat out at top speed. Narrow river. Twisty river. Stump-filled river. Did I mention it was dark? #2 son claims to know this river like the back of his hand. Comforting, until you realize he is wearing gloves.

Just before I succumb to hypothermic sleep (not easy to do while fearing for your life), we reach the stretch of river adjacent to our slough and #2 noses the boat into the bank. We clamber out, climb into chest waders, sling shotguns, enough ammunition to wage an insurgency, and two tons of decoys over our shoulders and push into the brush. Walking through the woods carrying heavy loads in chest waders is second in difficulty only to the next phase of the trek--wading though thigh deep water carrying heavy loads.

We were duck hunting this morning, but it was more like bird-watching. All of the ducks we saw were flying at an altitude for which oxygen masks are normally required. The plaintive quacks, chuckles and highballs from our duck calls made little impression, and evidently the two tons of decoys we hauled in on our backs and scattered on the water around us made even less of an impression. We stayed in the swamp for 5 hours and never even fired a shot.

The most incriminating evidence to our insanity--we went back this afternoon.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobcat Boo

One late afternoon a few days ago, as the sun began to set, I grabbed my rifle and headed for the back forty. I have a makeshift ground blind on the edge of one of my fields tucked in amongst some small pines and set up so that I can scan a fairly large sector of the field. The blind itself is mostly limbs scavenged from a blowdown, and thatched with branches and grass. One side of the blind, the right side, has some camouflage burlap cloth draped across. My visibility out that side is restricted, but my reckoning is that anything that steps out of the pines on that side has to walk into my field of view if it comes across the field from right to left or if it moves away from me down the line of pines.

Since I have already harvested all the bucks (one) I am allowing myself to shoot off the property this year, and that one deer being all I need to put in the freezer (Miss Brenda is not a big fan of venison), I intended to see if I could call a pesky coyote up and put the final entry in his health record. I slipped into the blind, sat down on a small stool, and pulled out a call. This particular varmint call makes the squealing sound of a rabbit getting caught by a predator, and will normally cause any coyotes in ear shot to come investigate who is having what for dinner. I blew on the call intermittently for 10 of 15 minutes. The coyotes have either gotten wise to the call or weren't hungry. I didn't see a thing moving.

So, I contented my self with watching a nice red/orange sunset and listening to the sounds of birds making their way to roost. Several small birds flitted around my position and after mistaking their sounds for larger animal footsteps a few times, I quit paying close attention to the sounds around me and sat drowsing as the sun set.

But then a sound of a heavier, slow, step to my right jolted me awake. The first step was followed by a couple more crunches in the grass, and now I was on full alert. I bent down slowly and peeked through a slit in the burlap, my face not a foot from the cloth. As my eyes focused, I realized that I was eye to eye with a very interested bobcat. She knew there was a hurt rabbit nearby and she had crept up to the last place she heard its sounds coming from. Our eyes met and widened in recognition simultaneously. Neither of us blinked or moved for what seemed minutes. Slowly, Miss Kitty began to disengage from our Mexican, errr, Mississippi Standoff. She never took her eyes off of me, but began to ease backward, lifting one paw at a time. I was so close that I could see the muscles under her tawny hide shifting and rippling as she extricated herself from the precarious position. When her nerves would no longer allow a time-consuming backward creep, she whirled in a spotted blur and headed for the safety of a thick line of pines.

I stood and looked over the side of the blind to watch her race away. As she reached the tall grass at the pines she took one final five foot high leap and vanished into the shadows.

I laughed all the way back to the house.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bye, Bye, Buckeye

Will somebody please fix the bias glitch in the BCS that keeps sending a second-rate Ohio State to the National Championship Game!?! Last year, Florida embarrassed them. Last night Lucky State University (with two losses!!!) beat them. The Buckeyes are now 0 and 9 against SEC teams in bowl games.

Frankly, there is an EASY fix to the NCAA Division I Football National Championship Gordian knot. It's obvious that the premier conference in the country is the SEC--let's just crown the winner of the SEC Championship Game the National Champions as well and be done with it. Then we can enjoy the Bowl Games for the rusty team entertainment that they always are.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate LSU? I pulled for (muffled gasps from my Southern Brethren) OSU--now that's hate.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Very Bad Things

I've detected a significant trend of negativity in the moronic media's 2007 retrospectives. Seems the only noteworthy events from the past year were all deaths, tragedies, disasters, or vice presidential hunting accidents. Don't know about you, but I can come up with a much longer list of great things that happened in 2007 than of the bad things. Of course, my list of great things will be much more oriented to what happened to me personally--most of which have already been chronicled in previous posts here at the The Colonel's Corner.

Perhaps even more importantly, there were a lot of very bad things that didn't happen in 2007. We Marines have a tendency to put pain in perspective. When I experienced appendicitis four years ago, the doctor asked me to rate the pain I was having on a scale of 1 to 10--10 being the worst pain I could imagine. Anyone with an inkling of the varied horrible ways to become a battlefield casualty can imagine some quite terrible pain. So, I told the Doc, through clenched teeth, "about a 4." That answer relegated me to several more hours of languishing in line in the emergency room behind the kid with the pea up his left nostril and the woman with a hangnail. The next time I got asked to rate the pain, I concentrated on the face of Miss Brenda and grunted, "She's a ten!"

So, to my way of thinking, while 2007 may not have been the year of milk and honey, world peace, and my Rebels in the SEC Championship Game, there were a few things I'm happy to say didn't happen in 2007 and I fervently hope not to see in 2008. They are enumerated below in no particular order of importance.

1. An asteroid the size of Kansas did not hit the big blue marble, thereby erasing all life except cockroaches.

2. Brittany Spears' mother did not give birth to a third child.

3. The North Koreans did not retake Seoul.

4. The Miami Dolphins did not go winless in the same season that the New England Patriots equalled the Dolphin's 1972 undefeated regular season accomplishment.

5. Al Qaeda did not pop a nuke in a US city, or any other city in the world, for that matter.

6. The Writers' Guild strike did not end in time to prevent reruns of some really good old movies during the holidays.

7. The worldwide coffee harvest did not fail, thereby depriving me of a good use for the permanent crook in my left index finger.

8. Fidel Castro did not die, thereby allowing me more time to build up my savings for the Cuban Land Rush when he does finally go to the hot reward reserved for all good marxists.

9. Al Gore did not get awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a hoax... oh... wait...

And finally, in at the end for no particular rhyme or reason...

10. Causing you to waste your time reading this blog did not become prosecutable, although certainly remaining offensive.

Happy New Year!