Monday, September 15, 2008

A Short, Random Political Side-Note

My good, close friend Andrew Fair has been nice enough to let me post a few of his thoughts on my blog. Andrew is currently serving our nation overseas. At a time of such political importance as we are in now, Andrew's perspective could be used by more of us stateside. As he gets the opportunity, I would like to link a few of is thoughts to my blog, as there are few I know in this world who can dissect cultural, political, and military issues better than Andrew, domestic or abroad. Enjoy!

A Short, Random Political Side-Note

By Andrew Fair

As some may have noticed, my political views are Scottish...not to be confused with the Scottish National Party that facebook eroneously tries to associate me with. Rather, as an adherent to Scotch ideals, I believe that most troubles facing America today can be solved by drinking and then getting into fist fights with friends.

As for the recent political hullabaloo back in the Great Ol' USA (I miss that place!), I'm struck by the dichotomous relationship between the Republican and Democratic nominees...they're near perfect inverses of eachother:

One on side we have a presidential nominee that is an old, white male with strong foreign policy credentials and years of Washington experience and a VP nominee that is a young, attractive political neophyte, a "political minoritee" (female) with little foreign policy experience but a great deal of appeal to the core of the Party.

On the other side we have a presidential nominee who is a young, attractive political neophyte, a "minoritee" (he's half white) with little foreign policy experience but a great deal of appeal to the core of the Party and a VP nominee who is an old, white male with strong foreign policy credenitals and years of Washington experience.

For the "nation of undecideds" that don't really make decisions based on passionate views of the issues (else they would not be undecided) it really comes down to this: who do you like more--the black guy or the white girl?

I realize that I may be one of the few people who actually "likes" John McCain in and of himself, and even though I pride myself as an issues-based voter, I admit it's largely based on the fact that he was a POW and a war hero...however his credentials as a reformer are admittedly hurt by the fact that he's been in Washinton for about six hundred years. A lot of people are uncomfortable with his age; but twenty-eight years ago they were uncomfortable with Reagan's age who knows if it will matter.

Obama is an idealistic academic; idealism in politics can be a great thing, but it has to be painted in the tones of the real world, as policies based in ideals often end up bureaucratic nightmares down the road (Social Security, the Great Society, etc)...As a fellow half-minoritee, I also take issue with the way the media, and Obama himself, have "decided" that he is black...I cannot simply decide to be Mexican (why would I want to), because that is only ONE PART of who I am...more over, the racial categorizations that the media clings to only furhter serves to artificially divide us based on non-existant factors. We are all Americans...hell, we even let Arabs in this country (sorry Taylor, it was too easy)...our greatness comes not just from our diversity, but our ability to mix that diversity into something larger, stronger, and greater than just the sum of its mult-ethnic parts.

I could wax philosophic about the issues for hours, but fundamentally it doesn't matter...for one, Washington doesn't really address issues so much as it talks about them until the People rise up and force their hand...which WE THE PEOPLE rarely do, two, most American's who vote in November will not vote based off of any one or a dozen issues, but off their gut sense of the person they see on TV...yes, TV...

That Americans don't much care is demonstrative that the Status Quo, as bad as it sounds, isn't so bad at all...deep down we know that our economic woes and windfalls are not magically manipulated by Washington, but it's nice to have someone to blame. I think most Americans are content that NOTHING get done in politics, because no one wants to shake up the good things we already have going...this is nothing new either, for most of American history we preferred our politicians to stay out of matters unless explicitly outlined as a constitutional role.

Another indicator...most Americans prefer the President and the Congressional majority to be of opposing parties...why? So that nothing too crazy gets done. Congressional approval ratings clearly show that the Democrats voted in to end the Republican-control congress are no more popular than their GOP predecessors, but Americans felt more comfortable with Dems in place to offset Bush's policies...vice versa in 1994 with Clinton and the "Conservative Revolution;" the swings in power are not mandates, but merely ad hoc preferences toward how things should be...its like America adjusting the AC in their house when it blows too cold; they don't want to be HOT, just not so cold...

Call me foolishly idealistic, but maybe American politics was better back when our Congressmen used to get in drunken brawls on the House Floor...Not sure if it accomplished much more, but it had to be entertaining...That's how we Scotch would do vote SCOTCH 2008...its a good year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So That We May Never Forget...

...let us remember on this day, the 11th of September, the feelings we felt that fateful day in 2001. Recount the pain, recount the horror, recount the anger, disgust, sadness, and sympathy we all shared on that day. Remember where you were when you heard what had happened; all of us do. Remember the terrifying sights you saw on television that day, and the feelings you felt seeing your fellow Americans suffer like they did. For we will remember today, next year, and every September 11th that shall come until we are gone, so that our children, their children, and their children's children shall never forget the blow our nation endured. Although the wound still aches, every year that we continue to hold the values of freedom, justice, and the American way above our own well-being, every year that we all continue to chase the American dream, we hit back at our enemy with a force they can never replicate.

It's funny the things you remember. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was the beginning of my freshman year at Texas A&M. On that morning, here I was this kid, trying to juggle moving away from home, starting school, getting to know a new town, and the Corps of Cadets all at the same time. Couple that with the fact that a university campus the size of Texas A&M literally has something going on at any moment of the day in just about any direction you could look, everything is a blur from that entire first month of school. But for a day that month, it seemed as if the Good Lord himself stopped the world from turning.

I was coming back from my 8:00 AM Political Science Class. I was dog tired, and a little ticked at the inordinate amount of reading this prof of mine was giving me for a introductory Poli-sci class. I was still learning just how to wear a uniform, and I knew if I didn't take the time to try and make my shoes look more like I had shined them with wax than my butt that afternoon, I would be feeling it soon. The thing about being a fish in the Corps of Cadets is there is always something for you to screw up; and always someone waiting to bust you and make damn sure you know you screwed up. This early in the year, it was pretty much a guarantee that when you got back to the dorm, you would have plenty of upperclassmen waiting in the hallways to get you for something. And as I walked up to our dorm, I looked down at my butt shoes, and I knew exactly where this was going to take me.

When a fish gets to his dorm, as soon as he walks in, he gets to running. It was kind of a way to make it that much more difficult to be a fish, but to be honest with you, a fish in the hallways is kind of like blood in the water for a shark. Only the shark wore a khaki uniform, was only about a year older, and had been waiting 365 days to get YOU in that hallway for that very moment. When you enter your outfit's hallway, as a fish you had to take a look for any upperclassmen that might be out in the hallway and get "against the wall" and acknowledge them. Strangely, when I got to our floor, it was eerily silent. I ran, and just as I was about to enter my "fish hole", one of the seniors walked up the stairs and into the hall. I hit the wall, ready to acknowledge him. "Howdy Mr. Ro-." He stopped me mid-sentence, he seemed shaken. "Musa, shut up, get in your hole, and get on your computer(we weren't allowed to keep TVs in our rooms as fish). A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

The chaos was suddenly gone. For the first time in my short adult life, a momemnt of clarity presented itself in the worst of occasions. The bustle was gone. I didnt worry about my shoes, or class, or anything. Those pissheads that haunted me throughout everyday suddenly didnt matter to me at all. If you were to ask, I would swear to you that for a moment, the birds stopped singing, the clouds shrank away and all there was was a grainy video of a flaming building in New York City streaming on the internet. How could something like this happen? Was it an accident? Was it purposeful? Who would do something like this? I sat there and watched along with millions of fellow Americans as a second plane suddenly hit the World Trade Center. I watched as reports began to circulate that a plane had also hit the Pentagon. Another plane had been reported missing. Planes throughout the country were being forced to land. The towers FELL? How could this happen, New York City, our nation's greatest city, is being suffocated in flames, smoke, and rubble. Where were we going to get hit next? Will it ever stop? How many TENS of thousands were going to die on this day? I remember my American history lessons. WE win, we ALWAYS triumph over evil. Rare has there been a time our nose has even been bloodied. And here it was, our great nation, the shining beacon of right in this world for so long, being brought to her knees before my eyes.

It is funny how you feel when you bear witness to such an event. There is a rush of emotions unlike anything else, all powered by the vast uncertainty that such a situation brings. For me, it was a literal storm of emotions. I shed tears as I thought of those suffering. My tears were dried by the flames of rage that built within me when I thought of those who had done this. The rage was soon cooled by the cold, biting wind of fear, knowing this world will never be the same. We thought at the time this would just become a part of our lives. That every so often, one of these attacks would occur, and it would just become another dynamic of life. As a Muslim, I thought to myself will I be blamed for this? Is this my fault? Could something that had cultivated so much love from my heart also turn others into cold blooded animals? Would my family be able to live in peace, or would some hunt them down for their religion, deeming them the enemy?

Besides the images of destruction I saw, I have one truly vivid memory of life that day which I know will stay with me forever. I remember that afternoon, all of our Corps activities had been canceled for the most part. I mean, why do anything? It seemed to all of us that doing anything except wait, listen and pray for the well-being of those directly hit would be utterly trivial. All of us fish were gathered in one room. A couple weeks into even knowing these guys, I didn't think I would care less about what anyone else may have been thinking. My roommate and I had already discussed the situation a bit, but the pain I felt could not be verbalized, so why try? The silence of a group of 20+ young men and women spoke volumes on the situation, however. I looked into the far away gaze of every single one of them, the people that would soon evolve into my brothers. I saw the air of uncertainty that I felt within every one of them. I did not expect this. One of my buddies came from a military family in every sense of the word. His father was in the military, and they'd moved from place to place. His brother was an officer, and even though I had only known the guy a couple weeks, it was pretty obvious that he would one day too follow in their footsteps. Yet, here he sat with me, just as unsure of what the future would bring. I saw uncertainty, I saw fear, and I saw sadness in the eyes of everyone of my buddies.

Looking back, sometimes I wish I had taken the long route to class that day. The one that traveled through the trees and past the prettiest of the buildings on campus. It was a nice morning, I do remember that. I try to recount the beauty around me, I try to remember what the world was like before that fateful day. But it all blurs, it all runs, and I am left with the painful memories for the most part. Our world changed, and those of us who were just entering the adult world lost alot of our innocence that day. The hazy shade of winter seemed as if it had set upon us, never to leave. But just like all difficulty in life, the world began to turn once more. And as the world turns, life goes on. The birds began to sing again. And from the strife of that day sprouted a newfound value of what we have in this great country. We all hugged our loved ones a little tighter, and we treated each other a little better, knowing we are all brothers and sisters in at least some form. We united, and told the world in one voice, "We will not give in." We showed them they may have brought us to our knees, but we will not cry for mercy. We will always get back up, and we will never back down from the field of battle when the way of America is jeopardized. When it's all said and done, we remember not for the pain that returns, but to rekindle the resolve that was brought forth by that fateful day in September, 2001.

It is truly surreal to comprehend that it has really been seven years since September 11, 2001. I know we all have memories of that day and the pain and hurt it brought. And we should honor those we lost that day. In addition, revel in the fact that we have not had an attack since. Honor those we lost that day, but also honor those brave men and women who have since laid down their lives in the effort to ensure your peace and prosperity may continue. Honor those who fight for you today, who everyday go to work to defend me and you. Many of the buddies I mentioned in the story have gone on to be members of our military. Others who did not go the military route have gone about their ways, maximizing their pursuit of the American Dream. The look of fear and uncertainty in their eyes that day has long since been replaced by the steely gloss of their resolve to ensure this never happens again. Even though our world is much different that that before 9/11/01, we have worked hard to ensure it is still a world suitable for our children to one day take on. We will teach them the lessons we learned that day, and God willing, they will go forward with the appreciation of our great country that was rekindled among so many of us by a day of tragedy. God bless you, my friends, and

God Bless America.

Friday, September 5, 2008


In case anybody didn't know, Laura and I have been fighting a summer long battle against the evilest of all evil bugs, the wasps. You know I have a theory about wasps. You know, it's kind of like Bees are Arabs. For the most part, they are peaceful creatures. They like to live their lives in relative peace, and the well being of both colony and country rely on viscuous liquids people can't get enough of(honey and oil). Both bees and arabs will fight back when provoked or feeling threatened, but for the most part, they are likable, if not overly fuzzy, creatures. Unfortunately, both we and bees also suffer from another problem; evil trouble causing cousins.

Much like the extremists of the Middle East, wasps give the hymonoptera order a bad name. They arrive in droves, and hold their new found dominion hostage, forcing co-habitants to live in fear, pain, and destitution what with the rising cost of Benadryl. Laura and I have fought this problem all summer long, and we have caved to the wasps' terroristic ways. But no more. On Wednesday evening, "Operation: Jihad to Piss Me Off" commenced against the flying infidels. Let me say with pride it was an undoubted success!

Having had enough of these bastards and their aggressive, leaf eating ways, we took advantage of the cloudy, windy day and attacked at about 1800. Having to admit air superiority to the enemy, Laura and I decided that our attack must be quick, devastating, and we would likely need it to be a long distance attack. Therefore, after contemplating the possibility of artillery(roman candles), infantry (my pellet gun), or armor(running my car through our front yard into the tree), it was decided each method involved too much collateral damage. Therefore, I made the decision few want to make; chemical warfare would have to be waged. At approx. 1815, a lethal dose of pyrethrum and refrigerant, also known as Raid Wasp & Hornet killer, was applied to the entire nest. Having not seen it coming, the wasps had very little chance. Locals (me & Laura) danced in the streets as wasp after wasp fell from their fortified positions dying slow deaths at the hands of the chemicals. A second, strafing application of Raid was applied to the nest, after which I knocked that sucker down.

Now, you have to understand that it has been a rare moment this summer that I have been able to go into the front yard without one of these suckers coming after me. The nest, which we found last week, was deeply interwoven in the back of our tree between multiple branches. To finally have found and rid our house of these mofos was a joyous occasion. So after Laura and I had finished dancing in the streets (we celebratorily danced for about an hour or two), we decided to end the night's festivities with a great feast(aka Chicken Express). So we jumped in the car, ran over the remnants of the nest a couple times, and went on about our lives, knowing the world is a better place.

Praise be to God, those lint lickers are dead! If anyone else is having Wasp problems, allow me to suggest you get in your trees, storm drains, easements and get them while you can, or you too may end up hostages in your own home!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Beard Off Week 2

Pay no mind to my sad face. My frowning muscles cramped up watching the A&M atrocity on Saturday, and I'm still suffering. As you can see, the beard is coming in quite nicely. Laura even said she likes it, which I was not expecting.

Who Spilled My Maroon Kool-Aid?!?

18-14. Had I told my fellow Ags last week that this would have been the score in the Arkansas State game, many would have found themselves with one foot off the bandwagon. And that would have been with a victory. But instead, we Ags find ourselves running out of time in a game against a 5-7 Sun Belt team. With a brand new offensive line. And only one returning started in the defensive backfield. Oh, and did I mention they are a freaking run of the mill average Sun Belt Conference team!?! Where did we go wrong?

Arkansas State is not a good program. I mean sure, they've got an NFL worthy running back this year and they took Texas to the wire last year, but let's not kid ourselves. This is a team that went 5-7 last year with a senior laden roster in the Sun Belt conference. They lost to Middle Tennessee State, the great state of Tennessee's equivalent of the University of North Texas. Hell, Arkansas State IS UNT. So how does a program that boasts multi-million dollar facilities, a great fanbase, and a seat right plum in the middle of one of the biggest recruiting hotbeds in the nation lose at home to a team like this? The easiest way to put this is to break it down by unit.

OFFENSE: Texas A&M came out in the first half running the offense many of us expected. Lots of pro formations (fullbacks!) and lots of running. And through the first half, it looked like it was going to work. Mike Goodson showed all of us why many think his junior year at A&M is his last as he continued to show his electric ability to not only make people miss, but pull away from them when he got the space to do so. A&M came out utilizing pitches and sweeps to the outside for Goodson, and the offensive line showed the ability to pull to the out side and make some holes. The first possession consisted almost entirely of outside runs, and A&M promptly responded to Arkansas State's opening field goal with a touchdown. Going into halftime, A&M's biggest concern lie with the meek passing yards gathered in the first half. But with the success of the running game and the relatively solid blocking thus far, who was worried? In fact, with A&M receiving the second half opening kickoff, I almost expected Coach Sherman to go for the throat on the possession and begin employing some play action to look for the deep ball. Sure enough first offensive play of the second half, Stephen McGee dropped back and faked the hand off to Goodson. Just as I thought.

And that is when it all went wrong. McGee has had a supposed problem since he stepped foot on campus with making reads and progressions on passing plays, but with Fran's option based offense, it was easy to find an excuse. Saturday night, on this very play, McGee showed that there is at least some merit to this critique. Having found his primary receiver covered, and pressure coming, McGee began scrambling backward trying to escape the pressure. The result? A sack and a 17 yard loss. This play was the catalyst in the collapse of the A&M offense. Arkansas State keyed in on the fact that A&M's offense was focusing on an outside running game, and sold out to stop it. When A&M could not get their offense going in any other way, it stalled. The receivers could not gain seperation from their defenders. When they did, McGee missed them on his check downs. And when he didn't just overlook receivers, he was getting chased out of the pocket by defenders who met very little resistance from the offensive line. The offense didn't just sputter, the engine blew up. Meanwhile Arkansas State kept plodding along on offense, which brings us to the performance of the A&M defense.

DEFENSE: Let me say this about the defense's performance. When they brought the blitz on passing downs, they showed us a glimpse of what we all hoped to see out of Joe Kines' defense. Guys flashed off the edges, cornerbacks and safeties flew recklessly for the quarterback. We even got to see a quarterback get blown up and fumble, which I can tell you I haven't seen an A&M defense do since the Clemson game in 2004. Now, to the long list of negatives. The zone read absolutely killed A&M Saturday night. For those who dont know, the zone read, or smoke draw (which we saw gobs of at A&M recently) is when the quarterback, usually in Shotgun formation with a running back beside him, "reads" the block progression. Based on what he sees as far as holes opening up, he will either hand off to the running back, or fake the handoff and run it himself. With the way the middle of the A&M defense was opening up, ASU QB Casey Leonard had a galore of options. The Aggie defense was giving up 5-7 yards just about every first down on the zone read. The line failed to plug the holes, and the linebacking corps failed further by frequently failing to recognize the runner and making contact near the line of scrimmage. Instead, A&M's LBs were often dragging the runner down from behind, only after they had gained considerable yardage. This, coupled with Aggie cornerbacks STILL standing 5-10 yards off the receivers, made for the impression that A&M will continue to try the bend but dont break defense of the previous couple years.


This loss was a sobering reminder of just how tough the next couple years can and will be. Harkening back to 2002 when R.C. Slocum was fired, the hiring of Dennis Franchione did far more harm to the Aggie football program than many of us take account for. Even though Slocum's teams had been in steady decline since 1998, he was able to use his defensive prowess to help keep the Wrecking Crew respectable. By hiring an unorthodox offensive coach like Franchione in 2002, A&M shifted away from defenisve focus and began recruiting players geared toward Fran's offense. Today as it stands, we have a set of Offensive lineman built to pull and sweep run block for an option based offense, WRs built to block and gain short yardage more than stretch the field, and a Quarterback who for the last four years has been taught to look to run instead of being groomed and instructed on the intricacies of the QB position. On defense, we've got an entire two deep of players who have been groomed to read and react to what the offense does, not just fly to the ball. In defensive football, what sets you apart is the ability to move quickly and fiercely to the ball without leaving gaping holes for the offense to exploit on fakes and whatnot. The past coaching staff's emphasis on reading formations and plays, and THEN reacting has left a very timid group of players. Aggie DB's lack the confidence to fly in on a wide receive screen, because they havent been taught enough tackling funamentals to believe they can make that open field tackle. Aggie linebackers don't throw themselves into the middle of the offensive line on a running play because they lack the coverage fundamentals to react in case the play turns into play action. As much as these issues are fundamental, they are just as much challenges in changing the attitude and thought process of 105 different football players.

If A&M hopes to contend again for titles, we are going to have to believe that Mike Sherman has the ability to change the mindset of Aggie football. We as fans have to believe that he can change the demeanor in these players. The football players are going to have to buy into the ideology the staff is pushing on them. They are going to have to trust that when they are told to be in a certain spot, that the staff has set them up for success, no matter how little it makes sense at the time. Installing a new offensive and defensive system is not easy, and at this early point in the season, it doesn't look like many pieces seem to be fitting very well. It will be interesting to see how much the team buys into what the staff is selling, and how much confidence can be gained from this. This season cannot be graded on wins and losses alone. Those who do this will find themselves sorely dissappointed. That said, had we stayed with Fran we could've expected an 8 or 9 win season this year, only to be followed by another sub .500 season when we have to travel to Norman and Lubbock. I believe that Coach Sherman's staff has the ability to instill a sense of belief in Aggie football that we do belong with the OU's and t.u.'s of the world. But it will take time. Each game, we will hopefully see the right block here, the right defensive adjustment there, and with this will come more confidence and a belief in the system and program that we strive for.

THIS WEEK: This week, A&M travels to Albuquerque to face the New Mexico Lobos. The Lobos were surprisingly drilled at home on Saturday 26-3 by a TCU team few were expecting to win. A&M needs to go into New Mexico and bring home a win, and they will be facing a team looking to make a statement. Both teams suffered huge embarrassments in their first game, and the loser of this game will likely be facing big questions on the future of their season. That said, A&M has the talent to go into Albuquerque and leave with a victory. The challenge will lie in whether or not this team can go into a hostile environment and still limit the mistakes that plagued them so much against Arkansas State. The game is slated to start at 3:30 pm, and will be televised on the Versus Network.


To go along with A&M's early growing season pains, I wanted to try and bring forth a little hope for the Aggie nation. We are not the first team to be in such a situation. Do you remember that just recently

  • Michigan lost to Appalachian State. At home?
  • That Alabama, under first year coach Nick Saban, lost to a Louisiana-Monroe team that A&M had just beaten by 40 two weeks prior?
  • Just this week, Eastern Carolina walked into Lane Stadium, one of the most intimidating stadiums in the country, and beat Virginia Tech?

In addition, have you ever heard of a couple guys by the names of Paul "Bear" Bryant and Jackie Sherill? Easily two of the top 3 coaches in Aggie history did not see immediate success.

  • Bear Bryant's first game was against none other than the tortilla flingers of the west, Texas Tech. Tech walked into Kyle Field and promptly handed Bear Bryan a 41-9 loss in his debut. Bryant went on to go 1-9 that year, only to follow it up with a 7-2 record the next year, followed by an undefeated season in 1956 and a 1957 season in which A&M was a favorite for the national championship up until the closing weeks, when Bryant announced he would be leaving for Alabama.
  • Jackie Sherrill, whom Texas A&M made the highest paid coach in college football in 1982, awarded Texas A&M with a 38-16 loss in his debut against Boston College in Kyle Field. He went on to go 5-6 that year, capped by losses to SMU, Arkansas, and Texas in which they were outscored 114-25. Three years later, A&M went 10-2, winning the Soutwest Conference by beating three fellow SWC top 25 teams (including a 42-10 thrashing of then no. 18 texas). They went on to the Cotton Bowl that year, and defeated the Bo Jackson led Auburn Tigers in a game highlighted by A&M's goal line stand of Bo on four consecutive plays. Bo knew the wrecking crew.

So keep the hope Ags. We might have some toes hangin over the edge, but don't jump off the cliff quite yet!