"Reddest" county in a "red" state
Of all the counties in Virginia, Augusta and Rockingham scored the highest percentage vote for President Bush in the recent elections, with 74.4 percent. This is definitely part of the "Bible Belt," part of the vast U.S.A. Heartland, or as some leftists are now calling it, "Jesusland." I once shared such fears about the Religious Right, but virtually none of the conservative folks I've met who prioritize faith and values would qualify as "wackos" or zealots. By and large, they are simply sincere people who are deeply worried -- as am I -- about the direction our country has been heading. On the east side of the Blue Ridge, in contrast, is Democrat territory, including the "People's Republic of Charlottesville," home of the University of Virginia. (Click on the adjacent map I drew to see a full-size version in a pop-up window.)
What do these deep divisions in our nation portend? Will the secular "Brainland" (as Randy Paul calls it) secede and join Canada? (See politicalhumor for a hypothetical future map of North America.) Somehow I doubt it will come to that.
Speaking of Red vs. Blue, I took a photo of Earth's nearest neighbor as it was rising above the horizon earlier this evening, and noticed the very same polarizing effect!!! Just as in the United States, the blue fringe is is the north and the red fringe is in the south. (You may have to squint.) Perhaps what our country needs to overcome this high degree of polarity is a higher quality "lens."
Dems lose control of media
At the end of CNN's "Late Edition" program hosted by Wolf Blitzer, there was a roundtable featuring three Democratic Congresspersons -- Martin Frost (TX), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL), and Loretta Sanchez (CA) -- plus Air America talk-show host Al Franken. Ms. Sanchez let the cat out of the bag when she mentioned one of the reasons her party fared so poorly:
SANCHEZ: I agree with Jesse. I agree with my colleague. I believe that we made mistakes. The media certainly is not in our hands any longer, and, in particular, radio talk shows where that is completely in the opposition's hands, and they use it effectively against us.
BLITZER: But, Loretta, when you say the media -- when you say the media is not in your hands, are you saying that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN are hostile to Democrats?
SANCHEZ: No, that's not what I said. I'm saying that -- if you would let me finish -- that the majority of people are now receiving a lot of their information out of radio. And the radio isn't in the hands of the Democrats anymore.
Which brings me to Dan Rather's exit: CBS denies it has anything to do with Rathergate, of course, but no one believes that. I'm a bit surprised, since I had expected him to take a brief vacation and then resume full-time duties as anchorman. What a lesson his life provides about the huge costs to be paid when personal vanity rages out of control. And what a contrast between him and the dignified professional Tom Brokaw, who has just retired as NBC anchor. I was in a small group chatting with him after he spoke at our mutual alma mater, the University of South Dakota, back in the late 1970s. He would be the last to claim that he was a role model, but he was quite an inspiration nonetheless.
Recount in Ohio?
It sounded like a joke at first, but Democrats in Ohio are now seriously calling for a recount. See the Washington Post. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is under bitter criticism in the Buckeye State, the same fate as Katherine Harris suffered for her role in overseeing the Florida 2000 recount. The folks behind this movement even launched their own Web site, ohiorecount.org, but for some reason it now shows nothing but an article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on voting machines. For leftist views on this, see washingtondispatch.com. John Kerry's gracious concession on the day after the election has apparently not earned him any credit or respect from the left wing of his party. Too bad... Meanwhile, the Republican candidate Dino Rossi is ahead by 42 votes in the Washington state governor's race won by after a recount, and there will probably be a second recount.
Speaking of close races, I was looking at a Washington Post article from October 25, focusing on "ten House races to watch." The Republicans won seven of those ten races, receiving from 54 to 61 percent of the votes. In contrast, none of three the Democrats who won got more than 52 percent of the votes. These were all supposed to be close races, and provides yet another indication of how broad and deep the Republican victory really was.
Recount in Ukraine?
President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have both declared that the recent elections in Ukraine were not legitimate, an unusually strong statement about the political system in another country. Vladimir Putin seems to have decided that Russian security interests necessitate an iron-fisted leadership, using force or fraud to regain influence and even control over the former Soviet republics. Moscow has also resorted blunt threats during the recent flareup in the intermittent civil war in Georgia. Interestingly, a group of Democratic former congressmen who were observing the first round of the election declared that it was basically free and fair, but as reported in the Washington Post:
What the congressional group did not say was that its members were recruited and paid $500 a day by a Washington-based lobbyist who is a registered representative of the pro-Russian candidate in the race, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. ... The delegation of former lawmakers was led by Robert M. Carr, an 18-year Democratic House veteran from Michigan who is returning with another delegation to observe the runoff.
In the first round, Carr brought former Wisconsin congressmen Peter Barca, Jay Johnson and Jim Moody, as well as Norman D'Amours of New Hampshire, Ronald Coleman of Texas and Mike Ward of Kentucky.
No word yet on what these Democrats said about the second round. Even the vigorously pro-democracy Carter Center has not issued any statement on this Ukrainian travesty, more than a week after the event. What does all this say about Democrats' commitment to democracy?
Hawk returns; more bird photos
Once again, a Sharp-shinned hawk visited our back yard this morning, and I got an even better photo of it (through the window, but with no screen obstruction) than last time. A Pine siskin also showed up at the thistle feeder next to the window, and I got a great close-up shot of its head. While I was at it, I took a photo of George guarding Princess at her nest. (Click on any of those links to see a pop-up photo.) I've also done further retouching on some older bird photos, most notably the Bananaquit I saw in Peru last March.