Friday, May 18, 2007

Vanderbilt baseball wins SEC championship

The No. 1 Vanderbilt Commodores baseball team has set VU records all year long, and they did something last night that no other Vanderbilt sports team has done since 1993: they clinched a regular-season SEC championship.

Tim Corbin's baseball team stayed at Hawkins Field, along with dozens of the Black and Gold faithful from the record-setting crowd of 2,685, after the Commodores' 4-3 win over the LSU Tigers, while the P.A. system blared the radio coverage from the Mississippi-Arkansas game.

When Ole Miss got the last out around 10:35 p.m., Tim Corbin got drenched with water from a Gatorade cooler, and the Commodores had clinched sole possession of the regular-season SEC title.

It was the first time that a Vanderbilt team had done so since the men's basketball team won the 1993 regular season championship; the fourteen-year drought was interspersed with SEC tournament titles and individual accolades, but it was Tim Corbin's "Diamond Dores" who got to pose with the iconic SEC logo in the outfield of Hawkins Field last night.

Though I was unable to be there, due to my duties serving the people of Alabama, I was at a baseball game getting regular score updates from our correspondent, Mark Halling, who was live at Hawkins Field.

Mark's call of the win, via text message: "Ball game! We win 4-3; and we won the SEC!!!"

FEELING: Pround of alma mater
LISTENING TO: Joe Fisher's report on 104.5 The Zone

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On magnolias and superpowers

"Be in this world, be part of it, give to it. Never let yourself be anesthetized. Do not become distracted by the zoo full of fabulous beasts: the Lindsays, the Parises, the TomKats, the Britneys; by the pageant of fevered celebrity trainwreck that is paraded in front of you every time you log on to your computer.

"Do not let yourself be so seduced by your Mercedes and your barbecue that you forget what is most essential about yourself, that you forget what is worth caring about, that you forget you have powers to help others that you forget you have a heart that wants to help!

"And keep, always, your articulate and discerning minds about you, for although it can be assuaging to look at the Freedom Rides in retrospect, from our position in history, in some ways it can be too comfortable.

"It should never be."

--E. Gordon Gee, seventh Chancellor of Vanderbilt University, at the 132d Commencement Exercises; on Alumni Lawn at the University, in the one hundred thirty-third year since its founding, in Nashville.

Read the whole speech (PDF file).

FEELING: Inspired
LISTENING TO: Gee read his speech

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What will happen if we leave Iraq?

President Bush recently veteoed legislation passed by the Democratic-led Congress that called for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by October 1 of this year. Thankfully, his continued commitment to stablize that nascent democracy and his loyalty to the people of Iraq have proven steadfast in the face of polls suggesting that Americans are frustrated and bored that no outcome is within sight.

When I read through the plan proposed by Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, it was difficult for me to understand how people with access to such high-level information could possibly conclude that extracting Americans from Iraq -- Americans who everyday protect normal Iraqis from the Al Qaeda terrorists, insurrectionists, and death squads roaming that country -- would improve the situation.

It is clear that the primary reason for our invasion of Iraq, that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear or biological weapons, was not true. It is equally clear, however, that our invasion of Iraq did remove a state-sponsor of terror who sought to aggrandize his country through continued development of weapons programs and funding of terrorism. I can understand why people like Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid -- and, probably, many of you who regularly read my blog -- object to the original invasion itself. They believe that President Bush and his Cabinet were ill-prepared to deal with the consequences of the invasion itself.

What is difficult for me to comprehend, however, is why people who did not support the initial invasion, feel like pulling out and leaving a mess behind would repudiate the original invasion. Because our invasion so quickly toppled the Saddam Hussein regime, and because our troops were so successful in hunting down Saddam, his sons, and Ba'athist regime leaders, people who oppose our presence in Iraq today don't have the same recourse that anti-war activists had during the Vietnam era.

Then, persons who wanted to withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam had the option of allowing North Vietnam to take over the country and provide "stability" that the real politick style of international theory suggests is the desirable norm.

The issue that anti-war activists must deal with today, and the question with which they are usually at pains to avoid, is what happens to Iraq and the Iraqis if American troops withdraw? Who will move in to provide the security and stability necessary for the stabilization of the global situation?

Certainly, Al Qaeda is no position to govern a state; the closest that they have come was Afghanistan during the Taleban, and even then, an active, organized military-political group, the Northern Alliance, maintained a medium-level conflict throughout the borders of that state. Afghanistan was, by no measure, a stable situation (just ask Pakistan, who is continuing to feel the repercussions of a Taleban-led Afghanistan along their mutual border).

Who else could move into the power vacuum that would exist after the U.S. support was recalled? Iran, that Shi'ite neighbor to the east, certainly is a candidate for a post-U.S. withdrawal. How does the possibility of the expansion of an anti-American, theocratic, repressive Iranian-style caesaropapist regime strike opponents of American involvement in Iraq? Would the progressive forces who are arrayed against our commitment to the Iraqis, people and pundits supposedly in favor of the advance of liberty, support a move that would give Iran a chance to dominate Iraq? If we leave, and Iraq comes under the sway of Teheran, what are the repercussions?

How would, say, Saudi Arabia react to an Iranian-aligned regime in Baghdad? Would it pressure that Sun'ni state to acquire their own "ally" near Iraq? Can we expect European-style proxy war in the middle of Earth's last, remaining source of nonrenewable energy?

And what about the internal consequences of an Iranian-influenced Iraq? Do those who favor American withdrawal believe that the Sun'nis in the western parts of Iraq would allow an openly anti-Sun'ni government backed by Iran to govern unmolested? Do anti-war proponents believe that stability would flow from a theocratic government in charge of a large, opponent religious minority? It seems more logical to me, at least, to suppose that American absence would only exacerbate the conflict between Shi'ias and Sun'nis to develop more fully into a Sixthteenth Century-style War of Religion.

What, then, is the best-case scenario for an American withdrawal (or retreat, as it might more accurately be called)? The best case is that American withdrawal by a date certain motivates Iraqi political factions into agreement by August (two and a half months away) so that they can have time to finish training of enough soldiers and police to enable their own security forces to assume the security role that American and Coalition forces have since the fall of Saddam. And with these forces they will, by October of this year (6 months from now), be able to sustain the democratically-elected government of Iraq.

I should not have to explain why such a scenario is unlikely. If four years of training has not yet prepared Iraq and her people to "go it alone," it seems obvious that six months cannot do likewise.

It is our duty and responsibility as the invader, as a champion of democracy, as an upholder of our own ideals (i.e., did we mean "all men are created equal" or just "Americans"), and as the world's only remaining hegemon to stay in Iraq until that nation may securely govern itself.

That's the way I see it; but I was inspired by Senator Joseph Lieberman's speech on the floor of the United States Senate. Read it all, and I think you'll see that he can say much the same as I, only much more eloquently.

FEELING: A sense that we're facing a crossroads of history
LISTENING TO: Senator Lieberman's speech from C-SPAN.org

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

On being 'aptly damned'

During finals, I spend an inordinate amount of time listening to music, on the radio and iTunes, when I'm studying. One of the songs I've heard over and over, to the extent that I think Someone's trying to tell me something, is this one by Relient K:

"Forgiven"
by Relient K

Oh yes, I know this tension that you speak of
We're in the palm of a hand making a fist
It'd be best for one of us to speak up
But we prefer to pretend it does not exist

Bridge:
And you can't see past the blood on my hands
To see that you've been aptly damned
To fail and fail again

Chorus:
Cause we're all guilty of the same things
We think the thoughts whether or not we see them through
And I know that I have been forgiven
And I just hope you can forgive me too


So don't you dare blame me for
Prying open the door
That's unleashed the bitterness
That's here in the midst of us
Sometimes we live for no one but ourselves

And what we've been striving for
Has turned into nothing more
Than bodies limp on the floor
Victims of falling short
We kiss goodbye the cheek of our true love

Bridge:
And you can't see past the blood on my hands
To see that you've been aptly damned
To fail and fail again

Chorus:
Cause we're all guilty of the same things
We think the thoughts whether or not we see them through
And I know that I have been forgiven
And I just hope you can forgive me too

(Repeats)

FEELING: Hurt, guilty, and forgiven -- all at the same time
LISTENING TO: Relient K