Reader Mail

Among the Underdogs

The world of William Raspberry. Plus: Balls and strikes. Travels with Aitken. Cleaning up after Hunter Thompson. And more.

8.25.05

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RASPBERRIES
Re: David Hogberg's Too White, Too Right:

"I'd opt for a liberal whose bona fides contain a concern for the underdog," says Mr. Raspberry.

To paraphrase another leftist radical, it all depends on the meaning of "underdog." Might not the question be asked: Who is the underdog?

Is a person who gets free food an underdog? Is the person who has available a free education and doesn't take advantage of it? Is the person who lives in public housing at little or no cost to him or herself? Is the person who irresponsibly brings children into the world he or she won't care for the underdog? Is the foreigner who comes here, accepts all our public welfare, and then refuses to learn the language or assimilate into our "godless European" culture the underdog?

Or are those who work 50 or 60 hours a week to have 30 to 50% or more of our earnings taken (by one or more of the quite literally hundreds of taxing authorities working flesh is heir to) from us to support these people the underdog?

So Mr. Raspberry, you are quite correct. We do need someone with concern for the underdog. I am quite sure from where I sit President Bush has named the right person.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

David Hogberg's take on the debate over Judge Roberts is excellent, but I really must take exception to his characterization of William Raspberry as "an otherwise superb columnist."

It will take another excellent column by Mr. Hogberg to explain exactly why Raspberry is superb.

I've been reading Raspberry's column for years, and the only thing I find remarkable about Raspberry is how mind-numbingly predictable his columns are. I've read enough of them (and others like them), to write them myself. Raspberry never strays from the left-wing intelligentsia consensus and he's sane enough not to inject his columns with the nutty, outer space ramblings of the error prone Dowd, Krugman, or Herbert.
-- Brian Schafer
Arlington, Virginia

Not the least of Rush's many insights is that we as conservatives must not measure ourselves by the plaudits we receive from our enemies, particularly the MSM.

Liberals are going to vote against Roberts. That's it. They would like to dress that vote up as the turning point of civilization and any failure to meet THEIR requirements as evidence of moral deficiency.

Let's not sign on to that self-regard and that self-satisfaction. One reason we are conservatives is that the liberal enterprise has failed, its policies disasters. So let's keep liberal opposition in perspective. Liberals are against Roberts. They are unembarrassed at coming up with absurd criteria by which they imagine he fails.

Let's just get to the vote. For all the fulmination, Schumer gets one vote, Leahy gets one vote, Durbin gets one vote, Kennedy gets one vote, and Raspberry gets no vote. So let's get on with it and not let the liberals position their "no" votes as the eye of the camel through which we all must pass! I call for the yeas and nays!
-- Greg Richards

The only thing the left wants from the Supreme Court is more writing of laws that the people of this country don't agree with. The only way they can get their wants taken care of is through a very liberal court, because most of the country would not vote their way.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

OUTSIDE THE ZONE
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Zoning Variance:

Everything you said about the silliness of umpires in calling balls and strikes is true, but, in my opinion, misses the far greater point of what has plagued this aspect of what was once the marketing department's construct known as the National Pastime.

It's this: the strike zone has not so much become arbitrary, capricious, etc., subject to the whim and temper of the ump at that moment. That's always been true. The real tragedy is that the strike zone has, for all reasonable purposes, ceased to exist. It's supposed (see Rules of Baseball) to be a rectangular 3-D box, having a standard width and depth defend by home plate itself, and a height defined by the player at bat, namely the distance from his knee tops to his nipples. For someone of my height (5'9" tall) that would be 26". For someone of, say, Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire's height the number would be more like 40".

Anyone watching baseball over the past three decades will have seen a strike zone that used to be the size of a bath towel on its face reduced to that of a hankie, or perhaps a sheet of paper towel in its dimensions. Virtually no one in the game argues that this has occurred. It's a travesty that makes the myopia or caprice of umpires a moot point in the discussion.

It was decreed that, in the aftermath of the phenomenal pitching feats of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Denny McClain, et al., in the late 1960s, something JUST HAD TO BE DONE to "liven up" the ol' game. Reducing the zone to Lilliputian dimensions has certainly livened things up. Couple this with steroids and you've got the farce/freak show that baseball has become. Just check the stats on bases-on-balls, home runs, extra-base hits, slugging percentage, runs scored, etc., and you'll find that essentially all the leaders in all these categories date from no earlier than mid-1970s and that they blew past their historic counterparts while still in mid-career. Conversely, most of today's pitchers sport ugly statistics that, 35 years ago, would have kept them in the minors 'til Hell froze over. It's gospel that three-hit shutouts don't excite the people running the media circus.

Anyway, let's not blame the poor (median salary $270,000 per year) umpires in MLB. They're just going along for the same marketing ride that has triumphed in routinely filling the stadiums with people who think baseball excitement consists in seeing 250- to 300-lb. men hit balls over fences that most high schoolers could clear with a decent clout.

I think we should make the strike zone the size of a cell phone screen and move the fences in another 130 feet so that everybody gets the opportunity to hit 200 homeruns per season. That will really pack the stadiums. And the umpires will be off the hook for all time.
-- Kevin J. Malloy
Cincinnati, Ohio

Jay is exactly right. People should stop calling balls and strikes. They already have systems (in use at the ball parks I attend) that tell you precisely how a pitch passes through the area in and around home plate. This is extremely accurate and not subject to the variance that occurs from one umpire to another.

The most irritating thing to me about baseball is when an umpire calls a ball a strike and forces the batter to swing at balls that are not in the strike zone.
-- unsigned

Jay Homnick has an excellent idea about using lasers measurements to call balls and strikes in baseball. And on similar, but less technologically case, permit me a pet sport complaint -- in boxing.

I can't for the life of me understand why the scoring of the judges isn't posted immediately after each round. The current method of keeping the scoring secret until after the fight is absurd. Can you imagining, in baseball, football or any other sport, teams (or individuals) having to wait until the end of the match to find out who won and by how much?
-- Peter Skurkiss
Stow, Ohio

FUNNY MANNERS
Re: Jonathan Aitken's Knee Slappers:

Raised on a ranch in Lyndon Johnson's county of Blanco, I was a ranch girl through and through. My mother desired for my sister and I to acquire the refinements of society so she exposed us to everything. She had one solid rule for us to follow and it got me through more times than not. That rule was look around and see what other folks do first, then you take their lead and copy what they do. Had I been in that Vietnamese church with those other fellows, I am most certain there would have been a fourth standing with them, only a woman! Great story -- one of the better ones I've heard. Can't wait to tell my 80-year-old mother!
-- Beverly Gunn, Texas rancher

I enjoyed your recollections of your visit to the Vietnamese church. I did two tours with MACV and found the Vietnamese to be fun-loving. I can imagine their delight.

I would like to point out one error in your story. You said the under siege Marines called in a Puff the Magic Dragon which you described as a helicopter. Puff (also called Spooky at times) was actually a C-47, the same twin-engine airplane that dropped GIs behind German lines on D-Day.
-- Earl Wright
Clovis, California

I very much enjoyed the article. It shows that even in war there can be humorous moments.

I would like to offer a correction to your description of Puff the Magic Dragon. Puff is the nickname given to a fixed wing aircraft gunship. At the time of the Tet Offensive Puff was a WWII vintage aircraft, the C-47 Dakota, fitted with three miniguns. The USAF designation was AC-47D "Spooky." A year later the AC-47D was replaced by AC-130A "Spectre" and AC-119G "Shadow" gunships.
-- Steve Cushman, U.S. Army Vietnam Vet 1970-1971

Jonathan Aitken narrated: "When the battalion commander called in helicopter gunships called Puffs (after Puff the Magic Dragon)..."

Full disclosure: I was a Navy flier, who (thank God!) spent zero time in foxholes and who was coming home at about the time of this incident (three weeks before Tet). That having been said, there were "Huey gunships" and then there was "Puff the Magic Dragon" -- an AC-47 (think: "DC-3") outfitted with three side-firing Gatling-style miniguns. I do not recall ever hearing the Hueys referred to as "Puff" -- but then, I am no authority on "bush jargon." Could it be that Mr. Aitken (whom I salute) heard the BAT commander order up gunships and Puff?
-- David Gonzalez, USN (Ret.)
Wheeling, Illinois

FED UP WITH BUSH
Re: Jed Babbin's GWOT Is It? and Reader Mail's Leadership Deficit:

Some of your readers, Jed, Pete and Ken express it well; the observations (or whatever) of Kevin and Carlton appear self-explanatory. But, alas, the fact is Dubya's a disaster -- there are no more excuses like the creepy State Department or the incompetent bureaucratic jungle of the CIA -- since the smoke cleared after 9-11 he's been terrible, a sad joke.

What a damned shame. So many of us were optimistic that here was a real leader, one with cojones. We were so relieved and thrilled that Al Gore hadn't been elected.

But that's all past tense. With our open borders, it seems like Vicente Fox is our president. With the Fallujah abortion of a few months back, our Marines had the place surrounded while being picked-off by snipers (while almost laughable cease-fire talks were going on?) in the mosque -- that's criminal. And Bush, Rummy, et al., not only allowed it to happen, but it continued for weeks! Our guys weren't allowed to shoot back and defend themselves? That pathetic "no-win" police reminded me of Vietnam and LBJ.

Steel tariffs and Teddy Kennedy's education fiasco, he doesn't push the oil in ANWR, and the aforementioned border collapse. He threatens to veto the pork, but caves -- government gets bigger and many of us get sicker. For the sake of brevity, I won't bother listing the other manifold screw-ups, transgressions and goofy actions -- or inactions.

Thus, if the reader of this extemporaneous epistle senses a tad of frustration herein, it's infuriating and gets worse every time Dubya opens his mouth -- at this point, his legacy is pabulum puke.

God, I wish Barry Goldwater were still around!
-- Jonathan B. Frost

MACABRE METHODS
Re: George Neumayr's The Loathing One:

Reading about "tripper" Hunter Thompson's last trip gave me an idea for a somewhat cheaper ceremony. My husband has always enjoyed vacuuming. Nothing gives him more satisfaction than the high whine of a vacuum cleaner as he goes over and over and over the same carpet area with the precision of a Zamboni driver at an ice rink.

So, what better last rite for me than to have my ashes scattered on the living room rug so he can send me whirling into the tornado action of a deluxe model Fantom with HEPA filter? At least, finally, I won't hear it.
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

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