Another Write-wing Conspirator

Commentary, observations, musing, and ranting from the middle of the road (or just to the right of center. Usually.) featuring The Curmudgeon

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  • Welcome to The Curmudgeon’s lair

    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

    If you see a posting you like and wish to share it with others, by all means feel free to do so. I'd prefer that you send the link to your friends, but you're also welcome to reproduce anything here—as long as you retain my identity on the document. If you have a web site of your own and wish to post a link to this blog (or to a specific post), again, feel free to do so.

    The purpose of this blog is simple: to provide me a vehicle for sounding-off on whatever topic suits me at the moment. While there’s sure to be no shortage of politically-oriented palaver here, it is by no means all (nor necessarily even most) of what will be proffered to your discerning mind. You’ll also find that my personal politics, ethics, morals, and standards are pretty much “all over the map” (according to my mother-in-law)—so, don’t be surprised to see rants regarding, say, the interference of churches in politics, politically-correct anything, “nanny” laws, taxes, the United Nations, Congress, the Commissioner of Baseball, the State of Ohio’s speed limits, steroids, Jesse Jackson, the “mainstream” media, ultra-liberals, ultra-conservatives, the price of cigarettes, Obamarxism, regulating sales of alcohol, gasoline price manipulation, Muslim foot baths, illegal immigration, laws banning the sale of adult sex toys, cell phones, heavy-handed cops, meddlesome politicians, Hillary, Billary, our all-but-self-proclaimed uncrowned Queen Nancy, “W”, eminent domain, freedom of speech, and the designated hitter all in succession. It is, as I said, my curmudgeondom — and I have the credentials and bona fides to lay claim to the title of The Curmudgeon. So, there.

    Some of the postings you'll encounter may seem familiar—especially to those who know me personally. By way of explanation… I once had an ongoing relationship with a local newspaper, and had a number of published opinion pieces—some of which may be posted here. My arrangement was for a feature entitled An Opposing View; given that the editorial staff had a generally liberal, left-of-center view, it stands to reason that my "opposing" view would generally be perceived as coming from the right (in more ways than one, in my own humble opinion). These posts will be annotated as having been previously published.

    Comments, of course, are always welcome. You may agree or disagree with me. Doesn’t matter. Of course, I reserve the right to completely ignore you — but, feel free to let your feelings be known, anyway. And if you don't want to comment directly here, my e-mail address is: jimseeber@gmail.com .

    Oh, and…yes, I can spell. That "Write-wing" is only a play on words. So, there. Again.

    Welcome, once again. Strap in and hang on.

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  • About this “curmudgeon” guy…

    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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Archive for June, 2010

Crushed by a Rolling Stone?

Posted by The Curmudgeon on June 29, 2010

Was McChrystal thrown under the bus—or did he leap in front of it?

By now, the initial waves have settled in the departure of General Stanley McChrystal. He’s out, General David Petraeus is a virtual lock to be confirmed as his successor, and life goes on. Some are still sorting-out the particulars surrounding the affair and the events leading up to it, but it’s largely moot.

But, I’m gonna throw-in a few extra cents, anyway.

First of all, there’s still no clear picture of exactly what happened. Were McChrystal and his minions blind-sided by a far-left zealot of a reporter who duplicitously included details understood to be “off the record” — or did they believe their comments would be deemed acceptable? Rolling Stone has released the “factcheck” sheet supposedly approved by McChrystal’s people prior to publication of Michael Hastings’ piece (variously described as an “interview” and a “profile, with details provided over a period of weeks). On its surface, it appears pretty much in order with the lone apparent exception being the inclusion of McChrystal’s voting record. Beyond that, McChrystal (or one of his subordinates) seems to have been in agreement with Hastings’ account.

Now, I’d like to digress just a little and pose one question: What idiot would give any reporter (and especially one from such a liberal publication) unfettered access to follow him around recording and taking notes on everything that was heard and observed? Speaking from experience, soldiers with information worth imparting quickly identify whether a journalist is friend or foe—and know enough to keep their mouths shut when faced with the prospect of being second-guessed later. If it’s a “feel good” story, they’ll play along and wave and say “Hi” to Aunt Edna and Mom and Uncle Dewey and smile and reassure everyone they’re all just fine; otherwise, they clam-up and hold the interloper at arm’s length. (Wisely so.)

One would think that a four-star general and his staff would be at least that discreet.

Here’s another news flash: Soldiers gripe. They piss and moan. They complain. They bitch. And they cuss. And they say very unsavory things about senior leaders and politicians. This holds true from the lowliest buck private to the guys with stars; the difference is that the further one progresses up the chain of command, the more discreet one becomes. (Again, wisely so.)

Another news flash: The Army knows they’re all out there bitching and pissing and moaning and complaining. The Army tolerates this. Wanna know why? The answer is in some sage advice I was offered as a junior enlisted man: “A complaining soldier is a happy soldier. Soldiers believe they have a God-given right to bitch—as long as they’re also getting the job done. A soldier’s not happy unless he does have something to gripe about. Don’t worry about the complaints. You only worry if they stop; that would indicate that they’ve given up and no longer care—and then you have a real problem.”

Now, back to our recalcitrant general.

When this “profile” (or whatever it was) was published, many immediately jumped to the conclusion that Hastings had deliberately set out to write a “hit piece”…a hatchet job; truth be told, I wondered, myself. Then I read it.

I hate to disappoint my right-leaning friends, but…unless there were inclusions that had been expressly marked for omission, or comments taken out of context, Hastings doesn’t appear to have done anything wrong. There don’t appear to be any outright fabrications, and no one seems to be disputing that what was written accurately records what was said and done.

Again, we have to wonder: what the hell was McChrystal thinking? Did he approve this journalistic effort? Was he pressured to allow it? And why was Hastings allowed such broad access? It’s unthinkable that such a group of experienced, carefully selected senior military officials would be so loose-lipped in the presence of an outsider representing a faction generally seen as less than friendly—if not downright hostile.

I’ve not seen the question posed elsewhere, but…I gotta wonder: Did McChrystal deliberately provoke this confrontation with his boss? If so—to what end?

Let’s go back to McChrystal’s White House meeting with Barrack Hussein Obama. While many mainstream pundits lauded Obama’s decisiveness and criticized McChrystal for having left him (in their view) no viable alternative, they seemed to overlook the obvious: Every news report I saw stated clearly that McChrystal immediately tendered his resignation upon arrival for the meeting—and Obama accepted.

That’s not quite like being fired.

Now, consider that only two days ago Obama seemed to be distancing himself from his own pre-set withdrawal scheme for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, citing “a lot of obsession” about holding him to his announced withdrawal date and emphasizing that his focus is on making sure the mission there is successful. “I think that right now the debate surrounding Afghanistan is presented as either we get up and leave immediately because there’s no chance at a positive outcome, or we stay basically indefinitely and do quote unquote whatever it takes for as long as it takes.” He added that the planned July 2011 date to begin withdrawing troops does not mean the U.S. will “suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us,” and posited that U.S. assistance to Afghanistan would continue “for a long time to come.” (Remember also that before the planned withdrawal begins, U.S. troop strength will first increase to 98,000.)

Interesting.

Recall that Obama hand-picked McChrystal for the job, and specifically asked him what he needed to take care of business. McChrystal gave his response—and Obama “dithered” (remember that term?) for an inordinately long time before issuing his reply. Ultimately, he agreed to give McChrystal about 75% of the requested troop strength.

Now, suppose you’re McChrystal, sitting in Afghanistan with only 75% of the force strength you’ve calculated necessary to get the job done—and a planned withdrawal date looming. Next, ask yourself: What’s my next assignment going to be? One of the realities of having those stars on your shoulders is that as time passes, there are fewer places to put you; there are strict limits placed on the number of slots available—fewer than there are personnel in which to put them. As each assignment draws to a close, then, somebody moves up—or is forced out. Given your length of service and past assignments, there would seem pretty slim pickings awaiting you at the end of the current tunnel. Moreover, you’re prosecuting a war under the still-controversial doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN), and your own experience shows you that your commander-in-chief seems somewhat “disengaged” (according to the Hastings profile). Are the prospects for success good?

Okay…now revisit the damning comments appearing in the Hastings piece. Were they really so terrible? Unacceptable, to be sure—but not likely to taint someone for life. There’d be a few handsome scars. Nothing more.

Now speculate just a little on what McChrystal’s likely to do next. He’s already indicated to the Army that he’ll retire in the near future—a matter of a few months. Most likely, he’ll be a hot property on the lecture circuit for a time—and there’ll be no Army constraints placed on his comments, then. Further into the future, it’s conceivable that he might find himself sitting on a board of directors or two, probably a book deal, and the usual trappings that come to those of his background.

…all of which becomes less of a certainty if you botched your last assignment prior to retiring. On the other hand, if you bowed-out gracefully after chafing against restrictive policies, your reputation and integrity remain relatively intact—perhaps even enhanced.

Just food for thought.

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Posted in Afghanistan, McChrystal, Michael Hastings, national defense, national security, Petraeus, Rolling Stone, Senate confirmation, surge, terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Serendipitous (and improbable) Re-emergence of Grace

Posted by The Curmudgeon on June 3, 2010

Armando Galarraga makes lemonade on the mound

As a lifelong lover of baseball whose recent passion for the game could be best compared with the faith of a lapsed Catholic, I may have just been serendipitously provided with the impetus to rekindle that love—via arguably the most improbable of routes.

Even as I was preparing the entry I’d planned to post today, a convergence of fate involving Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, his manager Jim Leyland, and umpire Jim Joyce re-focused my attention on the nation’s pastime for the first time in years.

For those who missed it, Galarraga was one out away last night from what many consider the most difficult achievement in baseball: The Perfect Game. To conclude the saga, the Cleveland Indians’ Jason Donald smacked a routine grounder between first and second, and Galarraga himself covered the play at first; his tag beat Donald by a full step. Twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down. Instant immortality. Clear a space in Cooperstown. Break out the champagne.

…at least, that’s how the game should have ended.

To the dismay of a stunned crowd, Galarraga’s gem-to-be vanished when umpire Jim Joyce called Donald “safe” at first.

And this, my friends, is where the real story begins.

Predictably, Tigers manager Jim Leyland appeared on the field to protest Joyce’s call. Managers do that. It’s part of their job. A veteran of many such on-field counseling sessions, Leyland was vociferous in registering his complaint, of course—as he should have been—but not in an overly-dramatic Billy Martin sort of way. He did it with just the right amount of righteous indignation.

Just as predictably, Joyce stood by his call. Umpires do that—and Joyce has been at this game for over twenty years, himself. He was equally steadfast, as umpires always are. He made his fraction-of-a-second call, and was absolutely certain of his accuracy—just as he had been countless times before.

And Galarraga? Other than that initial knee-jerk look of disbelief, he showed little reaction. No whining, complaining, or throwing equipment around. Rather, he remained poised, returned to the mound, and retired the next batter as if nothing had happened.

Joyce had blown the call, as we all know by now; videotape clearly showed that. Galarraga had been denied his moment in the sun in what has to have been one of the most crushing moments in the history of the game.

Fan reaction has fallen just short of forming a lynch mob to dispatch Joyce. Pundits have renewed calls for instant-replay decisions. Commissioner Bud Selig’s telephone has no doubt been busy with calls for him to reverse Joyce’s call.

They’re all missing the sweetest part of the story.

After the game, a calm Jim Leyland acknowledged what the videotape had revealed—but was almost eerily charitable toward the embarrassed umpire, saying that Joyce had made a mistake, but had established a long reputation as a good umpire. He termed the incident “a crying shame,” empathizing with his victimized pitcher. And he indicated that it was time to move on. “That’s baseball.”

Joyce was clearly shaken by his error. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” he said afterward. “I thought he (Donald) beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

Joyce then took a very manly step: he sought out Galarraga and apologized for his mistake. (Note that umpires are not well-known for doing this.)

And Galarraga? The guy who had just been robbed of a perfect game? The guy who had every right to be livid? The guy who we’d expect to want to get his hands around Joyce’s throat?

Galarraga seemed to feel sorry for the guy. When Joyce apologized, Galarraga actually hugged him and said: “Nobody’s perfect.”

Spare me. Men like these simply don’t exist anymore—and this kind of stuff only happens in sappy movies.

People don’t admit mistakes; they deny and obfuscate. When wronged, they scream loud and long. And nobody shows the kind of class Galarraga has shown. Somebody please awaken me from this bizarre dream.

I years ago largely turned my back on baseball, weary of player strikes, childish on-field (and off-field) antics, salaries that bordered on scandalous, greedy owners, and lackluster play from those who were supposed to be the best in the sport (who wants to see a guy get paid a zillion dollars per season just to bat .220 and wave forlornly at ground balls that pass him by?). And things only seemed to get worse: high-profile brushes with the law, substance abuse, steroid-laced performance…you name it.

And now? Hell, I almost feel like the aforementioned lapsed Catholic whose faith has been restored. Yes, it was an unfortunate incident—and one’s heart has to go out to Armando Galarraga. And I even feel bad for Jim Joyce; consider all the calls he’s made that weren’t questioned. The guy’s good. As Jim Leyland observed, that is baseball. Years ago, a somewhat crude expression crept into the lexicon: “Shit happens.” Crude or not, that pretty well sums it up.

But what really sets this event apart…its saving grace…what I find ironically heartening…is the comportment of those involved—especially Galarraga. Heavens to Murgatroyd, what class! (For the younger readers…that’s an old expression, common in an era just preceding the era in which such grace ceased to be common.) By their actions, these guys just might gain more-lasting fame than they would have had the correct call been made. Certainly, the whole affair is destined to be immortalized in the burgeoning annals of baseball lore.

I feel a sudden craving for a hot dog and a beer, and strangely yearn to hear that crack of a bat.

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Posted in baseball, class, Galarraga, grace, instant-replay, perfect game, sportsmanship, umpire | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »