Tuesday notes

Mar 19, 2013 By Steven R. Peck

Spring's battle

It's sure been feeling like winter in the early hours this week -- no warmer than the mid-teens at 8 a.m. after Sunday's fierce winds blew out Saturday's warm air. That's more like mid-January than mid-March, and it is sharply different from last year's late winter and early spring, when trees were ready to leaf and blossom by mid-April.

The professionals say we're likely to have a stronger cold snap later in the week, but a few chilly days can't change the facts. Spring is at hand.

The calendar tells us. So do our ears. Here's absolute proof: The red-winged blackbirds have returned. They don't know anything about calendars, but their throaty chatter wouldn't be audible if their marvelous internal clocks didn't tell them that the new season was here.

For those who stand on formality, spring begins Thursday, March 20, in the northern hemisphere, although Fremont County's vernal equinox happened on Monday the 18th.

Missing figures

Some readers noticed an omission on our daily weather almanac in Sunday's edition. The rushed editor forgot to put in the sunrise/sunset information along with Saturday's national high and low temperatures. Curses!

For the record, this time of year sunrise is about a minute earlier each day, while sunset is about two minutes later daily. As fall approaches, it's the opposite.

As for Saturday's national extremes, the high was an even 100 at one of the consistent "winners" in this database, Death Valley, Calif. The low was W22;29 at another familiar name in cold-weather calculations, Embarrass, Minn.

Five in the 500

Our year-long Five in the 500 investment experiment is doing well in March. If you had invested $500 in the Standard and Poor's 500 index on the day President Obama was inaugurated for his second term, as of Monday morning the sum would have grown to $519.34. That's down a buck or two from Monday's figure, which was the highest so far.

Bracket time

Never let it be said that the editorial writer is unwilling to go out on a limb when college basketball's March Madness rolls around again. Almost everyone has an opinion worth a $5 bracket bet on who will win the thing among the 64 teams eligible. The difference is, we put ours in print and run off thousands of copies for all to see.

So here goes.

The feeling from this chair is that Louisville is the best team and ought to be favored to win it all. Of course, any of the first- or second-seeded teams is a strong contender. Among the dark horses of a lighter shade, we like Wisconsin, VCU and Saint Louis.

While nobody can predict with any certainty who it will be, it is highly likely that a little-known and little-regarded team will make an astonishing run at the national title, perhaps even making it to the Final Four or even the championship game. Look for the teams that play good defense, have a good free-throw percentage, and have lots of seniors. In that vein, take a look at Bucknell, Creighton and South Dakota State.

Remember, gambling on sports is illegal in this state. Have fun doing it anyway.

Shock, awe and doubt

Tuesday marks 10 years to the day since the United States invaded Iraq. The military action there was rationalized to the American public on the basis of miscalculations about a bad and belligerent manR00;(Saddam Hussein), Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (there weren't any), and the suggestion that Saddam was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks (he wasn't).

Simultaneous to the news retrospectives on the war's anniversary is a new television documentary film called "The World According to Dick Cheney," in which the Wyoming-born former vice president is interviewed extensively about the decision-making that led to the Iraq War and the prosecution of it.

Some say the film shows Cheney to be defiantly clueless in the face of overwhelming evidence and criticism.

Others see a proud and professorial Cheney providing definitive justification for everything the U.S. did.

That probably crystallizes American opinion on the war as well as anything could.

An undeniably positive upshot from the war has been the strengthened respect for American service men and women that accompanied it.

Ten years on, that seems likely to endure for a good long while, even as the historian hash out the meanings of the war itself.

Here's to a good week.

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