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May 2004
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May 1, 2004 [LINK]

Public opinion on the Iraqi war

During the last week of classes at James Madison University, I took an opinion survey of the students in my Global Politics classes, with 62 total responses. (There should have been about 75 altogether; absentee rates seem to climb this time of year.) There was a distinct division of opinion regarding the U.S.-led war to root out terrorism in Iraq, but with a clear majority in support of it. Nevertheless, most students believed that the war will lead to MORE terrorism. They also reject the notions that the war is a hopeless quagmire or that the United States was in some way partly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Finally, they do not believe that a halt to U.S. support for Israel would lead to diminished terrorist attacks against us, but they have a dim view of how well informed about the war the American people are. You can see the results at the War debate page of my JMU Web site, which also has a chronology and a lot of links to comments on the war, Iraqi blogs, etc. I avoid preaching to my classes and try hard to present a balanced perspective on controversial issues, so I'm fairly sure that the survey was accurate reflection of what students really think. Overall, the JMU students I've met are a very impressive bunch, and I'm sure many of those who are graduating will accomplish great things in their future careers.

Exhausted from work, I fell asleep before ABC's Nightline program last night, so I didn't see the controversial series of photographs of the American war dead. At first glance, the idea of using such images to commemorate the sacrifices made by our soldiers seemed perfectly appropriate. Indeed, I was thinking about displaying in class the pages occasionally published by the Washington Post showing the fallen soldier's faces, but wasn't sure if it would be received well. For ABC, home of the piously disdainful Peter Jennings, the problem is that Ted Koppel has a thinly veiled hidden agenda. I saw a piece from his recent interview of Richard Clarke, and the smug, self-congratulatory tone and presumptive comments made his anti-war bias perfectly clear.

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.


May 7, 2004 [LINK]

MLB in D.C. (Episode 37)

MLB executive vice president John McHale met with D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams yesterday, and according to the Washington Post said, "If we weren't serious about Washington, D.C., we wouldn't be here." Relocation Committee chairman Jerry Reinsdorf apparently declared that the opinions of Orioles owner Peter Angelos about this matter are NOT "an automatic disqualification." (Does that mean it would be a manual disqualification?) Since Williams has offered MLB just about everything they demanded in terms of stadium financing, they have no further excuse to block the transfer of the Expos to Washington next year. We'll see... I'm still intrigued by the proposed stadium site on 14th Street near the Jefferson Memorial. That would draw the biggest number of Virginians to the games, especially if they build a new metro station on the Yellow Line.

The latest round of flirtation with D.C. coincides with a mini-uproar over the planned use of commercial advertisements on bases. Such scrounging for bucks would of course be extremely tacky, but please, folks, let's not forget all the big billboards on outfield walls during the Golden Era of baseball, the 1920s-1950s. Baseball is a business, after all.

Mike Zurawski let me know about a few needed corrections to the stadium diagrams, some of which I already knew about. Most importantly, I was not aware that they had added new rows of box seats behind home plate at Wrigley Field, and indeed on TV last night I noticed the new brick wall back there for the first time. Revisions pending...


May 8, 2004 [LINK]

Go Cavaliers!

I neglected to mention another important Washington Post baseball story from Friday: It's about the phenomenal rise to championship caliber of the U.Va. baseball team this year. A big part of the reason is the new stadium, which cost $4 million and seats and over 2,000 fans, including six luxury boxes and a roof. It is widely believed that famed author John Grisham, who lives in Albemarle County, is the anonymous donor who made the new stadium possible. I used to work at U.Va.'s Miller Center, which is right next door, and every once in a while I would walk over to see a game -- back when it was just cheapo aluminum bleachers. This weekend's series against Florida State in Charlottesville is sold out, or else I might go.


May 14, 2004 [LINK]

Back to normal

The Yankees reached first place after several weeks trailing the Red Sox. Ominously, the Orioles are neck and neck with both those teams. I was following the play-by-play on MLB.com's "Game Day" system on Tuesday night, and was tremendously gratified by the Yankees' dramatic tenth-inning win over the red-hot Anaheim Angels. I did likewise the next night and was sickened by the eighth-inning collapse, as the Angels beat them 11-2. The divisional races continue to provide plenty of drama and tension, and it's great that formerly second-tier teams such as the Rangers are vying for the lead.

Just in time for the Braves' return to their former home city in Milwaukee this weekend, the Miller Park page now has a "dynamic diagram" that shows how the roof opens. Thanks to a tip from an anonymous White Sox fan, I learned of an important news item that might otherwise have slipped under my "radar screen": Just last Friday the Rangers and Ameriquest Mortgage Company announced a 30-year, $75 million agreement under which the Ballpark in Arlington is being renamed "Ameriquest Field in Arlington." Details are at MLB.com.

Finally, the U.Va. baseball team won one [not two as previously stated] of three games at the climatic series against Florida State in Charlottesville over the weekend. Last night they beat Wake Forest and are on the verge of clinching the ACC title. Wa-hoo-wa!


May 19, 2004 [LINK]

Just perfect!

Randy Johnson's perfect game in Atlanta last night was the first such feat since David Cone did so for the Yankees five years ago. Depending on how you count the various asterisks, this could be considered anywhere from the 15th to the 19th perfect game in Major League history. Thanks to TBS Superstation, millions of fans nationwide got to see this momentous event live on TV. Atlanta fans showed real class by cheering him on during the extremely tense ninth inning, as the home team lost 2-0. Hooray for forty-somethings!

The Braves are clearly hurting all over, having dropped to fourth place in the NL East. MRI tests revealed that Rafael Furcal has a bruised bone in his throwing arm, while Marcus Giles broke his collar bone and suffered a serious concussion after colliding full-speed with Andruw Jones while chasing a short fly ball over the weekend. Speaking of injuries, Sammy Sosa somehow sprained his back while sneezing in Chicago, and will be out for a while. Fellow Cub Mark Prior and Red Sock Nomar Garciaparra have been on the disabled list since spring training, and yet their teams have been at or near the tops in their divisions. As for the Yankees, Derek Jeter is still slowly recovering from the injury he suffered in early April.

In preparation for this year's All Star Game in Houston, the Minute Maid Park page has been updated and now has a "dynamic diagram" that shows how the roof opens. Other retractable-roof stadium diagrams yet to be updated in this fashion: Safeco Field, Skydome, and Olympic Stadium.

The MLB Relocation Committee met again today, discussing the latest stadium financing offer from D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. As today's Washington Post indicates, however, Williams will be hard pressed to get the D.C. City Council to pass the necessary funding measures. The article also included a map of the proposed Waterfront stadium site, which is two blocks further east than I had previously thought. The entire grandstand on the third base side would rest on a platform on top of I-395, the Southwest Freeway. The brick-paved L'Enfant Plaza promenade would lead right to the stadium, which would be a perfect link between the Mall, the Waterfront restaurants, and the residential district just to the east. The problem is that the diamond would point toward the southeast, AWAY from the Washington Monument. Why in the world wouldn't they take advantage of such a spectacular scenic backdrop???


May 19, 2004 [LINK]

WMDs: confirmed at last

Iraqi insurgents recently tried to use an artillery shell containing the nerve gas sarin in an attack on U.S. forces in Baghdad. Fortunately, it was discovered in time, but it detonated before it could be disarmed, and two U.S. soldiers had to be treated for exposure. This comes on the heels of other recent reports of chemical weapons related equipment in Iraq, but the mainstream press has been largely silent on the matter. The story was on page A14 of the Washington Post yesterday. Just what does this prove? It's too early to say for sure. The shell could have been part of a hidden stockpile, or it could have been just a loose "stray." Whoever planted it might not have even known that it was a chemical weapon. Properly used, however, such a weapon could kill hundreds of people, and there must be hundreds of terrorists in Iraq with sufficient training to use it effectively. At the very least, no one can doubt any longer that Saddam Hussein did in fact possess weapons of mass destruction, contrary to what his government claimed to U.N. inspectors. Will such concrete evidence help narrow the sharp division of opinion among American people regarding the war in Iraq?

The Pentagon announced that the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division will be tranferred from South Korea to Iraq this summer, further evidence of the dangerous overextension of U.S. military forces worldwide. Meanwhile, tensions between China and Taiwan are heating up again as pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian prepares for his second inauguration. The United States is obviously in no position to do very much to protect either South Korea or Taiwan from a surprise attack at this point.

Everyone's favorite no-nonsense military and security affairs columnist Austin Bay has been called up to active duty again, and will be shipping off to Iraq very soon. Read his parting thoughts (titled "Everyone is Part of the War") at: strategypage.com. It's a good tonic for those who are discouraged by the recent upsurge in violence in Iraq.

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.


May 20, 2004 [LINK]

Bud stalls again

According to today's Washington Post, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has reverted to his old worries about a Washington-area team cutting into the revenues of the Baltimore Orioles, owned by Bud's pal Peter Angelos. Come on, Bud, we've been through all that! Quit stalling and just make a deal! Recent news on this matter had been pretty upbeat, but when you look at all the folks on the Relocation Committee who are connected in various ways to past "stadium swindles," the odds would seem heavily stacked against Washington.


May 21, 2004 [LINK]

The saga continues...

Commissioner Selig elaborated on the reasons for his doubts about the Washington area's desirability as a new home city for the Expos franchise yesterday. According to the Washington Post, he "does not want to repeat baseball's past mistakes" by allowing a franchise relocation that adversely affects an existing franchise. As indicated elsewhere on this Web site, however, franchise relocations to metropolitan areas with existing franchises have only occurred four times: in 1902, 1903, 1954, and 1968. In the first two cases (St. Louis and New York), multiple teams coexisted for several decades. In the third case, the Baltimore Orioles may have diverted a small portion of the Washington-area fan base from the Senators, but that was hardly the main reason for the subsequent decisions of Clark Griffith (1961) and Bob Short (1972) to abandon D.C. The only such precedent that Selig can cite with some justification is when the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968, taking some fans from the Giants across the Bay. One case is not enough to make an argument! The very real long-term problem of lagging attendance and television viewership in the baseball world has multiple causes, but it is certainly not a function of franchises crowding each others' turf. Interestingly, only one city has ever benefited from an MLB franchise relocation more than once: Milwaukee, which just happens to be Bud's home town! Hmmm... Obviously, he knows what he's talking about.

In spite of his qualms, Mr. Selig expressed confidence that the Expos will have a permanent home by the start of next season, saying "It's time to get this done." MLB officials supposedly expect a final decision on relocation by July. Of course, we've heard that song and dance before, over and over and over again, but this time Selig just may be serious. What's more, Northern Virginia is apparently on the verge of winning the franchise for next year, notwithstanding all the talk about Washington, or the barely plausible alternatives of Portland, Las Vegas, Norfolk, or Monterrey. As Jon Saraceno writes in USA Today,

When it comes to those cities, don't believe a word about their chances of landing the Montreal Expos. Baseball's smoke-and-mirrors strategy is designed for competitive bidding purposes.

Of course, we've heard that explanation before too: it's all just a ploy to leverage more public funding for a new stadium out of area taxpayers. What has changed the dynamics in recent weeks is the fact that the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority has worked out a plan to build a ballpark near Dulles Airport, most likely in Loudoun County. That is indeed a booming suburban area, and the fact that it is 20+ miles from downtown Washington would certainly make it more palatable to Peter Angelos. As Saraceno says, "Virginia has given MLB what it wants. Baseball has no better option." I'm not so sure, though: With gas prices soaring and no near-term prospect of mass transit to Dulles, attendance at such a far-out ballpark would be a very uncertain thing. I can remember going on bike rides in that area in the 1980s, back when it was full of bucolic pasturelands. The times are indeed a-changin'; are they changing that much?

So, this is a good opportunity to repeat my modest little proposal: Build a small-sized stadium (35,000 seats) in Northern Virginia while refurbishing RFK Stadium (with 45,000+ seats), and have the team alternate between home fields from one home stand to the next, for as many years as is mutually agreeable to the franchise owners and the respective local governments. That would attract the maximum number of fans from the Washington area and satsify all concerned parties -- if only the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia could find a way to collaborate in their own mutual best interests!


May 25, 2004 [LINK]

Ballpark at Dulles?

Today's Washington Post has more details on the baseball stadium which would be the centerpiece of a planned resort development in Loudoun County. It would be located at the northeast corner of Dulles Airport, west of Herndon and south of Sterling. An abandoned stone quarry would be filled with water to create a recreational lake. The wheels of lobbyist action are revving up to full speed... Up in Montreal, meanwhile, attendance at Expos games this week has fallen to well below 5,000, and as viewed on TV it didn't even look like half that many were actually present.


May 25, 2004 [LINK]

Determination vs. disinformation

President Bush's speech last night at the Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, PA (where I presented a paper on terrorism last fall) may have been a belated attempt to shore up support, but at least he made all the important necessary points. He left no doubt about the difficulties that lie ahead, and kept the focus on the long-term goal of denying terrorists a safe haven. While the President sometimes falls short in the eloquence department, his rock solid determination to prevail are exactly what we need in a leader right now. True, his proposals are "easier said than done," but it is precisely because the goal of a free Iraq is now within our grasp that terrorist violence has escalated in recent weeks. The transcript is available from the White House Web site. Here are the five steps outlined by the President:

  1. Transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens on June 30th
  2. Establish the stability and security necessary to hold elections
  3. Continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, leadin to economic independence
  4. Enlisting additional international support for Iraq's transition
  5. Holding free, national elections, no later than next January

Thanks to Glenn Reynold's Instapundit, I came across Jason Van Steenwyk's iraqnow blog, which calls to task the New York Times and other mainstream news sources for grossly misquoting Gen. Mattis, commander of the First Marine Division, in a news conference that focused on the recent U.S. attacks in western Iraq where a "wedding party" was underway. Otherwise minor lapses in journalistic standards become greatly magnified given the vital psychological aspect of this conflict. The BBC reports that the International Institute for Strategic Studies concludes that Al Qaeda has been "spurred on" by the U.S. campaign in Iraq, gaining new recruits and prestige in the Arab world. What did we expect, that the Arab world would be dancing in the streets after the fall of Baghdad? Unfortunately, it seems that many well-informed people are just not willing to face up to the nature of this global-scale war. It would have been easy to tiptoe around the sociopolitical malignancy that fosters terrorism, but President Bush decided, for better or worse, to resolve the matter once and for all. For anyone with a sense of history, the setbacks the U.S.-led Coalition has encountered in Iraq are part of the natural ebb and flow of war. As if that IISS report wasn't enough, Tom Clancy has hinted that he agrees with the co-author of his latest book, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, that the U.S. war in Iraq was a mistake. If the Superhawk himself indeed has pulled the "Eject" lever, the precipitous drop in public support might make this conflict start resembling Vietnam after all.

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.


May 29, 2004 [LINK]

A new Big Red Machine?

As the summer season swings into high gear, the latest baseball stadium page has just been completed: Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds. It has a lot of odd curves and angles, and thus took longer than usual to render. Its appearance here is quite timely, nevertheless, since the Reds have just taken sole possession of the National League Central Division, having swept the Houston Astros in what must have been a thrilling home stand. Meanwhile, the Cubs just dropped a double header in Pittsburgh.

The Braves and Phillies have split the first two game in their series at brand-new Citizens Bank Park. The broadcasts on TBS Superstation were the first real good look I've had at that stadium, and I'm more impressed all the time. Phil Faranda, a guy who has been visiting this site for quite a while, recently saw a game at the Phillies' new home and told me "they have done an absolutely incredible job there." I just may go there myself before long...


May 29, 2004 [LINK]

Gore becomes hysterical

If I were a Republican partisan above all else, I would be gleefully cheered by Al Gore's hysterical speech condemning Bush administration policies. After all, how many fence-sitting Americans are going to be moved toward the Democratic side by such outrageous lunacy? But because I am not a 100% loyal partisan, my main reaction is to tremble at the thought that millions of Americans actually think like Gore. Once again, let me state that sincere dissent is not unpatriotic, even in war time. It's one thing to question motives and protest against the war, but it is quite another thing to call the entire operation in Iraq a deceptive sham. That comes perilously close to giving aid and comfort to the enemy, just when our nation ought to be uniting in the face of renewed threats of mass terrorism. Gore's demand that the entire national security team resign was likewise far too shrill to be taken seriously. Here's a scary thought: This man could have been our president! Perhaps he's just trying to make John Kerry look good by comparison.

Hysterical gestures aside, what about the legitimate points Gore was trying, so clumsily, to raise? Has Paul Wolfowitz lost what was left of his credibility? Probably. Should Don Rumsfeld take responsibility for the Abu Ghraib disgrace and go retire? Maybe. Is Condi Rice as effective in policy making as she was in the academic world? Probably not. What is virtually certain is that the situation in Iraq is far better than one would gather by listening to the mainstream news media. As President Bush's dead seriousness about the June 30 transfer of sovereignty becomes clear, the transition has shifted into high gear. Things will get increasingly chaotic in coming weeks, and the fact that the outcome is quite uncertain is actually a good thing, because it undercuts the suspicions of many that the U.S. government is just setting up a puppet government. Most Iraqi elites, both religious and secular, now realize that the ball is in their court, and if they don't get their act together soon, their country will be a mess for decades to come. President Bush is to be commended for persevering in the face of untoward criticism, and for creating the preconditions for a free -- and perhaps someday stable -- Iraq. It may not happen, but the potential rewards of a favorable outcome there would be truly enormous. Don't give up hope yet, O ye Americans of short attention span!

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.


May 31, 2004 [LINK]

Wahoo-wa!

Even though the second-seeded U.Va. Cavaliers baseball team lost two heart-breaking games in the ACC championships at Salem, Virginia, they will be hosting the NCAA regional tournament nonetheless. This is a tribute to their superb playing this year, and to their (nearly) new stadium, Davenport Field. See collegesports.com for details.

D.C. City Councilman Jacks Evans is pushing for quick legislation to authorize purchase of necessary land for a new ballpark at L'Enfant Plaza, but much opposition remains. See the Washington Post. Even though the Dulles site would be more convenient for me, I would still much prefer a stadium close by the incomparably scenic Potomac River -- even if it's on the northern side.


May 31, 2004 [LINK]

Memorial Day 2004

We usually "celebrate" this somber holiday by memorializing fallen soldiers, as Sunday's Doonesbury comic strip did for soldiers who have died in Iraq. The opening of the World War II memorial on the Washington Mall is a fitting tribute to the "Greatest Generation," but it may reinforce the unfortunate tendency to sentimentalize the past, thereby alienating ourselves from the shared harsh experiences that ought to bind us together. A recent Washington Post article shed light on the embarrassing ignorance about World War II on the part of today's school children. They know all about the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor -- no surprise there -- but are mostly in the dark about famous battles, leaders, or what it was all about. In my view, a good way for Americans to observe Memorial Day would be by remembering what was at stake in past wars, not making excuses for those who don't know or care about history.

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.


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