June 2004 Archives
June 30, 2004 The RFK Stadium page has been revised with a dynamic diagram and another photo, which was spliced together from a video clip. Text revisions to follow...
June 29, 2004 We were up in Northern Virginia for the weekend, and in certain locations we noticed a lot of tree damage caused by this year's periodical cicada eruption. In other areas, zilch. I was sorry we missed the cicadas here in Staunton; I recall vividly how hard it hit Arlington back in 1987.
On Sunday I escorted my niece Cathy and her friend Yanira to the brand-new World War II Memorial in Washington, shown in the adjacent photo. (You can see the rest of the pictures from our day trip HERE.) On the way there, we stopped at RFK Stadium and walked all the way around it, the first time I had done so. I saw some people wearing uniforms emblazoned with D.C. United soccer team logos, and it turned out there was a youth soccer clinic going on inside. We drove through downtown Washington, and I saw the MCI Center, the new D.C. Convention Center with its awesome mirrored pedestrian bridge, and the new Hecht's building for the first time.
While at the Tidal Basin I heard an oriole singing, and finally spotted it at the top of a tree. To my surprise, it turned out to be an orchard oriole, NOT a Baltimore oriole. (Any significance for baseball in that?) There were also many swallows, kingbirds, and even a gull.
This morning I did a serious bike ride (well, six miles) for the first time since breaking my toe three weeks ago, and finally spotted one of the grasshopper sparrows that keep buzzing in the fields around Bell's Lane. I also saw new families of kingbirds, yellow warblers (which thankfully avoided nest plundering by cowbirds), and brown thrashers, as well as some cedar waxwings and a willow flycatcher.
In a way it's too bad that the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis yesterday had to be moved up two days so that terrorsts wouldn't spoil the occasion. Ideally, the process would have followed the script to the letter, but under current conditions that wasn't practical. The recent beheadings committed by the resistance is disheartening, but it also reminds us of those groups' truly hideous, barbaric nature. It also makes more clear all the time that, contrary to what many critics seem to suggest, there was simply no possibility of the West living in peace with the Ba'athist Party or Al Qaeda -- regardless of whether and to what extent they may have been collaborating. Fortunately, there are growing signs that Iraqi people are turning against the terrorists in their midst. Stan Coerr, an Marine Corps Reserve officer who served in Iraq, wrote an eloquent rebuttal to the recent negativism in Strategy Page. It's entitled "No One Asked Us":
I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis. ...
The war was the right thing to do then, and in hindsight it was still the right thing to do. We can't overthrow every murderous tyrant in the world, but when we can, we should. Take it from someone who was there, and who stood to lose everything. We must, and will, stay the course. We owe it to the Iraqis, and to the world.
The Washington Post just published a splendid three-part series of articles written by Steve Fainaru, entitled "Baseball: The Last Cartel." It exposes in gory detail many of the dirty dealings in which MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been associated, raising the distinct possibility that an honest resolution of the issue of relocating a baseball team to the Washington area may not be possible. PART ONE details how Selig contrived to get Wisconsin taxpayers to pay for most of Miller Park, which ended up causing great political damage to former Governor Tommy Thompson (a Republican). PART TWO chronicles the disgraceful saga of the Expos franchise, which could easily have been relocated to the Washington area five or more years ago, but which has been kept in money-losing limbo for the sake of one of the 29 major league franchise owners: Baltimore's Peter Angelos (a Democrat). PART THREE probes into the nature of the alliance between Angelos and Selig, detailing the composition and operations of MLB's Relocation Committee, which seems heavily stacked against Washington-area interests. The upshot is that the custodians of our national pastime are flagrantly abusing the antitrust exemption they have enjoyed since 1922 on behalf of purely parochial interests. It's a reminder that if Selig once again goes back on his word to finally resolve the issue this year, the only recourse may be in the halls of Congress.
It was quite a coincidence that these articles ran just as I returned to take some photos at RFK Stadium for the first time since the exhibition game I saw there in 1999; there are two new photos on that page, which will soon be updated with a dynamic diagram, revised text, and another photo or two.
After several days of "romantic" activity with George, Princess has laid three more eggs. He has been extremely attentive to her, and has hardly left their room at all.
June 26, 2004 Our former First Rogue is back in the news again, plugging his autobiography My Life. Yes, I'm talking about good ol' Bill Clinton. Much of his huge book seems to be settling scores with his former tormenters such as Ken Starr, and I can't help but wonder if the title is based on Billy Joel's song:
"I don't care what you say anymore, this is My Life.
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone.
Much as I would rather let the modest Clinton legacy speak for itself, it is simply impossible to understand the bitter controversies of today without addressing The Meaning of Bill. First let me say that even though I favored impeachment and removal of Clinton from office on the grounds that he subverted basic judicial norms, I was never a Clinton hater. He did make me gnash my teeth, but I often gave him credit for some things he did, such as getting NAFTA ratified. Ironically, his biggest "achievement" was failing to fulfill his campaign promise to launch an economic stimulus program. Instead, he listened to Treasury Secretary Rubin and prioritized reducing the budget deficit. It wasn't pretty, but it restored invester confidence and set the stage for an economic boom. People forget what a rocky first year Clinton had.
In recent interviews, Clinton gave Bush faint praise by agreeing that military action against Iraq was necessary, though he quibbled over the timing of the war. Since Clinton himself had set the goal of regime change in Iraq when he was president, he really couldn't have said anything different. In Friday's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer heaps some faint praise on Clinton, acknowleding his accomplishments (mainly of a passive nature) while blaming him for squandering the fleeting strategic advantage the United States enjoyed in the first few years after the Cold War. He acidly scorns the narrow legalistic approach of Liberal Internationalists (Warren Christopher, Tony Lake) to such problems as international terrorism. Other countries became accustomed to the United States as a self-effacing do-gooder, which in the eyes of certain foreign groups with vengeance on their minds was worthy of nothing but contempt. No fair-minded person would accuse Clinton of paving the way for Al Qaeda, but historians may judge that Clinton's greatest failing was to sacrifice U.S. national security on behalf of a particular ideological vision. That's rather ironic, given the recent sharp criticisms of President Bush along those lines.
Likewise, I much would rather ignore the rank hatred toward President Bush contained in Michael Moore's new movie Farenheit 9/11 , and trust in the good sense of American people to judge for themselves. Unfortunately, I just can't let it slip by without a comment. Do I intend to see it? No. Every ad I have seen makes it clear that the movie is not intended to appeal to rational undecided people, but rather is aimed at hard core Leftists and uninformed folks who are susceptible to manipulaton via imagery. It's just a rockin' good time for Bush haters, who seem to be to a striking degree, the staunchest defenders of Clinton. If you want an informed dissection of the movie, I've come across several references to a long article in Slate by Christopher Hitchens, a recovering Leftist who used to write for The Nation. He exposes some of the worst inconsistencies in Moore's film and denounces him for moral cowardice in the face of a very real threat from the Islamofascist extremist movement.
As I've said before, there is certainly room for honest criticism of Bush as a leader, and of current U.S. foreign policy, without resorting to such blatantly twisted logic and distortion. I'm inclined to think that, at least among serious-thinking people, Moore's film will backfire, making Bush and the Republicans look good by comparison. The fact that Clinton puppet Terry McAuliffe was seen smiling alongside Moore at a recent promotional event would seem to put the Democratic National Committee's stamp of approval on the flick. So here's what it all comes down to: Who will prevail at the Democratic Convention : the deranged wing led by Howard Dean and Al Gore, or the responsible wing led by Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman? Can John Kerry keep those two factions together?
In Wednesday's Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher pointed out the hypocrisy that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is seeking to purchase the Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, even though Major League Baseball forbids ANY relationship with gambling! (Remember Pete Rose?) An article in the Post that same day compared the long distance from the Dulles Airport stadium site to downtown D.C. (21 miles) to stadiums built in the last ten years. At present, the stadium built farthest away from downtown is Ameriquest Field in Arlington (Texas), which is 16 miles from the center of Dallas, but it's somewhat closer to Fort Worth. Intrigued by this question, I took it upon myself to estimate such distances for all current and past baseball stadiums. The results are shown on the Stadiums by class page. Some of my estimates, which were based mainly on the DeLorme Street Atlas USA program, differ slightly from The Post's. Here is a summary of the four major stadium classes:
|Early 20th century
|Modern 20th century
Jaqueline and I went for a stroll on the west slope of the Blue Ridge this morning, and I got a clear view of a wood thrush for the first time this season. There were also a few worm-eating warblers darting around, but not much else.
June 22, 2004 The third and final batch of photos from our trip to Peru in March is finally done. There are twelve photos, mostly large ones (plus two rollovers), so please be patient while it loads.
I visited the Cyrus McCormick Farm with YuLee Larner again on Friday, and saw a yellow-billed cuckoo for the first time this season, plus a couple green herons. The orioles have already fledged, and we saw an adult male feeding a juvenile. The cedar waxwing is still on the nest. On Sunday I went to Augusta Springs and saw an ovenbird, an Acadian flycatcher, several worm-eating warblers, blue-gray gnatcatchers, hummingbirds, two rose-breasted grosbeaks (female and juvenile), and a red-shouldered hawk, among others. Then I went to Goshen Pass for the first time (it's incredibly scenic!), and saw three pileated woodpeckers and a pine warbler, among others.
That poor, helpless baby bird we "adopted" died over the weekend, probably because of the wrong diet. We'll never know what species it was. Generally speaking, it is best to leave alone any fledgling birds you may find on the ground, since they routinely fall out of their nests before they can fly and their parents usually stay close by. That was not the case in this situation; Jacqueline found this hatchling in a driveway, and it would have died in a matter of hours. Princess has now resumed her old routine of flirting in the window, refurbishing her nest, and quarrelling with George over romantic issues once again.
Ken Griffey Jr. finally got his 500th home run in Busch Stadium, keeping the Reds in contention with the Cardinals and the resurgent Cubs for the lead in the NL Central. Tampa Bay has won eleven in a row, but is still below .500. What is the meaning of this?? The Expos remain in a tailspin, and there are rumors of some kind of players' mutiny against manager Frank Robinson. Hey, the paltry payroll isn't his fault. I'd be pretty mad too if I were in charge of a team without any identity or clear future prospects. Saturday afternoon: Happiness is watching the Yankees beat the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium.
The Washington Post has had more stories about promotional campaign to build a new stadium near Dulles Airport, emphasizing the wealthy, fast-growing fan base in that area. The problem is, it's about 22 miles from downtown Washington, as the crow flies. The team name would be tied to Virginia, not Washington. All that just may satisfy Peter Angelos, but I remain skeptical that such exurban settings can provide a suitable venue for authentic baseball. Even if it's built mostly with private money, such a location would never approximate the intense urban vibes you get in Baltimore or Cleveland. Among all current baseball stadiums, the one located furthest from downtown is Ameriquest Field, which is 16 miles away from downtown Dallas. It is situated between two big cities, however, and draws nearly as many fans from Fort Worth, which is about ten miles to the west.
Today is the 63rd anniversary of Nazi Germany's surprise invasion of the Soviet Union, code-named "Operation Barbarossa." Within six short weeks, the Germans had advanced two-thirds of the way to Moscow, and nearly everyone expected the Red Army to collapse. Then Hitler interfered with the plans, sending his forces toward the south, probably losing the war in the process.
June 18, 2004 I went to Bell's Lane again this morning and finally got some decent video images of one of the yellow warblers that are nesting there. Taking a cue from my brother John, I played a tape recording of yellow warbler songs, which lured the territorially defensive males to my vicinity. This photo was slightly retouched to reduce blurring. I also saw a female orchard oriole, a male Baltimore oriole, and a green heron in the area, but they eluded my video camera.
The adopted baby bird is hanging in there, for now at least.
Wednesday's Washington Post had a nice Style section story about the (Shenandoah) Valley Baseball League, of which the Staunton Braves are a part. The League, which draws from the ranks of collegiate baseball players with dreams of making it to The Majors, expanded from eight to ten teams this season. It's high-quality, fun, old-time baseball that brings out community spirit. See Mr. Angelos? We don't need you greedy big leaguers! Aw, who am I kidding...
Speaking of which, another Post story that day reported on the negotiations between D.C. officials and top business leaders, who have mixed feelings about the $20 million extra tax bill they will have to shoulder if Mayor Williams' stadium financing plan goes through. Remembering the disastrous collapse of political support for baseball in Arlington, Virginia one year ago, no one wants to make a commitment until the other parties make a commitment. The situation is still very delicate.
Thanks to Leon Furth for a great panoramic photo of Oakland Coliseum, which I just added to that page. While I was at it, I tweaked the dynamic diagram on that page, which now includes a "combined" version similar to the original one.
June 17, 2004 I think that little bird just might make it. It squeaks and thrashes about quite vigorously, and usually has a good appetitite. Having a lame leg, unfortunately, Princess has to be careful when she nestles down to keep her adopted "offspring" warm. She is very protective but still doesn't feed it. Details to follow...
Citizens Bank Park, new home of the Philadelphia Phillies. The page includes some comments and great photos from a long-time visitor to this site, Phil Faranda. Thanks, Phil! Now that the site transition is mostly completed, I plan to include more such fan input on the baseball pages, so keep those messages and photos comin' in, folks! Only one more regular big league stadium to go!!!
More inspirational civic action: Iraqi-Baseball, a volunteer project to get Iraqi kids interested in Our National Pastime. (I hope they serve all-beef hot dogs!) Just imagine ten years hence with names in the big league lineups like Akhmed and Rasheed...
A mob in a small town in western Bolivia followed the example of townspeople in Ilave, Peru, by seizing the mayor from his office, dragging him outside, and hanging him on the grounds that he was corrupt. So much for the rule of law. People in Ilave have resumed protests after several weeks of calm in the wake of the lynching back in April. Neither the newly-appointed replacement mayor nor the national police units sent in to restore order are trusted by most of the populace.
June 15, 2004 Could it be ... the blessed event we've been waiting for??? Princess is obviously delighted and very attentive, but doesn't seem to know how to feed the baby, even though she can see fledgling grackles and sparrows being fed by their parents right outside her window. So, we have to help with feeding chores, using an eye dropper. It's too early to say whether or not things will turn out well, so stay tuned.
That photo of George I posted on the Fenway Park page yesterday was taken, transferred to the Mac, edited, and uploaded to the Web server in less than ten minutes -- while he was still perched on that lamp!
June 14, 2004 The Fenway Park page has been updated with a revised diagram and a new photo of that beautiful ballpark that I just took! Thanks to Mike Zurawski for alerting me to the new rows of box seats in Fenway, and to long-time visitor Steve Poppe for alerting me to some omissions in this "newly-relocated" Web site.
The Photos page has been revised, and now includes links to many large older photos that had been deleted but are now online again. So, if you missed the photos from our trips to Peru or Mexico, you have another chance. (I had nearly exhausted the available server space on the old (free) EarthLink-hosted site, but that won't be a problem any more.) It will take at least another day or two to take care of the War and Latin American sections of this Web site.
June 13, 2004 Dream on. I swear, every time I see THIS it sends chills of emotion up my spine. Thank you ABC, especially for bringing in Johnny Bench and George Brett to chat with Kevin Costner! (Who was that third guy?) I think I'm going to follow the example of Philip Lowry (author of Green Cathedrals) and include a page and diagram for that mystical ballpark near Dyersville, Iowa. It's become quite a tourist attraction, and I've got a few photos from our visit there a few years ago, so why not?
That was quite a dramatic see-saw game broadcast by Fox up in Baltimore yesterday afternoon: the Giants beat the O's, 9-6 in 11 innings. Rafael Palmeiro tied Mickey Mantle for the number ten spot (at 536) on the all-time home runs list, and then passed him with a second homer. Barry Bonds hit a homer too, of course, though it was a "cheapie" in the shallow left center "power" alley. Batter-friendly Camden Yards really gleamed in the afternoon sun. Speaking of which, a couple people have reminded me that the diagram and data on that page are out of date, and I am aware of that. Likewise, I'm aware of some minor errors on a few other pages that people have brought to my attention, and I make it a point to acknowledge them in this "blog" running commentary. In the new list of stadiums in the left hand column (under "Leagues") I've indicated which stadium pages are on my list to be revised (TBR). In most cases, the only intended change is to add a "dynamic" diagram for multi-use stadiums or those that were substantially rebuilt one or more times, such as Yankee Stadium. I do appreciate all comments aiming to improve this site.
June 12, 2004 Welcome to the "new" Web site! So far, the only thing that has changed is the address (make sure to "bookmark" it), but there will be a number of enhancements in coming months. Within a month or two I plan to include multiple "guestbook"-type pages, possibly leading to a discussion board making it easier for fans to exchange information. There will also be more photos, and I invite visitors to submit photos that they would like to share with others. (Note the new e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.) All submissions will be properly credited. It will probably take me a couple days to get all the files transferred properly to the new server at ICD Soft. I do virtually everything manually, so there are bound to be some temporary glitches, but that's the price you pay for customized appearance and efficient functionality. Thanks to all for your patience and your support. And now ... Play Ball!.
June 10, 2004 The Gipper's funeral: Jacqueline and I are hoping to catch the tail end of the observances in honor of Ronald Reagan up in Washington tomorrow, but I managed to fracture one of my smaller toes a couple days ago, and my mobility is quite impaired. Arghh! In the mean time, I invite you to read what I wrote about Reagan on the Web site which I manage for the local Republican party. It's at swacgop.org.
June 9, 2004 ¡ Viva la revolución Wi-Fi! By jove, they've done it again! As if all of Apple's recent spectacular breakthroughs in multimedia computer technology weren't enough, this week they announced another ultra-cool and useful gadget: AirPort Express, with which you can play music from your computer directly to your stereo, connect multiple computers to the Internet, or print documents from a laptop anywhere in your house without a cable connection to the printer. (To get it to work, however, you need to install an AirPort card in your Mac or Windows machine.) Will this make burning music CDs obsolete? Apple's stock rose above $30, nearly three times what it was a couple years ago...
Latin American communists have heaped scorn on the late Ronald Reagan, the defender of Freedom who once tormented them. An announcer on the state-controlled Cuban radio declared "The one who never should have been born has died," adding that he was a warmonger and the "father of the homeless," among other insults. Former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, leader of the Sandinista Party, adopted a more pious though still bilious tone, lamenting Reagan's death but accusing him of committing crimes, apparently referring to Reagan's policy of supporting the Contras. Ortega concluded by saying, "may God pardon him." What is most galling is that such sentiments seem to be widespread in Latin America these days.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped in Mexico on his way to the G-8 summit on the coast of Georgia. He signed agreements with President Fox that will pave the way for building a new factory in Mexico to produce Russian-designed military equipment. Is Mr. Fox trying to get President Bush's attention?
On Monday morning I was invited by YuLee Larner to join her and another Augusta Bird Club member, Mary Vermuluen, to visit the McCormick Farm, about 15 miles south of town. That is where Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the mechanical reaper, developed his agricultural implements back in the mid-19th Century. The site includes several beautiful old stone buildings and a picturesque watermill (that functions!), and they have recently made improvements such as a nature trail to attract tourists. We saw several Baltimore orioles, two of which were attending a nest in a willow tree hanging right above a footbridge. We also saw an orchard oriole, the first I've seen this season; they are brown and black, rather than orange and black. Other highlights included several cedar waxwings (two at a nest), two brown thrashers, some kingbirds, a kingfisher, and a pewee.
In preparation for the next new stadium page, Citizens Bank Park, the page of the Phillies' old home, Veterans Stadium has been revised, with a dynamic diagram to better represent the baseball-to-football reconfiguration. After a hot streak in May, the Phillies have started to fall behind the Marlins in the NL East once again, while the injury-plagued Braves are gradually catching up.
The top-seeded U.Va. Cavaliers managed two victories in the NCAA regional playoff series in Charlottesville, but lost to Vanderbilt 7-3 in the deciding game (sold-out!) on Sunday. It was a bittersweet ending to a great season; just wait till next year! Two Cavaliers were drafted by big league teams this week: ace pitcher / slugger Joe Koshansky (by the Colorado Rockies) and Mark Reynolds (by the Arizona Diamondbacks).
Princess laid four more eggs this week, which makes 22 so far this year. George is still singing regularly, and has recently gotten into the habit of flying into my office, apparently enjoying the songs being played on iTunes. The louder the volume, the louder he sings.
June 6, 2004 D-Day 2004 Pictured at the right is the central arch at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA, which on June 6, 1944 suffered a higher percentage of combat deaths than any other town in the United States. The town's soldiers who died on Omaha beach belonged to the 29th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit that is still operational. The black and white stripes were painted on all Allied aircraft flying in the congested invasion zone, to avoid friendly fire casualties. Jacqueline and I visited the memorial in 2001, not long after it opened. You can visit the D-Day Foundation Web site at: www.dday.org/
President Bush showed more poise and spoke more clearly than he had on other recent occasions during his D-Day interview with Tom Brokaw from an American cementary in Normandy. He explained the similarities and differences between the current war on terrorism and World War II, above all the extremist ideologies that motivate the enemies of freedom. He reminded everyone that it took several years for Germany and Japan to become stable and democratic, and that prevailing in this conflict will require patience and determination. I was a little disappointed, hoewver, that the President declined the suggestion that he call on the American people to sacrifice and share the heavy burden shouldered by our combat troops. It would have been a perfect opportunity to get Americans to accept high gasoline prices. The transcript is at: www.msnbc.msn.com.
As described at mlb.com, Yankee Hall of Famer Yogi Berra was stationed aboard a naval vessel offshore during the Normandy landings, the operation code-named "Overlord." Other big league players who served in the armed forces during World War II include Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, and Warren Spahn. Almost without exception they were modest, selfless, patriotic-minded citizens just doing their duty. The article linked above also refers to the letters exchanged between Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and President Franklin Roosevelt, who urged that baseball be continued in spite of the war, for the sake of national morale. With some of the best players serving in uniform, the quality of play fell noticeably, and the minor leagues almost evaporated. That was what led to the creation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the movie A League of Their Own.
June 5, 2004 Former President Reagan has passed away at a particularly critical moment for the conservative movement he fathered. Setbacks in Iraq have many on the right questioning the whole idea of internationalist foreign policy, of which Reagan was an enthusiastic champion. When I was young and left-leaning, I often disparaged him as dangerous and/or incompetent -- just as so many people are disparaging President Bush today -- even though I grudgingly admired his sincere devotion to core principles. Eventually I came to respect him for his leadership abilities and for being right about most of the major issues of foreign, social, and economic policy. During a study session with fellow grad students at U.Va. in the mid-1990s, I opined that Reagan might be as close as we would ever come in our lifetime to having a truly great president. Of course, that elicited hearty scoffs. As his biographer Lou Cannon wrote, Reagan was underestimated by many of his political opponents, and he capitalized on this over and over again.
Image courtesy of the
Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation,
all rights reserved.
For what should Reagan be remembered? Most obviously, for defying conventional wisdom and standing up to Soviet expansionism around the world, ultimately reversing and defeating it. When he took office in January 1981, no serious person could have imagined that the Soviet Union would peacefully dissolve eleven years hence. It was Reagan who went ahead with deploying Pershing II missiles and cruise missiles in Europe at the climax of the Cold War, it was Reagan who refused to make concessions to Gorbachev at Rejkyavik in 1987, and it was Reagan who called on Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" in Berlin later that year. These breathtakingly bold actions were called "reckless" by hysterical opponents at the time, but they were part of a strategic vision that paved the way for the West's unequivocal triumph in the Cold War. By neutralizing the fear wielded by Soviet imperialists which had much of the Western world paralyzed, he not only spawned a renaissance of investor confidence but undermined the authority of the Communist regimes of the Warsaw Pact, hastening their demise.
I must call attention, however, to one pernicious legacy of the Reagan years: the idea now popular among many anti-tax activists that budget deficits don't matter. Remember Arthur Laffer? Of course not. He and his wacko theory of "supply-side economics" (rightly scorned by then-candidate George H. W. Bush in 1980 as "voodoo economics") have been relegated to the dustbin of history. For many hard-core tax cutters, the fact that there is no longer any serious intellectual foundation for their beliefs does not seem to matter. True, the burgeoning deficits of the 1980s were not solely Reagan's fault, because the Democrats retained control of the House, and in a divided government policy responsibility is inherently hard to pin down. It would be hard to deny, however, that the deficits were to some extent deliberate, as part of a stimulative package not unlike the Keynesian "pump priming" of the 1930s. There were particular reasons why the United States managed to cope with and overcome those huge deficits -- mainly the massive [capital] inflows from Japan during the 1980s -- but those conditions no longer exist. Reagan's stewardship of the U.S. economy was on balance positive, but the Wall Street mini-crash of 1987 revealed the nation's shaky financial foundations that were not shored up until the Republican Revolution of 1995, when fundamental budget reforms were enacted.
Sixty years ago today, Allied forces liberated Rome, after a frustrating nine-month campaign in the mountains of Italy. This triumph was overshadowed by what happened in northern France the very next day...
The diagram on the Milwaukee County Stadium page has been revised based on a very detailed and clear photograph in the book by Ira Rosen. That page has a temporary "dynamic" diagram with an "experimental" warning track version. I also corrected on that page the spelling of the name of Bob "Mr. Baseball" Uecker, thanks to a tip from a new visitor to this site, "Hazy Dave," who has fond memories of Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. Soon after this Web site migrates to a new host, I anticipate adding interactive features such as a comments page for each of the stadium pages. Stay tuned!
June 4, 2004 The announced resignation of CIA chief George Tenet is probably a good thing, even though he was regarded as a fairly effective and dynamic manager. Is he just the "fall guy" for the Bushies? Among all the officials who testified to the 9/11 Commission, Tenet would seem to have the most to answer for. I remember vividly the terror warnings in the mid-summer of 2001. Tenet testified that he did not meet with Bush even once during the month of August, which seems absolutely incomprehensible in such a context. Of course, if Bush in fact brushed him off, that would be another matter, but there is no indication of that thus far. Tenet offered to resign a year ago, but Bush urged him to stay on. His public testimony struck me as less than forthright, but until the full truth is known, (which may not happen for years), it will be hard to make any definitive judgments.
Speaking of the 9/11 Commission, there has been some grumbling among Democrats about the role of its Executive Director, Philip Zelikow, because he worked in the first Bush administration and has ties to some current administration figures such as Condoleeza Rice. I happen to know Prof. Zelikow, who became Director of the White Burkett Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, where I worked as a graduate student during the 1990s. He has a stellar reputation in academic and policy-making circles, though his selection to replace Prof. Kenneth Thompson (my dissertation adviser) occasioned some hard feelings in the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs (now called the Department of Politics), since he had not attained tenure at his previous post (Harvard) and was therefore considered by some faculty members to be ineligible for the rank of full professor at U.Va. In any event, Zelikow's academic credentials, dedication, earnestness, and personal character are beyond reproach.
The Oakland Coliseum page has been revised with an improved "dynamic diagram" that better depicts the 1996 renovation/expansion and the football reconfiguration. One of the diagrams shows the warning tracks, adding realism but at a slight cost in terms of clarity. I invite comments as to whether warning tracks should be included on other diagrams. Annette Gaudino (a Yankees fan living in the Bay Area!) recently alerted me to a factual error on the that page: I had written that Jason Giambi was thrown out at home plate in the AL divisional series in 2001, but it was actually his brother Jeremy Giambi. Thanks, Annette! I may get names mixed up, but I'll never forget that amazing acrobatic assist by Derek Jeter.
Speaking of the Yankees, they have been on a hot streak lately, pulling 3 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. A-Rod is finally hitting commensurate with his salary, while Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui are starting to live up to their high slugging reputations. Actually, ALL the division races remain quite competitive, especially the oversized NL Central division. Without Sammy Sosa, the Cubs have fallen to fifth place. Oh-oh...
June 3, 2004 Three days hence will be the 60th anniversary of "D-Day," the invasion/liberation of France. Even though it was postponed by a year to build up an overwhelming numerical superiority over the Germans, the battle on the beachhead was still a very close thing, with heavy Allied casualties. Such historical perspective can help us to understand the war in Iraq today, especially the lamentably negative coverage of military events in most of the mainstream press. To see what I mean, read "If D-Day Had Been Reported On Today" by William A. Mayer, in Strategy Page. I was going to write a series of parody World War II news items like this, but someone is already on the case.
In South Dakota, the Democratic candidate, Stephanie Herseth, won by a 51-49 margin the special election to replace former Representative Bill Janklow, a mean-spirited Republican who was convicted of [manslaughter] after having killed a motorcyclist while running a red light last summer. I saw Ms. Herseth in a debate with Republican candidate Larry Diedrich on C-SPAN a week or so ago, and she lives up to her reputation for being poised and articulate. She is only 33 but comes from a political family; in fact, her grandfather was governor. Will she be the next Tom Daschle?
While on a bike ride east of town today I saw a hairy woodpecker, an oriole, a pair of red-tailed hawks, some blue-gray gnatcatchers, a few cedar waxwings, and for the first time this year, a white-eyed vireo.
In Venezuela, the National Elections Council ruled that sufficient petition signatures have been validated in order for the recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez to go forward. The constitution stipulated that signatures of 20 percent of the electorate were necessary for such a referendum to be held. It will be interesting to see whether Chavez lives up to his promise to abide by democratic norms.
June 2, 2004 The Skydome page has been revised and now includes a "dynamic diagram" to account for the retractable roof and the football reconfiguration. The Braves' bottom-of-the-ninth rally last night was about as dramatic and heroic as you can get. Nick Green (???) knocked a three-run homer with two outs to tie the game, and J. D. Drew homered on the very next pitch to win it. Unbelievable! It just goes to show that baseball is the one sport where there's always hope to come from behind and win -- a uniquely American attitude, it would seem. Donald Sensing's blog "One Hand Clapping" contains some reflections on this, as well as an even more upbeat assessment of Bush's handling of the transition in Iraq than I have offered recently. He quotes Canadian writer David Warren, who wrote:
No one else will say this, so I will. The Bush administration has handled the transfer of power in Iraq more cleverly than anyone expected, including me. The summoning of the U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, looked like very bad news (a poisonous old Arab League chauvinist who brokered the sell-out of Lebanon to Syria in 1982). In grim moments, I believed the Bush people were cynically using him to wash their hands of Iraq, and as it were, dump the quagmire back in the swamp of the U.N. Instead, they froze the ground beneath Brahimi's feet, and skated rings around him, haggling behind his back with Iraq's new political heavyweights to leave him endorsing a fait accompli. If it were not vulgar, I would say the Bushies suckered the U.N. into signing on to the New Iraq through Brahimi. A sovereign, free Iraq which will, incidentally, have a few things to say about the U.N.'s $100-billion "oil-for-food" scam, in due course.
It all makes you wonder if the President has been taking deliberate advantage of his modest intellectual reputation to catch his adversaries off balance, lowering expectations so that perceived successes are magnified. Strategy Page has a "report from the front lines" with far more balanced view of the situation in Iraq than you're likely to get from Dan Rather or Peter Jennings.
How's this for inspiring: An organization called Spirit of America has set up a program to teach kids in Afghanistan how to play baseball. I'm a little skeptical of the whole "hearts and minds" aspect, but such efforts certainly can't do any harm. After all, think about all the major league baseball players who come from Japan and countries in the Caribbean that used to be occupied by U.S. forces.
Has anyone noticed how expensive gasoline is getting? I sure have. It makes me nostalgic for the 70s: inflation, corruption, international crises, and disco. Seriously, the higher the price of gasoline goes, the happier I get. Americans will scream bloody murder, of course, and the tapes of Enron executives chuckling about screwing over California electricity consumers a few summers ago could not have come at a worse time. I detest all that stupid talk about Big Oil artifically jacking up prices, and I cringe at the thought of new laws forcing people to adopt silly "conservation" measures such as 55 mph. In a free market prices are supposed to reflect relative scarcity, and with the booming economies in China and, yes, here in the U.S.A., demand has been rising faster than production can be expanded. This is normal: Get used to it! Al Qaeda and Hugo Chavez are acutely aware of the political leverage they enjoy by virtue of Americans' addiction to cheap energy.